Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sabotage in Today's Workplace May Begin With You

When we think of "sabotage" we may envision stealthy bad people trying to take down an organization. We may think of malware inserted into a company's system, or someone tinkering with machinery so that it will break down and disrupt operations.

But a new book, "Simple Sabotage" points out that it's often the simplest acts -- that many of us do every day -- that can undermine a workplace.

Authors Robert M. Galford, Bob Frische and Cary Greene use unclassified World War II documents from the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA) to reveal how European resistance movement members were advised how they could muck up the internal works of an organization.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit shortcuts to speed up decision-making.
  • Make speeches. Lots of speeches. Let loose your inner motormouth and gab at length whenever you can. Tell lots of stories, personal anecdotes, etc.
  • Bring up irrelevant topics as much as possible.
  • Nitpick and haggle over precise wording of communications, meeting minutes and resolutions.
  • In a meeting, attempt to reopen old issues and question their viability.
  • Push for caution. Urge colleagues to be "reasonable" and avoid doing anything too quickly or possibly face  embarrassments or hassles in the future.
  • Question whether any decision may not be within the group's jurisdiction and may conflict with policy of senior leaders.
You're probably very familiar with such behaviors at work, and can even identify those who do them most often. The authors point out that while such actions may seem innocent on the surface, they can cause real harm if left unchecked. They offer solutions such as remembering to clarify goals continually to keep people on topic, and curtailing people who haggle so much they derail progress.

But the real question you may need to ask yourself is this: Are you the one guilty of such sabotage?

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Thrive in the Data Onslaught

If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by data, the statistics back you up: If you downloaded a year’s worth of Internet traffic to CDs, the stack of discs would reach 2.5 million miles high.
That’s why data may be seen as a curse by team members who feel they’re about to be crushed by this data tsunami – while others are giddy at the potential it offers.
So, the key question remains: How to turn data into a blessing instead of a curse for any business?
Christopher Surdak, a Big Data expert and technology evangelist for Hewlett Packard, unveils some of the answers in “Data Crush: How the Information Tidal Wave is Driving New Business Opportunities.”
His first piece of advice: Learn to be more selective with the data you keep.
“If you don’t you will lose focus and get lost,” he says. “You need to be able to look at just the data you need, analyze it and learn from it.”
Next, make sure you’re not jumping on “the bright, new shiny object” and spending $5 million on data or software you don’t need or won’t be able to use. The only thing you’ll achieve from that will be regret that will feel like the worst hangover you ever had.
Surdak says there are six steps that any business can take to help it survive – and thrive – under the challenging new conditions presented by an unprecedented amount of data. They are:
  1. Polarize.  Any organization must determine its core business strategy. For example if you’re a commodity business, then focus your data efforts on demand prediction and customer logistics. On the other hand, if you’re a value delivery organization, then zero in on demand generation using social media data. Organizations who expect to do things the same way and get different results are suffering from what Surdak calls “strategic dementia.”
  2. Accelerate. “Too many companies spend time on digital self-flagellation. They run all these reports telling them how badly they’ve done. Who cares? By that time trying to do anything about it will be too late,” he says. Instead, he urges organizations to take action “at the speed of insight,” by responding immediately  to customer needs or desires. If not, “you will become irrelevant,” he says. For example, any business process that touches a customer should cut the cycle time of that process in (read more here)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why Your Presentations Suck -- and How to Make Them Much Better

Michael Baldwin says we’ve been in a “downward spiral” since the first “spectacular” presentations were made with cave drawings 32,000 years ago.
Since then, we’ve been subjected to boring slides cluttered with too much information and confusing or irrelevant graphics delivered by someone who is clueless as to why the audience appears to be sleeping with their eyes open.
Now Baldwin, a former executive with Ogilvy & Mather New York and winner of numerous copywriting awards, is providing a blueprint of how even the most technical or complicated information can be delivered so it grabs an audience’s attention –and boosts the presenter’s career.
“When you’ve got a lot of data or information to present, don’t feed it to the audience with a firehose. You have to allow them to get their head around things,” he says.

