Being Kind is another way to go beyond the ordinary in business, at work and in our everyday relationships with others. This article is another in the series The Inspirational Workplace. If you wish to explore further background articles drawn from the web than click on Link + Number identified throughout this article.
What is it about kindness that has so many perplexed regarding how it is expressed in the workplace? Kindness is a simple act that doesn’t take much skill – we can just do it. Yet, we can get sloppy about how we practice it, for instance we often: forget to hold a door open for another, smile, say a thank you, pick up something off the floor, leave the washroom or common work room untidy, or forget to put our hand over our mouth when we cough. All simple acts of unkindness that are noticed but go unchecked.
There is also a more darker side of unkindness which brews inside our world of work, that of bullying and harassment - those repeated acts that are intended to intimidate, offend, isolate, pester, belittle, degrade or humiliate a person or a group of people. Such acts can cause increased absenteeism, turnover, costs, accidents and stress; and at the same time reduce productivity, motivation, morale, and customer service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help when we have a leader in the US White House who is prone to belittling, degrading and humiliating people and groups of people. He is not a role model for those who are trying to develop a positive culture for the workplace. (Link 1 Link 2 )
We can find a solution to both the simple acts of unkindness and the more darker side of unkindness. Let’s start with the premise that there is good in all of us, and if we focus our attention on simple acts of kindness then the more darker side of unkindness won’t be tolerated by us or by others in the workplace.
Kindness plays on our emotions
There is considerable research that shows acts of kindness result in reduced stress, anxiety and depression, while it helps others become calm, relaxed, happier and healthier. Simple and consistent acts of kindness set off a host of bodily chemical reactions. They stimulate the production of serotonin (the chemical that heals our wounds, calms us down, and makes us happy); It releases endorphin (the brain’s natural painkiller); cortisol (the stress hormone); and, oxytocin (lowers blood pressure).(Link 3 ; Link 4 )
Kindness and the bottom line
There is also considerable research that shows acts of kindness improve both the bottom line and workplace morale.
Simply put, kindness leads to happiness, and happiness in the workplace improves productivity. Economists have carried out several experiments to test the idea that employees who are happy, work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people about 12% more productive. (Link 5) Those companies that have built their brand on kindness, have also achieved high levels of success both from a financial and a work culture perspective. (Link 6)
Kindness is more than just a business trend. For a growing number of companies, it is a fundamental strategy that benefits the customer, everyone in the organization and the financial condition of the company. (Link 7)
One would think that with all the positive qualities of kindness, we would just naturally act with kindness. In fairness, we do. However, we can do better.
Kindness Starts with Us
It’s up to each of us to take ownership for kindly acts no matter what role we play within an organization. Basically, this reverses the behaviours identified in the first paragraphs of this article. It’s about being considerate of others in such a way that we offer a helping hand whenever needed; or, whenever we see something out of place we make it right.
Once we get it right with ourselves we can begin spreading kindness to others. It is not uncommon that when one shows kindness to another, the other begins to add kindness to his or her behaviour.
A simple act of kindness becomes a springboard for others to act. If you have ever been around someone who is genuinely kind, you know the person causes you to take note and reflect on your own kindness behaviour. Why is that? Because the act makes us feel good, appreciated, and yes loved. And, we find, it doesn’t take much to pass on the act. It’s all about the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated. A bit of kindness soon transforms into big bundles of kindness. At its core, kindness is showing appreciation for the other and in turn feeling good about it.
Develop A Culture of Kindness
For kindness to become a brand for an organization, it must become ingrained within the psyche of that organization. A positive organizational culture begins with positive values promoted and nurtured by the owners and leader/manager team. When kindness is promoted as a purposeful act and isn’t considered as a “warm and fuzzy” experience, it becomes a genuine dynamic that brings people together in a positive way, improves customer relations, and has real financial returns.
One of the factors leading to a breakdown in organizational culture occurs when a value has been clearly stated but leader/managers fail to apply consequences when it is contravened. So once a value like kindness is contravened with no consequence, people begin to feel that the value has little importance and gives them permission to disregard it. Scepticism and cynicism follow. On the flip side, an organizational culture is positively strengthened when people are encouraged and commended for living the value.
Along with the promotion and practice of the “kindness value”, is hiring people who validate kindness in their own lives. However, just by hiring people who view kindness as a value doesn’t cut it of itself. Value driven leadership is required.
A culture of kindness doesn’t start by accident. It can be started by anyone, but it must be cultivated and strengthened through personal actions of the leadership team. Together, individually and collectively, they bring the organization to understand kindness as a core value. (Link 8 Link 9 )
Organizations that value kindness find that it becomes contagious. As internal kindness takes hold, people begin to outreach to the wider community in a way that adds worth to that community. An old saying goes something like this: “how people treat those less fortunate in their community is indicative of the strength of the community.”
