Tag Archives: Colleagues

Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Monday Morning Moment – People You Love Working With – and Becoming One of Them

blog-likable-guys-at-work-askmenPhoto Credit: AskMen

It’s Monday morning and whatever you’re facing today, these folks help to bring down your stress and lighten your load…just by being in your path. You can name them easily. They are the ones who make you laugh and see a different side to your situation. They are the ones who give you second thoughts when considering a job change. They are the ones who add value to you, not just as a colleague but as a real in-the-skin human being. These are the folks who can turn the course of your day with just a few minutes conversation…or even a wave from across the parking lot. It’s just that simple.blog-likeable-cowoers-muffy-bennettPhoto Credit: Mashable

For you guys in a dark place…and not one person comes to mind…maybe, it’s good to think back…to people in your past who helped set you on a positive course in your career…think of those people. If you are in a hole in your workplace right now, and many of us have been there at some point in our professional lives, could you rally and become one of these people who light up the place?

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Photo Credit: Friendship.about

Here’s the challenge for today. I read an article by content strategist Scott Tousley recently which got me thinking about this.  Is it possible to become “a rising tide that lifts all boats”? If you’ve read this far, you probably are already that kind of person. However, if somehow you struggle with keeping fellow employees in your view while dealing with large-scale problem-solving, you might want to consider a personal assessment and do-over. It’s never too late.

Scott Tousley – who has the longest eyelashes and most infectious smile – also gets to live and work in San Diego, California. Besides all that, he writes really insightful articles about the workplace. His article, The 9 Habits of Insanely Likable and Charismatic People, is so good, I’m not going to write my own commentary on this topic, because you HAVE to go read his article. It lists the 9 habits (included below) with real-life anecdotes, brilliant support data, and links to read more. So don’t miss it – lightning-fast read for us visual learners.

Tousley’s 9 habits of insanely likable & charismatic people: 

1. They are empathetic

2. They are humble

3. They are vulnerable

4. They have a sense of humor

5. They are present

6. They are genuinely interested in EVERYONE

7. They avoid social narcissism

8. They are generous and altruistic

9. They reciprocate praise (and take blame)

Being likable and charismatic isn’t about being popular or climbing the career ladder as much as it’s about making a huge chunk of our lives just more enjoyable… We have choices here.

blog-likable-coworkers-the-question-academyblog-likeable-coworkers-amanda-gorePhoto Credit: The Question Academy; LinkedIn

If you had trouble calling to mind people you really like at work, then you’ve probably fallen down but you can get up! Don’t let that snarky, seemingly self-important coworker or boss mess with your head and steal your joy. Refocus to those in your workspace who you can’t help but be encouraged around them. Don’t miss them in that cloud of bother over the less likable ones around you. So what if they don’t seem to care about you or others at work. You be one who cares…and it can make a big difference. Take Scott Tousley’s excellent counsel in noting and affirming those likable ones around you…and set your course to return to being one yourself.

The 9 Habits of Insanely Likable and Charismatic People – Scott Tousley

4 Simple Questions That Will Instantly Make You More Likable at Work – Sara McCord

Being More Likable at Work – Cherie Burbach

10 Traits of Likeable People – Evan West

13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People – Travis Bradberry

How to Develop Your Charisma and Become More Likable – WATCH the Olivia Fox Cabane Video – Patrick Allan

How To Be More Likeable at Work – 10 Things To Do Today – G. L. Hoffman

YouTube Video – Amanda Gore – Stress Busters and Mood Management and Turning on the Joy Switch

Monday Morning Moment – Ultra-Productive People & What They Do Differently – 2 Infographics

blog-productivity-silicon-valley-reportPhoto Credit: Silicon Valley Report

We all have exactly the same amount of time. At least in a day. Some of us have less time than others in our lives, probably, which makes using that valuable time wisely all the more important. However, that’s the false perception of time. The idea that, because we’re young, we have all the time in the world…so chill. Enjoy. Right? Just because we’re young, how we use our time will set habits that build a foundation for our life and work. Young or old, learning how to be consummately productive is a very good plan. When we do the work of learning to be “ultra productive” part of what we gain out of that is…more time. Definitely worth the work.

I’ve written on productivity other times (in particular, about “Chris Bailey’s life of productivity”). Using time and brain power wisely is important to me because I am well aware of how easy it is to squander both. When I discovered the two infographics below, they affirmed some of the changes I’ve already made in my life and other habits worthy of establishing.

