Last April, here on the blog I asked the question: What’s stopping you from moving forward? And to answer it, I used the metaphor of paddling a kayak. Today, I have another metaphor to address the same question.
Imagine a bungee cord
Imagine a bungee cord. One end is attached to a fixed object and the other is hooked to the back of your belt. As long as you stay close to the stationary end, the cord remains loose and there is no tension. But as you walk away, the slack in the cord will begin to tighten and you’ll feel a pull on your back. Continue to step away and you’ll find that eventually it will be a struggle to keep going. In fact, not only will the bungee cord hold you back from moving forward, but you will also be at serious risk of either losing your pants or getting smacked by a broken bungee.
All of us have bungee cords attached to us, links to the past that hold us back from moving forward. And the more we try to get ahead, the more the stress and tension grows forcing us to stay where we are. And often the fear of losing our pants or getting smacked by the broken bungee keeps us from continuing to try. Continue reading
Jennifer Buchanan is not only my professional colleague and friend, but also the only music therapist I know! If you’re wondering what a “music therapist” is, then I’m so glad you asked!! Music therapists use music to curb stress, boost morale, and restore health, and Jennifer is a recognized leading expert on bridging the gap between academic research in the area of music medicine and the public, speaking internationally to a wide variety of education, healthcare, government, and corporate audiences. Because this is an area that not many people are knowledgeable about yet, I was delighted when Jennifer agreed to guest on the blog. I asked her to share some insights that would be useful to leaders everywhere, and I was thrilled when she decided to write about how to use music to boost productivity.
5 Steps to Boosting Productivity at the Office using Music
Do you feel you need a boost at work? Music may be the solution. The music industry has proof that you should listen to music while you work. In a survey commissioned by the UK licensing organizations PPL and PRS for Music, 77 percent of surveyed businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and improves the atmosphere. The results were greater productivity.
So how do we make music at work?
There is no easy solution to developing a productive playlist for two or more people. Like all good work procedures and strategies, it takes time and it starts with being proactive instead of re-active. Take the time to identify the diverse needs and cultures of the group you belong to. Here are five suggested guidelines or steps for helping your organization use and select music at work: Continue reading
I often explore what it takes to achieve goals, to get beyond the “hope” stage and actually create concrete results. In fact, earlier this year, I blogged about the importance of a “structured” vessel when one seeks to achieve goals. Today’s blog post explores another aspect of setting and achieving goals – this time the importance of action.
Multi-speed bikes are an asset
When I was a child, I rode a single speed bicycle. It didn’t matter whether I was biking up a hill or racing down a gravel road, my bike had just one gear, and I had to adjust my effort and speed in order to compensate for the riding conditions. As I grew older though, I realized that one could actually make the bicycle-riding experience easier and more enjoyable by getting a 3-speed, a 10-speed or even a 21-speed bike. The greatest benefit of a multiple-speed bicycle was that I could adjust the pedaling resistance to ride more easily over a greater variety of terrains. Brilliant!
Shortly after I got my first 10-speed bike, I quickly realized one additional and extremely vital fact – in order to switch gears, you had to be moving. Continue reading
As a leader, you no doubt have a multitude of issues to deal with – and what usually happens is that the crises get dealt with, but often everything else seems to drag on. Thus, it’s useful to periodically ask yourself the question – what’s stopping you from moving forward? Whether it’s streamlining an outdated work process, dealing with an ongoing interpersonal conflict, or getting that big project on your to-do list started, what is preventing you from moving forward? I have a metaphoric perspective to offer.
Is your kayak moving forward?
Here in the northern hemisphere, as the days get longer and the mercury begins to claw its way up out of the negative digits, collective minds turn to spring and upcoming warm-weather leisure activities. I am no exception as I think longingly of my favourite watersport – kayaking.
Sitting low to the water at dawn, legs outstretched, the blades of my paddle slicing through the water like a knife through butter, moving almost silently across the vast expanse of the calm harbour, the stillness broken only by the rhythmic gentle sound of the oars and an occasional call of a seabird. For me, the image evokes both serenity and triumph. Serenity because kayaking gives me time to think. And triumph because several miles of kayaking makes me feel like I’ve gotten a good workout. But the picture-perfect scene quickly shatters …. when I realize that my kayak is still tied to the dock!
What is your workplace equivalent?
Sure, laugh if you must; I did too (well, much later) when it happened to me. But I bring it up to make a very specific point. Continue reading
At this time of the year, there’s a lot of thought about setting and achieving goals. In fact, on almost exactly this date last year, I blogged about how my unexpected encounter with a sea otter got me thinking about this very subject. Today’s musings … about drinking water.
