From Harvard Business Review management tip of the day, adapted from “Leveling the Playing Field on Cross-Cultural Teams” by Andy Molinsky.
Managers of global teams need to make special considerations to ensure everyone is able to contribute, regardless of their culture or location. Here’s how:
- Make the team norms explicit. People can bring different and potentially conflicting communication approaches to the table. It’s critical to discuss how those will influence the standards and expectations of your team.
- Create an inclusive team environment. Some individuals can feel intense social pressure around people from other cultures, especially when other non-natives seem to be doing “just fine.” Work hard to create a “safe” atmosphere so members are able to express their concerns.
- Give everyone the right skills. If your team’s culture is essentially Western and you speak English, dedicate time and resources to making sure everyone has the skills in these areas necessary to contribute to their fullest.
PW adds: These are great ideas for global teams. And adding this sensitivity to all teams would make the work place world a better and more productive place…
From an email dated JULY 27, 2012 from Harvard Business Review….
Why You Should Sit with More People in the Lunchroom
Workers who regularly sit with large groups of colleagues at tables for 10 or 12 in their lunchrooms have substantially higher performance than those who sit at tables for 4, according to a CNN report on findings by researcher Ben Waber. Workers who sit with larger groups at lunch tend to be clued in to the work of greater numbers of colleagues and can tap more people for advice, Waber says.
Source: Workplace happiness: What’s the secret?
Dear Crucial Skills,
I tend to procrastinate overwhelming work projects until the last minute and know this bad habit is keeping me from advancing in my career. I feel like I’ve tried everything, but nothing has helped. I don’t know how to change. Can you help me?
Dear Procrastinator, (written by Joseph Grenny)
Funny you should ask. I’ve managed to put off writing my response to you for three weeks now! But I’m flying home from Chicago and our editor, Angela, is firmly but politely requesting I get off my rear—so here goes.
We recently found that procrastination is a pretty pervasive problem. In fact, it is one of the top three Career-Limiting Habits we identified in a recent study. For some, these habits have cost them pay or promotions. But even those who can’t count an absolute cost of the habit acknowledge they could have achieved significantly more in their career if it hadn’t been for this chronic weakness.
I fall into the category of people who can point to specific losses caused by procrastination. At age seventeen, a partner and I wrote one of the first accounting applications for the newly emerging microcomputer industry. It was an instant success with our immediate clients, and I knew that if I would invest time standardizing the software and creating high-quality documentation for it, we could make millions. I didn’t. And within a year, a competitor went to market in that uncontested space and cashed in. Live and learn, eh?
But the good news is I’ve discovered a few simple sources of influence that have a remarkable effect on my energy, focus, and productivity in these crucial moments. I also got an enormous number of responses on our Crucial Skills blog and on Facebookfrom clever readers who have found their own ways to kick this habit.
Without further delay, here are some ideas:
Make It Motivating
- Make it a game. Even noxious tasks become engaging when we give them the characteristics of a game: focus, time limit, and a scoreboard. When I sit down to work, I make my scoreboard. I write down the number of things I want to get done before I relax. I limit my list to the number of things I can reasonably accomplish. It’s remarkable how motivating it is to check things off my list. Several readers actually use a timer. I think that’s a great idea to increase the “game” sense of focus, and to link the experience to a promise of reward.
- Repeat motivating statements. A couple of readers keep motivating statements at hand that help them reframe the decision they’re making in their crucial moment. Suzy said, “My favorite procrastination advice is, ‘If you have to eat a frog today, do it first. If you have to eat three frogs today, eat the biggest one first.’” Donald added, “I put this note on my PC: ‘Production Before Perfection’ to remind myself to create something even if it is imperfect and then focus on perfection.”
- Read a book. Lots of people have found useful tools in books that help them increase and focus their mental energy more effectively. Some favorites were The NOW Habitby Neil Fiore, The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, and Getting Things Doneby David Allen.
- Treat productivity like a skill. Pick a small amount of time to focus your attention, then stop. Brett said, “Here’s a mantra I’ve found very effective at battling my own tendency to procrastinate. It’s four simple words: Make progress every day. Once I get started on something, even if it’s with the mental goal of saying ‘I’m only going to do this one thing for fifteen minutes’, it often leads to more. When it doesn’t, at least I have the satisfaction that I did indeed make some progress that day.”
