The First Step to Strengthen Your Foundations

Sleep.

The one thing that we can do to strengthen our foundations.

When I sleep well:

  • I make better food choices
  • I am more inclined to exercise or, if I force myself, I’m less likely to dog my workouts
  • I am better at practicing positive interpersonal skills
  • I have more resilience when things don’t go as planned
  • I have the energy to get things done
  • I feel I make better decisions overall.

I’m not alone.

In case you need the research:

Our culture, however, expects a 24/7 “always on.” attitude.  How many executives, business leaders, and other “successful” people tout how they can function on little sleep?

Sleep deprivation, however, has disastrous consequences:

The one thing that I feel will improve our working lives and make our workplaces more humane is prioritizing our personal sleep health.

And avoiding any manager who claims that they don’t need sleep.

 

 

A Plea from Your Best Employees

Dear Senior Executive / CEO:

We understand that you have tremendous pressures put on you.

And that’s just the stuff we know about.

This is a plea from us to you – the executive.  We have determined that there are 5 steps you can take to help you be a better leader and to help you retain us, as your best employees. We recommend following these recommendations in order. At least, give this a try for a quarter.

1.Take care of yourself. 

We need you to model this. We need you to understand the value of self-care at a very deep level.  We need you to be healthy.

This may be the hardest step.  We understand that there are many barriers and pressures.

But for your health and ours – please take care of yourself.  The other 4 steps won’t happen as effectively without it.

2. Be mindful as you engage with others – particularly your employees.

We are the people helping you succeed. And, if you have taken care of yourself, it will be easier for you to model the behavior that leads to an innovative and positive corporate culture.  That culture (built on the foundation of your actions and behavior) retains and attracts the employees you wish to have in your organization.

3. Deeply listen to your front-line employees.

They hold the key to your success and the success of your organization. They hold the most accurate insight about your customer. You will also find that, as you listen, you are building trust, getting more accurate information, and gaining influence – among other benefits.

4. Develop a vision that we can all get behind.

One that goes beyond making your numbers this quarter. If you follow the first three recommendations, creating that vision and having your employees get behind you in that vision will be easier because you have developed the personal and interpersonal foundation for success.  That vision will help us help you succeed.

5. Provide a framework that allows us to make decisions ourselves.

If you let us help you develop that framework, give us your support and guidance, and help to create an environment that provides some safety to make mistakes, you will have a more innovative and agile organization that will help you better serve your customers, grow your organization and provide your shareholders with consistent, longer-term returns.  By giving us the framework to make decisions, we won’t be bothering you or your direct-reports over small, day-to-day stuff. This will give you the time to do the deep work that will help move all of us forward.

We feel that your success and the success of the organization depends on you executing these 5 steps.

We want to be engaged. We want to do good work. We want to do that work towards making your compelling vision a reality.

Thanks for listening and, if you really want to try this, let us know how we can support you.

Sincerely,

Your best employees.

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Further Resources

The Spark, The Flame, and The Torch

Real Influence

Tara Brach – The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)

 

Toxic Cultures

“Love it, change it or leave it.”

It is, fundamentally, the situation many of us find ourselves in within our workplaces.

I’ve talked about it before.  And all you have to do is look up “employee engagement” in Google to see what is happening.

As Karen Kollenz-Qutard points out in her TedTalk – you have a fighting chance of changing your organization if you have

I’m at a point in my career where I don’t have the time or energy to bang my head against that wall if any of those three elements are missing.

We can talk all day about what is wrong and what “leaders” (read – others) should do about it.

I’m going to assume that anything that “leaders” and “others” will do is out of our control.

Furthermore, I am also going to assume that the “leaders” will not change their mind, change the way they operate, or be replaced anytime soon.  Often, the leaders are isolated from the impact of their behavior. Furthermore, keeping things status quo benefits them.

Assuming that the leaders aren’t going to change and the system we work in isn’t going to change – it means that it is up to us, individually, to make the change.

We need to take care of ourselves, even if it means removing ourselves from toxic environments.

