Category Archives: Workplace or Marketplace

Monday Morning Moment – Operational Transparency – Opening Up Windows to Our Lives at Work, Home, and Community

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s take a close look at our work and life for a moment. When product and customer service are both excellent, we experience the greatest value as both employees and consumers. However, when there are processes at work that we can’t really visualize or don’t understand, we may question the value of either the product or the service. Especially when those processes are obscured in their availability. Especially if when we seek to see and understand, we remain without adequate information. We can grow disheartened, disgruntled, and even repelled.

Let’s have a look.

We could take a deep dive into government operations or into a large for-profit or non-profit, but let’s just look first at a very normal experience of a popular fast-food restaurant. Without naming the company, this chain is known worldwide for providing consistently good food. When the product is excellent, we don’t feel the need to look inside the operation (or kitchen, so to speak). As for customer service, that’s another matter.

In the rush of lunch-time ordering and food delivery at the drive-through, a young mother with two small children in-tow has to leave her car and come inside the restaurant twice for corrections on her order. One correction was just the number of chicken pieces (four when she asked for and paid for six). The counter staff person couldn’t take the four-piece back, in accordance with health standards, and give her a six-piece. So instead of just saying to the customer, “We’re so sorry. Keep the four-piece and I’ll get you a six-piece”, she tossed the four-piece in the trash can and returned, without emotion, with a six-piece. The rest of the exchange, on both sides, was polite but not restorative for either.

The mom will probably go back…one day…but this did not build the trust that could have been built. The employee also was probably not left with any sense of appreciation for how hard everyone was working behind the counter for demanding customers.

What does this have to do with operational transparency?

Well, given the perceived quality of the product, little transparency in food preparation was required. That wasn’t the issue. The small but significant dilemma here was the transparency of the customer service model (which was bare-bones “correct the problem” without consideration of customer experience or inconvenience – or so it seemed, from the employee’s response to the mother).

Harvard Business School professor Ryan W. Buell defines operational transparency as the deliberate design of windows into and out of the organization’s operations to help customers and employees alike understand and appreciate the value being created. To determine when and how to design such windows, managers must understand when and how customers and employees want to open up operations to scrutiny—and when both parties would prefer that work be undertaken behind the scenes.*

*Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Is too much of a company’s operations behind the scenes? Are we expected to just trust that companies, governments, and civic organizations are working with our best interests in mind?Photo Credit: Flickr

The article by Ryan W. Buell linked above is a brilliant examination, with lots of real-world examples, of how important transparency is in our operations. For internal and external outcomes – both with product and employee/customer relations. [Don’t miss the read.]

Back to restaurants, the food service industry is really starting to run with this. One of our favorite restaurants is Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. It is a highly visual food experience. You order at the counter with the help of customer-savvy servers who guide the diner through the process.Photo Credit: Reston Now

Employees not helping the diners are doing food prep and working the grill, all in plain view. By the time the customers reach check-out, they have a bowl or plate of generous portions of savory, authentic Mediterranean food plus an added sense of value from the excellent customer service.

Operational transparency.

Home delivery food franchises and online shopping companies are upping their transparency by providing accurate tracking options for their customers as well as other perks aimed toward customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Photo Credit: Twitter

In the workplace, we need to listen to customers who actually give us feedback, especially complaints. There’s much to be learned by that sort of engagement. Becoming more and more transparent will help. Buell’s research shows the employees benefit as much as the customer with greater operational transparency.

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home spouse, I understand my husband’s question of “What did you do today?” It is the same as my question to him. “Writing and laundry” and “meetings all day” neither tell the whole story of either of our days. Operational transparency applied to our dinner conversation could make it a whole lot more engaging and valuable.

Taking the mystery out of how decisions get made and products/services actually happen can add greatly to the employee and customer experience.

Just as our teachers in school instructed us to “show our work”, we can do that for each other in creative and credible ways.

