The Office Runner

Sherrin (201/365)

Equipped rather splendidly in my black sports shorts, bright fluorescent yellow T-shirt and spiffy football boots, I stand by the Australian Rules Football (AFL) coach awaiting my detailed instructions to personally deliver to the targeted players during the game. My esteemed and strategic role within the game is that of “Runner”. As the name suggests, I have the privileged position of being able to run out on to the football field during the game to motivate the players and to deliver words of encouragement and tactics that have a direct real-time influence on the outcome of the contest.

Besides demonstrating my extreme athletic prowess with which I sprint out to the players at top speed (however I must admit some less kind people have called me a “Meanderer”, rather than a “Runner”) to deliver the coaches instructions, I also need to have the skills of an actor and a mentor. Each instruction needs to be customised to meet the listening requirements of the various player recipients in order to achieve maximum receptivity and message understanding. Some players can accept a message that is bold and direct, other players need to be encouraged and wooed in order to fully absorb the details of the instructions, however some players just need a good verbal tirade of abuse.

The role of “Runner” in the corporate office got me thinking. Many businesses use a common form of communication that is designed to reach the largest number of employees as possible. This may be done via E-mails, Bulletins, Newsletters and other such mass distributions. The information take-up and understanding by the individual employee is in most cases rather poor, or rather confused. So why not have a number of cleverly trained Corporate Communication Runners (CCR) that frequent the office corridors?

The CCR would be dressed in a special corporate uniform. Many of you reading this blog post may be thinking runners, tracksuit pants and a T-shirt, but that’s a tad too boring for the CCR. Rather, I’m visualising the CCR dressed in a tight fitting bright body suit (pink, yellow or green) with the corporate logo branded on their back and a nice sounding bell attached to a belt hanging from their waist to announce their arrival as they leap through the office.

The CCR would be entrusted to take specific instructions from the CEO and then personally deliver them to the various key employees throughout the building to provide maximum message impact and acceptance.

However, there is an additional role for the CCR in that they would also convey messages, or employee mood back to the CEO so they fully understand the feeling within the organization.

Yes, these CCRs would be very busy! But the role of the CCR is a very important one within the corporate office, and one that I would suggest be considered somewhat more seriously than this blog post suggests?

Just a thought….

Corporate Guide Illuminators

Car headlights

Recently I was driving at night on a rather windy and narrow road in the country. The region was quite desolate so there were no other cars to be seen, apart from the occasional animal leaping in front of my car’s headlights with a stunned suicidal look of fright and utter surprise, including me!

Navigating the dark road terrain took a large amount of concentration, particularly as I had no idea as to the width of the road on quite a few occasions. This resulted in me reducing my driving speed rather dramatically as I attempted to come to terms with the unfamiliar environment.

If I had been following a car the whole journey would have been much easier and far less stressful. In this situation, the other car’s headlights would have illuminated the road for me and I could have judged their trajectory by monitoring the red lights permeating from the back of their vehicle.

Let’s explore this analogy in the corporate office. On many occasions when starting a new job or task, we are left to our own devices from which we frequently learn via a process of trial and error. If we are unsure of the required process, we typically proceed with some degree of caution so as to minimize the likelihood of potential mistakes.

However, if we had a ‘corporate guide’ (or mentor) to assist us along our business journey we would progress with greater confidence and speed and arrive at the final objective (or destination) in a much more comfortable state of mind and improved productivity.

One option is to equip those people in the business classified as mentors with a red reflector on their backs and bottoms and a white lantern on their stomachs, just like with a car to provide direction for other employees, but somehow I can’t see this being accepted by the wearer?

A better, and maybe less attention seeking option is for the organization to take the time and effort to train mentors on how to work and encourage those employees who are deemed less knowledgeable on an activity prior to them embarking on the project or task.

However, I do quite like the idea of highlighting mentors with a large hat with a gold flashing light positioned on top to recognize their mentorship skills….but that’s just me.

Vanilla Flavoured Diversity

My Primary Workhorse

Signed……Steven Cramer. The black ink that had just permeated from my treasured fountain pen was almost dry on my new employment contract. I gleefully looked once again at the document, and then with an eager and expectant smile on my face, I carefully folded the paper, placed it in the reply-paid envelope and put it aside ready to be posted to my new employer.

All of us have at some stage in our working careers have experienced the excitement associated with starting a job with a new corporate organization, or a new role within your existing company. Prior to us starting this new role, we have many ideas and thoughts on how and what we are going to achieve, we do not impose any limitations, nor do we expect the organization or our fellow colleagues to hamper any progress on the attainment of these objectives.