Kevin Kruse in a Forbes article gives us results of his survey of 200 ultra-productive people. He asked each their secret of productivity.  The infographic below lists out the 15 ideas gleaned from his study.blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-15-time-secretsPhoto Credit: Online Learning Tips

Anything surprise you? I was surprised at getting rid of to-do lists by scheduling everything. The “say no to everything” idea can be agonizing to execute and also infuriating when you’re on the receiving end.  Every idea in the list of 15 is doable and easy to develop as a habit. Worth a try, right?

Another infographic (from Dylan Roach and Jacquelyn Smith in Business Insider) highlights the morning habits of successful people. This also resonated with what I have discovered in the lives of influential and productive friends and colleagues. blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-16-things-at-start-of-each-day-update-or-diePhoto Credit: Business Insider

I appreciate the ideas of this infographic…especially the ones on helping others and being grateful. Soft habits maybe? Not really. When the ideas above get hard-wired in us through habit formation and intentionality, our productivity ramps up and our definition of success may widen to a more shared experience in our life and work.

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Quick Reads on Leadership – to Help You Stay the Course, Not Be a Jerk, While Being Innovative

Blog - Leadership - Wisdom - centresourcePhoto Credit: Centresource

Today…I got nothing.

Late nights watching the Olympic Games (#Rio2016), friends visiting from out of town, and new moms in my life…I got nothing on leadership today…

However…

These three leaders, writers and leadership observers never disappoint – Brian Dodd, Carey Nieuwhof, and Vala Afshar.

Brian Dodd is a prolific thinker and writer on leadership themes – mainly to a Christian audience, but much of what he writes is wisdom for anyone who wants to lead well. Blog - Leadership - Brian DoddPhoto Credit: Brian Dodd on Leadership

His blog on leadership quotes by Bill Purvis, who spoke recently at the GO Conference, includes the following bits for all of us.

  • Clarify your vision.
  • You get a vision by walking around.
  • You make insiders by giving them inside information.
  • Betrayal will kill your vision.
  • Devise a strategy to create a pipeline of leaders. If you want to go a long distance, you have to have a bench.
  • If you try to do it all you will burn out.
  • We can only grow to the level that we have leaders in place to train, retain people, and release people into using their gifts.
  • I’ve never known what it’s like to be jealous. I want people to win.
  • You equip other people.
  • If you don’t train leaders, you’re limited in how far you can go.
  • Our C-Level players become A-Level players wherever they go.
  • We want Ritz-Carlton to one day come to us.

Carey Nieuwhof is my favorite Canadian. He went from law school to the pulpit. His writing and podcasts on leadership are regular feasts for thought. BLog - Leadership Carey NieuwhofPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

Here’s a recent cautionary blog on 10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not a Leader. I’ll just list his points, but you want to read the whole piece.

  1. You’ve made the organization all about you.
  2. You think that people work for you.
  3. You never say thank you.
  4. You’re demanding.
  5. You keep the perks of leadership to yourself.
  6. You keep yourself front and center.
  7. You take the credit and assign the blame.
  8. You never have your team’s back.
  9. You make all the decisions.
  10. You act like a martyr.

Nieuwhof closes with asking the question, “How do I know jerk leadership so well? Because I have a jerk inside of me I need to suppress every day. My guess is you might too.

Fortunately, Jesus introduces a completely different paradigm for leadership. If you want to be a Christ-like leader, just do the opposite of these ten things. You’ll be well on your way.”

Finally, I’ve been following Vala Afshar on Twitter for a long time.Blog - Vala Afshar - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

His blog 20 Entrepreneurship Lessons From World’s top Business Thinkers, CEOs, and VCs is a brilliant collection. Below are just 6 of the 20 lessons.

