Monthly Archives: April, 2015

The Millennials are Coming!!

giphy (3)One of my recent work-related research topics is the recruitment and management of millennials. If you’ve been on the Internet in the past few years, you know there is no shortage of articles and blog posts dedicated to this subject. New ones are churned out hourly. Millennials are a big deal for marketers, recruiters, and managers. They offer so many opportunities for growth and innovation but they are like strange little beings fallen to Earth whose behaviors we must study, so that we can learn to harness their awesome powers of adaptability, social connectivity skills, and knack for figuring out techy things like the iPods and the Tumblr. Or so some of the articles say. Really, millennials aren’t that strange and, in many ways, they aren’t that different from their predecessors—but they do have different expectations for job engagement and job satisfaction that hiring managers should be aware of.

tumblr_nbtuosTCoC1shcemfo1_500Millennials are often discussed in relation to baby boomers and Generation X. The start and end dates of these categories are a bit fuzzy at times. By some accounts, I’m a millennial, but by most of the others I’ve read, I’m an Xer. I tend to think of myself as an Xer and will, for the sake of this blog, keep myself in that category.

You may wonder, as I often have, why we need these categories. Aren’t we living in a post-category society yet? On the great space-time continuum, aren’t we all just a cluster of specks seeking employment, food, shelter, the usual, in much the same way? However, after spending some time researching this topic, I began to see that there are valid reasons for the amount of time spent analyzing millennial needs and behaviors: Organizations have finally realized that the future is a thing you have to plan for.giphy (4)

The current near-obsessive interest in millennials has everything to do with succession planning. What is succession planning exactly?

Succession planning is a process whereby an organization ensures that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company. Through your succession planning process, you recruit superior employees, develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and prepare them for advancement or promotion into ever more challenging roles.

Actively pursuing succession planning ensures that employees are constantly developed to fill each needed role. As your organization expands, loses key employees, provides promotional opportunities, and increases sales, your succession planning guarantees that you have employees on hand ready and waiting to fill new roles.

It’s sad to think that we will move on, retire, be cryogenically frozen, move to off-world colonies or whatever in the future but it’s inevitable. If we care about the future success of our organizations, we have to instill our mission and values in our future leaders: millennials. (Don’t panic).ofBS5km

Millennials are already well-established in all the fields. Also, there’s A LOT OF THEM. They are working with people who are their parents’ age, or older in some cases. One study I read claimed that 12% of employed personnel are over 60. This number shocked me, or would have, if I hadn’t noticed this happening within my own field years ago.

ghostbusters-library-oMy field, information science (or library science, depending on which side of that debate you fall on) is full of millennials now. But it’s also full of Xers. And baby boomers. The rash of retirements that was predicted when I first entered the field? Well, those didn’t happen so much. The good news is, we have such a wide variety and wealth of experience spread across the generations in our profession. The bad news is, there is sometimes tension between the older “conservators” and the younger “innovators” and a sometimes daunting technology gap. We need the knowledge the experienced conservators have and the creativity of the young, fresh innovators—and all of us need to be tech savvy. What I mean by tech savvy isn’t a near-genius level understanding of computer science and Jedi-like coding skills but a willingness to learn and adapt to new technologies. Millennials are extremely adaptable and willing to learn new things. Xers and boomers take note: millennials may be able to teach us how to be better at this.

Studies indicate (as does personal experience) that Boomers and Xers are slower, and more reluctant, to change because giphy (2)change can be threatening and learning new ways of doing a thing can be difficult; there can also be a perception that change doesn’t always lead to something better. Millennials are less cautious about embracing change. They are also better than my generation at working in teams, value the collaboration process, and see a career as a learning environment for self-fulfillment. (see the CPS Report, “HR Survey Series: Multi-Generational Training in the Public Sector”). They want to work in organizations that will provide opportunities for them to utilize these skills.

As Heather mentioned in her blog yesterday, we look for certain characteristics in a good boss: “An ideal boss is pleasant, approachable, understanding, caring, serves as an adviser and supporter, is flexible and open-minded, respects, values and appreciates employees, and has good management skills.” Millennials value these characteristics but also seek out opportunities in their jobs to make a difference in the world (as Daniel Pink has told us, this is one of the keys to engagement) and want to work in a diverse environment—their ideal manager will share these values.choke

An awareness of these differences and expectations is necessary for successful succession planning. In order to achieve a smooth transition to new leadership, it is important to consider not only the new wonderful things millennials bring to the table but also consider possible skill gaps, gaps in communication between generations, and how we can bridge those gaps. These are things we will look at next week.