It is not hard to find companies and organizations heeding the call for help. Think about those companies who free up volunteer time for their employees, promote drives for food banks, support shelters for the homeless, contribute to Habitat for Humanity, and provide marathons in support of health research. These acts, and much more, are common acts of kindness that build up a wholesome community. But foundational to all of them is the value of kindness promoted and supported by the leadership, management team, or owner of businesses; and by extension all those within the organization who make it happen.
Become a spark
Each of us in the workplace can become a spark for kindness. We just need to start. A spark of kindness can grow into a raging fire of kindness. Acts of kindness can become contagious and they will gradually be recognized as a value both inside and outside the organization. It will become the raging fire it is meant to be when the leadership team models the behaviour, and everyone makes it part of the corporate DNA. It all starts with a spark and you can be that spark.
"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves." -- Amelia Earhart
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Note: Another good article on kindness found on the globeandmail.com and the following books are good reads .
What is the "soft stuff" we must deal with in an organization?
The "soft stuff" is the stuff we don’t see on the surface. It lurks behind the scenes but, it's the fuel that keeps organizations going. You see, organizations are made up of people and people do and say things that are not readily visible. People think and have habits, skills, emotions, beliefs, values, attributes and attitudes. All of these people characteristics make up the "soft stuff".
Another area where "soft stuff" lurks is in the vision, mission and values that drive the company, as well as in the systems and processes a company has to get the work done. These are often referred to as “that’s how we do things around here,” and show up as major contributors to the company’s culture.
Companies often produce or sell "hard stuff". They make or sell such things as machinery, vehicles, computers, bottled water, groceries, construction material, and office supplies. These are considered “hard” because they are made up of hard materials and appear “real” to people. Inside the business employees work with computers, office equipment and supplies, telephones, vehicles and other mechanical devices which are also considered “hard.”
Let's put it another way. I am writing this article with a computer. It is a piece of machinery with a keyboard, monitor, hard drive, mouse and many other components. These are the hard things. The computer doesn't work, however without two things. Someone to make it work and something inside it to allow it to produce the letters, visuals, files and such on the monitor. On the inside we have the software. It’s invisible and made up of numerical equations and programming language that tells the computer what to do and when to do it. I don’t see all that “soft” stuff. What I do see is the images on my screen. When my computer breaks down, I take it to a computer repair shop. They fix the hard stuff. When my software has a glitch, I refer it to the software company and the people there fix the soft stuff.
The analogy also applies to businesses, although I like another analogy. That of an iceberg. On the surface we see the visible hard stuff but underneath lies all the soft stuff that gives life to the business. And, like the iceberg there is more that lies beneath the surface then floats on top. What lies beneath is deeper, sometimes more difficult to fathom, but is absolutely fundamental to keeping the iceberg afloat. It's the soft stuff that keeps the business afloat. Without people functioning at peak performance, effective systems and processes and a healthy culture, companies are doomed to breakdown and in some cases fail completely. They go the way of the melting iceberg.
None of the "hard stuff" that is manufactured, sold or worked on, works without people. And, although people make or sell hard products the people themselves interact and relate in ways that exhibit the “soft stuff.” The "soft stuff " becomes everyone's business in the organization. But it is the manager's responsibility to encourage the development of "soft stuff" and remove barriers to let the "soft stuff" flow. "Soft stuff" becomes the manager/leader's product – it becomes their "hard stuff." And it’s often this stuff that gets in the way of a well-functioning business. That's why we often hear the phrase from managers, "I really like my job, if it wasn’t for the people issues I have to deal with." Basically what they are saying is "this soft stuff is really hard."
When things go awry in companies there are usually two major reasons. First, there is “hard stuff” failure such as equipment and vehicle breakdown, or there is "soft stuff" failure caused by people, systems or process breakdown. The first can easily be fixed or replaced in a timely fashion; the second is usually “harder” to fix and takes more time. That’s why many people refer to the “soft stuff” as their “real hard stuff.”
Questions to Answer
How is your "soft stuff" working in your business? Are communications open and clear? Do people work effectively in teams? Are roles, responsibilities well thought out? Do you have a clear vision and set of values that give people a sense a purpose? How are decisions made - collaboratively or top down? Do you have high turn-over rates which are symptomatic of a toxic organizational culture? Are you satisfied with how people relate to each other and your customers? All of these questions get to your "soft stuff." If you have issues in any "soft" areas, fix them before they become "hard wired," within your organization.
How is your "soft stuff" working with your colleagues? Do you communicate non-defensively with them? Do you listen empathetically to them? Do you collaborate effectively with your team members? Do you value integrity, compassion, and kindness in the workplace? Do you engage with others peacefully? Do you work at building trust with colleagues and customers? Do you respect other's point of view?
Is your "soft stuff" hardwired? Do you maintain a high level of ethics? Do you consistently act on your values? Are you calm in times of stress? Do you manage anger well? Do you extend a helping hand when not asked? Do you relate to others with honesty and integrity? Are you vengeful or forgiving? Are you highly self-motivated, or do you expect others to motivate you?
