I was recently at a doctor’s office and above the water fountain, was a poster titled “Teamwork Has It’s Sweet Rewards.” The image included a dog laying on the floor in front of an open refrigerator. On its back, stood a small dog. On the bag of that dog was a cat who stretched its paws up toward the top shelf to retrieve a large cake covered in pink frosting and strawberries. This unlikely trio of comrades worked together to come up with a solution to their problem. Why is it that when we humans encounter people with differing perspectives or styles that we silo ourselves? At work, like often clings to like.
by Merrick Rosenberg, MBA
When I speak at conferences about retaining winning talent and the problem of turnover, I often ask attendees to raise their hands if their fathers worked at three or fewer companies throughout their careers. As you would expect, just about everyone raises their hands. I then ask them a second more revealing question: Raise your hand if you have worked at more than three companies in your career. You guessed it…just about everyone’s hands go up again.
The moral of this story is that people don’t stay at one company for their entire career anymore. In fact, twenty years ago if your resume showed that you switched jobs every three or four years, you would have been perceived as an unstable job-hopper. Employers would have thought, “Why can’t this person hold onto a job?” Today, you would be seen as a career-oriented go-getter.
There has been a fundamental shift from lifetime employment to lifetime employability. People want to know that no matter what happens with the current employer, they will be employable elsewhere.
In a recent study by Career Systems International, career growth and development was cited by 43 percent of respondents as the reason for staying in organizations. And yet, a McKinsey study found that only 3 percent of 13,000 managers agreed that their organizations were effective at developing people.
The problem is that managers are often not great coaches, and organizations frequently don’t provide the needed training to retain employees. So on one hand, organizations complain about high turnover rates and lack of worker loyalty, yet on the other, these same organizations do not provide the very thing that employees most desire…the opportunity to learn and grow.
The best employees are life-long learners.
High-performers know that work is one big fat teachable moment. They recognize that learning comes from observation, practice, and experience. Further, they proactively seek opportunities to learn from everything they and their coworkers do.
According to research by the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of workplace learning occurs informally, while the remaining 30 percent comes from formal learning programs, such as training and coaching interactions. Superstar employees don’t wait for training programs to be offered, they seek them out. But more importantly, they also make connections and draw critical insights from everyday experiences.
Individuals who seek learning in everything they do often exhibit the following behaviors:
-They are avid readers. They don’t wait for knowledge to come to them. They pursue it.
-They search for greatness and stay close to it. You’ll find these people hanging out with those who talk about what can be, rather than those who whine about what is not.
-These individuals find mentors who have walked the path before them and seek their advice.
-They volunteer for challenging assignments–the ones that nobody else wants for fear of failure.
-They learn from their mistakes, but perhaps more importantly, they learn from others’ mistakes so they don’t have to repeat them.
Individuals who leave an organization hoping that the next employer will better develop them may be sadly disappointed. Growth comes from an unwavering passion to be better and do better. The future of your organization belongs to individuals who drive their careers by seeking learning in all they do.
Ask yourself a few straightforward questions: Where do you want to be five years from now? What knowledge and skills will you need when you get there? What don’t you know yet or can’t you do yet? What are you going to do to achieve your goals? Are you taking personal responsibility to develop yourself, or are you expecting your manager or organization to help you?
Commit to making learning a priority and watch your life unfold as the grand tapestry you dreamed it would be.
by Merrick Rosenberg
Most people know what makes a good meeting, yet so many meetings are unproductive. So if we understand that efficient and effective meetings require preparing and sticking to agendas, starting and ending on time, and keeping minutes, why do meetings go awry?
The answer goes beyond the technical aspects of running meetings. To understand what turns potentially productive time in wasted hours, we must consider the people who run and attend meetings.
In The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy noted, “The form of the meeting is simply a reflection of the culture.” Quite simply, people power meetings. And when those people work in a culture of caring, commitment, and cooperation, meetings will be productive, perhaps even regardless of whether or not you have an agenda and start on time.
The Emotionally Intelligent Meeting
It is said that meetings are often events where minutes are kept, but hours are lost. However, productive meetings are attended and led by individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence. These individuals focus on providing a positive contribution and are aware when others are tuning in or out to meeting content. Emotionally intelligent individuals are rarely disruptive and know how to deal with those who are. They have highly developed communication and listening skills and know how to respectfully raise concerns. They effectively manage their emotions and stay calm when the conversation gets heated.
Paul Rice of TimeSource asked people to identify what “bothered them a lot” about meetings. He found the following:
|Factor||% bothered a lot|
|People drifting off subject||83|
|Participants’ lack of preparation||77|
|People not listening||67|
|Length of time taken||60|
|People not participating||51|
Note how many of the above behaviors relate to emotional intelligence. While an agenda and a strong leader can help to keep a meeting on track, if the participants have lower levels of emotional awareness and poor communication skills, the meeting is doomed from the start.
In my experience in conducting team surveys in countless organizations, questions about team meetings are consistently among the lowest rated items. I have found that in most meetings, if twelve people are in attendance, the same four people will always speak, regardless of the content. Four people will rarely if ever speak. And the remaining four will speak only if they feel they have something valuable to contribute. This imbalance of participation means that a group is not capitalizing on the input of all of its members. Emotionally intelligent groups ensure that everyone plays a role in making the meeting effective.
Participants can negatively impact meetings in a variety of ways. Here’s how to deal with some of the more difficult meeting attendees:
Apathetic: Ask them what they would do if they had to make the decision.
Challenger: Stay calm, don’t let them monopolize the meeting.
Comedian: Acknowledge their humor, then politely ask them to stay focused and serious.
Conflict avoider: Validate the discomfort of dealing with difficult issues.
Distracter: Ask them direct questions about the topic at-hand.
Dominator: Ask direct questions to others, instead of open-ended questions to the group.
Early-leaver: Talk to them after the meeting and convey that they must attend the entire meeting.
Eye-roller: Talk to them after the meeting and discuss the message that their body language sends.
Interpreter: Check back with the originator to ensure proper interpretation.
Know-it-all: Acknowledge their insight and ask for other perspectives.
Late-comer: Start on time, let them catch up.
Leader trapper: Pass their questions to the group and let the group respond.
Neighbor whisperer: Immediately ask them to share their thoughts with the group.
Personal Agenda Pleader: Focus the group on finding a solution that benefits everyone.
Pessimist: Ask them for the logic behind their opinions.
Rambler: Tactfully ask them to present their bottom-line idea or opinion.
