Archive for organizational development

Trickle-up Theory: 10 Ways Organizations Can Create Stronger Leaders

When a ship founders, blame rarely lies at the feet of the crew. True, a seaman may fail to properly secure a mooring line or spot a collision risk on the horizon, but ultimately it is the captain who is liable for keeping the vessel afloat and on course.

Just as managers are responsible for the poor performance of their team, a company is culpable for any weaknesses present in its leadership. Responsibility flows upward, and senior administrators need to employ smart strategies to keep their organizations from capsizing.

Here are 10 ways organizations can create stronger leaders:

  1. Avoid just-because promotions to management. Before transplanting employees from positions they are flourishing in, make sure they have the appropriate skills—and desire—to succeed in a leadership role. You can still reward employees for good work with a pay raise or more challenging job description—just make sure it’s well-suited to their strengths.
  2. Encourage managers to seek advice. Don’t cultivate a culture of fear, shame and ego but rather nurturing, humility and collegiality. Make sure managers feel comfortable approaching senior leaders about questions or problems.
  3. Invite a fresh perspective. Sometimes a pair of unfamiliar eyes combined with professional expertise can reshape a flabby company into a high-performance athlete. Consider bringing in an organizational consultant to gain clarity on your culture; develop your leadership; and assess and address barriers to performance. You can boost employee happiness, engagement and productivity by creating a positive organization.
  4. Provide training opportunities. Companies should offer ongoing training and professional development opportunities for leaders and staff alike. Creating an atmosphere of learning is a key way to enhance engagement while honing and deepening your team’s competencies.
  5. Strive for professional and personal growth. Senior administrators should not only be seeking to become their best selves through leadership coaching, but they should be encouraging their managers to do the same.
  6. Challenge folks. When people feel stuck in a routine, they quickly grow bored. Our brains thrive on stimulation, and that means constantly pushing at the edges of our existing skill sets and forging new neural pathways. Even those who fear change need a sense of challenge to propel them forward.
  7. Understand the difference between managing and leading. In the post Managing Stuff, Leading People, Senior Manager of Sales and Leadership Development Steve Keating articulates the difference between managing and leading: “When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important.” Leaders are acutely aware of their team members’ abilities, they care for them as individuals and they possess a grander vision, which they can communicate to others in ways that stir enthusiastic engagement.
  8. Mentor each other. Instead of assuming an autocratic demeanor, handing down performance targets like kingly decrees, senior leaders should take new managers under their wings, offering wisdom from the trenches as they rear up the next generation of trailblazers.
  9. Seek out strengths. Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses but rather their strengths. If some employees are faltering, figure out why and redefine their roles to capitalize on their talents. Take advantage of Strengths Finder and other resources such as an organizational development consultant to pinpoint and polish the gifts in each team member.
  10. Lead by inspiration. Great leaders model the leadership skills they would like their managers to exhibit. There is nothing less motivating than a hypocritical boss or more inspiring than a leader who authentically embodies the best that leaders can be.

Ready to Make Your Leadership Shine?

Contact Chris Cook at chris@capiche.us or 541.601.0114 to discuss how she can cultivate the gems at your company through organizational development consulting and leadership coaching.

What Do You Expect from Your Job?

Our Values and Culture, Wegmans

Really? Is this a valid question?

The business world is changing along with our expectations. More than ever, we are looking to work for an organization with vision and values that align with our own. We are seeking a sense of purpose in what we do and how we do it.

Think about your own work. What really matters to you? Why do you do what you do?

I think it all boils down to happiness and a sense of wellbeing. Start with a question like, “Why do you do what you do?” You may get the answer, “Because I like to help people [fill in the blank].” Then ask, “Why do you like to help people [fill in the blank]?” And keep asking, keep drilling down. I bet you will finally get to an answer that sounds something like, “Because it makes me happy.” Yep. People do what they do in pursuit of happiness.

But what makes people happy? What feeds a state of wellbeing?

In his book Flourish, positive psychology’s grandfather Marty Seligman states that it’s the combination of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. Sounds reasonable.

But wait. It’s health, wealth, relationships, happiness and meaning, according to bestselling author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. Yeah, that sounds reasonable, too.

And Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says it’s a combination of perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and having a sense of vision and meaning in one’s work—being a part of something bigger than oneself. I can get on board with that as well.

The good news is that in the last several years, we’ve seen more and more examples of businesses of all shapes and sizes taking employee wellbeing and happiness into account—even putting it front and center. And they’re not all progressive tech giants like Google, Apple or Facebook. Happy companies are everywhere and every size.

Just look at Fortune’s Top Companies to Work For 2013. I’ll admit I’m proud to say little old Wegmans Food Markets is at position number five. I say I’m proud because Wegman’s was started in Rochester, NY, where I hail from. And while it’s not a Mom and Pop store anymore, it maintains that quality while offering an astounding shopping experience. For me, one of the best parts about visiting “home” is getting to grocery shop at “Weggies.”

