1. Your comfort zone may destroy the world

    August 24, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Shelly Palmer

    Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to read this post up to the point where you agree with me or you don’t. Then, either you will find something else to do or, if I have your attention, you will write a comment or an email that espouses your world view.

    This sounds great. Except it isn’t. Because whether you agree with me or not, a huge percentage of you will not read past the point where your personal bias is confirmed. If my writing is inside your comfort zone, you will stop reading because we see eye to eye. If my writing is outside your comfort zone, you will stop reading because your time to engage with content is limited and you don’t want to be uncomfortable while doing it. Sadly, staying in our ideological comfort zones has put us on a path to world destruction.

    I write an article every Sunday about emerging trends and the impact they may have on media, entertainment and marketing. If you know my work, you know I don’t write about politics or religion, just tech trends and what I think they mean. So comments from readers should be professional, should be on topic and should further the discourse with related criticism and opposing points of view. But that’s not what’s happening.

    Have a look at a few recent posts: “The Video Selfie That Changed the World” or “Russian Email Hackers: Are You Next?” or “Facebook Is Killing Clickbait and The Results Will Surprise You.” Then scroll down to the comments for an object lesson in the dangers of confirmation bias and the latest craze: spewing opinion as fact. If this were on some random site or a mainstream media site, I would not be surprised at all. But these posts are on a professional social network where (for obvious reasons) one would expect a certainly level of decorum.

    Social Media–Empowered Echo Chambers

    In the physical world, an echo chamber is a room where sound reflects off the walls. The early reflections are perceived as echoes and the later reflections are perceived as reverberation. In social discourse, an echo chamber is a place where like-minded people keep reinforcing each other’s world views. MSNBC is a left-leaning echo chamber. Fox News is a right-leaning echo chamber. You can name hundreds of examples yourself.

    But echo chambers do not challenge our world views, they do not expand our minds, and they do not promote Socratic debate. They just blanket us in the comfort of what we like to hear. Importantly, it doesn’t matter how much moral high ground you believe your echo chamber represents – an echo chamber is a closed-loop system that constantly feeds back on itself. Living in an echo chamber is not an evolutionarily stable strategy.

    The Quick, but Painful, Death of Truth

    Journalism has been on life support since the advent of social media, but this past year we have witnessed the quick, painful death of truth, and it may be gone forever. Put a comfortable lie in an echo chamber, and nobody will challenge it. It will reverberate until it is accepted as actually true. Then, the willfully ignorant will shout it as loudly as they can. It may be their truth, but that does not make it true.

    Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    While we may not post really stupid stuff online or make outrageous comments to inspire others to do violence, we are all guilty of enjoying the pleasures of our respective comfort zones. We live in a world with extraordinary filters. They can easily be programmed to only send us notifications of things we want to hear. There are websites and news feeds across the entire spectrum of belief systems, and it is super easy to find your comfort zone and stay there. Don’t.

    The best way to get the world on track is to do our best to understand each other. We need to relearn how to respect other points of view. We don’t need to agree with them, but we need to read far enough down the page to understand what is really being said. We must listen when we converse. We must see when we look.

    The alternative is a cacophony of isolated echo chambers, each believing that they have the moral high ground, and each sure that their respective deity is on their side. It’s clearly where we are headed, and in practice, we may already be there. You may not think that your comfort zone could destroy the world, but your comfort zone is a place where you accept the things you cannot change. To make the world a better place, it’s time for all of us to change the things we cannot accept.


  2. One Way to Carve Your Values- and Culture-in Stone

    August 14, 2016 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    How are you expected to behave at work? And do you think a coworker would answer this question in the same way?

    In the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria, values are defined as the guiding principles and behaviors that embody how your organization and its people are expected to operate. They influence and reinforce your organization’s desired culture. Further, they support and guide the decisions made by every workforce member, helping your organization accomplish its mission and attain its vision appropriately.

    So can you name your company’s organizational values?