Withdrawn: Direct a question to them.
The Bottom Line
Every action we take (or don’t take) has a cost. And while we can spend three things in life: time, money and energy… meetings cost all three.
By developing the skills that create emotionally intelligent employees, organizations invest in their people in way that will yield the highest possible dividends.
by Stu Noble, M.Ed.
A global New Product Development Team was launched by a major software development company with an aggressive completion date as well as specific performance expectations driven by the market. Though it took the team several months to effectively share ideas, information, and know-how, its work was pretty much on track for the targeted delivery date.
As team members began to feel more confident and their work together accelerated, a key senior manager who was not previously involved with the process, began adding new expectations and challenged the established set of priorities. The team’s work came to a sudden halt, morale dropped and expectations for success withered. Because they were scattered globally, the team members’ inability to meet face-to-face at this critical time to work through the changes added to their frustration.
A NASA team collecting information from ten different locations to create a leadership model, developed a website for the its data to be collected. As team members from all ten locations gathered the data, it was stored in the common database, which automatically identified its source, integrated it with existing information, and stored and updated the compiled information.
Team members estimated that using this technology saved them several weeks of information processing and analysis time, as well as at least one cross-country trip for six or eight team members.
(Source: Duarte & Snyder, 1999)
A virtual team is one whose members share a common purpose, but are separated by distance, time, and organizational boundaries. In such a team, members are linked only by communication technologies.
For example, a software development team may have members in the United States, India, Taiwan, and Brazil, and their only communication may be through the Internet, telephone, and video conferencing technologies.
As such, virtual team members face unique challenges at every stage of their development and performance cycle. Yet, as with conventional teams, there is no greater opportunity for building an effective virtual team than at its start up. Like a thoroughbred running in a horse race, the difference between success and failure is often determined by how they come “out of the chute.” This article will highlight several recommended approaches for building a strong foundation for a newly created virtual team. Included are:
- Establishing a Well Understood Purpose (Mission, goals, tasks, results)
- Clarifying Stakeholder Expectations
- Understanding Team Membership
- Clear and Complimentary of Roles and Responsibilities
- Building Rapport and Relationships
- Instituting Communication Practices and Protocols
More so than conventional teams, virtual teams need to be more proactive, deliberate, explicit, and disciplined in addressing these areas.
Establishing a Well-Understood Purpose
get from here to there”. Will Hutsell, Corporate Quality, Eastman
It is often said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t expect to get there.” This is a key factor for all teams, virtual or otherwise. Yet, because of the complexity of working together through time, distance, and organizational boundaries, it is especially critical for building the effective virtual team.
Lipnack and Stamps express this clearly in their landmark book, Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology.
“The best predictor of a virtual team’s success is in the clarity of its purpose and the participatory processes by which the group achieves it.” (p.57)
The task of developing a team’s charter is overlaid and affected by an equally important set of tasks having to do with ensuring [members] ‘buy in’, participation and support. (Duarte and Snyder, 94)
Clarifying purpose is more than communicating information about the team’s initial charter. Virtual team members should be involved in a dialogue that assures their individual and collective clarity of how the successful performance of their team will be defined and how their individual efforts contribute to that end.
There is no substitute for this in launching a virtual team.
Team Purpose Clarification: Team members reach a common understanding of their purpose, tasks and expected results.
The team’s charter and stakeholder (others who have interest in or direct connection to the team’s work) input is shared with team members. (Members are encouraged to speak directly with stakeholders if possible)
Each team member documents his or her understanding of the purpose, its importance to the business, and their expected individual contribution
These descriptions are circulated throughout the team.
A team meeting is convened (either face-to-face or virtually) to discuss common elements, themes, as well as differences. A team version of the purpose (including mission, goals, tasks and expected results) is created.
This information is circulated for review and feedback from the team’s sponsor and/or stakeholders.
Clarifying Stakeholder Expectations
Bill Crowley, SunTeam Leader, Sun Microsystems
Often virtual teams have multiple sponsors and/or stakeholders with a variety of needs and expectations. Understanding stakeholder needs contributes to assuring a clarity of purpose, as well as initiating the ‘buy in’ and support that may be critical later on in the team’s process. Clarifying these needs and expectations at the onset of the project can also avoid potential team disablers…confusion, misdirected work and conflicts. This also helps team members understand the resources and know-how needed to support success.
Strategy: Clarify and assure a common understanding of stakeholder expectations.
Approach: Stakeholder Questionnaires and Feedback Summary
Each stakeholder or stakeholder group is sent a brief questionnaire (email preferred) to complete. Sample questions include:
- What is the purpose or mission of the team?
- What outcome is needed and/or expected from the team’s performance?
- When should the team’s work be completed? Milestones?
- To whom does the team report and how often?
- What resources are provided to support the team in its work?
The responses to these questionnaires are compiled and summarized for the team to review. Stakeholders receive feedback as well.
The Stakeholder Summary is stored in the team’s archive for future review and reference.
The responses to these questionnaires are compiled and summarized for the team to review. Stakeholders receive feedback as well.
The Stakeholder Summary is stored in the team’s archive for future review and reference.
Understanding Team Membership
All teams function better when its members possess the complementary skills, knowledge and experience to accomplish their task. Many virtual teams, however, are formed without full understanding of the capabilities of its members. Effectively addressing this aspect at the beginning of the team’s work will be invaluable as the team progresses.
Most virtual teams have at least three types of team members: core, extended and ancillary. It is important to identify those who will be fully accountable for the results (the core team) first, as well as recognize the value of adding know how to the team as appropriate (extended and ancillary). (Duarte and Snyder, 1999)
Strategy: Full understanding of the capabilities of individual team members, as well as skill, abilities, know-how, strengths and weaknesses. This can enable the team to maximize its own performance potential, as well as know when to seek additional team members (extended, ancillary) or support as required.
Approach: Team Skill, Ability, and Experience Inventory
A team template is created to capture background information for each member. This is stored at a central location or circulated via email.
All or part of a team meeting is dedicated to reviewing the composite information and discussing perceptions, reactions, etc. Strengths and weaknesses are identified and initial planning for maximizing performance potential is done.
The composite information then becomes a ‘living’ database of the Team’s Profile and is used for continual reference during the team’s work.
Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities
A big part of addressing this need is the clarity of understanding each team member’s know-how, as well as his or her specific roles and responsibilities on the team. Obviously related is the need to assure that the team is positioned to maximize the utilization of its resources to produce results.
