Tag Archives: change

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Ready For Your Workday? – Lessons From Cintas

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine

Next time you head to the restroom, take a look around. Unless it has just been stormed by a tour group that needed more than the usual service, you can get a sense of readiness. Not the readiness of the restroom, but of the person or agency servicing it…and you as a customer. I wrote about this level of customer service once before  here. Why I wrote about clean restrooms then is why it begins my topic today. Clean restrooms demonstrate a sense of pride and caring. We want restrooms to be ready for the workday. How about our own readiness?

Readiness is defined as being fully prepared and willing to execute.
It is not just about being prepared for one’s workday. It’s also a ready-set-go willingness to be on our toes, stepping up, taking the ball, and scanning both the horizon and the lines drawn on our playing field.

When a Cintas truck rolls into the parking lot, I can almost smell the clean linens and uniforms inside. Their branding includes this mantra: Ready for the Workday: A confident image, clean facility and safe workplace start here. Here’s their commercial that I just saw this weekend, It got me thinking about the broad reach of readiness in the workplace.

My husband walks out of the house ahead of me every morning with his computer bag and a thermos of coffee. He has his schedule on his phone and he keeps a journal. He has thought about the day. He is prepared…the willingness to execute then comes into play as he goes out our door and enters his company’s door…and all the rest of the doors of his day. Both are disciplines – the preparedness of readiness and the willingness to execute.

Readiness keeps momentum going and momentum has huge impact on business and workplace excellence.

After watching the Cintas commercial, I went to their website. What a feast for anyone wanting to learn about leadership and a healthy workplace culture. Check out their Code of Conduct and Business Ethics page. Nothing on their agenda about Business Casual – and everything about dressing and performing aims at positive impact, and helping their customers do the same.

The website’s drop-down menu displays a variety of helps and services. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this company is for-profit based on the generous sharing of information for helping others (their customers and competitors) be “ready for the workday”.

I want to close with some of the quotes from the Cintas website – both from their own founder and from writers who speak for and to their own leadership. Enjoy.

Corporate culture is the single most important distinguishing factor between greatness and mediocrity. It is a major reason Cintas is different from our competitors and other companies. It is our ultimate competitive advantage.” Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

A key to our success has been a culture that encourages meaningful, respectful relationships between the company and our employee-partners and the commitment to always do what’s right. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and trust has become our most important competitive advantage and is a cornerstone of the Cintas culture.” – Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

“Those who rise to senior leadership levels in almost any organization have one critical attribute in common — they’ve embraced soft leadership skills. This includes having the ability to build relationships with the people you work with. There’s never been a leader in this world without people who wanted to follow them — and the first step to getting people to want to support you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, and learn what’s important to them.”Karlyn Borysenko

Be transparent. Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, ‘regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.’”Lee Polevoi

Don’t micromanage or give step-by-step instructions. Instead, provide guardrails while giving [employees] the freedom to find smart and creative solutions.Chuck Leddy

Photo Credit: LinedIn – Cintas

Hope you enter your workplace ready for the day today! The best part of Monday is its own possibility of a new beginning. Of course, that sort of “Monday” can come any day of the week.

On ready!

6 Essential Leadership Skills That Will Advance Your Career – Karlyn Borysenko

Building Trust in the Workplace – What Business Leaders Can Do – Lee Polevoi

Agile Process Management: An Approach For Business Success – Chuck Leddy

16 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Workday – Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes

6 Tips For Building Momentum  During Change – Sallie Sherman

Why Preparation Is Better Than Planning – Craig Jarrow

Being Ready For Your Workday Feels Great! – Advance Preparation Is the Key to a Successful Day – Craig Jarrow

What Does Casual Dress Really Mean Today? – 6 Wardrobe Tips For Career Success – Lynn Taylor

Monday Morning Moment – 7 Skills of the Top Leaders of Tomorrow – Whatever Your Age or Stage – with Matt Monge

Blog - Tomorrow's Leaders - Mojo companyPhoto Credit: The Mojo Company

[From the Archives]

Leaders of Tomorrow. What age group came to mind? Probably not your own. Maybe that’s one of our dilemmas in life and work. We either think we have already arrived as tomorrow’s leader today (ugh!). Or we stop thinking of how we can develop into that change agent of tomorrow because we’ve fixed our course…or settled into what we know already. It’s served us well so far, right?

