Archive for Organizational Development

Capiche Conversations: Interview with Tracy Kaiser, Marketing & Education Manager of Ashland Food Co-op

With Contributions from General Manager Emile Amarotico & Store Manager Barry Haynes

Interview conducted by Melissa L. Michaels, Capiche Contributor/Strategic Partner, Michaels & Michaels Creative, LLC

Ask any local what the heartbeat of Ashland is, and they’ll probably say the Ashland Food Co-op. It’s not only a place to find healthy, sustainably sourced groceries, but it’s also a social hub where you can meet with friends and colleagues while enjoying selections from the Co-op Kitchen’s 200+ menu options. The Co-op team truly puts “people, the planet, and principles before profit.”

The vibrant, joyful culture visible in the Co-op workplace reflects the fruit of labors undertaken by Capiche in collaboration with the Co-op’s leadership and staff as part of a Happiness@Work project in 2013 and 2015. General Manager Emile Amarotico and the board members fully embraced the process and eagerly sought to implement recommendations gathered from employees through Capiche’s appreciative inquiry process. Nearly a decade later, the investment is still paying dividends in both employee satisfaction and the bottom line.

Following is an interview with the Co-op’s new marketing and education manager, Tracy Kaiser, along with GM Emile and Store Manager Barry Haynes.


Tracy Kaiser with Daughter

Q: Tracy, you’ve been in the Rogue Valley since 1998—one year before I arrived, incidentally. Where did you move from, and what did you think of Southern Oregon by comparison?

Tracy: I moved from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, my college town. I was raised in Wisconsin and was the bakery buyer for a mail-order company when I was recruited by Harry & David in 1998.

My father was an outdoor nut, and I was raised with a deep love for nature and wildlife. My dad always wanted to live in the mountains, and he spoke of their beauty and strength often. I can remember flying in for my interview with Harry & David. My flight arrived after dark. I was staying at the Morical House, an Ashland B&B, and I drove directly there to rest for the evening. The next morning, I pulled back the drapes and had this warm feeling that I was home. Since that moment, I cannot imagine living anywhere else but the Pacific Northwest.

Q: Prior to becoming marketing and education manager at the Ashland Food Co-op, you were senior director of product development and innovative merchandising at Harry & David. How did this prepare you to excel in your role at the Co-op?

Tracy: Harry & David is a full circle business model. We had to excel at process procedure, product development, creativity, finances, and tight timelines as well as having or learning a deep understanding for operations and orchard management. My senior VP was my mentor for several years, and I often recall the management practices she instilled within me.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Employee Prepping Food

Q: As a newcomer to the Ashland Food Co-op team, what was your initial impression of the workplace culture, and do you feel the Co-op’s mission is aligned with its brand?

Tracy: Before I started my career at AFC, I felt deeply connected with the team because I shopped there almost daily. The Co-op was my social hub! After I was hired for my position, I felt the connection deepen even more within the team. Do I feel the Co-op’s mission is aligned with our brand? Oh, yes! Spend five minutes with Lynn Scionti, one of our product managers who has been with the Co-op for 40 years! She is the embodiment of Co-op values and strives to bring our community the best products at the best price. Lynne truly inspires me on many levels, including the fact she stocks shelves like she is 25.

Ashland Food Co-op Logo

Q: You are actually witnessing the long-term impact of the Happiness@Work project conducted in 2013 and 2015 in collaboration with Capiche. Chris Cook wrote an article about this innovative work for Cooperative Grocer magazine in which she details the approach taken. This involved conducting a Happiness Works organizational assessment followed by an appreciative inquiry process. Three volunteer teams were formed to implement solutions based on the data collected: Communication & Cooperation, Renewal & Stress Management, and Learning & Development. Is this work still paying dividends today, both in terms of employee satisfaction and Co-op profits?

