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How to Bring Meaning to Your Work

I’d like to share two quick stories.

Years ago I was training the Palm Beach County Clerks Office executive team. The new Clerk, Sharon Bock, was intent on creating a world-class organization. One of my more interesting assignments from her was to attend a Six Sigma day as an observer. The 300 person management and leadership team would be facilitated by Six Sigma trainers to further define their vision, mission, values, and goals. Afterward, Sharon asked me what I observed. I told her the attendees were having their own little happy party talking about the difference they would make out there…without including a single customer of the County Clerk involved in the conversation.

I explained it’s hard to be purposeful or self-actualized where you don’t invite your customer, client or user into the conversation. How else can you truly understand their experience?

I had another client in my Florida days that was a formal wear manufacturer. Their retail spaces were amazing. Beautiful models wore the clothes in 12-foot posters all around the showrooms. However, when you got to the manufacturing floor, those pictures were gone. The purpose of those seamstresses was to sew that tuxedo or wedding dress. That was it. No real “meaning” in the work other than that.

I convinced the owner his employees should be treated no differently than their customers and that the same pictures should also be hung throughout the manufacturing floor. Even better, I suggested they provide a discount to some couples if they came by the manufacturing floor and showed the workers how special the garments they sewed made them feel.

Now, do you think those seamstresses would be more engaged and more purposeful after a direct experience with the customer like that? Produce greater “discretionary effort”? Of course, they would!

Eventually, they also added real photos and testimonials from client weddings on the manufacturing walls too.

Finding meaning in your work is about serving. More precisely, it is about the service experience between an employee and their customer. Make sure your employees get to directly interact with the people they serve and then let them discover how their work makes a difference in their customers lives.

Investigation and Lie Detection

“The liar was the hottest to defend his veracity, the coward his courage, the ill-bred his gentlemanliness, and the cad his honor.” 
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

There is a great deal of literature available to help determine whether someone you are speaking with, perhaps during an investigation, or during a game of poker, is lying to you. What follows are some of the “tells” the trained eye will look for:

  • Eye contact avoidance.
  • Liars use less hands and arms. Often on their lap, folded, closed body posture.
  • Palms down on the table or clenched.
  • Arms and legs crossed.
  • Touching face, playing with hair.
  • Partial shrug.
  • Inconsistent words, gestures, and emotions.
  • What was the initial reaction?
  • Timing of gestures.
  • The surprise wears off quickly.
  • The tight smile; the small smile.
  • Head moves mechanically.
  • The guilty usually go on the defensive; the honest on the offensive.
  • The head shifts.
  • Slumped posture.
  • Liars generally won’t touch you or point fingers.
  • Liars feel the need to give a lot of details.
  • Liars often repeat the question to gain time.
  • Liars use your words.
  • The Freudian slip.
  • Discomfort with silence.
  • The guilty usually engage in body “awayness.” They will put up barriers.
  • Guilty people try too hard to convince. “I would never…”, “I wouldn’t lie,” “To tell you the truth…”
  • “I need time to think.”
  • They look to be relieved that the questioning is over.
  • Look for the out of left field response
  • They make an effort to change the subject.
  • The guilty will engage in moral superiority.
  • They will answer the question with a statement first.

When you are hot on the liar’s trail, you can say things like:

  • Let them know the advantages of coming clean.
  • On a scale of 1-10 where might you fit in …
  • What else could you have done?
  • Talk about it as if it is already an established fact.
  • Stare at them and be silent. Give them a reason to tell the truth.
  • Ask them if “this is the whole story?”
  • I know this happened… what I want to know is what your intentions were?
  • Was this an innocent mistake or a calculated effort?
  • Expand their statement.
  • I know there are two sides to every story…

Liars feast off of amateurs, which is one reason I don’t play poker, and a good reason for you to hire a pro when dealing with workplace investigations!

 

Behavioral Interviewing

The goal of a behavioral interview is very simple: to see how somebody might behave under varying circumstances. The following is a partial list of circumstances that can show up. Add questions unique to your environment too. You can discuss the who, what, where, why and how of behaviors around:

  1. Not being clear about job tasks.
  2. Having difficulty with a co-worker.
  3. Having difficulty with a boss.
  4. Feeling your talents aren’t being properly utilized.
  5. Managing a challenging project either due to lack of resources, time or other pressures.
  6. Having made an error or dealing with somebody you manage who’s made an error.
  7. Setting goals and making sure you execute on them.
  8. Making an unpopular decision.
  9. Examples of how you motivate or engage people you manage or co-workers.
  10. What are some innovative or creative solutions that you’ve helped to generate to solve a problem?