Unfortunately, many of us after a few years working for the same organization lose this positive and creative persona and slowly morph into a common and accepted form of corporate behaviour where any diversity of thought is progressively extinguished. The result is a “vanilla flavoured” corporate culture that is prevalent in many corporate company’s today.

But does this need to be the case?

A thought.
Why do we not ask all new employees to write down their career aspirations on what they would like to achieve prior to the first day of their employment? This untainted document could then be stored for a period of time (say 3-5 years) following which it is then opened and reread by the employee and discussed with a senior member of the management team. It would be interesting for the employee to see how their enthusiasm has been maintained or even increased over the time period, or has it been severely hindered? If the latter, then what has caused this negativity and how could the corporate culture be improved to encourage and foster a greater diversity of thought?

Many companies talk about the concept of diversity, but are quite content to operate in the “vanilla flavoured” business environment. When a new employee starts, they may be flavoured “strawberry, blueberry, or even have lumps of chocolate” diffusing through their personality. But after a period of time, this creative flavour may have been slowly purged and replaced with the approved corporate taste. If an organization truly values diversity, why focus on the attainment of the “vanilla”?

There are many great benefits to a company if their employees do think that little bit differently, particularly with respect to innovation which could be utilised in a variety of different areas such as new product development, improvements in service offering or potential business expansions outside the traditional norm? If all employees think the same way (“vanilla”), then opportunities for innovation and creativity will be severely restricted.

So next time you are about to start a new role, may I suggest that you capture your thoughts and aspirations and revisit them later in your working career. The rereading might be quite enlightening, particularly for you, and your organization?

Business Basics: Beach, Balls, Bats and Bathers

A family plays beach cricket at Byron Bay

As you stroll along many Australian seaside beaches in summer you are bound to come across a group of people playing cricket on the sand. The official name for this game is “Beach Cricket”.

The customary uniform for Beach Cricket is typically minimal and encompasses a range of different coloured and sized speedos, bikinis, hats, sunglasses and the frequent application of sunblock. The rules will vary depending on beach locality and the skill set of the players, but for that optimum scoring opportunity, a large hit by the batsman into the sea normally provides the best result!

There is usually no participant exclusion to the game as with more people, the easier it is to play, particularly when fielding the ball on the soft hot sand in your bare feet. Those wanting to play do not need a formal invitation. The accepted custom is to simply walk up and ask “Can I join in and play?” The response is unquestionably “Yep, sure thing, just take a fielding position out in the sand, or sea”. I personally like the sea, as it provides the maximum opportunity for extreme laziness, body cooling and water flotation!

The game may last for hours, or until the ball is absconded by a passing dog frolicking on the sand, but the result is a great time for all.

If we look at the game of Beach Cricket from a corporate office perspective there are some important strategic learnings.

In Beach Cricket there are no exclusions, cliques or private groups that filter member participation. Each new player is welcomed regardless of whether their skill set is minimal or vastly experienced. So why not have this same employee involvement philosophy in business? Is it that we are too self conscious to join in, or too scared that we may “drop the ball”, or are we a little too selective about having the “right” people” in our work team?

As with Beach Cricket, when people feel welcome and valued regardless of their ability, they tend to enjoy the team spirit, the sense of belonging and throw themselves into the required objective (which occurs quite literally when fielding the ball on the sand and in the water) with an unrestricted level of enthusiasm. Many of the team participants may discover some hidden talents when provided with the opportunity “to play”, others may watch and learn from the more experienced and skilled members of the team, either way, the result is beneficial to all.

So next time your office work team starts to have that all too familiar “dysfunctional look”, may I suggest you grab a ball, a cricket bat and head for the beach! If your team is located in the cooler climates, you are allowed to swap the swimming bathers for some more suitable and warmer clothing attire, and if the ball is hit deliberately into the cold ocean water, may I suggest the cheeky batsman be ruled as out and they be asked to field the ball themselves!

The Flamboyee

Mondrian dress

If you have ever watched a speedboat cutting through the still water in a large lake, it is a most impressive sight. Besides the monstrous noise catapulting flamboyantly into the surrounding air, in its trail there is a sharp and distinctive series of oscillating waves that permeate from the back of the boat and eventually make their way to the shore. As an observer, you have no option but to take notice and to acknowledge the visual spectacle that is quickly unfolding before your physical senses.

This occurrence got me thinking…..

Corporate innovation needs “The Flamboyant Employee” to act as a catalyst to inspire and to make others in the office think that little bit differently. As a suggestion, let’s call these people the “Flamboyee”.

