How to Calculate The Number of People It Takes to Change Your Organization

squarerootBack in 2010 I wrote a post about how to Tap Into Informal Leaders to Influence.  The basic premise of the post was that I learned that in order to turn or change an organization, you only need to find the square root of the total employees and focus on spreading the word through that number of people.  For example:

Organization size-  5,000 employees

Square root of 5,000-  70.71 employees

So, in order to make change stick in this example, you would need to find the 70 employees who are the informal leaders/ influencers and get them on board. Messaging should still come from more formal channels, but by getting the influencers to spread the word with you, you can make a more significant impact on the organizational change.

I have been thinking about this as I have conversation after conversation about organizational culture, influence and employee engagement.  I’ve talked to leaders over the years who sincerely believe that company culture comes from the top down, and maybe that is a possibility.  I tend to embrace the idea that with each new employee you add to the organization, the company culture shifts a bit.  They each help form the ever-evolving culture.  I’m not sure that either opinion is 100% correct and that’s alright.

What I am sure of is that if this theory is true, a company can be changed by a relatively small number of people.  If you’re in a position to want to make your workplace better, more inclusive, more productive and more welcoming to all employees, it really doesn’t take much to turn the whole ship around.  The same holds true for the reverse and this is why a small group can also make a workplace unbearable.

When I first heard this theory, I began reaching out to the informal leaders in my organization whenever a more formal message was coming out.  I would find those influencers who may not have a fancy title or years of service, those who had the ear of the other employees though.  I would make sure they knew what was coming and that they felt like part of the process.  It really seemed to make a difference in getting ideas from management accepted.

What do you think?  Have you experienced this before?  Let me know in the comments.

What Your Desk Lamp Says About You

arne-jacobsen-table-lamp-louis-poulsen-1I’ve been thinking about desk accessories.  When it comes to things like picture frames, pencil holders, and plants, employees and managers alike gravitate to different desk decor.  This brings me to the desk lamp.  When I think back to every job I’ve ever had, I never worked for a company that provided a lamp for my desk.  Whether in a cubicle earlier in my career, or an office as my foray into management arrived, I had to endure the same harsh glare of the fluorescent bulbs that everyone else did.  Until, I didn’t.

One day, I read somewhere that employees were more productive and less stressed when they worked using softer lighting.  I went out and bought my first desk lamp.  I don’t think I put much thought into it at the time, it was just some inexpensive metal stem with a thin paper shade, but the warm glow the bulb produced made a huge difference in my mood while at my desk.  It was all about the function.  As the years flew by and the offices changed, I bought other lamps.  Still, I never thought much about how the lamp base looked, whether it was constructed of wood or metal and the shade didn’t seem to matter either as long as it remained nondescript.

Then I read The Mr. Porter Paperback and an article called The Gear: Desk Lamps. Now I work from home, so my desk lamp is one that is just any old lamp you’d find in a normal, suburban house.  It likely came from Pier 1 or some similar store.  But, according to this article, the thought you put into lamp selection is well worth time and precision.  The article shares great detail of lamps such as the AJ, designed by the legend Mr. Arne Jacobsen, to the Kelvin, “Mr. Antonio Citterio’s high-tech, energy-efficient and impossibly elegant take on the post-Anglepoise typology.” As you can see, there is great care that goes into the design as well as the description.

All this lamp talk brings me to the point of today’s post. We often make purchases of products or solutions based on almost no planning or thought.  As long as the functions needed are met, we make the purchase.  As leaders, we’re still not doing all we can to plan and select the best products and solutions for our organizations. By looking beyond the mere function, we can determine which people put the effort into their product and service.  Those are the people we want to work with.

With each interaction you have with your analyst, your vendor, or your employees, know that great care went into some of the details of the product or solution they sell that you may never fully appreciate. When it comes to desk lamps, I was always just looking for minimal function to get the job done.  As I’ve learned to appreciate, there is far more that goes into product selection than mere function.  There is the design behind those functions.  There are the ideas of how function leads way to a more desirable form. There is excitement and pride in going into a solution that is well made and well used.

So, as you embark on your day, think about this.  Do you have a desk lamp?  Did you think much about it when you purchased it?  If not, approach your interactions today with new eyes…with a sense of appreciation and wonder as you really look at all the tools you use throughout the day.  Whether they are technology driven or not, consider the design and thought behind them.

Draw Your Troubles Away: Creativity and Feelings

crayons_title*Sharing from the dusty archives…I thought it went well with the theme of yesterday’s post about the blank page and how we can be creative.

I came across a documentary called Crayons and Paper about children who reveal their experiences of the devastation of war through their crayon drawings.  Pediatrician Dr. Jerry Ehrlich began making trips to war-torn nations in 1991.  He took his medical expertise and a pocket full of crayons.  As he treated children and experienced the depredation of their world, he reached across any language or cultural barrier by offering a crayon and paper.  The children used the tools to create their vision of their world.  Not only were the drawings profoundly impactful because they were drawn by children living in the epicenter of a war, it was like a jolt remembering something very basic and important that I had long since forgotten.

Drawing is a therapeutic way to express our feelings.

When was the last time you drew something?  I honestly can’t recall.  I color pictures with my children, but those are usually part of a color book or something that comes pre-printed in an art kit.  Drawing can be an effective way to relieve stress according to the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association and I see the effects on my own children’s behavior and stress level when they take time to sit quietly and draw or color.  Why aren’t more adults using this technique to express our feelings or reduce our stress?

