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Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category

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I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with entrepreneur and author Danny Gutknecht and was inspired and enthralled by his theories about organizational culture and employee engagement. His research and experiences are described in his recent book- Meaning at Work, And it’s Hidden Language”. Here are a few key takeaways from the book and also where I think it fits into the broader landscape of making culture change happen.

Two barriers to engaging employee hearts and minds:

Standardization:

We may be underestimating the malaise that we create when we standardize how we manage people. The normal way we achieve economies of scale in an organization is by standardization. We standardize electronic medical record data entry, employment application processes, policies and procedures, meeting times, and organizational titles to just name a few. While this all works to create a smooth operation, the one place Gutknecht says this falls short, is when it comes to people. Employees are showing up at work with their own expectations and past experiences. If you have any doubt about this just take a look at your organization’s varied responses on Glass Door.

When we standardize how we treat people, this homogenization takes the wind out of employees’ sails. We unintentionally fail to harness the power that comes from employees wanting to feel that they matter and deeply desiring inspiration so that they can do their best work.

Top down vs. bottom Up:

Second, Gutknecht point out that culture change, like strategy creation, is usually a top down exercise. Without knowing what actually creates meaning for employees, we tend to invent a marketing brochure vs. actionable plans to engage people, instill a common purpose, and inspire the energy to satisfy customers.

A new paradigm – The Human Fugue

So, to move past these barriers and decipher how meaning is created, Gutknecht uses a model created by his friend and colleague Stanford grad and entrepreneur Bijoy Goswami. This model called “The Human Fugue”, describes four “houses” or domains through which humans operate to make meaning of their existence.   Like Maslow’s hierarchy, when these houses are laid one on top of another, there is a sense of moving from a place where there is very little autonomy (ie. being given facts and theories we are expected to adopt – The House of Phenomena) and the constraints placed on all of us by laws, policies and standard protocols (The House of Rights), to the arena where we create meaning by building and exchanging assets (The House of Resources). The ultimate pinnacle though is –“The House of Meaning”. At this level of self-actualization – culture is not inherited from senior leaders at the top, nor adopted, it is curated.

In my view, “curating meaning” is a pretty revolutionary concept and requires a bit of trust on the part of leaders. Here’s why taking the risk to allow your employees to curate (collect, assemble, translate, understand, incorporate) meaning is so important:

Curating meaning at work….

  • Allows employees to decide what resonates with them and then allows them to discard the rest.
  • Frees people up to embrace beliefs and aspirations that fit their values.
  • Fosters empathy for others who might view their work through a different lens.
  • Places accountability on the shoulders of the employee. By Webster’s definition, a curator is “one who has the care and superintendence of something”.
  • Transforms employees by the very fact that you take them on a journey to decipher the meaning of their work. In Bijoy’s words – JOurneY is spelled using these three capital letters because knowing you matter and finding this kind of fulfillment at work brings joy.

The secret sauce – Essence Mining

Lots of organizations use engagement surveys as a way to understand their employee mindset and how easy it is to operate in the environment.   And surveys, while a good start at giving employees a voice, don’t often result in much revelation. (Ever wonder why the same comments end up on your survey year after year?) By their nature, surveys are anonymous and the answers are often based on context that leaders will never know. This is why Gutknecht created a process called “Essence Mining”.

Essence mining is unique in the following ways:

  • Interviews are recorded on video and then analyzed for not only what the employees has said, but how they have said it. Through studying the rhythm, tempo, and loudness of the conversation, Gutknecht says much can be learned about the employee’s emotional state.
  • Questions begin with very early memories of influences from childhood to adulthood. Even though the interview in no way resembles therapy, these early memories and influences have helped to form the person showing up at work, so are viewed as important.
  • Upon completion these videos are analyzed, stories cataloged, and themes, mantras and patterns identified. This data forms what Gutknecht calls the Organizational Dynamic Lingua Franca – ODLF. This ODLF is the actual culture that exists vs. the one you think you have because you published a description of it on your website.

Where Essence Mining (EM) Fits in the bigger picture of culture change:

In a 2012 article by Jon Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen and Caroline Kronley titled Culture Change that Sticks”, the authors describe five key strategies used by companies that successfully evolve their culture: 1) Understanding culture and matching it to strategy, 2) focusing on a few critical shifts in behavior, 3) honoring the strengths in the existing culture 4) Integrating formal interventions with informal and 5) measuring and monitoring the culture evolution.

