So, you look in the mirror and notice putting on some weight. You want to look better, like you did when younger. Remember your glory years? What should you do? There are a lot of diet choices: Atkins diet, South Beach diet, Weight Watchers diet… etc.
While each of these diets work in the short term by generally cutting your caloric input, the best way to lose weight sustainably is to change your lifestyle. Today’s fads for losing weight are not very sustainable for the average person. For me, just the thought of dieting is a sure way to start gaining weight because I get stressed about giving up something that I want to do (eat). It would be much more sustainable to develop a lifestyle that avoids massive amounts of calories and promotes physical activities. The subconscious habits of the your day should naturally promote a healthier lifestyle. This means a more slower, deliberate change but one that has a chance to stick.
This is exactly the same for persons wanting to change other areas for self-improvement. Reading a book about how to be more empathetic may get you to be more sensitive in the short term but unless you are able to incorporate into your lifestyle (ingrained into your subconscious as a habit), your efforts will wane over time. I’ve been trying to improve myself most of my life but only a few things have really made itself into my subconscious. What I’ve learned is that a few gradual changes are sustainable while a dramatic wholesale change usually is not.
Obviously, this concept is true for business as well. We see so many new management fads and new “disruptive” market approaches. There’s already a DNA to your business and making wholesale changes probably won’t work in the long term. Identify a few key changes for your organization and work to ingrain them into the fabric of the company culture – and keep evolving your business that way.
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The single most important component of teamwork is TRUST. It’s through trust that groups of people can attain great accomplishments.
However, building trust can be difficult within groups of people. There can be cultural, personality, leadership, environmental and many other barriers to trust.
Some societies are naturally more trusting than others. I believe the US, despite its reputation as a nation of individualistic citizens, has people with a high degree of propensity to trust one another. Americans tend to be able to form groups that can innovate rather easily. Such propensity for societal trust has led to a rich and vibrant financial market that gives good access to capital for entrepreneurs and businesses.
Others in parts of the Middle East, may unquestionably trust family members but can be naturally suspicious of everyone else. This would lead to many successes at the family-business level but less so at a global business scale.
The ability to pull together and innovate and reach big goals is largely based on how easily people come together to solve problems in a trusting environment.
The difficult thing about trust is that it cannot be just prescribed. People must come together and learn to trust one another on their own personal terms.
Whether in a marriage or in a work environment, trust is a vitally important human ingredient to accomplishing great things collectively together. It’s worth your time to consider carefully.
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As a leader in business, I do not expect (nor do I want) managers to always make the same decision as I would in any given situation. How limiting and dangerous would that be?
I believe that a variety of perspective among capable people will eventually lead to the best possible decisions. In order to nurture a sense of ownership and to fuel confidence, empowering managers and employees in decision making is critical to getting the best results. I’m always encouraged when I hear teams in a heated, passionate exchange without my direct involvement. I walk by those meetings in the office with a big smile on my face. That signals “buy-in” and sense of ownership. If a leader can drive a team of capable people to that point, ideas and strategy will be effectively refined. A vision, a culture shouldn’t be about one person, but about a collective group. That’s the exponential secret to human ingenuity. That’s why empowering decision-making throughout an organization is so important.
Of course, you can’t have just a free-for-all environment without some guidelines. There needs to be structure around the empowerment bestowed on the team. For me with my leadership team, I ask that they clearly understand our business goals and priorities. Then, I ask that they understand what my thought process would be in most situations. In the end even if the decisions go in a different direction, I’ll still be supportive.
I want to leverage the collective intelligence of the whole team. In order to do that, I need to create an environment that enables people to take ownership and risks in decisions being made every day. Having people around who mimic me serves very little value to the organization. Having people who think through how we normally come to a decision but then formulate compelling reasons for a better decision, that’s invaluable.
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At Nordstrom, new employees will either fit into the work culture or they are going to feel uncomfortable right away. This is also true at companies such as Facebook, Deloitte Consulting, Apple, Microsoft, Abercrombie & Fitch, or Boeing.