Written b10583892_10152176775975685_7374245496433923175_ny:
Muriel Call
Research Coordinator

An Engaged Leader

Employee engagement has an incredible impact on your organization – it can look like great customer service, high performing employee retention, a trust-filled environment, efficiencies and innovations at every turn, or it can be the complete opposite of those things. According to a Gallup study, managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement! Likely, if you’ve been following my blog series on employee engagement, you’ve thought about your employees, what they can do, and maybe what they should do. But now, I want you to take a look at yourself, managers and supervisors. And even more so, those of you at the highest level in the organization. We need to look at who we choose to be our managers. This is the tipping point in employee engagement.giphy (1)

In one of our live class presentations, I found a list detailing what an ideal boss/manager/leader is. An ideal boss is pleasant, approachable, understanding, caring, serves as an apositive-encouragementdviser and supporter, is flexible and open-minded, respects, values and appreciates employees, and has good management skills. If you’re like me, this resonates with you! Who wouldn’t want this? We all deserve to be valued, supported, and even cared for. In my experience, employees thrive in this type of environment! Now, it has to be balanced with boundaries and some structure. So I’ll pair this with more from Gallup. According to Gallup, a manager with better employee engagement beneath them is able to individualize, focus on each person’s needs and strengths, boldly review his or her team members on a regular (daily) basis, rally people around a cause, align team members with the organization’s mission, and execute efficient processes.

But here’s the kicker. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, shares a scary fact, “Authentic management talent is rare. Gallup’s research shows that just one in 10 have the natural, God-given talent to manage a team of people. They know how to motivate every individual on their team, boldly review performance, build relationships, overcome adversity and make decisions based on productivity — not politics. A manager with little talent for the job will deal with workplace problems through manipulation and unhelpful office politics. Gallup’s research has also found that another two in 10 people have some characteristics of functioning managerial talent and can perform at a high level if their company coaches and supports them.”Do-not-care-Ron-Swanson-GIF

What I get from that is, we have 30% of our leadership who has or can have what it takes to be a great manager. I’m not – and Gallup isn’t – saying that the remaining 70% aren’t great people or great employees. But just because they were an expert in their field, does that mean we should make them a manager? As Ron Holifield says (loosely), and this is just one example, “Why do we make our top Engineers our Public Works Directors and expect them to be great people managers? They should stay Chief Line Drawers. That is what they’re great at.” So what are we to do? Who are we to recruit, assess, and develop? First, we need to understand what a good manager is.tumblr_inline_mljkatCEWv1qz4rgp

According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report, there are 5 characteristics of a great manager, “Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships, and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.”

JoffreyWe’ll continue to delve into this report in the coming weeks and see what makes a great manager. In the meantime, check yourself. Do an informal self-assessment or even ask your subordinates! How do you measure up to the characteristics mentioned above? Do you have the balance of providing both care and boundaries? Are you skilled at managing both people and processes? And remember, employee engagement hinges on you! No pressure…


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

Five Takeaways from Creativity, Inc.

“What is the best book you’ve read?”

burgerI get that question a lot. I never have a good answer. It’s like asking “what’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?”. There are so many ways to think about that question – the most memorable (one in Alaska), the best food (ok – maybe that same one in Alaska), the one I needed most (one after an exhausting five set tennis match, many, many years ago). And then, there are variations – the best barbecue you’ve ever had (I’ve eaten great barbecue from each of two of my brothers, one of whom was state champion more than once a few years back), the best Mexican food, the best… You get the idea. In other words, there is no “best meal ever” answer.

And, maybe except for The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and my favorite Nero Wolfe novel (The Doorbell Rang), there is no answer for the “best book you’ve ever read” question either.

The best book is the one that gave me what I needed, at the time I needed it and, at times, it almost does not matter how good a book it actually is if it gives me what I need at the moment.levarburtonlaforge

{I think back to when The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck was recommended to me a few decades ago, at a critical time in my life. The book seemed to have been written for me. That’s one that pops into my mind pretty regularly}.

