Tag Archives: work culture

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Observations on Life Around Here

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  1. What Might Goofing Off Communicate? – This weekend, a friend told me about her son’s internship in a local organization. This young man expressed his disappointment at the amount of goofing off he saw among his coworkers, all more senior than he was.Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Suffice it to say, after his internship, he did not seek employment with this company.

What can we take from such a situation? Is it possible, those employees were blowing off steam from already completing large chunks of work, either earlier in the day or at home the night before? Are they taking healthy breaks from doing a good job, or have they lost the vision of their value in the big picture of their work? Also, what part of this scenario belongs to their supervisor? When goofing off is a pattern, where is the leader guy or gal in the mix?

This may be a disconnect for you, but I found myself strangely sympathetic to those “goofing off”. Maybe an organizational move toward leanness would be appropriate, but never without drilling down to the core of what’s going on here. Otherwise lean becomes just mean.

Any thoughts?

Why You Shouldn’t Punish Employees Who Goof Off – Rob Enderle

Ten Signs You’re Failing as a Manager – Liz Ryan

2. Proverbs – a Father Appeals to His ChildrenA couple of times a year, I read through the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. All the Proverbs were either written or collected by Solomon, the son of King David. There are 31 chapters in the book so it’s easy to incorporate one a day in one’s usual Bible reading. This time around, I noticed something in the ESV Bible study notes that was new: 10 paternal appeals. As a father might teach his son about life and making good choices, so Solomon did the same in this wisdom book.Photo Credit: Flickr

Here are the 10 paternal appeals in brief:

  1. Do not join those greedy for unjust gain (Proverbs 1:8-19).
  2. Get wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-22).
  3. Fear the Lord (Proverbs 3:1-12).
  4. Walk securely in wisdom (Proverbs 3:21-35).
  5. Wisdom is a tradition worth maintaining (Proverbs 4:1-9).
  6. The two ways: the way of wisdom or the way of folly. We choose. (Proverbs 4:10-19)
  7. Maintain a heart of wisdom (Proverbs 4:20-27).
  8. Sexuality – the presence of sexual temptations and the response of a wise person (Proverbs 5:1-23).
  9. Adultery leads to ruin (Proverbs 6:20-35).
  10. Keep away from temptations to adultery (Proverbs 7:1-27).

What might appear to be redundancy is more for emphasis. God will give us wisdom, but it is on us to live according to the wisdom he gives.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs – a 12-week Study (pdf) – Lydia Brownback

3. None of Us Are Invisible – We are Seen – A circumstance this weekend struck a chord about how easy it is to just not see others. We have our close friends, our near colleagues, our people. It takes an intentionality to watch for those on the outside of our circles…and to extend to them a welcome. An old song by Casting Crowns came to mind today, as it relates to this dilemma – this strange experience of feeling invisible. Can Anybody Hear Her? is that “looking for love in all the wrong places” kind of story. Searching for a place to belong, to flourish, to be loved.

I’ve taken to watching for those solitary ones…they are not all in the midst of poor life choices. Those closest to God can feel isolation as well. The key to all of this is to know He sees…He sees, and He loves us. We can reflect that love to those who feel unseen…because they are…who feel they don’t matter…because they do.Photo Credit: Pixabay

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 – 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 – Workplace Culture – Do Things that Don’t Scale

Photo Credit: Medium, Ian Tang

Scalability refers to a company’s ability to increase its production profitably. – Merriam Webster

This is a new concept for me. Isn’t that like growth or profit? It’s like waking up out of a deep sleep and terminology in the workplace has changed. Is scalability the same as reproducibility?

What if profit comes out of something beyond scalability? Or at least is it possible to be successful without changing who you are as a business? These questions pop up for me when I hear the word scalable.

[Hang on, you faithful readers…not a usual topic for me, but what I learned was highly satisfying…hopefully for you, too.]

Sometimes learning about a new concept is enhanced by reinforcing what it is NOT.

Following you will find quotes from three business leaders who talk about the positive nature of things that don’t scale or reverse scale.

