Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Best Work With International Colleagues

When Erin Meyer visited Tokyo with a Japanese colleague shortly after her book, “The Culture Map” was published, she agreed to speak to about 20 Japanese managers. After her presentation, she asked if there were any questions or comments. “No hands went up, so I went to sit down,” she recalls. 

But then her Japanese colleague whispered to her that he believed there were some comments. Would it be OK if he tried to solicit some feedback?
Meyer agreed. The colleague made the attempt, but the group remained silent. Then, he made eye contact with someone and asked, “Do you have something to add?”
“To my amazement, she responded, ‘Yes, thank you,’ and asked me a very interesting question. I was dumbfounded,” Meyer says. “How did he know that she had something she wanted to say?”
The process was repeated several times, and more people lent their voices to the discussion. After the session, Meyer asked her colleague how he knew people wanted to ask questions when they were so silent in the beginning. His response? “It has to do with how bright their eyes are.”
“I thought: That’s not something I ever would have learned from my upbringing in Minnesota,” Meyer says.
Meyer says she learned that in Japan, people don’t make as much direct eye contact. So, when they do it means that they want to be called upon. When she returned to her classroom at INSEAD where she teaches executive courses, “I felt both embarrassed and (read more here)

Photo credit: Gi2C

Monday, May 25, 2015

What are You Doing to Help Vets?

Most of us on this Memorial Day today are enjoying time with family and friends, but we should also take time to remember those who have lost their lives defending this country -- and the military personnel and their families who sacrifice so much every day.

One of the biggest problems for veterans these days is finding a job in the private sector once they retire from the military. For example, many vets find that it's difficult to translate their military training and experience into language that civilian employers can understand.

Another issue is that uneducated civilian employers may believe that vets all have PTSD, and will be risky hires. Not true. Not everyone suffers from PTSD, and some have very mild forms that allow them to still be very productive.

Recently I was sent a survey by WalletHub that showed the best and worst states for military vets, based on job opportunities to the number of VA health facilities.

The best? Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. The worst? Oregon, Illinois and Connecticut.

The survey also found the the number of homeless vets per 100 inhabitants is two times higher in Alaska than in New York.

But this isn't just a problem for those states. We all have to work harder to make sure those who have served this country so faithfully are recruited into the civilian workforce when they come home, that they receive the training they need and that they also get the support they deserve.

Here's something I'd like you to think about today as you enjoy your time off: What is one thing you could do to help a military veteran get a job?

Think about:

  •  Introducing a veteran to your hiring manager.
  •  Volunteering to help train a veteran in the latest skills needed at your company.
  •  Finding a veteran in your company and asking him/her to help educate others about the skills veterans can bring to any organization.
  •  Reaching out to a veteran's organization and offering to help write resumes, make contacts, etc.
None of these is difficult, but you may simply believe that you don't have the time. Still, I'll bet if you gave up Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even funny goat videos for  few days -- you would find you have just the right amount of time to make a few phone calls or reach out to a vet.

I would also bet that such an effort would be a lot more rewarding than watching another fainting goat.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Kill Collaboration

Collaboration is an important buzzword around the workplace today, but David Strom’s observation several years ago that there is a belief that “sharing is still for sissies” can still ring true today. 
Strom noted that until that attitude changes, “the headphones will stay firmly stuck in our ears, blocking out the rest of the world around us,” he wrote.
While companies often tout their collaborative culture and employees cite their “collaborative” style during annual performance reviews, the difficult truth is that not only has collaboration failed to thrive in many organizations – it’s a downright disaster.
Here are some of the biggest goofs that upend collaborative efforts:
  1. Creating teams just because. Nearly 60 years of research shows that individuals are really much more creative than teams, finds Leigh Thompson, the J. Jay Gerber Professor of Management and Dispute Resolution at the Kellogg School. If one person really does have the skills and knowledge to complete a project, then don’t form a team to do what one person can do better. “Please don’t create a team just for the sake of creating a team,” she says. “People hate that.”
  2. Costs are ignored. Organizations get so caught up in the idea of collaboration they don’t take the time to think about whether it makes bottom-line business sense. Is the process going to be automated so that participants aren’t duplicating efforts, adding unnecessary meetings or working with outdated data? As Morten T. Hansen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley notes: “Cross-company collaboration typically means traveling more, coordinating work, and haggling over objectives and the sharing of information. The resulting tension that can develop between parties often creates significant costs: delays in getting to market, budget overruns, lower quality, limited cost savings, lost sales, and damaged customer relationships.”
  3. Not everyone is on the same page. There is often plenty of eye rolling when it’s discovered a team member is avoiding a collaborative process because he or she is uncomfortable with the technology being used, or doesn’t really understand a platform. That can lead to such awkwardness among team members it can bog down (read more here)

Monday, May 18, 2015

3 Things That Can Change Your Life

Are you your best self every day?

