Your Organization Won’t Change Until These 2 Things Are Embraced

Recently, I had a conversation with an old colleague who was asking me about some strategy and culture issues. The conversation centered on how an organization can find re-birth, re-development, and/or new life.

Through our discussion, I landed on two primary questions that left unanswered hold organizations back from positive change (yes, I know there are probably countless more, but these are easily codified and create a framework that allows you to deal with the others). The two questions almost seem so obvious that we should all know them yet, based on the present reality of many organizations, it either isn’t obvious or the answers are a resounding – NO!

  • Do you know who you are at your core?

This is not what you want to be, this is not what you tell people you are, this is who you are in reality…deep-down inside. The strengths and weaknesses, blessings and potholes, the history, the lost dreams, the past failures and victories, along with the present collection of individuals.

If you don’t know this, you can’t move in a positive direction. You will always continue to relive problems of the past, fight battles that don’t exist, or go in directions that don’t connect to the people within or outside of your organization.

  • Are you really ready to change?

Are you thinking, of course we want to change, we wouldn’t be talking about this unless we were? Many people talk about changing, growing, adapting, like they talk about values – they espouse this…they want to have something happen, but only mentally. The reality is in order to change, you have to deal with discomfort, you have to do something new, something outside your norm. That is often painful.

The reality for many organizations is that living in the status quo, the known, the norm, the pattern, is so much easier. It takes a lot to break out of a pattern, albeit mental or physical. Many times we like the idea of growth, newness, or change, but we are unwilling to do what it takes to get there.

There is hope. Change can occur, it is uncomfortable, it is hard, but it often means growth. Movements like Christianity, ending Slavery, Unionization, Civil Rights, etc. were painful and challenging. Organizations that have redefined themselves like IBM, 3M, Apple, etc. transformed their businesses and changed the way that their customers engaged them – and you can too! Courage, humility, and forgiveness are key ingredients to lead you on that journey!

What Kind of Culture are You Creating?

In Adam Bryant’s book Quick and Nimble, he shares the following excerpt from an interview with Mike Sheehan, CEO of Hill Holliday advertising agency:

“I think that there are two kinds of cultures and then you can subdivide after that…One is based on a foundation of insecurity, fear, and chaos, and one is based on a firm platform where people come to work and they’re worried about the work. They’re not worried about things that surround the work are not important. If leadership doesn’t provide a forum for that kind of stuff, it dies quickly. People forget about it and they just focus on doing their job.”

chaos or clarityThis statement goes to the very core of what is happening in organizations. Organizations that have positive cultures focus on and celebrate “positive deviance”. These organizations hire with their values in mind and assure that those brought into the organization not only can “deal with” the values but are in alignment with these values.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, organizations with an average to subpar organizational culture suffer from shortsighted planning. They bring in people simply to based on their skills, without an eye to culture and person-organization fit. These organizations tend to give space for personal conflict, inevitably giving credence to chaos and dissension as they believe avoidance is the key to seeing problems go away.

Positive organizational cultures don’t simply happen by accident. They are the outflow of leadership and teamwork, cultivated with discipline, built through trustworthy consistency, and demonstrated by personal example. If you are uncomfortable with the leadership being exemplified in your organization look at the pattern being established by those in positions of leadership, it is likely that what they do, celebrate, or promote (implicitly as well as explicitly) is exactly what is seen within your organization.

Don’t believe me, look no further than the mess that is the NFL!

Productive Conflict.

CONFLICTNo, you didn’t misread the headline. Yes, it is possible. Contrary to how we generally view conflict, it actually can be a positive and productive thing in an organization. I would go so far as to state that any team or organization that doesn’t promote healthy, creative, content-oriented conflict will not grow or innovate.

