Archive | August, 2012

Boost Your Productivity & Creativity

iStock_000012546945XSmallI’m always on the lookout for unique corporate cultures that shake things up to boost productivity, creativity, and service levels.

A recent New York Times article featured 37signals‘ interesting culture and approaches. 37signals is a software firm that creates web solutions that help clients manage projects, customer relationships, and team collaboration. In the NY Times article, 37signals’ founder Jason Fried shared how their small firm builds change into their work schedule to increase focus, productivity, and creativity.

From May to October, for example, the company shifts to a four-day workweek. 32 hours per week, not four 12 hour workdays. Fried says, “When you have less time to work, you waste less time. Constraining time encourages quality time.” The article presents other interesting experiments that 37signals has found to keep employees inspired and engaged through the year.

Shortening the work week may not be a viable option for you – your workload may not cooperate or you may not be “in charge” of changing the work hours for your team or organization. However, I believe you can learn from 37signals’ approach to increase your focus on what’s really important and get more done in less time.

Leverage Your Skills & Brain Power To Accomplish Goals

We’ve all experienced the frantic “all nighters” to meet a deadline or the overwhelmed feeling of too much to do in the available time. The negative impact on our well-being and (sometimes) on the quality of the work we produce in our sleep-deprived states erodes our ability to perform, our satisfaction with work, and our enthusiasm for our customers.

Consider these suggestions for increasing your efficiency and focus:

  • Clarify Goals and Expectations – Ensure your goals and projects are clearly defined so there is no confusion about the deadlines, quality, or usability of the product or service you’re responsible for. Wherever possible, seek freedom to do the work in the most efficient ways available. Certainly there are goals and projects that are regulated and require activities to be done a certain way, but many goals and projects do not have those limitations.
  • Refine and Leverage Your Skills – Be a benchmark performer on your team. Grow and fine-tune your skills so that you have the most current knowledge base for the goals and tasks you face. You can only be efficiently creative when your refined skills meet up with opportunity “in the moment”!
  • Manage Time for BURSTS of Efficiency – Reduce or eliminate distractions. Spend 12-15 minutes straight on skill application to accomplish key goals. Don’t check email, texts, or voicemail during that time – focus exclusively on the task. You’ll be surprised at how much more of the right stuff you’ll get done.
  • Track & Deliver on Commitments – Keeping your promises and delivering high-quality products and services will earn you greater freedom for “doing what you do well” down the road. Be proactive, informing internal and external customers about progress (or delays) with projects and goals. Your personal integrity will benefit from these steps, as well.

Join in the conversation! What ways have you found to boost creativity, efficiency, and productivity? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/yuri_arcurs

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A Safe, Inspiring Culture or Not So Much?

Closeup of a business man climbing rope and business people tryiThis week 247WallSt.com released it’s newest rankings of the worst companies to work for in America. 24/7 Wall St. examined employee reviews of companies at glassdoor.com.

To be considered, companies had to have at least 300 reviews posted. 202 companies made this list. At GlassDoor, employees rate their organization on a 1-5 scale (5 being best). The 11 worst companies to work for in America scored 2.7 or worse on that five point scale.

The lowest scoring company on the list was Denver, CO-based Dish Network. In an article in the Denver Post, Dish CEO Joe Clayton is quoted as saying, “I’ve worked in lots of worse places – this isn’t one of them.”

“This Place Isn’t Nearly As Bad To Work In As . . . “

I don’t believe Mr. Clayton thought through the core message of his comment. When the Denver Post reporter asked about the “worst company” ranking, Clayton had a huge opportunity to say, “We’ve got work to do to make this a more safe, inspiring work culture.” Instead, he qualified Dish as not-nearly-as-bad-as-some-companies, by saying, “I’ve worked in lots of worse places.”

In other words, “No, it’s not a good place to work, but it’s not the worst.” That’s not a resounding validation of their corporate culture.

To management’s credit, Dish is conducting a first-ever employee survey of the company’s 30,000 team members. Clayton says the survey will serve as a benchmark moving forward. The management team will analyze the results of that survey to “see where they can improve.”

That’s a really good step to take. In our experience and research, “best practice” senior leaders continually assess employees’ perceptions of their work culture. If it’s safe, inspiring, even fun, productivity goes up, employee satisfaction goes up, and customer experiences are rated higher.

In order to generate valid, reliable data from employee surveys, it is vital to have the standards you desire formally defined first. Asking broad questions like, “How is our team working?” typically results in broad answers. Boldly state what your culture standards are – in behavioral terms. Then, survey questions are derived from the observable, tangible, measurable behaviors you’ve defined. Questions like these provide much clearer indications of employee perceptions – and the answers are actionable, highlighting gaps that must be addressed. Use questions like:

  • My boss keeps his/her commitments; s/he does what s/he says s/he will do, every time.
  • My boss “catches me doing things right” – praising & encouraging – as often as s/he “catches me doing things wrong.”
  • My boss does not tolerate team members being rude or aggressive with peers, staff, or customers.

Answers to these specific questions will also identify the leaders in your organization who demonstrate desired values AND inspire top productivity from team members. Those folks need to be celebrated regularly.

To be credible, survey results must be published promptly, noting action steps leaders will take to address gaps. Surveys should be done regularly, every six months or so.

Don’t aim for the “middle of the pack” of lousy places to work. Aim for a safe, inspiring work culture.

