Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tips for Getting Virtual Teams to Collaborate More

Vint Cerf is a long-time innovator known for his natty three-piece suits, his work as Google’s chief internet evangelist and as one of the fathers of the Internet.
So when this well-dressed Internet pioneers says that collaboration among remote workers is a concern, it’s clear that more organizations need to pay attention.
Cert has expressed concern for Google’s remote team members who almost never see one another face to face, often working in different time zones. That means such workers must “work harder to stay in sync,” he says.
That’s why Google started “recompiling groups to make them, if not co-located, at least within one or two time zones of one another so that it was more convenient to interact,” he says.
Cert says that frequent opportunities for casual interactions among colleagues is important to not only build better relationships but to “cross-pollinate” ideas among different employee groups. For example, a worker bumping into someone at work and striking up a conversation can help lead to a different perspective about an issue or possibly solve a problem, he explains.
That’s not something that can happen in the same way with a virtual team, which is why Cert says it’s important that remote workers have an opportunity to reinforce workplace relationships with in-person meetings. This ensures that collaborative efforts in the future “are reinforced by these personal experiences,” he says.
Creating opportunities for more interactions among remote teams is something that is a priority for Erin McGinty, director of benefits consulting for TriNet.
McGinty herself works remotely, and holds bi-weekly team meetings along with more casual conversations about benefits news with her remote team. She also talks one-on-one with her team members to work on individual development plans, and encourages team members to “get together and work things out” whenever they need to – without asking for her permission or direction.
“I also try to keep them excited about projects they’re working on,” she says. “I listen to them and look for clues about something that will interest them. Then, I tell them to get together with one another and work on it. “
McGinty says that while that encouragement for collaboration is important, she also pays attention to those who may feel they’re not being heard because they’re not as extroverted or “boisterous” as some team members.
“Sometimes I’ll let that quieter person run the next meeting,” she says. “Or (read more here)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Research: Twitter Reveals Workplace Stress

Chances are, your stress level has gone up simply because it's Monday.

You're not alone.

A new study by Dr. Wei Wang at the University of Central Florida finds that tweets mentioning work stress were highest on Mondays, and start to slowly decline throughout the week. Researchers say there is a "Friday dip" for work stress and negative emotion.

While you might think that work stress disappears over the weekend,it turns out we're fretting even when we're away from work. Specifically, the research finds that once we've hit Saturday, negative emotions are already starting to surface and really pick up on Sunday.

Still, Wang found that Sunday tweets aren't necessarily all negative: More people tweeted optimistically about their work. Researchers say that could be because people have had time over the weekend to decompress, and that leads to a better attitude toward the coming week.

People tweeted the most about health problems mid-week (researchers looked for terms like aches, itch, pain, sick, drug, etc.) , and found that people are less inclined mid-week to tweet good things about their jobs. That could be because they're in the midst of a workweek that feels like it will never end.

In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that more than 70% of workers report that their jobs are stressful, which is one of the top reasons for cardiovascular disease that affects one third of American adults. It also costs the U.S. about $444 billion a year.

Wang says he hopes his research will highlight how big data and computational techniques can be applied to social sciences and used to better health research.

For managers, it's a clear signal that they may need to step up their engagement efforts throughout the week. Perhaps it means having a pizza party mid-week instead of on Friday, when workers are already feeling better. Or, it could mean banning Monday meetings, providing every worker some down time during the stressful mid-week grind and doing away with weekend emails unless it's an emergency.

As for workers, they need to find ways to bring down their stress levels, perhaps by taking a yoga class every Wednesday, having a nice dinner on Sunday with family and friends and making sure they schedule a lunch away from the office on Monday.

Any suggestions on how to combat workplace stress that you've found helpful?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Finding the Right People to Make Change Happen

When deciding which team member will be tapped as a change agent to help drive a new initiative, do you: a) select someone who has time to do it; b) has experience in the area; or c) draw names out of a hat and hope for the best.
While most leaders would likely not choose the third option, many do rely on experience and availability as important criteria to be a change agent. The problem with that strategy is that it doesn’t guarantee that those attributes will lead to a successful transformation – and may be just like drawing names out of a hat and hoping for the best.
In a paper by Tata Consultancy Services, researchers say that while change agents are critical and can “guide and motivate others to adopt the results of the change process,” the right starting point for choosing such people should be “what” not “who.”
“Keeping in mind what the change agents need to accomplish should be the first step in selecting the right people. This defines roles and responsibilities,” say researchers.
While experience and availability are key in selecting a change agent, “other qualities necessary to do the job might be overlooked,” such as being able to adapt and work effectively in a variety of situations. Further, strong communication and problem-solving skills are also important when selecting change agents, researchers say.
James Dallas, who has decades of experience leading change as an executive, is author of a new book, “Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change: Inspire the People and Succeed Where Others Fail.
He says he has learned through his own experiences that “creating impact requires a lot more than a good recommendation and the right job title. It requires you to be able to move other’s minds from point A, a known, comfortable place, to point B, the great and threatening unknown.”
He says he doesn’t believe that leaders grasp this concept, just as he didn’t in the beginning of his change management career. “I was more focused on the task, instead of choosing the right change agents,” he says.
Dallas says there often is a lack of training in change management and an understanding of how influence actually happens.
He says there are several ways that leaders can do a better job of leading change and finding the right people to make it happen. Among them:
  • Choose someone who has something to prove. “Change is always personal before it’s professional,” he says. “You don’t want someone who is just trying to earn another star. You want people who are taking it personally (read more here)

