We don't know what's next for business - but what we do know is how to help you be ready. This blog is all about anticipating the future and positioning you for success.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving, A Special Holiday

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday connected with memories, traditions and schedules.

Did you know that Thanksgiving has historical roots that go all the way back to 1621, when a good harvest was celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts? They wanted to "give thanks" not only for the bountiful crops that would carry them through the winter, but also for the assistance Squanto and the Native Americans gave them in learning how to survive in their new world.

With that beginning, Thanksgiving has continued to offer us a time to stop and give thanks in whatever way is meaningful. Thanksgiving has links to religious teachings, as well as a secular opportunity for renewal of the spirit through the act of being grateful.

Cultivate a New Habit

The MayoClinic recommends that we cultivate a focus on gratitude to not only reduce our stress levels, but to also bring about more personal happiness. It’s not difficult, but it takes a commitment to make the time. Here’s all you need to do: take the time to start and end each day by thinking and speaking thoughts of gratefulness. The Clinic staff reminds us that embracing gratitude is more than saying thank you. The conscious act needs to encompass the wonder and appreciation for someone or something with the thankfulness of having had the experience.

I’m fortunate- I grew up in a household where writing thank you notes was a must after every occasion, and I’m so glad that I learned that expression of sharing my gratitude. Not only does it make me feel good to be grateful for the kindness of friends and family, but I hope it also helps them appreciate the connection and thankfulness we have with each other. But being grateful goes far beyond the birthday and holiday gifts and hospitality we enjoy. It’s also appreciating the not-so-obvious gifts we receive every day through encounters with kind strangers, or the beautiful seasons that Mother Nature orchestrates, from the buds of spring to the unbelievable colors of fall. When’s the last time you took the time to enjoy the seasons or to be amazed by nature?

Every day we’re given the opportunity to start fresh. Why not use this week to start a new habit - expand the Thanksgiving routine of embracing gratitude into your daily routine and see what changes it brings to your life. According to Ellie Peterson, author of Meditative Movements, taking time to focus on being grateful about what is good in your life will increase positive thoughts and feelings and eliminate negative and depressing feelings of self-pity and resentment.

So What’s Next?
On Thursday, I’ll gather with friends and family, like so many of you, and we’ll share a glimpse of what we are grateful for. Hearing and being in the moment of what each person chooses to offer is such a gift.

Learning to be grateful for things in our personal life can wrap into being happy and grateful in our professional lives as well. There’s a lot to be said for the culture of collaboration and trust that can be influenced by personal commitments to being grateful for what we have, rather than resentful for what hasn’t come our way yet.

Even when the universe presents some tough challenges, we still have so many things to be thankful for, if we just look at the positive side of life rather than the negative. And, although it’s just as easy to look at the glass half full, we often get caught up in a first reaction of "I didn’t win." Dr. John DeMartini, author, doctor and philosopher offered this quote on the topic of gratitude, "Whatever we think about and thank about, we bring about."

I’m grateful for this opportunity to plant the seeds of daily gratitude in the garden of your mind. Together we can all make a difference by appreciating the many opportunities we have each day to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The White House, Congress, Your Organization, and Change

Exceptional leaders realize and are quick to take action when dysfunctional behaviors in their organizations set the stage for impending chaos and destruction. These leaders have learned to work with change, not ignore it.

Dysfunction can form on a variety of organizational platforms. Have you ever experienced negative consequences, missed opportunities, or a hostile work environment as a result of any of the following?
  • Broken relationships
  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of customer confidence
  • Inability to communicate
  • Silos curtailing the ability to unite
  • Ego maniacs, who will not listen or accept the ideas and opinions of others
  • Resistance to the changes a global, technically advanced society is driving
  • Fear of losing some level of power or authority
  • Inability to embrace a vision of "we’re in this together" rather than "it’s all about me"
Whether you work in the public or private sector, if you are responsible for reaching performance goals and are encountering resistance, be aware that you can harness power for achieving successful change by correctly planning and implementing change initiatives that involve and motivate employees and stakeholders to engage in adapting to the future.

