culture

Creating a More Effective Organization

Do you look for ideas and innovation from your employees? Does your work require creativity? When you think about these questions, if you look to continue to grow your small business, the answer almost always turns out to be yes. Management is a critical aspect of ensuring growth and continued success. Ed Catmull’s book CREATIVITY, INC is worth your time. Not something I say about many business books.

While this book is about building Pixar and focuses on artistic creativity, his management insights apply to most organizations. The theme of trust runs strongly through the book but always with real business insights and ideas. For example, on the issue of micro-managing:

“One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear doesn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”

The issues of managing the organization and inevitable failures are another frequent theme.  For example, on leading an enterprise:

“When I say that the fate of any group enterprise, and the individuals with it, are interconnected and interdependent it may sound trite. But it’s not. What’s more, seeing all the interdependencies that shape our lives is impossible, no matter how hard aor long we look. … Acknowledging what your can’t see – getting comfortable with the fact that there are a large number of two-inch events occurring right now, out of our sight, that will affect us for better or worse, in myriad ways – helps promote flexibility. You might say I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors […]

By |April 17th, 2017|culture, Executive development|Comments Off on Creating a More Effective Organization

Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, cities were convulsed and some burned, ‘Chicago ‘68′ became a cliche for demonstrations and strong-arm police tactics. One sunny day I was deep in the beautiful wilds of Minnesota trying to find the farm of a woman whose husband had been shot down and was missing. By 2am, long before the days of social media, she was calling me terrified by the horrible calls and threats she was already getting.

Today we also face turbulent times, compounded by social media and cable news coverage. The ‘fog of war’ hurts us all. Many people are fearful for their personal future and their ‘tribe.’

What does this have to do with your business?

The conditions of our culture are reflected in our work. People spend a large portion of their lives at work. You have the power to create a better place and one that allows all your employees to be their best selves. We know that this actually increases financial success and growth. It will help your employees.  It might just help our country turn this current climate more positive too.

First, have you created a climate of respect?

Respect is more than superficial equality and basic manners – although those might be a good start in some workplaces. Respect includes valuing everyone without implicit bias or overt discrimination based on how different they might be from you. It involves creating a climate that values fairness and good faith and trust. It includes everyone in the organization treating each other well and positively. It includes neither hiring nor retaining ‘jerks’ who damage interpersonal relations and destroy trust. If your own behavior or emotions get in the way, it means learning how to control yourself […]

By |July 14th, 2016|culture, values|Comments Off on Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

HR Learnings from Marshawn Lynch

The frenzy around the Super Bowl provides all sorts of ideas for any small business. That around Marshawn Lynch certainly speaks to basics of managing employees.

Lesson 1. High potential employees need support to grow.

Even when you have terrific people working for you, you need to understand and support their growth. Marshawn Lynch is a top level player who clearly does not like responding to reporters and feels his comments are not reported correctly. He has been fined for not speaking to them. Yet the NFL does minimal speaking training. And if you follow the NFL, you know a lot of other players forced into answering reporters questions who do not do so very well.

I have worked in many companies where we invested heavily in training customer-facing people in speaking skills – from the CEO on down through individual contributors. Most of us are not comfortable giving speeches or public presentations – or even talking to internal meetings. Some surveys show a fear of public speaking that is only slightly lower than that of serious injury! And even those who are willing to speak need a lot of practice and preparation to actually be good. This is true for many other aspects of work where you want your people to contribute too.

What are you doing to ensure your people have the right training and development opportunities to grow and develop your business?

What are you doing for your own professional growth and development?

 

Lesson 2. Check your compensation philosophy and structure.

Does your pay program actually support your values and goals? The NFL expects every player to be available to talk with reporters before and after games and at events. They do not reward such behavior, instead they […]

Compensation Tips

Now is the time many organizations start thinking about the next year’s pay raises. Before you start the hunt for ‘market rates’, projected pay raise averages (overall 3.1% for 2105), budget or other data – think a bit about what you are paying for.

Very few founders, CEOs, or senior executives have thought about their philosophy of compensation directly. Fewer still have tied it to their desired culture.  And so, over the decades, I have talked about these issues with many senior folks.

Often I also use a short quiz and set up scenarios like this:

You have two people in the same role, both are equally productive.

And I ask a series of questions about how one would calculate the pay raise for each. One question is: John comes in early and stays late every day, he works many long hours each week. Tom works his regular schedule but rarely puts in extra time unless helping others.

And nearly 3/4 say that they would give John a larger raise.

Do you see the issue? Most do not until I ask why they are rewarding the person who cannot get their work done in a timely manner over the one who does. Remember – the conditions were that both were equally productive. So Tom is doing the same amount and quality of work in less time than John.

As you think about your salary planning for next year, here are some questions to ask yourself. Pick the top three in each and rank order those.

1. Do we want to compensate for:

individual productivity
teamwork
cost of living changes
our financial success
increased productivity
market pricing changes
seniority
clients increase
revenue growth (funding growth for non-profits)

Think, for example, how many organizations say that they value teamwork highly. How many actually base […]

LABOR DAY

So what do you really think about when you hear “Labor Day”? Big sales? School starting? Last beach holiday? Last summer BBQ?

Labor Day is designed to recognize the contribution of labor to our society and economy. It has been around since President Cleveland recommended it in 1887!

All of us who work – at whatever job – are ‘labor.’ Yet recent research indicates over 55% of workers say they did not receive any recognition from their bosses in the past year. And nearly 3/4th say they did not receive any feedback. Which may be why 65% feel underpaid and nearly 70% are interested in changing jobs.

Labor Day may just be another three-day weekend to you.