Most of the articles on Fontanie|Magazine are about the "soft stuff." This is by design. We hope they help people in business, at work and throughout their lives become better equipped to deal with the "soft stuff" that is so important for them and others; and, just maybe some of that "soft stuff" won't be so hard.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Leadership is often linked to a position within an organization. The trouble with this notion is that we can sit and wait for the leader to act, rather than taking a leadership role ourselves. A leadership attribute which can be viewed as outside of a position, but important for anyone who aspires to become a leader, is one of interpersonal influence. Positive interpersonal influence is something we can assign to ourselves in our dealings with others. In short, when we take the initiative to build strong interpersonal relationships within the workplace we begin to act as leaders. Three prized principles underpin our ability to influence in a positive way include: simplicity, humbleness and authentic service. These are also fundamental principles underlying the qualities so widely discussed in the literature regarding Servant Leadership.
Simplicity: Simplicity is about making the complex understandable in a way that is genuine and without pretence. They say a mark of a genius is one who boils down that which is complicated and makes it simple for us to understand. The genius of Einstein was his ability to take the concept of relativity and express it in a simple formula. The genius of Job was to simplify digital devices so that everyone can use them. The genius of great spiritual leaders is to reduce religious complexity to something as simple as love, forgiveness and compassion.
So how can we use the principle of simplicity in the workplace? Here are three suggestions:
Humility: Simplicity begs for humility. We can be boastful and arrogant about how simple we have made or explained things, or we can do so in a way that keeps our self-inflating ego in check. The principle of humility embodies an unpretentious way of presenting ourselves with quiet confidence. In a way, humility has less to do with confidence then it has to do with reducing a sense of being self-righteous. Most humble people I know are confident and can express themselves without bragging or exuding self-conceit.
Sometimes we don’t want to act humbly because we are afraid others may perceive us as weak or vulnerable. Yet, precisely by admitting our weakness and showing our vulnerability we are acting with strength and courage.
There are many ways in which we can express the principle of humility in the workplace. Here are three:
Authentic Service: The term service is used to denote everything from a religious ceremony to a fee for completed work. I use the term here as an action of helping or doing work for someone. It means providing, rendering or giving something to someone. To provide service should be the real stuff around which our work revolves such as helping our customers, colleagues and those who pay us.
The key to service is not so much about what we do but more about how we do it - it is more about our attitude. Certainly this is not to down play the substance of what we do as the actual work we do is critically important. It is about how we approach that work. We can approach it with authenticity, optimism, helpfulness, and kindness. Or, we can approach it mechanically devoid of feeling - as something we “have to do” in order to get a paycheque.
Here are Three easy actions we can do to improve our service to others:
Once we recognize and accept that we benefit immensely by striving for simplicity, humility and service, our attitude towards others change.
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Work, for many is drudgery and has little meaning. They go to work with a heavy heart because they receive little satisfaction from it, However, there is one exception - they get paid. Perhaps you have heard these statements:
"I work here because the money is good."
"I put in my time so the company owes me."
"I work from paycheque to paycheque."
"I don’t like what I do but the pay is good."
Money becomes the end, not the means to the end. There doesn't appears to be a higher purpose. Work becomes hard for them, not in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. It becomes an emotional energy drain and plays havoc on one's mind, body and spirit. It becomes sheer drudgery.
It needn't be like this. Not that work isn't difficult or emotionally draining. Work still can be that way. It can be physically draining. Lifting heavy objects day in and day out is physically draining; helping people solve their problems on a daily basis is emotionally draining.
So how do we move the dial so that work has meaning and personal purpose? So that work goes beyond drudgery?
Two intertwined dynamics are required. One is organizational leadership and the other is personal fit. Organizational leadership clarifies vision, mission and values; personal fit brings a meshing of personal purpose and values with the organization. Let's take an example.
A former associate of mine once worked with a fertilizer company. The fertilizer was of the smelly manure kind, not the clean-cut potash kind. Employees were not enamoured with their work, in fact they expressed a heartfelt dislike for it. My colleague brought the company through a re-visioning process. He engaged the leadership team in developing a meaningful vision for the company and in turn engaged everyone in finding deeper meaning in their work - other than shovelling "sh*t" day in and day out.
The leadership team and employees came to realize that what they were about was important for the growth of food. They were providing fertilizer "to feed the hungry." They discovered "why" they were in the fertilizer business – to feed the hungry.
This awakening from what was apparently drudgery to a renewed purpose initiated greater opportunities. New values began to emerge that called upon personal and corporate compassion and outreach which were expressed in behaviour and action: employees began volunteering to the local food bank, the company promoted and employees became engaged in developing community gardens (using their fertilizer, of course) and contributing to improved farming practices within developing countries.
Everyone within the organization found a renewed sense of purpose. It did not take away the "smell" and the shovelling of manure but it gave a new meaning to "why" they were doing it. The process required leadership, personal fit and commitment. Leadership spurred the visioning process, personal fit meshed personal values with company values and commitment drove behavioural change.
