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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _How to turn a group of strangers into a community of friends? (PART 2)

THE KEY TO LASTING WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS

As we’ve already seen in my previous post, decades of research reveal that the recipe for friendship is simple. Proximity, familiarity, similarity and self disclosure all play a role. The trick is to create the conditions that naturally foster these elements and integrate them into the work environment.

After-work activities represent one approach. Many of the companies that appear on Fortune magazine’s annual list of top workplaces now offer seed money for relatively inexpensive activities that range from after-work yoga to wine-tasting classes to improv training. From a financial perspective this can seem wasteful. Yet the value these activities yield to interpersonal connections-and therefore to employee productivity-makes them a wise investment. Shared activities catalyze workplace friendships in ways few interactions can. They foster proximity between employees who rarely meet, boost their level of familiarity with one another, highlight similarity of interests, and leverage informal, nonwork environments to prompt self-disclosure.

By allowing colleagues to direct their attention to a common task shared activities create opportunities for dialogue without the pressure of forced conversation. In this way, they’re the antidote to a more traditional and often less successful approach to after-work socializing the cocktail party. What’s wrong with cocktail parties? Nothing at all. Unless, of course, you’re interested in fostering meaningful connections.

Cocktail parties tend to isolate people into groups of those they already know, trapping them in conversations that often feel strained and rarely result in close bonds. Partly it’s because there’s nothing to do but talk. For many people, taking the focus off the conversation and placing it squarely on an activity itself reduces self-consciousness and makes connections easier to grow. This can be especially true for the introverts in a group, who are often more comfortable bonding shoulder to shoulder with a colleague than face to face. When shared activities include a physical component, such as running or dancing, they have the added feature of increasing physiological arousal.

Research indicates that when we experience a rush of adrenaline in the company of others, we like them more, and even find them more attractive. The more opportunities employees have sharing in physical activities, like softball, volleyball, or even fishing the easier it is for them to get along. There’s a reason why so many close business connections are forged out on the golf course. Ironically, it’s what we do together outside the office that frequently offers the biggest boon to our relationships at work.

ABOLISH THE “THEY”

Another insight for sustaining workplace friendships comes to us from an unlikely source: research on conflicts that go horribly-and sometimes violently-wrong.

Superordinate goals can serve as a powerful tool for defusing tension in times of conflict. Just as important, they can also be used to inoculate coworkers before disagreements erupt. When colleagues feel like they’re working to common objective, a sense of shared purpose naturally softens the conditions for friendships. The challenge in many workplaces is that superordinate goals are often surprisingly difficult to identify. In a world in which every employee is a specialist, colleagues can sit next to one another for years and not know what their coworkers are doing. At many offices an employee’s contributions are only visible within their team. How do you leverage superordinate goals under these condititions?

The first step involves helping employees understand the way their colleagues’ work contributes to their own success. It’s when that connection isn’t evident that teams tend to splinter into factions, making friendships harder to foster. Anytime employees view colleagues in another department as a “they” rather than an “us,” you have a problem. In psychological terms what they’re really saying is, they’re lacking a superordinate goal. Some organizations work to abolish the “they” right at the start of an employee’s tenure, building cross-departmental understanding right into the onboarding processes.  Making existing superordinate goals more visible is one approach. Or creating new ones.

Another opportunity for superordinate goals in the workplace is starting cross-departmental competitions and assigning employees who don’t normally work together to the same team. One example is the office version of the Biggest Loser, a game that rewards the group that collectictively loses the most weight with a cash award. Participants can only win when their coworkers are successful, leading them to support one another’s weight-loss efforts, share strategies, and plan meals around a common goal. Even better are wellness programs that reward colleagues for the amount of exercise they undertake collaboratively, encouraging teammates to work out together in groups. Superordinate goals also naturally emerge through joint volunteer efforts, sports teams, and the establishment of a company band. Ultimatelly, the activity itself is not important. What matters is bringing together employees who rarely interact and putting them in situations where collaboration is the only path to success.

SOWING THE SEEDS FOR A WORKPLACE COMMUNITY

Research highlights a surprising benefit of robust social networks. When people have a wide range of connections, it provides them with a sense of psychological security that buffers them from day-to-day stress, And because they experience stress less often, their bodies are better conditioned to fend off physiological challenges when they occur. Workplace connections offer similar benefits. When we feel supported by our colleagues, we are less likely to experience challenging events as stressful, knowing that our teammates are there to back us up. Minor hiccups appear less intimidating, which helps us keep our emotions in check and enables us to make better decisions in the face of crisis. Studies show that the way we perceive our social network is vital to our mental health. When we believe that those around us are available to provide social support-by offering assistance, advice, and emotional reassurance-we tend to be healthier both physically and psychologically. One obvious path to improving perceptions of social support in the workplace involves helping colleagues establish close friendships.

But as many organizations are now discovering, the reverse is also true when a company introduces formal practices that make social support and mutual caring the norm, friendships tend to bloom naturally. One simple way organizations can help employees support one another is by encouraging them to celebrate important milestones. Research shows that how people react to the positive events in one another’s lives is often more important to the quality of a relationship than how they react to negative events. Shared celebrations over a recent marriage engagement, a major birthday, or a recent promotion can magnify positive emotions and strengthen the fabric of a group’s bond. The occasional order of cupcakes won’t break the bank. Yet in many companies every expenditure requires the approval of a manager. Why not give every employee a modest celebration budget that they can use at their discretion?

There is also value to sharing negative events within a group. Recognizing setbacks, like the passing of a spouse or the development of an illness, can draw employees closer together and allow colleagues to provide one another with social support when they need it most.Disclosing setbacks publicly obviously requires an employee’s permission and considerable tact, but connecting over struggles can mean the difference between superficial chit-chat and a lifelong friendship. It’s when we open up about adversity that we build our closest relationships.

 Organizations can also bolster employees’ perception of their support network by encouraging colleagues to pool together resources in a way that helps those confronted with financial emergencies. Starbucks, is one company that’s taken this step, creating the Caring Unites Partners (or CUP) fund that provides grants to employees in need. It’s when organizations take steps to weave employee connections beyond the office that they’ set the stage for a workplace community to emerge. And interestingly, it’s not just the recipients who profit from the additional support. Research shows that altruism often benefits givers more than receivers. Helping others-even when we’re not particularly close-improves our moods and enhances our perceptions of the support we have available, should we need it in the future.

WHEN CLOSE FRIENDSHIPS GO AWRY: WHAT TO DO ABOUT GOSSIP

No discussion of workplace friendship would be complete without addressing a legitimate concern that many managers hold about encouraging close employee relationships: the spread of office gossip. When you enhance people’s comfort level working together, you also increase their willingness to share thoughts and feelings they might otherwise keep to themselves. Occasionally, those include unflattering impressions of other employees or managers around the office. Gossip can have a debilitating effect on a workplace. It breeds distrust between colleagues, siphons time away from important projects,and injures company morale. Left unchecked, it can contribute to a culture of fear and anxiety.

So what do you do to prevent office gossip?

The surprising conclusion from a number of psychological experts is that you can’t, and that you might be better off not even trying. Now, before you dismiss this notion, consider the reason researchers believe gossip exists in the first place. Gossip, evolutionary psychologists argue, serves an important function. It provides people with valuable information on how to behave and helps them navigate the world more effectively. Say I hear a rumor that one of my associates, Cheryl, got dressed down by a client this morning for being unprepared. How does that affect my behavior? Well, first, it informs my approach to dealing with Cheryl on our afternoon conference call. Perhaps I’m a little nicer to her before we launch into our weekly update and offer her some encouraging feedback after she presents her portion. When discussing upcoming projects I also might think twice before agreeing to let Cheryl take the lead. The gossip circulating about Cheryl doesn’t do her any good, but it does make me a little better prepared for doing my job.Score one for gossip.

Another benefit of gossip: keeping people in line. As news of of Cheryl’s misstep spreads throughout our division, it conveys a subtle warning: Beware, the gossip tells all of us. Arrive at meetings without doing your homework and your reputation will suffer a similar fate.

A 2012 study uncovered yet another way gossip is beneficial: People are less likely to cheat when there’s a possibility others will gossip about their actions. Gossip appears to foster prosocial behavior. When we’re concerned that others will find out what we’ve done, we’re less likely to act selfishly and more likely to behave in a cooperative fashion. When you consider all the value gossip brings, it’s no wonder it plays such a pivotal role in our lives. According to discourse analysts, nearly 2/3 of conversations contain some elements of gossip. It often goes undetected because we don’t all gossip about the same things. On average, men tend to gossip more about high-powered authority figures who include political figures,athletes, and celebrities. Women, on the other hand, spend more time gossiping about family members and dose friends.

We gossip, according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, because in the past our lives depended on it. Back when our ancestors lived in small groups, they were able to monitor one another’s behaviors firsthand. But as group sizes expanded, direct observation was not always feasible. For a while, living a large group was risky, because you didn’t know who to trust. Eventually language entered the picture, and suddenly people had a tool for tracking reputations. Now, if someone behaved unethically, everyone in the group would find out, and soon enough the perpetrator would be shunned. From Dunbar’s perspective, if we didn’t need to gossip we may never have learned how to talk.

Gossip is useful, which is why it often feels so rewarding. When Your coworker Mike tells you that his boss has been spending a lot of time with a particular intern, he implicitly shows that he trusts you and views you as someone worth inviting into an exclusive social circle. It’s a flattering experience. At the same time, Mike gets to demonstrate his moral superiority on the issue of romancing interns while simultaneously proving that he is “in the know.’ That brief exchange brings you and Mike a little closer and gives both of you a temporary bump in self-esteem. As much as we’d like to believe we’re above gossiping, the reality is that we’re all susceptible. It’s an inherent part of who we are. But just because we’re prone to doing certain behaviors doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good for business. The more employees gossip behind one another’s backs, the harder it is to build team camaraderie and sustain collaborations.

Some organizations try to root out gossip by outlining formal policies or having executives issue explicit warnings. It’s an approach that displays a basic misunderstanding of human nature.Asking employees to stop talking about one another is a little like warning  your kids never to yell. They can try their best, but eventually they’ll slip up, and when they do, it will only increase the distance between you. Ironically, your disapproval makes the transgression a little more exciting when it happens. The real question-the one that many organizations fail to address-is: What’s causing workplace gossip to crop up in the first place? We all enjoy a bit of gossip, but some of us participate in it more than others. How come? Research shows that teammates are particularly susceptible to gossip when they’re feeling powerless or insecure. The more people feel like they are out of the loop, the more they traffic in scraps of information.

Gossip in the workplace tends to be the weapon of the isolated and socially disenfranchised. When employees feel disconnected  from the broader organization, they resort to forming cliques, drawing some colleagues close by putting other colleagues down. Ironically, it is their need for connections that results in organization-defeating behaviors that ultimately erode a team’s trust. Instead of outlawing gossip, leaders would be better off listening carefully to it instead. People tend to gossip about issues that reflect real workplace concerns. A lack of transparency about important decisions, for example, can breed uncertainty and sow the seeds for organizational chatter. Promoting openness between colleagues and building an environment where people feel safe addressing their concerns reduces the desire for talking behind one another’s backs. Another thing leaders should listen for is the source of the gossip.

The more someone gossips, the more powerless he likely perceives himself to be, which is an issue that deserves genuine attention. There are also those who wield gossip as a weapon, strategically undermining others while attempting to elevate their own status in an organization. There’s a term for them in the literature: workplace terrorists.

It’s important to identify strategic gossipers early, before they can inflict too much harm. The challenge, of course, is that when we’re handed a juicy piece of gossip, it’s easy to be seduced by the feeling that we’ve gained useful information from someone who is on our side which is why it’s important to consider the motivation behind disclosure. Is the speaker trying to help you, hurt a potential rival or both, attitudes toward gossip, like other social norms, are communicated from the top. Leaders have a disproportionate influence over many organizational behaviors, and gossiping is no exception.

If as a manager, you light up when given a piece of gossip, you’re likely  to have team members who do the same and strive to feed you information. And any manager who resorts to speculating with employees about their colleagues is not only undermining organizational trust,he is also damaging his own stature as a leader. Studies show that those who gossip the most are often viewed as the least powerful. How do strong leaders respond to workplace gossip? By listening. And then, by encouraging and modeling open communication. It’s one thing to hear about Cheryl’s unfortunate turn at that client meeting, it’s another to find Cheryl and see if you can help. True friendships can only emerge when there is an openness between colleagues. When teammates have enough confidence in one another to raise difficult topics, even when that means having a challenging conversation. It’s what makes workplace friendships so vital in the first place.When we see that we’re surrounded by people who care about us it’s a lot easier to stay on task.

The Lessons of Friendship

I.Action Items for Managers

Onboard with an eye toward friendship.

Rather than viewing onboarding simply as a tool for getting new hires up to speed, think of it as an opportunity for sparking employee friendships. Consider starting before your new hires arrive, assigning one or two of their colleagues to reach out and give them a head start. Introduce new employees by describing their interests-not just their CV-so that they have something to bond over when meeting with coworkers. And look for collaborative assignments right at the start, so that they can continue to forge connections as part of a team Remember, you’re the host. If you want people staying late at your party, you need to give them a reason to stick around.

Empower your team to find mutual passions.

Instead of organizing social gatherings that may or may not be engaging encourage your employees to take the lead by offering to fund activities that appeal to at least five team members. Friendships don’t take when managers force employees into awkward social activities-not to mention the fact that you’re too busy to play camp counselor. Far better to show your interest in helping employees pursue their passions by asking them to identify fun events they’d like to engage in, Even better: Allow them to bring their significant others along. Encouraging employees to involve spouses in workplace-sponsored events is another way of fostering connections, simultaneously promoting healthier marriages and growing the bond between coworkers’ families.

Simplify caring. Employees grow closer when their colleagues are there to celebrate milestones and provide support in times of difficulty. Great workplaces make it easy for teammates to magnify positive events and empower them to get creative and customize their approach to each fellow employee. Here’s one example: sending automated team reminders before each colleague’s birthday and offering a modest twenty-dollar celebration budget. You might see some birthdays celebrated with a traditional cake, Hawaii- themed office decorations, or the hiring of an amateur opera singer off of Craigslist. Sound ridiculous? That’s the point. Helping employees show that they get one another makes them significantly more likely to bond.

The Lessons of Friendship

II. Action Items for Emerging Leaders

All business all the time makes you a weaker employee

We’re more effective at working with our teammates when we’re connecting on a personal level. Workplace friendships don’t happen when you’re buried in a spreadsheet. They emerge in the spaces between work, before and after a team meeting-when you and I accidentally discover that we both love jogging and happen to own the same car. Make time for chance connections. Chatting with the new guy in sales may not feel productive in the moment, but it may turn out to be the most valuable thing you do all day.

If you are struggling with a colleague, find a superordinate goal.

Often in the workplace, we get locked into our own objectives and see others as a barrier. It’s what contributes to the development of turf wars. If you’re dealing with a collaborator who seems to view you as competition, look for areas of common struggle, where you need one another. It’s easier to connect with someone when it’s clear you’re both on the same side and neither one of you can succeed alone

Recognize that gossip is the fast food of social connection.

Gossip creates intimacy in the short term. But beware: It also weakens your standing in a group. Research shows that despite the immediate enjoyment people get from listening to gossip, frequent gossipers are viewed as less trustworthy, less powerful, and less likable. There’s a Turkish proverb that says, “He who gossips to you, will gossip of you,” and it appears that on some level, people implicitly believe that to be the case. If gossip is your primary means of connecting. It may be time you reconsidered your approach. It might feel like you’re bonding with others, but the damage you’re doing to your reputation makes it harder for your coworkers to view you as a friend.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _How to turn a group of strangers into a community of friends? (PART 1)

This is how you foster profitability on long term

Measuring workplace friendships is very important in any business for Nr. 1 reason:

It’s one of the strongest predictors of productivity. Studies show that employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organizations. They get sick less often, suffer fewer accidents, and change jobs less frequently. They even have more satisfied customers.

Why would friends be better at working together than acquaintances?

The reason? = Studies showed that Friends  have better communication while doing the activity, and offered teammates positive encouragement every step of the way. Friends were more committed at the start of the project. They also evaluated ideas more critically and gave one another feedback when they were off course.

Acquaintances, on the other hand, took a different approach. They appeared to prefer working alone, engaging one another only when it was absolutely necessary. They were also less comfortable seeking help and resisted pointing out when one of their coworkers was making a mistake. Instead of fusing into a group and leveraging one anther’s strengths, their lack of connection was holding them back. They were operating in silos.

Research suggests that workplace friendships yield more productive employees, and it’s not just because friends are easier to work with. It’s also because there is more on the line. Feeling a connection with colleagues can motivate employees to work harder for a simple reason:

“When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends. The social pressure to do a good job can often serve as a stronger motivator than anything a boss can say.”

Workplace friendships also benefit organizations for another reason. Employees with better friendships tend to stay on with their company for longer periods of time. In today’s world, loyalty to an organization has become an antiquated concept, one that rarely determines people’s career decisions. Bur when our coworkers are our friends, it suddenly becomes harder to leave. Often it’s our loyalty to our colleagues that keeps us from accepting higher salaries and better titles with another company.

What happens when there’s a lack of friendships in the workplace?

Psychologists call it process loss, and if you’ve ever worked with a difficult colleague, you’ve probably experienced it firsthand. The technical definition is “wasted energy and loss of productivity caused by interpersonal difficulties.” We all recognize the symptoms. The mild version involves the occasional miscommunication. More acute cases are : rife with unresolved tension, breakdowns in collaboration, and eventually full-on turf wars. Instead of focusing all your attention on your work, you find yourself sidetracked by interpersonal drama, which invariably makes you worse at your job.

How much is it costing businesses to leave employee friendships to chance? Well, if you don’t build friendship at workplace that will directly impact your profit and the existence of your company will be defined on short -term only.

HOW LONELINESS MAKES YOU STUPID

Part of the reason so many executives have a hard time taking the importance of employee friendships seriously is that it’s easy to confuse the concept of friends at the office with the notion of fooling around. Informal colleague relationships are often perceived as sources of gossip, interpersonal favoritism, and general workplace distractions. But research suggests that this is a misguided way of thinking about what happens when we’re working with friends. Meaningful connections are vital to our psychological and physical well-being. So much so, in fact, that many scientists now believe it’s impossible to be healthy unless we’re feeling connected to others.

Studies show that loneliness can have a crippling effect on our bodies. Lonely people have weaker immune systems, stiffer arteries, and higher blood pressure. They experience more stress, have a harder relaxing, and derive less pleasure from the possibility of reward. Often they lose sleep, which precipitates further mental deterioration. Over time, extended bouts of loneliness can lead to cognitive decline in the form of memory and learning deficits. Left untreated, chronic loneliness can threaten your life.

A recent study demonstrates that loneliness in the workplace isn’t merely an uncomfortable personal experience-it can interfere with the performance of an entire team. When employees experience loneliness, they grow more disconnected from their colleagues. Their ability to focus deteriorates and their desire to succeed plummets. Often they waste valuable cognitive resources attempting to hide their loneliness from others, leaving even less mental firepower for their work. In short, they become less capable of doing their jobs. Which leads us to the big elephant in the room: Even if friendships are vital to workplace performance, what can organizations possibly do about it? Friendships, after all, are voluntary. You can’t persuade people to become friends. Or can you?

THE SCIENCE OF MAKING FRIENDS

As it turns out, organizations have a lot more influence over employee friendships than they recognize. To understand how companies can promote bonding between coworkers, let’s first examine some of the common ingredients at the core of successful friendships. What makes people like one another? Research suggests that there are three basic building blocks and they’re all surprisingly straightforward.

The 1st ingredient for friendship is: physical proximity. Initially, physical proximity might sound like an obvious requirement for friendship, one hardly worth mentioning, except its implications are profound. Consider the number of close friendships you’ve formed while living, studying, or working near people you now hold dear. How many of those relationships would have developed if the seating arrangements had been slightly different?

The same observation applies to the realm of romance. Think you and your spouse were made for each other? Maybe. But if of the 7 billion of the world’s inhabitants you and your soul mate just happened to share a zip code when you first met, cosmic destiny may have had less to do with your relationship than the principle of proximity.

When a coworker is often nearby, your chances of hitting it off are far greater than if the two of you work in different departments. There might be someone at your company sitting at their desk right now who could be the best friend you will ever have. But if your opportunities for interacting with that person are limited, you may live your entire life without knowing it.

The 2nd and strongest contributor to friendship is: Similarity.

The more we have in common with others-whether it’s a college major, a favorite TV show, or even the same birthday-the more we tend to like them. As writer C. S. Lewis once observed, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? thought I was the only one,'” Why is this the case? Because similarity is reaffirming. If I like Simon Sinek and you like Simon Sinek, your opinion validates my own and makes me feel good about myself.

A 3rd friendship requirement: familiarity. On average, we tend to like people the more we see of them, and often the effect is unconscious. There’s an uncertainty we feel upon meeting someone for the first time. But with repeated exposure we develop a sense of safety and comfort around them. Which is why familiarity tends to liking. Studies show that the mere exposure effect doesn’t just affect our impressions of people. It also applies to paintings, songs, and consumer products. Ever wonder why Coca-Cola still bothers advertising when nearly everyone on the planet has already sampled their beverage? The mere exposure effect offers one perspective: The more often we see a logo, the more we tend to like (and therefore buy) the product.

In a study of best friends who managed to stay close for nearly  20 years, researchers found that the strongest predictor of long-term bonding is the level of similarity when friends first meet. The same principle applies to intimate relationships. Romantic comedies and sitcoms may try to convince us that in terms of personalities the opposites attract, but the research is conclusive: When it comes to long-term relationships similarity beats differences every time. While all friendships are founded on the pillars of proximity, familiarity, and similarity, psychologists have discovered that you can have all three elements and still not see a blossoming friendship there’s still something missing, a vital ingredient that sparks the relationship process. That ingredient? = Secrets.

HOW TO TURN ACQUAINTANCES INTO FRIENDS

This applies at workplace too.

If you want two people to connect, factual exchanges aren’t enough. What you need is for people to reveal intimate information about themselves in a reciprocal fashion. Having one person talk and the other listen won’t get the job done; it will simply leave one person feeling exposed. For intimacy to develop, both partners need to self-disclose. Another important feature is the observation that in close friendships the level of self-disclosure tends to escalate over time. When we first meet a friend or colleague the revelations we make tend to be fairly superficial. But as we grow closer, we become more comfortable sharing intimate details and expect our partners to do the same.The progression is important. Without deeper revelations a relationship can stall.

SELF-DISCLOSING IN THE WORKPLACE

After all self-disclosure might be a good way of bonding with a buddy at the gym or a new neighbor. But in a competitive work environment, where everything we say and do reflects on our level of professionalism, shouldn’t we be a little more discreet? Is opening up and sharing emotionally sensitive information with coworkers really a wise approach? Research conducted suggests it is, at least if your goal is to make friends. What the research discovered is that close workplace friendships tend to follow a distinct pattern that is marked by three key transitions.

The 1st is the transition from acquaintance to friend. For the most part, all it takes for this transition to occur is working near a colleague for a period of about a year and occasionally collaborating on team projects. How can you tell if coworkers are friends? Ironically, by the amount of time they spend discussing nonworkplace topics. The more frequently colleagues talked about nonwork matters, the closer they tended to be. There’s an important lesson here for anyone interested in growing their influence in the workplace: When all you do at the office is talk shop, you might develop a reputation for being competent, but you’re not likely to end up with a whole lot of friends.

The 2nd and the 3rd transitions are, the ones that turned friends into close friends, and close friends into best friends. Here the proximity and common ground that prompted the 1st transition were nowhere near enough to catalyze a strong connection. What was? Sharing problems from one’s personal, home, and work life. The challenge for many of us, of course, is that proactively sharing potentially embarrassing information is a little like visiting an emotional casino. If your listener reciprocates with a few revelations of their own, the payoffs can be big: You stand to win a deeper and more satisfying relationship. But if your disclosure isn’t reciprocated-or worse if it’s criticized-you end up feeling exposed. And that experience is painful. The irony is that close relationships are often built upon a foundation of shared risk. It’s when we reveal our vulnerabilities that we acquire new friends.

WHAT EVERY MANAGER CAN LEARN FROM PARTY PLANNER

We know a lot about the formation of friendships, yet we seem to apply very little of that knowledge to cultivating relationships in the workplace. Consider what happens when an employee joins your company. In many organizations, surprisingly little thought is given to the way onboarding can contribute (or undermine) a sense of connection between team members.

After my graduation in 2003 I had different workplaces. All were good companies, but the managers were all lacking this approach of friendship formation. At my last workplace at AUDI for example, my onboarding process consisted of me showing up on the day and my manager removing a few boxes from a desk and saying: You can sit here for now,’ Even let’s suppose he was a brilliant guy working at a successful company. He was far too busy to give onboarding much attention. On the other end of the spectrum is a process that overcompensates, exposing newcomers to the corporate equivalent of speed dating. Meetings are stacked back-to-back at breakneck speed so that new employees can introduce themselves to important leaders in their company. While well intentioned, it’s an approach that forces employees to pinball from office to office, answering the same superficial background questions and leaving them little room to absorb information.

By the end of the day, faces have blended together and any meaningful connections that might have developed are squandered. Both extremes miss the mark for the same reason: They design onboarding from the perspective of the organization and not the employee. And in so doing, they miss a key opportunity for fostering close friendships.

Remember how you felt on your first day on the job? Proud,excited, perhaps a little anxious … You didn’t want to be ignored. But you certainly didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. What you really wanted was to find a way to show your coworkers-and especially your manager-what a shrewd decision they had made by hiring you.

Intelligent onboarding reflects the needs of employees as well as those of their companies, by addressing two concerns that often weigh heavily on the mind of new hires: demonstrating their competence and connecting with their colleagues. Entering an organization is like joining a party that has been going on without you for years. Some people are naturally drawn to mingling, but many struggle over what to do. The first few minutes are especially critical for guests, because the longer they feel isolated the more they need to rationalize their experience with negative thoughts like, “Everyone here is so boring” (defensive) or, worse still, “These people must not like me” (self-critical).

A considerate host plans ahead, finding ways to maximize people’s chances of interacting, strategically placing food in different locations, carefully positioning the bar, and occasionally enlisting the help of a few guests to introduce newcomers, highlighting what they have in common. Smart workplaces use a similar approach. They recognize that it is the responsibility of the “host” to establish subtle techniques for integrating coworkers from the moment of their arrival. One key to getting onboarding right is stretching out the process, allowing new employees the space they need to find their bearings, organize their thoughts, and get more out of their time with coworkers.

Onboarding doesn’t have to begin with an employee’s first day of work. It can start the moment they accept a job, when their enthusiasm for a position is at an all-time high. Instead of asking HR to set the process into motion, assign a team mate or two to introduce themselves via e-mail and offer to go out for coffee. Encourage them to share information about past projects and help their new colleague learn about the significance of their role. The more context new employees have before starting, the easier it is for them to feel competent and appreciative of their teammates on their first day.

Another technique for helping colleagues connect: Introduce new hires by revealing more than just their professional background. Talk about their hobbies, their favorite TV shows, or an unusual talent of which they’re particularly proud. Remember: similarity sparks friendship. What might appear to you as a trivial detail can serve as the basis for a close colleague relationship. When employees first arrive on the job, it’s tempting to get introductory meetings out of the way as quickly as possible. Resist this urge. Far better to scatter them over a few days or weeks. That may feel inefficient at first, but not if you want new hires to be mentally present and primed to make connections. It also pays to think carefully about a new hire’s first assignment.

You can use it to do more than simply get a new employee up to speed you can use it as a tool for deepening relationships. Start new hires with a series of modest, collaborative projects that discourage isolation and allow them to collect early wins. The shared accomplishment will bolster connections while fostering a sense of team pride. If stretching out and customizing the onboarding process sounds complex, that’s because it is. And it should be. Building lasting  relationships takes time. At parties, a well-handled introduction can mean the difference between guests remaining late into the night or using any excuse to leave. The same is true of the workplace. How employees feel when they first arrive shapes every impression they develop thereafter.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _What happy workplaces can learn from Casinos? (PART 2)

It’s only UP TO YOU to create your HAPPINESS.

THE DARK SIDE OF HAPPINESS

When we’re completely consumed with trying to be happy all the time, we overlook the value of unhappy emotions, such as anger, embarrassment, and shame. Those experiences may not feel very pleasant when they’re happening, but they exist for a reason. Negative emotions help direct our attention to elements of our environment that require a response. From this perspective, artificially blunting negative emotions comes with a cost. It prevents us from acknowledging errors and adapting our behaviors.

When we feel sad for example, we send a social signal to those around us that we need help.Think about the last time you saw someone cry. If you’re like most people, you felt an immediate impulse to provide comfort and support.It’s the sadness that drew you in. Feeling guilty can also be useful. It motivates us to repair something damaging we’ve done to hurt a relationship. Even embarrassment has its upside. It tells us we’ve committed a social infraction and pushes us to make amends (for example, by telling yourself never to gamble again). Interestingly, research suggests another downside to exclusiveness: an increased tendency for making mistakes. When we’re happy, we grow confident, which at times can lead us to overestimate our abilities and ignore potential dangers. We can become more trusting, less critical, and occasionally unrealistic.

HAPPINESS @WORK is the most important thing for a great job performance.

Research show that, extremely happy people reported better relationship and more community involvement, but surprisingly, they also lagged in income and education. Who collected the biggest paychecks and earned the highest academic degrees? That distinction belong to those who were slightly dissatisfied. Because these results are correlational, we can’t say for sure whether dissatisfaction causes higher levels of achievement per se. But what we can conclude from the data is this: Higher income and education are more common among people who are not continuously ecstatic about their lives.

So what are we to make of these findings?

Several observations are worth noting.

1st – happiness in the workplace is beneficial, but only up to a point. As a general rule, employees who are happy at their job are more productive than those who feel dissatisfied. But extreme levels of happiness can also interfere with work quality. Despite what we often hear, happiness in the workplace is simply not an unqualified good.

2nd – being in a positive mood can benefit some activities more than others. That means feeling happy can make us better at certain aspects of our jobs while also making us worse at others. Instead of simply assuming that intense happiness will improve everyone’s performance, it’s wise for managers to first consider the types of activities employees are expected to do. An emotional climate that’s advantageous for a team of salespeople is often different from one that’s beneficial for a group of accountants.

And finally 3rd – when organizations convey an expectation that every employee should feel happy at work all the time, they do their workers a disservice. It’s one thing to promote happiness in the workplace, but another to make it a job requirement. Studies show that the more pressure we place on ourselves to feel happy, the less likely we are to succeed. And as we’ve seen, negative emotions can occasionally be useful and actually improve performance on certain tasks, particularly ones requiring persistence and attention to detail.

The Lessons of Happiness

I. Action items for Managers

Plan happiness boosts around specific work activities.

Research shows that when we’re happy, we’re better at connecting with others, seeing the big picture, and generating creative ideas. That means that if you’re trying to get a group to bond or think flexibly-as in a client meeting or a team brainstorm-elevating people’s mood at the start by using refreshments, good news, or an interactive activity can be a wise approach. However, beware of applying the same strategy when your team is tasked with rooting out mistakes or conducting careful analyses. Feeling good can lead them to overlook potential threats, undermining their performance. Remember, positive emotions can help or hurt depending on the task. The trick is to promote a mind-set that benefits the activities you’re about to undertake.

Think small.

You can get a bigger psychological bang for the buck with small, frequent positive experiences (e.g.workplace benefits that employees experience on a daily basis) than from larger positive experiences that only occur infrequently (e.g., the annual bonus). Modest workplaces perks, such as a high-end cappuccino maker or artisan pastries, might appear frivolous, but in many instances they pay for themselves by elevating employees’ moods, making a workplace feel distinct, and improving productivity.

Some perks are wiser than others.

Organizational perks can do more than sustain positive moods, they can also nudge employees into making better decisions. Having fruit and almonds available in conference rooms, for example, promotes healthy eating. Complimentary passes to a nearby gym encourage employees to exercise. Another smart perk worth considering: incentivizing employees to live near the office.

Imo, a Silicon Valley tech company, for example, pays employees who live within five miles of work an extra $500 a month. It’s by no means a small amount, yet the company views it as an investment. Shorter commute times mean their employees get better sleep, spend more time with their families, and presumably, have closer relationships with colleagues who also happen to be neighbors. When living near the office is unrealistic, rewarding employees who carpool together can also deliver considerable benefits to an organization.

II. Action Items for Emerging Leaders

Ask for variety.

It’s easy to grow bored with a job that involves doing a small number of tasks over and over. When the work we do becomes predictable, our attention falters and our engagement slips. Research shows that employees whose work involves a wide range of activities tend to enjoy greater job satisfaction, in part because variety delays adaptation. For a happier work experience, look for new ways of applying your skills instead of hoping that the same old routine will somehow recapture your interest.

Feeling unhappy can be good for you.

While the mind is designed to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, research suggests that interludes of unhappiness allow us to better enjoy the positives in our lives when they occur. When we experience anger or sadness, there’s typically a good reason for it. Noticing the way you feel and then examining the reasons behind the emotion-whether at work or elsewhere-can help you identify the changes you need to make to foster genuine happiness.

Find a way of making gratitude work for you.

Appreciating the things that are going right in your life is a basic requirement for sustained happiness. Yet gratitude is not something that often comes naturally. Journaling about the positive aspects of your day is one approach, and several smartphone apps (like Happy Tapper and Gratitude Journal 365) send automatic reminders that make the process easy. Some even allow users to take photos of positive events, doing away with the writing requirement that turns so many people off.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _What happy workplaces can learn from Casinos? (PART 1)

It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be NICE.

Research shows that happy people tend to be more effective at their jobs. When we’re feeling good about our lives, we connect with others more easily, think more optimistically and free up valuable mental resources to focus on novel ideas. Happiness also breeds confidence. Positive moods make our situation feel more controllable, which can give us the grit to power through challenging tasks. How exactly do you foster happiness in the workplace? Well, very simple, by taking a cue from casinos and embedding psychological triggers into the employee experience that promote a positive mind-set.

WHY WORKPLACE HAPPINESS IS HARD TO FIND

One of the more distressing facts about human nature is that we are not particularly good at staying happy. Positive emotions wear off. Whether we’ve earned a promotion, landed a new client, or moved to corner office, with time we tend to return to our happiness baseline. Often the process doesn’t take very long.

NOT many workplaces can deliver this.

Consider what happens when you order a wonderful dish at a new restaurant. The first bite is exquisite. The second is very good. By the third, you’re ready to share. The more you eat, the less enjoyment you derive from your meal, until after a certain threshold you couldn’t bear another bite. Chances are, the next time you return to the restaurant and order the same dish, it will taste like it’s missing something. It is: novelty. The good news about our inclination to adapt is that the same psychological process responsible for acclimating us to positive events is also at work when we experience a tragedy.

Studies show that lottery winners, for example, return to their happiness baseline roughly one year after receiving their windfall. Accident victims show a similar pattern. Just 12 months after losing the use of their legs, paraplegics estimate that they will feel just as happy in the future as did before their injury. Our brains are programmed to adapt to our circumstances, and for good reason. Too happy and we’d lack any ambition; too sad and we’d never leave our beds. To some, learning about the existence of a happiness baseline can feel incredibly liberating. It means that no matter how badly you screw up your next project, inevitably your disappointment will wear off, and you’ll return to your happiness set point. So why not take some risks? After all, you’re working with an emotional safety net.

To others, it can seem downright depressing. If happiness is fleeting what’s the point of even trying? It’s the reason some researchers have equated the human condition to a “happiness treadmill.” We struggle as hard as we can, only to remain stuck in the same emotional place. Studies examining ways of slowing the adaptation process as a means of prolonging happy experiences show that If we can prevent ourselves from habituating too quickly to positive experiences, the reasoning goes, we can sustain the initial high for longer periods of time.

How do you delay adaptation? Here’s a look at what we’ve learned so far.

INSIGHT #1 – Frequency is more important than size.

Every positive experience takes some getting used to. And the more positive events we have, the longer it takes us to return to baseline. Which leads us to our first happiness insight:

Small, frequent pleasures can keep us happy longer than large, infrequent ones.

Do it small and do it frequent is much better than do it Big and very rare.

What this means from a practical perspective is that bringing home a 10-dollar arrangement of flowers every Friday for a month is a wiser happiness-promoting strategy than purchasing a single 40-dollar bouquet. So is spacing out weekend getaways over the course of a year instead of taking a single 2-week vacation. The more frequent our happiness boosts, the longer our mood remains above baseline.

The implications from an organizational standpoint can be profound. For one thing, we may be better off splitting up positive annual events into quarterly ones. Companies often hand out bonuses at the end of the year, but delivering smaller, quarterly bonuses may be a more effective strategy. The same logic applies to parties. Instead of spending lavishly on a single holiday party, it may be wiser to divide spending into smaller increments, providing seasonal get-togethers. The importance of frequent positive events also provides a new lens for appreciating the psychological value of office perks. Offering employees relatively inexpensive workplace benefits-for example, by purchasing a high-end espresso machine or stocking the refrigerator with interesting snacks-is more likely to sustain day-to-day happiness levels than the sporadic pay increase.

From the employee perspective, access to office perks can often do than temporarily elevate mood. It also sends an implicit signal that an organization cares about them. While financial bonuses tend to be viewed as payment for performance, perks communicate on an emotional level and provide a motivational boost. Studies show that when employees feel cared for, they are inclined to reciprocate by working harder.

INSIGHT #2: Variety prevents adaptation

Increasing the frequency of positive events isn’t the only way of delaying adaptation. So is introducing variation.

