Skip to content

Archive for

It’s mine and you can have some…

…with you I’d like to share it.

Because if I share it with you,

You’ll have some too (from a Raffi song forever burned into my brain through repetitive listening)

Maybe it’s because I didn’t play competitive sports as a kid but I have a really hard time with the whole scarcity mindset.

You win. I lose. You get more. I get less. You get the spotlight. I get ignored. An opportunity for you is a threat to me. So it’s everyone for themselves. And self-interest rules.

I had just this conversation a few weeks back, about something that, at the end of the day, would help a whole lot of people. It’s a good thing, as Martha would say.

Instead of a scarcity mindset, I tend to take an abundance view of the world. If it’s good for you, it’s good for me. You get a bigger slice and just maybe we all wind up with a bigger and better pie. Everyone gets their turn in the sun.

I’ve also discovered that you will invariably get back far more than you ever give and you’ll get back so much more than you ever expected. But then being generous, considerate and helpful is really its own reward.

Book review: the power of collaboration

Teaching An Anthill To Fetch: Developing Collaborative Intelligence At Work

By Stephen James Joyce,

Mighty Small Books

Who needs zoologists telling us that sea squirts may be our ancestral cousins? A quick look around the office gives conclusive evidence of an evolutionary link.

Through the wonders of science, we’ve discovered that sea squirts share 80 per cent of our DNA. Sea squirts make the short list of God’s truly weird little creatures. Sea squirts float around in oceans until they find a place to call home. With mission accomplished, sea squirts literally eat their brains out and then mindlessly spend the rest of their days filtering water for food.

Sound vaguely familiar? Remind you of colleagues who quit learning after six weeks into the job and have gone through the motions ever since on their slow march to the quarter century club?

"The sea squirt assumes that nothing is going to change in its environment and that it will no longer need to make significant adjustments," says author Stephen James Joyce. "This may work for the sea squirt, but human beings can’t afford to follow suit."

We can’t go snacking on our brains because of the pace of change and the scope of challenges coming our way. What’s more, we need to share what we know with the folks around us.

"None of us is as intelligent as all of us," says Joyce.

And no one has a monopoly on good ideas. While you’re still trying to get your head around an issue or figure out a problem, odds are someone’s already come up with a perfect solution. The trick is getting connected.

We already know about intellectual and emotional intelligence. Joyce makes the case for adding collaborative intelligence to the mix, or what he calls "the ability to build, contribute to and manage the power found in networks of people."

How much smarts and intelligence are there in a network? Let’s say you work in a department of 30 people where the average age is 35. You’re looking at more than 1,000 years of life experience that’s rich with diversity and good ideas.

"Imagine the level of this team’s collaborative intelligence when processes that are designed to tap into the vast amount of collective life experience of this group are put into place," says Joyce.

Highly collaborative teams are easy to spot. It’s that department in your organization that has no trouble recruiting and retaining great people who clearly love what they do. It’s where everyone’s fully engaged and participating in meaningful ways. It’s a team that’s highly creative, flexible and resilient. It’s where stress and strain are shared evenly and shouldered by all. Where objectives are met more through people and less through politics.

There’s a strong and unifying sense of purpose and community.

Accountability is shared. And the perfect balance has been struck between leadership and followship.

All of which translates into no drama and no larger than life leaders with outsized egos. "More and more organizations are realizing that what is not required is more heroes to save the day as far as their business performance is concerned.

A hero concentrates the capacity for action around themselves and also tends to disempower everyone else."

Teams and organizations with high levels of collaborative intelligence will get the edge in competing for Generation Y employees. Folks born between 1977 and 2003 represent the second largest cohort next to Baby Boomers, who are now retiring at an accelerated clip. Ask Generation Y about the three top values they look for in a prospective employer and you get integrity, social responsibility and loyalty. Ask what they value most about their work and Generation Y will answer back with teamwork, work-life balance, stimulating work and lots of feedback.

Which is exactly what organizations with high collaborative intelligence can deliver.

For teams and organizations that aren’t quite there yet, Joyce serves up practical tools and processes to unlock the power for collaboration at www.anthillsite.com.

Jay Robb, is a Hamilton freelance writer who blogs at www.jayrobb.typepad.com.