Emile: The Happiness@Work initiative inspired a number of communication enhancements that continue today. Until COVID precluded group get-togethers, we have produced twice yearly All Store Assemblies chock-full of updates and trainings. We routinely conduct Team Huddles to keep members informed and provide space for dialogue. A weekly Huddle News email provides storewide messaging to team leaders and desk workers. We have just launched BeeKeeper, a mobile communication platform accessible to frontline employees via mobile device as well as desktop. In time, this may replace decades-old all store and department paper logbooks. It will integrate a number of other Happiness@Work-inspired programs, including our weekly employee surveys and our shoutout board used to recognize peer successes and gratitude.

The most tangible enhancements to renewal and stress management are the outdoor break area, which has literally blossomed, and a complete renovation of the indoor break/food prep area, including new fixtures, counters, seating, and computer “non”-workstations!

We have integrated volumes of training for all employees as well as curriculums relevant to specific workers. Examples include implicit bias and cultural agility awareness, harassment, and active shooter training.

Emile Amarotico

The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic!Emile Amarotico

Q: What was it like working with Chris?

Emile: The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic!

EXCERPTS FROM CO-OPERATIVE GROCER ARTICLE

The Happiness@Work project was born out of tension created around whether or not to unionize. As the issue was resolved and the employees created their own union, the Co-op’s leadership felt it was time to realign with the Co-op’s mission and vision: “joyfully working together, providing a workplace that fosters opportunities for participation, empowerment and growth in an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.”

The Ashland Food Co-op created a Happiness@Work Team comprising board members, the general manager, and representatives from the newly formed employee alliance. After reviewing several proposals from consultants, the Co-op selected Capiche for the project.…

General Manager Amarotico says, “This work has had a positive impact on employee engagement. By implementing solutions they’ve designed, employees enliven the entire organization. It’s great that we’re making strides toward a happy workplace and have solutions being designed and implemented. The key take-away is that the results will include more productivity, happier customers, and an atmosphere with a vibe that more people want to participate in.”

Amarotico adds, “I would recommend Capiche to any organization that is truly committed to engaging with the nerve system of their organization with the intention of creating positive change.”

What Would Increased Happiness Do for Your Business? Ashland Food Co-op Aligns Mission with Culture, Boosts Financial Success, by Chris Cook for Cooperative Grocer magazine

Barry Haynes

Q: Recently, Barry Haynes was promoted from produce manager to store manager. He was part of this exploratory process and is a real-life example of Happiness@Work in action. What sets the experience of a Co-op employee apart from a typical job?

Barry: Working at the Co-op provides the opportunity to be a part of a community and family that is not usually found in the typical work environment. Management believes in Servant Leadership and approaches every day with the intent of making everyone’s workday experience a positive one.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Employee Cooking Food

Q: How has your team pulled together in the face of COVID challenges? What measures has the Co-op taken to help keep the staff and community safe, and how has the shopping experience changed as a result—including the addition of curbside pickup and an online store?

Barry: The challenges of the pandemic have taken a toll on essential workers everywhere. All employees have been receiving a Hero Pay differential since the early stages of the pandemic. Additionally, we have been providing a meal to employees for every shift worked as well as numerous gift certificates and other benefits intended to maintain positive morale.

We have implemented numerous protocols and protective measures ahead of and beyond state requirements. Shopping patterns have drastically changed. Average basket size has increased, and customers are visiting us less frequently to limit their exposure.

The creation of online shopping with curbside pickup was a priority, and the team moved quickly to successfully execute this project.

Almeda Fire Rubble

Q: How did the Co-op respond in the aftermath of the Almeda Fire as community members found themselves in dire need of resources?

Tracy: From day one of the Almeda Fires, the Co-op team wanted to help the community. They reached out to vendors across the region and country to ask for their help with products, supplies, and food to get to the fire victims.

And that help came through in big ways, getting nutritious food to displaced families, home supplies in high demand, and wellness and food for first responders and firefighters. These donations and distributions wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated and well-connected Co-op team.

The other way we were able to help get resources back to the fire victims was through our new Round Up Program called Change for Good. We quickly communicated to our community about the need to support displaced families and how they could easily help the community by rounding up their change when they were at the cash register checking out. In very little time, we had over $75,000 donated from our community, and the donations were distributed throughout local organizations supporting our displaced community members.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Cheese, Fruit, Baguette

Q: A lot of people are surprised to learn the Co-op Kitchen is the largest restaurant in the City of Ashland—a town acclaimed for its plethora of restaurants. The Co-op Kitchen employs 45 to 50 people and pays more restaurant taxes than any other business in the city. It offers 200+ products and a highly customizable menu suitable for any diet—from vegan to Paleo to keto. What makes the Co-op Kitchen such an attractive option for those seeking dining options in Ashland?

Tracy: As you stated, we offer a robust assortment of products that support a broad range of dietary needs. We take great pride in the quality of our ingredients. Not only are our meal offerings nutritious, they are incredibly delicious! I often express to community members that since I started working for the Co-op, I feel so much healthier, especially when I make an effort to eat at the Hot Bar. We have stepped up our culinary and production game over the last year, and even with all of the shifts in our business practices during COVID, our Prepared Foods Team and executive chef were still able to curate new products for our community.

Ashland Food Co-op Joyfully Working Together

Q: I love the Co-op’s Vision: “Joyfully working together …  Delighting shoppers … Enhancing health … Enriching community.” Often, a vision is aspirational, but the Co-op seems to be living this already. What do you envision for the future of the Ashland Food Co-op?

Tracy: Finding new ways to reach more community members with nutrient-rich food and making it approachable to all, even if you are food-insecure. We have a lot of amazing managers and board members who are visionaries and strategic thinkers, and we look forward to potential opportunities to grow our current store footprint or find other locations in Southern Oregon that support our drive to bring nutritious food to all who live in our region.

SERVICES CAPICHE HAS PROVIDED FOR THE ASHLAND FOOD CO-OP
  • Happiness@Work Project
  • Organizational Development
  • Surveys
  • Organizational Assessment
  • Research
  • Meeting Facilitation
The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic! —Emile Amarotico Click To Tweet

Business Not As Usual: The Most Important Thing to Do Now to Prepare for an Uncertain Future

Now’s the time to plan for the new normal when we’re back in business. Things are different now and will be different then. Expectations are different. And your modus operandi had better be different if you want to retain, recapture, and attract customers.

Do it now. Create—or update—your strategic plan.

Now’s the time to look around and get in touch with the new competitive landscape. So much has changed and is still changing. Especially customer expectations. Like it or not, it’s true—a privilege once granted becomes a right that’s expected.

Even if you have a strategic plan in place, there’s no doubt it will need a massive re-imagination as the competitive landscape has experienced an earthquake with numerous aftershocks (many still to come) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a nutshell, strategic planning identifies the purpose of an organization (vision and mission), what it will do, how it will perform (goals and measurable objectives), and under what terms it will operate (values).

It specifies baseline capabilities as well as real or potential constraints that may exist or be placed on an organization, delivering a set of goals and requirements to achieve desired outcomes. A strategic plan enables an organization to establish direction and priorities while focusing on the critical actions necessary to implement and achieve the mission. A strategic plan improves resource utilization, reduces redundancy, and allows an organization to both create stability and seek opportunity.

What are your competitors offering? What are consumers expecting? For grocery stores, delivery and curbside pickup are the new normal. For wineries, free shipping is the new normal. How will you stand out from the competition and stay true to your brand?

Start with SWOT

Revisit that SWOT analysis you did or create one now. What are your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in this new business landscape? Are there strengths in your customer base, market position, products, sales channels, or profitability? Are there weaknesses in your financial resources, staffing, or competitive vulnerability? Are there opportunities to enter new markets, form alliances, pursue M&As, and launch new products? And how are the threats surrounding the economy, lack of financial resources, loss of key staff, and more aggressive competition affecting you?

With this information at hand, you can answer these four key questions.

1) Why does this organization exist?

This can be answered in the refinement of the organizational vision, mission, and values, which define the purpose and function of the organization.

2) What should be the major work of the organization?

This is answered in the development of strategic goals, which are based on the critical issues and needs facing the organization.

3) How will the work of the organization be completed?

Here’s where we drill down to department-level objectives. Your strategies and tactics will be developed with specific details of implementation written in an action-planning format with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timebound).

4) What are your staffing, budget, and financing needs?

With all the departmental needs defined and quantified, we round them up to a centralized plan with an organizational structure and budget. If your financing is not at the required level, there are two solutions: either decrease the plan to a level you can afford or raise the capital required to achieve the full plan.

Together Yet Apart

You may be thinking, “But we can’t all get together to do this, and I can’t imagine a daylong ‘meeting’ online.” Well, true. Capiche is working with a model that uses the Zoom platform in shorter sessions—I’ll outline below.

Using breakout ‘rooms’ and collaboration tools, this format has the potential for even better outcomes than a daylong marathon session.

For example, at the first session, you can complete the SWOT analysis and set the stage for what’s to come. Each of the following sessions could focus on answering one of the four questions outlined above.

These shorter sessions are easier for your team to schedule since they can participate from their own home. You’ll find that you can keep things moving, interesting, and completely interactive with skillful use of the many online communication tools available. I’ve found a comprehensive review of these items in a recent blog post by Lucid, and I selectively use these tools to enhance processes and outcomes. They include:

  • collaborative document editors
  • simple sticky-note applications
  • dedicated group brainstorming and decision-support software
  • virtual design spaces and visual management tools

These tools make the process easy and FUN! Actually, it’s way better than spending a day or two cooped up together in a room slogging through the typical process.

For each of the Zoom planning sessions, I like to use this format—and it works both in-person and online:

  1. Discuss topic context and background.
  2. Engaging in individual brainstorming during which each person writes their ideas on separate notes.
  3. Share ideas with the whole group—posting to the group space.
  4. Group or cluster underlying concepts.
  5. Enable voting on priorities.
  6. Create a working draft.
  7. Determine next steps.

Get Started Today

Capiche is currently working with organizations remotely with great success, and we can do the same for you. Let’s get started on your organization’s new strategies for success as we all find our way toward the future. Call 541.601.0114email, or use our contact form today.
Now’s the time to plan for the new normal. Click To Tweet

Management and Intuition

How will you manage in 2020? Is it time to shift your usual protocols? Here are some thoughts you may find useful. Thank you to my friend and colleague John Lamy for this post.


Why Intuition in the Age of Management Science?

Starry Night by Vincent van GoghTwo reasons: First, intuition is a prerequisite for real insight, meaning a fresh understanding of the situation, seeing a reality that you hadn’t noticed before. “Wow, our company is overlooking a major market!” Insights like that are pure gold.

Second, intuition is the primary ingredient of creativity. If you want your organization to truly thrive, you need a continuous stream of innovation in your products, marketing, operations, hiring, and on and on. Otherwise, you’ll be lumped with the lackluster has-beens on the closeout rack.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition usually starts as a subtle feeling in your body, followed by a preverbal stirring, and then you notice a very quiet voice in your head. The whole process is ethereal, way below the radar.

Example: You finish your cup of coffee, and your mind feels quietly present. You stroll out onto the factory floor. You see the latest run of product—50 instruments lined up and ready for packaging and shipping. Then, you feel a little quiver in your gut … you notice that quiver … hmmm. Suddenly: “We could promote our product in the industrial refrigerant industry! It’s huge, we’ve never played there, and we would help reduce climate change!” For you and your company, that’s an intuitive breakthrough! Now go check it out.