The Dynamics of Human Behaviors

Nothing changes in an organization until the people involved understand the need for change. If performance doesn’t evolve to match expectations, a performance improvement plan might be helpful, or perhaps assigning an executive coach to work with a struggling employee might be a practical way to achieve transition. When we’re dealing with change and dysfunction in our political arenas, of course we always have the option to express our satisfaction with the pace of change through our right to vote.

Regardless of the sector you are working in, consider these points as you prepare to drive successful change in your organization:
  • Just by our nature, it’s important to assess and understand the readiness of people within the organization to embrace change. If they’re not ready, you can’t force it. However, before giving up on our employees or public servants, consider and plan for the impact of human dynamics of change. We live in a sophisticated and complicated global marketplace. Initial steps are often needed to help employees prepare for a transition. Before they can attempt to move forward individuals may need:
    • help in understanding the reason(s) why change has to happen.
    • new skills and abilities to engage in exploration of ideas and/or dialogues that aren’t all about them.
    • clarity of their role and responsibilities for effecting change in the organization.
    • a way to save face for what was said or done in the past, in order to move on.
    • to celebrate the achievements of the "old way of doing business" in order to accept the new, fast-paced, technology-changed ways of the future.
  • The pace of change will probably be different for each individual involved in a change effort. Pace is often determined by past change experiences, how rooted the employees are in the belief being changed, and their personal abilities to successfully manage their own change, as well as motivate and lead others to change.
  • Fear of the unknown is a common barrier to embracing change. As much as possible, help individuals understand what the future is going to look like and what role they will be playing in a "changed" world.
  • Frequent communications about change, the importance of change for survival, and the successes the organization is achieving – big and small – will be important for employees to hear and identify with. Repeat these messages through a variety of communication channels.
  • Providing training and a change model for successfully managing personal change can also be helpful in assisting with a road map of the behaviors required for successful change, and where those "change monsters" might be hidden. Consider sharing these resources:

So What’s Next?

We all know the world is going to continue to change. But, have we really considered what that requires of each and every one of us? There is no doubt about it. You hear people say it every day, "The only thing you can count on is change." So, it’s inevitable – we all need to build skills that support flexibility, resilience, collaboration and respect for diverse options, ideas, and styles.

Just as organizations need to improve relationships, communications and performance, so too does the White House and Congress. They’re going to have to learn to work together if we’re to move beyond the gridlock and dysfunctionality of today’s political climate. As a result of stakeholder expectations, businesses, as well as government agencies, are going to have to continue to look for ways to streamline processes, cut costs, integrate technology and train employees on the competencies required for the future.

Change has been following us like a shadow for a number of years. Many organizations have avoided it, but yet continue to catch a glimpse of it lurking along the sidelines. A few have successfully navigated the change process and have instilled a culture of continuous improvement in their organizations. But the sad message is that the majority of organizations that have attempted to change have failed. I’m sure you’re aware of this, but here’s the disappointing fact - over 70% of organizational change initiatives fail, primarily because of:
  • lack of planning.
  • lack of employee preparedness and participation.
  • lack of leadership buy-in for the long haul.
Getting serious about successful change requires:
  • commitment at the top to the change message, required resources and a willingness to remain committed over a period of time that relates to the complexity of the organizational changes being introduced.
  • abilities to motivate managers to check their egos at the door and be open to new ideas and approaches.
  • assessment and employee participation to determine readiness and what’s required for successful change.
  • adequate planning and communications about short- and long-term goals and objectives.
  • a common language about change, so everyone is speaking and understanding the same message.
  • celebration of big and small successes, to continue to motivate stakeholders and reinforce the benefits of the vision of the future.
  • support and guidance by professionals experienced in a variety of change management methodologies, tools, and practices that allow change to be experienced in conjunction with the cultural and business advances the organization is seeking, and not as a stand-alone change management training exercise.

The future holds change for all of us. That’s a very good reason to embrace it, aid your organization in understanding it, and building the appropriate team with the skill sets to work with change, rather than against it.


This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Astronauts, Dinosaurs and Zombies: Halloween or your Workplace?

Ghouls, goblins and things that go bump in the night! Enjoy - it’s the season.

Halloween has grown into a major holiday. The American Federation of Retailers estimates that 7 out of 10 Americans will get into the haunting celebration – spending about $80 on festivities including food, costumes and decorations. Many offices now offer celebrations in addition to the parties and trick-or-treating events that go on after hours.