Shawn Askinosie is a lawyer turned chocolatier. Then he wrote a book about the journey. Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul. In a recent blog, Askinosie wrote exquisitely about scale and reverse scale. See what you think?

We write about reverse scale extensively in the book. What is it? It’s a practice of recognizing the value of not scaling…. We’re conditioned by our business culture to believe that unless the idea is big and capable of rapid scale then it has little value. Can we take a step back and reconsider this dogma? Could we assess value even if our idea helps only one person or if it only transforms us? True sustainability lies within the answers to these questions. If more of us answered the call to action on the supposedly “small” ideas then imagine the kind of social problems the world could address.

We tend to think “more” and “bigger” will always be better, that somehow they will allow us to finally breathe easier when we arrive. The problem is that it’s often an illusion because we never really arrive at the place that’s just out of reach. Scale demands that every single person in the chain focus on what’s next and on finding someone to do the thing that’s now ‘below’ them in order to move themselves up. Anything less than that and you will lose the race for scale, because someone else is more focused than you.

Reverse scale could also be called human scale. It is in the smallness of one on one relationships that we find meaning because we’re not insulated from the pain and sorrows of these connections. We tend to lose this when we’re so focused on scale and growth. – Shawn Askinosie

This guy, as you can tell, has no interest in blowing out the roof on profits. He wants to deliver a quality product with the help of a small company of people who he wants genuine relationships with…and he wants margin to focus on his definition of what really matters in life. Cool, huh?

Investor and thought leader Paul Graham is also one who advises entrepreneurs to Do Things That Don’t Scale. The infographic below was inspired by his article. His ideas are almost revolutionary in today’s high-pressure workplaces, yet his thinking is also that of some of the greats, including Steve Jobs , co-founder of Apple, Inc.

Photo Credit: Funders and Founders, Idealog

Paul Graham elaborates (read his whole piece; the following speaks to a couple of components):

The question is ask about an early stage startup is not “is this company taking over the world?” but “how big could this company get if the founders did the right things?” And the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.

You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy…Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.

A lot of startup founders are trained as engineers, and customer service is not part of the training of engineers. You are supposed to build things that are robust and elegant, not be slavishly attentive to individual users like some kind of salesperson.

Delighting customers scales better than you expected.

Recruit users manually and give them an overwhelmingly good experience. The unscalable things you have to do to get started…change the company permanently for the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisition when you’re small, you’ll probably still be aggressive when you’re big….and most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you’ll keep doing it when you have a lot.

I am enthralled by the thinking of these men. They have started me thinking about the whole idea of scaling…and also doing the things that don’t scale but still have tremendous value.

Check out the two further articles below which also support the strong foundation, in any size business, of a work culture where people matter first and then the product/service rolls out of that.

Do Things That Don’t ScaleIan Tang

Four Ways to Put Culture First as Your Company Scales – Fond Blog

Infographic: Do Things That Don’t Scale In Startups – Idealog

Monday Morning Moment – Sizing Up Your Future Employer

Graduation. Moving from student to employee. It’s an exciting time, riveted with possibility and weighty decision-making.

[Yep…our kids, one by one entering their next season of life.]

As parents, we hope, first off, that our children secure jobs in their field, in this competitive and changing workforce. Given that, it would be lovely for them to be in a company or organization where they can thrive and grow.

Work-life writer Simon Sinek and organizational psychologist Adam Grant have addressed this issue – this issue of looking for employers who genuinely care about their employees and invest in them. Photo Credit: Aspen Ideas Festival

It’s definitely something to consider as our graduates are applying for jobs. This pursuit of an employee-friendly employer should continue throughout our professional lives. At the end of our careers, who we are as people and what we were able to accomplish in work will be strongly impacted by our employers. Think about it.

I came across a piece written by Kaitlyn Wang last year. She summarized a talk Sinek and Grant gave at the 2017 OZY Fest.

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer

In their talk, Wang writes, these two workplace thought leaders talked about the out-dated leadership value of customer always trumping employee. If in bottom line thinking, employees are under-valued and under-utilized, eventually the product, service, and customer will also suffer. To me, that is just common sense…and, to hear Sinek and Grant, that workplace scenario is changing.

