Operation: Employee Engagement - Just because your employees are physically present doesn’t mean they’re engaged. Here’s how to get them there, and increase productivity while you’re at it.
The Opposite of Why? Is Now - Some people seem to think that asking “why?” is always a stall, an act of resistance. So I love Seth’s note at the end of this post, validating that an impetuous order to action is best met with, “why?”
Diversity in the Workplace - Explains how a lack of diversity on a team results in that team making poor decisions with greater confidence (yikes). Some very solid reasons why homogenous teams are inefficient (not that we needed further proof that diversity is crucial.)
Umbrella vs. funnel
A few months ago, I attended a corporate management training session with colleagues from all over North America. The actual curriculum for the daytime sessions was incredibly valuable, but the informal discussions over dinner and evening drinks was just as thought-provoking.
At dinner on the first night, a group of us discussed our leadership philosophies and lessons that we’d learned from past mentors and managers. One guy said that he’d been taught that in every situation, “managers should either be a shit umbrella or a shit funnel for their teams.”
I love this. I think about it often and apply it to all the various situations I find myself and my team in, and the concept always works. No matter what comes up, either I’m fending off a shitstorm and doing my best to protect my team from unnecessary stress, or I’m funneling the shit to the right people to make sure it gets properly taken care of.
If you don’t do this right, eventually you and your team will get covered in shit. No one wants that.
To do list
Some useful things to do instead of feeling sad/angry/apathetic:
- go for a run
- buy a weird fruit at the grocery store and figure out how to eat it
- do 10 pushups
- try a new recipe
- listen to Jonathan Schwartz
- pet your cat/dog/hamster/fish
- walk through a flea market
- write a letter to your Grandma
- pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. yeah, that one.
- find a new bar in your neighborhood and drink a beer you’ve never heard of
- move your furniture around
- write a blog post
This list could have nearly anything on it, because nearly anything is more useful than feeling sad, angry, and/or apathetic.
February 28, 2014 at 10:50pm
Teaching Kids to Quit - The difference between giving up in the face of adversity and understanding when something is no longer beneficial to pursue. It may seem logical not to let kids quit easily, but it can be the right choice.
Why Defensiveness is Your Worst Offense - It’s easy to react negatively to criticism (constructive or otherwise) but this is a terrible response! If you give people a hard time when they point out an issue, they’ll stop trying. And then how do you know when you’re screwing up?
Not Born With It? You Can Still Become A Great Leader - Even if you think you were “born with it”, this is still important advice for every leader to act on. When things get busy it can be easy to forget the basics of good leadership. Keep this list in mind and you’ll remember.
Firms are more innovative and successful when people trust their leaders and colleagues, believes Professor Joel Peterson. Building a high-trust culture starts with integrity: http://stnfd.biz/svh6v
This series is spot on. The importance of high trust and clear communication at work cannot be overstated. Do yourself a favor and check this out.
Cutting back on expenses
I’m not a software engineer, but I work with them pretty frequently. One of the typical phrases when discussing how to create a new script or generate a specific data set is the “expense” of running the process against system resources. If the query needs to manipulate huge amounts of data and will divert resources from other critical processes by running for hours or days, that’s considered overly expensive. Either efforts are made to optimize the process to increase efficiency, or the project may be abandoned altogether if it’s not worth the trouble.
Lately I’ve been thinking about personal relationships in these terms. Some people are not terribly costly to your emotional resources; friends and loved ones can often create energy rather than deplete it. These are break-even or “profitable” relationships, and they help instead of hurt. But interacting with some people can be incredibly expensive, if they use up a lot of your emotional resources to the detriment of your mental and physical health.
Perhaps you have a few expensive relationships that need to be optimized. Maybe one or two that need to be abandoned. But it’s worth it to save more resources for the critical people who supply you with inspiration, knowledge, joy, etc.
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.
— Simon Sinek (via minx-bone)
(Source: psych-facts, via gradnessmadness)
February 17, 2014 at 8:04pm
Show your team that you value them
I came across this HBR article the other day and wanted to share it immediately. To summarize, the author used social media to survey people about what they wish their bosses would stop doing (quite the question!). One of the common answers was along the lines of “Stop worrying about upsetting me, just tell me the truth.” Yes!
I’ve managed a few teams of people through a lot of changes over the years, and invariably I’m asked by someone a few levels above me, “What will person A do when they find out that person B has been chosen to lead this project?” or “How will the other interns react when they find out that we’re hiring person X as a full time employee?” I always respond with some variation of “Well, we’re all adults. I’m sure everyone will handle it just fine.”
The truth is that I really am sure everyone will handle it well, whatever the situation. How do I know? Because I make sure to always do the following:
- Only hire adults. (This is more about maturity than age)
- Be as transparent as possible about why decisions get made they way they do.
- Be available to answer questions about the situation and be honest when answering.
- Always work in your team’s best interests and show that you value them every day. When challenging situations come up, they’ll trust that you have their back in the long run even if they’re disappointed in the short term.
This is true even in the most difficult situations. If you’ve earned your team’s trust and can fully explain the rationale behind your decision, they will act like adults and accept it.
If you’re not sure that your team will be fine, re-evaluate the decision. Or re-evaluate your relationship with them.
February 15, 2014 at 8:39pm
What do women really look like?
A few days ago, Sheryl Sandberg’s organization Lean In and Getty Images announced a collaborative effort to represent women more accurately in stock photos. Less objectification, more empowerment. Sounds good to me, but…
I tend to be a bit of a skeptic when I hear about initiatives like this. I’m all for gender equality and I firmly believe that women are overly sexualized and lack necessary support in professional environments (and other settings). This should change. But can swapping out a few stock images actually have an impact?
Then I looked at some of the offending "businesswoman" images. And I was actually offended! Women crawling around on the floor in business suits, women conspicuously lacking certain undergarments, all wearing stilettos and short skirts. Is this the image that comes to mind when people think of women at work?
The new, Lean In-approved images were surprisingly awesome (see them here). Women engaging in manual labor, women multitasking by working and caring for children (while wearing normal clothing), girls dressed in sports uniforms, women leading meetings, women actually working out (rather than looking cute on an elliptical). I got a little emotional, looking at all of these awesome photos and realizing that they were abnormal when compared to currently available images of women at work.
So cynicism be damned, this partnership rules. Looking forward to seeing these images getting lots of use!
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
— Mother Teresa (via jessicadfain)