Category: Team Effectiveness

Photo Courtesy of PBS:                   What Irma Left Behind

Hurricane Management and Leadership that Works

Strong Leadership and Hurricanes are very similar in that they are both transformational, purposeful, and engaging. However, one way they are very different is that leadership cannot be a force that cannot be reasoned with, otherwise, it will have consequences one of which is follower attrition or turn-over.

 

Many automatically associate Turnover with cost cutting, downsizing and poor employee engagement although this is not always the case. There is a type of turnover that is the voluntary kind and is in fact good news for an organization, especially when the organization aspires to be a Learning Organization. Take a technology company like Google, if Google hired three hundred entry-level engineers in 2014 and in 2016 had a voluntary turnover of 50%, is that a bad thing? No, absolutely not. On the other hand there is turnover of the voluntary kind that is due to poor employee engagement, lack of productivity, poor innovation, lack of job mobility, poor communication, etc. This is a real dilemma with real implications. But there is also a turnover of the involuntary kind that occurs during change. It is associated with engagement, poor communication and culture issues, centered around change, but not necessarily discontinued after change.   Take the case with GE.

 

GE Case Study

Consideration of GE has reportedly announced layoffs to balance spending cuts   This information comes merely months after the move of their corporate headquarters to Boston. Beside the fact that GE is among the various organizations the government bet on funding over $150 million in state and city subsidies, we wonder whether there is also a hyperbole parallel to their GE –Workout Method at play here.

As I/O psychologists we are of the understanding that change in large organizations is not a magical wave of a wand Despite evidence-based practices that help organizations save money, work more efficiently and increase employee engagement, the true road block to effective change remains to be institutional inertia. And what is inertia? Is Inertia just lack of movement, or is it lack of agreement?

One of the key aspects of the GE-Workout Method is that Leaders and managers identify areas for key business improvement and challenge those closest to the work to recommend ways for reaching that goal. Then on the other hand, those closest to the work, make specific recommendations in how to meet the goal and implement the approved recommendation within 90 days. Well, call us idealistic, but isn’t there an underlying assumption at play here? A key business improvement is all we heard. We didn’t hear any information in the form of initial feedback or observation even from or about the people who are running those business units. Now in developing this process, GE has presented the case that it fights beaurocracy. But if the identification of the problem is still rising out of the Leadership and Management, isn’t that more of the old beaurocracy? In a survey of clients of the GE Method it was cited that 20% mentioned the “risk of sub optimized analysis and decision-making” that can result from the Work-Out’s requirement for executive, on-the-spot decisions. Another 20% also mentioned “executive anxiety and defensiveness” with regard to the speed and process of decision-making.

 

Why Employee’s Emotions Matter

 

The limbic system, which combines higher mental functions and primitive emotions into one system, tells psychologists that decisions cannot be solely made by the cortex. It’s not only responsible for our emotional lives, but also many higher mental functions such as learning and formation of memories. According to the study presented in Association of Psychological Sciences . “When individuals are making a financial decision, “reflections” often occurs. Under conditions of acute stress, increased risk taking behavior was observed”. In fact, neuro-imaging and bio-feedback data has shown that stress may influence neural responses to feedback in the ventral striatum suggesting that stress may dampen our perceptions of the subjective value of our decisions.  

 

In truth, employees are people and people can only function if they feel valued and understood. In fact one of the key aspects of Emotional Intelligence is that those with higher emotional intelligence are expected to be able to manage stress more effectively and draw boundaries as necessary to protect their emotional wellbeing. According to Equity Theory, if employees’ subjective measures of stress are heightened because an employer’s expectations and respect for the employee are inequitable, or one sided, the employee will not feel supported, capable and keen to cooperate. In other words, the employer’s valuation cannot be effective if it is conditional. If in response to a key business issue, there is havoc and crisis, threats of job cuts, and focus groups designed to make changes fast, morale will be shaken and human capital will not be onboard. Financial results can only be gained through consistent, human capital or people practices. And it is our strong belief that through consistent and supportive processes, problems could be researched and identified within the existing systems and then through behavioral science tested and implemented in large-scale, low-cost approaches rather than job elimination.

Photo credit: Naional Geographic Kids

We all know that negative thoughts directly impact our happiness.  But did you know that negative thoughts are actually literally poisonous to our psychological and emotional health?

