K Street Newsletter :: Directions

October 2018    |    VOLUME 16, ISSUE 10

The Business Case for Kindness

Research suggests that companies that are able to establish an environment built on kindness also have a happier workplace and a better bottom line. That may seem like an awfully fuzzy concept from a leadership perspective, but there's a lot to back it up. One university study found that when employees are friendly and personable, willing to help each other out, it makes for a more effective workforce. If the atmosphere is pleasant, rather than fear-based, workers find ways to improve customer service on their own.

It also promotes trust across the enterprise. In the early days of Knowledge Management, we always stressed the importance of a high-care culture for successful KM programs. High-care cultures are characterized by empathy. lenient understanding and courage, which leads people to share what they know. Low-care cultures suffer from the reverse, marked by a lack of empathy, authoritative judgment and cowardice. You can't build a knowledge sharing program in a low-care culture, even with the support of the CEO and the latest and greatest technology. Kindness works.

 

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This

Business meetings are one of the most universally despised conventions of working life, equally disliked by managers and workers. But according to this article, the problem isn't meetings per se. The problem is bad meetings. People tend to accept meetings that are boring or mediocre, and check out mentally even if they're present physically. They don't engage or contribute, and just grudgingly put in the time. It's a real problem in virtual meetings, which have become more the norm than the exception. How often have you realized that someone has a conference call on mute while they're reading email or doing other tasks. How often have you done it yourself?

If there's been an increase in meeting misery, it may be a function of both time and technology. Things move more quickly in today's workplace and tools like email and instant messaging can get many things done more quickly. People are working longer hours and feel put upon when a meeting gets in the way of multitasking. And as work becomes more complex and teams increasingly span time zones, just scheduling a meeting is a challenge. Technology may be catching up, with dedicated telepresence systems or even simple tools like Skype. But the rich communication provided by a traditional face-to-face meeting is still the best way to resolve issues. So make them work for you by following two simple rules: Get the right people in the room, and be clear about the meeting's purpose.
 

 

Street Smarts 180: Don’t worry, be happy.

Be happy in your work was
the motto of Colonel Saito, the tragic commandant of the POW camp in Pierre Boule's Bridge on the River Kwai. And according to this article, he may have been on to something. Publisher Adam Witty offers five tips for boosting team creativity, and Tip #1 is simply to be happy. Witty believes that's the first step toward creating the kind of positive work environment that's conducive to imaginative thinking. It's the number one priority for his leadership team. Happy employees work efficiently and find creative ways to serve their customers

Tip #2 is to be open minded, recognizing that no idea is too absurd to warrant your attention. Consider the Snuggie. It's essentially a blanket with sleeves that has generated sales of $200 million. Or Doggles, which are basically sunglasses for dogs. They bring in more than $3 million a year. If you can stay happy and be open to innovation, the sky is the limit!.
 

 

Nonviolent Communication

Whan Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, the company was known for infighting and backstabbing among its top executives. He wanted a clear break from the take-no-prisoners style of Steve Ballmer and opened his first executive meeting by handing out copies of a psychology text called Nonviolent Communication. It's a book that speaks to the importance of compassion and empathy in human communication.

A key takeaway is that effective communication has four components: Observing what is happening, understanding how you feel about it, expressing your needs and addressing your request for concrete action. Good communicators are also able to separate their observations from evaluations of same. For example, saying that someone is working too much includes a value judgment. Saying that someone is working more than 60 hours a week is more neutral, and if judgments are being made they will be in the minds of the audience. If you want to address communications issues in your own workplace, maybe you should give it a read. It seemed to work for Microsoft.

 

Creativity on the Clock 

We are busy little bees, these days, buzzing from one thing to another without a moment to spare for quiet reflection. There are so many things to do, and so little time, that we can become obsessive clock watchers. We need to plan and schedule our days carefully, even if they're full of fun and exciting things. Our calendar apps remind us when it's time to leave for the next appointment, or when a call is coming up. There are even apps that will prod us into getting up and going for a walk. At the scheduled time, of course.

It makes intuitive sense to think of the day in terms of the clock, and assign hours to particular tasks. But it also makes people less creative. Researchers have found that people who keep a careful eye on the clock may be good time managers, but also feel they have less control over their lives. And there's another way. If you work on something until it's done, or until you come to a natural break point, you're following "task time." Clock time may be more efficient, but task time gives people a greater sense of control and more job satisfaction. And clock time can really kill creativity. Just putting a clock on the wall can stifle a team of creative people. Some tasks are suitable for managing with clock time. Creative tasks are not. Even if the work is harder, task time makes it more satisfying.
 

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