Archives for October 2013

Benefits of a Workplace Community

 Workplace Community, Community Social

Let’s face it, the command and control structure for running companies is dead! It just doesn’t work in the social, transparent, always connected world in which we live. Workplace communities are slowly replacing the more traditional, stodgy corporate information delivery methods, mainly because they don’t focus on delivery so much as sharing.

Kick starting a workplace community in your company could enable a more free-flowing dialog across a range of diverse groups, leading to significant leaps in innovation as well as communication. A programmer or trainer may read a blog post by a marketing manager, leading to a new product idea or an innovative design. A sales rep could read a market research white paper posted by a product manager and come up with a new market for one of your solutions. Forget information silos and think information communities.

These ideas can turn into conversations that can lead to more ideas. Communities that use social-based tool sets can capture these ideas and push them forward through community collaboration.

“The Social Era is about connecting things, people, and ideas. Networks of connected people with shared interests and goals create ways that produce returns for any company that serves their needs.” – Nilofer Merchant, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra.

The Internet and social networks have changed the way we interact with each other. Modern workplaces consist of a new level of engagement and knowledge sharing that is transforming the way companies operate. The social web has grown into a medium through which individuals have become empowered by the collective knowledge of the organization. We are connecting in ways we have never done before, and it all starts with workplace communities.

Workplace Communities

Workplace Communities help solve these key workplace-related challenges:

  • Employee development, performance, and growth
  • Productivity and efficiency
  • Innovation

Employee Development, Performance, and Growth

Less-skilled workers can connect with their more experienced colleagues through social networking features like the “Ask a Question” feature in LinkedIn. Having accesses to the expertise or skillset of coworkers and colleagues enables employees to actively participate in conversations about the content they are researching, enhancing its value and eventually allowing them to become content producers themselves.

The social aspect of sharing content not only opens up more social networking and mentoring opportunities, it provides opportunities for the employees to contribute. This can improve productivity and it can also ensure that learning and knowledge become a regular part of day-to-day operations.

Productivity and Efficiency

Workplace Communities strengthen existing relationships and enable exposure to second and third tier connections like we see in tools like LinkedIn and Twitter. These types of connections can greatly enhance the flow of information between groups with different interests. They help foster innovation via fresh perspectives, new ideas, and increased diversity.

“When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary ideas.” – Frans Johansson, The Medici Effect: What You Can Learn From Elephants and Epidemics.

Developing teams that are cross-cultural, cross-functional, and cross-generational is key to creating diversity in workplace communities. In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki states “greater diversity in decision-making leads to more accurate answers when pursuing solutions to complex or poorly-defined challenges.” Workplace communities provide a solid foundation on which to build a diverse knowledge base within the company.

Innovation

Innovation is one of the key areas where we can differentiate ourselves from our competition. Just as companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft drive the technology industry through innovation; workplace communities can increase the quality and amount of innovation within a company. They help to solve work-related challenges, using a variety of workplace solutions.

“Innovation comes from ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” – Steve Jobs

Social Solutions

Social solutions enable employees to connect with each other and with the information they need.

  • Wikis – Employees can share their expertise provide a repository of knowledge that can improve performance and help new hires to hit the ground running.
  • Blogs – Employees can follow the blogs of internal experts and leaders, helping them to feel more involved to the overall vision of the company.
  • Discussion forums – Employees can share multiple perspectives on specific topics, and connect through our ideas and personal relationships.
  • Shared file repository – Like wikis, shared repositories are a way to help new hires access the knowledge and experience in order to hit the ground running while being more productive.
  • Video and Audio sharing – As with wikis, blogs, and shared files, video and audio repositories can be a way to help new hires hit the ground running while being more productive. They are also more aligned with how we (as a society) currently consume online media and information.
  • Learning modules – Learning has quickly become a natural part of our web experience through things like online college classes, watching professional webinars, or online research.
  • Social networking – Employees can connect socially and professionally all while providing a safety net for new hires, and mentoring opportunities for more experienced employees.
  • Social solutions provide a workplace community with a range of options that can lead to more opportunities for growth and development.

Workplace communities allow employees across the company to share their knowledge as well as key information. They enable an open dialog across across the company that cannot only increase innovation but also help boost the bottom line.

What do you think? Are workplace communities necessary in today’s organizations? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

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The Effectiveness of Quiet Leadership

quiet-leadership

Lao Tzu once said that “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I firmly believe that effective leaders shouldn’t focus on themselves, or how well they can tell their team members what to do. I believe it’s best to find ways to help your team to think more critically and constructively. As leaders, we need to help our team members to think in such a way that we are almost invisible.

