We all win with diverse work environments!

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“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

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Mentors provide valuable lessons for us to share

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“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.

 (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We all need someone to mentor and guide us on our journey.  I have had some great people step into my life and provide guidance needed for successful outcomes.  I reach out and thank them as much as possible because their lessons walk with me every day.

I purposefully relay those same messages to my tree branches when needed.  So, the tree started with my mentors, and my goal is to keep it growing with new branches who will grow additional branches.

Had an interesting conversation with one of my closest branches.  She mentioned she met with former students at their request and realized these students were branches from her tree.  I hope to continue to hear about additional tree branches sprouting in other areas.  How many branches have you added to the tree?

Greatest lesson learned

The greatest lesson I learned from my mentor is patience with others.  The pace of the world continues to accelerate but patient leaders provide direct reports the space to learn, make mistakes and grow.  Leaders who display patience in the work environment provide a space for reflection and active coaching when needed.  The exact lesson my mentor gifted me I call:  3 check-ins.  Sounds like a weird game for the work environment but I’ve seen it work and leverage it to this day.

So, how does 3 check-ins work?  Great question!

Example:

You assign a work project to one of your direct reports with a specific due date.  Instructions are provided but you allow the direct report freedom to get the project completed prior to the due date.  The assigned project will have 3 check-in points built in where the leader comes back to the direct report to:

  • Make sure the assignment was understood (reflection)
  • Answer outstanding questions (learn)
  • Offer support/guidance if needed (coaching)
  • Adjust goals (as needed)

The 3 check-ins are spaced out to allow for adjustments to the project if needed but keeps the direct report focused on positive outcomes.  Creating organized check points for the project shows the leader is a willing partner and seeks growth for team members.  This also eliminates the direct report from feeling like they are alone on the project.  We want them to take initiative but not feel they have no support.

The 3 check-ins approach is not designed as a fancy way to micromanage a team.  It provides a support system to enhance professional growth and ensure successful outcomes for the entire team.  Also, the approach allows the leader to serve their team and maximize individual talents.

How do you provide support when assigning projects to your team?  How can the 3 check-in approach enhance your operation?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“The best teachers are those who tell you where to look—but don’t tell you what to see”.

 (Alexander K. Trenfor) 

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“Play chess not checkers in the work environment.”

(Calvin Williams)

Thanks for walking with me!

Leverage individual communication styles to enhance team operations

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“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly”.

(Mark Sanborn)

There are no two teams that are exactly alike.  Not the most prophetic thing I’ve ever written in this blog space but worth stating.

Teams have different dynamics and function based on these things and the people who make up the team.  The most successful teams can leverage the talents of each team member into the overall organizational dynamic to ensure successful outcomes.

We’ve discussed team communication strategies in previous posts with an angle to strengthen your team.  Individual communication styles and preferences should be reviewed and discussed when you add someone new to your team.  I’m sure everyone strives to hire the best candidate to fill an opening on their team.  How much thought do you put into understanding how to integrate the new team member’s communication style in with others?

I’m a firm believer that leaders should know direct reports’ communication style and preferred way they want to receive information.  This knowledge allows leaders to seek ways to ensure they communicate in a way to maximize operational needs.  This knowledge has helped me when assigning tasks to team members.

Example #1:  When faced with a project that has an extremely quick turnaround time, I normally assign this project to my ENFJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project excites the staff member and I know they will get things done quickly with enough time for review before the deadline.

Example #2:  When faced with a project due four months from today, I normally assign this project to my ISTJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project allows the staff member time to plan, strategize and ask all the questions they need to for a successful outcome.

The examples listed above are two actual scenarios I’ve tackled in the past.  Both had successful outcomes because I knew and understood how to engage staff to maximize their talents.  This in turn produced successful outcomes for the organization.

Knowledge of individual communication styles also provides a blueprint to help build training plans to help staff members grow.  Introverted staff are not exempt from ever getting a task with a quick turnaround.  The leader needs to provide a more detailed set of instructions and understand they may have to follow-up with the staff member.  This process begins to stretch the staff member and helps their professional growth.  This also provides the leader with another staff member who can handle future quick turnaround projects and not wear out the extroverts.  Also, extroverted staff are not exempt from being assigned long term projects—training applies to all staff members.

There are multiple ways to engage staff to understand their individual communication style.  MBTI and CliftonStrengths are two tools used in my work environments.  These tools allowed me to get a better understanding of everyone on my team and integrate this knowledge to help teammates understand each other as well.

What’s the most successful way for me to understand how to communicate with my team?  I sit down with them and ask everyone how they like to receive information.  Simple, huh?  Then I make sure to communicate with everyone in a manner they identify (as much as possible).  Things pop up but I try to remain consistent with the communication process.  Direct reports seem to appreciate this fact and respond in a positive manner.

