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What rush hour traffic taught me about work-life balance

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view through the windshield of a car during rain

It’s 7:30. I stare out the window of my VW; driving into work, ignoring the usual chaos that is the Baltimore Beltway. But this morning, I barely notice the sea of brake lights in front of me, this morning I’m thinking – wow, I’m lucky.  I get to be here. Not here on the Beltway, no one ever really wants to be there. But here in the sense of where I am, where I now find myself – at an incredible junction in my life.

Have you ever felt that way before? Personally? Professionally? In today’s day and age, employers are seeing a trend of transient job holders. The millennial generation job-hops like no one’s business (think Tigger on steroids) and for what? Because we want to learn what we can and our motivators outweigh our satisfiers. Research shows that millennials value benefits and culture above pay. So what’s this all mean? It means I’ve been thinking about what life has in store for me, and the immense gratitude I feel for eQ and its intentional onboarding process. In my experience, a calendar with my first month planned out was not a part of my arrival on the job, but at eQ it is, because entreQuest specializes in this strategy. eQ actively thinks about the onboarding process, and advises clients on what this involves and what is necessary to attract talent and retain talent. It all just clicked for me staring out the window.

I recently read an article that quoted the CEO of Etsy.com. Now I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said that it’s not about work-life balance. Today, it’s about work-life integration. It was as if a plastic hammer, you know the kind you receive at a carnival, whaled on my head. Duh. Today we spend more time away from home than ever. It’s imperative for my happiness, passion, and purpose that I find a place that serves as home away from home. Day one, I felt like I joined a work family.

Where I’ve joined has expectations. And they are completely warranted because my employer is transparent, authentic, and speaks from a place of trust. I clearly recall being told in my interviews, “we’re all adults here.” So, where I’m going with this is, there’s maturity, flexibility, and accountability at my workplace. There’s a humbleness and wholeness. People are themselves and bring their whole self to the office. This means that life and work are blended. It would be unnatural if we tried to keep them separate. Lots of organizations still experience the effects of people not being fully present – in essence, holding back. eQ has been preaching the importance of authenticity for a long time, and it certainly shows in our office and visible difference are felt for our clients practicing wholeness as well. Maybe it’s time you ask yourself, would you rather feel limited and hesitant in your day-to-day or would you prefer to feel encouraged to be fully there? Think about it.

 

 

Alexandra Wieland is a Project Specialist at entreQuest and works closely with all eQ team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

 

Posted in Culture, Gratitude, Millennials | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The problem with Millennials

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arms-crossed-bow-tieYou see, the problem with Millennials is… (feel free to insert the research that supports your current, favorite dig on this population). You know, things like: “they have a strong sense of entitlement,” or “they are lazy,” or “they think they should be paid a lot and work a little,” or “they just don’t have the same work ethic that I did when I graduated.”

Every generation has been characterized in some way, shape or form. I love reading the thoughts, theories, and research.

Want the real secret to connecting with Millennials (and any other generation), and having them as a productive part of your healthy and growing organization?

Just between you and me, here are three truths that will help you succeed with Millennials:

• Foster connections. Humans crave connection. Connection doesn’t manifest itself the same across all populations, but we all need it to nourish our souls, our spirits, and to make us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Millennials are no different, and so the opportunity here is for you and your team to really understand the value systems of the individual, and find ways that they can connect their values to your organization’s value system. If there is a lack of alignment, you might want to reconsider hiring the candidate, Millennial or not.

• Provide clarity. Millennials, like the rest of us, want clarity. This includes things like – what is it REALLY like to work here? How are decisions made? What do I need to do to ensure my voice is heard? How can I contribute? What is a realistic progression path? Without this kind of clarity and transparency, Millennials (and others) will, and likely should, leave your organization.

• Tell the truth! While the preferred media for communication may be different for Millennials than that of other generations, they still want to know the truth: about how they are performing, what it takes to get ahead, how the business is doing. And they want information in as close to real time as they can get it. This generation was born into an on-demand culture, and information is always at their fingertips. So, when organizations and leaders don’t provide consistent information and transparency, it makes sense that fear, uncertainty, and doubt result.

