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How to Stay Productive During the COVID-19 Crisis

Remote work isn’t new. In fact, working from home been on the rise since 2010. But this new decade brought with it COVID-19, triggering a complete paradigm shift for remote work, school and life — worldwide. As a result, how we communicate, learn, teach, and conduct business has changed. And staying productive has become a challenge all it’s own.

Back in April, FlexJobs reported more than half of all Americans were working from home. Since then, 65% said their productivity increasedIn June, Stanford reported that 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, signaling a return to the office for many. But in July, COVID-19 cases soared by more than a million globally. More than half of all states in the U.S. that reopened (or planned to), closed in an effort to curb the virus. Given this ever-evolving context and data, we soon knew it would be a tough summer. 

How Do We Stay Productive?

Now that we roll into the fall, families and students grapple with how to return not just to school, but to some sense of normalcy. At the same time, organizations struggle with re-entry to the workplace. While Twitter says they’ll begin reintegrating employees into their offices soon, major companies like Amazon have decided to remain remote until the end of 2020. Google and Facebook have announce their employees will work remotely until mid-2021. 

So amid this ongoing crisis and uncertainty, how exactly do we keep stay productive? In the workplace, how can we find the balance between completely safe and fully engaged?

For many leaders, these seven strategies now serve as a roadmap that helps teams stay productive during the COVID-19 pandemic…

1. Focus on Priorities

Location shouldn’t matter as long as the work gets done, especially now. Employees should think about what work needs to get done, in what order, and how they should tackle that work. Managers, on the other hand, should think about the work that must be produced today while keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon. Combined, this strategy helps set realistic priorities while reducing stress and burnout.

2. Boost Communication

For a remote workforce to be successful, strong communication is key. So managers must integrate communications technology like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, and Zoom. By leveraging these tools effectively and in a balanced manner (no Zoom calls at 6:15am!), managers can easily check-in with employees – perhaps even more often than they did when sharing an office. The win-win: this boost in communication builds even stronger working relationships across the organization.

3. Adopt New Approaches

As the world of work changes, managers must change their approach. True, we’re no longer in the same office. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to build mutually-beneficial, one-on-one relationships. One example is making remote work feel more human. Other approaches range from more informal meetings (just to connect), to co-created checklists and to-do lists (to build autonomy). Bottom line: The same rigid approaches to work we used to rely on may not work well now.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Clearly stating expectations and setting common goals is more important now than ever. Just as vital: A clear of understanding of how work will be measured. This will help ensure everyone understands what productivity looks like. At this time, being autocratic may not be the right answer. So welcome input and questions. After all, when managers encourage curiosity it naturally empowers each of us to do good work.

5. Offer Respectful Radical Candor

Managers and leaders must lead by example. So, no more excuses to others — or ourselves — as to why we can’t get work done. To excel, we must be honest about why we can’t be efficient during these times. Let’s accept responsibility and ditch the lies to hack productivity. Let’s consistently offer respectful radical candor. We can then co-create solutions to the challenges we face. By working together, we can overcome whatever keeps us from being productive.

6. Use Stress to Your Advantage

Not all stress is bad stress. Some stressors actually motivate us to better maintain our focus, stimulating a better work performance with goals and deadlines at the forefront. Of course, sometimes stress becomes too overwhelming. When that happens, take a deep breath. Refocus on the highest priorities. Where possible, reset expectations. By focusing on an employees strengths rather than what feels like a weakness during stressful moments, managers can help reduce the bad kinds of stress. And use the good for good.

7. Employ Empathy

Remote work has always meant a flexible work location, work schedule and dress code. But now, empathy plays a role in flexibility. Today, many of us must think about the pressures of working from home. We must integrate family responsibilities, distance or hybrid learning for children, and other life commitments. Showing empathy, and specifically knowing what each of us might be going through during the COVID-19 crisis, helps maintain – and even improves – our work culture.

Leverage these seven strategies. Help team members and leaders stay productive. Enable a positive company culture. Do it well, and you’ll help everyone feel more at ease during a complex time.

Photo: Markus Winkler

Speaking Emoji: The New Language of Working

Emojis are both a language and a technology. Cultivate’s recent study into just how we use them shows how creatively we’ve adapted to this hybrid form of communication. In just over 20 years, emojis have evolved from the province of teens to an accepted part of business conversation. Influenced heavily by the presence of Gen Z and millennials, emojis have become a standard way to communicate — faster, more effective, and also, enabling us to communicate with more empathy

After 6 months of studying communications over Slack at four enterprise companies — including a total of 83,055 messages that used 101,134 emojis, Cultivate found some interesting trends. 30% of messages used Thumbs Up, while 27% used Mask Face

Emoji usage also differs by company: each has their own visual vocabulary based on company culture. And each generation has their preferences. Baby boomers enjoy receiving business texts with emojis, but only in the right context. Gen X appreciates informal channels like Facebook that can still be written professionally. Clearly, the majority of Gen Y (millennials) are obsessed with emojis and quick, digital-first communications like IMs or DMs. And Gen Z loves video formats, apps and mobile-only approaches with filters and emojis. 

In terms of how we use emojis, 16.3% of ad hoc requests were most typically answered with Thumbs Up, 1.31% with Okay Hand and 1.29% with Coffee.  14.64% of responses to completing tasks were followed by the highest-ranking Thumbs Up emoji and 1.13% were followed by the lowest-ranking Prayer Hands emoji 1.13%. 

The study also found that managers speak their own language: the top five emojis used by managers were different from the top five used by employees. The top emojis used by managers include Thumbs Up (in 4.63% of messages), Clapping (in 1.80%), Party Popper (0.88%), Smiley Face (0.53%), and Heart Eyes (0.39%). The top used team member emojis were Check Mark (in 1.83% of messages), Heart (1.35%), Laughing Crying (1.23%), Eyes (0.64%), and Heavy Plus Sign (0.54%).

Moreover, Cultivate found that managers and employees each tend to stick to the same emojis. As a language, emojis create a sense of connection — no matter the age or rank. And they add a personal touch along with a business personality that sets the tone for the work culture. 

Emojis also offer context to a message by bridging understanding with a reaction/emotion, especially for women, as recent research done by psychologists at Southwestern University found women tend to use twice as many emojis as compared to men. They use more emojis in particular to communicate and express emotions to family, friends and colleagues. Of course it depends on who we’re emoji-ing: you may not want to throw a line of crazy faces to your manager in an email. Then again, it might garner a Thumbs Up.

Photo: ion dooley

#WorkTrends: Managing Down, Up, and Across: Best Practices

People always create the culture, especially at work. And when Meghan M. Biro and tech and workplace innovator Dr. Janice Presser joined forces on this week’s #WorkTrends, what emerged was a new compact for managing not just teams, but everyone we work with — including ourselves.

We can’t just consider dynamics as one-way, Janice noted. Managing relationships goes in three directions: “Up, sideways, and down,” she said. Employees can and should work on ‘managing their managers,’ but to manage up, managers need to understand what makes employees motivated to work first, explained Janice. “One motivator is power. Not power over people necessarily, but empowerment. And the other is affiliation.” As an employee, do you know what skill (and value) you have to complete a task —  and contribute to the team? More importantly, do you know who you need to report that task to?

No matter the direction, Meghan pointed out, and whether you’re managing a team, a report, or a boss, it can be like walking a tightrope. As Janice noted, the key is understanding exactly who you’re dealing with, and what makes them tick, and we can do that just as well with someone in charge as we can with a colleague or a report.

Not surprisingly, one of the most effective strategies for enabling employees to do well is to “get out the way,” said Janice, which is a matter of trust — a factor that needs to exist across the board. In terms of managers, however, they need to trust that their employees will each do their part to contribute to the bigger picture. After all, everyone lands in a particular career role for a reason. And one smart tactic for helping employees climb the ladder is to let them switch roles until they find their niche. “Just let people swap,” she said. It can do wonders in getting everyone to feel that “corporate love.” The approach doesn’t even have to be fancy, added Meghan: informally managing peer relationships helps “employees figure out who on the team will love doing that part of the work.”

As for managing across, there’s a foolproof way to reduce friction and resentment among your team. Be grateful for those doing their job so you don’t have to. We all have our unique talents. And in the end, love and appreciation will take us all a lot farther.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do companies struggle with management issues? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can improve how we approach managing? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve how we manage? #WorkTrends

Find Dr. Janice Presser on Linkedin and Twitter

 

Millennial’s Commentary On the Generational Gap: How We Really See You

Thousands, maybe even millions of research articles flood the web on how Xers and Boomers are trying to understand what millennials really want in the workplace. After all, this is the generation taking over our organizations. With all of this information at your fingertips on how you can engage this sector of the workforce, there seems be too little to no rhetoric spelling out how Millennials view our Xer and Boomer colleagues. This brings me to question, how can you expect engagement initiatives to be successful when you have no idea how we view you?

We think Gen X is cynical

Generation X (1965-79) is one of the most skeptical generations to date, having grown up in an era when many of the institutions built by veterans (1922-1946) and improved upon by boomers (1946-1964) were torn to pieces. We agree it can be discouraging watching companies like Enron and WorldCom crumble and being fed lies about faulty products, but understand that your cynicism stifles the innovation that we are longing for. A check and balance system in the workplace is good but when very idea that spews out of our millennial mouth’s is met with your skepticism, we naturally do want to run home at 5:00 and apply for any other position on Monster.