If the goal is to get culture change to take root, Essence Mining could be deployed to not only gain understanding but also provide a safe space for employees to share their stories. The interview process in itself is an intervention that helps with group cohesion and since the “hidden meaning of language” is dynamic, and changes as you hire new employees and others leave, it can be deployed periodically to monitor the culture evolution.

Another differentiator seems to be that EM is outcome oriented, unlike other studies that end up in a binder on the top of a leader’s shelf.   Gutknecht shares that organizations have used Essence Mining to do everything from designing ways to recruit for hard to fill positions to developing cohesion among new work groups during mergers and acquisitions. And for transparency, the results are shared with both employees and leaders. It’s about producing an outcome that transforms the relationship between people and their work. In Gutknecht’s words…

By making a space for the people in your organization to be who they are and offer what they have to contribute, you become a dream weaver. You weave everyone’s passions, and the dream of what they are capable of, into a vision of getting something done for the company, the customers, and the world.”

Pretty cool if you ask me.

How do you create meaning in your work and in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

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Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 4.17.09 PMThirteen years ago in March of 2000, Rob McEwen, who had just become chairman and CEO of a mining operation in Ontario, Canada, decided he had a problem too big to solve by conventional methods. His company GoldCorp, was in distress. The price for gold was at an all-time low, and his operating costs were extremely high. Red Lake mine was producing only one-third as many ounces as his neighboring competitor and the miners were restless and ready to strike.     It was proving to be as difficult to search Red Lake ’s 55,000 acres as it is to find Flight 370, the Malaysian airliner lost somewhere in the 28-million-square-miles of the Indian Ocean.

What McEwen did to solve his problem was unprecedented. He decided to publish all of Red Lake’s proprietary data on the web and committed to giving a cash price of up to $105,000 to anyone who could tell them where they’d find the next 6 million ounces of gold. He nicknamed this project “The GoldCorp Challenge” and the response was big. Over 1400 scientists, engineers and geologists from 50 countries decided to participate.

The winner ended up being collaboration between two firms in Australia who had agreed to split the prize. Neither firm had physically visited the mining site, but instead had analyzed the data to produce a 3D graphical depiction of the dig sites.

It’s About Making a Difference

When the winning team members were interviewed, they said that they didn’t compete because of the prize money. In fact, the prize money barely covered the hours invested in their research. Yes, they had wanted the recognition that would come from solving the puzzle, but most of all, they wanted to open the eyes of their industry to a new way of doing exploration. In short, they invested the time because they wanted to make a difference. In the words of the winning team leader, “This has been like a beacon (of hope) in a sea of darkness,” for the mining industry.

This story, published in Fast Company Magazine, is yet another example of what James Surowiecki calls the “Wisdom of Crowds”. About 18 months ago, Community used crowd-sourcing, by bringing together 250 employees to discuss and debate what kind of culture and benefits we need in order to attract and retain the brightest minds, the most committed and loyal hearts and souls and the most highly engaged employees on the planet. Like McEwen, we struck gold and these ideas generated a powerful action plan that turned into measurable outcomes

Mining Expedition Scheduled 5-14-14

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

We know that we need to continue to innovate though so we will are going to tap employee input once       again, on May 14, 2014 when we will be hosting an “Engagement Accelerator.” We’re inviting 160 randomly-chosen employees to attend this event and discuss how the PTO/sick time policy works and how to improve it, as well as, brainstorm other changes to create an innovative, transparent, mission-oriented, results-driven culture. We’ll be reporting back about the nuggets of wisdom we gain from this session and of course, the action steps. So stay tuned.

(This blog post was originally published on the Community Medical Center website – The Forum)

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a presentation called “How to Fail at the New Healthcare: The Masters Class,” at the beautiful H. Marcus Radin Education Center on the Community Medical Center campus in Fresno.  Healthcare futurist Joe Flower has spent 30 years studying the way healthcare works and challenged us to think about the risks of 22 strategic choices we might make about how to operate in the future. The “ways-to-fail” list include things like failing to build a new business model by sticking with fee for service, failing to engage patients and physicians and forgetting to build trust.

My natural focus, in both life and in business, is to explore and reveal the positives.  I am a proponent of strengths based learning and development, emotional intelligence, and the power of positive thinking.    But just this once, I thought I’d see what happened if I explored what my friend Chris Slater, who is an artist calls, “the importance of painting the negative space.”   So, here are 10 things you can do if you want to be completely and totally miserable at work.