For the new graduate (and any one of us looking for that future employer), two ideas are offered as telling of company values and leadership philosophy:

  • Ask the interviewer if they LOVE their company. Not like but love. See what their response reveals.
  • Ask the interviewer to tell a story about something “that would only happen at that company”.

How would you adapt these two ideas?

Even before the job interview, we can learn clues on the culture through the messaging on the company’s website and social media. What matters to those in charge? What is clear or not so much about employee engagement?

Something to consider…

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer – Kaitlyn Wang

Millennials, Motivation, and the Changing World of Work – Video – Aspen Ideas Festival

50 Smartest Companies – 2017

The Happiest Companies to Work For in 2018

Top 10 Companies for Worker Satisfaction – Lily Martis

100 Best Companies to Work For

Monday Morning Moment – Grit – the Role of Personal Resolve and a Team Alongside

[Adapted from the Archives]

Diligence is a word that defined my many years in learning Arabic while we lived overseas. Keeping at it, even when I wanted to quit, helped immensely. The joy of living life in a second language is worth all the work. Diligence is a great assist to staying on course, but it is not “grit”.

Once on a beach weekend, I saw grit at work in a group of servicemen, in Virginia Beach, doing their morning exercise. [Not the picture above but that image has its own neat story of grit]. Walking on the boardwalk early in the morning, my husband and I encountered this small group of airmen from the nearby Naval Base, doing a group jog. We saw them starting the run and saw them again coming back – 6 miles total. Most of them were young, thin, and fit.

What caught our eye, in particular, were two men in mid-life, carrying a bit of weight, bringing up the rear. Approaching the end of that run, they looked like they were hurting, but they definitely weren’t quitting. I’m sure to stay as fit as the rest of the group was, a certain measure of grit was at play…but these two, in this snapshot of life, showed the grit that brought me to write today.

Wikipedia.org defines grit as a character trait  of applying passion and perseverance over time toward a goal, end state or objective. Grit goes beyond ability and can withstand failure, keeping the end goal in sight, and pushing through to it.Blog - Grit - Definition 2

Bill Hybels, at the Global Leadership Summit 2015*, talked about grit as “one of the greatest indicators of success”. Gritty people, he said, are the ones who “play hurt” and rarely ever give up. “They expect progress to be difficult, but believe with their whole being that they can be successful if they don’t quit.” It’s “The Little Engine That Could”. Abraham Lincoln. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Hybels also encouraged the audience that grit can be developed. From childhood through adulthood.

Jon Acuff (author of Do Over) defines grit as “stubbornness in the face of fear“.  In his book, he gives a short list of what’s needed in making gritty decisions (in the “hustle” of work):

  • Time – we think the world “hustle” has to mean fast, but it can also mean focus, intention, pace.
  • Counsel – Lean on your relationships. Some of the worst decisions are made alone. Who are your advocates? Have you given them time to reflect on it or are you rushing right by the wisdom they have to offer? Let them speak into it. A year from now, looking back on the decision, you’ll be glad you made it as a team.
  • Questions – Always ask awesome opportunities, awesome questions. We skimp on due diligence. “What am I not seeing right now?”
  • Kindness – Give yourself permission to make the wrong decision, because…you’re going to. Break the tension of feeling like you’re going to be perfect by giving yourself some kindness from the outset.
  • Honesty – When you look back on a decision, remember that you made that decision with the best information you had at the time.

As we saw those two older heavyset men running just behind their younger airmen colleagues, we saw men with a goal in mind. There was also something more – the cadence to the group’s run that seemed to work to keep them all together. Whether at work or in family relationships, we want to do all we can to help those gritty ones be successful. Their resolve may get them to the goal anyway, but we all benefit when we are able to “stay on course” together.

Have you “grown gritty” over your lifetime? Are there gritty folks in your life who you love to champion? Please share in the Comments below so that we can all learn.

*Session 1: Bill Hybels Opening Session – Global Leadership Summit

Wikipedia Article on Grit

The Truth About Grit

The Grit Test

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

How to Make Grit Decisions and Built a Grit List by Jon Acuff

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

Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?

