August 30, 2014

Is it Unprofessional to Gossip at Work? Weigh In!

It’s Not “Unprofessional” to Gossip at work

gossip at work picture

Do You Gossip At Work? I Think We All Do!

Or Is It?

This is the eye grabbing title of a recent article in Harvard Business Review.

The article immediately grabbed my eye, because I have always felt that gossip at work is something that should never be tolerated, yet this article has opened me up a bit on the subject.

In life and in the world of leadership coaching, I have never  been a fan of a great deal of gossip at work (or in social circles), because I believe that:

  1. About 99% of the time, gossip is delivered by a third party.  I don’t really want to believe much that does not come straight out of the horse’s mouth.
  2. By the time I hear gossip, I wonder how much the story has been changed, watered down or embellished
  3. I always wonder about the source…gossip always seems to come to me from the same people, so it makes me wonder about their motives.
  4. I have seen gossip at work destroy families and businesses.

The recent HBR article suggests that managers and leaders often try to squelch gossip at work without addressing the deep rooted problem that is generating it…that gossip is a symptom of a much larger issue and by listening closely, a leader can work to resolve the big problem at the root.

I  know that everyone gossips…we all do in one way or another.  And…managers and leaders DO gossip.  My question today, is this:  Do you agree that workplace gossip can be professional if addressed head on?

Leave your comments below about the HBR Article about Gossip at Work below.

Leadership Coaching Lesson From Marshall Goldsmith: When Your Employees Know More Than You

Marshall Goldsmith has a great post on his blog on Harvard Business Review the topic of what to do when your employees know more than you.

With our new generation of knowledge workers, we are all going to be faced with this opportunity.  So, start considering how to leverage this talent to your advantage and well being of your team.

Read the article here.

Video: Why You Should Invest in Leadership Development and Leadership Coaching

This is an edition of the Management Minute.

Management guru Peter Drucker once said: “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

Recent studies performed by Bersin & Associates, Talent Intelligence, the Harvard Business Review have comments like this: The message is clear leadership development matters. It is hard to find a company which has survived many economic cycles that does not have a proven leadership development strategy in place.

Imagine Leadership | By XPLANE & Nitin Nohria

Nitin Nohria and Amanda Pepper of Harvard Business School’s Leadership Initiative collaborated with XPLANE to create this video in order to generate a discussion of the value and importance of leadership to address some of societys most pressing problems. “It is my desire to inspire people of all ages and social demographics to think about leadership on a broad level, contemplate what it means to them and what individual impact they can have when it comes to leading,” says Nohria. – MORE INFO, SOURCE FILES: hbs-leadership.wikispaces.com – HBS: www.hbs.edu – XPLANE: www.xplane.com

Video Rating: 4 / 5

H Stands for How To…

As 2010 approaches, many leaders are asking new questions.  Faced with a slumped economy, less manpower and growing concerns about what the next year will hold, the questions are becoming more complex and more fear-filled.

So, today, I want to just share with you 3 very simple “How To’s” to consider for 2010…just take a step back and consider a few of the basics.

lightbulb1.  HOW TO INNOVATE: Innovation is such a big buzzword today, so when something is a big buzzword, it means that it is important to the business landscape.  Many people believe that people are just born as innovators.  This may be somewhat true, but real innovation takes place through learning.  If I have any advice on this topic it would be this:

  1. Get out there and talk to the 3 most innovative companies you know to find out how they come up with bright ideas that actually make it to the market and thrive in the marketplace.
  2. Study and read everything you can about an innovator you admire (Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs would be two I would start with).
  3. Talk to at least 12 people from different industries about one idea you are rolling around in your head (talk to an artist, scientist, physician, dancer, gardener, plumber, attorney, financial planner, nanny, stay at home mom…innovation does not happen in a vacuum, and it is critical to get out there and talk to a variety of people about your ideas to get your finger on the pulse of what is really bugging people/keeping them awake at night).
  4. Take a trip to a place like the Sharper Image or even Best Buy to test out the most current technology in their stores.  Ask yourself “Why this?”  and “Why didn’t they do this?”
  5. Spend time in an area/field that you know nothing about. Take up a new hobby like fishing, quilting, kickboxing, painting…anything that is new…new hobbies stimulate thinking and creativity.

Business confrontation.2. HOW TO PICK YOUR BATTLES. Many people just don’t like conflict, and for some reason, they think that debate causes problems.  Yet the leaders who really know how to use debate to their advantage are some of the most innovative, successful leaders in our world.  The key is this…knowing what to fight for.

I would love to just tell you what is in this article, but rather than spell out the details, I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to buy a copy of the article How to Pick a Good Fight by HBR.   I will just give you two suggestions from the article.

