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December 31, 2008

May you have courage in the new year

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition, 1900.

to act out what you say you believe,
to stand up for what is right,
to face difficulties with determination,
to be accountable and to hold others accountable,
to share information and resources,
to discuss conflicts and resolve them,
and to never stop learning.

“Courage, also known as bravery, will, intrepidity, and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. “Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.”
---"Courage." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”
-- Keshavan Nair, author and speaker

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
-- Winston Churchill, British politician (1874-1965)

The Courage Institute (based in Western Galilee, Israel and Elkins Park, Pennsylvania) lists 25 statements that describe a team's candor, purpose, will, rigor and risk that helps assess ‘courage’. Assess your team; gauge your personal courage, http://www.courageinstitute.org/assess_yourself.asp

On the same Web site, read
Leading in Times of Uncertainty and Turbulence - When the Wolf Is Knocking and the Fear Won't Go Away
In which the authors elaborate on the five courage factors:
Candor: The courage to speak and hear the truth.
Purpose: The courage to pursue lofty and audacious goals.
Will: The courage to inspire hope, spirit and promise.
Rigor: The courage to invent better protocols and make them “stick.”
Risk: The courage to empower, trust and invest in relationships.

It takes courage to be true to yourself. Be brave.

December 18, 2008

Wants vs. needs in the workplace

We spend our lives pursuing happiness.

Much of the news this holiday season is how to survive …and thrive…without spending a great deal of money. For some, that’s a new concept. For others, it’s a return to former experiences, perhaps in childhood or the college years.

It forces us to think about wants vs. needs. It makes us talk to one another.

Do we all need…
the latest computer, a laptop and a desktop, two screens, every computer program imaginable, a fancy company cell phone? Does that play to our strengths or just make us feel inadequate that we can’t do 10 different roles well? Does it contribute to a dilemma of trying to prioritize what part of our job is most critical? Do we really know how our work fits into the big overall work of the organization?

Do we constantly need the latest training that somehow will make everything right and more efficient in the workplace? If only we had this new database, this new process, this new position---we could be more efficient, produce more.

The recession may just force collaboration and open discussions.
The economic recession is not a bad thing if it forces serious conversations instead of rushing out to purchase, to create a new position, to develop a new program. How can we live well with what we have? How can we redefine positions? Of all that training we’ve had, what makes sense to implement? Are there gaps we can fill with what we have?

It takes civility to respect one another and engage in some very open conversations that begin with facts available to all. It’s time for brainstorming, examining how what we know will help, examining where each person’s passion and strengths lie. The successful in this recession will develop better, more respectful working relationships.

It takes a vision that everyone can see.
When we don’t understand how some training applies to our jobs, how some position fits, how some equipment can be used—that’s a waste of resources due to a lack of communication.

Often if we get our wants, we are unhappier than if we had only what we needed. People are resourceful and creative if they’re included in the conversations of determining goals and solutions. When we focus on the needs of everyone, have big open conversations and do the very best we can, we’ll probably find happiness. It works in our personal lives and in our work lives.

December 16, 2008

The spirit of giving in the workplace

The organizations and companies who believe they should contribute to the well being of society fulfill a need of the organization and the individual workers.

This year in my workplace, we searched for a holiday service project. We settled on donations of money and food for two food pantries because we have coworkers who donate time in these pantries. It's a great project because there are connections. We are learning about the organizations where our coworkers volunteer as well as feeling good about contributing to people with real needs. It complements our building potluck and the accompanying activities.

Volunteering together during work hours
I volunteered during the United Way kickoff this fall. What a great way to get to know others in your organization or office. When you're shoveling sand, cutting out children'™s books, painting or cleaning up the landscape, some conversations float back to work but they'™re very open and organic. Not only are you doing some good for your community, but the conversations provide a bond to coworkers that you don'™t get in the office.

Giving in the workplace helps others
It also helps us because we benefit in work relationships and in feeling good about what we've done. This may be a year we need to think more about (and not just at holiday time)....how we can give our work time and donations to local agencies? Will those efforts lead to better relationships and understanding in our workplaces?

The roots of civility
Civility derives from the Latin civitas, which means "city" in the sense of civic community. P.M. Forni, cofounder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, writes in his book 'Choosing Civility': "The age-old assumption behind civility is that life in the city has a civilizing effect. The city is where we enlighten our intellect and refine our social skills. And as we are shaped by the city, we learn to give of ourselves for the sake of the city. ...Etymology reminds us that we are supposed to be good citizens and good neighbors."

December 11, 2008

What would you write in your holiday letter from the workplace?

If you followed the formula of first you write about the family and then you write a bit about the individual members, what would your letter say?