Higher-Quality Thinking
Most of the time we are trying to help our teams solve problems. The best way to do this is to change the way they think. I’ve touched on this before when I discussed performance and implementing cultural change in the workplace. In fact, one could say that changing the way people think is one of the greatest challenges to improving performance and getting people to solve problems. In order to do this, we have to inspire a higher-quality of thinking in our teams.

Higher-quality thinking improves the overall thinking of others around you as well as your team. It literally improves the way your team’s brains process information, and if you can do this, you don’t have to tell them what to do, they will know. Just look at how many organizations pay employees to think and analyze data and situations. Don’t tell your team members how to solve a task, ask them how they think they should solve it. Force them to think critically and possibly develop multiple solutions to a problem, then stand back and watch them solve it. Improving the way your team thinks can be one of the best and quickest ways in which they can improve their performance and benefit the organization as a whole.

Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership
The more traditional approach to leadership has been to be bold and assertive, to be a dominant figure who provides commanding direction. However, in my experience, I’ve seen that this approach can stifle employees who are outspoken, independent, and who would otherwise take initiative. On the other hand, I’ve seen that quiet, more introverted leaders tend to be more successful with today’s workers by allowing them to step up and grow within an organization.

Psychology today states that as much as half of the population are introverts, in spite of the the popular view that charismatic extroverts are the ones who prevail in business. I think that this has a lot to do with misconceptions such as introverts are shy, anxious, and afraid of taking charge. However, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler Pd.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, states that introverts are merely more reserved and process information internally. They focus on deeper meanings and connections, and only share personal information with a select few people.

Bringing it All Together
Organizations are becoming increasingly filled with intelligent employees from a wide-range of backgrounds. Employees who bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to the teams on which they work. Add to this the fact that organizations continue to adopt a self-managing approach to their team structures, which in turn, encourages more independent workers.

Many employees today don’t accept passive roles in their organizations. They want to take action and be a part of the overall vision. They do not want to be repressed by a command and control system that forces them into a hive mentality. They work better with quiet, introverted leaders who know how to encourage high-quality, critical thinking skills; leaders that step out of their employees way and allow them to shine.

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Procrastination – lack of knowledge or lack of interest?

As my list of to-do’s continue to get longer and longer, both in my professional, personal and student lives, I often wonder how much of my perceived procrastination is because I don’t know how to do something or if I just have my priorities wrong?

There are definitely responsibilities in my life that are not interesting to accomplish, and more of those seem to get added to that list than the fun energizing ones.   I definitely tend to manage my time by due dates, although at times, even those need to be de-prioritized for a something more pressing.

Recently I was discussing with my manager an issue of a peer team being non-responsive to deadlines.  He told me that people don’t get things done because they don’t know how to do it or they don’t feel it important (de-prioritize).   I have been thinking about this a lot with my own internal de-prioritization.

I am a mom, wife, daughter, graduate student, e-commerce merchandiser for a large company, entrepreneur of a seasonal brick and mortar retail store, a person that wants to get into better shape and, although sometimes I forget, a human that still needs occasional downtime (a.k.a. sleep).

When managing yourself, a team of either direct reports or peers, or even managing up to a supervisor, keep in mind the reason why things may not be getting done.

Is it because someone doesn’t know what to do, or it isn’t a priority?

In both a personal and work environment, tasks that are less desirable, will take longer, or are more challenging are often put to the bottom of the list.  Balancing that with tasks that you truly are not sure how to tackle is key.

I am the type of person that needs all of the information to best make decisions, and often to even get started on a project.   In the ever changing nature of my job, that often leaves me stressed that I am late getting projects accomplished.   However, I look at other people in my workplace who constantly provide an overload of information and the minute by minute changes, where I wait it out for the final direction and give one set of directives.   Which is better?  Of course, I’m still figuring that out.

Often, I do notice that tasks or projects that I find myself skipping on my list are those that I am missing some point of knowledge that prevents me from either starting or completing.    When managing a team of people and you find that tasks are not getting accomplished, dig deeper, find out why.

Keep in mind that often, if you are the team leader, that others will not want to admit that they don’t know what to do.   Fostering an atmosphere of openness to ask the proverbial ‘stupid question’ and ability to admit when you also don’t know something, can work wonders in helping get to the underlying issue of why things aren’t getting done.

Another issue is that of prioritization or de-prioritization.  Does your team know what needs to be done first?  What tasks are most critical to the business?  What are the clear deadlines?   What are the one, two, three things that have to be accomplished today?   I know I need to start there and I’m sure my stress level regarding the rest of that long list will ease up.

If you’re feeling like me, ask yourself,

“What’s holding you back from that To-Do list?  Information or something more important?”

 I’d love to hear ideas you have for managing your responsibilities!

 

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