    You may have to go to your company’s website to find them or dig out an operating manual, but what if the organizational values were literally carved into stone at your feet. Would you then have any question about the behaviors expected of you at work?

    In summer 2015, two-time Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA completed Operation Concrete Values, a project where more than 300 employees permanently carved their values into the sidewalks of the 21-acre MidwayUSA campus in Columbia, Mo. The carved values are now repeated across the entire 4-building campus, covering 17 entrances for a total of 20 sets of company values.

    Image-2-Max-Stacey-Eric-and-engraving

    MidwayUSA’s stated values are Honesty, Integrity, Humility, Respect for Others, Teamwork, Positive Attitude, Accountability, Stewardship, and Loyalty. Now carved in stone throughout the campus, they serve as the non-negotiable family principles that help guide MidwayUSA’s employees in their decision making and interactions with one another. But an important point here, according to the organization, is that these are the personal values of the people who work at MidwayUSA, which have been adopted by the organization.

    MidwayUSA’s CEO and founder, Larry Potterfield, explained the genesis of the idea: “It all began in the fall of 2006, as we started aligning the operations at MidwayUSA with the [Baldrige] leadership and management principles [in preparation for a Baldrige Award application],” wrote Potterfield in a short story about Operation Concrete Values. “One of the Baldrige questions was, ‘What are your stated vision, purpose, mission, and values?’

    We had a mission statement . . . but we struggled long and hard over the concept of company values. You see, values aren’t strategies, they aren’t goals; they’re about ethics—doing the right thing. . . . They come from employees. . . . Great companies simply adopt the most relevant of those values, then hire employees who share them.”

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    Continued Potterfield, “Values must be deployed. . . . Every employee must know and share the same values, to create a culture of trust. Our mission statement was posted in multiple locations throughout each building, and our interviewing and reviewing processes were updated. . . . But then came a revolutionary idea; why don’t we engrave our values into our sidewalks, as a further reminder to each employee, our quests, and prospective employees.

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    In celebration of the engraving project, what the organization believes to be the first of its kind in the nation, Potterfield said, “Our company values are much more than checking a box and feeling good about it. Our values are something each and every one of our employees personally identify with, and they are embodied both at home and at work. We think something this important should be more than simply written down, it should be carved in stone.”

    A strong adherence to core values that shape culture is of course a hallmark of Baldrige Award recipients.

    For example, in a recent blog about Baldrige Award Recipient Elevations Credit Union, Kim Felton wrote, “At Elevations, we build our team to serve our membership by believing in and demonstrating our five core values: Integrity, Respect, Passion, Creativity, and Excellence. We are so pleased when members share with us that they see our core values reflected in everything we do.”

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Charter School of San Diego (CSSD), everything school employees do is based on the organizational value “kids come first” and the core competency “transforming lives.” For example, CSSD resource centers (where teachers work one-on-one with students) sponsor families for meals and school supplies during winter holidays, support work experiences for students, and provide career and health support for students and their families. Teachers also make a regular practice of visiting students’ homes, traveling in pairs.

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Mid-America Transplant (MTS), the organizational values of Compassion, Innovation, Integrity, Quality, and Teamwork serve as a guiding force for how the workforce lives the culture on a daily basis. MTS defines what each value means to each employee: “Compassion: We feel and show concern for others. Innovation: We make meaningful changes to improve. Integrity: We act according to what is right and wrong. Quality: We do our best, always. Teamwork: We work in harmony with others.”

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Charleston Area Medical Center Health System (CAMCHS), employees receive training on how the values of Quality, Service with Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Stewardship, and Safety should drive behaviors, and the behaviors drive achievement of the core competency to improve the health and economics of CAMCHS’ community.

    So do you know what are your organizational values and whether they drive your culture? Is your organization ready to set them in stone?