1.  If the idea will save your company 15% or more of your resources over one year, the battle is worth fighting.

2.  If the idea will grow your sales or acquire new customers faster than the market, the battle is worth fighting.

Believe me…this article is worth purchasing for anyone!  The article includes another 20 ideas and an assessment for your company.

rookie3.  HOW TO GET YOUR ROOKIES TO LEAD. Your new employees are shining stars…fresh out of college, ready to set the world on fire, and what do most leaders do?  They throw a big bucket of water on the fire and say “Hey…new kid…here’s how we do things around here!”  Oh…that’s a smart idea (NOT!)  It is time for everyone to understand that leadership development for your new employees is what will differentiate your company from your competitors in 2010.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Find out what truly motivates your rookies. This is going to be different for each person (time off with family, basketball tickets, public acknowledgement, and so forth).  Your job as a leader is to find out what really motivates your rookies and begin using that to get them on board.
  2. Begin implementing a state of the art leadership development program for your rookies. Many companies shy away from this, because they feel something like this “Why waste my development dollars on someone who is going to leave me in two years?”  The answer:  Because you want your rookies to be the best they can be and to sing your praises as they dance out the door.  Your goal as a leader should be to train your rookies so well that other companies do try to recruit them away…but…if you are smart and you develop a great training and coaching program for them, they will think twice before leaving you.  And…if they do, there is a good chance that once they experience the greener pastures they thought they wanted, they will come back to you in a few years.
  3. Open yourself up to learning AND to actually using the technology that your rookies are using to communicate (including text, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and so forth).  In order to get your rookies to lead others, you have to be willing to communicate with them using the tools they are comfortable with and then pull them into the higher level leadership communication skills (face to face discussions, public presentations and face to face negotiations).
  4. Drop the talk about paying dues and climbing the corporate ladder…is a top turn-off for this rising generation.
  5. Ask your rookies for their ideas…invite them into the private meeting room to get their ideas on the table…this will be music to their ears and will inspire them to lead others in a way that is open and curious.

So, as 2010 rolls around, start looking closely at what you can do for the people of your organization…there is no better time than the present to start developing stronger relationships, better ways of communicating and of course…rock solid approaches to leadership and business development.

Bill Maher Goes On A Rant About Obama

I am sure by now that everyone has heard about Bill Maher going on a rant last week about President Obama focusing too much on being a celebrity and not enough time on drawing the line on some of the toughest issues we have faced in the history of our nation.   Here is the rant.  I don’t really agree or disagree with his position, but he does make an interesting point to consider (which I have also thought about recently):

I want to add that the June issue of Harvard Business Review gave Obama the following “grades” in 3 domains:

Securing Early Wins:  A

Laying a Foundation: B+

Articulating a Vision:  B-

Now then, I like President Obama, and a B- is not a bad score, but Maher and HBR have a point.  The situation is this:  The President is saying that his vision is to develop our country into one that is economically sustainable, but in my opinion, I have not yet see him “draw the cutting line”, meaning, I have not yet really seen him take a tough stand to stay “Here is where we are going in the areas of the economy, healthcare and education, and we are going to do it like this:  Number 1, Number 2, Number 3″.   It is really hard to get people on board using rhetoric and charisma and big speeches when there’s really no meat on the bones.  I think the President has what it takes to drive people forward and move us in a great direction, but it seems like he is still trying to convince us that he’s great and “one of us”.  I think the election proved that we all want him in the position, and it’s time to start getting down and speaking the vision clearly and sharply so that we can all jump in and help get the nation where we need to go.  While I realize this takes time, as HBR says, that first 90 days is critical.  You have to clearly tell people where you are going and how you are going to get there (if you are told to get on a bus and you have no idea where you are going, would you really get on?  You might if you really know and trust the person, but I have never met the President…he seems great on television, but I have not met and sat down and talked with him, so I scratch my head and wonder if I would really get on a bus with him if I had no idea where we were going???)

What I want to hear from the President is this:

1) When you say have a vision for our country where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes, how is this going to happen, and as a citizen of the USA, how can I get involved in helping to make this happen?  Tell me where I am going in this equation so that I can get on board and help you succeed.

2) When it comes to education, you are saying that you want our schools to excel.  What do you see in the year 2020, and as a citizen, how can I help get to that vision?  Do you see all schools going digital, do you see more interactivity/creativity in the classrooms?  Do you see more leadership development in the education system?  What do you see, and how can I help?

3)  You say you want a better quality of living for everyone in the US.  What does that look like?  What steps are you taking to get us?  Paint me the vision of that quality of life and tell me how I can help get us there?  Are you talking about a more green planet, better health, etc?  What does a better life for everyone look like?  Get specific with me, and then I will know how I can play a role here.