Here’s my Monday morning gift to you: an introduction to the person, writing, and wisdom of Matt Monge.  Earlier in his career, he worked in finance (credit unions, in particular), and had fascinating titles like Chief Culture Officer and Vice-President of People and  Development. Currently he is is president of The Mojo Company, a leadership development consulting firm. His Facebook page bio reads: “My mission? Make the world a better place by helping people, leaders, & workplaces be more human. Depression fighter. Keynote speaker. Head of The Mojo Co.”

Blog - Monday Morning - Matt Monge - Leadership is about serving - FacebookPhoto Credit: Matt Monge Facebook Page

I read everything Matt Monge writes. Even his promotional video taught me more about leadership (you’ll want to take notes).

Monge posted a blog a few weeks back and I’ve been thinking through it since… It’s his 7 Skills Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Are Developing Today. I decided to post his bullet points here and how they stirred my thoughts on skill development today. [Don’t miss reading his thinking on this and other leadership topics in links.]

  1. Being Others-Oriented – While other employee development folks have moved away from “servant leadership” language, Matt Monge continues wisely to be a strong supporter of it. I, too, am delighted by leaders who continue to seek out the greatest good for both employees and customers. The bottom line is best served here. As the years go by, or as tribes are built, our temptation is to coast in this area…making the negative assumption that someone else is serving while we’re the idea leaders. As leaders go, so go the organizations.
  2. Persuasion, Logic, & Negotiation – First, Monge sees top leaders as practicing persuasion and negotiation differently “not with power, position, coercion, or even deception; but rather through logic, reason, and with an eye toward the good of the whole.” It’s funny how unaware leaders can be in thinking that manipulation and coercion go unnoticed by employees under their authority. It’s always better to do the work of taking the high road of negotiating and persuading. When we engage in the give-and-take of healthy debate and problem-solving, it’s a win-win for everyone. It does require time, trust, homework, and humility.
  3. Reframing – This is a discipline of looking at a problem or situation from different perspectives. Monge talks about doing this in such a way that we wrestle with our own biases and blind spots. Reframing can make for a decision or problem solved that have wider success or effectiveness.
  4. Knowing How to Think about and Make Decisions – Monge makes the distinction of being decisive vs. being a good decision-maker. I love this because often we experience leaders who get the job because they are decisive. Period. Full-stop. What does it take though to be a good decision-maker? To become an effective leader is to examine how we make decisions – what are my decision-making processes, who are my guides, what are those factors that always weigh in on my decisions? [Monge names those factors as presuppositions and core values. We need to think about what those are.]
  5. The Ability to Work and Build Community with Others – This is such a core value of mine and yet after years in my career, it bears refreshing. I’m reminded, as Monge writes about this, of the Old Boys’ Network. Today, maybe it’s less-gender-defined and called other things, like C-Suite executives, or even tribe. Still, if it’s a few making decisions for the many, it’s not community. Monge’s constant message is that the strength and health of an organization is in the community. Leaders must do the work of leaning in to their colleagues (outside the executive suite) to draw on the wealth of knowledge there and to affirm the value and varied roles of those coworkers.Blog - Matt Monge - human - twitterPhoto Credit: Twitter
  6. Leadership – The leaders of tomorrow are continuing to develop themselves toward that future. We can be always learning, always growing – not necessarily just like other leaders in our lives, but learning what we need to learn to remain relevant/useful. Resting on the laurels of past successes or doing “what we’ve always done” will eventually pull us to the sidelines. I’m in the painful, personal throes of dealing with this right now myself. Shaking it off and moving forward!
  7. Understanding Humanness & Emotional Intelligence – Monge defines emotional intelligence as having “four basic components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management”. Foundational to emotional intelligence, in Monge’s thinking, is this whole element of humanness. As the workplaces of the future give way to more and more technology, we will be wise in tuning into the growing need for humanizing our organizations and our human employee experience. Being tech-savvy and not people-savvy misses what could be. Leaders of tomorrow, take note.

So that’s it for today. I love Mondays because they bring another opportunity to hit “the refresh” key of our work lives. We are not only motivated for the week ahead – differently than Fridays when the focus is the weekend – but we’re fresh in our view of our work community…and hopeful.

Matt Monge and others like him give me the encouragement I need to cast off from the safe, still shore and re-enter the fast and deep water of today’s work environment, determined to maneuver well there…and maybe even coax other quality people back in from the shallows. Whatever our ages or sensibilities, we can work toward being tomorrow’s leaders of excellence.