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Deal With a Lazy Colleague

I'm not sure anyone embraces Monday with total enthusiasm. It may take more than a few cups of coffee or even a stupid cat video to really rev us up to work on the first day of the week, but we do eventually kick into gear.

But what about those colleagues who don't get going on Monday? Or Tuesday? Or Wednesday? What can be done about the person who seems to constantly slack off, finding any number of ways to avoid putting in a solid day's work?

Of course, not working at all will probably get that person fired. But these people are usually just smart enough to avoid getting in trouble with the boss, and instead rely on their co-workers to keep them afloat. In the meantime, the co-workers who have to work around such a person silently fume and resent such behavior.

You might consider going to the boss about the behavior, but be aware the boss may not see the situation in the same way. The boss may see you as a tattling troublemaker, and your relationship with him or her may suffer as a result. Even other colleague may not react well to your criticisms for fear you will do the same to them one day.

That's why you need to take a deep breath and really think about how much you want to let this lazy co-worker interfere in your life and your career. For example, you may nearly bust a blood vessel when the phone rings continuously and the slacker refuses to answer it. Wouldn't it be better to just ignore the poor behavior and simply answer the call? Or arrange a system with your more productive colleagues to take turns answering it?

It can be difficult to ignore the fact that the lazy colleague seems to be getting away with such behavior. "Well, why should I work so hard when it's clear you can goof off and there are no repercussions?" you may tell yourself. But that's a slippery slope, because once you start letting your own work ethic slip then you've let a part of your character be killed off by someone who has poor judgment and poor self-esteem.

At the same time, remember that you really have no idea why this colleague seems to be so lazy. It could be the result of depression or some other mental illness, or it could signal a physical ailment. The point is: Focus on what you can control, which is your own performance. Set goals for yourself and meet them, despite whatever speed bumps may come along because of your co-worker's deficiencies.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How Companies Can Avoid Costly Wrong Turns

You might think that Mickey Mouse is Walt Disney’s greatest creation, but that little mouse with the big ears isn’t what has kept the company so profitable all these years.
It was something else that Disney created: his corporate theory.
That doesn’t sound near as cute or engaging as Mickey, but it proved to be the invention that would put the company on the path to continually creating value. More important, it saved the Disney company when it became the target of a hostile takeover in 1984.
In a nutshell, Disney’s corporate theory written many decades ago was this: Children and adults will be enduringly captivated by creating engaging characters set in visual fantasy worlds – mostly through animation – and growth can be sustained by placing these characters in film and further developing them through other entertainment assets.
Disney used this theory – with great success – throughout his years at the helm, but the company started to decline after his death in 1966. The company floundered and seemed to shift away from animation until the takeover threat. That’s when Michael Eisner took over, and promptly rediscovered Disney’s original theory of how to create value in entertainment, says Todd Zenger in his book, “Beyond Competitive Advantage: How to Solve the Puzzle of Sustaining Growth While Creating Value.”
With Disney’s corporate theory in hand, Eisner invested heavily in animated production, leading to such hits as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King.”
Business Transformation – Are You Transforming in the Right Way?
Zenger says that Disney’s strategy is a great example of a powerful corporate theory. It not only provided direction and vision for senior managers, but it also helped leaders to make decisions regarding acquisitions, resources and activities. In other words, with Disney’s corporate theory, the company was able to make the right strategic decisions without costly wrong turns, he says.
Zenger, a global expert on corporate strategy, says that if more companies followed Disney’s lead and designed a corporate theory, they would be able to sustain a strong position in even the most competitive markets.
Just like a scientific theory, a corporate theory is aimed at improving a company’s chances of selecting the most valuable paths whileminimizing costly mistakes. It’s a logic that managers can repeatedly use to make decisions when confronted with a dizzying array of assets, resources and activities, Zenger says.
“The challenge that many companies face today is that once they achieve a target (read more here)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Is Depression Affecting Your Career Success?

I remember the first time I wrote about depression in the workplace. It was more than 20 years ago, and the response was immediate and surprising.

So many people responded with: "I thought I was the only one going through this" or "I don't know how I'm going to make it."

These days, I think more people are open to discussing their depression and how it affects their lives and the lives of those around them. Do they discuss it as openly in the workplace? I'm not so sure.

About 1 million people in the U.S. are on disability for mental health reasons, and that includes depression. The World Health Organization states that major depressive disorder is responsible for almost half of the lost workplace productivity in the U.S., and is the most prevalent global disability.

