03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
27 Apr

Do you have the right people in the right seats?

A question which has stuck in my head forever, thanks to an old boss of mine, “Do you have the right people, in the right seats on the bus?” has over the past couple of weeks come up in conversation with quite a few of my clients.
This is a powerful question because it makes you step back and view your business from a completely different angle. It’s not about the products or services or the systems you use. It’s purely about the people that you have, if they are the right fit for your business and if they are performing their duties as per expectations. A rather sobering question if you ask me.
The teams which function in our businesses are extremely important. You already know that as a business owner or operator, ultimately your team are the ones that make things happen. They are the ones who make the business come alive. They are the ones who represent the brand to the outside world.
With this in mind there are four key areas I would like to raise and possibly get you thinking about  when you start evaluating the “seating arrangements” on your own bus.
1) Skills and capabilities – every person in your team has a set of unique skills and capabilities, hence the reason for why you hired them in the first place. If you took a snap shot of your business as it currently stands, is every person within your organisation playing towards their strengths and focusing their attention on your business objectives or has their focus shifted?
Teams function well when they are able to get to know their fellow team mates and over time with some commitment from all parties, your goal is that trust starts to blossom. One ingredient which is key to the trust recipe is having a consistent core group of team members with very little unscheduled shifting of positions and people as possible.  As a business owner how do you maintain that core team? In today’s business world we are all aware of how easy it is to “jump ship”. People are often looking for greener pastures. What talent management process to you have in place or people development programme?
2) Emotional intelligence – When you evaluate your team members, instead of only measuring them on their ability to complete their tasks, it pays to measure their emotional intelligence levels as well. They may be highly skilled individuals, but if they have very little self and social awareness, or minimal ability to  self-manage, then they could be more of a hindrance in your business than an advantage. The beauty however about emotional intelligence is that it can be learned.
3) Values – It is said that people are guided by their own personal values, goals and needs first before they actively drive any business goals. With this in mind, do your team members share your business values? Are you aware of team members individual personal values?  Would it not be best to share in a common set of values and beliefs than to struggle with constant internal conflict with your team members?
4) Motivation and passion – Sticking with the bus analogy, you could call motivation the  the fuel of the business. Having a busload of highly skilled, emotional intelligent individuals is any business owners dream. However if these individuals don’t put fuel in the tank, the bus is going nowhere. Same for your business, if your team members aren’t motivated to drive the business goals forward, your business is going no where.
Internal motivation is key and when recruiting the right people should be a non-negotiable, but how are you as the business owner or operator motivating your team members?
With these four areas as a benchmark, how does your current seating arrangement look?
15 Jul

Are you married to your job?

Are you married to your job? Don’t worry this is not a loaded question to make you feel bad about spending more time at the office than you should. How much time you spend at work is your own choice. You might really enjoy those long hours.

Most of us spend a considerable amount of our lives working, so perhaps I should phrase the question in this way. Are you happily married to your job?

For me, a happy fulfilling marriage or partnership is built on many things. The same goes for a happy fulfilling job. Besides good communication skills, sharing common goals and having a strong self-awareness. A strong foundation for both of these is having a set of shared values .

Now, it probably depends on which stage of life you are in, as your priorities and values at 22 are very different to your priorities and values at 45. A fresh out of school or college graduate will most probably say that having a job is all about getting a pay check, finally gaining independence and building up the required work experience. So in a nutshell they value money, independence and experience above all else.

Now you may maintain these values throughout your career and be perfectly happy. However, as you move through your career your values may shift. This shift is not always known to us upfront, but what we might start noticing or feeling  is that our work satisfaction and motivational levels have decreased. This could mean a host of different things and before you pull your hair out perhaps start by asking yourself these questions.

  1. What was the initial reason for me joining the business?
  2. Have my prioritise or values changed since joining the business?
  3. Are the business values aligned to my current personal values?
  4. Does the business live up to their stated values?
  5. Do I trust that the business will align all important decisions it makes with its values?