The need for role clarification for all team members is well researched. However, because of the lack of frequent personal contact, this need is even greater for virtual teams.
Strategy: Clarify individual roles and responsibilities of virtual team members.
A common understanding of both individual and shared roles and responsibilities is developed to maximize team performance. Modifications that are made over time are documented, distributed and discussed, as appropriate.
Approach: A document is developed by the team’s sponsor, manager, or leader that outlines the roles and responsibilities of individual team members. (An option would be for individual team members to document their own perceptions and exchange these with the leaders and each other.)
A common understanding is reached with each individual before sharing with the team at-large. This includes shared leadership expectations.
Each team member then reviews the complimentary roles and responsibilities and provides feedback to the team leader, sponsor, etc. Adjustments are discussed to assure that the team, as a whole, is organized to maximize performance results.
A directory is created for easy reference by those inside and outside the team.
A second recommended approach is a Relationship Map, which includes all core team members, extended and ancillary membership, resources, stakeholders, and sponsors.
Building Rapport and Relationships
Virtual teams are at a significant disadvantage, because they lack the regular, face-to-face social contact that can be so helpful to accelerate team development and relationship building. This is much more than a “feel good” issue, because quality relationships support the trust building that remains a cornerstone of effective team performance.
Strategy: A virtual team exercise to support relationship building among team members.
Approach: This exercise is designed to help team members become better acquainted on a personal level.
A virtual team meeting is arranged and facilitated by either the team leader or outside facilitator.
Each team member is asked to bring to the meeting an emoticon or symbol that personally represents him or her in some way.
The images are arranged in a circle and made visible to participants on a screen with team-wide access.
Participants are asked to share, in clockwise order, why they chose their images and what it reflects about them. Similarities and differences are shared.
These symbols are then used as part of the normal communications exchange for team members.
Team members are encouraged to build one-to-one relationships via phone calls and/or emails with each other on an ongoing basis. (This simulates talking at the water cooler or on a coffee break.)
Communication Practices and Protocols
Communication is the lifeblood of any virtual team. While the use of technology is critical to team communication, technology alone represents only the tip of the communication challenge iceberg.
In order to maximize team effectiveness, a great deal of attention must be paid to the use of technologies, how the team communicates, guidelines for assuring information is adequately shared (and understood) and so forth. Building a culture of familiarity, relationships and trust is, again, key to enhancing the quality of communication.
Strategy: Make decisions, as early in its life as possible, about how it will address its communication needs.
Approach: Use of a Communications Effectiveness Checklist
The below checklist can be used by virtual teams to address their communication needs. You will note the emphasis on the process of communication, along with the technical tools enabling it.
- Do we have agreement on our team ground rules?
- Do we have agreement on our team ground rules?
- Turn around time on emails, phone calls, etc.
- How we share information
- Willingness (and method) to give & receive direct feedback
- How we make decisions
- How will we effectively use media?
- Conference Calls (Whole and/or part of team)
- A meeting/interaction platform (i.e., NetMeeting, others)
- Document/Information Sharing/Knowledge Management
- Face-to-face Opportunities (Whole and/or part of team)
- Other tools?
- How will this team handle disagreements and/or conflict?
- How will we remain connected to our stakeholders or customers?
As with conventional teams, there are no easy answers or foolproof ways to launch a virtual team. However, devoting adequate time and attention to the building blocks that support a virtual team’s successful performance can prove an invaluable up-front investment.
Without addressing these conditions for a successful start up, maximizing performance results may be virtually impossible.
Kimball, Lisa, Noble, Stu and Kennedy, Jon, Virtual Team Tool Kit, Group Jazz Publishing, 2002.
Lipnack, Jessica and Stamps, Jeffrey, Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time and Organizations with Technology, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
Duarte, Deborah and Snyder, Nancy, Mastering Virtual Teams, Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2000.
Jude-York, Deborah, Davis, Lauren, Wise, Susan, Virtual Teaming: Breaking the Boundaries of Time and Place, Crisp Publications, 2000.
Henry, Jane and Hartzler, Meg, Tools for Virtual Teams, ASQ Quality Press, 1998.
by Peter B. Grazier
Published in EI Network October 1, 1997
A few months ago, my friend Ray Martin, Chief Operating Officer at Camden County Health Services Center told me of a man who has spent his entire adult life working to instill such a belief in work organizations. Ray was attempting to bring him to the center to work with his people. The man’s name is Wayne Alderson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I contacted Wayne to find out more about his work. As we spoke I found a great depth of experience that underpinned his life’s work. Wayne sent me a copy of a book about his life called Stronger Than Steel: The Wayne Alderson Story.
The book is a sobering but inspiring look at a life of struggle that prepared Wayne for the work he would later do so effectively. It also detailed a powerful story about how a workplace can be dramatically changed by valuing people. For me, it was one of those books I just couldn’t put down.
The importance of this story for those of us in the “organization change business” is that it points to real root causes of change process failure. Many of the decisions we make are driven by our beliefs about people. And if those beliefs include little value for the contributions others can bring, then real participation is probably doomed from the outset.
In 1965, Wayne Alderson accepted a job in the financial department of Pittron Steel, a steel foundry in Glassport, Pennsylvania, and by 1969 he had worked himself up to the position of controller and chief financial officer. As controller, Wayne was responsible for the financial management of the company, and Pittron was in financial trouble. The massive foundry, covering seven blocks along the Monongahela River, was typical of the many steel mills of western Pennsylvania.
The nerve-wracking noises, noxious odors, and ever-present soot created an oppressiveness that hung in the plant all day and night. Pittron was a filthy place to work, and it did not bring out the best in its people.
In 1972, Pittron was on the verge of explosion. There was so much hostility between labor and management that tension was at a peak. On the surface, the issues appeared to be economic—the plant was in trouble financially and the union, the United Steel Workers, had made concessions. But under the surface, workers were feeling animosity over other issues—qualitative issues concerning matters of dignity and personal respect. Despite the company’s financial condition, the men went out on strike in October of 1972. The bitterness, charges, and countercharges resulted in what was called “eighty-four days of hell.”
Just before the strike, Wayne Alderson had been promoted to the position of Vice President of Operations. Alderson had been critical of the company’s policy of “management by confrontation” and intimidation of the workers, arguing that it simply didn’t work to improve productivity and quality. Against all industrial relations protocol, Alderson decided to meet secretly with USWA Local 1306 President Sam Piccolo, a tough and skilled representative for the plant’s people. He wanted to present a plan called “Operation Turnaround.” The difficult meeting broke the ice that had held management and the union in its grasp for years, and began a relationship between Alderson and Piccolo that has continued to this day. Alderson felt that management had to make the first moves to convince the workforce of its sincerity. And so he began by walking into the plant to talk with people.