  • Doing well, and doing good, are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing. If you are not doing well, you don’t have the money to keep doing good. Is your company doing the work for the right reasons – can it create meaning and money, purpose and profit?Deb Mills-Scofield
  • Customers want meaning, value and purpose for them. If you don’t have your value proposition done, you don’t need to worry about the business model. This means deliver value in the context and constraints of the customer, not what you would like it to be. This means understanding your customer’s customer needs from their perspective. Deb Mills-Scofield
  • Humble confidence is key to success. Humble companies ask for help and they give their employees the freedom to fail and try stuff. Companies that trust their employees will be more innovative. Business leaders must walk the talk and give their employees the freedom to experiment. Good leaders take all of the blame and none of the credit. Good leaders also promote and celebrate cross-collaboration across the lines-of-business. – Deb Mills-Scofield
  • When you don’t ask, the answer is no. Consider asking for help or well-deserved promotions or pay raises. Also ask for forgiveness, not permission. – Deb Mills-Scofield
  • We live in a permission economy. So how does a business lead in the permission economy. Permission is the privilege of talking to people who want to talk to you, and not because it’s important to you. It is about being missed if you don’t show up. Are you doing something worth following? If you’re not, then you’re not leading. – Seth Godin
  • The world is changing. What does it mean to live in a world that is changing? The key element to being a CIO or a CMO is to be a chief learning officer (CLO). To be an artisan – not a craftsman, because a craftsman does the something again and again – is to learn to do it different the next time, to do it better the next time. To be an artisan, you have to be willing to listen and learn. What it means to learn is to fail. – Seth Godin

    Hope your Monday is profitable and that you’re encouraged as a leader today. Not a leader? Oh, no….you are. We all are…in some fashion or another. Wisdom is to learn leadership from those closest to us…and those whom we can follow online and at the occasional conference…like Dodd, Nieuwhof, and Afshar.

Monday Morning Moment – How Our Expectations at Work Shape Our Successes

Blog - Expectations - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

A blog title intrigued me recently – Almost Everyone Who Is Unhappy with Life Is Unhappy for the Same Reasons. It was a re-post of a LinkedIn blog written by Dr. Travis Bradberry (author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0). He writes about the role of expectations (of ourselves and others) and the impact those expectations have on our work life and relationships.

I see this so much in myself and in relationships both at work and in community. On one end of the spectrum, there are the expectations that undermine our successes – we don’t think we have what it takes to realize our dreams or goals. [This can also include our expectations of others, in the same way, especially if our expectations influence those colleagues’ view of reality.] On the other end of the spectrum, we may have expectations that are so unreasonably and unrealistically positive that we don’t do the work of realizing those same dreams or goals. [Again, this works against relationships when we have these expectations of others.]

In his article, Bradberry lists 8 common expectations that impact our work life and work relationships. He lists them and talks about them. Here I have written my own observations related to these expectations.

As you read and reflect, Dr. Bradberry is not saying get rid of expectations, nor am I. Expectations when honest, thoughtful, and kind are great motivators toward success. The adage “Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed” doesn’t really get us where we want to go.

After you consider the following expectations and thoughts, I would love to hear some of yours (in the comments below).

  1. Life should be fair. I have never understood the lament “That’s not fair!” It really reveals the heart of “That’s not fair for me!” How do we even make life fair? Our children, growing up, were never rewarded when they cried foul on fairness. We tried to raise them to practice kindness and generosity. That usually led to better than fair. In fact, if we flipped fairness on its head, our western work situations and family lifestyles would be quite altered, if what was usual for other parts of the world became our usual. That would be fair, right?
  2.  Opportunities will fall into my lap. There are times that opportunities “fall” into our laps. I call it “a God thing”. Whatever you might call that, it is rare and wonderful. In the day-to-day, we are to go after opportunities. Sometimes our very expectations of entitlement or pessimism keep us from even seeing opportunities right in front of us). Continue working hard, build your skill-set, learn from mentors, help your colleagues, practice thinking well of your boss, and seek out challenging assignments – these are fields where opportunities grow.
  3. Everyone should like me. I have tripped over this expectation. We think our own foibles are so much less annoying than those of others. If I consider myself congenial, you should comply, right? [The fairness problem nudges in here, for sure.] Bradberry summarizes this workplace problem well: “When you assume that people are going to like you, you take shortcuts; you start making requests and demands before you’ve laid the groundwork to really understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.” Rather than expecting others to be won by our personality, expertise, and past experience, we should discipline ourselves to practice winning the trust of a colleague, boss or customer… every time, as if it were the first time. This is a game-changer.
  4. People should agree with me. We honestly don’t want to have to work for people to agree with us. In the workplace, whenever possible, our default is to hang with those who do agree with us. This temptation sets us up for failure because we don’t gain from the critique of those who see things differently. Put your vision or project before those in other departments and see with their eyes what you might have missed with your own. Granted, be wise with whose counsel you seek, but do the work of seeking that counsel. Then share credit as appropriate.
  5. People know what I’m trying to say. Emails and text messages are almost communication. In corporate culture, even meetings don’t always cultivate clear communication. Be as clear and succinct as possible. Don’t lose the message in a jumble of clarifiers, justification, or story-telling. I’m not saying story-telling isn’t valuable; it is. The problem with story-telling is it can be contrived to emotionally engage when it actually takes away from the message. Again Bradberry wrote: “Communication isn’t anything if it isn’t clear, and your communication won’t be clear until you take the time to understand the other person’s perspective.”Blog - Communication at work - cbbainsealcareersPhoto Credit: CB Bain Seal Careers