By answering these questions you will clearly see if you share the same values, or you may identify an area which needs to be reviewed. For example one of the parties might not be living their values, or your own personal values may have shifted. It may not be about money and independence anymore, it may be about integrity, honesty and trust.

Then like in any marriage or partnership, the crucial question is asked. Do I stay and work through these issues, through good times and bad times, or do I choose to leave? The choice is yours.

23 Jun

Are you delivering on your promises?

“When the gap between what you say and what you do gets big enough, people stop listening”. Sobering words from Seth Godin.

As a business owner or manager you may have a set of company values somewhere in your working environment. Perhaps they are mounted in a frame on the wall for all to see, or perhaps they are hidden away in a filing cabinet, only to be whipped out and dusted off  at the next yearly strategy session. Irrespective of where your values are, if you don’t practise them everyday, they are meaningless.

Values can be seen as your companies culture building blocks or foundation. Everything that makes up your companies culture is built on your values, or lack of them.

When everything is going according to plan, we are all very quick to stand on our soap boxes and preach on how things need to be done or handled. However, when push comes to shove if what you instinctively say and do are not aligned to the reality of the situation, you will over time lose your team and your customers.

To get a true and realistic understanding of what happens in your organisation when the paw-paw hits the fan, try and recall the three most challenging situations your organisation and team have had to face in the last few years. How did you and your team response to these situations? What was your behaviour like when you are feeling the heat?

Does your initial reaction and behaviour within those situations align themselves to the framed values you have mounted on the wall or are you completely off?

If you are able to answer with honesty that your response was spot on, then you are on the right track. However, if you were off, what do you believe is the action plan within your business to get yourselves back on track? What changes need to be made in your business to close the gap between what you say and what you do and to increase employee and customer retention?

Need some assistance? Contact me. nicole@tikumu.co.nz for professional business coaching.

29 Jan

A difference in values: a sign to change your job

What are your accidental values? The behavioural traits that you spontaneously exhibit on a day-to-day basis (read more about values here). The traits you show when you are not consciously thinking about your behaviour.

Accidental values don’t belong to just individuals, they are also exhibited by an organisation on a daily basis. How people communicate with each other, how they engage with their customers, what gets attention within the organisation and what gets celebrated.  Another term for this would be the company’s culture. How people conduct themselves within the working environment and how they engage with each other are  behavioural traits which stem directly from the company’s value system. The company’s accidental values that is, not their stated values.

If a company’s stated core values are not ingrained in the working environment and day to day behaviour, if the majority of people within the business are not walking the talk, then this is were you might find yourself wanting to shift jobs and even careers. There may be a clash in values.

Before confirming that difference of values and beliefs are a reason for your need to shift jobs, ask yourself the following.

  1. What are my core values? Am I aware of them and do I try to live them everyday?
  2. What are my accidental values? This one may be quite tricky as there is a fair bit of self-reflection and honesty required. You may even ask a trusted colleague for their honest feedback and input.
  3. What are the company’s core values? How do these compare against the daily accidental values? In other words, are these core values applied everyday?
    1. Who and what gets attention and why?
    2. What is the customer feedback saying?
    3. What gets discussed at the water cooler by the staff?
  4. How different are my values, core and accidental, from the company’s values?

You may have discovered that when reviewing the behaviour level in last week’s post  that you were faced with similar questions and thoughts.

If this exercise confirms a need to change, what action plan do you need to implement and  how would you prevent this from happening again in your next position?

29 Oct

Corporate Culture – The Invisible Side of an Organisation

›Company A and Company B both spend thousands of dollars on planning new initiatives and rolling out marketing campaigns to drive their businesses forward.  Company A’s results are dismal and Company B’s are a roaring success.

Why are some companies more successful than others?

There are many reasons for performance variance, but it is increasingly clear that a major component is their corporate culture.

Company A’s initiative came face to face with a culture barrier and failed. Company B’s initiative on the other hand was carried through by a high performance team and succeeded in meeting it’s targets.
What is corporate culture and how can it have such a powerful influence on your business?