Case in Point

 Let’s imagine you are sitting in your family room after having watched the news on TV regarding the much anticipated hurricane Irma. You are by yourself and go to bed immediately after, with thoughts of worry and concern. Am I prepared? Did I buy what we needed? Is our home insulated well? Then all of a sudden, the rain starts outside and you hear drops of rain tapping on the window. Before you realize it, the sound magnifies and all you can hear are the water droplets on the window. You start by thinking “oh my gosh, what if that leaky faucet we’ve had in the kids bathroom doesn’t handle the pressure? “ “What if the pool overflows into the house? “What if Katie accidentally falls in the pool when she is out doing her business?” And on and on and on, your thoughts are racing. You have to wake up early the next day and you have now spent over an hour tossing and turning in bed, flooded with so many negative thoughts about a hurricane that has not even been determined to effect your area.

How Did You Get Here?   

All of this was triggered by the sound of rain. Something simple, was transformed into something very hazardous by your thoughts. Automatic Negative Thoughts are just exactly that. Slow, but consistent at first, and then turn by turn, they have the potential to form in to a category 5 hurricane if we allow them. Its possible to stop them, but very difficult.   Why? Because they have literally gotten your mind sick!

Here’s how thoughts grow into a phenomenon in our brain within the Limbic System. The two very serious illnesses of depression and anxiety are heavily caused by rumination, obsessions and the elaborate need for control of people and our environment. The need for control first begins with a single thought “what is going to happen?” Then it begins to take hold of our psyche and quickly turns in to fear, if it is not reasoned with. Why fear? Because the answer to “what is going to happen?” will always be “I don’t know”. If voluntarily stopped right away with a statement such as “I guess we will have to see” or “god knows” or “no one knows” or my personal favorite “let the chips fall where they may” we will ride through a few seconds of concern and then the gateway to fear will close. Otherwise, if the gate is opened and we answer “gosh, what if ….”, or “this is not good” , or “why did he say that and not …’, or “is it because I said,,,,”, we have now entered the land of chaos, despair, hopelessness, and self-doubt. There is a Liberian proverb that says: “ Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

What Are you Thinking?

Every time you have an angry, scary, sad or happy thought, your body releases chemicals that activate your brain’s limbic system. Dr. Mark George, M.D., from the National Institutes of Mental Health, demonstrated this in a significant study. He studied brain activity in 10 healthy women under three different laboratory conditions. Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), their brains were viewed as these women were illicitted to think happy, neutral and sad thoughts. During the happy thoughts, the women’s brains demonstrated a cooling of the deep limbic system. During the sad thoughts, there was a significant increase in deep limbic system activity. This is evidence that our thoughts tell our bodies what to do and hence we can tell our thoughts what to think. Polygraph and Lie detector tests, or what we actually believe to be most accurate here at the Center for Work Life, through Credibility assessment and Facial Action Coding, are based on this Limbic System response algorithm.

The Make Up of the Limbic System

The various parts of the the Limbic System, the Hypothalamus, the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Cingulate Cortex all have different functions and hence different hormones associated. The hormones are impacted by our thoughts and set the tone for our emotional wellbeing. The more unhappy, fearful, anxious thoughts we have the more sick our brain will get and the more those thoughts will form within us.   The same way, our immune system weakens with lack of sleep, alcohol, poor diet etc. Happy, positive experiences and thoughts are like boosters and vitamins for the Limbic System.

Photo Credit: Think Tank Centre

 

 

To Be or Not to Be Following our Thoughts

Just the same way as our thoughts can work for us during a speaking presentation, when we are excited and a surge of adrenaline allows our brain to give the best performance, or when we meet someone, and know we are attracted to them because, butterflies form in our stomach and think we want to have a meaningful relationship with them, it can work against us. Many people believe just because it is a thought, it must be true. Well, that is not correct! Unless you consciously think about your thoughts, they can form pretty automatically. We can think of them as pimples. Yes, your skin can automatically form pimples, but with a good skincare regimen coupled with the proper water intake, and diet and exercise, your skin is constantly resurfaced and cleansed, training everyday to not have pimples.

Socio-cultural Influences

Our culture is one of future planning. College savings, Life Insurance Policies, 401K plans, Saving’s Bonds, Mutual Funds, and even Home Mortgages etc. are all designed tools for the future. Forget about the concept of Capitalism and who profits here, and let’s stay with the “what” part of it. As human beings, were we meant to be future oriented? Or did we become conditioned somewhere along the way to become that way? Well, looking at Research in to other mammalian species, the dog for example, could help us realize that, we could be perfectly content living in the moment. Now, we are not advocating going out and maxing out credit cards, and forgetting about saving for our future, but we are saying, we can plan for tomorrow but live for today. In other words, when we think about happenings around us, we can use our Emotional Intelligence and divide them in to three categories easily: 1. the plannable, 2. The unplannable, 3. Somewhere in between.