And the catch-all question, “We’ve done a fair amount of behavioral interviewing, today and I’ve learned a lot you as a result. What other behaviors, both positive and negative, have we yet to discuss?

My Three Favorite Behavioral Questions

I consider all the above to be a dance around the middle. There aren’t enough interviewers who ask questions at the extreme. Such as:

  1. Tell me something that felt unfair to you in your last job? This is my favorite interview question of all, to understand somebody’s behaviors. Our personal culture is largely defined by how we deal with what feels unfair to us. So dig into it. If they tell you nothing felt unfair about their last job, then guess what… they are lying… and I won’t hire a liar. However, when they do tell you something felt unfair, now you get to ask additional questions. For example, why did it feel unfair? What did you do about it? I would go through their entire resume and ask that question about all their recent jobs.
  2. Now we go to the other extreme. What are you most excited about (in your previous job and other jobs)? Once again, why, why, why? Ask yourself if there’s a position at your company where the applicant can do the work they are most excited about. That’s where they tend to be most productive.
  3. The third question I like to ask relates to how well they know themselves. The question is this: “What are three things you think the people you have worked with would like to see you change about yourself?” If they say nothing, then they have the fantasy they are perfect, and I’m not hiring them. Most people would know the answer to that question, including you. When they eventually tell me what those three things are, I’ll find out from them what effort they’ve made to address those concerns.

You can understand how powerful these questions are by applying them to yourself. What feels unfair to you? What are you most excited about? What would people like to see you change about yourself? They are a great source of inquiry and awareness.

What are your favorite behavioral interviewing questions?

Occupy This Space

Most people reading this article go to a defined workplace every day. Even if you’re a sole entrepreneur like me and consult with clients, you still have your office space, whether it’s at work or home.

Your environment always communicates to you. It is never not communicating. Just what is your environment communicating? How are you branding you to you?

First there are the obligatory family pictures. My only suggestion is you keep them up to date. You don’t have a full head of hair and your wife is not 25 anymore. (I’m speaking of myself of course). Be in the now.

Then there are all those pictures with the celebrities you’ve met in life and myriad of diplomas up on the wall to impress everyone else about how important you are. I guess if you’re selling to a very conservative clientele and you’ve got a picture of you and Ronald Reagan up on the wall, that’s probably a good thing. If you need it to remind you how important you are, it’s probably not a good thing.

I like to put up my main goals on a whiteboard. I’ve learned that the smaller the whiteboard I use, the more focused I become. I love going into executive offices where there are these enormous whiteboards filled up with the same writing that’s been up there for six months. If it’s up there to help you show the big picture of your operations, then great. If it’s something that should’ve been done six months ago, then it’s not so great.

Plants are a must have in your office. It helps bring your environment to life. It also supplies you with more oxygen. The more plants, the better.

What about art? Art can agitate us, inspire us, or settle us down. What is the purpose of the art in your environment? I’ve gone into plenty of offices where the art up on the wall was meaningless and suggested by some interior designer. That’s not good art. Put up art that speaks to the work you do or otherwise inspires you.

Then there are our books. In my litigation days, my bookshelf was crammed top to bottom, books piled on the side… you get the picture. Then my wife hired a feng shui consultant for me. The first thing she did was to go over to the bookshelf and ask me if I had touched each book in the last three years. Those I had not were tossed to the middle of the floor. You can imagine my panic! Once she had completed that exercise, less than a third of the books remained on the book shelf and all were neatly arranged. She told me that now my chi (energy) could flow. And boy, did it. I had great months after going through getting my office feng shui’d. It may just be coincidence but who knows?

The desk. A person’s desk says a lot about them. What’s it made of, how neatly is it kept, is it functional, etc. Personally, I like using organic materials in my office wherever possible. So I have a bamboo desk and bookshelf.

Then there is the chair we sit in every day. Or not. Last year, I experimented with a standup desk. Now it’s what I use 90% of the time. At first I had the $22 Silicon Valley Ikea model standup desk and then I progressed to a $350 Varidesk, which has been a great investment. I also got a $100 standing mat from Topo. Here’s a shot of the setup. Notice the ergonomic keyboard too.

Last, breathe good air. I’ve invested in a $89 Honeywell air filter and if you’re working in a closed building like I do, then you should as well. Gurdjieff stated that “life is breath”. If that’s the case, then it’s worth investing in an air purifier.

What have you done to make your space a great place to work? I’d love to see your comments below.

Is this the end of hugging in the workplace?