The first person he visited was a “chipper,” who performed one of the hardest and dirtiest jobs in the plant. The chipper chips away defects from large steel castings with a heavy jackhammer. Alderson said, “Let me have a crack at it.” And with that, he removed his suit coat and climbed onto the casting. He lasted all of three minutes and conceded that whatever the company paid the man, he earned every cent of it. Within a few minutes, every worker in the plant heard of the incident. By his gesture, Alderson had dignified the least respected task in the plant. As he took more symbolic steps to demonstrate dignity and respect, Alderson began to break down the industrial traditions of the past.
Space limits the detail to which we can discuss this story (I highly recommend the book), but I was particularly struck by one episode that speaks to the need for dignity, respect, and spiritual sustenance. Knowing Alderson was a man of God, one day Sam Piccolo, at a lunchtime gathering, began jokingly needling him. He asked if Alderson was “ready to start teachin’ us about the Bible?” Over the next few days the subject came up again, and Alderson began to think they were serious. So informally, the two men began to discuss the Bible, accompanied by a few others from the plant. As time went on, more and more men joined the group. As it grew, they moved the discussion to an abandoned storage room located directly under the open hearth. The dismal room looked like a catacomb. So the men cleaned out the spider webs, brought in stray cats to control the rats, and set up benches.
The men referred to the place as their “chapel-under-the-open-hearth,” and one man made a sign that simply said “Chapel.” Others began to make their own contributions to the chapel. Wednesday’s were set aside for the Bible study meetings. Initial skepticism gave way to belief, as the group grew gradually into hundreds. Workers families were noticing the changes also as love, dignity, and respect were replacing hostility. The ensuing months brought a dramatic change in the plant and its people. Something powerful was bringing an order to life in the plant.
The Results Carried Over
Wayne Alderson is not a “softy. He is a hard-nosed, practical manager focused on the performance of the organization. The difference is how he goes about getting results. By truly valuing people, which he interprets as demonstrating love, dignity, and respect, a foundation is laid for high-performance. Over the next 21 months, Pittron’s turnaround was as dramatic as any in the annals of American industry.
- Sales went up 400%
- Financials went from a deficit of $6 million to a profit of $6 million
- The workforce grew from 300 to 1200
- Productivity rose 64%
- Labor grievances went from 12 per week to 1 per year
- Chronic absenteeism running 20% dropped to less than 1%
- Quality of product became the best in the history of the plant
- A poor safety record went to an outstanding one
- Workers became customer oriented and ultimately its best sales people
A Man and A Concept Ahead of Their Time
With profits running high, Pittron was sold by its parent company. Even though Pittron became the shining star in the new organization its management style was just too radical for the new company. Alderson was given the opportunity to remove himself from the Bible study group, but politely refused. His refusal to change his management style at Pittron resulted in his termination from the company. The work world in 1974 was not ready, even when the evidence was overwhelming, for valuing people at work.
Fast-Forward to 1997
As I sat at the rear of the conference room at Lucien’s Manor in Berlin, New Jersey, I wondered what was on the minds of the eighty people in attendance. Camden County Health Services Center had a history of tension between management and labor. People were carrying old baggage, some for many years. Tony Peters, CEO of the center, rose to welcome the group to this one-day seminar called Value of the Person.
Tony was followed by the center’s union leadership, who supported the need for the seminar. I thought of the courage it took the management team and the union leadership to move forward with such a process.
Wayne Alderson had come with his team: his daughter Nancy Jean, his wife Nancy, Sam Piccolo, Gloria Scumaci, and Reid Carpenter of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation. Throughout the day, the message was consistent. There is a basic truth of life based upon valuing people that is under pinned by three elements: love, dignity, and respect.
We watched the film Miracle of Pittron that chronicled the astonishing events of the 21-month turnaround. Stories told during the day became real faces, and tears flowed as each person confronted the tragedy of a management system that devalues people. That evening a dinner was held for these employees and their spouses as the message of valuing people moved from workplace to home. Several people spoke that evening, but I was most struck by the comments of Rebecca Moore, President of Council 71, AFSCME Local 2307.
Rebecca said that she would be driving a big truck to the front door of the center the next morning (metaphorically) to collect all the baggage that has been around too long. She encouraged everyone to show up in the morning and unload theirs. But Rebecca isn’t one to simply tell others what to do, she then courageously made a public apology to another center employee in the audience.
A friend Ray Martin has shared with me his frustrations about the center for many years. Deeply embedded beliefs are hard to change. But there is always a unique point in time in the history of every organization when an opportunity presents itself—business and labor leaders with a vision and desire to change, a catalyst, and a process. Tony Peters and Ray Martin held the vision, their labor leaders have courageously supported it, and Wayne Alderson and his team appeared at the right moment. From what I observed, I have every confidence that their change process will move forward directly and dramatically. People will change and the center will be better.
Conclusions to be Drawn
I think at times that our resistance to change our workplaces toward more human concepts reflects our fear of intimacy. We feel uncomfortable when speaking of love, dignity, and respect. The head and the heart are parts of a beautifully balanced system we call a human. But somewhere in our evolution we separated the two when it came to our work. The heart plays a distant second to the head. But examples such as the Pittron story should, once again, serve to reinforce that for truly high performance to happen, the heart plays a central role. And so the movement continues.
My thanks to Ray Martin, Tony Peters, and Wayne Alderson for allowing me to spend this day of discovery with them and their people. In no small way they are moving us toward a better understanding of how organizations change. And a final thank you to Rebecca Moore, for demonstrating what real courage means in the process of moving forward.
by Andy Kraus
“Can anyone decipher Morse code?”
“I can see why so many people like the Amazing Race!”
“Yeah, and why so many people like movies like National Treasure
and the DaVinci code. This is awesome!!”
Imagine your team racing through the streets of New Orleans, wandering Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, treasure hunting in the Museum of Natural History in New York City or exploring the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
You don’t have to imagine an longer. Teambuilding, Inc. treasure hunts require serious brain power…and a serious sense of fun! Teambuilding, Inc. has been conducting treasure hunts for more than 22 years and we’re ready to share our extensive treasure hunt experience with your team.
