Category Archives: Productivity

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Monday Morning Moment – “What Are You Doing These Days?” – the Utility Infielder

Photo Credit: Service Desk Show, James West

When I was a little girl, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was easy to answer. I wanted to be a nurse. Being on the serving end of helping people in crisis was the stuff that even populated my nighttime dreams. It was my passion as a child.

In my teen years, teachers and other adults commended me on my writing. For years, kind people who actually read what I read have asked, “When are you going to write that book?” A much harder question for me than the earlier one.

Photography, music and drama clubs were my loves in high school and college, mixed with a budding political activism. That activism was baby steps at first, with rallies and protests. Long conversations over coffee on Saturday mornings. Nothing requiring much commitment. Our military conflicts were confusing to me (with seemingly never an end in sight). In my youth, I would write to soldiers serving in far countries…doing my small part to encourage them and humanize their situation. I still have a box of letters from those soldier pen-pals.

My girlhood goal was to do nursing overseas…among the poorest of the poor. Those strong youthful dreams directed me first to Emory University for nursing and grad school. Then a few years later to Yale University to teach. In the between time, my “poorest of the poor” turned out to be on the oncology unit of Grady Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia’s inner city…

The “what do you want to do when you grow up?” question took on a life of its own. As did the question: “What are you doing these days?”

Depending on the season of life, it was cancer nursing, home-schooling mom, cross-cultural living, facilitating a cultural exchange program, teaching ESL, communications strategist/social media manager, and finally freelance writing.

Now…after all these seasons and address changes, the question, “What are you doing these days?” is mystifying. I almost feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t landed anywhere as a specialist in anything.

Just this morning, a friend posted on her Facebook page a TED talk that encouraged her…and it also encouraged me.

The speaker on the TED talk was writer, creator Emilie Wapnick. She describes herself as a multipotentialite which she defines as “someone with many interests and creative pursuits“.  Wapnick is the founder of the website Puttylike…out of which has evolved a fascinating global community of other multipotentialites.

In her TED talk, Wapnick describes three “superpowers” of these multipotentialites. They are:

  • Idea synthesis – “combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection”
  • Rapid learning – multipotentialites “go hard” at learning. They have been beginners many times, therefore, they aren’t afraid to try a new way. They “rarely start from scratch”.
  • Adaptability – “the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation”.

Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick TEDx

The Fine Art of Bringing Together Unrelated Ideas Emilie Wapnick

Now whether being a multipotentialite applies to my career journey…or yours, it is so refreshing to to be reminded that going in multiple directions professionally can be a normal and good thing.

I love “both/and” situations, and there are lots of them out there, if we open our eyes to see them. A few careers back, I had the opportunity of being a cancer nursing specialist, but looking ahead, being an expert in any given discipline is unlikely. Being decent, however, (maybe even good) at both this…and that is possible. Being a generalist works for me… However, I can still aim at being a versatilist (see below). How about you? Where are you in your career?Photo Credit: Gartner, Shi Wen, HR in Asia

Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists, and VersatilistsShi Wen

You may have never heard the term multipotentialite or versatilist, but in America, especially in the summer, you may have heard of a utility infielder. “A utility infielder (UI) is a baseball player, usually one who does not have a regular starting role on the team and who is capable of playing more than one of the four defensive infield positions:   second base, third base, shortstop, and less typically first base. Utility infielders are generally considered excellent defensive players who do not hit well enough to remain in the starting lineup,[2] but can fill in at multiple defensive positions to give the various starters a rest, or replace a starter late in a game to provide improved defense when the team is winning.” – Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Dan Ryan, Ryan Search & Consulting

Why You Want to Be a Utility Infielder – Dan Ryan

A utility infielder is definitely someone you want on your team. I’m married to one. Multipotentialite, versatilist, utility infielder. Whatever this person’s title, he or she brings their own special strengths.