What’s the net-net here? The problem really isn’t about the Millennials, is it? This is about YOU as a leader, and how you bring these three fundamental principles (and others, but these are key) to your environment and culture. Do it, live it, lead it, check for it, and you will find that you attract some of the best talent, Millennials and otherwise, on the market.

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Best Practices, Culture, Millennials | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 ways Google does it right when it comes to people…and why you should take note

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Google OfficeGoogle likely found its best people practices on “the Google,” which means you can find them there too.

A few years ago, I blogged about how Google was getting all sorts of attention and praise for going the extra mile to attract and retain top talent by installing smart toilets in their campus bathrooms (Great Googlely Moogely). Aside from creating disturbing mental images, the article asserted that people were going to work for Google because they’ve got the most modern facilities – meaning bathroom facilities. It was absurd then, and it’s absurd now. Google is a titan – certainly in the stock market and, arguably, in technology. The amount of attention they garner for doing a pretty decent job when it comes to its human capital practices continues to amaze me. For me, it’s sort of like when then President George H.W. Bush was amazed by that new-fangled scanner doo-hickey that rang up his socks in a store all those years ago.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article on The Science of Working Better, writer Christopher Mims touts the head of Google HR, Laszlo Bock, as a soothsayer of people operations. Mr. Bock’s got a book coming out, you see, called Work Rules! in which he extolls the virtues of valuing your people. One demonstration of this is facilitating a less hierarchical and constrained environment that allows more collaboration and contribution. I’m down with that. Similarly, Mr. Bock likes to use data to inform decisions – like changing Google’s maternity leave policy when it was noticed that a high percentage of new moms weren’t coming back to work (because the leave was too short…so they quit). They extended the leave and retain 50% more women after their leave. Data driven decision-making in human capital has been noted as a key trend for at least the last three years. One other area of praise Google receives is for using structured, consistent, job-related interview questionnaires and involving teams to vet candidates against common criteria. Again, I agree with and support this approach, it’s just not new. I personally have been providing client organizations with this capability since the late 1990’s – and many use it despite the article’s statement that it “isn’t the norm at most organizations.”

You might be asking yourself, “What’s up with Jeff? Why is he hating on Google?” Short answer: it’s fun. Better answer: I love Google – I use it every day. If the fact that Google has adopted people practices that make sense draws the eyes and ears of anyone who’s business hasn’t figured this stuff out yet or isn’t doing it consistently, I’m all for it. What I don’t want to happen is that Google-worship actually results in doing nothing because, well, how could my company possibly do the same thing that Google the Great is able to do? Here’s the good news, and my point – what Google gets so much credit for is (for the most part) smart, simple, accessible good business practices. Here are a few that, yes, you too can do:

• Hire right – Define your organization’s key success behaviors (this often is done in the form of values) and insist that everyone – EVERYONE – you hire has each of these in the right measure based on what they’ve demonstrated in the work and life to date.

• Give people a voice – If we really value our people, create an environment in which they not only can speak up, but are encouraged to and required to. This isn’t likely to happen if you have people in management roles seeking to be the individual star or top performer…which means you need to equip people managers with the skills to be local leaders.

• Use data wisely – When I ran a knowledge management company, we helped rescue organizations where their people were drowning in information and starved for knowledge. We have so much information around us and accessible to us that we need to be smart about what data we consider and how we put it to use. Failing to gather and analyze data is a fatal flaw in today’s human capital world where being strategic is an absolute requirement.

• R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Above all else, remember that we no longer live – or should live – in a work world where people are viewed as we used to say in professional services: fungible units. If your people truly are your most important assets (even ones that get in their cars and drive home at night…and may not come back), treat them like that – talk to them, listen to them, enable them

…like Google does – and you can, too.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Best Practices, Culture | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rowed to Success

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Maryland Crew OarsNobody ever took time out in a boat race. There’s no place to stop and get a satisfying drink of water or a lungful of cool, invigorating air. You just keep your eyes glued on the red, perspiring neck of the fellow ahead of you and row until they tell you it’s all over … Neighbor, it’s no game for a softy.

