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)

Walking In All Shoes

Until_you_walk_in_my_shoes

Thinking about life and death and the concept of reincarnation.

While I have heard the belief of some that reincarnation is the ultimate justice machine–if you treat others well, you come back well off, while if you treat them badly, you come back in their situation.

So the classic example, would be if you have the opportunity to give charity, and do so, genoreously, then you are rewarded in a next life with riches, but if you are miserly, then you come back poor–to learn the lessons of charitable giving.

However, I wonder if this concept goes even much further.

Does our journey ultimately takes us not just to occupy some positions if life, but rather to every role and status, illustrative of all peoples–so that we learn from the eyes of everyone.

The world  is round and the number of perspectives around it are as varied as the people, races, cultures, and nations they come from.

As the saying goes, “don’t judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes,” perhaps we are indeed given the opportunity to walk in a large representative sample of those.

When the see the world not from where we sit today in life, but from where others are perched, we can get a whole new perspective on issues and ideas–we can learn true empathy, caring, respect, and justice.

Almost like having G-d’s vantage point, we can learn to see the world from a multi-cultural perspective, where each person, tribe, and nation is infinitely valuable–where each holds the key to a perspective and lesson that we must all learn before our journey comes to a conclusion.

Live life and learn well–there is much to see, hear, and experience, and no one has all the answers or is all righteous–like a large mosaic, we all have a piece. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fernando Stankuns)

Everyone’s A Backseat Driver

Parking

Someone put this lovely card on my car recently.

Hey, I know I know I’m not the best driver in the world–

BUT this is insulting. 😦

Plus a little ~~threatening~~

So, if what happens if you park better in the future–do you get a reward card instead?

And then they buff out the scratches they put on your car previously 🙂

Thanks a lot!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Playing The Hand We Are Dealt

It’s a new year–2012–congratulations, we made it!

For the new year, I wanted to share this photo that I came across of “The World’s Largest Monopoly Game.”

To me, the most striking aspect of this photo is not the size of the game board, but that the people are actually the pieces.

So often life seems like we are pieces in a big game–as if someone is spinning the dice of life and depending on what number comes up–so goes our fortune.

But inside, I don’t really believe that–that is too fatalistic and too defeatist. At the same time, I don’t believe that we are in control of everything that happens every moment.  To me, there are larger forces at work–emanating from G-d, and we must “play” the hand we are dealt.

G-d sends us tests and trusts in life, as Rick Warren says–we do not directly control these.

The tests and trusts give us the opportunity to grow beyond what we are today, to learn life’s hard lessons, to care for others, and ultimately to elevate ourselves.

Indirectly, how we do and how well we learn life’s lessons–sometimes “hard knocks”–may influence the nature of the future tests and trusts that G-d sends us.

In Monopoly, the roll of the dice or the Chance and Community Chest cards seem to determine our fate–how many spaces we move ahead, how much we have to pay or how much we receive, or whether we end up in the proverbial Monopoly jail.  In contrast, in real life, we have the power to choose how we react to to those “chance” events–do we get angry, do we lash out, do we become defeatist or do we fight for what we want and really believe in.

For the New Year, what a great time to resolve to take back some control over lives and to not just be like human pieces in a big game of Monopoly–to choose instead to accept the tests and trusts that you are give and to do the best that you can to grow from them.

This morning, I heard Joel Osteen say on TV that we should prophesize good for ourselves, so that our words can open the door for G-d to bless us.

While, I do not think that our words of desire control what G-d does, I do believe that how we act does influence events, although not always in the way we think.

There is the age old question of why do the evil prosper and the good people suffer?  Often, I’ve heard various answers given that either we don’t really know who is good or evil, we can’t understand G-d’s plan, or the real reward and punishment is in the World to Come.

However you see it–G-d’s plan and ultimate justice–what we can constructively do is to try our best everyday and in every way–what a better plan than just circling the Monopoly board like a helpless and hapless piece in one big game.

(Source photo: here)

>TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

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People are selfish; they think in terms of win-lose, not win-win. The cost of this kind of thinking is increasingly unacceptable in a world where teamwork matters more than ever.

