Yeah, A Pat On The Back

Pat or Shove
Ah, this doodle says it all…



Some people deserve a pat on the back–truly great job, went the extra mile, great collaboration, communication, and results. 



Others deserve A PAT ON THE BACK (or a good kick in the behind)–nasty, dirty, selfish, do little, take a lot, backstabbers.



I only know people in the first category. 😉



(Source Doodle: Linkedin)

Taking A Bow

Taking A Bow
Wow–this is some awesome piece of art!



Aside from the beauty of it, what do I think about looking at this?



Something like this:



Some people take a bow in arrogance and self-aggrandizement, while others are bowed in humbleness and grace.



Those who see only their own greatness fail to see all those people, factors, and most importantly, G-d’s mercy that enabled them to achieve what they have. 



We are but agents of the heavenly maker above who endows us with creativity and the ability to capitalize on it. 



We should be bowed in thankfulness to G-d, but unfortunately all too often instead stare in the mirror admiring our own image that we imagine is so talented and successful because of who we are and what we ourselves have done–that we can’t even contain our bursting self-satisfaction in wonderful selves. 



Yes, it’s good to recognize when we do something good and when we make mistakes so that we can learn from them, but G-d is not only our one-time maker, but he gives us the knowledge, skills, abilities, and good fortune to succeed in what he wills. 



I remember being taught in Jewish day school that not a leaf falls from a tree without G-d wishing it–that G-d is not only the creator, but is intimately involved every moment with us and the world.  



Like the most brilliant computer that can calculate gazillions of calculations a second, G-d can orchestrate the fates of all his creations in a just and masterful way that takes everything we do and don’t do into account.



May it be G-d’s will to endow us with what we need to succeed and for us to be deserving of it, and to recognize from where it all comes and not be so in awe of ourselves that we fail to see our innate limitations and mortality that is us. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

10 Ways To Improve Federal Technology

10 Ways To Improve Federal Technology

While it’s good to improve government services through advances in information technology, we also need to do better with what we have, which is our own valuable IT human capital.

In the Wall Street Journal today, the “health-site woes” are spurring a push for changes to federal technology, including the possibility of a “federal unit dedicated to big tech projects.”

Whether or not we carve our a separate big tech project unit, we can do so much to improve success in all our agencies by valuing our people and motivating them to succeed.

As democracy and capitalism have taught us, we need people to be free to innovate and reward them appropriately.

While the grass may look greener in Silicon Valley, our challenge is to utilize all our resources in whatever part of the country they reside, whether they be government or private sector workers.

Ultimately, like most things, this is a human challenge, and not just a technology issue.

Hence, I developed the above comic strip to demonstrate 10 Ways to Improve Federal Technology, so we can all succeed together. 😉

(Source Cartoon [click here to enlarge]: Andy Blumenthal)

Performance and Transparency – 2gether 4ever

Performance and Transparency - 2gether 4ever

Really liked this performance measurement and transparency at Home Depot.

Here are their store performance measures prominently displayed.

Not a high-tech solution, but every measure has its place and metrics.

– Looks at friendly customer service.

– Tracks speed of checkout.

– Measures accuracy of transactions.

This lines up well with the management adage that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Some pointers:

– Identify, collaboratively, your key drivers of performance

– Determine whether/how you can measure them efficiently (i.e. qualitatively, quantitatively)

– Set realistic, stretch targets for the organization

– Communicate the goals and measures, 360 degrees

– Regularly capture the measures and make the metrics transparent

– Recognize and reward success and course correct when necessary

– Reevaluate measures and goals over time to ensure they are still relevant

Wash, rinse, repeat for continuous improvement. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Recongition Inspires

Recongition Inspires

Thought this was really nice at Starbucks.

A place to show respect and recognize your colleagues.

How often to we take others for granted for what they do–oh, it’s their job or as one boss used to say coldy and harshly that their employees’ recognition is that they get a paycheck every 2 weeks!

But people are not machines–they have feeelings, they need to be motivated, inspired, and appreciated.

And recognition doesn’t just come from the chain of command, but from peers, customers, and other stakeholders.

We can do a good deed simply be recognizing the hardwork that people make on our behalf, for the customer, or the organization more broadly.

Taking people for granted is the easy way out.

But saying a genuine thank you and placing a card of recognition in the pocket of the posterboard or otherwise showing your appreciation with an award, a letter of gratitude, or telling people they “did good”–takes an extra effort, but one definitely worth it! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Nomination Effect

The Nomination Effect

For some people they say that flattery gets you everywhere and it can be true.

Who doesn’t like to hear good things about themselves and their work?