Corporate culture is often described as the invisible side of the organisation, or the atmosphere of an organisation. Kennedy and Deal describe it as the perception of “The way things get done around here” .

Ravasi and Schultz (2006) say that organizational culture is a set of shared assumptions that guide what happens in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and, even, thinking and feeling.

Following on from this definition and looking closer to home, what defines the behaviour in your own business? What kind of behaviour is taught to new members entering your business?

If you are the boss, then the buck stops with you! In Tom Peters’ book In search of Excellence he says that changing a culture boils down to the “100 little things” that take place in a day. Everything we do as leaders communicates a message. If we are to change a culture, we must become acutely aware of what we do and the message it communicates. We must get off of autopilot.

So if you are banging your head against the wall and feeling frustrated about failed initiatives, high employee turnover or poor follow-through, think about your corporate culture. Are you greeted everyday with a motivated team who shares in the company values or do you walk into a working environment that feels tense and breeds conflict, where lack of communication is a common complaint amongst employees?

To understand what your companies current culture is, look out for the following:

  1. What gets attention in the business? Is there a common thread of what gets attention and what get’s sidelined?
  2. Take notice of people’s behaviour. How do your employees conduct themselves around fellow colleagues and visitors? What are the dominant management or leadership styles?
  3. What are the hero stories? What do your employees talk about? What behaviour, values and actions are seen as important? Remember, there are company values and then there is reality. Don’t be blindsided by what things should look like, but look at what is the reality.
  4. Employee turnover figures. What are your exit interviews telling you or should I say not telling you? What are the common threads running through the feedback?
  5. Employee satisfaction surveys. Does your business do them? If not, how do you know how your employees are feeling about working for your business?
  6. AAR – After Action Reviews. Is reflection time encouraged and set aside everyday? Are  behaviour, actions and decisions made in line with the company values and desired corporate culture?
Corporate culture is not something to be shelved and ignored. It is an integral part of your business. Corporate culture can very easily make or break your business.
30 Jul

Have you got your filters on?

Everyday we are bombarded with bigger, better and cooler ways of doing stuff and achieving our goals. Better ways to run, meditate, cook or market our businesses to become gazillionnaires. Everyone’s solution is quicker, faster, healthier, more cost effective and more time efficient than everybody else’s solution.

There are great advantages to having all of this incredible life and business-altering information at your finger tips, but it also has its disadvantages.

It can become completely overwhelming! With so much information so readily available it is like being a kid in a candy store, you cannot decide as there is just so much on offer.  What often happens is we either stuff as much candy into our mouths as possible, afraid to miss out and end up with an awful stomach ache. Or we choose a lollie, but secretly doubt our choice and end up always wondering what the other lollies would have tasted like. We end up disappointed.

So before you start running around in square circles, landing up with a stomach ache and finding yourself exhausted, try thinking about why you are doing what you are doing.

Instead of looking at solutions first, think about your personal and business objectives first. Why am I doing what I am doing?

By defining who you are, what’s important to you and how you want to be seen in the world, will provide you with an incredibly strong foundation. So, when the multitude of solutions start flying at you, you can confidently decide which ones will add value to your pre-determined life or business goals and which ones are just smoke and mirrors.

By firstly defining your purpose, values and objectives, you put yourself in the driver’s seat. You take back the control of your journey.

And that is how you turn your filters on.

02 Jul

Smile, you’re on stage!

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, says that “we learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instructions”.

To illustrate this point I would like to carry out an experiment with you. Think back to the time you supervised someone for the first time. It could be recent or many years ago.  Honestly, how did that work out for you?  I bet that with the responsibilities and added stresses in this new role your default management style was similar to your then or previous supervisor’s management style?  So your first management role was either a success or a disaster?