How Can You Develop Intuition?

Employee Working with Gantt ChartRational thought is not the enemy of intuition. They are actually vital allies. In fact, intuition’s mortal enemy is our prevailing compulsion to fill every moment with physical or mental activity. We often do that under the banner of efficiency and productivity.

To cultivate your intuition, begin by setting aside a few moments, several times a day, to do nothing at all! Truly feel your body, drop your preoccupations, and let your thoughts go. Open a welcoming space for that quiet little voice to speak up; and when it speaks, listen gratefully. And … just know that intuitive insights aren’t always sweetness and light!

Three caveats here: first and foremost, learn to distinguish your biases and old hurts and angers from something authentically new. Just let the old stuff go, without judgment or feeling bad about it. Second, after your intuitive leap, go back to your old friend rational thought. Is this insight really right? Doable? Risky? Think about it.… Third, studies consistently show that real intuition works best when you have solid knowledge of the underlying field. Even though it can feel good, don’t just opinionate in a vacuum and attribute it to intuition.

All this takes a while. Don’t expect instant results. Enjoy the ride!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
Rational thought is not the enemy of intuition. They are actually vital allies. Click To Tweet

The 3 Dimensions of “The Big Goal”

Below is the next in a series of guest articles by Capiche friend and colleague John Lamy.

The research is conclusive: teams perform better when they’re shooting for a Big Goal. Jim Collins (of Built to Last fame) called it the BHAG for Big Hairy Audacious Goal!

But then what? Here’s a handy way of thinking about goals for your group. Consider three interlocking scales:

  1. Push the Envelope or Hold the Fort. You’ll want one big goal that will carry your organization to a new place: “Introduce the new gigulator to the market by October 1.” Excellent. But in the meantime, you’ll also need a few goals just to keep the lights on. “Meet Production Commitment of 750 current model units shipped by the end of the year.” You’ll want to track that Hold the Fort goal as well. The idea is to balance the two kinds.
  2. Stretch Goals. I personally don’t like them. The definition is that we’re only 70% likely to achieve them. I think stretch goals can burn people out and be demoralizing when the team falls short. But the research finds that organizations perform at a higher level with stretch goals than with easier goals that everyone is 100% committed to. Go figure. I still vote for Committed rather than Stretch.
  3. Distributed throughout the Organization or Focused on just one or two departments. In my Silicon Valley experience, I found goals shared by the whole company were much more fun and effective. In the mid-80s, Hewlett-Packard focused the entire international company on improving the reliability of our electronic instruments by a factor of 10. Yes! A big, big goal. But we did it, and it truly brought out the best in the whole corporation.

I think setting out a Big Goal is one of the best, most energizing things you can do to move your company forward. If you decide to do it, keep these three dimensions in mind. That will be one more factor that will help you succeed.

The Transformative Power of “The Big Goal”

Below is a guest article by John Lamy, a friend and colleague who will be writing a series of guest blogs for Capiche in the coming months.

The Big Goal

Here’s a common situation:

  • The management team puts in 10-hour days, running around like crazy, fixing mistakes, putting out fires;
  • most of the non-management folks are less than fully engaged, seem a little lackadaisical, and don’t really understand the operation’s strategy or goals; and
  • you have the gut feeling that the organization is underperforming. Everyone could be doing much better!

You can fix that! It’s not insurmountable, but it takes real focus and effort to get it right.

One proven approach is to establish a robust process for setting and achieving a Big Goal. I call that process the Execution Framework. This involves three steps.

The Big Goal Diagram

The Goal

Start with your:

  • Core Values
  • Strategy
  • Current Issues

Then concoct a single Big Goal that aligns with these three key drivers and spans throughout the organization. Creating and articulating that Big Goal is not easy. It’s as much art as science. In fact, I think it actually requires a little bit of magic!