Delay the adaptation, but do it wisely.

Because our brains are programmed to habituate quickly to our circumstances, we tend to tune out events that happen repeatedly, no matter how positive. Our minds slip into autopilot when our environment is predictable, conserving mental energy for when changes occur. We need new experiences to keep us emotionally engaged. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s a process that’s served us well. The inevitable boredom that arises once we adapt to our circumstances is what keeps us striving for bigger and better, not how much we’ve achieved. What it hasn’t done, however, is make us very good at savoring positive experiences when they happen. The more we do the same enjoyable things, the less attention we pay them. Which teaches us an important lesson about happiness:

Sometimes, in order to continue enjoying something we love, we need for it to temporarily disappear.

This is one reason traveling can feel so rewarding. When we go away, we break the routine of everyday life. Not having access to your bed, your car, or your favorite reading corner might hardly be noticeable when you’re traveling. But when you return, you suddenly have a newfound appreciation for the little things that contribute to your comfort. In some ways, the real benefit of a vacation is in helping us recognize the pleasures of being home. Variety helps prevent adaptation, which is why creating a happy workplace involves more than just repeating the same enjoyable activities again and again. One way of introducing variety into the workplace is by linking certain in happiness boosts to specific seasons.

Summertime barbecues, fall clambakes, Halloween pumpkin-carving contests, and winter chili cook-offs are just a sampling of seasonal events that can quickly become office traditions. Some workplaces take it one step further and design unique seasonal events that reflect their company culture. By connecting positive events with certain months of the year, organizations can enhance an activity’s emotional impact while creating an additional layer to the experience: giving employees something to look forward to.

INSIGHT #3: Unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill

Picture this: You arrive at the office on a Monday morning and discover that your lobby is covered in a sea of balloons. A local band is playing by the elevator. Tuxedoed waiters are handing out breakfast hors d’oeuvres. What would you think?

The less you don’t expect the more you will enjoy.

When something surprising happens, our brains automatically pay closer attention, lending unexpected events greater emotional weight. We’re motivated to make sense of events we haven’t predicted devote more mental energy to thinking about them after they occur. In this way, surprises provide an emotional exclamation point enhancing the impact of any event-good or bad.

This is why the one reason the start of a romantic relationship is so alluring, is that every encounter reveals something new about your partner. With each shared activity comes a new revelation about his or her interests, history, and goals. The constant flow of surprises keeps you engaged. But with time, you get to know your partner. The discoveries stop and it’s at this point that many relationships are at risk of losing their glow.

The same can be said for most jobs. When we first join an organization, each day involves meeting new people, exploring new locations and learning new practices. Then one morning the surprises stop. We know almost everything about our workplaces, and suddenly our jobs are predictable. Given that surprises enhance the impact of an event, it’s ironic that most workplaces only use surprises to communicate negative information. A colleague is fired; a department is reorganized, a product is discontinued. Some bad news is clearly unavoidable, and there’s no changing the fact that certain information is better kept under wraps. But when events like these are unexpected, it causes us to stand up and take even more notice than we normally would. By leveraging positive surprises in the workplace, organizations can get a bigger emotional bang for their buck.

How do you surprise your employees? One idea might be renting out a movie theater and taking everyone out for the premiere of a major release. Or hiring a massage therapist to walk around the office for a day. Or paying a professional impersonator to call an employee on her birthday. The goal is not just to improve mood temporarily but to create an environment of positive expectations. The more employees anticipate good things happening, the more likely they are to find them.

INSIGHT #4: Experiences are more rewarding than objects

Suppose you’ve just wrapped up a successful year. Your client base has expanded and your revenues have soared. It’s just been announced that you can expect a larger budget in the next fiscal year. Things are going well in your division, and you want to be sure you retain your current team. What’s the best way of investing the money to make your employees happy?

Each experience helps you to grow, objects don’t.

When it comes to choosing between different purchases options, one line of research worth consulting is the emerging science of smarter spending. In recent years a number of psychological studies have begun investigating the happiness ROI of various products and services. What they’ve discovered is that purchasing life experiences (for example, a hot-air balloon ride, a wine-tasting class, or a vacation to Italy) tends to provide a greater happiness boost than spending a comparable amount on material objects (for example, a flat-screen television, a fancy suit, or a purse).

Why is this the case? For one thing, it’s because experiences tent to  involve other people, and being in the company of others elevates our happiness. Experiences also expose us to new ideas and surroundings, growing our intellectual curiosity and expanding our horizons. Material objects, on the other hand, are often used in private, when we’re away from friends and family, and rarely entail novel adventures.

Unlike material objects, experiences tend to improve with age. Think back to a vacation you’ve taken in the past. Did you have a good time? Research shows we remember events more positively the further they are in our rear-view mirror. But that overpriced watch buried in your dresser? It’s suffered a few scratches and no longer seems quite as chic as the day you bought it. When facing a choice on departmental spending, it’s worth keeping this insight in mind. Investing in employee experience –by sending staff members to conferences, sponsoring exciting group outings, or giving away a weekend getaway in place of a small bonus- can yield a bigger happiness boost than investing in new furniture or upgrading your phone system.

One cautionary note: If your office equipment is a constant source of frustration and prevents your employees from doing their jobs, investing in your business infrastructure makes good sense. But if your team is relatively satisfied with their office setup, it’s then that you should favor experiences. Not only are experiences likely to lift the moods at your office, they can also foster stronger connections among colleagues and help them see their workplace as a vehicle for continued growth.

INSIGHT #5: We don’t always know why we’re happy

Our minds absorb an enormous amount of information about our surroundings and use it to guide our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Sometimes we don’t exactly know where the happiness comes from.

And much of this process happens outside of our conscious awareness. One feature of our environment that we rarely pay attention to is scent.

Research shows than when we’re exposed to positive scents-as we are standing outside a cafe, a candle shop, or a bakery, for example-we tend to become happier and we don’t know why. Interestingly, the change in mood often affects our behavior. We become more helpful, less competitive, and show greater generosity. A recent study found that stores that spray pleasing scents through their ventilation systems (a practice known in the industry as aroma marketing) are rated as more colorful, cheerful, and modern. Shoppers also perceive the products sold at these locations as “higher quality” and more “up-to-date,’ which explains why they’re more willing to return to scented stores than their unscented competitors.

The fact that scents can unconsciously put people in positive moods hasn’t escaped the attention of casinos. It’s no accident that many of the world’s most successful gambling destinations continue pump fragrances onto their gaming floors, despite the fact that smoking at their facilities (which used to be the main reason for modifying casino’s scent) has been banned for years. Research shows that slot machines near pleasing scents rake in a stunning 50% more than those in unscented locations.

Music can also lift our mood unconsciously. Our heart rates tend to synchronize to the sounds we hear, which is why techno can send our pulses racing while the slow croon of Frank Sinatra can help us relax. Retailers often use music as a tool for influencing shoppers, and the research shows it’s effective. When the music in our environment is slow, we tend to move accordingly. Studies show that customers linger in stores and restaurants that play relaxing music, which often leads them to purchase more. For bar owners, however, a different strategy applies. The faster the music, the more quickly people drink, and the larger their tab.

Obviously no office wants to smell like a casino or sound like a bar. Yet the findings do hint at subtle ways ordinary workplaces can tweak their environments to promote better moods. Lavender sachets in the break room or fresh flowers near the entrance can provide a modest psychological boost. So too can jazz music in the hallway or a collection of employees’ favorite tunes playing in the restrooms. No one change is enough to single-handedly transform a work environment. But together, they add up.

INSIGHT #6: A grateful mind is a happy one

There’s another thing we can do to foster happiness in the workplace:

Train ourselves to be grateful.

We all should learn to be grateful.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds. In many ways,we’re implicitly encouraged to tune out the positive when we’re working. Much of our day is consumed with thinking about future deadlines and tasks we have yet to accomplish. The process can take a toll. Over time a continuous focus on what’s missing trains our minds to center on the negative. It’s rare that we pause to savor what we’ve achieved. The moment one grueling project ends, the next begins. But by taking a moment to direct our attention to things that are going right, we enhance our enjoyment and stave off the process of adaptation. Gratitude helps us appreciate positive events when they happen, making them last longer. We restore a balance to our thinking that elevates our moods and prevents negative emotions like resentment, envy, and regret from creeping in.

Psychologists have found that simply asking people to identify specific aspects of their lives for which they are thankful alters their perspectives in powerful ways. When we build appreciation for our current circumstances, we feel happier about the present and more optimistic about the future, which improves the quality of our work. Grateful people also recover from stress more quickly and behave more generously toward those around them. An activity that researchers recommend for cultivating gratitude in our lives is jotting down positive events, either electronically or in a notebook. The simple practice of keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to promote a healthier mental outlook and lower one’s chances of growing depressed.

While journaling may work well for individuals, implementing the practice on an organizational level presents considerable challenges. The moment you start requiring employees to document positive events, the practice gains all the appeal of filling out time sheets, So what can you do to help employees-and yourself-feel grateful?

One solution involves setting aside time every few weeks for employees to share their recent accomplishments as a group. Think of a traditional staff meeting-with an important twist. In most organizations, staff meetings involve a small subset of colleagues discussing tasks that have not been completed. It’s designed to bring everyone in a department up to speed on current projects and create plans for the week ahead. While traditional staff meetings certainly have their place, their focus on what’s missing does little to promote a sense of gratitude. An alternative to this approach is to include a broader group, inviting employees from a range of departments for a planned get-together. Instead of asking everyone to talk about what they haven’t done, use the meeting as an opportunity for staff members to share what they are most proud of having accomplished since the group last met. It’s fascinating to watch the process unfold.

When people are asked to talk about their accomplishments in front of others, they often try to shift the focus away from themselves. Inevitably, during meetings like this an employee will thank a colleague for a contribution he or she has made. And when that happens, others are likely to mimic this behavior by recognizing their coworkers and the help they’ve provided. Soon the practice of expressing gratitude-not just about the employees own circumstances but toward their colleagues-catches on. By subtly shifting the focus from what’s missing to what’s been achieved, progress-focused meetings allow employees to reflect on aspects of their work that are going right, instead of falling for the what’s missing?” trap.

Progress-focused meetings make these experiences easier to notice and more fully appreciate. What’s more, they also expose employees to the work of their colleagues, building a sense of connection between teammates, while helping everyone recognize the way their efforts are linked.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _Why you should be paid in order to Play? (PART 2)

A PRODUCTIVITY BOOST STRONGER THAN COFFEE

Let’s imagine this : You are in your office at work and it’s 2:14 p.m. your eyelids are feeling heavy, and now you’re stifling a yawn. A few minutes ago you arrived back in the office, fresh off a satisfying lunch. But  now you’re in the throes of what is undeniably a mid-afternoon crash. You reach for your coffee mug and head for a refill when a co-worker stops you in the hall. He’s discovered an alternative treatment, he  tells you. Like caffeine, it improves concentration and alleviates drowsiness. But it won’t give you heartburn or heighten your blood pressure. It’s also been clinically proven to elevate your mood, enhance your creativity, and improve your memory. Sound too good to be true?

8 benefits of taking a sleep on the work.

It turns out that you used to use this technique all the time. So did your ancient ancestors. It’s called napping. Now, before you dismiss the idea of workplace napping out of  hand, consider the facts. 20-to-30-minute naps have been shown to:

  • boost productivity
  • increase alertness
  • quicken motor reflexes
  • raise accuracy
  • heighten perceptions
  • strengthen stamina
  • improve decision-making
  • elevate mood
  • enhance creativity
  • bolster memory
  • lower stress
  • reduce dependence on drugs and alcohol
  • lessen the frequency of migraines and ulcers
  • promote weight loss
  • minimize the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risk

Not bad for about the same amount of time it takes to visit a Starbucks. Some studies have shown that learning after a nap is as effective as learning after an entire night’s sleep. So why do most of us scoff at the idea of a mental reboot when our bodies signal the need for rest?

In part, it’s because we misunderstand napping. Because our energy levels dip after lunch, we tend to think feeling drowsy is a consequence of having eaten too much. However, research shows that people are equally drowsy 8 hours after waking, whether or not they’ve had lunch beforehand. If you find this hard to believe (as I did), consider the way you feel after breakfast. The first meal of the day energizes us. Why not the second?

Another napping misconception stems from the fact that people occasionally wake up from a midday rest feeling groggy, or find that it disrupts their evening sleep cycle. This problem arises if you allow yourself to sleep too deeply. Unlike nighttime rest, which involves all 5 stages of the sleep cycle [Stage 1 = Introduction to sleep; Stage 2 = Beginning of sleep; Stage 3 = Slow wave sleep; Stage 4 = Deep sleep; Stage 5 = REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage], napping is most effective when we wake before our bodies descend into deep sleep.

Stages of SLEEP

We have a biological need for rest that is no less pressing than our biological need for food or water. When we’re tired, less blood flow reaches the areas of our brain that are critical to thinking. We’re also less capable of forming long-term memories. Sure, we can power through the midday slog when we need to-but only at a reduced level of functioning. Perhaps the biggest reason that we continue to look down on naps, is that we have been misled into equating hours on the job with productivity. If you believe that performance is entirely a function of effort, you see anyone who takes a break as a slacker. In the past, this view had merit.

Line workers’ value was tied to the amount of hours they put in on the factory floor, but the vast majority of us don’t work in a factory anymore. In today’s knowledge economy, it’s the quality of your thinking that matters most, and quality thinking is directly tied to energy level. A related argument can be made for the growing importance of maintaining a positive mood. In a world in which most jobs involve building interpersonal connections and fostering collaborations , feeling irritable can have serious implications for performance. Research shows that when we’re tired, we get into more disagreements, and not just because we’re less patient. It’s because our ability to read other people diminishes. A brief midday rest recharges our minds and allows our memories to consolidate. It relaxes our mental filters and allows unconventional ideas to surface. It re-energizes our ability to concentrate and restores our emotional composure.

Midday napping may sound like an extravagant indulgence that coddles workers. And it’s true that employees reap considerable advantage. But the ultimate beneficiaries of allowing for rest are the companies that create the conditions for optimal functioning. No reasonable person expects to visit a gym and lift weights continuously without a break. We openly acknowledge the limitations of our muscles. But we don’t do so for our minds. Declining performance is not as readily visible to us in the office as it is in the weight room, and so we continue plodding along, oblivious to the fact that We are contributing at a fraction of the rate we were earlier. Ignoring the body’s need for recuperation or drugging it into submission may keep workers awake. What it won’t do is position them deliver their best performance.

WHY DISCONNECTING IS SO MUCH HARDER THAN IT LOOKS

How often do you check your cell phone after leaving work? The answer might reveal your future productivity. When we deny ourselves the opportunity to recuperate, our performance invariably suffers. In many organizations, being available around the clock has be come an unspoken expectation. When a manager sends late-night mails, he implicitly endorses a round-the-dock work culture, paving the way for after-hours stress that spills over into the home, where a curt e-mail can spoil a dinner or ruin a weekend. While there are undoubtedly instances when staying connected is a legitimate necessity, it’s rare for a business to require that every team member stay logged on continuously. Moreover, it’s in a company’s interest to allow employees to recover. If an associate is frequently working late into the night and through the weekend, she is likely doing so at a cost to her long-term engagement.

We should disconnect from work not only at the weekend, but also on regular working days.

It used to be the case that managers had to push employees to work harder. Today the opposite seems to be happening. In many industries, a key to retaining top talent involves protecting employees from working nonstop, which is why some pioneering organizations are starting to take matters into their own hands, leaving employees little choice but to recharge. A surprising number of companies have stopped limiting vacation time altogether, including IBM, Evernote, and Netflix: It’s a way of communicating trust in their employees and encouraging them to take the time they need when they need it.

The Lessons of Play

I. Action Items for Managers

Take up gardening.

Relying exclusively on leaders to come up with groundbreaking solutions is a remnant of the past How do today’s innovative companies stay successful? By fostering creativity from the bottom up. If we took away this insight on leadership in the information age then ”You have to think of yourself not as a designer but as a gardener’-seeding, nurturing, inspiring cultivating the ideas coming from below, and then making sure people execute them.” If great ideas are important to your company, start by creating the conditions that promote innovative thinking. Integrating play, exercise, and the occasional break have all been shown to spark creativity.

Distract strategically.

Exposing people to new and unexpected ideas makes them more creative. How do you put that insight to use? By setting aside time each week for a group viewing of an employee-nominated TED talk, or by scheduling a monthly show-and-tell on industry trends. You can also start a “You Don’t Have to Read the Book” club (as they did at Mercedes-Benz) to stimulate discussion on new ideas. Creativity doesn’t happen when we sink into a routine. It’s when we make exploration a habit that we find unexpected solutions.

Redirect your inner workaholic.

As a manager, if you sit at your desk for 12 hours a day and spend your weekends churning out e-mails, the message is clear: Disconnecting is bad. To get the most from your team and keep them engaged, give your employees the space to recharge. Go ahead and send those evening and weekend e-mails if you want to, but program them to arrive during work hours, so that your employees can spend their off-hours being present at home.

II. Action Items for Emerging Leaders

Put your unconscious to work.

Conscious deliberation is useful for solving simple problems, but when the challenge facing you is complex, you’re more likely to find clearer insights after a period of incubation. To get the most out of unconscious thinking, do the work of getting clarity about your goal and absorbing the data at your disposal. Then, distract yourself by taking a walk, reading an article, or working on something unrelated. Research suggests a 30-minute diversion is often ideal. When you return to your original assignment, you’re likely to see things differ entirely than before you left.

Use mornings for learning and look for insight at night.

The same internal clock that causes your body to feel sluggish in the afternoon also influences other aspects of your performance. Studies show that cognitive skills are sharpest in the morning, when working memory peaks, but that as the day wears on we tend to retain less. Feeling tired also has its upsides. The more fatigued we are, the weaker our internal mental filter, which means more unusual associations come to mind. When you’re looking for a creative solution at work, try reexamining it later in the evening. You’re likely to discover a novel and unexpected way of seeing things.

Reframe exercise as part of your job.

Exercise doesn’t just improve your health; it gives you a mental edge. Many of us neglect going to the gym, especially during weeknights, when we’re concerned about falling behind at work. But what recent research shows is that regular exercise can boost your memory, elevate your creativity, and improve your efficiency. In short, it can make you a better employee. The more complexity you deal with at work, the more value you can derive from keeping your body physically fit.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _Why you should be paid in order to Play? (PART 1)

That’s exactly why you need to take a break from WORK and PLAY.

HOW PLAY MAKES PROBLEM SOLVING EASIER

I am sure that many of you already had some days at work , when you put a lot of focus to finish something very important than you literally skip all the breaks and you even work overtime, just to be sure that you make no mistake and to deliver your stuff exactly as expected. Unfortunately when you do that, exactly the opposite happens.You do more mistakes, you deliver crap and then you just come to the conclusion that you wasted your time being very inefficient. Almost 100% sure your work must be redone.

What the research demonstrates in such cases is that when it comes to solving a difficult problem or looking for a creative solution, working too hard can backfire. Conscious attention narrows our focus, preventing us from processing complex information and seeing the big picture. We get stuck. And the longer we wrestle with a particular problem, the more difficult it becomes to consider novel alternatives. What that effectively leads us to is an unlikely conclusion: Sometimes, what appears to the outside world like slacking off  is actually the path to smarter decisions and more innovative ideas. Frequently our most brilliant insights come in the gaps between hard work, when we let our guard down and allow disparate ideas to emerge, in those moments when we distract ourselves with a walk to the restroom, the commute home, or the in-flight movie on a business trip.

Just take a break and play something.

Think back to your last truly great work-related idea. Now ask yourself: Where were you? Chances are that you weren’t sitting behind your desk. In many ways, problem solvers are like artists. Taking a few steps back provides painters with a fresh perspective on their subject, lending them a new angle for approaching their work. Problem solving follows a similar recipe, but it’s not always the physical distance that we need as much as the psychological distance – mental space for new insights to bloom. Walking away doesn’t just put our unconscious to work: It helps us see our problem with a new perspective. We become less emotionally attached and free ourselves from the influence of those in our immediate surroundings.

One way many organizations – particularly those whose employees are engaged in high-level thinking, like Google and 3M – leverage this insight is by deliberately scheduling play into the workday. Play may seem like the domain of children, and in some ways that’s the point. We are naturally creative when we’re young, in part because our brains have not quite developed the capacity to prejudge and censor our ideas. Putting ourselves in a childlike mind-set opens us up to alternative ways of thinking. As we age, we’re trained to believe that play is wasteful, that unless we’re producing or consuming information, our time is being squandered. But as the complexity of our work increases, play can actually serve as a vehicle for innovation, by providing opportunities for unconscious thinking to occur. But there’s more to play than simply distraction. When we engage in play we’re rewarded for exploring new possibilities, for practicing problem solving, and for taking risks. All of which helps us cultivate an attitude of curiosity and interest, often benefiting our work. Feeling playful also makes us more optimistic, which increases our willingness to take on challenges and helps us maintain a flexible mind-set. Then comes the question: What’s the right way of incorporating play into the workplace?

That’s the purpose of taking a break.

Twitter has a climbing wall, Zynga lines its hallways with arcades, and Google boasts several volleyball courts. Does that mean work amenities are the solution to getting employees playing regularly? Well… not necessarily. Simply because Play is a mind-set, not an activity. It has less to do with a fun diversion that happens to take place at the office, than it does with the attitudes managers express toward taking time out for exploration.

Ultimately, what’s important is for employees to feel safe about pursuing the occasional tangential interests without having to worry relentlessly about outcomes. That’s what contributes most to a playful atmosphere. Sure, it’s nice for employees to have access to exciting activities at the office. It certainly makes the opportunities for play more common. But placing a €5,000 billiards table in your break room won’t guarantee a playful work environment-especially if members of your management team barely touch it and there is an unspoken stigma about taking breaks.

WHY EXERCISE MAKES US SMARTER

All this talk of fun and games might lead you to believe that our best insights come when we let ourselves rest. But as it turns out, sometimes the best approach to jump-starting the mind is to strain the body. Most of us have come across research showing that exercise improves mood. Recent studies have found that a regular workout regimen is an even more powerful mood elevator than prescription antidepressants. What’s less well known, however, is the profound impact exercise has on learning, memory, and creativity. To understand how exercise can influence your productivity at work, it helps to consider what our bodies were originally designed to do. The human body was built to expend a great deal of energy on a daily basis. Our ancient ancestors had to walk between 10 to 15 km a day just to find enough food to survive.

This is what’s happening to your body when you do exercise.

Today, of course, most of us spend the majority of our day in front of a computer, sitting. And that relative lack of mobility creates an imbalance in the body’s functioning. It’s not the only way we differ from our ancestors. Compared to Paleolithic man, our life is considerably more nerve-racking. Sure, our environment is no longer plagued by free-roaming predators, but at the same time, the number of stressors we’re exposed to on a daily basis has increased exponentially. Many of us have very little control over our schedule. We face deadlines on a constant basis. And thanks to a 24-hour news cycle, we’re continuously reminded of every murder, plane crash, and weather disaster that happens to coincide with our existence on the planet. On the whole, there’s a lot more for us to get worried about. And the tension adds up.

Encountering threatening events activates a fight-or-flight response, releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that propel our body to move into action. When we deny it that instinct, we risk incurring side effects that include anxiety, attention deficits, and depression. Exercise restores the balance. The body was designed to burn off excess energy through physical exertion. Emotional buildup requires physiological relief. Interestingly, when we exercise, we not only heighten our moods with endorphins but also prime our brains to absorb more information. Neurological studies show that when we exert ourselves physically  we produce a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that promotes the growth of neurons, especially in the memory regions of the brain. A 2007 study found that just 2-3 minutes sprints were enough to elevate BDNF secretion in runners, corresponding to a boost in memorization by a stunning 20 percent. Then: Why would exercise promote better memory?

That’s why doing exercise has a lot of benefits afterwards.

The body was designed to be pushed, and in pushing our bodies we push our brains too. Learning and memory evolved in concert with motor functions that allowed our ancestors to track down food, so as far as our brain is concerned, if we’re not moving, there’s no real need to learn anything. The cognitive jolt we experience following exercise can also yield a more creative product.

Another study, for example, found that just 30 minutes on a treadmill led to improved creative performance and that the benefits endured for a full 2 hours. Running has also been linked with greater cognitive flexibility. The improvement in mood, coupled with increased blood flow to the brain, provides joggers with a significant mental boost. To their credit, a number of organizations have taken these findings to heart and looked for ways of incorporating exercise into the workplace. At many companies it’s no longer surprising to enter an office and discover a receptionist sitting on a large rubber ball. Or to learn that her manager has given up sitting altogether and now stands all day in front of an elevated desk. Most organizations can’t afford an in-house gym. But they can afford to give employees wireless headsets that allow them to walk around their office during long conference calls. Another low-cost approach is: offering employees free weights they can use over the course of the day. Rewarding daytime gym-goers with an extended lunch can also benefit workplace performance.

It was also proven that on days when employees exercised during lunch, a majority reported interacting more with colleagues managing their time better, and meeting deadlines more effectively. The gym isn’t the only place employees can get their exercise fix. There are for example companies which keep bikes in the lobby so that employees can go for a ride during lunch. Or companies which encourage employees to bike to work by offering them an incentive of 50 cents per km. Or another method is enticing employees with a desirable destination to head to by foot. A complimentary art gallery membership to which workers can go for a quick stroll is one example. Organizations can also offer to reimburse teammates who take an internal meeting on the road and pass a nearby cafe.

Walking meetings may not be ideal for every conversation, but they are likely to spark new ideas by taking employees out of the office and exposing them to a different environment. The shared elevation in heart rate that comes from walking together can also provide an added benefit: better workplace relationships. Exercising with a colleague can therefore do more than improve your health. It can also make you more likable.

THE CREATIVITY DIET

So far we’ve seen how unconscious thinking, play, and exercise can all  contribute to a smarter workplace. But when it comes to fostering innovation, is that really all it takes? The answer, of course, is no. A well-timed diversion can help employees process information they already have in a way that leads to better insights. But when you’re looking for outside-the-box solutions, sometimes what you really need is a way of encouraging them to be mentally adventurous.

Innovation must be fostered by the leader.

Some people will say product knowledge is the most important thing to do before to deliver the best recommendation for maximizing the profitability, while other people will prefer to make a cross-industry expertise instead. In reality the product knowledge and cross-industry expertise are not mutually exclusive. A good marketing manager does both. But it does illustrate an important point: What we create is a function of the information we consume. Our minds naturally search for connections between ideas. And where we direct our attention determines the combinations we find.

When we stare at a problem using a single lens, being creative is difficult get stuck in old ways of thinking. To uncover new solutions we need to break our mental frames. A diet of diverse mental stimulation is a vital component of creative thinking. Researches have indicated that creative geniuses have a surprisingly high failure/rate. But that is no all. It was also shown that on average, creative geniuses tend to have more unusual interests and hobbies than their less successful peers, which likely contributes to their seeing problems differently. Steve Jobs for example said in an interview in 1996 that:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty, because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. The more ideas we’re exposed to, the more likely we are to find novel solutions. Provide enough inputs and new outputs will emerge.

The challenge in most workplaces is that employees are exposed to the same information day after day, making it difficult to come up with new and innovative solutions. But a growing number of companies, inspired by well-known success stories at Google, Yahoo and Facebook, are trying to break that mental rut. They’ve begun inviting employees to set aside a portion of their time each week for free-form exploration and for pursuing projects of their choosing. The only requirement is that their efforts have the potential for benefiting the company in some way. The practice isn’t quite as unstructured as it first sounds. At Google, for example, where developers devote up to 20% of time to self-authored projects, employees are encouraged to work together in groups. The interpersonal dynamic and shared responsibility make productive team projects a point of pride. Employees naturally want their team’s contribution to stand out, because, among other things, it means elevated organizational status.

This is how to create a culture of innovation.

Handing employees the keys to 20% of their time may not be workable or even advisable in every industry. But it does have a few undeniable benefits that are worth considering, no matter what business you’re in. By asking employees to identify a work-related interest and empowering them to actively deepen their knowledge base, organizations like Google are turning employees from order takers into job co-creators. It’s an approach that helps employees feel autonomous, motivates them to keep an eye out for new business opportunities, and turns every employee into a developer.

With 20% time, there’s always another product in development. For Google the gambit has clearly been paying off: Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, and AdSense- an advertising vehicle that nets Google $10 billion in revenue a year-are just some of the products that were developed during 20% time. Which raises the question: Would Google be nearly as profitable if the employees sat around waiting for Larry Page and Sergey Brin to tell them what to do? The answer is obvious: Of course NOT.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _How Office Design can shape our thinking? (PART 2)

The effect of teleworking on employee productivity.

WHY EMPLOYEES ARE OFTEN MORE PRODUCTIVE AT HOME

Working from home is a concept which started to gain more and more popularity in companies from all sort of industries. Many people agree that “A workforce culture based on long hours at the office with little regard for family or community does not inevitably lead to strong productivity or innovation,” and also that “Technology is great; it helps us do things more efficiently and cheaper. But it has also led to a breakdown in human interaction that is bad not only for humankind in general, but for business. Therefore there’s much of debate about this. Instead of asking whether employees are more productive at home or at work – to which the obvious answer is, it depends on the specific individual and the particular task – what we should have been asking is:

What home environments can teach us about building a better workplace?

Numerous studies have found that in many cases, employees who have the option of telecommuting are more productive than their office-bound counterparts. But what is it about working from home that often boosts our output? And more important: How do we apply those insights to the office so that employees can be more effective at work?

Benefits of telecommuting are obvious.

In fairness, some comforts of home just can’t be replicated, no matter how hard a company tries. Take shaving 2 hours off an employee’s commute. Eliminating travel time reduces employees’ stress levels and allows them to spend the best hours of their day doing their job. It’s a legitimate benefit that deserves serious consideration. But there’s more to working from home than simply less travel. Consider access to a quiet, private space, for example. It’s impossible to excel at challenging mental work when we’re under a constant barrage of e-mails, conference calls, and meetings. Our brains can only handle so much. The cognitive bandwidth we each have is limited, which is why distractions can be so harmful. Allowing disruptions to consume our attention leaves us with fewer resources to attend to the work that matters. Workplace distractions also slow us down more than we might recognize. A quick visit from a colleague might only take 30 seconds but the cognitive reverberations of that diversion can last much longer.

This is what MULTITASKING does.

A University of California-Irvine study found that when we’re distracted from an activity in which we are fully immersed, it takes us average of more than 20 minutes just to regain our previous momentum unlike in the workplace, there’s also less pressure in a quiet home environment to multitask. While we like to believe that we’re good at multitasking, research suggests it’s rarely an effective strategy. What appears to us as tackling several activities at once often involves simply shuffling between tasks, for which there are serious consequences. When we multitask, our performance suffers, and our stress levels spike. In part, it’s because redirecting our attention from one task to another depletes our cognitive resources, leaving us with less mental energy than if we had simply devoted our full attention to one activity at a time. Researchers are also finding that chronic multitaskers – those of us who can’t help but read e-mails while talking on the phone for example – are especially prone to experiencing boredom, anxiety and depression.

Another benefit of working from home: personalization. At home we get to control many aspects of our environment – everything from the setup of our office to the lighting of our desk to the temperature in our room-which improves our comfort level and allows us to direct our focus to our work. Bur personal comfort isn’t the only reason personalization is important. Human beings are territorial animals. When we have the freedom to shape our surroundings, we experience a heightened sense of personal control, which reduces stress and improves our confidence. In contrast, believing that we lack control over our environment leads to a decline in motivation. Psychologists have found that organizations that encourage employees to customize their work-spaces tend to have happier workers. Not only does decorating an office make employees feel more comfortable, it also promotes a sense of personal ownership and belonging.  

This is how you personalize your office desk.

When we work from home, we also have access to restorative experiences, like glancing out a window, going out for a run, or taking a nap. At most organizations, opportunities like these are rare. Having  the freedom to recharge in ways that many workplaces discourage, undoubtedly plays a role in facilitating a telecommuter’s productivity. It’s no wonder so many employees believe they are more productive from their home office. It’s because in many cases, they are. When we’re placed in an environment that’s conducive to complex thinking, our minds respond. But the real lesson of telecommuting, the one that every CEO would do well to consider, is that there’s something deeply wrong with the design of a workplace when the only way for an employee to feel productive is to physically leave the building. When coming in early  staying late, and working weekends become implicit requirements for keeping up, this much is clear: The current model is broken. So what’s the alternative? Well…Telecommuting could be one option to be taken into consideration.

CAVES AND CAMPFIRES

What the research tells us is that we can enhance employee performance by leveraging their surroundings. That we can foster better outcomes by designing environments that help employees meet the cognitive demands of their work. Unfortunately, that’s far from the way most offices are designed. Instead, the vast majority of organizations embrace a one-size-fits-all approach, asking every employee to toil in the same setting, regardless of their actual work assignments. Marketers, accountants and salespeople are all lumped together into identical office spaces and expected to excel at their jobs, with little to no environmental accommodation. But there’s an alternative to this approach. And it’s one that’s rapidly gaining favor in the technology sector – an industry that’s been at the forefront of applying psychological insights to workplace design for many cutting-edge companies, such as Google, Cisco, and eBay.

The model for the modern workplace is no longer an evolved version of the factory floor, but a modified version of the college campus. What can companies learn from a college campus? Well, they learn how to create an environment that fosters self-direction, for one thing. Within a college setting, students receive a set of expectations at the beginning of the semester. How they approach their work is up to them. If they succeed, they are rewarded with good grades and the prospects of a better future. If they fail, they may be asked to leave. Universities offer students a range of settings, from private and semiprivate dorm rooms to quiet libraries to communal spaces like cafeterias, a quad, and the gym. The campus serves as a tool. It’s up to students to utilize the facilities and develop their own formulas for success.

Organizations should design workplaces similar to a campus layout as shown.

Many organizations are now designing workplaces that embrace a similar approach, offering employees a variety of settings and giving them the option of choosing their own paths. Employees receive a desk of their own, access to a selection of locations designated for quiet focus work, and a range of communal spaces that facilitate collaboration, as well as spontaneous interactions. Depending on the type of work a company does, they can also choose to incorporate some fun, eclectic designs, creating an assortment of vibes (a café, a quiet library, an inspiration room) that employees can draw upon to match their project. The value of this method is that it allows employees to adapt their setting to the demands of their work, instead of the other way around. When companies offer employees a choice of location, they don’t just create an environment that better positions workers to succeed – they empower their team members, demonstrating trust in their decision-making abilities. There’s another benefit to providing employees with a spectrum of opinions, and that’s creating an environment that’s rich in both caves and campfires.

The benefit of Campfires & Caves from college campuses can be a good alternative for office design for workplaces.

In order to describe our evolutionary penchant for both quiet, restorative spaces and interactive, group settings it’s enough to see that some of us have personalities that make caves more appealing, while others have personalities that draw us to campfires. But we all need access to both settings in order to thrive, which is what the campus model delivers. It allows people on both extremes to find their preferred environment in a single workplace. A campus approach may sound complicated or expensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Sure, having the Googleplex’s 26 acres at your disposal would make it easier. But even smaller offices can zone spaces according to activity, turning the corner office into a public “thinking space” where employees come to focus can do far more for a company’s Rate-Of-Investment than using the same room for barricading its most talented executive. And when spare rooms aren’t available, room dividers and sound machines can be used to create distinctive spaces with a unique feel.

In PART 1 (see my previous post) we encountered a difficult question:

How do you choose among cubicles, private offices, and open spaces when all three present significant downsides?

There is a simple answer: You don’t. By breaking free of the single space mind-set, organizations can leverage many of the productivity insights as I’ve just mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2. One thing the research has taught us is that no single environment is conducive to every task. By offering a selection of options, companies can support both focus work and collaboration, using the space they have to enhance their employees’ efforts which brings us back full circle.

Imagine a hallway with three doors. Door N° 1 leads to a room with plants, tall ceilings, and expansive views. It’s where you go to find big ideas. Behind door N°2 is a small soundproof room with bare walls and a healthy supply of red pens. It’s where you go to tweak, edit, and root out mistakes. Enter door N° 3 and you’re in an open-plan space, where you and your colleagues can park your laptops, grab a snack, and do your thinking in the company of others. It’s where you go when you’re looking for a collaborative spark. We can continue fantasizing about this workplace. Or we can build it.

The Lessons of Workplace Design

I. Action Items for Managers

Design with the end in mind.

Some activities require disciplined, distraction-free attention. Others benefit from instant communication and collaborative interactions.  The  best companies design workplaces with the end in mind creating spaces that facilitate the work their employees do. No single environment is effective for every task, which is why more and more companies are creating hybrid spaces that offer employees a range of uses.

Think like a caveman.

Many of the insights shared by evolutionary thinkers can be easily applied to enhance office settings. Some design elements, like the addition of plants, aquariums, and images of nature, are relatively inexpensive. Others, like offering plenty of natural light and seating with views of the outdoors, are worth considering when selecting or designing a new space.

Brand your workplace experience.

Great companies do more than make their employees comfortable. They craft experiences that make their workplace distinct. A unique workplace communicates an organization’s priorities, demonstrates managerial competence, and grows employee engagement. You can start by mapping out your organizational touchpoints (like your lobby, bathroom, and break room) and find ways of enhancing each employee experience in a way that is consistent with your brand.

II. Action Items for Emerging Leaders

Invest in your psychological comfort.