Monday Morning Moment – Them and Us, How Can That Be? Could Them and Us Become a We?

Blog - Work Culture - delta7Photo Credit: Delta 7

Recently, I was in an odd conversation with a friend from work. The more we talked, the more we sounded like a Dr. Seuss book. It went something like this:

“I don’t know how to be us with them. To be with them is to just be them. We must lose us; us no more will be. There’s no us in them; it’s so strange to me. How can they be them, with no us, you see? To give up us is too hard for me. So I can’t see a way to get to we.”

[Seriously, the conversation went like that…but better.]

Battling the us-them assignation is an ongoing workplace discipline. Even in the happiest, coolest companies, there is still an intentionality to keep work life positive for every employee. That inclusiveness is a hallmark for high morale and low walls (read: no silos).

BLog - Us vs Them - Work Culture - Silos - prolearn academy

Photo Credit: Prolearn-Academy

In a work culture where silos still exist, an us/them mentality can grow as each team or department draws in on itself and ignores or suspects the actions/values of others. It’s not a healthy situation for any of us…whether it’s the executive team insulated from others or the [fill in the blank] team hunkered down in its own mode of trying to survive. The first can be as unaware as the subject of the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes“, the second, well, is just miserable, and growing more so by the pay period.

So much has been written on this problem in the workplace – about that culture where us/them thinking and operations color productivity and morale. I have included several links below describing various recommendations and protocols to restore health to such organizations.

Blog - Work Culture 2Photo Credit: My Turnstone

I’ve always been that person who says, “Why can’t we just all get along?” In reality, we don’t have that situation always, but we can grease the tracks in that direction. Here are my own workplace rules regarding moving us and them to we:

  1. Make a practice of assuming the best of your bosses and colleagues. “Refuse to think ill of others” is my goal…and my accuracy in hitting that goal comes with practice and determination…and grace.
  2. Lean in to those with whom you struggle the most – the “thems” in your worklife. Especially the most powerful ones. Study them. Learn their language. Know them as well as you can. NOT for self-serving reasons, but for the benefit of the work itself. Any motive that only serves your personal situation will only make matters worse… ‘Nuff said.
  3. Refuse to get caught up in us/them complaining. Don’t make a big deal about it, but do your best to turn the conversation toward a positive end, change the subject altogether, or bow out if all else fails. Those negative conversations just bring you and your colleagues down and don’t accomplish anything. A short-lived “misery loves company” satisfaction isn’t worth the fall-out of such conversations.
  4. Bring down the silos, one brick at a time, if necessary. Maybe you aren’t experiencing any us/them anguish, but you know it exists. What can you do, individually and as a work team, to move to “we”? We have lots of work models out there for this. In fact, silos in the workplace are “so 80’s” (whatever that means…I hear it a lot, so I’m using it here). Use some of that meeting time, or talks over coffee, to be creative in how you can work better across teams…how you can learn more from each other…how you can defuse territoriality? If the “them” is management, you initiate dialog on setting work culture values that maximizes product excellence and employee engagement.
  5. Put processes in place – through your culture – to keep silos down. I would love to hear what your situation is and how you are making positive steps to grow/keep a healthy culture. Please comment below.

Sure…there are times we need to process a difficult situation at work with a trusted friend. Yes, us/them scenarios are painful…and wrong, honestly…especially in the workplace where we are meant to have shared goals, working toward the same outcomes. Maybe, the us/them relationships in a company are too distracting and we can’t see any solution (back to the Dr. Seuss-like conversation above). In that case, it’s possible we look outside our company for another situation. However, you take with you a piece of the us/them dilemma. You take you along to the next job. Better to develop muscle memory on how to “be we”, whenever possible, right where we are.

[Sidebar: I’ve written a lot about work culture – too many to mention – but you can search work culture under Blog – Deb Mills and learn as I have about what is possible if we stay engaged in our workplace.]