- Royal Brougham, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

My sanctuary

There are very few places of complete mental and emotional escape left in this world. For me, my greatest place of escape was the water. For three years I’d rise long before the sun started showing glimmers of morning and head to the river. On the water there was this visceral feeling of tranquility that would sweep over me; an experience I  have long argued cannot be replicated on land. The rush of water and drumming of oars is the only sound that could permeate the stillness of morning. It’s paradoxically a place of seclusion and inclusion at the same time; a place where I was in a boat with eight other people in front and behind me, but still felt removed from people and totally isolated. Being part of a university crew team was my place to escape the difficulties of college and the challenges of being a twenty-something year old in the most fast paced era of human history; a time where ADHD and anxiety disorders have become commonplace. It’s easy to see – we live in an overstimulated world.

Rowing on the Anacostia River at 5:00am was my sanctuary.

What’s remarkable about when you find a refuge of escape is how close you become to the things you’re trying to remove yourself from. My time on the water taught me invaluable lessons about how a team truly operates; lessons that aren’t communicated in your run-of-the-mill “Teamwork 101,” or “Build Your Business Better” book. These lessons transcend sport and business into a realm of universal practices. For me, crew was the archetype of understanding on how a team works and functions. I learned more about how to succeed while rowing than I ever could have learned from a self-help manual or a motivational speaker. Every perfect stroke is 10 more meters closer to the finish line. Ten more meters closer to success.

 

Correcting an overused metaphor

I have no doubt everyone is familiar with the exhausted analogy of, “You’re only as good as your weakest player.” Logically speaking this makes some sense to us. Unfortunately, it’s not only overused – it’s wrong. When you spend enough time with an oar in your hand you begin to disagree with the stereotype. What I quickly learned was you’re only as good as your ability to work, or row, as a team. The weak-link is irrelevant in crew. It doesn’t matter how great your technique is or how hard you can pull, if you can’t do it as a unit your boat goes nowhere. The same is true for a business. What’s holding back a business is not the person who just doesn’t get it, or the guy who doesn’t perform as well as everyone else. What’s really holding back a business is an inability to collaborate collectively as a team unit. It’s a challenge of synchronization that makes the difference. It’s about your ability to perform together, not individually.

I’ve seen this happen before, and I’m not buying the weak-link excuse any more. At a previous company I spent time on a team responsible for a large client. A client we eventually lost. This wasn’t because of the person on our team who wasn’t “pulling his weight.” No, it was because we were a team in name only. Metaphorically speaking – no one rowed together and the boat moved nowhere. (At least nowhere toward the finish line.) So why do we throw this analogy around like it’s the gospel truth? Because when we lose we have to blame someone, right? And that someone is usually the person who didn’t do as well as the rest of the team. The simple truth – you have to actually work as a team to succeed.

 

Criticism in real time

How does crew solve this problem? Instant feedback.

All too often we’re in a position of retroactive feedback. We wait until the team did poorly, or failed to deliver, to provide any sort of instruction or criticism. Well, newsflash … by that point, it’s too late. You don’t wait until the race is over to tell the boat to pull harder.

While rowing you get criticism from the coxswain in real time. If you have a poor stroke, you’re told. If you’re too early to the catch, you’re told. If you’re not pulling your weight, you’re told. Harsh? Maybe. No one really wants to be told they’re not doing a great job, especially while you’re trying to pull nearly 2,000 pounds of boat and rower through the water. It adds particular insult to injury that the person telling you this is often half your size and not even rowing. But what happens is remarkable. Corrections and adjustments are made and the crew realigns and keeps going. Each failure is a valuable learning experience, not to be repeated again. Don’t wait until there’s no hope of a turnaround to deliver feedback. All that really does is rub salt in the wound of a fresh defeat. Feedback is helpful only when someone can still do something with the feedback they’re given.

 

“The Boys in the Boat”

That’s exactly what my team was. We were a bunch of boys in a boat. But we were learning more about how to achieve success, what it meant to fail, and what it meant to be a real team than anyone else our age. If you’re sitting here reading this and think you have a good team already, I challenge you to strap into a boat with them and see how well you really work together.