  3. Quick ways to find your peace at the office

    July 14, 2016 by ahmed

     

    There are probably lots of things outside of the office that contribute to your employees stress levels. But what’s happening inside the office to create strain and tension? In all likelihood, the answer is yes. It might be workload, it might be coworkers, or it might be other factors as well.

    Those stressors at work can lead to a number of different things, including fatigue or under-motivated employees. None of those are traits that are healthy at work, but there are a number of different strategies to promote among employees that can help reduce stress and strain. Those may include at-their-desk activities such as yoga and meditation. Music is also helpful, as is limiting things like alcohol and caffeine. In addition, encourage your employees to take breaks—to disconnect and keep those work-life boundaries as distinct as possible.

    Looking for more ways to help your employees de-stress at the office? Use this helpful graphic to get started http://blog.surepayroll.com/find-peace-at-the-office


  4. Stay out of the performance grey zone

    July 8, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Linkedin by Jim Gilchrist

    What you do matters much more than what you know or who you know.

    Actual performance, whether at the organizational, leadership, managerial, team or individual levels, is the real key to success. If you want to experience greater profitability, higher productivity, greater personal recognition, internal promotions, or even a progressive career change, the solution is simple – focus on achieving actual performance results. And surround yourself with people who do the same.

    Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But ask yourself … is everyone getting what they really want? Are economies booming, organizations growing, and unemployment shrinking? Are leaders, managers, teams, and individuals moving their organizations, other people, and themselves forward as well as they could? Have we all reached an overall ‘state of perfection’? Of course not.

    The simple truth is that when anything … ANYTHING … is less than perfect it means that there is room for better performance. Think about your work and life experience. Everything that irritates, frustrates and angers you is generally the result of somebody’s lack of performance. And since poor performance rarely occurs in isolation, we need to go beyond simply focusing only on an individual’s poor performance, and to also be aware of the possible contributing lack of performance of their direct (and indirect) managers, their teammates, the person who hired them, and whomever trained them. When the surrounding people do not hold the poor performer accountable, nor are they themselves held accountable for their contributing role, we cannot expect anyone’s performance to change for the better.

    Performance results will only increase when we first acknowledge that we can do better. We need to ask ourselves whether we are truly achieving the levels of performance that we are capable of – or whether we are just accepting and justifying the performance levels that we are experiencing. Too often less than expected performance results are rationalized, excuses are made, and substandard performance is permitted to continue. But by first acknowledging that we are capable of performing better, we can then proceed to understand the inter-relatedness of current performance results and to identify the root causes of any performance issues.

    If you are not experiencing the results that you want – you have a performance issue.

    At the outset, it is essential to fully define what we want to experience and then what performance results will make that happen. Then we need to honestly assess and evaluate our current performance capability. Doing this will enable us to identify what we need to change in order to achieve our desired performance outcomes. Here is where a lot of people fall short. When they fail to set realistic performance objectives, that will be achieved within realistic time frames, they set themselves and others up for failure.

    A big part of the CAES capability assessment process involves ensuring that a person, at any level in the organizational hierarchy, has the cognitive capability to handle the complexity of information, and solve problems, that are specific to their role in order to perform effectively. If they don’t have the cognitive capability required they will simply not perform. Similarly, it is essential that the people who are defining desired performance objectives have the appropriate cognitive capability that will enable them to determine what these objectives should realistically be, and the skills and capabilities that are required to achieve them. If they cannot effectively define desired performance, and what is required to bring it about, their performance objectives are unlikely to be met.

    Assuming that desired performance results have been properly defined for ourselves and for others, we then need to stop justifying and accepting performance that is less than these desired performance expectations. We will only see significant progress when the ‘evaluators’ of performance do not settle for anything less than the achievement of identified goals. There should be no acceptable ‘grey zone’ found between desired performance and actual performance – either the desired results were achieved or they weren’t.

    If you justify and accept sub-standard performance you will be passed by better performers.