Many employees rarely give much consideration to the decor of their workplaces. Research suggests that they might be more productive if they did. The more comfortable we are, the more cognitive resources we have available for focusing on our work. Which is why taking the time to personalize your workspace (to the extent that you can), from modifying the layout and direction of the furniture to making even modest changes, such as adjusting the height of your monitor or the amount of lighting available at your desk, can have a reliable able effect on your productivity.

To replenish your attention, step outside.

Much of the work we do requires deep concentration, of which we have only a limited supply, But studies show that we can replenish our mental resources by going outdoors. When we’re in natural settings, it’s easier to let our attention wander and allow our minds to recharge. No matter how well your office is designed, leaving it for brief periods can help make you more effective.

Create a workplace soundtrack.

We often take for granted the noise levels in our environment, yet studies reveal that sound can influence our performance in surprisingly powerful ways. Leaving the office not an option? A pair of headphones can do the trick. Websites like Coffitivity.com recreate the low hum of a café, which research suggests can provide a creative boost, while Simplynoise.com offers the constant swish of white noise to mask distractions when your work requires deep concentration.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _How Office Design can shape our thinking? (PART 1)

This psychology applies at our workplace as well.

As we most of us working in an office, it is generally agreed that our performance at work is strongly shaped by our work environment. And one very important factor at workplace is How the Office is designed.

Going back in time, some 50 to 55 years ago the typical office consisted of a vast open space, with rows and rows of identical desks crammed tightly together. Employees were afforded little in the way of privacy, which was by design.The bullpen office, as it was known, was a natural extension of the factory floor. The goal was to keep everyone visible, as a means of ensuring that they stayed on task. Since then different attempts were done in order to improve work experience in the office.

Around 1968-70 Cubicles were introduced to address the need for personal space and privacy. Unfortunately they achieved neither. In the 1970s, the average worker was allotted 500 square – office space. In 2010, that number was down to 200 square feet. Privacy is hardly fairing much better, while a cubicle’s panels may prevent employees from making eye contact, privacy consists of more than just not seeing someone who sits a few feet away. Acoustic privacy is equally vital. Hearing someone you can’t see can often be more of a distraction than having them in full view.

This is how cubical work (slavery) looks like.

Studies show that working in a cubicle can be mentally draining psychologically stressful, and physiologically harmful. Being subject to constant disruption, high noise levels, and a lack of personal space elevates our anxiety levels and raises our blood pressure, which takes a toll on the body’s immune system. When employees are continuously stressed, their motivation, performance, and satisfaction are bound to plummet, because they have less energy to bring to their work.

To be fair, the alternatives to cubicles have plenty of downsides of their own. Private offices eat up a lot of real estate, seal employees off from one another, and introduce barriers to communication. Frequently, the higher up in an organization you go, the more space you’re allotted and the more inaccessible you become. Status begets isolation, which can have a crippling effect on teams whose work depends on collaboration. Innovation, it is often argued, comes from spontaneous interaction. It’s hard to have those unplanned encounters when seeing other people requires an Outlook meeting invitation.

Standard working in Private Office.

In recent years, a growing number of organizations have begun rejecting both the cubicle and the corner/private office, embracing an open-plan layout. Advocates contend that placing everyone in the same location promotes collaboration and fosters better communication. It’s an egalitarian approach that affords every staffer the same amount of space. In a world where success is predicated upon effective team-work, what better way of making sure people work together than by eliminating obstacles to communication and ensuring that everyone is treated equally?

Standard working in OPEN-Plan Office.

It’s a noble idea. But does it work? The research raises some serious concerns. While open-plan designs may increase communication between colleagues, they often do so at a cost to individual work. When our office is riddled with disruptions, we end up consuming the very mental resources we need to think clearly. Ironically, the frustration we experience when we’re not getting our work done inevitably interferes with our ability to collaborate. It’s hard to feel cheery toward teammates when you constantly feel like you’re behind.

Some also question whether having colleagues so accessible is really such a good thing. Many studies show that people have shorter and more superficial conversations in open offices because they’re self-conscious about being overheard. So sure, open spaces might get you a larger number of conversations, but not all communication is equally valuable. And even if communication were an unqualified good, it’s worth remembering that collaboration represents just one facet of what it means to be productive.

All of which should make one thing abundantly clear:  If Cubicles, Private Offices and Open Space are none of them the best options to design an office, what is a company to do? Well… alternatives exist, it’s just up to each organization to decide what is better for them.

THE CAVEMAN’S GUIDE TO BUILDING A BETTER OFFICE

Ask the average CEO how to optimize a workspace and they might suggest you consult with an interior designer. Ask the same question of an evolutionary psychologist and he’ll direct you to a very different set of experts: our ancient ancestors.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that many of our current design preferences can be traced back to our shared history on the savanna. We’re drawn to environments that promoted our survival as hunter-gatherers, and feel uneasy in situations that would have put our forefathers at risk. These preferences, they argue, are largely unconscious. We simply experience safe settings as pleasurable and dangerous ones as repellent, without being able to identify exactly why.

One example: Most of us instinctively enjoy sitting in sheltered locations that overlook expansive areas like parks and oceans. Think waterfront property or apartments overlooking Central Park in New York. In the past, the desire for settings that offered security and a view of our surroundings kept us alive and positioned us to find our next meal. Locations offering prospect and refuge are inherently pleasing, while areas that deny us shelter or a view tend to generate discomfort. We no longer need these features in order to survive, yet we can’t help but prefer them.

This is how a waterfront office looks like.

Brain imaging research demonstrates the deep-seated nature of these preferences: Our desire for prospect and refuge is so strong, it even affects our perception of art. A 2006 study found that the pleasure centers of the brain consistently light up when we’re viewing landscapes, especially when their vantage point is one of refuge. Our desire for safe locations also explains why sitting with our backs exposed can leave us feeling tense. We don’t enjoy having others sneak up on us and seek to minimize potential threat. This is one reason that restaurant booths fill up more quickly than freestanding tables.It seems our ancient ancestors felt the same way.

Another evolutionary insight: We’re happiest when we’re close to outdoors. As hunter-gatherers, being outside was essential to our survival. It meant proximity to food, water, and other people. An extensive body of work reveals that nature is essential for psychological functioning. Having a view of the outdoors has also been shown to promote performance in the workplace. Employees who sit near a window are better at staying on task, show greater interest in their work, and report more loyalty to their company.

The benefit of Natural Light

Research even suggests that the amount of direct sunlight entering an office can reliably predict the level of employee satisfaction in a workplace. What is it about access to nature that makes us feel better? Some experts believe exposure to sunlight plays a major role. A 2013 study found that employees whose offices have windows sleep an average of 46 minutes more per night than those laboring in windowless rooms. Another study published the same year found that after the sun’s rays hit our skin, our bodies release nitric oxide, a compound that dilates the blood vessels and lowers our blood pressure.

Others believe that the benefits of nature extend beyond the physiological. A number of researchers argue that natural settings are also cognitively rejuvenating and help us restore our mental resources. In contrast to the overwhelming stimulation we often encounter at work, where we’re frequency inundated with calls, e-mails, and text messages for hours on end, natural settings engage our interest but demand very little of our attention. We have the freedom to let our minds wander, noticing as much or as little as we like, entering a state of “soft fascination.” The result is an elevation in mood as well as replenished mental energy that improves our memory and enhances our creativity.

Plants in the office are very beneficial.

Studies show that the mere presence of plants can also provide surprisingly large benefits. Office workers report feeling healthier and more energized when their workplace features live plants and fresh flowers. When views and plants aren’t available, even reminders of nature appear to help. Research suggests that access to aquariums and fireplaces put us at ease and open us up to connecting with others. Pictures of landscapes make us less anxious. Brief exposure to blue and green, colors ever-present in fertile environments rich in vegetation, water, and nourishment, make us feel safe and improve our creative output. It’s not hard for the evolutionary psychologist to see why so many offices fail to engage their employees. Depriving people of sunlight restricting their views, and seating them with their backs exposed is not a recipe for success-it’s a recipe for chronic anxiety. So is placing workers in expansive rooms, inundating them with stimulation, and failing to provide them with an area for refuge, where they can recover from attention fatigue.

We tend to assume that employee engagement is about the work, that so long as we give talented people challenging tasks and the tools to excel, they will be happy. But that formula is incomplete. Our mind responds to the signals in our environment. And the less comfortable we are while doing our work, the fewer cognitive resources we have available. And this is why design ultimately matters. It’s because engaging employees is about creating an environment that positions people to do their best work. Paleolithic man may be long gone, but he can still teach us a few things when it comes to designing a better workplace.

USING SPACE TO TELL A STORY

Building a workplace that supports employees’ performance is clearly a worthwhile endeavor. But it’s not the only way of using workplace design to benefit an organization. We can compare a company’s use of office space to its “organizational body language” It’s a fitting analogy. When a person says one thing and their body communicates another, listeners are left confused. The same can be said for organizations that claim a particular characteristic but fail to follow through in their interior design. They come across as inauthentic to their employees, whose impressions inevitably trickle down to clients.

The more a company’s message is reinforced in a workplace environment, the easier it is for employees to integrate that vision and relay to the people they meet. This is why so many top organizations now investing in designing interiors that are culturally distinctive and deliver a consistent message-one that the company wants to communicate with the outside world. Workplace design has also become an important tool for attracting and retaining top talent. Studies show that employees use the quality of an office environment to draw inferences about the competence of an organization’s leaders. When a workplace is well designed, employees’ confidence in their management team lifts, as does their willingness to stay on in the years to come.

How do you use design to make an organization feel distinct?

One approach is to borrow a practice used by many successful retailers that involves creating a touchpoint map. Touchpoint anticipate every element of a customer’s experience, from the instant they walk through the door to their final steps back to their car, identifying communication opportunities along the way. The goal is to turn every consumer interaction into a brand experience that reflects the retailer’s message.

Example of Touchpoint map at retailers.

If you’ve ever visited an Apple Store, you’ve probably noticed how different it feels from other electronics shops. The decor is clean and uncluttered. There’s no middleman between customers and access to Apple’s products. Registers and the long lines they produce have been eliminated; at the Apple Store just about any employee can cash you out. Every aspect of the Apple Store’s design reflects its brand message: simplicity.

@ Apple Store

In the same way Apple uses its space to communicate a message to its external customers, organizations can use the workplace environment to send a message to their internal customers. The key is to first identify a message the organization wants to convey-say, innovation insight, or caring-and then design employee touchpoints that bring that concept to life. Lobbies and hallways represent key touchpoint opportunities, ones that can be used for sharing an organization’s history, traditions, and achievements. Often companies limit their design investments to their lobby because it’s the element of their environment that’s most visible to clients. This is a mistake. Anytime there is a disconnect between the front of the house and the heart of the house, there’s the potential for employees to wonder whether their organizational message is simply a facade. Many successful companies have begun using behind-the-scenes space to highlight a commitment to their employees. A related approach, often used by organizations in creative industries, is to put employees’ artwork up on display, presenting them much like an exhibit.

Another way of using a space to engage employees is by getting them personally involved in the design of their workplace. Naming conference rooms is another tool for making a workplace feel unique. When we label a space we create expectations in the minds of visitors that shape their experience. Research shows that when we anticipate having a positive experience, we’re more likely to do so.

Most organizations use generic names for their meeting spaces like Conference Room A and Conference Room B. Not at Poggled, a Chicago company selling Groupon-like bar and club gift certificates. The company is committed to delivering memorable nightlife experiences, which is why, if you’re looking for Poggled’s management team you’ll likely find them in one of two locations: the “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere,’ or the slightly less formal “Stay Thirsty, My Friends”

https://www.builtinchicago.org/company/poggled

Another workplace touchpoint: office furniture. How rooms are furnished communicates an implicit message about which behaviors are appropriate. Interestingly, it’s not just the layout of furniture that affects our experiences-it’s also the physical composition. A 2010 experiment conducted by researchers at MIT Harvard, and Yale found that people seated on hard wooden chairs are less willing to compromise than those seated on chairs with soft cushions. What this finding suggests is that the furniture an organization selects can have an impact on the way a workplace is experienced.

Office Furniture matters.

Rather than simply choosing furniture based on its aesthetic appeal, it’s worth considering the way it feels and the message it communicates. Law firms, for example, are often partial to bulky wooden tables and stiff leather chairs. The traditional decor helps communicate stability and trust, which may be useful when conducting a negotiation or persuading a prospective client to use their services. What it’s unlikely to do, however, is help visitors relax, silence their inner censors, and come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Which goes to show: What’s right for one location can be entirely wrong for another. The key is to first think about how a room is going to be used and then build an experience that’s consistent with that objective.

One organizational touchpoint that often gets mysteriously overlooked: the bathroom. Most office restrooms are bleak and unwelcoming. But for many employees, it’s one of the few opportunities they have for stepping away, letting go of trivial details, and refocusing on the bigger picture. Instead of treating bathrooms with disdain, some cutting-edge organizations are now using them as an opportunity for stimulating creativity, by displaying interesting artwork, leaving out thought-provoking magazines, or playing unusual music.

Welcoming bathrooms at workplace are extremely important.

At Google, for example, bathrooms are where employees go to learn. Back in 2007, a group of engineers starred posting interesting articles on bathroom stalls as a means of educating their colleagues about new methods of code testing. The idea caught on, and soon their coworkers began complaining when the material wasn’t being updated quickly enough. To this day, when an engineer at Google says, “Excuse me, I need to go read about testing,’ it’s clear exactly where he’s headed. On the surface, that might seem like just a quirky anecdote. But what it demonstrates is how even a simple bathroom visit can be used to reinforce a company’s commitment to intellectual growth.

A final touchpoint worth considering is the design of an organization’s gathering spaces. Lunchrooms, locker rooms and coffee stations serve important logistical functions, but they also double as vital social hubs. When communal spaces are lacking in a workplace, the quality of employee relationships suffers. In fact, research conducted by Gallup shows that organizations that neglect to build gathering space have half the number of employees with a best friend at work as those that do.

Welcoming Lunchrooms and Coffee Stations are mandatory.

We often give a lot of thought to formal meeting spaces. But often it’s the informal spaces that can have a bigger impact on the quality of  our workplace relationships. Offering appealing indoor or outdoor spaces for employees to gather is a vital organizational touchpoint in just about any industry-one that can bolster employee relationships, create networking opportunities, and spark creative interactions.

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DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _Why great workplaces reward failure?

Fail often and you’ll see huge improvement.

In general FAILURE is seen as something to avoid at all cost. We are very afraid to fail. At workplace, people are sometimes so afraid of making a mistake that they rather accept to be humiliated or micromanaged by their managers. Such employees accept to do whatever their manager ask (even in disagreement) than to take the initiative to do something creative without asking the manager first. Employees prefer to stay in their comfort zone than to take the risk and eventually make a mistake. That’s why in many companies employees are not feeling safe to tell the truth and they lie about their tasks at work. If we do a mistake and the manager doesn’t know about it yet, our first instinct is to hide everything and when the managers want to know what the status of a specific task is, we lie hard. In fact people at work are realty terrified by failure. But managers too. As a general rule managers have the highest pay-rate in a company, most of them are overconfident about their knowledge and because they want to show who’s in charge, they are in fact the ones who lie the most. 

This is the most common lie at work.

But this tendency of hiding  the mistakes and lying comes from our early stage of development for the adult life. It all begins from our school-years.  Failure is actually a good thing because it sparks the creativity. But unfortunately what’s odd is, that in many ways it’s the precise opposite of the view espoused in most classrooms. From an early age, children are taught that success means having the right answers. That struggling is a bad sign, the sort of thing you do when you’re not quite “getting it,” or the work is too hard. Throughout much of their education students are encouraged to finish assignments quickly. Those who don’t are sent off to tutors.

After 12 years of indoctrination, it’s no wonder that so many of us view failure the way we do: as something to avoid at all cost. We’re implicitly taught that struggling means others will view us poorly, when in reality it’s only by stretching ourselves that we develop new skills. What was originally introduced as a feedback tool to foster better learning has had the opposite effect. When we reduce performance to As or Bs, pass or fail, good or bad, we make the learning opportunities that failure provides hard to appreciate.

Failure, per se, is not enough. The important thing is to mine the failure for insight that can improve your next attempt. But research suggests that the approach of rewarding intelligent failure may be more of an impact on students than we might initially suspect, especially when it comes to promoting a thinking style that’s conducive to innovation. The reason is that when the possibility of failure looms as a major threat, our mind does some funny things.

How  TO SPARK CREATIVITY

You know that aha! feeling you get when you solve a difficult problem with a clever insight? Let’s see if we can recreate that experience now. We’re going to play a little game to test your creativity. I’m going to list three seemingly unrelated words. Your job is to be up with a fourth-one that conceptually connects the first three words in a group.

Here’s an example:

SWISS CAKE COTTAGE

The answer is cheese: (Swiss) cheese; cheese (cake); (cottage) cheese.

Now let’s see how well you do on some of these.

PAINT     DOLL     CAT         ———-

FALLING ACTOR DUST      ———-

STICK LIGHT BIRTHDAY    ———-

These are just a few items from the Remote Associates Test (also known by the somewhat unfortunate acronym RAT), a tool psychologists use to measure creative insight. To find the right answer – in this case: House, Star, and Candle – you need to discover a link between ostensibly unrelated concepts, the same activity at the heart of many creative endeavors. Now suppose we raise the stakes. Instead of doing the RAT for fun, I’m going to start paying you based on how well you do. You’re going to see 10 RAT items. For each item you get right, I’ll give you a crisp 5-euro bill. OK, ready?

But wait. Before we start, let’s pause here for a second. Take a moment to examine the way you feel. Are you eager? Focused? Engaged? If so, you’re likely experiencing an “approach motivational state.”

This is when you are eager to get something.

When people are in an approach mind-set, their focus is on achieving positive outcomes, because they see the potential for gain. Contrast that with the feeling you get when we change the terms of the exercise slightly. Instead of paying you after every correct response, I’ll just give you the full 50 euros right at the start. Not bad, right? But here’s the catch. This time around, for every mistake you make, I’m going to take away 5 euros. Notice the shift in the way you feel. If you’re like most people, your attention is no longer centered on the potential gain. Instead you’ve become sensitized to the possibility of loss. You’ve entered what’s called an “avoidance motivational state.”

This is when you are tempted to avoid something.

Every task we engage in, can involve an approach or avoidance mind-set. Take a relatively low-stakes activity, like visiting a gym. Some of us exercise in order to gain a fitter body or impress a romantic partner (approaching a positive outcome), while the rest of us may do so in order to stop gaining weight or stave off high cholesterol (avoiding negative outcome). In each case our action is exactly the same. But the difference in our psychological framing can strongly influence our experience, affecting everything from the emotions we feel stepping onto a treadmill to our likelihood of returning the next day. Our motivational mind-set is particularly critical when we’re engaged in creative activities. Research shows that when we’re energized possibility of gain, we adopt a flexible cognitive style that allows us to easily switch between mental categories.We take a broader  view, seeing the forest instead of the trees, while exploring a wider array of possibilities. In sum, when we’re energized by approach motivation, we instinctively use the very mental techniques that make us more creative.It’s a different story when avoidance motivation enter the picture.

This is what you get when negative outcome become the focus

The moment evading a negative outcome becomes the focus, our attention narrows and our thinking becomes more rigid. We have a hard time seeing the big picture and resist the mental exploration necessary for finding a solution. All of a sudden, insights become a lot more elusive. In part, the reason is physiological. When avoiding failure is a primary focus, the work isn’t just more stressful; it’s a lot harder  to do. And over the long run, that mental strain takes a toll, resulting in less innovation and the experience of burnout. Ironically, allowing for mistakes to happen can elevate the quality of our performance. It’s true even within roles that don’t require creativity.

SUCCESSFUL TEAMS MAKE MORE MISTAKES

When the consequences of reporting failure are too severe, employees avoid acknowledging mistakes altogether. But when a work environment feels psychologically safe and mistakes are viewed as a natural part of the learning process, employees are less prone to covering them up. The fascinating implication is that fearful teams avoid examining the causes of their blunders, making it all the more likely that their mistakes will be repeated again in the future. Having a team that’s afraid of admitting failure is a dangerous problem particularly because the symptoms are not immediately visible what appears on the surface to be a well-functioning unit may, in fact be a group that’s too paralyzed to admit its own flaws.

In contrast, teams that freely admit their errors are better able to learn from one another’s mistakes. They can also take steps to prevent repeating those mistakes by tweaking their process. Over the long term, encouraging employees to acknowledge mistakes is therefore vital first step to seeing improvement.

THE RIGHT WAY TO REWARD FAILURE

For example, large pharmaceutical companies have begun rewarding scientists for pulling the plug on major research projects, in an effort to discourage researchers from laboring on ineffective products for fear that admitting failure might cost them their jobs. Merck & Co., one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers, gives additional stock options to scientists who admit their research is yielding undesirable results. The faster scientists fail, the thinking goes, the sooner they can be reassigned to a project with stronger potential. The alternative is throwing good money after bad.

“You can’t change the truth you can only delay how long it takes to find it out”

“If you don’t encourage people to take risks, then you end up with incrementalism forever”

Software development company HCL Technologies takes it one step further by inviting executives to create a Failure CV. To enter the firms highly coveted internal leadership program, applicants are required to list some of their biggest career blunders and then explain what they’ve learned from each experience. To advance their careers, potential leaders must first show that they have the ability to turn failure into progress. Those who can’t seem to identify any mistakes are presumably told they now have something to put on future applications. It’s an interesting approach. One that begs the question: What would the Failure CV of someone like William Shakespeare or Steve Jobs look like? And how would their Failure CV compare to yours?

This is a good approach to evaluate a successful individual

One thing we can predict with some certainty is that the Failure CV of most high achievers tends to be surprisingly lengthy. Which when you think about it, is quite refreshing. We don’t often think of those at the top as a bunch of chronic failures. But in a way, that’s precisely what they are. It’s what enabled their success in the first place It’s a lesson with strong implications for the workplace.

When organizations communicate that failure is not an option, they incur an invisible cost: one that triggers a psychological reaction that restricts employee thinking, rewards lying, encourages cover-ups, and fuels the proliferation of more mistakes. It’s an approach that ignores a basic reality of how learning and innovation really happen. We want to believe that progress is simple. That Success and Failure provide clear indicators of the value of our work. Bur the path to excellence is rarely a straight line. If  there’s one unifying insight we can draw from the experience of extraordinary achievers it is this:

Sometimes the best way to minimize failure is to embrace it with open arms.

The Lessons of Failure

Action Items for Managers

I. Reward the attempts, not just the outcomes. Want to see creativity in the workplace? Then incentivize employees for trying new approaches and occasionally taking risks. When successful outcomes are the only things that are recognized, employees fall back on a conservative approach,sticking with what’s worked in the past. The only way to promote risk-taking is to reward the attempts, reinforcing behaviors you want to encourage.

II. Mine failures for opportunities. When a team’s efforts fall Flat it’s natural to want to move on by burying your nose in your next assignment. But expert performers know that failure often contains powerful clues for improvement, especially when the focus is on what can be improved in the future. Be careful, however, not to turn postmortems into witch hunts by fixating on who made the mistake. Far better to ask future-oriented questions like, “What’s one thing we can do better next time?”

III.Play the long game. No one likes failure. And tolerating setbacks as a manager is certainly a risk. But successful companies know that creating the space for intelligent failure is an investment, one that can yield major rewards in the long run. Think like Google. Or Gretzky. Or Jobs. It’s not just about your organization’s performance today. It’s about its performance in five years.

The Lessons of Failure

Action Items for Emerging Leaders

I. Ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?” High achievers don’t see failure as a personal indictment. They view it as a sign that they’re on the brink of growth. If everything you do at work comes easily, consider this: You may not be pushing yourself hard enough. Developing your skills is like waging a negotiation. If the opposition says yes right away it might mean you’ve aimed too low.

II.Anticipate the J Curve. We like to think of progress as a straight line, where one development builds on top of another, leading to steady and unswerving improvement. It’s a comforting model, But when it comes to complex creative endeavors, it’s also unrealistic. The relationship between creativity and progress is messy and often looks less like a straight line and more like a J, with a heavy dip at the start representing early challenges and setbacks. Anticipating your early struggles makes it easier to stick around for later gains

III. Failure not an option? It may be time to go. In a knowledge economy, unless you’re acquiring new skills, you’re slowly becoming obsolete. Some organizations want employees to repeat the same behaviors again and again without variation. This is not in your interest. Workplace experimentation is the only path to developing the skills you need to remain both relevant and valuable.

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CONVERTING NEED INTO DEMAND_PUT PEOPLE FIRST AND YOU’LL CREATE AMAZING PRODUCTS

This is HOW to convert NEED into DEMAND

Some years ago, people in different locations used to communicate by phone. That’s nothing unusual since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone around the year 1875. For more than 140 years since then, 2 people easily communicate verbally by phone. And that’s still OK when we talk about general or personal topics. But what about talking business  or very important technical details for a project involving a lot of high technology, when usually the information must be heard and even seen by a team of participants in different locations in different countries?  Can we easily communicate our message and ideas just using the classical phone? Of course we cannot. We need a better way to share our ideas and insights. We need a better interface.  We actually need a new product of better communication.

Like in many other fields, new products that can improve the User Experience for which they are created. Today we can communicate very easily not only audio but also video. We can share everything in real time, doesn’t matter how many participants are involved or where they are located. This was only possible due to intensive work of UI/UX Design Engineers which are becoming more and more in high demand. The UI/UX Designers are helping people to create new products that can improve life and work. These engineers are design thinkers.

This is How UX Design Works

For design thinkers, however, behaviors are never right or wrong, they are always meaningful.  Just simply saying that the job of a designer is: “converting need into demand”  by putting people first. This is exactly what a designer does. On the face of it, this sound so: just figure out what people want and then give it to them. But if it’s so easy , why don’t we see more success stories like the iPod? The Prius? MTV and Amazon?

The answer is that we need to return human beings to the center of the story. We need to learn to put people first. There is lot of written material out there about “human-centered design” and its importance to innovation. But since there are few truly compelling stories, it’s good to ask WHY is it so difficult to spot a need and design a response. The basic problem is that people are so ingenious at adapting to inconvenient situations that they are often not even aware that they are doing so: they sit on their seat belts, write their PINs on their hands, hang their jackets on doorknobs and chain their bicycles to park benches.

That’s the way it is.If you want to change your world, change your thinking too.

Henry Ford understood this very well when he remarked “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘a faster horse’”. This is WHY traditional techniques such as focus groups and surveys, which in most cases simply ask people what they want, rarely yield important insights. The tools of conventional market research can be useful in pointing toward incremental improvements, but they will never lead to those rule-breaking , game-changing, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why nobody ever thought of them before.  Our real  goal as design thinkers, then is not so much fulfilling manifest needs by creating a speedier printer or a more ergonomic keyboard; that’s the job of classical designers. Our goal as design thinkers instead is helping people to articulate  the latent needs they may not even know they have, and this is the challenge of design thinkers.

How should we approach it?  What tools do we  have that can lead us from modest incremental changes to the leaps of insight that will redraw the map?  There are actually 3 mutually reinforcing elements of any successful design program. These are: INSIGHT, OBSERVATION and EMPATHY.

INSIGHT  = Learning from the lives of others

This is how INSIGHT Thinking works

Insight is one of the sources of design thinking and it does not usually come from reams of quantitative data that measure exactly what we already have and tell us what we already know. A better starting point is to go out into the world and observe the actual experiences of for example commuters, bikers or registered nurses as they improvise their way through their daily lives. Just observe simple things such as: the shopkeeper who uses a hammer as a doorstop; the office worker who sticks identifying labels onto the jungle of computer cables under his desk.  Rarely will the everyday people who are the consumers of our products, the customers of our services, the occupants of our buildings or the users of our digital interfaces be able to tell us what to do.

Their actual behavior, however can provide us with invaluable clues about their range of unmet needs. The creative process generates ideas and concepts that have not existed before. These are more likely to be triggered by observing the odd practices of an amateur carpenter or the incongruous detail in a mechanic’s shop, than by hiring expert consultants or asking  “statistically average” people to respond to a survey or fill out a questionnaire.

The insight phase that helps to launch a project is therefore every bit as critical as the engineering that comes later, an we must take it from where we can find it. The evolution from design to design thinking is the story of the evolution from the creation of products to the analysis of the relationship between people and products, and from there to the relationship between people and people.

OBSERVATION = Watching what people don’t do, listening to what they don’t say.

Hear everything, see everything, feel everything.

Walk into the offices of any of the world’s leading design consultancies, and the first question is likely to be “Where is everybody?” Of course, many hours are spent in the model shop, in project rooms, and peering into computer monitors, but many more hours are spent out in the field with the people who will ultimately benefit from our work. Although grocery store shoppers, office workers, and schoolchildren are not the ones who will write us a check at the end of a project, they are our ultimate clients.

The only way we can get to know them is to seek them out where they live, work, and play. Accordingly, almost every project we undertake involves an intensive period of observation. We watch what people do (and do not do) and listen to what they say (and do not say). This takes some practice. There is nothing simple about determining whom to observe, what research techniques to employ, how to draw useful inferences from the information gathered, or when to begin the process of synthesis that begins to point us toward a solution. Observation relies on quality, not quantity.

The decisions one makes can dramatically affect the results one gets. It makes sense for a company to familiarize itself with the buying habits of people who inhabit the center of its current market, for they are the ones who will verify that an idea is valid on a large scale-a fall outfit for Barbie, for instance, or next year’s feature on last year’s car. By concentrating solely on the bulge at the center of the bell curve, however, we are more likely to confirm what we already know than learn something new and surprising. For insights at that level we need to head for the edges, the places where we expect to find “extreme” users who live differently, think differently, and consume differently-collector who owns 1,400 Barbies, for instance, or a professional car thief.

EMPATHY = Standing in the shoes (or lying on the gurneys) of others.

Just put yourself in the shoes of others.

It’s possible to spend days, weeks, or months conducting research of this sort, but at the end of it all we will have little more than stacks of field notes, videotapes, and photographs unless we can connect with the people we are observing at a fundamental level. We call this “empathy,” and it is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking.

We are not trying to generate new knowledge, test a theory, or validate a scientific hypothesis-that’s the work of our university colleagues and an indispensable part of our shared intellectual landscape. The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives. Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations. If we are to “borrow” the lives of other people to inspire new ideas, we need to begin by recognizing that their seemingly inexplicable behaviors represent different strategies for coping with the confusing, complex, and contradictory world in which they live.

The computer mouse developed at Xerox PARC in the 1970s was an intricate technical apparatus invented by engineers and intended for engineers. To them it made perfect sense that it should be taken apart and cleaned at the end of the day. But when the fledgling Apple Computer asked us to help it create a computer “for the rest of us,” we gained our first lesson in the value of empathy.

A designer, no less than an engineer or marketing executive, who simply generalizes from his own standards and expectations will limit the field of opportunity. A thirty-year-old man does not have the same life experiences as a sixty-year-old woman. An affluent Californian has little in common with a tenant farmer living on the outskirts of Nairobi. A talented, conscientious industrial designer, settling down at her desk after an invigorating ride on her mountain bike, may be ill prepared to design a simple kitchen gadget for her grandmother who is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. But even empathy for the individual, as it turns out, is not sufficient. To the extent that designers have one at all, their prevailing concept of “markets” remains the aggregate of many individuals. It rarely extends to how groups interact with one another. Design thinkers have upped the ante, beginning with the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 10 – Leadership is a feature.

That’s the way it simply is.

I could have written more about the fake life we have at workplace everyday. There is a lot o shit happening out-there but this is the last lie I write about.

If you would ask 1000 people: why they work for a company?, more than 80% of them will tell you that it’s because they have to, but not because they want so, and not because they do it with pleasure. And If I extrapolate this to the world population I guarantee you the a massive majority of people will tell you the same, they work because they have to. You don’t believe me?? Alright, then go ahead I provoke you to try and do the exercise. Ask randomly 1000 people why they work of a company? And draw your own conclusions. 🙂 :-). But indeed, why do we behave like that? Well …it’s because many of us think that we must obey to those who lead, because we are also told that LEADERSHIP IS A FEATURE and we all must agree with that. Well ….I this post I will tell you that this is nothing but a LIE. Leadership is NOT a feature. Not even a little one.

But this post is not about leadership. And I can say a little more. I can say that there appears to be broad agreement that certain people exhibit a definable, consistent, and meaningful quality called leadership. That there are some characteristics of a person that are in some way above and different from that person’s technical skills (whether he or she can write good code, for example, or good English) and that also transcend that person’s interpersonal or “soft” skills (whether he or she can make the sale, or negotiate a deal) and that make the person a leader.

Steve Jobs had all of that.

I can also say that we tend to agree that all the best leaders possess this quality, or set of qualities – so, leadership is something that lives, specially, in those who lead and is in some way responsible for their ability to do so. And I can say that, as a consequence, most of us would agree that if you want to be a leader, you have to have this set of qualities.

There is a frustrating circularity to this argument – that there’s a feature called “leadership“, and we know it’s a feature because leaders have it, otherwise they wouldn’t be leaders. It’s like saying your cat has catness because he’s a cat: it might be true, but it’s hardly helpful to your hamster if he dreams, someday, of being a cat. This know-it-when-we-see-it vagueness explains, in part, why we can talk about leadership so much without usefully advancing our understanding of it, or “getting much better at it”. Perhaps to combat this vagueness, some go further and begin to try to specify some of the qualities that make up leadership. As for example:

  • Being inspirational seems to be important.
  • Being able to create and articulate a vision matters a lot.
  • The ability to formulate strategy is good, as is the ability to distinguish a good strategy from a bad one.
  • Sometimes mastery of execution makes the list – the art of getting stuff done.
  • Setting a direction for an organization is important, and, in concert with this, bringing people into alignment with that direction and motivating them to move ahead.
  • Decision making is high on the list, together with managing conflict.
  • Innovation and disruption usually put in an appearance.
  • Communications skills also rank highly, and having what’s commonly referred to as “executive presence” is also felt to be critical.

To this collection of long-limbed characteristics are added some personal traits. Leadership requires:

  • authenticity (the ability to come across as a “real” person) and often, too,
  • vulnerability (the courage to be imperfect in public, to relinquish the need to be right or to be the smartest person in the room).

These things, and a few others, are said to be needed so that our leaders can build effective relationships with others. And yet these characteristics are curiously circumscribed: authenticity is important, right up until the point when the leader, authentically, says that he has no idea what to do, which then fractures his vision.

Likewise, vulnerability is important until the moment when the leader’s comfort with his own flaws causes us to doubt him, and to question whether he is sufficiently inspirational. Apparently, we require authentic sureness and reassuring vulnerability, however contradictory those things may be. The personal qualities that make the list are Goldilocks qualities-they must be neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right.

These little inconsistencies, however, melt away in the face of our conviction that leadership is a great good at work – it is always better for a person to have more of it, and the more leaders an organization has, the better. This much, at least, appears settled – and as a result you will be told that the most important thing you can do to advance your career is to “grow your leadership.”

Apparently leaders use this grow pattern.

Now, some might choose other attributes for their lists, but those above are a reasonable summary of the theory-world view of leadership. And the reason that this isn’t a post on leadership is not that the qualities listed aren’t useful (they are) or that this topic has been done to death (it’s dose) but, rather, that when I look critically, I realize that we may well have misunderstood leadership altogether. Indeed, the lie that we encounter at work is that leadership is a feature. Well it is NOT.

As reference for leadership I can not find a better example – which for sure will be remembered forever in the leadership history- than the story of Martin Luther King.

M.L. KING Jr. is an ICON OF LEADERSHIP

This guy is an icon for real. What he did and the consequences of his actions have definitely changed the way we thing about leadership today. To make it short, seeing the story of Martin Luther King I can simply say that it’s a story about the other 11 men who followed him, and it’s a story that –in all the theorizing about leadership, in all the competing lists and competencies, in all the articles and surveys and assessments and books, in all the dissection and analysis and categorization – is sadly lost. For leadership does not live in the abstract, does not live in the average. It lives, instead, in the real world. And if we look at that world, this is what we see.

1st – the ability to lead is rare. It was not inevitable that Martin Luther King Jr. would emerge from the Montgomery bus boycott as a national leader whom millions would follow-there were other good people guiding the Montgomery Improvement Association, just as there were other, earlier bus boycotts a couple of years before 1956. But something about King in Montgomery was special. The fact that we lionize those who have this special ability; the fact that we spend so much time looking for it and trying to get more of it; and the fact that it plays such a prominent role in how we think about our organizations: these point not to its ubiquity but to its scarcity-and this scarcity, in turn, belies the supposed ease with which we’re all meant to be able to get better at it. If leading were easy, there would be more good leaders. If there were more good leaders, we might be just a little less focused on it.

2nd – leaders have shortcomings. Their skill set is incomplete. We don’t need extra surveillance files to reveal that King was not in possession of every quality the perfect leader should possess. And this is confounding, because it challenges the notion that there is in fact a list of leadership qualities, each of which is essential. For every quality on the list, we can think of a respected leader in the real world who lacks it.

Yep!! you must.

If leadership is about being inspirational or visionary, then what should we make of Warren Buffett, whose principal activities as a leader seem to consist of sitting in an office in Omaha, Nebraska, drinking Cherry Coke, and finding companies to buy?

If leadership is about creating a winning strategy, then what should we make of Winston Churchill, whose disastrous policies in the 1920s and 1930s led to his exile from government?

If leadership is about execution and communication, then what should we make of King George VI of Great Britain, who was revered for his leaders hip of that nation during the Second World War, but who could barely speak in public, and who wasn’t in a position to execute anything?

If leadership is about building a winning coalition, then what should we make of Susan B. Anthony, whose falling-out with her fellow women’s-suffrage leaders created a split in that movement that lasted twenty years?