 Whether we are working a full-time job out there, or working full-time at home, as a home maker or parent, our work week is in The Somewhere in Between category. We can plan what activities we want to be engaged in, whom those activities will be involving, and even times those activities can be scheduled for. However, the outcomes of those activities, the length in real time it will take to complete the actitivities, the propellers vs. the hinderers will not be plannable. If you try to plan or analyze, or predict outcomes, you will spin yourself in to anxiety. The trick: You have to stop any future oriented, uncontrollable outcome related thoughts right away before they get hold of your brain. In other words, if they have already gotten to the 3rd scenario or “what if,” in this case, they are way too powerful to stop.

8 Everyday Exercises for a Healthy and Happy Brain at Work or in Life

  1. I am not in control; a power greater than me is.
  2. I surrender and accept whatever comes my way
  3. Uncertainty is a part of being alive
  4. When I am faced with an activity that worries me, I will imagine my favorite beach and I will get in, prepared but free to experience every wave.
  5. I will cross bridges as I arrive at them, and enjoy the process no matter what
  6. As soon as a negative thought enters my head, I treat it like a hurricane warning, I prepare, stay alert but calm, and use my support system.
  7. Keep record of my past trials and accomplishments and send empowering messages to my psyche
  8. I push myself to stay present in every task circumstance and tribulation.

 

 A very powerful quote by one of the most celebrated Persian Sufi Poets of the 14th Century Mahmud Shabistari said: “The past has flown away. The coming month and year do not exist. Ours only is the present’s tiny Point.”

 

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Fact:  The more successful you are, the greater your risk of developing blind spots. Why?  Because we all suffer from Hubris to some various degrees.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you have undoubtedly heard Dr. Namin speak on Hubris and how the greatest Achilles for most CEOs is their inability to see that and other possible blind spots as they grow to be more successful.  The road from Good to Great means reinventing oneself and constantly discovering character defects and breaking bad habits that stand in our way.  One such habit, or what we like to call character defect, is perfectionism.  

 

Although it may seem that perfectionism may have served you well at certain points of life because it has pushed you to do your best, be more competitive, etc., in reality, it has not surmounted to you feeling more confident as a result of those wins, but has rather built you up to be more dependant on them. Complicated, we know. But what is not complicated is yet another fact. The fact, although seemingly counterintuitive, is that there is actually a very dangerous cycle; a Triad of psychological disorders that is given life and fed by perfectionism.

There’s a direct link between perfectionism, depression and anxiety; Crippling anxiety for that matter. The lowest level of the anxiety causes procrastination. One may think that perfectionists want everything done neatly, thoroughly and timely, which they do. However, more often than not, they feel such pressure to do things perfectly that they are overwhelmed before they even start. A soothing behavior is then to keep occupied with a million other tasks, so that they always have an excuse for why they’re unwilling to do; what actually needs to be done.

 

If you already know that are a perfectionist, you’ve probably already found it troublesome; possibly have even been majorly hurt by at some point in your life. Quick decision to write things or people off, disappointment in your own abilities and anguish in missed opportunities, not to mention impaired or lost interpersonal relationships.

 

In a recent coaching session, I was asked by a very well accomplished executive and perfectionist; “Based on what we’ve discussed and what you know about me, do you think I will be successful if I venture to doing….?”  I knew better than to say of course, or no you wouldn’t. You see, because I come from a school of thought that believes no one lives by the truth of others; even if they find that other person trustworthy and credible. Everyone lives by his or her own truth.

 

So, let’s get back. What is Perfectionism?

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, it is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression (2), and eating disorders (3)”.

In other words, perfectionism is the idea that a state of complete flawlessness can is the only acceptable way. Perfectionists believe that any outcome anything less than perfect is not good enough and completely unacceptable.

 

Anyone having ever worked with a perfectionist boss knows the pain and anguish we are talking about here. Nothing is ever good enough. Unrealistic expectations, micromanaging characteristics, attacks on the employee’s character which leads to bullying, belittlement and the demise of the overall morale of the department/organization not to mention legal ramifications. Furthermore, let’s not forget perfectionist project managers. They get so sidetracked by going for perfection, that they end up halting the progress of the project, causing conflict and frustration among others, undermining collaboration and bringing about missed deadlines instead.

