Your Context Determines Your Results

Imagine for a moment that two people are attending the same event.  One walks into the room with the excitement of meeting new people and networking.  She is excited about what may unfold; the other, feeling insecure, dreads the event.  She fears it will be awkward and that small talk will not come easily. Strangely enough, that is exactly what happens.  The first person has a fabulous time, meets dozens of new people, is memorable and leaves the event feeling exhilarated. The 2nd person, chooses to arrive late and leave early, to spend as little time as possible in an uncomfortable environment.  Oddly, each person experiences the exact same event differently, but exactly as their initial context would have predicted.  Why is that?

Context

It is because our context sets off a whole chain of predictable events.  Our context is what we believe about something, it is our internal speak, our expectations that we set about something or someone.  The funny thing about context is that it works in a very predictable way to create results.

Assessment

When we assess a situation, we look at it form our particular point of context.  What we see and hear, our assessment, depends on our context.  In our example, the first person walks in and sees everyone smiling and laughing and is excited to join the conversation.  The second person walks in and assesses the situation whereby everyone already has a group and she is not a part of it. She doesn’t know what they are talking about and believes she will not fit in.

Emotions

The emotions are created based on our assessment of a situation.  The first woman feels emotions related to excitement, energy, enthusiasm and, perhaps, most importantly, belonging.  The second woman feels emotions related to insecurity, fear, loneliness and lack of belonging. Both set of emotions have been reinforced by their assessment of the situation.

Behaviors

Behaviors require action.  However, the actions we choose are a direct reflection on the context, behaviors and emotions that preceded them.  One woman spends time moving from group to group, contributing to each conversation.  The other woman joins one group, quietly listens, does not feel comfortable contributing and decides to escape the uncomfortableness and leaves the event early.

Results and outcomes

Last in the chain of events comes results.  Results are what we make happen or allow to happen to us- the choice is ours.  In both cases, the initial context has been reaffirmed. The first woman is likely to go to another event- she perceives that everyone liked her and she made new contacts.  The second woman confirmed that these types of events are uncomfortable, that groups form quickly, and she does not possess the social skills to join in.

Think, for a moment, about the recent results in your life and the context you have that precedes them.  Could the results have been changed if your context had been different? Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Diversity is not just the range of human differences, but acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Diversity and Inclusion programs are developed in the workplace to ensure that people of all types are included at all levels of the organization and can draw on each other’s strengths and experiences.

The world’s increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. People no longer live and work in an insular environment; they are now part of a worldwide economy competing within a global framework. For this reason, organizations need to become more diversified to remain competitive. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity is an important issue for management.

Managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and evolving. Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge, so managerial skills must adapt to accommodate a multicultural work environment.

Effective managers are aware that certain skills are necessary for creating a successful, thriving, diverse workforce.

First, managers must understand discrimination and its consequences.

Before we can truly embrace a diverse workforce, managers must understand that discrimination hurts us all, not just the person who is of a different ethnicity, but those who have to witness it.  It creates a divide in the workplace and is counter to the desire to collaborate.

Second, managers must recognize their own cultural biases and prejudices.

Each individual is unique and does not represent or speak for a particular group. When creating a successful diverse workforce, an effective manager should focus on personal awareness. Both managers and employees need to be aware of their personal biases. Therefore, organizations need to develop, implement, and maintain ongoing training because a one-day session of training will not change people’s behaviors.

Finally, managers must be willing to change the organization if necessary.

Organizations need to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace to be successful in the future. When dealing with diversity, managers must promote a safe place for associates to communicate. Social gatherings and business meetings, where every member must listen and have the chance to speak, are good ways to create dialogues. Managers should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide employees access to information and opportunities. Also, employees should never be denied necessary, constructive, critical feedback for learning about mistakes and successes, due to concerns about a person’s differences.

Managing diversity is about more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Is it about embracing each of our unique differences.

