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Via New Straits Times : Work, Matters! : Dealing with Change at the Workplace

I write this week’s column after a heady night of tracking the results of Malaysia’s fourteenth general elections.

I reiterate what I declared in my column last week; that I have no desire to influence you in anyway in terms of your inalienable right to make a choice to determine who represents you.

Malaysians have made their choice, and well done everyone, for coming out, and participating in the process of creating your own destiny.

Today, I would like to share a value-added proposition for your career.

Why do people have difficulty in dealing with change?

Change comes in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and under a variety of circumstances. From a workplace stand-point, change is often quite traumatic.

Whether your job has been dis-established, or a competitor has just out-maneuvered you for that position, or the environment has evolved as have the ways you used to do things; your ability to withstand change at the workplace, and to use it to your advantage, will depend on how you choose to recalibrate your thought processes.

As kids, the word “change” is mostly used on us as a form of a caution. My father used to warn me that if I didn’t change my attitude, he’d take some punitive action.

At work, bosses tend to use the word “change” in both explicit and implied terms, as a form of a threat. “If things don’t get better, I am going to make some big changes in our office!”

Perhaps this is why, we avoid change. It’s almost always inconvenient, and difficult.

While there are situations where you have to change because circumstances have changed; like if you face a personal loss, or a health crisis; most workplace changes are necessary because of the lack of results.

It is difficult to embrace change while you get whacked by its effects, but it serves you well to remember that change at work, happens because you are not producing the desired results.

The reality is that change rarely happens when people are happy, and are producing great outcomes.

Through my experiences as a management consultant and leadership coach, I have understood that accepting change is no fun, because everyone likes staying in their comfort zone.

But, it is not a difficult skill to learn. Once you start looking at change as a good thing, you’ll be amazed at some of the benefits that can follow.

Here are some ideas that will help you embrace change at work.

Connect deeply with the notion that change helps you grow. Changes will force you to adapt in ways that you have probably never experienced before. This is a major driver of personal and professional development.

You will find that when you accept that change helps you grow; your opinions and mindset will be challenged. You will realise that you need new ways to articulate who you are, and what you believe in. The idea of repeatedly doing the usual things, will no longer appeal to you. And, you will begin to use different approaches to dealing with your work-life.

Next, embracing change teaches you to be flexible.

Workplace flexibility is about changing or creating modifications in your thought processes to suit the new environment. Creating this personal workplace culture, means that you will be open to new ideas, and you will be able to work independently, or in teams, more effectively.

I can confirm without hesitation that employers are increasingly shifting from single roles to rotating roles, and offering flexible job descriptions. It’s a sought after skill, as it indicates that you can adjust to changing customer needs, and technology trends.

Finally, change offers you tremendous opportunities.

When you alter the way the way you think and work, opportunities will open up. This will have a cascading effect by providing you with more possibilities.

If you are going through a change in circumstance, and you do not waste your time resisting it, you will find that your mind begins to expand in ways that it hadn’t, before. You will be forced to find out about what you can handle, and what you can’t. You will begin to understand your limitations. And this realisation will push you to overcome your limitations.

Learning about yourself, including what you cannot handle, helps you to figure out better ways to manage your work-life. You will become open to the possibility of learning that what you did in the past will not work for your future.

I strongly recommend that you take change into your own hands by embracing it, and understanding how to deal with it, at the work-place.

In the end, you must want your work-life to produce results that add value to yourself, and to others. This will help you achieve that end.

Via Forbes : ‘Feminine’ Leadership: Why More Men Should Practice Empathy In The Workplace

In today’s day and age, it seems like we’re becoming more and more stressed and constantly finding ourselves in fight-or-flight mode. Not to mention, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are on the rise.

So why is this happening?

If we really look at where all of this anguish is stemming from, we’ll find that it’s in our daily interactions — particularly in the workplace — and what’s lacking in these environments.

Historically, people thrived in communities where each person had one skill they cultivated. People excelled when they were working together with a sense of common purpose and they each had one thing they were focusing on. The carpenter worked with wood, the potter made ceramics, the weavers wove, and all worked in symbiotic harmony.

Now, we’ve moved into an individualistic lifestyle, one in which the average person is expected to have a varied skill set and is required to multitask in several directions throughout the course of any given day.