Having lived overseas, we discovered the importance of learning the local “heart language”. In a work situation, the same holds true. How you communicate is colored by the focus of the one you’re addressing – whether it’s about ROI/ROV, employee engagement, product development….or fill in the blank. You can learn to balance between being true to your own style or values and adapting somewhat to the person in front of you (as a chameleon communicator).

6. I’m going to fail. “If you pursue an endeavor, believe with all your being that you’re going to succeed in that endeavor.” – Bradberry    We all fail sometimes; having that perspective is healthy. The problem is when we are so insecure or self-deprecating, our colleagues, boss, or customers lose confidence in us, based on our own assessment of our abilities. Not something you want to ensure by your own hand. [Read the whole of Bradberry’s article to get at the heart of this.]

7. Things will make me happy. If you’re not happy at work today, there’s not one thing beyond yourself that can change that. Not a different boss, not a better team, not more vacation, not a higher salary. This is a work on the inside that has to change your experience of work on the outside. We all know this. We all know…this.

8. I can change him/her. Okay, if you’re married, you already know the futility of this statement (and your spouse can say the same thing, by the way). When we get our focus on that boss we don’t understand or that colleague who makes us nuts, we aren’t able to focus on our work or the relationships that encourage and empower us. So what if you can’t change that coworker or boss? Can you be successful in your work if he/she doesn’t change? Most probably, the answer is yes…whether it feels like it or not. We lose enormous time and emotional energy on colleagues with whom we struggle. If changing jobs isn’t plausible or desirable, then figure out how to compartmentalize the distractions, and get on with your work. You can be a rock star even with difficult work relationships. I don’t want to issue a bunch of platitudes…but it is disturbing how much is lost from our workday in ruminating over (or talking about) stuff we can’t change…when there is still so much we can accomplish. Don’t sideline yourself with brain clutter – negative thoughts that negatively affect your work and relationships.

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Keep those expectations high (for yourself) and hopeful (for others)! Happy Monday!

Unrealistic Expectations That Do You Harm – LinkedIn article by Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Quotes from GoodReads

Manage Expectations So They Don’t Manage You – Alli Worthington

The Key to Being More Attractive – Business Insider Video with Tony Robbins [Quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation.”]

Set High Expectations Because Nobody Rises to Low Expectations – Barry Canada

The Expectation Effect – (in the classroom) – SlideShare

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We”

Blog - Silos & TribalismPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

“Silos”, as a workplace term, is such a fitting description for what we do to distinguish ourselves from each other. It means compartmentalization based on specialization. Now the term “silos” is less used, replaced by the cooler term “tribes”. Unfortunately, because the workplace woes of old are still in operation, “tribes” have deteriorated into “tribalism” or…[Hello] “silos”.

I began thinking about this again this weekend when a retweet came up in my Twitter feed featuring Gianpiero Petriglieri. So much organizational resource – money and time – is spent on specialization and grooming leaders. It’s a pity when the outcome actually draws down the organization ( to small pockets of “tribal buddies”) instead of honing expertise and relationships across departments, across disciplines.Blog - Silos and Tribalism

What if we could break down silos, and reorient and reenergize tribes? What if workplace tribes incorporated a grand plan that nurtured inclusion – creating “a rising tide that lifts all boats” (Adam Grant)?

Years ago, when I was a young instructor at Yale University, I experienced workplace silos. There were bottlenecks through which I had to maneuver, until I figured out how to win those beyond the bottlenecks. Since then silos have been a part of life for me, as I’m sure they are for us all. Oncology nursing had a different prestige than critical care nursing. Was one better than the other? No.

