Bad Habits Run Deep But They’re Breakable

Here’s a worthwhile article on breaking a toxic workplace for you today:

When we communicate the four levels of health in Christian organizations, toxic, critical moment, healthy and flourishing; the following are the characteristics we use to describe toxic.

  • Highly political
  • Stifled
  • Closed
  • Unclear direction
  • No trust
  • Fear
  • Autocratic leadership
  • Low staff engagement
  • Dishonesty

via Five Steps To Break A Toxic Workplace | BCWI’s Best.

Hiring and Leverage

A friend of mine wrote a good post on hiring the right people over at his blog:

If you sit down for an interview and you, as the employer or hiring manager, have all the leverage, you are hiring the wrong people.When you only attract candidates who need a job, who are focused on saying what you want to hear, who have become professionals at interviewing, you have all the leverage. You are not trying to woo them, they are trying to woo you. You control the selection process, dominate salary negotiations and dictate start dates, job descriptions and other details. You have all the leverage. You are in total control.

via How to know when you are hiring the wrong people | It’s Worth Noting.

It’s a good read.  Take a few minutes, especially if you’re involved in interviewing and hiring, and take a look!

Managing a Manager

One of my coaches sent me an article recently on managing managers.  Making the transition from managing technicians to managing others who are managing people is a tough shift in the workplace, and I’m working to develop people who are doing that for the first time and working to make my own skills at it better over time.  It’s worth a read if you are at all interested:

In some ways, managing managers is similar to managing anyone else – in that you need to build a great team, get aligned on goals and expectations on the front end, monitor the work and engage along the way, and create accountability and learning on the back end. But the key difference is that the work you’re overseeing is management – as opposed to other types of work, like organizing, communications, operations, or fundraising.When you’re managing, say, a trainer, you’d set expectations around that training work, check in the work as it’s ongoing, observe and give feedback on trainings, and assess the trainer’s results. But when you’re managing a manager, you’d do all those things around management: set expectations up-front for what good management looks like, observe and give feedback on the person’s management, and so forth.Here are five keys to doing that well.

via How to Manage Managers.

Making People Matter

Here’s a snippet from a short article, that could turn into something later, from a non-profit management blog I read on “matter-ness.”  If you’re interested in people management, I’d encourage you to take a look at the article and consider how you can help show those you work with that they matter to you, to your team, and to your organization.

For me, matter-ness began with a minipheny I had as president of my synagogue. For a year as president my inbox was filled with angry complaints. What happened to my parking spot? Why was the door locked? How come I didn’t know she died? And my favorite: why didn’t anyone call when I was in the hospital even though I didn’t tell anyone I was in the hospital?

And then it occurred to me that all of these complaints were actually one complaint: Why don’t I matter here?

via Matter-ness as Organizing Principle | Allison Fine.

EVP: Employee Value Proposition

When you get hired or hire someone for a job, it’s fairly common to hear about a job description.  It might be given under any number of names:  Key Results Areas (KRAs), Key Objectives (for an MBO, managing by objectives system), etc.  A job description, written or not, is what is expected of you or the new employee regarding what needs to be done.  This is the essence of the work related to the job.

What about, though, external expectations that aren’t a part of the job description?

If you are working for a big law firm in NYC this might include “you really should plan to work 6, 15 hour days minimum.  If you don’t bill at least 300 hours per month you won’t likely be here very long.”  At some workplaces you might be expected to work Saturdays during certain times of the year (think a tax accounting firm during February-April).  Some places have an expectation that all staff members give to a certain charity, or take part in certain community events.

These are expectations, spoken or not, that live outside of the job description.  We refer to these expectations as an Employee Value Proposition (EVP):

The EVP refers to the collective array of programs that an organization offers in exchange for employment. It is also referred to as the employment deal. The EVP defines the give and the get between company and worker, encompassing every aspect of the employment experience — from the organization’s mission, purpose and values, to its jobs, culture and people, to the full portfolio of its total rewards programs.  (Towers Watson)

Tomorrow, a good part of my HR module will be talking about an EVP for our various organizations.  The homework going into tomorrow’s class was to interview at least one employee and ask the following questions:

  1. When you chose to come to work for our organization, what were the benefits (both tangible and intangible) that you were happy about?  How have your views changed now – what benefits are most valuable to you?
  2. When you chose to come to work for our organization, what did you feel was expected of you, beyond the job description?  How have your views changed now – what expectations do you experience?
  3. What is the purpose of our work group?  Why do we exist?  What is our long-term vision?  What are we ultimately trying to accomplish?
  4.  What behaviors do you (and your coworkers) exhibit that contribute to our success?

And of course since this is a part of our “growing up” projects that I’m involved with, and since I want to be able to use this broadly at Samaritan for overall improvement, I thought, “why stop at one interview?”  So I started with 10.  I may get around to interviewing the other 90 staff members on the same topics (or a broad sampling of the other 90 at least) but I was able to get 10 in this week.  They didn’t take long (average 15-20 minutes after giving the questions beforehand) and they were extremely informative.

Here’s part of what I wrote in the executive summary I turned in Wednesday night:

The exercise was extremely helpful and the notes from the interviews will be a great resource as I work with the HR team on developing an expected profile/persona for recruitment.  As we look to add staff (we have almost two dozen more hires slated for the next 6-8 months) we want to hire not just for filling a job description, but deliberately look for talent who will share our core values and mesh well with our culture while bringing new skills and ideas that will affect and change that culture in the positive direction.  We have a great team of people working with us, and we want to continue to attract talented men and women who will work well as members of this team.  