So, with these thoughts… I have a book to recommend highly. Don’t dismiss it too quickly. You may think it is just a story about the success of Pixar. Yes, it is that… but it is so much more.

pixarThe book is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull (President of PIXAR Animation and Disney Animation), with Amy Wallace (New York: Random House. 2014). I read it, and prepared a synopsis for this book, at the request of and for a private client. (I think I will either present it at a later First Friday Book Synopsis, or simply record my synopsis and put it up on our companion 15minutebusinessbooks site).

This may be as good a book as I have read about:


How to work with powerful personalities (think Steve Jobs), how to manage the balance of “task-master” and “freedom” with creative people; how important it is to embrace and learn from failures and mistakes in the pursuit of the end success…

The list of valuable insights in this book is really long.

Here are some key thoughts gleaned from the book:

  • Build a team; give them freedom – but, freedom in service of a common goal…
  • Maybe the biggest problem: the unending resistance to change
  • Find the problems; see the problems, find the problems…
  • Braintrust – constant questioning… (with “straight talk”)
  • Honesty is ok, but candor is better, and essential! (candor = a lack of reserve)
  • The team comes first – first the team, then the ideas! (not the other way around — (To me, the answer should be obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas).
  • Truly, truly, genuinely expect that the unexpected will arrive
  • Randomness will happen!
  • “Be wrong as fast as you can…”Ed Catmull
  • Be careful where you let your “Steve Jobs” go, and where you let him (her) speak up…
  • Failure is not only inevitable, but also valuable; good
  • Conflict is good; necessary
  • The successful ones have to mentor the new ones!
  • Use “inclusive” furniture
  • “The stick propping the door open was too small” – every detail matters!

If you manage people, especially if you manage creative people, this would be a valuable book for you to read.

Here are my 5 lessons and takeaways from the book:

  1. Learn as widely — (as many skills) — as you can
  2. Learn to observe (take field trips to see…everything)
  3. Learn to practice candor – it is essential!
  4. Really, truly, give everyone a voice
  5. Keep making everything, every part of everything, better!

Seriously, this may be just the book you need at this moment in your business life.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Following Your Dream

texas-nyan-oTrue to my Texas roots, I have always listened to country music. Two of my long-time favorite artists are Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, so I was ecstatic to receive tickets to Garth’s World Tour as a Christmas gift from my thoughtful husband this year.

Surrounded by swarms of country music fans in the great city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I was reminded of the beauty of country music. It’s not just the easy harmonies or the sound of the string instruments that make me love this genre – it’s the stories. From the cowboy ballad to country pop, each song tells a story. The songs can make you laugh; they can make you cry; and they can inspire you to do better.

When I began my career in city management, I was constantly asked if I liked my job. My response was always that I love this field because I feel like I am helping people and every day is different. Years later, I realize that the constantly changing myriad of tasks, community issues, and critical service needs that arise daily make it hard for the leaders in local government to stay focused on the overall leadership of the organization. Some days you do not try to make anything better – you just try to get to the end of the day. Some days you do not accomplish a single thing. Some days are twelve steps back from the previous day.

In The River, Garth Brooks compares being a dreamer to a river. Read through two verses of this song below and think of the leadership of your organization. Baby steps are sometimes needed or there might be a huge “road block” that you have to overcome. However, you should not give up on pushing the dreams. I hope it inspires you to continue to follow your dream for your organization.

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide…yes


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

The Leadership Checklist

How does a leader make the most of every day? With so many interruptions, a bunch of mini-crises, and a major catastrophe or two all before lunch, who has time to lead effectively, right?

Like it or not, interruptions make up a normal, not an abnormal, day. Most of life is done in an interruption of an interruption, wrapped between two other interruptions. Good leaders get used to it and live with it. However, just because a leader is used to it, doesn’t automatically mean that he/she is leading effectively.

I have found that looking carefully at some of the things that leadership experts have suggested is very helpful. There’s a reason that their writings stand out over time, and it’s always good to let their lessons inform your approach.

No one in the leadership world is more respected than Peter Drucker, and when it comes to articulating exactly what a great leader does, it’s pretty hard to improve upon his analysis.