I just read an interesting 9th Circuit opinion https://lnkd.in/gacp9Zg . I can see the lawyers telling us there is now a no hugging rule in the workplace. According to the court “hugging can create a hostile or abusive workplace when it is unwelcome and pervasive”.

Apparently the boss in this case did way too much hugging for way too many years. Apparently the plaintiff couldn’t take it anymore. She felt the hugging had sexual overtones. And maybe it did.

There is a sliding scale of creepiness when it comes to hugging. And there is a personal space scale too. Most people are OK with a good natured hug. However, “chest to breast” hugging can be creepy and unwelcome. Some people don’t like being touched at all, maybe for some very personal reasons.

I like hugging people. Mostly friends and family. But there have been occasions where someone I had just met needed a hug and I gave it to them.

What I won’t do is be creepy about it.

PS it’s probably too creepy to pull a sandwich hug at work.

The Future of Work

Ask yourself this: how will AI, robots and other advanced technologies affect the future of my work or that of my loved ones? Am I prepared for it?

Because it will affect us, whether you are 60 and thinking about working for at least the next 10 years or if you are 24 and just getting started in your career.

In a recent blog post I shared my Workplaces of the Future Checklist.

I also encourage you to watch these five TED videos discussing the subject.

A renaissance — the coming end of human work | Kevin Surace

How the future of work is not “Jobs” | Rudy Karsan

How to Become Relevant when a Robot Takes Your Job | Pablos Holman

Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? | David Autor

Jobs of the future and how we can prepare for them | AvinashMeetoo

What you will learn is the change coming our way is happening super-fast! More so than the vast majority of people realize.

It all comes down to thinking, doing and feeling. Technology will replace or effect non-cognitive, repetitive tasks first (like vacuuming or cooking hamburgers). Then the non-cognitive non- repetitive tasks(like estimating the cost of auto-repair or simple tax returns). Then it will attack the cognitive repetitive tasks (including things like financial planning, data analysis, surgery and legal briefs).

The jobs that will remain for most will be cognitive, non-repetitive jobs like sales reps, teachers, therapists, nurses, entertainers and entrepreneurs.

My caution remains this: don’t think this won’t be affecting your job! Jump on the front of this curve and you will benefit greatly.  Lag behind and you can get quickly turned into a dinosaur…no matter your age.

Remember, you will either eat technology or be eaten by it!

Again, if you haven’t done so check out my Workplaces of the Future Checklist

All the best, Don

PS want to bring the GreatHR Executive program to your town? Check out the feedback from my most recent workshop.

A Profound Conversation about Health and Thoughts on How it Affects Your Culture

I’m a health nut and learn as much as I can about nutrition, exercise, etc. Over the years I have learned much from Dave Asprey and Bruce Lipton.

This podcast is a profound conversation between two of the smartest people in health. When you listen to it think about the following:

  1. It’s all about how we produce and manage energy.
  2. While we all have our DNA’s our environment affects who we are more than anything else.
  3. First there is the mental environment. Do you have a positive mental attitude? Do you love and seek love? Do you believe?
  4. Then there is the physical environment. You are in a petri dish. What’s the culture like? Is it wholesome? Energizing? How’s it affecting your performance?
  5. When things can’t grow anymore on their own they have to collaborate.
  6. It’s collaboration and cooperation… not competition that drives evolution.

Now think about how those six thoughts apply to the whole. To your family culture? Your company culture?

How is energy generated at your company? Is it generated by stress? Some stress is a good thing. It’s why we work out. Too much stress results in overuse, injuries, resentment. Too much stress is energy depleting and not sustainable. As Joseph Campbell said “Work can be a life draining affair.”

Is the energy generated by engagement at work? Do people feel energized on their way to work? Do they still feel energized on their way home? The challenge here may be maintaining that energy level, especially in times of great external stressors or the sneaky complacency of success.

What is the mental environment at work? How do you and your employees think about the work they do? How do you try to pump up that thinking? Do you brand a thought experience to your employees? Like IBM did when it suggested everyone THINK. Or Ford did when it said Quality is Job #1. Or as Lexus says A Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. Do you have thought billboards on the walls? Everywhere? That change positions so they stay fresh?

Remember, thoughts are things.

What’s the physical environment like? Does it look like an energizing place to work? Well….does it? Is there good light, fresh air, cleanliness?

I remember working with a printing company years ago. They had 120 employees and 3 shifts working on these big Heidelberg printing presses.  There was a ton of drama and shift wars going on. And the place looked like a mess. When I asked about that the CFO that brought me in justified by saying we are a printing company and they are all messy. When I asked why that was the case he didn’t seem to have a good answer.  Here’s what I had them do. Over a weekend they brought in a painting and cleaning crew and extra equipment. Employees would be paid overtime if they wanted to help paint and clean. They had a clown and bounce house for kids out in the parking lot and refreshments for all.