I have no idea how a letter gets from my friend in London to me in Virginia in less than a week…but it is easy to get frustrated when it hasn’t arrived in three weeks. The postal worker dealing with my frustration would be well-served…as would I…by opening a window into the complexities of the work of mail gathering, sorting, and delivering.

My father-in-law went from being admitted to an ICU post-stroke one day, to lying in bed all the next with an IV hanging but not dripping and no word from a doctor, to a visit and discharge by a palliative care team the third day. We welcomed the discharge home but a bit more transparency on that second day would have been really helpful.

Operational transparency builds trust, enhances communication, and facilitates accountability (see image below). Even when transparency reveals a negative (as in the fast food experience of the young mom), the company can turn that around once exposed.

From the Ryan Buell’s article, in closing:

“Don’t forget to close the loop. Transparency is the most beneficial when it’s allowed to flow in both directions—from the customers into the operation and from the employees out to the customers. Forcing employees to toil in obscurity deprives them of seeing how their work is helping customers, reducing their feeling that their work is appreciated and undermining their motivation. What’s more, transparency for employees can give them the information they need to customize service and help them learn better ways of operating.

Consumers [can] take work for granted and employees [can] lose out on the learning and motivation that customer connections afford. With that in mind, businesses should stop reflexively hiding their operations for the sake of efficiency and instead thoughtfully consider when and how to open them up to create more value for customers and employees alike.”

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Photo Credit: Flickr

Creating Reciprocal Value Through Operational TransparencyRyan W. Buell, Tami Kim and Chia-Jung Tsay

Let’s Be Real – Why Transparency in Business Should Be the Norm – Robert Craven

YouTube Video – Defaulting to OpenWhile transparency is often associated with increased accountability to the public, the most visible outcome of open public data in recent years has been more and better services for citizens. This session addresses the opportunities and challenges of making open data useful, actionable, and relevant for users inside and outside government. Mike Migurski Chief Technology Officer at Code for America moderates a conversation with Alan Williams, 2013 Code for America Fellow; Joy Bonaguro, Chief Data Officer, City and County of San Francisco; Ryan Buell, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School; and Mark Head, Developer Evangelist, Accela

Open Data

5 Friday Faves – How to Train Your Dragon, Expressions of Kindness, Civility, the “Uneducated Base”, and Wonder

It’s the weekend! Friday Faves on a Saturday because I was slowed down a bit by an end-of-the-week stomach bug. 3 days in this quiet space…

and now I’m back at the computer briefly. So this will be quick.

1) How to Train Your Dragon – One of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve heard is composer John Powell‘s score for the animated film How to Train Your Dragon. Nathan Mills has taken the This is Berk theme and arranged it for classical guitar…almost wrote Celtic guitar. Just have a lovely listen:

Beyond the Guitar YouTube Channel – Subscribe so you don’t miss his music as it’s posted.

2) Expressions of Kindness – It’s hard to believe it’s been just a bit over two weeks since Dave’s father died. His passing is still so fresh, and especially, for Dave’s mom. I’m so grateful for the many expressions of kindness she has received…and we have received as well. It is a marvel that people still send cards these days. Thank you.

3) Civility – This week I came across a TED Talk by writer Steven Petrow entitled 3 Ways to Practice Civility. In his talk, he defines civility as “living by a moral code, striving to be a good citizen…citizens willing to give of themselves for the good of the city, for the good of the commonwealth, for the larger good.”

Petrow gives his three ways to practice civility or civil discourse as follows:

  1. Deescalate language. “I’ve stopped using trigger words in print. By trigger words, I mean ‘homophobe,’ ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, ‘sexist’. All of those words. They set people off. They’re incendiary and they do not allow us to find common ground. They do not allow us to find a common heart.”
  2. Challenge policies; challenge positions; but never make it personal.
  3. Don’t mistake decorum for civility. One can demonstrate recognized etiquette in a situation and yet still be incivil (shades of Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess).

Behavioral economist Julia Dhar has given a brilliant talk on civil discourse in both the workplace and in family/friend situations. She used her world-class debate background in applying the principles of debate to conversation where strong disagreement exists.

Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Debaters don’t choose sides. Discipline yourself to think through how you would argue the other side.
  • Find common ground.
  • Focus on ideas not identities.
  • Open yourself up to the possibility that you might be wrong – the humility of uncertainty.
  • Engage with the best, clearest, least personal version of the idea.

In her talk, Dhar emphasized how incivility doesn’t make us more persuasive. In her summary, she drove home three points:

  • Stop talking and start listening.
  • Stop dismissing and start persuading.
  • Stop shutting down and start opening our minds.

In the article below, Dhar’s prescription for real conversation is powerful. Face-to-face is so much more effective than all the messy communication we find in social media as well as the talking head approach of our politicians and news commentators.

6 Tactics to Turn Heated Dinner Discussions into Real Conversations – Lenora Houseworth-Weston

TED Talk – 3 Ways to Practice Civility – Steven Petrow

“Evil communication corrupts good manners. I hope to live to hear that good communication corrects bad manners.”
Benjamin Banneker

The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility – John Baptist de La Salle (1703) – just for fun

4) the “Uneducated Base” – Bouncing this idea off my husband, he asked, “And what makes this a fave?” I was reading a Facebook post by a friend of mine (actually shared from a friend of hers). His post was focused on the argument for late term abortion. He gave all his perceived positive reasons (clearly positive, in his opinion) for late term abortion to be protected. Then he closed his post by putting all of us who oppose or struggle with the direction of such legislation in one political party’s “uneducated base”.

I’ve been thinking about this all day….and this health care dilemma for several weeks now that it is a legislative and cultural hot topic.

Photo Credit: Vimeo

We all have deep-held values and beliefs about freedoms, rights, quality of life, and the role of government in the community. In situations where we agree (in America, let’s say), then hopefully our representative government will agree also, aligning with our values. When we disagree we have a partisan government where our various elected officials speak on our behalf. Sometimes it is along party lines and sometimes it is not.

In thinking back on my #3 of civility, it is challenging to even have these discussions in such a manner where both sides of a disagreement can learn from each other and make better decisions. We wrangle and blame and putdown our adversaries. We escalate the argument with name-calling and demeaning language.

Conversations – even fake ones on social media – where we resort to such mean-spirited tactics – feel so middle school. These issues are too crucial to keep any side silent. Yet, it becomes the ones with the most stinging speech rather than the soundest arguments who win the day.

I won’t give up, but, for some reason, that one hurt more than a bit.

Any thoughts on any of this? In the Comments, please…and in the spirit of closing the divide.

5) Wonder – On a lighter note, I want to just finish with the wonder of life. This little one marveling at a stained glass window.

This man, my best friend, who had a full day of Saturday chores, still making sure I had food and fluids on a day of feeling puny.

The beauty of Spring popping up everywhere. What a wonder!

Here’s to a restful weekend – full of wonder – and filled with people you love.

Bonuses:

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell – brilliant!

The Long Goodbye – The Kara Tippetts Story – produced by Jay & Sofia J. Lyons – finally it’s coming out on March 22. Pre-order now.

Parents’ letters to teacher about their kids then and now – one teacher’s experience:Photo Credit: Amie Diprima Brown, Facebook

Mass Mutual’s The Unsung – the Rained Out Wedding

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership Lessons – for All of Us

Photo Credit: Army.mil

Back to work.

What kinds of kickstarts do we build into our lives to consistently do a good job? When we lead out each week, are we leading on fumes? Or are we topping off the tank to get us and our team all the way through to goal?

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has posted what she considers the 100 Best Leadership Quotes of All Time. Of those 100 quotes, here are just a few of my favorites:

3. ”A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.–M. D. Arnold

7. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

23. “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.” –David Star Jordan

28. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing.” –Peter F. Drucker

74. “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” –John Buchan

100. “The most effective way to lead is to lead from within.” –Lolly Daskal

Staying fresh is important in leading well. Hanging with our people. Bringing the vision. Seeing the work through their eyes. Assembling the puzzle (be it product or service) with the pieces that all involved bring to the table. This is leadership of the best sort.