The idea of the alter egos individuals assume during the celebration started me thinking about how we classify employees when the costumes are packed away for next year. How would you rate your employees when it comes to these categories: 

Understanding these work style preferences can aid in the design of appropriate engagement strategies.

Astronauts – creative, energized and self-motivated individuals who are invigorated by the challenges of change, technology, and new opportunities.

Dinosaurs – individuals who are significantly connected to the past. They usually can be spotted by the phrases, "We already tried that and it didn’t work" or, "We never did it that way before." They’re seriously reluctant to accept change and often create drama when change is presented.

Zombies – totally disengaged employees. They report to work physically, but aren’t engaged emotionally or mentally. Definitely your "walking dead."

The best time to begin engaging employees is through the hiring process. Integrate information about the organization’s mission, vision, values and goals into sourcing and recruiting documents and processes. Ensure that your HR staff and managers participating in the hiring process also understand the importance of incorporating this type of information into their interviewing and selection practices.
The on-boarding process is then an extension of the type of culture, performance expectations and engagement the organization is expecting from its employees. On-boarding, or what we used to call orientation, is a planned, progressive indoctrination of the organization’s expectations for employee involvement and practices for empowering and starting each employee on the right foot. The process is usually planned to cover information that should be understood and integrated into day-to-day performance by the employee after 30, 60 and 90 days.

Partnering a mentoring process with on-boarding can also be extremely successful, as the employee now has another avenue to for getting information and checking in on assumptions, perceptions, etc.

If you’re not familiar with a good frame work for on-boarding, check out Michael Watkins' book, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels.

The following tips can also help to motivate and excite new employees, as well as those established in the organization:
  • Share the enthusiasm and energy of the owner, leader, management team, etc. Communication about passion for the work the organization is doing can be very contagious. Celebrate and visibly acknowledge the events, outcomes, deliverables, and results the organization is proud of.
  • Invite employees to be involved in what’s going on in the organization. Employees are more likely to be engaged if they believe the organization values their insights, opinions and ideas. Organizations get into trouble with "Zombies" when employees feel neglected and unappreciated.
  • One solid way to keep employees motivated is to make sure they know how much customers and stakeholders appreciate them. Make sure that messages regarding customer appreciation are shared with the employees who deserve it, as well as their counterparts. Celebrate the compliments and help to remind employees of the impact of their work.
  • Link work expectations with performance management. Employees need to see how their work aligns and supports the overall mission of the organization in order to become personally invested. Employees that recognize their value are more likely to be enthusiastic, creative and willing to go the extra mile without being asked.

So What’s Next?

Implementing a successful employee engagement process can greatly reduce turnover and improve performance results. Research indicates turnover costs can be estimated up to 200% of an employee’s salary. Once you find the right talent, and you’ve invested in the training of that employee, the wisest next step is to engage and retain them. However, not all employees are going to be Astronauts.

The performance management system also needs to support the training and development of Dinosaurs who are afraid to step into the 21st century and engage change, technology and flexible work styles. No organization today can afford the drag of employees who are not motivated and engaged about the future. Yes, we need to honor the past and the success that old practices brought to the organization, but at the same time, we need to have a mentality of forward thinking that provides the competitive edge to compete in the global economy.

Taking care of the Zombies. Organizations that spot Zombies in meetings, cubicles, or strolling down the hall on any day other than Halloween need to take action. Addressing Zombie attitudes and behaviors needs to be a priority and can easily be integrated with a good performance management system.

Organizations need to be clear when it comes to performance expectations, including behavioral characteristics. Employees who do not exhibit the expected behaviors and/or performance levels need to be counseled, and/or provided with assistance if it’s determined they need some additional training in order to be successful. They also need to be put on notice after an appropriate time goes by without expected results, that unless performance improves the organization may have to take action, as it appears the requirements of the position are not a fit with what the employee has to offer.

That’s tough medicine, and a diagnosis managers often shy away from. But every employee needs to make contributions for the success of the organization. No organization today can afford to have a "part-time" effort being put forth from a "full-time" position. If there’s a mismatch of requirements and talent, deal with it and move on, the sooner the better.

Halloween is a one day occasion. I hope you were able to enjoy the festivities - without allowing Zombies to invade your organization.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com; 770.587.9032