Laughter Should Be Your Engagement Survey

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Think about the time and effort you currently put into your engagement survey. The hours reviewing questions, creating distribution lists, developing communications, executing the survey, and of course, action planning. What if I told you that listening for laughter in the workplace is an easier and more authentic way to get the pulse of your organization? Best selling author Dan Schawbel says engagement can be boiled down to four measures: happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. Laughter is a great way to measure each of these elements. So let’s engage in laughter.  

Happiness and Purpose. Wharton Professor and co author of Option B, Adam Grant, has a Ted Talk called Faking Your Emotions at Work. We all know we have to manage our emotions at work – keeping our cool under pressure, or smiling politely in meetings while that marketing guy drones on and on. But if we do this all day, it can be draining. Grant say, “It seems like the easiest way to cope is to tell yourself, ‘Well, this is just my job. I’ll pretend to be this person in this role when I’m at work.’ That’s called surface acting. It’s wearing a mask that you take off at the end of the day. It feels like the simple way to distance yourself from the role. But it creates a sense of being inauthentic, which can take a real toll.” Instead Grant challenges us to take the opposite approach. Tap into your emotions and ask yourself,  How can I make my work more meaningful? How do I find a sense of purpose in my job? Instead of being disconnected, be objective about your role and contributions. What do you love? What are you passionate about? Take off that mask and make real connections with your team.  When we play together, we stay together — and feel stronger connections. When people have tapped into their happiness and purpose you will see increased energy, creativity, and commitment—and laughter.

Belonging. Social science researcher Brené Brown defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” She also says we know we truly belong “when we can present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” In Gallup’s article How to Bring Out the Best in Your People and Your Company, author Jake Herway states, “an organization full of employees who believe they belong is an organization full of employees who feel purposeful, inspired and alive — in other words, engaged. And these engaged employees are more productive and better performers.” When teams can joke about shared experience or problems they have created a social connection. So rather than asking in a survey “do you have a best friend at work?”, listen for laughter to gauge belonging.

Trust. In the Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey states that trust is rooted in credibility.  We earn credibility when we can laugh at ourselves. Trust also requires us to be self aware. Understanding how your actions are either trust builders or trust busters is a critical leadership trait. The stories you tell and the jokes you laugh at are barometers on whether you trust others, trust yourself, and/or are worthy of trust. Trusting environments invite us to be vulnerable, and when we feel comfortable, we are comfortable taking risks. When people laugh, they are in a relaxed state. They are open to new ideas because they feel safe. When we share laughter, we trust each other. And laughter deepens our trust.  As employee engagement expert David Zinger says, the shortest distance between two people is often a good laugh.  So listen for the speed of laughter to gauge your organization’s speed of trust.

Researchers found that by the time the average kid reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times each day. Compare that to the typical adult, who laughs 17 times a day.  Perhaps now that we’re all grown up we think we are way too busy to have fun. But studies show laughter allows our minds to juggle and connect concepts in a way that rigid concentration does not. We talk a lot about employee engagement, but really there is nothing fun in most engagement surveys. Laughter is a great pulse check for happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. So think about how you can engage in laughter in your workplace.

Spring Clean Your Mind

Spring cleaning

April usually brings thoughts of spring and renewal. Many of us have a ritual of spring cleaning – donating clothes the kids have outgrown and admitting we don’t need 6.5 pairs of scissors in one drawer. Spring is also a great time to bring a renewal mindset to our work. In the article Three Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Work Life author Zameena Mejia says that we take in about 64B of information a day. This makes our brains feel like our hall closet- stuffed the the gills, no longer organized, and hard to open. It also makes it hard to be productive at work when we are in overload mode. Take the time to spring clean your mind by clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space.