This example summarizes the issue and results pertaining to part of the process. It doesn't give the full picture. Certainly, a shift in thinking (a renewed vision and values) initiates the behavioural change, but the transformation doesn't occur over night.
The process takes time, energy, resilience and perseverance. Leaders require patience as cultural change occurs over time and not in an instant flash. They need to continually talk and walk the vision, mission and values and become role models for others. As one CEO said, it is often a two-step dance - "two steps forward and one step back, resilience is the name of the game." It's a nudge to the future, not a giant step.
The process also requires ownership, responsibility and accountability among employees. A sense of ownership for their actions and a shift in thinking towards possibilities. Ownership for the fit they have with their work - that their work is more than a paycheque; that they need to go deep within themselves to find their sense of purpose and connect it with the vision and values of the organization; and, if the fit isn't there, to seek employment elsewhere.
Work doesn’t become "drudgery" when you enjoy what you do and it fits with your sense of purpose and values. For many in that fertilizer plant, knowing that what they did – shoveling manure - helped feed the hungry, gave them a renewed sense of purpose. From this beginning, they went on to do greater things for themselves and their community through compassionate outreach.
Is your work, "drudgery"? Or do you find higher meaning in what you do? If not, what can you do about it? If you are in a leadership position, what can you do to open new horizons and help your colleagues find new meaning in what they do?
Integrity is often identified as one of the core values of many businesses and organizations. The challenge for those in the organization is "what do we mean by integrity?" It is often easily identified and glibly said, but do people in the organization understand what it means.
Integrity has a multi-dimensional aspect to it. We often attach the word integrity to many functions within the workplace and life: moral integrity, data integrity, personal integrity, market integrity, corporate integrity, philosophical integrity, mathematical integrity, medical integrity and so on.
When we use integrity as a corporate value, we usually mean that the word applies to everyone and all functions within the organization. Hence, the organization deems it appropriate that people deal with each other and customers with integrity, that the data is collected and screened with integrity, and that it markets itself to its various stakeholders with integrity.
Values however, are acted out through behaviors. We know that people have integrity if they exhibit the qualities of integrity. When we think of behavior and use the word integrity we expect the person to : act consistently, exhibit moral character, adhere to ethical principles, and project the qualities of honesty, truthfulness, accuracy and authenticity.
Let's lift two key phrases from this list of behaviors.
Consistency of Action: Consistency is about sameness. That one acts the same regardless of the situation. We often hear the phrase: "He says what he means and means what he says." This person consistently shows that his behavior reflects what he means, and people recognize it to be so. Think about John, however, who shifts and changes to accommodate his different mood swings. How do we relate to John because he "runs hot and cold" and we don't know from one situation to another how he will react? John becomes a relational stumbling block and his colleagues are constantly on guard. John is acting consistently but in a way that weakens his relationships with others. John tarnishes his integrity by the way he acts with others.
Consistency of action is a choice we make. We can choose to be obstructionist or not. We can choose to leave one situation where we may be frustrated or angry and enter another where we put our frustration and angst aside and deal with the new situation without negativism or rancour. We can choose to act positively or negatively.
Soundness of moral character and ethical principles. Moral character relates to a sense of doing things right for self and others. It is based on the natural principles of "treating others as one would want to be treated," and as such relate to the positive virtues by which we live such as: honesty, empathy, patience, kindness, gratitude, justice and courage.
Ethical principles are based on moral behavior or principles of morality and usually pertain to right and wrong behavior. Professions often have ethical principles by which those in the profession must abide. A workplace may have a Code of Conduct which outlines employee and employer expectations and responsibilities. Many of the expectations within a workplace code of conduct are based on moral and ethical considerations. Both professional code of ethics and a workplace code of conduct identify the consequences of a breach of the code.
We begin to press the edges of integrity when we start to stretch and test the lines of a professional or workplace code. Certainly, one acts without integrity when the lines are clearly crossed such as committing acts of fraud, stealing large amounts of money or lying about a grossly negligent act. But what about the little things that gradually erode integrity in the workplace such as:
Once again, our integrity is determined by the choices we make. This time it is about how we want to live our life within the bounds of moral character and ethical principles.
Integrity comes from the Latin word 'integer' which means whole and complete. To act with integrity then reflects a sense of 'wholeness' and consistency of character. Therefore, to be a person of integrity our behaviors, words, actions and outcomes should positively reflect who we are.
Others will know if we are acting with integrity because they will see the connection between what we say, do and act as one with us in all situations. There is only one 'me' and that 'me' if I am to act with integrity must be the same 'me' whether at work, home or at play. We become authentic when we consistently reflect our wholeness to others through what we call integrity.