Working in the Middle East had its own set of challenges different from working in Europe. Does that mean one elicits greater respect or benefits than another? Of course not. Right? Communication between those in the field and those in the home office can also become very much an “us” and “them” transaction.  Even within the home office, one department may seem more the “flavor of the month” than another. What are your silo/tribe challenges?

Brilliant business writers can give us great tools and insight with breaking down silos (see fast reads in the links below). If you are anticipating a major change in your organization (buy-out, down-sizing, shift in focus/product line), it makes for a perfect storm to deal with silos. Of course, if management across the organization leads out with a unifying goal (a “battle-cry”), the possibility for success is heightened. I don’t think, however, that this is the only hope for success.

What if one department, a single silo or tribe, decided to tackle the problem? What would that look like? From my work experience and from learning from great leaders, both celebrity and colleague, here’s a bare-bones minimum how-to-get-started list:

  • What is your common goal as an organization? What is the clear unified rallying cry around which you can collaborate?
  • What are your own silo biases? Do you communicate that you think your department, location, specialization should have some sort of favor? Deal with that. It’s the first barrier that has to come down.
  • If trust has been disrupted or destroyed, who can you partner with to begin to rebuild trust? Name them, and begin the process (if you pray, you might begin praying for their success as a department/division – make it NOT about you).
  • What objectives can you establish as a department to guide you in staying focused on high-value collaboration across-specialties?
  • How will you measure the course of your action toward becoming a non-silo, less tribal department? Set a time. 6 months or across whatever acute crisis you see coming. Be as intentional and broad-reaching as you are able, given your own workload. Remember that silos alter the math in a workplace – 1 + 1 + 1 = 2 when teams aren’t sharing information and working at cross-hairs. We can make the math work better, as we work, against the flow, toward creative collaboration. 

My professional life has had various silo experiences, from teaching in an Ivy League university to working on a highly innovative team (recklessly creating its own brilliant unintentional silo, later with personal regret). Silos and workplace tribes never get us where we want to go collectively. Bring ’em down.

I would love to hear about your work experiences…any struggles, breakthroughs, or victories in this area of breaking down silos and building a culture of “Yes, WE can…together.”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf WarsPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers that Turn Colleagues into Competitors

Silos and Tribes – Think Different

17 Strategies for Improving Collaboration – from the Freiberg’s – Do Not Miss This One.

How to Build Trust and Fight Tribalism to Stimulate Innovation

Breaking Bad – Squash Silos & Tribalism – Breakthrough Personal Branding

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels

Organizational Culture – 5 Questions – Notes on a Podcast with Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger

Blog - 5 Leadership Questions - Organizational CultureMy latest favorite podcast (one of my 5 Friday Faves last week) was this conversation between Barnabas Piper (co-host), Eric Geiger, and Todd Adkins (co-host). On Lifeway’s 5 Leadership Questions, they tackled the topic of creating a healthy organizational culture.

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In the podcast, they ask and answer 5 questions about organizational culture. I took notes. Listen to the podcast if you can, but if you don’t, read on. These guys have captured something we all need to consider in thinking about our workplaces and have our values speak to how healthy we are…or are not.

1) What is an organizational culture? – Culture is defined as those values or beliefs that undergird who we are and what we’re about in our organization. Culture is “everything beneath the surface that drives behavior”. Whether we are in tune to our work culture or not, we share values as a group and those values drive our behavior. There are two types of values within a culture – aspirational and actual. Aspirational values – what’s on the wall. Actual values – what takes place in the hall. Values are so embedded in culture that we take them for granted. They include philosophies and strategies and can be both good and bad for the health of our organization. What is the personality of your organization?  Psychologist Alfred Adler wrote, in 1920s, that to be healthy, three things need to be in alignment: 1) how you perceive yourself, 2) how others perceive you, and 3) how you want to be perceived. Apply that to your organization: does who you say you are match with who you actually are? This will give you a diagnosis of how healthy your organization is…if you’re willing to take a hard, honest look. How did you get the culture you have?Piper, Adkins, and Geiger then talked about how the leader of an organization will shape culture. Leaders shape culture and after three years, it will be the culture they have shaped.  If leaders don’t intentionally shape the culture, it will evolve on its own [somewhat in reaction to that leader – my take on that].