Everyone fails at some point in life. Every hot streak eventually cools. Every undefeated team will eventually lose a game. The lessons learned in crew are how to react to the pain of the moment to overcome. Daniel James Brown, author of “The Boys in the Boat,” wrote of the sensation of rowing a race:

 

The common denominator … is overwhelming pain. And that is perhaps the first and most fundamental thing that all novice oarsmen must learn about competitive rowing … the pain is part and parcel of the deal. It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.

 

Overcoming the hard truths of pain and failure are inevitable in life. Lessons I learned along the way. What we do with these lessons; however, will shape the future of our success. Blame it on the weak-link again, and you’re still failing. Wait until you reach a point of no return to offer feedback, and you fail again.

Accept that you’re one team – a team that works, or rows, together for the benefit of the group. Not the individual. Be proactive with real time feedback. Know that there will be pain. Acknowledge that you will fail.  And if you can do all of this … and you can keep rowing – well then you’ve rowed to success.

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

Posted in Best Practices, Coaching, growth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Just how average are you?

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Showgirl Yanik“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most of your time with.”

According to Jim Rohn. And me.

I’m a strong believer of this. The people you surround yourself with will shape you; whether you like it or not. If you spend all your time with five drug dealers, you are culled to the average. If you spend all your time with five missionaries, you are culled to the average. It often takes a bit of hyperbole to understand the truth behind such a simplistic and elementary notion.

The blunt truth behind Rohn’s statement is: it doesn’t matter how talented you are, how educated you are, how great of a family you come from, or how tremendous of an idea you have… if you surround yourself with deadbeats, you’ll cultivate nothing – at least nothing worth bragging about.

I’ve made it a mission to surround myself with people who push me beyond my intellectual and creative limits. Why? Not because I’m some sick sadist who likes to be battered by people who are brighter than me, but because these are the people who truly spark my creativity, who propagate my intellect, and who fuel my desires for greater successes and triumphs.

Seriously, if you’re the smartest person in the room, maybe you’re not that smart after all…

As an executive or an entrepreneur, it needs to be your mission, too. How do you expect to succeed if you don’t seek out an audience of the best and the brightest?

It is this philosophy that has driven my decision to fly to Necker Island and pick the brain of one of the smartest executives and entrepreneurs on the planet – Sir Richard Branson.

Believe me, I’m not the name dropping type of person, and I’m not the kind of person to use this trip as a publicity stunt – I’m not jumping on my email to write you and say, “look what I’m doing, don’t you wish you were like me?” That’s not my angle.

I’m telling you this, because I so adamantly believe in the philosophy laid out by Jim Rohn. Had you asked me ten years ago if I thought I’d ever be sitting down to chat with Richard Branson, I’d have told you it was a dream of mine, but would likely never be a reality. But I’ve made it a reality because I live into this philosophy. I kept striving and kept seeking out the smartest people I could find, and that’s landed me on the private island of Richard Branson.

A kick-ass team is the right place to start – find the top people and bring them in to your workforce. But, it’s still not enough. At eQ we believe it’s also who you associate yourself with outside your team that becomes a metric for success. Find the best clients, attract the best customers, and pursue an exceptionally minded audience.

Do all this… and you could find yourself on Richard Branson’s island, too.

 

P.S. My good friend, Yanik (yes, he’s the one dressed as a show girl), believes the same, which is why he too made it a priority to befriend Branson. Want all the juicy details behind this AMAZING photograph? Here’s what really happened in Vegas!

And remember – “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most of your time with.”

 

Joe Mechlinski is CEO and Co-Founder of entreQuest, where he’s helped hundreds of companies prosper through some of the worst economic times in history. Joe’s debut book, Grow Regardless, an instant New York Times bestseller, defines strategic growth, change management, and organizational development.

Posted in Best Practices, Grow Regardless, Leadership, News, Our News, Success | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the worst that could happen?

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Thin IceThat’s what I kept asking myself before each interview. My answer – it’s not a fit.