If it’s about ethics, what do we make of Steve Jobs‘s buying a new car every six months to avoid registering it, so as to be able to park in handicapped spots whenever he wanted to?

If it’s about caring for those in your charge, what do we inake of General George Patton and his physically assaulting soldiers with PTSD?

If it’s about authenticity, where does that leave John F. Kennedy and his hidden illnesses and affairs?

What does it mean for all the models and lists if the things on them are optional? The lesson from the real world is not that there is any particular collection of qualities that every leader has, but rather that every leader we can think of has obvious shortcomings-that leaders aren’t perfect people, not by a long way.

And finally 3rd – it follows that leadership is not about being the most well-rounded of the well-rounded people. As I explained in Lie Nr. 6 The best people aren’t well-rounded. The same is true for the leaders we see in the real world-and even more so. As with some of the great performers I mentioned earlier – think Lionel Messi and his amazing left foot – we don’t see the most respected leaders spending much time trying to round themselves out, trying to develop abilities in areas where they have none. Instead, we see them trying to make the best use of what they already have, with the result that whenever we look closely, we see them going about the task of leading in very different ways. In this way, leading is the same as all other fields of human endeavor-high performance is idiosyncratic, and the higher the level of performance the greater the level of idiosyncrasy.

This is why the idea that “leadership is a feature” is a lie. When you take any of our definitions of that feature, and then try to locate it in the real world, you encounter exception upon exception upon exception. The very least I can conclude is that if there is some magical set of attributes, we haven’t yet figured out what they are, and that plenty of leaders are doing plenty of leading without many of them. And if that’s the case, then the things that supposedly make up leadership neither add to our understanding of it nor help us be better at it.

That’s why I’m a follower of M.L.King jr. 🙂

But if the real world shows us what leadership isn’t, does it give us any clues at all that we can learn from? Can we say nothing more than that leading is a free-for-all, a grab bag of different skills and attributes and states and traits that will remain ever mysterious? Or is there a different way to understand what’s going on?

What’s most remarkable about the events in Montgomery in 1956 is not that one individual took a stand and was imprisoned as a result, it is not what this one man said or did. It is rather that others chose to follow him. What is truly before us  is a story of a leader (M.L. King Jr.) and his followers – and it is because, on that day, the 11 chose to follow that 60 years later we know their names. In the midst of physical attacks and intimidation and firebombings, the 11 saw something special in King, something that they chose to follow, and because of what they did, and then because of what countless thousands and millions did in the ensuing years, we recognize him as a leader.

Martin Luther K.Jr. had a lot of them 🙂

This is the true lesson in leading from the real world: a leader is someone who has followers, plain and simple. The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following. This might seem like an obvious statement, until we recall how easily we overlook its implications. Followers their needs, their feelings, their fears and hopes – are strangely absent when we speak of leaders as exemplars of strategy, execution, vision, oratory, relationships, charisma, and so on. The idea of leadership is missing the idea of followers. It’s missing the idea that our subject here is, at heart, a question of a particularly human relationship-namely, why anyone would choose to devote his or her energies to, and to take risks on behalf of, someone else?? And, in that, it’s missing the entire point.

This notion – that a leader is a person with followers – does not emerge from a list of skills, or tactics, or competencies; it doesn’t coincide with a person’s level within a hierarchy; and it doesn’t actually tell us very much about the nature of the leader him -or herself. But it does capture a condition for leading. And that condition is precise – it’s about the presence, or absence, of followers.

So the question we should really be asking ourselves is this one: Why do we follow? With its following additional sub-questions:

  • What is it that makes us work hard late into the night to go beyond what’s expected of us?
  • What makes us move someone to the front of our queue?
  • What makes us voluntarily place some part of our destiny in the hands of another human being?
  • What makes us give our breath to another?
  • What made those 11 men entrust their well-being and their hopes to Number 7089 (Luther King)?
That’s why we follow.

Broadly speaking, we want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves – the “Best of We” – while, at the same time, feeling that our leader knows and values us for who we are as a unique individual – the “Best of Me.” More specifically, we follow leaders:

  • who connect us to a mission we believe in,
  • who clarify what’s expected of us,
  • who surround us with people
  • who define excellence the same way we do,
  • who value us for our strengths,
  • who show us that our teammates will always be there for us,
  • who diligently replay our winning plays,
  • who challenge us to keep getting better, and
  • who give us confidence in the future.

This is not a list of qualities in a leader, but rather a set of feelings in a follower. When we say to ourselves that leadership is indeed a feature, because we know it when we see it, we’re not really seeing any definable characteristic of another human. What we are “seeing” is in fact our own feelings as a follower. As such, while we should not expect every good leader to share the same qualities or competencies, we can hold all good leaders accountable for creating these same feelings of follower-ship in their teams. Indeed, we can use these feelings to help any particular leader know whether or not she is any good.

The 8 items I’ve introduced in LIE Nr. 2 are a valid measure of a leader’s effectiveness. We need not dictate how each leader should behave, but we can define what all good leaders must create in their followers. And since we measure this by asking the followers to rate their own experiences, rather than rating the leader on a long list of abstract leader qualities, this measure of leader effectiveness is reliable.

Leadership isn’t a thing, because it cannot be measured reliably. Followership is a thing, because it can.

That’s why I don’t want to ever be the boss.

And it’s a lie that leadership is a feature because no two leaders create followers in quite the same way. What’s true in the real world is that leading is many different things. Your challenge as a leader is not to try to acquire the complete set of abstract leader competencies – you will fail, not least because the first hurdle you will fall at is authenticity. Instead, your challenge is to find and refine your own idiosyncratic way of creating in your team these eight emotional outcomes. Do this well and you will lead well.

Interestingly and happily – these two are linked. Your ability to create the outcomes you want in your followers is tied directly to how seriously and intelligently you cultivate your own idiosyncrasy, and to what end. The deeper and more extreme your idiosyncrasy becomes, the more passionately your followers follow-and while this is frustrating to us when we happen to disagree with the ends of a particular leader, it is so nonetheless.

When King was in jail in 1960 in Birmingham Alabama due to some accusations that he organized a nonviolent campaign against segregation he had written what is now known as the Letter from Birmingham Jail. It’s a long letter-an impassioned letter. It’s a plea against settling, against compromise, against the path of least resistance. And in it, King talks about extremism. “The question,” he says “is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be.”

Martin Luther King Jr. did the right thing. That’s why he was a leader.

Warren Buffett, the uninspiring Coke – drinker from Omaha, is an extremist. He’s exceptional at finding and buying companies. Winston Churchill, while he might have been a poor policy maker, was exceptional at inspiring uncompromising resistance. Susan B. Anthony was really good at focusing her energies, and those of the people around her, on a specific goal. Steve Jobs was really good at creating hardware and software that was delightful to use. George Patton was really good at fighting, with his whole being, whatever was in front of him on any given day. And John F. Kennedy was really good at making the future feel universal and morally uplifting. What each of these leaders had in common was that they were really good at something – each was, in their different way, an extremist.

We have seen, already, that the best people aren’t well-rounded, but are instead spiky – they have honed one or two distinctive abilities that they use to make their mark on the world. What we see in the best leaders is a similar extremism – a few signal abilities refined over time. But now, these abilities are so pronounced, and the leaders so adept at transmitting them to the world, that they stand out to all of us. And so this truth: we follow spikes.

This particularly human characteristic presents a challenge for you, the modern day leader. You are charged with rallying your team toward a better future, yet many on your team are fearful of this future. And this fear isn’t unjustified. It’s adaptive. Those of our forebears who lacked it, who paddled their little rafts toward the horizon, asking themselves “Ooh, I wonder where the sun goes to sleep?” often didn’t return to pass on their genes. Being a bit cautious can be a sensible thing. As a leader, you can’t be dismissive of this fear. You can’t tell your people to “embrace change” and to “get comfortable with ambiguity.” Well you can, but you will then get them thinking ever more deeply about change and ambiguity, which will, in turn, increase their anxiety and lessen your effectiveness as a leader.

M.Luther King never lost the connection.

The final characteristic of the best teams, as we saw in Lie Nr 2, is the feeling that, for each team member, “I have great confidence in my company’s future.” This confidence in the future, it seems, is the antidote to our universal uncertainty. And it explains why we follow.

The act of following is a barter-we entrust some part of our future to a leader only when we get something in return. That “something in return” is confidence. And what gives us confidence in the future is seeing, in a leader, some great and pronounced level of ability in something we care about. We follow people who are really good at something that matters to us. We follow the spikes.

It’s as if the spikes give us something to hook on to. We’re well aware of our own shortcomings, and we know that what lies ahead of us in life is unknowable. We’re aware, also, that our journey will be easier if we can do it in partnership with others. And when we see, in those others, some ability that offsets our own deficits, and that removes for us, even if only slightly, some of the mist of the future, then we hold on. We don’t necessarily follow vision, or strategy, or execution, or relationship building, or any of the other leadership things. Instead we follow mastery. And it doesn’t much matter how this mastery manifests itself, as long as we, the followers, find it relevant.

One of the lessons of all the lies I’ve wrote about is that when we blind ourselves to what’s around us, and instead theorize about how the world ought to be (or how we’d like it to be if only it were tidier), our people vanish. We stop seeing them. We mute our curiosity, and we replace it with dogma and dictum. The same happens with the people we call leaders-the moment we start theorizing, they vanish, too. And here are the truths that vanish along with them:

  • The truth that no two leaders do the same job in the same way.
  • The truth that as much as we follow the spikes, they can also antagonize us.
  • The truth that no leader is perfect-and that the best of them have learned how to work around their imperfections.
  • The truth that leaders are frustrating-they don’t have all the abilities we’d like them to have.
  • The truth that following is in part an act of forgiveness-it is to give our attention and efforts to someone despite what we can see of their flaws.
  • The truth that not everyone should be, or wants to be, a leader-the world needs followers, and great followers at that.
  • The truth that a person who might be a great leader for me might not be a great leader for you.
  • The truth that a person who might be a great leader for one team, or team of teams, or company, might not be a great leader for another.
  • The truth that leaders are not necessarily a force for good in the world-they are simply people with followers. They aren’t saints, and sometimes their having followers leads to hubris and arrogance, or worse.
  • The truth that leaders are not good or bad-they are just people who have figured out how to be their most defined selves in the world, and who do so in such a way that they inspire genuine confidence in their followers. This isn’t necessarily good or bad. It just is.
  • The truth that leading isn’t a set of characteristics but a series of experiences seen through the eyes of the followers.
  • The truth that, despite all this, we reserve a special place in our world for those who make our experience of it better and more hopeful.

And the truth that, through it all, we follow your spikes. We spend vast sums of money, in the corporate world, on training and developing our leaders. We never ask why, given your particular jumble of characteristics, anyone would follow you. We never ask how-given that one-of-a-kind mixture of states and traits that makes you who you are-you would use those things to create an experience for the people around you, and use what you have to help them feel better about the world you’re all walking through together, and, while we’re at it, how we might give you some measure of that so you can adjust your course as you go.

That’s absolutely irrelevant. You don’t even evaluate anything by applying this model.

So we need to stop with the models. Stop with the 360-degree assessments. Stop with the minute and meaningless parsing of how to move your “effective communications” score from a 3.8 to a 3.9, while also figuring out why your peers gave you a 4.1 on “strategy” yet your boss gave you a 3.0. Stop with the endless lists of abstractions. Stop debating whether it’s authenticity or tribal leadership or situational leadership or level-five leadership or whatever the latest leadership nirvana thing is. Stop with the one-size-fits-all.

Instead, let’s get humble -the experience of the people on our teams and in our organizations is a true thing, and we don’t simply get to choose what it is. Let’s get curious about that experience and how our actions shape it. And let’s follow our own reactions to real people in the real world. When we feel uplifted by what someone does or says, we need to stop and ask why. When we feel a fresh rush of energy after talking with someone, we need to stop and ask why. When we feel, in response to another human being, that mysterious attraction tugging on us – like a fish on a line, or like a needle twitching in a compass, an attraction that says here, something is happening, something true and visceral and substantial, something that will change, however slightly, the arc of our future – we need to stop and ask why.

As Simon SINEK said and says many times : FIND YOUR WHY

We need to get to know real leaders in the real world, and we need to come to know them as followers ourselves. Then we can start learning. We follow a leader because he is deep in something, and he knows what that something is. His knowledge of it, and the evidence of his knowledge of it, gives us both certainty in the present and confidence in the future.

Leading and following are not abstractions. They are human interactions; human relationships. And their currency is the currency of all human relationships-the currency of emotional bonds, of trust, and of love. If you, as a leader, forget these things, and yet master everything that theory world tells you matters, you will find yourself alone. But if you understand who you are, at your core, and hone that understanding into a few special abilities, each of which refracts and magnifies your intent, your essence, and your humanity, then, in the real world, we will see you.

And we will follow YOU 😉

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 9 – Diversity is the best way to succeed.

The internal reality within companies shows different than as it should be.

Ok, this is a topic highly promoted mostly in the so called “multinational companies”. And at some points I would truly agree that indeed diversity can bring a big added value to any business. While the traditional notion of workplace diversity may refer to representations of various races, genders and religious backgrounds, today’s concept of workplace diversity is all – encompassing. Aside from these variables, considerations are also made on: personality, age, cognitive style, skill-set, education, background and more. The focus of workplace diversity now lies on the promotion of individuality within an organization, acknowledging that every person can bring something different to the table. An organization that is committed to a diverse workforce, therefore, is one that aims to harness a pool of individuals with unique qualities, seeing this combination of differences as a potential for growth rather than opportunities for conflict.

Let’s see first the background theory. Attached to this commitment is also an intention to nurture and develop the potential of each individual. So what is it about diversity that can give organizations an edge?

Here I try to sum up 5 advantages I can consider of having a diverse workforce.

1.Various opinions and perspectives

People coming from different cultures have different versions of truth.

Employees with different background and experiences will bring together a variety of perspectives, thereby evoking alternative solutions and approaches when discussing a topic or issue. If managed well, the strengths and best insights of every individual can be harnessed to heighten productivity and deliver better results. The composition of a team will dictate its potential for success. There needs to be a mix of capabilities to ensure that essential components and skills from strategic planning, execution, follow up to communication abilities and conflict resolution are present.

At times we overlook the need for diversity, given the pressures that a limited pool of resources puts in organizations. However, if we give in to this pressure, we will ultimate suffer the consequences of having a workforce composed of individuals that can only see things from the same perspective and are unable to contribute different points of view or alternatives due to their limited and similar background, exposure and experience. This amalgamation of diverse individuals also sets the stage for creativity as different ideas can be tested against one another, and new ones may be birthed. Employees stand to experience more personal growth in an environment where they are exposed to differences in culture, opinions and ideas.

2.Growth of employees

This is how the people growth works

Employees stand to experience more personal growth in an environment where they are exposed to differences in culture, opinions and ideas.

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” goes the Aristotelian saying. 🙂 But the following can also be said: The more you know, the better your capacity to test and refine your own perspectives and opinions. Employers will have to improve their ability to adapt to different circumstances in a diverse environment. They have to work through differences in personality, culture and background. Underlying ethnocentric notions may finally be brought to the fore and confronted as they learn to work with different styles and cultures.

3. Unity of diverse strengths

That’s why the U.S.A. is strong too.

Diversity also presents the opportunity to unite specific strengths to the advantage of the organization. As every person has different skills and possesses varying strengths, these can be combined for greater performance and productivity. Technical strengths in one individual can be united with the management strengths of another, and the sales strength of yet another. Likewise, the cultural expertise of diverse individuals can be leveraged for the benefit of the company. Especially for global organizations, diversity in a workforce can optimize an organization’s ability to meet the needs of each market. Representatives of specific demographics can be paired with clients of the similar backgrounds, helping clients feel more comfortable and sense an affinity with the employee, and thereby, the organization.

4.Make company attractive

Create this and your company will be for sure attractive.

From the marketplace perspective, a company that promotes workplace diversity and an inclusive work environment adds to its attractiveness as an employer. A work place that is open to exploring new ideas and styles is especially appealing for the adventurous open-minded employees of Generation Y. If an organization makes it known that they focus on what individuals can bring to the table more than the candidate’s socioeconomic background, ethnicity and the like, they are more likely to attract a diverse range of applicants.

5. The schedule advantage

That’s a fact.

There is also a practical advantage in having a diverse workforce. As individuals have their unique time commitments, having a varied group helps ensure that work tasks can be fulfilled at all times of the year. Various races are represented particularly in their roles that involve shift work. Acknowledging that various ethnicities and religions have different celebrations they adhere to, making sure they have a diverse group of employees ensures there is a workforce across different festival periods during the year.

THE CHALLENGES OF DIVERSITY

Now let’s look realistically at all the aspects I mentioned above an I will demonstrate that the title of this post “Diversity is the best way to succeed” is in fact a veritable lie.

There are, however, natural obstacles to embracing and implementing diversity in an organization. We would be ignoring the challenges firstly of advocating diversity and then managing it in a manner than ensures it is a strength, and not a human resource and operational nightmare. The goal is to create an environment where every employee has opportunities to be successful and where their differences are leveraged for the success of the organization. The challenge is “the issue of inclusion” or “muscle memory” as one of the main obstacles to workplace diversity, referring to the attitude that says “This is how it has always been done. Why change it?”

Hidden biases form a major component in the formation of this “muscle memory”. Subconsciously, every person has a tendency to draw on their hidden biases when making decisions about who they think will be the best candidate for a particular role or opportunity. They may favor people of a particular race or educational background, gender or individuals of a certain a personality type. A quick glance at the leadership composition of an organization can reveal predispositions that they are inclined towards. You may hear  phrases like “It’s not intentional,” . “It’s just this feeling that I’m more comfortable with people like me.” Concerning this is advisable that people, especially managers, must be aware of their personal biases and understand that they may be preventing them from considering other possibilities.

CLASH OF APPROACHES

You can only change this if you have previous experience living in that culture.

There is also the very real issue of differences in perspectives leading to a clash of approaches. Culture, personality and background differences can erect social divisions between employees that they need to recognize and overcome. Naturally, this can present disruptions when working in teams as individuals learn to adapt and understand on another. However, this can turn to an advantage if individuals recognize that different, sometimes conflicting ideas, are important to make sure a team does not have tunnel vision. We can see it as a “dynamic tension” that can bring the best results.

So with other words : it is simply better to leave Rome to the Romans. Such theories about diversity are just theories, but in reality saying that “Diversity is the best way to succeed” is of course a lie. The best way to succeed is not Diversity, The best way to succeed is Professionalism.

The art of persuasion makes the difference.

And this is one of the most crucial business skills. Without the ability to persuade others to support your ideas, you won’t be able to attract the support you need to turn those ideas into realities. And though most people are unaware of it, the ways you seek to persuade others and the kinds of arguments you find persuasive are deeply rooted in your culture’s philosophical, religious, and educational assumptions and attitudes. Far from being universal, then, the art of persuasion is one that is profoundly culture-based.

That’s another true fact.

That was the hard lesson which I learned during my career working with people coming from different culture than mine. My longest experience is with Germans, but I also had opportunities to work with French, British, American, Brazilian, Japanese, Chinese, Romanians, Hungarians, Italians, and many others; usually all in the automotive industry. But I must admit that the most easiest for me was to work with Latin, American and British people. But now after some years in the field I have learned the German style too. I realized that being persuasive in German environment would require a different approach than in American environment for example. Talking with Americans was quite easy for me to persuade them, a but Germans are a bit the opposite. I feel more comfortable between Americans and Latins anyway. But I am already very used with Germans too.

When I think back to my first meetings with German managers and colleagues, I wish I had understood the difference and hadn’ t let their feedback get under my skin. If I had held my cool, I might have been able to salvage the situation. I was born in Romania and I also spend my school years in Romanian culture as well, I did have some short time jobs in 100% Romanian environment also. Before having the first contact with Germans I was used to behave as all Romanians do. But later on, I have discovered that all Latin cultures are pretty much the similar. Romanian, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese culture have something in common. But American and Germans are 2 totally different cultures.

For the same reason the German companies fail not only in the U.S.A.

Therefore, when I worked with my Latin people I had almost not problem to share my ideas and to make them clear for everybody. I did that with Americans too. What I did is (and I still do) are projects in engineering in automotive industry, discussing new design solution and creating new products, with other words mechanical engineering and design stuff. Currently I also do quality engineering.

When I was offered a similar position as mechanical engineer working for a German company in automotive industry, things were different. After visiting several German automotive plants, observing the systems and processes there, and meeting with dozens of experts and end users, I have collected a set of recommendations that I thought it would meet the company’s strategic and budgetary goals. So, I  traveled to Germany couple of times to work there for a while and finally to participate to some meetings concerning the part design I was working for and to make a sort of  a one-hour presentation in front of decision makers and a group of German managers. The success of those meetings would have given me the opportunity to get other future innovative projects and therefore at my first such a meeting  in preparation, I thought carefully about how to give the most persuasive presentation, practicing my arguments, anticipating questions that might arise, and preparing responses to those questions. I was in fact applying the American style of  persuasion.

I delivered my presentation in a small auditorium with the directors seated in rows of upholstered chairs. I began by getting right to the point, explaining the strategies I would recommend based on my findings. But before I had finished with the first slide, one of the manager raised his hand and protested, he said:

“How did you get to these conclusions? You are giving us your recommendations, but I don’t understand how you got here. How many people did you interview? What questions did you ask?” Then another manager jumped in: “Please explain us what methodology you used for analyzing your data and how that led you to come to these findings.”

I was taken aback. I assured them that the methodology behind my recommendations was sound, but the questions and challenges continued. The more they questioned me, the more I got the feeling that they were attacking my credibility which puzzled and annoyed me. I have a master degree in material science and engineering and my expertise in injection molding and plastic parts design was widely acknowledged so far. Their effort to test my conclusions, I felt, showed a real lack of respect. What arrogance to think that they would be better able to judge than I am! So I reacted defensively, and the presentation went downhill from there. I kick myself now for having allowed their approach to derail my point. Needless to say, they did not approve my recommendations, and some weeks of research time went down the drain.

The stone wall I ran into illustrates the hard truth that our ability to persuade others depends not simply on the strength of our message, but on how we build our arguments and the persuasive techniques we employ.

Because they where taught so in their school system

On the other side one of my German colleague who worked some years in the U.S.A. experienced similar failures at persuading others, though the cultural disconnect ran in the opposite direction. He recalled problems he’ d had the first few times he tried to make a persuasive argument before a group of his American colleagues. He’ d carefully launched his presentation by laying the foundation for his conclusions, setting the parameters, outlining his data and his methodology, and explaining the premise of his argument. He was taken aback when his American boss told him:

“In your next presentation, get right to the point. You lost their attention before you even got to the important part.” My german colleague was unsure. “These are intelligent people,” he thought “Why would they swallow my argument if I haven’t built it carefully for them from the ground up?”

The opposing reactions that me and my German colleague received reflect the cultural differences between German and American styles of persuasion. The approach taken by the Germans is based on a specific style of reasoning that is deeply ingrained in the cultural psyche. Later on my colleague told me:

“In Germany, we try to understand the theoretical concept before adapting it to the practical situation. To understand something, we first want to analyze all of the conceptual data before coming to a conclusion. When colleagues from cultures like the U.S.A or the U.K. make presentations to us, we don’t realize that they were taught to think differently from us. So when they begin by presenting conclusions and recommendations without setting up the parameters and how they got to those conclusions, it can actually shock us, We may feel insulted. Do they think we are stupid-that we will just swallow anything? Or we may question whether their decision was well thought out. This reaction is based on our deep-seated belief that you cannot come to a conclusion without first defining the parameters”

Because they where taught so in their school system, but also because they educate them self.

My colleague’s time in the United States taught him that Americans have a very different approach. They focus on practicalities rather than theory, so they are much more likely to begin with their recommendations. Unfortunately, this reasoning method can backfire when making presentations to an audience whose method of thinking is the opposite-as I  discovered.

Of course the differences are more than that.

THERE ARE TWO STYLES OF REASONING: PRINCIPLES-FIRST VERSUS APPLICATIONS-FIRST

I. Principles-first reasoning (sometimes referred to as deductive reasoning) derives conclusions or facts from general principles or concepts.

For example, we may start with a general principle like “All men are mortal.” Then we move to a more specific example: “Elon Musk is a man.” This leads us to the conclusion, “Elon Musk will eventually, die.” Similarly, we may start with the general principle “Everything made of copper conducts electricity.” Then we show that the old statue of a leprechaun your grandmother left you is 100% copper. Based on these points, we can arrive at the conclusion, “Your grandmother’s statue will conduct electricity.”

In both examples, we started with the general principle and moved from it to a practical conclusion.

II.Applications-first reasoning (sometimes called inductive reasoning), general conclusions are reached based on a pattern of factual observations from the real world.

For example if you travel to Seattle 100X during January and February, and you observe at every visit that the temperature is considerably below zero, you will conclude that “Seattle winters are cold” (and that a winter visit to Seattle calls for a warm coat as well as a scarf, wool hat, glove and ear warmers). In this case, you observe data from the real world, and, based on these empirical observations, you draw broader conclusions.

Most people are capable of practicing both principles-first and applications-first reasoning. But your habitual pattern of reasoning is heavily influenced by the kind of thinking emphasized in your culture’s educational structure. As a result, you can quickly run into problems when working with people who are most accustomed to other modes of reasoning.

Take math class as an example. In a course using the applications-first method, you first learn the formula and practice applying it. After seeing how this formula leads to the right answer again and again, you then move on to understand the concept or principle underpinning it. This means you may spend 80% of your time focusing on the concrete tool and how to apply it and only 20% of your time considering its conceptual or theoretical explanation. School systems in Anglo-Saxon countries tend to emphasize this method of teaching.

By contrast, in a principles-first math class, you first prove the general principle, and only then use it to develop a concrete formula that can be applied to various problems. As a French manager once told me, “We had to calculate the value of pi as a class before we used pi in a formula.” In this kind of math class, you may spend 80% of your time focusing on the concepts or theories underpinning the general mathematical principles and only 20% of your time applying those principles to concrete problems. School systems in Latin Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania), the Germanic countries (Germany, Austria) and Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina) tend to emphasize this method of teaching.

This is one of the reasons why diversity hard to apply.

In business, as in school, people from principles-first cultures generally want to understand the WHY behind their boss’s request before they move to action. Meanwhile, applications-first learners tend to focus less on the WHY and more on the HOW. One of the most common frustrations among French employees with American bosses is that the American tells them what to do without explaining why they need to do it. From the French perspective, this can feel demotivating, even disrespectful. By contrast, American bosses may feel that French workers are uncooperative because, instead of acting quickly, they always ask “Why?” and are not ready to act until they have received a suitable response.

In the U.K. for example the learning is all about concept. Only after we struggle through the theoretical we do get to the practical application. The U.S. was exactly the opposite. Compared with other European cultures, the United Kingdom is quite applications-first. But when the United Kingdom is measured against the United States, it appears strongly principles-first-a vivid illustration of the power of cultural relativity to shape our perceptions.

You may be wondering where the Asian cultures fall on the persuading scale, since they don’t appear in the diagram. Actually, the view of the world most common in Asian cultures is so different from that of European-influenced cultures that an entirely different frame of reference, unrelated to the persuading scale, comes into play.

HOLISTIC THINKING: THE ASIAN APPROACH TO PERSUASION

Across Western countries, we see strong differences between applications-first and principles-first patterns of thinking. But when considering the differences between Asian and Western thought patterns, we need to use a different lens. Asians have what we refer to as holistic thought patterns, while Westerners tend to have what we will call a specific approach.

I give you here some best example of psychological research which clearly show these 2 patterns of thinking. In the 1st study two distinguishable professors: Prof. Richard Nisbett (from University of Michigan and prof. Takahiko Masuda (University of Alberta) presented 20s animated video vignettes of underwater scenes to Japanese and American participants.

Look for 20s and describe shortly what have you seen.

Afterwards, participants were asked what they had seen and the first sentence of each response was categorized. The results of the study were remarkable.

While the Americans mentioned larger, faster-moving, brightly colored objects in the foreground (such as the big fish visible in the illustration) the Japanese spoke more about what was going on in the background (for example, the plants or the small frog to the bottom left). In addition, the Japanese spoke twice as often as the Americans about the inter-dependencies between the objects up front and the objects in the background. As one Japanese woman explained “ I naturally look at all the items behind and around the large fish to determine what kind of fish they are.”

In a 2nd study, Americans and Japanese were asked to “take a photo of a person”. The Americans most frequently took a close-up, showing all the features of the person’s face, while the Japanese showed the person in his or her environment instead with the human figure quite small in relationship to the background

Specific pattern (U.S.A.) thinking vs. Holistic pattern thinking (Japan)

In the 3rd study prof. Nisbett and prof.Masuda asked American and Taiwanese students to read narratives an watch videos of silent comedies – for example, a film about a day in the life of a woman during which circumstances conspire to prevent her from getting to work and then to summarize them. In their summaries the Americans made about 30% more statement referring to central figures of the stories than their Taiwanese counterparts did.

Notice the common pattern in all three studies. The Americans focus on individual figures separate from their environment, while the Asians give more attention to backgrounds and to the links between these backgrounds and the central figures.

So the same happens in the multinational work environment with multinational managers. While Western European and Anglo-Saxon managers generally follow the American tendencies of specific thinking patterns, East Asians respond as Japanese and Taiwanese did in this research.When Westerners and Asians discuss these studies, the dialog is the following:

Western participant: but the instructions said to take a photo of a person, and the picture on the left is a photo of a person.The picture on the right is a photo of a landscape. Why would the Japanese take a photo of a landscape when they have been asked to take a photo of a person?

Asian Participant: The photo on the left is not a photo of the person. It is a close-up of a face. How can I determine anything about the person by looking at it? The photo on the right is a photo of a person, the entire person, including surrounding elements so you can determine something about that person. Why would Americans take a close-up a face which leaves out all of the important details?

Perhaps it is not surprising that Westerners and Asians tend to display these different patterns of interpretation. A common tenet of westerners philosophies and religions is that you can remove an item from its environment and analyze it separately. Cultural theorists call this specific thinking.

Chinese religions and philosophies, by contrast, have traditionally emphasized inter-dependencies and interconnectedness. Ancient Chinese thought was holistic, meaning that the Chinese attended to the field in which an object was located, believing that action always occurs in a field of forces that influence the action Taoism, which influenced Buddhism and Confucianism, proposes that the universe works harmoniously, its various elements dependent upon one another. The terms yin and yang (literally “dark” and light”) describe how seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent.

With this background in mind, after considering the fish and photo research studies we can say that: Chinese people think from macro to micro, whereas Western people think from micro to macro.

For example, when writing an address, the Chinese write in sequence of province, city, district, block, gate number. The Westerners do just the opposite they start with the number of a single house and gradually work their way up to the city and state. In the same way, Chinese put the surname first, whereas the Westerners do it the other way around. And Chinese put the year before month and date. Again, it’s the opposite in the West.

These are totally different patterns.

It’s easy to see how these differences in the characteristic sequence of thinking may cause difficulty or misunderstanding when people from Asian and Western cultures are involved in conversation.

A typical example is that Westerners may think that the Chinese are going all around the key points without addressing them deliberately, while East Asians may experience Westerners as trying to make a decision by isolating a single factor and ignoring significant inter dependencies. This difference affects how business thinking is perceived in Western and Asian cultures. In the eyes of Asian business leaders ,European and American executives tend to make decisions without taking much time to consider the broader implications their actions.

AVOIDING THE PITFALLS, REAPING THE BENEFITS

With words like “diversity” and “global” all the rage, many companies are seeking to create multinational, multicultural teams in an effort to reap benefits in the form of added creativity and greater understanding of global markets. However, as we’ve seen, cultural differences can be fraught with challenges. Effective cross-cultural collaboration can take more time than mono-cultural collaboration and often needs to be managed more closely, here are two simple tips that can help you realize the benefits of such collaboration while avoiding the dangers.

Tip 1 = on a multicultural team, you can save time by having as few people in the group work across cultures as possible. For example, if you are building a global team that includes small groups of participants from four countries, choose one or two people from each country-the most internationally experienced of the bunch-to do most of the cross-cultural collaborating. Meanwhile you can leave the others to work in the local way that is most natural to them. That way, you can have the innovation from the combination of cultures, while avoiding the inefficiency that comes with the dash of cultures.

Tip 2 = think carefully about your larger objectives before you mix cultures up. If your goal is innovation or creative, the more cultural diversity the better, as long as the process is managed carefully. But if your goal is simple speed and efficiency, then mono-cultural is probably better than multicultural.

So that being said, in order to be successful in your business apply ProfesSionalism thinking first, not Diversity.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 8 – People can reliably rate each other at work.

Based on which metrics?

I’ve been in this situation a lot of times until now. I would say that I’ve been more rated than rater. But either way, this is the most impossible thing that a human can do to another human. Those at HR departments who think they will ever have any accurate results to such ratings, they are definitely wrong, in most cases they rate good guys with bad results because they are simply disconnected from reality and their ratings are totally based on wrong data. Or if some still thing that they do a good job, HR partner or team leader or manager of whatever his/her rank is, then I have some questions for you guys. Give me a clear answer to the following questions:

  • How much do you think you can know about a person simply by watching him?
  • If you work with him every single day, do you think you can figure out what drives him?
  • Could you spot enough dues to reveal to you whether he’s competitive, or altruistic, or has a burning need to cross things off his list every day?
  • How about his style of thinking? Are you perceptive enough to see his patterns and pinpoint that he is a big-picture, what-if thinker, or a logical, deductive reasoner, or that he values facts over concepts?
  • And could you parse how he relates to others, and discern, for instance, that he’s far more empathetic than he appears, and that deep down he really cares about his teammates?

Perhaps you can. Perhaps you are one of those people who instinctively picks up on the threads of others’ behaviors and then weaves these into a detailed picture of who a person is and how he moves through the world.

Certainly, the best team leaders seem able to do this. They pay close attention to the spontaneous actions and reactions of their team members, and figure out that one person likes receiving praise in private, while another values it only when it’s given in front of the entire team; that one responds to dear directives, while another shuts down if you even appear to be telling him what to do. They know that each member of their team is unique, and they spend a huge amount of time trying to attend to and channel this uniqueness into something productive. So then I keep asking:

  • How about rating your team, though? Do you think you could accurately give your team members scores on each of their characteristics?
  • If you surmise that one of your team is a strategic thinker, could you with confidence choose a number to signify how good at it he actually is?
  • Could you do the same for his influencing skills, or his business knowledge, or even his overall performance?
  • And if you were asked how much of these things he had in relation to everyone else on the team, do you think you could weigh each person precisely enough to put a number to each person’s relative abilities?
Managers, team leaders , HR partners all have no idea what are they dealing with.

This might sound a bit trickier – you’d have to keep your definition of influencing skills stable, even while judging each unique person against that definition. But if I gave you a scale of 1 to 5, with detailed descriptions of the behaviors associated with each number on the scale then:

  • Do you think you could use that scale fairly, and arrive at a true rating?
  • And even if you are confident in your own ability to do this, what do you think about all the other team leaders around you? Do you think they would use the scale in the same way, with the same level of objectivity and discernment as you?
  • Or would you worry that they might be more lenient graders, and so wind up with higher marks for everyone, or that they might define “influencing skills” differently from you?
  • Do you think it’s possible to teach all of these team leaders how to do this in exactly the same way?

It’s a lot to keep straight – so many different people rating so many other different people on so many different characteristics, producing torrents of data. But keep it all straight we must, because this data represents people, and once collected, it comes to define how people are seen at work.

At least once a year, a number of your more senior colleagues will gather together in a room to discuss you. They will talk about your performance, your potential, and your career aspirations, and decide on such consequential issues as how much bonus you should get, whether you should be selected for a special training program, and when or if you should be promoted. This meeting, as you might know, is called a “talent review”, and virtually every organization conducts some version of it. The organization’s interest is in looking one by one at its people-its talent-and then deciding how to invest deferentially in those individuals. The people who display the highest performance and potential – the stars, if you like-will normally get the most money and opportunity, while those further down the scale will get less, and those struggling at the lower end of the scale will more than likely be moved into a euphemistically described Performance Improvement Plan (P.I.P.) and thereby eased out.

Most HR Departments still believe that they do the right choice.

These talent reviews are the mechanism that organizations use to manage their people. They want to keep the best people happy and challenged, and simultaneously weed out those who aren’t contributing. Since, in most organizations, the largest costs are people’s wages and benefits, these meetings are taken very seriously, and the most pressing question-a central preoccupation of all senior leaders in all large organizations-is, “How can we make sure that we are seeing our people for who they really are?”

This is a wake-up-in-the middle-of-the-night sort of question for senior leaders, because they worry that their team leaders might not, in fact, understand the sort of person the organization needs nearly as clearly as the senior leaders do, and further that the team leaders might not be objective raters of their own people. To combat this worry, companies have set up all sorts of systems designed to add rigor to this review process. The one you may be most familiar with is the nine box.

The 9 Box Performance-Potential Matrix

This is a graph showing performance along the x-axis and potential up the y-axis, with each axis divided into thirds – low, medium, and high-to create nine possible regions. Each team leader is asked to think about each person on his or her team and then place them, in advance of the talent review, into one of the nine boxes -to rate them, that is, on both their performance and their potential. This system is designed to allow a team leader to highlight that a particular person might have bags of potential, and yet not have translated that potential into actual performance, whereas another team member might contribute top-notch performance, and yet have very little potential upside – he’s maxed out in his current position. With this data displayed in the talent review, the leadership team can define different courses of action for each person: the former will be given more training and more time, for example, while the latter might just be offered a healthy bonus.