Performance Management is not an Annual Exercise

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There is a dwindling focus on the traditional annual performance appraisal and a there is a growing trend toward developing feedback loops that give continuous, real time feedback to employees. According to the 2018 State of Continuous Performance Management Survey,  conversations about aligning business goals, check-ins on progress and periodic feedback should be used to manage and continuously motivate employee performance.

HR respondents in the study identified their top three goals for their performance management program as creating and maintaining feedback and coaching cultures, retaining high performing talent and training the workforce on needed skills. To better manage and motivate workers, Betterworks said, employers can help employees find purpose and direction among change, connect employee contributions to the organization’s larger goals and identify and reward top performers.

In a Wakefield Research study, more than 60% of employees said they feel the traditional performance review is outdated, and nearly all respondents said they prefer that managers address performance issues and development opportunities in real-time. Frequent, informal assessments allow workers to improve or correct their performance with immediacy.

Ideally, having a robust performance management platform can assist in giving and receiving real time feedback, create an environment where information is sought out and shared, build engagement and detail plans for talent learning opportunities and enhancements.  Employees want to know not only how their past performance has been, but the plans for their future as well. Consider the below:

  • More than 90% of 18 to 34-year-old workers say a clear succession plan would boost their level of engagement
  • 94% of employers report that having a succession plan positively impacts the entire workforce.
  • 32% of people say they’d quit if there was no room to learn, grow, or advance at their job.
  • Succession programs have been shown to have a positive impact on employee retention. By preparing high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organization, and investing in their development, you demonstrate an organizational commitment to them that will most often be reciprocated.
  • Companies with sound succession plans are correlated with better long-term performance.

Succession Planning or Talent planning, which refers developing plans for the whole organization, are a primary outcome of a solid, on-going Performance Management approach that many companies are moving toward today. It is a win-win scenario for both employees and employers alike!

 

Celebrating Labor

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To many Americans, Labor Day is the last day of a fun-filled three-day weekend that marks the official end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s a day spent with family and friends having backyard barbecues, pool time and end-of-summer short getaways.

But there’s an interesting history behind the national holiday, one that people rarely discuss at the backyard BBQ, and it has played an important role in how people live and work today.

During the late 19th century, many American workers had to endure labor intensive 12-hour workdays, often with poor pay and unsafe working environments. Children were also put to work, sometimes as young as six to seven years old. Children, but also adults, felt hopeless in many instances and did not believe that they had a choice. Over the years, trade and labor movements worked to institute reforms in the working hours and conditions.

On September 5, 1882, between 10,000 and 20,000 people marched down the streets of New York City, carrying flags, badges and musical instruments, according to the DOL. Even more people joined at the giant picnic that marked the end.

Beginning in 1885, individual states began considering legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday, DOL said. By 1894, 31 states had made it law. On June 28, 1884, Congress made the first Monday in September a legal, national holiday known as Labor Day.

We feel like we have come a very long way since 1882, 136 years in our history of the United States has elapsed.  Certainly, we have made great strides in abolishing child labor. We far better understand the implications of a good education.  We have made strides as well in improving the physical working conditions. Many of us reading this are not working in hard labor jobs, we feel safe, we are not working in sweatshops.  We sit in air-conditioned offices and toil away at our desks.

Have we made strides though in celebrating labor?  To celebrate something means that you enjoy it, look forward to it, get satisfaction from it.  We celebrate Birthdays and weddings and anniversaries, the events and their remembrances that have significance to us in a positive way.  And yet, how many people do you know who don’t want to retire, whose work provides real meaning in their lives, who have the opportunity to create and to offer the best of themselves to others each and every day, who enjoy getting up in the morning and look forward to what the day holds?  Sadly, I know very few. The vast majority are starting countdowns to retirement that may last years or even decades longer than they planned. Instead of living the life of their dreams through what they can contribute at work, they are putting that life on hold for a future that may or may not exist.  