All you see is the corner office

The Greatest Generation raised Boomers to ensure they would never miss out on their youth the way they did. A noble cause. What parent would not want to give their child a great life? It became all about what they could do for themselves and their families. “Don’t let anything stand in the way of what you want,” Boomers taught their Xer children. This has created a stigma, whether just or not, that Xer are willing to do whatever it takes to get to get ahead. They put their head down, work 60 hours a week and finally land their prize – the corner office. The problem with that for millennials is many Xers do not seem to be inviting us to their marathon to success, quite the opposite. We view your hands-off, because I said so and never take a sick day approach to leading as nothing more than an oppressing attempt to keep us in our entry to mid-level roles. Our goal is not the corner office, but the entire company with a budget for Corporate Social Responsibility.

Them is we

Boomers and Xers, more so than others, tend to use the generation labels much more than millennials or Zs (1995-2012). Yes, I know that seems like an oxymoron considering you are reading an article about generation labels right now but please humor me. No matter who you are you do not like to be pigeon-holed into categories. The rise of individualism is not new nor did it start with our generation. It is simply better documented due to more sophisticated technology. Only a third of millennials say they are millennials. While we will always have categories in place to better organize everyone, Xers and Boomers could relate to us more if they simply stopped using the “young and dumb” approach. I know Xers have spent years trying to live up to the Boomer’s expectations only to have them creep back in to the workforce (Thank you Great Recession) but putting all the ideas you deem naïve in a box and labeling it millennial will never build successful organizations. We are all in this together.

You are on our pedestal

This has and will continue to be one of my biggest flaws. I put my mentors and leaders on a pedestal. I am chomping at the bit to conquer the world and all I need is someone in my corner cheering me on and calling me out when I need it. When my cheerleader cannot find the pom-poms or stifles my innovative idea with negativity, I am heartbroken, confused and angry. I take it personally to the point I almost cannot learn from them any longer. I do make sure I do whatever it takes to prove them wrong though. Maybe they use it as a form of motivation? Millennials as a whole inspire to be incredible people that will make the world better. You do not need to be Steve Jobs or Mohmmas Yunus but you do need to try and get on-board with that.

No matter where you stand in the conversation around generations in the workplace, one thing is certain, we are not going away. 53.5 million millennials are expected to be in the workforce by the end of this year. While I understand some of the stereotypes around our endless texting and job hopping and proven true in some cases, overall, many of us simply want someone to lead us.

Photo Credit: sagitmalka52 via Compfight cc

The 5 Dynamics of Low Performing Teams

High performing teams seem to generate their own energy and elevate everyone on the team to their full potential. Despite achieving more, work on these teams seems less taxing, the workday shorter and less frustrating. Low performing teams are plagued by dysfunction and produce more frustration than progress.

What undermines the performance of groups and teams? Poor leadership and low self awareness from team members.

The Leader’s Role In Dysfunction

The most common leadership failure points are the hardest part of a leaders’ job: getting the wrong people off the team, holding people accountable and giving direct feedback. These aspects of management and leadership push us into uncomfortable territory. Sometimes managers don’t have support resources or skills in these areas and in large organizations, there may appear to be a high social price as well.

Building and exercising management skills are essential because great performers will leave the team for better places to work and the rest of the team will disengage (as more than 70% of employees have!) — the doomsday cycle for teams, companies and careers. The five dynamics of low performing teams stem from what leaders don’t do and the vacuum from what is missing:

1. Freeloaders

Teams with freeloaders consistently under perform. About 2 in 10 employees are actively disengaged in their work and undermine value created by their peers, according to Gallup. Less destructive freeloaders benefit from the results of the group but contribute nothing to it, demotivating their peers. While it’s one of the least pleasant aspects of management, avoidance compounds rather than corrects the problem.

2. Vague Goals

Without clear goals and objective or, worse, with a goal de jour, there is little chance of great achievement. because great performers will leave the team for better places to work and the rest of the team will disengage (as more than 70% of employees have! When team members don’t know what they’re working toward, the resulting vacuum of purpose is unsatisfying at best and chaotic at worst. The absence of progress on a meaningful goal devalues and frustrates team members. This goal kit can help establish goals and rally the team toward their achievement.

3. No Transparency

Without discipline and systems of transparency, the team wastes its time and effort trying to figure where it is and where it’s going — mind-numbing status meetings and cadence calls are the result. Everyone feels busy, but nothing important gets accomplished. Develop a transparency discipline so goals and actions to achieve them are visible. This is the substrate of achievement and accountability.

4. No Accountability

Half of all managers are “terrible” at driving accountability, according to Harvard Business Review. Fear of being the bad guy and lack of discipline hold people back. Without accountability, mediocrity rules and careers suffer. Not holding people accountable for under performing does them no favors, misleading them or implicitly validating their performance — until review time surprises. On the best teams, members hold themselves and each other accountable. Engage your team in defining a shared accountability standard and use committed actions week over week to sustain it.

5. Feedback Fear

No feedback is actually worse than negative feedback team members want it, managers hesitate to provide it! Get over the discomfort and make it a habit to provide regular feedback. Young people do 70% of their learning on the job so positive reinforcement is most effective (and among managers’ highest priorities). Experts with mature skills benefit most from constructive feedback to advance those skills. In fact, 57% of employees say constructive critique and feedback helps them improve; a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative works best.

The Individuals’ Role in Dysfunction

It is easy and tempting for team members to blame team dysfunction on leaders’ failure to lead. Not so fast: Teams are a collection of people who can choose to work well together — or not. Each person contributes to the chemistry and function of the team, and everyone is responsible for their own contribution. I’ve found it even more important to raise my self awareness on lower performing teams. In the same way great teams elevate everyone’s performance, dysfunctional teams tend to degrade each individual’s performance.

Doing a gut check on the deadly sins helps me align my actions with my unwavering intentions for great performance. And I will confess that fear and defensiveness are my sins when I’m not at my best or when I’m reacting rather than acting with awareness! When I take responsibility for those I not only feel better, I perform better and help elevate others.

Stability Is A Myth, Invest And Grow Your Business

How many times have you hired someone because they seemed like the right person? They do well in some situations but they slip in situations they should otherwise succeed in. Now the Manager has to put things back together. We spend time recruiting, training, and re-training people over and over.

Does this happen often? Do you have people that have a tough time doing things on their own?

Think Long Term

As a business owner or leader, you have to take a long term view and understand that Steve Jobs was right: “A small team of A players can run circles around B and C players.” Hiring the best people is the single most important activity. If you have lenders or investors, they are operating on a shorter cycle. They are looking for returns based on their liquidity and capital event schedules. When we react to their needs, we rush our process of building great teams. This ultimately impacts the business outcomes.

As a leader, it’s your job to drive the business and not let operating from a position of weakness effect your decisions. If you need capital to grow your business, go get some. There is an abundance of capital circulating this country. If you have lenders that are calling notes, go sell more so you can be a debt free company. Often leaders get focused on these distractions and the real issue is they need to sell more product or service. If you sell or ship your product, you can solve all your issues with revenue.

We know that the cost to operate a business is increasing over time. If you are not growing your revenue in business and operating in a status quo stability mindset, you will eventually decay your business. Be prepared to feed it some cash.

Having a perfectly balanced staff is a myth in business

Just like in staffing, it’s never just right. You are either under staffed or over staffed. I have driven results in more cases with an understaffed team then an overstaffed team. When there are too many people in the office, things slip. When urgency is in place, there is no time to waste on office chatter.

Have you ever been to a restaurant when you are one of the only customers? You would think your service would be exceptional. I know this isn’t for all situations, but I find that servers begin to focus on other things, like their side work and forget about taking care of the customer. Operating lean is a good thing for business, people rise to the occasion and will reach their potential.

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(About the Author: Patrick leverages a deep insight in leadership to inspire high-impact results. He is an Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur and Leadership Coach. He is the Founder and CEO of CareersinAuto, IncMultifamilyJobs.com. His leadership & coaching firm, LegendaryTeams.com is focused on winning in life and business. Together his companies offer a suite of tools to help people and companies reach their potential. You can learn more about Patrick’s new book The Inner Game of Business at legendaryteams.com)

Photo Credit: kentoh via Envato

Hiring? Promoting? How to Pick an A Player

(Editor’s Note: Last week at #TChat Events, the TalentCulture community explored best practices in candidate screening with Chris Mursau, Vice President at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Afterward, some of our participants expressed interest in learning more about how the Topgrading method works. In response, Chris shared this post.)

Do you have difficulty determining if a job candidate (or existing employee) is an A, B, or C Player? If so, you’re not alone — only companies with highly sophisticated HR methods have perfected that process. However, this article helps by providing an explanation of how Topgrading experts evaluate current and prospective employees. These distinctions offer a measurable way to assess talent and build a winning team.

In many companies, “A Player” refers to someone highly promotable. Topgrading definitions of A, B, and C are different. “A, B, and C” grades refer to current ability, not promotability. However, Topgrading takes a deeper look within the A Player category to assess promotability. Here’s how:

A Player: The top 10% of talent available for a position. In other words, an A Player is among the best in class. “Available” means willing to accept a job offer:

At the given compensation level
With bonus and/or stock that corresponding to the position
In that specific company, with a particular organization culture (e.g. Family friendly? Highly political? Fast paced? Topgraded and growing?)
In that particular industry
In that location
With specific accountability levels and resources, and
Reports to a specific person (e.g. Positive A Player or negative C Player?)

In other words, if you’re a terrific leader, many more candidates will be “available” to you than a lousy leader.

A Player Potential: Someone who is predicted to achieve A Player status, usually within 6-12 months.

B Player: The next 25% of available talent below the A Player top 10%, given the same A Player criteria listed above. These employees are “okay” or “adequate,” but they’re marginal performers who lack the potential to be high performers and are not as good as others available for the same pay. B Players are unable, despite training and coaching, to rise to A Player status. If they can qualify for a job as an A Player, they should be considered for it.

