Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The beginning of the end of employee coddling

You’ve heard the news by now that Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, declared the end to working from home for Yahoo employees. They have been given three months to get their homes in order and get back to the office.  Yahoo says the return to work is to build collaboration and form a unified Yahoo. Is Mayer risking too much with this change or is the change a slick move?

Keep in mind that Mayer was hired to “right the ship”. Yahoo has been going downhill fast (one recent CEO there was fired for lying on his resume and others failed), and she’s there to turn it around. Clearly, what they are doing now is not working, so changes are necessary.
Wouldn’t it be silly to keep doing what they’ve been doing when what they’ve been doing is not working? Wouldn’t it be silly to retain the flexible work location just because Google and Facebook offer it to their people? Yahoo is not their peer and its people are not holding up their end of the bargain by actually working while at home.
I’d bet Mayer didn’t issue the change without identifying the most important contributors and how they work. Unfortunately, she found out that most of the people working from home were complacent. Complacency ruins companies. She’s not going to let Yahoo go down without a fight.

On the other hand, research shows that flexibility is important to workers today. Companies that offer flexibility enjoy lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction and engagement. Mayer might be jeopardizing the highly productive, engaged, and motivated employees in an attempt to boost collaboration or rid the company of underperformers.
Some people have noted that top talent won’t join Yahoo now because they will not have the flexibility to work from home. That’s a risk Mayer is willing to take. Frankly, I doubt top talent would be focused only on this one issue. They will come for other perks, if the company turns itself around.

Much of the world is up-in-arms about this edict, proclaiming it takes working women back fifty years, but let’s recognize the positives of the strategy too:

·         The change is not odd. It makes sense that an industry that relies on innovation, which is built on collaboration, would want people to be together.

·         It sends the positive message that people are so valuable, they need to collaborate more. If you don’t want to, feel free to exit may be the underlying message, but the outward message is positive.

·         It’s a great way to get rid of the complacent people taking advantage of the flexible option without having the cost of layoffs.

·         It shows analysts and customers that Yahoo is not afraid to make bold moves.

·         The change is temporary. They’ve said it is necessary “right now”, which leaves it open to change in the future or on an as-needed basis.

This might be the tipping point for coddling. In some places, employee engagement has run amok and people have taken advantage. Companies are waking up to the fact that they pay good money and it is reasonable to expect something in return. When people don’t hold up their end of the bargain, companies are going to coddle less and open the exit doors more.
As companies wake up to their power, complacent employees will be the most vocal protesters. Mark my words: the coddling days are coming to an end. The days of genuine caring will continue, just the coddling will stop.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Equipment or People: Which do you prefer?

If you could spend all day working with with equipment or people, which would you pick?

Nearly every person in a recent workshop with technical people chose equipment. Why do you think people would prefer to work with equipment over people? Some said…
  • Equipment doesn’t talk
  • Equipment comes with instructions about how it works
  • Equipment either works or doesn’t work based on what you do
When you buy equipment, for example, a laptop, what do you want to know before the purchase? Usually we want to know how it was made, how to extend battery life, how much it will cost, how to make it work.

If you think about it, working with people is very similar to working with equipment. These days, equipment even talks back when you don’t work with it the right way. It doesn’t cuss or yell when you make a mistake, but it talks nonetheless.

If we would take time to learn about people before expecting things from them, just like we do a new laptop, our interactions could be so much better.

While people don’t come with instructions, there are basic rules of engagement that improve relationships when used. 
  1. Listen to understand the other person. Usually, people think they are listening when they really are just keeping their mouths shut while planning what to say when the other is done yapping.
  2. Discern the other person’s mood when interacting. Don’t approach someone who is stressed out about a deadline in a casual, nonchalant manner. Speed up, get to the bottom line, and let them get back to work.
  3. Figure out the other’s communication preference when interacting with them. What if your preference is to be very detailed but the other person prefers the bottom line? You share details about a process used and the results that led to your conclusions, while the other person wishes you would get to the conclusion. When they rush you along, you consider them rude. When you don’t get to the point, they consider you rude. Without even disagreeing about anything, conflict can occur because of the difference in preferences.
Just like equipment, people will work better if you treat them well. Laptops won’t do anything unless they are plugged in and turned on. People are the same way.

When I thought about my preference of working with people or equipment, I almost hyperventilated at the thought of having to work with equipment. I know how to program the DVR, set up a new phone, set up a laptop, build web sites, etc. I don’t enjoy doing those things and try to tackle only a few each year because they are exhausting. But, what happens when someone can’t do those things? They have to rely on others, they don’t get them in a timely manner, they waste time, or they might over-pay for products or set-up.

Most of the people in the workshop preferred to work with equipment over people. They might even feel exhausted if they have too much interaction with others, the way I feel about equipment. However, what happens when they don’t hone their interpersonal skills? The same things that happen when people don’t learn how to use equipment: waste time, money, energy.

Whatever your preference is, the bottom line is that you have to work with people. The good news is that it can be easier than you thought if you look at it the way you look at equipment: it will do what you want if you treat it well.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Can Do Anything!

Here’s a video of a little girl whose message in the mirror is worth emulating:

If we began each day the way this little girl did, we would be set for life! Imagine what kind of All-In leaders we would be if we approached each day with the same gusto as little Jessica in the video?

It’s a lesson my maternal grandmother taught me as a child. My Nana was a widow with five children by the time she was 45. She was the busiest woman I’ve ever known. She lived in Chicago, volunteered for everything under the sun, travelled, played cards with friends, and lived a gloriously full life. When she visited my family in Kansas City each summer, my three brothers and I took turns staying with her at the hotel. Each night to get us to quiet down and go to sleep, Nana made us repeat the mantra: I like myself.

The older we got, the cornier the mantra became. As teenagers, my brothers and I talked about the saying and how something like what we tell ourselves can’t really matter. As we respectfully protested having to repeat the saying, Nana gave us little quote books and would ask us about them. One way or another, she was going to be certain we knew the importance of what we told ourselves.

It turns out, she was right. What we say to ourselves does matter.

We discussed Nana’s visits, the nightly routine, and the books over the recent Christmas holiday because December 25th would have been her birthday. My siblings and I grew up to be pretty good people, but we all agreed that Nana’s mantra had been replaced by less useful thoughts each night.

Instead of thinking positive things, all four of us shared that we often fall asleep worrying, planning, thinking, over-thinking. We had forgotten the simple mantra Nana taught us and the peace it brought our minds as each day ended.

Maybe it’s time to renew Nana’s mantra. Or, at least to pay closer attention to the thoughts in our heads. What if we replaced the stress-inducing nightly thoughts with something more peaceful, joyful, relaxing? It just might help us approach each day with the same “I can do anything!” attitude of the little girl. You can't get more All-In than that!

What is your daily affirmation? If you don't have one yet, make it, "I can do anything!"