We owe it to ourselves, now that we do have a choice, and those that we work with to take the responsibility to bring our best selves to work and to pursue it with meaning.  To be proud of the difference we make and the ways in which we contribute. If we can’t do that, we owe it to ourselves to be brave enough to do something different. I think that would be the best way to celebrate labor.

Employee Satisfaction

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When employers consider employee surveys to discover ways to boost employee satisfaction and retain employees, they often think of incentive pay, additional benefits, and perquisites. When reviewing results of such surveys, employers may fear they won’t be able to respond to employee needs that surface. However, they may be missing existing satisfiers that are already in place but are not being well utilized. In some cases, giving attention to current programs and setting of expectations can turn stale programs into real opportunities for employee satisfaction.

Career growth and even professional relationships are often motivators of satisfaction and engagement. One of the reasons employees leave a company is career growth opportunity; a reason employees stay is the relationships made while employed. One survey showed 25 percent of departing employees revealed that they would have stayed in their position with the company if they had a more respectful and connected relationship with the direct manager.

Employees want to learn, be in mutually beneficial and respectful relationships, and experience healthy professional relationships. Management must connect with workers both professionally and personally, and, depending on the work atmosphere and nature of the company, create a fun work atmosphere and initiate conversations about things outside of work. Other things managers can do to build employee satisfaction are:

  • Permit employees to use and demonstrate their strengths. Everyone wants to be valued and make a difference. Know where to place each employee for the greatest results. Ask what an employee wants to do in the company and look for opportunities to create the experience.
  • Ensure employees understand personal and business goals and the work scope related to their position and how it ties into the big picture. Individuals on a team create winning solutions when everyone knows their role on the field and the game rules.
  • Enhance communication. Hear your employees. Ask what is and is not working and take action to explore where the company can and cannot implement idea changers. Have managers meet with employees on a regular basis and report on performance, engagement, and employee feedback.
  • Consider stay interviews to understand turnover and engagement.
  • Create a learning environment. Foster internal opportunities to learn from one another and expand upon existing skills. While this may slow some projects down, future projects led by a well-rounded work team will create greater quality, productivity, developmental growth, and shared knowledge.

In the very tight labor market we are in, it is critically important that we find more cost effective ways to keep our employee workforce engaged and energized.

Sensationalism in the Workplace

Usually when we hear the word “sensationalism” our thoughts immediately turn to some form of media coverage be it through the internet, TV, or radio.  The news is often blamed for sensationalism. Wikipedia suggests “Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are overhyped to present biased impressions on events, which may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story. Sensationalism may have reporting about generally insignificant matters and events that do not influence overall society and biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a trivial or tabloid manner contrary to the standards of professional journalism.” However, are we often guilty of the same type of sensationalism in the workplace?

In the workplace, it is likely that the same motivations are at play, minus the advertisers’ dollars perhaps. People probably sensationalize in order to attract attention, promote an agenda, or distract from an issue.

To Attract Attention

There are two primary reasons that people feel the need to attract attention to themselves:

Lack of self worth can be a cause for attention seeking behavior. Some people think that they are overlooked and so they think that the only solution to restore their balance is to bring back the lost attention. The attention they will get in this case will provide them with reassurance and will help them think that they are worthy.

Arrogant & overconfident people may seek attention because they have the feeling that they deserve to be in the center of attention. Because they aren’t mature enough they still think with their inner child’s mentality which makes them believe that they are the center of the world.

To Promote an Agenda

People often feel if they can appeal to the emotions of others, instead of having to put in the hard work of creating a case using data, that they can push their ideas through.  This approach is often used in combination with the desire to distract from real issues

Distract from an Issue

In most circumstances, sensationalism is used to distract from or deflect the real issue.  It is created to serve a small subset of the population, or, in the worst cases, only the person creating the sensationalism.   When someone starts asking logical questions, asking for data to back up the accusations, it falls apart quickly and the person will respond with additional emotion or accuse you of not wanting to deal with the problem.  Staying calm and continuing your quest for the data is usually the best approach.

