Whatever negative words you have heard this year, it’s time to let them go.
Scrub Off Negative Labels
And then there’s the negative labels others have stuck on you. This is one of the mistakes I cover in The Book of Mistakes that the most successful people master.
Don’t let the negative labels others carelessly slapped on you stay with you. From “not management material” or “not a team player” to “lazy” and “worthless,” it’s time to scrub them off like those sticky price tags on a present.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” -Willie Nelson
One of the most common problems facing organizations, teams, and leaders today is a lack of clarity. Clarity is a critical component of success. We all want it, even crave it, but it often seems elusive.
What is the clarity conundrum? The constant state of change and ever-present chaos in the world today is unprecedented. We are constantly navigating not one world, but multiple worlds simultaneously with the political, societal, social and technological changes that are happening at a more rapid pace than at any time in history. Leaders are forced to make daily decisions in a high-stakes environment that is often entangled with competing needs and priorities where there is not one obvious answer. These decisions have the potential to define their company and determine their ultimate success. We identify these decisions, inflection points or daily puzzles as clarity conundrums. They take many different forms in companies and in the lives of the leader. Clarity conundrums include the need for a new vision/direction, repositioning, a growth imperative, and they often result from a merger, a new leader, an acquisition, a safety issue, crisis, or hitting a plateau or reaching critical juncture point in the organization. What they all have in common is that they require clarity, as a process, to successfully navigate the necessary transition to the desired future state.
“Clarity isn’t an arrival point, a vista, or a destination.” -Brad Deutser
Why do you advocate thinking inside the box? I love it, and it’s counterintuitive from all the advice commonly shared. For much of my early career, I was prized as an out of the box thinker. Clients could rely on me to produce ideas and solutions that were fundamentally different and way outside the mainstream. I was wildly creative – but that creativity did not always align with the desired results. About two decades ago, I began to rethink the box paradigm, and using client results and research began to validate that “inside the box” is actually where real creativity, innovation and performance are birthed. Interestingly, in our early research, we challenged people to define their box. Most people simply accepted the metaphor without assigning definition to it. When we uncovered the parameters of the box and put clear definition to each side, including the top and bottom, we were able to fundamentally change the trajectory of business for our clients and the connectivity of the workforce to the organization and its leadership. Inside the box thinking allows leaders to have a clearly defined organization and direction, and employees to have something that they can understand and belong to. It is a game changer.
In more posts than I can count, I have written, discussed, and interviewed authors on the importance of organizational culture. A powerful culture fuels an organization to achieve greatness. When a new book by Chris Dyer titled The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits hit my desk, I was interested to see the author’s view of culture and his interpretation of the latest research. Chris didn’t disappoint. The book takes the reader on a thoughtful overview of culture and shows the practical steps to take to improve yours in record time.
I recently spoke with Chris about his work on company culture.
“Culture is the bedrock of business success.” -Mark Goulston
Transparency. You share some great ways to increase transparency. Is it ever possible to be too transparent?
Of course! Take any example, and a case can be made that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Each company needs to decide how transparent they should be with employees, customers, and vendors. InThe Power of Company Culture, I present evidence that more transparency is usually better. Regulations, privacy concerns, and competitive advantages aside, transparency is really about writing—and playing by—the rules of the game.
When companies take charge and share information about their financial health, successes, failures, goals, and dreams, they then control their own narrative. As humans, we can only use the information we already have to explain something new we don’t understand. By providing more information to those impacting our companies, we help them arrive at the correct conclusions and outcomes.
Any company looking to improve their transparency should start in a few key areas. First, ask: Does everyone in the company know what goals have been set by senior management? Overall company goals, department goals, and even team goals should not be a secret.
Second: Does everyone know and understand the financial health status of the organization? For public companies, this information is available to everyone. But most companies are not public. Decide how far you are willing to go, and share the numbers that you can.
Third: Do teams, departments, and employees understand what is expected of them by senior leadership? Nine times out of ten, when a department or person is not measuring up to what is expected, there is a disconnect as to what they believe is expected.
