Culture Is A Verb: Just Do It

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Culture is critical. It differentiates companies, it creates energy and excitement, and it builds identity. In other words culture is a verb- it is what people say, do think, and feel. Yet too many culture initiatives are built with a noun mindset. What person will lead the training  and communication plan? We can change our workplace if we paint the walls or add a foozball table. We can copy that thing our competitors have that seems cool. Just Do It are three little words – but they are the summation and expectation of action that define Nike. So how can you “do” culture? Make it personal. Be Intentional. Commit completely.

Make it personal. There is no better way to change a culture than to change yourself. If you know that accountability is an issue at your workplace and that the lack of clear goals is impacting business results and engagement then be the change you want to see. Create goals for your team. Publicize them. In meetings use a RACI to confirm the roles people are agreeing to. Let go of your noun mindset – What are other people doing? I haven’t seen that anywhere else here. I should wait until something is rolled out officially across the organization. These are culture killers. Culture consultants and culture trainings/framework help us set a clear, common course, But unless you get in the blocks and run, you can’t win the culture race.

Be Intentional. The best (worst!) example of the disconnect between culture and action is perhaps Enron. Their vision and values statements begin with
“As a partner in the communities in which we operate, Enron believes it has a responsibility to conduct itself according to certain basic principles.” We know that they ended bankrupt, morally and financially. Being intentional about connecting culture and action comes down to what you permit, and what you promote. The action of promoting the jerk who gets great results by running over others is a culture killer. The inaction of addressing the leader who is disrespectful to women is a culture killer. No noun excuses- we have to be willing to let go of that person, close that place, and remove that thing if we are serious about the culture we are building. Hold up a culture mirror and say does this person, decision, policy, practice, etc, reflect who we want to be? We do a good job with promoting our culture on internal and external media.  We need to ask would we hashtag what we permit.

Commit Completely.  Thinking about culture change is like preparing for a marathon. It is a daunting. You can’t see the end. We know that we won’t all get to the same mile markers at the same time. Yes. So just do it. Make a run at changing your culture by committing completely and honestly. Acknowledge that it’s hard work and requires us all to think and act differently. Discuss that letting go of the known for the unknown is scary. Reward those that start, those that stumble but continue, and everyone who gets on the course. Culture killers are the people that nod along in the meeting and go back to their desk and work and act the same old way. The executive offices that are on a locked floor when you just announced an open door policy. The flex time policy that is actually inflexible for most peoples’ jobs. To win at culture and marathons you can’t be a spectator – it’s daily drills, long roads, and bumps and bruises that take you to there.

Culture differentiates companies. Everyone knows Just Do It and knows what is means. It resonates because it is focused on personal, intentional action,  Culture work is all about the verbs- it is what people say, do, think, feelPeople, places, and things matter — but getting caught up in a noun mindset can’t spark change. Instead go do culture by making it personal, being intentional, and committing completely.

Set a New Year Revolution vs Resolution

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At the start of the year many of us set our new year’s resolutions. According to the  article, Ten Interesting Facts New Year’s Resolutions, the most common resolution made is to exercise more (almost 40%!)  Unfortunately, about 22% of resolutions fail after about a week, 40% after a month, and 50% after 3 months. So why do we get back on the same hamster wheel year after year? Perhaps it’s time for a new cycle- a revolution vs a resolution. The word revolution has several definitions: (1) the action of going round in an orbit (2) the completion of a course (3) a sudden, radical, or complete change. Send 2019 into a new orbit with your own revolution.

Get wrapped around the axle. A common challenge with resolutions is that we don’t stop with just “exercise more.” We decide our real goal should be exercise more, be faster, get stronger, look better, and wear cuter exercise clothes. Sometimes the power of simplicity can power a goal to the end line. Pick one thing you want to improve on. Keep narrowing in on that idea until it is finite, measurable, and doable. Refine your “exercise more” goal to “I want to ride my bike 3 times a week for 45 minutes.” Now make that your thing.  Schedule around it. Post about it. Track the # of times you ride and for how long. No need to add miles or speed… just focus on the goal. Maybe your thing is to read one leadership book a month. Great! Same steps apply… and so can great results.

Complete a course. You may decide your course is a spin class or maybe it’s an online certificate. In either case building your goal around something with a clear beginning, middle, and end can be helpful.  A lack of timeline in the “exercise more” resolution is part of its downfall. How much is more? For how long? When have I achieved that goal? A key word here is complete. It’s ok to take six months to complete six online sessions. It’s also ok to knock through the same sessions in six weeks. The only right answer is what is right and realistic for you so that you can see it to completion. Then mark that completion with a celebration. Reward yourself for your hard work once you break through that ribbon at the end.