Some days, dark days, I despair of some of my career choices and wonder if I’d been more focused, or less inclined to chase after this opportunity or that dream…would I have been more effective? Would I have made a greater difference? Today, and more days lately, I am content with the roads taken. Some of us have laser focus and sharp skills. Others of us are more like the Swiss Army utility knife. Both are indispensable. Both/and.Photo Credit: CBT Nuggets

The Value of an Adaptable Skill Set – Leadership Made Simple

5 Ways a Compliance officer Is Like a Swiss Army Knife – Compliance Experts

Getting Ahead at Work: Are You a Hammer or a Swiss Army Knife? – Carlos Portocarrero

Monday Morning Moment – Picking a Lane – It’s Never Too Late – Deb Mills – an example of a multipotentialite who is excellent in all his pursuits, best I can tell.

Monday Morning Moment – 10 Characteristics of a Good Leader – What Do You Say?

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lehmacher, Quora

Too often we focus on what makes for a bad boss rather than looking at those good leaders in our lives. For the last several days, I’ve been asking friends what makes for a leader of excellence…one who  brings excellence to the table and also brings it out in their teams.

Before I asked these friends…from various disciplines (education, health care, private sector, and non-profits)…I developed my own list. As they talked about the good leaders in their lives – either past or present – their characteristics resonated with mine below.

10 Characteristics of a Good Leader

  • They enjoy their personnel. – Story after story of bosses who made the workplace more pleasant by their sheer enjoyment of their colleagues and teams. They were present. They didn’t have to have the room’s attention. They clearly just took pleasure in the folks with whom they worked (up and down the chain of command).
  • They know their personnel. – Leaders were described as excellent when they really knew their employees. They not only asked about the progress of work but how the individual was doing as well. They knew successes and failures. They knew the families. Maybe not in so many details, but it was obvious, by their interest that they genuinely cared about their employees…as well as what they were doing on the job.
  • They treat their personnel with dignity, even in hard conversations. – When conversations were disciplinary or corrective, these leaders still respected boundaries and showed care. No raised voices, no demeaning, no putdowns, no threats.
  • They reel in stress, instill confidence, and bring perspective. – Along with the above, when outcomes weren’t as hoped or when difficult change had to be executed, these leaders kept drama out of it. What was communicated was that we would get through this…together. Now, that wasn’t always possible, as when downsizing has to happen, for instance, but every effort was taken to care for those most negatively impacted.
  • They sacrifice for their personnel. – Business coach Ron Carucci wrote a post earlier this year entitled 3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic Culture. He talks about how easy it can be for leaders to become isolated from the majority of their employees, so focused on the success of the company…or their own success…that employees below them are neglected in the process. Time and time again, friends talked about how leaders would interrupt their own schedule…even travel or meetings…to deal with some difficult situation with a team or employee. This is a rare circumstance, I’m sure, but what a trust-builder, right?
  • They develop their personnel. – None of us know really what kind of person we can be until we have proven ourselves through experience and training. I hear so often about the problem of “not enough leaders”. Good leaders develop their personnel with broad generous strokes. Then, in time, they will discover who may very well be of the caliber to be in the line of succession for their jobs…avoiding the crisis of “not enough”.
  • They provide platforms for their personnel to shine. – One comment I received repeatedly was “She believed in me.” or “He knew I could do it.” Being challenged and then given the resources to be successful/effective were huge for folks describing good leaders.
  • Their decisions make sense to their personnel. – Because good leaders keep their teams up-to-date with vision, plans of execution, outcomes, then their decision-making brought no confusing after-shocks. Besides, good leaders instill trust, so buy-in comes more naturally. Often because leaders allowed their teams to speak into the decision as well. This is huge.
  • They extend their reputation to their personnel. – By this, I mean that good leaders share – with those on their teams – the responsibility and rewards of engineering a product or service. It’s not just the upper echelon leaders who collect the kudos. It’s the organization as a whole.
  • They show up when their personnel need them. – Lastly, this characteristic seemed to carry a high emotional ring to it with those I questioned. When an employee is in a tough situation, with an unhappy parent, or a litigious customer, or just having a really bad day, these leaders don’t leave it always to someone else. If they are needed they come…one way or another. “He always had our back.” “She knows me so she knew how hard it was for me that day.” For leaders to show this kind of character requires margin in their lives and willingness to let go of some other piece of their work to show up in this way. Again, I’m thinking these situations are rare, but they reflect a level of leadership that we all appreciate.

Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Technologies

Good leaders are others-focused. They have fought off the natural tendency of being self-focused and self-promoting. They are self-aware (they know themselves and know how they may be perceived by others). They have trained themselves in the habit of putting others first. This discipline is the cut of the fabric of excellence in leadership.

Now, I didn’t go into the other critical parts of a leader’s responsibility – that of keeping the business of the organization running well. This was all about what goes into the kind of leader we are glad to work for. When it comes to bottom-line and performance, Carucci in his article shows research that demonstrates the profitability of keeping priorities (like those above) and focusing positively on personnel. Photo Credit: Assad Schuitema, Care and Growth

“If a video camera captured your leadership team in action for a full day, how would you feel about that video being used as training for the rest of the organization? Serving on a leadership team should be viewed as a privilege. And along with that privilege comes a responsibility to behave in ways you would be proud to have the rest of the organization emulate.” – Ron Carucci

What do you think about what makes for a good leader? Please comment below. Whether you comment or not, take a moment to consider those leaders in your life that have made a tremendous positive impact on your worklife…and through that, your personal life as well. Maybe you’re a good leader because of the influence of those who mentored you.

Have a great Monday!

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

Want to Be a Better leader? – 5 Powerful Ways Kindness Can Help – Peter Economy

What Is the Essence of Leadership? – Quora

Monday Morning Moment – the Endearing, Enduring Multipliers in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.

This time, we went for a week to Dahab, on the far side of the Sinai. r_seaman@hotmail.comPhoto Credit: Egypttailormade.net

Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.

We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.

Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.

Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.

When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.

Thus, the goose bumps.

Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.

Liz Wiseman has written the most incredible book on leadership – Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter . Her book describes this mentor of my husband as if she knew him personally. Wiseman is the president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.

On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:

“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman

Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.

[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]

This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.

I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.

Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.

“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.”  – Liz Wiseman

Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.

Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.

Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Photo Credit: Leadership Natives

Leadership Natives – About Multipliers

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – How an Accidental Diminisher Becomes a Multiplier – Deb Mills

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

Brian Dodd – 4 Leadership Lessons From Mt. Rainier and the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Business List – another example of a Multiplier

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – When Your Work Culture’s In Trouble – with Matt Monge

Photo Credit: Career Addict

Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.

Below you will find Monge’s piece 7 Signs Your Culture Is In Trouble. Click on the link to go further into depth on what these mean.

  • Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
  • Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and  development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
  • Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
  • Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
  • Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
  • Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
  • Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.

Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James

Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community

I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.

My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

YouTube Video – Matt Monge: Speaker, Writer, Leadership & Culture Expert, Depression Fighter

What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team – Ron Carucci

Turnover Trouble: How a Great Company Culture Can Help You retain Your Best Employees – Emma Sturgis

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Solitude, a Culture Wall, Like a Mother – Serena Williams, Our Children, and Food With a Friend

Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.

1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught YouZat Rana

According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana

[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]

Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”

“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana

Everything I Have Learned in 500 Words – Zat Rana

2) A Culture Wall – Benjamin Hardy is a writer, organizational psychologist dude. I am reading his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discovering the Keys to Success. This week he posted about having a culture wall, and it totally engaged this visual learner. Designed by Gaping Void, this is an art-as-inspiration tool for the workplace.Photo Credit: Benjamin Hardy, Medium; Gaping Void

Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.

[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]

These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 BooksBenjamin Hardy

3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother.  The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.

Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.

4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

She writes:

“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””

and

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Photo Credit: CASA

Her article frames this Friday Fave.  Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense Frederica Mathewes-Green

Video – 50 Mums – 50 Kids – 1 Extra Chromosome

Tending your Garden – Colleen Searcy

5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.