- Find a friend. Barb shared an experience where she learned from a friend: “You can learn to overcome [procrastination] by pairing with someone who has a different style. My boss, the ultimate procrastinator, and I worked together for many years. We made a great team. Instead of being a thorn in one another’s side, we used one another as a means of support and a sense of balance in how we approached our work. He knew he could count on me to develop a quick plan and start executing. I learned there are advantages to letting some things percolate so you don’t have to retrace old ground as projects often get redirected midstream.”
- Set boundaries with others. One reader recommended setting aside time to deal with problems: “A large part of managing yourself is managing who is allowed to interrupt you and when. One of the techniques I now employ is a ‘problem hour.’ As e-mails, phone calls, or other issues interrupt me, I push them to my problem hour. If the issues arise after my problem hour, it’s assigned to the next day’s problem hour.”
- Plan fun. Cecelia uses rewards to motivate herself: “My two favorite ways to deal with procrastination balance short- and long-term rewards. Sometimes going to my home office to work feels like being sent to my room. To change that mindset, I focus on how much better life is going to be once the task I’d rather avoid is over.”
- Pick a treat. Erin rewards herself by taking a break: “Dedicate an hour to a difficult task and then reward yourself by going to get a Starbucks coffee, or by having a chat with a coworker as a break.”
Structure for Success
Lots of readers used structural tricks to help make productivity easier. In fact, you’ll recognize lots of structural ideas even in the other sources of influence I listed above. Here are some favorites:
- Break it down. Divide big things into manageable amounts, then decide what manageable part you will accomplish next. Jim shares this story: “My mother died eight years ago and I received forty boxes of stuff to sort through. Three months ago, I started filing or discarding one box a week.” Thinking about one box is motivating. Forty is overwhelming.
- Leave some fun for next time. One trick I use with writing tasks is to never stop until I am on a roll. I make sure that, when I pause my writing, I know what I want to write next—so getting restarted will be easier. If, on the other hand, I finish a complete idea, I’ll have to start next time with the painful experience of figuring out what is next. Pause your work at a place that makes restarting feel motivating.
- Make an appointment with yourself. Erin also recommends you “Schedule slots of time into your schedule similar to a meeting time. Then make sure that time is dedicated only to the task. Schedule the most unwanted tasks first thing. By the afternoon, you are out of energy and more likely to procrastinate.”
- Build fences. Create an environment where you won’t be distracted. For example, turn off e-mail notifications, put your phone where you can’t see or hear it, close your door, and put in earphones. Some people even use software that shuts down internet access to help reduce wandering impulses.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything on this list at once—just pick an idea or two, experiment with it, and act like a scientist examining your own behavior as you see what makes you feel more motivated and productive. It’s worked miracles for me. I never made millions on microcomputer software—but I finished this column!
In coaching we concentrate on three areas; changing you, changing your job or changing your career. Now I realize those are broad strokes on change and in consulting the areas are different but concentrate on changing individuals in group forums. So back to you… the one thing you can do, while better understanding your career and job options, is to get to know yourself better. In the 50’s Joe and Harry created a four square matrix on the sides of your motivation and behaviors. They are categorized by, what else, four areas. The behaviors that you know you do, and others know you do. The behaviors that you know you do and others don’t know or see you do. The behaviors that you don’t see and others see. And lastly the behaviors or motivation that’s not conscious to you or to others.
The only area that has magical growth potential is the area that you’re not conscious of but others clearly see you do. In coaching we work to make that quadrant smaller. It takes courage to actually ask people what they see you do that might prevent you from moving forward in your professional path. It takes a real desire to change things holding you back to ask the questions and stay open to the answers. It also is the sign of great leadership. You remember the story of the emperor with the tailor? There is another post on that. But great leaders are ones who aren’t afraid of the truth or new ideas or real dialogue on their behavior that might be mitigate success.
There are many ways to discover in this process:
- formal coaching to better understand through reflection feedback
- 360 or multi-rater feedback tool
- ask people within a circle of trust then move to open up that circle
- behavioral assessments that show preferences or unconscious actions
- read about different situations
- journal with an eye of a third party investigative pen
The point is to do something to better understand yourself. That awareness will be a cause set in motion. Don’t shoot the messenger. Don’t assume that all behaviors need to be changed. Just stay open and interested like a friend was telling you a story they really wanted to share.
The ROI on this isn’t quantifiable but coaching has 500 to 700% return. If you take that over your career lifespan the numbers are ridiculous.
Let me know how I can help….