In today’s society, if you only do one thing, it’s often frowned upon. People wonder what’s “wrong” with you. Someone in marketing is expected to do event coordination and graphic design, and programmers are asked to do social media management. There are multiple career abilities layered on top of one another, and having to switch direction and focus over the course of any given day can range from stressful to utterly exhausting and anxiety-inducing.

We need to be able to look at our work environments with more compassionate understanding and awareness. That’s where “feminine” leadership skills come in.

When we think about those historical communities we mentioned earlier, we see that those existed in a time when, traditionally, there was more empathy. There was more emphasis on thinking about others, about family, and a greater sense of love.

Now, we’re in a space where loneliness is rampant. People are depressed, and many people can go for days, or even weeks, without any real connection to other human beings.

So what needs to change?

Quite simply, change is needed in the way organizations are structured. We need to bring in more of that sense of community, collaboration and cooperation. People need to feel a deeper sense of belonging, feeling that they matter and that there’s someone at work who cares about them. People need to feel that the person in charge is sincerely interested in what’s going on in their lives and in what’s happening in their world outside of the workplace — someone who wants to spend real time with them and bring more joy to their lives.

We are well aware of the statistics regarding women in leadership. There aren’t enough women in these roles yet, so we need to call on the men to help bring about change. If men who are currently in leadership roles were to embody more cooperation, collaboration and empathy, and really start listening to their team members, corporations would change for the better.

We need men to treat their team members in such a way as to bring out their strengths. Encourage them. Nurture them. Show team members compassion and how best to bring empathy and love into the workplace. We need men to show up and embody these qualities until the statistics about stress and work/life dissatisfaction become more balanced.

In order for our world to become healthier, and for people to enjoy what they’re doing more, we need people to feel alive, thriving and optimal.

For that to happen, we need to bring in more gentleness into our corporations.

Via Forbes : Mastering Multigenerational Communication In The Workplace

The topic of generational diversity has launched a tsunami of observation, documentation, investigation, speculation and research in the last 20 years. The emergence of digital media technology has made it possible to disseminate the differences between generational behavioral characteristics in panoramic detail. However, knowledge alone will not meld the schisms that exist between one generation to another. It is possible this scrutiny has even fueled some subtle fires of prejudice between generational members.

Spherexx has five generations working side by side right now, and we are working constantly to present the best communication workflow to optimize performance across generational barriers.

How many times have we heard or said something like, “That’s a millennial for you!” to a perplexed baby boomer employer when a prospective employee arrives wearing shorts and flip-flops to an interview? Putting aside preconceptions takes concentrated effort after being exposed to a barrage of misinformation or partial inundation of facts.

Studying measurable facts is a good beginning for laying the groundwork to adopt better multigeneration communication within your corporate culture and daily workflows.

Know The Facts

For the purpose of this study, we are using Pew Research Center’s age definition of generations:

Millennials represent the largest workforce group as of 2015. The research also reports that the workforce of Americans age 55 and over is in a steady upward trend, projected at 24.3% in 2020. The aging baby boomers and Gen Xers are not going gentle into that good night, which lays a foundation of a dynamic workplace environment soon to be populated by five generations.

This chart shows the historical and projected workforce by age from 2016 to 2026, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pew Research. The data labels indicate the generations represented.

By 2026, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce, yet one-quarter of the workforce will still be represented by Gen Xers plus boomers, who are projected at 13 million in 2024. These statistics have spurred forward-thinking leaders to research how generations are alike and different, with the goal of maintaining peace and high productivity in their companies.

We believe we have had some successes in communicating across generations by first informing our leaders and mentors about the differences between the generational characteristics. Then, we practice those preferred communication methodologies while balancing a respect for the differences in each generation, along with individual learning styles of the employee.

A research survey with 18,000 participants from 19 countries discovered leadership motivational employment factors for generations X, Y and Z. This study is very enlightening for establishing motivational communications between the current and emerging generations.

This research tells us that all are motivated by money, a desire for leadership and flexibility, and they all somewhat feel the need to fit in. Members of Gen X, Y and Z crave a sense of leadership, but none more than Gen Y (77%). But it’s Gen Z’s choices that indicate a high trend in entrepreneurial endeavors. Gen X and Y desire to mentor others, Gen Y and Z are looking forward to more virtual reality tools in the workplace, and all rate current technology in the workplace as lacking.