How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.

Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.

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That’s the week. Please comment below on any of these faves of mine or introduce your own… Have a restorative weekend… whatever that means for you and those you love.

Bonuses

Here’s Exactly What to Do If a Tick Bites You – Kate Sheridan

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

I Love Jesus But I Want to Die: What You Need to Know About Suicide – Sarah

The Space Between – Marilyn Gardner

Paris, the evening of the World Cup FinalPhoto Credit: Nikaley Chandler

Tour de France – The Climbers and Rapid Descenders – the stages through the Alps happened this week – so incredibly exciting watching these riders – their toughness and endurance:Photo Credit: Cyclist

Happily Ever After – 100 Wedding Songs for Your Ceremony and Reception – Music Notes

Photo Credit: Jimmy Lee Thompson, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Trust Me – Sharing Economy, Idling Capacities, and Trust with Rachel Botsman

Photo Credit: YouTube, Rachel Botsman

Trust me. If you ever have the opportunity to hear thought leader Rachel Botsman speak, don’t miss it. Don’t miss her.

Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart – Rachel Botsman [Botsman’s latest book]

I discovered Rachel Botsman just a few weeks ago and, of course, wrote a bit about her work.

The concept of “shared economy” and “idling capacities” isn’t new. However, when I heard her use those terms in a TED Talk, my heart about leapt out of my chest. This resonates so with my idea of work and workplace, in terms of valuing people and resources as well as maximizing outcomes.

Rachel Botsman defines these terms as:

Sharing economy – “an economic system that unlocks the value of underused assets through platforms that match ‘needs’ with ‘haves’ in ways that create greater efficiency and access”. – Rachel Botsman

Idling capacity – “untapped social economic and environmental value of underused assets – tend[ing] to fall into three categories: physical stuff, labor assets (time, skills, human potential), and capital assets (crowd-funding, crowd equity, peer-to-peer lending platforms)” – Rachel Botsman

She talks about this broken system of supply-and-demand. “How can we extract more value from existing assets?”

These ideas are captured in a short video of her speaking here.

I see idling capacities and underused assets in all areas of my life… maybe it’s because I struggle with my own idling or being “idled”. That is not for this conversation. What matters more is how to get folks “in the game”, so to speak, who have so much to bring to the table. Yet, for whatever reasons, are idling. At their work station. In meetings without voice. Working at an idling pace when they have capacity for so much more.

Are you aware of such a situation? Share it in Comments below.

A sharing economy breaks down organizational silos, even departmental and team silos, and creates an environment where assets (people, products, places) are maximized. It can be a messy fuzzy-boundaried process. If organizational leaders are willing to give some latitude to the process and the people “idling”, a much healthier and more efficient workplace could be birthed.

Botsman introduces how technology has spurred the evolution of the sharing economy.

Photo Credit: Rachel Botsman

In considering how to have a more expansive mindset related to applying available resources to a problem, we have to be willing to do some difficult things. There are those who will have to give up some control. In a sharing economy, there’s no such only one “smartest person in the room”. Trusting other people on our teams with chunks of decision-making along with the work both conserves and optimizes.

We have to be willing to think outside that proverbial box and ask questions like “what more can we do with….” or “who else can we include….” or “what is it we don’t want to leave out”.

I love those kinds of questions!

Maddening for some, I know. I get it…

For today, I just wanted to introduce this subject…still very much a preschooler in this arena. However, I see it as so influential positively in today’s workplace. So fundamental, too.

Build in idling for reflection, rest, and recalibration…but don’t leave assets in that state for very long. It devalues people and delays product development.

Even when we have the technology to streamline processes and move projects to completion, we have to understand how technology affects trust. Botsman has a quick summation here:

Again, this is just the start of learning in this area for me…Will stop for now. Any thoughts on what you have read or watched?

