Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh,
Thursday, February 4, 2016
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By Cy Wakeman, President, CY Wakeman, Inc.
HR West 2016 Presenter: Session 505: 10 Principles of Reality-Based Leadership
Traditional management practices have led many entrepreneurs to believe that employee engagement and happiness come from a working environment that is free of stress or problems. They falsely believe that if they can perfect an employee’s circumstances, contentment and motivation will automatically follow.
And while it’s true that good talent is hard to find, and we want to keep our teams happy, this assumption can be misleading. Unfortunately, many have already fallen prey to this form of emotional blackmail, investing great amounts of capital in employee requests for perks and benefits based on nothing more than the promise that they will deliver extraordinary results in return.
You see, while fulfilling employee requests may initially seem like a logical approach to motivation, the reality is much different. According to New York Times bestselling author Shawn Achor, 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.
Therefore, trying to perfect employees’ circumstances is an insane practice. It’s a shortsighted strategy that won’t provide a long-term solution and is simply a waste of time and resources -- a high price to pay for busy entrepreneurs who are already short on both.
To cultivate sustainable engagement that produces results for your business, focus instead on making your employees bulletproof by teaching them to be personally accountable. Once someone begins to view the world through a lens of accountability, they start to understand that they can affect their circumstances and situations.
Before long, they’ll realize that they are not victims of external factors but rather architects of their own lives. This mindset equips them to handle anything that comes their way, regardless of how challenging it is. Only then will they begin to attain authentic, sustainable happiness and engagement in their lives, both personally and professionally.
So, how can you help your team achieve a greater sense of accountability at work? First, you must understand that personal accountability is a product of both nature and nurture. Some individuals possess a higher natural inclination towards accountability, but it can also be learned.
To create a workforce that is engaged in a way that creates remarkable results, it’s imperative to stop trying to take the pain away and start equipping your employees with the abilities they need to deal with the random challenges that are involved in working in today’s modern economy.
To help this skill set evolve and develop further, encourage the following among your team.
1. Embracing challenges
Experiencing projects, assignments and tasks that have a significant risk of failure and call employees out of their comfort zones will enhance the learning and development of new and less developed competencies. This process forces the individual to quickly find what worked and what didn’t. From there, they can adapt and move forward.
2. Experienced accountability
Being held accountable on a consistent basis by people and processes molds the mindset of internal accountability. Over time, the concept that one’s results are a product of their own actions is reinforced and solidified as a belief.
3. Consistent and regular feedback
Regular developmental and performance feedback from a credible source helps employees understand and internalize how their specific behaviors and choices are contributing to their results. However, the feedback must be rigorous, consistent and ongoing to be effective.
Engaging in regular self-reflection and introspection about one’s progress is critical. The focus of self-reflection is to account for one’s role in the results of their life and extract the lessons that will empower a different response in the future. Methods of self-reflection include meditation and journaling. |
Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to adopt a different, more sustainable approach to employee engagement. It all begins with cultivating and celebrating personal accountability among employees at every level within your organization.
Once this is achieved, you will have created a workforce that’s resilient, committed to results, accepting of the consequences of their actions (good and bad) and is continuously learning. Not only will they raise the bar for everyone around them, they will make great things happen for your business as well.
*Find some secrets to success in 2016 in Cy's Forbes.com blog or watch her latest livestream for tips on ditching the drama in 2016.
Originally published on Linkedin.
See the full article at Entrepreneur.com
Meet Cy Wakeman HR West 2016 - March 7-9, 2016 at the Oakland Convention Center. Registration is still open.
Wakeman will present her session (#505): 10 Principles of Reality-Based Leadership on March 8th at 1:30p.m.
Cy Wakeman is a leadership coach, workplace consultant, New York Times bestselling author, and international keynote speaker.
For more on Cy, check out www.realitybasedleadership.com. Follow @CyWakeman.
HR West 2016
Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh,
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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By Lorelei Carobolante, President G2nd Systems
HR West 2016 Speaker
What happens when leaders of global organizations don’t pay enough attention to language and workplace communication skills when hiring, training, assessing, promoting and relocating employees? As organizations are discovering, having English proficiency requirements are important but aren’t enough. To develop both native and nonnative English speakers, language and intercultural effectiveness cannot be underestimated or left to chance.