    Top performing organizations, leaders, and individuals never believe that they have achieved perfection – they always want to learn, grow, develop and see even better results. While satisfied with their accomplishments, they ALWAYS think that they can perform better. This forward-thinking motivational foundation is the reason why they are top performers in the first place, and is why they are always a step ahead of their competitors who struggle to ‘keep up’. Unaccountable people, who justify substandard performance results, will subsequently fail to commit to ongoing performance capability development and performance enhancement initiatives. As a result, their short-term perspective makes them vulnerable to their longer-term thinking, growth-oriented competitors. In the end, those who justify their less-than-desired performance rarely get what they really want – they end up having to settle for what they get.

    While top performers experience more successful, challenging and satisfying careers, the benefit of committing to increased performance results will be experienced at multiple levels. For example:

    • Employees will be more productive, job-satisfied and easier to retain
    • Leaders and managers will become more effective and upwardly mobile
    • Organizations will experience greater profitability and growth
    • Unemployment levels will be reduced
    • Economies will diversify, adapt and grow faster
    • Societies will evolve positively

    The list can be long, but you get my point.

    So how do we get there from here?

    Perhaps I can suggest a basic performance success formula:

    1. Identify the overall final experience (result)
    2. Set realistic yet challenging performance objectives (desired performance)
    3. Assess current technical and non-technical performance capabilities (actual performance)
    4. Take steps that reduce the gaps found between desired and the actual performance
    5. Evaluate the effectiveness of any gap reduction, performance enhancement initiatives
    6. LEARN from the evaluation
    7. When performance gaps remain, change your approach and develop additional relevant performance capabilities
    8. Continue to pursue the original performance objectives
    9. Repeat until the objectives are achieved

    I think that this is a pretty straightforward success formula. But I have purposely left out one key component. You will notice that I have left open section 6) within which I would, under certain circumstances, insert – Replace poor performers.

    Please don’t misunderstand, just because we miss performance targets does not necessarily mean that the people involved, or the processes, need to be immediately replaced. Suitably challenging performance objectives can be difficult to achieve, and we will often fall short of desired performance results. But when a continual improvement mentality becomes secondary to a ‘justify and accept’ mentality, desired performance objectives will NEVER be met. So, as soon as people, at whatever organization level or role (CEO’s right down to front-line staff), stop moving forward, start making excuses, justify substandard performance and become comfortable being in the ‘grey zone’ – REPLACE THEM! Their lack of commitment to continuous improvement will result in not only their never meeting their desired performance objectives, they will inhibit the ability of the people around them to do so as well.

    As you know it is difficult to meet challenging performance objectives with increasingly fewer available resources. So it is just as critical to work with performance-oriented people, either current top performers or people with high performance potential, as it is to continually develop your own personal performance capabilities. Consider surrounding yourself with individuals, managers and leaders who are committed to higher levels of performance, who have a continual improvement mentality, who commit to ongoing learning, and who are proactive toward change. Since these are the people who will help you to achieve performance success, I would suggest that you support, develop and retain them. And replace the others – because you cannot afford their keeping you in the ‘Performance Grey Zone’.


  5. Ten policies you’ll find in every toxic workplace

    June 26, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Forbes by Liz Ryan

    There are lots of clues that a company or institution you’re interviewing with is a bad place to work. You can tell by the way the recruiter communicates with you. You can tell from the feeling you get when you walk into the building for your job interview.

    You can tell in a second how friendly or unfriendly the people in the company are. You can watch them banter and joke with one another, or hand you off stiffly from one interviewer to the next. The cultural clues are everywhere — all you have to do is notice them!

    I don’t want you to accept a job offer with any organization until you’ve read its Employee Handbook cover to cover. If they won’t give you the Employee Handbook when they’re trying to get you into the company, that’s a good reason to run away, right there!

    If you were about to sign a contract, wouldn’t you expect to get a look at the contract before someone stuck a pen in your hand and asked you to sign it? Of course you would! Anyone would.