The Tactics

Step Two can be a little tedious. Figure out the specific set of Tactics (or tasks) that must be executed to realize the Big Goal—department by department, person by person. Write them down; assign them to people; and put measures, targets, and due dates on each Tactic.

The Tracking

Step Three: Meet with your entire team on a cadence (maybe once a month) to make sure you’re on track. What are the problems? Who can help whom? Do you need to pivot? Let team members speak, especially the more junior ones—this is a great opportunity for their personal development.

If you set up your Execution Framework correctly, three amazing things will happen:

  • You’ll hit your Big Goal, and your financial performance will show it.
  • You’ll build a culture that hits your Big Goals, year after year.
  • Your folks will love it, word will spread, and it’ll be easier to hire outstanding people.

The process works. You really can achieve awesome results. Give it a try!

If you are interested in learning more about John, please contact him—and let him know I sent you! If it’s marketing consulting you are interested in, please reach out to me, Chris Cook. I would love to talk with you about your ideas!

Remember Silent Spring? Here’s Today’s Clarion Call—and It’s for Civility.

How is it that we as a society seem to be slipping into a scary model of disrespect, incivility, and creation of a culture of separateness and fear? I rue the day we lost our humanity, but when did that happen? Do we still have a chance to regain it?

Talking with residents on a recent visit to Spain and Portugal confirmed my feelings and further cemented my personal goal of encouraging civility—specifically in the workplace, as that is my professional focus. However, my wish is to see civility return throughout our culture.

Below is a reprint of a post I wrote in 2013 with some compelling statistics on the financial benefits of encouraging a civil workplace. So much of it applies today, and we know the benefits are far more than simply financial.

Please do comment—I love to hear and learn from you! What have you found? What is working at your organization?

Civility Costs Nothing—and Buys Everything

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.

Did 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 decline; 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?

And 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!

Cheers! I look forward to hearing from you!

Eureka! Why Relaxation May Be the Key to Optimal Performance, Creativity, and Flow

There’s a reason Eureka moments tend to strike in the shower—or in the case of Archimedes, the bath. Performing mindless activities gives our brain an opportunity to relax, kicking the prefrontal cortex (a.k.a. the brain’s command center) into autopilot mode. That daydreamy state is when creativity emerges.

In this Business Insider article on why 72% of people get their best ideas in the shower, Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explains, “The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”

Whether we’re scrubbing dishes or practicing meditation, letting our brain idle increases alpha brain wave activity, known to boost creativity and reduce depression.

How does this translate to the workplace? No, we’re not saying you should install showers or offer transcendental meditation classes (although that may not be such a bad idea). Rather, you may wish to cultivate an organizational culture that encourages play, humor, quiet, and relaxation—all ingredients to heightened productivity and creative flow, most famously studied by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

No number of hacky sacks and hammocks will counteract the toxic miasma of a stressful, high-anxiety workplace, however, and that cortisol-spiking atmosphere often starts at the top.

If an organization’s leaders exhibit stress, fear, rigidity, and panic under pressure, those emotions quickly spread to the employees.

How many times have you entered a meeting in a good mood only to leave feeling anxious and tense? This article by Psychologist Daniel Goleman discusses a study that revealed the contagious nature of moods in work groups and calls on leaders to practice the emotional intelligence necessary to prevent their own stress from infecting the group.

It’s no surprise that people want calm, assertive leaders as this Psychology Today piece explains. If you are wheeled into the hospital for emergency surgery, do you want the head surgeon to fly into hysterics, or do you want her to calmly assess the situation, lay out a clear plan of action, and set to work?

How people respond to crises reveals a lot about them, and demonstrating resilience, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in the face of obstacles instills employees with confidence and trust in their leadership.

That’s one reason this Harvard Business Review article encourages first-time leaders to relax. Employees sense insecurity and anxiety in their leaders, and that lack of confidence derails productivity.