While that may sound like a question posed by Oprah, a new book by Tom Rath -- the author of the mega-selling "StrengthsFinder 2.0" -- points out that many people pursue happiness instead of creating meaning. He believes you need to start rethinking your daily interactions with the people who matter most, and put your own health first in order to be your best every day.

In  "Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life," Rath says:

  • Money doesn't equal happiness. People feel more positive when they are making a difference to other people, feel rested and are fully charged. In other words, money won't buy the things for you that truly make you feel good.
  • Go to bed. Research shows the top performers get about 8.5 hours of sleep a night. They also take breaks about every hour they work.
  • Pursue other interests. A study showed that employees who were encouraged to engage in creative activities unrelated to work (such as creative writing) performed better on the job.
  • Do work that interests you. Research shows that people perform better if they're doing work that interests them. Keep a journal that looks at your daily work activities that  give you a positive charge or make a long-term contribution to society. "If you fail to do meaningful work that makes a difference today, the day is gone forever," he says.
  • Nurture connections. "People greatly underestimate how everyday interactions influence their daily experience," he says. "Everyone you communicate with on a daily or weekly basis, whether you consider them friends or even know their name, influences your well-being. This also means that you have the ability to add a positive charge to every conversation throughout your day."
  • Help someone else. Even if you're having a lousy day, smiling at someone or offering specific, positive feedback can help pick you up. These acts of kindness can help you feel better -- and the impact they have on others can be huge.
  • Get healthy. When you're getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising, you will make better decisions, have better interactions and be more productive. By having more energy, you will be your best for your job, your family and your friends.
  • Hit the pause button. "When you face a brief psychological stressor, it helps to simply hit the pause button in your mind," he says. "The more something gets under your skin, causes your heart to race and makes you breathe a bit more quickly, the more important it is to step back before speaking or typing a single word."
Rath provides questions and resources in the book to help you find the meaning in your life and begin a process to help you make changes.

"Embrace the fact that you need to infuse a lot of good into this world while you can," he says. "You have the opportunity to decide how you will spend your time. Use this knowledge to stay focused on doing what's most important every day."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why Some Leaders are Terrible Communicators

If you’re a leader and your team complains about being overwhelmed,  you’re not alone. We often blame technology – whether it’s the telephone 50 years ago or social media today – for much of our ills at work.  But the real problem may not be your team tweeting too much but rather your poor communication skills as a leader.
Think about it: How many times have you sent an email to a team member who is sitting in the same room? How many times have you avoided picking up the phone in favor of sending a text or an email? How many times have you sent emails that require more than three follow-up emails because the team seems to be confused?
If you’re guilty of any – or all – of these offenses, then it’s time you listened to Phil Simon, author of “Message Not Received: Why Business Communication is Broken and How to Fix It.
He says that while poor communication has always existed, the world is moving so fast these days that poor skills in this area will have bottom-line consequences and only grow worse unless leaders make a commitment to change their ways.
While “there’s no shortage of bad examples of emails out there,” Simon says the real problem is not email itself, but the people misusing it and often peppering it with jargon that no one clearly understands. He provides some examples:
“The next generation of cloud is about people. Their WaaS technology is the middleware to match the right person to the right work at the right time.”
“By plugging into the information ecosystem and participating through the creation and curation of information, organizations can augment existing information channels.”
Part of the problem, Simon explains, is that people like sending emails because it clears their plate of a task. By firing off an email with lots of jargon, a leader may feel like she is showing the team that she is supporting the company strategy. But as Peter Drucker notes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
So the leader who piles jargon-riddled emails onto her team may feel like she’s communicating, but the reality is she’s undermining the culture that is needed to keep teams focused and engaged. Without their buy-in, any business strategy will falter.
Ultimately, poor communication from a leader can lead to a team that feels overwhelmed, under-appreciated, confused – and possibly looking for another job. “The problem isn’t email,” Simon says. “It’s how we use it.”
So if leaders truly want to amend their bad habits and help their teams function at their best, Simon suggests they need to:
  • Give up the 50 cent words. You may think it makes (read more here)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Are Excuses Derailing Your Career?