Many team building activities are designed for small groups of 10-12 participants. Our treasure hunts are a blast groups of all sizes.
Throughout your experience, you’ll solve puzzles that will help you navigate to your next clue. We probably already have team building treasure hunt course near you. And if you want to experience the next generation of treasure hunts, check out GeoQuest: The High-Tech Treasure Hunt. This outdoor hunt offers teams with the opportunity to use hand-held GPS units to navigate from clue to clue. GeoQuest is powered by billions of dollars of technology…but it’s your own brain power that will make the difference.
Join us for an outdoor GeoQuest treasure hunt in the San Diego Zoo, the Arboretum in Dallas, historic Old City Philadelphia, Georgetown in Washington, DC, Boston or in the eclectic South Beach Miami. Participants regular say comments such as, “I’ve lived in the Chicago area for my entire life, and I discovered things about the city that I have never known before.”
After your team building treasure hunt, our skilled facilitators will conduct a debrief that is second to none. With more combined experience than any other team building company in the United States, we can link the treasure hunt to real world team dynamics and business issues. We’ll examine how the group communicated, worked together to solve problems, and planned for success. If you want fun, our treasure hunts are a blast. If you want learning, we help your group make the connections that drive behavioral change.
We know how to create clues. Do you think your team can solve them?
For more information about Treasure Hunts, visit our Team Building section at Treasure Hunts.
by Peter B. Grazier
Look around you at work and ask yourself how many of your coworkers are really enjoying their work or the work environment. Something is changing, and it doesn’t seem to be for the better.
The combination of technological advancement and competition-driven downsizing seems to be placing enormous pressure on managements and workers today. Add to that the consensus that leaders today understand little about human needs and how they relate to performance, and the result is a lethal brew that is more often today being described as a toxic workplace.
What’s Going On?
The workplace today seems to be more hectic than ever. The combination of the downsizing trend and rapid technological changes have left their marks in precious little time for family, friends, and outside activities. As a result, the ability to balance one’s life is moving higher on the charts as a characteristic desired in the workplace.
Worldwide, workers seem to be saying that they want more balance in their lives and are not getting it. A recent poll1 of 10,339 workers found that they want the same things, regardless of country or culture. Gemini Consulting conducted the international poll of thirteen countries with Yankelovich Partners, and found the five most desired qualities to be:
- ability to balance work and personal life
- work that is truly enjoyable
- security for the future
- good pay or salary
- enjoyable coworkers
Worldwide, the ability to “balance the needs of work and family or personal life” was either the most or second-most important attribute in a job. Only in Russia did “having good pay or salary” rank higher. Happiest were French employees; unhappiest were Japanese. But everywhere there’s a sizeable gap between what workers want and what they’re getting, especially in the areas of pay, life balance and a feeling of security. More than half don’t know their company’s mission statement, 84% don’t consider it fundamental to their work and 44% don’t feel connected to their employers.
Another study2 found that the impact of work-family conflicts is circular, going home to impact the family, and then returning to affect an employee’s productivity, job satisfaction and commitment. Nearly 40% of employees feel their careers would be negatively impacted if they took advantage of flexible schedules, or took time off for family reasons.
Academics from Radcliffe Public Policy Institute, working with New England-based Fleet Financial Group, measured quantitatively for the first time the impact of work redesign on both home life and work. Fleet, the country’s 11th largest financial services company, posed three questions to workers3:
- How is work organized and what are the business measures for success?
- How does the way work is organized affect employees’ personal lives?
- And how can changes in the way work is done positively affect both business outcomes and employees’ lives?
They heard from staff about sleepless nights, neglected families, too much work and a sense of frenzy about getting it done.
Technology… Blessing or Curse?
The huge leaps in technology have given us new ways of working and living, and nobody can dispute the many advantages of this progress. However, these same changes are creating a new dynamic, the full impact of which has not been assessed. Cellular telephones, notebook computers, pagers, modems, email, and more have put us in touch with our companies 24 hours a day. Without these “advancements” we were forced into downtime, quiet time, or simply mental contemplation as, for example, we drove home in our cars.
The mind needs an opportunity to regenerate and contemplate…go “offline” for a while. A popular television advertisement shows a worker at home, participating in a teleconference in her pajamas, or another worker on a beach with laptop in hand. Another recent magazine advertisement for PageNet says:
as though sending and receiving e-mails while playing a round of golf is something that will enhance or simplify our lives.
The essence of the message is that the technology gives us new freedoms…but does it really? Are the workers on the beach and on the golf course really relaxing if they are conducting business there? And do their families feel connected to them at home when they are online with their work? When the novelty of 24-hour connectedness wears off, we will begin to understand that it is having a significant impact on the overall quality of our lives.
Work and the Human Spirit
Two years ago I wrote a piece for this newsletter called Work and Spirituality4. The intent of the article was to acknowledge the growing movement toward recognizing the human spirit in the workplace. What was significant to me, however, was the response to the article. Never before in the 11-year history of this newsletter have I received more feedback. For a number of readers, there was a powerful connection.
In my work over the last 20 years, I have had the privilege of observing first-hand how energizing the human spirit relates directly to individual and organizational performance. At some point, it becomes a “no-brainer.” When people feel good about their work, they tend to perform well. When they don’t, they don’t. The trick is moving the work culture to one that sees nurturing and caring for this spirit as beneficial and productive, rather than “soft” and “coddling.” If I were a senior leader, I would be asking myself each day “How can I help to create a workplace where people feel good about themselves and their work?” This question would lead to actions that promote health, family unity, general wellbeing and, subsequently, greater production and overall performance.
According to a CCH Inc. survey of 401 companies employing 800,000 workers, since 1995, illness, long the chief cause of work absences, has lost ground to new excuses: “stress” and “entitlement mentality” —that is, “I’ve worked my tail off; I deserve some time off.” The category “personal needs” increased also.
In 1995, “illness” made up almost half of the reasons why people took time off from work. In 1998, it had dropped to 20%.
The message? Pay attention to employees’ emotional well-being.
What Makes a Workplace Toxic?
My dictionary defines toxic as “poisonous, or pertaining to poison” and poison as “any substance which, introduced into an organism in relatively small amounts, acts chemically upon the tissues to produce serious injury or death.”
A toxic workplace can certainly pertain to stress-related illness or death, and this has been well documented. But it can also relate to attitude. Much has been written in the last two decades about employee dedication and commitment, and the fall of the work ethic. But I think these rantings are simply cover-ups for a management system that has largely ignored and perhaps exacerbated the human condition at work. How else can one explain the exceptions like Southwest Airlines (see the book, NUTS! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success) where employee commitment is higher in general and company performance has consistently trounced everyone in its industry?
