Archive for October, 2009

It’s Halloween – Do You Dare to Reveal YOUR Hidden Self?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

There is a story in today’s Los Angeles Times that poses an intriguing question: “Who do you think you are?” The fact that the story was published on Halloween makes the query a timely one. The question happens to be the title of Leonard Nimoy’s (Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame) latest photography project. To obtain subjects for this project, Mr. Nimoy extended a public invitation for people to voluntarily reveal their “hidden” or “secret” selves. He was quoted as saying that some participants revealed amazing stories that could not have been made up. The resulting photographs will be on display tonight at a fundraiser in California, then will be exhibited next year at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Assuming for the moment that people do have important aspects of themselves that they choose to hide, Mr. Nimoy’s invitation to allow him literally to shine a light on those secrets raises a myriad of questions:

    What causes people to seek secrecy, or at to least resist
    disclosure, of integral parts of themselves? What are their fears?
    What are the perceived risks?

    What is the key to unlocking these hidden selves?

    What is the cost – to individuals and to society – when people
    keep parts of themselves secret?

In addition to the impact on society, the concept of hidden selves is relevant to the workplace. Consider these questions and comments:

    What is the cost to organizations of employees who believe they
    must hide important parts of themselves while they are at work?
    Some that come to mind immediately include loss of productivity,
    diminished creativity, low morale, disengaged employees, and
    mediocre performance.

    What if employees’ hidden selves were unleashed? I can think of
    several possibilities, such as highly energized workplaces as
    people re-direct the energy formerly expended in hiding their true
    selves toward more positive outcomes, both personal and

    If there is a benefit to be gained by encouraging people to reveal
    their hidden selves, how can employers create an environment in
    which employees feel safe to do so? Is it as simple as giving them
    permission to be who they really are – all parts of themselves –
    and then validating the whole person?

If you think that the existence of hidden or secret selves is characteristic of others and not you, I will leave you with the following questions to test that belief. See if you dare to answer them:

    Who is YOUR hidden or secret self?

    Do you have the courage to reveal that aspect of yourself – if
    not to others then to yourself?

    What is the price you pay for keeping an integral part of yourself

At tonight’s fundraiser, guests have been encouraged to attend dressed as their secret selves. How many will have the nerve to do so? Would YOU?

© 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Setting Priorities Effectively: First Clear the Organizational Clutter

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

One of the big questions people across organizations are asking themselves is, “How do I prioritize my work?” Especially in the aftermath of layoffs, furloughs, and budget cuts, people are seeking effective ways to manage the work that needs to be done.

Before you can begin to set priorities, you first must see clearly what you have to work with. However, given the number of substantial changes many organizations have been through in the past year or so, such clarity may be elusive. Think of a junk drawer in your kitchen. The most effective way to organize it, I have been told by a professional organizer, is first to empty the drawer completely, and then begin to sort through the contents. Only after you have cleared out the objects that obviously will not be going back in the drawer can you begin to make good decisions about what actions to take with the remaining items.

Last year I wrote an article called Clearing the Organizational Clutter whose purpose was to help people cut through the “stuff” that accumulates over time like the things we throw into a junk drawer – e.g., dysfunctional structures, unnecessary programs, misaligned processes – so the organization can optimize its business results. Revising slightly the suggestions from that article, here are ten actions that will get you started in clearing the organizational clutter so you are better positioned to set priorities effectively:

1.  Gain clarity on your vision, values, and goals so the picture of the organization that employees have in their heads is the same as the picture in executives’ heads.

2.  Keep your goals front and center. When you are thinking about the importance of existing programs, systems, or processes, stop and ask yourself which goal(s) they support. If the reply is “none,” they should go to the bottom of the to-do list, or – absent a compelling reason – dropped from it altogether.

3.  When you consider requests to add new things or people, ask what specific goal(s) the proposed additions support. If none, decline the proposed additions.

4.  Review your organization structure. Does it still serve you well given the changes (e.g., decreased size, technological advances) that have occurred? Will it serve the organization as it implements its strategy?

5.  Evaluate employee performance honestly to ensure you have the right people in the right jobs.

6.  Audit your processes to ensure they are necessary and that they are working as effectively as intended. If not, make the changes that enable them to reach the desired level of performance.

7.  Resolve to stop building processes and organizational structures around dysfunctional people and reporting relationships.

8.  Question assumptions rather than doing things just because they’ve always been done a certain way. There can be no “sacred cows.”

9.  Ensure that employees have something to show for their efforts at the end of the day rather than coming up empty-handed because they engaged in non-productive “busy work.”

10. Consider zero-based exercises – e.g., budgeting, staffing – that begin by taking a look at what is needed and utilizing only those resources that meet the needs. This is in contrast with most existing systems, which simply build on what is there without having to justify or even think about it.

What steps will you take today to begin to clear the organizational clutter that is preventing you from setting the priorities you need to optimize business results?

© 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

11 Ways to Engage Employees Now and Retain Them Later

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Will your organization pass the recovery “test?” The test is a pass/fail assessment that consists of one question: Will your employees stay with you when the economy turns around and they have alternative opportunities?

How would your organization do on this test today? In case the answer is anything other than a resounding “We are 100% certain we will pass,” here are eleven no-cost suggestions of what you can do NOW to increase the likelihood that you will retain good employees once they have viable choices again. As a bonus, these suggestions also will help keep your current employees engaged without burning them out.

  1. Lead decisively and instill confidence in your workforce. You cannot lead if you’re hiding under the desk.
  2. Ensure that employees have reasonable workloads by setting priorities with and for them. Though it seems counterintuitive, productivity actually increases when we embrace the reality of doing LESS with less.
  3. Ensure that organizational processes and individual decisions are procedurally fair. Employees will accept negative outcomes IF they believe the rules by which they were achieved are fair.
  4. Support and nurture your supervisors so they can help employees be fully successful.
  5. Demonstrate daily that senior management really cares about employees. Create an environment in which people are respected and valued for who they are personally rather than for their job titles.
  6. Listen to employees. Provide varied and multiple opportunities for them to be heard, and show them that leaders take them seriously.
  7. Be empathetic. Give employees an outlet for expressing their anxieties and fears.
  8. Create an appreciative environment. Catch people doing things well and recognize their efforts as well as their successes and achievements.
  9. Help employees see that they have choices about how they experience their situations. Show them that they have more control than they think they do.
  10. Communicate early and often. Be truthful and as transparent as possible.
  11. Create a sense of community. Ensure that all employees see the organization’s “big picture” AND how they personally contribute to its achievement.

What is your organization doing to engage its employees? Let us know!

© 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.