A final note, leaders need to ensure their team knows how they like to communicate as well.  The team shouldn’t have to guess how to approach a leader.  This creates undo stress and is not productive.

How do you account for individual communication styles in the work environment?  Can this knowledge impact your current organization?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”.

(Plato)

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People are more important than the job description (My soapbox)

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“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”.

(Andy Stanley)

So, need to vent for a minute.

Continue to see and hear across multiple industries where the boss makes job description modifications (additions/deletions/unit changes) without discussing with the person doing the actual job.  The boss is then surprised when staff decide to find a work environment that views them as more than the job description.

Please note, I’m not saying changes can’t be made to a specific job description.  Organizational missions change and updating duties, responsibilities and unit structure provides growth needed to move forward.  Leaders need to ensure the people tasked with getting things accomplished remain a part of the overall process.  Imagine the favorite part of your current position is removed and nothing was said to you prior to implementation.  How would you feel?

I know leaders who make decisions based on how the job description is written and refuse to consider the impact on the person in the position.  Never agreed with this logic and still don’t.  People are more important than the job description!

The authentic leadership variable balanced processing would help in these situations.  My research identified balanced processing as the variable that best explains job satisfaction for direct reports.  They want to be involved and should be.

Leaders are encouraged to seek and find the big picture before making decisions.  Simply identifying potential job description changes would allow staff to provide input before the final product is created.  Balanced processing is leveraged to build trust, encourage professional growth for direct reports and provides a foundational and reliable decision-making process.  It also signals all opinions are valued and expected.  The concept eliminates personal bias from the decision-making process, everyone in the organization has input prior to the final decision.  Again, people are more important than the job description!

I continue to promote the authentic leadership model because it can help create positive workplace outcomes and improve organizational performance.  It may also stop workplace turnover and get me off this overworked soapbox!

Okay, I’m dropping the microphone and stepping down from my soapbox. 😊

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How does your work environment ensure people are not overlooked?  Does your leadership put job descriptions ahead of the people doing the job?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team”.

(Stephen Covey)

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Strong tree branches keep me moving forward

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“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together”.

(African Proverb)

My collective tree branches continue to amaze me daily!

I enjoy watching the great things they are doing in their respective areas of higher education, mentoring, volunteering, speaking, podcasting, recruiting, leadership development and fitness to name a ‘few’ areas these outstanding folks are making a difference.

The one area that stands out to me today as I write this is the teamwork they constantly display.  My Walk into the Future has led me away from a physical office space—as noted, I primarily work out of coffee shops with Lucky Goat being first choice.  My previous work life allowed me to be surrounded by direct reports and colleagues every day.  There was always someone available to me whenever I had a question, concern or marketing idea I needed to hash out.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”.

(Henry Ford)

My current walk provides me unlimited freedoms to decide what I work on and when.  The one limiting factor is I don’t have ‘my’ team right down the hallway to bounce things off.

A great aspect of having so many tree branches is they are only a text message, email or phone call away when I need help.  Today was a perfect example of how great my tree branches are.  Needed some help generating a Presentation Value Proposition for a conference proposal I was working on.

I had no trouble describing my proposed presentation, highlighting learning outcomes and generating an overall summary.  Couldn’t generate the Value Proposition for the presentation for some odd reason—just couldn’t make it pop or even sound interesting.

Reached out to two of my most creative tree branches and described my dilemma.  Provided them with what I needed to do and my attempt to generate the Value Proposition.  They both jumped into teammate mode and sent me back appealing options for the Value Proposition that made the presentation sound exciting.  The point being is even without us being in the same cities, my team still has my back and we make each other better daily.

The ability to stress the importance of teamwork is something I’m proud to bring to every organization I’ve worked with.  It’s great to see my tree branches continue to embrace team concepts and help others grow.  Well done tree branches—keep up the great things you do daily!  Very proud of your efforts!

Thanks to my tree branches who return my texts, emails, phone calls and LinkedIn shout outs!  You’re fueling this journey one step at a time—Irie!

What are the most important team concepts you display daily?  How can you enhance the team experience in your work environment?  Thanks!

Respect Melissa and V’Rhaniku!

ER 2016

(2016 team bowling outing)

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else”.

(Booker T. Washington)

The search for unicorns: Leverage the first-round interview

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‘Take risks:  if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.’

(Unknown)

Organizations looking to hire the next unicorn to join their team utilize multiple tools to get the desired results.

