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.

IMG_20140805_192222

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.. 

Where Are You On Your Leadership Journey?

It isn’t everyday that you come across an author who you feel gets it. In fact in the area of leadership, I find that i tend to disagree with more writers, than those with which I agree. Over the last few years, I have enjoyed Mark Miller. Mark and I have some differences in our paradigm of leadership and organizations, but I value his work on leadership, values, and development highly. He is certainly a strong voice for well-grounded leadership!

If you don’t know him already, here is a little bit of info about Mark and the 10th Anniversary edition of his book The Secret that is going to be released on September 2, 2014.

Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

Here is a post that Mark previously shared with his audience on Monday, November 4, 2013 at www.greatleadersserve.org. I think the metaphor Mark shares in this post is very useful for each of us to bear in mind on our own journey!

Enjoy!

TG

——

autumn_grass_paths_trees_1366x768_101702

Leadership as a journey is probably a tired metaphor. I’m as guilty as the next guy for wearing this out. I not only say it – I believe it! And as with any journey, there are stages or phases you and I consciously consider when planning a family vacation that we often overlook when we think about our leadership.

This is a topic I’ve not given much thought to recently. However, with some restructuring at the office, this responsibility falls squarely back to my team. Therefore, I’ve reengaged on this critical topic.

My thoughts are still in a very rough form, but since I’ve been encouraged to be transparent in the posts I write, I thought I’d share some “work in progress,” not polished ideas.

I think a leader’s journey has at least four phases:

Preparing for the trip = Emerging Leaders

Before you take a trip, most people I know pick a destination. Before the route is planned and hotels are booked, you decide where you want to go. Emerging leaders have a choice to make: do they want to lead? If so, they can begin the preparation in earnest. The best preparation involves both the heart and the hands.

Leaving the house = New Leaders

Who are the men and women in your organization who become leaders? For many the answer is, those from the emerging leader ranks who appear to be the most prepared or hold the most promise. These are the men and women you actually give a position of leadership. Once “in charge,” the real adventure begins.

Are we there yet? = Mid-Career Leaders

For many leaders in mid-career, there is often a sense of unfulfilled potential – a desire to do more and be more and contribute more. During this mid-career season, this desire either becomes productive or poison. Those who channel this desire for greater contribution and lead beyond their assignment are often rewarded with more responsibility. Those who whine and wait are done. The answer to, “Are we there yet?” is, you are always in a place to add more value – the best leaders seize it all along their career journey.

You’ve arrived! = Seasoned Leaders

This is probably not the best label for this stage in a leader’s career because the best leaders never arrive. However, they do reach a point where they realize their success is inextricably linked to those they lead. The successful seasoned leader has gotten self out of the way and is focused on helping others win. As a result, he or she wins too! They also know, their continued contribution is contingent on their growth.

So, what’s the point? I think there are several…

  • Increased influence is a choice – independent of where you are on the journey.
  • Expanded leadership opportunity is not contingent on your title or stage on the journey.
  • The fuel for advancement and increased contribution is growth, not time.
  • A focus on others will make the journey a lot more fun!

I know we’re all on the journey, my challenge and yours is to navigate the road ahead successfully and take as many people with us as possible!

What travel advice do you have for others on their leadership journey?

 -Mark

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

BreakfastThis famous statement attributed to Peter Drucker, the leadership/management guru (though there is no proof he ever said that) is one of my favorites! This doesn’t make strategy un-important, but it does dig down to the reality that undergirds successful organizations – PEOPLE and PRACTICES!
Adam Bryant, in the first chapter of book Quick and Nimble describes culture like this:
 
“A successful culture is like a greenhouse where people and ideas can flourish – where everybody in the organization, regardless of rank or role, feels encouraged to speak frankly and openly and is rewarded for sharing ideas about new products, more efficient processes, and better ways to serve customers” (p. 11)
 
Both visuals are important culture. In both images, when culture eats strategy for breakfast and when culture is a greenhouse, you might say that culture is what continually forms an environment for the strategy to flourish. You can have a great strategy and terrible culture and you ultimately will fail. But try to find a place with a great culture (not just a fun culture) that doesn’t thrive?
 
People will go the extra mile in an organization with a great culture, they will personally bring their best, because they realize that they are valued as an active shaper of the organization as a whole. When that isn’t true…you hate getting up for work.
 
So if you lead…remember it starts with culture. If you are not a leader, by position, lead by example…set the tone for the organizational culture that you want to see, if this is rejected…keep your eyes open for other places that do get it!

Be up front, even when it hurts!

One of the most important lessons I have learned in relationships and organizational life is that things that bother you, don’t stop – unless addressed. There is something innate in most of us that drives us to avoid confrontations (though I admit, there are a small percentage who seem to thrive off them). We don’t like the idea of addressing things because we fear what could happen, yet we willingly let the problems reside inside of our head, our emotions, and our bodies.