C Player: The next 35%, below the A Player 10% and B Player 25%, of talent available for a job. C Players are chronic underperformers.

The only acceptable categories are A Player and A Potential. We further categorize A Players by promotability:

A1: Someone who is promotable two levels
A2: Someone who is promotable one level
A3: Someone who is a high performer, but not promotable

Example: The not-promotable store stocker, sales rep, or first-level supervisor who is an A3, is a high performer, an A Player — but just not promotable. These employees are high performers because they achieve their A-Player accountabilities, plus they’re terrific with customers, they’re totally reliable, they achieve excellent results, they’re highly motivated, super honest, and very resourceful at finding ways to be more effective in driving the company mission.

It’s important to value all of your A Players, including the many who are the heart and soul of your company — including the A3s who are terrific, but are just not promotable.

How Do A, B and C Players Differ On Key Competencies?
The following chart is a bit simplistic, because not all A Players are this great on all competencies, and not all C Players are this bad on all competencies. Also note: for management jobs, Topgraders look at 50 competencies — this chart features only 8. However, it provides some insight into the methodology:

Topgrading_Competencies Example

The Best Way to Identify As, Bs and Cs:
If you know the story of Topgrading, you know that this methodology has long been considered one the “secret weapons” Jack Welch used to improve General Electric’s success at picking A Players. In fact, the company’s success rate improved from 25% to well over 90%, using Topgrading to assess candidates for both hire and for promotion.

The methods are similar. Two trained interviewers conduct a tandem Topgrading Interview — and if there are internal candidates for promotion, rather than talking with outside references, the interviewers talk with bosses, peers and subordinates in the company.

It’s important to look for patterns of success. Bottom line, the “magic” of Topgrading comes from understanding how successful a person was in job 1, job 2, job 3, and so on, with the greatest weight given to the most recent jobs.

Summary: Extensive research shows that 75% of people hired or promoted turn out NOT to be A Players or A Potentials. Yet, Topgrading methods regularly achieve 80%+ success. For more real-world understanding of how this approach is applied, see case studies that demonstrate how companies improved from 26% to 85% on average, in hiring and promoting A Players.

Have you used Topgrading or other methods of assessing employee potential? What did you discover in your experience? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments area.

Mursau Bio Photo(About the AuthorChris Mursau is Vice President of Topgrading, Inc. He has been practicing, teaching and consulting with companies and individual managers on how to pack their teams with A Players since 2001. He has conducted over 2,500 in-depth assessments for internal and external candidates, helped hundreds of people achiever their A potential, and trained thousands of people in all things Topgrading.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Job Auditions: Secret to Successful Hires?

By Matt Mullenweg, Founder, Automattic.

Hiring potential employees on a trial basis can help you quickly discover things about them that you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks. Here’s how it works in our organization.

Automattic (the fuel behind WordPress.com) employs more than 225 people who live all over the world, in 190 different cities. Our headquarters office is in San Francisco, and it operates similar to a coworking space. Employees who live in the Bay Area can choose to work from that location if they wish. However, most of our employees choose to work from other sites.

For us, this arrangement makes sense — our business is based on open source software, which is a decentralized product. However, outsiders have been skeptical as we’ve moved forward with our distributed work model.

At the outset they said, “That works great when you have 10 or 15 employees, but when you reach a team of 30, it falls apart.” Eventually we passed 30 employees, and we started hearing that the magic number is 100. Then people said Dunbar’s number — 150 — would be the point at which it didn’t work. Yet we keep blowing past these thresholds. We hired more than 100 people in 2013.

What’s special about us? We don’t hire the way most companies do — both in our mindset and our actions.

Mindset: We Think Differently About Work

In many businesses, if someone shows up in the morning and he isn’t drunk, he doesn’t sleep at his desk and he’s dressed nicely, it’s assumed that he’s working. But none of that takes into account what he’s actually creating during the day — and that’s really what matters.

Many people create great things without having to follow established workplace norms. Our organization measures work based on outputs. I don’t care what hours you work. I don’t care if you sleep late, or if you pick a child up from school in the afternoon. It’s all about what you produce.

This arrangement isn’t for everyone. But a lot of people like the autonomy we offer, and that’s important. So we’ve arrived at an unorthodox hiring system that serves our needs perfectly.

Behavior: We Hire by Audition

Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract. They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 an hour, regardless of whether a job candidate wants to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.

During the trials, applicants perform actual work. If you’re applying to work in customer support, you’ll answer trouble tickets. If you’re an engineer, you’ll address engineering problems. If you’re a designer, you’ll design.

Seeing Is Believing

There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone — working with them day by day. It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks.

At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone — it’s a mutual tryout. Some candidates decide we’re not the right fit for them. For others, the experience solidifies their commitment.

The Payoffs of Careful Hiring

Overall, we end up hiring about 40% of the people who try out with us. It’s a huge time commitment — coordinating the short-term work our applicants perform — but it leads to extremely low turnover. In the past eight years, only about 10 people have left the company, and we’ve let go of another 25 or 30. Those are great numbers in today’s work environment, so it’s a system we plan to keep utilizing.

Today, I spend at least a third of my time on hiring. And even though it’s a small part of our process, I still look at every resume the company receives, and I conduct the final interview with everyone who joins us.

It’s worth the effort. Nothing has the impact of putting the right people around the table. The aphorism is true: You can’t manage your way out of a bad team. We’ve done experiments to find the best way to hire based on our unique organizational structure. I encourage your business to do the same.

252691_10150856254811651_681132284_n(About the Author: Matt Mullenweg is the founder of Automattic, the company behind the open-source blogging platform, WordPress.com, as well as Akismet, Gravatar, VaultPress, IntenseDebate, Polldaddy and more. Additionally, Matt is a principal and founder of Audrey Capital, an investment and research company. Connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter.

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from a post at Brazen Life, with permission. It is based on a talk by the author at the December 2013 Lean Startup Conference. It originally appeared on Harvard Business Review. For more information, visit the Insight Center on Talent and the New World of Hiring. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credits: Wikipedia (feature) and Kevin Abosch (author)

More Minds: How Diverse Ideas Drive Innovation

Is it me, or has 2013 been an extraordinary year for stories from the forefront of social business, leadership and organizational culture? For every new book I finish, it seems that 3-4 more find their way to my “must read” list. There never seems to be enough time to take it all in.

Among the books I’ve had time to complete, several have made a lasting impression. One of them is Ekaterina Walter’s Think Like Zuck: Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO. Of course, we all know another book that speaks to Mark Zuckerberg’s success. What more is there to say, right? Wrong.

Diversity of Thought: Rocket Fuel For Business?

Ekaterina looks beneath the surface of Facebook’s founder in an engaging assessment of why his company is so successful. Along the way, she uncovers something that many other leadership books seem to miss — the power of diversity in innovation.

I’m not just talking about demographic diversity. Don’t get me wrong — demographic diversity is absolutely vital to innovation, and organizations still have a long way to go in that regard. But since we know that diversity is strength, it makes sense to expand the classic business understanding of workforce “diversity.” This isn’t a counterpoint to the demographic meaning, but an extension of it. A flourish. An embellishment. In the same way that jazz performers rely upon flourishes to add unique depth and character to their music, diversity has the potential to elevate the business innovation process in unique and valuable ways.

How can leaders put this insight into practice? Here are three factors to consider:

1) Yin Needs Yang

In Think Like Zuck, Walter defines five “musts” for business success: passion, purpose, people, product, partnership. It was her thought-provoking chapters on people and partnerships that made me really sit up and start thinking about diversity, and why it’s vital.

Because of Zuckerberg’s passion and smarts, Facebook did well nearly from the start. But it didn’t go into orbit until Zuckerberg picked Sheryl Sandberg as his COO. Walter writes:

She had a completely different style from his. I think their differences are what make the Zuckerberg-Sandberg duo such an extraordinary team. They complement each other very well. What Mark lacks in experience, Sheryl brings to the table in abundance. When he doesn’t feel like stepping into the limelight, she steps in for him masterfully. The difference in age, as well as gender, contributes various perspectives and capabilities.

“Yeah,” I thought, “that makes a lot of sense. So why don’t more companies get this? Isn’t it obvious?” Nailing the point, Walter quotes Leslie Bradshaw of JESS3 (a social media firm that serves world-class companies like Nike, MTV, Samsung, NASA, Twitter, ESPN and Google):

In our partnership, Jesse Thomas is the yang, and…I have enough yin to balance it out. If you look beyond our personalities, the fact that our genders are different also adds diversity. The perspective I bring as a woman is very different from what he brings as a man, and that helps balance out the way we hire, the way we treat our employees, and the way we approach strategies when we execute for clients.

“Of course!” I shouted. (Luckily, I was alone. HA). Of course diversity allows you to do more — to think more, think differently, think better! It seems self-evident, really. Yet it can be incredibly hard to convince CEOs and managers to hire or involve people who are different from them. People who do things differently, who think differently. It’s a perceived risk. And it’s wrong. “Everyone needs to be talking about this” I insisted. I was pretty fired up — but with good cause, don’t you think?

2) It’s Proven: Two Brains (and Personalities) Are Better Than One

Inspired by Walter’s book, I dove into Hutch Carpenter’s article “Diversity and Innovation: Improve the Person, Improve the Idea.” Pacing back and forth, I searched for past threads that would push my current thought process forward:

A key aspect of the next generation of innovation is the ability to tap a much larger set of minds in pursuit of valuable ideas. The historic method of innovation relied exclusively on a designated few. (“So true!”) Diversity is the key element here. That is, engaging a broad set of different perspectives to generate something better than one could do individually. Cognitive and heuristics diversity — that’s what benefits innovation. People who see things in a different way, and bring a different practice to solving problems.