Change your perspective. Another definition of revolution is a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something. This may be the way you think about exercise (Who would spin? Why would I get up that early? I just can’t do it), or the way you think about leadership (Who would believe that? Why would people follow her? I just don’t get why they don’t get it). Changing our paradigm is critical to achieving our goal. Franklin Covey has some fantastic resources on paradigm shifts. I love the quote they shared from Thomas Kuhn.  “All the significant breakthroughs were break-withs old ways on thinking.”  Challenging assumptions, listening and talking to people with different perspectives, and jumping in and trying something new are all steps we need to take to create our revolution.

In 2018 I set a goal to ride or run 2018 miles. I achieved that in December. I focused on my revolution. I completed all the class challenges at #addiction cycle, my spin studio. I got over myself and got up and did it. So what will be your 2019 revolution? Whatever it is, if you make it your central focus, commit to completing it, and are open for a change, you can meet whatever goal you set.

What Great Coaches Do

 

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Last week I attended the Inside Out Development coaching workshop. It was a great opportunity to reground myself, an experienced coach, in the core principles of coaching and to think about how to make the idea of coaching accessible and relevant to leaders at all levels of my current organization. We all can think of great coaches in our lives (yes Janice Payton I am thinking of you!). When you ask yourself what impact they had on you, you will likely think of things like, he/she pushed me harder than I thought I could go. He/she believed in me. He/she gave me confidence and recognition. I don’t think anyone looks back and says my best coach pushed me to work every night and weekend. Believed PowerPoint was an art form. Gave me the confidence that I could be triple booked most of the time. Yet all of us, even with the best of intentions, can fall prey to the reality of workplace pressures and timelines. So what can we do to make sure we stay focused on coaching vs. tasks? After my coaching workshop I am recommitting to (1) asking vs. telling  (2) staying curious and (3) business KPIs for coaching.

Asking vs. Telling.  Think about how many questions you are asked in the course of a day. From “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” to “Can you help me with this report?” to “How should we plan our (volunteer) fundraiser this year?” And like the answer ninjas we are, we usually whip out solutions as fast as the questions are coming. It may feel efficient, but as Ken Blanchard points out in the One Minute Manager, what you are actually doing is positioning yourself as a professional “monkey collector.” All those monkeys– questions/problems others have–get lobbed your way, and you now have a new collection of monkeys to solve for- in addition to your original to do list.  So what if instead of telling, we focused on asking? In this video, Alan Fine, the founder of Inside Out Development, discusses shifting from fixing the gap we see in others, to focusing on closing the gap between our telling and asking. Fine encourages leaders to build this practice by using three simple questions: What’s working? Where are you getting stuck? What could you do differently? By starting with these questions before jumping to telling, you teach your team to reflect, empower them to solve their own problems, and free yourself from the monkeys.

Staying curious. We all have reactions to situations and people. Just saying certain names or topics, particularly in our current political times, can evoke a strong reaction and facial expression. But what if we could stay curious instead of jumping to conclusions? When you are at work, and a certain name pops up on your phone, you could roll your eyes and think,”Oh great, what could Joe want now? I’m sure he’s going to blame me that we missed our milestone.” Or, you could say, “Joe and I both know we missed that milestone. I wonder what we could do to move forward? I wonder what perspective he has on what we could have done differently?” Setting your mindset to a curious state opens you up to possibility and changes the tone of your interaction before it even begins. It takes a second to make this change, but pays off in spades.

Business KPIs for coaching. Coaching has a mixed reputation. Many HR people love it because it is good for retention, engagement, and development. Many business leaders see it is as an expense, time off the job, and squishy. If we are honest, both are true. I am lucky to be tasked with building a coaching and leadership development program from the ground up. As we develop our strategy, we will be talking about increased productivity, improved customer service scores, and higher turns as our measures of success. Of course I hope to see improved retention, engagement and development as well. But those won’t be the focus in our design or metrics.  Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometimes thing. It’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Substitute winning and losing with your business’s top initiative, and ask yourself if you are being relentless in getting to that end goal, and how your initiatives help your teams to build the right habits.

Coaching, like so many other elements of leadership, is talked about and trained on, but hard to put into everyday practice. In a busy world that rewards expertise and confidence, telling is a natural reaction. Making judgments helps us take shortcuts. Focusing on our function vs. our organization is efficient. But it can’t build your team’s capabilities or your organization’s long term success. Sloane Stone was ranked 83 before the US Open, and walked away a champion, the third player ranked outside the top 10 to win the U.S. Open since computer rankings started in 1975. Her coach, Kamau Murray, attributes her success to her hard work, her focus, and their honest relationship. “It’s a progression. It’s not like a one-hit wonder where she won a grand slam prior to winning anything else. If you look at her trajectory, it’s been a line of progression, it hasn’t been like a spike. When you have that kind of development, it’s more sustainable than a flash in the pan.” Let’s build sustainable wins for our business by building a coaching practice on asking vs. telling, staying curious, and one that is all about the business.