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

Monday Morning Moment – Change at Work – Moving Forward and Letting Go of the Past

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For two years, I had the extraordinary experience of writing for a work team put together by the president of a company to develop something really new. It was a phenomenal and humbling experience for me to observe a small and capable team taking a vision and fleshing it out for the broadest application possible.

The conference room had whiteboard walls where big ideas and wild possibilities were sketched out. Then the conversations expanded, adaptations were made, others (both inside the company and out) added ideas, and a process was born that could have tremendous impact on the company’s overall mission.IMG_3140

However…things can change. The budget tightens; the team breaks up; the company gets sold. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Sometimes, a work has to be put on hold or transferred to the hands of another team or… fill in the blank.

One by one, the members of the team take other jobs, retire, or move into other assignments within the company. It happens.

The white boards go white again. The cubicles are cleaned out. The name cards are removed. The phones ring elsewhere. The mail is diverted to other places. IMG_3122IMG_3120IMG_3121IMG_3138

Is it as if this great creative thing never happened? Absolutely not!

One day, it will be the next right time, with the next adequate resources, and with the next trusted team. Never having to start at ground zero again…because of this team…and this time…and the work brilliantly accomplished together.

Moving Forward (2)

Somebody will always be the last person out, but each takes their memories with them…their experience…the wisdom gained…the relationships. Those are not left behind or placed in boxes. Those intangibles are the most real gains of our work lives.IMG_3128

In the long-running TV comedy series, The Office, Dwight Schrute watered the plant. No one noticed until he left the job, and the plant began to die. In the finale of the show’s last season, his office mates replanted it outside.IMG_3117 What a great metaphor in thinking about the varying gifts each of us brings to our jobs. At times, in our workday world, we don’t realize all that our colleagues bring to the team or company…until they are gone (re-assigned or in a job/situation elsewhere). It’s a good thing to remember and celebrate…and then…there comes a time when moving forward is the order of the day.

[Sidebar: To that precious one who did keep the plants alive for this team, all the others are still living and relatively healthy. Sorry about this one. Thanks for all the beauty you brought to this office.]

While going through this process of chronic transition, a friend has recommended a great book by William Bridges: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Bridges talks the reader through the three different phases of transition and gives practical strategies for dealing with these sometimes confusing and painful times.

“We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.”   – William Bridges

I have a little desk toy that when you press it, a nasal electronic voice sounds “Moving Forward!” It is exactly what we needed to do, and we’re doing it.Moving Forward

You can only look back for so long. At some point you have to move forward. Moving forward is a good thing… Besides getting on with our life and work, it gives impetus to let go of whatever would hold us back whether good or bad. We learn from both and take both with us moving forward…hopefully in such a way that we celebrate what was good and we take heart in and wisdom from whatever the hard experience we leave behind. We move on.

In this last day of packing up and moving out, two little team-building signs from a by-gone era surfaced in the bottom of a drawer. The irony wasn’t lost. IMG_3137For you who were on this team and any who find themselves in a similar situation, I’m cheering for you. You, indeed, are great! Of course, no team today can ever really claim to be creators of a ground zero innovation or body of work. For sure, we all stand on the shoulders of giants

I wrote a series of articles on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over – Rescue Monday, reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. [Two pieces are referenced below.] Acuff gives great counsel to anyone struggling in the process of moving forward. I’d like to close with a couple of his quotes on moving forward.

“Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude. – Jon Acuff

“Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really… I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.” – Jon Acuff

What has helped/is helping you to deal with a current (or past)  disappointing work situation? Please share your story in comments below.

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

Do Over – Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff

Transition: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

The Challenge of the Prolonged Neutral Zone Era – (Insight from William Bridges, Managing Transitions) – Really good synopsis on this troublesome prolonged transition

Blog - Look Back, Look forward - Nourish the dream

The Other Side of Organizational Downsizing – What Survivors and Their Managers Can Do Going Forward

Blog - Downsizing strategies - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Recently, a young friend of mine told me about an abrupt change in his company. He went in one morning to the usual – team meeting, work routine, cubicle life. Then in the early afternoon, without any prior notice or indication, the head of the company walked around the building with envelopes. By the end of the day, in this small tech support company, one-third of the employees had packed up and left the building.