Drucker identified eight things that make a leader effective. I’ve found that checking myself against some of these criteria helps keep me moving forward as a leader—rather than just moving from putting out one fire to another.

  1. Ask yourself, “What needs to be done here?”
    Whether that question applies to the overall organization or the immediate moment, it’s a clarifying question that every leader needs to ask intentionally.
  1. Ask yourself, “What’s best for the organization?”
    At SGR, we talk a lot about servant leadership versus political leadership. Political leadership asks, “What’s best for me?” Servant leadership looks at what’s best for the organization—even if it’s less optimal for the leader.
  1. Develop action plans.
    Leaders are doers. Leaders take action. Leaders mobilize others to act. Yes, you have to be careful to analyze things properly, but the difference between a leader and an analyst is that leaders impact the situation by creating avenues to move people beyond analyzing.
  1. Take responsibility for decisions.
    One of the frustrations that I hear often is, “We have meetings, but at the end of the meeting, we don’t make any decisions.” This is not good leadership. Your decision may be to postpone action, but that’s a decision, too; and it needs to be clearly communicated. Good leaders make decisions, and then take responsibility for those decisions, whether they are applauded, criticized, or both.
  1. Take responsibility for communicating.
    Everywhere I go, I hear the same thing, “We have problems with communication.” Of course, some of that is merely the perception. It’s subjective. However, I believe that a leader must accept responsibility for the communication within his/her team and the communication from his/her team. Once the leader accepts that he/she is responsible for it—and that it’s not someone else’s job, problem, or fault—I’ve noticed that mechanisms tend to be put in place that improve communication. Until then, the answer remains shrouded in mystery.
  1. Focus on opportunities, not problems.
    This is really about maintaining a positive attitude versus a negative attitude. Sure, we all have problems. However, great leaders re-frame those problems into opportunities to improve, to change, to innovate, and to grow. Merely seeing it as a problem magnifies the problem and demoralizes the people.
  1. Run productive meetings.
    This relates back to numbers 4 and 5. Decisions may or may not be made in the meeting, but they are most certainly communicated during the meetings. However, productive meetings are not just about making decisions. Running a productive meeting relates to the kind of culture that is instilled, the effectiveness of processes and communication, and the stewardship of time. A leader who can run a productive meeting balances the right display of self-confidence and humility to make team members feel motivated and happy to be a part of the team.
  1. Focus on “we” not “me”.
    Don’t just say it. Mean it. Walk the talk. Put the team, not yourself, out front. Always. If you haven’t figured out yet, it takes the whole team—not just you. And let me tell you a secret: your team already knows this. And if they’ve figured out that you haven’t figured it out yet, that may be the single biggest obstacle to your success as a leader.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources

Ditching the Dissonance, pt. III: The Way of the Caribou

Last week, in Ditching the Dissonance II, we discussed rabid, info-seeking wolves and thoughtful, information-foraging caribou, considered how confirmation bias can influence our information seeking habits, and how bad information causes breakdowns in communication. Today, we will look at information seeking strategies that will help you get in touch with your inner evidence-based-information-seeking caribou.

no-no-noAs you read last week’s blog, did you consider which category of information seeker you fall into: wolf or caribou? Do you do diligent research and consider even the information that doesn’t support your hypothesis?  Or do you seek only the evidence that confirms your views…and are you so in denial that you are a poor researcher that you decided to just disregard all the information in the blog that supported this conclusion?

“I really want to be an evidence-based-information-seeking caribou!” I hear you say, “But how???”

If you found yourself in the latter category and  weren’t in denial about it, you may have been greatly disappointed with this state of affairs, but never fear—caribou status is within your reach.

booleansearchThe first step is to think about how you typically seek out information. Determine where your weak spots are. Are you a lazy researcher who takes frequent shortcuts to avoid sifting through large amounts of information? Are you afraid to find information that will force you to reevaluate your opinions? Have you ever stepped foot inside a library? Have you ever found yourself utilizing Boolean operators in a bibliographic database search? Now, you may be thinking at this point: Who are you and why are you asking me complicated questions that I don’t want to answer??? But you need to answer these questions before you can achieve caribou status. Consider where you are as a researcher and where you can improve your skill set if you want to be a better information seeker.

