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Ripples in the Work Environment

Just as a stone hitting the water causes ripples, strategic decisions cause ripples in an organizational culture. I thought about that Monday night as my husband audibly gasped when Alabama brought in a true freshman quarterback to start the half. Really? The starting quarterback is 25-2. He’s proven himself. But yet the leader chose to throw a rather large stone into the pond.

Understanding the magnitude of the ripples and where they flow allows strong leaders to ensure the team and culture are prepared for the after effects of the decision. It might mean creating some safety nets for potential issues the decision may cause. Or, it could simply mean stepping up communication to ensure the team is prepared to address the next decisions coming their way. It is the responsibility of a leader to hone their decision-making skills to include addressing the potential of ripples.

Good leaders focus on making strong, well informed decisions that move the team in the direction to succeed with goals and objectives. Great leaders understand that current decisions always have ripples and work ahead of them by asking themselves these questions. Maybe that’s why Nick Saban has won 6 national championships.

  • What things will be influenced or changed by the decision? Is it the resources, culture, or maybe the manufacturing flexibility?
    • Develop a plan to address the challenges that will soon be coming so that the ripples do not overtake the team
  • What additional areas need attention to ensure the decision builds strength for the group?
    • Envision what things will look like in 6 months based on the decision. Start now to build the resources needed.
  • What other other groups or functions will be touched by the decision? Will their work load change or the actual task change? Will there be any “unintended consequences”?
    • Help them prepare so that the changes flow seamlessly.

Embrace the ripples and use them to your advantage. Don’t let them overtake and dampen your team. Hey, it worked in Monday night’s game.

Be intentional,

Mr. Carson and his new fangled telephone

There is a scene in the show Downton Abbey where the Butler, Mr. Carson is given his very first phone. He sits there practicing over and over how he should answer it if that modern contraption ever rang. He uses various phrases and tonality. It is a really cute scene because we take our modern conveniences as a given. But it did get me thinking about how technology has influenced our meetings.

If you are like me, you probably are finding many meetings are being conducted through teleconferencing or online video. Face to face seems to be getting less common, mostly to save money and to save time.

And like our Mr. Carson practiced with the new fangled phone, we need to be aware of some basic actions that can make an online meeting more productive. Here’s a short list of actions you can take to make your meetings more productive:

Introductions are more important online
Everyone should state their name (location) at the start of the meeting. This helps folks identify the speaker’s voice. One trick I use is to draw a rectangle and then write down the names as each person goes around the call. It helps me visualize who’s “in the room”

Be physically aware of your presence
Your physical presence affects your online persona. Did you know that some sales people place a mirror in front of their phone so when they are speaking they remember to smile. It really affects the tone/tenor of your voice. As goes your posture, so goes your voice. Be cognizant of your posture during the call.

Beware of insider language
If you are meeting with external customers or suppliers – remember, some of the terms you use inside your company may not mean anything outside of your company. Your words matter even more if you aren’t able to see the other person’s body language which leads me to the non verbal cues of your conversation.

Body language still speaks in volumes
Only about a billion articles have been written on this subject. If you are on a  teleconference call you do not see the other person’s body language. Be careful about using humor because it may fall flat. In an online meeting – you can see the other person in a video conference so it would be to your advantage to take a moment and position the camera so it is not looking up your nose or that you are centered and not sitting half out of frame. Also remember to see what’s behind you – if you have a clear glass pane and people are walking back/forth during your call it could become a distraction.

Clothing matters
If you are using a video call, you have to know what the camera sees. What is in your background? What clothes are you wearing? You have to think like a television producer. Be cognizant of that your clothes don’t make you appear like a floating spectral because they blend into the background. Conversely, red, stripes and other patterns may interfere with your messaging. Remember, “frame rate” affects the transmission between your camera and theirs. In between you have firewalls, proxy servers, and a whole host of other things that can slow down your video feed.

Muting your speakerphone is a courtesy to others
If you are not talking, go on mute. No matter how quiet you think you are moving papers, different speakers amplify noise at different levels. And for heaven’s sake – if that’s the only time you can eat during your day, please mute. We don’t want to hear you chewing your chips.

The delay
If you are calling around the globe – you may have a slight delay in transmission. You’ll know early in the meeting if you have a transmission delay so be on the look out for those awkward pauses.

Be here now
It’s tempting to text, read emails or have side conversations while on a teleconference but it could cause you to miss a key point. Stay in the game. Stay engaged in the call.

Alert others if you need to step out
Let the people on the call know when you are going on or off mute. Or if you have to step out of the room. In a video conference your absence is much easier to notice.

Like Mr. Carson, we all have much to learn as we embrace these new “meeting tools” into our business processes. I think they will make us better in the long run if we choose to follow some simple actions to make them so.

Be intentional,

“Be Intentional” Little words. Big ramifications

With all of the change occurring around us these days, I have heard several questions surrounding the word: “Legacy”. Folks have asked, what will the legacy of x be? What will this mean to Y?

I thought about it and have a question I want to ask.

Have you ever thought about your own legacy upon leaving a meeting? I mean, it’s just one meeting, in one day, of one week, of one month, of one year, right? But think about all of those “legacy moments”  and how they add up to the big overall legacy picture.

A tiny rudder named “Intentionality” steers a big ship called the “Your Legacy”.

Which is why I thought long and hard about how I wanted to sign-off my “Thought for the week…”. What were the last words I wanted to leave with you every week? After all, it’s a simple 400 or so word blog, once a week, 52x a year… but eventually you’ll have enough of these blogs to get a sense of my perspective.