In 2008 my workplace
Discovered some new processes, added some products
Went on vacation (retreats, conferences)
Added new family members, lost some family members

Whom could you brag about? This coworker got an award, this coworker finished a large project.

And you particularly enjoyed……..what?

It just might be an exercise in civility.
Very few holiday letters share the day to day drudgery of the past year. So as we wind down this calendar year, perhaps it’s time to write that mental letter of what was good about the workplace this year, commend those who have done good work and list what we are proud to say we’ve accomplished.

It also could be a time to start thinking about the upcoming year in which we’re all probably concerned about our livelihoods. What do we want to accomplish that we can write about in the 2009 letter? How will we contribute to our company or organization?

Lots of questions. What are your answers?

December 09, 2008

Redesigning the organization for today’s economy

A recession economy forces organizations to examine habits and organizational structure. Habits of greed, of paternalism, of incivility towards others in the workplace. To endure this recession well is to imagine and create new habits and values, efficient processes and innovative work structures. Organizations can not afford to waste anyone’s talents. The wealth is hidden in people, the greatest asset of any organization.

It is a time demanding innovation
It is a time to realign staff so they are invigorated, productivity is increased and the productivity has value to clients, customers and society.

Everyone needs and wants to contribute to a better organization, one with open communication and transparency, with massive creativity. People inherently want to provide value but they have to believe in what they’re doing and they have to be a part of the process. They need to discover and use their strengths. Value is in meaningful collaborative work and respectful relationships, living well with those in our workplaces.

It takes a true leader
to help the organization uncover its current values (not the ones written in organizational statements) and set goals that work in a new economy where pettiness, inflated egos and overconsumption simply don’t fit. That leader who can set a new organizational order and uncover talents would have these traits at minimum:

• Self-confidence—can listen attentively to others and consider their opinions, doesn’t feel threatened, doesn’t have to have the final word

• Curiosity—wants to know more, wants to learn, enjoys challenging others to see what they’ll imagine

• Eye for talent—observing, thinking about the potential in others that they may not realize

• Even temperament that invites collaboration---that can maneuver through the tantrums and the passions knowing that a group of people come up with better and more creative ideas and solutions than one person alone

• Ability to communicate effectively---in person, in emails, on the phone, in the midst of chaos and calm

Umair Haque in an Oct. 21 Harvard Business blog post, Why Traditional Recession Tactics Are Doomed To Fail This Time, writes
“Tomorrow's sources of advantage aren't like yesterday's. They're not built on being able to exploit, dominate, or coerce more strongly than others—they don't result from being harder, better, faster, stronger. They're about exactly the opposite: being softer, better able to fail, having the ability to be slower, gaining the capacity for tolerance and difference. Ultimately, they are about a true advantage—one that accrues not just to the corporation, at the expense of people, society, or the environment; but one that accrues to all.”

In another post, How to Build a Next-Gen Business Now, Haque writes
“Here are just a few of the most radical new organizational and management techniques today’s revolutionaries are already utilizing: open-source production, peer production, viral distribution, radical experimentation, connected consumption, and co-creation.” (He has links for each of these techniques.)

When the power, creativity and talents of people in an organization are unleashed…when there’s true civility and a bit of guidance……..organizations can be redefined for new production and value.

What do you think? What would you add?

December 02, 2008

How is the chemistry in your workplace?

One definition of chemistry is the way individuals relate to each other–interpersonal attraction or repulsion.

The chemistry among workers makes a great deal of difference in how enthusiastic or reluctant you are to go to work each day. How motivated you are at work.

Some factors leading to interpersonal attraction
Propinquity—the physical or psychological proximity among people. People in the same office, for example, have a higher propinquity than those in a different office of your organization. Propinquity can also mean a kinship (a close connection marked by interests or similarity in character) among people.

Complementarity—People seek out others with characteristics that are different from and complement their own. Workers recognize areas they lack expertise and seek counsel from those who complement their strengths and knowledge.

Reciprocal liking—A person who is liked by another will tend to return that liking. Ideas are valued and respected. People enjoy the company of those who ask their opinions and respect them.

Reinforcement—People like those who give them positive feelings, who can brainstorm problems with them rather than criticize.

When there’s toxic chemistry in the workplace
Opinions aren’t valued and probably not sought. The atmosphere is one of control. The reinforcement is negative. There is little collegiality in the work being done. Workers are demoralized and disenfranchised. Productivity and creativity are lowered.

I thank some sports announcer who talked about a head football coach who had worked with the same assistant coaches for 10 years. The announcer’s assessment was they had good chemistry.

Good chemistry in the workplace is civility in action. It's respect for others.The workplace with toxic chemistry thrives on incivility. Do you have other thoughts about chemistry in the workplace?