Does this mean we must act with integrity ALL the time? The short answer is 'yes but not necessarily' because we do mess up from time to time. The key here lies in our intention. When we mess up the integral thing to do is recognize and correct the mess-up as quickly as possible. We take responsibility and become accountable for what we say and do and how we act. Clearly it is not our intention to act without integrity; our intention is to act with integrity but sometimes because of emotion, lack of sleep, or caught in a 'frazzled state' we let our guard down and may say, do or act inappropriately. When this happens, we should immediately take corrective action. We may eat a little ‘humble pie’ in the process, but it is the 'right' thing to do if we want to keep our integrity intact.
Here are seven considerations for you.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie. MSW, FCMC
For a five-minute take on integrity, listen to So-Young Kang here.
All the organizations I worked with grouped work around teams. Some of those teams had two members, others had six or more. Many teams worked well, some of them operated at peak performance. Others didn't fare well at all.
For many years I had a print hanging in my office that depicts a jazz combo with the caption "Synergy". Good jazz has synergy so too has good teamwork. Jazz players know when to take the lead and when to recede. They don't overwhelm each other, they complement each other. When team members work together like jazz musicians weaving in and out of the movements and swinging back and forth in syncopation and synergy then we have good teamwork.
In addition, jazz music also has structure and form. The structure is made up of the repeating forms that make up the music, such as notes, phrases and bars. This structure along with form brings life to jazz and allows it to have its beautiful elasticity, movement and swing.
Like cool jazz, a successful team also requires structure and form. Over the years I have found that a team's structure is made up of eight building blocks (in music terms the forms that make up the structure), each propelling it to higher levels of team performance. They are:
Are these the only building blocks that lead to highly successful teamwork? Not necessarily. Jazz composers write several excellent jazz pieces, each one with different sounds and movements, but the overall structure remains the same - it's what allows us to call the music jazz. So too, we can add another movement or building block to our piece, or we can substitute one building block for another, for example we could add "Clarifying Team Processes" instead of "Systematizing Processes;" or, "Managing Meetings" instead of "Making effective team decisions." The eight blocks I have chosen as foundational to successful teamwork is not a definitive number. However, if team leaders engage team members in cementing these eight blocks together, they will find that the members of the team will work with greater focus, synergy, collaboration and trust.
What to do: Are your team members working together like a jazz combo? Is it time to revitalize your team? Review the eight building blocks with your team members and ask them which one requires more work. Put swing and a bit of renewed life, symbolized by the renewal of Spring, back into your team.
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC, From the Fontanie Learning Solutions Archives
Image: ambro at Freedigitalphoto.net
In today's fast paced workplace teamwork is often essential in getting things done. Teamwork is nothing other than a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal. This seems simple enough. So why are so many teams dysfunctional? The answer lies in a number of interrelated factors from how the team was initially set up to how the team's performance is ultimately measured. Here is my formula for assessing teamwork: Sp4(KSAE'VA) + C. It looks complicated but it really isn't. Here's how it works.
S = Strategy: Does the team know how it fits within the organization? Is it aligned with the organization`s vision, mission, values and goals? It is amazing to me how management can set working teams in motion without defining the vision, mission, values and goals for the organization. No wonder team members frequently struggle with the questions: "Why are we doing this?" and "How do we fit within the overall direction of the organization?"
p1= Purpose: Does the team have a clear sense of purpose? Are the goals of the team and expected results well defined and measurable? Are team members involved in the process? Often sufficient time isn't spent in clarifying the team's purpose with team member involvement. Collaboratively defining purpose, goals and expected results encourages member ownership, commitment and is the first step to assessing team performance.
p2= Process and Procedures: Are the team processes and procedures for making decisions, solving problems, resolving conflicts, managing team meetings and team projects understood by the team members? Teams run amok when these processes are murky and ambiguous. When decisions need to be made or problems need to be solved clarify the "how" by identifying the specific steps in the process. This gets everyone working from the same page. The same goes for resolving conflicts and managing meetings.
p3 = People: Do team members know what they are suppose to do? Are the roles, responsibilities clear? Are the delegated powers clear to all the members? Do members know who owns the decisions that were made? Do team members bring the "We" and not the "I" to the team? Are they cultivating respect, encouraging communication, making contributions, being cooperative, working collaboratively and understanding individual differences. p3 relates to all the people skills needed to manage team member relationships and how individual members relate to each other. This is where we apply the "grease" to the inner workings of the team so that it can run smoothly. And the grease in this instance is made up of positive influencing, negotiating and leadership skills.
p4= Performance: Does the team leader measure performance of the team as a whole as well as individual members? Does the team continually improve the way it functions? And does it learn from both achievements and mistakes? Here I suggest we learn from team sports. Measurements in team sport are transparent. As the game is played we know what the score is, who is performing and scoring, how those on offence and defence are playing, and at the end of the game we know who won or lost or whether the game ended in a tie. I often hear that it's not the same with organizational teams -"we're different you know, it's not so cut and dried." Frankly I don't buy that because what it tells me is that p1 has not been fully explored - purpose, goals and expected results are not clearly defined - so the team leader and team members don't know what to measure.
