Mise en Place in the Workplace

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m on board with almost anything Anthony Bourdain says. Whether it’s his cooking advice, his adventurous soliloquies, or his spot-on commentary about Rachel Ray, it seems the man can say little wrong. So when my friend (who’s attending culinary school) told me to look into his organizational tips, I was incredibly intrigued.

You see, I have a bit of an organizational issue. Why would you want to take advice about being organized from a self-proclaimed shlub? To quote Liz Lemon, “Julia Roberts in a movie about eating? Give me a Kirstie Alley, somebody who knows what she’s doing.” I speak from experience, so hear me out.

Chef’s organize their work stations in a way that is unique to their trade. It’s called “Mise en Place”(pronounced mee-zahn-plahs), and it’s a technique that has been keeping chefs, kitchens and culinary institutions composed for centuries. The literal French translation is “put in place”, taking your tools and ingredients and laying them out in a way that makes everything accessible and intuitive. It’s preparation on a whole new level. But it’s also a state of mind. It rids you of distraction by setting a clear path to your goals, and helps you feel ready to tackle any task ahead of you.

Here’s how that applies to you. As told by Anthony Bourdain:

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.”

Tomorrow, before you start your normal routine, prepare yourself for the day. Define your projects, goals and priorities right off the bat, and figure out what tools you’ll need to tackle those tasks. In the eloquent words of Ron Friedman, a contributor to Harvard Business Review:

“A good approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Chefs envision the perfect execution before starting their dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”

Liberia: Where Company Values Slam Up Against Tough Decisions

When Tribe works with clients to define their company values, we sometimes challenge them to eliminate all but those they’d adhere to no matter what —  even under the most stressful of circumstances. Would that value stick even when it could cost the company a great deal of money? Will it be compromised when there just isn’t enough time to uphold it? That, however, represents an ideal world.

In real life, organizations sometimes face difficult choices between two or more values that conflict. The Ebola crisis in Liberia, for instance, is forcing some aid organizations to make brutally tough decisions about human life. Which humans do they value more — the ones they’re in Liberia to help? Or the volunteers who are there doing the helping?

“When people started dying of Ebola in Liberia, Clarine Vaughn faced a wrenching choice: Should she send home, for their own health and safety, four American doctors working for Heartt, the aid group she led there?” begins an article in the New York Times.  ”Or should she keep them in the country without proper supplies or training to fight the virulent, contagious disease, which was already spreading panic?

“After much agonizing, Ms. Vaughn, who lives in Liberia, pulled the doctors out and canceled plans to bring in more. The African physicians and nurses left behind told her they understood, but felt abandoned. They said, “We need you guys here,” she recalled.

Raphael Frankfurter, executive director of the Wellbody Alliance, also sent his American volunteers home. He left his Liberian volunteers in place. “It’s certainly not in line with our values, because it’s just such a glaring inequality,” he said, in the same NYT article as quoted above. “But it’s a very scary place to get sick right now.”

In most cases, a company’s values provide clarity between two choices. For example, if a car manufacturer cites safety as a value, then most people would probably say that recalling a model with faulty brakes is the right choice. Human beings trump the potential impact on profits, in that scenario.

Sometimes, however, organizations face decisions between two nearly unbearable options, both of which will likely lead to dire consequences. In that case, those making the decision must wrestle with the nuances of what those values represent. The difficulties of that struggle can be informed by the organization’s values, but not necessarily made any easier.

 

 

Three Traits of High-Performance Managers, Combining Both Performance and Engagement Management Approaches

Does your company promote performance-oriented management or an engagement-focused approach? Gallup recently surveyed more than 8,000 employees about their relationship with their managers to better understand the benefits of the two styles. The results may have you rethinking the current management practices in your company.

The difference between performance and engagement-focused managers is pretty straightforward. The performance-oriented managers conduct meetings and initiate conversations about the team’s objectives, goals and desired results. At the other end of the spectrum, engagement-focused managers motivate employees by creating an engaging environment and developing interpersonal relationships.

