Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Submariners Can Teach You About Doing the Job Right

A major flaw in our system of government, and even in industry, is the latitude allowed to do less than is necessary. – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, father of the nuclear U.S. Navy
Most of us realize it takes a special kind of person to be a submariner, confined for months at a time deep beneath the ocean with about 140 other people. The up-close-and personal nature of living and working in such tight quarters is not the only challenge: every person’s life depends on the other crew members.
If work isn’t done right every single time, it could lead to dangers that someone in a cubicle might never face. That’s why the submarine environment provides such a good example of how to get things right, says Matthew Digeronimo, co-author of “Extreme Operational Excellence: Applying the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Culture to Your Organization.
Digeronimo and co-author Bob Koonce are both former submariners who now use their talents to help private industries succeed.
In their book, they quote Hyman G. Rickover in a 1981 speech at Columbia University. In that address, Rickover provided some insight into the “seeds” of the nuclear U.S. Navy’s “journey toward operational excellence,” they write.
Some insights from Rickover:
  • “Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done. For this reason, subordinates must be given authority and responsibility early in their careers.”
  • “Too often officials are willing to accept and adapt to situations they know to be wrong.”
  • “Unless the individual truly responsible can be identified when something goes wrong, no one has really been responsible.”
  • “When details are ignored, the project fails. No infusion of policy or lofty ideals can then correct the situation.”
  • Digeronimo says Rickover’s words need to be heeded by more companies, especially as businesses race to make changes they hope will make them more competitive.
    “I do think some unsuccessful businesses are changing just to change, and they really make things worse than before,” he says.  “The plan may look good on PowerPoint or in the boardroom, but it doesn’t translate well.”
    The authors say there are several ways that companies can adopt a submarine culture on dry land that will lead to operational excellence. Among their suggestions:
    Continuous learning
    The nuclear submarine community is comprised of those who volunteer for the duty. They have to meet tough academic standards, survive boot camp and then go through months and months of intense training. Even after graduating from Nuclear Power School, academic training continues and everyone on board a submarine is actively working on a qualification to prepare for the next level of responsibility.
    While civilian operations are not likely to need as robust of a training and education program, it does point to the need for knowledge to be the underpinning of operational excellence, the authors say. Training programs should prevent “knowledge decay” and “push the bounds of each member’s (read more here)

Monday, November 28, 2016

3 Ways to Nudge a Procrastinating Boss

It can be very frustrating when you work hard on a report or project, and then submit it to the boss where it will then languish until the next presidential election.

When the boss is the clog in the drain, the knot in the rope, the fence in the pasture (okay, I'm out of examples) it can be frustrating. The entire organization can get stuck when you have a boss that procrastinates. Maybe he or she comes up with multiple excuses as to why the project isn't moving forward, or why no decision can be made at this time.

If you're looking for a way to get a boss to get it in gear so you can also continue to make progress in your work and your career, here are some ideas:

1. Calm down. The more you think about the bottleneck, the angrier or more frustrated you may become. Instead of storming into the boss's office or firing off a snotty email demanding action, let the boss know you're open to suggestions. "Is there a concern you have about this project -- or some ways I can improve it before sending to the entire committee?" you can ask. It could be that there are factors you don't understand about the delay, and it would be a smart idea to learn about them before you jump to conclusions.

2. Listen.  Don't be confrontational, but ask questions that can help you understand specifically what the holdup might be. Listen carefully and look for signs about what may be concerning the boss and causing delays. For example, he may repeatedly mention delivery problems with another project. That may be a good time to say that you could research alternative delivery partners for your project, just to make sure all the bases are covered.

3. Discuss advantages. Of course it's clear to you why this project needs to move forward: You want to get it off your plate, you don't want the delay to make even more work for you in the future and you think it could garner you some real notice in the industry. But while it's clear what this project can do for you, have you made it clear what it can do for the boss? She is much more likely to give it the green light if it's going to help her solve a problem, make less work or attract more new customers.