“Good, good, yes,” I thought, still talking to myself. “Of course — put people together, you get more ideas. Like one plus one, right?”

Not quite. Instead, we need to think one of this kind, plus one of another kind. Carpenter cites a study by Ron Burt of The University of Chicago, finding that “people with more diverse sources of information generated consistently better ideas.”

So. It’s not just about more sources. It’s about more more diverse sources.

3) E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One?)

Then I found out something totally cool. Are you ready for this? Group diversity leads to better innovation than a genius inventor working alone (or a group working in isolation) — even when that solo entity gets input from others. Although the “lone inventor” may come up with great innovations (okay, we’re all thinking Alexander Graham Bell) it’s less likely that will happen than with communities of diverse thinkers who freely explore ideas together.

It’s true: Zuckerberg didn’t work alone. And neither did Alexander Graham Bell. Facebook and the telephone may have been visions of “lone inventors,” but those visions became world-changing products only because Zuckerberg and Bell worked well with others who thought differently from them.

As Ekaterina Walter makes abundantly clear, Mark Zuckerberg, along with many others, has created a platform more powerful for letting our voices be heard than anything since the invention of the printing press. It’s the basis for social community on a grand scale.

Social Networks and Innovation: The Bigger Business Picture

Okay, then. So the tools are there to connect our diverse dots. Why not use social networks to create a new world of work? All of us, together, representing a spectrum of talents, personalities, styles, backgrounds, brains, ideas, experience. All of us focused on contributing to a common purpose. A diverse community — an orchestra, of sorts.

We could be riffing together like jazz musicians to create organizational cultures that are more responsive, resilient, energized, engaging and innovative. Diversity playing in unison isn’t only music. It can, in fact, inform the future of work.

What are your thoughts about the power of diverse thinking in the workplace? What’s the best business book you’ve read this year? And what did it teach you?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This post is adapted from Forbes.com, with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Gut Check: Leadership and Emotion #TChat Recap

We’ve all worked with them. Brilliant intellectuals who hold managerial titles — yet they struggle to form and sustain effective professional relationships.

They lack self-awareness, and seem even more clueless about how to deal with others. As leaders, they may be tolerated, ignored or even undermined. Despite their impressive credentials, they’re like fish out of water in the workplace.

These leaders desperately need an emotional Intelligence intervention. A gut check. Fortunately, talent development specialists agree that essential “soft skills” can be learned — although the process may be hard.

That’s the topic we tackled this week at #TChat Events with guest, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.” As one of the nation’s premier experts in emotional intelligence, leadership and personal transformation, Steve helped us explore the connection between EI and the ability to influence others.

(Editor’s Note: See #TChat Event highlights and resource links at the end of this post.)

Defining Emotional Intelligence: What’s Inside?

At its core, emotional intelligence (EI) is about our ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Almost a decade ago, psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman, defined the 5 core components of emotional intelligence:

1) Self-awareness: Deep understanding of their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest — with themselves and others.

2) Self-regulation: Like an ongoing inner conversation, this frees people from becoming prisoners of their feelings. Self-regulators feel bad moods and emotional impulses, just as everyone does, but they’re able to control and even channel those responses in useful ways.

3) Motivation: Virtually all effective leaders display this trait. They’re driven to achieve beyond expectations — their own and everyone else’s. The key word here is achieve.

4) Empathy: This is the most easily recognized aspect of EI. We’ve all felt the empathy of a sensitive teacher or friend; we’ve all been struck by its absence in a stoic coach or boss. But in business, people are rarely praised, let alone rewarded, for their empathy.

5) Social Skill: As a dimension of EI, this is not as simple as it sounds. It’s not just friendliness — although people with high social skill are rarely mean-spirited. Rather, social skill is friendliness with a purpose. It’s about moving people in a desired direction, whether that’s agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.

Emotional Intelligence: Leadership Secret Sauce?

Why is EI so vital? Today’s business environment is increasingly collaborative and team-oriented. To succeed in almost any mission, leaders must inspire and influence others. That’s where EI skills make all the difference. For better or worse, every interaction we have in the workplace has an impact on emotions, attitudes and motivation within us and within others. High-performing leaders understand this, and use it wisely.

What did our community have to say about this topic? Check out the resource links and highlights from this week’s #TChat conversation, below. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and opinions! Your experiences make concepts like EI more meaningful for us all.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Emotions, Leadership and Influence

SAT 12/14:

Steve Gutzler (2)

Watch the Preview hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post and “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Steve Gutzler. Read the Preview: “Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out.

SUN 12/15:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested ways that leaders can up their EI skills to help the talent in their organizations shine. Read: “Leadership Is About Emotion.”

MON 12/16 — WED 12/18:

Related Post:Psst! Leaders, Are You Really Listening?
Related Post:Managerial Magnets: Becoming a Leader Others Want to Follow

WED 12/18:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen now to the #TChat Radio replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Listen to the Radio replay now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as I moderated an open, crowdsourcing conversation focused on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Leadership, Emotion and Influence

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/where-reputations-are-built-leadership-and-emotion.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Steve Gutzler for sharing your perspectives on emotional intelligence and leadership success. We value your time, your passion and your expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how leaders can be more successful by developing emotional intelligence? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Happy #TChatHoliday!

Our weekly #TChat Events are on hiatus until the New Year — mark your calendar for January 8th. We’re preparing to start 2014 strong, with a full month of forward-looking #TChat guests and topics that you won’t want to miss!

Meanwhile, the lights are always on here at TalentCulture, where we’ll continue to post relevant “world of work” content over the holiday. And as always, the conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. and elsewhere on social media.

So make merry, enjoy this festive time of year, and we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for all the highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? You’re in luck — they’re right this way at the #TChat Recap: Gut Check: Emotions and Leadership.)

“It’s not personal — it’s strictly business.”
–Mario Puzo “The Godfather

Have you ever heard someone at work echo that classic line to dismiss their ruthless, destructive or self-serving behavior? In the past, that kind of cold-blooded Mafia mindset was all too prevalent in business. But these days it’s losing relevance, as emotional intelligence takes hold.

Although academics continue to debate various “EI” models, the core concept is simple. It’s based on the notion that the more mindful we are of the “human” side of business (in ourselves and others), the more effective our performance will be, and the more likely we’ll influence others’ performance.

While some people resist the term “emotional intelligence,” the concept is gaining traction. Some of the world’s most successful organizations — companies like Google and Microsoft — are actively developing emotional intelligence in their workforce. Why does it matter? And how can it “make” or “break” your professional reputation?

That’s the topic we’re discussing this week at #TChat Events, with EI expert, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest, a Seattle leadership consultancy, and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.”

“Sneak Peek” Hangout

To kick-off this week’s discussion, Steve joined me for a G+ Hangout, where he briefly shared some fascinating insights about the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

This week’s #TChat Events promise to be helpful for anyone who wants to work more effectively with and through others. So bring your questions and ideas — and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Emotional Intelligence, Leadership and Influence

#TChat Radio — Wed, Dec 18 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Dec 18 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: Why is emotional intelligence so critical for today’s leaders?
Q2: How do emotional “soft skills” complement hard-edge business skills?
Q3: What is emotional hijacking vs. emotional self-management?
Q4: How can business leaders offer productive emotional influence?
Q5: What technologies can foster employee appreciation + emotional commitment?

We look forward to hearing your feedback, as talent-minded professionals, who care about the human side of business.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.
We’ll see you on the stream!

Making Teams Work: Is There a Better Way?

For many of us today, teaming is an integral aspect of professional life. Yet, although we may see value in collaboration, many of us also struggle with various aspects of the team process.

Sometimes, issues arise from our self perceptions. For example, we may have reservations about sharing our opinions publicly, or insecurities about our ability to contribute effectively.

However, concerns also stem from inherent weaknesses in the teaming process, itself. Issues surrounding coordination and motivation tend to reduce a team’s effectiveness. For example, even when participants freely generate many valid ideas, those suggestions may be overlooked or underutilized. It’s no surprise that many of us become cynical about teams when our attempts to add value fail.

Cracking The Collaboration Code

How can we turn this around, so more of us are comfortable bringing ideas to the table, and confident that our efforts will make a difference? One possibility is to rethink the role of brainstorming, so teams focus on identifying and combining worthy ideas to formulate stronger solutions.

I have been involved with a variety of teams over the years. The “personality” of each group was truly unique — influenced by the dynamic of the selected members, the teaming process and the team leader’s experience. Some teams hesitated to cross or effectively challenge the opinions of those with seniority — a common problem. But in many situations, the real challenge wasn’t that individual voices were unheard. Instead, the root issue was that contributors’ ideas weren’t used wisely. In every scenario, as soon as this became apparent, that’s the moment when things went awry.

Often, multiple proposed ideas were worthy of exploration, but we were focused on choosing only one “winning” idea. This “either/or” decision filter is a potentially fatal flaw in the collaboration process. Instead, we should have focused on a different goal.

Insights From Collaborative Leaders

At some point, every team must move from generating ideas to assessing their value. The process used to evaluate those ideas is critical to the team’s overall success. So, how do we effectively address this challenge — the “we-have-numerous-great-ideas-but-what-do-we-do-with-them” issue? Here are several sources of insight:

•  Dr. Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney Pixar Animation Studios:  In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Dr. Catmull describes how Pixar development teams routinely combine ideas to excel. It’s not necessary for one idea to “win” or “lose.” Instead, numerous viable concepts can be incorporated into a plan, a product or a process. This approach may lead to healthier outcomes. After all, game-changing products and processes often integrate multiple features.