If you are not in a position to remove yourself from the toxic environment right now – I have the following insights from my own experience:

  1. Disengage or distract yourself.  Psychopathic bosses do not deserve your energy or effort. You might as well put that energy and effort into something positive that empowers you. And in getting away ASAP. You won’t change them, no matter what your ego tells you. I learned this the hard way. Many times.
  2. Recognize the source of your insecurity.  Remember, they WANT insecure over-achievers.
  3. Spend the time getting very clear on what you want your life to look like and why. You will need that information to help you make decisions and evaluate options as you plot your next move.  (I can help you with this – click here for a free 60-minute chat).
  4. Find your tribe and be extra mindful with your colleagues, even the ones you don’t like.  Chances are, you are ALL suffering. If your leaders won’t model the behavior, you can.  Those individual interactions make all the difference.

It is imperative that, as knowledge workers, we focus our energies on creating supportive environments for ourselves and stop tolerating toxic environments.

Our health and our lives depend on it.


Resources:

Donald Miller’s 40-minute interview with Dr. Lee Norton on mental health in the workplace.

Harvard Business Review: Evaluating Company Culture

First Round: Practical Frameworks for Beating Burnout

Tara Brach: The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)

Video: Experience DURING Projects

(Transcript – minus the “so….” )

There’s another consideration when planning projects that I think gets neglected quite a bit and that’s the question of what experience do you want to have during the project?

We get fixated on the destination, what will get fixed, and on why we want to do what we want to do at the end of it all.

I invite you to consider what you want the experience to be like during the process.

Is it an exercise in how fast can we do this thing? Which is great. It’s good to at least make sure that that’s clear now.

Or …is it potentially an exercise in how do we improve our teamwork?

Is it potentially an exercise in what do we want to learn during this process?

Is this an exercise in observation?

Now all of them are valid, but I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we’re just focused on the end game and not at least considering what the process is going to look like. Hope that helps.


Much of the conversation around the “employee experience” has been around the greater organizational environment.  Deloitte has been doing some great work in this space.

I think there is value in doing the same thing, but smaller – within the individual work teams and projects.

Though we interact with the greater culture, the bulk of the day-to-day is housed within the work teams, projects, and operational activities.

Let me know if you want to chat about this further.

 

 

How to Evaluate Lessons Learned

A while back, I did a series on using historical methodology during project initiation and planning.

The steps I use during analysis can be found in the posts below:

I Love Documents

The Benefits of Historical Methodology

Document Analysis

Synthesis – or Finding Trends

Individual Interviews

Observing Behavior

Using What You Learned in Your Project

During my final analysis, I focus on two areas:

  • People –  Who gets along with whom, the stakeholder RACI matrix (both what the stakeholder says they want AND their behavior when faced with a similar project), and any cultural norms that will impact how the project is run and the chances of project success.
  • Processes – Where does scope creep tend to occur (and from where)? How accurate were the time and cost estimates on similar projects?  Is there a pattern of schedule and cost over-runs at the organization across ALL projects?  Do you see any causation trends – Unrealistic expectations? The same 5 people being put on ALL projects? Lack of organizational focus? Add your favorite to this list.

Most project managers focus on process issues and lessons learned when they do their project planning preparation.

I would argue that cultural analysis, and getting a solid read on the culture around the project will have an even more powerful impact on the success or failure of your project.  I’ve seen too many projects fail because of people-issues, despite planning, careful controls, or even well-run Agile methodologies.

  • Misunderstandings
  • Lack of clarity around roles
  • Lack of clarity around why you are doing this project in the first place
  • Lack of trust
  • Unclear acceptance criteria
  • Political games – at all levels
  • Unclear priorities
  • Overworked individuals pulled in too many directions by management – usually your most competent people
  • Misaligned rewards
  • Disengaged (or actively hostile) leadership
  • Add your favorite people issue here…

Take some time to discern the historical and current state of the people and culture and how people-issues can potentially impact your project’s chances of success.

Despite assurances to the contrary, these issues will pop up during your project whether the individuals involved mean to or not. Old habits die hard.

 

#52books The End of Power

View on Instagram https://ift.tt/2Kv0REA
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#52 Books – The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

Format: Softcover

It’s not really the END of power. More the end of the effectiveness of a type of power that prioritizes scale and concentration.

Moises Naim has had a front-row seat to this transition, between his tenure as Venezuela’s trade minister, serving as editor-in-chief for Foreign Policy magazine, time as an executive director at the World Bank, and his scholastic work with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He sees three big trends that change the way power is held:

  • More – “When people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.”
  • Mobility – These people move around a lot more and have access to faster, less costly ways of moving information, money, and values.
  • Mentality – As a result, people’s expectations have changed as they see the possibility for more prosperity, freedom, and personal fulfillment and start demanding changes.