It was encouraging to me that the answers to the first question, all included a deep appreciation for the culture at Samaritan Ministries.  And most of them included a devotion to our mission and values, despite the fact that I think we’ve not done as good of a job as we ought in communicating the mission, vision and values to the whole staff.  Especially not during the most recent growth spurt.

So I’m excited about class tomorrow and Saturday, and I’m excited about working with the HR team and the senior leadership in coming up with a formal EVP for our staff so that when we’re recruiting we can take into account not only whether someone will be able to do the job well (job description) but whether they’ll be able to fit in and be someone we want on our team (consistent with the EVP) in the long run.

So what are the “beyond the job description” expectations where you work?  Any you’d like to share here in the comments?

Talent and Culture

So last weekend I got to go back to class. Friday was a single day course on Organizational Culture and Saturday was the first of three days on Recruiting and Retaining Talent.

Oh my how two days can fly by! (Have I mentioned how much I love this EMBA program lately?)

The whole two days are a blur of great stories, great conversations and brilliant insights from the professors and other classmates. I’m sure I’ll write more about these modules as we complete them over the next two weeks, but here’s just a few things to start with:

Culture is important. Pretending that your workplace culture doesn’t matter (or for some managers that it doesn’t exist) won’t help or work. Purposefully engaging workplace culture and feeding it makes a huge difference in staff engagement. And your culture will eat up your strategy (culture eats strategy for lunch) if you’re not considering it carefully when you plan.

Culture evolves, it’s not installed. Too often (and I made huge mistakes in this area 15 years ago when I arrived at Samaritan) leaders think they can change culture by fiat. It doesn’t happen that way. Culture can be changed, but it takes slow, deliberate effort and it takes gaining buy-in from staff to make the change happen. It’s important to maintain the positive and move the workplace away from the negative, but it can’t be done instantly or by sheer willpower. At least not without strewing the bodies of former staff members along side of the pathway (this actually took place at PepsiCo a while back, and it “works”, but not if you want to keep the team you have now).

The first day for a new staff member is memorable. It always is, right? But day 23 isn’t. So why squander the first day on paperwork or on poor organization and planning? Why not make that first day a day where the new team member is made to feel welcome in a personal way and has a fantastic memory of how he or she came on board?

Mission matters. So make it matter in everything. Dr. Robin talked about working for the Great Workplace Institute and her boss would ask, when she returned back from a trip, “How did you change the world this week?” rather than “So what happened in Cleveland?” The answer to both questions is the same, but the focus on the mission is evident in the first and it makes a huge difference in how a team member assimilates the organizational values.

That’s just a little bit of what I learned this past weekend. I also had a stretching but encouraging time. Assessing how we’re doing is hard because I think we, as an organization, still have a ways to go. But it was encouraging because in every assessment we did I could say “we’re much better than we were a few years ago” or “yeah, I really messed that up back then, but we’ve grown out of it.”

Samaritan Ministries has been, for a few years running now, a Best Christian Workplace. But the first year or two we did that assessment we were anything but one of the best. We had a lot of growing to do, and we took the results seriously and grew. And every year we have to continue to take the results seriously because even though they’re good (better?) now it would be easy to drop back because we weren’t listening to team concerns. And as a leadership team, we’ve been deliberate about trying to continue to grow in our ability to lead and to serve the great men and women we get to work with, and I think God has blessed those efforts with success.

So I’m loving school still and enjoying the current module in particular. And in the funniest “homework”/application of learning so far: I’m wearing a T-shirt to work tomorrow. Feel free to ask why I’m doing that and why it’s significant…

Gifts, Talents, Resources, Success

So tomorrow we start a new EMBA module. I’ve been looking forward to this one: it’s one of the Human Resources (HR) modules. We’ll be talking about Corporate Culture, and Attracting and Developing Talent. This is an area where my organization has lagged at times, and where we have some huge goals on areas we want to improve. The HR Director is a direct report and so I’ll be going over class notes and assignments with him as well and he’ll get a piece of my degree learning for no additional charge.

The most recent module, Cost Management, started with Professor Wayvon giving an overview of why accounting is important for management of an organization. One of the most memorable quotes: At its base, EVERY problem is a people problem. And it’s true. Whether it’s technology, accounting, or services rendered: it’s a person who got you into that problem and solving it will involve people. Management is about people.

And I’m excited about improving my abilities at developing people. Managing people is great, but to really succeed in the long term we have to develop workers into better workers and managers who can do what we do. Unless you can replicate what you do in someone else, long term you will struggle.

So here’s the book for the class:  The Great Workplace:  How to Build It, How to Keep It and Why It Matters.   A snippet for your enjoyment:

If you are a leader, you must communicate, make decisions, and interact with people, just as leaders in all companies do. You may carry out your job description very well. But to be a leader in a great workplace, you need to not only execute your role but also instill certain beliefs in people as you are doing it. A great workplace is one where people trust the people they work for, take pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with. As a leader, you are the one to create and reinforce these beliefs with every communication, every decision, every interaction. To create a great workplace, you’ll need to do your job differently.  (From The Great Workplace)

Leadership means building culture and seeing it as your responsibility.  I’m excited about taking this next class and working on Culture and encouraging, recruiting and retaining talent for our organization.  Here’s a few of the topics on the syllabus for the next two weekends.

  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast: Impact of culture on performance
  • Understanding the leader’s role in shaping and maintaining culture
  • Mission, Vision and Values
  • philosophies, techniques, and practices of recruitment
  • hiring philosophy
  • New staff onboarding
  • leadership development programs and philosophy

I’ll share some of what I learn here, of course, but this is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to working along side Samaritan’s HR Director as we learn, stretch, adopt and plan together especially in the coming month.

Location:N Orange St,Peoria,United States