Surprise lay-offs are the hardest to bear, but any kind of downsizing, no matter how necessary, is stressful and disorienting. When crisis precipitating a downsizing occurs, organizational leaders are wise to put together a transition team right away.

For those who were laid-off or who took the separation package in a carefully orchestrated downsizing, there is colossal adjustment. Hopefully, they will get the support they need to get that next job or to thrive in retirement.

For those who remain with the company, their adjustment can be great as well. Do an internet search for “surviving downsizing” and you will find hundreds of articles, and even several books on the subject.

Employees who survive the downsizing (whether because of their age, capabilities, or department) will still go through a period of post-traumatic stress. On that Monday, for instance, after their colleagues leave, they must re-orient to a new normal.

Blog - Downsizing threat or opportunity - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Michael Sanders, author of 7 Critical Mistakes Employees Make in a Downsizing, wrote an empowering Linkedin article on how to take charge of one’s own survivors’ syndrome and move forward. First Sanders defines the elements of “sickness”; elements which include guilt, mistrust, sadness, anxiety, and disagreeability. Then he moves right to ten “power moves” that employees can make for a healthier, more substantive work situation. I list these, but don’t miss, in the article, what he says further on each.

  1. Practice instant alignment re-centering.
  2. Play by the new rules.
  3. Speed up.
  4. Practice intensive task management.
  5. Fall in love with your work, again.
  6. Take on new assignments.
  7. Expand your business affiliations.
  8. Continue your education.
  9. Become your own hero.
  10. Keep in touch with laid-off [or “downsized”] work friends.

Some of Sanders’ action items may seem more than you can handle as you adjust yourself to a work life very different than the previous one. His bottom line is  to refuse to be a victim. Whether your organization is proactive in retaining and retraining you, you can champion your own professional needs and career. It will benefit you and either your current employer or your next one.

Stress specialist Morton C. Orman, M.D. also wrote a prescriptive piece entitled 18 Ways to Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change. Below are 8 of the points I believe are most helpful (again refer to his article for the rest of his wisdom).

  1. Be prepared for [more] change.
  2. Watch out for unrealistic expectations.
  3. Get creative.
  4. Expand your value to the company.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments.
  6. Seek appropriate compensation or “risk share” arrangements.
  7. Improve lines of communication.
  8. Become more efficient.

Again, these may seem obvious, on one hand, and annoyingly intrusive as well. You’re grieving the beloved colleague who was laid-off or that great boss who retired. In the process of that grief which may be with you for some time, you still have that job to do…with probably more responsibility added. Sadness and anxiety tend to affect our performance negatively. That’s why it’s imperative to set in place processes you may not have needed before but need now to recover and embrace what’s ahead.

Hopefully you have leaders and managers who are already astutely moving the company forward…with you in mind, as well as the  product/services. If not, you can’t risk waiting. Do your reading, evaluate your course of action, build your new work community, and demonstrate to yourself and those around you…you are a survivor! In the best sense of the word.

The Downsizing Jungle: 10 Power Moves by Mike Sanders

The Effects of Downsizing on Survivors: a Meta-analysis – Dissertation of Dr. Gladys West; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2000 – an excellent presentation of the issues of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, turnover intention, role conflict, job involvement, supervisor support, procedural and distributive fairness. [scholarly piece but worth wading through.]

Slideshare – Downsizing Best Practices – Survivors are Key – Don’t Neglect Them – Carol Beatty

Survivor Employees: What You Need to Know – description of 6 common profiles of employees dealing with “layoff survivor syndrome”

After Layoffs, Help Survivors Be More Effective – excellent article on what’s at stake for survivors of layoff and how, from a management standpoint, to turn things around.

18 Ways To Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change

Blog - Downsizing - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

5 Friday Faves – Fall Trees, Handling Change, Naming Our Grief, Cool Job, and an Icebreaker Question

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  1. Fall Trees – Is it a sugar maple or a yellow poplar? I don’t know, but isn’t it beautiful in the Fall leaf-turning? In the first year of our marriage, Dave and I lived in New Haven, Ct. where I was teaching and he was finishing his Ph.D. In the Fall, the sidewalks of our street were carpeted with these new-fallen soft yellow leaves. It was a magical time…just weeks after our wedding. I will always remember walking those yellow paths in the brief days before the snow came. The leaves dried and became crinkly. When the wind blew, or we crunched and kicked the leaves along, they blew up into the air. As if in a dance of joy. Sorry, there’s a deep romance in my heart that stirs at the sight of these trees in their Fall glory. Love!Fall yellow leaves by Shay WhitePhoto Credit: Shay White Photography

Blog - Fall Leaves Covering SidewalkPhoto Credit: Ann Williams, pinterest.com

2) Handling Change – Change is part of our lives every day, yet we struggle with it. Coming to grips and making peace with change helps us to move ahead to whatever is next. When Brian Dodd talks about handling change, he is speaking to pastors and church leaders. However, there is wisdom for any of us going through change in his article on the strange struggle of Jacob – wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32).