Now that might seem like a negative way to regard the process of pursuing a new opportunity, but I like to think it was a reassurance. At an uncertain time and a pivotal point in my life, I considered the possibility of taking the plunge.

So, here I am reflecting on my first three weeks working on the consulting side for entreQuest. I am incredibly thankful.

Research shows disengaged employees account for roughly 70% of the workforce, and I didn’t want to be one of those people. It was my moment of truth. I had tough conversations with my family who kept telling me “you’re not yourself.” I wasn’t. I was working in a thoughtful place serving the next generation, but where I was in my life, it wasn’t a fit. And I wanted different, but I was hesitant of the unknown, the what-ifs. The self-doubt was suffocating.

So I bucked up. I took what I knew about being professional, honest, and courteous, and I informed my leadership this was not an ideal fit for me (at this time). As much as I respected my place of employment, and felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work with dedicated teachers and insightful staff, something was missing. Finding the courage to follow through on my commitment to myself led to a snow ball effect. From there, I was met with surprise, expectedly, and also, understanding.

I realize not all employees feel comfortable approaching their boss about their feelings, and if you’re one of those people you need to have a real gut check. Why aren’t you comfortable talking with your supervisor about where you want to go in life? What would it take to become comfortable? Then ask yourself if it’s worth remaining where you are if you feel the way you do. I reasoned this was the right time to explore options. Was it scary? Yes. Thrilling? Very! A challenge? Absolutely.

I was inspired by my husband who was going through his job transition and reinventing his professional identity, and I was so fortunate to have such sound support at home and respect at work. So I took the leap of faith. I knew when I was offered the chance to join eQ that my life was about to change. I was choosing to embrace it, not hide from it.

On March 2nd, as I awoke a year older, I wished my husband good luck on his first day at his new job and prepared to begin mine. My motto has always been – live life, and make sure it’s a good story I want to tell later. Written down, that seems obvious … simple. But for me, it’s true north. It’s the reason I feel eQ is my perfect fit. At eQ, we are continually focused on the story of our clients. We’re committed to helping them grow by paying careful attention to their culture – what makes them tick, who they attract, and who they serve and why.

 

Now take a minute to contemplate this. You, me, your colleague, your neighbor, your loved ones – we are just people. So why should we spend even a second not being who we are, doing what we love? It’s about being true to oneself. It’s about letting go of your fear. So go be you. Start today. Enjoy the process, and reap the yumminess that comes from making bold decisions.

 

 

Alexandra Wieland is a Project Specialist at entreQuest and works closely with all eQ team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

Posted in Best Practices, Culture, Gratitude, Team Members | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Being Oblivious is a Choice…and Not a Good One

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Good or BadIn the movie classic, Animal House, Dean Wormer advises Flounder that, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” That’s pretty harsh; but, beyond the comedic effect, the encouragement to participate in one’s own success is sound advice. It could just be my advancing age and dawning crotchety-ness (my daughter is laughing that this is “dawning”), but I’m persuaded this hyper electronically-connected era in which we live is contributing to a supremely disconnected real-world environment.

True, there always have been mall walkers and car drivers who just meander or stop suddenly without any sense that someone is behind them. Today’s smart-phone enhanced version of that is the guy driving a stick shift while drinking a coffee and talking on his phone while turning left (seriously – all hands, no hands), or the grocery shopper who must get on the phone (held to the ear of course – no more distracting than bluetooth…right, AAA) before backing out of her space…without looking!

Those are just the public nuisances. Much more concerning is the office mate who emails you from down the hall about something much more easily discussed and resolved face-to-face that only involves taking 20 short steps. There’s also the manager, or leader, who’s so busy responding to email that she is too busy to share a heads-up about a new assignment; or regularly connect about what’s going well and what can be even better. We sometimes advise our clients to choose to “bend time”, partly by adopting the mindset that there is enough time to do what matters. Similarly, being more aware, largely, is a matter of choice. Just as walking down the street with your eyes cast down upon your phone screen instead of ahead and around you is a choice. So is the more figurative failure to open one’s eyes and ears to those around you, and to those things that are important to them, affecting them, and so on.