Perfectionism not only causes the individual undue levels of stress, hopelessness, frustration and anxiety, but can make other’s lives miserable leading to ostracizing just to keep sanity.

 

So what? What is wrong with striving for perfection?

 

  1. An obsessive and pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, and fear of the future.

     2.  Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, because of their unwillingness to begin projects for enjoyment and     

         good outcomes. They know deep in their hearts that starting the project will cause overwhelmingly high  

         levels of stress and pressure for them, because it has to end in absolute perfection.

    3.   The irony of it all is that perfectionism makes for less effectiveness, when the initial goal was more

          effectiveness. Because perfectionists “throw out the baby, with the bathwater”. Translation: quitting,

          complaining, or uprooting the process out of anxiousness, because perfection was not immediately

          forthcoming.

 

Where does perfectionism come from?

Before action, there is thought, and before, thought, there is attitude. And attitudes can be viral and pandemic. The attitude to see the wrong rather than the right is what feeds perfectionism. When a child is raised in an environment of perfectionist attitudes, they begin to model that attitude as their way of life. Some examples include:

Hyper -critical or demanding parents, parents/caregivers who were quick to point out mistakes and slow to give praise.

  • Having to perform under huge expectations and feeling valued purely
  • through achievements.
  • The sad concept is that these parents and caregivers where most likely

victims themselves.

So where does it all stop?

One of the best ways to get a clear understanding of whether you are a Perfectionist is to gather a 360 Feedback.  You can do this with your personal circle (three close people) or at your work environment (boss, coworker, employee) this is best done professionally.  The Feedback can be a tremendous gift; a tool and an immense opportunity to become aware, adjust your unwanted behaviors and create the balance necessary for joy and a sense of accomplishment to enter your life. 

 

Some sure tell signs of perfectionism are:

 

1) You obsessively play and replay a mistake you made

2) You are intensely competitive and can’t stand negative feedback

3) You are overly critical of others

4) You are constantly striving for independence and won’t ask for help

5) You find yourself very angry or sad or both a lot of the time when your expectation are not met

 

Our Five Tips for Keeping your Perfectionist in Check:

 

  1. Find and replace your “natural role models” (parents/caregivers) and find new role models. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning those you love, but rather rewiring your thoughts. Below are some examples of great role models.

 

  1.  Look to the past, but just as a planning tool not a self-Assessment/ identifying tool

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank did not have success out of the gate. Shortly after college, he was at rock bottom and living in his grandmother’s basement. However, he worked hard and persevered, and now uses the methods of his football playing days to build his business for the future. His managerial style is not unlike that of a captain of a sports team, and his company culture enforces a team-focused mindset that breaks into huddles for meetings, instead of having the typical round table discussion. The idea is to grow from past struggles and use those struggles in a different way to make future goals obtainable. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

 

  1.  Surround yourself by free spirited individuals

If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers. There are many examples of people who have failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

Stories are a great way to get inspired. This is exactly why religious books, and mythology were used to help people transition from one phase of life to another in many cultures. There is power in story and identifying with a character that has gone through many trials only to re-emerge as the hero.

 

  1.  Defy “Normalcy” and Strive to be Different

Break the binds and the shell that is dictated by society, norms, ideals, religion, or beauracracy. Define who you want to be by defining your boundaries instead.

Google CEO, Larry Page. Clearly, he’s intelligent and creative. He’s also driven, ambitious, and collaborative. All of these traits lead to his appreciation of innovation and his desire for others to bring innovative ideas and new thinking to the table, as evidenced in his work philosophy—“We should be building great things that don’t exist.” That thinking propels the company to take on radical-seeming projects (called “moon shots”) that push the boundaries of whatever is currently the “norm.” And that thinking drives his rigorously pushing employees to do their best, to set their own expectations for the moon.

 

  1.  Start, Fail, Repeat, Repeat Repeat

Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In a Wall Street Journal article, there is a story from the early days of Amazon, when the company was only a bookseller.  It is said that in those days, the company was so underequipped that they didn’t even have packing tables to pack the books, and employees had to pack thousands of books, long hours at a time, on their knees.  

But by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.  