As the Tao Te Ching states:

“When your body is not aligned,
The inner power will not come.
When you are not tranquil within,
Your mind will not be well ordered.
Align your body, assist the inner power,
Then it will gradually come on its own.”

If you want your employees to achieve the optimal performance, relaxed alertness, and creativity possible in a serene, inspiring environment, you need to cultivate your own inner balance, emotional intelligence, and mental well-being.

To get expert guidance from an empathetic yet challenging co-active coach, contact Chris Cook about her leadership coaching services. If your organizational culture could use an injection of positivity and transformative authenticity, Capiche can help with that, too.

It’s Time to Disrupt Our Leadership Culture

Which of these statements can you relate to? Check the boxes.

  • I don’t love my current job.
  • I often feel alone.
  • I often feel like an impostor.
  • There’s something new I want to try, but fear is holding me back.
  • I’m in a new season filled with uncertainty.
  • I know I have what it takes, but I’m tired and sometimes I want to quit.

Guess what? You’re not alone.

Last week, I was fortunate to participate in the 2019 Women’s Leadership Conference and attended a session called “The Value of Disrupting Leadership Culture.” I didn’t expect the session to begin with all of us women checking boxes on a half-sheet of paper with these six statements. It made me feel a little (or maybe a lot) vulnerable.

We each folded our sheets and passed them over two to the right. Then one back. Then three more to the right. We were now all holding someone else’s sheet, but we weren’t sure whose.

That’s when the magic happened. One by one, the presenter read each statement. All whose sheet had that box checked stood. Six times. We heard each statement, and each time, a large group of our peers—all successful women in their own right—were standing up for us.

We weren’t alone.

We then listened as the presenters debunked the concept that we should follow others on the paths they once blazed to success—which were now safe and proven. What if our truest path to groundbreaking success lies in who we already are—foibles and all? What if our perceived “weaknesses” are what will set us apart and propel our respective industries forward?

Every day, we’re seeing examples of how purposeful disruption of our traditional leadership culture is the key to our individual success. You can own who you are and know you are not alone.

Thanks to session presenters Lindsay McPhail and Kristy Laschober for their insights.

Ready?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above or you’re ready to launch your own disruption of leadership culture, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris to get going on the next chapter of your life! Whether you’re interested in leadership coaching or reshaping your organization’s culture, Capiche has you covered.

Got Toxins? Get Good at Conflict.

Isn’t it invigorating when things are clicking along at your company—when your team is all on the same page and working together to get important work done?

Or are you reading this saying, “I wish it was like that!”

If it’s not like that, what’s going on? Is performance tanking? Is communication falling apart? Is turnover high? Is absenteeism skyrocketing?

If you’re nodding your head, then here’s a question: What “team toxins” are causing conflict—and how are you handling them?

You know every organization (every relationship for that matter) experiences conflict. But did you know there’s such a thing as good conflict? Yep. When there’s constructive conflict, your team develops greater trust and becomes stronger.

However, when team toxins creep into day-to-day operations and conflict is not handled well, your team begins a downward spiral that may be impossible to arrest.

According to positive psychologist John Gottman (The Relationship Cure), these team toxins are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Gottman refers to these toxins as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s vital that your team understands these toxins and strives to keep them at bay. Letting them creep into your organization is the quickest way to undermine performance.

Take a close look at these toxins, learn how to recognize them, and review the “antidotes” so you can handle conflict successfully through positive communication.

1) Personal Criticism

Aggressive attack, bullying, chronic blaming, domination

Learn to understand the difference between complaining and criticizing—and turn the complaint into a request when possible.

Criticism: “You’re always late! You never think about anyone but yourself!”

Complaint: “When you are late, it throws the entire team off schedule.”

Request: “When you are late, I have to reschedule the entire team. Please let us know if something unexpected comes up that will detain you.”

Also, remember that criticizing the person is hurtful. Your intention is most likely to criticize the idea or action, not the person. The antidote? Talk about your feelings using “I” statements and express a positive need.