  • Change affects those you love.
  • Change costs you some change.
  • Change can be lonely.
  • Change takes time.
  • Change requires struggle.
  • Change does not leave you the same.
  • Change requires grit.
  • Changes requires humbleness.
  • Change is necessary for you to get better.
  • Change allows you to see God.

“Change is a true constant to be leveraged.  Not a temporary burden to avoid.” – Brian Dodd

Another related study on Genesis 32:22-32 I found helpful is Broken But Blessed.2015 October - Blog, Fall, Trees, Sadie 048

3) Naming our Grief – Grief always has a name and naming our grief helps us to heal. Having lived overseas for many years, we understand “Hellos-Goodbyes-Hellos” – both the sorrows and the joys of them. As the years go by, we experience job changes, relocations of friends and family, and deaths of loved ones. In a few days, it will be the 13th anniversary of my Mom’s Homegoing, and every day I still think of her. That grief definitely has a name. Sometimes grief feels more vague, like a sadness with a cloudy source. When I found this piece Because Grief Has a Name by Abby Alleman, it touched my heart. She says it well:

“Naming grief is our heart acknowledging its significance and place in our lives. In this way, grief is a friend, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out. It teaches us the shape of our own unique story and guides us to tastes of the ‘fullness of joy’ found in God’s presence. Acknowledging and entering grief also guards our hearts from the calcifying effects of the denial of pain, hurt or loss. Instead of resentment, bitterness or hatred, we get healing, strength and hope. We also become those who grieve well with others. This is a true gift.” – Abby Alleman

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4) Cool Job – Interaction Designer – Complete Beginner’s Guide to Interaction Design – I am not going to say much about this because my ignorance will became obvious quickly. My first hearing of this job was around the supper table this week during our community group (Movement Church). Brian is an interaction designer. As he talked about his work, I was captivated. He works to make internet resources available to a set of consumers all over the world, and does it in such a way that is so user-friendly that even I could maneuver painlessly on that website. When you enter a website that gives you exactly what you need without bottlenecks, extra steps, or language that puts you off, then an interaction designer is probably at work unnoticed in the background of that site. Thanks, Brian, for what you do. Wow!Deb's BlogPhoto Credit: Interaction-Design.org

5) Icebreaker Question – I love icebreakers. They are a fun way to get to know a little bit more about the people around the room or in the meeting. This week, I was in a situation where the following question was used to get us started:

When was the last time you did something for the first time? What was it?”

I had to think a minute, but then it came: Soothing my wee granddaughter as if it was all up to me to settle her, even though her mommy was in the next room. [The next time will be much easier.]

What was your most recent “doing something for the first time”? What’s a favorite icebreaker question can you recommend?

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Building a Healthy Work Culture – in a Season of Change, Uncertainty, and Dips in Morale

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What are you celebrating at work these days? Hopefully you didn’t have to think really hard. Just having a job is something to celebrate, for sure. Beyond that, hopefully you have work that gets you up in the morning with a sense of purpose and a gladness of heart for your work community.

What if that’s not the case this morning? Any number of things can cause our workplace to become more stressful than healthful – a disappointing outcome in our research, a conflict over division of labor, a company merger or buy-out, a downsizing. I am awkwardly  list such things because none may touch on your situation. What is your work situation and your current work culture?

Whatever it is, working over a protracted period of time with low morale makes for a difficult work situation. We want to do whatever we can to turn that around. Not just for the sake of the organization and the goals of same, but for the sake of the personnel. The wellbeing of employees is the biggest factor in the long-term productivity of organizations. Yet, how do we wrap our collective leadership minds around such a thing as morale and engagement?

The key is work culture – and fostering a healthy work culture with as much energy and thought as we do our product line or customer service.

