Author Archive

Happy Holidays test

As the year comes to a close, we are prepping some new content and thoughts to share in 2015, so we want to make sure this posts not just to the blog here, but to our website. So, here it goes.  The test.
Happy New Year

Advertisements

Where do good ideas come from? How to get strategic ideas from line workers.

Ideas are everywhere, but many companies, and leaders struggle to get their teams to speak up and share ideas.  Why?  Some employees may feel it isn’t worth it, that their ideas are not good enough or valuable.  Or that surely, someone “smarter” than them would have already done it or suggested it. Perhaps, they don’t feel comfortable making suggestions or challenging the process.

As a leader there are several things you can do to solicit ideas.  Here are a few:

  1. Ask.  Sound simple?  It is.  Try it.  But when you get a good idea, find a way to celebrate it – publicly.  When you get a bad idea, or one that could never be implemented, don’t shut it down.  Ask more questions.  Understand the idea or spirit behind it.  Let the presenter be heard.  And Celebrate it – publicly!
  2. Suggestion Box (really just another from of asking) – I have seen companies set up digital and analog versions of this. Some work, others don’t.  Just setting up the box isn’t good enough, and the downfall of the process when it doesn’t work.  You need to design a vetting process – maybe as simple as a select group of people to filter each idea, ask the presenter more questions and formalize the process of getting a sponsor somewhere in the organization.  Creating a vetting process helps everyone involved feel engaged and a part of the future.
  3. Focus group meetings – Schedule a meeting with a handful of staff to meet with at least one member of management. Encourage feedback on processes and procedures. Maybe something isn’t working quite as well as you hoped, this might be a good time to figure out why. We met with the owner of one of the top ski resorts here it Utah. Once a month, he schedules a group of his line staff to come in and meet with management. At least one member of management is required to be there. If he is traveling, he makes sure to send someone else, etc. He told us that some of the best ideas have come from those meetings

When an employee is hired, they bring their whole body and mind with them.  It is up to us as leaders to get that out of them, and to have them use all the tools they bring with them.  If ideas aren’t floating around and being harnessed, encouraged, vetted and implemented it is time to look at culture.  What is missing?

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

All Work, No Play…

In college I worked as a branch manager for Kinko’s –hands down one of the best companies I have ever worked for.  It was in that role I learned about aligning team goals to corporate goals, using the correct measurements to drive performance and results and about having work-life balance.

Part of the Kinko’s philosophy said:

“We strive to live balanced lives in Work, Love and Play”

(Learn more: http://www.paulorfalea.com/background/kinkos.cfm)

So, what does that mean and how does one achieve it?  I have worked for big companies; I have started new companies and invented new products – sometimes doing more than one of these things at the same time. All take a lot of time, and can create periods of time when life is out of balance – and that is ok.  You cannot always be balanced, but when you forget what balance is, and fill your life with only work you run the risk of waking up one day wondering where it all went, or if there was a point to it at all.

Schedule time for work and time for play:  My personal approach is to use my Outlook calendar and task list.  Blocking out big chunks of time to play with kids, connect with old friends, read, write and exercise.  No one can schedule over the top of an hour that shows as full on my calendar. (they’ll try, you decide if it is worth it)

Manage your task list, don’t let it manage you:  Write it down, assign it a date and if appropriate, a time.  Prioritize tasks.  I use an “A, B, C” model.  A’s get done first, B’s Second, and C’s can be pushed to tomorrow if need be.  (Note, if C’s get pushed to too many tomorrows, why are they even on the list)

Follow your dreams and passions:  Not everyone can do the job they would be most passionate about (I never did get to sing in a rock band), but find a role or job that fulfills more than just the paycheck need.  Life can feel more balanced when you are passionate about work.  I work hard and play hard.  Many times I play hard at work, because work is so much fun!  In both my companies I love the clients, team-mates and industries I get to play in.  And I get paid for it.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

What is Culture, and how do I get one?

Culture can be defined as the shared attitudes, values, beliefs, goals and practices of an organization.  Simply, it is the sum of how we think, behave and operate as a group.  Every organization has a culture; some are just better than others.

Some corporate cultures are a sum of the manner that participants have thought, behaved and operated for years, and can be really toxic.  Unwritten rules of engagement that inhibit innovation, free flow of information and ultimately create an environment where people are constantly defending their actions, and spend more time playing political games than working in the best interest of the customer, team or organization.

Other corporate cultures are defined intentionally, and create environments where learning, growing and achieving are common.   Where the value of each player contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Most organizations are likely somewhere in the middle, which likely yields some departments, or teams, which are highly functioning, and others who are not.  In these types of organizations, upper-middle management is likely stuck, and any thought of “Culture Change” is scary.  What’s wrong with the culture we have?!

Creating an intentional culture begins with defining the purpose and values of the organization.  Why does the organization exist?  What do we want to stand for?  How can we get the best of our people to achieve that purpose?

Leadership and corporate culture in the 21st century will look much different than it’s hierarchical 20th century parent.  Motivating employees to unite behind the organization’s purpose will be key.  Aligning reward systems, and measurement around allowing each person to contribute her best, which just happens to also be the best for the customer, environment, stakeholder and shareholder will be key to sustainability, viability and corporate success in the 21st Century. This type of culture will require managers and leaders to engage, connect with and share information.  Micromanaging will not work.  Top-down goal setting will not achieve buy-in required to create long-term results.

All organizations have a culture; some are just better than others.  When you think about your organization, do you have the culture you want, or the culture that is just the sum of the behaviors, thinking and operating rules built by years of practice?