A Good Beginning

Consider what current forms of your corporate communications support these shared motivations. How can you promote a greater sense of leadership, create a more flexible working environment, reduce stress, improve technology and establish a mentorship program?

We launched Spherexx in 2000 with flexible working hours, which is a big attraction to all our staff members — we only require that deadlines are met and that everyone operates within established, written policies. Our organization is flat, but we have long tenured employees that are influencers that work to nurture others. We have found that setting aside times to have fun together with bi-monthly updates on what each division has accomplished naturally improves communication, as does nurturing team support around charity activities and socializing events.

Sue Whitener, Human Resources Consultant, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, sums up the best point for beginning to better generational communication: “First of all, create an environment of mutual respect and uphold the directive. Help employees to better understand each other’s differences, recognize different communication preferences and how to best support your organization. It is always important to ask employees what their desired method of communication is and fit your initiatives into your findings. Study the characteristics of generational behavior and remember that cusp-born members will often share characteristics of both generations. Never forget that each person is an individual and must be treated accordingly.”

As a leader in your working environment, first examine what prejudice may lurk in your own perspective and work through it for the better good. Otherwise, it will ultimately manifest and it will become permissible, if not preferential, to those who follow you either by position or influence. Begin with the Golden Rule.

Via South China Morning Post : Mindset Matters: From Cultural Mindset to Multicultural Competence

With the increase in global connectivity, the ability to work and communicate effectively with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is seen as an important asset. What factors might help to build this asset?

Imagine that you need to build a project team to work on integrating artificial intelligence with business analytics. Suppose that you have all the resources that you need to attract the brightest minds from around the world to join your team. What might affect the overall effectiveness of this team? Presumably, everyone on the team would have the technical knowledge and competencies to perform and contribute as required. However, having the knowledge and competencies does not necessarily mean that individual team members would be able and willing to communicate effectively. What might influence work and communication effectiveness in the face of diversity? Research over the past decade has suggested that multicultural competence (sometimes known as cultural intelligence) is an important quality in enhancing effectiveness in a culturally diverse workforce.

What is multicultural competence? Why is it important?

Multicultural competence refers to the ability to adapt and function efficiently in a culturally diverse setting. It involves (a) having the intrinsic interest to acquire different cultural knowledge; (b) possessing knowledge about other cultures; (c) being aware of one’s own cultural values and beliefs, and their potential assumptions and biases; and (d) being able to respond in a culturally appropriate manner. In short, it encompasses motivation, knowledge, awareness, and skills.

Multicultural competence can influence important outcomes across different work domains. For example, it affects the effectiveness of expatriates and how well they adjust in international assignments. It influences the performance of culturally diverse teams and the success of cross-cultural negotiations. It also predicts the performance of salespersons who serve diverse customers. Interestingly, in the domain of health service provision, particularly mental health, it can influence the diagnostic accuracy of clinicians and their service delivery because cultural factors influence how clinical symptoms are experienced, detected, understood, and managed.

What might contribute to multicultural competence?

Multicultural competence is a learnable attribute. Therefore, business organizations and educational institutes have invested a significant amount of resources in training and education. Above all, they recognize that international experience and exposure to foreign cultures are important means in enhancing multicultural competence. However, individuals differ in their receptiveness towards cultural training and international experiences. Some might benefit from these experiences and training and improve their level of multicultural competence over time. Others might resist and react against it. Why would people react and respond differently? Our recent research revealed that “cultural mindset” matters.

Our work on “cultural mindset” grew out of the broader literature on “growth mindset”. It has shown that individuals’ beliefs about their ability can create a social reality for themselves, which then leads them to see and experience what they have expected. Research on growth mindset reveals that whereas some people believe that their ability is changeable, others believe it is fixed. Importantly, when facing challenges, people in the former group tend to persist more in the search for solutions than those in the latter group. They also tend to value opportunities to learn and to improve themselves. Eventually, their beliefs turn into a reality. They show improvement in their actual ability, outperforming those with a fixed mindset.