Below are links to just three more pieces on lessons in leadership. Worth the time to read them. 5 of my favorite leadership qualities appear prominently over and over again: emotional intelligence, courage, communication, caring for the people, and transparency.

OK…Monday. We’re ready for you.

The Top Leadership Lessons of 2017 From Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Tim Cook, and Google – Marcel Schwantes

12 Principles of Modern Military LeadershipPart 1, Part 2, Part 3Capt. Ron Roberts

6 Inspiring Lessons About Success Most People Will Learn Too Late in Life – Marcel Schwantes

Worship Wednesday – Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13

I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me. – Psalm 63:8

A recent episode of the ABC TV show The Good Doctor was striking in the portrayal of the doctors’ lives outside of work. The connect and disconnect of their relationships. In the last scene, the viewer was touched by the hopeful awkwardness of relationship, but more so the aloneness of the characters.  The final scene of this episode is poignant, both in the images of the various characters as well as the song chosen to highlight the background. British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs‘ song Hold On caused me to hit rewind a few times.

There is a Gospel choir feel to the song itself…but no Gospel.

“We hold on together” is the message. If you are unfamiliar with the TV show, then you don’t know the various story lines knitted together in that final scene. It depicted a running theme of “holding on” – through complicated relationships, harrowing work situations, diseases and disorders, and grief and loneliness.

The question came to me: “What exactly are they holding onto… together?” Like most TV shows these days, the narrative is completely secular. The characters are beautiful and brilliant…it is just completely unclear what they are holding on…to…

Turning the TV off, my mind went to friends all over this city with their own challenging life situations…and family members in other states, the same. Much of life isn’t hard…but when it is, we pull ourselves together, and we hold on.

To each other, for sure. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of a community that surrounds those struggling. The church has its frailties, but when it operates as God intends, “holding on together” can be a true picture of the love Jesus called us to… “loving one another as He loves us” (John 13:34).

Our “holding on together” extends beyond our relationships with one another. We can’t always be there for each other, even when we wish we could…BUT we can hold onto God who holds onto us.

He holds on to us even when our grip slips.

Songwriter/singer Steven Curtis Chapman describes what I’m talking about way better:

On God giving him songs of worship after a time of terrible loss: “These songs have come out of my own journey, particularly of the last seven years of learning the life-giving power of hearing my own voice and the voice of other believers around me declare what is most true and most real,” he says. “What God says is true — even when pain, doubt, grief and confusion are very real as well. There’s an incredible power in agreeing with each other, and especially with God.

Worship with me to Chapman’s song “Hold On to Jesus“:

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Hold on for life*

My older brother lived with our parents for a season, after a series of losses that could have crushed him. Mom, in her wisdom, had placed a painting by Alan Grant on his bedroom wall. It was this one:

Photo Credit: Alan Grant, Amazon

The God of the universe extends His hand to us. All we have to do is take hold. He then will never let us go. So we hold on…we hold on together.

*Lyrics to Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

YouTube Video – Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

YouTube Video – Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave

Monday Morning Moment – a Snow Day and an End-of-the-year Leadership Checklist

Monday morning. Quieter than usual. 11+ inches of snow has closed down much of the goings and comings of Richmond life today.

Although we know it’s not really a gift of time, snow days sure have the feel of a free day. Work still goes on for some (thank you all in the service industries), but for others we will catch up another day.

Today I am working on Christmas cards but they can’t be finished until husband Dave and I do our end-of-year reflection. We both look back separately, over the highs and lows of the year, and then come together to write a summary for our Christmas newsletter.

[If you hate those newsletters, just throw them in your recycling. They are probably more for the sender as the receiver…so the good has already been done. Happy Christmas.]

Dave works for an international organization. If we had kids or grandchildren at home, he may have just called it a snow day as his office, like many others in the city, is closed. However, because much of his day was already scheduled conference calls with people in different parts of the US and the world, he could work, from his office at home.