That means you can’t cram information on a slide and then just read it to the audience. The slide is supposed to enhance the presentation, which means you shouldn’t use boring stock photos or charts that fail to convey a message clearly and quickly, he says.
In his new book, “Just Add Water,” Baldwin gives suggestions on how to provide more simple, compelling presentations.
The key, he says, is to start with what you’re going to do to drive your audience from point “A” to point “B.” That means you’ve got to look at things from the audience’s perspective and then determine where you want to take them.
It all begins with what he calls a “crystal clear objective,” such as convincing the CIO that putting citizen development into play will help IT cut its application backlog, or your boss that your department deserves new equipment.
To accomplish that, you need to focus on:
  1. A story.  As a presenter, you may get anxious when it comes to making a presentation. But Baldwin says that by sharing the things you’re passionate about, you can eliminate nervousness and help make a strong connection to the audience. “Stories have the power to plant situations, scenes, characters and images in people’s minds that they’ll never forget,” he says. If you don’t have a personal story that applies to your presentation, Baldwin suggests talking about subjects that you’re passionate about.  (One of Baldwin’s clients, a World War II history buff, used a battle story to illustrate a point.)
  2. Ensuring the logic flows. Slides must flow logically from one to the next, each building upon the one before it. Baldwin suggests beginning with index cards, and until that’s done, “don’t go anywhere near a computer” and try (read the rest here)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Research Proves Your Reputation Matters with New Colleagues

If your grandmother always told you that your reputation matters a great deal in this world, she wasn't just offering some old-fashioned advice that doesn't matter anymore.

According to a new study by Stanford GSB professor Adina D. Sterling, it appears that if you start a new job with well-regarded qualifications and credentials, then your ability to form a network within that organization is going to be high. Further, you'll build an even stronger network if you've got someone inside the new organization who knows you and is singing your praises.

This contact who is willing to vouch for you is very important, as the study finds that his or her endorsement can sway others even if you don't have a lauded reputation coming into the new company.

Still, the study found that if you have have poor work reputation, no inside endorsement is going to do you much good. Further, the contact you know at a company may even try to dodge much interaction with you since they don't want to tarnish their reputation by helping you.

When you're really going to face an uphill battle at a new company is when you not only don't have a reputation coming into a new job -- but you also don't know anyone within the new company that can speak for your talents, the study finds.

The research suggests that the old saying “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” isn’t always true, Sterling says. “There are real times when it matters how good you are and whether people know it,” she says.

The moral of the story is this: Your professional reputation and network always matter. That's why you need to:

  • Keep your LinkedIn profile current. Don't let a week go by that you haven't posted a comment in a group discussion, or refined your profile to showcase new talents or even highlight volunteer activities.
  • Post helpful content online. Through your own blog, through Facebook or even through Twitter, post content that others in your professional world will find valuable.Answer questions when you can from others in your industry, or direct contacts to helpful sources.
  • Grow your skills. No matter where you are in your career, always challenge yourself. If you continue to self-educate, your reputation for learning and self-improvement will help alleviate any missteps you make along the way.
  • Work on relationships. Social media is a great way to make initial contact with others, but you have to reach out through phone calls, emails or face-to-face meetings to take a relationship to the next level. If you want others to vouch for you, you're going to have to invest time in the relationship.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to Spur Employees Into Being More Loyal and Productive

You might remember a time when you knew not only the names of everyone in your department or company, but details about their likes and and dislikes. You knew who hated coffee, who played in a jazz band and who was training for a marathon.
Nowadays, however, you’re lucky to remember an employee’s last name. Your department or company is growing and that means there are a lot more people on the payroll. You don’t have time to sit around chit-chatting with every employee, and why should you? Isn’t your time better spent ensuring the business is successful so they all have jobs?
The problem is that as you grow more distant, so do your workers. They begin to feel like you don’t care about them, so why should they care about you or the company? That soon leads to productivity slowing, competitiveness dwindling – and employees leaving.
“In order to get loyalty, you must give it,” says Dov Baron, a leadership expert and author of “Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.” “The biggest mistake companies make is not understanding that.”
Current statistics show that employees are now changing careers every four years and the average millennial worker is staying put only 1.2 to 2.4 years. Baron says that when leaders can show more loyalty to their workers, employees are more likely to stay around for up to eight years. Since it can cost up to two times what a departing employee earns annually to replace him or her, it can add up to significant savings if employees stick around longer.
Baron says it’s possible to develop “fiercely loyal” teams that are more productive and competitive when scaling a business, but first it begins with dispelling the notion that a paycheck or bonuses are enough to keep workers loyal and focused on helping you grow the business. That loyalty, he emphasizes, comes from showing they’re more than a commodity that can be gotten rid of just as easily as tossing out the garbage.
Of course, many start-ups and even large companies argue they would never do such a thing, and claim they value every worker. They may hang posters on the workplace walls, proclaiming the company’s culture is focused on breaking down silos and valuing input from everyone. The truth, however, is that the leadership doesn’t really follow through, so silos still exist. It’s no surprise, Baron says, that employees aren’t loyal, get frustrated and leave.
If you’re starting to see greater turnover – and realize that in scaling the business you’ve lost touch with who employees really are – then it’s time to make some changes. While it may seem overwhelming to add one more thing to your “to do” list, Baron says it’s not that difficult to get started. For example, if you want to make a change this week, here’s what you need to do:
  1. Sit down. That’s right – take a load off. Disconnect from whatever devices are nearby and instead just connect with yourself. Why are you in the business? Why are you a leader? Why does this job or this company matter to you? This is where you think deeply about the real purpose behind why you do what you do.
  2. Think about challenges. What obstacles (read more here)