When it comes to vision, the following are required to get people on board

1) A statement that clearly (crystal clear…not vague) identifies the direction we are going and the reason why

2) A set of standards and an accountability system that reflects excellence and a strong sense of integrity for the cabinet and the people of the USA

3) A vision that is both inspiring and credible

4) A statement that asks for a commitment from the people…”I am asking each of you to commit to recycling this year or cutting your debt by 10%”

5) A statement that challenges people to take their talents, assets and strengths and combine them to make a bigger impact

6) A statement that is ambitious and feels like it’s a stretch but do-able (John F. Kennedy promised that there will be a Man on the Moon before the end of the 1960′s, and people thought he was crazy, but it did indeed happen, and he put the wheels in motion to make it happen)

So, I encourage you to weigh in on this blog post today.  What do you need to hear from President Obama, and what will it take to get you on board in the future?

Is Gen Y Really All That Narcissistic?

Great post from February by Tammy Erickson on Harvard Business Review 

Here is my comment in response:

Wonderful post Tammy.

I have interviewed over 100 Generation Y business leaders and entrepreneurs over the last 18 months, and I am a mother of three Generation Y young adults.  I have found each Gen Y I have spoken with to be giving, civic minded and quite caring for their peers and our world.  They are craving mentoring and guidance from adults, and many are hiring older, wiser mentors to meet that need.

As a parent, I am the first to admit that I raised my children on a healthy dose of self esteem and praise, as many Gen Yers have.  My question is “Isn’t this what we all want?”  Simply because Gen Y has been vocal about what they need and want in career and life doesn’t make them narcissistic.  In my opinion, it makes them quite smart.

I believe that we need Gen Y’s self esteem, creativity and technological savvy to guide us into the future.  And, I believe that Gen Y’s confidence may be just what we need to navigate the rocky roads we are traveling right now in our world.

Want to stay ahead of the competition? Rev up your intellectual horsepower

From all accounts, it appears that it is going to become more and more difficult in the future to stay ahead of your competition if your team is not the best and the brightest in your industry. Intellectual horsepower includes not only IQ (many people believe that an IQ of 130 is needed today to be a top player) but includes transferable skills, the ability to understand and break a complex situation into logical steps and being super sharp, agile and a quick study. Intellectual horsepower also includes being able to embrace paradox and ambiguity and being adept at functioning effectively in the midst of opposing ideas or forces.

If you go back and consider the blog post Is Your Company Truly Designed for Innovation and the topic of mapping the job the customer needs to get done, you will be able to identify the skill deficits in your organization. Each time a customer voices a success, ask yourself “Who worked with this client, and what skills were at play to make this customer experience outstanding?” On the same note, if a customer’s job is not getting done, it’s time to step back and ask “What skills are missing from this process that we need in place?” From there, you can provide your team with the training and development needed to create outstanding customer experiences. Once you have trained your employees, if you have someone on your team who just doesn’t “get it”, then it’s time to replace that player with someone who can “get it” and get it quickly.

I also recommend looking closely at Executive Intelligence. This article from HBS spells this out nicely.

Is Your Organization Truly Built for Innovation?

Is your business or organization really designed for innovation?  Are you sure?  Every day I speak to leaders who swear that their businesses are designed for innovation, but in my opinion, this is usually not the case. Why? Because they are stifling open debate, shooting the messenger and making it unsafe for people to voice their opinions.

If your business or company is truly an innovative one, your doors will be open for debate, and your culture will be designed to make it psychologically safe for both employees and customers to voice not only their suggestions, dreams and goals but their concerns, complaints and frustrations.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review: The Customer-Centered Innovation Map is a must read for any business that wants to thrive in the future.  The article comes from the perspective that when a customer buys a product or service from your company, they are actually hiring you to get a job done.  This “job to be done” could be to make more money, look more beautiful, live a more healthy life, move into a dream home, become more credible or build a better relationship.  At each step of the process of the job getting done, both your employees and customers are going to experience both successes and struggle points (and some people will struggle more than others.) By carefully mapping the job a customer is trying to get done, you can find golden opportunities to innovate as you help the customer through your process.   Along the way, you will want to ask questions such as “How can we do this much more efficiently?” and “What struggles and inconveniences are our customers experiencing?” and “How are trends affecting the way the job gets done?” and “What causes execution to go off track?”  As you move through the life cycle of working with a client, looking at each and every compliment, complaint and challenge can open the door for your company to provide a new product, offering or level of customer service that will set you apart from your competition.

Crisis Communication and American Airlines

Harvard Business Review has some really great conversation starters.

Crisis Communications and American Airlines Posted by Kathy Bloomgarden on April 17 is a wonderful read on communicating during a crisis.  She focuses on the recent challenge with American Airlines and offers some very sound suggestions that we can all learn from.