So, which is better – or is there another option? The Gallup research indicated that most high-performance managers actually use a combination of the two styles. The new breed of high-performance managers does both and is more effective. An article in the Gallup Business Journal describes three traits common to this style of management:

“High-performance managers create an engaging work environment that promotes peak performance in three primary ways,” according to the article.

1. They don’t ignore their employees. Some managers are hesitant to get involved in their employees’ work lives, but studies show it’s actually beneficial for both parties. “When employees strongly agree that their manager knows what projects and tasks they’re working on, they are almost seven times more likely to be engaged.”

2. They guide their employees to success. By taking an active role in their employees work lives, high-performance managers help set goals and provide direction to reach the desired outcome. Employees are 17 times more likely to be engaged if their managers help them set and achieve their goals.

3. They conduct regular meetings with their employees. “Great managers also ask their employees to take ownership of their success or failures,” and promote engagement through performance by conducting regular meetings. Employees who participate in regular meetings produce better results for their team and company, and feel more valuable.

Performance and engagement are mutually dependent. High-performance managers value both enhancing employee performance and engagement. The results of great management practices are energized and effective employees who contribute to the success of their company.

Need help building your employee engagement? Tribe is happy to help.

Email Overload is the Enemy of Innovation

If employees spent less time on email, would they come up with more innovations? Recent research suggests they just might.

Employees everywhere complain of email overload.  Some people even dread vacation because they return to hundreds of waiting emails. Or they come back from holiday not so rested or recharged because they checked email constantly while they were out.

The constant stream of incoming emails keeps employees mildly on edge. Some studies indicate that we actually become addicted to the constant flow of emails, texts and other stimulation, making it difficult to completely check out for an extended break. Or even to focus on a project that requires sustained concentration.

This focus, interspersed with occasional breaks, is how we reset our brains and prime them for innovative thinking. “Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of say, 30 to 50 minutes,” writes Daniel J. Levitin in his New York Times article titled, “Hit the Reset Button In Your Brain.”

Yet letting the mind wander is apparently as important to innovation as being able to focus on the task at hand. Levitin describes a sort of seesaw in the brain between the focused attention mode and the daydreaming mode. The focused mode is how we were able to “harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome.” But, he writes, “The insight that led to (these innovations) probably came from the daydreaming mode.”

Like a seesaw, when one side is up, the  other side is down. The brain is either completely in the attention focused mode or completely in the wandering mode, and switches from one mode to another. “If it is called upon to switch too often,” writes Levitin, “we feel tired and a bit dizzy, as though we were seesawing too rapidly.”

That means constantly checking email keeps employees from being able to focus on real work, as well as from the daydreaming that’s the basis of so much innovation. That’s not to say that email is bad for business. It’s an efficient way to communicate, although misused and overused in most settings.

Tribe works with companies to develop protocol and training that greatly reduces the amount of time employees spend on email. This helps employees quickly identify messages that require action on their part, hold for later those messages they need to read but not react to, and limit the distraction of those messages that are not relevant for them.

Need help reducing email overload in your company? Tribe can help.

 

 

Three Common Mistakes Made in Communicating Employee Exits

A common dilemma, in companies large and small, is how to properly communicate employee exits. From layoffs to retirement to termination, communication of employee departures should always be handled in the most respectful way possible. There are many ways to handle this type of communication, and the nuances of the process will be up to you and your company’s culture and values. But there are certainly tactics you should avoid.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of things not to do.

1) Don’t stay strong and silent “for the team”. Not communicating at all is a very common mistake made in any type of change management. What goes on in the imagination of your employees is usually far worse than the truth. If you are not able to provide exact details of an employee’s departure, provide as much information as you can. Having employees arrive to work on Monday to find out their colleague is no longer with the company can cause major ramifications.