•  Mike Krieger, Co-Founder, Instagram: At Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner, Mike Krieger discusses his perspectives on the value of combining ideas when developing innovative solutions. In Krieger’s opinion, this integrative approach is the driving principle behind the best startup companies. Instagram is compelling evidence.

Three Ways To Achieve Better Results, Together

Of course, this approach may not be appropriate for all teams, or in every circumstance. However, it deserves consideration — especially when teams are struggling. To move the collaboration process forward, consider these three “ideation” guidelines from brainstorming best practices:

•  Share ideas sooner. Move beyond the requirement that an idea must be perfected before you share it. Allow colleagues an opportunity to develop your concept more fully.
•  Cut the cord. Strive to give up emotional ownership of your idea. Stay invested and serve as a guide, but allow the team to invest in it, too, so you can maximize its potential, together.
•  Nurture a different perspective. Stay open to pairing ideas that can produce a novel product or process. Expect the unexpected. Explore diverse combinations. And try not to jump to conclusions too soon.

What are your thoughts about combining ideas to collaborate more effectively? Have you tried this approach? What were the outcomes?

(Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from a LinkedIn Influencer post, with permission.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at  events; or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Want To Build A Business? Lead With Trust

If you could define business success, what would it look like to you? Would you focus on market share? Growth rate? Revenue? Profitability? Or something else?

At young companies, conversations tend to revolve around how to raise seed funding, where to invest capital, and how to compensate key contributors. Often, it seems that our perception of business success (or failure) largely revolves around money.

While it is true that a well-run company requires appropriate funding and sound financial management, I would argue that there is something even more vital to the sustained growth of any venture. It’s not something you can buy or sell — nor does it come prepackaged on a shelf.

I’m talking about trust.

Broken Trust: Good Examples Of Bad Behavior

From the Enron debacle to the Madoff scandal, stories of insider trading and fraud have captured headlines far too frequently. Our nation is losing faith in corporate leaders, and there’s a growing demand for corporate accountability and transparency.

The only way to turn this around is for those at the top to take responsibility and lead by example. We must create open, transparent cultures that promote accountability, integrity and honesty.

The truth of the matter is that employees need to know what’s going on in order to feel connected with their work and perform at their highest level. Staff concerns about the stability and the health of the company are a distraction that can erode trust, inhibit productivity and have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Creating an environment of trust goes far beyond releasing quarterly reports. It requires a daily commitment to transparency that’s infused into all aspects of business operations, and reaches all levels of the organizational chart. Most importantly, it requires team coaching and open communication across all functions, with management that listens and responds to constructive criticism.

Trust Is The Cornerstone Of Culture

Leadership legend, Stephen M. R. Covey said:

“High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster and cost goes down. It’s that predictable.”

Although trust can take a long time to build, once we have achieved a state of trust, we often take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is that trust is at the core of the daily work activities that collectively make up company culture. As Deborah Mills-Scofield explains in the Harvard Business Review:

“Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes ‘work’ bigger than oneself.”

When it comes to trust, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. For example, many startups have created cultures based around staff perks like a ‘no vacation policy’ vacation policy, providing employees with top-of-the line equipment, offering flexible hours, and letting staff work from home. While benefits like these may attract and retain top talent, there’s also a higher mission. Companies that offer these unique self-directed work options are sending employees a message that says, ‘I trust you, and I trust your judgment in using these privileges.”

Earlier this year, HubSpot released its long-awaited Culture Code – a presentation that summarizes the organization’s nine core beliefs. The document is remarkable because it emphasizes that trust is at the center of Hubspot’s organization. Rather than creating binders full of company policies, HubSpot has created a simple three-word policy for nearly everything: use. good. judgment. From social media activity, to travel expenses, to sick days, HubSpot understands that a healthy company starts with trust.

The Trust/Time Ratio

Of course, trust is a two-way street. Not only is it essential for employees to trust management, but leaders must trust their teams, and feel confident in their ability to move the company forward.

As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources. It’s also an essential condition for growth. He notes that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down,” and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” Therefore, he concludes that the speed at which you can grow a business is directly proportionate to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships.

Leading By Letting Go

One of the most important lessons I learned as a CEO was the importance of trusting your team. As the leader of any organization, large or small, your primary job is to communicate the vision; give your people the information, tools and resources to move toward it; and then get out of the way. This frees your staff to be as productive as possible, while allowing you to focus on your responsibility to drive the company forward, strategically.

The truth is plain and simple: if you’re a leader who wants to grow a company, you must have faith in your staff to get the job done – without you hovering around their desks. It is impossible to innovate while being bogged down in the daily minutia of your company. Trust allows you to remove yourself from the details and create necessary space to focus on long-term growth.

Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. The best way to create a culture of trust is to begin by being open and honest with ourselves and those around us. By committing to being transparent in all our interactions, we will gradually create a culture of trust around us. And as trust grows, we should expect to see business results follow.

How do create and sustain trust within your organization? What results do you see?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Showing Workplace Competition Who’s Boss

“How will I stand out in the crowd?”
“Do I really have what it takes to succeed?”

These classic workplace questions cross everyone’s mind from time to time. No matter where our profession leads us — sales, engineering, consulting, service — we must continually navigate through a sea of highly qualified talent. As our careers progress, so too, does the level of talent that we encounter. (We all experience secret moments of panic.)

Knowing this, I’d like to pause for a moment and pose a different question: “Is the way we traditionally view workplace competition getting in the way of our career progress?” For many individuals, this could be the case. So, let’s take a look at common barriers and consider how to deal with them.

Put Professional Competition In Its Place

Competition can be healthy. It does have the potential to drive us forward to excel. But if the very thought of competing derails us, we have a serious problem. Ultimately, we must face facts. We are likely to cross paths with individuals that seem more capable or successful than ourselves. (We may actually covet their role or career.) However, the very notion of competition doesn’t have to evoke debilitating stress and self-doubt. We need to remember that successful career journeys are built by capitalizing on our strengthswhile maximizing the opportunities that we encounter.

To master workplace competition, we ultimately must deal with our own feelings (and issues) with the concept of competition, itself. Here are some suggestions:

7 Ways To Deal With Workplace Competition

1) Accept its presence. Competition is ubiquitous. No matter where your career leads you, there will be ample competition to keep you on your toes — and it is ever present. Try to become comfortable and make peace with it.

2) Recognize it’s not a “zero sum” game. Opt for an “abundance mentality.” Don’t take the stance that if someone else succeeds, you are doomed to fail. Another individual’s promotion or good fortune doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be left out in the cold.

3) Identify your “comparison other.” How you gauge your career has much to do with those against whom you measure yourself. Who are your role models? Choose individuals that motivate you and possess skills that you wish to emulate. (This is one of my favorite techniques.) Learn from your competition. Ask yourself: What are they doing right?

4) Be the “best of you.” We’re not required to be all things to all people (and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so). Instead, find a way to acknowledge your strengths and create your own brand. Find a niche that makes you indispensable — create value and build on this strength. Take control of your own career and find paths to showcase your own talent. You’ll find that you focus less on the paths of others when your work aligns with the best of what you have to offer.

5) Build alliances and collaborate. Network without staying too close to the cuff (Use the 70-20-10 rule here.) Spread your wings to develop depth within your workplace relationships — be the “linking pin” between other departments or functions and solve problems.

6) Get a mentor or a sponsor. Many successful people speak of a mentor that has either inspired or guided them. However, you also need a sponsor. This is an individual that will help you gain exposure and facilitate “stretch assignments” that test your abilities.

7) Be aware. There is no greater confidence builder than becoming your own advocate. Of course, there is a dark side to workplace competition. Watch for individuals who “fight dirty” and have an unhealthy relationship with competition. (Remember, there is no shame in protecting your own interests.) Document your accomplishments, if you feel it is necessary — and take credit when it is owed to you. If an environment causes you troubling levels of stress, seek a change.

How do you handle the pressure of workplace competition? What has worked most effectively for you and why? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Showing Workplace Competition Who's Boss

“How will I stand out in the crowd?”
“Do I really have what it takes to succeed?”

These classic workplace questions cross everyone’s mind from time to time. No matter where our profession leads us — sales, engineering, consulting, service — we must continually navigate through a sea of highly qualified talent. As our careers progress, so too, does the level of talent that we encounter. (We all experience secret moments of panic.)

Knowing this, I’d like to pause for a moment and pose a different question: “Is the way we traditionally view workplace competition getting in the way of our career progress?” For many individuals, this could be the case. So, let’s take a look at common barriers and consider how to deal with them.

Put Professional Competition In Its Place

Competition can be healthy. It does have the potential to drive us forward to excel. But if the very thought of competing derails us, we have a serious problem. Ultimately, we must face facts. We are likely to cross paths with individuals that seem more capable or successful than ourselves. (We may actually covet their role or career.) However, the very notion of competition doesn’t have to evoke debilitating stress and self-doubt. We need to remember that successful career journeys are built by capitalizing on our strengthswhile maximizing the opportunities that we encounter.

To master workplace competition, we ultimately must deal with our own feelings (and issues) with the concept of competition, itself. Here are some suggestions:

7 Ways To Deal With Workplace Competition

1) Accept its presence. Competition is ubiquitous. No matter where your career leads you, there will be ample competition to keep you on your toes — and it is ever present. Try to become comfortable and make peace with it.

2) Recognize it’s not a “zero sum” game. Opt for an “abundance mentality.” Don’t take the stance that if someone else succeeds, you are doomed to fail. Another individual’s promotion or good fortune doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be left out in the cold.