Sensationalism in the workplace is driven by hidden agendas, self-serving  scenarios and egos. Let’s make sure we approach discussions with open agendas, data based decisions and a calm demeanor.

Identifying Lead Measures

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Many organizations go to great lengths to track and report on lag measures.  A Lag Measure measures the ultimate goal you are trying to accomplish, such as an increase in sales or profits, or a decrease in turnover, however, it is always in the past.  While useful, the challenge, and benefit, comes when we spend the time to figure out the lead measures. How do we impact turnover or how to we move the needle on cost per hire?  It is impossible to reliable impact your lag measures without understating all aspects of lead measures.  Lead measure are the measures of the activities most connected to achieving the goal.

Lead measures have two advantages, they are both predictive, meaning they lead to the accomplishment of the Lag Measure or goal, and they are influenceable, meaning you can do something about them. Lead Measures are about narrowing your focus down to the 2 or 3 things that “trigger” success, or your end goal.  If you understand your lead measures, you can more consistently and predictably replicate your success

In the example of employee turnover, a lag measure, what might influence that?  If our goal is to decrease turnover to 10% per year, what leading measures do we need to focus on to achieve that goal?  Some examples could be employee satisfaction, employee engagement, time to respond to an interview request. All of these need to be measured and focus needs to be given to 2-3 that can reliably be shown to have a positive impact on reducing turnover. Choosing only 2-3 will allow you the best chance of success.

Spend time thinking about where your focus lies.  Does it lie on a lag measure that is out of your control or on a lead measure(s) that you can actually control?  Lead measures track the critical activities that drive, or lead to the lag measure.  They predict success of the lag measure and are influenced directly by the team. A common example of a lag measure is weight loss. Which activities or lead measures will lead to weight loss? Diet and exercise! Proper diet and exercise predict the success of weight-loss and they are activities that we can directly influence. Simple enough but be careful. Even the smartest people fall into the trap of fixating on a lag measure that they can’t directly influence. This is because lags are easier to measure and they represent the result we ultimately want

In summary, Lag measures give you the score, but Lead measure tell you how to win!

Locus of Control

Most recently I heard Locus of Control referenced on an episode of Bull I was half watching on my way to Tampa.  The question he posed to prospective jurors was “Why do you catch a cold?”. Those with an external locus of control answered “ because I was exposed to germs” or something along those lines.  Those with an internal locus of control answered “Because I let myself get run down”. You can quickly discern the difference. One believes things happen to them and the other believes they are in control and they make or allow things to happen

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe that they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.  Infrequently does anyone fall exclusively in one category or the other. Most people fall on a continuum somewhere between the two

Your locus of control can influence not only how you respond to the events that happen in your life, but also your motivation to take action. If you believe that you hold the keys to your fate, you are more likely to take action to change your situation when needed. If on the other hand, you believe that the outcome is out of your hands, you may be less likely to work toward change.

Think about that for a minute in terms of your workforce:

Those With an Internal Locus of Control

  • Are more likely to take responsibility for their actions
  • Tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people
  • Often do better at tasks when they are allowed to work at their own pace
  • Usually, have a strong sense of self-efficacy
  • Tend to work hard to achieve the things they want
  • Feel confident in the face of challenges
  • Tend to be physically healthier
  • Report being happier and more independent
  • Often achieve greater success in the workplace

Those With an External Locus of Control

  • Blame outside forces for their circumstances
  • Often credit luck or chance for any successes
  • Don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts
  • Frequently feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations
  • Are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness

Which set of characteristics do you believe yield more motivated and productive employees?  Perhaps we should add to our long list of questions during interviews, “Why do you catch a cold?”

How to Handle a Workplace Bully

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We have talked about how to identify a workplace bully.  Now, how do you handle the bully that you encounter? Bullies, in general, prey on people’s insecurities and emotional nature.  The key is to remain calm and portray an air of confidence.