Silence as indicator
When the person was finished explaining their point, I was asked if I had questions. I started to explain myself (it was the first space for me to address the suppositions made) and was immediately cut off. This happened two more times. The second time, I said I understand and I hear you. The third time, I said I hear you loud and clear. Then I was asked for feedback. What do you think my reply was?
It used to be that the cutting edge way of managing was “walking around.” Now, that has to come in a different form of being available and seeing what people need to move their projects forward. How do you measure team cohesiveness? Who cares about team cohesiveness? If you’re interested in “doing more with less” or cutting back on the budget, why not put your attention on something that isn’t a line item on the P & L?
Focus on the unspoken.
Here are eleven behaviors to watch for on staff meeting calls to tell if you have room for improvement:
- Blocks of silence when asked for ideas or questions.
- Lack of new ideas unless they’re previously provided by you.
- People complain less.
- People complain more.
- When certain people are on the call, ideas don’t flow or the conversation shifts.
- Lack of eye contact or lack of use of video on web calls.
- People disappear at the end of the day without letting anyone know.
- People disappear during the day without letting anyone know.
- Email trails get longer and a little snarky.
- No one taking the risk to ask “bad” or “stupid” questions.
- Watch who asks questions in public and who doesn’t.
When a team works, you know what it sounds like. When people enjoy each other, there is a comfortable quiet or there is laughter or there is an audible appreciation of others. When a team doesn’t work well together, you can see the conversation direction being one way. The interactions are probably directed to and from the leader.
In facilitating a group I co-led with another professional, the styles differences were pronounced, at least to me. When I was asked a question, they expected for me to answer the question. There are 15 people in the room who all have opinions and understand the environment better than me. That’s another way to assess the need of a group. When someone asks a question, who do they ask? Each other? Does the person in the room with the most knowledge or insight to the situation get directed the question? Or are they asking the safest person?
If you want silence, you know how to get that. If you want improved productivity, listen to what’s not being said. If you want to know more about wrecking the silence, study something about motivation and influence.
What to do to get more from your team on staff calls:
- Create social norms that are agreed upon.
- Have each person play a role or a position to ensure inclusion.
- Create space (time) for intense virtual brainstorming for problem solving.
- Start with each person telling what’s new and what’s good.
- Cut people off who like to hear their own voice after the diminishing point of return.
- More ideas….call me….
When we walked out of the project meeting, I thought I had never seen two men act more barbarically. Then, I had been in business for over twenty years. These were two Directors, both younger (in their 30’s) and well schooled, but on two different paths within one business unit.
The conversation went something like this. My technology is better than your technology. No it isn’t, my technology is going farther than your technology. No it isn’t, and a bigger VP likes me more than you. Well, I have more people working for me than you do.
Okay so that wasn’t the actual dialogue but think puffed out chests. Think spit coming from their mouths as they talk. And think ten other people in the room that all had to watch since the VP who called the meeting wasn’t there yet and we were outranked. I wasn’t, sadly, running the meeting to get them back on task.
I have little tolerance for this behavior. Actually I have very little tolerance for people who waste other people’s time, especially mine. And puffery really never belongs. But there I was watching this. What does someone of lower rank do? Speak up? Call them on their junior high behavior? Ask them to get back to the agenda?
In thinking back, the puffery started when the VP wasn’t there and was going to be late. The two of them had to equitably decide who would move the project forward. Well, neither person had the entire project. And neither person was going to let the other take the meeting well in that you know, the one running the meeting is the one with the power. Right? Right… So we all had to watch as the two of them unfolded.
So what could we do? I asked about the agenda. I didn’t get attention off them. So, I got up to walk away. I was really unclear on whether I was committing career suicide but I couldn’t bear the humiliation they were hoisting upon themselves.
A lot of people froze, some fueled the “debate” and some pretended there was something very interesting on their blackberry.
Kerry Patterson and his friends who wrote “Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations” suggests that when there is an opposing viewpoint, high emotions, and the stakes are high, you get a chance to utilize skills of conflict management and more importantly self management. They talk about the continuum going from Silence to Violence. And everyone in the room was swinging in the middle of that continuum. People use their comfortable style that worked for them growing up. Where do you go? Does it depend on the content? The people in the room? How highly they are ranked?
Know your style and you can prepare for stupid human behavior. Attached, you’ll find a one sheet on the book. In the book, there is a questionnaire that you can take to find out your style.