Blog - Work Place Culture - open.bufferPhoto Credit: Buffer

Overcoming Us vs. Them Challenges

Breaking the “Us and Them” Culture

How to Avoid Us vs. Them – Huffington Post

The 10 Buffer Values and How We Act on Them Every Day

The 4 Elements That Make Great Company Culture

How to Save a Broken Work Culture

From Us and Them to We Participative Organizational Culture

Them and us – How to use Trust as a Competitive Advantage

How CEOs Can End an Us Them Mentality

Us vs. Them – a Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming

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

Blog - Kind over Clever - Jeff Bezos - scoopnestPhoto Credit: Scoopnest

Quite remarkably, I recently came across several articles on kindness, of all things, in the Harvard Business Review. It was thrilling for me to see it commended as a business process in such a prestigious journal. I have loved the idea of kindness since early childhood. It seemed such a reasonable choice in dealing with others, much more pleasing than cleverness. [Now, if I were more clever, then it might have proved a harder choice.]

Although we were not in church as young children, my mom taught us the Disney form of kindness: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” – from the film Bambi.

When we, later in my childhood, became involved in a church community, I discovered the great teachings of God about kindness, which further stoked my resolve. Whenever possible, acting in kindness was the right choice…in personal relationships and in the workplace.

These days, in tight-knit tribal leadership and competitive companies, kindness is too often sacrificed for the bottom-line. You can imagine how refreshing it is for me to see that business thinkers and strategists are taking note of the profitability of kindness as a process – both internally (organizational human relations) and externally (marketing). A work culture of strategic, intentional kindness – just think of that!

If you go to Harvard Business Review’s website and search the word kindness, all sorts of articles pop up. I was most intrigued by Bill Taylor’s pieces on “kindness over cleverness”. He is the founder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical. He tells stories of companies who have been successful in practicing kindness strategically. He is inspired by Jeff Bezos’ experience growing up with a wise grandfather who taught him to choose kindness over cleverness. That story is told by Bezos himself in the TED Talk (linked below).Blog - Kind Over Clever - Jeff Bezzos - nepc.colorado.eduPhoto Credit: National Education Policy Center

Ted Talk Video – Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon – Princeton Commencement Address on What Matters More Than Talents – Gifts vs. Choices

If we wanted to take individual (and corporate) kindness up several notches in our workplace and workforce, what would those processes be? What would we have to give up  in order to raise employee satisfaction to such a level that it extends to product excellence and customer service? For leadership, it might be giving up some control and extending a kinder and wiser empowerment, For employees, it might be giving up a timid fatalism and risking a kinder boldness (less of “the great Oz” scenario). I would love to hear what business processes you have in place that celebrate kindness over cleverness. What kind of work culture does your leadership model and cultivate? What can you do yourself, whatever your leadership culture is? See Matt Monge’s article on leading without a title.  [Please share in Comments section below.]

We have a choice, after all.

I hope to write more about this because it is intriguing to me how our own delight in our work and product can pour over into our profitability and success.

For today, I close with some of my favorite quotes from these Harvard Business Review articles:Blog - What Can I Do Right Now - Heres-the-question-Id-q57pgs - larry ferlazzoPhoto Credit: Larry Ferlazzo

“Kindness has a strategic role to play, especially when it comes to winning over customers in an intensely competitive and slowly recovering economy.”Jeffrey F. Rayport

Success today is about so much more than just price, quality, reliability – pure economic value. It is about passion, emotion, identity – sharing your values.”Bill Taylor

Success is not just about marketing differently from other companies…It is also, and perhaps more important, about caring more than other companies — about customers, about colleagues, about how the organization conducts itself in a world with endless opportunities to cut corners and compromise on values…You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace. How does your brand shape your culture? How does your culture bring your brand to life? – Bill Taylor

What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind?” I asked at the time. And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare? …By all means, encourage your people to embrace technology, get great at business analytics, and otherwise ramp up the efficiency of everything they do. But just make sure all their efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of their humanity. Small gestures can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why people should want to affiliate with us. It’s harder (and more important) to be kind than clever.”Bill Taylor

Compassion is a great equalizer. When you approach others with genuine concern for their well-being, your standing in the organizational hierarchy is less of a barrier to a productive conversation…Kindness, in other words, is rarely inappropriate.Allison Rimm