Whether you like it or not, you subconsciously mimic your superior’s behaviour. You follow their lead and depending on how influential or dominant they are, you often fall into the trap of becoming a “mini-me”. An unwritten rule develops that certain behaviours are tolerated within the organisation, whether they are good or bad, and a “that’s how things are managed around here” culture develops.  It gets passed on from one manager to another through direct experience and example setting.  Incorrect behaviour is justified and made acceptable, just because a superior behaved in that manner.

Remember that you are not just influenced by your direct superiors, but you also influence the people you are suppose to manage, lead and support.

Are you happy with how you are influencing the people who look up to you? If not, how do you break the cycle?

Perhaps consider the following pointers, which will encourage you to become more self-aware:

  • First and foremost  you need to realise that you are permanently on stage within the working environment. Your conduct is continuously on show for all to see and is being imprinted in the minds of your trusting employees. The  behaviour at the coffee station is just as important as the behaviour in the board room.
  • Ask yourself these question.
    • If I behave in a certain way, what will the consequences of my actions be?”
    • “How would I like to see my supervisor handle this matter?” – Then do that.
    • “The behaviour I see in my subordinates, is that my behaviour?” – Stand back and evaluate yourself. Look at improving your own behaviour before trying to change everyone else’s.
    • “Does my behaviour reflect my core and aspirational values?”
    • “Am I able to recognise the difference between my own behaviour choices  vs. previous behavioural influences?”
  • As Vikor E. Frankl says in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.  Remember that “the space” is your ally use it to your advantage. Think before you act.
  • Ask a trusted and respected colleague to provide honest feedback should there be a need for it.

So think before you act or react and always put on a good show!

28 Apr

What do you bring to the world?

What is your centre? What do you bring to the world?  If you ask yourself these questions what is your first reaction? Do you feel content? Are you happy with your answer or do you feel that you need some work?

Whilst pondering these questions I read an article written by one of my favourite authors and public speakers,  Patrick Lencioni. “Make your values mean something” was published in the Harvard Business Review. His article was directed at business, discussing the many mistakes companies make when they create company values. He pointed out some key issues that businesses should be aware of if they want to be successful with a company values initiative.

I wondered if his advice for creating corporate values could also be applied to personal values? Two of his points felt particularly applicable to personal values.

1. Understand the different types of values

I’ve always thought of the concept of values as being pretty simple. You either have them or you don’t. And depending on where you are in your life, certain values will be more important than others. According to Patrick, values are not as one-dimensional as I thought. He differentiates between core, aspirational, permission-to-play and accidental values. That lead me to some questions…

Starting with the most sacrosanct values of all – core values. “Do you have values that are so deeply ingrained in your core that they would never be compromised  no matter what happens in your life?”

“Do you have aspirational values?” If there is a change that you are making in your life and you aspire to behave in a certain way, does your value system portray that desire and need?

Permission-to-play values simply reflect the minimal behaviour and social standards required by any person. These values would be something deeper than the core. Values that are the foundation of our very being. So how do these values differ from one’s core values or even one’s aspirational values? Values such as honesty, kindness and integrity come to mind. Values that should be shared by every human being. Core values are then values that define you as a unique individual. Separate you from the crowd.

Accidental values I feel are very relevant to the question of “What do you bring to the world?”. These are spontaneously cultivated over time. They reflect the true personality and behaviour of you. Accidental values can be positive and negative. These are the values that your family, friends, peers and society sees. These are the values that you bring to the world. Are you satisfied with what you see?

Are your core values your accidental values? Or is what you perceive to be the “real you” just a pretty dream of make-believe, and the values that you think you project are completely opposite to what you actually portray to the outside world?

It takes guts to look at yourself in the mirror and point out your own flaws. This bring me to the second point, which is a way to make your values real.

2. Weave core values into everything

If you are thinking about changing or improving what you bring to this world, start with re-evaluating your values and then commit to living by them.

By weaving your values into your everyday tasks, decisions and thinking, they become part of who you are.  Through practice we create new habits. What we believe and treasure most is then reflected in what we bring to the world.