How many times have you made a New Year's resolution, or a promise to yourself that you will change?

But within a few months of making such an assertion, you have fallen back into the same old behaviors. You make excuses to yourself, of course, but those are often ridiculous.

In a new book, "Triggers," author and leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith says that these "excuses" you make to yourself are really much more. They are inner beliefs that trigger failure before it happens, sabotaging change before it even has a chance to take root. We use these beliefs to justify not taking action, he says, and tell ourselves that if we change we're not being authentic.

Or, we give up making changes because we find it exhausting or think it has to be perfect or it's not worth it. (Think of how many times you've searched for the "perfect" job or the "perfect" boss or career.)

In his book, Goldsmith offers some questions you can ask yourself every day to follow through on your intentions and take action instead of giving up and falling back on your past behaviors. These questions, he explains, are designed to measure your efforts, not your results. The reason? You can't always achieve the desired results, but anyone can try, he says.

The questions:

1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?

2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?

3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?

4. Did I do my best to be happy today?

5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

"Active questions reveal where we are trying and where we are giving up," Goldsmith says. "In doing so, they sharpen our sense of what we can actually change. We gain a sense of control and responsibility instead of victimhood."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What Motivates Millennials the Most

Managers often are looking for that magic bullet when it comes to engaging millennials, and it may just be that it can be found in having a meaningful conversation about an employee’s strengths, shows a new study.

Specifically, a VIA Institute on Character study finds that:

  • 71% of employees are more likely to feel engaged and energized by their work if they believe their managers can name their strengths
  • 64% of employees report they believe they will be more successful at work by building on their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses
  • 69% of millennials who use their strengths regularly describe themselves as “flourishing” at work.
Despite such findings, many managers still rely on using employee feedback sessions to discuss weaknesses, but that outdated practice should be (find more at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is Motivation a Waste of Time?

If you’re a leader and trying to motivate your team, you’re wasting your time.
That’s because people are always motivated, and your efforts to motivate them to be more productive or cooperative by offering incentives or rewards just becomes frustrating, demoralizing and stressful for them, contends Susan Fowler.
Fowler, author of “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work….and What Does,” says that there is a “na├»ve assumption” that motivation is something a person has or does not have. That wrongheaded thinking is what pushes leaders into believing that they can somehow “make up” for the motivation they believe their team doesn’t have. But research has consistently shown that trying to use “bribes” to motivate people doesn’t work, she says.
Instead, she says that leaders should be considering not if employees are motivated, but why they are motivated.
“The real story of motivation is that people are learners who long to grow, enjoy their work, be productive, make positive contributions, and build lasting relationships,” she writes in the book. “This is not because of motivational forces outside themselves but because it is their human nature.”
Unfortunately, too many leaders don’t believe that and instead try to play Santa for 364 days a year, offering goodies to team members – such as a new title or cash reward – that only de-motivate workers.  The quick fix of such rewards is like junk food – it’s easy and provides instant gratification but is unhealthy in the long run, Fowler says.
“People regard managers who drive for results as self-serving,” she says. “They consider support by these managers to be conditional: if you do as I say, then I will reward you in some way. All the ‘carrots’  actually become a stick, and just add pressure.”
Further, such “conditional support” undermines the need for “relatedness” that people are looking for at work, where they are spending more and more time, she says.
“The rewards become meaningless and people start to feel guilty and stressed about them,” she says.
Fowler says the research on motivation proves that in order to keep workers engaged, leaders must learn that motivation is a skill. Using what she calls the “Optimal Motivation” process, she helps leaders move away from external motivations and instead learn to listen and interact with team members to discover what will be meaningful and sustainable motivation for an individual.
Discovering motivation
Having “outlook conversations” between leaders and workers can help employees understand their own motivations, Fowler explains.
In the book, she shares the technique and real-life “outlook conversations.” For example, she relates a case with Sonny, who in a workshop (see more here)