As organizations increasingly develop internationally, every organization must be able to leverage talent, expertise, creativity, and relationships from multiple geographical areas, cultures, and languages.
Ignoring the influence of English and cultural differences leads to miscommunication, lost sales, missed goals, conflict, friction, and loss of team collaboration across country borders and cultures. Organizational competitiveness and employee engagement can suffer as a result.
Leaders often aren’t aware of their vulnerability because language proficiency, perceptions of accents and cultural challenges often go unrecognized. In fact, many leaders and teams have language and cultural blind areas. Some fail to recognize the subtle yet crucial differences between native and nonnative English speakers, especially when everyone seems to speak a proficient level of the same language, for example, English.
A 2013 study by the British Council estimated that nonnative English speakers outnumber native speakers by a ratio of 4:1 worldwide, projecting it to continue growing. Yet, native and nonnative English speakers from different countries and cultures use English differently, often without realizing it. Native English speakers intuitively integrate their culture into the language (through idioms, local expressions and cultural presumptions) while nonnative English speakers use English as a culturally-neutral communication tool.
When I first read George Bernard Shaw's statement, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place," I thought of how different versions of English are used in workplace contexts. Imagine a meeting with native English speakers from the UK and US, and four nonnative speakers from primarily nonnative English speaking countries/cultures. All meeting participants have advanced levels of English proficiency. After initial discussion, the native US English speaker asks the native UK English speaker, "Should we table this phase of the project?" The two colleagues do not recognize that the same idiomatic expression has the opposite meaning in the US and UK (e.g., US English version: postpone indefinitely; UK English version: prioritize the phase). And, since furniture [table] isn't part of the discussion, the nonnative English speakers may be confused or ignore the question if the native speakers don't clarify it. In this simple example, could the meeting end with an illusion that the communication has taken place?
Today's workplaces are often linguistically and culturally diverse. In spite of the reality of global connectivity, few organizations have an explicit language strategy that is designed for measuring and improving communication for nonnative and native English speakers, developing talent, and fostering both local and international employee engagement.
With attention to a language and cultural strategy, leaders in any organization can acquire and grow the talent needed to compete both globally and locally. Smart leaders align their strategy with their overarching priorities. They recognize that nonnative and native English speakers use English differently, and turn language vulnerability into competitive workplace communication strengths.
What’s in a Language Strategy?
In a September 2014 Harvard Business Review article, authors Tsedal Neeley and Robert S. Kaplan urge leaders to implement an effective language strategy (https://hbr.org/2014/09/whats-your-language-strategy).
Language is a vital link in any global talent management strategy. Even if the company doesn’t adopt a common language (a lingua franca) such as English, you need to be able to evaluate language proficiency and workplace communication effectiveness if you want to grow and develop the best people, ameliorate the gaps between native and nonnative language speakers, and strengthen performance.
There are four areas suggested by the authors as significant for both HR and senior managers, which seem to be relevant for years to come:
1. Hiring and Training
Be aware of language blind areas. A high degree of fluency – either in a common global language, such as English, or the local one – can influence assessment of a candidate’s skills, growth potential, knowledge of markets, employee engagement and team performance. Don’t be fooled.
To be sure you are hiring the best people – and not just the more fluent ones – be prepared to accept some language limitations, use fair and valid assessments, and provide training. If proficiency and speech clarity is fairly and reliably measured, you can always improve language communication skills through professional development courses and coaching, either individually, in groups, and online.
2. Assessing Talent Accurately
Language agility does not necessarily equal high performance. Use of 360 degree feedback methods will reveal a lot about workplace performance. Otherwise, it’s too easy to confuse fluency in English (or another language) with what appears to be high level management and client or customer relations skills.
Without an effective, inclusive language strategy in place, managers tend to perceive performance issues as deficits rather than simple lack of language proficiency, speech clarity and associated skills. They can inadvertently undermine an individual’s and team's performance. Language issues can cause talented and engaged professionals to underperform and even withdraw.