3) Identify your “comparison other.” How you gauge your career has much to do with those against whom you measure yourself. Who are your role models? Choose individuals that motivate you and possess skills that you wish to emulate. (This is one of my favorite techniques.) Learn from your competition. Ask yourself: What are they doing right?

4) Be the “best of you.” We’re not required to be all things to all people (and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so). Instead, find a way to acknowledge your strengths and create your own brand. Find a niche that makes you indispensable — create value and build on this strength. Take control of your own career and find paths to showcase your own talent. You’ll find that you focus less on the paths of others when your work aligns with the best of what you have to offer.

5) Build alliances and collaborate. Network without staying too close to the cuff (Use the 70-20-10 rule here.) Spread your wings to develop depth within your workplace relationships — be the “linking pin” between other departments or functions and solve problems.

6) Get a mentor or a sponsor. Many successful people speak of a mentor that has either inspired or guided them. However, you also need a sponsor. This is an individual that will help you gain exposure and facilitate “stretch assignments” that test your abilities.

7) Be aware. There is no greater confidence builder than becoming your own advocate. Of course, there is a dark side to workplace competition. Watch for individuals who “fight dirty” and have an unhealthy relationship with competition. (Remember, there is no shame in protecting your own interests.) Document your accomplishments, if you feel it is necessary — and take credit when it is owed to you. If an environment causes you troubling levels of stress, seek a change.

How do you handle the pressure of workplace competition? What has worked most effectively for you and why? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Who’s On Your List? Advice For Rising Stars From Yum! CEO

Written by Bob Burg

In his excellent book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen,” iconic Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO, David Novak explains the importance of getting inside the heads of those we wish to influence. In other words, it’s not enough for us to want or desire a goal — we must know what motivates and drives the people we wish to take along with us.

It starts with genuine interest and caring about their needs, wants, goals and desires. But even that is not enough! Why? Because the following error can render our ideas nearly useless. According to Mr. Novak:

“One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not thinking through all the people they have to lead to get where they want to go.”

He recommends that we ask ourselves who we need to affect, influence or take with us in order to be successful. As a former marketing executive, he compares this to a marketer trying to identify potential customers. And he believes that this list is absolutely essential.

When suggesting likely candidates, he casts a broad net: “your boss, your coworkers, people on your team, people from other departments whose help you’ll need — even people from outside your organization, such as shareholders, vendors, customers or business partners.”

Implications for Intrapreneurs

What does this mean for those among us who operate as “intrapreneurs” — those who work in an entrepreneurial way as employees of larger organizations? If you’re determined to make things happen as a leader (whether you have a formal title or not), but you don’t take Mr. Novak’s advice to heart, be prepared for a sudden halt in your progress.

His advice reminds me of a leadership failure or two from my past. In those situations, I’m fairly sure I persuaded those I targeted. However, my list was too short. I left out key “needed people,” and never even tried to obtain their buy-in. This wasn’t intentional; it was more a matter of not thinking things through and considering all the people whose commitment I would need. And inevitably I paid the price.

Network Relations: Connecting The Dots

Those were painful lessons, but I needed to experience them in order to grow. Or perhaps I could have avoided the pain, if Mr. Novak’s book had been available at the time. I’m not sure I would have understood without my first-hand experience as a reference point. But if there’s one thing better than learning from our own painful experience, it’s learning from someone else’s wisdom (which, most likely, was based on their own painful experience).

So, in that spirit, I encourage anyone who is on a path to intrapreneurial success to be sure and dot the I’s and cross the T’s — not just in terms of selling your vision, but in selling it to everyone who needs to be sold.

BobBurgHRHeadshotLearn More! Listen now to Bob’s 1-on-1 chat with David Novak, “Taking People With You,” where he shares numerous hard-hitting, valuable ideas from his book.

(Author Profile: Corporate speaker, Bob Burg, is coauthor of the International bestseller, “The Go-Giver.” His newest book, “Adversaries Into Allies” is scheduled for a late October release. Bob was a featured guest on #TChat events in early September, where he helped our community focus on ways that intrapreneurs can create business value within organizations. To learn more about Bob and connect with him on Social Media, visit www.burg.com.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Who's On Your List? Advice For Rising Stars From Yum! CEO

Written by Bob Burg

In his excellent book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen,” iconic Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO, David Novak explains the importance of getting inside the heads of those we wish to influence. In other words, it’s not enough for us to want or desire a goal — we must know what motivates and drives the people we wish to take along with us.

It starts with genuine interest and caring about their needs, wants, goals and desires. But even that is not enough! Why? Because the following error can render our ideas nearly useless. According to Mr. Novak:

“One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not thinking through all the people they have to lead to get where they want to go.”

He recommends that we ask ourselves who we need to affect, influence or take with us in order to be successful. As a former marketing executive, he compares this to a marketer trying to identify potential customers. And he believes that this list is absolutely essential.

When suggesting likely candidates, he casts a broad net: “your boss, your coworkers, people on your team, people from other departments whose help you’ll need — even people from outside your organization, such as shareholders, vendors, customers or business partners.”

Implications for Intrapreneurs

What does this mean for those among us who operate as “intrapreneurs” — those who work in an entrepreneurial way as employees of larger organizations? If you’re determined to make things happen as a leader (whether you have a formal title or not), but you don’t take Mr. Novak’s advice to heart, be prepared for a sudden halt in your progress.

His advice reminds me of a leadership failure or two from my past. In those situations, I’m fairly sure I persuaded those I targeted. However, my list was too short. I left out key “needed people,” and never even tried to obtain their buy-in. This wasn’t intentional; it was more a matter of not thinking things through and considering all the people whose commitment I would need. And inevitably I paid the price.

Network Relations: Connecting The Dots

Those were painful lessons, but I needed to experience them in order to grow. Or perhaps I could have avoided the pain, if Mr. Novak’s book had been available at the time. I’m not sure I would have understood without my first-hand experience as a reference point. But if there’s one thing better than learning from our own painful experience, it’s learning from someone else’s wisdom (which, most likely, was based on their own painful experience).

So, in that spirit, I encourage anyone who is on a path to intrapreneurial success to be sure and dot the I’s and cross the T’s — not just in terms of selling your vision, but in selling it to everyone who needs to be sold.

BobBurgHRHeadshotLearn More! Listen now to Bob’s 1-on-1 chat with David Novak, “Taking People With You,” where he shares numerous hard-hitting, valuable ideas from his book.

(Author Profile: Corporate speaker, Bob Burg, is coauthor of the International bestseller, “The Go-Giver.” His newest book, “Adversaries Into Allies” is scheduled for a late October release. Bob was a featured guest on #TChat events in early September, where he helped our community focus on ways that intrapreneurs can create business value within organizations. To learn more about Bob and connect with him on Social Media, visit www.burg.com.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

What Can Swarms Teach Us About Teams?

You may not work in an emergency room — but your organization may want to function like one. As critical issues arise, the ability to quickly shift resources and refocus energy can have a keen impact on continued business success.

This kind of workforce agility helps organizations meet challenges swiftly and succinctly. Which begs the question: Is your organization ready for a work swarm?

Swarming: A Closer Look

Borrowed from the rhythms of nature, the notion of “swarming” to assemble a cross-functional or cross-departmental team, could be considered a key factor in an organization’s ability to develop and thrive. Gartner described a work swarm as a “flurry of collective activity” to deal with non-routine workplace problems or opportunities. (See that discussion here.) Without this option, organizations can fall short in their quest to respond to stressors (or opportunities) in quickly changing internal and external environments.

Developing an ability to swarm is just as much an orientation toward the work itself, as it is a problem solving technique. Swarming needs talent and skills to flow quickly toward projects, as it capitalizes upon an agile culture and a fluid talent stream. This requires a modern view of organizational boundaries and talent utilization. There are challenges to swarming — and the process may not prove appropriate for all organizations. However, it may be an interesting option to consider.

Putting Swarm Theory To Work

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1) Apply open-system theory. Work swarming requires talent to flow into the organization, as well as within its borders. Early structure theorists (See Katz & Kahn) discuss open-system theory. However, applications of that view seem more possible with the advent of relevant social networks.

2) Let internal structure flex. To enable swarming, the structure of an organization would need to become increasingly fluid. Talent within the organization would be allowed to cross functional lines more easily and routinely.

3) Seek diversity. Including a considerably wider range of knowledge bases when forming a team to problem solve is desired – as solutions can come unexpectedly, from a loosely “related” discipline or function. These sources can include suppliers and others in close proximity to core problems and customers.

4) Remember roles rule. Becoming crystal clear concerning the roles of team players is key. Role clarity can help focus more energy toward the actual content of the problem or issue – and help team members attack their portion of the task at hand more readily.

5) Utilize social platforms. Crowdsourcing platforms (both internally and externally focused) can be utilized to facilitate the problem solving process – where stubborn organizational challenges can be posted and exposed to greater numbers of potential contributors. (Learn more about Innocentive here.)

6) Curate talent communities. Building a pipeline of talent is imperative with swarming – but this should be developed in a manner that is meaningful. Mapping the skills and strengths of potential team players within relevant industries, becomes a critical goal. Furthermore, teaming applications can also help document the evolving skill sets of potential contributors.

Have you utilized swarming techniques to speed problem solving at your organization? If so, how well did it work?

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Brainstorming Is Broken: Rethinking Group Dynamics

Creativity means looking at things differently. So let’s look differently at creativity, itself — and consider how we can do a better job of inspiring it in today’s collaborative workplace.

Creative Collaboration: What Works?

At Achievers, we recognize that no two people are the same. That’s why we’re advocates for personalized work environments. Every individual responds differently to public versus private praise, monetary versus intrinsic motivation, and other other aspects of employee engagement. So why do brainstorming practices tend to overlook those factors? When teams are asked to generate innovative ideas, why do we expect the best results by asking everyone to operate in a similar way?