Our research on cultural mindset showed that a similar process influences the development of multicultural competence. In a longitudinal study, we found that sojourners who believe in changeable cultural attributes are more at ease in intercultural environments than those with a fixed cultural mindset. They experience less anxiety when interacting with people from another culture. They are also less inclined to anticipate social rejections, and are better adjusted in the host countries. These positive experiences then foster the development of multicultural competence.

In a series of lab studies, we also found that people holding malleable cultural beliefs are more able to build a trusting relationship with their foreign partners. This trust led to more cooperative behavior and better outcomes in negotiations. In short, our mindsets create a self-fulfilling cycle in which we live. Mindset matters. We do not only see what we believe, but we also become what we believe.

What can be done then?

Individuals are often selected for international exchanges, foreign assignments, or multicultural teamwork based on their technical competence. For some, they can leverage these opportunities to establish trusting relationships, expend their networks, and broaden their knowledge base. For others, such experiences can turn out to be aversive.

Arguably, there could be a self-selection process in which people with a malleable cultural mindset feel more comfortable with intercultural exchanges and, therefore, are more likely to take up the challenge and flourish. In contrast, people with a fixed cultural mindset tend to shy away from intercultural encounters in the first place; however, some might be motivated to take up these international opportunities because of their perceived instrumental value. In the increasingly diverse workplace, individuals should be mindful of the impact of their cultural mindset in shaping the development of their multicultural competence. Managers and educators should also consider ways to provide support and training.

Traditional cross-cultural training programs focus on enhancing multicultural competence by providing culture-specific knowledge. They often highlight differences in cultural practices and values, but an emphasis on differences may inadvertently reinforce a fixed cultural mindset. So, it is important for cross-cultural training program to go beyond emphasizing cultural differences. It would likely be more effective in promoting positive intercultural exchanges if it fosters an awareness of how cultural mindset can lead into a self-fulfilling cycle of competence, or incompetence.

What is “Multicultural Competence”?

– Intrinsic interest to acquire cultural knowledge
– Knowledge about other cultures
– Awareness of different cultural values and beliefs, and their potential biases
– Skill to respond in a culturally appropriate manner

Via Forbes : Workplace Matters: How To Make It Great

Everyone wants a great workplace. An environment where the work is both interesting and challenging. Where people collaborate to promote the worthy cause of terrific products or make-a-difference services. Where careers blossom and the bottom line thrives.

For more than two decades, Great Place to Work has produced annual lists of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. The lists are anything but arbitrary. They’re based on rigorous standards backed up by uncompromising research.

By now you know some of the players: companies like Adobe, Salesforce, Mercedes-Benz, Whole Foods, Marriott, American Express, Hyatt, Mars, Aflac, Nordstrom, FedEx. These and others have earned a coveted spot in the workplace hall of fame.

But as the song lyric says, the times they are a changin’.

The implication of change in the modern workplace is detailed in A Great Place to Work for All, a new book by Michael Bush, CEO of the Great Place to Work organization. He reveals the essential values and behaviors that every organization must follow to thrive in the future.

Rodger Dean Duncan: You begin your book by saying that what was good enough to be “great” 10 or 20 years ago is not good enough now. What has changed?

Michael Bush: It’s no longer good enough to have a great experience for just some of your people.

When I came on as CEO three years ago, I knew people at our 100 Best Companies who weren’t having a great experience. So we dug into our data. We found that even at the best, many people were being left out. They were experiencing a different organization than their colleagues.

We recognized the problem and took an approach to make sure that all people—women, people of color, of different nationalities, of different job levels—worked in a positive environment where they can thrive.

We raised the bar so that a company has to be consistently great. It has to be great not just for some, but for all. We did this not just because it’s the right thing to do. But because when a company is a great place to work for all, it brings out the best in everyone. That’s better for business.

Duncan: After decades of surveying tens of millions of workers in scores of industries, your organization added “maximizing human potential” to your measurement standards. What precipitated that change?

Bush: For one thing, we needed to take stock of the new economic landscape. This is a business climate defined by speed, social technologies and people expecting values besides value. For people to give your organization all of their potential they want respect, fairness, and some form of equity in return. If they aren’t getting these things the organization is getting a suboptimal return. This is the case in the majority of the companies we survey. The organizations that are maximizing this potential grow revenue four times faster than the companies that get less of this potential.