I say all this to emphasize how challenging it is to do any sort of review of the year…even on a snow day.

Still, year-end reflections are such a positive and productive activity, both for ourselves and for our workplace.

By year’s end, we are often just trying to appease the tyranny of the urgent. The dilemma is that a work life of putting out fires rarely puts in place barriers that can prevent further fires.

A year-end checklist used by leaders in concert with their direct reports can make a huge difference in accountability, employee engagement, evaluating practices, and planning for the next year.

Otherwise we live and work in the insanity that comes when we don’t block out time for reflection, evaluation, celebration, and development or planning.Photo Credit: Twitter, Seven Quotes

We think we’re doing all those things…but are we?

Below, you will find five links with five different end-of-the-year checklists. Some are longer than others. Some require deeper reflection than others. They are a nice mix written by brilliant thought leaders. [two have the same title but they are very different, by two different leaders].

Tomorrow, I will post my favorite points of the checklists below. Today, maybe you would take the time to look at them, like me, and come up with a checklist you would use…or one of your own making.

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Lolly Daskal (2018)

15 Things to Top Your Business Checklist for the new Year – Forbes – 2017

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Marcel Schwantes (2016)

A Great Leader’s Year-end Checklist – Les McKeown – 2012

A Leadership Checklist – 10 Things to Do Right Now to Make it a Great Year – Terry St. Marie (2010)

Monday Morning Moment – When You Walk Out of a Meeting, and You Ask Yourself, “What Just Happened?”

Photo Credit: Media.Defense

Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.

Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”

I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.

Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.

Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.

A meeting…or series of encounters that leave you wondering “what just happened” could relate to many factors. Culture shift, mission drift, power mongering. Any other factors come to mind for you?

I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.

1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere

By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.

2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur

Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book  Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud

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

3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia

“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team

Photo Credit: Style Whack

I wrote about gaslighting before here.

Gaslighting for BeginnersGaslighting Techniques to Use at Work – Sarah Cooper

Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.

I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.

Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.

Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.

11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? – Stephanie Sarkis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting – Aletheia Luna

The Culture of Any Organization Is Shaped…By the Worst Behavior the Leader Is Willing to Tolerate – Rich Lochner

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 1 – What Is Gaslighting and Who Does It? – Heather Bowden

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 2 – Oh no! I’m a Gaslighter! – Heather Bowden

If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!

12 Signs Your Boss Is Impressed with You, Even Thought It Doesn’t Seem Like It – Aine Cain

Monday Morning Moment – Respect & Civility – and the Lack Thereof – in the Workplace and Public Life

Photo Credit: Real Wellness Doc

In the summer of 2002, we returned home to the US from living in Cairo, Egypt for many years. I was surprised at the change in our culture. People passing each other didn’t make eye contact as much anymore. There was less acknowledgement in general. Once the cell phone (and especially the smart phone) became, not just en vogue but, normative, we became even more disconnected from people around us.

Then the humor at others’ expense escalated. As did impatience at others’ foibles and perceived differences (in traffic, at the ball-field, and in the workplace).

Respect had to be earned…not just given.

Tolerance is the public message, but genuine acceptance of another is altogether something else. On any side of the argument.

What do you take of all of this?

Is it possible to restore respect and civility in a culture? First, we have to know what that even means. When unkind habits become part of our lives, we don’t always know it’s happened.

Let’s focus on incivility.  Just last week, I watched business consultant Christine Porath’s TED Talk on incivility. Her research with Christine Pearson on respect and civility was eye-opening for me. Incivility is edgy in its acceptance in our culture.

We are both shocked and even sometimes amused when people are abrupt, sarcastic or rude with others. This is dependent on our age, gender, and cultural background.

The problem with incivility is that it is contagious. It can infect a whole culture. Incivility, and disrespect, can move subtly to bullying.