Leigh Thompson, professor at Kellogg School of Management and author of Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration,” says that we should rethink multiple assumptions about collaboration and creativity. Research by Leigh and others indicates that established brainstorming practices can actually limit the flow of creative thinking, and potentially jeopardize successful outcomes. For example, many people assume that it’s best for contributors to meet in the same location, and openly share ideas in an environment that’s free from critical feedback. However, real-world evidence suggests otherwise.

3 Ways To Rethink Brainstorming

The next time you need to challenge your team to generate big ideas, consider a fresh approach. Specifically, look for ways to allow for alone time, anonymity, and criticism:

1) Work Together, But Alone

For some of us, ideas flow more freely when we write on a whiteboard whatever comes to mind as we stand in front of a group. Others prefer to reflect on a problem before joining a brainstorm session. Often, taking time to work on a problem alone sparks an idea that would otherwise not surface in a group setting.

Give your team members time to generate possible solutions on their own, and frame the brainstorm meeting as a time to share, develop and refine those raw concepts. Employees who get nervous in group settings are able to prepare, and those who are most creative in the company of others get a chance to find and express their own inspiration.

2) Allow Anonymity

To avoid the effects of groupthink and hierarchy bias, introduce anonymity to the creative process. Leigh Thompson suggests that groups use index cards to collect suggestions, and choose the best options through a “blind” vote. Another technique is “cyberstorming,” which allows team members to anonymously enter ideas and votes in a database.

These methods level the playing field for those who are shy, new or have little seniority. They can also mitigate the influence of “loudmouth” participants who tend to dominate group interactions. Ultimately, it ensures that ideas will be rated according to their perceived value, not on the title or behavior of the person submitting them.

3) Encourage Criticism

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Any idea is a good idea in a brainstorm.” However, science proves otherwise. For example, in a UC Berkeley study on brainstorming, psychology professor Charlan Nemeth found that when participants were instructed not to criticize teammates, fewer solutions were generated. On the other hand, when participants were encouraged to debate (but not attack) ideas, they contributed significantly more ideas than their “no criticism” counterparts.

By opening the floor to debate, all team members are encouraged to consider ideas from their unique perspective, and they tend to add value by suggesting with more ways to go about it. Try this approach in your next meeting and see how it works for your team.

Reignite Your Group’s Creative Fire

Brainstorming still holds an important place in the business world. However, to gain even more from this process, it’s wise to reexamine how you apply it in your organization. Consider how you can address the unique creative and collaborative styles of your team members, and you’re likely to see a dramatic difference in how they respond.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of the suggested techniques? What brainstorming conditions have made a difference in your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Open Leadership: Going Deep #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking to see all resources for this week’s topic? Read the #TChat Recap: Connecting With Collaborative Leadership.)

Think back for a moment on your career. Who’s been your favorite boss? How would you describe that person’s leadership style?

Is it a command-and-control approach, driven by business goals and results? Or does that leader win support, loyalty and cooperation by putting people first?

Hands down, I bet you picked someone from the second category — someone who embraces the social side of leadership. After all, studies reveal that your relationship with your manager is a key to engagement. And it’s natural to think favorably of professional experiences that engaged you.

You Had Me At “Hello”

This week’s #TChat guest, Dan Pontefract, calls this social-minded manager an “open leader.” And in his new book, Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization, Dan says it’s time for companies to move the open leader concept to a whole new level. As he explains in a recent TalentCulture post, the future of work depends upon army “open leaders,” where everyone in a company drives collaboration, regardless title or role.

For Dan, this is much more than a theory. As Senior Director of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS, he knows first-hand about the challenges and benefits of leadership development, workforce engagement and business performance. That’s why we’ve asked him to lead the way through #TChat discussions this week.

To give you a better taste of what the topic is all about, I spoke briefly with Dan in a G+ Hangout video. Check it out:

#TChat Events: How Open Leaders Win Hearts & Minds

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

This topic touches on so many areas of interest and expertise across the TalentCulture community. I know many of you have related insights to add, so I hope you’ll join this week’s conversation!

#TChat Radio — Tue, June 11 at 7:30pmET/4:30pmPT – Dan joins our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, for a LIVE 30-minute radio interview, where listeners are invited to call-in with questions.

#TChat Twitter — Wed, June 12 at 7pmET/4pmPT – Join the real-time community action, as we exchange ideas live on the #TChat stream, where Dan will moderate this week’s questions:

Q1: What does open leadership mean to you and why?

Q2: Can harmonious “soft skills” be developed in leaders at any age? Why or why not?

Q3: How does open leadership produce higher levels of performance and engagement within an organization?

Q4: What can business leaders do to encourage open self-leadership within all employee ecosystems?

Q5: What business technologies facilitate collaboration and open leadership?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Age at Work: Moving Beyond Birthdays

“How old are you?”

What do you feel, think, and say when you hear that question in the workplace? Do you suddenly get tense, wondering how others will perceive your answer? You’re not alone.

No matter when you were born or what kind of upbringing you’ve had, you’ve likely dealt with some sort of label. And regardless of the situation, we can all agree that no one likes to be unfairly stereotyped. Despite attempts by organizational leaders and HR to reduce discrimination and adversity, it still lingers in some forms. Not surprisingly, age-related stereotyping is on the rise, now that more organizations have a multigenerational workforce.

Generational Generalizations

As recent studies illustrate, every generation is affected by damaging biases. For example, do profiles like this sound familiar?

  • Baby Boomers = materialistic, technologically illiterate micro-managers
  • Generation Xers = cynical, disloyal and skeptical of authority
  • Generation Y “Millennials” = lazy, entitled and self-serving

Although these generalizations may have emerged for a reason, why should we assume that they are widely applicable or even relevant? Perhaps some high-profile individuals have displayed these characteristics, but their actions shouldn’t be the basis for defining a whole generation.

The Price of Stereotypes

More often than not, typecasting like this comes from lack of awareness, communication or understanding. It’s important to identify this issue quickly and bridge the gap, before it destroys our talent pools. Otherwise, organizations are at risk of missing out on the strongest talent — internally or externally.

What Can Individuals Do?

As I continue to progress in my career and become more involved in networking opportunities, I make it a point to avoid conversation about my age. Quite frankly, it’s not important. And, as a Millennial, the last thing I want others to do is marginalize my capabilities upfront. I don’t want them to presume I am a lazy or cynical person — I want them to evaluate me for my skills, abilities, goals and accomplishments. Isn’t that how it should be?

The workplace is rapidly developing into a collaborative environment, where everyone is expected to step up and contribute toward common goals. To do this effectively, employees must avoid animosity toward one another that starts with preconceived notions about age. We need to let go of misplaced biases and instead focus on the thing that matters — an individual’s capacity to contribute something valuable to the team and to the organization.

I look forward to engaging the TalentCulture community in a dialogue about this topic — not just at this week’s #TChat Twitter forum, but beyond. It’s important to every one of us. So, I ask you to consider one simple question:

How are you creating a “no labels” workplace?

(Editor’s Note: Want to hear more from Ashley? She was a featured guest last night on #TChat Radio “The No Labels Workforce.” Listen on-demand, anytime. She also moderated #TChat Twitter this week. To read the full recap of this week’s events, see “The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap”)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Age at Work: Just a Number? #TChat Preview

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap)

What’s the truth about the interplay of generations in today’s workplace? Are we moving forward, or do “generation gaps” still hold us to the past?

Is this topic old news? I feel like it might be. Not sure if it’s just me. Perhaps I’m just wishfully thinking we should have moved on by now. But it’s important. And it deserves another look.

Age Stereotypes: A Reality Check

So, just between us, let me ask: Do you still catch yourself making snap judgments about people based solely on their age? Boomers, Gen Y, Gen X…whatever.  We fret over how to recruit Millennials. We wonder how to manage them versus others. Does all this conscious attention to generational differences help or hinder progress?

Age-based stereotyping is deeply ingrained in our history, our culture and our collective social psyche. Now, in the 21st century world of work, it holds back individual advancement, business performance and innovation. But how do we move past reactions that seem almost second-nature? That’s the topic we’re tackling this week, in the TalentCulture community.

Getting Over Generational Bias: Growing Pains

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Watch the #TChat “Sneak Peek” videos now…

To begin the conversation, I suggested ways to smash age-based stereotypes in my Forbes.com column yesterday.

Rethinking stereotypes requires some deep internal soul searching. Gaining self awareness is the first step — and it’s not necessarily easy.

Facing your biases is an emotional exercise, as well as an intellectual one. But the process can be highly rewarding for professionals and the companies they serve. Fortunately, now there’s strength in numbers, as our #TChat forums take on generational stereotypes as a collaborative effort.

#TChat Weekly Topic: The “No Labels” Workforce

Leading us through this week’s conversation are two human resources management experts from WilsonHCG John Wilson, Founder and CEO, and Ashley Lauren Perez, Sourcing Specialist. Both John and Ashley helped us set the stage for this week’s topic in brief Google+ Hangout “sneak peek” videos. Check them out now!

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Tune into #TChat Radio live on Tuesday or on-demand after

I hope you’ll plan to join us at #TChat events this week, where we’ll take a closer look at labels in the workplace, and how to build cultures that value diversity in all of its forms:

As always, throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter stream and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us and share your thoughts, concerns, opinions and ideas.