The second step is to determine your information needs. This may mean admitting to yourself that there is a gap in giphy (10)knowledge or understanding of an idea, concept, or phenomenon that you are looking to fill (I.e., admit that you don’t know everything). This will likely require examining your own motives. Determine what you need to know, and why, and look for the best answer. In other words, don’t Google what you are convinced is the only possible answer to the question or seek out only the information that confirms your stance on an issue. This leads to confirmation bias. The information Google will give to you will likely confirm your opinion (no matter how far-fetched), but it may be grossly inaccurate. Recall those instructions that your English teacher gave you when you had to write an expository essay in high school: start with a good question and work toward an answer based on reliable sources.

harrydeanstantonThe third step: choose your sources wisely.  The information need will determine the sources you use. Though they are easy to access, Google, Wikipedia, and the like are not the best sources for many types of information. However, I will be the first to admit that I use them. When I wake up at 2 in the morning desperately trying to remember who directed the movie Paris, Texas (it was Wim Wenders!!!), Google provides a quick resolution to this dilemma. Google and Wikipedia can, at times, be a good starting place for finding resources (those “References” sections can be useful). But if I want to understand the conceptual underpinnings of string theory I’m not going to rely on a Wikipedia article or the random blog posts churned up by a Google search—I’m going to look for information compiled by experts in the field.stringtheory1

For some subjects, you need an expert. Not everyone on the Internet is an expert but anyone on the Internet can claim to be an expert. Depending on your information needs, you may need to seek out information in peer-reviewed journals. Don’t be afraid to wade into scholarly waters if your information need necessitates it. If you feel that your information need is basic enough that you can trust Google to answer it, you should still apply certain criteria to your search results. Check the credentials of the content creator, review their other work (if available), the date of the material, and look for retractions.

One of the most important but often overlooked steps in the information seeking process is evaluating the results and, if you’ve been following the previous steps, it should make your job easier. To evaluate your results for validity and relevance, ask the following questions: Do they help you answer (or at least work toward an answer) to your question? Do they meet your information needs? Are they the best results you could get under the circumstances? Is the information they provide useful, reliable, up-to-date, and unbiased? If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers to these questions, it may be time to move on to the secret 5th step: repeat the process if you aren’t satisfied with your results.


Copyright by Hama-House

caribou-run-oHow you choose to interpret the information you find on an information foraging expedition and how you use what you find is up to you but, at the very least, always try to be open to new information you find along the way, not just the stuff that confirms a previously held opinion. While this is helpful advice for any information seeker, it is vital for anyone in a position of authority in the public or private sector, or any position where the information you disseminate will have a far reach, because of the amount of influence you wield. Any bad information you provide will travel far. Learn to recognize confirmation bias and avoid it before it leads you to spread bad information. Continually hone your information seeking skills and improve your information seeking strategy. Learn the ways of the diligent, evidence-based-information-seeking caribou!

And for my fellow Pixies fans, this…

Written b10583892_10152176775975685_7374245496433923175_ny:
Muriel Call
Research Coordinator

10 Most Excellent Ways to Kill Employee Engagement

Rather than join a band of managers saying, “We’re not worthy!” of ensuring employee engagement in your organization, let’s take a look at a list of ten common ways to destroy any engagement that your previous hard work may have earned. This is where you say, “No way!” and I say, “Way!”waynesworld2

  1. Lack of engaging leadership and management

Ghandi’s famous paraphrased quote might inspire you here, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, lead by example. If you desire an engaged workforce, you yourself must also be engaged. What does an engaged leader look like? Stay tuned until next week.


  1. Micromanagement

This killer needs very little explanation. Micromanagement involves a lack of trust and confidence, not in your employees, but in yourself. If you cannot assign work and let. it. go. then you should look within yourself to see why that is. If you have developed and equipped your employees, why should you need to step in, other than to provide support? Are you mental?


  1. Constantly changing teams and structures within the organization

At SGR, we believe that change is a norm, and it is something we embrace. As the 16%, we feel comfortable with change. However, in a typical organization, constant change can signify a lack of stability and a lack of clear mission or vision. However, if your change is purposeful or strategic, and you communicate that to your employees (like we do at SGR), then engagement may not suffer.waynesworld6

  1. Lack of clear mission, vision and values

Do you know your organization’s mission, vision, and values? Do your employees? Is it understandable? Are they realistic or livable? If your answer to any of these is no, you’re likely well on your way to creating an environment where engagement cannot thrive.