Nonnative English speakers, when overlooked by native speakers, experience a substantial loss of power, confidence, credibility and status. This can be avoided by a language strategy that includes addressing levels of language proficiency, accent clarity and intercultural communication across nonnative and native speakers.
3. Intercultural Training
Language training is important, but language proficiency does not equal intercultural communication effectiveness. Many problems are caused by lack of cultural understanding or perceptions of accents. Most organizations are globally diverse, with a mix of cultures and divergent norms, expectations, and practices.
Intercultural communication training should be embedded inside of language development courses as well as throughout the entire organization. Senior leaders and other professionals need to model expectations of intercultural fluency, and not just HR staff. Managers need to adapt management styles to effectively and inclusively communicate across multiple cultures simultaneously.
4. Managing Intercultural Communication
A language strategy must also include developing and implementing standards for communication across the entire organization. A lot of time is wasted when individuals aren’t conscious of potential misunderstanding when they speak in meetings, write emails, participate in calls, and apply directives.
Managers can improve meetings by acting as facilitators and clarifying multicultural language issues, such as avoiding or facilitating idiomatic or local expressions to foster understanding for all participants. They can encourage nonnative and native English speakers to participate more collaboratively, ensuring a diversity of ideas and strengthening engagement.
In today’s global organizations, no matter the industry, the size, or country of origin, no one is immune to language and cultural challenges. With a language strategy in place, you and your organization will be prepared to avoid the vulnerabilities and strengthen your competitiveness and sustainability.
Your organization may already provide language testing, assessments, training and cultural diversity programs, but do they align with a comprehensive global language strategy that leverages the benefits of diversity and inclusion to develop language as a source of competitiveness?
About the Author
Lorelei Carobolante, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, President & CEO, G2nd Systems
Presenting at HR West - March 7, 2016 1:50-3:05pm Session Block
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Posted By Laurie Pehar Borsh ,
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016
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Contributed by Russ Elliot - Conscious Culture Group
During my formative working life I was very fortunate to be able to work at the NUMMI plant for six years. For those not familiar with NUMMI, the joint-venture was born in an old General Motors Fremont, CA, plant. GM wanted to understand the effective Toyota Production System, and Toyota wanted to see how that system could work with U.S. workers. I realized while I was working there that the experience was the equivalent of a second Master’s degree. It was clear to me that there was something unique and amazing going on at NUMMI. So rather than pursue an additional degree, I dug my heels in and decided to learn on the job.
I learned many lessons during my six years there and implemented many of the concepts during my subsequent tenure in Human Resources.
In this article I want to share with you some of those lessons that can be applied to improve a company’s culture and have a meaningful impact in any organization.
Although each of these lessons can be implemented independently, a culture “system” becomes much more effective when all the pieces are heading toward a common goal or vision. Clarity and intention, or consciousness, are the keys to furthering any organization’s culture.
What can be learned from the NUMMI experiment
At NUMMI, prior to the launch of the Tacoma truck line, I was hired to work in the Human Resources department. I started in the training and development department of HR and then moved to the labor relations department, doing a final stint back where I started in the training and development department. During my tenure, I was privileged to help develop and build the Problem Solving Circles program (a name we used for the quality circle program).
NUMMI was operating in the same plant as before, with the same workers, and the same union, but everything else was different. The quality was outstanding and consistently recognized. For example, the Corolla was ranked “Best Compact Car in North America” in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006. The Tacoma was ranked “Best Compact Pickup in North America” in 2002 and 2007. The plant was an effective machine.
I have been reflecting on the lessons can be used today from what I learned working at NUMMI during its “experiment” of sorts. This article draws some conclusions and presents what I think are the most important points to review and consider as people in business strive for continuous improvement, effective communication and decision making.
This is both a complex and simple story. The complexity is related to all of the different pieces that create the perception and feel of simplicity. The autoworkers had so much clarity on the job that it felt simple for them to perform effectively. It took great thought by management to be able to communicate what their jobs were and what the proper training and tools were needed for them to be successful.
The following components led to the company’s well-thought-out system.
Clearly understood and expressed values
At the center of the culture were clearly expressed values of mutual trust and respect, teamwork, equity, and involvement. There are many tangible and visual symbols that reinforced these values every day at work.