KSAE`VA How well does the team leader know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member? Team leaders need to assess individual (K) knowledge, (S) skills, (A) abilities, (E) experience, (V) values and (A) attitudes appropriately. How well we know individual team members and what they contribute to the team is a vital ingredient to team functioning. To use the sports analogy again team coaches spend a lot of time assessing how individual strengths and weaknesses contribute to team effort. So too organizational team leaders need to continually assess whether they have the right people with the right KSAE'VAs within their teams.
C = Celebrate: Finally does the team take time to Celebrate? Or does it wait for special occasions or until the team breaks up or people leave? Celebrate throughout the life of the team - after all if it's not fun - its work. If a team is having fun while successfully getting things done then usually the Sp4(KSAE'VA) + C are in play.
Questions to ponder: How do you assess your team? What do you use to measure success? How do you know the measurement works? What do you do to celebrated both your team's successes and shortcomings? Do you operate from a strategic framework? Are your team's systems and processes clear? How well do you know each team members strengths and weaknesses? What can you do to improve how your team works together and how they deliver goods and services?
Up-dated from the archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions
The most pressing issue concerning organizational change is how to take into account all the dynamics that affect employees, customers and stakeholders. In a previous post I discussed why organizational change is so difficult. My experience as an external consultant working with organizations in transition include: mergers of government departments; a merger of two oil companies - one based on a hierarchical structure and the other on self-directed teams; colleges in transition; governments downloading mandated services to councils and non-profit agencies; and several small to medium sized companies adjusting to new marketplace realities. I found that an eight point process based on an Identify, Design, Deliver, Stabilize and Evaluate Platform worked well for me.
1. Identify and Design - Focus on Need, Mandate and Transition Team
Clarify the need. Unfortunately, there are business owners and corporate boards, both in the private and non-profit sector, who initiate change without due process. I know of organizations that have replaced their CEO and members of the Leadership Team based on limited information. I'm not referring to those situations where the organization is in dire straights and require immediate triage and surgery, but where there is a vague felt need based on little evidence, misinformation, lack of understanding about the culture of the organization, or political bias.
When action is taken with limited information it puts the new CEO in a bind. Some CEOs push back and work toward a more developmental approach and follow a process similar to one outlined in this post; others, take a directive approach and make the changes as presented to him. In the latter instance I have witnessed CEOs who modified the Leadership Team without due consideration regarding roles, responsibilities, history, culture, or the real value individuals had made to the organization. They reorganized the boxes within the organizational chart, replaced members on the leadership team and marked others as redundant. The Board and Shareholders then expressed their satisfaction that their new CEO acted so quickly on their behalf. However, I found that when an unwarranted directive approach was taken, problems occurred within a very short time: morale faltered, confusion reigned, valued personnel left, and the CEO was replaced within two to three years.
The first order of business in any change process is to take the time to clearly understand the change requirements and their implications. Often times an outside consultant is contracted to work with the Board, CEO or Owner to clarify the change requirements and to recommend an appropriate process.
Set the mandate. Once there is a sound understanding of the change requirements the board/owner/leadership team need to set a clear statement of purpose and goals. The length and depth of these statements are contingent upon the extent of change under consideration. I ascribe to a short, crisp and exciting purpose statement which can be easily articulated to employees and stakeholders; and, a set of broad objectives with milestones to measure progress.
Establish a Transition Team To Plan. The next step is for the CEO/Leadership Team to establish a Transition Team to plan the strategy, set specific SMART objectives and guide the implementation of the change process. In large organizations the Transition Team is drawn from a cross section of team leaders and employees who exhibit leadership qualities. In small businesses the Leadership Team and Transition Team may be one and the same.
2. Deliver and Manage the Process
Engage Those Affected. As the Transition Team works through the planning stages it needs to find ways to engage all employees within the organization. One way the Transition Team can do this is to keep the various team leaders abreast of its progress, issues and actions. The team leaders can then place "Change Reporting" on their team meeting agendas and solicit feedback to the Transition Team. Another way is for the Transition Team to regularly meet with employees in small groups to solicit their input and feedback. In small businesses the process is the same but the feedback loop is shorter and more direct.
A key factor in any organizational change is to spend considerable time in clarifying how the change will affect individuals. I found that whenever change is introduced in an organization people respond primarily in three ways. There are those who embrace the change with great expectations - I refer to these people as climbing the 'Mountain of Hope'; there are those who view it as the "sky is falling" and descend into the 'Valley of Despair''; and there are those who are uncertain and they become the 'Wait and See Gang.' In most instances the third group make up the majority of the people in the organization.
In order to meet the needs of these three groups the Transition Team should consider a number of coaching and training strategies, for example: those who are on top of the mountain may require mitigating strategies to lower high expectations; those who are despairing may need coaching strategies to deal with anxiety and fear; and those who are waiting to see what happens may require regular updates and encouragement. Remember the outcome of any change process is to ensure that people function at a higher level on the other side of the 'Mountain of Hope' and the 'Valley of Despair' than they did at the beginning of the process.