A recent article in Fast Company magazine5 entitled “Danger: Toxic Company” discussed the work of Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Mr. Pfeffer says there is ample evidence that companies that manage people right outperform others by 30% to 40%.
So, what characteristics of companies inhibit this kind of performance and render them “toxic?”
– On the first day of work, some of these companies are requiring people to sign at-will employment contracts that give the company the right to fire an employee any time for any reason. What kind of message does this send on the first day of work, and could it affect loyalty and work ethic?
– There’s an old joke at Microsoft that says “We offer flexible time—-you can work any 18 hours you want.” Work redesign that was supposed to eliminate work actually eliminated people, shifting the same work onto fewer people. Labor statistics show that working hours have steadily increased over the last decade. The problem with increased working time is that it forces the employee to choose between two competing obligations—work life and personal life (or family)—creating inevitable guilt in either direction.
Rewards for the Privileged
– The topic is so old by now that business magazines that routinely ranted about it have stopped. Pay and bonus systems for those at the top have escalated to Hollywood star status, frequently in the absence of corporate performance. One has simply to ask, does this horrible inequity have anything to do with a drop in attitude, loyalty, and work ethic?
Assets or Expenses?
– Labor is a cost of production and is considered an expense, and the goal is usually to minimize expenses. Assets, however, contribute to value. Most organizations will proclaim that “our employees are our most important asset.” But when most managers look at employees, do they see an asset to be developed, or a cost to be minimized?
In basic science we learned that a ball at the top of a ramp has potential energy. That potential is always there until the ball is released to move down the ramp. The characteristic that distinguishes employees (or labor) from other expenses is this same potential. The employee has the potential to add value through creative ability. But most managers don’t understand this and certainly have not been taught to release it.
Modeling the Culture
– Toxic companies have a mismatch between what the mission, vision, and values hanging on the wall say, and how the leaders really behave. Everyone knows that the real culture and expected norms are something else. The spiritual element of the human species wants to believe in something better—a higher purpose for the work being done. So leadership that reinforces this is motivating—leadership that contradicts it drains energy.
– Toxic companies cling to the past and resist real involvement of the workforce in the organization’s thinking. For years we have recorded the motivating effects of involvement and, conversely, have observed the demotivating effects of exclusion. People have much to contribute and are de-energized when those talents are wasted. Turnover rates tend to drop when people feel a real connection to the organization’s thinking processes.
The Tree Eventually Falls
A strong and sturdy tree can endure much in terms of punishment. Even an attempt to fell the tree is resisted. The tree can endure a single chop from an ax and not be weakened. It can even withstand several cuts without falling. But eventually, enough damage is done—the cut is too deep—and the tree falls.
To me, workers are like trees. They start out enthusiastic about their new opportunity, strong in their support of their new organization, and able to withstand an occasional hit. But in toxic workplaces, one metaphoric chop after another begins to take a toll until the worker makes a decision, conscious or otherwise, to tune out. And these decisions ultimately decide the fate of the organization. TBI
- International Workforce Management Study, September 1998. For more information go to www.gemcon.com.
- Families and Work Institute – The National Study of the Changing Workforce, 1997 and the 1998 Business Work-Life Study.
- For more information, call RPPI at 617-496-3478
- EI Network, Jan-Feb 1997
- Fast Company, Nov-Dec 1998, page 152
by Peter B. Grazier
(Originally appeared in EI Network – May 1, 1997)
Without a doubt, teams are hot! Organizations can’t seem to expand them fast enough. I just received a conference brochure through the mail entitled The Best of TEAMS 97 to be held in Chicago in June—an entire conference dedicated to making teams work.
Ten years ago it was hard to find a good book on teams—today such books abound:
- The Wisdom of Teams
- Compensation for Teams
- Team Training
- The Team Handbook
- Best Practices for Teams
- Ron Archer on Teams
- Keeping Teams on Track
- Designing and Leading Team Based Organizations
- Why Teams Don’t Work
- Why Teams Can Fail
- Making Your Workplace Team Productive and Hassle-Free
- The Team Memory Jogger
- Teams at Work
- Keeping the TEam Going
- VROOM! Turbo-Charged Team Building
- Teaming Up
- Self-Directed Work Teams
- Leading Self-Directed Work Teams
- and, yes, even Virtual Teams.
Add to this the TEAM Act which wants to find its way through Congress, and you have a major movement underway.
What concerns me about this rush to teams is the lack of understanding of the underlying principles that make teams work. Two of these principles, collaboration and community, are bedrock philosophies of successful teams, so changing work group structure without changing the organization’s culture to support these just doesn’t work.
For example, the principle of collaboration is at the heart of successful teams. The willingness and ability of people to collaborate yields breakthroughs in problem solving and innovation. Yet organizations today are pitifully negligent when it comes to organization-wide collaboration. Why? Because our past paradigms of work viewed information as power and those lower in the pecking order not in need of such information. So we see organizations implement teams with great zeal, yet confine meaningful dialogues about workplace changes to the top few.
Restructuring our organizations is one task that should involve every employee, but doesn’t. Accordingly, it leaves many wondering where “the team” went.
I recently had a small-company CEO call me about assisting him in moving his new team process forward. He asked me questions, conveyed his hopes for the future, explained his needs, and voiced appropriate concerns.
When I asked him if he had discussed any of these with his workforce, he said he had not. He explained that he wanted to “get his act together first.”
His response might seem appropriate—it does seem prudent to get one’s act together before going public. But my question to him was intended to provoke thought about his role in the larger team. If he truly values his team members, he will open the dialogue (collaborate) with them. Through this dialogue he will clarify his own understanding and intentions, and will model team behavior in the process.
This open dialogue process is uncomfortable for some at the top. Many are concerned that they must appear clear and decisive, and that opening a dialogue with the workforce to seek an answer may appear just the opposite.
One CEO voiced this concern to me recently and said that he was not sure that his people would appreciate his not having an answer. So I suggested to him that he ask them to describe the characteristics of the ideal CEO. What do they want of their leader? He could ask them one-on-one or through a newsletter column. Then sit back and listen to what they say.
Most leaders struggle with how to lead, but few ever ask. So without more information, most will repeat the command-and-control behaviors of past generations.