Oh… and the two businessmen? They’re both VP’s at competing companies. So obviously that kind of behavior doesn’t hold you back. Or does it?
How to Read a Book
Adler, M., & Van Doren, C. (1972). How to read a book. New York: Touchstone Simon & Schuster.
This book is a must read for anyone who doesn’t have enough time and is doing any higher learning or interested in staying current or just alive in the fast paced world. Anyone who needs to read, comprehend and possibly regurgitate data from non-fiction books. Here are my notes from the book.
Inspectional Reading, p. 32 — read the cover, the back of the book and the preface… do you want more information?
Skim or “pre-read” a book to see if it’s worth reading.
- Look at the title page and read quickly the preface.
- Study the table of contents.
- Check the index.
- Read the publisher’s blurb.
- Check the table of contents for chapters that seem pivotal to its argument.
- Dip into the content here and there sometimes several pages at a time never more than a few pages.
- Look for signs of contention to the pulse and be sure to read the last 2 to 3 pages.
X-ray, p. 75 — Look for the structure of the book.
Rule 1 – you must know the kind of book you’re reading; fiction or non-fiction and what type.
Rule 2 – state the general idea of the book in a single sentence or a few sentences. The process of articulating this allows deeper understanding.
Rule 3 – understand the major parts of the book. How are they are organized into the whole?
Rule 4 – define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.
Rule 5 – understand and then interpret the author’s key words.
Rule 6 – Grasp the author’s arguments, by finding them in or constructing them out of sequences of sentences.
Rule 8 – determine which problems were solved and which were not solved and whether the author knew they were omitted or left open.
Critiquing a book fairly, p. 137
Rule 9- read with an open mind. What does the author offer? Suspend an opinion before starting to read. The author has a point and as a reader it’s your job to discover that point.
See? It’s easy to read all those business books there was not enough time to read. Now you can be the one saying… “Have you read…?” Or “I read in ….” And you’ll be happy to move those books off your to do pile.
They say if your goals don’t scare you a little, they aren’t big enough.
When President John Kennedy spoke of putting a man on the moon, it was unthinkable. And then it happened. It was one of those moments that everyone stopped and turned on the television to watch. We watched it because it was achieved. It was 1969 and I clearly remember the setting and people in the room when that happened and we watched. Something that was unthinkable was achieved. We watched, knowing if this is possible, what else is possible?
What’s your “man in the moon” goal for your career? For the team? For the company? For your industry? For mankind? Why not you?
What “man in the moon” goals have you achieved? I was the first in my family to graduate from college. That was my Dad’s “man in the moon” goal. Okay it might have been mine too with my GPA. All the technology that we use today without thought (unless they aren’t fast enough) or entertainment or new biochemistry that heals what used to be a death sentence are all someone’s dream of changing the world and “man in the moon” projects.
When you go to work today, take a few minutes and think about what changes would make the process more efficient, effective, profitable, safer or generally more pleasant or better.
Back to your goals… What goal would you like to go after, but it seems too big? What skills would you need to learn, practice or develop? What behaviors do you exhibit that are getting in the way of those crazy big goals? What support do you need to get started?
To know if you’re really interested in that goal, ask yourself the series of whys from the LEAN thought process. This series of asking “Why did this happen?” five times until you get to the root cause works with values, too. But the why question is a little different. You need to ask yourself “Why is this important to me?”
This might require a little quiet time. You may need to have someone you trust ask the series of whys to hold you to answering them. In the process you’ll find the heart of what’s really important to you. Is it connected to your goal? Is your core value contraindicative to your goal? If not, then move on to what’s really important.
In fact, when you realize what’s really important, do a little self-assessment about how close your team or career are aligned with those values. Then create some freaky big goals.
By the way, those ideas not only make the world around you better, they then move your career forward.
Let me know if you would like additional resources to make goal setting successful to you!
Being heard and more importantly hearing.
Connie Chung spoke to a group of people at Northrop Grumman this week. It happens that her nephew works for the company and is fairly successful. She is pretty funny and a little unpredictable. She had wonderful suggestions on success. Suggestions like walk into a room like you belong there, speak up in meetings and go to lunch with your coworkers. But one thing she said that struck me as funny and familiar was at thirty eight-years-old, she said, she noticed that she forgot to get married. She was busy creating a really strong career but didn’t build the personal relationships. She laughed because she set about changing that. But she noticed first.