“Transparency is both a business ethic and a cultural element in the workplace.” -Chris Dyer
There are lots of ways to infuse positivity into an organization. I suggest a deep dive into the Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Leadership working models, via books and interactive workshops.
Before you do that, consider where your business falls on the positivity scale. Do your people ask, “What went right?” or, “What did we do well?” Or do they just focus on solving “problems”? Often, we forget to ask and identify what is working, and consider that the place for us to do more.
Positivity also entails identifying who does what, well. In a team, it is common for some people to excel in one area, and others somewhere else. Aligning tasks and goals around strengths, and minimizing weaknesses, is more positive than working on what’s not working.
Additionally, look at the language used by people in your company to find potential tweaks for positivity. Instead of addressing troublesome issues as “problem solving,” which is a negative concept, start calling them “opportunities to improve.”
This year, more than ever, you don’t need to venture out to the stores. The online giants are delighted to offer an alternative. A few clicks replace endlessly circling in search of a parking spot and standing most of the day in lines.
I’ve never been one for shopping, malls, crowds, or any of it. It’s far better to avoid it all. I can rewind my own internal tapes and hear my dialogue: grumbling about the parking, the crowds, the waiting, the hassle.
But this year I suppose I feel somewhat nostalgic for it all. So, I do something unexpected and head to the mall.
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” –Zig Ziglar
I decide to enjoy it: the parking, the bitter wind as I leave the car for the store, the mall.
Inside, it’s warm, inviting. The first person I see is there to assist. He’s an older gentleman, kind, not intrusive and with equal doses of friendliness and helpfulness. We talk about his family and his plans to go home for the holidays. Like the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas!” he says, laughing as much to himself as to me. He’s had some health problems, I learn, and they are behind him now. He’s glad to be back at work.
Classical music is playing and it’s live. I venture over to the piano and, eyeing a chair, slide into it and close my eyes. It’s a medley from the Sound of Music, which conjures up my childhood when we would all gather around for the yearly show on television. I must be getting old, I think, to be sitting here in a mall, listening to music, and not rushing in the least. Opening my eyes, I watch a young mom pushing a stroller. Her baby’s laugh seems to be part of the Sound of Music track.
“People may hear your words, but they you’re your attitude.” –John Maxwell
Most business leaders are focused on growing their business or their profits. They focus on the numbers, on market share, on strategy. But there’s growing evidence that focusing on employee happiness is the key to creating sustainable success. Not only do I agree, but I’ve experienced this first hand in the companies I have had the privilege to lead. If you help employees increase their fulfillment, express their unique gifts, and live out their purpose, you will fuel happiness and see dramatically improved results.
The evidence to support this focus on happiness is masterfully compiled in Jennifer Moss’ book, Unlocking Happiness at Work. She distills decades of research and data and then lays out an actionable book with immediate guidance to leaders. If you want to ensure your team thrives, this book is a must-read. Jennifer is the co-founder of Plasticity Labs, committed to supporting people on their path to happiness. She and her co-founders were named Innovators of the Year by Canadian Business Magazine. I recently spoke with her about her findings.
“Happiness is a habit. Cultivate it.” -Elbert Hubbard
Your family story is compelling and provides a personal backdrop to your research. Tell us about Jim’s accident and how it impacted you.
In 2009, my husband Jim and I were living in San Jose, California. At the time, Jim was a professional lacrosse player, former Gold Medalist for Team Canada, who’d played in the World Cup on four professional teams. Obviously, he was a high-performing athlete who’d spent his entire life competing. It was why we were so shocked when the firefighters had to knock down the door to pick him up, race him to the ER, and then within hours he was diagnosed with West Nile, Swine Flu and a post-viral illness, Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
The response to treating Jim was all about acting fast. He would essentially experience a rebooting of his immune system through a treatment known as immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. IVIG therapy is an antibody (immunoglobulin) mixture, given (in Jim’s case) intravenously to treat or prevent a variety of diseases including GBS. It is extracted via the plasma of 10,000-50,000 donors. For Jim, and for our family, the treatment would be life-saving.
This is when the physicians shared both the good and the bad news. Jim would live. But, he may not recover fully.
Ok, we swallowed that statement. But what did that mean?