However, this system stands in stark contrast to the team systems growing today. Employees hear the words of “team” and “collaboration” but see actions to the contrary. Since the human mind has great difficulty holding two completely opposing concepts simultaneously, much confusion results for employees on how the organization wants them to behave. Accordingly, the new team process suffers.
Whether we realize it or not, a workplace is a community. A team is also a community. A town, for example, has people with a variety of skills that combine to make it function—a grocer for food, a pharmacist for medications, public officials for basic services, a pastor for spiritual needs, teachers for education, and so forth. Each person brings a unique talent to complete the whole.
The town has a culture, a common language, a process of operation, rules for order, and a purpose for being, i.e., safety, security, and efficiency in living.
In the same way a workplace is a community. The culture, language, process, rules, and purpose may vary from organization to organization, but the basic community exists.
There is also a need for camaraderie, meaning loyalty and fellowship. I sometimes think that the enormous popularity of television’s Cheers was an outgrowth of this need for fellowship. The bar room buddies were, in essence, a community, fulfilling what industrial psychologist Abraham Maslow called the need for “belonging.”
Understanding this powerful need, we would do well not to ignore the subject of community. A special report in Business Week magazine on internet websites (May 5, 1997 article entitled “Internet Communities”) reinforced the power of community.
Lamenting the problem most organizations have with expensive, but little-used websites, the report discussed how successful sites create a sense of community where people with special interests can chat with each other. Says the CEO of one successful website “It’s not the content. It’s the people, stupid. Content may be why people visit a site. But community is why people stay.”
Another company, Garden Escape Inc., also found out how important community was to their business. Originally set up to sell nursery stock, the owner soon found that people wanted to discuss gardening. The founder opened a chat room and immediately found people visiting the site longer (20 minutes vs. 10 minutes before), spending more money, and fueling a growth in the business of 40% per month. According to the company’s founder, “We thought of ourselves as more of a store. We underestimated how important community would be.”
This “underestimation” of community pervades corporate America as well when it comes to employees and teams. The dichotomy between teamwork and downsizing, for example, is so great that the community develops opposing camps around the organization’s need for efficiency and the employee’s need for safety and security. The resulting struggle and conflict create their own inefficiencies as energy is drained away from productive work.
“Community” sounds like a soft word, but in reality has enormous implications in the search for high-performance. Once again, we simply cannot talk about teams and ignore the underlying principle of community.
The discussion here is far from complete, but attempts to dip into the old notion of “living the message” or “walking the talk.” It is fruitless to talk “teams” and not collaborate across the organization. It is equally senseless to talk “teams” and not recognize the organization community in which the teams exist.
If you or your organization are struggling with team implementation, you might consider the overall context in which these teams are operating, and begin making the appropriate changes.
by Merrick Rosenberg
When I ask people if they provide as much coaching to their staff members as they should, they almost always say, “No.”
Then, when I ask them why they don’t coach their people as much as they should, they inevitably reply, “I don’t have the time.”
Let’s explore that…
If you are a manager, how much of your time should be devoted to coaching your people? 20% of your time? 10%? 5%? 2%?
Let’s play with 2%. That’s not unreasonable, is it? Here’s how it works out:
There are 2000 hours in a year (if people work for 40 hours/week for 50 weeks).
2% of 2000 hours yields 40 hours of coaching per year.
That translates to 48 minutes of coaching per workweek.
Can you spare that? You need to…
A recent study by Career Development Services found that 80% of employees who had been coached by their manager felt a strong sense of commitment to their organization, versus 46% of employees who had no coaching.
In another study, Career Systems International asked people to identify the reason why they stay at their current organization. 46% of respondents reported that they stayed because the organization provided career growth and development. Coaching is one of the key ways to help people grow and develop their careers.
It wasn’t that long ago that people worked for less than three companies in their entire career. Today, it is not uncommon for people to jump ship every three to five years. There has been a significant shift from lifetime employment to lifetime employability. If people do not feel like they are developing their skills to ensure lifetime employability, they are likely to leave to find a job where they can learn and grown.
“But I’m too busy to schedule coaching sessions with my staff.”
A common refrain that I hear from managers is, “I spend my day in meetings. How am I supposed to find time to sit down with my staff and coach them?”
Coaching can be formal or informal. Formal coaching sessions take the form of pre-scheduled sessions on a regular basis. These sessions can be held every week, every month, or even every quarter. They can last for fifteen minutes or an hour. Most importantly, the sessions should be based on the needs of the staff member. Newer staff members need more coaching than seasoned staff, but everyone needs coaching.
Informal coaching opportunities are those on-the-spot opportunities to provide positive feedback or redirect behavior with constructive feedback. These interactions can last for 20 seconds or two minutes. They don’t appear on a calendar. They simply happen when they need to. These informal conversations appear on a regular basis, if you look for them. If you seek opportunities to provide positive feedback, you will find them. And, if you search for ways to develop the skills of your staff, you will find those as well. The key is to keep looking!
Both formal and informal coaching interactions are critical to the success of your staff members. I have found that most people report that the more often they provide on-the-spot coaching, the less often they need to hold more formal coaching sessions.
What is coaching?
Managers often tell me that they regularly coach their people. However, when I probe to find out what they are doing in these coaching sessions, they tell me, “I ask them where they are at in terms of meeting their deadlines and if they need any help.”
I’m not discounting the value of these questions, however, there’s a big difference between being managing and coaching. The manager asks about projects, deadlines, priorities, and obstacles. The coach provides positive and constructive feedback. They help people to uncover their career aspirations, and they guide them to achieve their personal objectives. They help their staff members to appreciate natural strengths, analyze past performance, uncover negative tendencies, and position themselves for future success. They help them identify areas in which full potential is not being realized. Overall, they guide staff members to develop a framework for integrating attitudes, behaviors, vision, reality, and action.
Both managing and coaching interactions need to take place, but typically there is an imbalance between the two, with managing behaviors tipping the scales over coaching behaviors.
Whatever is a priority gets done.
For most people, those items that rise to the top of the priority list get done. Managers usually tell me that coaching is important, but it’s not a priority. With this attitude, is it a surprise that coaching does not happen as often as it should?
Most projects are time-bound, and coaching is not. Managers need to make coaching a priority and pre-schedule coaching sessions throughout the year. In between these meetings, they need to look for on-the-spot coaching opportunities.
Spending 2% of the year providing coaching to staff members is nothing compared to the benefits that spending this time will yield. Do you have time for coaching? If you want to retain the best people and help your employees to be the best they can be, you have to.