  1. Lack of clear job roles

Your employees need to know what is expected of them. Furthermore, creating clear boundaries and roles allows for your employees to operate freely within a framework. Want more creativity in your employees? You don’t need titles – but you do need for each employee to have an understanding of what they are expected to accomplish, individually. And then given the freedom to pursue – and exceed it.


  1. After feedback is requested or given, no follow-up is provided

If you have ever issued an employee or citizen survey and not followed up on it, I’m talking to you. If you have ever called a public forum or employee meeting to provide information only from the top down to create “buy-in” (though you led folks to believe they’d have a chance for feedback or questions), this is for you. If you have ever coached your employees during a performance management session and not followed up to ensure that you or they have done their part, hear me now. Feedback – it’s a gift! It truly is. An excellent way to kill engagement is to not listen or to create the perception that you haven’t listened. Another excellent killer: giving the impression that you don’t care enough to follow up or provide feedback in the first place.


  1. Lack of transparency or trust

This employee engagement – and relationship – killer is something I see happen at all levels of organizations. In the field, when foreman and supervisors attempt to build comradery with their crews by saying, “I’m with you, but City Hall just won’t listen.” Across department lines, when gossip fills the void of unanswered questions. When employees see their managers or co-workers doing less, without repercussion. Within departments, when managers hoard information as a form of mistaken power. Or when an issue with another employee is addressed, and nothing is done to solve the problem. At the top level, after something in the press calls a leader’s ethics into question. These are just a few ways a lack of transparency or trust manifests itself. And it breeds greater and uglier distrust. Pshaw, right!


  1. High turnover

While high turnover may be a symptom of poor employee engagement, it could also be a further killer. The instability of a team during transition or after losing members can have ripple effects on both productivity and customer service. What I see happen all too often in local government is that we ask our high performers to pick up the slack when we’ve lost employees, rarely providing more back than a 5% temporary pay increase or “interim” title, if they’re lucky. Want a guaranteed way to drive away your top folks? Pick a couple of these killers and then ask them to do more for an indefinite time period while you attempt to hire a replacement. And then make sure to not thank them. NOT!


  1. Lack of investment in your employees

Not developing your employees is a sure way to prove to them that they aren’t worth your time, money, or effort. I am not saying that you have to spend large amounts of money to develop your employees – or time for that matter! You can simply provide regular communication and coaching, set up mentoring opportunities, and take advantage of on-the-job training, as well as live and online training opportunities already provided by your organization.


  1. Organization’s perception that employee engagement is an HR issue (rather than an organization-wide issue)

Managers, if you believe that employee engagement is just some buzz word that HR uses and that HR is the only entity that creates initiatives for it, you’re missing out on the most effective way to build employee engagement. It begins with you. Your dedication to relational leadership is where it all begins.


Avoiding these ten killers won’t guarantee you excellent employee engagement, but it should keep you ready for your Extreme Close Up! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

Party on, dudes!waynesworld16


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

No More Gradualism

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, August 28, 1963

mlkOf all the excerpts from Dr. King’s speech, the line about gradualism may be the one that crops up in my thinking most often. He was speaking, of course, about the excruciatingly slow pace called for and taken by “leaders” regarding racial equality. But, the idea itself has a wider reach.

We see gradualism all around us. We get advice. “You can’t move too quickly. You have to be patient. It takes time.” On subject after subject, in civic life, corporate life, everyone seems to be a fan of “gradualism”—unless, of course, it is a change that they want made immediately!

So, here’s quite a story; quite a development. At Zappos, they have been trying the gradual approach. The issue: becoming a “self-managing company.” They have been trying to make the transition in steps—you know, “gradually”—the approach of “gradualism.”

tony-hsieh-zappos-12Enter Tony Hsieh. It sounds like he’s had enough of such gradualism. So, he is acting—quickly, once-and-for-all, no-more-delay… No more gradualism for this guy.

I read about this here: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to employees: Embrace self-management or leave by the end of the month by Richard Feloni. Here are key excerpts:

The online shoe-seller Zappos has been experimenting with a self-management organizational structure known as Holacracy for nearly two years.
But on April 30 the company plans to be fully manager-free, according to a company-wide memo CEO Tony Hsieh emailed late last month.
“Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization,” he wrote.