2) Stay away from empty promises. Do employees have a reason to fear for their job safety? If they don’t, tell them they don’t. If they might, telling them they are completely safe and everything will be okay is likely to backfire. Be as open and honest as you can, even if that means telling employees that you don’t have anything to share yet, but you’ll let them know when you do. Hearing you acknowledge them and their concerns will always go a long way.

3) Don’t draw more attention than necessary. Depending on the individual situation, employees may not want their departure communicated. Often, if the employee exit is negative, distributing a long company-wide email or feature on the intranet might make the experience even more painful. It’s important to know your company culture and the individual employee’s wants and needs, even after they are no longer employees. The most important key to successfully communicating change is to begin with a foundation of respect for the employees.

The Silent Silo: Top Corporate Management vs Everybody Else

If you asked employees to list the most common silos in your company, would you expect them to mention executive leadership vs. employees? In Tribe’s recent survey with employees of large companies, this silo was the fourth most frequently selected option, along with departments, business units and geographic locations. (Silos white paper available in September.)

It might be interesting to ask your own top leadership if they feel employees understand their vision. Ironically, many have the impression that they’re keeping employees fully in the loop when there may be little to no communication sent directly from them to the hoi polloi of the workforce.

Cascading this information through managers is a half measure. Yes, it’s important to give managers the tools and training to communicate important messages to their teams. But in Tribe’s research, the company vision is one topic the employees want to hear directly from the CEO or other top execs. (See the executive summary of this earlier study on the Expertise page of Tribe’s site.)

Executive management is also often woefully out of touch with what employees think and feel. I once had the CFO of a Fortune 500 brand tell me that they had not given an employee bonus, for the first year in the company’s history, and everybody seemed fine with it. When I asked how he knew they were fine, he said because he hadn’t heard any employees complain about it. As if any of the guys from the warehouse would feel completely comfortable stopping by the CFO’s office to mention a perceived slight or disappointment.

Actually, that is the solution, or at least a first step. Providing two-way communication between employees and the executive team gives people a chance to share their concerns, but also their questions and ideas. There are a number of ways to create this channel, from a feedback page on the intranet to an 800 number to something as low-tech as an old-fashioned suggestion box that allows employees to jot down a comment on paper and drop it in the slot.

Another part of the solution is at least one direct channel from top leadership to employees regarding the vision. This channel can inspire employees to align with the vision, and to understand how their roles in the company contribute to achieving that vision. It might be an executive leadership blog, rotating authorship from one executive team member to the next by week or month. It could be part of an internal magazine sent to employees’ homes. It could even be tweets or texts. The critical element is that it be communicated directly from the top to employees at all levels, not filtered through managers to their teams.

Need help breaking down the executive silo in your company? Tribe would be happy to help.

Making Internal, External: the Right Social Media Channels for Your Company

How employees use social media at your company is completely up to your culture. Many companies that aren’t promoting a brand shy away from a social media presence. Others still see social media as merely a distraction. But there is an ever-increasing value in showing people (Read: co-workers at other locations, remote employees, and any potential customers or clients.) a peek inside your everyday culture and your people to show them what makes your company special.

At Tribe, we always promote the importance of human connections in internal communications. And social media is a great first step in making that happen. There is so much more to a company than the products and services it provides. People, employees, are the foundation, the driving forces, and they are ultimately going to make or break your business. You’ve hired and invested in them. You see something unique about them. Why not broadcast those attributes?

Here are the most popular social media outlets and how you could effectively put them to work for your company.

Facebook

The big mama, the social media mecca. A lot of consumer companies are taking to Facebook marketing, some exclusively use the platform. It’s a great way to advertise, and it’s been proven to reach targeted audiences very well.

But if you don’t have a product is there value in a Facebook presence? In short, yes. At Tribe, we use our Facebook page to show snapshots of our everyday office life. It’s great because of its mixed-media capabilities. You can upload pictures, video, and if you have important links you can “promote” them to bring them to the forefront of your followers’ news feeds. Despite it’s versatility, this probably isn’t the best platform for inciting business-related discussions. Keep it light.