Many companies also give people performance ratings on a scale of 1-5, either in parallel with or as an alternative to the nine-box process.

THIS IS HOW THE RATE YOU

Again, each team leader is asked to propose a rating for each person on his or her team. Then, before or as part of the talent review, there is a meeting called a “consensus” or “calibration” meeting, which goes something like this: your team leader talks about you and defends why he ended up giving you a 4 rating, and then his colleagues weigh in on why they gave their people 5s, or 4s, or 3s, whereupon debates ensue about what really constitutes a 4, whether a 4 on one team is the same as a 4 on another team, whether you truly deserve a 4 this year, and if you do, whether the organization has enough 4s left over to allow you to have one.

If the organization has run out of 4s -which happens often since many team leaders are reluctant to give a person a 3 or, perish the thought, a 2 – then your team leader may have to give you a 3 and tell you that, though you truly deserved a 4, it wasn’t your turn this year, and that he will look out for you next year. This is called “forcing the curve,” which is the name given to the rather painful process of reconciling the organization’s need to have only a certain percentage of employees show up as super-high performers with the team leaders’ tendency to give high ratings to everyone so as to avoid having unpleasant performance conversations.

The Companies are designed like that, they don’t want to have many High Performers. They do this on purpose.

Forced curves are no one’s idea of fun, but they are felt to be a necessary constraint on team leaders, and a way of ensuring that rewards are appropriately “differentiated,” so that high performers get much more than low performers. Perhaps wanting to add more precision to the words performance and potential, many organizations have created lists of competencies that team members are supposed to possess, and against which they are rated at the end of the year.

I am still in doubt that these models are true reflections of what performance looks like in the real world. Does anyone really have all of the competencies? Can we really prove that those who acquire the ones they lack outperform those who don’t?

Nevertheless, many organizations still rate each person against such standard checklists. To aid in this, each competency is defined in terms of behaviors, and then the behaviors are tied to a particular point on the rating scale. So, for example, on a competency called organizational savvy and politics, if you see that the person “Provides examples of savvy approaches to successfully solving organizational problems,” then you’d rate her a 3. If you see that she “Recognizes and effectively addresses politically challenging situations,” you would rate her a 4. Using your behaviorally anchored competency ratings as your building blocks, you would then be asked to construct an overall rating of her performance and potential, and this is how she’ d be represented during the talent review.

Historically, the talent review has happened only once or twice a year. With the arrival of smartphones it’s now technologically possible for an organization to launch short performance-ratings surveys throughout the year. Each person can be rated by their peers, direct reports, and bosses, and then the scores can be aggregated either at mid-year or at year’s end to produce a final performance rating. This race to real-time ratings appears as inevitable as it is frenzied, and all of it is in service of the organization’s interest, which is to answer the question, “When it comes to our people, what do we really have here?”

YOU ARE JUST A TOOL FOR THEM.

Your interest in all this is related, but different. You won’t be too worried about competencies, and calibration sessions, and behavioral anchors, all of which probably sound a bit esoteric. Instead, you’ll be acutely aware of a few real-world practicalities that boil down to the fact that your pay, your promotion possibilities, and possibly even your continued employment are being decided in a meeting to which you are conspicuously not invited. The people who are in the room-some of whom you know, and some of whom know you, and others of whom you’ve never met-are talking about you, and people like you, and they are rating you, deciding which box you go in, and thereby deciding what you will get after a year of hard work, and also where your career will go next. You may not realize this during your first couple of years in the workforce, but once you do, it will preoccupy you.

You’ll think to yourself: Do I really want these people to think well of me?. Do I really, really want these people not to think ill of me. But most of all, I want the truth of me in the room where the decisions are made. This is your interest.

You will come to wonder about these rating scales, these peer surveys, and these always-on 360-degree apps, and you will hope that there is enough science in them, enough rigor and process, that you-ideally, the best of you – will be portrayed accurately. After that, let the chips fall where they may. At least, then, you will have been given a fair hearing on your true merits as a person, and as a team member.

It is going to bother you greatly to learn, then, that in the real world, none of this works. None of the mechanisms and meetings – not the models, not the consensus sessions, not the exhaustive competencies, not the carefully calibrated rating scales – none of them will ensure that the truth of you emerges in the room, because all of them are based on the belief that people can reliably rate other people. And they can’t. This, in all its frustrating simplicity, is a lie.

Multinational organizations still practice this a lot.

It’s frustrating because it would be so much more convenient if, with enough training and a well-designed tool, a person could become a reliable rater of another person’s skills and performance. Think of all the data on you we could gather, aggregate, and then act on! We could precisely peg your performance and your potential. We could accurately assess your competencies. We could look at all of these and more through the eyes of your bosses, peers, and subordinates. And then we could feed all this into an algorithm, and out would come promotion lists, succession plans, development plans, nominations for the high-potential program, and more. But none of this is possible, despite the fact that many human capital software systems claim to do exactly what’s described above.

Over the last forty years, we have tested and retested people’s ability to rate others, and the inescapable conclusion-reported in research papers is: that human beings cannot reliably rate other human beings, on anything at all.

We could easily confirm this by watching the ice-skating scoring at any recent Winter Olympics – how can the Chinese and the Canadian judges disagree so dramatically on the scoring of that triple toe loop? This is extremely subjective due to on single factor: the unique personality of the rater. The same happen at work. Each rater-regardless of whether he or she is a boss, a peer, or a direct report – displays his or her own particular rating pattern. Some we have very lenient raters, skewing far to the right of the rating scale, while others were tough graders, skewing left. Some had natural range, using the entire scale from 1 to 5; while others seemed to be more comfortable arranging their ratings in a tight cluster. Each person, whether he or she realize it or not, has an idiosyncratic pattern of ratings, so this powerful effect come to be called the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect.

It happens in fact every year.

Here’s what’s going on. When Lucy rates Charlie on the various subquestions in the competency called strategic thinking, there is a distinct pattern to her ratings, which her organization believes reflects her judgment about how much strategic thinking Charlie has. For this to be true, however, when Lucy then turns her attention to a different team member, Steve, and rates him on the same competency, the pattern of her ratings should change, because she is now looking at a different person with, presumably, different levels of strategic thinking. We can therefore conclude  that Lucy’s pattern of ratings does not change when she rates two different people.Instead her ratings stay just about the same-her ratings pattern travels with her, regardless of who she’s rating, so her ratings reveal more about her than they do about her team members.

I think that rating tools are windows that allow us to see out to other people, but they’re really just mirrors, with each of us endlessly bouncing us back at ourselves. And this effect is not, by the way, associated with unconscious bias on the part of the rater for or against people of a particular gender, race, or age. These biases do exist, of course, and we should do everything we can to teach people how to see past them or remove them – what I can clearly say is that the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect applies regardless of the gender, race, or age of both the rater and the person being rated. This is the first hurdle we must face.

The idiosyncrasy of the rating pattern sterns from the uniqueness of the rater, and doesn’t appear to have much of anything to do with the person being rated. In fact, it’s pretty much as though that person isn’t there at all. When we rate other people on a list of questions about their abilities, the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect explains more than half of why we choose the ratings we do.

They do this, and they think it won’t be a problem for the company.

Since you’re most concerned that the truth of you be in the room, this should worry you enormously. The rating given to you tells us, in the main, about the rating patterns of your team leader, and yet, in the room, we act as though it tells us about the performance patterns in you. And even if we could in fact correct for our rating idiosyncrasies, we’d still have another hurdle in front of us. The people you work with simply don’t interact with you enough to be able to pinpoint the extent to which you possess, say, influencing skills, or political savvy, or strategic thinking, or frankly any abstract attribute.

People at work are preoccupied (with work, mainly), and paying attention to you closely and continuously enough to be able to rate you on any of these abstractions is a practical impossibility. They simply don’t see you enough. Their data on you is insufficient-hence the name for this second hurdle: data insufficiency.

 If Olympic ice-skating judges can’t agree on the quality of each triple toe loop, when the only thing they are doing is sitting watching triple toe loops one after the other, then what hope does a busy peer, direct report, or boss have of accurately rating your “business acumen”?

Even if we changed the world of work, and created a job category of roving raters whose sole responsibility was to wander the hallways and meeting rooms, to watch each person act and react in real time, and then to rate each person on a list of qualities, we still wouldn’t get good data, in part because our definitions are poor.

A triple toe loop = is defined as a take-off from a backward outside (skate) edge assisted by the toe of the other foot, followed by three rotations, followed by a landing on the same backward outside edge-and this is the only definition of it.

Business acumen = is keenness and speed in understanding and deciding on a business situation … people with business acumen … are able to obtain essential information about a situation, focus on the key objectives, recognize the relevant options available for a solution, [and] select an appropriate course of action.

But they are not able to objectively evaluate you on this.

And this is just one of many definitions you’ll encounter. Furthermore, there is a world of difference between the specificity of “take-off from a backward outer edge” and the vagueness of “essential information,” “key objectives,” and “appropriate course of action.” But then let me ask you:

  • Essential to whom?
  • Key objectives as determined by whom?
  • Appropriate course of action as determined how?

Of course, each of us reading the definitions thinks, “Well, I could easily define those for myself”– but that’s the point. When we rate people on abstractions, there is even more scope for our ratings to reflect our own idiosyncrasies. And because one person’s understanding of business acumen is meaningfully different from another’s, even when two highly trained and focused raters rate the same person on the same quality, they find it extraordinarily difficult to arrive at the same rating for the same quality. To all this talk of the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect and data insufficiency, however, some will tell you to calm your fears. The truth of you will indeed emerge in the room, they’ll say, because even though one _ person might be an unreliable and idiosyncratic rater, many people won’t be.

The problem with almost all data relating to people-including you – is that it isn’t reliable. Goals data that reports your “percent complete”; competency data comparing you to abstractions; ratings data measuring your performance and your potential through the eyes of unreliable witnesses: it wobbles by itself, and fails to measure what it says it’s measuring. One of the most bizarre implications of this systematic unreliability is that, in what is supposedly the age of big data, no organization can say what drives performance-at least, not knowledge-worker performance. We may be able to say something intelligent about what drives sales, say, or piece-work output, because both of these are inherently and reliably measurable-they can be counted.

But for any other work-which means most work-we have no way of knowing what drives performance, because we have no reliable way of measuring performance. We don’t know:

  • whether bigger teams drive performance more than smaller teams.
  • whether remote workers perform better than colocated workers.
  • whether culturally more diverse teams are higher performing than less diverse ones.
  • whether contractors are higher performers than full-time employees, or if it’s the other way around.
  • We can’t even show that our investments in the training and development of our employees lead to greater performance.

We can’t say anything about any of these things, precisely because we have no reliable way to measure performance.

I began this post by asking you how you can be confident that the truth of you is in the room during the talent review-how you can be confident that decisions about your pay, your next role, your promotion, and your career are being made based on a true understanding of who you are. But actually, you don’t want the truth of you in the room. You don’t want someone to be in any room pretending that they have a reliable measure of who you are.

In the same way that you hated your singular performance rating-you were never just a 3, because you were never just a number-so you will come to despise the newer tools that now claim, ever more loudly, to capture all your essential competencies. They don’t, and they never will: they simply add gasoline to the conflagration of bad data purporting to represent you. Any tool that pretends to reveal who you are is false. What you want in the room is different: not the truth of you, but just the truth. You don’t want to be represented by data that attempts, arrogantly, to divine who you are. Instead, you want to be represented by data that simply, reliably, and humbly captures the reaction of your team leader to you. That’s not you, and it shouldn’t pretend to be you. It’s your leader, and what he feels, and what he would do in the future. And that’s enough. Truly.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 7 – The best plan always wins.

Intelligent plans may overcome the best plans.

This is again something that many managers think so. They really thing that THE BEST PLAN ALWAYS WINS. Sometimes I just stay alone and ask myself, why the business world and (not only) is ruled by so many incompetent people which are easily promoted in management position without having done anything remarkable, except the fact they were just in some favorable circumstances or as many of them are just there because their company is a incubator of assholes (and here I include big multinational organizations which are quite favorable places for such things) where if you reach the maximum level of being asshole then you have the chance to become the biggest asshole in that company and then when you are on the top, you think you are “The one and only”. Those guys,in fact have no idea how to grow a business. Some are literally stupid. I fail to understand who the hell they become managers, no matter how much I try.

SO YOU ARE THE TEAM LEADER NOW.

Do The Best Plan Always Wins??== Absolutely not. My answer to that question is: a big FUCKING NO. The more in detail you plan, the more in detail you’ll fucking fail. The level of details you put in that plan, is equivalent with the level of how deep you go in the shit afterwards. Or at least perhaps you succeed in some proportions, but you still get some tracks of bullshit as payback reward. So here is the thing, don’t plan to much, play smart and you will have 10X changes to win than by doing the best plan in advance. You don’t need to waste your time trying to plan something in too much details which in almost 100% of cases it won’t happen as foreseen anyway.

Let me give you a simple example. Have you seen the movie “Mission Impossible” with the main cast Tom Cruise?

Available for sale.

I guess this is a stupid question, right? :-).   Of course, that even if, there is someone who didn’t see the full movie set, at least saw a trailer with this movie.  The first movie in this set was so successful that until today the 6th installment has been already released and it is still not over. The directors already announced that the 7th and 8th installment are on going and prepared to be released in the near future. So for those who didn’t see the movie yet, I really recommend you to watch it. It is an action movie full of adrenaline and it keeps you awake and alert all the time. It’s a movie full of special effects and includes very dynamic action scenes.

For those who already have seen it then, I am sure that you may have noticed that in this movie called “Mission Impossible” in fact, what Tom Cruise is doing it turns to be “Mission Possible”. In the movie the flow of actions are very diverse and the suspense is always there, showing that everything which was well planned in advance didn’t truly happen as expected. Instead Tom had to deal with all sort of difficult situations which he all the time make them turn in his favor, but not because he planned to be like that, but because he played his role perfectly and his intelligence made him succeed without planning anything in advance at all. He had good fellows around him and they trusted in each other. But this is in the movie, in real life the opposite is happening. So as we talk about work, let’s put this in the context of working in an organization. The opposite is happening in business every day.

So what exactly will you do?

If you’ve recently been promoted to team leader, the first thing you’ll be expected to do is create a plan. You’ll be asked – before you even start, most likely – what your plan is for your team, or, more specifically, what your 90 day plan is for your team? You’ll have to sit down, think hard, survey your team members (many of whom you will have inherited), and then do your best Tom Cruise impression and make your plan.

And when you do this: you’ll quickly realize one of the many differences between your team and Cruise’s: his team works alone, while yours appears to be connected to a whole host of other teams, each with their own version of the plan. In fact, poke your head above the parapet of your team for a second and look out across all the other teams in the company, and you’ll discover something of a planning frenzy. Every team is about to go, or is away on, or is just back from, or is just debriefing from, their off-site, during which they formulated, or perhaps reformulated, their current version of the plan.

It won’t be immediately obvious to you, but after a few years you’ll discern that there is a pattern to this planning, a predictable rhythm that repeats itself year after year: in September, in advance of the November board meeting, the leaders of your company will go away on a senior leadership retreat. They may do a SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats – and it’s just as fun as it sounds); they may bring in outside consultants to help them; and after much analysis and debate and proposal and counter-proposal, the white smoke will emerge from the chimney, and the leaders will emerge with:

The Strategic Plan.

This is what they expect you to follow.

They will then present this plan to the board, and once it’s approved, they will share it with their direct reports. This plan will then be sliced up into many other plans (departmental plans, divisional plans, geographic plans, and so on), each slice-finer and more detailed than the preceding one, until you, too, are asked to take your team off – site and construct your version of the plan.

We do this because we believe that plans are important. If we could just get the plan right, we think, and weave every team’s plan into the broader company plan, then we could be confident that our resources were allocated appropriately, that the correct sequence and timing were laid out, that each person’s role was clearly defined, and that we had enough of the right people to fill each required role. Buoyed by this confidence, we’d know that we’d only have to galvanize our teams to give their all, and success would follow. At the same time, there is a yearning quality to all this planning. We are attempting to shape our future, and our plans can feel like scaffolding stretching out into the months ahead, upon which we’ll build our better world – their function is perhaps as much to reassure us as it is to make that world real. Plans give us certainty, or at least a bulwark against uncertainty. They help us believe that we will, indeed, walk out of the casino with the cash.

And yet, just as this cycle of big plans leading to medium plans leading to small plans is familiar to you, so – surely – is the nagging realization that things rarely, if ever, turn out the way you hope they will. Sure, planning is exciting in the beginning, but the more you sit in all these planning meetings, the more a feeling of futility creeps in. While it all looks great on paper, tidy and perfect, you sense it’s never really going to play out like this, and that as a result you’ll soon be back in yet another planning meeting. You’ll leave this one with the broad contours of your plan sketched out, and you’ll agree on the next steps necessary to refine those contours into something specific and actionable, and then the meeting to make things actionable will get postponed a bit, and then, when it finally happens, it will drift off in another direction. And then, when your team finally gets around to nailing the details, some new idea or thought or realization will emerge that leads you to rethink what you started off with. Tom Cruise never had to deal with this.

But in the real world you’ll have to. The defining characteristic of our reality today is its ephemerality – the speed of change.

Then deal with it.

Everywhere we look we see this speed of change. When you put your plan together in September, it’s obsolete by November. And if you look at it in January, you might not even recognize the roles and action items you wrote out in the fall. Events and changes are happening faster than they ever have before, so dissecting a situation and turning it into a meticulously constructed plan is an exercise in engaging in a present that will soon be gone. The amounts of time and energy it takes to make a plan this thorough and detailed are the very things that doom it to obsolescence. The thing we call planning doesn’t tell you where to go; it just helps you understand where you are. Or rather, were. Recently. We aren’t planning for the future, we’re planning for the near-term past.

And where are the people who are making the plan? So far behind the front lines of the company that they don’t have enough real-world information upon which to make the plan in the first place. How can you make a plan to sell a particular sort of product to a particular sort of customer when you’re not out selling every day? You can’t, not really. You can make a theoretical sales “model” based on your conceptual understanding of an abstract situation, or on an averaged data set that summarizes trends. But if it’s not grounded in the real-world details of each actual sales conversation-when do the prospects’ eyes glaze over, when do the prospects lean forward, when do they start to finish your sentences-your plan will always be more assumptive than prescriptive.

Your people want and need to engage with the world that they’re really in, and to interact with the world as it really is. By harnessing them to a prefabricated plan, you’re not only constraining your people but, quite possibly, also revealing how out of touch with reality you are. This is not to say that planning is utterly useless. Creating space to think through all of the information you have in your world, and trying to pull that into some sort of order or understanding, has some value. But when you do that, know that all you’ve done is understand the scale and nature of the challenges your team is facing. You’ll have learned little about what to do to make things better. The solutions can be found in the tangible and changing realities of the world as it really is, whereas your plans are necessarily abstract understandings of the recent past. Plans scope the problem, not the solution.

So, though you are told that the best plan wins, the reality is quite different. Many plans, particularly those created in large organizations, are overly generalized, quickly obsolete, and frustrating to those asked to execute them. It’s far better to coordinate your team’s efforts in real time, relying heavily on the informed, detailed intelligence of each unique team member.

If you move information across an organization as fast as possible, and do so to empower you will get a immediate and responsive action. Underlying the  assumption that people are wise, and that if you can present them with accurate, real time, reliable data about the real world in front of them, they’ll invariably make smart decisions.It’s not true that the best plan wins. It is true that the best intelligence wins.

Play smart and you will win.

What can you do as a team leader to create such an intelligence system for your team?

  1. First: liberate as much information as you possibly can. Think about all the sources of information you have, and make as many of them as possible available to your team, on demand. Planning systems constrain information to those who “need to know.” Intelligence systems don’t – they liberate as much information as possible, as fast as possible. So don’t worry too much at first about whether your team will understand the data or be able to make use of it. If you think the information will help your people gain a better understanding of their real world in real time, share it. And encourage your team to do the same. Help them understand that sharing what they know about the world, frequently, is vital. Make sure your team is swimming in real-time information, all the time.
  2. Second : watch carefully to see which data your people find useful. Don’t worry too much about making all this data simple or easy to consume, or about packaging it for people, or weaving it together to form a coherent story. The biggest challenge with data today isn’t making sense of it – most of us deal with complexity all the time, and are pretty good at figuring out what we need to know and where to find it. No, the biggest challenge with data today is making it accurate-sorting the signal from the noise. This is much harder, and much more valuable for our teams. So be extremely vigilant about accuracy; watch which information your people naturally gravitate toward; and then, over time, increase the volume, depth, and speed of precisely that sort of data.
  3. Third : trust your people to make sense of the data. Planning systems take the interpretation of the data away from those on the front lines, and hand it off to a select few, who analyze it and decipher its patterns, and then construct and communicate the plan. Intelligence systems do precisely the opposite – because the “intelligence” in an intelligence system lies not in the select few, but instead in the emergent interpretive powers of all front-line team members. You are not the best sense maker. They are.
SUCH MEETINGS ARE COMPLETELY USELESS, nobody gives a shit on that.

A pretty good way to ruin someone’s day is to fill it with meetings. Meetings, for most of us, are a way of taking time that could be put to good use in doing real work, and instead using that time to hear presentations of varying relevance to our immediate challenges, or to discuss topics that might appear important in the grand scheme of things, but that hardly seem urgent on any given day. And while countless meeting “best practices” (have a written agenda, document follow-up items, and so on) at least – ensure some degree of utility, the fact remains that most meetings contain one or more people thinking to themselves that they could be doing something useful, if only they weren’t doing this.

If you study the best team leaders you’ll discover that many of them share a similarly frequent sense-making ritual-not with 2000 people, but with 2. It’s called a check-in, and in simple terms it’s a frequent, one-on-one conversation about near-term future work between a team leader and a team member. How frequent? Every week. These leaders understand that goals set at the beginning of the year have become irrelevant by the third week of the year, and that a year is not a marathon, planned out in detail long in advance, but is instead a series of 52 little sprints, each informed by the changing state of the world. They realize that the key role of a team leader is to ensure that Sprint Number 36 is as focused and as energizing as was Sprint Number 1.

So, each and every week these leaders have a brief check-in with each team member, during which they ask two simple questions:

  • What are your priorities this week?
  • How can I help?

They are not looking for a to-do list from the team member. They simply want to discuss the team member’s priorities, obstacles, and solutions in real time, while the work itself is ongoing. Making sense of it together can happen only in the now. The generalizations that emerge once the passage of time has blurred the details are not the stuff of good sense making. So, doing a check-in once every six weeks or even once a month is useless, because you’ll wind up talking in generalities. Actually, the data reveals that checking in with your team members once a month is literally worse than useless.

A weekly One to One check-in will increase the team engagement.

While team leaders who check-in once a week see, on average, a 13% increase in team engagement, those who check in only once a month see a 5% decrease in engagement. It’s as if team members are saying to you, ”I’d rather you not waste my time if all we’re going to do is talk generalities. Either get into the nitty-gritty of my work and how you can help right now, or leave me alone.”

Each check-in, then, is a chance to offer a tip, or an idea that can help the team member overcome a real-world obstacle, or a suggestion for how to refine a particular skill. Check-ins can be short-10 to 15 minutes – but that’s plenty of time to do a little real-time learning and coaching. And, like all good coaching, this has to be rooted in the specifics of the particular situation the team member is facing, the psychology she/he is bringing to it, the strengths she/he possesses, and the strategies she/he might already have tried. Again, the only way to surface these sorts of microdetails is to make sure that the conversations are frequent.

This leads us to one of the most important insights shared by the best team leaders: frequency trumps quality. They realize that it’s less important that each check-in is perfectly executed than that it happens, every week. In the intelligence business, frequency is king. The more frequently and predictably you check in with your people or meet with your team-the more you offer your real-time attention to the reality of their work-the more performance and engagement you will get. In this sense, checking in is akin to teeth-brushing: you brush your teeth every day, and while you hope that each brushing is high quality, what’s most important is that it happens, every day. Twice-a-year super-high-quality teeth-brushing is as absurd as it sounds. So is twice-a-year super-high-quality intelligence. A team with low check-in frequency is a team with low intelligence.

And this realization in turn gives the lie to the complaint-heard so often from senior leaders and HR executives-that “our team leaders aren’t skilled enough to coach their people!” The data reveals only that those team leaders who check in every week with each team member have higher levels of engagement and performance, and lower levels of voluntary turnover. It doesn’t have anything to say about the quality of those check-ins. We know for sure that if a team leader checks in often with a team member, the team member gets something really positive out of it. And besides, if the team leader struggles initially with his check-in quality, at least he’s able to practice it 51 more times with each team member every year. No matter what his starting point, or his level of natural coaching talent, he’s going to get a little better.

Then take your role as team leader very seriously.Think of helping the others to become leaders too.

Now, you, the team leader, might think: “Well, I would love to check in with my people every week, but I can’t. I’ve simply got too many people! “If that’s you, then yes – you have too many people. One of the longer-running debates in the world of people and organizations is the span of control debate, which grapples with exactly how many team members every team leader should manage. Some say between 1 and 9 employees. Others say between 1 and 20. Some nurses manage staffs of 40; some call-center managers lead 70 or more.

But by pinpointing the weekly check-in as the single most powerful ritual of the world’s best team leaders, we can now know the exact span of control that’s right for every single team leader: it’s the number of people that you, and only you, can check in with every week. If you can check in with 8 people, but you can’t fit 9 into your schedule, your span of control is 8. If you can find a way to check in with 20 people, then your span of control is 20. And if you’re one of those people who can legitimately manage a weekly check-in with only 2 people, your span of control is 2.

You must define yourself what it your best Span of Control.

Span of control, in other words, isn’t a theoretical, one-size-fits-all thing. It’s a practical, function of team leader’s-capacity to give attention thing. Your span of control is your span of attention.

In the service of intelligence, then – in the service of making sense of real – time information together – the weekly check-in is the anchor ritual. You need to design your teams, and their size, to enable it. And if ever you become a leader of leaders, you’ll need to ensure that your leaders know that this check-in is the most important part of leading. Checking in with each person on a team –listening, course-correcting, adjusting, coaching, pinpointing, advising, paying attention to the intersection of the person and the real-world work-is not what you do in addition to the work of leading. This is the work of leading. If you don’t like this, if the idea of weekly check-ins bores or frustrates you or you think that once a week is just “too much” that’s fine-but then don’t be a leader.

In many situations it can be critical for team members to come to trust their team leader. Frequent sense making together in your weekly check-ins-can help with this since it leads not only to better decisions but also to the building of trust. 2 of the 8 engagement items (as I mentioned in my previous post about Lie Nr.2-People do care which company they work for) directly address this issue of trust:

  • “In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values” and
  • “My teammates have my back.”

When these items receive low scores on a team it’s easy to assume that the problem is one of intent-that team members don’t really care for one another or want to support one another. More often than not, however, low scores are a function not of bad intent but of poor information: team members don’t know how to support one another, because they don’t know what’s going on in enough detail to offer assistance. If they don’t know what one another is doing, how can each learn what the others truly value?

Likewise, if they don’t know what work each is engaged in, how can any one of them feel safe? You can’t watch someone’s back if you don’t know where his or her back is. The more frequent sense-making rituals you establish on your team, the more information you will liberate, the more intelligence you will generate, and the more trust you will engender.

SO, then do it often.

It is far more powerful for a leader to free the most information and the most decision-making power than it is for that leader to craft the perfect plan. Another of the 8 aspects (see LIE NR. 2) that distinguish the best teams, as we’ve seen, is the sense of every team member that:

  • “At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.”

Whether informed by any number of management truisms in between, or simply by what seems intuitive, our assumption has most often been that the best way to create clarity of expectations is to tell people what to do. It turns out, however, that by the time you’ve managed to do this, your directions are wrong because the world has moved on. In this way, the systems we’ve built to tell people what to do at great scale-planning systems-fail. The best, most effective way to create clarity of expectations is to figure out how to let your people figure it out for themselves. This isn’t a question of removing complexity, but is rather one of locating it in the right place-not hidden from view as the input for a grand plan, but rather shared for all to see. To do this, give your people as much accurate data as you can, as often as you can-a real-time view of what’s going on right now-and then a way to make sense of it, together.

And they will trust you too.

If you only care about your future projections in career, then your team will behave accordingly, meaning that they won’t give a fuck on your plans.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 6 – The best staff is well-rounded.

If you have “the well-rounded” mindset for your business, find yourself in this triangle which word describes best your business.

This statement is very common in many organizations. If you want to apply for a job which require a high qualification and offers you nice benefits in return, you will get first a long list of requirements from that company which is asking you to prove your competencies in as many of your future tasks as possible. You must be skilled and experienced in a lot of things and you have – let’s say 1 hour for the interview – to prove that. If you are weak at some criteria or you really don’t have one of the required skill or competency at all, you may already expect to be rejected without too much talk. The company will tell you usually after few days that they decided for another candidate, which in many cases is a lie. They didn’t decide for anything, they just did not find the perfect candidate which can fulfill 100% all the requirements. They are all following the idea that the best candidate is well-rounded and therefore they put effort to spend time and money to find that candidate. Well… let me say, that anything more stupid in any hiring process than this it can not be.

Those organization who have this approach are just wasting their money for nonsense. It’ s definitely wrong to judge like that, saying: the best staff is well-rounded. Maybe at some point in the future the Artificial Intelligence will create such a tool perfect for everything, but humans will never ever be well-round for any job. This is a very big lie. I am gonna talk about this lie in this post.

Look, the best example I have in mind in this moment is Lionel Messi.

Because he simply is 🙂

For all the football fans, there is no need for me to tell you who Leo Messi is. In case there are still some who probably don’t know about him, Messi is one of the best  (because Cristioano Rolanldo also is 🙂 ) football player in the world. We won’t see another one like him soon. He is good in this sport. Extremely good. But he has all the credit for that; First he has talent and second he plays with pleasure, he really loves what he does. He gained the admiration of the whole world and he really shine in his actions on the football field.

Messi plies his trade on the world’s largest sporting stages, but you may have experienced similar admiration for colleagues at work. One of them puts together a presentation and delivers it with wit and clarity, and you smile. Another handles a grumpy customer with just the right mix of empathy and practicality, and you marvel at how easy he made it look. Another defuses a complex political situation, and you look at him in awe and wonder how on earth he did it. As humans we are wired to find joy in seeing someone else’s talents in action. We resonate with the naturalness, the fluidity, and the honesty of a thing done brilliantly well, and it attracts us and draws us in.

You will have recognized the Messi’s joy when it is your own performance that you’re experiencing, too – that is, when you are expressing your own strengths. This sensation is not, at root, created by how good you are at something. Rather, it’s created by how that activity makes you feel. A strength, properly defined, is not “something you are good at.” You will have many activities or skills that, by dint of your intelligence, your sense of responsibility, or your disciplined practice, you are quite good at, and that nonetheless bore you, or leave you cold, or even drain you. “Something you are good at” is not a strength; it is an ability.

This is what you get when you are good at something : You get the ABILITY.

And, yes, you will be able to demonstrate high ability – albeit briefly – at quite a few things that bring you no joy whatsoever.

A strength, on the other hand, is an “activity that makes you feel strong.”

Arnold know this better that any of us.

This sort of activity possesses for you certain definable qualities. Before you do it, you find yourself actively looking forward to doing it. While you are doing it, time seems to speed up, one moment blurring into the next. And after you’ve done it, while you may be tired and not quite ready to suit up and tackle it again, you nonetheless feel filled up, proud.

It is this combination of three distinct feelings – positive anticipation beforehand, flow during, and fulfillment afterward – that makes a certain activity a strength. And it is this combination of feelings that produces in you the yearning to do the activity again and again, to practice it over and over, to thrill to the chance to do it just one more time. A strength is far more appetite than ability, and indeed it is the appetite ingredient that feeds the desire to keep working on it and that, in the end, produces the skill improvement necessary for excellent performance.

This is what work does to Stevie Wonder when he composes and sings – he finds joy. This is what work does to Lionel Messi when he dances round defenders and finds the net from impossible angles – he finds delight. This is what we see when we see anyone who is really good at their work – we see someone who has found love in what they do. And this is what your company hopes your work will do for you. When your leaders say they want you to be creative and innovative and collaborative and resilient and intuitive and productive, what they are really saying is, “We want you to fill your working hours with activities that bring you joy, with tasks that delight you.”

Oddly-and sadly-this set of observations is often dismissed in business circles, because business is meant to be about rigor and objectivity and competitive advantage, next to which the idea of looking for joy in work, as a precursor to excellence in work, seems rather soft. Fixing shortcomings, no matter how hard that might be, seems like the hard-boiled business of business; finding delight is the province of poets.

Somehow, on the best teams, the team leader must be able not only to identify the strengths of each person but also to tweak roles and responsibilities so that team members, individually, feel that their work calls upon them to exercise their strengths on a daily basis. When a team leader does this, everything else recognition, sense of mission, clarity of expectations-works better. But when a team leader doesn’t, nothing else that he or she tries, whether in the form of money or title or cheerleading or cajoling, can make up for it. Ongoing work-strengths fit is the master lever for high-performance teams: pull it, and everything else is elevated; fail to pull it, and everything else is diminished.

The master level of High Performance Team

Nothing thus far should be particularly surprising. We’ve all seen people like Lionel Messi demonstrate their brilliance, and been uplifted by the sight. We’ve watched colleagues excel, and we’ve felt happy wonder in their success.Which makes it all the more surprising (or frustrating, or depressing) is that companies are not, in fact, built to help us pinpoint and then contribute our unique strengths. In their systems and processes and technologies, in their rituals and language and philosophies, they evidence exactly the opposite design: to measure us against a standardized model, and then badger us to become as similar to this model as possible. They are built, that is, around the lie that the best people are well-rounded.

At some point in your career, if you haven’t already done so, you will bump into a thing called a competency model. A competency is a quality you are supposed to possess in order to excel in your job. They look like this: strategic thinking, goal orientation, political savvy, business acumen, customer focus, and so on. The idea behind them is that excellent performance in a job can be defined in terms of the right grouping of competencies.

One example of competency model.

Thus the company’s top leaders will be asked to examine a long list of these competencies – there are literally thousands to choose from-and then pick the ones that everyone agrees each incumbent in each job should possess. One widely used model, for example, identifies five categories of competencies (core, leadership/management/business/interpersonal, job functional, job technical, and technical-task specific) and then a further list of competencies within each of these, so that “core,” in this case, includes for example 22 leadership competencies, 18 management competencies, 45 business competencies, and 33 individual competencies, for a total of 118.

Entry-level jobs are assigned fewer or simpler competencies, and the further up the hierarchy a job is, the more numerous and the more complex the competencies assigned to it tend to become. Having defined competencies for each role, the leaders will also usually define a desired proficiency level for each competency on a scale of 1 to 5, so that they can say, for instance, that such-and-such a job requires strategic thinking at a proficiency level of 3, whereas it needs customer focus at a proficiency level of 5.

This entire construct – the chosen competencies and their required proficiency levels, for each seniority level, for each job, across some or all of an organization – is called a competency model. In a typical model, a given job might be defined to require a few dozen competencies at varying proficiency levels.

Every organization have more or less the same evaluation pattern.

So far, this might seem unobjectionable, if a little unwieldy: a group of leaders getting together to define what they feel the ideal employee should look like. It might not be our first choice for how they should spend their time, but at least no one has been harmed in the making of this model. It’s what happens next, however, that leads us into choppier waters, because once created, the competencies show up everywhere.

Your manager and your peers will rate you on them, and your overall performance rating will be derived in large part from how much of each of them you possess. During annual talent reviews, the competencies will be the language used to describe your performance and potential: if the consensus is that you possess them all, you will be considered for promotion, or paid more, or selected for plum assignments; whereas if you do not possess them, or display gaps in a few of them, you will be told to take the relevant training programs, and work on proving to your company that you have plugged your gaps. These competencies will become the lens through which your company sees you, understands you, and values you.

All of the major Human Capital Management tools – the enterprise software systems that companies use to keep information about you, pay you, allocate benefits to you, promote you, develop you, and deploy you – are built around competency models, and how closely you and your colleagues match up to the models. The concern here is the theory of work that those companies embody and that underlies so much of what we do in organizations today. (in automotive industry all of them are guided by such competency models: B.M.W, Dailmer, AUDI, VW, Renault, Toyota, Ford, NISSAN, and so on, all of them.)

AND THEY ARE STILL CONVINCED THAT THIS IS THE BEST APPROACH.

In the FIRST part =The theory goes something like this: we live in a world of machines, code, and processes, and when these break, we have to identify the faulty component or line of code or process step and fix it – to take dysfunction and repair it. The first part of this competency theory of work, then, extends this thinking to performance. Once we’ve located you on our proficiency scales, we tell you that your lowest scores – those where you are most “broken” – are your “development areas,” and that the best path to greater performance will come from unrelenting focus on these areas.

The second part of the theory takes this line of thinking to its logical conclusion: we reason that if improvement in performance comes from remedying shortcomings, then high performance excellence – must be the result of having removed shortcomings across the board, from having a high score on every scale. Excellence, in other words, is a synonym for all-round high ability: well-rounded people are better.

This is the lie that underpins the tyranny of competencies, and it is persistent and pervasive. But to see the truth, we need only to understand two particular facts

FACT NR. 1 = competencies are impossible to measure.

Take “strategic thinking” as an example. Is this a state, something that is variable and subject to flux? Or is it a trait, something that is inherent and relatively stable over time? Well…We can measure these two phenomena quite differently. When we are measuring states, we either devise surveys that ask a person about his or her state of mind, or we create tests with right and wrong answers to determine whether a person has acquired the necessary knowledge.

