Tag Archives: Management Challenges

Beyond the Lyrics

Do you speak French? Creole? Hmm. Me neither. Still, this is beautiful.
Once I got past the sheer enjoyment of watching and listening to that video it sparked thoughts about how we communicate? Did you understand what they were saying? Did you feel it?
We communicate in so many ways. All day long you are telling people things with your face, your body, your tone. The way you dress and walk carries a message.
What are you communicating outside of your words? When you get beyond the lyrics of your life, is the background music you are playing to people really what you want it to be?

How to Get Value from Corporate Values

There they are on the wall. Framed. Possibly even in plaque form. There are 6 of them. (I don’t know why but corporate values most often seem to come in batches of 6.) They look beautiful. And if you ask any employee in the company s/he can probably name 2 or 3 of them without looking at the plaque. Herein lies the beginnings of the problems with corporate values.

First of all, you can’t change 6 behaviors at once. Have you ever heard someone make 6 New Year’s resolutions? Most people fail to carry out 1. Yet when most companies define their corporate values they offer up more new behaviors than anyone could possibly work to adopt at one time. The people who chose these values know this. So then they take the second step that makes corporate values useless.

They put the values on a plaque, stick them on the walls, and forget about them. And that’s what their employees do too. We all forget them. There’s no reason to do otherwise. After all, they have no bearing on anything we do. Out of sight, out of mind applies even to things that are framed and stuck on the wall. If there is no other reference to the values they will drift quickly into irrelevance.

To make corporate values useful they should be separated into 2 categories.

Commandment Values

Commandment Values are the list of values that you expect everyone to exhibit at some minimum level. For example, we think everyone should act with – Trust, Integrity, Teamwork, Customer Service, Respect, Quality. Behaviors that are obviously contrary to these values will be grounds for discipline and possibly even termination. They set a minimum expectation, a baseline for behavior.

These values are basically what most companies have already created. They are the general list of “traits and behaviors we wish our employees to exhibit.” We don’t closely track them. But they will enter discussions when someone clearly breaks them.

The problem is that these don’t guide exceptional behavior. They simply set the stage for disciplining bad behavior – necessary perhaps, but hardly inspiring. This is why you need the second type of value.

Focus Value

The second type of value is your Focus Value. It is one value from your list of commandment values that will be your focus for some time – I personally like the time frame of 1 year. At any given time, some value will rise to the top, not as most important, but as most pressing. Your company was just hit with insider trading scandals? Focus on Integrity. You’re falling behind more creative competition? Focus on Innovation. Fights between the line and management? Focus on Trust.

This isn’t a dismissal of the other values. It’s a difference in activity. I’m expected not to break any of the Commandment Values. I’m expected to operate within their guidelines. However, I’m not expected to proactively go out of my way on a regular basis to seek ways to act upon those values. I’m simply expected to uphold them as part of my normal everyday activity.

For the Focus Value on the other hand, I’m expected to go out of my way, to seek out new ways to exhibit that value. Once you figure out which is your Focus Value for the year, make it part of everything. Corporate meetings and events should begin with activities or discussions related to the Focus Value. Performance review and development conversations should include the Focus Value. It should be part of your hiring and succession practices. Your Focus Value should be impossible for anyone in your company to forget, and it should be something that everyone in your company feels compelled to act on.

Valuable Corporate Values

This combination of Commandment and Focus Values makes your corporate values useful. It makes them guide behavior in a way that is actually doable. So what if you don’t hold the reigns for your whole company? At the very least, create your own Focus Value for the year and hold yourself accountable to it. My Focus Value for this year is Heroism. Let me know what you choose for yours.

Diversity and Inclusion

It’s MLK Jr. Day, and so a good day to celebrate diversity. I think it was during the 90s that diversity on a wide scale went from being a simple noun to a social, political, and organizational imperative. As that occurred diversity came to mean that a wide spectrum of non-white males should occupy a substantial percentage of the positions in any given area. That was an important objective that many organizations and groups are still seeking to attain.