It’s a lot easier to drink water when you have a glass
Potable water … absolutely essential to survival, but unless it is contained – within a glass, a bowl, or even a cupped hand – almost impossible to drink. Sure you could kneel and lap at a running stream just like other members of the animal kingdom, but it’s a lot easier if it is in a vessel of some sort. Even animals appreciate drinking from an enclosed source such as a pond or a puddle.
At a time of the year when so many people set and achieving goals and targets for their professional and personal lives, this liquid reality offers an apt metaphor. Think of water as representing dreams and aspirations, the goals and objectives that you hope to accomplish over the next twelve months. Just like a liquid takes less effort to drink when it is contained within a vessel, desired targets are easier to achieve when they are surrounded by a solid structure. So what is this vessel that lets you move goals and aspirations from mere dreams to concrete reality? The outer form of the vessel may differ from situation to situation, but it must always be constructed of three components – it must be specific, it must be measurable, and it must have a deadline.
Here is an example
Let’s say that one of your leadership objectives Continue reading
In my practice, I am routinely asked by leaders in organizations for the definitive factors that lead to team effectiveness. After all, leaders in every organization want to know what it takes to create high-performing work groups that not only exceed objectives but also play well in the sandbox together. Well Google wanted to know the answer to this question as well, so in 2012 it embarked on an ambitious two-year project to codify the secrets of team effectiveness. Code-named Project Aristotle, this sizeable initiative, in true data-crunching Google style, set out to study and analyze over 180 of Google’s internal teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared.
Google’s Project Aristotle
Julia Rozovsky is an analyst in Google People Operations, and here is what she had to say about Project Aristotle.
Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right? We were dead wrong!
A couple of weeks ago, on my morning walk along Victoria’s Inner Harbour walkway, I was very fortunate to observe a sea otter dive down into the ocean to catch a crab and then swim up to the shore to eat it, approximately 15 feet away from where I was standing. I caught about 30 seconds of this amazing encounter on video which I’ve posted below.
This infrequent experience was exciting in itself, but what I found particularly interesting was that the sea otter took just a couple of bites of the crab, leaving the majority of the carcass behind on the rocks as he swam away. Why didn’t he finish this meal that he worked so hard to obtain? Was it because it didn’t taste very good? Or was there a more delicious morsel he spotted just on the other side of the rock? Maybe it was because he saw us watching quietly nearby. Or perhaps it was because the seagulls were already circling and he wanted to share his bounty (or couldn’t be bothered to fight them off). Continue reading
My newest column for The Globe & Mail is up in cyberspace this morning! Today’s topic is about something that is happening in many workplaces across the country – the shift to an open-office environment. Love it or hate it, the numbers show that it’s happening more than ever. So in Six rules for the open-office environment, I don’t debate its merits and drawbacks. Instead, by offering six definitive rules to survive, and thrive, in an open office environment, I focus on how to make this kind of a workplace environment effective and productive.
So … as always, very interested in hearing about your experiences. Are you working in an open-office floor plan? Does it work for you? Why or why not? If possible, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your point of view will get a much wider audience than if you choose another alternative. But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can post your comments here on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.
And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe‘s site using the share icon at the very top of the article). My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people who respond to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing! In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/EQQZ
The topic of how to minimize distractions to maximize productivity came up again this past weekend. My husband, an avid cyclist, rides his bicycle to work daily (at least while the weather is still cooperating). Recently, he moved offices, and so his daily cycling route has changed. Even though almost his entire journey is on bicycle trails, the path itself is quite serpentine, twisting and winding its way through tree groves and up and down many small hills. In a passing comment to me this last weekend, he said “I find that I can’t really enjoy the view on my bike rides anymore because I need to concentrate and pay attention to the path. A couple of times I’ve been distracted by birds or squirrels in my peripheral vision, and I found myself almost veering off the trail and into the brush. This is not a straightforward pathway, so I have to really stay focused on what is ahead of me, otherwise I run the risk of getting into trouble.”
His comment about getting distracted by birds and squirrels got me thinking about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel”. Continue reading
It’s up! After a short hiatus from writing for The Globe & Mail, my latest column is out in cyberspace, and this edition addresses a subject that is controversial in many of my client organizations, particularly larger ones — the topic of forced ranking of employee performance. In Forced employee ranking is a foolish approach, I make the case for why bell-curving and forced numerical ranking have absolutely no place in high-performance workplaces.
So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think. Forced employee ranking – brilliant concept or stupid management practice? If possible, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your point of view will get a much wider audience than if you choose another alternative. But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can post your comments here on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.
And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article). My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people that react to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing! In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/EOig