Twitter

A lot of companies are using Twitter internally to great effect. Chuck Gose from RMG Networks recently highlighted a few of those companies that are using Twitter for internal communications the right way.

As they point out, it’s a great way to engage employees and give them a way to get fun company news in a very popular feed format.

Instagram

This is relatively new ground for most companies, and because it is a picture-only share site it can be tricky to know how to break into this market. Still, it’s a fun, easy way to give a glimpse into the fun side of your office.

Some might still see it only as a place to share picture of coffee or a dinner plate, but it would behoove you to get on this train now. Instagram marketing is becoming quite powerful, and if it follows trend it could become a great tool for businesses.

LinkedIn

This is where only your professional side should come through. People don’t come to Linkedin for funny pictures, although to the chagrin of most, that is cropping up a bit more on the homepage feeds. If your company have a professional or executive blog this is the place to showcase it on social media.

Here are 7 ways to “beef up” your company’s Linkedin group page.

MySpace

No one uses MySpace any more. Even Tom is on Facebook.

Internal Magazines: A Tool for Connecting Employees Across Silos

Looking for a way to break down silos? Internal magazines can create an open window into other departments, locations, or any other type of silo you can think of. In Tribe’s research, employees say just being able to put a name and face to employees in other divisions or locations helps them feel more connected. 

Unfortunately, most employees’ eyes glaze over when it comes to internal magazines. Why do employees dismiss them – or skim over them at best? Because the content inside is so rarely engaging or relevant.

The content you include in your publication makes all the difference in your readership. At Tribe, we’ve been asked to reinvent internal publications for several clients that had historically been filled with an outdated collection of employee announcements, anniversaries and yard sales.

Here at Tribe, we see this as a missed opportunity. We use internal magazines to engage employees, foster human connections and reinforce the desired culture. Content might include leadership interviews on everything from innovation to teamwork, employee spotlights that model behavior relevant to the values, and question and answer columns on key issues.

Our recent research on silos indicates that employees are eager to know more about what their peers are doing. Over 34 percent of respondents said that news about other silos would be helpful in encouraging collaboration. Internal magazines were also a frequent choice when asked what communication tools they would use to connect employees across silos.

Say one of your teams is finishing up a big project. An internal magazine is the perfect place to feature that team and give them their well-deserved 15 minutes of fame. Not only does this connect employees with important business developments in the company, it also engages them in a way so they feel valued and appreciated.

Another great application for internal magazines is sharing best practices. When one department is dealing with an issue that other departments may be facing, publishing one team’s way of solving the problem could be the communication that many other departments have been waiting for. In this case this would also cut down on duplication of work, which is a common side effect of silos. Keeping employees informed in the loop and engaged are they key functions of internal publications.

Need help planning and executing an internal magazine? Tribe can help!

Corporate Values: Are they up to leadership or employees?

Can management just dictate values? Or are values something determined by employees? It’s an ongoing debate in internal communications circles.

At Tribe, we’d say a little bit of both. Top leadership should be sharing a clear vision for the company, and along with that vision, the values which will guide the business in pursuit of that vision. But the employees are the ones who will be using those values to make decisions in their day-to-day work, and presumably they come to work with their own personal values already in place.

A recent discussion in one of our LinkedIn groups touched on this issue. In  a blog titled “Values, whose values? 3 tell-tale signs of getting company values all wrong,” the blogger David Cowan proposes that the first sign of values gone wrong is “The leadership has decided on the values.” He makes several good points in his blog, although we’d disagree with his number one.

Actually, it is leadership’s responsibility to determine the values with which the company will do business. But it’s a good idea to get employee input when establishing or evolving values, and to be inclusive of that employee feedback.