Most employees participated even if for just a few hours each. By the end of the weekend that place looked amazing. No printing company that CFO knew of ever looked so good. And it changed the culture. Things were left tidy by each shift. The wars stopped. Customers were brought back into the shop for tours. Workers took new pride in themselves. And they had a 1.3 million turnaround in 6 mos.

Remember this: your physical environment is always communicating. It is never not communicating. So make sure it is an energy giving story.

Last thing about the “physical” environment. Each one of us is a physical environment. I have preached forever in the value of making sure your employees get very health food at work. One of the best investments you can make to build and maintain energy. If you listen to this podcast you will know why.

What’s the cultural environment feel like? How well can people grow in it? Can everyone see a growth path? Is the culture energy giving or energy draining?

How do we foster cooperation and collaboration? Slack is great but that’s just part of the equation. How do we talk about it, engineer for it and incentivize it?

 

Like I said an amazing conversation. Tell me what you think about it.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bulletproof-radio/id451295014?mt=2&i=374208463

and https://www.bulletproofexec.com/bruce-lipton-336/

 

Down Mexico Way…

So I was in this fun bar in Cabo and what did I see? Their motivational poster! What would happen if you hung this up at your company?

The Change is Coming, the Change is Coming!

Sometimes change can feel like some monster lurking in the deep, ready to pounce on us in an instant. Nice calm day one moment, disruption the next.

People are in fact losing jobs…and companies… to AI and robotics and other technologies. But it should come as no surprise.

Woe be the unprepared. (I think that was the Boy Scout motto)

Are you prepared for the change coming your way? Have you given serious thought to how these technologies are lurking up behind your business or career?

To help you I have summarized a presentation I give on this topic. Click here to download Managing the Crazy Changes Coming Your Way. I know you will like it!

In addition, here is a checklist addressing The Future of the Workplace.

Here’s to being prepared, Don

Training that Works Checklist

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”  ― W. Edwards Deming

We are in a knowledge economy. Training and building a learning culture is compulsory for survival.

Use this checklist to make sure you consider all the training variables. Please add to the checklist anything overlooked.

Remember, your training goals should be Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timed.

Identify Company Needs/Goals /Strategy

  • Adapt to change
  • Build managerial and leadership skills
  • Budgetary realities
  • Compliance and Safety
  • Conflict management
  • Cross-training
  • Delegation
  • Effective meetings
  • Ergonomics
  • Fill specific skills gaps
  • Financial education/open book management/budgeting
  • Improve company culture
  • Improve overall employee engagement and retention
  • Improve sales, customer service, productivity
  • Improve use of health care, 401K and other benefits
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Language skills
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation skills
  • Policies and procedures
  • Quality improvement
  • Remote workers
  • Solve a specific problem
  • Support high performers with advancement opportunities
  • Support strategic initiatives
  • Timing requirements
  • Work across generations

Identify Employee Needs

  • Career development
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Compliance and Safety
  • Financial education
  • How to work in teams/groups
  • Increase skills
  • Learning styles assessment
  • Personal wellness
  • Professional certifications/licensing
  • Seek new opportunities
  • Time management

Training Methodologies

  • Best practice meetings
  • Case scenarios
  • Coaching
  • Contests, games
  • Conferences
  • Demonstration-individual, group, recorded
  • Engagement and gamification
  • Exercises
  • Experimentation
  • Follow-up training
  • Handouts
  • Job shadowing
  • Learning management system software
  • Lecture
  • Micro-learning
  • Mind mapping
  • Mobile
  • Online through 3rd party provider
  • Outside trainers
  • Presentation software (PPT, Prezi, etc.)
  • Survey, micro-surveys, focus groups, interviews
  • Testing
  • Training manager/director
  • Training room
  • Use of story and metaphor
  • Video, podcast, newsletter
  • Virtual reality
  • Webinars- live/stored
  • Workshops

Learning Effectiveness

  • Calculate ROI
  • Collect data- costs, time, participation rates, completion rates, etc.
  • Effectiveness of various incentives used
  • Evaluations
  • Identify benefits and results
  • Identify blockages to execution
  • Improved engagement and retention
  • Improved sales, customer service, productivity
  • Improved skills delivery
  • Learning retention
  • Reduced claims exposure
  • Sharing of knowledge and ideas
  • Stories collected

Click Here to Download the Full Checklist