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust – Rachel Botsman

YouTube Video – TED Talk – We’ve Stopped Trusting Institutions and Started Trusting Strangers – Rachel Botsman

Thinking – Rachel Botsman

Slideshares – Rachel Botsman

Rise of the Shared Workplace in the Sharing Economy and How the Sharing Economy Is Influencing the Workplace

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How to Trust People We Don’t Like – WorkLife with Adam Grant

Monday Morning Moment – Doing What It Takes for Positive Impact

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When we institute change, any change, there is a ripple effect. We have impact on those absorbing the change. Making and executing a decision can be quite satisfying, but impact is a whole other thing. No matter how necessary, innovative or even brilliant we think the change is, the outcome and impact may be less than we had hoped. Part of the change must take into consideration those most affected by it…Input in anticipation of change is key to positive impact.

We don’t want to use a new invention until we understand it. That doesn’t mean we need to understand how it functions. However, we need to grasp what it can do and what it can give us. Rachel Botsman

What happens when a new business process is introduced as a done deal? What happens when your job is to translate it to your team in such a way that there is buy-in, ownership and adoption? Hopefully, you are thrilled with the possibilities it presents. But…what if you’re not. What if you are moved t to wonder how it will alter your work team’s relationships and responsibilities…?

The “what if” questions lead middle managers or team leaders to “if only” assessments. If only our team could have spoken into this…a much better outcome and more positive impact could follow… without the disruption and chaos you know will come… unnecessarily.

We must be careful, as decision-makers to avoid the default of being task and development oriented to the point that we lose sight of the people impacted. It’s not just “get ‘er done”; it’s also “get ’em won”.

Leadership has its rewards in delivering on bottom line and fulfilling the expectations of shareholders. Where we struggle sometimes is moving too quickly in identifying a problem and developing a solution. Occasionally even publishing our solution cold to our department heads or work teams. They do not always meet our hard work and great solutions with enthusiasm…not because our teammates are ungrateful or clueless. No, in fact, they may have had their finger on the very pulse of those same  problems, working out solutions together but not to the point of finished product. We, as leaders, can swoop in like the cavalry, communicating that we alone can “fix the problem”. No need for input here, right? Wrong…sadly wrong.

Before putting in motion a sweeping new initiative, we can hope for maximum impact. Maximum positive impact.

How? If we are willing to do the extra work of gleaning from teams, we can build trust and an openness to adopt change. It’s a win-win.

The Three Steps of Building Trust In New Ideas and BusinessesRachel Botsman

Kathy Caprino, a career coach and leadership developer, wrote an excellent piece on having genuinely positive impact.

9 core behaviors of people who positively impact the world:

  1. They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.
  2. They commit to continually bettering themselves.
  3. They engage with people in open, mutually-beneficial ways.
  4. They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be.
  5. They embrace critique.
  6. They spread what they know. [No gatekeepers or bottlenecks here.]
  7. They uplift others as they ascend.
  8. They view the journey as the goal.
  9. They use their power and influence well.Kathy Caprino

[Caprino goes into much more depth in her article. Don’t miss it.]

Just a word on disruption. It, of course, can be a good thing. The thing for us all to remember about disruption, especially in the workplace, is that it is never recreational, especially to those whose positions or purposes are being disrupted. As Rachel Botsman demonstrates in the image below…when change is initiated, we may see one of at least three reactions. When we build trust and demonstrate valuing of those most affected by the change, positive impact can be that sought-after outcome of our endeavors.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It’s worth the work – and we are better leaders for doing it.

Thoughts?

When Disruption in the Workplace Turns to Dysfunction – Annemaria Duran

The Four Fundamentals of Successful Teams

YouTube Video – Time to Brave Up – Kathy Caprino – TEDx Talk

Monday Morning Moment – Avoiding the Warm Body Mentality in Recruiting and Retention of Volunteers and Quality Employees

Photo Credit: Flickr

[We’re not talking about the 2013 zombie apocalypse romantic comedy Warm Bodies, although I do like this graphic. Read on.]