Procrastination often is the result of fear or stress. Your job is to figure out what you can do to help alleviate that fear or stress by the boss so that your project can move forward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Yes, Introverts Can Be Great Leaders

While research shows that more extraverts reach the C-suite, there is growing evidence that introverts can make effective leaders. How introverts can gain the confidence they need to lead their teams effectively and benefit any organization.
Techies are often used to laboring alone, and that suits them just fine. Their introverted personalities are geared toward communicating via email or texts and they don’t stress about presentations in front of big groups because they simply think they will never be in that position.
Until, of course, they’re tapped to fill a leadership role.
More engineering, science and technology employees are finding that their growing experience and skills have brought them to the notice of high-ups. With the increasing focus on using technology and data to meet strategic goals, it’s clear more of these introverts are going to find themselves thrust into the leadership arena.
If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. There are many ways you can thrive as a leader, even if you are an introvert. That’s why it’s time to gain some confidence in what you bring to the table, and help you see that while you may do things differently as an introvert, your leadership can be valuable.
For example, in her book, “Communication Toolkit for Introverts,” author Patricia Weber explains that the brains of introverts are hard-wired to be better at planning and more likely to identify potential problems. Introverts, she says, will always take steps to minimize risk, which can help teams become more trusting of such a leader.
The focus on planning by introverts also can lead to meetings that are more focused and relevant;  conflict resolution that is well thought-out and not based on not a knee-jerk reaction;  and well-prepared negotiation plans that lead to better outcomes, she says.
“With many parts of planning being mostly in the head, and being (read more here)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Are You Ignoring a Toxic Worker?

As we approach the holiday season, it's time to think about the Scrooge in your office.

Not just the person who is stingy, but the one who is grumpy. Unkind. Unwilling to help others. Flouts rules and regulations.


Why do these people keep their jobs? One reason may be because bosses don't like to deal with them, so they ignore them. Instead, they focus on superstar workers, telling themselves that the toxic worker is balanced out by all the great employees. Another reason is that toxic employees can often appear very productive, and no boss wants to mess with someone who appears to be churning out work and meeting deadlines. A study finds, however, that these workers aren't doing quality work and their bad behavior and its impact on the organization negates any gains.

The research shows that that it can actually pay off more for a company to get rid of a toxic worker -- it's even better for the bottom line than hiring a superstar.

That's because toxic employees impact not just the job they're supposed to be doing, but everyone around them. They demoralize coworkers, hurt customer relationships and impact stakeholder attitudes.

The study finds that toxic workers are like a bad case of office flu -- their bad attitudes and habits can infect others in the workplace, even those who previously have been good workers.

"Since we found some evidence that a toxic worker can have more impact on performance than a 'superstar' it may be that spending more time limiting negative impacts on an organization might improve everyone's outcome to a greater extent than only focusing on increasing positive impacts," researchers say.

In other words, bosses who ignore the problem with the belief that just hiring more superstars will make up for the toxic workers are in for a very unpleasant surprise. With that  mind, here are some things to consider when dealing with a toxic worker:

  • Take action. Once you get an inkling that a worker is behaving badly, immediately set up a session with the worker to analyze what's happening. Provide coaching or mentoring for the worker, and schedule regular check-ins to see how the worker is progressing. 
  • Document. It's best to have a written plan in place that both the worker and the boss agree to follow. This helps give the worker a clear plan of improvement.
  • Make ethics known. Many organizations think that employees should just know that they're not supposed to steal office supplies, gossip or write nasty tweets about customers. But unless an organization makes itself clear on where it stands, it can be difficult to enforce standards of behavior. Putting organizational ethics in writing -- and periodically reviewing them with all employees -- is a good chance to make clear the kind of behavior that is expected.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Negotiate Successfully With Anyone