What’s my legacy with you?

“Be Intentional” is as much a reminder to myself as it is to “all y’all” reading this. Everything we do, we are responsible for our thoughts, emotions, actions, and motives. We own who we are and how we behave. Granted we can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we respond. I’ve told my husband more than once that he can’t control the red lights but he can control how he feels about sitting at a red light. (And he is free to disagree with me.)

“Be intentional” means…

  • Taking the time to think through scenarios and what our actions/words should be. This way we are not randomly responding. Or as they say, “shooting from the hip”. Loose lips sink legacy ships.
  • Owning our words. The most successful professionals never say things to just make themselves feel better. Leaders’ words are powerful and should be weighed carefully.
  • Understanding that emotions have a place means they need to be managed. To do that, thought must be put into why you feel a certain way and knowing your personal hot buttons.
  • Checking and double checking our motives. Are you saying “X” just to make yourself feel better? Or, as a servant leader, are you striving to make the team better?

In summary, be intentional in thought, word and deed this coming week. Measure your thoughts and be intentional with your words. My Sunday school teacher often said, “say what you mean and mean what you say” In other words: “Be intentional”.


Let your actions equal the who, what, when, where and how of your team’s execution

What do you want to achieve or avoid? The answer to these questions are objectives. How will you go about achieving your desired results? The answer to this you can call strategy.  William E Rothschild

At an early age I learned about the 4 “w”s and “how”. Seems it has always been a part of my thought process. What, Where, When, Why, and How.

All goals, missions, vision, strategy statements and objectives wrap around “4W&H”. They are linked at the core of the thought and are intertwined at the execution. Micro and macro and unless there is cohesiveness, until you understand how it all comes together as one, you cannot communicate to your team what the end purpose is. As a result, your team won’t be “rowing in the same direction”.

The most basic disconnect can catch the best of teams off guard. Watch for the signs and work to help your team keep “rowing in the same direction”.

Are various parts of your team struggling to work together? Make sure their targets and metrics are not at cross purposes. When team members are set up with conflicting goals, instead of rowing in one direction, you may end up rowing in circles or worse, dead in the water.

Is your team hitting their metrics, yet losing the overall game? Your micro assessment is not adding up to your macro needs. Time to realign the layers.

Does it seem like your goal conversations are disconnected from the daily work being done? Time to realign the focus and priorities.

Let the actions speak as loud as the words. Remember the old saying, “Your actions are speaking so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Be intentional

3 strategies to clarify your communication

This past summer while on an international assignment, the teams I worked with used some good “words” to help clarify and communicate more effectively. Specifically, there were three effective communication strategies I saw employed:
  1. Socialize“:   Whenever there was a new thought or idea, the team talked about “socializing the idea”.  This meant for people to discuss, debate, expose people to the thought, and work together to internalize the idea.
  2. Talking past each other“:  Like calling a time out, either person or even someone listening would say “I think we are talking past each other”. It meant we are not talking about the same thing, or we are not getting anywhere understanding each other.  It meant it was time to reset the conversation so understanding and communication could take place.
  3. My ask“:  Teams succeed by everyone throwing into the conversation, chewing on the options, and talking through the “what ifs”.  However, sometimes the team can lose the summary, and/or not understand what the request was instead of what the suggestions or brain storming were.  By summarizing the conversation by saying, “The ask is…” clears the path to know just what exactly is being sought. Clarifying by using the words, “My ask is” can be a good way to summarize and ensure something needed is not lost in the conversation.
Communication is necessary for success in any environment or initiative.  I saw people using these phrases firsthand – and they were very successful in getting the team moving in the same direction.
Be intentional

Finding your circle’s touch points


Feeling blue?

When an organization undertakes a “redo”, finding your spot in the new organization is similar to starting a new job. You learn what your tasks are to create the outputs you are accountable for. You soon find the circle (some would argue “circus”) that defines your day, your goals and your contribution to the organization.

Eventually, you learn how your circle affects other circles and those circles touch other circles, and so on. You also learn you’ll have to overlap with some people or teams to ensure everything that needs to be done gets done. For example, someone in your organization is formally responsible for continuous improvement but that doesn’t mean everyone else is absolved of responsibility for driving continuous improvement. Your circle overlaps with the continuous improvement person’s because everyone is responsible for continuous improvement.

If you only do your own “circle” and not take into account how it interacts and overlaps with your surrounding “circles” means:

  1. Some things will not get done. It is inevitable. Throwing “it” over the wall isn’t the same as overlapping. All it means is your desk is clean but your co-worker is cleaning up your mess. You’re better than that. “Know before you throw.”
  2. The organization becomes weaker. A chain is a series of interlinked circles. Unlinking them means your organization will have much weaker pulling power the next time you run into a “tree-stump of a problem”
  3. There will be a communication blackout. Like a brownout that runs through a city, some blocks will have lights while other neighborhoods will be plunged into darkness. Instead, why not maintain your circles and make sure there aren’t any gaps in them? Interaction promotes understanding. It ensures you know why your customer needs something, not just what they need.

Overlap is a catalyst to change. It creates an environment to share. It invites people to be curious and ask questions that could get you thinking about something you have never thought about. It promotes continuous improvement.

If you find yourself saying “that’s not my job”, ask yourself if you are leaving a gap.  When establishing roles in a new organizational structure, it may not be your job, however if you see a hole it is your responsibility to the team to find a way to fill it.

Be intentional,