You Took a RISK….Fantastic!!

TAKE RISKS

In one of my previous blog posts you will recall my recent attempt at roller skating (https://thinkingfuturethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/office-roller-skating-instructors/)

As I look back on that memory, I can vividly recall the difference in skating standard between myself (a hesitant, stumbling, novice) and that of my instructor (graceful, impressive, stunning…and yes…that rather magnificent short flappy skirt, not that I really noticed, well, maybe just a little….)

Both of us had the same type of roller skates, we were on the same skating rink, the same skating ambition not to fall over, but our skating performance skills were noticeably different! Why…well, it’s called experience. My skating experience was one lesson, her experience was extensive and it showed. But, her skating prowess didn’t happen quickly, it took many years of practice, learning, taking risks, and being prepared to occasionally fail and have that embarrassing moment of falling over and landing on her bottom.

In the corporate office, the prospect of failure isn’t really encouraged. The environment is very risk adverse, in fact, most of us are too scared to explore new ideas, particularly our managers, just in case they don’t work. It’s no wonder that innovation and creativity is stifled, or on the verge of becoming non-existent!

However, to build a corporate risk-taking environment that is effective, it needs to start at the top. A culture must develop that says…”it’s ok to fail..in fact, it’s ok to fail quite a few times…just keep working your innovative idea and eventually you will succeed and more importantly…learn”. Of course there are many caveats and T&Cs associated with this comment, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to work in an organization that encouraged you to take risks and stuff up occasionally along the way!?

Why doesn’t the CEO of your organization share with you some of their personal failures, and their learnings from those experiences? If they haven’t had any failures, does that mean they were too scared to take any risks, or did the organization not let them do so? If that’s the case, I suspect you might be working in rather a boring and conservative company so it might be time to get out before you also becoming branded with the concept that innovation lethargy is the norm and acceptable behavior!

Most companies have a corporate newsletter that is circulated internally to all employees highlighting various business successes that have occurred over the last few weeks or months. Why not include a section that highlights people in the business that had the courage to try something new, something innovative, and if it failed, get them to explain their learnings from the process. These people need to be encouraged and to be given public recognition. By doing this, others will also see that it’s ok to try something new and bold.

Why not add an innovation component into your employee’s performance goals for the year? Now this would create a vastly different mindset in the management structure as I suspect that most managers wouldn’t know where to start in this process? One option could be to provide all managers and employees with an “Innovation 101” type course that provides the basics in brainstorming and creativity techniques to make people think that little bit differently (PS: If you need a hand in doing this, let me know!)

The corporate office should be fun, exciting and have a culture that promotes innovation. Afterall, we spend most of our lives at work…so make it a place that you want to be at and more importantly….enjoy!

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?

Leading the Troops

9362723445_85b224a5a0_q

Never has the role of a leader been more critical than when an organisation is undergoing a severe dislocation derived from a Change Management program.

The impact on the business could possibly be likened to how a soldier’s behaviour changed when faced with trench warfare in the First World War. In the trenches the soldiers lived in constant fear of having to go over the trench wall to face a highly risky and unknown future. To an employee, the analogy is unfortunately very similar! Consider the following:

1. Casualties
The soldier was continually seeing many casualties inflicted on their comrades by the enemy (the employee experiences many of their co-workers being made redundant and lives in fear that they too may also lose their job)

2. Lack of Information
Most soldiers were kept in the dark regarding the military mission and only saw short term actions which appeared to be rather foolhardy (employees do not fully understand the end goal of the Change Management, but rather judge the progress being made by how it is impacting themselves and their immediate coworkers)

3. Rumours
A lack of regular communication and dispatches from the military command resulted in many rumours spreading amongst the troops (if there is a lack of communication from management, rumours become rife and spread quickly throughout the organisation leading to poor morale)

4. Environment
The living conditions in the trenches became intolerable and basic hygiene quickly deteriorated resulting in discontentment and potential mutiny (employees will cope with poor work conditions and uncertainty for a limited period of time, however, should this continue many employees will seek employment elsewhere).

