Tag Archive for: workforce

Goodbye 2014; On to 2015!

Top Ten List

image: www.sdfcs.org

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season. No matter which holiday you celebrate, this is a time to slow down, relish time with family and friends, reflect on the past year, and think ahead to the new year.

In that spirit, I want to share with you my “Top Ten” newsletters/blog posts for 2014, based roughly on which of them you opened most often.

You’ll see quickly that my recent focus on corporate conversations dominates this list, but it also includes several other important observations about the future of work.

So, here goes, from the top down:

1. Mindsets are More Important than Skillsets

There are hundreds of books about how to conduct meetings, yet most corporate meetings are dull, unproductive time wasters. What’s going on? Why don’t leaders do what they know how to do? I suggested here that the attitudes and mindsets of team leaders are far more important than meeting management skillsets. Read more

It’s Time for Some Global Holometaboly

Monarch Caterpillar eating milkweed Those of us who study and write about the difficulty of leading organizational change often use the image of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly as a metaphor for dramatic transformation.

But wanting to become a butterfly doesn’t make you one. You have to want to become a butterfly so badly that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.

That’s a fancy way of saying that having even a compelling vision of the future isn’t enough; to get there you have to give up the past and walk away from the present.

But there is another component of the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation that most of us don’t think about and certainly don’t understand very well. Read more

Mindsets are More Important than Skillsets

Report Card ClipartStanford Professor Carol Dweck tells a marvelous story about a Chicago high school I wish I’d attended. When a student receives a report card on a course he or she has not successfully completed, the grade shows as “Not Yet.”

It doesn’t say “Failed,” but rather “Not Yet.”

Think about that for a moment. For me, and clearly for Professor Dweck, that choice of wording is incredibly powerful.

What does “Not Yet” say to that student? It does not say, “You are stupid, you are a loser, you can’t do it.” Instead it says “You didn’t pass this time.” It presumes there will be another time, and it also tells the student “You might pass the course the next time you try.”

Professor Dweck has been studying achievement, learning, and happiness for a long time. She’s written a book called Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2007) in which she identifies two very different ways of experiencing life. And while most of her research has focused on young children and adolescents, her insights are equally important for adults in the workplace.

She describes two distinctively different attitudes, or mindsets, about success and failure (or rather, success and “Not Yet”) Read more

Moving a Mountain (of people)

Imagine this: you are the head of workplace services for a large high-tech firm that has just been acquired by Google (that’s the good news).

Here’s the tough part: you are responsible for a major suburban campus facility that houses about 2,000 employees and you’ve just been told that your immediate task is to build out several floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to replace that suburban campus – and to persuade that entire workforce to begin spending about 90 minutes every morning and evening commuting between their homes and downtown.

As Stephen Monaco, Head of Global Real Estate and Workplace Experience for Motorola Mobility, described his experience carrying out that assignment, he began by observing: Read more

Small Talk Isn’t Small

There’s nothing small about small talk.

conversations1In western economies it has almost become a cultural norm to spend the first five or ten minutes of a formal meeting engaging with the other participants in what we call “small talk.” You know, those pre-call-to-order conversations that seem to just happen as people arrive in the meeting room – conversations that begin with questions and comments like:

  •  “How was your weekend?’
  •  “What are your kids up to?
  •  “Man, it’s way too hot this summer!” (or, “Can you believe how cold it was last night!”)
  •  “How about those 49ers! Is Kaepernick a world-class quarterback or what? [well, I can dream]
  •  “Congratulations! I just heard about your daughter’s gymnastics victory last night.”
  •  “Hey, I just heard that Freddie in marketing got a big promotion because of that killer ad campaign he designed.”

Most of us think of those topics as trivial, and primarily a way to kill time until everyone arrives and the “real” meeting starts. And yes, they do help occupy people’s minds until the host calls the meeting to order. But they can also make or break the “real meeting” that follows.

Read more

You Wouldn’t Understand…

ConfusionLR2

Peter Drucker liked to tell a story about a senior military officer who asked a junior technician a question about a complex new fighter plane. After trying for several minutes to explain how the plane’s sophisticated guidance system worked, the technician finally threw his up hands and said, “Oh, forget it, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”

That certainly sounds like insubordination; did the technician think the general was stupid? No, Drucker believed the technician was just telling the truth; the knowledge required to fly the plane was indeed far too complex for the general to understand.

And that is the nature of work and management in just about every knowledge-intensive business today.

Read more

Conversations at work

As I have mentioned previously, my first corporate job was with a mid-sized publishing firm. I was hired by the Vice President of Human Resources as the company’s first-ever Manager of Training and Development.

At that time I was particularly interested in management as a skill and as something that could be taught (I was a relatively newly-minted MBA graduate). I was excited about my new job because I saw my role as an opportunity to design and lead an ambitious set of management training programs – sales training, problem-solving, leadership, team-building. I wanted to create programs that would brand the company as “with-it,” help us recruit stronger talent into the organization, and – oh, by the way – enhance our performance and profitability.

Much to my surprise, my boss refused to let me set up a formal program.

Read more

Moments of Meaning

I have just returned from the annual convention of the National Speakers Association. It was an energizing gathering of professional speakers, authors, storytellers, facilitators, and consultants. We spent four days together focusing on the art and craft of informing, influencing, and inspiring our audiences.

As I reflect on what I heard and learned during that week one insight in particular stands out for me. Freddie Ravel, a professional musician, was one of the early General Session speakers. During his presentation he played bits of music by artists like Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

But he wasn’t focused on the notes; he wanted us to hear the quiet moments between the notes – the pauses that let the just-completed sounds sink in and that produce the cadence and rhythm that makes the music so memorable.

Read more

There is only one of you

Ponder this for a moment:  as big and as global as the Internet is, every single human being is born with a far more impressive network. It’s called a brain.

I learned last week from author Steven Campbell (Making Your Mind Magnificent) that the human brain has  more than 100 billion neurons (that’s not a typo!). But, as Campbell says,

…this is nothing! Each of those neurons has an average of 10,000 connections to other neurons. This computes to 100,000,000,000 connections! That is a quantity found by multiplying 100 billion times 100 billion, times 100 billion…ten thousand times. As a comparison, 100 billion multiplied by 40,000 is a number larger than the number of stars in the Milky Way. We truly cannot fathom the number of connections our brain has.

(Making Your Mind Magnificent, p.4)

Campbell is describing the network inside just one human brain! And there are upwards of 7 billion human beings alive today – most of them in possession of a functioning brain.

Read more

It’s Not What You Know…

It’s a cliché you’ve heard before: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

That’s often said in a highly derogatory tone, criticizing people who get a job, or win a contract, or get into an exclusive restaurant, because someone they know has opened a door or an opportunity for them based more on the relationship than on their skills or experiences.

And of course that is often the way things happen. But there’s a positive side to this picture as well; when you know someone, and trust him or her, you have a reasonably accurate understanding of what s/he is  capable of, and how reliable s/he is. So your predictions about how well s/he will perform should be fairly accurate.

Read more