The four values or cornerstones as they were named at NUMMI are listed here. They are not meant to be independent of each other, but rather are completely dependent on each other. It is easy to see the links between teamwork, involvement, equity and mutual trust and respect. It is one of the examples of brilliant simplification. The challenge of all organizations is to determine values that truly describe who they are, which then encourages behavior that will make the organization uniquely successful.
Mutual trust and respect – This was probably the most important value at NUMMI. It showed up at work in many different ways. One of the more visible examples was the “andon” cord, a cord that could be pulled at every workstation. If an employee pulled the cord, the line stopped. To understand the impact pulling on this cord had, nearly every employee was forced to be idle until the line started up again. About 2,000 employees were placed in waiting mode. The “andon” cord symbolized that each employee had a critical role in ensuring that every car passing by his or her workstation met with the level of quality expected. The employees had both the power and obligation to contribute toward that goal.
Teamwork – The plant was set up in teams and groups. A team consisted of about five employees with one team leader. A group consisted of three or four teams with a group leader. Team members, as they were called, were expected to learn all the jobs in the team. To reduce boredom and injury, team members rotated every 2 ½ hours. This required not only cross training, but it also resulted in a balanced workload. Rotation added to the feeling of being a member of the team and the importance of teamwork.
Equity – One vivid example of equity was the open office. Every employee had the same size desk in one of several large rooms. The only exception was the president who had his own office. To fully understand the significance of this, the vice president of manufacturing who had thousands of employees under him was seated several feet away from his direct reports. And he faced all of their direct reports in the same open area. When I attended a meeting in his area, I passed his desk only a few feet away from the walkway. This strongly symbolized the equity concept.
Involvement – One of many examples of involvement was the suggestion program. More than 70 percent of the employees provided at least one suggestion, while many provided more then one suggestion. With more than 4,000 employees, there were literally thousands of suggestions that were submitted and reviewed each year. Many of them were implemented. This encouraged employees to use their minds to create continuous improvement in the auto plant.
Make company mindset a critical component
In addition to having clear values, it is critical to have processes, systems and policies that support the intended culture. This is a key part of a conscious culture.
The examples presented in this section are just some of the ideas worth noting regarding how a mindset can be created to further an organization in defining its culture. These ideas and actions truly brought NUMMI forward in a defined and intentional way. Combining these mindset ideas with organizational values brings clarity, focus and simplicity to organizational effectiveness.
Kaizen – This is the Japanese term that means, in essence, continuous improvement. It was NUMMI’s belief that survival in a competitive industry required continuous improvement. This philosophy showed up in many ways, including the suggestion system, improving efficiency in the workplace and in the Problem Solving Circles (or quality circles). Kaizen accurately reflects the mindset or way of being at NUMMI.
Muda – This is another Japanese term that helped employees understand waste. One of the keys to being a successful auto plant is to reduce different kinds of waste. Employees understood the five different kinds of muda and would work towards reducing all aspects of waste. For example, if there was a way for each worker to spend five seconds less on a process, it reduced the waste of time. Employees were rewarded when their ideas improved efficiency or effectiveness.
Nemawashi – This is a third Japanese term that speaks to the mindset of effective communication and decision making. There are different levels of nemawashi, and I am sharing a high-level example. The top executives met on a regular basis to make significant decisions on the plant. The meeting often lasted only 15 to 30 minutes. The reason the meetings lasted for such a short time was that all of the conversation and changes to proposals occurred outside the meeting. This allowed for meaningful dialogue instead of a debate of egos in the room. Presenters of proposals spent one-on-one time with all leaders to understand any concerns they had. Leaders were given ample time to reflect on any proposal. Changes were regularly made to any proposal before it went to the nemawshi meeting. Although this took more time, it led to strong buy in by all and long-term success. This mindset of nemawashi occurred at other levels in the plant.
A3 – This is the concept of ensuring that all proposals and ideas shared needed to be clear, concise and well thought through. A3 refers to the size of the paper in the paper tray (11” x 14”). All proposals, no matter how complex or expensive, were required to be submitted in a specified format on the front (and possibly back) of an A3. This level of discipline ensured new proposals or programs had great consideration before making it in front of the decision-making body. It was required that all problem-solving efforts be completed using the A3 format.