Today, the problems we face are sufficiently complex that it takes a great deal more collaboration than ever to yield results. For example, consider the recent oil spill in the Gulf, not to mention the ongoing crises of our time (deadly diseases, world hunger, sustainable energy, terrorism).

When we don’t work together, the results can be catastrophic. Look at the lead-up to 9-11, the poster child for what can happen if when we fail to connect the dots.

A relay race is a good metaphor for the consequences of poor teamwork. As Fast Company (“Blowing the Baton Pass,” July/August 2010) reports, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the USA’s Darvis Patton was on the third leg of the race, running neck and neck with a runner from Trinidad when he and his relay partner, Tyson Gay, blew it:

“Patton rounded the final turn, approaching…Gay, who was picking up speed to match Patton. Patton extended the baton, Gay reached back, and the baton hit his palm. Then, somehow it fell. The team was disqualified.”

Patton and Gay were each world-class runners on their own, but the lack of coordination between them resulted in crushing defeat.

In the business realm, we saw coordination breakdown happen to JetBlue in February 2007, when “snowstorms had paralyzed New York airports, and rather than cancel flights en masse, Jet Blue loaded up its planes…and some passengers were trapped for hours.”

Why do people in organizations bicker instead of team? According to FC, it’s because we “underestimate the amount of effort needed to coordinate.” I believe it’s really more than that – we don’t underestimate it, but rather we are too busy competing with each other (individually, as teams, as departments, etc.) to recognize the overarching importance of collaboration.

This is partly because we see don’t see others as helping us. Instead we (often erroneously) see them as potential threats to be weakened or eliminated. We have blinders on and these blinders are facilitated and encouraged by a reward system in our organizations that promotes individualism rather than teamwork. (In fact, all along the way, we are taught that we must compete for scarce resources – educational slots, marriage partners, jobs, promotions, bonuses and so on.)

So we think we are hiring the best and the brightest. Polished resume, substantial accomplishments, nice interview, solid references, etc. And of course, we all have the highest expectations for them. But then even the best employees are challenged by organizational cultures where functional silos, “turf wars”, and politicking prevail. Given all of the above, why are we surprised by their failure to collaborate?

Accordingly, in an IT context, project failure has unfortunately become the norm rather than an exception. We can have individuals putting out the best widgets, but if the widgets don’t neatly fit together, aren’t synchronized for delivery on schedule and within budget, don’t meet the intent of the overall customer requirements, and don’t integrate with the rest of the enterprise—then voilá, another failure!

So what do we need to become better at teamwork?

  • Realize that to survive we need to rely on each other and work together rather than bickering and infighting amongst ourselves.
  • Develop a strong, shared vision and a strategy/plan to achieve it—so that we all understand the goals and are marching toward it together.
  • Institute a process to ensure that the contributions of each person are coordinated— the outputs need to fit together and the outcomes need to meet the overarching objectives.
  • Reward true teamwork and disincentivize people who act selfishly, i.e. not in the interest of the team and not for the sake of mission.

Teamwork has become very cliché, and we all pay lip service to it in our performance appraisals. But if we don’t put aside our competitiveness and focus on the common good soon, then we will find ourselves sinking because we refused to swim as a team.

>Overvaluing the Outsider

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Harvard Business Review (HBR), April 2010, has an article entitled “Envy At Work” by Menon and Thompson that describes research that shows that “people want to learn more about ideas that come from other companies than about ideas that originate in their own organizations.”

The reason that we value outside opinions over inside ones is that we fear elevating the person whose opinion we espouse. In other words, if we endorse an idea of a person in the organization, then we risk being seen as not only supporting the idea, but the person, and then having our power potentially being subsumed by that person.

The HBR article states: “When we copy an idea from an outsider, we’re seen as enterprising; when we borrow an idea from a colleague, we mark that person as an intellectual leader.”

This kind of thinking harms the organization. For rather than seeing our colleagues as teammates, we see them as competitors. We work against each other, rather than with each other. We spend our time and energy fighting each other for power, influence, resources, and rewards, instead of teaming to build a bigger pie where everyone benefits.

