As a working mom I both love and hate summer. As a Minnesotan we survive winter by waiting for those hot steamy days and eating outside on patios. Then we survive summer by trying to navigate the chaos of having kids at home who need rides to games and activities while we are at work. What can we do as companies, leaders, and employees to stretch our thinking about flexibility over the summer and develop a muscle we can use all year? Blue Cross Blue Shield is piloting a summer hours program to help us test both our culture and our leadership muscle. The keys to our success will be putting the core tenets of yoga into our business practice: creating connection, sequencing movement, and centering on trust.
Creating connection. The origin is a Sanskrit word Yog meaning union. Yoga practices are designed to unite the body, mind, and energy to create a state of calmness. So before jumping on the mat, so to speak, we need to create connection. The most critical connections to test are, do your employees have clear goals and objectives and have you both agreed on how they will be measured. It is surprising how often we lead through assumption vs alignment. This is the perfect time to reconnect with your employees and do a mid year check in. We are halfway through the calendar year. This is the perfect time to spend 30 minutes with each employee and ask them what is their biggest accomplishment to date, what are their remaining milestones, where do they need help and what are they most proud of. It is then key for you to share your feedback on their performance, their deliverables, and your priorities for the back half of the year. It’s hard to be flexible if you don’t start on sure-footing- so help you and your team drive results by understanding what is expected. We recognize our summer flex program will give us the chance -and need- to improve this leadership muscle, which will make us stronger throughout the year.
Sequencing movement. Kriya yoga is based on the concepts of “to do,” “to act,” and “to react.” This method focuses on recharging the body with oxygen to enhance the mind. All yoga programs are made of a series of movements or flows that are practiced in a sequence. One of the criticisms we hear about work place flexibility is that it creates chaos. But if we take a systematic approach we can avoid that risk. Every team has workplace norms- the question is are they explicit and are they the ones you want. Pull your team together and ask what is working about the way you are working together. Making sure you understand the current state before making a change is important. Discuss your expectations around communication, response time, what should be on a shared drive, etc…, so that if anyone is out for any reason the team can do, act, and react appropriately. Creating these norms will help our teams be more nimble and improve our efficiency year round.
Center on trust. Anyone who has tried yoga knows it requires a lot of trust. Trust in your breath. In your balance. In your body. You have to let go and and just be to really get the most out of your practice. Trust is tricky- and trickier still at work. When someone asks for flexible hours, many managers start with why not, what won’t work, or what’s too hard. Starting with trust means being honest. Yes Bill I have seen your work and it is great- I have every confidence you can deliver those results from anywhere. No Maria, I am concerned about your work and until I see improvements in X and Y, I don’t have confidence you will achieve the goals we have set. Both of these answers can help build trust. A great Stephen Covey quote is, “Without trust we don’t truly collaborate, we merely coordinate, or at best cooperate. It is trust that turns a group of people into a team.” Trust is always what makes someone a leader. You may prefer to know Bill is at his desk everyday or can be available every Friday afternoon, but if Bill’s performance is strong, trust Bill to get the job done Bill’s way. In the research paper, Trust In Leadership Affects Employee Retention, by Jennifer Miller, it cites Spherion research on trust. Employers ranked employees’ level of trust in senior leadership as one of the top four indicators of employee engagement. Unfortunately her research also found that 82% of employees don’t trust their boss. So what’s more important? Seeing Bill in his cube or seeing yourself earning his trust? We want trust to be the centerpiece of our culture so this pilot is helping us practice giving and showing trust in a meaningful way.
Launching our summer hours project has required a lot of flexibility. We’ve worked with our operations teams. We’ve worked with communications. We’ve adjusted the timing. It may not be perfect, but we will learn. I am excited to be part of testing and pushing our norms. As an employee, I appreciate being trusted to manage my time and my schedule. As a Minnesota Mom, I am grateful that I can see my son’s soccer game this Friday. We will see where our leadership and culture needs some stretching. The keys to our success will be putting the core tenets of yoga into our business practice: creating connection, sequencing movement, and centering on trust.