Monday, September 21, 2015

10 Ways to Improve Interpersonal Communications at Work

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about how we all need to take more responsibility for writing better emails.

Now I think it's time to look at a more difficult problem -- interpersonal communications. You know, when two or more human beings actually talk to one another?

In his book, "The 27 Challenges Managers Face," author Bruce Tulgan gives a "code of conduct" that sets a standard for interpersonal communications.

If you do nothing else today, print this out and post it on your office wall, and get others to do the same.

Here's what we all need to do:

1. Listen twice as much as you talk.

2. Never interrupt  or let your mind wander when others are speaking. When it's your turn, ask open-ended questions first and then increasingly focused questions to show you understand what the other person has said.

3. Empathize. Always try to imagine yourself in the other person's position.

4. Exhibit respect, kindness, courtesy and good manners.

5. Always prepare in advance so you are brief, direct and clear.

6. Before trumpeting a problem, try to think of at least one potential solution.

7. Take personal responsibility for everything you say and do.

8. Don't make excuses when you make a mistake; just apologize and make every effort to fix it.

9. Don't take yourself too seriously, but always take your commitments and responsibilities seriously.

10. Always give people credit for their achievements, no matter how small.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are You Offering Too Much -- or Too Little -- Praise to Your Team?

There has been a lot written about the Millennial generation that grew up hearing “good job!” for nearly every achievement in their lives, whether it was coloring within the lines or winning a Nobel prize.
The result is that many of us pepper our speech with “good job!” at work, feeling that as a leader we must continually offer affirmation to everyone we see in a day. While we may believe that this is much better than being stingy with praise, the result is often the same: Workers are not motivated.
The key, experts say, is thinking about how and when is the best time to give praise. Time it right, they say, and you’ll reap the rewards of a more productive and engaged workforce. Do it wrong, and you could eventually drive team members into looking for another job.
Specifically, research results from more than 200,000 participants used in “The Carrot Principle” found that managers who were seen as giving effective recognition had lower turnover, achieved better organizational results and were seen as stronger in goal setting and accountability. Further, employees who worked for managers they believed gave them the proper recognition had better morale than those who didn’t give their managers such high marks.
Dale Carnegie Training suggests that the praise must be genuine in order to be effective. As a leader you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really worth making a big deal out of someone simply completing a task — or is offering praise simply a way for you to tick it off your to-do list?
At the same time, offering praise that is too generalized can backfire, and may even seem insulting to the employee because you don’t seem to truly notice what he does. Avoid saying “good job” in passing and instead offer something like, “Thank you for helping us out; you were a major factor in the success of this ______,” the training center suggests.
In “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” authors Gary Chapman and Paul White say there are different ways that people feel appreciated, such as:
  • Words of affirmation. Employees who value such words feel on top of the world when they are verbally praised for an achievement or accomplishment. “The more you can ‘catch’ a staff person doing a task in the way you want and you call attention to that specific task or behavior, the more likely that behavior is going to occur again,” the authors write. They also explain that you can focus on positive personality traits that will help such workers play to their strengths. “One of the things I admire about you is that you’re always optimistic,” is a way to show appreciation to an employee.
  • Quality time. These employees feel the most appreciated when you stop by and say, “Tell me how things are going.” While some managers (read more here)