The first-round interview is an avenue to further screen candidates who meet the baseline qualifications listed in a job description.  Organizations make a concerted effort to attract and hire the best possible candidate for their openings.  The preferred method to conduct a first-round interview will vary by organization and industry.  Some folks will swear by the telephone interview while others leverage technology and bring a video element to the first-round interview process.  Enhancing this process may allow organizations to spot and hire their next unicorn.

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Telephone interviews:

Yes, there still are organizations that leverage this method to screen candidates.  It allows candidates the ‘convenience’ of selecting a location to chat with interviewers.  This method also provides the opportunity to have documents (resume/cover letter/notes) readily available to refer to during the actual interview.  Candidates do not have to dress professionally for this type process, but it is recommended to get them into the right frame of mind.  Some do and some don’t; this may hinder a unicorn’s performance during the interview.  This type interview does not allow the organization seeking talent to get a full ‘view’ of the candidate.  Emotion, passion, desire and professionalism may not translate for everyone via a phone call.

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Video interviews:

Google video interviewing software and you get results for a large amount of available options.  Recommend organizations research the software tools to fit their unique needs.

Two familiar options are:  Skype and HireVue.

Skype:

Skype has been my go-to tool for conducting first-round interviews in previous roles.  The flexibility of Skype interviews allows for scheduling ease when hosting panel interviews.  This process provides a search committee with an opportunity to meet a candidate via a live feed to see their interactions with other committee members.  The candidate can also meet the committee via the live feed and engage them like a face to face meeting.  Facial expressions (good or bad), eye contact, and communication ability can all be ‘viewed’ on both sides of the video feed.  These real interactions can help when deciding if the candidate progresses to the next round in the interview process.  This is also a quick and easy way to gauge a candidate’s ability to utilize technology.  Creating a Skype account and using the software is not a highly complicated process.  This may highlight limited technology skills for the candidate (important if your organization values technology skills).

HireVue:

HireVue is a software package that provides organizations the ability to search a deeper pool of candidates.  Organizations can create the structure needed to ensure each candidate’s interview experience is consistent.  This concept can help to eliminate perceived or real bias in the interview process. Candidates receive a HireVue interview request via email with a link to select with a deadline to complete the video interview.  Instructions on computer, camera and microphone capabilities are provided to test run prior to conducting the interview.

HireVue also enables candidates to try ‘practice questions’ and record themselves with real playback as many times as needed to get comfortable. All candidates are presented with the same written interview questions/situations in exact order.  They are provided time to gather their thoughts and notes with a countdown clock.  Candidates then provide their video recorded response to each question with a scheduled pause between questions.  The recorded responses are compiled at the end and provided directly to the hiring organization (committee) for review and final assessment.  Successful candidates are then provided instructions for the next round of the interview.

HireVue is another quick and easy way to determine a candidate’s technology capabilities.

Again, there are a lot of ways to look for and hire a unicorn.  Recommend organizations find a method that provides multiple ‘touch points’ to ensure they are using a platform to bring out the very best of each candidate.  You don’t want to miss the unicorn and bring in a candidate who had a great ‘phone’ voice but nothing more once you meet them for the first time.

How does your organization find and hire unicorns?  What things can your organization improve in the first-round interview process?  Curious and eager to learn more—thanks!

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Relational Transparency – Take your leadership to the next level

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“The lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”.

(Dalai Lama)

The concept of transparency within the work environment continues to grow.  Leaders who display relational transparency show they are willing to share information and understand direct reports, peers and supervisors want to be involved.

The quote above provides outcomes when transparency is absent from the relational process.

Relational transparency is an authentic leadership variable that highlights leaders should understand the impact their daily interactions can have (positive or negative) within the work environment.  Relational transparency involves the leader presenting their authentic self, which helps develop trust by sharing true thoughts and feelings and displaying appropriate emotions.  Trust develops as the leader shares information openly with all levels within the organization.  Consistency with words, thoughts and actions are staples of relational transparency.

How can Relational Transparency improve work outcomes?

  • Creates a nurturing environment
  • Shows direct reports they are valued and appreciated
  • Helps build meaningful and transparent relationships
  • Enhances overall organizational functions
  • Should be applied to both sides of a work relationship

Relational transparency can be leveraged to improve working relationships on multiple levels of an organization.  This process can be used when working with staff members from other departments or organizations.  Building trust when working on committees across the organization will only enhance the ability of the team to meet stated goals.  A transparent leader’s authenticity can be viewed easily throughout the organization because nothing is being hidden in daily interactions with others.

Leaders must be willing and able to ‘balance’ multiple relationship levels:  direct reports, peer to peer and supervisors.  Relational transparency provides leaders with an impactful way to build productive working relationships and enhance the overall functioning of the work environment.

How do you display relational transparency in your work environment?  How would this authentic leadership variable enhance daily interactions?