Problem Solving Circles – I had the privilege of being the lead on this critical program. PSCs started with five pilot circles. Eventually, there were more than 400 circles meeting each week to work on problems for their teams.
One of the key concepts I want to share with you is that the primary purpose of this program was not solving problems, but in fact, team building and leadership development. Each time there was a meeting, the discussion led to solving a problem within the scope of the team’s control.
After team leaders received training in facilitating and leading meetings, and team members along with team leaders received training in problem solving, each circle met once per week for an hour to follow the problem-solving process.
We then had an annual plant-wide competition to select the best example. It was set up as a big event for everyone to see the other examples. I was honored to bring the winner of the NUMMI competition to Japan to compete with the best of each Toyota plant.
A side note of truth is that there were two competitions in Japan: one for the auto plants in Japan and one for the plants outside of Japan. This was only fair because the skill sets and problem-solving levels of the Japanese plants were significantly greater than non-Japanese plants. It would not have been a fair competition if all plants were judged in one contest.
Job titles – All of the manufacturing jobs, about 4,000, fell under one of three job titles: team member, team leader or group leader. This idea is consistent with the values of equity and teamwork. Most U.S. companies would struggle to limit the number of job titles to three for thousands of employees. Each role was clear and the path to move toward team leader or group leader was well-defined.
Job security – There was specific language in the labor agreement that spoke to job security. The essence of it was that employees would not be laid off unless there were severe economic conditions that threatened the long term viability of NUMMI. Before laying off any single employee, other actions, like reducing managers’ salaries, would take place first. This clearly sent a message that everyone was in the same ship rowing in the same direction. This was extraordinarily meaningful to employees.
On a personal note
I hope some of these ideas have you thinking about the systems, processes and values you have in place or you can put in place to support your company’s desired culture.
You can look at your organizational values, examine processes that can support the mindset, provide training and promotion methods that teach cultural behavior, or modify the hiring process to reduce hiring the incorrect fit. Take a deep look at what will do to help shape your culture and create the high-performance company that you desire.
There are many other lessons learned that were not included here. For the full article that includes reflections of training, promotion and employer brand, visit my blog at ConsciousCultureGroup.com
About the Author
Russ Elliot, SPHR, is the Founder and Principal Consultant of the Conscious Culture Group, a consulting and coaching company focused on working with organizational leaders to understand and build effective cultures using proven methods and tools that get results. For more than 30 years, Russ Elliot has developed strong expertise in human resources, organizational development and coaching having worked in organizations including Toyota, NUMMI, Texas Instruments and Bridge Bank.
Contact Russ at Russ@ConsciousCultureGroup.com.
Posted By Amy S. Powers,
Friday, January 8, 2016
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Why should you attend HR West 2016? Here's our count down to the #1 reason, but we're sure you will agree that these are all amazing reasons to be at the Oakland Convention Center - March 7-9, 2016!
11. Credits. Credits. Credits! Earn up to 15.75 recertification credits, 12 of which likely qualify for Strategic.
10. Keynote Monika Fahlbusch has worked for Salesforce, Old Navy and PeopleSoft. If anyone knows about the employee experience, it’s her!
9. Hotel. Conference. Parking - all under one roof! Book your room today.
8. Everyone wants to peer into the future and Emcee Leah Hunter is “the Future Hunter.”
7. TEDx Presenter/Princeton Professor, John Danner is leading an exclusive full-day session and you won’t find this opportunity elsewhere.
6. Speed dating isn’t your thing, but speed networking? Now, there’s a great concept.
5. Now is the time to transform your workplace (if not now…when?)...Keynote Eva Sage-Gavin tells you how!
4. You love a good debate and Keynote Jeffrey Pfeffer is calling B.S. on the current state of leadership.
3. Winning makes you happy and the #GoHRWest Sweepstakes has great prizes!
2. Classical music soothes the soul! Keynote Kai Kight will play his violin for us!
1. 80+ concurrent sessions for just $863 - unparalleled education you can afford!
