Category Archives: Team

An End-of-Year Leadership Checklist – Priority for Your Team, Your Organization, and Your Own Longevity and Effectiveness

Photo Credit: Wild Apricot

[This is the followup piece from yesterday’s Monday Morning Moment.]

It’s December. Back to the office after the snow day. The squeeze is on our calendars as we march toward the end of the year. Here’s the question: how do we truly finish strong with the hope of an even stronger start in the new year?

If it’s all you can do to just try to finish…then you do what you can, for sure. Reflecting on this year may have to come in January. We all know the pressure doesn’t change just because we have new planners to fill. If we make this a priority, it actually could have great impact on the pressures…and the people under your watch, experiencing a similar pressure. We can change it up.Photo Credit: Gryphon Networks

Here are summaries of 5 end-of-the-year checklists from 5 business leaders. We can choose one or choose from each. In brief:

Lolly Daskal, founder of the leadership consulting firm Lead From Within, is one of my favorite writers/speakers on leadership. Her end-of-the-year checklist is in the form of 18 no-nonsense questions on your own leadership and character. Penetrating and informative. Here are a few of my favorites from that list:

  • Did you act decisively?
  • Did you build others up?
  • Did you listen before you speak?
  • Did you cultivate leadership in others?
  • Did you lead with positivity?
  • Did you navigate or fix?
  • Did you value the unique contributions of others?
  • Did you lead by example? – Lolly Daskal

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Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership From the Core, gives a rapid read, 5-point checklist which follows. Everything he writes is golden, so you definitely want to click on the article to fill in the blanks on how you execute these points starting now and into the new year:

  1. Shine the spotlight on your employees.
  2. Give direct and actionable feedback.
  3. Get to personally know your employees.
  4. Get in the habit of recognizing and praising your people.
  5. Create and communicate a shared vision of the future. – Marcel Schwantes

[We all think we do the 5 above well. Re-assessing, especially at end-of-year is key to truly being who we think we are for those we lead.]

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“As leaders, we often move from one year to the next with little or no time spent reviewing the year just past from a purely leadership perspective.”Les McKeown

Business writer, Les McKeown, also prescribes a brilliant 5-point end-of-the-year checklist for leaders:

  1. Manage the narrative.
  2. Straighten the angels.
  3. Cull.
  4. Restock.
  5. Center yourself.

McKeown gives practical examples and exercises on how to finish the year healthy…for your benefit and that of your employees and organization. Honestly, this is creative and illuminating stuff…worth every minute of what you invest in it.

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Business consultant and writer Terry St. Marie offers a 10-point end-of-year checklist that covers all the bases. The following are my 3 favorites from his list:

  1. Read Your Fine Print – Every leader’s strengths, if overplayed, can turn out to be a negative – I call that the leader’s “fine print“; things that we need to be careful about.  Sort it all out early and become more aware of your “fine print“.
  2. Put The Right Team On The Field – Take stock of your team and their strengths and weaknesses, and ask a few hard questions:  Is everyone committed to the new year and the new plan?  Did you have some unresolved issues from last year that are still hanging out there?  Do you need to reshuffle a few things now before things get too busy? Answer these questions NOW,  take whatever corrective action is necessary, and give your team a better chance for success.
  3. Clean Out Your Ears – This one’s real simple – prepare your ears to listen, with this virtual “Q-Tip”.   Sit down at your desk, close the door, and turn off your handheld and computer.   Feel and “hear”  what it’s like to not multitask, and just take in what’s happening around you.   Make a mental note to recreate this “listening environment” every time you are in the presence of your teammates.

Don’t miss the other points of St. Marie’s checklist. Again, brilliant.

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Following are my favorite 5 of the 15-point end-of-the-year checklist formulated by the Forbes Coaches Council.

The end of the year is the perfect time for a SWOT analysis — a review of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. (Forbes Coaches Council)

Celebrate – If we don’t take time to celebrate (even the small things), we become burnt out, frustrated, and ineffective. Do something special for your team to celebrate their strengths. – (Forbes Coaches Council)

Show appreciation for your employees – Go beyond the usual card. Offer your clients and employees something of significance that you believe will make them feel special…valued. – (Forbes Coaches Council)

Get to know someone new in the company – While the holidays are full of food and stories, leaders should take the time to meet others downline in the company. Brown bag it with someone you don’t know. Invite an employee out to lunch. And talk about everything other than work! This will help you relate to others who typically don’t see you every day. This can improve the culture, as you challenge others to do the same. – (Forbes Coaches Council)

Budget for leadership development – At the end of the year, take time to add leadership development training in the next year and invest in your upcoming talent. This way, you increase employee retention and employee engagement. Plan for the future, invest in your talent.(Forbes Coaches Council)

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There you have it. My hope is that this is more encouraging than burdening. If we carve a chunk of time to do this, both privately and with our team, it will yield all kind of good with which to enter the new year. Both relationally and strategically for the sake of the organization.