I was reading about work culture, especially related to a season of spiraling morale, and came across a pdf introduction of the book How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work by Rosie Ward and Jon Robison.

Not having read beyond the introduction of the book, I can’t give a full recommendation yet. However, the first few pages have already resonated with me about what is at play related to morale, or well-being, and what could be possible to restore it. Here are some quotes from Ward & Robison’s Introduction:

“Despite overwhelming evidence of a powerful link between effective leadership styles, positive work cultures and higher levels of organizational performance, many companies still operate with a top down, authoritarian management style, do not measure or intentionally create their desired culture, and do not effectively develop current and future leaders to maximize employee engagement and wellbeing.”

The authors go on to say that even in work situation where the leadership style is more employee-centered, the idea of work culture may not be well-understood or operationalized.

“Culture is the differentiating factor between high-performing and low-performing companies; however, most companies have not identified, articulated, measured or intentionally created their desired culture.”

The dilemma of employee morale may actually extend to the leadership team itself.

“The majority of executive leadership teams are not operating in a truly cohesive manner, and many leaders themselves are at a point of burnout.”

“Edgar Schein, PhD, leading researcher on corporate culture, describes culture as ‘the hidden force that drives most of our behavior both inside and outside organizations’. It’s like looking at a river. All of the things you see on the surface, from the flow of the water to the shape of the riverbed, are manifestations of an ever-changing, powerful current beneath the surface. In terms of culture, the current that ultimately guides the strength and direction of the organization includes the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings of employees. The interaction between leaders and culture is profound and critical when considering how to transform or evolve the overall culture and subcultures within an organization.

“Patrick Lencioni writes that, to be successful, an organization must focus on two basic qualities: It must be smart, and it must be healthy. According to Lencioni, a ‘smart organization’ is one that excels in the classic fundamentals of business — i.e., strategy, operations, finance, marketing and technology. A “healthy organization” is one in which there are minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover. While being smart is only half of the equation, for most organizations, it occupies almost all of the time, energy and attention of leaders. Yet, according to Lencioni: ‘Once organizational health is properly understood and placed into the right context it will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage. Really.‘”

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How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work, Featuring the 7 Points of Transformation by Rosie Ward and Jon Robison

Work culture and employee well-being are not addressed by just another wellness program. Organizational ethos and values must incorporate both philosophy and programming to build morale, trust, and engagement of employees. Especially if the organization has been through a protracted season of change and uncertainty.

The good news is that possibilities abound. Workplace development literature is rich with approaches and frameworks that you will find helpful in attacking your own set of challenges. One such article is Workplace Culture is Everything: 20 Ideas For Building a Thriving Team – Great links to 20 articles on Workplace Culture. [I apologize, since I’m citing this resource, for the “coded” profane word in the title of one article. Good read otherwise].

Another book I re-discovered in reading about morale this weekend is Daniel Pink’s Drive. When a company is in the middle of a reorganization or restructuring, employee wellbeing (engagement, performance, satisfaction) can get lost in the sheer workload of the executive leadership team. This is when Human Resources, Membercare, or the Employee Medical Program can offer their own recommendations as to how to rebuild the work culture from the personnel side.

Are you in such a season? What have you done in this area? What has been helpful? I would love to hear about how your organization has dealt with employee morale and engagement during seasons of transition.

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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

11 Ways to Create a Thriving Workplace

How to Create and Maintain a Workplace Culture That Will Make Your Company Thrive

Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Adaptability – The Very Human Side of These Business Processes

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I will never forget when an elder statesman in an organization (both dear to me) was “let go”, so to speak, because of a need for more “bang for the buck”. The expression was so toxic then and still carries a deep pain. It speaks to the tension between efficiency and effectiveness, and the pressing need for adaptability as our world rapidly changes. At the same time, we have to remember, in almost all situations, it’s people in the mix of these business processes.

Efficiency is a good thing. However, it must be secondary to effectiveness. Effectiveness is primary always. How best to assure both is to build an organizational culture of adaptability.

Tom Coyne has defined effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability brilliantly in a published 2-page pdf*. Here they are:

“Effectiveness measures the extent to which the results you have achieved match your goals.” Strategy leaders set those goals, and the goals determine who does the work, when, where, and how.