If the change affects stakeholders, and in most cases it does, then the Transition Team should find ways to solicit input and feedback from them. For instance, they could consider focus group sessions with customers, strategic partners or aligned business associates. The Transition Team may find that the stakeholders may not always agree with the purpose, design or process but their input will be invaluable to help it clarify messaging and make adjustments to meet specific stakeholder requirements.
Communicate Regularly. The importance of communicating and communicating often cannot be stressed enough during times of change. Here are seven strategies I have used or recommended to keep employees current:
Continuously Learn and Improve. Organizational change provides a tremendous opportunity to promote learning as a continuous process. I found that my daily encounter with individuals provided invaluable teaching and learning moments. They happened when individuals were testing out new methods, brainstorming in meetings, taking on new work patterns and habits, or adjusting to revised roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships.
During the change process people will make mistakes. This is healthy as long as people learn from them and take corrective action. In essence learning and taking positive action is another way of understanding the process of continuous improvement.
3. Stabilize But Recognize Continuous Change
Calm the Organization. The issues the Transition Team first encountered will begin to settle once the changes begin to take effect . This reflects the movement towards a new level of functioning. The speed by which the organization calms is dependent upon the strategies the Transition Team employs. The deeper or the more complex the change the longer it takes to stabilize the organization.
When I refer to organizational stabilization, I'm not thinking about the absence of change. These days, as in the past, change is constant and even relentless. Everyday our marketplace is affected by technological advances, global and national conflicts, climate change, the introduction of new products and the renewal of old ones, or by mergers and acquisitions of companies. These provide both risks and opportunities and we need to proactively plan and respond to them.
I view organizational stabilization with the realization that change is constant and that organizations need to continually adapt with renewed vigor and vision. And, each time an organization successfully meets new challenges it reaches a new plateau and that plateau stabilizes a bit before the next wave of change hits.
The point here is that although there will continue to be change, the change that the Transition Team was tasked with has come to an end; and when new transitions are on the horizon than a new mandate and transition process is initiated.
4 Evaluate and Measure Continuously
Evaluate Results. If we take the approach that we need to measure progress along the way, then evaluation is also ongoing. In part this is alluded to in 7 above - continuous learning and improvement. However, sound practice suggests that when the final milestone is reached, the Transition Team should take a formal look back to: measure results against the strategic intention identified in the mandate and goals; review all the strengths, learning and challenges it encountered; and celebrate the end of the journey.
Questions to Ponder: How do you approach organizational change? What do you think the differences are regarding a developmental or directive approach to change? How do you identify your requirements, purpose and goals? Do you establish a Transition Team with authority to plan and manage the process? How do you engage your employees and stakeholders in the process? What type of communication channels do you use? Do you learn from mistakes and move on, or do you attempt to find fault and punish? Looking back at a transition that occurred in your organization what was the take-away learning? What do you think about the approach described in this post?
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC Up-dated from Fontanie Learning Solutions
You may have heard the saying: "We are only as good as our people." When business owners and managers utter these words they recognize that the value of their organization comes from those who work within it. They know this propels growth and prosperity for them, their employees and the community at large.
A business is like a container. Take a can of paint for instance. What makes a can of paint a real can of paint? It's the paint within the can. The can is the container that holds the paint. The paint within the container is only as good as the mix of chemicals and manufacturing process that made the paint. Poor chemical mix and manufacturing process results in poor paint. The opposite is also true. The right chemical mix combined with the right manufacturing process results in good paint.
Like the can of paint the mix of people combined with the strategies, processes and behaviors fill up the container. In this case, however, the container is called the business, hence the saying: "We are only as good as our people."
Owners and managers who recognize that business growth comes from "good people," encourage them to be even better by:
Unfortunately there are those who say, "we are only as good as our people," but their behavior works against creating an environment where skilled and dedicated individuals cannot be as good as they would like to be. Here are some of the behaviors owners and managers exhibit in this case:
What to do: Take the time to hire the right people then rejoice because your container is full. It is filled with individuals who want to actively participate in creating a successful organization. Let them shine. Draw upon the special talents they bring to the workplace - their knowledge, skills, values and attitudes - and fully engage them in your business. Join the ranks of those who say,"we are only as good as our people," and then, work hard to give them opportunities to become even better. In the end you will have a more productive and happier workplace.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC Up-dated from the archives of FontanieLearningSolutions.
We don't often hear these three words in the workplace: forgive, love, and compassion. Yet when we meaningfully express them and use them as a call to action they can have a huge impact on the culture of our organizations.
Forgive: The Encarta Dictionary defines forgive this way: “(to) stop being angry about or resenting somebody or somebody’s behaviour; or, to excuse somebody for a mistake, misunderstanding, wrongdoing or inappropriate behaviour.” I haven’t heard the words “forgive” or “forgiveness” used much in the workplace. When they are used with meaning they have a powerful impact. Mostly I have heard words that beg forgiveness like "sorry" and "apologize." Often with little meaning behind them. They were more polite words, then meaningful words. I have also heard expressions that can easily be interpreted as discriminatory, blaming or name calling.