#TChat Weekly Questions

Why not start now? Take a moment to consider this week’s discussion guide and tell us what you think. Your comments are welcome, early and often:

Q1:  In the world of work, how are the generations the same? Why?
Q2:  With Millennials, we have myriad misconceptions. But for all generations, what are the most pervasive?
Q3:  What is the role of leaders in helping to smash stereotypes about generations in the workforce?
Q4:  Does tech facilitate cross-generational interaction? Why/not? How can we forge more connections?
Q5:  Innovation and free-thinking go hand-in-hand. But does innovation ever encourage age stereotyping? Why?

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Flickr – Mark Turnauckas

 

Collaboration: Baking and Breaking Better Bread

“…and there’s always another point of view, a better way to do the things we do. And how can you know me, and I know you…” –The Raconteurs

But knowing takes time, effort and some commitment to the process.

Maybe we should break bread together more often. The President just had Republicans over for dinner, and then again for lunch, in order to better collaborate and “break the stalemate over taxes, spending and deficit-reduction.” It’s a small step toward hopefully working together and actually solving some very painful problems.

It’s an opportunity to look beyond political differences that have polarized the nation’s leaders. Although by our very evolutionary nature, we polarize. We’re hardwired to sense negativity, so we can counter it quickly and efficiently.

More Cooks = More Creative Solutions

The good news is that our frontal lobes have evolved to better smell the baking of collaborative bread. The kind that gets our creative juices flowing, that puts the “dope” into dopamine and gives us the metaphorical munchies for even more progress and positive reinforcement. To befriend, to create, to learn, to solve, to make better, to work together toward a shared goal.

(Side Note: The brain’s frontal lobe is where many of the dopamine-sensitive neurons reside in the cerebral cortex. Dopamine is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and motivation.)

Reward and motivation. Doesn’t that get your tummy growling? Think about some of your most collaborative moments — more than likely they centered around a tasty snack or a relaxing meal, maybe even if a drink or two if you enjoy the libation. It could’ve been a one-on-one, a small group or a whole diversified gaggle of folk discussing primary topics while saddling up to multiple sidebars.

Connections and Communication: Essential Ingredients

Feasting on face time with one another — there is something to the hubbub of classic office environments. Those of us who work from home exclusively must be more proactive and innovative, to capture what we might otherwise miss during informal synchronous moments at breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack-time in and around the office with colleagues, peers and leadership. After all, we can still have lunch over a video chat, can’t we?

For that matter, we do break the collaborative bread every week in the TalentCulture World of Work community, when we come together through multiple #TChat forums, don’t we?

To befriend, to create, to learn, to solve, to make better, to work together toward a shared goal. Mmmm — do you smell that? Hold on, let me check the oven.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

 

Collaboration Mojo Meets Basic Instinct: #TChat Recap

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By our very evolutionary nature, humans polarize. We’re hardwired to sense negativity, so we can counter it quickly and efficiently.

In fact, millions of years of this response to negative elements in the environment helped our ancestors survive. Not all of them, of course. And not for long, until more recent history. But staying alive and propagating the species was the goal.

Clearly, it wasn’t pretty. In the name of prehistoric progress, factions formed, mostly controlled by violent, fear-mongering leaders who greedily focused on their own survival, at the expense of weaker tribe members. And now after many generations, we’re here to tell about it.

Growing Into Our Collaborative Skin

Thank goodness for the frontal cortex. In more recent centuries, Enlightenment, the scientific revolution and humanitarian movements helped fundamentally shift the way we react to one another, and how we work with one another for the betterment of all.

That’s the value of every human life in a civilized society — the fact that we now can and do empathize with our global brothers and sisters. When we empathize, we can collaborate — and collaboration can elevate us all.

Collaboration: What is it and Why is it Here?

It’s not about 50-50 compromise. It’s not a winner-take-all confrontation. Nor is it merely a warm, fuzzy all-hands group hug. In its highest form, collaboration is an opportunity to create an entirely new “whole” that is larger and more effective than the sum of its parts. Ideally, a common goal is served, and everybody wins. As someone said at this week’s #TChat Twitter discussion, it’s like making a good paella.

Of course, as we see each day at work, in our communities and in the headlines, collaboration isn’t always the tool of choice, even among “civilized” humans. It hasn’t replaced polarizing negativity or self-serving violence. But we’ve “come a long way, baby,” as the 60’s commercials used to say. Violent fear-mongering is so last millennium anyway, right?

We’ve experienced first-hand how empathy, diversity of thought and respectful engagement motivate us to skip childlike together down yellow brick roads toward that magical land of Oz — from the highest levels of government, to corporations, to non-profits, to start-ups. Well at least that’s what we aspire to achieve — as it should be.

Learning Together, One Step at a Time

Of course, in reality, while we skip in sync with others on one foot, we still tend to shoot ourselves in the other. It’s not easy. But it’s human. And it’s progress.

Fortunately, for those of us in the TalentCulture community, as long as we have collaborative #TChat first aid within reach, we can rest assured that our corner of the work world is covered. Thanks to your participation, we are better, together.

And thanks to this week’s special #TChat events guest, Dr. Jesse Lyn Stoner, for helping us gain a much deeper understanding of collaboration’s roots, and how to apply it more effectively in the workplace. Jesse is a brilliant business consultant, executive coach and author, focused on helping companies improve their performance through collaborative strategies.

If you missed any of this week’s events – or if want to revisit insights anytime – just follow the links below…

#TChat Week-in-Review

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Listen to the #TChat Radio interview with Jesse Lyn Stoner

SUN 3/3  TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro framed the week’s discussion with her Forbes.com post: “Smart Leaders and the Power of Collaboration.”

MON 3/4  #TChat Weekly Preview “Smart Leaders Collaborate” laid out key questions for the community to consider.

TUE 3/5  #TChat Radio Show: Our hosts sat down with Jesse to define successful workplace collaboration. It was a helpful look into the human drivers that contribute to collaboration – or block its progress – and how leaders can be more effective by recognizing those underlying motivations.

WED 3/6  #TChat Twitter: Jesse returned to moderate our dynamic weekly Twitter forum – as a living model of mass virtual collaboration in action! Check out these highlights from the conversation…

#TChat Recap: “Smart Leaders Collaborate”

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Closing Notes & Highlights Slideshow

THANKS: One more round of applause, please, for Dr. Jesse Lyn Stoner! We appreciate you sharing your deep understanding of collaboration. Your insights sparked ideas that will help us work more effectively with others.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events inspire you to write about workplace collaboration? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week – SPRING BREAK at SXSW! No scheduled #TChat events March 12/13. But please SAVE THE DATES the following week, March 19/20, when HR/talent/learning industry expert Josh Bersin, Founder/Principal at Bersin by Deloitte joins us to discuss key trends, and their implications for organizational culture, development and leadership.

Until then, we’ll continue to tackle World of Work discussion each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. And feel free to explore other areas of this redesigned blog/community website. TalentCulture is always open and the lights are always on.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Pixabay

Smart Leaders Collaborate: #TChat Preview

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See Collaboration Mojo Meets Basic Instinct: #TChat Recap 

We’ve all seen what polarization does to a country — especially recently, in our own country, the United States of America. Extreme polarization hobbles our ability to improve processes and social ills, to progress as a global business leader, and to just plain get things done.

Collaboration Is Not a Zero-Sum Game

According to our talented guest this week, Jesse Lyn Stoner (@JesseLynStoner), collaboration is the remedy for leadership and culture polarization.

“Collaboration is not about giving up your individuality. In fact, successful collaboration depends on speaking clearly and honesty about what you stand for. Collaboration is about valuing and mobilizing diversity as a force toward the common good. It is about recognizing and respecting the humanity in each individual, even those who are stuck at a pole.”

This is tough for leaders and individual contributors to do in the heat of polarization, but it’s critical for the world of work to advance, as well as the world itself. This is the very heart of productive communities online and off.

#TChat Weekly Agenda: Focus on Collaboration

This week on TalentCulture’s #TChat Radio and #TChat Twitter, we’re going to discuss the benefits of community collaboration in every incarnation and entity we belong. Here are the questions we’ll cover:

Q1: First, let’s define both collaboration and polarization. What are they?

Q2: Why has polarization across all facets of business and life been on the rise?

Q3: Diversity of thought is a very important part of effective collaboration. Why is that?

Q4: What can business leaders do to encourage more collaboration than polarization?

Q5: Does technology enable more collaboration than polarization? Or both? Why or why not?

This Week’s Guest Expert

The TalentCulture Community is very excited to welcome our radio and Twitter chat guest this week, Jesse Lyn Stoner.

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Hear the #TChat Radio recording now

Jesse is a consultant, former business executive, and co-author with Ken Blanchard of the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, which has been translated into 22 languages.

For over 25 years, Dr. Stoner has worked closely with hundreds of leaders using collaborative processes to engage their entire workforce to improve business impact. Her clients range from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits worldwide, including Honda, Starbucks, General Electric, Marriott, Edelman Public Relations, and SAP to name a few. Jesse writes an award winning leadership blog and is also published in the Harvard Business Review. You can connect with her on Twitter at and Facebook.

This Week’s Events

#Tune-in to TChat Radio Tuesday March 5 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT when Jesse will join myself, Meghan M. Biro (@MeghanMBiro) and Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman) for a collaborative discussion about collaboration. How exciting is that? Very!

And as always, don’t forget to join us on the Twitter stream for an all-hands #TChat Twitter event, on Wednesday, March 6, from 7-8 pm ET. Jesse Lyn Stoner will again join us, this time as the chat moderator.

In the meantime, we’ll be talking about this topic nonstop on the #TChat Twitter stream and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group.

So come on over and bring your best ideas about how to make collaboration work in today’s world of work!

***EDITORIAL NOTE: Did you notice a new look and feel to the TalentCulture site? Jump in and explore our new surroundings! This is just the beginning, so look for more exciting changes and innovations coming soon!***