I think in the workplace today -- especially with the lack of job security -- many workers may be reluctant to discuss their depression. As a result, they may not get the help they need that is often available through their company's employee benefits plan.

At the same time, I think that many workers are unaware that they are suffering from depression and that it's a real medical condition that can be treated. While symptoms may vary in severity and duration, it's recommended you see a doctor if you experience five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood.
  • Sleeping too little, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much.
  • Reduced appetite and/or weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Restlessness, irritability.
  • Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment (such as headaches, chronic pain or digestive disorders).
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. If you think you should play it tough and not get help, think of your career. Depression has been shown to affect workplace productivity -- can you really afford to lose your job because your work performance suffers?  Do it for yourself, your family and your career. 

Check out the website of Mental Health America for more information on depression and how you can get help. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why Teams Don't Trust One Another -- and How to Fix It

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.—Stephen Covey
In an election year, the issue of trust is front and center as candidates at the local, state and national level argue who is the most trustworthy.
Trust also is becoming a bigger deal in companies, especially as cross-functional teams strive to develop a cohesive strategy to drive innovation. Unfortunately, leaders are discovering that no matter how talented a team may be, innovative ideas may flounder and productivity may drop if team members lack trust in one another.
This lack of trust can be the result of several different factors. For example, science shows that human beings often make snap judgments about people they meet for the first time, but research shows that our own intuition can be wrong when judging those we don’t know well. First impressions are not always the best way to judge a person and can prove to be inaccurate, experts say.
Further, some employees may have had poor experiences working on cross-functional teams in the past, further eroding their willingness to trust such teams again. Additional obstacles to establishing trust include old-fashioned turf battles, poor communications and an unwillingness to change how work gets done.
This all points to the fact that is can be very challenging for leaders to instill trust among cross-functional team members. A recentstudy found that nearly 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.
“The reason why most cross-functional teams fail is because silos tend to perpetuate themselves: for example, engineers don’t work well with designers, and so on,” says Behnam Tabrizi of Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering.
Still, even teams who are familiar with one another can have trust issues, which is why establishing trust is the “No. 1 challenge for leaders,” says  Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner and leadership expert.
He explains that managers must serve as “integrators” for teams, helping members better communicate and understand one another.
“Think about how trust is established – it’s always about your credibility and knowledge,” Barta says. “Most leaders are good at putting that on the table, but then they need to look at the second component of trust: intimacy.”
Barta explains that when employees from different functions get together, it can lead to some strong differences of opinion and leaders need to help workers get past those defensive positions and instead learn about one another. “Trust and intimacy come about by building a relationship with someone – finding out who they are and what they’re about,” he says.
Creating a joint vision
At Halogen Software, at least a handful of cross-functional “working groups” are in play at one time, created and disbanded as needed, says Dominique Jones, chief people officer.
“I think one of the lessons we learned is that in the first meeting everyone wants to jump in and fix whatever it is in five minutes. But it’s best if they take an hour or so just to understand one another – to know the background of those in the room,” she says.
Barta says the importance of the manager in helping teams mesh is brought home through research (read more here)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Uh-oh: The Boss is Ignoring You

Sometimes your boss isn't the nicest person on the planet. He or she may bark orders at you when under great stress to meet a deadline, or even forget to say "good morning" on some occasions. 

But when does such behavior bode ill for you? 

When the boss is rude to you or ignores you on a regular basis. When the bad behavior by the boss seems to be directed mostly at you, then it's not just an indication of a boss's stress or distraction -- it's a sign your career may be in trouble.

Most people might say that they would love to be ignored by the boss, to do their jobs in peace. But what they don't stop to realize is that when the boss is dismissive of you, then he or she doesn't see you as an important member of the team. The boss doesn't see you as critical to getting goals met or providing key talents, and that means you are expendable.

The boss who ignores you may also tolerate others being rude or condescending to you, ignore your contributions in meetings or barely communicate with you. These are all actions that can undermine your career now and in the future. Any boss who lets you be seen in such a negative light -- and contributes to that perception -- can damage your reputation among colleagues and customers for a long time.

So, take steps immediately to re-connect with your boss is a positive way. Try to schedule regular meetings where you outline progress you're making, pitch new ideas or get his feedback on a project. Don't be disrespectful or act like a puppy that just had his tail stepped on. You want to present a professional, capable image that demonstrates you're not going to shrink into the corner and take abuse.

In addition, try to watch how others interact with the boss -- are there habits or practices the more successful employees use that you could emulate? Or, could another colleague provide insight on ways you might improve? For example, it could be that your practice of rambling in meetings has gotten on the boss's nerves (and everyone else's.) So, how about spicing up your presentations or taking a public speaking class so that you're more dynamic?

Let the boss know in your private meetings that you are aware you're not perfect, and want to improve any deficiencies. This will put him on notice that you're being proactive -- and that can be the first step to re-establishing a more positive relationship with the boss.