  • STATES = A person’s voting preference is a state, as expressed in a survey. We presume it can change, such that when we ask a person about it at Time 1, and then give her new information, we expect her preference might well be different at Time 2. Mood is a state. Although it does appear that each of us has a unique happiness set point, we assume that a person’s mood can change around that point, such that when we ask about it at Time 1, and then a change in situation or circumstance occurs, we may well observe a difference in the person’s mood by Time 2. Similarly, skills and knowledge are states. If we test you on a certain skill or knowledge base at Time 1, and then give you more training in these areas, it’s likely that you will get more of the answers right at Time 2. These are all states, and we expect them as such to change over time.
Examples of States of Mind everybody has.
  • Traits = on the other hand, are inherent in a person. Extroversion is a trait, for example, as is empathy, and competitiveness, and need for structure. Each of us possesses certain unique predispositions and recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior, and the overwhelming evidence is that, while each of us can learn over time to be more intelligent and effective at contributing through these patterns, the patterns themselves persist throughout our lives. Traits cannot be measured with a survey or a skills test. Instead, they have to be measured using a reliable and validated personality assessment. The two most prevalent kinds of personality assessments are self-assessments (involving a number of carefully worded statements measured on a strongly agree-to-strongly disagree scale) and situational judgment tests (involving a number of situations with a list of possible response options from which the test taker selects the one that fits her best).

Before you set about measuring something you have to decide which of these – states or traits – you are trying to measure, so that you can properly select your measurement method.

Here’s the point. Seen in this light, what is a competency such as “strategic thinking”? Is it a state or a trait? We need to know, if we want to measure it – and the entire purported purpose of competencies is to measure something.

  1. If we think a competency is the former, a state, then we should measure it either with a survey asking about the person’s state of mind or with an actual test that has correct and incorrect answers. I should never ask your manager or your peers to rate you on it, because they can’t possibly know how much of this abstract quality you possess, any more than they can accurately divine your voting preferences or the score you would get on a test.
  2. And if we think a competency is the latter, an inherent trait, then we should use a personality assessment to measure it, and I should never tell you to take a “strategic thinking” class so that you can improve in it, because if it’s a trait, then, by definition, it probably won’t change much.

But the truth about competencies such as strategic thinking, political savvy, or any of the others is that they are a haphazard mix-up of states and traits. I don’t know whether goal orientation, say, derives from the way you are wired, or from what you have learned to do, or from what you have been told to do. I don’t know whether “customer focus” is a different piece of your wiring, or a different skill you have learned, or the same skill used differently, or something else entirely. A scientific approach to performance would start with what is measurable, and only then study how those things contributed to performance.

Because competencies are unmeasurable, it is impossible to prove or disprove the assertion that everyone who excels in a particular job possesses a particular set of competencies. It is equally impossible to show that people who acquired the competencies they lacked outperformed those who did not-that, in other words, well-rounded people are better.

These two statements together are the foundation for most of what companies do to develop the talents of their people, yet each of them is unfalsifiable – you will find no academic papers in any peer – reviewed journal proving the necessity of possessing certain competencies, and no proof that acquiring the ones you lack nets you any increase in performance. Both of these assertions, despite the good intentions that created them, are conjured from thin air-and we can never know if they are correct.

But hang on, you may say:

  • Isn’t the art of business the art of making decisions with incomplete data?
  • Isn’t that what business people get paid for-taking risks in the face of uncertainty?
  • Even if we can’t prove, measurably, that acquiring a list of competencies helps a person to excel, what’s wrong with trying nonetheless?

Surely a good team leader should encourage each of his people to pinpoint capability gaps, to strive to plug these gaps and thereby become more well-rounded. Surely both the team and the individual would benefit from getting each person to conform ever more closely to the well-rounded ideal. Indeed, surely that’s what growth is – the process of gaining ability where we have little.

Well …again, no. Which brings us to the second fact.

FACT NR. 2 = the research into high performance in any profession or endeavor reveals that excellence is idiosyncratic.

The well-rounded high performer is a creature of theory world. In the real world each high performer is unique and distinct, and excels precisely because that person has understood his or her uniqueness and cultivated it intelligently.

We see this most easily in the world of professional sports. If we were to design the theoretical model of a high-performing attacker on a football team, we would not create a Lionel Messi, with his diminutive stature and ineffectual right foot. Instead we might devise a player who looks more like Cristiano Ronaldo – a taller, more physically imposing player who is equally at ease with his left foot, his right foot, and his head (though even here we would likely erase from our theoretical design Ronaldo’s ego, individualism, and occasional petulance).

In our theoretical world, in other words, we would pick and mix the qualities we thought preferable. But obviously, in the real world no one gets to do this, whether they’re a football player, a tennis player, or a team leader.

In the real world each of us learns to make the most of what we have. Growth, it turns out, is actually a question not of figuring out how to gain ability where we lack it but of figuring out how to increase impact where we already have ability. And because our abilities are diverse, when you look at a great performance you see not diversity minimized but rather diversity magnified; not sameness but uniqueness. But these are all extreme examples, and might seem remote from the real world of work. What happens when we measure the strengths and skills of a regular job? Do we find idiosyncrasy or well-roundedness?

Excellence in the real world, in every profession, is idiosyncratic. In the theoretical world that exists inside most of our large organizations – a world preoccupied with the need for order and tidiness – the perfect incumbent of every role possesses all the competencies that can be dreamed up and defined. In the real world, however, these long lists of intricately defined competencies don’t exist, and if they did, they wouldn’t matter.

In the real world, each of us, imperfect as we are, strives to make the most of the unique mix of traits and skills with which we’ve been blessed. Those of us who do this best – who find what we love about what we do, and cultivate this love with intelligence and discipline-are the ones who contribute most. The best people are not well-rounded, finding fulfillment in their uniform ability. Quite the opposite, in fact-the best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spikiness they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth, and, ultimately, their greatest joy.

Don’t try to impress, just be honest.

On some level, we have all long known this. But then why do these competency models and their associated 360-degree assessments, feedback tools, and development plans exist? What could have prompted otherwise sensible people to have spent so much time and energy and money building models whose efficacy is intrinsically unprovable, that require enormous amounts of time and energy to create, and that fly in the face of our own experiences in the world? The simplest answer is that, though we are deeply aware that each of us is unique, and that no amount of training or badgering will remove that uniqueness, it is still quite overwhelming for a busy team leader to allow himself to come face-to-face with the fact that each of his team members thinks differently, is motivated by different things, responds to relationship cues differently, and gets a kick out of different sorts of praise.

Who has the time for all these subtle shadings of diversity? Better to just define a model, and then manage to the model (hence the automated feedback writer we encountered earlier). For a company, it’s all about control. The strong instinct of most corporate leaders, faced with the teeming diversity not just of gender, race, and age but of thought, drive, and relationship inside their organizations, is to look for some way to exert control – to rein it all in, to impose conformity on the chaos, and hence to be able to understand what’s going on, and to shape what will happen next.

And so companies have spent, and continue to spend, large quantities of time and money trying to work around each person’s uniqueness – and this is where these models bubble up from. The models promise rigor – a dear set of characteristics against which everyone can be measured, a sort of “apples-to-apples” comparison (even though in the real world it is always “apples-to-oranges”).

The models promise analytical insights a way to understand the entire workforce. (It’s no accident the systems are known as performance management systems) The models promise fact, evidence, truth. The creeping suspicion, on the part of more and more leaders, is that the models offer none of the things they promise, is an inconvenience to be minimized. And to be dear, it isn’t just the competency models that are dubious but the ideas behind them. There is the idea that improvement comes from repairing our deficits.

There is the idea that failure is essential to growth. Failure by itself doesn’t teach us anything about success, just as our deficits by themselves don’t teach us anything about our strengths.

This should be very obvious

Just let’s consider for example that recently the following:

  • Facebook is facing numerous government inquiries into the use of its data to influence elections;
  • Uber has curtailed its self-driving-car testing because one of its cars hit and killed a cyclist;
  • Yahoo has long since ceased to exist in any meaningful sense.

It is unlikely that anyone is celebrating these and other failures, and the “fail fast” speed with which they’ve been achieved.

And then there is the idea that our strengths are to be feared-that we should avoid overusing them because that will somehow pull us away from our proper focus on failure and shortcomings, and instead pull us toward laziness and complacency. Of course, if we were able to watch a great athlete training, or a great writer writing, or a great coder coding, we would see that honing a strength is hard work – it is by no means easy to find that incremental margin of performance when you are already operating at a high level-and that a strength is not where we are most “finished” but in fact where we are most productively challenged. Yet we are told to resist the temptation to “just”play to our strengths, and instead to work constantly on our weaknesses.

Yet these are the ideas that competency models, 360-degree assessments, talent reviews, feedback tools, and much more are built on – that what is most important for us is to understand our deficits, embrace failure, and be wary of our strengths. To be dear, I are not, here, making an absolutist argument: I am not saying that there is nothing to be gained from trying to improve our shortcomings, or that we shouldn’t try new things for fear of failure. I am, however, arguing for priority, for focusing first, and predominantly, on our strengths and our successes, because that is where the greatest advantage is to be had. And the great shame in all of this is that the very systems that we might hope would be aimed at discovering and unleashing each person’s unique talents have, in fact, the effect of inhibiting those talents, and denying what makes each one of us unique. They don’t, in the end, help performance. They hinder it.

While the outcomes of high performance are visible and clear, the ingredients of high performance vary from person to person. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to human beings; and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to great performance.

Well-roundedness is a misguided and futile objective when it comes to individual people; but when it comes to teams, it’s an absolute necessity. The more diverse the team members, the more weird, spiky, and idiosyncratic they are, the more well-rounded the team. Competencies, and all the other normative and deficit-focused tools we have, don’t push in this direction – of expressing and harnessing diversity. They do just the opposite, as we’ve seen.

You can not objectively measure these abilities for an individual.

So we should remove from our competency models the levels of ability, the individual evaluations, the feedback, and all the other things that they have become encumbered with, and we should instead simplify them, clarify them, recognize them (and name them) for what they are, and stick them on a wall for all to see. When we carry our competencies across the measurement bridge, we enter a fake and dangerous world-as a tool of assessment, order and control, they are worse than useless.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 5 – The most successful companies cascade goals.

DO MEANINGFUL WORK. Instead of setting goals it would be better first to UNDERSTAND WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.

Again this is of course an illusion. It is a very big lie which most people are so brainwashed that finally they truly believe that it’s a great truth. No it’s not. It’s another fat mistake that an incredibly big amount of companies continue to use it in their business. Goals are the same like feedbacks (as I said in my previous Lie -Lie nr.4). People don’t need feedback they need attention. The same here, people don’t need to receive a set goals for their work, they need to understand the meaning of their work.

Unfortunately in the majority of big German companies/organization (such as VW, BMW, CONTINETAL, BOSCH, AUDI, DAIMLER,SIEMENS, etc… and put any other like that in the list) they still promote this idea that people must have a set of goals for their work. In fact this trend is more or less present in all international organization worldwide, not only within the German ones. I am talking here about big organization because this is according to what I’ve seen so far during my work experience. But I may be wrong in the case of other small enterprises or Start-ups. At least in the case of Start-Ups I would not be surprised to see different approaches. But due to this wide-spread concept between big corporation, it can be general accepted that in order to be successful in business , it’s necessary to cascade goals.

A typical Process of Cascading Foals used in big organizations.

Well, I DON’T agree with that. No, absolutely not. goals are not necessary to be set or cascaded, and above that it is completely a nonsense to evaluate someone’s performance strictly based on how much of his/her imposed goals have been reached at the end of the fiscal year. In my future company I will never cascade goals for my employees, instead I will definitively cascade MEANING. But to make it more clear what I want to say with that, allow me to go more deep in detail with this. I will explain why I thing like that. So here is my argument…..

Goals are everywhere at work – it’s hard to find many companies that do not engage in some sort of annual or semi-annual goal-setting regimen. At some point in the year, usually at the start of a fiscal year or after bonuses and raises have been paid, the organization’s senior leaders set their goals for the upcoming 6 or 12 months, and then share them with their teams. Each team member looks at each of the leader’s goals, and figures out what to do to advance that goal, and thus sets a sort of minigoal that reflects some part of the leader’s goal. This continues down the chain, until you, and every other employee, has a set of goals that are miniversions of some larger goal further up in the organization. In some organizations, goals are also grouped into categories, so that each person is asked to set, say: strategic goals, operational goals, people goals, and innovation goals.

Once the goals have been created, each is then approved by the person’s immediate leader, and then by the leader above that person, and so on, with each layer assessing whether each goal is sufficiently challenging, and whether it’s properly aligned with the goals above, up and up and up the chain. As the year unfolds, you may well be asked to record what percentage of your goals you’ve completed. This “percent complete” data is then aggregated into bigger and bigger groups so that the company can, at any point during the year, say things like, “65 % of our teams have completed 46 % of their goals. We need to speed up!”

The only one who truly wins in this equation is the CEO.

And, at the end of the year, you’re asked to write a brief self-assessment reflecting how you feel you’ve done on each goal, after which your team leader will review this assessment and add his own, in some cases also saying whether he thinks each goal was actually met, or not. After HR has nudged him a couple of times, he’ll input all this information into the company performance management system, where upon it’ll serve as a permanent record of your performance for the year, and will guide your pay, promotion opportunities, and even continued employment.

If you’re in sales for example, your sales quota will work in a similar way – an overall corporate sales goal is sliced into parts and distributed across the organization. The only difference being that your quota, or your team’s quota, is usually just a single number handed down to you from above, defining you and your work throughout the year – which is why salespeople, in most companies, are referred to not as people but simply as “quota carriers.”

And, in the era of the smartphone, once-a-year goal-setting has been deemed Not Enough, and so your phone will soon be dramatically upping the frequency of all this goal – setting, assessing, and tracking, if it hasn’t done so already – all because we have come to believe that the successful companies cascade goals.

The names we give these goals have changed over the years. It started with MBOs, (Management by Objectives). Then came SMART goals, (goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound), followed shortly by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The latest incarnation, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), originated at Intel and is now used for defining and tracking goals and measuring them against your “key results.” Across all the different technologies and methodologies, massive amounts of time and money are invested in this goal-setting. When companies like these shell out dose to €1 billion on something every year, there must be some truly extraordinary benefits. What are they?

Well, every company is different, of course, and each makes its own calculus, but the three most common reasons put forth for all this goal-setting are:

  1. The First = that goals stimulate and coordinate performance by aligning everyone’s work;
  2. The Second = that tracking goals’ “percent complete” yields valuable data on the team’s or company’s progress throughout the year;
  3. The Third = that goal attainment allows companies to evaluate team members’ performance at the end of the year.

So, companies invest in goals because goals are seen as a stimulator, a tracker, and an evaluator – and these three core functions of goals are why we spend so much time, energy, and money on them. And this is precisely where the trouble begins. In terms of goals as a simulator of performance, one great fear of senior leaders is that the work of their people is misaligned, and that effort is being wasted in activities that drag the company hither and yon, like a rudderless boat in a choppy sea. The creation of a cascade of goals calms this fear, and gives leaders the confidence that everyone on the boat is pulling on the oars in the same direction. Of course, none of this alignment is worth very much, if the goals themselves don’t result in greater activity – if the boat doesn’t actually go anywhere. As it happens, no research exists showing that goals set for you from above stimulate you to greater productivity. In fact, the weight of evidence suggests that cascaded goals do the opposite: they limit performance. They slow your boat down.

Before to continue, let me ask you something: Have you ever tried to hail a cab in New York City on a rainy day?

They are many but seems that still not enough.

Believe me, it’s not easy. That’s exactly what happened to me when I was in New York. But this not just an isolated case, it is really happening in general almost all the time when it rains. You stand there on the corner of 52nd Street and 3rd Avenue waving frantically at any vehicle that’s even vaguely yellow and bemoaning the fact that every one of the (suddenly scarce) cabs is taken. If you’re up on your economics, you might even surmise, as the water drips off your nose, that the rain has increased the number of taxi hailers (demand) while not changing the number of taxi drivers (supply), hence the problem.

But actually that’s not quite what’s going on. Cab drivers have an informal “daily goal”, or quota, for the fares they want to earn before they allow themselves to stop working – for most cabbies that number is twice the cost of renting the cab for the day. The moment the day’s receipts add up to twice their rental fee, they head home and rest up for the next day of battle. Now, they have this goal every day, but on rainy days – because more people choose to take a cab – they hit that goal earlier in their shift, and the moment they do they vanish off home.

The same thing happens with sales quotas. Leaders set quotas because they want to stimulate the performance of their salespeople. But quotas don’t actually work like that. The very best salespeople hit their quota months before the end of the year, whereupon they do the sales equivalent of vanishing off home – that is, they start to delay the closing of their deals so that they can “bank” them and ensure that they begin the next year with a head start. Sales goals actually degrade the performance of top sales people – they function, as they do for New York City cab drivers, as a ceiling on performance, not a catalyst for more of it.

Of course not. Even if they have daily goals in sales, they become stressed by not reaching their goals.

But what about salespeople who are struggling, or middle-of-the-road? Won’t goals serve to stretch them upward toward their quota, in much the same way as a guy who runs a marathon goal will help to stretch him upward toward greater endurance? Well, again, not exactly. In reality, what happens to middling or struggling salespeople is that their imposed quota increases the pressure on them. And this is not the self-imposed pressure that comes from attempting to achieve something we feel is important the sort our marathon-training friend will feel on a Sunday morning when he forces himself to get up and go running. No, this pressure to achieve company-imposed goals is coercion, and coercion is a cousin to fear. In the worst cases, fear-fueled employees push and push and, falling short, resort to inappropriate and sometimes illegal tactics in order to meet their goals.

None of which is to say that sales quotas are useless. In fact, they can be an excellent forecasting device. Senior leaders can use them to estimate what the company’s top line is going to be for any given period, and then announce this to the board and the investment community so that all interested parties can get a sense of the expected revenues, against which costs, investments, and ultimately cash flow can be assessed. The best executives are good guesstimators – they have a sense, born of long experience, of what the median quota should be, the “line of best fit” around which the variation of salespeople’s performance will cluster. Some will outperform their quota by 10 %, others will fall short by 10 %, and thus at year’s end the sales goals, when guessed well, will be hit. But these sales goals don’t beget more sales; they just anticipate what the sales will be.

Don’t ever expect to be the vice-versa, It will simply not happen.

How about tracking performance? Do goals allow companies to do that? Hardly.

Imposed goals are meaningless. Don’t evaluate performance based on that.

Even though so many companies ask employees to write down their yearly goals and track their progress using some sort of software; even though there are written books which say that humans love to track their progress and that they derive joy from each achievement; and even though, in the last few years, the trend is to see more goal tracking and not less; none of this tracking does what it is intended to, for the simple reason that your progress toward a goal is not linear.

If your goal is set too high, you most probably quit before to reach your goal.

Take our marathon-running friend. If, at the end of February, he calculates that his training regimen is 62% complete, does that mean that he has only 38 % of his marathon goal left to go? Obviously NOT: he has 100 % left because he hasn’t yet started his actual marathon. And what happens when he does indeed run his race? When he has finished his first 13 km does that mean he is now 13 out of 26 km, or 50 % of the way toward completing the race? Again, NO.

As every marathon runner discovers, the first half of the marathon is the comparatively easy part. It’s the last half – in particular, the last 6 km – that’s brutal. Only when you pass the 20 km mark do you begin to feel the legs harden and the mind weaken; only then do you know whether you have the physical and mental strength to complete your goal. And what percentage of the whole does the refining fire of the last 6 km represent-40 %? 60 %? 90 %? It’s impossible to put an accurate number on it because, in truth, the first 20 km of a marathon are one thing, and the last 6 km a very different thing.

So our friend can’t be 62 % done with his marathon preparation, nor he can be 50 % done with his actual marathon. He can only either complete the goal or not complete it. All goals, at least in the real world, function in this same way. You are either done, or you are not done: goal attainment is binary. You might want to set some intermediate goals along the way, and tick these goals off as they are done (or not done). But you won’t ever be able to assign a “percent complete” to your bigger goal as you tick off these mini-goals. And if you attempt to, or if your company asks you to, you will only be generating falsely precise data about the state of your progress.

Finally, what about evaluating employees? Can we evaluate a person based on how many goals he or she has achieved? Many companies do this, for sure. But here’s the snag: unless we can standardize the difficulty of each person’s goals it’s impossible to objectively judge the relative performance of each employee.

The result can be ridiculous.

Let’s say we have two employees we’re evaluating, Sarah and Albert. Each is aiming to complete five goals, and at year’s end Sarah has achieved three goals and Albert has achieved five. Does that mean Albert is a higher performer? Not necessarily. Maybe one of Sarah’s five goals was “Govern an empire” and one of Albert’s five goals was “Make a cup of tea.” For us to use goal attainment to evaluate Sarah and Albert, we need to be able to perfectly calibrate each and every goal for difficulty – we need each manager, with perfect consistency, to be able to weigh the stretchiness or slackness of a given goal in exactly the same way as every other manager. And as it happens this sort of calibration is a practical impossibility, so we can’t. Sorry, Albert.

Despite this evidence, however, it remains true that goals, and cascaded goals in particular, have an intuitive appeal to many leaders who find themselves in search of ways to ensure efficient and aligned execution in their organizations. And, at the same time, it also remains true that for those of us in the trenches, our experience of goals feels non-intuitive, mechanical, fake, even demeaning. Why is that?

Well, in the real world, this is what’s going on. Firstly, and oddly, when you sit down to write your goals, you already have a pretty good idea of the work that you’re about to do. After all, it’s not as though you roll up to the office on a Monday morning desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to fill the time. So what the goal-setting process is asking you to do is to write down work that you already know you’re going to do. Your work goals aren’t out ahead of you, pulling you along like our marathoner’s goal; instead they’re just behind you, being tugged along by your own preexisting understanding of the work you’re going to do anyway.

The goal categories – strategic, operational, innovation, people, and so on – are odd simply because work doesn’t come in categories. You don’t plan your time by thinking, “Well, on Tuesday I’ll do some operational, and hopefully make time for a bit of innovation on Thursday afternoon.” Work usually comes in projects, with deadlines and deliverables, and so when you’re asked to translate it back into category goals, you (and most every other employee) fudge it and force – fit your work to the categories, while hoping no one will mind too much.

And while it’s not unreasonable to hope that the work you do matches up to what your team leader wants you to do, setting goals that are a subset of his goals, or reviewing your goals against his, is actually a pretty strange way of going about this. Your team leader already knows what you’re doing, because in the real world you talk to him about it, all the time. If you’re off working on origami and he’d rather you were working on quilting, he’ll tell you. And when something changes, a few days later, and he needs you to shift your focus over to glass-blowing, again, he’ll just tell you. Even if he doesn’t tell you, and you continue to potter away at something that’s all of a sudden out of whack, the very last thing he’d think of doing to communicate this to you is to go back into your goal form, change your goals, and hope you’ll notice.

Again, cascaded goals are tagging along behind the work, not out ahead of it: as used in the real world, goal setting is more a system of record keeping than a system of work making. Then there’s the fact that you don’t go and look at your goals once you’ve set them. If they were supposed to be guiding your work, you’ d think you might.

And what about the gritty point of it all, at year’s end, when you’re supposed to self-evaluate against your goals?

You just works towards goals but you don’t understand the meaning of your work.

While your boss may imagine that you’re engaging in honest and earnest reflection on the year gone by, you’re probably trying to find the elusive sweet spot between, on the one hand, saying that you hit all your goals out of the park, by which you’d risk seeming arrogant or deluded, and, on the other, acknowledging that some things didn’t go as planned, by which you’d risk giving your boss – or some unseen higher-up-an excuse to decrease your bonus. Self-evaluation of goals isn’t really about evaluating your work, in other words: it’s a careful exercise in self-promotion and political positioning, in figuring out how much to reveal honestly and how much to couch carefully.

This is no comment on you, by the way. Carefully calibrating your self-evaluation to find this sweet spot is a practical response to a bizarre situation. The company has asked you to evaluate yourself against a list of abstract goals that were irrelevant a couple of weeks after you wrote them down. You’re being asked to do something meaningless and pretend it’s meaningful. It’s enough to make you a little crazy.

And your team leader’s in on the crazy. When the end of the year comes around and he has to sit down with a stack of goal forms and write-under each goal you typed in months and months ago one or two little sentences describing how you’ve done against each one, what must be going through his mind?

More than likely it isn’t related to you or how he thinks you’ve done, but is more about how quickly he can get through the stack and cross “goal review” off his to-do list. Like you, he’s got a nagging feeling that he’s wasting his time – because what’s in front of him now is a random subset of things you thought you might be doing a while ago, shoehorned into whatever categories you thought you could get away with at the time, written so as to look maximally impressive for anyone reading the form, and now garnished with your delicately positioned self-evaluation. He knows that the work changed an equally long time ago and has very little to do with what’s on the form, and that he’s already told you how well you did on the work that actually happened, by talking to you about it as the year went along. To his this form filling is the worst kind of administriviamasquerading-as-management, so he writes the little sentences and hopes that no one will complain if they’re shorter than last year’s.

In the real world, there is work-stuff that you have to get done. In theory world, there are goals.

The difference is obvious.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Goals can be a force for good.

Look again at our soon-to-be-marathoner friend: he has taken something he deems valuable (fitness) and turned it into a tangible achievement (the marathon). He has made it real. This, ultimately, is what goals are for: to help you manifest your values. They are your best mechanism for taking what’s inside of you and bringing it out where you and others can see it, and where you and they can benefit from it. Your goals define the dent you want to make in the world.

And this in turn means that the only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working toward it must set it for him- or herself, voluntarily. The only way a goal has any use at all is if it comes out of you as an expression of what you deem valuable. It doesn’t have to be SMART, or big, hairy, and audacious. It doesn’t need to contain key performance indicators or be built from objectives and key results. If a goal is going to be useful, if it is going to help you contribute more, then the only criterion is that you must set it for yourself, voluntarily.

This is the result of an imposed goal.

This doesn’t mean, though, that there is nothing we should cascade in our organizations. Since goals, done properly, are only and always an expression of what a person finds most meaningful, then to create alignment in our company we should do everything we can to ensure that everyone in the company understands what matters most. And so the truth:

Understanding your WHY first is mandatory.

So, in addition to giving our teams and their members a real-time understanding of what is happening in the world, we need to give them a sense of which hill we’re trying to take. Instead of cascading goals, instead of cascading instructions for actions, we should cascade meaning and purpose.

Whereas cascaded goals are a control mechanism, cascaded meaning is a release mechanism. It brings to life the context within which everyone works, but it leaves the locus of control – for choosing, deciding, prioritizing, goal setting – where it truly resides, and where understanding of the world and the ability to do something about it intersect: with the team member.

Therefore the prevailing assumption is that we need goals because our deficit at work is a deficit of aligned action. We’re mistaken. What we face instead is a deficit of meaning, of a clear and detailed understanding of the purpose of our work, and of the values we should honor in deciding how to get it done. OUR PEOPLE DON’T NEED TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO; THEY WANT TO BE TOLD WHY.

To be specific, here are the three levers to be used in order to create such great effect by cascading meaning.

THE FIRST LEVER = Expressed Values : which is what you write on the walls.

This how to create value at work.

I don’t mean that you should literally write out your “values.” Many leaders and many companies set about doing this and wind up with a list of generic values such as integrity, innovation, or , teamwork – and then wonder why the whole exercise doesn’t seem to have made much difference. Instead, apply some creativity to how you want to bring your meaning to life for your people. Don’t tell them what you value, show them.

  • What do you actually want them to see and to bump into at work?.
  • What are your expressed values?
  • What have you written on your walls?
  • What do your people encounter when they walk in through the door?
  • What do they see when they turn to the left?
  • And what do those things tell them about who you are?

THE SECOND LEVER = Through rituals.

Some examples of team rituals

Facebook has their famous bimonthly hack-a-thon; Chick-fil-A stops work on Sundays. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, had a ritual he practiced every single Friday until he was physically unable to do it anymore: he would pick a store, move the merchandise around on a particular end-cap display, and come back on Saturday to see what had sold. It was his own version of QMI, (Quick Market Intelligence), and what it signaled, to his employees, was his deep belief that no one, not even the boss, knows the brain of the customer better than the customer.

You already have rituals, whether they are conscious or unconscious, and these rituals-the things you do repeatedly-communicate to your people what is meaningful to you. If we followed you around for a week, we’d see them. Let’s say you have a meeting:

  • What time do you show up?
  • Are you five minutes early, or five minutes late?
  • What are you wearing?
  • Do you catch up with your team members about their personal lives or do you launch right into business?
  • Who talks first?
  • Do you allow your team members to speak, or do you cut them off?
  • Does the meeting go long?
  • Do you hold people back to finish things up?

These are all aspects of your rituals, and we, your team, see them, make sense of them, and draw our conclusions-whether you want us to or not. The question, then, isn’t whether you have rituals or not. The question is whether or not you are deliberate about what your rituals communicate.

THE THIRD LEVER = Through stories.

Cascade meaning by telling stories that matter and inspire.

Chick-fil-A for example makes an art of its storytelling through the operator profiles during Seminar. The company dedicates time to going out to each operator’s store, taking photos, and learning about his or her family and community, precisely so it can share these stories with the rest of the company.

Many of the best leaders are story tellers, not in the sense of writing a novel or a screenplay, but because they cascade meaning through vignettes, anecdotes, or stories told at meetings, on email chains, or on phone calls. They are always telling these little stories, because the stories that they choose to tell convey what they value. Stories make sense of the world: they are meaning, made human. That’s why religions tell stories about their messiah and the creation of the earth, and include parables within those stories that help us learn what is meaningful. And that’s why you can tell a lot about what matters to a team by the stories that the team members tell themselves.You tell stories, whether you know it or not, and you’re telling them all the time, in every conversation and at every meeting.

  • What stories are you telling?
  • And what do they say about what you find meaningful?

As a leader, you are trying to unlock the judgment, the choices, the insight, and the creativity of your people. The way we go about this doesn’t make much sense. We cloister information in our planning systems, and we cascade directives in our goal-setting systems. Instead, we should unlock information through intelligence systems, and cascade meaning through our expressed values, rituals, and stories. We should let our people know what’s going on in the world, and which hill we’re trying to take, and then we should trust them to figure out how to make a contribution.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 4 – People need feedback.

It doesn’t matter at all. Who told you so?

No they don’t. It’s exactly the opposite = People DON’T NEED FEEDBACK. This is again something worth to be discussed.I am 100% sure that everyone of you at least 1 time per year give a feedback at work (either to evaluate someone’s performance in the same team or to evaluate someone from another team ).  A feedback is actually not something wrong at all, I don’t what to say that, but it should be given as something more like an opinion and not as a standard rule for people to improve their work. Or even worst, a feedback must not be a criteria for evaluation of someone’s performance at work or elsewhere.

But unfortunately in a lot of organization there is this bullshit called Target Agreement or A Yearly Evaluation of an employee, which is usually done by the team leader.  Such criteria of evaluate somebody based on feedback must be completely eliminated. It’s not objective and It’s not important neither. People need Feedback??? Absolutely NOT. People need ATTENTION.

A feedback is just an opinion for someone which is taken at the moment of discussing about a certain topic, it’s doesn’t matter if it’s a negative feedback or it’s a positive feedback, for me it’s the same shit. But when someone pay attention to your actions that means something totally different. If you draw attention on you with something, this means you do a thing that people will surely need in the near future, and if they already look at you, and they like what you do, you may be advised to keep going and do better stuff. And for sure you will grow on long term. Instead a feedback is just a short impression given on a specific moment and soon after, doesn’t matter at all. Based only on feedback you will never grow and improve anything. So to go more deep to the point, if you want to understand this and if you want to see what’s the difference between “giving feedback” and “paying attention“, just keep reading this post, I will explain my point of view more in details.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a millennial in possession of a job must be in want of feedback. Actually, not just millennials. It goes without question that feedback for each and every one of us at work is a good thing, and that more feedback is an even better thing. As a result, today we are blessed with different types of feedback, such as:

  • upward feedback,
  • downward feedback,
  • peer feedback,
  • 360-degree feedback,
  • performance feedback,
  • developmental feedback,
  • constructive feedback,
  • solicited feedback,
  • unsolicited feedback,
  • and anonymous feedback,
We have a full garden of feedbacks available.

And with all of these flavors and variants has emerged a cottage industry of classes to teach us both how to give this feedback and how to receive it with grace and equanimity. We seem certain that modern employees need, and indeed cannot but benefit from, a real-time, straight-up assessment of their performance, and an appraisal of where they stand in relation to their peers. Indeed, of all the things we “know for sure”, this is the one we know for surest. If there is any complaint in all this, at least on the evidence of recent innovations in HR technology, it’s that this feedback doesn’t happen nearly enough, so coming soon to a phone near you is an array of tools designed to enable you and your company to generate feedback at any time, on any person, about any and all aspects of his or her performance.

You, as the team leader, will be told that one of the most important and tricky parts of your job is to convey this feedback to your people, no matter how negative the reviews might be. Your job is to accelerate team performance, and it’ll be your responsibility to hold a mirror up to the performance of your people so they can see themselves as they really are, and see their performance as it truly is. This, you’ll be told, is the secret to both success and respect as a team leader – so much so, in fact, that this sort of direct, dear, unvarnished feedback has its own special name at work: it’s called candid feedback.

This is an example of how to address a candid feedback.

And this in turn means that you need to maintain a certain distance, lest you lose your objectivity and compromise your candor. Although you may sometimes wonder if people would give more and grow more if you showed that you genuinely cared about them, the refrain you’ll hear is that if you get too close to your team members you’ll never be able to give them the candid feedback they need. To aid your development as a leader, others will recommend to you the many books on how to have tough conversations, and will suggest you read from the growing pile of articles describing just how much Generation Y and millennials crave constant corrective feedback.

You’ll be taught phrases such as, “Is now a good time for me to give you some feedback?” And, “Would you care for some feedback?” And the slightly more assertive, “I have some feedback for you. Are you sitting down?” Having learned how to give feedback, you’ll also learn how to receive it through techniques such as mirroring (“Did I hear you say that I need to work on my ‘organizational savvy and politics’?”) and active listening (“Can you clarify what you mean by “hopelessly naive” and give me a couple of recent examples?”).

And of course, should you reject the feedback you receive from someone else because it feels odd, or confusing, or just plain wrong, you’ll be helped to understand that this feeling is just a natural reaction to threat, and that to grow as a person and as a leader you will need to “let go of your ego,” to “embrace your failures” and to always maintain a “growth mindset.” If you can re-frame all this feedback as valuable input to help you grow, then – you’ll be told – you’ll soon find yourself addicted to it. Seeing such enthusiasm for feedback, we might start to wonder what an entire company would look and feel like if everyone was giving everyone else reviews at every turn – if feedback were pervasive and continuous??.

A good alternative to this situation is to build such a company around a commitment to “radical transparency.” This means that, the way to be successful is to see and engage with the world as it truly is, no matter how positive or negative these realities are. No hierarchy or office politics should prevent anyone, no matter their level in the company, from challenging an assumption or interrogating a course of action. The real world is right there: it is what it is. We must face it with all of our intelligence unfettered, and we can’t allow our politeness or our fear of repercussion to prevent us from seeing what is there to be seen, and thereby changing it for the better.

Of course, people are part of this real world, and they too must be seen for who they really are, without filter, without delay. But for that, not only every meeting must be videotaped, archived, and made available for every person in the company to view in the company’s “Transparency Library” (radical transparency is total and without irony), but also each employee must be issued with an iPad loaded with a variety of apps for rating his or her fellow employees on a lot of attributes, such as “willingness to touch the nerve,” conceptual thinking,” and “reliability.” Employees are expected to rate their peers after calls, meetings, and daily interactions, and all the resultant ratings are analyzed, permanently stored, and then displayed on a card that each employee carries with him or her at all times.

Don’t try to impress with your fake superiority, be honest and speak to the point.

People leave teams, not companies. Therefore it’s a general established consensus that people need feedback, and that the best companies and the most effective team leaders must figure out how to give it to them. In part, this consensus is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the absurd in frequency of traditional performance reviews. Because companies report their financial results annually, we have all become used to altering people’s compensation annually, and since many companies came to espouse “pay for performance,” it was inevitable that goals would be set annually, and performance reviews conducted annually, and therefore feedback given annually.

This cadence, though it worked for the financial folks, made little sense for either team leaders or members. Leaders felt burdened by the need to put everything into one set of goals at the beginning of the year and one set of laborious reviews at the end, while team members simply felt ignored. No one was served by this annual infrequency, yet there wasn’t much to be done about it – if we hated filling out one long set of forms at the beginning and the end of the year, nothing would be gained by upping the frequency of the form filling.

And then technology came to the rescue, as it were. With the creation of app-enabled smartphones, the subsequent near ubiquity of these phones, and then their integration with corporate IT infrastructure, companies gained the ability to give every employee the power to launch a survey to anyone in the employee census file, and collect, aggregate, and report the results. Today we can get feedback from anyone, on anyone, at any time, quickly and easily. But while this might explain why we are now able to give constant feedback, it doesn’t help us understand why we would so desperately want to.

Such situations always happen at work.