2) What are the consequences if you don’t build and shape a culture (if you let it passively happen)? “If you don’t actively cultivate the culture, whoever has the loudest voice or the clearest vision wins.” There is formal and informal authority as well as formal and informal influence with impact on an organization’s culture.  The informal influence/authority of a long-time trusted employee is important and should be respected. Culture, healthy or unhealthy, can “trump” a new leader’s ideas or strategy. “A healthy culture won’t tolerate an unwise move or won’t tolerate someone being treated inappropriately. A healthy staff culture will call people out – “We don’t talk to people that way here/we don’t treat people that way here. That’s sacred for us here.” Wise leaders will give the culture its voice as new, healthier culture is built.

3) What is the starting point for a leader to create culture? 1) Assess the culture of your organization. “It’s a mistake to say everything is broken, ruined, messed-up in this culture and we need to rebuild a whole new culture. You’re wrong. There are things that are affirmable in that culture.” [Eric Geiger on not loathing the culture you lead]  2) Find what is affirmable in your culture and affirm them. 3) Then deal with what is not present that needs to be. “For every 2 actual values, you can have one aspirational value.” If you are a new leader of an organization, resist the temptation to shake it down entirely and rebuild the culture reflecting your values. “Actual values are the foundation upon which you build culture. Affirm over and over. Then work to implement [that other value that’s only present in aspiration form].”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf Wars

Everybody needs to read Lencioni’s Politics, Silos, Turf Wars. “What is Bucket 1? – core DNA – values we do not change. Don’t even ask. Bucket 2? – Maybe. Wasn’t our Core DNA but goes against what we want. Bucket 3? – Do whatever you want.” The core values of a culture are those that are bedrock for your organization to continue. “Ask what of your culture is not going to change. When those things come up, address them immediately. What is counter-culture? Kill them. [Examine] what we pay attention to; how we react to crisis; the role models that we raise up; the stories we tell; the heroes we create.” Plato once said: “What is celebrated is cultivated.”  You are able to influence culture by telling new stories. What does your culture celebrate? What do you see that kills culture?

4) What are culture-killers in an organization that need to be abolished? What are signs of culture that needs to be celebrated? What are the culture killers not to be tolerated?A culture-killer would be the continued allowance of violative behavior of those values. If among a staff team the cultural value is we treat each other with respect; we’re a family; we do ministry together – and you have a lone ranger who gets promoted?…that’s a culture-killer.” Anything that violates the organization’s culture is a no-go. Disrespect. Passive-Aggressive behavior. Lying. You can’t tolerate such things. Then what in culture should be celebrated? As team members exhibit organizational values in their work and demeanor, you hold them up for everyone to celebrate. “Point out and celebrate when your culture’s values are fleshed out. Give a story; mention the value; celebrate a specific value of the organization lived out; from each campus/department. Remind each other that all these things are going on in different places/departments and the impact we’re having together.”

5) What does it look like to hire and fire strategically to create the kind of culture an organization needs. People create culture.  1) Hire on the values. Look for displayed commitment to the values before the person is on the team. You ask questions. Look for history. You see if they have to sacrifice something to be on your team. Do they have to become someone they’re not to be a part of the team? 2) Removing people – a strong culture is going to make it very uncomfortable for someone to stay who doesn’t have the same values. They will self-select out of a culture not like them. They’re saying, “This isn’t really me.” The organization says, “Here’s who we are.” “If they’re not going to help the culture stay healthy, you don’t want them on that team. You want them to be a fish out of water if this isn’t the culture for them. It’s about fit not worth. There is a culture for them somewhere that matches their values.”

I love these guys – Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger. This podcast was very timely in my own cultural experience. I am watching an organization dear to me go through a painful downsizing – through a voluntary retirement incentive to start. This organization (both aspirationally and actually) values longevity, experience, perseverance, and history. You can imagine the struggle within of how to come to grips with this direction – necessary but heart-wrenching for them as an organization. Organizational culture is important to understand. It is how we help our culture through a crisis to get back to a healthy place. Culture cannot be disregarded.

Don’t Loathe the Culture You Lead by Eric Geiger

How Not to Loathe the Culture You Are Leading – Eric Geiger

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – PDF – Executive Book Summaries

SlideShare – Organization Culture and Climate

Organizational Structure and Culture – Principles of Management – New Charter University

Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst

Photo Credits: 5 Leadership Questions Header. Barnabas Piper, Eric Geiger, and Todd Adkins