Prices (valid thru 2/10) – NCHRA Members: $863 / General: $1,030
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HR West 2016
Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh,
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
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In the spirit of the brand new year that is upon us in just a few days - we thought we'd share the following piece, co-authored (this past summer) by one of our powerful HR West 2016 session presenters and speakers, Aaron Schmookler in collaboration with Adam Utley and Rachel Lionheart.
Most leaders, when asked, say that their team has the skills it needs to perform better than average. When asked specifically about communication, however, they say it needs to get better. When asked about teamwork, they say it needs to get better. When asked about innovation, they say it needs to get better. When asked about the ability to cope with the unexpected and with change, they say it needs to get better.
This article will arm you with a powerful tool for making work on your team better indeed.
Would you like communication, teamwork, innovation and coping with the unexpected to improve on your team?
Do assumptions gum up the works of effective communication? Does fear prevent people from communicating when they first realize they’re likely to miss a deadline? Are your people satisfied with the status quo when you know growth is essential for outpacing the competition?
Incremental improvements at work often take too much work for too little return. But our clients easily make substantial improvements to communication, so they reap unprecedented cohesion on their teams, enjoy lucrative innovation, and take change in stride. You can make strides too, with a single tool from Theater Improvisation.
Why improvisation? Life isn’t scripted. The unexpected happens. Change happens. And Darwin can tell you, if you don’t adapt to change, if you can’t respond relevantly to the unexpected, you won’t survive. Most companies do ok with the unexpected. Most companies respond with an "O.K." to change. But "O.K." is not going to bring your dreams for the future to fruition.
The tool I’ve promised, and one of the principles we teach in our workshops, is BE OBVIOUS. Webster says obvious means, “easy fo the mind to understand or recognize, clear, self-evident, or apparent.” Once you and your team try it, you’ll agree... BE OBVIOUS is a superpower.
Originality is born in the associations individuals make. Innovation is association.
Collaboration, in a culture of contribution and obvious communication, accelerates the process.
You can BE OBVIOUS in a few distinct business arenas--the three C’s:
- Conflict management.
Collaboration is communication. It works best with a constant flow of ideas to build from -- a flow of ideas generated by each all team-members. No idea can be formed in a vacuum. No ideas are born from nothing. Every idea in the history of ideas has been inspired something else. You can’t stop ideas from coming. Blockages of ideas don’t exist--only blockages of expression, of communication. Fear stops the communication and proliferation of ideas. Fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear that one’s idea is not original enough...
Keith Johnstone says, “The more obvious you are, the more original you appear.” So many simple but profound business opportunities are lost in striving to come up with “clever or disruptive ideas.” One idea leads to another. Give attention and voice to your idea, no matter how simple, and it will lead to another idea, either in your own mind, or in the mind of a collaborator. Speak the obvious associations your mind is making, and they will lead to others. If your collaborators do the same, you follow one idea after another, down the rabbit-hole, and into Wonderland.
Consider the Post-it Note. On the face of it, this was a failed attempt at 3M to create a strong adhesive. But upon encountering this “failed” adhesive, someone spoke what was obvious to them, and this lucrative use for a weak adhesive is now found in nearly every home and office in the country--indeed around the world.
Take one of the most successful toys in history -- the Slinky. It too was a failure, intended to stabilize ships’ instruments. The inventor, dejected, put it on a shelf. His wife later knocked it off, and saw it’s remarkable stepping ability. And a toy was born.
Take the case of a truck which got stuck under too low an overpass. Engineers, police, and towing professionals scratched their heads, trying to devise a strategy for removing the truck that would not destroy the bridge, or further damage the truck. Evidently, it took the obvious observation of a ten year old boy who said, obviously, “Why don’t you let the air out of the tires?
Originality is born in the associations individuals make. Innovation is association. Collaboration, in a culture of contribution and obvious communication, accelerates the process.
Conflict is communication. Conflict on a team often results from one team member judging the ideas and contributions of another.
“Let’s open an office in Siberia.”
“What? …That’s just stupid.”
The Siberia office idea generator is likely to feel defensive and either shut down or fight. Witnesses to the interaction are likely to perceive an unfriendly environment for their own ideas and clam up themselves. And it needn’t be so blatant as this to degrade the ‘culture of contribution.’ Something as seemingly bland as, “Really? Siberia?” is enough to shame people into silence, or gird them for battle.