Everyday someone in the workplace, including the boss, makes mistakes. Mistakes are made because we are not perfect. The thing about mistakes is that they can be corrected, and they do need to be corrected. However, there is no room for the blame game, name calling and discriminatory language. To get caught up in the latter is a sure sign we are still harbouring anger or resentment. Correct the behavior and when appropriate say, “I forgive you, and mean it.” Think of the positive effect it would have on the culture of an organization if people forgave each other for past wrong doing or misunderstanding.
Seeking forgiveness and forgiving are not easy. Read the definition again: “stop being angry about or resenting somebody or somebody’s behaviour.” It’s easy for someone to say "I'm sorry" and “I forgive you.” It’s harder to remove the resentment or anger one feels. This takes time, but until we come to grips with these feelings we will become consumed by them and the anger and resentment will tear us up from the inside out and our relationships and overall effectiveness will be diminished. So, the first thing we need to consider is the forgiveness of oneself, because it is the self, who holds the resentment, anger and grudge. It is a reciprocal process binding both forgiveness and forgiving. And once the healing is experienced through forgiveness and forgiving we can go on and forgive others.
Forgiving and asking for forgiveness also takes courage. Asking for forgiveness shows our vulnerability. Something we don't do easily as we see vulnerability as a weakness. When we understand the power of forgiveness we turn that weakness into a strength. Seeking forgiveness lessens our burden and actually shows the strength of our character, and when accepted, the character of those we work with. When the reciprocal activity of forgiveness happens in the workplace it is a powerful statement of the trust, openness and compassion found in the relationships we have with each other, our team or our organization as a whole..
Forgiveness in the workplace pales against the seeking and giving of forgiveness we read about regarding the "Truth and Reconciliation" process people experienced in South Africa, or about our own process regarding our First Nation's people. The stories that were told, the deep forgiveness that was extended during those hearings should be an inspiration for all of us. If you get a chance, read some of those stories and be inspired about forgiveness, and ask, "why is it so hard to do this in our places of work?"
Love: Love is a loaded word in our society and perhaps it has always been that way. Love is almost always associated with emotion and synonymous with passion, attraction, desire, and sexual feelings. We certainly don’t condone sexual behaviour in the work place and many businesses have rightly developed policies about “romantic relationships.” However, we do use the words “passion” and “love” to express how we feel about what we do, for example: “I love what I do,” or, “ I’m really passionate about my work.”
Another meaning for love is expressed through the acts of patience, kindness, respect, selflessness or gratitude towards one another no matter how hard that may be. This is a different kind of love. It is the love of volition, or the love of choice. It means our willingness to pay attention to the needs, best interest and the well-being of others, regardless of how we feel in any given day. It's the persistent positive action of what one does. It is consistent, fair and foundational. This is the type of love we can show in the workplace. As someone once said: “Love is, is what love does.”
This is also the love that strong leaders share with their organizations and people they serve. Consider for a moment the impact great leaders have had who were not afraid to use and express love through their actions, such as: Jesus, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela, and Mother Teresa; or leaders in the business and sports world such as Jack Welsh, Herb Kelleher, John Hunter, Kevin Roberts and Vince Lombardi.
One well respected Executive Director, I know, had no difficulty pointing out mistakes or correcting poor behaviour. When he was done with the correcting he would always say, “We still love you,” and did so in the kindliest of ways.
Compassion: There are several ways in which we can develop a culture of compassion in the workplace. Take for instance we can in a compassionate way:
Yet the word “compassion” is seldom used. How often have you heard, “let’s show some compassion to our fellow workers?” or, “we need to be compassionate about those less fortunate than us?" Compassion is all about understanding or empathy for the suffering of others. Here’s what I have heard too frequently: “tough it out,” "don’t cry,” “stop your whimpering,” and “I don’t want to hear excuses.” If we hear things like that perhaps we should ask, “Is there room for some compassion here?”
There are real ways we can bring compassion to the workplace - we just need to commit ourselves to act. What are the rewards? Not much - just a healthy, committed and dedicated workforce. Who can ask for more? Try a little compassion next time you're faced with a difficult problem - it just may surprise you.
What to do: Try something different in your workplace. Consider forgiveness, love and compassion as cornerstones for positive interaction; it may just change your organizational culture for the better. We would be hard pressed to deal with “forgiveness” and “compassion” without the “love choice. That is why I have placed love between the two – we can’t have the two without the one. Can we really express these words in action independently of each other?
Want to learn more?
Books that may help: James C. Hunter, “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle,” Greg Baer M.D. "Real Love in the Workplace," Karen Armstrong, "Compassionate Life," and a very light read by various authors “ Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work.”
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC, Up-dated from Fontanie Learning Solutions
Image from: Royaltyfree/corbis