Posts by nancyhardaway

Initiative, Customer Service, and Your Browser Choice (NOT Election Results)

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Change, Customer Service, Innovation |

We’ve heard enough about about selecting a president, so I’m writing about selecting a new employee. Have you ever thought of asking what internet browser they use at home?  I wouldn’t have.  But now I might. What is it we want in employees?  We want people who are productive, loyal, satisfied in their role, can take initiative, right?  I just read an interesting study investigating what might be correlated with all those qualities, and therefore what would be a predictor of the right applicant. I remember reading about a Met Life survey years ago looking at predictors of success in their agents that found optimism to be a key factor.  But a browser choice??? This research was on over 50,000 customer service and sales agents from many companies, all of whom had taken an online assessment as part of their application process, investigating why some agents stayed in their jobs longer than others.  The research  compared the applicants’ characteristics against data on the subsequent hires, trying to find a pattern for who ended up staying in their jobs the longest. They looked at expected factors such as a previous history of job hopping, which did not turn out to correlate with staying in the job longer.  They ran the question of internet browser sort of on a whim, since they happened to have had the data.  Paydirt! It turned out that those who had used Firefox or Chrome to fill out the online assessment stayed in their jobs 15% longer than those who used Safari or Internet Explorer.  Wondering if it was coincidence, they also looked at performance on sales, customer satisfaction and average call length.  The Firefox and Chrome users again surpassed the others.  They were even 19% less likely to be absent from work. Why?  Michael Housman, the head of the research team, surmised it might suggest the ability to take initiative.  Safari and Internet Explorer come loaded as the default when you buy your computer.  You have to be an informed consumer and take an extra step to switch to Firefox or Chrome. So maybe people who will take initiative in one area of their lives will also take initiative in other areas. For example, in the way they help their customers.  Or the way they configure their job or their perspective on their job so that they are more satisfied, rather than accepting the “default.” It makes me wonder how can we hire for initiative, and also cultivate initiative in our teams. Adam Grant in his book Originals describes his effort in helping Google design a brief class to teach their non-tech employees strategies to make their jobs better – ways they could take small or larger steps to make their jobs more interesting to them.  This 90 minute class turned out to make a huge difference in both their performance and their satisfaction.  Seems to me, they taught them how to take initiative. Change rarely happens in huge leaps, it happens in small steps.  Those small steps together become new patterns of behavior, especially when reinforced by leaders and by peers....

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Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

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The Powerful Can’t Feel Your Pain or Hear Your Perspective

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Communication, Leadership, Self-awareness |

A client recently asked me why powerful leaders often don’t take feedback well.  A board asked me why their president wanted coaching in conflict management when they felt he needed compassion training. And then there’s our X-rated presidential race. I saw two studies recently that might give us all something to think about.  Increased power diminishes our ability to be empathetic and compassionate because of its impact on the “mirror system” – how we are able to experience what someone else experiences, according to a Canadian research study.  Amazingly, even a small bit of power shuts down that part of the brain!  Scary stuff! Another study conducted at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management by Adam Galinsky and his colleagues found that increasing power increases self-assurance and confidence but in a way that makes one prone to dismiss viewpoints of those lacking authority.   As we get more powerful, according to Galinsky, we have increasing difficult in correctly perceiving others’ perspectives. So power leaves leaders somewhat isolated – stuck in their own perspective of themselves and the world, and unable to feel or see the “plight of the little guy” or even the view from the frontlines. Maybe that’s why all those leaders on the TV show Undercover Boss see things differently when they go into their companies in disguise.  It’s not just what others are willing to tell them, maybe it’s what they are able to take in when they are even temporarily sitting in a less powerful role. Empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are all qualities of a mature mind – one that can lead… and lead well. The good news is that other studies show you can grow these qualities with conscious effort.  That, of course, presupposes that you recognize that you need to grow those characteristics.  If you are willing, then you have to be all ears!  You have put off your mantle of power and seek out and listen to the feedback and perspectives of others.   This is when coaches can be really useful, or honest colleagues, board members, peers, friends, and even your...

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The Horse Who Wouldn’t Change Direction: Can You?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2016 in Change |

The story goes that the filmmakers of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil wanted a horse and buggy in a scene.  They were filming at one of the many wonderful squares in Savannah that are ringed by one way traffic.  For some creative agenda they rerouted traffic to come the other way for the shot.  But the horse would have none of it.  They tried all kinds of ways to get the horse to travel the opposite direction, but with no success. He (or she) knew which way was the “right” way. I heard that story in Savannah last week while on a horse and buggy tour with my husband – since he can’t walk very far anymore we knew one of the highly recommended walking tours of the city was out. So we chose another way.  Unlike the horse. Turns out the horse in the story was, in fact, in the movie.  He was just standing still in the background. How often does the same thing happen to all of us?  We get used to doing something a certain way and get a fixed pattern in our minds that that is the “right” way.  We may even lose the ability to perceive other ways.  We may resist when someone creative comes along with new ideas that wants us to go a different way.   Or we’re the creative one with the new idea and someone else is resisting. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the last several months about driverless cars, with people telling me how it won’t happen.  How they wouldn’t want to be in a car without a driver.  How if they’re going to be hit by a car, they want to be hit by a car with a driver, not a driverless car.    Really? It is certainly more comfortable to keep doing things the same way.  My husband and I have been traveling the last few months, for work, for family and friend visits, etc.  We’ve had to adjust to lots of different beds and bathrooms.  Without even thinking we take the same side of the bed that we’d have at home, even though there is no reason for it except the familiar is more comfortable. I’ve decided that I want to see where I might be stuck going one way, missing out on opportunities, efficiencies, possibilities. Where I might believe I can’t go another way. Maybe if I start little, like wearing my watch on the opposite hand, or taking different roads to work, or asking different questions, perhaps I can build up a skill set around seeing other ways to do things. How about you?  Are you stuck going in one direction? What can you do about it?  Or will you be like the horse in the movie, and end up just standing still....

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2 Questions for Innovative Solutions

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Creativity |

A client had a gnarly problem and there seemed to be only one solution, which he didn’t like.  He felt his hands were tied, so he procrastinated, and then called me.  I suggested he ask his team two questions which I had come upon recently as I worked with the board of a non-profit called the Florida Creativity Alliance.   In what ways might we…? How might we…? What’s the value in these simple questions?  It frees up the mind of preconceived limitations that shut down any possible solutions other than the obvious one. TEXTING THE BRAIN:  The questions signal the brain that there are possibilities and require that we explore them in multiple ways.  They don’t ask for the “right” solution, which limits your thinking – requiring assessment and judgement before creativity. “In what ways might we…?” assumes there are many ways, and we just have to think of them.  Neuroscience research has shown that our brain is highly impacted by the nuances of language, so these differences in how we state our question or problem are far more important than you might think. VALUE OF BAD IDEAS: Asking “What should we do?” implies there is one right answer, which is a closing process rather than an opening process.  Innovative solutions need openness and curiosity, first!  In a blog post several years back I quoted business writer and entreprenuer Seth Godin: “Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas.  All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas….One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas.  The worse the better.  Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.” So try these questions when you think you’ve run out of possible solutions.  Actually try the questions whenever you encounter a problem.  Hopefully they’ll help you generate some really bad ideas and also some really great ideas  ...

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