1) Lack a sense of humor

Life is messy so one of the quickest ways to hit bottom is to be dead serious, all – and I mean all – of the time. If you are working on a project with your peers and the DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) fails to act on one of their accountabilities, take advantage of this by blaming them, talking behind their backs or snubbing them the next time you meet them in the cafeteria.  Healthcare is a serious business right?  Falderal and silliness just causes mistakes and we can’t have that, now can we?

2) Be self-centered 

I know you think it’s all about you but really it’s all about me.  Heighten your quest for misery by focusing really hard on ignoring the people around you.  I mean, geez – how needy are those people!?  They want to be communicated with constantly.  They’re always asking for help. They are clingy and want to spend quality time together. They use reverse psychology to get compliments for themselves by saying nice things to you!  They can’t think for themselves so they’re always asking for your input. You can fix all this by saying, “Leave me alone, so I can do my work and get out of here.”

3) Think the sky is falling

Catastrophizing is an excellent way to bring on that dull prolonged sense of unhappiness.    When I hear about the innovative plans to expand our bed capacity, I know by gosh, that there is no way in H-E-double-hockey sticks that the idea is gonna work.  Seriously, things are never going to get better – EVER – no matter how hard any of us work.  See?  Uh, are you getting that sinking feeling yet?

4) Stop learning

Remember that saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?”   It’s true. There’s no reason to spend any time developing new skills.  That’s too much work.  And besides, if you are properly executing strategy #2 (Be self-centered), the teammates you are snubbing in the cafeteria will get the hint and just do those things for you.

5) Believe you’re the smartest person in the room

It’s really difficult to work amidst such a large number of low functioning people. But you must so just buck up.  Remember, things will be ok because you are the only one who really knows what’s going on.  Asking others for their insights just clouds your thinking.  This strategy works best when combined with some physical behaviors like frowning while crossing your arms in front of you, or the ultimate – the eye roll.  Use a mirror to practice.  You’ll know you’ve got this one down when people stop sitting next to you in meetings.

6) Distrust everybody

Surely you’ve been watching the news and have heard how the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting all the phone numbers you’ve been dialing and gosh, who knows – maybe even listening to your calls.  People are sneaky.  It’s just the human condition so watch your back.  Don’t share any personal details with the people you work with.  I mean not even the names of your kids.  Why would they want to know that stuff any way?

7) Create a hit list

If you’ve developed your proficiency in #6 (distrust everybody), you’re definitely going to want to create a hit list.  Luckily on this one, we all have a great role model to follow in the Governor of the great state of New Jersey.   Step one – gather the names of everyone who has ever disagreed with you on anything and put it on a list.  Step 2 – find a way to make their life a living hell for as long as possible.  Don’t worry about the collateral damage of impacting people you never intended.  Think of it this way – if Governor Christie had been worried about the elderly having their ambulance show up on time, he never would have been able to properly make his point.

8) Talk a lot

Since #5 is true and you “believe you are the smartest person in the room,” it just makes sense that everybody else should listen to you.  Find a way to monopolize conversation.  Truly, it doesn’t matter if you know all the facts.  It’s your opinion that counts.  Oh, and go ahead and interrupt if someone else is talking—that’s always good.

9) Go it alone

We enter this world alone and we leave it alone. Our DNA is obviously programmed so that there is no need to lean on another human being for support.  Be stoic.  Hold in your feelings until you think you’ll pass out.  Remember that no one else has problems like yours – absolutely no one.  Even if someone wanted to help you they would not know the first thing about what to do.

10) Play it safe

Don’t listen to that song “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles.  Being brave just puts a target on your back.  Stay in the shadows. Don’t be direct or transparent or real or honest or committed.  Don’t express your feelings, don’t be passionate, don’t dance as though no one is watching, or love as though you’ve never been hurt or sing as though no one can hear, or live as though heaven is on earth.  What good would that do? Honestly!

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The holidays are a perfect time to catch up on reading just for fun.  This Christmas you won’t catch me knee deep in a James Michener novel.   Instead I look for lighthearted tales, with a tinge of sarcasm.   So if that’s your cup of tea as well, I recommend heating up a nice cup of hot chocolate and sitting down to read Tina Fey’s book “Bossy Pants.”

In Bossy Pants, Tina describes what she learned at Second City, an improvisation and sketch comedy theater in Chicago.  She says the rules of improvisation will change your life and reduce belly fat. And, maybe these rules can also improve the engagement on your team or the relationship with your significant other.  You be the judge.