Let’s say that one of your colleagues is late for an important meeting. As you sit in mild annoyance waiting for him to arrive, you create a little story in your mind that explains his tardiness as a result of his disorganization and lack of prioritization, and his lack of concern for all the people he’s keeping waiting. This sort of interpretation of others’ actions is so commonplace that it would be unremarkable, except for the fact that it contains a kernel of reasoning that’s demonstrably flawed, and that nevertheless has a huge impact on how we design our organizations. What we’re doing, in creating our little story, is coming up with an explanation – an attribution,if you like – for our colleagues’ actions, and those explanations, when they concern the people around us, overwhelmingly ascribe others’ behavior to their innate abilities and personality, not to the external circumstances they find themselves in.

In this case, your colleague is late because of his innate disorganization, for example, not because a senior leader grabbed him in the hallway to ask a pressing question. This tendency of ours to skew our explanations of other’s behavior (particularly negative behavior) toward stories about who they are is called the Fundamental Attribution Error. Show us someone doing something that annoys us, or inconveniences us, and we’re instantly certain that it’s because there’s something wrong with that person.

And the “Fundamental Attribution Error” has a cousin. While our stories of others center on who they are, we are much more generous to ourselves in our interpretation of our own actions. When it comes to our self-attributions, we skew the other way, and over-ascribe our behavior to the external situation around us, to what’s happening to us. If we’re doing something that annoys someone else, then that person is annoyed only because he or she doesn’t understand the situation that’s forcing us to act that way. This tendency is called the Actor-Observer Bias, and it’s one of a number of human-reasoning biases that fall into a category called self-serving biases, because they serve to explain away our own actions in a way that props up our self-esteem.

These biases lead us to believe that your performance (whether good or bad) is due to who you are – your drive, or style, or effort, say which in turn leads us to the conclusion that if we want to get you to improve your performance we must give you feedback on who you are, so that you can increase your drive, refine your style, or redouble your efforts. To fix a performance problem we instinctively turn to giving you personal feedback, rather than looking at the external situation you were facing and addressing that. And by the way, if you think about it, much of the world of work is designed this way – it’s designed for Those Other People:

  • who need to be told what to do (hence planning instead of intelligence),
  • whose work needs aligning (hence goals over meaning and purpose),
  • and whose weaknesses put us all at risk (hence the deficit thinking, instead of the focus on distinctive abilities).

One of the inconvenient truths about humans is that we have poor theories of others, and these theories lead us, among other things, to design our working world to remedy or to insulate against failings that we see in others but don’t see in ourselves. Add to this the wonky logic that since success is achieved only through hard work, and since giving negative feedback, receiving negative feedback, and fixing mistakes are all hard work, therefore negative feedback causes success, and you can begin to see why our faith in feedback, and specifically negative feedback, is so firmly rooted – why we “know for sure” that feedback is helpful and that our colleagues need it.

This situation must be always avoided.

But this just ain’t so. Let’s go back to where we began, with millennials. The various books and articles argue that millennials crave feedback in part because they are addicted to social media, and to the dopamine hit of one more Facebook “like,” or one more Instagram “love.” So let’s interpret a little bit this behavior as the result of millennials’ need to always know how they are perceived by others and where they stand. So, according to this reading, you’re in big trouble as a manager if you aren’t constantly attending to how they’re doing and telling them how to do it better. But if we look more closely – if we look at which features have become more popular on the various social media platforms, and at the details of how users choose to interact with these platforms – a different picture begins to emerge.

This battle is not yet over.

Consider, for example, the very different approaches taken by Facebook and Snapchat to providing for user feedback. A couple of years ago Facebook had been researching additional response emojis beyond the classic “like.” After much experimentation (and constant reassurances to its users that the company wasn’t going to launch a “dislike” button), Facebook announced the addition of six new emojis so that users could offer more-nuanced feedback to other user’s posts, the six finalists were: “love”,”haha”, “yay”, “wow”, “sad” and ” angry”

These were the new emoijs introduced by Facebook

Yet soon after the launch, Facebook discovered that, despite the company’s careful research and testing, hardly anyone bothered with the new options. Snapchat, meanwhile, was growing, and then growing some more. Snapchat didn’t have six possible responses to a post – it didn’t even have one, in fact, because there was no Snapchat “like” button, and there isn’t to this day. Its appeal was precisely that on this new platform no one would rate you. The user just posts a story, or sends a friend a snap message; the friend responds or doesn’t; and then poof! – in 24 hours the story or snap is gone, permanently. If you talk to heavy users of Snapchat – and there are now over 200 million of them – you’ll discover that what’s attractive about Snapchat to millennials is precisely that they can go there, post there, and share there, all without feeling the pressure of feedback. They see the size of their audience. They keep their snap streaks alive with their friends.

But they never have to worry about feedback at all: there is no judgment, let alone any permanent record of judgment. Instead there is just the connection to a friend or an audience. For all of Snapchat’s early users this was a relief. Snapchat became one of the precious few places in their lives where they were free to be themselves and connect with each other without filters. The very absence of permanent feedback allowed them to be more casual, more at ease, and more real, and this safe, attentive place attracted them in the millions.

It is extraordinarily difficult to start a social-media platform and have it grow organically-users are busy and have established behavior patterns, and the power of the network effect to prevent those behaviors from changing is strong. Ning, Path, and latterly MySpace were all launched (in the case of MySpace. relaunched) with great fanfare, and all faltered because they didn’t tap into the essence of human nature purely and powerfully enough. Snapchat‘s chances of success were arguably slim, and yet, because it found an important missing ingredient in young people’s lives (a safe place filled with an admiring audience), it was able to find a path to exponential user growth. And then Facebook and Instagram, to their credit, got curious, listened and learned, and did whatever they could to make themselves more like Snapchat.

And still nobody gives a feedback.

If the Snapchat example is any guide, it would seem that at root, social media is more about publishing – about positive self-presentation. It matters less to us whether this “self” is truly us, or whether, as many have observed, our online selves are aspirational projections, than it matters to us that others see us, and like us. We aren’t looking for feedback. We’re looking for an AUDIENCE, and all of us-not just millennials- seem drawn to places that provide us with a way to meet our audience and gain its approval. What we want from social media is not really feedback. It’s attention, and the lesson from the last decade is that social media is an attention economy – some users seeking it, some supplying it – not a feedback economy. And ironically, while the design of today’s social-media platforms reflects the fact that millennials are attracted most to environments without feedback, today’s companies point to these very same social-media platforms as their primary evidence for why millennials crave feedback.

The Snapchat growth story is only the most recent addition to a large body of evidence about the human need for uncritical attention. More recently, epidemiologists, psychometricians, and statisticians have shown that by far the best predictor of heart disease, depression, and suicide is loneliness – if you deprive us of the attention of others, we wither. The truth, then, is that people need attention-and when you give it to us in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, we will come and stay and play and work.

But it’s a bit more complicated than that, as it turns out, because feedback – even negative feedback – is still attention. And it’s possible to quantify the impact of negative attention, if you will, versus positive attention, versus no attention at all, and thereby better understand what sort of attention we most want at work.

In their ongoing study of engagement in the workplace, researchers at the Gallup Organization asked a representative sample of American workers whether their managers paid most attention to their strengths, to their weaknesses, or to neither, and they then asked a series of follow-up questions to measure how engaged each of these employees was. They then calculated the ratio of highly engaged employees to highly disengaged employees for each type of “attention.”

Their first finding told them, in effect, how to design the World’s Worst Manager.

The World’s Worst Manager

To create pervasive disengagement, ignore your people. If you pay them no attention whatsoever-no positive feedback; no negative feedback; nothing – your team’s engagement will plummet, so much so that for every one engaged team member you will have twenty disengaged team members.

The second finding might, on its face, look like a pretty encouraging outcome. They found that negative feedback is forty times more effective, as a team leadership approach, than ignoring people.

By giving a (negative) feedback, a manager can make himself look ridiculous 🙂

For those employees whose leaders’ attention was focused on fixing their shortcomings, the ratio of engaged to disengaged was 2 to 1. But if we remember that “engagement” in this case is a precisely defined set of experiences that have been shown to lead to team performance; and if we recall that most of us have been taught that negative feedback is the best, and that most of us experience mainly negative feedback in our professional lives; and if we consider what the researchers found when they looked at positive attention, then this ratio of 2 to 1 becomes much more worrying.

The third finding was this: for those employees given mainly positive attention that is, attention to what they did best, and what was working most powerfully for them – the ratio of engaged to disengaged rose to 60 to 1.

Do this exercise and you will see it by yourself.

Positive attention, in other words, is thirty times more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team. So while we may occasionally have to help people get better at something that’s holding them back, if paying attention to what people can’t do is our default setting as team leaders, and if all our efforts are directed at giving and receiving negative feedback more often and more efficiently, then we’re leaving enormous potential on the table. As I said before people don’t need feedback. They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.

So far, so good. We like positive attention, and it helps us do better work. But what about learning? If all we get is attention to our strengths, how will we ever develop? A team leader must surely want her team members to grow and get better, and won’t this necessitate that she spend most of her time pinpointing flaws and fixing them? Again, our informal theories of work-our “know for sure” theories – let us down. We seem to accept, on its face, the idea that “strengths” go at one end of the scale and “areas for improvement” or “areas of opportunity” go at the other, that areas of high performance are where we are most complete and areas of low performance are where we should, and can, grow.

PERFORMANCE AND DEVELOPMENT

Unfortunately there are many such managers out-there.

The single most powerful predictor of both team performance and team engagement is the sense that “I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.” Now, we tend to think of “performance” and “development” as two separate things, as though development or growth is something that exists outside of the present-day work. But development means nothing more than doing our work a little better each day, so increasing performance and creating growth are the same thing. A focus on strengths increases performance. Therefore, a focus on strengths is what creates growth. The best team leaders seem to know this. They reject the idea that the most important focus of their time is people’s shortcomings, realizing instead that, in the real world, each person’s strengths are in fact her areas of greatest opportunity for learning and growth; and that consequently, time and attention devoted to contributing to these strengths intelligently will yield exponential return now and in the future.

Some of these leaders know this instinctively – or perhaps they’ve figured it out from their experience with real humans on their teams – but for the rest of us there is a wealth of biological data to reinforce the truth that positive attention accelerates development.

Of course, we can all learn to do it right, or at least, righter. We can all learn to be slightly better at skills that we apply ourselves to with disciplined practice. However, what the brain science also reveals is that while the brain does continue to grow throughout life, each brain grows differently. Because of your genetic inheritance and the oddities of your early childhood environment, your brain’s wiring is utterly unique – no one has ever had a brain wired just like yours, and given the brain’s complexity, no one ever will.

Negative feedback doesn’t enable learning. It systematically inhibits it and is, neurologically speaking, how to create impairment. On the other side, positive, future-focused attention gives your brain access to more regions of itself and thus sets you up for greater learning.

Then stop giving it. You better focus on positive attention.

We’re often told that the key to learning is to get out of our comfort zones, but this finding gives the lie to that particular chestnut – take us out of our comfort zones and our brains stop paying attention to anything other than surviving the experience. It’s clear that we learn most in our comfort zone, because that’s our strengths zone, where our neural pathways are most concentrated. It’s where we’re most open to possibility, and it’s where we are most creative and insightful.

If you want your people to learn more, pay attention to what’s working for them right now, and then build on that. The question is, how? How can you stimulate learning and growth within your team, steer clear of the negative feedback that sets your people back, and still ensure that your team is running smoothly and efficiently? There’s one thing you can start to do immediately: get into the conscious habit of looking for what’s going well for each of your team members. The pull to look at the negative is a very strong one.

In the world of computing, there’s an event called a high-priority interrupt. It tells the computer’s processor that something requires its immediate attention, and so it needs to “interrupt” normal processing and jump the particular something to the head of the processing queue. In the real world of team leaders you’ll have quite a few things that function in the same way – that grab your attention and force you to act. The majority of these high-priority interrupts are going to be problems, and that’s normal.

You don’t want to administer medicine to a patient if it’s the wrong medicine. You don’t want to present something to your executive if you’ve just received information that half of what you’re presenting is now obsolete. Any system or process that breaks down will demand that you, the team leader, address it. This is a high-priority interrupt doing what it should do: stopping everything to seize your attention.

And the same high-priority interrupts will occur when one of your people messes up. You’ll see something someone does wrong – a poorly handled call, a missed meeting, a project gone awry – and the same instinct will kick in: stop everything to tell that person what he did wrong, and what he needs to do to fix it.

Therefore take the people exactly as they are.

The difficulty for you here is that people aren’t processes, nor are they machines – what works for processes and machines doesn’t work for men and women. Processes and machines are finite and static, and unless we change something about them, they either stay the same or gradually wear out. People, by contrast, are in a constant state of learning and growing, and, as we just saw, they grow the most under positive attention and the least under negative feedback.

Paradoxically, then, the more your high-priority interrupts involve catching your people doing things wrong (so you can fix them), the less productive each person will become in the short term, and the less growth you’ll see from your team members in the long run. Finding itself in negative-criticism territory, the human brain stiffens, tenses, and – in meaningful ways – “resists improvement”. Machines and processes don’t do that. You can fix a machine, you can fix a process, but you can’t never fix a person in the same way – people aren’t toasters.

So, when it comes to your people, what should be your high-priority interrupt? If what you want is improvement, then it should be whenever someone on your team does something that really works. The goal is to consciously spend your days alert for those times when someone on your team does something so easily and effectively that it rocks you, just a little, and then to find a way of telling that person what you just saw. This sounds as easy as “catch people doing things right,” but as we’ll see, there’s a little more to it than that.

Nowadays, recognition has become a synonym for praise, but in doing so has moved some way from its origins. Thus, to recognize a person, in essence, means to come to know him anew. Recognition, in its deepest sense, is to spot something valuable in a person and then to ask her about it, in an ongoing effort to learn who she is when she is at her best. The trick to doing this is not just to tell the person how well she’s performed, or how good she is, While simple praise is by no means a bad thing, it captures a moment in the past rather than creating the possibility of more such moments in the future. Instead, what you’ll want to do is to tell the person what you experienced when that moment of excellence caught your attention – your instantaneous reaction to what worked.

And you’ll always win.NO FEEDBACK NEEDED

For a team member, nothing is more believable, and thus more powerful, than your sharing what you saw from her and how it made you feel. Or what it made you think. Or what it caused you to realize. Or how and where you will now rely on her. These are your reactions, and when you share them with specificity and with detail, you aren’t judging her or rating her or fixing her. You are simply reflecting to her the unique “dent” she just made in the world, as seen through one person’s eyes-yours. And precisely because it isn’t a judgment or a rating, but is instead a simple reaction, it is authoritative and beyond question. It’s also humble: when someone says to you “I want to know where I stand” she doesn’t actually mean this, and you, frankly, are in no position to tell her-you are not the ultimate and definitive source of truth for where she stands. Instead, what she means is “I want to know where I stand with you.” And happily, here your truth is unimpeachable.

With each replaying of these small moments of excellence, relayed through the lens of your own experience, you’ll ease her into the rest-and-digest state of mind, her brain will become more receptive to new information and will make connections to other inputs found in other regions of her brain, and she will learn and grow and get better. It is, in short, the best recognition she could ever receive. You are learning about her, and relaying that learning to her, and, as on the best teams, she knows that tomorrow you will be doing so again. On such rituals is great performance built.

The nature of your attention is key. If a team member screws something up, of course you have to deal with it. But remember that when you do, you’re merely remediating – and that remediating what’s wrong, so a mistake won’t happen again, moves you no closer to creating excellent performance.

If a nurse gives someone the wrong medication, ignoring that mistake could be lethal. So you can, of course, say to him, “Don’t ever do that again!” And you can, of course, design a process to ensure that the medicine is always triple-checked before being administered to a patient. But as you do this, know that if the nurse now consistently gives the correct medication to his patients, this does not mean he’s now giving excellent care leading to a faster and more complete recovery. Correcting the nurse’s mistake won’t lead to this, any more than correcting someone’s grammar will lead to her writing a beautiful poem, or telling someone the correct punchline to a joke will make this person funny. Excellence is not the opposite of failure: we can never create excellent performances by only fixing poor ones. Mistake fixing is just a tool to prevent failure.

To conjure excellence from your team requires a different focus for your attention. If you see somebody doing something that really works, stopping them and replaying it to them isn’t only a high-priority interrupt, it is arguably your highest-priority interrupt. Get into this habit and you’ll be far more likely to lead a high-performing team.

All that being said, however, there will inevitably come a day when, despite your best intentions and careful highlight flagging, one of your people will implore you to give him negative feedback or corrective action. Tell me what I’m doing wrong, he’ll say. Or he’ll say that he finds himself stuck in the middle of a difficult situation, or is struggling with his job and is turning to you for advice on how to move forward. What do you do? To begin with, try to resist the powerful temptation to jump in with your very best advice.* (*And the irony that I am here advising you not to give advice has not escaped me)

So that’s why I say feedback is not necessary, instead paying attention as a enormous effect.Stop doing those extremely subjective employee evaluation each year, which are always based on some sort of feedbacks absolutely irrelevant. Giving a feedback and conclude on the performance of someone only on that, and creating some new targets for the next evaluation also based on the previous feedback it won’t bring you any added-value. Almost all such target agreements have no real metrics as criteria for evaluation so it won’t motivate your employee at all. He will not learn anything, on the contrary he will be worried not to reach the target for the next evaluation and he will immediately start thinking to find another job. This is very inefficient human resources management.If you want to improve and grow your business then pay attention and give recognition to your employee. Just STOP GIVING FEEDBACK.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 3 – The balance between Work and Life matters most.

Not “Some” but “Most of”

Whaaat??? A Balance??? No it isn’t. I repeat what I’ve already said couple of times in my previous posts: Work is something people don’t want to do, but they still do it anyway because the system is made so to keep us wired and to be forced to work. There are exceptions of course but  a massive amount of earth’s human population is working for the monthly pay check and they are ready to compromise everything and everybody they love just to work on something they hate.

Educate yourself: Read books, learn new skills, eat the knowledge by your own.

When I was a kid I had nothing but my childhood and a lot of free time to spend with my friends and do whatever I loved. Now I afford almost everything I want, but I don’t have the time to spend with my friends and to do whatever I love. Why? What happened? Well…After finishing my studies I had to start my adult life and to start doing what all adults do: TO WORK. And I had to work hard many times on something that I didn’t really like. Exactly like me are billions of people on this planet. At one point in your career you could find your WHY by understanding the purpose of your work, and start working on something you love and of course make money out of it. But to say that in general “Work-Life balance matters most” is of course nothing but a big veritable LIE. How the hell can you balance something you hate, with your life?

Do this test!!. Get out, go for a walk in your city-center and stop randomly people on the street and ask them if they love their jobs. Do this!! Let’s say by asking 100 people. And collect all the answers,  you will see that I am right. People could hate their jobs for different reasons, but one of them is for sure also that they don’t really enjoy it. They do it anyway because they HAVE TO. But to find a balance with that, is like trying to match a circle in a square both having the same size (diameter = length). It will never fit.

You can not even thing about doing this for a second. That’s obvious by default.

Work is hard. Every day, you feel the stress of performing, of delivering against your goals and objectives, of earning enough to support your family, of learning how to advocate in just the right way to advance your career and thereby earn more. And always, hanging over your head, is the threat of change as your company shifts its focus, outsources your role, or finds a particularly smart machine that can do your job better, faster, and cheaper. And then there are the other people you have to work with – an ever changing cast of characters, some of whom work across the hall, others of whom work across the world, whose collaboration you seek, but whose motives and methods remain mysterious. The commute doesn’t help neither, I am talking from my own experience, I did that too 🙂 : the daily battle with your fellow strivers on trains, planes, and freeways, everyone rushing in and rushing out, dogging the arteries of your city, raising your stress level. Forty-five minutes, an hour, ninety minutes each way – or a two – hour flight if you work for one of the big consultancies and have to show up at the client site – all just so you can begin your daily race of life-at-work. On the way home you steal a brief moment or two to decompress, and then, once home, you have a quick dinner with the family before dragging out the phone again for the evening volley of e-mails and texts, hoping to catch one last request so that it won’t need immediate action before your shower in the morning.

Work – our experience teaches us –  is toil; a stressor, a drainer of our energy – and if we are not careful, it can lead to physical exhaustion, emotional emptiness, depression, and burnout. It’s a transaction – we sell our time and our talent so that we can earn enough money to buy the things we love, and to provide for those we love. Indeed, the term we use for the money we earn in this transaction is compensation, the same word we use for what we get when we’re injured or wronged in the eyes of the law. Our wages are not just money, then: they are money to make up for the inherent badness of work- A BRIBE, if you will, to tough it out.

And many people accept this for their entire life.

Work is even a distraction from work. When we need to get something important done, we recognize that it will be hard to do unless we can somehow make our escape from the daily grind, and so we go on a leadership retreat to get away from the noise and stress of work, to better focus on other work. And because the effects of work are so potentially toxic, the obvious and sensible precaution to take, so that we don’t all expire at our desks, is to balance it out with something else, with something better. With life.

  • We lose ourselves in work, and rediscover ourselves in life.
  • We survive work, but live life. When work empties us out, life fills us back up.
  • When work depletes us, life restores us.

The answer to the problem of work, the world seems to say, is to “balance” it with life. Of course, we are simplifying things here. Some people succeed in finding great satisfaction in their work, while others have hugely stressful lives outside of work. We know, too, that some jobs seem to be inherently difficult, or even inherently boring. No one’s work, or life, is ever completely joyous, or completely controllable. Yet still, the assumption that pervades our working world is that “work is bad” and “life is good” and therefore work-life balance matters most. “Does the company support work-life balance?” is right up there with “What’s the company culture like?” in the list of questions candidates inevitably ask during the interviewing process – which explains why, in these tight labor markets, companies highlight their on-site: dry-cleaning, banking, and child-care services, their quiet rooms, in-chair massages, sleep pods, and luxury shuttle buses. These perks are tremendously well intended and are often highly valued by employees – and at the same time are rooted in the idea that work is a heavy weight on the scales, and that the enlightened organization is one that does everything it can to lessen that weight, and thereby tip the scales back toward life. Good intentions aside, the problems with all this begin with the concept of balance – and it’s a concept with a long history.

And in few cases that can become a passion, but unfortunately for many is just a bane.

You’ve striven for it, haven’t you? You’ve tried to find that delicate “balance” between the needs of yourself, your family, your friends, your work colleagues, your boss, and your community. You’re aware that each of these constituencies places different and often conflicting demands on you, and you’ve struggled to give due attention to each one, satisfying their differing needs while still attending to your own. You’ve sat on a conference call in the car-pool line and mouthed “Sorry!!” to the kids in the back. You’ve rationalized a missed President’s Day outing with the family because, well, it’s a Monday, your other team members appear to be online, and besides, President’s Day isn’t a proper holiday anyway, not really. You’ve taken on a “stretch” assignment because it might – just might!-come with a raise, or at least a bonus, and so enable you to afford a better house for your family. But because you now have more work to do, and more resting on it, you’ve found that you can’t attend that school-board meeting, or your cousin’s wedding, or that online management course, because life is about trade-offs and this one is yours. You’ve found yourself spinning plates, or juggling balls, or plugging gaps-whatever the metaphor, you’ve known too often the feeling of too many requests from too many quarters and not enough hours in the day. You’ve told yourself that if you can just keep the plates spinning, the balls in the air, the gaps plugged, then perhaps you can parcel out your attention and energy so that no one, in your work or your life, will feel too neglected – so that, although you can’t be all things to all people, your unflagging efforts will at least achieve some sort of equitable distribution.

But in the real world does anyone, anywhere, man or woman, young or old, affluent or barely solvent, ever actually find balance? If any have, I haven’t met them yet. And this is why balance is more bane than benefit. In practice, striving for it feels like triage, like trying to erect some sort of barricade against the endless encroachments on our time and the relentless ratcheting of expectations to work more, all while worrying that someone else has figured out how to do this better than we have. Obviously, triage can be necessary in life, but it surely is not enough – it keeps things at bay, but it takes us away from ourselves. And in the end, balance is an unachievable goal anyway, because it asks us to aim for momentary stasis in a world that is ever changing. Supposing we ever get things just exactly in balance, we know for sure that something will come along and unbalance them and that we’ll be back to pushing our balance rock up the hill again. So what then should we do? Work can be hard. So can life. And there’s too much of both, too much of the time. If balancing everything out isn’t the answer, then what is?

You don’t need to find any balance.

Your life is the most important gift you have. All what you need to do is to stay healthy,enjoy the life and do something you love, money is then another subset of life. You are not wealthy if you have money, you are wealthy if you are healthy. Therefore we need a new way of thinking. About work. About life. Neither you nor your life are in balance, nor will you ever be. Instead you are a unique creature who takes inputs from the world, metabolizes them in some way, produces something useful, and does so in such a way that you can keep doing it. At least, you are when you’re healthy, when you’re at your best, when you are contributing all that your talents allow you to. When you’re flourishing you are acting on the world and it on you. Your world offers up to you raw material-activities, situations, outcomes – in all parts of your life, and some of this raw material invigorates you and gives you energy.

You are at your healthiest when you find this particular kind of raw material, draw it in, allow it to feed you, and use it to contribute something-and when that contribution actually seems to leave you with more energy, not less. This state, not balance, is what we should strive for. You want to find love in what you do. However, the moment you start thinking this to yourself, you almost immediately dismiss it as sappy or unrealistic. Watch any famous commencement address on YouTube, or take a long lunch with a mentor, and it’s almost guaranteed that at some point you’ll hear the advice to “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life again.” And when you hear that, your heart sinks. On the one hand, the thought seems to make perfect sense – wouldn’t it be great if we could all do what we love?

But on the other side, it seems, in this day and age, to be something of a luxury, it invites the response that it’s all very well for you, lucky person, to have made your way doing what you love, but for the rest of us work is very much a requirement, and love is just an added and rare-bonus. Linger on it for a moment, though. We’re going to take a longer look at love. Therefore I would just like to share the truth that-more than striving for balance between work and life love-in-work matters most.

If you have all these then yes indeed, you do something you love. 🙂

Because love-specifically, the skill of finding love in what you do, rather than simply “doing what you love” – leads us directly to a place that is the epitome of pragmatism. On the face of it, though, organizations don’t appear greatly concerned with love. Southwest Airlines can stick a heart on its planes, and Facebook can claim that its mission is to “ship love,” but in these two cases, as in most others, the love refers to the customers, not the employees. It doesn’t matter which industry are you in, the first thing you as company owner must do is to LOVE YOUR EMPLOYEES, only the second love your customers. Unfortunately, most organizations are much more worried about the meaty stuff: performance, goals, achievement, discipline, execution, and rigor. Get all this done, meet all the deadlines with the necessary levels of quality, and maybe then you can sprinkle a little dusting of love on it at the end. If this is your view of your organization, then you – and it, if it shares this view – are missing the mark. Because the truth is that even the most hard-nosed, performance-oriented organizations desperately want you to find great love in what you do. They just don’t call it like that.

Have you ever been deeply in love? Cast your mind back to when that was – when you were so in love with someone that you couldn’t wait to see that person, when time flew by quickly when you were together, and when, after parting, you ached to see your love again. When you’re in love, you’re a different person. Looking at the world through the rosy lens of love, everyone seems wonderful, people are beautiful, the world is happy and kind, and spring is in the air. Love lifts you up. It elevates you to a new plane, where you’re at your most productive, creative, generous, resilient, innovative, collaborative, open, and powerful. When you’re in love, you are simply magnificent.

Look at those adjectives again: productive, creative, generous, resilient, innovative, collaborative, open, powerful. Not only are they a pretty good description of how you hope to be in your life, or how your spouse or family wants you to be, but they’re also, surely, the exact qualities your organization’s CEO is looking for in every team member. Put the list of you-in-love qualities next to your CEO’s list of ideal-employee-at-work qualities and you’ll see that the list is the same. But you don’t get to feel any of these things by writing them down, just as your organization won’t create any of these in you merely by discussing them with you in a training class. You – and your organization – get them only if you create them, and you create them only through love. Most organizations shy away from the word love, preferring more business-appropriate terms such as committed or motivated or discretionary effort. But in the real world we have to engage with what really is, not some watered-down version of how we’d like people to be or to feel. If we want our people to flourish, if we want them to be creative and intrigued and generous and resilient, then we’ve got to help them find what they love to do.

Organizations must do that for their employees too.

There’s love in work, and we should use the word. We should be curious about how each of us can find it. We should honor the truth that our organization can never find it for us, can never define it for us. For too long we’ve allowed our organizations to appropriate human words – such as: love, passion, excitement, thrill – and persuade themselves that, by invoking these words, they’ve created genuine human feelings. They haven’t, and they never will. The organization is a fiction, an “inter-subjective reality,” and it’s simply not real enough or human enough to know which activities at work you love. Only you can know that. Only you are dose enough to yourself to know where you find love and where you don’t.

Organizations are not powerless, but their power (and their name) comes from their ability to organize what is already there in plain view. Your organization, if it is careless, can crush your spirit, can diminish or ignore it. But only you can animate it. Only you can bring love into your world at work. And when you do, all sorts of good things happen. The big question, then, is how to make this happen?. Whether we call it love-in-work  or anything else, the fact remains that work is called work for a reason, and your work is not only busy and sometimes repetitive but – more to the point – is not always of your own making. You have a particular job, in which certain outcomes are expected, and your responsibilities are what they are. What’s love got to do with that?

The sooner you do, the better for you.

So, here’s a way to remove the problem – here’s how to intentionally and responsibly weave love into your work. Think about the most successful person you know. Not in terms of money, necessarily, but in terms of her contributions to her team, and her organization – someone enormously productive, creative, resilient, and seemingly at one with her work. More than likely, as you think of this person, you’re thinking she got lucky. “How,” you’re asking yourself, “did she find that role?, how did she find that work?, how did she find that life? I wish I could find something that fits me as well as her work fits her.”

If you are indeed thinking this, then first, good for you for recognizing something special and precious, and second, you’ve landed on the wrong verb. This person didn’t find this work – she didn’t happen upon it, fully-formed and waiting for her. Instead, she made it. She took a generic job, with a generic job description, and then, within that job, she took her loves seriously, and gradually, little by little and a lot over time, she turned the best of her job into most of her job. Not the entirety of it, maybe, but certainly an awful lot of it, until it became a manifestation of who she is. She tweaked and tweaked the role until, in all the most important ways, it came to resemble her – it became an expression of her. You can do the same.

Think of these activities as your “red threads.” Your work is made up of many activities, many threads, but some of them feel as though they’re made of particularly powerful material. These red threads are the activities you love, and your challenge is to pinpoint them so you can ensure that, next week, you’ll be able to recreate them, refine them, and add to them. You are weaving red threads into the fabric of your work, one thread at a time. Now, you do not have to end up with an entirely red quilt.

The researchers found that when the physicians spent more than 20 percent of their time on activities they loved, there was no corresponding reduction in burnout risk. The 20 percent number was a threshold, which is to say that a little love goes an awfully long way: when you can deliberately weave your red threads throughout the fabric of your work you’ll feel stronger, perform better, and bounce back faster. These red threads are your strengths. Typically we think of our strengths as what we’re good at and our weaknesses as what we’re bad at, and that our team leaders, or our colleagues, are therefore the best judges of both. But this is not the best definition of either strengths or weaknesses. A strength is any activity that strengthens you, and a weakness is any activity that weakens you, even if you’re good at it.

“Performance” is what you have done well or poorly, and your team leader can be the judge of that. Team leaders and colleagues, however, can’t judge what strengthens or weakens you. If you spend a week in love with your work and realize that you love finding patterns in data, then your team leader can legitimately tell you, in regard to your performance, “Well, you’re not explaining the patterns well enough,” or “Well, you’re not finding patterns that are useful,” or, “You’re not putting them on a PowerPoint slide properly.” Your team leader can say all these things. But what he cannot say is, “No, you don’t love finding patterns in data,” He can’t say that your red thread isn’t a red thread. You are the one and only judge of that.

And don’t imagine that your teammates in the same role as you share the same red threads as you. They don’t. You have a unique relationship with the world, a relationship that reveals to you things that only you can see. It offers thread-weaving opportunities all the time, but the only person who knows if those threads are red is YOU. The world won’t do your weaving for you – it doesn’t care about your red threads. The only person who can stop and be attentive enough to identify these threads, and weave them intelligently into the fabric of your work, is you. You’re often told, by the way, to “take ownership of your career.” This is what it actually means – it means taking ownership of the weaving of your red threads.

This is true not only in your work life but in your life in general. Despite how it might feel a lot of the time, you do not have many different compartments of your life, each of which must be carefully balanced. Instead, you have one life, one whole cloth, one fabric for you to weave your red threads into. It’s up to you to know what you love about work, what you love about hobbies, what you love about friends, and what you love about family, and those things will be different from everyone else’s things. So when people say, “Well, as a father/friend/colleague I think you should do this or that,” remember that they do not know you, like you know you, that they are well intended yet blind. Your world has an n of 1, and that 1 is YOU.

  • Should you work fifteen hours a day?
  • Should you have three kids before the age of thirty?
  • Should you devote all your time to your career until you can afford the day care you will need?
  • Should you take six weeks of vacation a year, or none?
  • Should you quit your job and go surfing or van-ing?

These are all choices that only you can make, and the only way to make them wisely is to honor the truth that your life will give you strength, if you can but pay attention to your emotional reactions to the events and activities and responsibilities you choose to fill it with. Based on this assumption you can make a list of “Love It” things.

And what of the list of “Loathed It” things? Obviously these are your fraying, weak threads, and your aim is to incorporate as few of them as possible in your life’s fabric – either by stopping these activities altogether, by partnering with someone to get them done as painlessly as possible, or by seeing if, in being combined with an activity you love (by being braided with one of your red threads), they can become less draining for you.

That’s exactly the way it is.

When you start to think about your life in this way, you’ll quickly realize not only that “balance” is an unhelpful idea but that we have the categories wrong. What we all wrestle with every day in the real world is not so much work and life as it is love and loathe. Watch for your red threads. Take them seriously. They are light, they are strong, they are true, and they are yours. And when you feel run down, or burned out, or at risk, or that everything is coming apart at the seams, ding to them tightly. They will hold fast until you have the strength to begin weaving something new. This new thing you make, this new idea, or project, or job, or relationship, or life, will not necessarily be balanced as others see it. It will not necessarily be a life that others would have made or would even approve of. Nor will it necessarily be easy. But it will be yours. It will be crafted from sources of strength felt only by you, and so it will be strong. It will flourish. It will not wither, and neither will you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if work were for love – if the point of work were to discover that which each of us loves? Obviously, today we don’t think of it that way. We think of it as a transaction: you get things done, and then we pay you to buy things you love. But what if we flipped that all around? What if we made the purpose of work to help people discover that which they love.

For example if we changed the American Management Association slogan from “Get work done through people” to “Get people done through work?” We’d fail, of course, because people are complicated, and so is work, and so is life. And besides, no person is ever “done.” But what if we made the attempt the entire point of work: To teach our kids and our college graduates, our workers young and old, our people in the second decade of their first career and our people in the first year of their third career, how to use the raw material of work to find their very own red threads and then to take responsibility for weaving them into something fine and strong?

But if you build technical craft on a loveless foundation, you net only burnout, because technical mastery absent love always equals burnout. Burnout isn’t the absence of balance but the absence of love.The power of human nature is that each human’s nature is unique. This is a feature, not a bug. So your responsibility is to take seriously the uniqueness of your uniqueness, and design the most intelligent, the most honest, and the most effective ways to volunteer it to the rest of us. We – your teammates, your family, your community, your company – are waiting for you to share with us your unique loves. We’re here for but a few short years. Please don’t make us wait too long.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 2 – People do care which company they work for.

If you care or you don’t care, it may result in a big difference in your work output.

First of all let me say it exactly how it is. Of course this is another big fat lie about work. The general truth is exactly the opposite = People DO NOT care for which company they work for. In fact, people in general don’t give a shit on that.

AUDI, BMW, TOYOTA, MICROSOFT, GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, DAIMLER, TESLA, NASA, APPLE, SAMSUNG, SONY, PANASONIC, LG, INTEL, HONDA, AIRBUS, SIEMENS, BOSCH, DASSAULT SYSTEMS,  EXXON MOBIL, CONTINENTAL, BOEING – just to name some of the most known and hunted companies worldwide  which people want to have a job at. Of course, the list of “wanted companies” is much longer but who cares so much?. Having a job in a place where you work because you “have to”, but not because you “want to”, then you are no different than the slaves from some centuries ago. You are in fact still a slave but a kind of optimized one for the modern times. Therefore most people are wired, they work 9a.m. to 5p.m. all their career. Some literally really die working.

In exceptional cases, it is also true that it may be challenging to work at such companies for a certain goal, but then means you know WHY you do what you do. If you succeed to make money from your job done by passion then yes, you may care a bit of one of those companies. You must have a goal and that goal must be beyond money. Money will surely come after, no doubt. I don’t want to extend it in this post but take the well known example of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. They both had a goal, they both knew WHY they do what they do. And the rest is history; those 2 guys created a huge impact on the human lifestyle on Earth. They both were dedicated and worked for passion. There is now not the case to say how much money did they make. So yes, If you know your WHY then yep, you could care. Unfortunately the majority of people don’t know their WHY.

Find it and work on it.

If I would ask all the people at those companies why do they work there, I am pretty sure that the majority of them won’t be able to give me solid arguments for that.  Most people work purely to have a kind of financial stability and eventually other benefits. That’s all. Nobody cares about the rest.