By “uncomfortable”, I don’t mean feeling bullied or physically intimidated (although that can happen too). I mean the work culture (customer-orientation, the communication style, the work ethnic, accountability, levels of hierarchy, corporate value-system, etc.) will be so obvious that people who do not share them, will feel out of place for better or for worse.
At Microsoft, there is a lot of “mental-wrestling” where meetings are full of critical thinking. Many times, it’s as if people are trying to figure out (or prove) who is smartest in the room. This works for the software industry with dynamic and constant market changes. It doesn’t take long for a person to figure out if he fits in or not.
There are labor unions at Boeing who narrowly define roles. Anyone who tries to solve problems (or do work) beyond those definitions is discouraged. An ambitious young new employee would immediately start to have difficulties working there.
While some work cultures are infamously demanding or possibly bureaucratic, I still believe it is better to have a distinctive work culture than one that is ambiguous or too accommodating to every work style or different priorities. At least it would be immediately clear what any new employee is getting himself into. A distinctive work culture unifies its people on the way to approach the market and how to work together. This isn’t mandated by some HR policy or code of conduct. It’s the over-riding DNA of a work environment. The management has the responsibility to make sure that the work culture is effective and appropriate for the company vision and goals.
For me, I want people to understand and be on board with our vision or find work elsewhere. This does not mean blind faith and devotion, but general buy-in on what we are trying to accomplish and a desire to be a part of that vision. I want them to care enough to provide constructive feedback whenever necessary. I want the people interviewing for jobs with us to immediately get a clear sense of whether our environment is comfortable for them or not. I’m focused on making our work culture more distinctive moving forward.
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No one will mistake me as detail-oriented person. My head is usually in the clouds thinking of things in concepts. That’s why I admire those who pay so much attention to details. I need them around me to make things happen.
Some of the really smart people I know are extremely good at solving problems at a very minute detail. They can think at a level of detail that is extraordinary, thus solving great problems of business and of the world.
However, these people sometimes need help to see events around them in the larger context. They are so stuck in the details that they lose focus of the bigger picture. In my business, we’ve transformed ourselves from a service-oriented business to a product-focused business over the last couple of years. During that time, we’ve nearly doubled our staff and had been acquired twice. In that context, we’ve accomplished a great deal under very difficult circumstances.
Yet, on a day-to-day basis, we face many frustrations around our execution. It’s during these moments that I need to put into perspective all that we’ve accomplished, and the progress we’re making toward our goals. I need the efforts of all the smart detail-oriented people to get us to our goals. And sometimes they need me to remind them of how we are doing relative to a the bigger picture.
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Recently, I gave a short presentation on motivating employees to our Vietnam leadership team. As part of a global organization at SDL, motivating employees principles need to stand up against cultural differences between each office.
First of all, most organization hire managers based upon their domain expertise and not for their people skills. There is too much emphasis on IQ rather than EQ. It’s important that both more considered carefully. The line of questioning should be thorough in both regards in evaluating a potential manager.
There are a few myths of motivating employees (according to the blog, Managing Information for Innovation).
- I can motivate people: Motivation starts from yourself. You can set an environment which can motivate people. The key is knowing how to set up the environment for each of your employee.
- Money is a good motivator: Rewards do not motivate people much. Rewarding someone would obviously make employees self-interested, and not always for the benefit of the whole organization.
- I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my employees: Not really. Different people are motivated by different things.
- Increased job satisfaction = Increased job performance: Managers feel that if my employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are performing well. This might not be true. Because, someone satisfied with his job might just be performing at the same level from past few years. Is he motivated? Definitely not!
- Employee motivation is science/art: This topic is arguable. Is it an art or science? My perspective on this is it’s an art as well as science, just like management. There are simple principles of motivation that can be followed, simple myths that can be avoided and requires critical thinking and innovative motivation ideas for employee motivation.
- Fear is a motivator: Fear is a great motivator — for a very short time. That’s why a lot of yelling from the boss won’t seem to “light a spark under employees” for a very long time.