You see, what many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that he came from a farming background, not an MBA, executive culture. Having been raised on his grandfather’s farm and working there through his adulthood like, he was in the business of running and fixing tractors. Hence he began to be well versed in loving the process not just the end.  He is keen to the art of perseverance.  His fortitude and ability to accept failure, as a byproduct of creation is what sets him apart from perfectionist creators.  

 

His idea for Amazon was not a genius one, but he had a vision, and the vision was to turn Amazon into a machine. Over the years, he was so attuned to his customers, that he was able to continuously improve the process of procurement and shipment.  What was initially a small system, became a massive enterprise.  Amazon’s functioning and customer service, came alive like a machine, not unlike the tractors he had built and took apart years before.  By having patience with the process, not fearing failture but taking in lessons it taught, Bezos has now created an incredibly efficient machine. A machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities.

 

This thing called Life

Sun Tzu, the Chinese Author and Philosopher in the Art of War said:  “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things”.  We live in a culture of Win-Loose; a culture of immediate gratifications that tries to teach us and our children that what you have objectively is what and who you are.  Who we are is in our minds, and how we live our lives and touch those we come in contact with is what defines us.  Your life is not a snapshot bur rather a reel of film, with segments of many many trials and tribulations and that is why What you are is defined by the means and not by the end.

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You are probbaly wondering what does Ebola have to do with your career, other than the fact that god forbid you somehow contracted the illness and had to be in quarentine, etc. etc. 

No, that is not where we are going with this.  Although the Ebola virus in our eyes as human being and victims of the disease is a deadly virus and it reality it is a very smart and calculated being.  Here is what we already know about the Ebola Virus:

1.  It knows it’s purpose and has done it successfully and consistently since the 70’s

2.  It thrives hosted within a familiar and trusted environment

3.  It is a national and  international sensation and it knows it

4.  It knows how to blend in and when to flare up

4.  It has great longevity (referring to its ability to sustain itself)

5.  It has has upward mobility (currently being the biggest epidemic in history)

Again what does this have to do with your career?  As a practicing industrial/organizational psychologist, a coach and a trusted advisor, I have had the pleasure of working with so many professionals and one of the chief complaints I have heard regardless of status, number of years of experience, education, or pay has been “I don’t know where my career is headed”.  Beyond the obvious human condition of not having a crystal ball and not being to unfortunately foretell the future, the truth of the matter is that you have more power and control over your career than you may think or willing to admit to.  Well, what if you considered your ambitions the Ebola Virus?  Not in a negative way, so this exercise takes a bit of reframing your original mind frame.  Rather, viewing your career goals as a push forward, “nay” resistant, calculated, has a life of its own creature?  Now look at the 5 items above and read them from the perspective of your job and career.

There is a “science” to herding your career and advancing your goals in the work arena.  It is true that with the world of globalization, technology and unprecedented layoffs, predictability is definitely not what it used to be.  However, risk management applies to money management and finances 10, 20, or even 30 years down the line, so why can’t your career follow suite?  But it can.  Between emotional intelligence, careful and planned training, and network building we have got you covered.  We counsel career professionals, executives and the c-suite on these matters daily, so take a comfortable seat and lend and ear.

1) Find a familiar host and/or trusted environment

It’s true. It’s who you know, not what you have accomplished. Many people do not want to believe this simple but unspoken rule about life and work because it means the hardest working, most creative, most dedicated people are not necessarily going to get the next promotion.

This means that unless you have  a good relationship with key people directly or at least indirectly,  you will not get ahead no matter how hard you work, no matter what your accomplishments are.

The person who will get the next big promotion or the next big job opportunity will be someone who knows the boss better than you do, someone who has more face time with the boss, and someone who the boss has better chemistry with.

People climb up the ladder and/or get recognized because the boss feels they can be trusted to do the job, to follow thoroughly, and to be a loyal supporter. You may be all of these, but unless you can communicate that clearly, no one will know.  Prior accomplishments are often not the main consideration.  I have often coached individuals who feel discouraged that they are getting passed on opportunities.  After further inquiry I have almost always gotten to know that there is always a counter part who gets recognition after recognition, and promotion after promotion.  When I inquire why they believe the other individual keeps getting ahead, their response is “I don’t know, to me it seems that all the person does is a lot of talking”.  My response “thank you, I am  Sure they are very articulate and very well spoken, but comparing their track record to you, you don’t see all the hoopla?  The trust upper management places on an individual is usually not necessarily correlational to the numbers.  Given today’s economical conditions, that is usually a requirement rather than a plus.  Upper management puts trust on the individual who toots the company’s horn, their team’s horn, and supports the boss’s agenda whether through an added skill(more on this below), or presentation, etc.