As the “Flamboyee” wanders through the office, their profile captures the attention of their fellow workers. They may have a flirtatious smile, a wicked glint in their eye, wear a range of unique clothes, or possess some other individual and distinctive mannerisms and attributes. The key requirement is that people take notice of the “Flamboyee”, break their concentration and initiate a spark of innovation in their thinking, or in their subconscious. This “Flamboyee Effect” rippling throughout the office environment can be likened to the waves in the lake generated by the speedboat. Those employees in direct contact with the “Flamboyee” will tend to obtain the greatest innovation benefit.

It is important not to have too many “Flamboyees” meandering the corporate passageways; otherwise there could be a clashing of the innovation waves that may lead to a negative impact and eventual capsizing in creativity. However, a well-planned timetable of “Flamboyee” activity is essential to ensure that a sustained level of innovation buoyancy is maintained throughout the working day, particularly near 5 PM when many a worker’s motivation starts to quickly subside.

The role of the “Flamboyee” should be prized by management, and HR should have a specific position description prescribed with key performance innovation indicators to make sure that the “Flamboyee” is operating effectively and achieving their maximum creative potential.

Just a thought, but one definitely worthwhile exploring further!

Let the Ideas In

Padlock.gif

Many corporate offices these days are starting to have a somewhat cloned appearance of the CIA, MI6, ASIO, and most other intelligence organizations, with all the security gadgets located throughout their buildings. This is evident by the increasing visibility of security cameras, sensor movement measuring devices, electronic swipe cards and other items that may have been derived from a James Bond 007 movie!

These security measures are very successful at keeping unwanted people out, and those valued people in, together with protecting the businesses intellectual property and other strategic assets. This security focus also permeates into the organization’s hierarchy and culture where only a limited number of vetted employees are allowed to represent the business in the external world to ensure consistency of message.

A major consequence of these established corporate fortresses is that many new ideas, creativity and innovations are also blocked from entering the organization. Many companies utilise a limited number of gatekeepers to filter and disseminate information inputs into the organization thereby ensuring a consistent methodology to evaluate potential opportunities in accordance with well established, and approved, corporate guidelines. However, this can result in stifling innovation and in restricting the highly needed creative thought that is essential to the longer-term and ongoing success of the organization.

The solution is for organizations to have a broad network of “idea collection systems” in place to seek out, identify and gather new thoughts that can analysed further to better understand current and future consumer trends and market requirements. The key is to allow many employees in the corporate structure, not just the chosen few, to have the opportunity to source these ideas without the use of the approved corporate filtering and distillation processes, otherwise this will again lead to a narrow view of potential innovation opportunities.

These “idea collection systems” do not need to be extremely ornate, sophisticated or expensive, but can be achieved via allowing people from a broad cross-section of the organization access to a variety of external information stimuli that they would not normally have exposure to via their traditional job roles. Examples of these “idea collection systems” could be; magazine subscriptions (HBR, The New Yorker, Food and Wine, MAD Magazine, Top Gear, etc), attending seminars, webinars, workshops, interest groups, factory tours, plays, book reviews, plus many more! The objective is creative diversity with ideas sourced from outside their current “thought zone”.

The vast array of collected ideas should then be pooled into a continually overflowing “idea bucket” from which those versed in the identification of potentially new ideas and products review on a regular basis. With time, I’m sure that this collective of numerous ideas will lead to many commercially new and innovative products being developed to provide future long-term benefit and financial sustenance to the corporate organization.

The corporate goal should be to have many employee “ears and eyes” constantly seeking new thoughts to add to the “idea collection systems”. But to do this, the corporate organization needs to be bold, to listen, and to “Let the Ideas In”!

 

The Room of Thought

Thinking RFID

In the corporate office it is sometimes quite difficult to find a quiet place to think and let your mind explore new and creative ideas owing to the continual work activity permeating throughout the building.

The solution……

What about having a dedicated “Room of Thought” strategically placed in a central position within the building that can be easily accessed by all employees?

This room would comprise the following “thought enhancers”:

1. An array of luxurious sofas
To make the employee comfortable to stimulate some different thoughts.

2. A dark face mask
To eliminate any outside influences that may distract the thinker. Each mask would also be equipped with a facial moisturiser to ensure no thinking side-effects.

3. Ear Muffs
Not your standard everyday ear muffs, but ones that can be used to block out all annoying sounds, or can be fitted with a user selection of thought provoking tones to assist with the creativity journey.

4. Gourmet Food Chute
An individual chute positioned above each sofa that provides a selection of tasty snacks and beverages to maintain the thinker during their moments of inspiration.

5. Foot Feather
To ensure no employees doze off during their time of thinking, a machine would be placed at the end of each sofa that contains a large feather that would randomly touch the feet of the employee to maintain optimum maintenance of thought.