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

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lehmacher, Quora

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

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

10 Characteristics of a Good Leader

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

Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Technologies

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

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

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

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

Have a great Monday!

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

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

What Is the Essence of Leadership? – Quora

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

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, the goose bumps.

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

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

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Leadership Natives

Leadership Natives – About Multipliers

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

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

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

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

Monday Morning Moment – Chuck Lawless on Executing Positive Change

Photo Credit: Maxpixel

A conference room table is much more winsome than rows of chairs facing the front of the room. At least for me. Chairs facing each other give the impression that all those at the table have a voice. Enlarge that to an organizational level. Especially related to change. When employees understand some sort of change is necessary for the growth of the organization, then having the opportunity to speak into that change has tremendous value.

Not just for embracing the change but for the execution of the best change possible.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be on a board of directors of a private international school in another country. Also a parent of students in that school, it was easy and satisfying to engage in the various problems and challenges the board faced for the sake of the school. Initiating change was always a part of that. Early on during my tenure on the board, I saw how difficult it was for the average parent to get the ear of the board. This was grievous to me that I had more influence than most of the parents on decisions affecting all our children’s school situation.

Out of this personal pressure point, a parents’ organization was birthed. It was a difficult labor, but worth all the effort in terms of trust-building and overall outcomes. Photo Credit: Better Together, Balcony People, Deb Mills Writer

Theologian Chuck Lawless has written an article on executing change. His focus is the church but his succinct 10 thoughts are relevant to any organization. See what you think:

  1. The healthiest organizations are always in a state of change.
  2. All generations can be opposed to change.
  3. People want to know the “why” behind the change.
  4. Their opposition to change isn’t always a personal attack on the leader.
  5. They might oppose change (in the church, on their team or subset of their organization) simply because that’s the only place they have a voice about change.
  6. Some aren’t opposed to the change; they’re opposed to the process.
  7. The best change agents take their time to secure support.
  8. Our assessment of opposition could be overly optimistic.
  9. A vote for change is not a guarantee of support for that change.
  10. Often, any immediate chaos caused by a change settles down after that change is done.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Thinking back on the formation of that parents’ organization, we learned the wisdom of securing feedback early from those most affected by the change. Feedback well before the roll-out of the change. We also gained an understanding of how “knowledge is power”.  Parents who had access to the knowledge of looming change as well as an avenue to speak into that change became advocates and influencers for the change.

Who are your critical thinkers? Those folks on your team who think deeply about work and the processes at work that affect personnel. Not all of them are the greatest cheerleaders and definitely not just the isolated inner circle of leadership.

Are we willing to value and seek out the critics, skeptics, naysayers, contrarians? If our ideas are so fragile that we can’t bear the input of these folks, how can we press these ideas on a whole organization? If we only take the input of those consummately agreeable with our ideas, then do we avoid, even lack, the feedback that could launch our ideas toward the most favorable change?

Business writer Oliver Staley gives organizational psychologist Adam Grant‘s take on the positive impact of the disagreeable giver – in regards to change:

Cheerful and helpful workers are beloved by their bosses, and just about everyone else, really. Enthusiastic optimists make for great colleagues, rarely cause problems, and can always be counted on.

But they may not necessarily make the best employees, says Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist and Wharton professor.

The agreeable giver may seem like the ideal employee, but Grant says their sunny disposition can make them averse to conflict and too eager to agree. Disagreeable givers, on the other hand, can be a pain…, but valuable to an organization, Grant says.

They’re more likely to fight for what they believe in, challenge the status quo, and push the organization to make painful but necessary changes, he says. And because they’re stingy with praise, when it’s offered, it generally can be trusted.

Disagreeable givers “can get more joy out of an argument than a friendly conversation” and be tough to work with, Grant says. But for organizations eager to avoid complacency and determined to improve, they also can be invaluable. – Oliver Staley

In Chuck Lawless’ 10 Thoughts, he doesn’t speak outright about disagreeable givers, but they are present and valued. One of Lawless’ readers, Jerry Watts, commented with this insight: “One time, in a culture far-far away, I heard a pastor say, ‘People aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of loss.’ – I thought those were good words to remember. After 40+ years, I have discovered that change is okay as LONG AS you don’t mess with me.