Ask yourself these questions:

•  Does it feel good when someone asks you how you are and shows genuine interest in your answer?

•  How do you feel when you ask someone to fill you in on a trip they just took or an important event?

In my experience, being able to connect with people feels good, and we often learn things we may never have known – some just interesting, and some truly valuable. The other day at the gym, I’m peddling away to nowhere on a stationary bike and the guy next to me taps me on the shoulder. A tremendous goal had just been scored in an English Premier League match, and he’d noticed I was wearing some EPL gear and wanted to make sure I’d seen it. We ended up talking for 20 minutes about sports. It was a fun conversation and brightened my day. Plus, now there’s one more person at the gym I can address by name. I’m really fortunate to be part of a team of people at eQ who – as busy as we all are – cares about each other. We talk about all kinds of things. Knowing who you work with unleashes a power of connection and insight that can pay all sorts of dividends ranging from the practical to the spiritual, with no one thing outweighing another. Being aware isn’t just about being polite, or courteous, or even pragmatic. Engagement is an all-encompassing goal that requires a full-out effort leveraging interest, curiosity, compassion, vulnerability, and more. The commitment to being fully engaged is the antithesis of and the antidote for going through life benignly – not being impacted and not having an impact.

To avoid Flounder’s fate – or anything remotely like it, there are a few simple things you can try:

We never got there.

•  Be a greeter—Establish a routine if not a ritual of welcoming people to their day, to your space, or into your conversation. This requires actions as simple as making eye contact with someone in the elevator, on the train, or in the hallway and saying “good morning” and wishing them a great day. If you’re chatting with someone and a colleague comes by, physically adjust your stance to include one more person in your group. You’re now more in touch.

•  Be a meeter—Get out and about. Participate in relevant networking or professional organizations. Volunteer for an organization that does work you care about, be passionate about something outside of work. Each of these, and all of these, better connect you, ground you, and give you depth. Not every organization has figured out the direct and significant benefit that developing the whole self has on the top and bottom line. However, it seems more are discovering this…often because smart folks like you don’t wait around to be asked, they just do. When leaders identify common themes they’re seeing in top performers and get data on high performing companies, they join the party…better late(r) than never.

•  Be a seeder—Nothing says you’re aware and connected better than being a mentor and sowing the seeds of the next generation of high performance and leadership. And being a mentor feeds the soul. If formal mentorship isn’t an option, you still can have a huge impact by being available to people and supporting their efforts and success. It’s essentially being a mensch. Being a good person and a contributor to your community because that’s what you do.

Consider the relative ease and accessibility of doing a couple of things noted above and tell me that being oblivious isn’t a choice. You really can’t. I invite you to choose engagement. There are an infinite number of great movie lines about being able to accomplish something. Pick your favorite and get to work on achieving your mission of connectedness to the right things. When you do, you feel great about making a difference, and you’ll avoid being described by a paraphrased line from the Toy Story movies character, Buzz Lightyear, who might say about you, “To Oblivion and Beyond!”

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Best Practices, Leadership, Success, Team Members | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Organizational Effectiveness is not two dimensional

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Questions“Can I see the organizational chart, so I understand how the company works?”

How many times have you been asked a variation of this question by a potential new or current employee – or even asked it yourself?

Often, when we hear this question asked, it isn’t so much that people really want to see the organizational structure laid out in a linear fashion (although it is important to understand reporting relationships), but rather that people want to understand how the organization really works, how the people really work.

See, the on paper relationships are only one small dimension of creating organizational clarity on the path to effectiveness. One perspective is the paper relationships really only translate into things like: To whom do I report? And who will do my performance review?

What really matters is how do people actually work together to create a healthy, effective, and productive organization that is primed to GROW REGARDLESS?

When working to create your most effective organization, here are some great questions to consider:

•  Where do I get help?

•  How do we store and share knowledge?

•  With respect to my role, who are subject matter experts?

•  How do I engage the subject matter experts?

•  How do people make decisions?

•  How do people collaborate?

•  How are issues raised?