2) Be a national and an international sensation and know your worth

On the opposite side, I have worked with individuals who are constantly looking for the next opportunity and pushing the bar against their own self  What’s their secret? When I observed these individuals closely, I often notice that they never pass up an opportunity to market themselves. Yet they do it so subtlety, that most people either don’t notice, or are not turned off or annoyed by it.

Whenever there was a large meeting with both peers and superiors, this person would find a way to get everyone’s attention. Then, while discussing the current topic she would ever so slightly mention something what she and her team had just accomplished. However small, she would somehow show a connection between that accomplishment,  and the topic at hand.  In this way, every accomplishment was highlighted to management.

For further examples you may refer to the book How to Guerrilla Market Yourself and Get What You Deserve by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin. Once you get used to doing this, it becomes so natural and almost subliminal in it’s effect.

So the tip here is to make sure upper management, other branches, or locations know what your contributions and accomplishments are, and do it in a subtle way if possible.  Don’t rely on your boss to broadcast this, Be your Own Messanger.

3) Know your purpose and stick to it

If you have read any of the material on this web site you know by now how important it is to do the work you were cut out to do. It’s hard to be passionate and committed to doing work that does not utilize your natural talents and your personal competitive advantage. Spend 15 to 20 minutes everyday and take an inventory of your passions and talents and see which ones you are constantly nurturing.  A part of our Career Planning Program is the discover y of “what types of work you were truly meant to do”.

4) Know when to blend in and when to “flare up”

Disagreeing with upper management or anyone for a matter of fact in front of other people is simply not smart. Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends clearly states that “no one likes criticism”.  No matter how close you and the other individual are and how right you think you are, never disagree with them in public, even if they invite you to. Instead, learn to become a valuable advisor and yes to the boss especially. Here’s how…

If you disagree with the boss, wait until you two have a private moment and then explain your viewpoint. Then, at the end say “Thanks for listening to me. I really appreciate the opportunity to be heard. You are the boss, and I am a loyal soldier so I will do it your way. “

Why? Even the most confident boss will have doubts about himself. So while he / she does not need you undermining his/her credibility, there is an underlying achiever there that will appreciate “Constructive criticism”. Bosses want to see that everyone is in alignment and following them. So doing any  dissension is really a disservice to them but ultimately to your career.

If you really want to get ahead, anticipate future issues and possible disagreements and discuss them in private, ahead of time. In this way you become a trusted advisor to the boss. This will build trust and demonstrate loyalty.

I once had an employee who used this skill with me many times. He would come into my office and say something like this: “There is going to be a meeting later today and I expect this issue to come up. I just want to give you a heads up. Here is my perspective… and here is the opposing view…”

Eventually I learned to trust this person and I felt we made a great team. I would frequently seek out his opinion before making critical decisions. So I know first hand that this process does work.

5) Create upward mobility by filling a Gap In a Skill Set

Through observation, research and record keeping you can connect dots in others behaviors and learn how to connect with them .  One of the facets of Emotional Intelligence, and also the best way to get close to key people in the organization  and to make yourself truly valuable. If done well, this will truly benefit the organization.

All of us have Achilles, some that we recognize and others we might not be aware of. The key is to understand the strengths and challenges of those around us  and see if we can somehow fill the gap.  I observed this in one organization where the boss was not very strategic, and his position did require that he provide direction and vision to the organization. One astute direct report figured this out and made a point of regularly communicating with the boss and coming to him with strategic ideas, vision and direction. The executive adopted many of these ideas and they became his own and that of the entire organization.

Once you have fulfilled  a need missing within a superior and it is noticed, you are branded in their mind, and even the organization if you go about it smartly.  That goes beyond all other hard skills you possess.

To understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others, all you need to do is pay attention and observe patterns.

 

 Many of the viruses and diseases of our past have been eradicated by measurement.  To eradicate the Ebola virus as well, careful assessment of its patterns of behavior will be key.  Through measurement, we will establish a pattern of behavior, and condition the infection to fall on its face.