Learn more about Team Building as a Resource for Company Success from our friends at Lewis University.
by Peter B. Grazier
Originally published in EI Network on April 1, 1997
This issue of Employee Involvement Network marks the 60th time—10 years—that I have put my thoughts into words in this newsletter. Over the last month I have found myself reflecting on this, seriously contemplating what I have learned in the process. Perhaps it is appropriate in this time of rapid change to look back and appreciate the journey we have all been taking.
When we published our first issue of Employee Involvement Network in April of 1987, it was apparent that there needed to be more dialogue on the issue of employee involvement. By then, I had been learning and practicing involvement concepts for about 6 years and found that I needed to know more. And those I spoke with said that serious issues were being discussed at the water coolers, but little was being said publicly about the problems being encountered.
We had few resources back then to help us. The Association for Quality and Participation1 (then called the International Association of Quality Circles) was a wonderful resource for this work. Pioneers Jeff Beardsley and Don Dewar made a major contribution when they launched the IAQC to fill a void in our understanding of participative concepts.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative Programs (disbanded later under the Bush administration) was also an excellent conveyer of emerging information regarding employee involvement. Stephen Schlossberg, then Deputy Undersecretary of labor, was a strong proponent who championed a number of initial studies that shed new light on the power of participation.
A few universities were also studying participation and consultants were beginning to focus on it as well.
A major concern among involvement practitioners, however, was the significant “failure’ rate of new programs. Data at the time showed that three-fourths of all participation efforts “failed” within a year of implementation. The term “quality circles” was shunned in many organizations because the quick rise-and-fall experience had left such a bad taste. Of course, it wasn’t the concept that was bad, but the shock to the established command-and-control culture that destroyed the circles. Our management system was not yet ready for this kind of empowerment of workers.
What was pushing the trend toward participation, however, was world competition. The U.S. was losing major industries, and businesses were looking for strategies to compete. So the interest in employee involvement continued to grow despite the failures.
By 1987, Teambuilding, Inc. was two years old. With precious little funds, we made a conscious decision not to advertise our company, but rather put that money into something that would serve a larger purpose. We would attempt to provide a forum for employee involvement issues. There was no “grand plan” to mass mail this newsletter to America—we simply hoped that those who saw value in it would copy it and share it with others, thereby enlarging the network. To a great extent, that has happened—and what I have personally gained from this experience has far exceeded my expectations.
People have shared stories with us to pass along. Some have written their own stories for us. Authors and publishers have sent us early editions of their books to preview. And we have had the opportunity to meet new people whose ideas have expanded our scope of understanding.
We followed the trail of studies that continually proved that employee involvement, when implemented properly, translated into improved performance for organizations:
- 1984 – U.S. Department of Labor Economic Policy Council
- 1988 – U.S. General Accounting Office
- 1989 – Brookings Institution
- 1990 – U.S. General Accounting Office
- 1991 – Columbia University School of Business
- 1991 – Manufacturers’ Alliance for Productivity and Innovation
- 1993 – Work in America Institute, Inc.
We watched America win back previously lost market share as companies such as Intel, Motorola, Ford, Microsoft, Xerox, Harley-Davidson, and others began to implement quality and innovation strategies based on employee involvement concepts, adding additional impetus to the participation trend.
We watched employee involvement move to empowerment, and then to self-direction. Many of us questioned the notion that a group of workers could “manage” themselves without direct supervision—we doubted, and we were wrong. The movement from an adult-to-child to an adult-to-adult work environment was underway.
But we also watched as “re-engineering” and “re-structuring” snapped us back to the command-and-control mentality that has dominated this century. The brutal downsizings of some organizations left employees asking where the involvement went.
As with all powerful trends, however, the movement has continued. The last year has seen a renewed interest in moving participation forward, reminding me of the age-old truth “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
Change on a Personal Level
Focusing on the 10 years of Employee Involvement Network made me also contemplate the personal journey I have been on since beginning this work in 1980. Perhaps some of you have had a similar journey.
When I began, I thought worker participation was an interesting technique for improving work—just another tool in the manager’s toolbox to be used when needed. But as time went on it became apparent that this was far more than “just another tool.”
My wake-up call was in 1982, during my first employee involvement “program,” when the wife of one of our workers commented to me that her husband’s behavior at home had changed. She said that “he was calmer, didn’t yell as much, and didn’t complain about his work anymore.” Life at home had improved.
I was so ignorant of the psychological benefits of involvement in those early years that it took some time before I connected her statement to the program we had implemented. And it would be a while longer before I went to the library to finally link theory with practice.
Industrial psychologists Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg had told us for years what would happen if we involved people in this manner at work—and now we were seeing it first-hand.
I found my work shifting naturally from technically driven improvement concepts to human driven concepts. It was obvious that real improvement resulted when the people became energized.
So little by little I began to learn more about the human side of performance. My passion was to understand the factors that drive behavior, especially those that result in high or low performance. Some of what I learned included:
- Our childhood determines a great deal of the triumphs and tragedies of our adulthood. Moving on leads to improvement.
- Our personality is genetically determined and is a gift. Rather than lament our differences, successful people celebrate and use them.
- Our belief system is acquired after birth and is totally unique to each of us. Values strongly held are a primary source of conflict.
- Our intuition is almost always right, but our intellect usually overrules it.
- We define ourselves by the limits of our thinking, and this boundary is a major barrier to our success.
- There is a spiritual element to each of us waiting to be released. Releasing it brings peace.
- The need to be recognized is one of our greatest needs, however, a sincere "thank you" is seldom forthcoming.
- Everyone has something to contribute and will if we just ask. The need to feel valued is powerful.
As I look over this list I realize that these are simply age-old philosophies of life. Would I have learned them without my journey through employee involvement? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
In eighteen years of formal schooling I didn’t learn these principles, and so moved into adulthood without ample preparation for life, relationships, and an understanding of my own potential. From the responses I get during my seminars, I don’t think I’m alone.
So the beauty of the involvement movement has not only been its contribution to the performance of the workplace, but also a greater understanding of who we are and what makes us better.
Schools today are beginning to teach these conceptsalong with the regular curriculum, so perhaps there is hope that tomorrow’s adults will be better prepared.
But for now we can be thankful that we had an opportunity to learn something greater than simply how to do work better. We’ve had an opportunity to learn something about life that makes each day worth living.
1. The Association for Quality and Participation was affiliated with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) in 2000, and now operates under the banner of the ASQ.