“Efficiency measures the amount of scarce resources used to obtain the results achieved.” His use of the term “scarce resources” is thought-provoking. When we focus on efficiency – getting the most benefit from the least resources – we can lose our objective. Resources are precious. Full-stop. Whether they are people, time, or finances. We must consider how we spend resources always, and especially when they are scarce.  However, if we miss the mark on our objective because we misspent our resources or allocated them unwisely, then we paid for efficiency with effectiveness. A poor transaction.

Gen. McChrystal, speaks to this, in his book Team of Teams (more about this book follows). He puts a captivating twist on it in his challenge: “If I told you that you weren’t going home until we win—what would you do differently?” We can’t focus primarily on efficiency when effectiveness is the outcome we desire. Adaptability is really what will get us to where we want to go.

Adaptability measures the change in Effectiveness and Efficiency for a given level of change in the agent or organization’s environment…One of our great failings as human beings is our reluctance to acknowledge the full implications of living in a world of complex adaptive systems. The causes of yesterday’s success are impossible to fully understand, and unlikely to be replicable to the same extent in the futureWe naturally try to succeed again in the future, using the approach that worked in the past, with frequently disappointing and occasionally fatal results.”

Coyne goes on to write about how to work these processes out toward business and employee/team success in a changing world.

Good stuff to know and implement.

Early on in my career, one of the mantras I heard repeatedly was this:

“The three most important things to learn in your work is flexibility…flexibility…flexibility.”

That later changed, in company vernacular, to “fluidity” x 3. The only problem was the temptation to decide for myself what was fluidity/flexibility and what was not. This is where silos and self-interest evolve when we’re not even aware, until we find ourselves not being successful (effective/efficient). In the very work we’ve immersed ourselves in for years…working hard, but not working as smart as we could have. [I know, that hurts – and it will take more than efficiency gurus to bring us out of such a predicament healthy.]

It is possible to turn the ship around…and it takes a whole crew.

Decentralized, empowered teams. Trust. Transparency and collaboration in decision-making. Broad information-sharing. Ownership in real time not just in philosophy. Bringing down silos and working together to nurture an organizational culture where we expect change and thrive in it.

What focus yields a win-win in our workplace? Both from the human side and the business side of performance and organizational culture. What can we do to enhance our business processes – whether we are in management or on the frontlines of our organization?

The following quotes should help to stir thinking. They are out of the book Team of Teams by retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, currently with The McChrystal Group.

“In complex environments, resilience often spells success, while even the most brilliantly engineered fixed solutions are often insufficient or counterproductive.”  – Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In place of maps, whiteboards began to appear in our headquarters. Soon they were everywhere. Standing around them, markers in hand, we thought out loud, diagramming what we knew, what we suspected, and what we did not know. We covered the bright white surfaces with multicolored words and drawings, erased, and then covered again. We did not draw static geographic features; we drew mutable relationships—the connections between things rather than the things themselves.” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

[Sidebar: I had the great pleasure of writing for such a team over the last 3 years. It was a privilege to see that level of creativity and collaboration, in a team of equals, birthing a workplace initiative in sync with a changing world. Amazing experience.]

“Specifically, we restructured our force from the ground up on principles of extremely transparent information sharing (what we call “shared consciousness”) and decentralized decision-making authority (“empowered execution”).” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In a resilience paradigm, managers accept the reality that they will inevitably confront unpredicted threats; rather than erecting strong, specialized defenses, they create systems that aim to roll with the punches, or even benefit from them. Resilient systems are those that can encounter unforeseen threats and, when necessary, put themselves back together again.”  – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

View your leadership as being less about giving top-down orders and more about cultivating those who follow you, empowering them to make the right decisions. Many leaders are tempted to lead like a chess master, striving to control every move, when they should be leading like gardeners, creating and maintaining a viable ecosystem in which the organization operates.This is especially applicable to private sector leaders; the world is moving too quickly for those at the top to master every detail and make every decision. Empowering, cultivating, and ultimately serving those who follow you will unlock massive potential within your organization, allowing you to solve for problems in real time.” – Gen. McChrystal, Forbes.com

*Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability – The Three Keys to Performance Measurement

Effectiveness Before Efficiency

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

The Power of Business Process Improvement: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability by Susan Page

GoodReads Team of Teams Quotes

Stanley McChrystal: What The Army Can Teach You About Leadership

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to Win in the 21st Century

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

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Monday Morning Moment – You Have Three Choices – in Work and Life

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Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.Colossians 3:22-24

Hopefully, you’re not feeling like a slave this Monday morning. You have choices. Even Paul, in writing to the Colossian church, spoke to those believers, enslaved at that time, as persons with choices.