There are often complaints that technology isolates people, but anyone working in IT may have a different opinion.
If anything, IT is being asked to work more and more with other departments, rather it’s marketing, customer experience or business strategy.
While all that interaction is necessary if businesses are going to fulfill their goals of digitally transforming their organizations, it’s not always a process that goes smoothly.
Namely, teams and individuals who have different backgrounds, skills – even nationalities and genders – can find it difficult to work together. Any attempts at finding common ground can be quickly defeated as those involved become more emotionally entrenched in their positions.
Is there a solution beyond a leader simply ordering people from IT to work with other teams and hoping for the best?
Yes, but it’s not always easy and organizations have to commit to a consistent strategy, says Daniel Shapiro, founder and director the Harvard International Negotiation Program.
Shapiro, who has spent 20 years studying the causes of human conflict, says that many times collaboration and cooperation fail because individuals and leaders don’t understand what’s coming into play when there is a conflict.
For example, in his new book, “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable,” Shapiro explains that the “tribes effect,” is when emotion and identity arise in a conflict, forcing individuals to consider who they are, what they deem important and the meaning of their life. Once they feel threatened, they can become so attached to their “tribe” that they’ll do anything to defend it.
So, IT may feel threatened by those outside the department if someone says technology is unhelpful or off base – or techies aren’t good at communications or understanding the customer experience. That causes IT workers to become less cooperative with the colleagues who are critical of them, no matter what idea is expressed.
The tribes effect spurs you to make a blanket devaluation of the other’s perspective simply because it is theirs,” he says.
While the tribes effect tries to protect your “identity” from harm, it usually backfires. You pull in psychologically and become more focused on your own short-term interest over any long-term (read more here

Monday, November 14, 2016

The One Word That Can Resolve Workplace Conflict


Anyone who has a toddler probably hears this no less than 1,400 times per day. (And don't tell me you don't resort to "Because I said so!" because everyone reaches that point on the 475th "why?")

While children are great at asking the question, they often grow out of asking "why" all the time.

Too bad.

We as adults could benefit greatly if we'd just add a few more "whys" to our days.

A recent lecture by Stanford Graduate School of Business organizational behavior professor Lindred Greer looked at problems with top-down team structures. Some of those problems included less participation, influence from the wrong people and not enough conflict.

Not enough conflict? Who wants conflict at work?

Well, it seems that conflict is good for us, she says. We need to be challenged by others who think differently than us.

The solution? More people asking "why."

Leaders need to ask "why" of team members to get them to reach deeper into their thinking. Colleagues need to ask "why" of one another so that they get to the heart of the matter and find out why people really think as they do.

Everyone needs to have a voice at work. In order to come up with more innovative ideas and better solutions, teams need to be more collaborative with other departments. That means IT needs to work with marketing. Sales needs to work with distribution. Customer service needs to work with operations.

There will be some conflict, for sure. Everyone is going to be coming from a different perspective and experience, but as long as they keeping asking "why" -- and listening carefully to the responses -- that conflict will become a positive driver of better bottom-line results and positive workplace relationships.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Reorganizations Fail -- and How to Get Them Right

It’s a great feeling to get a brand-spanking new reorganization chart done and then present it in all its unsoiled glory to the entire company.
Unfortunately, that gleaming chart with all its little color-coded boxes lined up with precision has little to do with making a reorganization successful. In fact, putting so much effort and aspiration into that spruced-up chart could be one of the biggest mistakes a company makes when it comes to reorgs, says Stephen Heidari-Robinson.
That’s because too many companies believe that once they present the chart, then the reorg is done. The reason behind it goes to the heart of how reorgs are often undermined before they begin.
“Some managers think the number of people reporting to them is a sign of their power, so the org chart becomes their battle ground,” says Heidari-Robinson, co-author with Suzanne Heywood of “Reorg: How to Get It Right.” “Many managers also shy away from the human element of reorgs and org charts provide something solid that they can hang on to.”
No matter the reason, the result is that “they miss out on the essence of a reorg: getting people to work in a different way in order to create more value,” he says.
While outlining reporting lines and accountabilities is important in a reorganization, defining the different ways that people should work in the new process and the skills and capabilities the employees need are just as important, “and sometimes even more so,” he says.
“You are only really finished when people are working in the new way and the value you wanted has been delivered, not when you announce the new org chart,” Heidari-Robinson says.
Heidari-Robinson led McKinsey & Company’s Organization Practice for energy clients in addition to developing the firm’s thinking on implementing reorganizations. He also served as UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s advisor on energy and environment.
He says a McKinsey survey done by him and Heywood finds that more than 80% of reorgs fail to deliver the value companies desired, and 10% actually damage a company.
“More important, they can be damned miserable experiences for employees,” they say.
Heidari-Robinson says he believes that the pace of reorgs will pick up as all industries face accelerating changes because of innovation. “That is not to say that every business change requires the whole organization to flip (read more here)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Research Finds Stressed Employees More Likely to Misbehave