Keeping these myths in mind, here are some principles of motivating employees:
- Align the organizational goals with employee goals
- Motivate each employee individually
- Show that you value individual contributions
- Involve them in important decisions. Ask for input.
- Give employees interesting new challenges
And here are factors that motivate people:
- New Challenges
- Opportunities to meet new people
- Feeling involved
- Status — new title or privileges
- A chance to learn or develop new skills
- Clear goals: A chance to achieve tangible goals
- Autonomy. Being given extra responsibilities
- Inspirational appeals. Emotionally expressed vision
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Every other week or so, I get to have coffee with employees. “CEO Coffee” may not be a new concept but I especially enjoy them.
Those sessions take me away from my view of the business to the different perspectives of the employees. Sometimes after just a few sips, I humbly realize how contradictory my messaging can be to the overall team. Other times, I’m so ecstatic when someone shares the same passion and excitement about our overall vision.
With only a few words, I can get a gauge of what kind of working environment is being created after having been acquired a couple times in a short period of time. For a few moments, I get a glimpse of what it is like working from the ground level.
Much of the conversations are not even about work but about getting to know each other. Who are these people who signed up to join our journey to roll out smart social intelligence? That really intrigues me.
Regardless of how much benefit I may bring to them, I gain so much by leaving my office and sharing a cup of coffee (usually at Fremont Coffee), happily sitting on an old, uncomfortable wooden chair getting to know members of the team.
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Complacency and lack of urgency within a work environment are poor reflections on leadership. Most people want to be a part of something bigger than just their individual selves. People want to be contributing to a “winning team”. Such desire to attach and contribute to something great is what has allowed us as humans to accomplish extraordinary feats.
What stands in the way of a team doing great things is poor leadership that lacks clear vision, goals and direction. Such failings create ambiguity within the work environment in which team members are unclear about their roles and the overall direction of the team. This is NOT the environment of a “winning team”, but rather one of complacency and a lack of urgency.
Leaders often make the organizational vision and goals too complex or too general. People tend to react best to simple and tangible. For example, nothing galvanizes groups together faster than an external threat. This is true at a national level during war time, or at a family level when a family member becomes very ill. Equally, people pull together during moments of great accomplishments such as when the astronauts first landed on the moon. The goals in these cases are clear and simple.
Leaders, therefore, need to have clear, tangible goals which can be measured. And they must create an organization that can effectively communicate these goals. Once everyone is clear on how their roles contribute to the overall team goals, complacency should no longer be an issue.
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Critical thinkers are thorough and can flush out ideas with both conventional and unconventional perspectives. These people have the mental acumen and courage to challenge popular consensus with reasonable reflective thinking. In the end, they can help clarify goals, examine assumptions, discern hidden values, evaluate evidence, accomplish actions, and assess conclusions
Critical thinkers move ideas forward or stop them on their track when necessary. I appreciate them as an executive and entrepreneur. They are critical to innovation as well as execution. I don’t consider myself as a critical thinker. I’m more of a ‘filter’ of ideas after critical thought has already been put forth. I’ve had a lot of experience quickly recognizing compelling ideas at an early stage.
Some people confuse negativity for critical thinking. Playing devil’s advocate just to be contrary is not productive or is it critical thinking. Negativity is cancerous and stands in the way of execution while critical thinking enhances clarity, quality and production.
Negativity often disguises itself as critical thinking, while critical thinkers clearly understand the difference.
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Do you know the five dysfunctions of team… at least from Patrick Lencioni’s perspective?
In a story-telling format, he’s laid out an interesting case for what are the dysfunctions keeping most teams from optimal performance — and how to get around them. Here is a sampling of each of the five dysfunctions. If these resonate with you, the book may be helpful. It is a very fast read.
- Absence of Trust: In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.
- Fear of Conflict: All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work. And the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team.
- Lack of Commitment: In context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with the complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no one on the team is quietly harboring doubts about whether to support the actions agreed on. The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty.
- Avoidance of Accountability: In the context of teamwork, accountability refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. The essence of this dysfunction is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations. Members of great teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another.
- Inattention to Results: The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.
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