Is Kindness a Strategy? – Jeffrey F. Rayport

Brand Is Culture, Culture is Brand – William C. Taylor

It’s More Important to Be Kind Than Clever – William C. Taylor

Why Is It So Hard to Be Kind? – William C. Taylor

10 Ways You Can Show Leadership Without a Title – Matt Monge – The Mojo Company

To Guide Difficult Conversations, Try Using Compassion – Allison Rimm

Blog - Relationships vs. Resistance - Leadership - Larry FerlazzoPhoto Credit: Larry Ferlazzo

Monday Morning Moment – Honoring Retirees – Workplace Culture & 5 Languages of Appreciation

Blog - Retirement - Gratitude at Work - Thank YouPhoto Credit: Harvard Business Review

It’s Monday morning. Who’s retiring from your team this week? Who retired last week? Who do you see around you at work today? Do they know they matter to you? To your organization? How has their value been reflected back to them? What can you do today to show your appreciation, especially to that one who is retiring? Sorry for all the questions. They’re bouncing in my head. Let’s talk about it.

[This might be a little awkward if you’re the one retiring, especially with reluctance…or if you’re not retiring but question your own relevance or value at work lately. You may not be able to fix much of what your experience has been, but you can set your own “finishing well”…whether it’s official in a few days, or in several years.]

From the sidelines, I am watching a very strange phenomenon this week. On Friday, hundreds of employees in one local company will retire. It relates to a measured downsizing necessary to keep the company operational financially. The downsizing is a much kinder and more valuing option than layoffs. Still, there are huge ramifications for those leaving as well as for those who remain, in the months/years ahead…without them.

How does an organization go about honoring hundreds of retirees? Well…apart from the numbers, it’s in the same way you would honor one. Bill Peel offers a really helpful array of articles on appreciation in his Make Mondays Meaningful, quoting from C.S. Lewis and the Harvard Business Review. This is a good place to start.

As I was thinking of the challenge for a company’s leadership and the human resources department to honor so many retirees, a little book came to mind. It’s The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Then I discovered he and Paul White wrote a follow-up book entitled The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Blog - 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Chapman and White describe five languages of appreciation (see in next paragraph). How we receive meaningful appreciation varies from person-to-person. Therefore we must attempt to personalize our expressions of gratitude to be effective. In a situation where a large number of folks are retiring, or in plan to build a workplace culture of appreciation, a comprehensive “shot-gun” approach may be warranted. If your aim is authentic honoring of your personnel, the extra work and creativity will be well-applied.

Maria Elena Duron, in her US News piece on workplace appreciation describes Chapman’s & White’s 5 Languages:

  1. Words of affirmation. Reassuring words (“thank you for your input,” or “great job on the presentation”) that serve to motivate and show gratitude to team members.
  2. Quality time. Going out of your way to spend a little more time with team members, discussing the topics that are relevant and important to them.
  3. Acts of service. Your words of gratitude could land on the deaf ears of team members who would rather receive help finishing a project or assignment. Going out of your way to lend a hand means more to such people than mere praise.
  4. Tangible gifts. Lots of people appreciate tangible gifts. The important thing here is to make sure the tangible gift is something the person values in their life outside of work, like a jersey of their favorite college football team or a coffee mug with their favorite cartoon character on it.
  5. Appropriate physical touch. Some members respond well to appropriate physical touch, like high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps and pats on the back. You’ll see this in sports, but it also translates well to the work environment.

Delbert Terry (speaking on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace) gives this charge to both supervisors and colleagues:

“In order to appreciate, you MUST initiate.”

  1. For appreciation to be effective, it must be individualized and delivered personally.
  2. Appreciation needs to be viewed as valuable to the recipient.
  3. Employees are more likely to “burn out” when they do not feel appreciated or emotionally supported by their supervisors.
  4. When leaders actively pursue communicating appreciation to their team members, the whole culture improves.

Dr. Terry acknowledges: “There are challenges that get in the way of effectively expressing gratitude to our colleagues. Some are internal issues attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. Other challenges are external and relate to corporate structures and procedures. These challenges need to be faced realistically, but they can be overcome.”