It fills the WIIFM need in all of us (What’s In It For me)—by providing for recognition and seeming purpose.

Some people know how to use this –how to take advantage of others by “cozying up to them” and telling them how wonderful they are.

As they say, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!”

This is one of the marketing techniques–not really ethical–being used by some “event planners” to lure people to their conferences, meetings, and events.

They do this by not only showcasing the events great speakers, relevant and important topics, beautiful venue etc., but also by telling people they’ve been nominated for some prestigious award.

And it’s hard to tell which are real and which are fake.

The Nomination Effect (my term) is when event planners tell multiple people that they have been nominated for an award simply as a way to get them to come to an event they otherwise would not necessarily attend.

This plays to the ego of some execs by saying “somebody nominated you”—but there are few or no specifics.

And because so many execs get beaten up all the time at work, it’s certainly great to hear something positive. Plus it could be an easy way for some to add a nice credential to their resumes.

It’s all fine and good when it’s true and deserved for a job well done!

But some event planners misuse this to lure people to events and try to get a “30 minute call” with you to pick your brains for the event—what topics are hot, who are some good speakers, do you know any vendors that would like to sponsor it?

But when it’s just an “in” with people who may never otherwise give them “the time of day,” because of the important work they do, their genuinely busy schedules, and frankly because they are people they just don’t even know.

But the idea of The Nomination Effect is to tell execs that they can win an award at the event and how great they are so hopefully they will be putty in their hands and shell out money, time, and information to perhaps unreliable people.

Part of the scam is that the award winners aren’t announced until the event itself, so you must come—and pay first!

They tell the same line to the other nominees—maybe 5, 10, 25, 50 other people—or everyone they want to sign up—who knows.

This social phenomenon is enough to reel in many to pay for and attend events that may not be all that intellectually or socially enticing otherwise.

Here are the things I look for:

– People that seem genuine and not like car salesmen.
– Those with an affiliation to a well-established organization in the field.
– Nominations for actual contributions or achievements, rather than vague undertakings.
– Something on LinkedIn and/or the web that shows credentials and successful events prior tied to advancing the field, and not just making money.

A well-deserved award for hard-working professionals is something for all of us to celebrate.

But that’s different than promotional events and false—yet flattering kudos to manipulate lots of busy people. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to PennStateNews)

Teamwork, There Is No I

Teamwork, There Is No I

I really love this saying–“There is no I in Team.”

A colleague said very astutely, “even though some try to put it in there!”

Teams work best, when everyone does their part and contributes, and no one makes it about their personal agendas, ambitions, and issues.

A team implies a large degree of selflessness where we do what is best for the team and the mission we serve, and we don’t get caught up in personal ego trips.

When people place themselves above the team–and they try to impose that “I” right on in there, then rather than teamwork, we end up with rivalry and conflict.

From my experience, those who try to take the credit for themselves–typically end up exposed for who they really are and without the honor they chase.

But those who give recognition genuinely and generously to others are in turn respected for their contributions to the mission as well as to the team.

Selflessly united as a team we can assuredly succeed, but selfishly divided as just a bunch of I’s, we will most certainly fail. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Beyond the Four Seasons

Taj

For anyone who has ever stayed at the Four Seasons, you know it is an incredible hotel.

Customer service reins supreme and that’s not just good business, it’s good corporate values.

But reading about the Indian version of the Four Seasons called the Taj–it seems like they have taken customer service to a whole new level.

The Tajwhich has been operating for more than 100 years (opened in 1903) has 108 hotels in 12 countries, including of course India, but also Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and even America (Boston, New York, and San Francisco).

Harvard Business Review (December 2011) describes not just the routine day-to-day service provided at the Taj, but rather how they behaved under one of the most trying events, a terrorist attack.

On November 26, 2008, there began a coordinated 10 attacks across India’s largest city Mumbai than killed at least 159 and gravely wounded more than 200. The attack now referred to as 26/11 (i.e. 26th of  November) included the luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (i.e. the Taj Mumbai).

The Taj Mumbai suffered at least 6 blasts and “stayed ablaze for two days and three nights” engulfing the beautiful domes and spires of this structure.

But while the hotel suffered significant damage resulting in months of rebuilding, the spirit of service by the workers at the Taj was tested to the extreme and thrived.

HBR describes how Taj staff, hearing the blasts and automatic weapons, safeguarded their guests during the attack going so far as “insisting that husbands and wives separate to reduce the risk to families, offering water and asking people if they needed anything,…[and] evacuating the guests first.”

The Taj staff did not run out screaming–everyman and woman for themselves, but they not only stayed calm and helpful, but they actually put their guests lives above their own.