The U.S. election process has clearly demonstrated one thing: People are upset, mad and worried.

While we may hope that this will all disappear once the election is over, managers shouldn't believe that workers will once again become jolly little employees, content with the cubicle world around them.

By ignoring these feelings that many workers have expressed, managers may miss the clues that can help them build a more engaged, productive workforce.

Specifically, a study shows that when employees are nervous and upset, they disengage and start misbehaving. Further, those employees who feel insecure about their jobs will take their unhappiness and turn to doing things like stealing supplies, fudging expense reports and gossiping about others.

The behavior can grow worse if the employee has a bad relationship with a boss and has other job prospects, researchers say.

"That extra psychological step to justify immoral behavior happens when these things converge," says Sue Ashford, professor of management and organizations at the Ross School of Business. "There's job insecurity, you have a bad boss, and you see other job prospects. It can make you feel like you're not valued and that's how the rationalizations start. An implicit contract you had with the organization is broken and things you wouldn't normally do can feel right."

Still, there are ways that managers can prevent employees from disengaging and moving into destructive behavior. Among the suggestions:

  • Listen. Managers need to engage employees in conversations and get them to open up about their concerns. Managers should let workers know they understand the stress.
  • Provide positive feedback. Great employees often don't need a lot of supervision, and managers can forget to provide a pat on the back. While problem employees often take up a majority of a manager's time, managers can't neglect great employees or they risk driving them away.
Managers need to remember that ignoring the stress that workers feel isn't just a personal problem that workers need to deal with. It has bottom-line consequences, as well. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

FCC's CIO: Change Agents Need Employer Support

David Bray says the world is experiencing more turbulence, and he isn’t talking about a rough airplane ride or a nasty nor’easter.
Bray, senior executive and chief information officer for the Federal Communications Commission, says the turbulence is a result of the “increasing velocity” of worldwide transactions.
Despite such unsettled times, Bray believes there are exciting opportunities ahead for the more agile companies – while others may suffer.
He points out that while traditional top-down hierarchies are efficient and focused when dealing with a known or predictable environment, they are “very bad at being resilient and adaptive when an environment is rapidly changing or unpredictable.”
That’s why Bray says that the organizations that embrace and support change agents within their organizations “will gain agility and resilience.”
“There is no textbook for where our organizations or societies are going next with the rapid, exponential changes in technology and services possible as a result,” he says. “The next seven years will see more change than the last 20 years combined in terms of network devices, data on the planet and computational capabilities.”
But that scenario doesn’t panic Bray, a co-chair for an IEEE committee focused on artificial intelligence and innovative policies for the future.
“To me, this presents a degree of excitement,” he says. “How do we maintain those things we want to hold true to as individuals, as organizations, as a nation, and as a world and also adapt to such rapid change?”
One way that leaders can confront the challenges now and in the future is by tapping into diverse teams who can bring different tools and experiences to the table. Still, such groups will only work if they’re focused on the same goal or they may “splinter into factions and in-fighting,” he cautions.
Effective change agents as leaders will listen, learn and help craft shared goals and shared narratives to bring diverse groups of people together,” he says.
Bray says that the best leaders provide change agents with:
  • Autonomy to bring their ideas to fruition.
  • Measurable progress updates.
  • A worthy cause that adds value for the public.
“I do tell change agents that I’ll be their flak jacket. If change agents (read more here)