Secondly, we listened to our clients and the Best Workplaces we work with. They made this point too. Cisco’s executive chairman, John Chambers, for example, says the digital revolution requires companies to rely ever more on those on the front line. “Decisions will be made much further down in the organization at a fast pace,” he told us.

Finally, maximizing human potential is great all around. When all employees are at their best at work, it’s better for businesses, better for people and better for the world.

Duncan: There’s no doubt that trust fuels performance. What kind of behaviors build and maintain trust in the workplace?

Bush: Leaders are key. From executives down to front-line managers, leaders need to demonstrate respect, credibility and fairness to employees. Those are the building blocks of trust. Leaders increase trust every time they listen carefully to employees, live up to their word and treat all people in an even-handed way. The very best leaders—what we call “For All” leaders—also cultivate strong bonds with their teams, connect everyone to the mission of the organization, and spotlight team members’ successes.

Another trust-building behavior is providing everyone with opportunities to innovate. A great example is software company Adobe and its “Kickboxes.” These “personal innovation kits” are boxes with guidance inside on developing new ideas, a Starbucks gift card and $1,000 in seed money. Any employee can get one—no questions asked. About 2,000 Kickboxes have been given out in recent years, leading to new products and internal process improvements. Opportunities to innovate boosts your business and shows employees you trust them to do great things.

Duncan: In companies that struggle with negative public relations issues—Uber and Facebook come to mind—what can leaders do to revitalize the confidence of employees?

Bush: They can start by building credibility and respect by sharing the truth of the problem transparently. They can listen to employees’ reactions and possible solutions. They can include these perspectives as a plan is built for the future. And they can uphold values, even when that’s tough.

One example is the way health care system Texas Health Resources handled an Ebola scare several years ago. The hospital involved suffered a drop in patient visits because of public fears of the disease, but Texas Health CEO Barclay Berdan refused to lay off employees. The organization lived up to its “Individuals Caring for Individuals, Together” promise, and revenue recovered by the end of the year.

Duncan: Not surprisingly, your research shows that work experience tends to be more positive at higher levels in organizations. What can be done to boost work satisfaction at lower levels?

Bush: Respect them. The best way to do so doesn’t cost you any money and in fact will increase your revenue: give everyone chances to come up with new and better products, services and processes. Create what we call an “Innovation By All” culture, which taps into the human desire to be creative, to contribute. Our research shows that companies that are most inclusive in their innovation activities grow revenue 5.5 times faster than companies that have the least “By All” culture of innovation.

I mentioned Adobe’s Kickbox program earlier. Another example is hospitality giant Hilton. Hilton has a “Make it Right” mantra, which encourages everyone at all levels to take the initiative to solve problems. Front line workers at Hilton don’t just make it right, they make it better. One housekeeper told us she learned while cleaning a room that a couple was celebrating their anniversary. So she got room service to give them a bottle of wine as a gift. That makes for five-star service and a happy employee.

Duncan: What should a “For All” organization look for when recruiting new employees?

Bush: First, aim to hire a workforce that reflects the make-up of your community. You can’t get the benefits of For All culture—which includes the proven advantages of diverse perspectives—if you don’t have “All” kinds of people there in the first place.

Also, look for people who want to learn, who are open to different perspectives. Great Places to Work For All are dynamic, so employees can expect their roles and responsibilities to change over time. And they need to be comfortable being uncomfortable at times. They must be willing to be challenged by people who have different viewpoints.

Finally, big egos aren’t a positive. You’re looking for people who are driven by a bigger purpose and ready to collaborate to achieve it.

Duncan: In light of your research findings, what kind of questions should today’s job applicants be asking their prospective employers?

Bush: Do they respect employees enough to share information and decision-making? Do they show a commitment to For All by having a diverse set of people in leadership roles? Have they made some tough decisions to stand by their values? Can they tell a story of letting go a top performer who was a cancer on the culture?

Software company Workday did just that. Their CEO, Aneel Bhusri, looked at the data showing that one his lieutenants wasn’t creating the collegial atmosphere the company expects. By ousting this leader, Bhusri showed For All Leadership. I’d ask for a story like this.