Challenge #1: Busyness

 Challenge #2: Communicating appreciation is not important for you organization

 Challenge #3: Feeling overwhelmed with existing responsibilities

 Challenge #4: Logistical issues that interfere with the process of sharing appreciation for others. Varying schedules, working on different projects…often make it difficult to express appreciation to certain coworkers.

 Challenge #5: Personal discomfort with appreciation *

*The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace – presented by Delbert Terry (pdf)

In honoring retirees and setting a workplace culture of appreciation, it is never too early and [hopefully] never too late.

As I think of the mammoth task of trying to honor hundreds of retirees in one fell swoop, I am both overwhelmed by and grateful for those who undertake such a task. How do you orchestrate such a celebration of so much human history and accomplishment? You do your best with gracious words, team parties, a speech from a charismatic leader, a slideshow of faces we love, and maybe shrimp and petits fours. I wouldn’t miss it, for sure.

The one thing I hope happens and it’s the hardest thing to make happen is that we capture the story of these lives. History, experience, a personal witness are so valuable and should be preserved somehow. Storycorps is an organization that gives us opportunities to record stories of people’s lives who have made a difference in ours. What a great way to honor those who have gone before us, so that we and future generations can continue learning from them.

Finally, we know something of the importance of authentic appreciation because of the character of God Himself. “Well done, good and faithful servant” are words any of us as Christ-followers hope to hear one day…from God, who knows us best. We reflect that deeply personal “divine compliment” when we truly honor one another.Blog - RetirementPhoto Credit: carp.ca

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman & Paul White

Applying Appreciation Language in the Workplace – Maria Elena Duron, U.S. News & World Report

Why Appreciation Matters So Much by Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review

How to Give a Meaningful “Thank You” – the Power Thank You by Mark Goulston, Harvard Business Review

StoryCorps.org – “We Believe Every Story Counts”

Appreciation at Work

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Charles, Dave, KevinThese friends are not retiring…transitions and send-offs are also opportunities to say (and show) “You matter.” #SaveOurHistory

Givers, Takers, or Matchers in the Workplace – Which One Are You? – with Adam Grant

Blog - Givers, Takers, Matchers - Adam GrantPhoto Credit: Chuck Scoggins.com

A smart and gifted friend of mine is going through a taxing time on her new job. Long hours, piling up responsibilities, with no end in sight. She lamented that maybe the problem is that she’s a people-pleaser. That expression seems to communicate a character weakness, and I don’t see that operating so much with this friend of mine. What seems more her dilemma is that she’s what Adam Grant calls a “giver”…which is a good thing. The dilemma for my friend and her workplace is to establish a culture where she, and other givers, can thrive.

Adam Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also written this great book – Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. I heard him speak at the Global Leadership Summit and bought his book. His take on the three tops of people who make up our work culture was both fascinating and practical.Blog - Give and Take by Adam Grant - cminds.netPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Grant sees us all as either givers, takers, or matchers. “It’s very hard to judge our own style. What values you live each day is in the eye of the beholder.” We may not necessarily see ourselves in these categories, but our colleagues will. Ask them, if you have the courage. Then you might consider taking what you learn and thinking through how you might use that information to become a more effective employee and valued colleague.

Takers are those who often manage to do the least amount of work yet gaining the most notice. They manage to get “the lion’s share of credit for collective achievements”, notes Grant. The Takers are the shirkers in the workplace. They are not at their desks because they are off schmoozing (oops, I meant networking, right?) in another department. They somehow get their jobs done partly by leaning on the strong work ethic of the Givers.

Givers are the people who simply enjoy helping others – “no strings attached”. They get to work early and stay late, if necessary. Their core values resonate in the quantity and quality of their work.

Matchers are most of us, really, doing our part in the workplace. Matchers can be counted on to keep things “fair” at work. “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me” is their mantra. They believe in “an eye for an eye” and “just worlds”.  They are the “fairness” or “Karma” police in the workplace.

Grant readily admits that we may operate out of all three styles from time to time, but we each have a dominant style at work.

How do givers, takers, and matchers fare in the workplace? Which of these sinks to the bottom in terms of performance and impact?