And here’s the key paragraph, from Mr. Hsieh’s memo to all employees at Zappos:

After many conversations and a lot of feedback about where we are today versus our desired state of self-organization, self-management, increased autonomy, and increased efficiency, we are going to take a “rip the bandaid” approach to accelerate progress towards becoming a Teal organization (as described in the book Reinventing Organizations).

This is what is pretty clear. Not everybody at Zappos has successfully made the transition; not everyone was fully on-board. And, even those on-board had not successfully fully implemented the change.

This is a bold experiment at Zappos — a once-and-for-all, no-more-gradualism approach. Mr. Hsieh is ready to jettison the old completely, and move fully to being a “Teal Organization.”
So, what is this new “Teal” organization? From a review of Reinventing Organizations:

reinventing-organizationsWhat is a “Teal Organization”? Frédéric Laloux, in Reinventing Organizations, uses a colour scheme, based on Integral Theory, to describe the historical development of human organizations: Red > Orange > Green > Teal. Laloux lists three breakthroughs of Teal organizations:

  1. Self-management: driven by peer relationships
  2. Wholeness: involving the whole person at work
  3. Evolutionary purpose: let the organization adapt and grow, not be driven.

Here’s what I think… Gradualism is probably a strategy that needs to be retired. It simply takes too long to make needed change that way, regardless of what arena you are talking about or working in. And, in today’s world, delay and slow-approaches-to-change can leave you, or a company or organization behind in a hurry.

I’m not one to pass judgment on whether or not Zappos should actually become such a self-managing organization. But I think I get the idea that if they are going to do this, they want to/ought to just “rip the bandaid” off, and do it! No more gradualism.

It will be interesting to watch, won’t it?

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Finding Creativity in Boredom

How many times have we heard that someone has their best ideas in the shower? Is that because showers are one of the only times that we are required to be “unplugged?”

Last month, SGR’s 10 in 10 highlighted an article on a topic that I have been continuously pondering for the past few months. In One woman’s plan to take your creativity back from your phone — by making you bored, Adam Wernick explored a project called “Bored and Brilliant” and the over-utilization of our smart phones and other media outlets. The brief article highlights Manoush Zomorodi, blogger and host of the WNYC podcast New Tech City, who’s most recent post included a one-minute video on digital detoxing.

boredIn the article, she describes a story from her childhood where she gathered all of the plants at her house, named them, and then performed a concert for their benefit. She said she did this because she was bored! In general, society is no longer bored due to the invention and proliferation of the smart phone and, Zomorodi argues, the amount of time and attention we give to our smartphones prevents us from putting our brain into “idle mode.” Her latest project, Bored and Brilliant, studies the intersection between boredom and creativity and encourages us to turn off our phones and spend more time on creative thinking. To assist with her project, she created an app called Moment that tracks the amount of time that you spend on your smart phone each day and how often you check it.

bored4A few months ago, a group of girlfriends and I completed a social experiment that required us to go without media for an entire week. Our media fast included television, emails that were not strictly work-related, texting, and social media. For an entire week!  After my complete addiction to Facebook was demonstrated during the first day when I could barely contain myself to not catch a glimpse of my constantly updating newsfeed, I managed to overcome my non-media boredom. Instead of television, I read an entire novel during the week. I was also more present with my children and my work tasks list was amazingly completed during daytime hours. The week taught my friends and me many things, but I think the biggest message was this: we need simplification in our daily lives.

bored3At work, how many of us use our email inbox as our to-do list? Does everything that is important to your community transform into an email? Then why do we let electronics determine how we spend our time?

When was the last time that you spent a significant amount of free time pondering the strategies of your management or the challenges of your community? Have you been able to find boredom? Or do you look to the latest newsfeed, tweet, fantasy sports ranking, and so on to fill the time you could be spending immersed in the boredom that leads to creative innovation? Imagine the creative renaissance your organization would experience if exposure to media was limited and high-level strategies were pondered! bored7

Whether you try the Bored and Brilliant method or utilize the Moment app, I challenge you to unplug from all media outlets for five to ten minutes each work day and concentrate on strategies for your organization. Where is your organization today? Where is your organization going? How are you going to get the organization there?