The primary disconnect is when the values, however they’re derived, aren’t made relevant to employees. The goal is to find the places where their personal values and the company values intersect, and to allow them the freedom to express the company values in ways that mesh with their own individual perspectives and personalities.

For instance, when Tribe worked with the Hilton brand Embassy Suites, we communicated a great deal about their three values of being “Gracious, Engaging and Caring.” Charles Gremillion, Embassy’s Director of Brand Culture and Internal Communications at the time, put a strong emphasis on each employee demonstrating the company values in their own individual ways. For example, some people might express the value of engaging by chatting up the guests in the elevator. For more introverted team members, being engaging might mean a thoughtful handwritten note left in the room or trying to distract a fussy toddler with funny faces. All are expressions of engaging guests.

This wide range of styles in exemplifying the values was reinforced over and over. We talked about it in blogs, in a book on the culture, and in the quarterly culture magazine — where in each issue we published three employee spotlights, so that associates were modeling values-based behavior for each other. Sometimes it’s more effective to show rather than tell.

In the same category, Hilton’s competitor IHG stresses similar individuality. With an internal tagline of “Room to be yourself,” they consider diversity of thought, background and experience to be a plus for employees of their seven brands.

In his blog, David Cowan is probably referring to those companies where values are issued with the assumption that employees will buy into a lockstep approach. Although company leadership needs to pave the way by articulating (and demonstrating) the company values, employee engagement with those values is more likely when you give employees room to relate to them in their own ways.

Need help making your company values more relevant to employees? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egomnia: the Future of Hiring and Recruiting

Matteo Achilli was only 20 years old when he was dubbed the “Italian Zuckerburg” by Panorama Economy magazine. That was almost two years ago, and back then the idea was just beginning to take flight. This month, the young businessman has finally announced an October launch date for his new recruiting company’s website.

It’s called Egomnia (a portmanteau of Ego, “self” and Omnia, “everything”). And it wasn’t an overnight success. Initially, the young entrepreneur had trouble finding investors, but he looked to his fellow Millenials for help. With some financial help from his father, Achilli was able to employ several students to code the algorithm necessary for his concept.

How does it work? As explained by Achilli, ”We received these rankings of universities that we were applying for, and I thought why not give companies a ranking for jobseekers depending on how suitable they are for that company.” Sounds simple enough. Very basic, in fact.  But the idea isn’t what is gaining so much traction. It seems that Achilli’s youthful mindset and energy is the main draw to the company. His perspective is unique and potentially very, very useful.

Google and Microsoft are paying attention and so should you. On its launch day Egomnia had 1,000 students on its site and 20 companies. Two years later, the company claims 250,000 members and 700 companies using its service. Now, Achilli is solidifying partnerships with big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and signing on clients like Vodafone and Ericcson. Hop on now. This train is moving fast.

Egomnia could be great. Tech trends are almost impossible to predict, but this company seems to have struck a perfect balance for recruiting and finding new talent. It has the business image and savvy of Linkedin with the youthful perspective and energy of Facebook. Millenials in the workplace have proven to be a tough audience to reach. Tribe research shows that they process information in starkly different ways than previous generations, and their employment preferences and priorities are incredibly unique. But a website like this could be the answer to reaching them.

Why it could work for you. Despite the naysayers, Zuckerburg and Co. have done a great job staying on top of things and (so far) avoiding the fate of MySpace, as many predicted. This, in large part, is due to that youthful state of mind and perspective. Staying on top of culture and tech trends is how this type of company survives and stays relevant. It’s a priority of Zuckerburg’s to maintain that outlook, and Egomnia has the same vantage point.

Says Achilli, ”At the beginning I thought my young age was not good, now I understand that my young age is my success. Now we are writing the history of the internet.”

Keep an eye out for the website’s launch in October. This could be the tool that puts you lightyears ahead of the competition and finds the next, next Zuckerburg for your company.

Find out more from Egomnia here and here