Rule#1- Always agree and say yes.

In a business sense this doesn’t mean that we simply run with any idea no matter how bad.  Instead, as Fey puts it, the rule reminds you to “respect what your partner has created and at least start from an open-minded place.”  Fey points out that in improv, this takes the form of saying, “Freeze, I have a gun,” to which your partner should avoid saying, “No you don’t, that’s your finger.”  See.  That’s not funny.  In business when employees say, “This new software stinks,” we should avoid reviewing the three competitive bids and 20-page document that shows why it does not stink, because this kills employee engagement.  An alternative might be to say, “Yes, it sounds like we have some bugs to work through. Let’s see if IT can help us through this.”  In both comedy and business, saying “yes,” validates the other person and shows you trust what they are talking about.

Rule #2 – Say Yes, And. 

In improv, Fey says that it’s all about adding something of your own.  When your partner lays out a line like “Boy it’s hot in here,” you could respond with, “Yes, and that can’t be good for the wax figures.”  The point is relationships are positively impacted when you respect what the other person has presented and add something to it.  Fey says this rule is about not being afraid to contribute.  So as leaders we want to encourage contribution to make a little bit of magic happen.  That magic, according to Professor Fey, is the result of showing people that their initiative is worthwhile.  As employees we need to take a risk and speak up, ask for that assignment and stretch a little bit.

Rule #3 – Make Statements

This rule is Fey’s shorthand for something we often try to teach in our leadership development training curriculum.  I’m simply going to quote Fey because I don’t want to ruin the humor while making the point.  She says:   “Be a part of the solution, don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.  We’ve all worked with that person.  That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like, “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up? Or, “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.”  As leaders we sometimes need a reminder to stop raising obstacles and get out of our employee’s way.   As employees we need to think positively and act with positive intent.

Rule #4 – The Best Rule:  There are no Mistakes, only Opportunities.

Employees won’t believe this if they are chastised when they try something new and it doesn’t work out.  So, while this saying is great, employees want to know they can use a little bit of trial and error.  Obviously trial and error is not a recommended practice in the surgery suite or for the employees who manufacture your car.  Fey’s words are an encouragement to create engagement by letting people takes risks.  Why?  Because, in her words, “Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident – I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup or Botox.” 

What are you reading over the holidays?

*A big hearty thank you to Garth Wade at Regional and Tom Minas at Clovis for mocking their supervisors on camera. Directors Drenda Montgomery and Brenda Diel – you both are role models of supervisory wisdom!  Thanks for helping me illustrate this tale.  Happy Holidays!

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*This blog was originally posted on Community Medical Center’s Blog – It Takes Community.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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There are a lot of adjectives that could describe Truong Nguyen (pronounced Joon Win).  He is a clinical systems analyst at Community Regional, a former Asian vegetable farmer, a great father to daughter Jessica and twin boys Justin and Travis, an avid boating enthusiast, a cancer survivor and an expert in the eco system of salt-water aquariums.  So, in one all encompassing word – Truong is an entrepreneur. Image

He credits his work ethic and drive to his father Tho Van and his mother Quan.   “My mom is my hero,” he said as we sipped iced green tea at the Starbucks at Cedar and Shepherd.  She owned restaurants in Vietnam, but in 1980 when a new communist constitution was being adopted, the family decided to leave for the United States.  He arrived at the age of five along with his six brothers and sisters and his parents, who were expecting another child.  No one spoke English.  Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, they moved to Clovis and into a small three-bedroom house  near DeWitt and Sierra to be close to family.  “We had nine people sharing one bathroom,” Truong said with a smile.  “I remember being really happy there.”

To pay the bills, everybody worked.  “We were the Fresno Bee family,” Truong joked.  “At 4 a.m. everyone would get up to fold newspapers and then we’d all deliver.”  But the newspaper business didn’t provide enough cash to care for a large family, so his mother, whose keen eye saw a market niche, started growing Asian vegetables in their garage.  Veggies like bitter melon, which Truong said is ‘really really bitter,’ bok choy, Chinese okra, daikon, long beans, moqua, singua, Thai chili, and lemon grass.  Demand was so great; they outgrew the garage and built a greenhouse.  Then they outgrew the greenhouse and leased some land.  Until one day the Nguyen’s purchased a farm.