Givers are the worst performers (but keep reading). “The ones who get the least work done are the ones who help the others and never get their own jobs done”, reports Grant.  “I love helping others” is not the one on top of the heap of performers. “The lowest revenue accrues to the most generous salespeople.”

It’s sad news that givers sink to the bottom. If you want to boost your organization, have more givers….unfortunately the givers do it at their own expense – unless the organization builds a culture that helps the givers to thrive.

Who rises to the top?

If givers are the worst performers, who are the best performers? You think it’s takers? Takers rise quickly, and fall quickly. They often fall at the hands of the Matchers who can use gossip (or, said another way, workplace channels of influence) to call out the abuse of the Takers. Beware, Takers, of the Matchers in the shadows. Also, other Takers can also take down those more abusive, or less-well-liked Takers.

Are the Matchers the best performers? Not usually. The best results belong to the Givers. Wait! How can they also be the best performers? It’s a both/and situation.

Grant encourages: “Helping others can sink your career but it can also accelerate your careers. Hang in there.”

It takes a while for Givers to learn and build connections, but when they do, it’s a win-win for the organization.

How can we build cultures to help Givers be successful?

3 Things We Can Do:

  1. Keep the wrong people off the bus. – Get the right people on the bus. If possible, keep Takers off the bus. “One Taker on the team and paranoia starts to spread.” Put one Giver on the team, and you don’t necessarily have an explosion of generosity. It’s not bringing in the Givers; it’s weeding out the Takers. Matchers follow the norm. Matchers will follow the example of the Givers.
  2. Redefine Giving.   Wisdom is to know who is who in the workplace. Or at least not be thrown off by behaviors vs. motives. Then we can shape our work culture to empower Givers, influence Matchers, and avoid enabling Takers. In an interview with Adam Grant, Thinkers50 spelled this process out very well. For instance, consider Agreeableness vs. Disagreeableness – in Takers, Givers, and Matchers. We usually think Takers are disagreeable, but not necessarily so. Givers aren’t always agreeable either. Just because someone is nice to you (an agreeable Taker) doesn’t mean they care about you (Givers, in general, really care). Adam Grant also talks about the importance of kindness in the workplace. This is a strength of Givers, but it can also push them to over-work and exhaustion. Grant prescribes “5-minute favors (a microloan of your time, skills, or connections). Volunteering – 100 hours a year – is the sweet spot. Greater than 100 hours a year is too much. 2 hours a week.”
  3. Encourage Help-Seekers – A work culture of Help-Seekers will take silos down. “People step up when others say ‘I’m stuck; I need some help’. If no one asks for help, you have a lot of frustrated Givers in your organization.” Grant recommends an exercise called the Reciprocity Ring – Gathering teams together and having each person state a request of something they want or need and then everyone else in the room tries to use their expertise and networks to make it happen. “People are often unbelievably generous if you ask for help. Givers step up. The Takers become more generous. All the offers of help are visible. Takers don’t want to get outed. The Matchers realize that matching is useful, but it’s an inefficient way to run an organization. If you have given help to others without getting back, then you can increase your productivity because you don’t have to just ask those you’ve helped.”

Givers ask the question “How can I be the rising tide that lifts all boats?” We can move our organizations in this direction of maximum impact and satisfaction, by nurturing a Giver culture.  Instead of workplace paranoia, imagine a culture distinguished by a “Pro-noia” – the “delusion” that other people are plotting your wellbeing.  May it not be a delusion but a daily reality.

Give and Take – An Interview with Adam Grant by Thinkers50

Give and Take – A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Outward Focused Lives // Givers, Takers, Matchers

Give and Take – An introduction

YouTube Video – Adam Grant, Professor – Givers, Takers, and Matchers

YouTube Video – Adam Grant’s Give and Take Talk at Google

Global Leadership Summit 2015

The Reciprocity Ring

Live Blog: 2015 Leadership Summit – 30 Leadership Quotes from Adam Grant – Brian Dodd on Leadership

The Global Leadership Summit Session Three – Adam Grant – Notes by Chuck Scoggins