What companies are you aware of that have a clearly defined and visible culture? Google and Apple are a couple that I always think of. Perhaps, you have an experience with a company that doesn’t have an apparent culture. This might be apparent due to having completely different customer service experiences with different employees. One person gives a promise while the other person says, “Oh, I am sorry, they shouldn’t have told you that.” Let us hear your thoughts!

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Put down the keyboard and pick up the phone-why email sucks!

It just took me 12 back-and-forth messages to set up a very simple meeting.  I now cannot help but consider how much faster it could have been done if the other person and I could have had a 2 minute phone discussion.  Certainly we would have arrived at the same conclusion, but in a much faster time frame.

Which leads me to my point – as convenient as it might be, email is not the best form of communication for complicated information, for personal correspondence or for any message which might have an emotional component.

Clarity of Message – Even the best of writers may struggle making some points in a written, email acceptable format.

Importance – Email can be ignored, delayed, lost in transmission.  When the message has urgency or importance behind it, nothing helps the receiver understand the importance like hearing it directly from you.

Emotion – The reader cannot see our smiles, cannot hear the intonation of the comments and may be lost with the spirit of the writing.  A sentence that may deliver necessary levity or seriousness when spoken lacks the intended punch when written.

People like to connect to other people.  Email can be so impersonal.  Next time pick up the phone, you might be surprised at the result.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

But, I don’t have a network!!

Well, you should be ashamed of yourself then.  Certainly there are people who know and like you, and people you know and  like.  That’s a network.  The question is, if they needed something could they call on you?  Would they know why they should?  If you needed something would the people in your “network” take your call and be willing to help?

4.5 keys to having a successful network (# 4 is really long):

  1. Be Authentic – I think I might say this in every blog topic I write.  Be the real you.  Don’t try to play a role you are unfit to play.  Learn the value you have to others, learn how to authentically communicate what you do, who you are and the value in knowing you.
  2. Cultivate relationships before you need them – A professional or peer network is only as good as the relationships.  Waiting to build the relationship until you need to ask someone for guidance, advice, a job or anything when they havent heard from you for years, or don’t even know who you are could prove challenging.  Set a goal to ‘ping’ valuable network contacts every so-often to keep the relationship alive.  My best advice – keep it about them, not about you. Always use a pay-it-forward approach and offer help / assistance.  They will then ‘owe you’ when you most need it.
  3. Know your value – what are you good at, what do you know? Who do you know?  How can you help.  Get clear about that.  A fun exercise is to keep track for a month what types of things people ask you for.  What are you best known for?  Keep a list.  If it is different that what you want to be known for, think about your personal brand.
  4. Use technology – LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter – whatever.  Use technology to keep in touch.

I personally use LinkedIn for business, Facebook for friends.  That line is blurring slightly, as I really like some of the people I do business with, and would consider them friends and welcome them to see under the hood of my personal life.  Define your own boundaries there.

Make sure your online profile that you use for professional networking matches the brand you want the world to see, then use the technology to congratulate people on new jobs or other updates you read online.

Build your own online network by searching for people you worked with in the past and present – think as high up the chain as possible, and to people who reported to your direct reports, vendors, partners, clients.  Stay in touch.  The world of business is small – you never know who you might cross paths with again in the future.

When you are inviting someone to connect, I suggest writing a personal message.  LinkedIn has their standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” text.  I like to use something a little more personal.  “it was great meeting you at _____.  I enjoyed your talk on______.  I would love to keep in touch via LinkedIn..”  or something similar.

After accepting someone’s invitation to connect, respond with a “thanks for reaching out” message.  Start building your online rapport and relationship the moment you hit ‘accept’

Having an established professional network can be incredibly valuable.  It is not about the # of connections or friends you have, but the quality of the relationships.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Your personal brand: what are you known for?

“What do you do for a living? “ Probably one of the most common questions we are asked when we meet someone new.  I was speaking with a client last week and in the course of conversation asked what her husband did professionally.  Her initial response was vague, and ended with “I don’t really know”.    This got me thinking.  Could my wife really tell someone what I did for a living?  Could my father?  And is it important?

Several years ago, when my first patent was granted a friend said “I didn’t know you were that smart” I still think she was joking, but what if she wasn’t? Perhaps I had not accurately conveyed to her through the course of our conversations that I was a driven, smart individual.

These two issues are closely related, and have to do with personal branding. When we first meet people, they quickly assess our credibility, energy, trustworthiness and a variety of other really important attributes that, for them, define who we are.

Strategic personal branding starts by defining how you want to show up – intentionally.  Putting the real you, or best you out there.  This never means manufacturing a you that cannot be lived up to; it includes being open and letting people see who we really are and what we are capable of.  Part of how we brand ourselves, is to talk about what we do and establish credibility. Start creating your personal brand by writing down all the things you want to be known for, the things you are good at, and the things that others might say you are good at.  Is there a common theme?  Are there some consistencies?  Learn how to tell those stories well.  I have one client who decided he wanted to be known as the expert of a particular product line within their organization.  He started talking about the product whenever he had the chance, studied competitors, processes and market position.  He has the product on his desk, and if you ask will tell you all about it.  None of this was by accident.  He decided to be known for something, became the expert, promoted the fact that he was the expert, and now has senior executives coming to him for advice.

Defining how you want to show up, creating a strategic brand for yourself will not just ensure your spouse, parent or children can say in a sentence what you do for a living, but can lead to job referrals, improve your reputation within the organization and position you right where you want to be…

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

%d bloggers like this: