Driving Business Success: Limiting How Much We Look Back

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 2.41.39 PMSince I’ve been working from my home office the last few years, it strikes me that I don’t drive much anymore.  Well, I drive to the airport a fair bit, but day-to-day driving is a thing of my past.  I was thinking about it because I have young teens who are already anxiously focused on learning how to drive.  When we are in the car, they ask tons of questions about how the car works, what the driving laws are, how other drivers respond, etc.  It struck me that when they asked about mirrors and how often I use them, I really don’t look in my rearview mirror much.  Sure, I use it to check when I’m backing up and going that direction, or to do a quick check to ensure that someone else is not going to hit my car from behind.  What I don’t do is use the rearview mirror to determine my direction or progress driving forward.

So, why do we spend so much time looking back in business when we are trying to drive the organization forward?

I first ran into this thinking when I moved from the HR practitioner/ leader ranks to that of a full-time analyst. The thing that surprised me the most was that analysts tend to do surveys that predominantly focus on what happened in the past as a way to predict the future.  Now, that IS very valuable, however, business leaders don’t necessarily benefit from only looking to the past to determine their future direction or approach.  In fact, there are some clear barriers to predominantly focusing on the business rearview mirror.

Barriers when we look back

  • Best Practice- Analysts and companies provide statistics on the “best practices” of an industry or company.  These are certainly interesting data points to consider in your organization, and I do value these.  However, when we try to adopt some other organization’s “best practice” without understanding what our real business issues are, we run the risk of choosing and implementing a process or solutions that may not apply to our workplace.  It also may not drive the appropriate business results.
  • False Solutions- A trap many leaders bring to a new organization is proposing a solution based on what they did in a prior company.  Similar to the best practice, this false solution may not address any of the current company’s problems.  Time and again, we find leaders pursuing a solution in search of a problem, not the other way around.
  • Failure Focus-  There are nay-sayers in every organization.  The barrier is letting these people get you hung up on what went wrong in prior projects and letting that derail future progress.
  • Excruciatingly Slow Data Analytics-  A majority of organization leaders I talk to say that they do not have access to all the data they have.  This means they have no simple, efficient, accurate way to pull data together in order to make a business decision.  By taking too long to get data on the past, the data becomes stale and can lead to missing out on opportunities to make the organization better today.
  • Future Fear- Showing other leaders that we fear the future is going to influence them in embracing their fears as well.

While there are many other barriers, you get the point that by primarily focusing behind us, we may be missing out on opportunities to excel, to drive the business forward, or to fall behind competitors.  Everything we do should not be a response to someone else’s move.  As leaders, the best thing we can do is suggest new and innovative approaches to process, to thinking and to solutions.

What are you doing today?  Are you looking back, or to the future?  Let me know what techniques you use to move yourself, your team and your organization forward.  Please share in the comments.

Stop Aligning Yourself With the Wrong People

bad-friends*From the dusty archives…

Growing up, my parents steered 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, unmotivated, or who lack a moral compass, you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

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.  What do you think?

What is Your Work Personality?

We hear a lot about office culture lately because of it’s impact on a candidate’s job selection decision as well as the employees’ decision to remain with the company.  Since the culture of workplaces are made up of a hodgepodge of personalities and each one adds a unique twist to the mix, it’s this uniqueness that keeps most of us coming back to the workplaces we love.

I recently came across a link on the National Pen website for a fun quiz that determines your office personality.  It reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago about What You’re Known For At Work.  This quiz is along those lines, so I thought I’d share.  Are you more of a “Debbie Downer” or are you one of the most dynamic personalities in your office?

Click the link to take the quiz: What’s Your Office Personality
toy-guy

Now, fun aside, there is a serious side to knowing your own work personality as well as recognizing the personalities of your colleagues.  The reason it’s important is that depending on who you associate with or work for, it can impact the type of work you produce.  According to the 2014 Productivity Impact Study conducted by Taskworld,  of the 1,000 adults aged 18 and over who were surveyed, nearly half attributed a decline in their productivity to deadlines missed by their colleagues.  They also reported that this decreased productivity affected employee morale, satisfaction, and motivation.

Those are big claims, backed up by data.  When you think about all the people you come into contact at work, I bet you can quickly group them by the following:

  • Helpfulness
  • Knowledge
  • Work-related skill
  • Level of distraction
  • Attitude
  • Trust

So, what was your result?  Do you think your style impacts your colleagues positively or negatively?  I’d love to have you share your thoughts in the comments.  By knowing your style and those of your colleagues, it should help you all embrace your inner selves.

The Gifts of the Quest

Have you ever thought about addressing all the imperfections in your life?

Well, I have.  I’ve been on a journey of mind, body and soul.  It all began when I finally realized that I needed to take time, for the first time in my life, to be alone to contemplate and decide where I need to be bold and when I need to rely on someone else to help support me.  I recently took that time and am just now realizing some of the implications that personal and professional changes will bring to me.  They are true gifts.  Part of my journey is related to taking huge risks and challenges on professionally and those are well underway.  Part of the journey is addressing personal issues of health, wellness and family.  All the changes will take time, but I am feeling positive about them all.eatpraylove

Tonight as I prepared a much healthier dinner than normal as part of changing my health, I saw that Eat, Pray, Love was on television.  It had been several years since I last watched this movie and since I remember being inspired by it the first time around, I watched again.  The last time, I was inspired to write about it here on the blog when I discussed seeking a soulmate.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a woman on a journey to find herself and redefine who she is and what she thinks is important and possible.  I won’t give any spoilers, but thought I’d share a quote from the end of the movie that speaks to any of you reading this post who are on a journey of rebirth in your own career or personal life.

“I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”

― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

So, if you’re on a journey, I applaud you.  It’s not pretty, nor is it easy.  Kudos for taking the first steps…

Are You Stressed Out? How To Cope Today

Image from timeshakers.co.ukIn business, we are constantly told that we need to see the big picture.  We are reminded to set long-term, meaningful goals.  We are considered successful and are rewarded when we can take a vision and turn that into reality over the course of time.

But sometimes, when the stress in our workplace becomes too much, you just have to make it through the day.

Start by reminding yourself that we all have those days where we can’t set the world on fire.  Sometimes it’s about just checking off a few tasks and not thinking about the big picture at all.  It’s how we cope.  Then, there are those times we get so wrapped up in the moment that we put far more time and energy into a short-term situation.  It may be because we are under the weather, burned out, or just needing a day of “routine” vs. strategic planning.  But, having those days does not mean you are not a great leader.

Here are some benefits of just being in the moment:

  • Tasks- It can be a great feeling to have a list of tasks a mile long that get checked off.
  • People-  Taking a day to catch up on all those calls you’ve been meaning to return can leave you feeling like you accomplished more than you expected to.
  • Self-  You can give yourself permission to feel ok by doing a solid day’s work.  You can feel satisfied that you still did a good job.

I don’t think it does any leader benefit to always be pushing ahead at 100 m.p.h.  It just leads to being burned out.  Take those days once in awhile to get through a more “routine” existence.  It may just be the little bit of rejuvenation you need. I find that reading up on suggestions of how to cope better sets me on the right track.  I like the article “Why Stress Management Is So Important For Your Health” by Dr. Isaac Eliaz.  What do you think?  How do you handle those days when you’re stressed out or unmotivated?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Small Acts of Kindness That Make a Difference

Waking up on Pacific time means that at 4 am this girl is wide awake.  The benefit is time to blog.  I was sitting here reflecting on a conversation I had last night with some friends.  We all travel quite a bit and one mentioned that he makes a point to ask the airport ticket agents, gate agents, flight attendants, bartenders and servers how they are doing.  This isn’t just a quick meaningless interaction either.  It’s a sincere question and he says it elicits the most surprising results.  People are always excited to tell him and it seems to make their day.

It seems like such a small gesture to ask, sincerely, how someone’s day is going.  Many of these professionals fade into the background of our travel days….like so many other people we come into contact with each day.  I wonder what the result would be if each of us spent today REALLY talking to the people that take care of us all day.

Today is the day to find out.  Let me know in the comments if you have good results or if it made a difference.  Happy Wednesday!

Do Features Trump Attitudes in Workplace Mobility?

chairMy son is winding down his baseball season.  Baseball at the 11U level can be energizing, invigorating, heart-breaking and flat out tiring.  As a parent, you trek far and wide with a car load of 11 year old boys all talking a mile a minute.  They talk about the team they are about to face, the latest Pokemon cards traded or the most recent conquest in Call of Duty.  It’s a dusty, dirty, sweaty mess of boys and I love every second of it.

One of the reasons I enjoy it is that I have the perfect folding chair.  Now stay with me for a moment…I know that little league baseball, folding chairs and business may not seem to have a direct link, but I believe they do.  You see, I spend a lot of time watching games and sitting, so the chair is important.  Not only is it a place to put my body, it’s turned into a whole functional experience that is fully accessorized for each occasion.

The chair I have is from Gander Mountain and it is more than a chair and the traditional cup holder.  In fact, it has a full cooler that drops down and loads of pockets so that I can stock it with drinks, snacks and all my electronic gadgets.  It’s also mobile so that I don’t have to be relegated to the bleachers at the game, I can take my light-weight chair and move it based on the environmental conditions.  I can get the best view, avoid or seek sun and most importantly, choose who to sit near.  The truth is that I usually sit somewhere near home base and often, by the same people.

Imagine if we had that flexibility at work with our work environment.  It’s not a novel concept.  In fact, organizations have been trying to find the best way to offer mobile furniture options and configurations for over 15 years.  While some are successful, many are not.  It’s not because the furniture doesn’t have the right features or ease of movement, it’s because even though employees ask for mobility, once they settle in, they really don’t want to move.  We become tied to the people and location where we perform the act of work, whatever that is.  We tend to rely on the people around us to say hello every morning, to discuss the same tired stories, and to eat our lunch or take our breaks at the same time too.

So is the issue lack of organizations offering flexibility and mobility or is it the fear of the people?  What if we assume it’s the latter?  How does that change your approach when you think of the workplace in the future?  What changes would you put in place to truly encourage greater partnership, collaboration and movement within your organization?  How would you move the people with the “right” skills around the organization most effectively?

It turns out that all the features, options and mobile workspaces won’t change the attitudes of your workforce.  You have to start at the core….when you hire.  You have to bring people into the organization who embrace a spirit of work flowing through the organization rather than being “owned” by specific departments or divisions.

How does this look in your workplace?  Do you have a truly collaborative and innovative workplace?  If so, share it in the comments.  If not, why do you think it’s not that way and can it adapt to the changes in work styles that are coming in the next 5 years?  If change can’t happen, will you just wind up with fancy folding chairs that don’t help the overall future of work?

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.