    If you take the job, one of the first things they’ll do at your new employee orientation meeting is to make you sign a piece of paper that says you’ve read the handbook and intend to comply with all its policies.

    That’s why you have to have a chance to read the handbook before you accept the offer. This would go without saying except that job-seekers are so used to being beaten down and treated like dirt that it doesn’t occur to most of them to ask for something as reasonable as an advance copy of their possible new employer’s handbook.

    You have to get it, because if these policies are in it, you don’t want the job!

    No Moonlighting Policy

    When you have a full-time job, you are responsible for giving the job a good day’s work every working day. After that, it’s your life. You should be able to spend it doing whatever you want to do, from fishing off a pier to making baked ziti or anything else that suits your fancy.

    No employer should be able to make you sign a policy that says you won’t work anywhere else after hours. How heavy-handed can you get? No-moonlighting policies are the epitome of fear-based bullying. They have no place in the Knowledge Economy we all operate in now.

    Stack Ranking

    Stack ranking or forced ranking is a medieval management system that became popular in the nineteen-eighties and in some out-of-touch employers is still going strong.

    In this system each manager has to “rank” his or her employees from best to worst, in case the employees are one-dimensional, stackable and rankable objects instead of vibrant, unique and amazing people. Run away from any employer who still uses a stack ranking system or otherwise pits employees against one another!

    Stitch-Level Dress Code

    Assuming that a company hires only adults, they can trust their employees to dress themselves. If your prospective new employer’s handbook includes a painfully-detailed dress code policy, it’s not a place that can grow your flame. Trust-based cultures don’t treat their employees like children, and children with poor judgment, at that!

    We Own Your Ideas

    It is reasonable for an employer to make it clear to employees that ideas that you have and bring out on the job belong to the employer rather than to you personally. It is not reasonable for an employer’s policy to say that any idea you have while you are working for the company, even at home and off hours, also belongs to them, but that is what some company policies say.
    Check this part of the handbook carefully before you take the job!

    Attendance Weenietude

    In the U.S. it is important for non-exempt employees to track their hours because the law requires them to be paid overtime once they pass a certain number of hours in the day or the week. Salaried employees are not covered by those laws and it is ridiculous for employers to make a big deal out of arrival and departure times for people who are paid a salary. If your possible next employer has a strict attendance policy, they don’t deserve your talents!

    Bell-Curve Performance Reviews

    Bell-curve performance reviews are testaments to managerial fear, because they forbid a department head from giving more than just a few people “excellent” marks on a performance review. A good rule of thumb when it comes to performance reviews systems is that the more formal the performance appraisal process is, the lousier an employer you are dealing with.

    Performance reviews will disappear altogether in all but the most hidebound and out-of-it employers before long. Don’t go to work for people who are behind the curve!

    Infractions Policy

    Some old-school employers count and will ding you for tiny “infractions,” sometimes called “incidents,” and they’ll do it by creating an Infraction Record or Incident Report that will require you to go talk to someone about why you goofed up when you did, for instance by transferring a customer call to the wrong person or forgetting a step in a process. You are not in prison – you are at work. The more a company runs its workplace like a prison, the longer and more detailed its Employee Handbook will be!

    Stealing Miles

    If you travel for work, you should be able to keep your frequent flyer miles, period. Business travel is hard on the brain and the body. Even more importantly, any company that chooses such a skeevy way to save money is not a company where you’ll be happy working.

    Funeral Leave

    Some terrible employers require their employees to bring in a funeral notice when a family member dies. Maybe at some point in history an employee invented a family death and now all the rest of you have to pay for that mistake. This policy is an abomination and a loud statement about the organization’s concern for its employees in their lives outside of work.

    Managers Decide Who Transfers

    It is downright stupid for employers to limit their employees’ movements from one department to another, because their competitors for talent won’t put up any barriers to smart people who want to advance in their careers. If your possible next employer has a policy that requires managers to sign off on employee transfers, don’t take the job! You can’t afford to put your career in the hands of unintelligent people.