You can grow your career and be very successful. Did you notice that really successful people have supportive people around them? Everyone needs support, whether you’re coming in from your “way too long” commute or headed out to the company softball tournament that you know will be humiliating. The connection between human kind and having support is about love and tolerance and mostly about being heard. The richest discussions I have in my business are those where I give someone the opportunity to be heard.
There’s a great exercise to do to see where your support is strongest and where you may want to grow the support.
- Take a piece of paper.
- Draw a line down the middle.
- Draw a line across the middle.
- In the top left, write the word “community.”
- In the top right, write the word “family.”
- Bottom left, write the word “friends.”
- Bottom right, write the word “colleagues.”
- Now add names of people in your life .
- Place them according to importance.
- The closer to the intersection, the more supportive.
- What do you see?
- What areas need to be beefed up?
- What relationships could you bring in to the center more?
- What relationships need to have more intimacy?
The other part of this discussion is hearing. Who in your supporting network needs more support? What’s going on with them that they might need some support around? The way to get what you need is to give that to those around you. Growing intimate relationships is sort of tricky business in that you have to been vulnerable to get closer to someone. You have to show them your humanity. All people are messy and have fears. Being messy isn’t always being a whiner or being negative. Things that happen around you need to be vetted and sometimes aloud to someone who cares what happens to you.
What conversations do you want to have and need to have with those around you? Who will you get closer to?
I have been asked to write on business etiquette. Well, I find that’s rather personal. In fact, so much so, that I asked several colleagues to tell me what I should include in the blog post. Some of the passionate responses written about what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” in the workplace on a napkin:
- When to/not to text – NOT in meetings unless (______) fill in the blank with each person suggesting different qualifiers
- When to/not to take calls – NOT in meetings unless expected then of course warning the person you’re meeting with that you may need to take a call prior to the actual call.
- Timely return of call or email – the timeframe differentiated from 2 hours to 2 weeks depending on the subject of the contact and the urgency of that contact and all based on the receivers perception. Never mind the rank and relationship the receiver holds with the contactor.
- Writing a block of text and expecting people to read through it and understand it in completion of what the writer was intending. Everyone agreed that we would read the block of text only if demanded.
- How to handle a death in the office – what do people do, and then need, after a shocking episode like that. I am not sure this is etiquette or a situation addition.
- Blind copying someone on an email and expecting a response from anyone that is blind copied – don’t expect a response or to have them read the content. Open rate for bulk emails is about 25%, if you’re lucky.
- Being criticized for using “younger” language, then having to listen to language like “why I oughta.”
- Introduce people when they become part of the conversation with grace – first name, last name and some context for the people to relate to each other.
- Using acronyms and assuming that everyone in the room knows the language
Well, as you might guess, this list might go on and on… In fact, it’s sort of a fun dialogue to get people talking about their opinion, which is when the thought came to me that just because it bugs you, it doesn’t make it improper etiquette. Calling it etiquette might be easier than a direct conversation about behavior that isn’t getting the result both parties are seeking. But that would require a real conversation with real people and real feelings.
- Encarta’s definition of pet peeve – somebody’s constant topic of complaint.
- Encarta’s definition of etiquette – the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general or in a specific social or professional group or situation
Here you’ll obtain a downloadable article with “14 Tips for Business Etiquette” from www.BusinessManagmentDaily.com, which I found useful to note my own bad behavior. Unfortunately, I found no such guide to pet peeves so for those, you’re on your own.
The business case for proper etiquette is simple – when judging your behavior and comfort level you exhibit in a certain situation, they think you belong and you can stay, return, get promoted, be invited to more elite meetings and so on. Your career grows along with that assimilation to additional situations. If you’re asked to represent the team via email to senior leadership, you want to be confident that your approach will be well received. If in doubt, err on the conservative side when acting or communicate. This is no different than being a guest in someone’s home where you may want to be invited back you adhere to their rules, not your comfort level.
You’ll get one or maybe two chances to present yourself before a permanent impression sticks, so don’t blow the opportunity. Be aware and get prepared. Most of all, start acting like you belong now. When you fit into any situation, you’re not limited to only certain situations. What opportunities have you had that you wish you were better prepared to put your foot forward? What opportunities would you like a “do over” now that you’ve read through the tips?
Since I am learning more about etiquette and being made aware of my own behavior in writing this, I am not necessarily the right person to ask. I will speculate and research though. I could probably help you address your pet peeves. Those I am familiar with intimately.