Photo Credit: Patricia Bouweraerts, Martha Stout, WorkplaceStory

Author and podcaster Michelle McQuaid interviewed Christine Porath on “the cost of incivility”.  Following are my notes in brief from that podcast:

  • Incivility is defined as rude, disrespectful or insensitive behavior (whether or not the actor sees him/herself as being uncivil or disrespectful – it has to do with what the receiver hears or feels).
  • We are all biased. We may not know our behavior is uncivil. The only way we can know is to seek feedback…and truly listen to and consider constructive criticism.
  • Technology is a relationship distractor. It muddies civility. With our faces in our various e-screens, we miss verbal and nonverbal cues, make wrong assumptions, lose the tone and tenor of the conversation in front of us…and so on and so on.
  • The cost of tolerating such behavior in the workplace: performance, mental and physical tolls, personnel retention, cognitive tolls (memory, attention, creativity), and less help within a team or across departments (incivility breeds mistrust – collaboration and cooperation just don’t happen in such an environment).

Porath gives some excellent counsel on what can help in an environment that has become disrespectful and uncivil. Unfortunately, incivility is too often expressed by those with authority/power. The best organizational intervention, then, is to recruit for civility, coach and train toward civility and practice civility. Respect and civility have to be core values of the organization. See Bryan Cave Law Firm‘s Code of Civility below:

Photo Credit: Bryan Cave, Christine Porath

For us as individuals, Porath counsels to take the high road in regards to civility. Do what you can to effectually put the incivil person “in a bubble”. Then work on your own habits of respect and civility. Smile at people…genuinely, warmly, acknowledging them. Listen – tune in, invest, make eye contact. Build relationships with your team, especially those who report to you. Humbly reach out.

Porath also gave a shout-out to Adam Grant‘s advice along the same lines: to share resources and recognition; give credit; show gratitude; say thank you; share purpose and meaning. [She did the same thing she encourages us listening to do.]

Porath is the author of Mastering Civility: a Manifesto for the Workplace. Definitely on my to-read list now.

I took her quick and easy assess yourself survey and tried to be as honest and forthcoming as I could be. The result was 64 our of 100 points (“good” on her civility assessment). It surprised me – thinking it would be a higher score. Along with the number score she gives a great strengths and “things to focus on” determination and guide. Take the survey. Worth your time.

We can pull ourselves up and out of a culture that thinks it shows confidence to yell at people or that it’s ok to laugh at someone else’s expense. We have the power to rise above and to bring back health to our organization. One small respectful and civil gesture at a time.

The Cost of Incivility With Christine Porath

Assess Yourself – Christine Porath

The Price of Incivility – Christine Porath and Christine Pearson

Choosing Civility – 25 Rules to Live By – with P. M. Forni – Barb Schrader

YouTube Video – Civility: a Conversation with P. M. Forni

Monday Morning Moment – Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – with Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Chinese Philosopher Lao Tse

Photo Credit: Waggl

We have all encountered people in life who are bright stars in our universe. They aren’t necessarily those who climb the corporate ladder or win public office. However, in their own niche, in their own small place in a company or community, they are brilliant change agents, people making a difference and moving us to a better situation. Just by showing up.

[Please take the time to share in Comments your experience of such a person – either at work or in your family or friend space.

Organizational change is usually driven from top-down planning and execution. Occasionally, those changes are not received well by the company employees or organizational members. Ownership doesn’t follow and at some point the change fizzles into something altogether different.

Wouldn’t it be wisdom to create successful and sustainable change? What is missing from typical change orchestration? Is change planned in the isolation of the executive conference room or in the company of those most impacted by the change.

Business authors and educators Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin wrote several years ago about the very environment where positive and impactful change takes place. Their piece is titled Your Company’s Secret Change Agents and was introduced to me by a friend in a huge time of change himself. I wondered if his own situation resonated with this piece.

Pascale and Sternin write about the power of positive deviance. it is defined below.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.