“We are a family”, “ All for one and one for all” “Together we change the world” “We make the best products for the everyone”, “The … (“company X”)  way”,  and all kind of such combination of slogans are  just empty words. Ooo…Just give me a break… as long as that company whatever that company could be, if it doesn’t have a strong strategy to create such a culture and valuate its people to simply inspire them to work for pleasure first and for money second, that company will not survive long or it will survive based on an continuous staff turnover which is the same boring thing. They will loose money anyway. People just come, they will work for a while and they will leave as soon as new opportunity arises. Companies are exactly like money. They come and go – I mean they have value one day but they can vanish the other day. Look at NOKIA. Do you know what I mean? :-), unfortunately they lost the battle forever. They will never return and compete against Samsung or Apple.

You can only truly care for which company you work for, if that company is entirely or almost entirely yours. Bill Gates cares about Microsoft (at least he did for very long time), Elon Musk cares for Tesla and Space X, Mark Zurckerberg cares for Facebook, Steve Jobs cared about Apple and so on. Of course those people cared, because they were in a good position in the company to do so, additionally they were passioned about it. But as I said, in general people don’t. On the contrary, nowadays it is quite common that people change their jobs at every 3 or 4 years. Some even earlier. So once again why should anybody care about the company they work for?. This the sad or maybe a good conclusion that I can draw during my years on the job market. Let me explain a bit more in details below.

Well… In that case, you could work for a while but you will resign sooner than expected.

From the outside looking in, it’s pretty hard to figure out what it might be like to work for a particular company. If you’re job hunting, you might start by searching online as many of us do – perhaps on Glassdoor.com or on one of the other job boards where employees can rate their current company – even on LinkedIn or Moster.com – or by talking to friends about where they’ve worked and what their experiences were. You might try to talk to a recruiter, although it’s tricky to do that if you’re not yet sure you’re going to apply. You might try to figure it out by reading the coverage of a company in the press, but this can be frustrating, since articles tend to focus more on a company’s products or its strategy, rather than on its culture per se. Wherever you look, you’ll find yourself wondering if what you’re discovering is really representative of the company, and is giving you a good sense of the inside story. In search of more objectivity and breadth, then, you might turn to Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

If you are indeed looking for a job, you read Fortune’s list in search of insights about a given company. And you start asking your self the following:

  • What will your colleagues be like?
  •  How will they treat you?
  •  What will a typical day be like?
  •  Will your work be interesting, challenging, and valued?
  •  Is this a company that really cares for its people?

If you go through the long process of applying, and interviewing, and negotiating an offer, and ultimately landing a job there:

  • Will this be a company that puts as much into you and your career as you’re going to put into it?
  • What, precisely, is this list measuring about these companies?

Read the submissions, the press releases, and Fortune’s own descriptions of the winners, and the word you land on is culture.  

…And at Lunch is already having the VISION

Judging by these considerations, this thing called culture really matters. It is potentially more important than what the company does, how the company does it, how much the employees get paid, or even the company’s current stock price. Culture matters, according to the voluminous literature on the topic, because it has 3 powerful contributions to make.

CONTRIBUTION Nr. 1 = it tells you who you are at work. If you’re at Patagonia, you’d rather be surfing. You work in beautiful Oxnard, California, and your on-boarding consists of a day-long beach party where you are gifted the CEO’s autobiography – Let My People Go Surfing – and where your first meeting takes place around a campfire. If you’re at Goldman Sachs, then never mind the surfing – you’d rather be winning. You wear your bespoke suit every day because you’re a winner. It means something to say that you work for Deloitte, or for Apple, or for Audi, or for Tesla – and this meaning says something about you, something that locates you and differentiates you, that defines your tribe.

CONTRIBUTION Nr. 2 = culture has come to be how we choose to explain success. When Tesla’s stock was on the rise in the early part of 2017, it wasn’t because people were finally getting the electric cars they’ d paid deposits for a year earlier – they weren’t. Rather, it was because Elon Musk had created a culture of cool, a place where you couldn’t even see the cutting edge because it was so far behind you. When Toyota had to recall over six million vehicles, the direct cause was a problem with the shift – lever assembly, but the deeper explanation I arrived at was that it was a problem with their polite yet win-at-all costs culture.

  CONTRIBUTION Nr. 3 = culture is now a watchword for where we want our company to go: almost overnight, a big part of the job description of senior corporate leaders has become to create a specific sort of culture, a culture of “performance” perhaps, or a culture of “feedback” or a culture of “inclusion” or a culture of “innovation”; to shape the direction of the company they lead by infusing it with particular traits that govern how people behave. Beyond explaining the NOW, culture has become our handle on the NEXT.

If you have all that, then you are on the right path.

As a team leader you are going to be told, repeatedly, that you must take stock of all this because you are responsible for embodying your company’s culture, and for building a team that adheres to these cultural norms. You will be asked to select only applicants who fit the culture, to identify high-potentials by whether or not they embody the company culture, to run your meetings in a way that fits the culture, and, at company off-sites, to don the T-shirts and sing the songs.

All of which is fine, right up to the point where you start to wonder what, precisely, you are being held accountable for. Read the Fortune list again and you’ll be struck by the fact that a very small percentage of what’s written about your company is in your job description. Having an on-site day-care facility, giving all employees 20 percent of their time to pursue their own interests, offering large rewards for referring a new hire, and building solar panels on the roof are all admirable initiatives, yet none of them is within your control. They are commitments made by others – the executive committee or the board – and while you may think them worthy, and may indeed be proud that they are something your tribe contributes to the world, you can’t do anything about them. They are off in some other place, far from the day-to-day projects and deadlines, the ongoing actions and interactions, that actually comprise your world of work. When people ask you what it’s “really like” to work at your company, you immediately know you’re going to tell them not about the solar panels and the cafeteria, but about what it’s really like. So you’ll get real, and talk about:

  • how work is parceled out,
  • whether many managers play favorites,
  • how disputes get resolved,
  • whether the real meeting happens only after the formal meeting is over,
  • how people get promoted,
  • how territorial the teams are,
  • how large the power distance is between senior leaders and everyone else,
  • whether good news or bad news travels fastest,
  • how much recognition there is, and
  • whether performance or politics is most prized.

You’ll get down to the two-foot level of how work actually gets done, and try to tease out what your company truly feels like to the people on the ground. You won’t know whether to call this “culture” or not, just as you won’t necessarily know how to label each of these two-foot-level details, but in every fiber of your being you’ll know that this ground-level stuff is what will decide how hard people will work once they’ve joined, and how long they’ll stay. This ground-Level stuff is what THEY truly care about. Indeed, this ground-Level stuff is what YOU truly care about. In which case, your most pressing question, as a team leader, will be something like this:

If I am to help my team give their best, for as long as possible, which of these details are most critical? Tell me the most important ones, and I’ll do my level best to pay attention to those.

Therefore saying that “people do care which company they work for” it’s a lie, it sounds so odd to label it like that, since each of us does indeed feel some sort of connection to our company, but read on, and I think you’ll see that while what each of us truly cares about may begin as “company” it quickly morphs into something else rather different. So far during my professional career I have just noticed and I still keep noticing,  8 aspects of the employee experience that exist disproportionately on the highest-performing teams. These 8 aspects, and exactly these 8 precisely worded items, validly predict sustained team performance:

  1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
  5. My teammates have my back.
  6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
  7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
  8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.

You might notice a few things about these items right away. 1ST = the team members are not directly rating their team leader or their company on anything – they are rating only their own feelings and experiences. This is because people are horribly unreliable raters of other people. When we ask someone to rate someone else on an abstract quality such as “empathy” or “vision” or “strategic thinking”, their responses tell us more about the person doing the rating than the person being rated. To get good data we have to ask people about their own experiences.

2ND = you may also notice that the 8 items fall into two broad groupings. The first is the odd-numbered items:

  • 1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  • 3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  • 5. My teammates have my back.
  • 7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.

These deal with the elements of a “person’s experience” created in their back-and-forth interactions with others on the team-the communal experience of work, if you will. What do we all share, as a team or as a company?  We can think of these as the “Best of We” questions.

The second group comprises the even-numbered items:

  • 2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  • 4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
  • 6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
  • 8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.

These deal instead with the individual experience of work. What is unique about me? What is valuable about me? Do I feel challenged to grow? I can think of these as the “Best of Me” questions.

These two categories of experience – We experiences and Me experiences – are the things we need at work in order to thrive. They are specific; they are reliably measured; they are personal; they reveal a local individual experience intertwined with a local collective experience. They are everyday.  

What I see in the 8 questions above and the 11 skills as shown below is a simple way of measuring experience-at-work, and one that you, the team leader, can do something about.

If you really care and have a motivation to drive people by helping them to grow then you must develop this skills.

What distinguishes the best team leaders from the rest is their ability to meet these two categories of needs for the people on their teams. What we, as team members, want from you, our team leader, is firstly that you make us feel part of something bigger, that you show us how what we are doing together is important and meaningful; and secondly, that you make us feel that you can see us, and connect to us, and care about us, and challenge us, in a way that recognizes who we are as individuals. We ask you to give us this sense of universality – all of us together – and at the same time to recognize our own uniqueness; to magnify what we all share, and to lift up what is special about each of us. When you come to excel as a leader of a team it will be because you’ve successfully integrated the two quite distinct human needs (Me Experience +We Experience)

I now know that these 8 questions measure very precisely those aspects of our experience of work that matter the most-in other words, the aspects that drive performance, voluntary turnover, lost work days, accidents on the job, and customer satisfaction. So, if it is true that in large part people’s experience at work is driven by the company they work for, then when if I  ask these 8 questions to every person in every team at a particular company, I should get, generally, the same responses. There shouldn’t be variation from team to team, because the day-to-day experience of working at this particular company should remain mostly consistent. But that’s not the case- in fact, it’s never the case. The statistical measure of variation is called range, and  these scores always have a greater range within a company than between companies. Experience varies more within a company than between companies. When people choose not to work somewhere, the somewhere isn’t a company, it’s a team.

If I put you in a good team at a bad company, you’ll tend to hang around, but if I put you in a bad team at a good company, you won’t be there for long. The team is the sun, the moon, and the stars of your experience at work. When I push on the data, and examine closely its patterns and variations, I can conclude that: while people might care which company they join, they don’t care which company they work for. The truth is that, once there, people care which team they’re on.

But this is again only if you care.

If the team has the same goal, share the same vision and the team leader creates a culture so that all people working in that team are like a true family – I mean the team members behave one to each other not only as colleagues at work but also real friends in their daily life – then YES. You might care. And such exceptions exist inside those companies which I’ve just mentioned at the beginning of this post. But unfortunately this just a minority. People still quit their jobs from those companies, and they are a lot. But at least one thing remain valuable forever: THE WORK EXPERIENCE at those companies.

There are also a lot of people who after quitting theirs jobs at a company, after a while they return for pursuing another visionary project. But that can also happen everywhere in any company. It doesn’t have to be a famous brand, it’s is enough to be innovative and for sure it will attract people. Few years ago and maybe today too such a company was/is Microsoft, (many people would like to have jobs at Microsoft). But now is Google more wanted than Microsoft, because Google really has a lot of innovative projects and they continue to do innovate even more. So people could care to work there, but this can change rapidly depending on how innovative the company is. Look at Apple vs. Samsung, few years ago Apple dominated the smartphone industry, Samsung was good but not the best. Today Samsung is really one of the best in the world for what they do; from my point of view they already have beaten Apple. So for such company YES, I could care a little bit to work for. But this are just exceptions from the rule. So the general truth is the PEOPLE DON’T GIVE A SHIT ON THE COMPANIES WHICH THEY ARE WORKING FOR. Why???

I will always believe that : Due to unskilled people which hold a leadership position in those companies. INCOMPETENCE IN MANAGEMENT IS THE ROOT CAUSE TO FAIL IN ANY BUSINESS.

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10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 1 – People Have Potential

Everybody does that.

I must admit that after working in industry for some years and seeing how companies work I can perfectly understand why many of them fail in business, some are failing dramatically. Or let’s say they literally go bankrupt. Why ? well… that’s very oblivious for me, I have no doubt that it’s due to huge incompetence in management and very poor sense of leadership. Well incompetence in management = poor sense of leadership in fact I said the same thing twice because this is the only reason not to be successful in business. I want to highlight this. So the first lie about I will talk about here is about “having potential”. Most of the managers judge people like that. But not only the high level managers, but also al kind of job in higher hierarchy  from team leader to CEO. Most of them have this sick judgement by saying: “People have potential” therefore “we must find those with big potential”.  My dear friends in management positions, if you have this mentality you, can very friendly go to hell and never come back. I would never accept to have one of you having this attitude as my manager. Keep reading this post and you’ll see what I mean.

In order to begin let me tell you ”The story of Joe”.

This is the daily life of Joe, as an entrepreneur

“Joe’s an entrepreneurial sort. In the early days of the internet, he founded a pioneering yellow-pages company that integrated directory listings with mapping technology and managed to secure backing from a venture-capital firm. The investors came in and, as is the practice of such firms, evaluated all the existing executives on their potential for guiding the future of the company. Sadly for Joe, they decided that he didn’t have much of it. He had never displayed leadership in his high school or college life, he wasn’t class president or captain of the lacrosse team, and now, looking at his current work and style, they determined that he lacked the potential to set the future vision and to build the right team around him. They demoted him to head programmer, and brought in a professional executive to run the company. Joe didn’t shine in this new role either. He had some software skills, but they were unpredictable, resulting in a mess of spaghetti code that other, more experienced developers had to pull apart and de-tangle. In fact, so messy were his creations that the entire code base of the company’s product had to be rewritten. Everyone agreed that although Joe clearly had drive, he would never become one of the company’s leading software engineers. He just didn’t have enough potential. Becoming increasingly frustrated with his diminished position, and sensing that the investors didn’t see much of a future for him, Joe waited for the company to be acquired and then left to start his own financial services company. Here, he did what he’d always done – worked hard, pushed hard, challenged everything – and his new company grew large enough that an even bigger player swooped in and bought it from him. The leaders of this new company, too, were unimpressed with his potential – or confused by it, or something – so he left once more, this time to see whether he could do interesting work in the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering. The jury is still out on his new ventures, and real profits have yet to show up on the books, but with him at the helm, his companies currently employ hundreds of people and are making truly innovative products. If he hadn’t done what he did, these jobs wouldn’t exist, and neither would the products. And in this sense, Joe is exactly what we want a team leader to be: a person who makes the most of his unique strengths and thereby creates a better future for all of us. Joe’s experience is relevant here because this post is all about the future. Specifically, it’s about your future, and the future of everyone on your team – and about all the Joes out there in teams large and small, who are misunderstood by their companies, mislabeled, mismanaged, and, in the end, missed altogether.”

And there are still many out-there considered the same

Just for a moment, think of all the people on your team. Bring to mind each of their faces and names. Imagine and ask yourself:

  • What they’re working on now?
  • What they thrive at doing?
  • What they struggle with?
  • and what they aspire to?

And now, if you can, answer this: Which one of them has the greatest potential?

Sooner or later in your time as a team leader, you’ll be asked this exact question and told to plot your response on the potential axis of your 9-box grid. And as you ponder your answer, you’ll pretty quickly run into some challenges. You might be quite clear that Jack is doing really well in his job today, but find yourself unsure of whether that means he has potential. And you might be equally certain that Jill is also doing well, but at the same time realize that her job is very different from Jack’s job. If one of them has potential, does the other?

If, as seems to be implied, potential is some sort of universal quality, then:

  • how should you gauge it in two different people doing two different jobs?
  • and what if Jill is in fact struggling in her current role?

You might start to ask yourself whether current performance is the same as future potential or merely a clue to it, or whether, alarmingly, the two are not related at all. Perhaps you’ll think to yourself that Jill might have, hidden somewhere within her, the potential to do really well at something else. You might not ponder this for long, though, because if (like Joe) she seems to lack potential in one role, and then subsequently another, it will be quite hard to convince yourself that she does indeed have potential for an entirely different role. If she’s struggling now, then won’t she struggle wherever she goes?

Even if she isn’t struggling, if she is in fact one of your current high performers, she nonetheless wants to be challenged to grow, so you’ll be forced to start thinking about other jobs on other teams, jobs she might do equally well – or even better. And when she starts asking you about her future – as she surely will – you’ll quickly find yourself peering out into the fog. Since you’re not nearly as familiar with those other jobs on those other teams as you are with those on your own team, how can you truly know if she has the potential to excel elsewhere?

As a good team leader, you have a pretty clear sense of her present performance – what’s in front of you right now – but being asked to weigh her potential requires you to project out into a world you know much less about. This can be quite intimidating, not least because you’re aware that how you weigh Jill’s potential – specifically, how you rate it – will more than likely stick to her for a long time. If you rate her highly, then the received wisdom, passed on to your fellow team leaders, will be that she is now a “high potential,” or “hi-po” and she will carry this quality around with her wherever she goes. She will get more attention from these other team leaders, be given more opportunities, more training, more investment, and if ever her performance falters, more benefit of the doubt.

On the flip side, you realize that if you rate her poorly on potential, she’ll become a proverbial “lo-po,” which will be a tough label to shake off, no matter how hard she tries. Your rating of her on potential, or more accurately, your guess about how much value she will bring to the company in the future, will, in all sorts of real ways, create her future. That’s a lot of responsibility for you to bear.

Then DO IT

Jill, meanwhile, perhaps aware that there’s another talent review in the offing, is wondering whether she’ll make the “hi-po” list. Like you, she isn’t sure what potential is, or what a high potential is. She’s just trying to do good work every day. She knows that potential is dearly a good thing to possess – it comes with all sorts of goodies and perks – but, at heart, what she really wants to know is whether she’s doing well enough in her job right now, and where her career is going next. If your rating of her on potential helps her career, then wonderful – but if it doesn’t, or if being branded a “lo-po” makes getting help with her future less likely, then she’s going to be frustrated. There’s a great deal at stake for her here. At some point, she will ask you what you rated her, and then you’ll somehow have to justify your decision. And this will be super tricky, since, in the back of your mind, you’ll know that you weren’t so very dear what potential was in the first place, nor what dues might point you to it, nor what scale you should have used to rate her on it.

But that’s a worry for later. Right now you’ll look around and see that other team leaders on other teams seem able to announce confidently who has potential on each of their teams, so you’ll put Jill’s inevitable questions out of mind, pull out your 9-box grid, and do your best to do right by her. And her future.

Then simply don’t do it.

Of course, you can’t really blame your company for putting you into this sort of high-pressure situation. Assigning a “potential” rating to each employee is a product of some very good and necessary intentions. Your company is a maximization machine – it wants to make the best use of its finite resources – so it is greatly interested in identifying precisely who to invest in, and how.

The problem with this sterns from the way your company executes on these good intentions. Why, for example, does it assume that it will net a good return only from certain people? Surely, the cliche that “Our people are our greatest asset” applies to all of the people in the company. As we’ve seen, every human brain retains its ability to learn and grow throughout adulthood. For sure, each brain grows at a different speed and in a different way, but this implies only that each person learns differently, not that – categorically – some people do and some don’t. Therefore, the best course of action for any maximization machine worth its salt would be to figure out where and how each brain can grow the most, rather than zeroing in on only a select few brains and casting aside the others. But sadly, somewhere along the line, companies by and large recoiled from this natural diversity, seeing it as simply too varied and too individualized to make sense of, and decided instead that the most pragmatic approach would be to invent a generic quality called “potential” rate every person on it, and then invest most in those who have lots of it, and much less in those who don’t. The lie that people have potential is a product of organization’s desire for control, and their impatience with individual differences. When you think about it for a moment, the notion of a generic quality called “potential” is actually pretty odd. Look around you and you’ll find hundreds of different definitions, but there’s no need to look any further than Harvard Business Review’s very own:

“High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization – more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do”

This seems like an eminently desirable quality. Who wouldn’t want people who “outperform their peer groups,” not just in their current role but “in a variety of settings”; who, in addition to performing with excellence, also “reflect their companies’ culture and values”; and who, all the while, show “a strong capacity to grow”? We all would, of course-high-performing, culture-embodying people blessed with oodles of learning agility and lashings of successitude are the stuff of every team leader’s dreams. And yet, this definition almost immediately rings hollow for you.

First, there’s the feeling that, although you might want such a person in your team, you don’t recognize yourself in the definition. When you think about yourself at your best, you land on specific activities you love, or skills at which you shine-whereas in contrast, this definition appears strangely vague, untethered from any actual work.

And then there’s the part of the description that seems to imply that you can excel anywhere, at virtually anything, “in a variety of settings and circumstances.” Not only is this unlikely, but more to the point, who among us actually aspires to this sort of Jack-of-all-trades-ness? If we were to have this quality it would imply, surely, that we were not unique and distinct, but instead were empty learning vessels, blank slates waiting for our settings and circumstances to define us, adept at learning, but featureless. How depressing.

Everybody have these.

Beyond the disquieting emptiness of this definition, the most damaging inference is that this quality called “potential” is inherent in a person, and that people bring it with them from situation to situation: that no matter what “setting or circumstance” they encounter, those people with lots of it are blessed with a special power enabling them to learn faster, grow more, and achieve more. High potential is the corporate equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket: you take it with you wherever you go, and it grants you powers and access denied to the rest of us. The distinction between traits, which are inherent in a person, and states are changeable in the person. Using this framing, potential is clearly something we think of as a trait – it is inherent in the person, some people have more of it than others, and those who do take it everywhere with them (Although we might question why, if it’s a trait and doesn’t therefore change much, we re-rate people on it every year)

Assuming just for the moment that potential actually is a trait, the first problem we encounter is how to measure it. As we saw earlier, if we want to measure a trait, we can’t ask someone to rate you on it, because it’s impossible for any rater to be either perceptive enough or objective enough to reach into your psyche and assign a number to what they see inside you. And in the case of potential, the measurement challenge is orders of magnitude more difficult, since we are asking the rater to rate you not on a trait displayed in your current behavior but on a projection, a probability that you possess something that might just possibly be displayed in some future situation. It’s flat-out impossible for the rater to do this reliably, so whatever data he produces about you will be the very worst kind of bad data. Yet this data will, as we saw with Jill, create the future. But:

  • Is there even anything here to measure-is potential a thing at all?
  • Do we really think that there exists in people a trait that confers on some lucky few the ability to grow more and learn more regardless of setting or circumstance?
  • That we could throw this hi-po into any situation and his potential would enable him to adapt, and then thrive?
  • That this general potential will act like a turbocharger, and take any inputs from the world of work and boost them into outstanding performance?

If we do think this, then we do so in the complete absence of any evidence. Over the last hundred years we’ve wondered whether there was such a thing as general intelligence – the elusive G factor – and discovered that if it exists, we can’t find it. Sure, we can build a test that reliably measures a thing called IQ, but we don’t actually know much about what IQ is – it doesn’t seem to independently predict educational success, career achievement, health, or happiness.” It’s just a score on a test. The best this test can do, it appears, is tell us that, if your test score is very low, you probably have cognitive impairment and will therefore have difficulty learning. So it works as a predictor of problems but not as a predictor or descriptor of flourishing. Likewise, evidence for the existence of general potential is nonexistent. Instead the evidence points in exactly the opposite direction. We know that each person’s brain grows by adding more synaptic connections, that each person’s synaptic pattern is unique, and that therefore each person’s brain grows uniquely. Therefore we know:

  • a) that the ability to learn exists in us all
  • b) that it shows up differently in each of us, and
  • c) that while we can all get better at anything, none of us will ever be able to rewire our brains to excel at everything. More simply, we can all get better, and we will all get better at different things, in different ways, and at different speed
Everybody has this chance

So there is no such thing as “having potential”. Or rather, there is, but it doesn’t mean anything. Or rather, it doesn’t mean anything beyond being a human. To say that you have potential means simply that you have the capacity to learn, and grow, and get better, like every other human. Unfortunately, this won’t reveal anything about precisely where you can learn, and grow, and get better, or how, or how fast, or under what conditions. Potential, like being human, doesn’t tell us anything about what particular human you are, or what direction would be best for your sort of human in the future. And, of course, if having potential is just being a human, then we can’t rate you on it. We can’t split our company up into hi-po’s and lo-po’s, any more than we can rate you on your human-ness and give the most stuff to those who are most human and the least to those are who least human. This sort of apartheid does terrible things to a company. The careless and unreliable labeling of some folks as hi-po’s and others as lo-po’s is deeply immoral. It explicitly stamps large numbers of people with a “less than” branding, derived not from a measure of current performance but from a rater’s hopelessly unreliable rating of a thing that isn’t a thing. And then this rating of a thing-that-isn’t-a-thing opens doors for some, confers prestige on some, elevates some, blesses some, and sets them up for a brighter future, all while relegating others to a status less than human. How explicitly awful. It is also unproductive. The maximization machine should make the most of every single human within it, not just a rarefied subset.

This notion that some people have lots of potential, while others don’t, leads us to miss the gloriously weird possibilities lying hidden in each and every team member, even the ones who, at first blush, seem to have little to offer the team’s future. If we have in our head a preconceived notion-even, as in the case of the Harvard Business Review definition, a detailed description-of what a hi-po should do, feel like, and act like, then we will cease to be curious about the many possible futures of each idiosyncratic person in our team.

This, certainly, is what happened to Joe’s employers. They had a set idea of what a high-potential CEO should look like, and what a high-potential software engineer should look like, and neither of them looked like Joe. They stopped looking at Joe, became impatient with him, diminished his role, eased him off to the sidelines, and were more than happy when he decided that his most interesting and challenging work lay elsewhere. And that’s a shame for them, because Joe is a pseudonym.

He may be a difficult guy, but he made it.

His real name is Elon. That yellow-pages company was acquired by Compaq for $307 million. The financial-services company, X.com, became better known as PayPal and sold to eBay for $15 billion. At which point you may say, “Yes, but have you seen what he’s done lately?” and reference his fining by the SEC, his joint-puffing on a podcast, and any number of other transgressions that may have occurred from the time of our writing to the time of your reading. And my reply would be, “Yes, but have you seen what he’s done lately?” 🙂 and we’d reference his reinvention of the automobile industry, his re-invigoration of the space industry, and his counter-intuitive alarm-sounding of the dangers of AI. As the New York Times put it immediately after the 2018 SEC action against Musk was concluded, “The Future of Electric Cars Is Brighter with Elon Musk in It.” Yes, he is the spikiest sort of leader, given to impulsive and imperfect actions, but to dismiss his potential is to miss pretty much everything meaningful about him. He may be a handful, and intemperate in his tweeting, but if Elon Musk wasn’t a high potential, then it’s time to admit that the concept serves no purpose.

Yet still you are going to be asked by your company to rate people on their potential, and by your team members to guide them toward ever-more-challenging work. So what on earth do you do? How can you honor your company’s need to get the most from each person, and yet not segregate your team into artificial and demeaning categories, such as hi-po’s and lo-po’s?

In the world of physics, there’s a name for the discrete, measurable, definable, and directional thing that is produced when mass and velocity combine. It’s called momentum. In the world of teams and team members, the same applies. By keeping these two ideas about someone – mass and velocity separate,and by using momentum to describe their combination, we suddenly enable you, the team leader, to do all manner of useful things to help your team members.

First, you reject the apartheid of potential, where everyone is separated into hi-po and lo-po. “Do you or don’t you have potential?” is a question that exists to serve the (well-meaning but misguided) company. But it’s not helpful to you as a team leader, and it’s completely uninteresting and unhelpful to your team members. Because they know it’s not a matter of whether they can learn and grow, but how, and how efficiently, and in what direction. Only certain people have “potential”; everyone has momentum. One team member’s might be more powerful than another’s, or speedier than another’s, or pointed in a different direction, but everyone has some. The question isn’t whether you inherently possess a lot of it or not. Instead, when it comes to momentum, the question is how much of it you have at this very moment, right now.

Second, you convey to them something real: namely, that the speed and trajectory of their momentum at this very moment are

  • a) knowable
  • b) changeable
  • c) within her control.

When you talk to your team member (let’s call him Jeff) about his momentum, you help him to understand where he is at this moment in time, not so that he can be catalogued and categorized and put into one box instead of another, but so that he can understand what paths are possible next. His career is moving on a particular trajectory at a particular speed, and he – with your help – can take the measure of his accomplishments, his loves and loathes, his skills and knowledge, and see where he can accelerate, or shift the path slightly, or even attempt a great leap. Where potential is assumed to be a fixed, inherent quality – he’s a hi-po or a lo-po – momentum is, by definition, always in a state of change. And if Jeff wants to speed it up, or alter its direction, he can.

Third, you help him identify which parts of his current career are a function of who he is as a person-parts he will therefore likely bring with him, situation to situation-and which parts are entirely situation-dependent, and which he could change if he so chose. Given how dose we all are to our own performance, and given that we are sometimes misguided in our career desires, this kind of subtle and specific insight could very well prevent his from making an ill-advised career move. Finally, understanding Jeff’s career in terms of momentum doesn’t just benefit him. It frees you, as his team leader, from the awful burden of having to determine him entire future based on a fiction.

It’s not true – or, indeed, useful – to think that people have potential. Instead, the truth is that people have momentum. Potential is a one-sided evaluation. Momentum is an ongoing conversation. In a world of “potential,” it’s hard to imagine what, exactly, a career conversation looks like once your employee has been shunted off into the lo-po dungeon. Momentum, on the other hand, represents the opposite of “up-or-out” thinking. And it’s the best concept to address one of the key survey items that measure engagement and performance: “In my work, I am always challenged to grow.” Potential doesn’t do that – it doesn’t challenge you to grow. It tells you that you either will, or you won’t. Addressing their potential makes people feel like they’ve been dealt with. Addressing their momentum makes them feel understood. More important, it helps them understand themselves, by encouraging them to consider where they are, right now-not as a point of stasis, but as a unique human being moving purposefully through the world.

This is what every team leader must do.

Our people tools and processes can never compensate for bad team leaders. We like to think so-we figure that, even if your team leader is ignoring you, at least your crowd-sourced feedback will tell you how you’re doing; or that, even if your team leader never asks about your career, at least the talent review will give you something to go on.

Just take action and see what are you made of.

But aside from the flaws that we’ve already seen with these and other common approaches, any large-scale system can never hope to replicate the very particular and specific attention that a team leader can offer. Again, teams are where we live, and team leaders can make or break that experience for us. And rather than investing in systems and processes to provide a fallback in case our managers are found wanting, it’s far better to invest in helping our team leaders do what we need them to, by:

  1. ) getting rid of ratings of “potential,”
  2. ) teaching team leaders what we know about human growth, and
  3. ) prompting them to discuss careers with their people in terms of momentum-in terms of who each team member is, and in terms of how fast each is moving through the world.

This is harder, of course, than buying the latest piece of enterprise software and then imploring our people to use it, but it’s the right hard thing to do. This is what I also do and I will always do it.

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WAAROM IS JOU BAAS MEESTAL EEN IDIOT? [DEEL 2]

Het verschill is als tussen zwart en wit

Dit gebeurt meestal wanneer je baas uit een andere cultuur komt dan jouwe en duidelijk hij denkt dat wat in zijn land van herkomst werkt, werk ook in het nieuwe land waar hij verhuisd is. Daarnaast gebeurt ook wanneer je baas geen internationale leidende ervaring heeft en natuurlijk hij spreekt niet de taal van jouw land. Dit is precies het geval voor een expat-baas. Zoals heb ik al gesproken in een van mijn vorige berichten. In dit geval hij is volkomen nutteloos.

Dus, hoe varieert leiderschap tussen culturen? Hoewel alle culturen – inclusief kleine en middelgrote bedrijven, Fortune 100 bedrijven en naties – worden beter gediend door leiders met meer in plaats van minder integriteit, competentie en mensenvaardigheden. Op een meer gedetailleerd niveau, sommige verschillen in leiderschapsstijl zullen iemand ook effectiever maken als leider. Het klassieke kader om deze stilistische verschillen te begrijpen, is het cultuurmodel van sociaal psycholoog Geert Hofstede. Dit model identificeerde vier belangrijke aspecten van culturele verschillen in werkgerelateerd gedrag, waaronder leiderschap. Deze aspecten zijn :

  • DOMINACIE
  • SPONTANITEIT
  • INDIVIDUALISME
  • RANG

Laten we ze een voor een nemen.

DOMINACIE

Volg gewoon de bestelling

Culturen verschillen in hun mate van dominantie met dominante culturen die assertieve, overmoedige en autoritaire leiders omhelzen. Zoals we zouden verwachten deze dimensie van cultuur wordt geassocieerd met sterkere voorkeuren voor mannelijke leiders en meer weerstand tegen vrouwelijke leiders. Bovendien, hoog-dominante culturen zullen minder ontvankelijk zijn voor mannelijke leiders die zich op een meer consultatieve, koesterende, empathische manier gedragen met duidelijke implicaties voor genderdiversiteit. Dominante culturen zullen er geen probleem mee hebben alleen door mannen geleid te worden en verwachten dat die mannen zich stereotype mannelijk gedragen. Voorbeelden van nationale culturen met een hoge dominantie zijn onder meer Mexico, Japan en Nigeria. Landen met een lage dominantie zijn Zweden, IJsland en Noorwegen. Industriesectoren die worden gekenmerkt door dominante culturen zijn onder meer bankieren, wet, het leger, terwijl de industrieën met een lage dominantie omvatten onderwijs publieke relaties en nonprofits.

SPONTANITEIT

Doe het gewoon

Culturen verschillen ook in hun niveau van comfort met spontaniteit en improvisatie. Spontane culturen omhelzen onzekerheid. Ze hoeven niet alles te plannen en ze kunnen functioneren zonder een duidelijke set regels of goed gedefinieerde processen. Om in deze culturen te slagen, moeten leiders zeer aanpasbare en bekwame improvisatoren zijn. In tegenstelling, culturen zonder spontaniteit zullen daarentegen regelgebonden zijn en een duidelijke set regels opleggen aan zowel werknemers als leiders, die de neiging hebben onzekerheid en ongemak te ervaren wanneer dit nodig is om onafhankelijk beslissingen te nemen. Voorbeelden van spontane nationale culturen zijn Argentinië en Brazilië. Landen met meer voorzichtige culturen zijn Singapore en Japan. Over het algemeen zullen culturen met een hoge spontaniteit mannelijke leiders bevoordelen, omdat mannen minder consciëntieus, georganiseerd en risicomijdend dan vrouwen zijn.

INDIVIDUALISME

Ik neem alles.

Zoals de alledaagse betekenis van het woord aangeeft individualistische culturen belonen onafhankelijke acties en hebben de neiging om de prestaties van individuen te vieren in plaats van teams. In dergelijke culturen zullen de grenzen tussen in-groepen en uit-groepen relatief los zijn en leiders zullen worden geprezen om hun non-conformiteit en originaliteit. Opvallen, een wenselijk doel voor zowel werknemers als leiders is over het algemeen een nadeel voor groepsactiviteit. Zoals we zouden verwachten, mensen streven vaker naar leiderschap in individualistische culturen, omdat leiderschap op zichzelf wordt beschouwd als een manier om zich te onderscheiden van de menigte. Omgekeerd collectivistische culturen richten zich op team in plaats van individuele prestaties en hebben sterkere voorkeuren voor leiders die ingehouden en bescheiden zijn. leaders in individualistic. Leiders in individualistisch culturen krijgen meer ruimte om beslissingen met één hand te nemen en hebben procedurele macht terwijl collectivistische culturen zullen genieten van consensuele en democratische besluitvorming. Voorbeelden van individualistische landen zijn de Verenigde Staten, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en Australia; Collectivistische landen zijn onder meer China, Zuid-Korea en Indonesië. Individualisme is een prominent cultureel principe in het bankwezen en de academische wereld terwijl collectivisme vaker voorkomt in het leger en in de beroepspraktijksport – In het algemeen zullen individualistische culturen ten goede komen aan mannelijke leiders, omdat vrouwen over het algemeen meer teamgericht  en collectivistisch zijn, zowel als werknemers als als leiders.

RANG

Inderdaad, je bent ”The ONE and ONLY”

Culturen verschillen ook in hun acceptatie van rang. In het bijzonder, rang-gerichte culturen beschouwen grote machtsverschillen tussen individuen als natuurlijk en accepteer dat bepaalde mensen altijd beter af zullen zijn dan anderen. Wanneer leiders in dergelijke culturen opduiken, ze zullen meer privileges en autoriteit krijgen. In dergelijke culturen, sociale en economische ongelijkheden zullen groter zijn en ondergeschikten zullen dat doen eerder een leider accepteren op basis van zijn of haar sociale status dan op talenten. Op dezelfde manier ondergeschikten in dergelijke culturen aarzelen over het algemeen om hun leiders te bekritiseren, dus de leiders zullen zelden profiteren van opwaartse feedback of opbouwende kritiek van degenen die aan hen rapporteren.In tegenstelling , culturen met een lage rangoriëntatie zullen egalitair en meritocratischer zijn. Ze zullen meer bereid zijn om genderdiversiteit te accepteren en leiders – misschien zelfs te kiezen – van buitenaf te tolereren de status quo. Voorbeelden van status-accepterende nationale culturen zijn China, Indië en Nigeria. Landen die natuurlijke rangverschillen verwerpen, zijn onder meer  Nederland, Duitsland (hier ben ik niet zeker van) en Denemarken. Hoge rangsectoren omvatten het leger, overheidsdiensten en gezondheidszorg en industrieën met een lage status omvatten media, inclusief entertainment en de tech startup wereld. Omdat culturen met een hoge status de neiging hebben om traditie en de status quo te omhelzen, het zal over het algemeen moeilijker zijn voor vrouwen om leiders te worden in dergelijke culturen.

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Tenslotte, als organisaties de formule voor effectief leiderschap op het meest gedetailleerde niveau willen kraken, ze kunnen veilig de bredere categorieën van cultuur, zoals land, sector en zelfs bedrijfspraktijken, negeren en h