But what if you harnessed the concept of recognizing the contributions it represents within your own organization? Which ways can you think of to do so which will reinforce the culture you want to have? What might actually matter to your employees?

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. Take a bit of time off from all your electronics to do so.

Then, starting next week, put an hour aside weekly for two-three weeks and look at what you can do effectively to recognize the value of ‘labor’ to your success and future. Consider asking a few informal leaders for ideas – but only if you plan to actually do something. Or chose a small team – say a leader, a good employee, a rebel – to define some options.

One client CEO keeps a running record of employee achievements – things he notices, those managers report, client comments, and employee thanks to other employees. He includes one in each week’s memo to all staff. A continuous record exists too. They are highlighted in client communications, […]

Tips – Culture and Success

I talk often with clients on the topic of their culture and how it is manifest in their daily activities, procedures, and practices. Culture is critical to business success.  Yet many organizations have not designed or managed theirs, so it exists more by default than intention. Even more have developed significant differences between what they say and what they do. Think how many say they want teamwork but all rewards and raises are done individually, for one common example.

This SlideShare presentation by Reed Hastings is an excellent example of how to think about an organization’s culture and what it really values. It is clear about many of their choices and decision points. Their culture is not something you want to copy, you may agree with it a little or a lot. Still, it should give you ideas to consider. But the presentation is a great way to get your brain thinking about culture and what that really means in daily actions.  http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

Your organization’s culture needs to be based on your business reality and values. It needs to support your business goals and drive your policies and practices to be effective.

An effective culture also reduces your risks and enhances productivity as people understand what it takes to be successful and what is valued. Changing a bad culture is far more difficult work. Far better to think about your organization’s regularly and tune-up as needed.

One of the interesting assignments I have done recently was a part of a turn-around process that included culture reassessment. The client CEO and team worked through a values clarification exercise together and then turned that into behavior expectations. We developed practices based on that. Several years ago I did a similar […]

By |August 5th, 2014|culture|0 Comments

COMPENSATION & CULTURE

Now is the time many organizations start thinking about the next year’s pay raises. Before you start the hunt for ‘market rates’, projected pay raise averages, budget or other data – think a bit about what you are paying for.

Very few founders, CEOs, or senior executives have thought about their philosophy of compensation directly. Fewer still have tied it to their desired culture.

And so, over the decades, I have talked about these issues with many senior folks. Often I also use a short quiz and set up the scenario:
You have two people in the same role, both are equally productive.
And I ask a series of questions about how one would calculate the pay raise for each. One question is: John comes in early and stays late every day, he works many long hours each week. Tom works his regular schedule but rarely puts in extra time unless asked to help others.

And nearly 3/4 say that they would give John a larger raise.

Do you see the issue? Most do not until I ask why they are rewarding the person who cannot get their work done in a timely manner over the one who does. Remember – the conditions were that both were equally productive. So Tom is doing the same amount and quality of work in less time than John.
As you think about your salary planning for next year, here are some questions to ask yourself. Pick the top three in each and rank order those.

1. Do we want to compensate for:
– individual productivity
– teamwork
– cost of living changes
– our financial success
– increased productivity
– market pricing changes
– seniority
– client growth
– revenue growth (funding growth for non-profits)

2. Will an individual be rewarded with a base salary […]

SUMMER… THE LAST MINUTE GUIDE

Right about now each year I have clients who suddenly realize it is summertime. And they meant to consider summer hours or a summer family picnic or some other form of recognition for all the hard work of the last few quarters. But the firehouse of daily activities overcame the intent.

Is this YOU?  Yes, there are still things you can do to enhance morale and inject a little fun.

Tip 1. Bring some fun into the workplace

If all your employees are in one-two locations, this works well. Have an ‘ice cream sundae’ party or bring in catered lunches two-three times over the summer. Start with a short ‘thanks’ and push to get people talking to each other for 30-60 minutes. Make it a real break from work. And yes, that means the executives too – unless you are having them make the sundaes.

Tip 2. Cancel a workday

Independence Day is a Friday this summer. Shut down for Thursday July 3rd as well. Or just pick a random day, say August 1st. Announce it in advance a bit to give folks a sense of anticipation. Give a reason – or not! Yes, you will still pay everyone for the day so it has a cost. But it does not take a lot of effort to plan or run and most employees love this ‘playing hooky’ day.

Tip 3. Go All In

Set up a last minute picnic or area trip – say Great Falls National Park with bag lunches and a bus to/from the office for a mid-day break.

Each employee gets a chit for some ‘free’ time off – maybe 3 half-days or two full days, depending on your business.

Bring in a seated chair massage therapist 4-6 times in […]

Improve your Surroundings

There is interesting research about the impact of negativity in the workplace. Regularly negative people significantly reduce productivity and creativity of those who work with them.

Which leads to the question: Who is the most negative person you deal with regularly?

If you are like most small business or non-profit leaders, you do have someone in your organization or on your Board who is consistently negative. S/he might be someone with a classic negative reaction to all change or a personality that sees their world through dark lenses. We are not talking about those who sometimes offer negative opinions or are realistically reacting to tough situations. We are talking about consistently ‘negative nellies.’

Some negativity is useful. Such people can provide a realistic voice in many discussions. They serve as a check on those of us who have a ton of new ideas but no filters. They may be a part of your unspoken ‘risk management’ process even.

Still a consistently negative person, no matter how good they otherwise are at their role, takes a toll on those around them. And they infect others with negative responses. You must assess whether their value outweighs those aspects. And think quite clearly about how they influence or impact your own leadership.

Could you reduce or eliminate dealing with this person? Is it worth a frank discussion or is this behavior so consistent that perhaps replacing this person to save the rest of your organization is really needed?