At the age of 17, Truong was managing the operation. At 19 he bought 15 acres from his parents and took over all the financial and operational duties, including daily and sometimes twice daily deliveries to Sacramento.  You’d think that this would keep him busy enough.  But in the winter, when things slowed down, Truong decided to take computer science classes.  As I listened to his story, I was awed by his humility, sense of humor, resilience and willingness to tackle big challenges.

“How did you get interested in tropical fish?” I asked.   Around the age of sixteen he fell in love with fishing when he accompanied his uncle to the pond at Woodward Park.  He also became mesmerized by salt-water aquariums, and explained, “This is an expensive hobby.”  So, in what seems to be a normal pattern of inventiveness, Truong discovered that he could buy used aquariums and then sell the parts for enough money to cover the cost of outfitting his entire tank.  “The ability to hammer a nickel into ten cents – I get that from my mom,” he said with a smile.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty tough to keep a salt water tank going”, I commented.   “Not really,” Truong responded.   What he explained next seems like a playbook for keeping clown fish and corals, but also to building healthy teams.

Steps to keeping your Eco-System healthy:

  • Keep it simple & create a consistent environment: “Consistent environments help fish thrive,” Truong said.  “Inconsistent environments wreak havoc.”  Teams also thrive in environments that are fair and consistent.
  • In a crisis, take it slow: “When a mistake happens, make small changes slowly versus big changes quickly,” counseled Truong.  That way the fish don’t get shocked and sickened by big chemical changes.  Coming from the Midwest, this advice also mirrors what my father told me to do if my car started to slide on ice.
  • Promote Diversity:  Truong said it’s best to keep multiple species with multiple colors and shapes together.  The more diversity, the less fighting over territory!  How true.  We all want to be valued for what we bring to the table.
  • Create a community of symbiotic relationships:  An eco system thrives when organisms depend on one another, Truong said.  As evidence of this he refers to his cleaner shrimp.  The other fish in the tank just instinctively sidle up to the cleaner shrimp when they get the disease called “ick”, so that the shrimp can scrub them clean.  Teams can also get “ick.”  We’ve all been there!  So we need to identify and stick close to the people in our groups who can rub off the bad stuff and get everyone smiling and engaged.

How healthy is your eco-system?  If you love the team you are on, share some of what makes your environment healthy and fun.  If you have suggestions about how to make teamwork better, let us know.  If you know Truong and just want to recognize him for his support of your team, you can add that too.  Add a reply with your name and you’ll receive a package of yummy goldfish crackers.Image

Thanks Truong for sharing your story!

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Centers website in a blog titled “It Takes Community”.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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July was a blissful month.  I had the opportunity to take a vacation and one of the highlights was my visit to Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo.   This little piece of heaven lies between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in rolling vineyards that imitate the Italian countryside.

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We drove up and opened our doors to a breeze that was “warm-cool.”  I’m trying to coin a new meteorological word – definition:  climate that is warmed by the sun to 69 degrees but cooled by the ocean breeze just five miles west.  It’s the kind of warm-cool that beckons you to an Adirondack chair to take a nap. The kind of weather than calms your mind, and raises your spirit.  The kind of weather that is absolutely not found in the Midwest where you either sweat or freeze.  You get the picture.

We ordered a wine flight and were delighted when we tasted a Pinot Noir called 8-N.   “That’s an unusual name,” I commented to our hostess.  “Is this a placeholder name?” I asked.   Sort of like naming a baby, “Baby Girl Smith,” just after the delivery and before you leave the hospital?   But our hostess explained that this wine was named after the exquisite little piece of soil that gave birth to it – 8 miles North of Chamisal Estate Vineyards.  How did it taste?   Conjure up the scene from the movie Sideways where Paul Giamotti’s character describes why he likes Pinot so much, and you can tell he’s really talking about himself.

On the label, as if written by Shakespeare, is the description of 8-N:

“This wine boasts of black cherry, raspberry compote and strawberry flavors, backed by supple tannins and salted dark chocolate on the sultry finish.”

As I sat under the orange awnings sipping 8-N, chatting with a friend and gazing out on the gentle curves of the vine-laced hills, I wondered what my label would read, if I were wine…  Maybe this:

  • Wine: Cloud 9
  • Where bottled:  Medical Center Drive Vineyard
  • Type of grape:  Pinot Noir
  • Vintage year:  2013
  • Wine description:  This wine boasts of sweet and nutty relationships with friends and co-workers, robust and full-bodied work accomplishments, velvety smooth project implementation, backed by an earthy vision and mission.

Think about your own work and home life.  What would your wine label read?

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Center Blog – It Takes Community.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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