As we look at the various stressors in our work day, my challenge to us is to take time today to shut the office door or sneak off to a quiet place at work and draw. Even if it’s a pen and the back of a printed copy of the latest report from finance, just draw.  Let your mind wander and see what you come up with.  Feel free to share your experience in the comments or tell me why this isn’t helpful for adults.

Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Don’t Make Me Unfriend You

Sharing a post from the archives today.  I was reminded of it when a friend recently told me she was dealing with some really unsavory “friends” online and she had to do a cleanse of her so-called friends online.  Could you benefit from cleansing some of these people from your life?

unfriendGrowing up, my parents would steer me away from friends who had undesirable behavior.  Now that I’m a mom, I find myself doing the same thing with my children. Why?  Today’s lesson is a simple one…  you are the company you keep.

  • If you surround yourself with people of good reputation, you will be viewed positively.
  • If you associate with accomplished professionals, you will pick up on what makes them successful.
  • If you affiliate with people who have good values, you will be perceived in the same light.

It frustrates me to see people who surround themselves with people of questionable character.  If you align yourself with people who are arrogant, rude, negative, bossy, demeaning or unmotivated you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

To bring some social media perspective to this, it also applies to your online relationships.  Late night host Jimmy Kimmel recently started a campaign for National Unfriend Day.  While I’m confident that the friends I keep online reflect the quality of people I associate with, I’m thinking this could be a good time for anyone who uses social media to take a hard look at the company they keep.

So, take a good look in the mirror today.  Then, take a look at your contacts online and in your day-to-day life.  If there are people of questionable character, now is your chance to unfollow, unfriend, or dis-associate from them.   You don’t have to associate with negativity.  After all, you ARE the company you keep.

Do Your Leader’s Expectations Limit Your Team?

bad leaderI recently listened to an episode of the podcast This American Life that caused me to see the world differently.  In the episode ‘Batman”, Daniel Kish was highlighted.  If you’re not familiar with Daniel’s story, I encourage you to listen to the episode or learn more here.  Basically, Daniel was born blind.  He intuitively began exploring the world by clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth.  This type of echolocation somehow allows him to navigate his surroundings without the use of a cane or other assistive device.  Because it is similar to the ways bats navigate, he was called Batman.
In the episode, one thing Daniel shared really stood out.  Society limits blind people with our expectations.  We don’t expect that they will be able to navigate easily, ride a bike, play sports, etc.  If a blind child is subjected to growing in this type of environment, it’s possible it can actually limit the child’s potential.  Daniel stressed being supportive of people, regardless of what our preconceived notions and expectations are.
I started thinking about how this plays out in the workplace.  It raises the question do your leader’s expectations or preconceived notions limit your team?
 
This question is not meant to incite leaders everywhere.  I pose it as a way to ponder whether or not we are limiting our team performance.  Consider the following:
  • If a leader creates a goal for a team, team member or project and provides some or all of the steps to reach the goal (a.k.a. micro-managing), are they limiting the performance of the team?
  • Are leaders so entrenched in certain approaches that they are not providing environments where employees are encouraged to be creative, innovative and able to come up with new processes to achieve business goals?
  • If your supervisor does not see the real skills of the team, can it hinder the success even though each member is giving their all?
What is your experience?  Have you seen this play out in your workplace?  Please share in the comments if you’ve seen it or even better, if you’ve seen how it is corrected.

Revisit: The 5 Love Languages & How Yours Impacts Your Relationships

*From the dusty archives… I recently had a conversation with a friend about this book and it was a good reminder to revisit how understanding expressing love can help in all your relationships.

5-love-languagesI’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time-  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts-  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

Celebrating HR Pros: Victorio Milian

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Frank Roche, Trish McFarlane, Victorio Milian & Steve Boese NYC~ December 2009

It’s not often that I remember the exact moment I meet someone. Even if I do for awhile, the memory fades or becomes fuzzy over time.  One clear exception was the day I met Victorio Milian.

Maybe it was because he had been a man of mystery most of the time I had known OF him.  Back in the day, he was an anonymous HR blogger… one of the few…and his writing made him stand out to me.  His blog was one I read religiously.  When he finally revealed his real persona, I was floored.  He was even cooler than I expected.

So, how did we meet? It was a snowy December in New York City and I was in town to participate in an event.  We, along with Steve Boese and Frank Roche, agreed to meet in a local bar.  I don’t know what Victorio thought, but the second we met I had to hug him. Since then we’ve seen each other in person numerous times and each time I am just excited to see him again.

What is it about Victorio?

He is this madly smart, funny and MOTIVATED man.  He is one of those people you can start having a conversation with and it turns into something bigger, more profound.  He inspires people to work on projects, often for free, for the betterment of the HR industry.  He’s:

  • selfless
  • helpful
  • endearing
  • powerful
  • gentle
  • informed
  • polite
  • a disrupter
  • a real family man
He’s this unique blend of all things and he uses those strengths to make sense out of chaos.  He’s a person I would drop most anything for.  He is a true friend.

So on Tim Sackett day, this day that we honor a real stand-out in the HR profession, it makes perfect sense that Victorio Milian is the honoree. Please follow him on Twitter, read his blog, connect with him on LinkedIn, and make him part of your network.  You’ll be glad you did.