Five basic steps serve as the backbone of the approach. The 5 D’s are:

  1. Define the problem, its causes and common practices, and articulate desired outcome.
  2. Determine presence of PDs,
  3. Discover their uncommon but successful behaviors & strategies through PD inquiries,
  4. Develop activities based on the inquiry findings
  5. Discern (monitor and evaluate) the results. – Positive Deviance Initiative

The Power of Positive Deviance – How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems – Richard Pascale, Jerry & Monique Sternin (Slideshare produced by Melih Arat)

Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin

The Power of Positive Deviancy – Jerry Sternin and Robert Choo

What Pascale and Sternin discovered was the essential component to change embraced by those impacted was the work done to find and learn from those “positive defiants” in the particular community. The practice of PD inquiry sorts out who those persons are and then discovers what they are doing well that others within the workplace or community aren’t. It’s not a judgment as much as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s easier to ACT your way into a new way of THINKING, than to THINK your way into a new way of ACTING”. – Pascale and Sternin

Too often we think our own personal expertise (knowledge) can move us and others to a changed attitude which would then impact practice. For sustainable change to take place (as in habit formation), we figure out what effective practice is and as we begin doing it, then our attitude changes and our knowledge grows. What are your thoughts about this?

The authors quote 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu in simply and eloquently describing this process:

Learn from the people

Plan with the people

Begin with what they have

Build on what they know

Of the best leaders

When the task is accomplished

The people all remark

We have done it ourselves

Photo Credit: Brilliant Ink

I love when worlds converge giving greater import to what is happening. In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a course with Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace Richmond, instructing. The topic is Asset-based Community Development – (ABCD). It is very similar to positive deviance in setting out toward change.

ABCD is community and relationship driven. It’s not a more resourced agent coming in and trying to fix the problems of a workplace, organization, or neighborhood. It is a “working with process”. Like the PD inquiry, ABCD uses a methodology focused on listening – to individuals and to communities. These listening conversations are geared toward finding the positive deviants within that community…and seeking out their practices, attitudes, and particular knowledge.

What Is Asset-based Community Development? – Graeme Stuart

Something I ask friends and former colleagues (free-lancing as I am now) often, especially when they are struggling with a top-down decision- and change-making structure is “Who is thriving in your situation?” “What are they doing to thrive?” “What are you doing to add to or contribute to the health of your organization?”

Too often, we get tunnel vision regarding change; thinking we have no other option but to respond…or react. Like Pascale, Sternin, Lao Tse, and also Wendy McCaig…I know and believe in those secret change agents. If you don’t know any, search them out.

Or…become one.

Both/and really. Search them out AND become one as well.

[Do your bosses, your organizational leads, and yourselves a big favor…introduce them to your company’s secret change agents…those positive deviants in your lives.]

Monday Morning Moment – Thriving Under a Narcissistic Boss and a Not-so-random Inspiring Other Story

If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…

[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]

Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.

10 Signs Your Boss or Manager Is a Narcissist – Preston Ni

The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.

One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 212: Erwin McManus on How to Spot a Narcissist in Leadership, Overcoming the Need for Approval, and What He Experienced at the Global Leadership Summit 2018

McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”

In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:

A Narcissist has:

A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.

A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.

A Narcissist doesn’t:

Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.

Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.

Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.

McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.

Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).

What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”.  Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:

  1. Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
  2. Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
  3. Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin. “Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
  5. Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it. “Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
  7. Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
  8. Don’t argue. The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
  9. Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal

A Mild Case of Narcissism? – Dana Robert Hicks

As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News

This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*

[*See article by Carey Nieuwhof below.]

If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.

Postscript:

“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving AccidentJoni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

Joni’s Favorite Quotes on Suffering (We would do well to make copies of these and put them at eye-level at our work stations. Perspective.)

What Self-Aware Leaders Know that Others Don’t – Carey Nieuwhof

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

Photo Credit: Service Desk Show, James West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fine Art of Bringing Together Unrelated Ideas Emilie Wapnick

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

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

Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists, and VersatilistsShi Wen

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

Photo Credit: Dan Ryan, Ryan Search & Consulting

Why You Want to Be a Utility Infielder – Dan Ryan

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

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

The Value of an Adaptable Skill Set – Leadership Made Simple

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

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

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