•  How are issues resolved?

•  How do people in the organization learn?

•  How does the organization prepare new hires to be successful in their new role?

•  How is feedback provided – across the organization?

•  What are the “off-limits” or “taboo” topics here?

•  Where are the safe spaces, and are there any unsafe spaces here?

•  What legacy policies, processes, or rituals need to be retired?

•  How does the organization address behaviors that are not congruent with the company values?

•  How do I address behaviors that are not congruent with the company values?

•  Who will give me feedback, and how will that feedback come to me?

•  How do I engage people in areas outside of my department, whether that is for help, to raise or resolve issues, or to provide positive feedback?

•  Is there evidence that employees at all levels can raise concerns or productively dissent from current thinking – without fear?

These are just some of the things that people really want to know, and need to know, so they can successfully navigate an organization. As you can probably see, these are not linear questions, and they absolutely are not addressed with an organizational chart. Leaders can, and should, also think in this dimension when considering how they want their organization to actually operate.

Examining these dimensions of your business will illuminate areas that either foster or hinder a high performing organization.

SHAMELESS PLUG!!! If, upon reflection, you see that your organization may not be operating most effectively, stop missing opportunities to GROW REGARDLESS and contact me now: afreedman@entrequest.com

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Leadership, Success, System of Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Does Your Company Need a Style Guide?

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Typewriter with handsChances are you’ve never even thought about it, right? You’re probably asking yourself, “Why would I need one of those? I’m not a newspaper or a publisher.” Or you may even be asking, “What’s a style guide?” Simply put, a style guide is a defined set of standards, or rules, put in place to create a uniform system for writing and designing documents.

Yes, chances are a style guide might seem like a strange thing to have for a business. Particularly since you’re not the New York Times, the Post (Washington or NY)…the Onion, or any other reputable industry of media publication. So, again it begs the question, “Does your company need a style guide?”

Answer: Probably…

Unless your business is done entirely face-to-face, taking the time to create a style guide is anything but a waste of time. No matter what industry you’re in, reputation and quality of work are extremely important for you, and for your customers. Removing some of the sloppiness of formatting, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes can, and will, make a big difference when it comes to showing your customers what you’re all about. A style guide is about creating consistency. Maintaining a top-level of consistency throughout your work will demonstrate to your customers, and potential customers, that you’re offering them the same level of care, consideration, and attention that you offer all of your partners. Not only that, but consistency shows control. It is a subtle message to viewers of your content that you’re in control and know what you’re doing.

“Mistakes were made”

Even Nixon knew this one. Mistakes happen whether you intend for them to happen or not. It’s human nature; we all make mistakes. But these mistakes can be costly, just ask our quotable Mr. Nixon how that all turned out. The intent of a style guide is to cut down (hopefully, cut out) the errors and mistakes in your written content. Yes, everyone has their own style when writing, but I’m sure your business has its own style too. The intention of a style guide is to allow for a blending of these two voices, not to cancel out your own voice. Style guides provide a means to create uniformity throughout your content. Whether spoke, visual, or written; your presentation is incredibly important to get your vision and mission across.

That’s why a style guide.

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

Posted in Best Practices, Client Experiences, Culture, Employee Experience | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Ways to be a March Madness Winner: No Brackets, No Dunking, No Kidding

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Basketball SwishIt’s estimated that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will cost American businesses nearly $2 billion in lost productivity during its 3-week run. Because I’m a generous person, I’m going to give a little bit of that back right now. Whether you believe Division I college athletes truly are students themselves, we should be students of what can be learned through the observation of competing teams trying to be the last one standing … and you only get one strike and you’re out!

Reader Alert: You’re about to enter a zone where sports serve as an analogy for organizational success – an overused construct that has merit in this instance – according to me.

In case you don’t know, this year’s 68-team tournament has a prohibitive favorite: the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who enter the draw 34-0 on a quest to be the first men’s champion without a loss since Indiana accomplished this feat in 1976. Kentucky, under coach John Calipari, has mastered recruiting in this era of the so-called “one and done” player – supremely talented high schoolers who play one year in college (due to a pro basketball prohibition on players entering the NBA directly from high school) and then enter the pro game. Under this scenario, coaches recruit players they’ll only have for one season; meaning they need to rapidly develop in hopes of winning it all before starting over the next season.