 

Are You Giver or Taker?

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If you were looking to hire a venture capitalist, what skills would you look for? I looked up a posting at Deutsche Telecom and they are looking for someone who is a “motivated and an enthusiastic self-starter who works on your own initiative….Confident and capable of easily interacting with senior management.” According to the book Give and Take -Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant, Deutsche Telecom is missing the most important quality for this competitive job: they should be looking for a giver.

Givers are people who believe that we go further together. They help others and put others’ needs as a priority. They don’t see relationships as a zero-sum game. They instead passionately believe we can all win together. In Grant’s book he highlights David Hornik, a venture capitalist who invites his rivals to hear pitches, responds personally to emails for investment requests, and will introduce entrepreneurs to his competitors. Hornik has also only lost three deals in eleven years. Hornik and others featured in Grant’s book challenge our paradigm of what it takes to get ahead in the workplace. In our increasingly interdependent, global, matrixed world it is important to self reflect and ask, am I giving or taking to get ahead at work?  Three key takeaways for me from this book are networking is not about you, check your credit score, and the impact of women givers.

Networking is not about you. Many people hate networking and see it as the ultimate taker activity, believing people build good networks to build their popularity. But as I referenced in a recent post, there is a big difference between connecting vs. networking. Networking is an opportunity to connect and help. Matchers see networking as a means to connect – but focus on reciprocating behavior. If you link in to a Matcher and ask for an introduction to someone in their network and offer to connect them to a key business leaders, he/she will gladly help you– once they’ve met that business leader. Givers know that we live in a small world and are motivated to improve the lives of those they are connected to. They gladly share their time, connections, and ideas and, as Grant says, “create norms that favor adding rather than trading value.” Step back and ask yourself, “Who have I helped lately, and what motivated me to do so?” Then think about someone from a past job and reach out and ask how you can help him/her. No strings attached.

Check your credit score. Jonas Salk is known as an international hero. In 1952 his research lab created a polio vaccine, and within two years of its release the rate of polio in the US fell by 90 percent. But Salk had a serious flaw– he was a taker. At a press conference held to recognize this enormous accomplishment, he did not recognize any of his peers. He failed to mention any of his collaborators, team members, or co-workers who contributed to this life changing event. Salk fell prey to responsibility bias, focusing on the time and effort he spent in the lab instead of seeing the team’s collective contributions. The key to a good credit score is not to keep score.  Instead, whenever your team has a big accomplishment, reflect first on other’s contributions and acknowledge them before mentioning your role on the project.

The Impact of Women Givers. Grant does not spend much time on the gender dynamic in this book, but as a working mother I had some immediate reactions to the giving/taking continuum. Women are raised to be givers, and our societal norms value women who are warm and nurturing. Grant’s research shows that givers face a tricky path — givers are statistically least likely to get ahead — giving credence to the idea that good guys finish last. But his research also shows that givers also finish first-they have the highest productivity, performance results, and revenue generation in their companies. The difference is givers who are “not selfless but are otherish.” Givers who are selfless often find themselves overwhelmed and over committed. But givers who focus on giving without losing sight of their interests are “Otherish.” They give graciously without overextending themselves. Women givers, and all givers, can increase their chance of success- and decrease their risk of burnout- by tuning into this key concept. The good news for givers is that the prototype of the successful leader is drastically shifting. According to a management survey of over 3,600 participants, givers have historically have had lower salary increases, slower advancement, and lower promotion rates. Less than 65% of givers were promoted to management roles compared to 83% of takers and 82% of matchers. This appears to align to our traditional stereotype that good leaders get ahead because of their (individual) hard work, talent, and knowledge. But that is shifting. Google recently used it’s data analytic prowess to determine the most important traits of effective leaders. The top three traits are a good coach, empower the team, and is interested/concerned with their team members’ success. Sound like an otherish giver? Good news for givers and for women givers if these traits are now seen as strengths instead of risks.

We all are part giver, matcher, and taker. You can find out your rating at Adam Grant’s website.  Grant’s book Give and Take provides numerous examples of givers and takers and how these behaviors impacted their success. I encourage you to reflect on how you interact with your network and your peers and be aware of your taking, matching and giving behaviors. Look at your network as a place to give. Be intentional about giving credit. Remember that giving is not synonymous with selflessness. And with that knowledge, go out and give!