2) Defensiveness

Deflection, unopen to influence

When we feel unjustly accused, our natural response is to look for excuses to justify our actions.

Question: “Did you let production know that our prototype is not going to be ready as we promised?”

Defensive response: “You know how busy I am. Why didn’t you just do it?”

Better response: “Wow, I was so busy today, I forgot. I apologize. Let me call them now and let them know.”

The best antidote is to accept your teammate’s perspective, take responsibility, and offer an apology for any wrongdoing.

3) Stonewalling

Disengagement, passivity, yes men, avoidance, unopen to influence

This usually happens as a response to chronic contempt. The listener shuts down and simply stops responding—or they resort to other behavior such as turning away or tuning out.

It takes time for most people to reach the stage of stonewalling/shutting down; the best antidote is to take a break and spend time doing something soothing before regrouping and openly discussing the situation.

4) Contempt

Demeaning, disrespect, undermining, hostile

This may be the most destructive horseman. Contempt goes far beyond criticism, attacks the person’s moral character, and insinuates superiority over them. It’s destructive both mentally and physically. Research shows that people in contemptuous relationships are more likely to suffer from an infectious illness like the flu or a cold! In a marriage, it is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated in all relationships—personal and professional. As an antidote, remind yourself of the person’s positive qualities and build a culture of appreciation.

Now that you know what the Four Horsemen are and how to counteract them with proven antidotes, you’ve got the essential tools to create constructive conflict, develop more organizational trust, and create a more positive work environment. As soon as you see criticism or contempt galloping in, remember their antidotes. Be vigilant. The more you can keep the Four Horsemen at bay, the more likely you are to have a positive and productive workplace.

If you’re looking to create a more positive culture in your work environment, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris for an initial conversation. Let’s tap into your organization’s positivity and unleash its potential.

An enthusiastic shout-out to Faith Fuller and Marita Frijhon, CRR Global, for introducing me to this concept as part of Organizational & Relationship Systems Coach Training.

What Employees Want from Their Boss

This morning I was watching a video in my USA Today newsfeed, and I came across an article about five things a boss looks for in an employee. What the video didn’t note is that employees look for the same five things in their boss. It got me to thinking about the strategy session I just led for a multi-state business. It came to light at the outset of the strategy session—and was reinforced throughout—that bosses and employees are looking for the same things in one another and need to have the ability to hold each other accountable.

Here’s a tool to help make that happen: a designed team alliance (DTA). I start each strategy session with a DTA, something I learned from my work with CRR Global. A DTA sets the stage for a productive meeting, workshop, or any sort of session where people come together to accomplish a goal. Participants agree upon how they want to “be” together and how to handle conflict when it occurs. For example, traits that come up as desirable often include: respect, openness to new ideas, listening, promptness, equal participation, and confidentiality. Undesirable behavior may include judgment, interrupting others, checking emails, and using cell phones.

Designed Team Alliance Meeting NotesIn the training I led last week, one of the values the team agreed on was no BS—and to call it if you see it. Just as important as creating a productive space is agreeing on how to handle conflict.

This strategy session went beautifully, and when we hit the point where everyone was being assigned specific tasks to help the organization meet measurable goals, the issue of accountability came up.

For all of you leaders, I promise your employees are seeking accountability (and no BS) from you. You must take your “assignments” and deadlines as—or even more—seriously as your team. If you are counting on them to complete tasks in a timely manner, they need to know they can count on you to do the same.

They want to know what you are doing to help further the organization. They want transparency. And they want to be able to tell you when something you’re doing is not working.

However, this can be complicated.

It’s up to you as a leader to facilitate and nurture a climate that allows employees to talk with you frankly and openly, even if it’s a message you don’t want to hear. If you want your team to be all in, you have to be willing to accept the same kinds of feedback you give your employees.

Looking to create a more productive workplace? Let’s get started with a DTA for your team. Call me at 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us.