Clearing Clutter. Clutter can be both physical and mental. Start with the stuff that’s easy to see. Take a step back and think about how you would like to organize your work space. Give yourself permission to give away or throw away the books, papers, and even mementos you really don’t need anymore. Once you’ve made a dent in your office space try something radical – delete all emails over 30 days old from your inbox, sent, and deleted folders. Just do it. Freeing up that space is very liberating – and helps you to focus on the current tasks at hand. Learn some of the simple but awesome Microsoft Outlook rules to help you manage incoming emails more effectively. Now for the hard part. Clear the clutter from your mind. That project that didn’t go as well as you hoped. The nagging feeling you have that Pam in Payroll is upset with you. Make a list of the worries that are gnawing at you. Then crumple up the list and throw it away. Those worries are in the past. The question is, how do you want to move forward? You can choose to set up a meeting to check in with Pam. But if you don’t, then let it go. That issue no longer has a worry hanger in your mental closet.

Creating Focus. April means we are 25% through 2018. Have you accomplished 25% of your goals for the year? If not, how can you create more focus? Now is a good time to take out your annual goals and ask (1) Are these still the right priorities? (2) Am I making progress? (3) Where do I need to focus? One the best leadership tools I’ve picked up comes from the book The 12 Week Year. This book was written way before quarterly reviews became trendy. It challenges us to break our goals down into 12 weeks vs. 12 months. That means each week has more urgency to make progress towards your goals. It introduces a Periodization Plan to help you track and monitor your goals. I have been using this with my teams for the last ten years and it is a great tool to create focus.  Another key to mental focus is taking time to pause. If you are like me and love the idea of meditation but find it really hard to do, check out Buddhify. com. It is a great app for those of us who have a hard time slowing down. This is the most important step in your spring cleaning routine- so be sure to give focus some focus.

Creating Free Space. The only way to keep your spring cleaning stay clean is to ensure you don’t fill it with new clutter. In order for you to be your best self at work you need to have some downtime at home. Downtime is time when you are powered down and present. That may mean not working after dinner. Or not bringing phone in the bedroom. We all need some time of our day to be spent without a screen. We can also create free space by regaining control of our calendar. Instead of multitasking on a conference call, decline it and spend an hour focused on researching a key project. Block time on your calendar to read business and industry news. To be a leader we need time to think, not just do. Another great way to create free space is to work out. It doesn’t matter what you do or what level you are at. Engaging your body physically can unhook your mind and give you time to think about things in a new way.

I encourage you to make a commitment to spring clean your mind this month. It won’t make the MN snow melt, but it will help you with clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space so you can spring ahead on your 2018 goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encourage Courage

Courage Award

I was at the Good Leadership Breakfast this month, and the host was talking about an award that her family created – the Courage Award. It was a travelling trophy awarded to the family member that did something brave that week. I was struck by the power of that idea and started to imagine the impact of encouraging courage at work. Dictionary.com has three definitions of courage: (1) the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc. (2) the courage of one’s convictions, the confidence to act in accordance with one’s beliefs. (3) take one’s courage in both hands, to nerve oneself to perform an action. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears, act confidently on their convictions, and take action.

Face Your Fear. Change in our personal and professional lives is a constant. So how can HR help our employees and leaders cope more effectively? It starts by acknowledging this reality. When working through a big change, like a spin off or layoff, or a smaller change, like a new benefit plan or PTO policy, talk about fear. Encourage people to discuss their concerns and worries, and help brainstorm solutions and options. Really listen to what you hear and be brave enough to respond. Be willing to change a plan or policy based on new information. Don’t be afraid of – or limited by – timelines and deadlines. Have the courage to do the right thing so that the project is done right.

Act on your convictions. Being an HR manager is a hard job. You wear a lot of hats ranging from coach, to project manager, to strategist. One of the most important hats you wear is as the conscience of the company. You have the unique position of hearing both what employees think and senior leaders are planning. And both parties are counting on you to serve as a bridge to the other. So listen, learn, and act. If you believe that the new values senior leaders are working on won’t resonate, speak up. If your gut says it’s the wrong time to launch an engagement survey, don’t do it. If you ever see sexist, racist, or otherwise disrespectful behavior or language – call it out. As Gloria Steinem said, “Whenever one person stands up and says this is wrong, it helps others to do the same.” Be the model of acting on your convictions for the organization – and help both employees and leaders learn how to follow your example.