Some organizations in the last decade moved beyond the diversity goal of filling positions with diverse people. For these organizations diversity took on a new meaning of tolerance. These organizations do diversity training to help people understand and be more comfortable with not only other gender, races, religions, and sexual orientations, but also plain old opinions. Diversity as tolerance brought the responsibility for a diverse work environment from the hiring manager to every employee.

For the new decade, and for those most advanced organizations, it is time to now overlay another concept on diversity – inclusion. Just as the hiring manager over the last 20 years was expected to seek out diverse applicants, the next imperative is for everyone to seek out diverse participation in whatever they do. This diversity could be along the traditional lines – gender, race, etc – but that isn’t necessarily the point. Inclusion for you could be inviting someone in a different organization silo into your project. It could be recognizing the clique you belong to in your workplace – yes, you do belong to a clique – and including new people in your group.

Inclusion should become the diversity behavior pattern of the next decade. It fosters better communication, creativity, idea generation, and problem solving. It is simple to do and costs nothing. It is an active step that we can all take.

Let me know what you think about this or any other topic I should write about. I’d love to include your ideas.

The Healthy Observer

It used to be that news was something you could get for an hour per day. Thirty minutes for local and thirty for national and international. If you missed it, you could read the paper the following day. So when a tragedy struck somewhere outside of your neighborhood, your intake of that tragedy was limited to an hour of news and usually less. After all, the news programs had to deliver everything that had happened that day in just one hour, and without any scrolling text at the bottom of the screen to feed our hyperactive minds.

That’s the way it was, and much though I hate sounding like a crotchety old man, that’s the way it should be. Not just for watching a tragedy like the one now in Haiti, but for any great sadness, disappointment, or frustration in our lives. Ruminating and playing the same negative tape over and over  only serves to reinforce anxiety, anger, and hopelessness.

We should stay informed. We should not ignore the problems in our world. But we should limit our exposure to them. Give yourself a half-hour to get caught up on the news today. If you are frustrated or angry with something in your life and you feel you must experience that anger, allow yourself a few minutes to dwell on it. Then push yourself to move on. If you have a hard time moving on, try completing this sentence 10 times:

I am so incredibly lucky because . . .

BTW, I wrote yesterday about ways to help Haiti including my personal recommendation to text “haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross’s International Response Fund. If you did, you weren’t alone. Turns out the response was historic.

A Clue to Victimhood

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to offer my book, Be the Hero, to one of my own heroes, Seth Godin. A few days ago he wrote a post titled, “The Victim.” I couldn’t help but wonder if it was inspired in part by his reading of Be the Hero. I know the language and sentiment are neither original to my work nor new to his writings. But I wondered.

In either case, he offers a terrific lens through which to determine when you might be falling into victim mentality.

Keep in mind this is a way to determine WHEN not IF you are being a victim. I speak to many people who try to convince me that they really do maintain a heroic mindset. (Though they always know other people who are in dire need of this advice.) The truth is that we all fall into victim mode at times. Seth Godin has simply offered us a useful test to recognize when we are there.

With a Little Help from My Friends

What if you could do something simple that would change your life or that of a friend, family member, or colleague? This week I received the following email from someone who had just read my new book, Be the Hero.

“I’m feeling truly inspired, rejuvenated and energized. This is exactly the kind of perspective change I needed to work on to be a more productive, happier person. I hope your book reaches and helps as many people as possible.”

I’ve received similar emails from readers who have used Be the Hero for challenges ranging from work conflicts to battling cancer.

On August 4th, 2009 we are trying to mobilize 1500 people to buy Be the Hero on Amazon, send it to the top of the bestseller list, and change the lives of as many people as possible.

I need your help to make this effort a success.

First, I’m asking you please, buy the book on August 4th. It’s a fun and inspiring read.

Second, I’m asking you, and this is big, find one other person to also buy on August 4th.

It is said that a friend in need is a friend indeed. I hope I have stored up enough Karma for this effort. Thank you so much for your help.

Be the Hero Website