A Culture Shift: Appreciation

Thanks

The old adage says, “What you appreciate, appreciates.”

Problem Finding Machines:

In the day-to-day of work, we become habituated to finding problems, and hopefully solving those problems.

In some ways, we become problem finding machines, and this creates a mindset — we look at processes, we look at technology and we look at people and we try to make things work better. This is not good or bad, rather it is simply an important aspect of accomplishing any goal.

A Mindset:

With the intent of solving problems — we can and do take on a mindset. A mindset that finds issues and risks; and, tries to ensure these countless impediments or underlying cultural challenges do not prevent clients from meeting their goals.

Over the days, months and sometimes years — these challenges — cultural and implementation — can feel like a swarm of mosquitoes, that continue to drain teams of their energy and enthusiasm. The heartbreak for a team or individual is to know they are making progress, but losing their energy as they swim against underlying currents of cultural, communication and leadership challenges.

An Experiment

We decided to experiment with our team meeting to see if we could create the conditions for a new sense of well being by temporarily shifting the focus from problem-finding-solving machines to instead seek what we are grateful for in the day-to-day grind.

We gathered for our weekly team meeting, and instead of status check-ins with issues and risks we conducted an “Appreciation Meeting.”

In this meeting, we each shared words of gratitude to one and other for their actions, their character, or their way of being. We also focused on bringing up what we are grateful for with the work we do, and the clients we have the opportunity to work with.

The Results

As we went around the circle, and shared with one and other words of appreciation. We each felt the initial discomfort, followed by feelings of connection and camaraderie not only for one and other, but also the positive aspects of our work.

In any given workplace, there are countless challenges — from culture and leadership to strategy and operations; there are also countless positive conditions — from humorous encounters to small and bigger wins.

The real challenge is to create the internal capacity to continue identifying and solving problems, while also being keenly aware of the positive aspects of the day-to-day work.

Satya Nadella: A Servant Leader?

Ever since I read Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, I have had a curiosity about the leadership of Microsoft. Bill Gates was seemingly an intellectual leader. Steve Balmer seemed like an autocratic leader. And, then came along Satya Nadella.

As an Indian American with parents from South Africa and Fiji, seeing Nadella as the leader of Microsoft is inspiring. From the little I have seen of him, he seems to be a different type of leader.

So when I read the article from The Economist, “What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft” I was very curious.

Note: All quotes in the article are from http://www.economist.com/news/business/21718916-worlds-biggest-software-firm-has-transformed-its-culture-better-getting-cloud

Enter Satya Nadella:

Create the Conditions to be Agile: Embracing Obstacles vs. Trying to Kill Them

Since as far as I can remember, Microsoft has revolved around its crown jewel: Microsoft Windows. Under Nadella that has clearly shifted to an ecosystem-agnostic approach, whereby users are encouraged on any platform.

Technologies come and go, he says, so “we need a culture that allows you to constantly renew yourself”.

Given that Balmer used to call Linux a cancer, I can only imagine the depth of change this was at Microsoft to hear from its leader.

Leading through Power vs. Leading through Hearts & Minds

Gate’s used to often say, “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”

Balmer used to run across the stage yelling “I love this company.”

With Gates or Balmer, by using language to create strong dichotomies or generalities, a couple things can occur within the culture:

  1. Employees may be afraid of being wrong or say something in contract to the leader
  2. Managers may treat subordinates accordingly
  3. A culture of rightness and wrongness emerges which stifles innovation.

On the other hand with Nadella, he can often be seen sitting in the audience, listening.

In many ways this style of leadership seems to revolve around something deeper — a slow and steady wins the race approach.

Mr Nadella doesn’t seem to be worried by such unknowns, which are to be expected in a fast-changing industry.

Instead, he frets about too much success. “When you have a core that’s growing at more than 20%, that is when the rot really sets in,” he says.

A statement such as this is so counter culture— it seems filled with a sense of stoicism — a dispassionate and unattached objectivity to the realities of rapidly changing times.

The leadership will require a steady hand that is focused on the long game. I am curious to see how Nadella will steer this ship.

Originally posted on Karma Advisory’s medium page here.

Bringing Awarness to Unconscious Bias

We all have biases. The most important step we can take as leaders is to bring awareness to our biases to ensure our decisions are based in objective truths as much as possible.

The below list is excellent for reflecting on and reviewing during key decisions, or even to see who you are being on a day-to-day basis in work (and, life)!

  • Affinity bias – The tendency to gravitate towards people who remind us of ourselves.
  • Halo effect – The tendency to always see someone in a positive light because of their title or because you like them.
  • Perception bias – The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make objective decision making impossible.
  • Confirmation bias – The tendency for people to only seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs or assumptions.
  • Group-think – The tendency for people to go along with the group rather than voicing their individual thoughts and beliefs.

Source: UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Program Director of Executive Development, Horace McCormick, Jr. via Google Beats Unconscious Bias by Teaching Its Employees These 4 Tactics

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