5. Recognition
Those soldiers who exhibited extreme courage were awarded decorations of valour, such as the Victoria Cross (employee contribution should be recognised and rewarded).

The military commander needed to have the ability to inspire and motivate the troops to have the mental and physical fortitude to leave the perceived safety of the trench and to risk their lives to fight the enemy to gain a forward position.

Here the manager must also lead their fellow employees along the Change Management journey to ensure the success of the business reorganisation, otherwise the structural change process will undoubtedly fail. Employees need to believe that their individual contribution is significant and will make a purposeful contribution to the long term survival of the business.

So before you raise your “manager’s sword” and utter that famous “charge” command, make sure you have considered all the aspects associated with the life of a soldier struggling in the trenches so you taste victory instead of defeat in your Change Management activity!

The Diary of Thoughts and Questions

Journal

When you start a role with a new organization, you typically observe and learn from your immediate colleagues so you can quickly gain an appreciation of how things need to be done. During this process, you are flooded with a broad range of different ideas and processes, including the business culture.

Your mind is continually questioning and exploring potentially better ways to perform your new role. However, most new employees do not raise these new ideas owing to their short time period in the business.

After a few months, the new employee has settled in to their role and is happily following the old and well used and established processes that they were taught by their manager or work colleagues.

But what happened to all the ideas that they observed in the early stages of their employment? These valuable challenging “thoughts and questions” are key to driving change in the organization so it continues to develop and improve!

One solution is to capture all these ideas in the “Diary of Thoughts and Questions”.

This diary would be completed by the new employee at the end of each work day for the first few weeks of their employment. At the end of this time, the diary contents would then be discussed with their manager, and their boss, to explore how the potential improvements could be implemented. For the process to work effectively, all readers of the diary would need to have an open mind and be prepared to consider all “thoughts and questions” whether they be positive or negative.

The GPS Business Mentor

Mario Kart Icon on TomTom GPS

There is a unique business mentor for a person starting a new job role…it is called the “GPS navigational system”!

When you think about it, the correlation and learnings are quite staggering and provide a useful insight for the new employee and their manager.

1. Starting
When you start a new job, you have minimal idea what to do, or how to go about things. You are looking for leadership and guidance as you commence your new career in the right direction.
When you turn on your GPS, it is also “lost” for the first few minutes whilst it establishes its position coordinates with the satellites.

2. The Planning
In the early stages of your new role, you and your manager discuss your learning program for the first few weeks/months.
The GPS plans your travel route.

3. The Journey Begins
The new employee and driver (user of the GPS) both follow directions as provided without straying from the chosen path.

4. Experience
With time, both the new employee and the driver become less dependent on instructions and start to experiment and explore new paths.

5. Next Steps
The manager should start to provide some “new maps” for the employee so they can obtain new and challenging experiences and expand their knowledge, skills and business horizons.

With time…”You will reach your destination”

The Regular “Dental Check”

Dentist/Dentist

When you go to the Dentist there is typically a check up where each of your teeth is individually examined for any detrimental effects which may impact their short and longer term performance.

A tooth that is identified as having an issue (eg decay, excessive wear, stress, etc) is targeted with an immediate corrective action to ensure its longevity with your other teeth. For those really problem teeth, a planned removal is initiated to make sure there is no negative influence on those remaining.

In the workforce, the role of a manger is a bit like a Dentist, particularly at performance appraisal time. The manager also needs to conduct regular reviews with their staff to ensure that no potentials issues arise, if one is determined, it should be quickly addressed so as to not impact the employee’s individual and overall business success.

The key is “regular brushing” and the occasional use of “dental floss”!

The Avatar Manager

Avatar

It is said, “never judge a book by its cover”, well the same could also be said in business. All of us at one stage or another have been impressed with how a person looks and have made certain assumptions as to their managerial ability based on these observations.

In a teleconferences, here is a golden opportunity to change the way people think. Instead of a real video link of the person you are talking to, what about an Avatar that would be used to “represent them”? The Avatar would be matched to our managerial perceptions, which of course could be totally false. But if it works…..?? A thought to ponder!