After winning the title in 2012 and falling just short last year, the 2014-15 Kentucky squad is actually a mix of freshmen and some returning sophomores. Coach Calipari retained some of his talent from last year and created the unexpected need to persuade an entire roster of players, who believed they would and should start and play the majority of games, to share the spotlight with one another. To Calipari’s great credit, his team has not only shared time, but shared the ball. They appear to be unselfish. And, despite the fact they are obviously far superior in terms of talent and play than the vast majority of their opponents, the coach kept them interested enough over several months that they were not beaten and only seriously challenged a handful of times. Let me say that again: a 50-something year-old man kept a dozen 18-20 year-olds focused enough from October to March such that they did not lose a game.

Now, here’s when it gets really good (and I’m writing this on the eve of the tournament, so we don’t know how this turns out…), Coach “Cal” said in an interview the other day when asked about his team’s chances the following:

•  We’re the best team

•  We have the best players

•  To win this [the tournament], you have to play your game the best you can play it

•  If we play our game the best we can play it, we’ll win

•  If – at this moment – you try to go away from what you do best, you’ll lose

•  I’m so proud of our players…

Wow! That’s why some people hate the guy, but what’s not to love? And look at his record: he’s taken three different teams to the Final Four (college basketball’s Holy Grail), gotten to the final game three times, and won a championship. Overall, he’s won the lion’s share of his games. His players love him. He stays in touch with them, and he genuinely seems to care. His record is not without blemish – from some questionable recruiting ethics along the way (that frankly pale in comparison to recent scandals under coaching legends Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Roy Williams (North Carolina)), and a coaching meltdown in the 2008 finals that cost his team a championship.

Okay – thanks for staying with me here – what does this have to do with business? Everything … I mean, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!!!! Here are my Final Four connections between what John Calipari knows about basketball, and what you need to leverage to win for, and with, your organization. This is NOT a bracket. We’re not going to eliminate anything; rather we need to build on and blend these components together to come out on top. The major difference is that we get to define what winning looks like.

1.  Find opportunity where others see challenge – when “one and done” became prevalent others chose to swim against the current while Calipari embraced it, and turned Kentucky into the perennial talent winner. You might call it a (Kentucky) Blue Ocean Strategy.

2.  Create a seductive brand – by embracing “one and done.” Capilari celebrates that he has five or more players from his roster drafted into the NBA in a single draft year after year. Coach Capilari showcases his ability to get his “students” exactly the jobs they want.

3.  Win the war for talent – leaders can only be great when the people who follow them have the individual talent and the blend of talents needed to compete at the highest level. Decide what kind of players you need, what they value, offer it to them, AND deliver on that promise.

4.  Paint a vivid picture – Cameron Herold challenges leaders in his book, Double Double, to own the responsibility for their people “getting it” when it comes to the mission of the organization, and what success looks like. They have to create a vivid picture of success in the minds of others to enable them to join in the pursuit of perfection (40-0 or however else we choose to define success).

With those pieces in place, you’re ready to facilitate, inspire, and protect. One manifestation of facilitation, inspiration, and protection is your creation of space to collaborate, and provide opportunities for teammates to benefit from working together. This might require taking on roles that contribute to the overall goal/higher-purpose of the team. Even if what you’re asking individuals to do isn’t what they fully desire at the moment. When they play their part well AND the team succeeds, reward them through recognition, with some fun. Something that helps ingrain that habit as something they want to do again. Should they fail – individually or collectively – help them find the value of that experience and actively plan to apply the lessons learned to what they do next. In Kentucky’s case, last year’s championship game loss may become the biggest reason they retained some top talent, added more, ran the table, and held up the trophy. If that’s not hitting on all cylinders and winning in every way, I don’t know what is. And, if they don’t win, somehow I think Coach Cal will find a way to make it work for him and his team (again).

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Coaching, Consulting, Success, Team Members | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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