STOP!!!!!!! I know that it sounds easy, but that is what must be done in productive relationships and organizations. In both settings, it is important to create a safe space where we can be up front with one another in a caring and sensitive way, to state the frustrations, challenges, and/or needs that we have in moving forward.

The flip side to this is, we have to provide this space for others as well. There will be times that we unknowingly have offended, annoyed, overworked, or under-appreciated someone that is important to our daily life. When that happens, we need them to tell us…hurt as it will! This is how we grow!

We daily function with an image of both our self and our functioning that is developed from our internal viewpoint – meaning it lacks the depth and clarity of what we would see if we examined ourselves from a 360 degree perspective – but when we give others accepted space to be able to engage with us, the opportunity for real growth begins!

Today, make a plan for being upfront when your team, friends, or family do things that overwhelm, under-perform, or just plain grate at your nerves. Use “I” statements (e.g. “I feel overwhelmed when this happens”) as opposed to “you” statements (e.g. “You are overwhelming me when you do this…”) *We need to be certain that trust has been established in these relationships  prior to addressing issues.

Life is too short and too amazing for each of us to carry things in our baggage that could be remedied by addressing them gently with those that are important to us!

Great article on Collaborative Organizations

We know that none of us is as smart as all of us, right? I love to come across work by others that speak to the core of what this project is all about…collaboration and teamwork. Earlier today, I came across the following article: 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations (the article and model below are the from Chess Media Group)

What I love about this article, and why I am recommending it, is that Jacob Morgan gets it! Collaboration is all about flexibility, impact, and value. Collaboration can’t be forced, but it can be encouraged. Too often, when we promote collaboration, we don’t think about the individual differences in personality that influence the way people see collaboration. Instead, we are thinking from a purely skill/knowledge set approach. If you want to breed greater collaboration, give people space, let it be on their terms, and be sure to provide them with value.

Read the article and also, check out Jacob’s book – The Collaborative Organization!

12principles-hires

Why I Still Don’t Like Lebron, the Cavs, or the Heat (but I respect James more)

As a sport fan, I was growing tired of the #Indecision2014 tag that had been making the rounds throughout last week. My biggest hope for all of this hoopla is that it would not turn our as a repeat of the horrendous made-for-tv ploy of “The Decision.” That being said, while the whispers had been pointing towards it for a time, I was still moderately surprised by LeBron James decision to go back to his “hometown” Cleveland Cavaliers.

Let me take a moment to state this succinctly – I hail from SE Michigan and love all things about Detroit/UM sports, as an effect, I can’t stand the following: Ohio State, any Cleveland team, Michael Jordan, UNC, and LeBron. I grew up in an era where Detroit and UM sports were like the towns of the Detroit area – TOUGH!

Now, I have to admit having LeBron back in Cleveland just means I have less disdain that I have to spread around to NBA franchises, I mean I used to like the Heat back in their early days, but that was surely lost during the LeBron era.

A funny thing happened to all of my annoyance with LeBron the other day – The Letter was released. Gosh the lack of humility found in the “…not 5, not 6, but 7 championships” statement was notably absent and a much more mature LeBron was found.

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go.

Sure, I can nitpick about how some of this was just overblown that the money helped bring him back to Cleveland, that the NBA rigged three lotteries in 4 years to make up for the Decision (and to set up the Return), but I will not let that be the focus. The truth is, while I could (mostly) care less about this choice, I very much respect the character and leadership that his letter shows. Young people make mistakes, being uber-wealthy and having whatever you want only exacerbates that, but growing up…that is what counts. 

Congrats LeBron. You have my respect…until the Pistons play you (kidding, sort of)!

¡Viva la (Co-Working) Revolución!

I will admit it, I have caught the bug. I didn’t get sick, or become an Apple fanatic, or start playing Candy Crush, or any of the other fads that are making the rounds today. I have become a believer in Co-working spaces.

Oh, you don’t know anything about co-working spaces? Check this video out – we will wait for you.

Yep. So that is co-working. Seems like a great fit for a website that is devoted to teamwork, right? As the video points out, these spaces are growing. Why? They are growing because as humans we were meant to be in community. With an estimated 30% of the population moving into some form of independent work (freelance, full-time, side-hustle, affiliate, etc.) situation, the co-working spaces are meeting the needs that we have for interaction, collaboration, and connection.

Beyond the value of community aspect of the co-working space, they have a lot of other advantages. If the competing framework is working from home (which can sometimes lead to isolation), or getting an expensive office space, co-working provides a better alternative for individuals looking for a place that is conducive to work, engage clients, and grow their businesses. The growth of co-working spaces will likely continue over the foreseeable future as continued recognition of the benefits of diversified and remote working flourishes.

We would love to hear from you! Are you a co-worker? Interested in this model? Want to be an investor?

New Article on Humble Teams!

I am pleased to announce that my new article has been come out as part of the work of a wonderful group at People Development Magazine. This issue is part of a 6-month initiative to speak to the top 6 issues facing organizations today (as determined by the Centre for Creative Leadership). The July issue is all about leading a team!

You can check the article out here.