Join in the conversation! How safe, inspiring, and fun is your work culture? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/yuri_arcurs

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes!

[mejsaudio src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/drivingresultsthroughculture/082012_DRTC_Podcast.mp3″]

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Great Bosses Design & Align Teams

Compass and Map, MacroI’m coaching a senior leader of a new culture client. He and his senior leadership team have gotten off to a great start with their culture refinement, including (with my help) drafting their organization’s values and behaviors.

This week, they’ll share this draft statement with the organization’s entire workforce, asking for their feedback. The senior leadership team will take in those suggestions, and refine & publish the values and behaviors within a month.

Once their values standards are published, the real work starts. Senior leaders have to model the values and behaviors in every interaction. They must hold the rest of the organization’s leaders, managers, and supervisors accountable for demonstrating these values and behaviors. To enable accountability, they’ll do the first run of their custom values survey in six months. In this survey, employees rank the extent to which their bosses and the organization’s leaders demonstrate the values and behaviors, providing hard data about values alignment in their company.

This leader recently asked me for examples of values-aligned organizations. I have my favorites – and it was easy to send him to Ethisphere.com to peruse their listing of the world’s most ethical companies for 2012. 143 companies from around the globe made the “ethical cut” this year. Ethisphere has a rigorous evaluation process that includes ethics compliance, leadership reputation, innovation, governance, corporate citizenship, and a culture of ethics. The winners of this annual award set the standard for high performing, values-aligned organizations worldwide.

Great Bosses Consciously Create Aligned Teams

In our experience and review of our own and others’ research, we have never found an organization that “backed into” a consistently high performing, values aligned corporate culture. These cultures are intentionally created; their leaders leave nothing to chance.

Senior leaders must first design their desired culture through:

  • Clear Performance Expectations
  • Clear Values Expectations

Senior leaders must then align all plans, decisions, and actions to those expectations through exceptional accountability practices. These practices include positive consequences (for aligned efforts), redirection (for slightly off track efforts), and negative consequences (for badly mis-aligned efforts).

The single most important alignment component is the organization’s leaders. Every leader, from the C-suite to front line supervisors, must demonstrate alignment to the organization’s purpose, values, behaviors, and performance expectations, every moment of every day. They each must be of “one heart, one mind, one voice,” committed to role modeling their desired values and behaviors. They can credibly align others to the values and behaviors only when they have fully embraced them, themselves.

Alignment activities are never “done.” Senior leaders must tend to this task daily, ensuring the right leaders are in place to support their desired culture. When aligned leaders act, they are rewarded. When mis-alignment occurs, they are redirected or “released,” removed from employment. The desired culture can only thrive when tended diligently and lovingly by the organization’s leaders.

Join in the conversation! How well do you or your bosses create high performing, values-aligned teams? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/iamcdn

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes!

[mejsaudio src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/drivingresultsthroughculture/081312_DRTC_Podcast.mp3″]

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Build Integrity By Doing Your Best

Blue Badminton Shuttlecock (Birdie)This week the world celebrated efforts and accomplishments at the Olympic Games in London.

Gold medal winners Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin garnered headlines. So did inspired performances (though not podium finishes) by Niger rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka and Saudi Arabia’s first female Olympic athlete, judo competitor Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani.

There were also less inspiring Olympic stories in the headlines. Badminton teams which had already won their pool played to lose matches so they’d face less capable teams in the semifinals; four teams were expelled for not demonstrating Olympic values. Japan’s women’s soccer team was coached to play to an intentional draw in their match against South Africa so they would not have to travel 400 miles for a semifinal game. Britan’s gold-medal winning cyclist admits he crashed on purpose to get a restart in qualifying, exploiting a loophole in Olympic rules. In these last two examples, Olympic officials decided not to investigate the team’s actions.

A consistent theme with these ethical issues: the athletes were directed by their coaches to lose, draw, or crash.

Personal Integrity is Yours to Gain or Lose

I cannot put myself into these athlete’s or coach’s shoes; I am not an expert in their circumstances. I understand the opportunity that loopholes might present for companies in a tight marketplace. I do evaluate how these athletes, teams, and coaches actions make me feel and think about them - I don’t trust that they’d do the right thing, in the moment, no matter what. These athletes, teams, and coaches’ recent decisions tell me that the “right thing” for them depends on how well that “right thing” serves their selfish needs.

Not a good feeling.

The reality is that one’s personal integrity is built and maintained, moment to moment, by 1) keeping your commitments – by doing what you say you will do, and 2) doing the right thing. When our personal values are clear, it is easy to know when a plan, decision, or action is not aligned to those values. When personal values are clear, it is easy to know when your organization’s values are inconsistent with your own. The “right thing” is the decision or action which serves the greater good, not the selfish good.

Don Shula, one of the most successful NFL coaches ever, said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Figure out what you stand for. If you haven’t yet done so, spend an hour or two formalizing your personal values. Test them; your experience with applying your values in the real world will help you refine them.

If you find yourself in an organization that behaves in ways that align with your values, that’s fabulous. If you find yourself in an organization that asks you to compromise your values, you need to decide if you can remain in that circumstance.

Be true to your personal values. Do your best. Do the right thing, no matter what.

Join in the conversation! Do you agree or disagree with my views on personal integrity? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/herreid

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes!

[mejsaudio src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/drivingresultsthroughculture/080612_DRTC_Podcast.mp3″]

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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