Change does mix loss with gains. When personnel have the opportunity to grieve ahead of time, their problem-solving acumen is sparked to help drive a better change, not just for themselves but for the organization as a whole. Is it messy including more people in the decision-making? Of course…but the process for everyone yields far more meaning and understanding.

The Best Employees Are Not the Agreeable Ones, According to Adam GrantOliver Staley

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate – Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule

Negotiating Change – the Key to Survival in the 21st Century – Grande Lum

4 Ways to Face the Challenge of Disruptive Change – Ron Carucci

YouTube Video – Adam Grant and Beth Comstock – How Non-Conformists Change the World – Change Makers Book Club

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

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

Photo Credit: Career Addict

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

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

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

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

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter in the Hallways – Workplace Humor

Photo Credit: Arkadin, Sophie Huss

Michael Kerr makes a living with Humor at Work. His video  “It’s Monday Morning!…I can’t wait to go to work.” is the stuff of wonder. Wasn’t there a time you couldn’t wait to get to work? If never, or especially not today, then you could start with lightening your workday baggage with lightening your heart.

Photo Credit: Awesome at Your Job Podcast

Kerr talks about using three mental tools – 3 R’s – to shake-up your perspective in a happy way:

  1. Reframe – Stress is one person’s take on a stressor. Where the voices in our heads take us isn’t necessarily how the situation will play out in reality. So wisdom is to “practice playing with the voices in our heads”. Reeling in our negative reactions to stress isn’t about stuffing them but about turning them into healthy (and potentially) humorous responses. My husband and I have a couple of mantras – lines from an old Western movie titled Silverado – that we use to lighten a situation:
    “It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.                                                                   “That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover.                                                                                                                     YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge
  2. Reward – Kerr prescribes attaching a reward to something that is stressful. Say if there is a specific type of meeting or a particular colleague that stresses you out. Put a reward in place that you can go to after those meetings/encounters. It doesn’t have to be chocolate. It can be a walk around the building – inside to say hi to encouraging people or outside to just enjoy nature. If you find yourself demoralized by a situation, what can you do to both laugh at yourself and give others the opportunity to do the same? We can take ourselves and our stresses entirely too seriously. Our enjoyment of work and our work itself can both be debilitated if we can’t figure out how to “pull up”. Rewards. What sounds like it would work for you? For your team?
  3. RelaxStress does terrible things to us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Laughter does just the opposite. Sometimes, our focus on spreadsheets, email, and weighty decision-making leaves little room for laughter in our work lives. Who’s responsible for that? We can blame our boss, or the CEO, or whomever. However, we can also just learn to relax – creating space – putting distance between us and what causes our stress. Kerr talks about a Humor First Aid Kit. This could include funny books, workplace humor photo signs to use for selfies etc., props to wear or place on your or your coworkers’ desks, bobbleheads …chocolate. What would you recommend?Photo Credit: AppAdvice

The Power of Workplace Humor – Podcast with Michael Kerr – Awesome at Your Job

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Photo Credit: Sam Glenn, Facebook

We have all had the occasional forced fun day foisted upon us by C-suite execs – leaders who have diagnosed that way too many employees are silently and loudly giving all indication that morale is low. They are trying so give some grace here. Don’t punish yourself by refusing the free lunch or tshirt. Just come up with your own ideas of what helps you and your team get the joy back.

“It’s Monday morning!! I can’t wait to get to work.” Do it for yourself and for those you care about at work.

Utilizing Humor in the Workplace – Michael Kerr

The Work-Laugh Balance: Why Humor Is Key to Workplace HappinessSophie Huss

YouTube Video – Humor at Work – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

Photo Credit: Andrew Tarvin, TEDx Talk, YouTube

YouTube Video – The Skill of Humor – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

YouTube Video – Communications – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Workfront and Tripp and Tyler Present: “Email in Real Life” – includes Outtakes

The Four Keys to a Successful Workplace Culture That Drives Business Results Michael Kerr

 

5 Friday Faves – Women of Influence, Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar, Suicide Prevention, Fathers, and Hard Redeemed

Friday Faves! Here are mine for the week:

1) Women of Influence – I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life with the presence of women of influence. Many I have known personally. The list would be long if I wrote out the names of all those who come to mind right now. You know who you are to me. Women who, in their own ordinary lives, shake foundations and raise up all around them to a higher plane of life. Today, I want to name three women who are very very different from each other. I do not know them personally, nor do I agree with everything they say… but they have caused me to think.

  • Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor, a writer, and a Christian activist. I feel like I know her through her Facebook and Twitter pages. She is as real to me as a friend would be. As brilliant and articulate as she is, I am sure we could have a conversation on difficult issues without losing each other in the process. Recently, she was hit by a city bus while walking and miraculously lived to write about it. In her forced convalescence at home over the next months, I’m thinking we will learn much from her alone time…with God and through her reflections.

“The Sage Ones” – 10 Faith Writers Over 50 – Jody Lee Collins

Photo Credit: Twitter, Anna Deavere Smith

#NotesFromTheField

These are very public figures. They use their renown to influence in the positive. We all know other women of influence – working in refugee camps, in the classroom, in research labs, in neighborhoods, and those aging ever so gracefully before us – who make a difference in quieter yet profound ways.

2) Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar – When the film The Incredibles came out in 2004, our kids were all in high school. The film follows the adventures of a superhero family trying to have a normal life while subduing bad guys. 14 years later and its much-welcome sequel opens this weekend. Note I didn’t say much-anticipated, because the first film appeared to be a stand-alone after all these years.Photo Credit: Gizmodo

In celebration of Incredibles 2, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged Michael Giacchino‘s film theme. You can enjoy this jazzy spy melody here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

[Have you considered being a patron of Nathan’s part of his support community? Creating music takes concentrated time and to do it for a living takes a team of folks who love what he’s doing and want to help keep it happening. Here‘s where you can find out more.]

Spotify – Guitar Covers Vol. 2 – Beyond the Guitar

3) Suicide Prevention – To go to such a dark place mentally that suicide seems the only way out must be a terrifying, deeply lonely experience. There was a time in my own life that the pressures of life mixed with emotions I couldn’t seem to control pulled me in that direction. Fortunately, nothing happened, and with God’s help and that of my family and friends (without them even knowing what was going on), the darkness broke.

We are living in an age of loneliness where social media and superficial gatherings give the facade of community, but not its reality. Truly watching out for each other and touching base, especially, with those who live more solitary lives is life-saving.

Talk Saves Lives. We can’t just assume we know what helps prevent suicide. Let’s get educated and lean in to those most vulnerable.

Resources abound. Each of us can do something to turn the tide.

Photo Credit: Twitter, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib – Deb Mills Writer

4) Fathers – This Sunday is Father’s Day in the US. We all have had a dad in some capacity or another. The impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. I’ve written a bunch about fathers and fathering.

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t

The father I never knew…I have only two memories of my own of the man who gave me half of my DNA…

Then there’s this man who became my dad…until the end of his life.

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God

When Dave and I married, he gave me another dad. Lovely and kind.

Marriage was a late gift with no surety I’d get to be a mom. This dear man helped make it so. In his own quiet way, he is a good and rock-solid father…and now, grandfather.

I could go on…brothers who are good fathers…nephews…men in our lives who are loving fathers to other people’s kids…and our own son (and son-in-law) who are also great dads. They are easy to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday Faves – Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Friday Faves – Dads Who Get It – Deb Mills Writer

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood – Ray Ortlund

5) Hard Redeemed – Anybody in our lives knows I’ve had a couple of hard weeks…those come and go, like for all of us. The ability to weather relational and situational heaviness is galvanized by those who come alongside. Including and especially God Himself who has been there for any and all who walk with Him…through the ages.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Joseph  Genesis 50:20

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!Romans 8:38-39
The hard of these several days is still with me but so are those who walk alongside. Friends, family, community…God himself.

What an amazing blessing are folks who reach out – like a friend, across the ocean, whom I haven’t seen since 2002. Or the friend who gave me this upbeat life-affirming little song Dream Small.

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

God, help me to be that kind of friend…redeeming the hard in lives of those You place in front of me.

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Have a great weekend! Peopled with those you love and those who could use your love.

Bonuses:

Better Late Is Still Late: Advocating for Victims of Sexual Abuse

The Dinner Party Flex: Cooking in the Age of Social Media

10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With – Chuck Lawless

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

Photo Credit: YouTube, Rachel Botsman

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

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

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

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

Rachel Botsman defines these terms as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Rachel Botsman

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

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

I love those kinds of questions!

Maddening for some, I know. I get it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking – Rachel Botsman

Slideshares – Rachel Botsman

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

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