As a result, Naim argues:

  • Automatic deference to authority can no longer be assumed since jurisdictions are now porous and the populace is more numerous, healthier, and better informed.
  • Moral claims and dogma are challenged and universal values begin to take precedence.
  • There is a growing awareness of alternatives and ability and propensity to switch
  • Niches become profitable
  • The incentives to accept the status quo become weaker and the cost of loyalty increases.

The bulk of the book further details how this works in various areas: business, religion, politics, and the military get particular focus.

Naim also speaks to the ever-increasing amount of information and the growing challenge to filter and sort that information.

Essentially, power (as we traditionally understood it) is decaying, spreading, and becoming more ephemeral.  Naim is of two minds about this trend. On the one hand, “The undeniably positive consequences of the decay of power include freer societies, more elections and options for voters, new platforms for organizing communities, more ideas and possibilities, more investment and trade, and…more options for consumers.” On the other, Naim fears that these trends have “simultaneously made our problems bigger and more complex and weakened our mechanisms for addressing them.”

Ultimately, he seems to want the old forms of power back.  He fears disorder, alienation, impatience, de-skilling and loss of knowledge (because, Naim argues, no small firm can match large internal R&D), and the banalization of social movements (because we can “participate” with just a click of a mouse).

Naim’s solutions to mitigate the risks involved in this new de-centralization of power include:

  • Stop ranking each other. Focus on interdependence.
  • Be on the lookout for the “terrible simplifiers.” We need to be skeptical of those who loudly offer “easy” solutions.
  • “Bring Trust Back” Naim sees this as changing the way political parties organize and operate and in how they screen, monitor, hold accountable and promote/demote their leaders.

 

Personally – I see this as a pattern throughout. Are you trustworthy? Is your organization (no matter what type) promoting the trustworthy?

I was a little disappointed to see that he concludes his book by focusing on strengthening the political parties and political system.  Naim, maybe inadvertently, spoke to a much larger move towards networked, agile societies that rely on collaboration and interdependence to thrive.  I’m not so sure he meant to do that.  I would have liked to see a more robust discussion of ways to work with the More, Movement and Mentality revolutions he identified.

My sense is that he sees this re-defintion of power and how it works as a bad thing. Naim at least made a go at providing “solutions” to what may not necessarily be problems.  If nothing else, it starts the conversation around how best to maneuver in this new world.

How to Reskill as an Individual

For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. – World Economic Forum, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, pg.17

As much as I sometimes wish it was otherwise, education isn’t (and can’t be) a one and done thing.

Not so long ago, our environment “seemed” stable enough for individuals to develop mastery and expertise in a particular field without worrying about irrelevancy.

Having recently watched a number of telecommunications experts become the equivalent of typewriter repairmen, I’m convinced that we need to embed learning into our lives.  They had built expertise over decades, then were forced to retire because their skills and knowledge no longer seemed relevant.

I don’t want to be forced into retirement early because I’m irrelevant.

———————————

Harold Jarche has been talking about lifelong learning for close to 15 years. 

He’s argued for Personal Knowledge Management.

Learning how to learn and continue building knowledge and skills for a lifetime.

Maintaining relevance.

Harold breaks down the process to Seek > Sense > Share.

My take on how Harold’s process can help individuals reskill:

  • Seek.  What do you want to learn about?  Go find resources. Internet, books, people, experiences.  What’s out there on that topic?
  • Sense. Harold really means sense-making. Read the resources. Put together what you are learning into forms that make sense to you.  Play with the ideas. Practice and make mistakes and build things that you wouldn’t share with your closest friends.
  • Share. I learn more when I have to explain what I am learning to others – either through teaching, writing, or building courses.  Through sharing, I also get valuable feedback.  For the knowledge and skills I am learning that I don’t particularly want to share publically, I use this step to reflect on how what I am learning here can apply to my other, more public, endeavors.

Using that Share step to reflect on how what I am learning can serve others and what the transferable skills are within that learning has been invaluable to me.

Reskilling


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.

—————————–

The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


Resources

World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)

 

Reskilling


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.

—————————–

The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


Resources

World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)