Take Action. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” A powerful way that HR can take courage “in both hands” is to focus less on communication change plans and more on change action plans. Work with teams to understand what is important to them. What actions help them achieve or preserve those things? How will they measure their progress? Celebrate their success? It is easy to have a talking head, senior leader video tell the organization about the benefits of a big change. It is impactful to understand the WIIFM from the employee and managers’ point of view and to help them to take action to achieve what’s in it for them.

The third Tuesday of October is National Face Your Fears Day. Consider making this an event in your workplace. Ask people to share how they overcame a fear or to discuss a fear they are struggling with. Create a Courage Award that you give every October to encourage courage at your workplace. But don’t stop there. Remember that courage is composed of big and small things every day. Most of the time these acts are invisible, but it’s time we shine a light on these examples. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears,  act confidently on their convictions, and to take action.

 

Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership

Rockstar blog

Great bands – and great teams- are composed of talented individuals collaborating to make something new and exciting together. As part of our new leadership curriculum at Abra we have designed a Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership module to help our leaders rock productivity and retention in their centers. We believe that good leaders want to rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive productivity, and that real rock stars build all star teams.

I wanna rock. Employees want to jam with the best, earn the applause, and collaborate on creating hits for the business. But before we are ready to perform we need to know our playlist. Rock star leaders help their team focus on priorities by identifying the big rocks and eliminating the gravel. Big rocks are the things that are important, but likely not urgent. They are the long term, strategic projects that will have a direct impact to the business. They are the things we know we should do, what we want to find time to do, but often don’t prioritize because we are drowning in gravel. Gravel is the thousands of small tasks like emails, meetings, or conference calls that can fill your calendar, but don’t fill your bucket and definitely don’t fill the stadium with fans. Rock star leaders help teams separate what is important from what is urgent, and work with the team to create clear priorities and areas of focus. They recognize that to do that we need to clear the gravel. Rock stars give the team permission to start new riffs, and to stop old habits. They remind us just because we always used to do X doesn’t mean we should still be doing X. They ask what we can automate and eliminate so that their team can rock.

Role With it Baby. Once you have the big rocks identified, a rock star leader now looks at where the work should get done. Some leaders think their job is to own every big rock themselves. But organizations don’t need one man bands, they need well- tuned teams. Teams can rock and roll when they have clear roles, use their strengths, and have on-the-job development opportunities. One role of the leader is to sort that gravel to determine if there are some diamonds in the rough that should be done, but should be done differently or at a different level or by a different team. In my earlier blog,  Improve Through Improv,  I talked about the magic teams make when they leverage team members’ individual strengths to collectively create the best outcomes. Teams have a lot of different roles, and a rock star leader looks at how to train the drummer on keyboards, and encourages the bassist to try a solo. This approach provides cross training and succession planning. It also brings new eyes to each role and empowers each person to roll with new and innovative approaches.

Baby I’m a Star. Plenty of bands have split because the lead singer demanded artistic control and tried to keep the spotlight on him/herself. A rock star leader doesn’t want credit – they want collaboration. They also know that to create that collaborative environment they have to focus on both short and long term results. They know that today’s hits won’t stay on the charts. They invest time finding and growing their future stars. They push their rising stars to test and try new ideas. They build all-star teams that deliver bold solutions. Rock star leaders give credit where its due, cover when it’s needed, and trust freely.

Leadership isn’t an easy job, but it should be a fun one – and one that we should make more fun, more rebellious, and more edgy. Kind of like a rock star. Wild make up and leather jackets optional. What’s required to be a Rock and Role Rock Star Leader is to  rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive results, and that real rock stars build all star teams.