BE OBVIOUS has the power to completely transform the interaction from one that degrades relationships and productivity to one that builds them.
“Let’s open an office in Siberia.”
The knee-jerk judgment that that is stupid results from an earlier thought. Maybe, “Siberia’s really cold. Siberia’s really far away.” So, instead of, “That’s just stupid,” the OBVIOUS response to “Let’s open an office in Siberia,” is, “Siberia’s really cold and really far away.”
Now, there’s information in the room that can help everyone, the original speaker included, to assess the idea’s merits in their own minds. The relationship has not been degraded. The fight or flight response has not been triggered. The environment still welcomes new ideas. The idea generator may respond, “I thought of Siberia because real estate there is very cheap.”
Then someone else may respond, “Well, the real estate in North Dakota is pretty cheap too. And it’s not as cold, and it’s not as far away.”
And then building on that, someone else might add what’s obvious to them. “My family is in North Dakota, and I’ve been wanting to move there.”
In one fell swoop, you’ve got a location for the satellite office and the person to spearhead its opening. A bad idea is refined to a good one, and other ancillary problems are organically solved along the way. And relationships are strengthened in a process that breeds group pride in its accomplishments.
Many of you may know the story of Kitty Genovese: She was stabbed to death in 1964 outside her apartment in New York City while bystanders stood by--didn’t even call the police. This failure to respond has been widely cited as evidence of the heartlessness of New York’s citizens and the general degradation of society. Social science has since shown us another explanation. Bystanders likely did not call for help, not because they didn’t care, but because each person presumed someone else would surely call. Someone else surely had already called, was on the phone even now. With this diffusion of responsibility, each individual can shrug off personal responsibility.
Who among us has not had a work-project fall to the same fate as Kitty Genovese. Some detail critical to the success of the project has been overlooked. Bob knows he’s never heard anyone discussing the obvious problem that the building design the whole team has been working on has no front door. No one will be able to enter the building. But doors aren’t his department. Cathy’s seen the door problem too. But she’s windows. Bob and Cathy both assume, “Surely someone is on it. Someone knows, and even though I haven’t heard about it, obviously, someone is fixing this. Then the design goes to the client. If the firm is lucky, the client notices and says, “There’s no door.” And the firm suffers embarrassment and delay. If the firm isn’t lucky, the building is erected from the drawings… without a door. And the firm suffers humiliation and is never hired again. All because each person in the chain presumed that it was so obvious that there must be a hidden solution. Often, the obvious goes unspoken because people are afraid of the ridicule that may come from saying what’s clearly obvious to everyone, “Thanks, Captain Obvious.” Or they’re afraid of being embarrassed by demonstrating their own incompetence or ignorance of the obvious by saying something that shows they’ve missed what’s as plain as the nose on their face. “Duh! The door’s. Right. Here.” This is an extreme example, but we’ve all wasted work because no one spoke what was obvious to them.
How do you get people to speak what’s obvious? Get full commitment from everyone to BE OBVIOUS, and to WELCOME the obvious from others. Will there be redundant communication? Sure. But in places that matter, we all install redundant systems. We drive carefully AND wear seatbelts. We lock the car AND set the alarm. We save our files on the local server AND to the cloud.
With a BE OBVIOUS culture, Kitty would still be alive. And with a BE OBVIOUS culture in your company, projects are delivered on time and under budget. BE OBVIOUS gets your back!
When everyone has committed to BE OBVIOUS, each person has the responsibility to respond to every obvious need. Not to personally address it, but to at least mention it to the relevant person. Every manager, every team leader, every executive I’ve asked would rather hear too many times about a growing crisis in the company than not to hear about it at all.
BEING OBVIOUS starts with a willingness to say what is plainly and immediately on your mind, beyond the trap of judgement, and build off of the information that surrounds you, in the environment, from your coworkers, from clients. It takes open-mindedness, commitment to transparency and practice to create a functioning habit in your burgeoning culture of contribution.
Schmookler will present HR West 2016 session 703: Putting the Four Principles of Improv to Work
How will you be obvious to bring transformation and innovation into your organization in 2016? Register for HR West 2016 and find out!
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