According to Menon and Thompson, “The dislike of learning from inside rivals has a high organizational price. Employees instead pursue external ideas that cost more both in time (which is often spent reinventing the wheel) and in money (if they hire consultants).”

I’m reminded of the saying, “You can’t be a prophet in your land,” which essentially translates to the idea that no matter how smart you are, people inside your own organization will generally not value your advice. Rather they will prefer to go outside and pay others to tell them the same thing that it cannot bear to hear from its own people.

Funny enough, I remember some consultants telling me a few years ago, “That’s what we get paid for, to tell you what you already know.”

Remember the famous line by Woody Allen, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member”? The flip side of this is that as soon as the organization brings you into their club, they have contempt for you because you are now one of them.

How do we understand the capability of some people to overcome their natural tendency toward envy and be open to learning from others inside the organization? More specifically, how do we as leaders create a culture where such learning is facilitated and becomes a normal part of life in the workplace?

One way to start is by benchmarking against other organizations that have been successful at this—“Most Admired Companies” like Goldman Sachs, Apple, Nike, and UPS. When one starts to do this, one sees that it comes down to a combination of self-confidence, lack of ego, putting the employees first, and deep commitment to a set of core values. It may not feel natural to do this at first – in a “dog-eat-dog” world, it is natural to fear losing one’s slice of the pie – but leaders who commit to this model can delegate, recognize, and reward their people without concern that they personally will lose something in the process.

The leader sets the tone, and when the tenor is “all for one and one for all,”— the organization and its people benefit and grow. This is something to be not only admired, but emulated.

>Change Agents–Poisoned or promoted?

>Let’s fantasize for a moment about what it must be like to be an enterprise architect/change agent.

Here we go.

Our stereotypical organization, let’s call it ABC Company has a talented group of enterprise architects. They have worked hard, built partnerships, learnt the organization and its needs, and have done a remarkable job working with leadership, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders in identifying an accurate baseline, determining a promising target, and have helped the organization navigate a well thought out transition plan. The organization reaches its target—success—and the process continues.

Hooray for the architects. Praise and promotion be upon ABC company’s enterprise architects.

Wait. Not so fast. Let’s back up. Rewind and see what often really happens when architects or anyone else for that matter tries to change the status quo:

R—E—S—I—S—T—A—N—C—E!!

Research shows that change agents are often scorned by their organizations and their peers. In immature organizations that do not embrace constructive change, change agents like enterprise architects are often not looked upon favorably.

Remember what happened to Socrates more than two millennium ago (and countless others innovators, inventors, and thought leaders since)?

Strategy + Business Magazine, Issue 53, has an article called “Stand by Your Change Agent.”

The article states: “research shows that most transformation leaders go unpromoted, unrecognized, and unrewarded. And their companies suffer in the long run.”

In a study of 84 major change initiatives at Fortune 500 companies between 1995 and 2005, “some 70 percent of executives who led these major transformations went unrewarded or were sidelined, fired, or spurred to leave.”

Why are change agents treated adversely?

The research shows that “deep down, a great many people and organizations fear change. People do not like to move out of their comfort zones. Powerful institutional forces help maintain the status quo. In such companies, change simply has no constituency.”

In these change-averse organizations, change agents often “find their efforts impeded, undermined, or rejected outright. Change agents may also suffer from the delusion that others see the urgent need for action just as they do, and may be frustrated to discover how little key stakeholders care about the initiatives and outcomes they hold dear.”

What is the impact to companies that treat their change agents this way?

Both the companies and people suffer. Change initiatives remain unfinished. Investments do not see their payback. Highly talented change agents are lost. And worse, other potential leaders will think many times over before taking on a change effort that “could derail their careers.”

Well, which companies did best with change?

“Companies that scored highest in leadership development and embracing change were most likely to improve performance.”

The lesson is clear: If companies want to grow, mature, and improve performance, then they need leaders who are visionaries and change agents to step up to the plate.

Those organizations that recognize this truth will embrace their change agents—encourage, recognize, reward, promote, and retain them.

Talented and motivated change agents (like enterprise architects) are an organization’s best hope for innovation, energizing creative potential, and long-term organizational success.