6. Voice Activated Memo
Rather than having to be interrupted to stop and write your ideas of innovation in a book, each sofa would come equipped with its own voice activated memo writer that would accurately record ideas of creativity. The user would just need to whisper these thoughts and the recorder would develop a precise transcript.

I’m sure that many businesses would see the benefit of this “Room of Thought” and with time the concept will be a standard design in many leading office layouts!

 

The Infectious Smile

Heike

Wow…..that was a great smile I told myself when receiving my coffee in the cafe! When this woman smiled, I, and everyone else she met just had to smile back. Her smile was genuine, natural, unforced and infectious.

This got me thinking….

How many people in your office “really smile”? Every business needs a “smiler” to initiate that human touch, to let people know that they are important and not just another employee number in the corporate organisation.

A “smiler” is like a little heat spot in the building that generates and radiates warmth that people are attracted to when needing a motivational uplift.

So why don’t we formalise the role of the “smiler” in the organisation chart? Those with the recognised “smiling skill” could list this attribute on their CV, and for those that are deemed “Masters of Smiling”, there would be a large salary increase entitlement to entice them to stay in the business! After all, these prized “smilers” would be the target of many a head-hunter (or smile-hunter)!

I also would suggest that each work department needs at least one accredited “smiler” to raise morale. For those working in the more dull work teams (eg accounting – apologies to any accountants that might be reading), a second “smiler” may be required!

So next time you see a person with a magnificent smile, please savour the moment and try to learn from the experience with the view of embellishing your own smile in the direction of “smiling grandness”!

 

Are You on the Bus?

Double decker bus - London

In many change management programs within business you would have heard the phrase…”Are You on the Bus”?

Let us explore this analogy a little further. Many of us when at school have experienced those bus excursions which were brilliant, and others that were a complete disaster. So what are some of the key elements that differentiated the two experiences?

The Good:
The Bus Driver was a great storyteller that engaged the passengers throughout the journey.
Your fellow passengers created their own excitement and fun.
The scenery from the bus windows were continually varied and made the view a delight to behold and appreciate.
Passengers moved around the bus to experience different perspectives on the journey.

The Bad:
The driver was an utter bore and provided zero inspiration.
The passengers did not interact, were silent and uninterested.
The view outside the bus was monotonous and made the passengers switch off because they were not engaged by the scenery.

So what are the learnings with the bus analogy for management?

The driver is critical! Managers need to have the ability to inspire and lead their employees along the change management journey so they are eager to participate in the activity.

It is important to motivate the co-workers who are already on the bus so they inspire their fellow passengers so nobody wants to get off.

Passenger comfort along the journey needs to be maintained. Here the manager needs to understand and appreciate how their employees are feeling emotionally and physically. If the temperature or mood is too hot or cold, it is the driver who is on control of the air conditioner and needs to make the required organizational climatic change.

However, there might be some passengers who really don’t like the journey. If so, just let them off at the appropriate bus stop otherwise they may become a negative influence on the other passengers.

The bus may hit a large pothole in the road and get a wheel puncture? If so, the bus should quickly stop and address the problem and take the required corrective action to ensure that a smooth ride continues along the route to the intended destination. There is no point limping along with a damaged bus as it will negatively affect the experience of all the passengers.

So when next you as the driver (and manager) are about to start your next bus journey of change management, make sure you consider the above and then jump into the driver’s seat, start the engine and put your foot down on the accelerator and go!

 

Timing your “pop” just right!

281/365 - pop the bubbly.

Consider the champagne bottle from an anticipation perspective and I think you will agree that it is a world recognised winner on all fronts! So what is the key to its success?

The Shape
It is an impressive design that is bold at the base and sleek at the top that commands a prestigious occupation position when situated on the shelf with less humble bottles.

The Wrapping
The combination of a sophisticated bottle label with a wired opening mechanism is an engineering masterpiece.

The Cork
The unleashing of this pressurised stopper announces the progression of a carbonised fluid stream of enticing drinking refreshment culminating in a distinctive and highly audible popping sound!

So, when the champagne bottle that is characterised by its shape, wrapping and cork, is introduced into any party or special occasion, it is always greeted with an air of rapture and excitement!

But once it is opened and all the contents have been consumed, the bottle is now viewed with a past sense of occasion and one now spent. It can only be popped once, so the moment is eagerly cherished by all beholders.

In the corporate environment we can learn a lot from the champagne bottle when making any strategic announcements as you only get one chance to get the impact of the “pop” just right! Get it wrong and your important message becomes a fizzle.

The key is to gradually build and promote the anticipation via a combination of carefully scheduled pre-positioning communication snippets so when the time is optimum, your message goes off with an impressive “pop” and is immediately appreciated by all employees.

So focus on the timing and make sure that you get that “pop”……just right!

Cheers!