Let’s find out where boredom and creativity can take your organization.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Ditching the Dissonance, pt. II: Avoiding Confirmation Bias

tumblr_ln3h17j6gL1qdmv0so1_500Back in mid-March, I wrote a blog post called “Ditching the Dissonance.” In this blog, I discussed how quickly bad information gets around, and how we become complicit in spreading it across the Internet via social media. I discussed the term “cognitive dissonance”, the theory that we “seek consistency in our beliefs and attitudes in any situation where two cognitions are inconsistent.” Today I want to consider how confirmation bias can influence our information seeking habits and how it can be detrimental to rational debate.

Foraging in the vast information fields of the Interwebs

Here’s a thought-provoking analogy from an old Library Quarterly article, cited in a paper presented by the Faculty of Information Studies of the University of Toronto:

Just as animals evolve different methods of gathering and hunting food or prey in order to increase their intake of nutrition, humans also adopt different strategies of seeking information in order to increase their intake of knowledge. Foraging for information on the Web and foraging for food share common features: both resources tend to be unevenly distributed in the environment, uncertainty and risk characterize resource procurement, and all foragers are limited by time and opportunity costs as they choose to exploit one resource over another (Sandstrom 1994).

fictiondeptLibrarians are great foragers and can help us find the best information to meet our needs but not everyone has librarian-level information foraging skills. Some of us are poor information foragers because we lack the skills OR we have the skills but aren’t always willing to utilize them. Sometimes we are short on time and need to take shortcuts on our information seeking journey. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to sift through the huge amount of information available to us so we choose the top results that Google returns. Sometimes we just want the information that will help us make the point we are trying to make in the heat of a debate and we don’t want the information that doesn’t support it. This is where confirmation bias comes in.

Confirmation bias, as defined by Science Daily is “a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.”

Even on a good day, confirmation bias can be a bad thing. When you are angry, it can be a disaster.

You mad, bro?

lonelyThere’s a quote from one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: “Angry people are not always wise.” (Tweet This) While this is usually true, never is it truer than when we apply it to our information seeking behaviors. Have you ever gotten into a debate on Facebook or Reddit, or observed other people engaged in debate, and watched the debate deteriorate to the level of name-calling and—even worse—the posting of links to hastily Googled, poorly sourced “articles” (as spurious blog posts are sometimes called)? I have seen debates like this end friendships.

kithheadcrusherI’ve always thought that the most amazing thing about Facebook, and the Internet in general, is its power to unite people who are separated by distance—people who haven’t seen each other for decades, relatives, etc.—or people who wouldn’t have met in real life but find each other on the Internet through shared interests and experiences. Yet, just as easily, it can tear these relationships apart and create enemies of people we’ve never even met because of the anonymity it provides. We can say things behind a computer screen that we’d never say to another human’s face. This is dangerous stuff.

When you are angry, you are not a good decision-maker, nor are you a good information-seeker. (Tweet This) You think you are, in the heat of the moment, but you aren’t. You are the worst information seeker you can possibly be when you are angry because you are looking for only the information that confirms your opinion, are incapable of viewing information in an unbiased way, and do not take the time to filter bad information.  At that point, you are not a peaceful caribou, foraging serenely in a field of bibliographic database search results, selecting only the best, most reliable information to meet your information needs; you are a rabid wolf, stalking any shred of information, reliable or not, to validate your righteous anger! You may even attack the peaceful caribou who tries to get you to consider evidence-based information compiled by experts! Hyperbole and analogies aside, you DO NOT want to be the rabid wolf in this scenario. Rabid info-seeking wolves often succumb to confirmation bias. (Tweet This)caribou

Real leadership requires that we rise above our own biases. (Tweet This) How we seek information affects how we interpret and present information and, if you are in a position of leadership, it is particularly important to maintain a high level of integrity when collecting and disseminating information. As a leader, you want to be fearless like a wolf; when it comes to foraging for information, you want to resemble the thoughtful caribou. Next week, we’ll talk about information seeking strategies and how to be an evidence-based-information-seeking caribou.

Written b10583892_10152176775975685_7374245496433923175_ny:
Muriel Call
Research Coordinator

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