What’s so great about Weggies? According to Fortune, “Turnover is an exceptionally low 3.6% at the Northeastern grocery chain, which lets employees reward one another with gift cards for good service. Many workers like it there so much they bring in relatives—one in five employees are related.” And the story goes that when Cher was in town for a concert, part of her VIP treatment included an exclusive visit to Wegman’s.

What about your work makes you happy? What helps you flourish? What inspires your creativity and fuels your desire to give a little more? Please let us know—reply to this blog! We will all benefit.

How Important Is Leadership—Really?

Clouds

Leaders define an organization. Leaders inspire employees to achieve terrific heights. Leaders make the difference between success and failure.… Or do they?

A recent survey of 1,000 employees suggests otherwise. Conducted by the Communications for Executive Council, the study reveals that employees value connection with their fellow employees over big-personality leaders—1.6 times more, to be exact.

Tools and resources won out over charismatic leadership for 75 percent of those surveyed. Just under a quarter of the group (24 percent) were inspired by their leaders, and only 31 percent felt the leadership respected their opinions. As few as 29 percent said leaders shared the reasoning behind their decision making with workers.

Employees who adore their organization perform better than the lukewarm … don’t they? Wrong again. There is little perceivable difference in the performance of employees who sort of like your organization and those who love it. Even building pride in an organization fails to raise productivity levels.

It is only when employees feel connected with and supported by their coworkers that researchers observe a noticeable difference in their performance. Building a stronger interpersonal network encourages employees to learn from and consult each other when they hit a stumbling block. They feel buoyed rather than threatened by their peers, and this connectedness sets the stage for a more productive work environment.

A Jobsite.co.uk survey echoed these findings across the pond. For 70 percent of the 1,000 UK employees surveyed, the number one factor contributing to job happiness was workplace friendships.

Those of us familiar with Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness are not surprised. Even though the Zappos founder is an iconic example of inspirational leadership, he recognizes that happiness is found not within a single person but in the spaces between them (see Chapter 7, p. 34). The cultural fabric of an organization emerges from the overlapping intersections of the warp and woof, not the individual thread.

But that’s not to say leaders are insignificant. Leadership style matters. Those leaders who encourage employees to connect, share resources, and participate in the decision making process have a 1.6 times greater impact on the bottom line than cult-of-personality leaders.

A little less ra ra ra and a little more kumbaya may well be the key to organizational success. Happiness researchers know friendships play a key role in employee engagement, which in turn influences performance. Indeed, that is one of Zappos’ secret weapons—by consistently hiring employees who already share their core values, Zappos cultivates an organic culture with deep, interlocking roots rather than manufacturing an astroturf one.

Do these findings jibe with your experiences, whether as a leader or an employee? Have you felt the difference between a workplace where you were closely connected with your peers and one that centered around a magnetic personality? Which environment felt happier—and more productive?

Civility Costs Nothing—and Buys Everything

Rudeness at Work

It Really Does Pay to Be the “Nice Guy”

With the science of happiness at work as a cornerstone of my business model, I am always interested in new research that illustrates how happy employees are more productive and creative, provide better customer service, are better team players, are sick less and stay longer. These days, there is a LOT of that research, and the findings continue to be consistent with these positive outcomes.

It amazes me that I still find people who resist the idea of happiness at work—or those who believe the statistics but think they don’t have the time or resources to invest in creating a workplace where happiness is part of the culture.

“Happiness at work? I’m not happy—why should anyone else be?” or “They should be happy to have a job.” or “We’re not here to be happy; we’re here to make a profit.” Then I remind them happiness at work boosts the bottom line, and their interest is piqued.

This month a new piece of research was published in the Harvard Business Review about civility and rudeness: “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale—and the Bottom Line.” Guess what? Civility at work creates results similar to happiness at work, and rudeness at work creates results that correlate to unhappiness at work.

Kid Sticking Tongue OutDid you know rudeness at work is raging and is on the rise? According to researchers, 98 percent of workers polled said they experienced rudeness at work—with half of them experiencing it at least once a week, up from 25 percent in 1998.

Like unhappiness at work, rudeness at work undermines the bottom line. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, the researchers found the following statistics:

Among employees who have experienced incivility at work:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time they spent at work
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
  • 66% said their performance declined
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% said they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
  • 24% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Other studies have found that creativity suffers, performance and team spirit declines, and customers who witness the rude behaviors turn away. Sounds a lot like what happens with unhappiness at work.

It also sounds like a recipe for disaster—not a way to increase an organization’s profits or become known as an employer of choice. And it’s expensive! According to a study conducted by Accountemps and reported in Fortune, managers and executives at Fortune 1,000 firms spend 13 percent of their time—the equivalent of seven weeks per year—mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of incivility. And just think of the costs should consultants and attorneys be brought in to help settle a situation.

So what’s a leader to do?

In managing yourself, model good behavior. After all, the leader sets the tone of the organization. You are on stage, and your supporting cast is taking cues from you. Ask for feedback—what do your employees like and dislike about your leadership style? How does that relate to civility (or happiness) at work? What can you do to shift behaviors that are perceived poorly?

Coworker ConflictAnd keep a pulse on the organization. What’s really going on, and how are people treated and treating others? You need to be connected to your workforce and constantly striving to create a culture where people feel as though they have what’s needed to succeed.

In managing the organization, hire for and reward civility. If civility is a key attribute your culture values, put it above all else. For example, at Zappos, people are hired based on fit within the culture, and the most skilled person will be passed over if their values don’t match the values Zappos has deemed essential to its core. Share those values (and make sure civility is one of them) and demonstrate what it looks like to live those values. Be specific. Tie those to individual performance assessments and rewards, and celebrate circumstances in which the values of civility and respect shine brightly.

Rude or civil? Unhappy or happy? The choice is clear. Civil, respectful cultures enjoy the same benefits as cultures where people are encouraged and given a climate where they can succeed at work—that’s when they can reach their potential.

Today’s data show creating a culture of civility and happiness is not simply the morally right thing to do, it’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Contact me for more specifics or for a culture check of your organization. Let’s see how your company can become an employer of choice—a place where people feel as though their contributions matter, a place that resonates with their values, vision, passion and sense of purpose. It is possible!

What’s the Problem? (No. Strike That.) What’s Working Here?

Dandelion Flower Growing out of Street Curb

How to bring out the best in tough situations by building on the good

Since childhood, we’ve been conditioned to look for what’s wrong and try to fix it. In organizations, we often start with looking for the deficits, the weak spots, the challenges—and then have countless committee meetings to study these problem areas.

Are we missing the boat?

I like to start with the positive and build from there. That’s the cornerstone of a method called Appreciative Inquiry, which was developed as part of the positive psychology movement of the 1990s. Management guru Peter Drucker summed it up well: “The task of organizational leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make the system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is ideal for bringing out the best in less than optimal situations—situations where change is a necessity to survive. This approach provides a positive way for participants to move forward by building on what’s working today. It’s not thinking positive, looking on the sunny side, being a Pollyanna, or putting your head in the sand; it’s harsh realism and the exploration of what good one can find in even the bleakest situation.

I’ve heard it said our culture becomes the stories we tell. So if we are telling a story like, “This place stinks. We haven’t had a raise in three years, and my workload keeps growing,” what’s the culture, what seems possible? What if we told the story in a different way? If we reframe it to: “I like my coworkers. We are good at stretching our resources to the limit so we can help the most people,” what possibilities open up?

I am reminded of the quote, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” When we can focus on what’s right and what we value, we change our mindset and become open to more possibilities.

Here are the simple steps of AI:

1. Discover: Identify things that work well.

2. Dream: Envision what would work well in the future.

3. Design: Plan and prioritize the processes that would work well.

4. Deliver: Implement the proposed design.

If you are part of an organization looking to transform into a positive, forward-moving culture where people are energized and engaged, AI could be for you.  Just remember that changing culture and attitudes is an ongoing process; you can begin anywhere. Also, be confident that you will be successful as long as you proceed with integrity, sincerity and genuine curiosity. This process will begin to inform your every decision—how people are hired, how results are measured, how goals are set, how resources are allocated, how clients are treated and every other critical factor driving your business.

AI has been successfully implemented in numerous industries and locations, including business, health care, nonprofits, education, government, and finance.

Please let me know your experience with AI, and if you haven’t explored AI for yourself, let’s talk! We will start with what’s good.

Successful Teams: Take It from the Heat

Ball Four BasketballWork teams pose many challenges and many rewards. What is the secret to a successful team? Salter (2011) interviewed three members of the NBA’s Miami Heat: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The purpose of the interviews was to determine the attributes of a dream team, no matter the industry.  Among the findings:

1. Team members must make sacrifices, which may mean seeing “less of the basketball” (Salter, 2011, p. 82).  There is no place for solo stars on a dream team.

2. “Adversity is an asset” (Salter, 2011, p. 84). The rough times bring a team together. No team member wants a team to fail.

3. Try to resist second-guessing your team members. Be patient with each other and “beware the blame game” (Salter, 2011, p. 84).

Pryce-Jones (2010) concurs, suggesting that it is easy to for a team to focus on what is wrong.  The dream team, though, is the one that focuses on what is right.

References

Pryce-Jones, J. (2010). Happiness at work: Maximizing your psychological capital for success. West Sussex, England: Wiley-Blackwell.

Salter, C. (2011, May). The world’s greatest chemistry experiment. Fast Company, 155, 78-84.