Don’t respond to emotionally criticism or offer explanations

Although this sounds counterproductive, the bully will often make outlandish claims in order to reel you into a fighting match.  You don’t want to give them fuel for their fire.  Instead of defending yourself in an emotional manner, simply state the facts.  “I don’t believe that happened” or “that is not how I recall the events” When your reply emotionally you let the bully know that he/she has gotten to you.

Do ask them to clarify and to speak slowly

The bully depends on being able to throw out accusations at record speed without anyone actually questioning them.  When forced to slow down, repeat themselves or offer actual facts, the bully will often feel deflated.

Document

If the bully is really out of line, no one deserves to be harassed.  Document the conversations, the way someone looked, what was said, threats made, etc..  All of this will be necessary if you ever have to claim a hostile work environment which will require that you have multiple examples. 

If you happen to be in a state that is a single consent recording state, record.  It is legal for you to record any verbal exchanges you have with the bully to be used when you make a formal complaint.

Teach People how to Treat you

In other words, don’t teach people that you are someone who will allow unprofessional behavior to occur without consequences.  If someone is yelling at you, calmly state “ I am not going to allow you to yell at me. We can continue this conversation when you have been able to calm down” and walk out of the room. 

Use your Allies

Everyone in business needs allies. Build them early and spend time reinforcing those bonds. They will serve as a double check that you are not doing anything to instigate this behavior and help provide support the next time the person is out of line.

Unfortunately, bullies are found in all walks of life and at all ages.  Educating yourself, in advance, on how to handle a situation before it occurs is one of the best ways to be proactive and ensure that you will look back on the situation, proud of how you handled yourself.

The Workplace Bully

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The word bully conjures up many images.  Perhaps, an elementary or middle school playground and physical intimidation. Maybe, in the technological age in which we live, bullies, the cowards they are, hiding behind social media and conducting their campaigns with anonymity but no less vengeance.  Seldom, though, when we hear the word bully, do our thoughts turn immediately to the workplace. And yet, bullies exist in the workplace as well. These bullies are a bit more calculating than their schoolyard counterparts. Not often will you find a workplace bully who comes up and pushes you to ground.  Instead, these types of bullies take great care to plant the seeds that they hope will 1) lead you to fall in line with their own selfish initiatives or 2) lead to your demise.

The most effective bullies employ a skillful blend of charm and aggression that can carry them to the top of their profession.  The below are the basics of how most bullies operate:

Intimidates through verbal aggression and spreads rumors

This verbal aggression could be directed at you in an angry voice but could also be something more insidious said about you that is intended to plant a seed of doubt in someone’s mind.  Bullies will often use words such as “obviously” and “you can’t possibly think…” to undermine your credibility and have you second guessing yourself.

Play Mind Games to distort the thinking of others

They keep people off-balance through half-truths, hearsay and misstatements. Their distorted version of events is intended to obscure and confuse the truth.  The only truth the bully is interested in is their own that will further their personal initiatives.

Blames Others

It is a very rare bully that will utter the words “I was wrong”.  In their mind, it is always someone else’s fault and there is no one quicker to point it out than a workplace bully.  They will often claim that they understood all along that the path being pursued was incorrect.

Disguises their true intentions

A bully puts on a good act to gain your trust and respect. They never reveal their true intentions, which are self-serving and at most times harmful to others. They conceal their innermost attitudes and emotions, which are self-absorbed and disrespectful of others. They maintain an image of strength, vision and leadership, and thus avoid exposing their underhanded, manipulative nature.

Pretends to Care

The bully will pretend to care about the employees and the workplace, but their actions will speak louder than words.  The bully will make suggestions and want you to carry out actions that are not in line with a strong employee culture built on trust.

Bullies have no place whether it be on the playground, on social media or in the workplace.  It is imperative that Human Resources be vigilant in identifying and addressing bullying behavior before the ramifications of high turnover or stress related disabilities start to take their toll.