Earlier this week, as part of my work at the SynerVision Leadership Foundation, I was able to co-host a hangout with Bill Stierle. Bill is a specialist in communications and relationships, oh and he also serves to mediate and facilitate high-conflict situations. During our Hangout, both Bill and Hugh Ballou challenged the idea that ignoring conflict in our organizations is acceptable. Bill points out that conflict typically flows from one of three levels: 1) Thinking style, 2) Emotional style, or 3) Belief style.

The reality is when we break conflict down into those three levels we begin to provide framework for thinking about what healthy conflict can look like in our teams. If groups work toward developing a safe-place for conflict (removing blaming, shaming, shooting down ideas, triangulation, and avoidance), true growth can occur.

As innovation researchers are quick to point out, new ideas stem from bringing together things that aren’t normally thought of together…this type of thinking will bring on conflict (potentially at any of the three levels), but if we operate from an empathy framework toward the person bringing forward the idea then we have provided space for growth.

But that isn’t always easy. Many times we get really passionate about things that we hold to (thoughts, emotions, beliefs) and we have trouble seeing how others might think, feel, or believe something that we don’t. Bill suggests we can only build an empathetic link as we connect a “feeling” word to a “need” word (at the 23:53 mark of the video, Bill digs into this area…watch it!).

How does conflict impact your team (positively or negatively)? What have you recognized as you “normal” response to conflict? How would creating a safe space for conflict look on your team?

Working Remotely…Why Its Important to Know, Before You Go!

For the past decade I have found myself working in quiet settings (for the most part), offices that were made up of no more than 5 people on the average day, but recently I embarked on a new (remote) work adventure. As a member of the new workforce, I showed no fear at the idea of working from a location far away (geographically) from the rest of my team. Lets be real working at a computer, talking on the phone, and using a webcam were all a very normal part of my life as someone who is a borderline Millennial (depending on the defined years). These 5 things I have learned in my experience are important for you as you think about making the step to a remote workplace.

1) Know Yourself.

If you have a challenge working unless you are “at work”, this might not be the setting for you. If you enjoy quiet as you work, allowing you to focus deeply, this might be the right setting for you. If you need to be in front of people often and have a lack of comfort with technology, this might not be the setting for you. And so on. 

The key is, to evaluate yourself and your specific needs, before you take the plunge!

2) Find Outlets.

You will need to set up (productive) interactions with people. Regardless of your intravert/extravert tendencies, we all need people to help spark the work that we do. Be strategic in setting up lunch meetings, phone calls, coffee house interactions, or other similar engagements that will allow you to stay engaged with people that help you move your sphere of work forward.

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3) Get Up. Go Outside. Stretch. Relax. 

While you may not see outside your office when you are in a traditional work setting, you at least are likely to get up and move around. Working remotely, it is easy to get into flow of work which is only interrupted by the crick in your back or neck that comes from having failed to move in hours. Get up, go see the outside, move around, and even relax. The truth is you are saving your organization time and money by not being in a typical office setting so use a little of that to maintain your health and sanity!

4) Be Disciplined.

Going down a rabbit hole is easy, regardless of your setting, but in a remote workspace (especially if you are working from home) this can be particularly dangerous. Make sure that you set up your schedule in increments (find something that works for you – maybe the Pomodoro technique) and be disciplined about not getting lost or straying too far from the core of your work. Give your brain down times, but be careful about getting lost on peripheral things that have little impact on your work.

5) Eat (in other places besides your desk).

Seriously, what is worse than eating food at your desk (ok, so there are more than a few things I could list). This is the one that to me becomes dangerous to your functioning. It is important for your brain and body to have different settings. Moving can help differentiate actions, it also allows the blood to flow and the brain to engage new images and stimulants. If nothing else, eating somewhere else (even another room in the same location) gives you a break from the routine and helps refresh you. 

Overall, the opportunity to work remotely increases flexibility for workers and organizations alike. Be mindful about these 5 areas (and others, share below) and you will set yourself up for success!

*It is important to note that working remotely, doesn’t specifically mean that you are working in your home office. There are a variety of workspace options present in the marketplace today that go beyond just being at home..