This is sort of reminiscent of the firefighters, police, and other emergency first responders on 9-11, who ran up the stairs on the burning World Trade Center to save people–but in this case at the Taj, these were not trained rescuers, they were hotel staff.

In another instance at the hotel, according to the article, hotel employees even “form[ed] a human cordon” around the guests.

This again sounds more like the Secret Service protecting the President of the United States, then waiters and waitresses serving guests.

This is not to say that culture is the driving factor here, for example just this December 9, ABC News reports on how a fire broke out in an Indian hospital and killed at least 89 residents,  while the “staff flees” and 6 administrators are subsequently arrested.

So if national culture is not the difference in how organizations and its people treat customers–what is?

HBR explains that it’s really a recipe for customer service and user-centricity.

Starting with a “values-driven recruitment system” where the hotel looks for employees with character traits such as respect for elders, cheerfulness, and neediness (this reminds me of a boss I had that used to say she likes to hire employees “who are hungry.”).

The Taj follows up their recruitment with a commitment to training and mentoring and empowering employees fully to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of its customers at what it calls “moments of truth.”

The values of the Taj go so far toward serving its customers, that they insist that employees actually put customer needs aheadof the company and this is reinforced with a recognition system for those who strive and act for making happy customers.

Is this user-centric orientation limited to just the Taj Mumbai?

Apparently not, when a Tsunami struck at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2004 and killed 185,000 people, the Taj on the Maldives Island affected “rushed to every room and escorted them [the guests] to high ground” and still managed to serve lunch to survivors by 1:00 PM.

Talking about setting the bar high for customer service–how can you beat that?

(Source Photo: here)

>Hooray For Motivation

>

Hooray

Much has been written about the importance of meaning in driving a productive and motivated workforce.

Already in 1964, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory differentiated work satisfiers (aka motivators) such as challenging work, achievement, and responsibility, from dis-satisfiers (aka hygiene factors) such as the absence of status, job security, adequate salary/benefits, and pleasant work conditions.

In other words, motivation is driven primarily by the underlying meaningful and the productive work, not by the context of the work such as the money and fringe benefits.

In that vein, Harvard Business Review in “A Spotlight on Productivity” in May 2011 describes how poor managers “unwittingly drain work of its meaning“–in essence destroying their employees motivation and their productivity.

1) Trivializing Your Workers Input–“managers may dismiss the importance of employees work or ideas.” In a sense, this one is about marginalizing employees, their creativity, and their contributions and is extremely destructive to the employees and the organization.

2) Decoupling Employee Ownership From Their Work–“Frequent and abrupt reassignments often have this affect.” Also, not assigning clear roles and responsibilities to projects can have this affect. Either way, if employees don’t have ownership of their projects, then the productivity will suffer amidst the workplace chaos and lack of ultimate accountability for “your work.”

3) The Big Black Hole–“Managers may send the message that the work employees are doing will never see the light of day.” In other words, employees are just being forced to “spin their wheels” and their is truly no purpose to the “shelfware” they are producing.

4) Communication, Not–Managers “may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customers priorities” or a shift in organizational strategy due to changes in internal or external market drivers. When employees don’t know that the landscape has shifted and moreover are not involved in the decision process, they may not know what has changed, why, or feel invested in it. Without adequate communication, you will actually be leaving your employees blind and your organization behind.

So while it is tempting to think that we can drive a great work force through pay, benefits and titles alone, the lesson is clear…these are not what ultimately attracts and retains a talented and productive work force.

The magic sauce is clear–help your work force to know and feel two things:

1) Their work–is ultimately useful and usable.


2) That they–are important and have a future of growth and challenge.

When they and their work mean something, they will get behind it and truly own it.

In short: mean something, do something.

To get this outcome, I believe managers have to:

1) Make the meaning explicitIdentify your customers, the services you are providing, and articulate why it is important to provide these.


2) Determine strengths and weaknesses of each employee and capitalize on their strengths, while at the same time coach, mentor, and train to the weaknesses.


3) When workers go “off track,” be able to give them constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement without demeaning and demoralizing them.


4) Find the inner strength and self confidence not to be threatened by your employees actually doing a good job and being productive–that’s ultimately what you’ve hired them for!


5) Recognize the importance of everyone’s contributions–It is not a one-person show, and it takes a bigger boss to recognize that other people’s contributions don’t take away from their own.


6) Be a team and communicate, honestly and openly–information hoarding and being the smartest one in the room is an ego thing; the best leaders (such as Jack Welch) surround themselves with people that are smarter than them and information is something to be leveraged for the team’s benefit, not weaponized by the individual.

There are more, but this is just a blog and not a book…so hopefully more to come on this topic.