 

 

Courtesy of NBC Studios

Courtesy of NBC Studios

The most recent episode of America’s Got Talent was conducted in a different manner than usual and many attribute this difference to Howard Stern and his thinking out of the box mentality. In a nutshell and we will come back to this later, he referred to the delivery of results, but through engagement rather than the judgment. We all know them; the companies that thrive on the “threat factor”. This is when a highly beurocratic, top-down organization trains its executives and upper management to use the threat tactic in so called motivating their employees. Many such organization rely on a short-term satisfaction guarantee employee relations model. Which basically says, when it comes to front-line, Customer interface staff, be it sales, or customer service, the mantra of the company is not to keep its employees happy long-term. The company hopes to bank on short-term results. Getting the essence out of every employee in a short period of time, giving them the tools and training to do well but hit the ground running fast and furious, train others to do the same as fast as possible and then down the line, plan your exit. Some may believe, well how is this different than the old GE mentality. It may be at a glance that the two types of companies function under the same governance when it comes to talent development, except that in a very wicked, upside down way, the latter promises growth and success, while having no intentions on delivering it.

 

When Jack Welch introduced the concept of performance evaluations he would fire the bottom 10% of his managers, irrespective of absolute performance and rewarded those in the top 20% with bonuses and stock options. But At least we know with GE opportunities were ample. For example, Jack Welsh expanded the broadness of the stock options program at GE from just top executives to nearly one-third of all employees. His plan was never to have employees short-term but rather to create a clearly defined line for success. Understanding what criteria are necessary for success and creating trust for the employees to know that a certain applied behavior will get them the desired outcomes.

The companies aforementioned, have no interest in employee success. They are solely invested in the company’s success. The irony is that they don’t realize short-term success is the enemy of long-term success.   There is a great quote by Arthur Golden that says: “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory”. The reason I love this quote is because it directly speaks to the power of psychology. Not only in a mind over matter way, but also from a spatial reasoning process. Our brain, by its make-up can only do one thing and one thing well at a given time. We can train ourselves to do more than one thing at a time, and we have done that. Nothing to be proud of because “multi-tasking” is actually not a good thing. But rather than a western concepts brought upon by our inability to respect the concept of here and now, and the quality of our achievements, rather than the quantity of our doings. The reason short-term success doesn’t work, is because people function based on virtues such as trust, loyalty, equity, and the internal need to achieve. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs precisely describes achievement as one of the higher needs, because security and our primary needs, need to be fulfilled first. Employees that are in constant defense mode, because they are constantly bombarded by negative feedback or more correctly names criticism, cannot be in a winning mindset, because they are too busy recovering their more basic needs, with the biggest being security. Insecurity, automatically pushes our brain in to fight or flight mode, and that is no place to be for achievement. From a spatial perspective also, for those that are more sensory thinkers, we cannot be in two places at the same time. If your mind is occupied by worry, it cannot be focused on your goal.

The concept of employee engagement goes much deeper than holding a red flag or bar over an employee and every time there is a little indiscretion or even a minor change in performance to dangle it and get a slap on the hand, followed by a verbal “score card” that basically yells, “you are doomed and can’t expect to get that raise, promotion, etc. that you had so dreamed of”. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, there was a specific large-scale study mentioned which discussed the concept of engagement . Bain & Company, in conjunction with Netsurvey, analyzed responses from 200,000 employees across 40 companies in 60 countries and found several troubling trends:

  • Engagement scores decline with employee tenure, meaning that employees with the deepest knowledge of the company typically are the least engaged.
  • Engagement scores decline as you go down the org chart, so highly engaged senior executives are likely to underestimate the discontent on the front lines.
  • Engagement levels are lowest among sales and service employees, who have the most interactions with customers.

Sometimes, it is encouragement, dialogue and problem solving that leads to the best results, rather than disciplinary action. I am not even referring to the concept of threat, because as discussed above, that is never a good strategy for success. As opposed to negative feedback, or judgment, employees sometimes are most receptive to a trusting, encouraging, and nurturing environment. I guess good old Howard Stern knows a bit more about business than we have given him credit for over the years. On America’s Got Talent he proclaimed that the judges didn’t have to be critics. They could be cheerleaders. How brilliant is that? Cheerleaders. Can you imagine the possibilities, if every organization could train its leaders and executives to lead with that voice and shape desired behaviors rather than trying to kill the spirit of employees who displayed performance troubles? There has to be a difference between intention of good performance and negligence and lack of motivation. What are we teaching our employees if we treat both the motivated and the unmotivated the same?

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