Yesterday, I participated in a large community event. There must have been 50 or more volunteers making it happen over the course of the day. My volunteering was just across two hours. It was an event that included a large gathering, food for all, and lawn games for all ages afterwards. We observed and experienced the beauty of a “living organism” – a well-planned, well-executed event. Except for three paid staff, all the responsibilities were carried on the capable shoulders of volunteers.

An isolated event is one thing but it can speak to the core values of an organization’s overall care of its people. Is it just about filling a slot or making the organization look good, or is it moving everyone toward a mutually shared vision? Is it just the securing of warm bodies to feed the machine? Or is it a called, capable, and committed community of folks working together for a greater good? [See Matt Orth’s piece below].

How volunteers (and employees) are recruited and retained matters.

What made yesterday’s one-time event so successful and well-executed? This is what I observed:

  • A mix of event-only volunteers and longer-term volunteer leaders on point for the various activities. This made for a win-win all around. Plenty of willing helpers and lead people to guide toward success.
  • Clear organization and preparation allowing the volunteers to easily do what they signed on to do.
  • High enthusiasm – shared ownership and vision related to the event.
  • Multiple teams allowing for most of the volunteers to have a fixed service window of time.
  • Obvious valuing (by staff and leads) of the volunteers’ participation.

Writer, speaker Matt Orth wrote a piece on warm body mentality   (already mentioned above) which bears a read. Orth tells a humorous story of how he fell into being a Vacation Bible School director due to the stealth of a volunteer recruiter. He defines warm body mentality(WBM) as the process whereby “a church decides what needs to happen program-wise in their church life and then they just find the Warm Bodies to make it happen”. This could relate to any organization or company. It is task or program orientation vs. person-orientation.

Orth proposes a system of volunteer recruitment that avoids a warm body mentality:

  1. How long the commitment is for and when will they have an opportunity to step down or renew the commitment. Or if/how they can downgrade or upgrade responsibilities.
  2. What kind of accountability they will have, who they are responsible to report to, and what the evaluation process will be.
  3. What the time commitments are, including not just the start/end times of services/events, but what time they will be expected to be there both before and after the service/event.
  4. All the rest of the duties spelled out whatever they may be (teaching, running sound, getting food ready, etc.) including any intangible expectations.
  5. Give them a gracious way to say “NO.” You’re looking for volunteers who want to be there.

He recognizes the importance of having volunteers demonstrating a sense of calling, commitment, and capability. However, all of these are negotiable depending on the person… Training, casting vision, and appropriate resource equipping can move folks who currently don’t see themselves in a volunteer role toward volunteering…and not just as warm bodies.

To recruit and retain the kind of volunteers (or employees) we want depends more on us in recruiting roles…than it does on them. Showing genuine care for the individual makes such a difference in both execution of programming AND the long-term development and engagement of that person.

Give volunteers a voice and they will help you shepherd them…, and, in the end, you will a community of deeply committed people who care about the vision as much as the leaders do.

Yesterday, in the midst of all the buzz of volunteering, one of the leads announced that this was the last event for one couple to serve because they were moving out-of-state. I didn’t know them very well, but what I did know was that they always stepped up to help in whatever capacity they could. Here on their last day with this organization, they chose to spend it serving…again.

If I’d had more time yesterday, I would have loved to know more of how one comes to be like that. Some of us are natural servers, and all these seem to require is opportunity and just a bit of regard or recognition.

The rest of us may need a bit more to be successful beyond a one-time commitment. Sunday’s event for me was illuminating. How do we take what happened Sunday and grow it into something that yields thriving, committed volunteers and sustainable programming over the long-haul?

Thoughts?

Conquering the Warm Body Mentality – Matt Orth

Overcoming the ‘Hire a Warm Body’ Mentality – Gina Trimarco – Love her quote: “Think of recruiting as marketing.”

How Volunteer Recruitment Works – Warm Body and Targeted Recruitment – Robert Lamb

Warm Bodies, Cold, Hard Facts – Volunteer PlainTalk – Meridian Swift

Volunteer Quality vs. Volunteer Quantity – Amy Fenton

Recruiting Warm Bodies – Ron Edmondson