My Monday mornings these days have been filled with thoughts and prayers for friends working in difficult and unusual circumstances – uncertain futures, struggling to stay on course, grappling with coming change. If you’re not in such a challenge, be glad and learn from those who are. How thankful I am for those in my life who shine as “stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14-16).

Every single day, we have choices of how we deal with our work and our co-workers…especially in the press of uncertainty and change.

1. We could give up. What a temptation this is. When we are faced with what seems like a waning future (dwindling opportunities, more work with less workers, damaged trust), it is easy actually to give up. We clock in and do what’s necessary. Stay below the radar. Spend breaks researching other jobs. Keep doing what we’ve been doing with no vision for the future. This is an easy default…don’t make it yours. You’re better than that.

2. We could give in. – This is the darker choice. This is when we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts and color our attitudes and work. Giving in is when our performance actually deteriorates because we figure who cares anyway. Giving in is when we say the ugly things we’ve been thinking about our situation. Giving in is when we treat colleagues who were once friends as competitors, as threats to our position rather than supporters. Giving in does no one any favors and actually adds to the burden we already feel in what may be a very complicated situation already. Giving in is never where we want to go.Blog - Look Back, Look forward - Nourish the dreamPhoto Credit: Nourish the Dream Facebook.com

3. We could give it all we’ve got. Here’s where huge faith and great character come in. It’s so easy to say, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, “Stay in the game.”, “Trust God”. Don’t get me wrong; these encouragements are wise and true…it’s when we are struggling with the muck and mire of actually putting feet to faith in a situation that seems wrong. The difficulty at work may not even be wrong; it may be completely necessary…It’s when the force of the impact lands squarely on you that these choices become so real. Still, we have choices. It’s not the workplace that forces these choices on us. They are always ours. Every. Single. Workday.

If I can speak into my friends’ struggle, please stay on the course you’ve been on – such a way that you continue to build/leave a legacy of glory – to God and to the work He’s given us to do. One friend of ours in the thick of a stressful, stressful work situation, told another friend of mine, “Don’t lose heart”.  When you hear that kind of encouragement from someone determined to keep his own focus on what matters it resonates with such verity you want to do nothing less. So, let’s never lose heart and let’s do the work of trusting God in our situations. It’s so much better than the consequences of the other choices. So much better.Blog - Unknown future and a Known God - Monday MorningPhoto Credit: Nourish the Dream Facebook.com

After all, it’s only Monday morning. Who knows what the rest of the week will bring? For my friends who are in complicated work situations, having to drag yourselves out of a ditch each day to do a good job, I want to say how thankful I am to know you. How honored to see the fruit of your work. How joyful that our paths have crossed in the workplace. How much more trusting I am of God myself, because of you.

As our friend said, please “don’t lose heart”.

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heartFor momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.2 Corinthians 4:15-17

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. – Galatians 6:9-10

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Nourish the Dream – Your Headquarters for Biblical Business Success – Facebook page – David G. Johnson

13 Bible Verses to Overcome Disappointment

Collaborative Conversations – Quotes to Stir Your Thinking on Leadership and Language in Workplace Decision-making

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Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.” – David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.” – David Perkins

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. [Davis quotes Hage]: “Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; ‘either you’re with us or you’re against us’. “ (Hage, 2004, p. 3).””

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

“[Leadership’s] language of regrettable necessity translates directly to the “There Is No Alternative”. [This strategy] is used to always move the focus of discussion away from any big picture ‘why’ questions. This is done by shifting the focus to discussions only about the budget pie or, more particularly, the piece of the budget pie that is contestable. People find themselves fighting for a slice of the budget pie and energies focus only on the ‘pie’ and getting the biggest piece of it. This shifts the focus from larger issues such as whether the budget is set correctly, what has been included and what has been excluded. Thinking about alternatives is never an option.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“Language is the visible tip of the cultural iceberg that largely remains hidden.”

“Perkins (2007) used two metaphors in his presentation and so far I have only privileged the five languages of war metaphor in this discussion. The other metaphor used was the “five languages of peace”. The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”

Provocative reading from this Australian educator. Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. Still, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean?

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

Making the Workforce Work! The Collaborative Workforce Initiative