Interviewers to become interviewees?

Sat in on another selection committee yesterday. Seven of us firing questions at some really good candidates.

Had to wonder if someday soon we’ll be trading spots. Employers will become the ones getting interviewed.

If demographers have it right, there won’t be enough Gen X and Y types to replace all the retiring Boomers. So will we see potential free agents sitting down and interviewing a panel of prospective employers and comparing job offers? Or, like major league athletes, will folks with in-demand skills have agents to handle the negotiations and broker the best deal?

Was glad to learn our organization is looking at succession planning. Smart organizations will start locking up their high performers now. I know another employer that’s come up with a great idea. They’ve floated loans to employees who’re still in school. The employees will then pay off their loans with regular payroll deductions once they graduate.

Answers? I don’t even know the questions.

Just finished reading and reviewing a book about collaborative intelligence.

While it’ll come as a surprise to no one else, I’ve finally discovered I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t know most of the questions. Blame my DNA for a bloody minded insistence on doing things solo (demographers will tell you us Gen Xers don’t play well with others and prefer working alone).

But I’ve discovered that someone else likely does the answer I’m looking for. Has already asked the question. And come up with a winning solution. The big idea. The missing link.

The key is to get connected. To be receptive to working together.

I’ve learned 3 things about collaboration:

  1. Most folks are more than willing to share what they know and work together. You just have to ask. And ask nicely and in a non-threatening way. Asking "what if?" works a whole lot better than "I need you to help me".
  2. And folks who aren’t collaborative (a mix of egos and stubbornness) gradually get themselves isolated. People will only offer to help so many times before they find another dance partner. And then that small issue that could of been resolved collaboratively becomes a big time crisis that gets out of control and no one wants to help.
  3. Everyone wants to be part of a winning solution. No one wants to get saddled with someone else’s problem.

Rocking Boomers and a city going bust

The demographers are right. Boomers will never grow old.

Saw The Police reunion tour in Toronto last night (thanks to Any Tickets.com there’s no such thing as a sold-out show). A trinity of Boomers on the stage — Sting is 56, Stewart Copeland’s 55 and Andy Summers is 64. And lots of Boomers in the audience at the Air Canada Centre. And here’s the thing. The band was phenomenal and delivered a great concert from start to finish. At the top of their game. And clearly nowhere near their best-before expiration date.

Spent the afternoon wandering around the city. What the hell has happened to Toronto? Queen Street was filthy and Yonge Street just seemed tired. Covered in graffiti and handbills. And smelling like the inside of my son’s Diaper Genie. Toronto needs to clean itself up in a hurry. Neither street is the destination it used to be or could be. Start by washing down the streets at night and painting over the graffiti.

Permission vs. forgiveness

If you’re asking me for permission, you’re fishing for a no.

So said one of the best bosses I’ve worked for. His attitude was just do it so long as you don’t go and get anyone killed. Better to step up to the plate then sit on the bench.

No’s the default answer for most of us when we go asking for permission. Your big idea gets a no because we’re too busy and have other priorities. Or we’re not busy and want to keep it that way. No, because your big idea has never been done before or it was tried once a long time ago and didn’t pan out. No, because you’re stepping out of bounds and playing in someone else’s sandbox. No, because the person who’s saying no didn’t think up the idea or has another idea they want to run with instead.

The trick is to beg forgiveness for an idea that you know’s a winner and that’ll fly before getting noticed by anyone in a position to say no. Yes, you may get reprimanded. Written up. Dressed down. Fired even. But your next employer — the one that values initiative and drive and smart risk-taking — isn’t going to hire you on the basis of what you thought about doing.

A small fortune to be made…

… in helping folks at work figure out the otherwise obvious difference between what’s urgent and what’s important.

We all know and for a while find amusing our short-of-breath / red-faced colleagues and supervisors who are always so very busy. Running here. Running there. Multi-tasking. Juggling many balls. Meeting multiple deadlines. Which is great if the key to success for your career and your employer is sheer quantity.

But what if it’s not. What if it’s quality. What if it’s being strategic about your time and energy and focusing on that 20% of work that’s going to get you 80% of the results you’re after.

And when senior leadership announces that maybe we need to start saying no more often to keep workloads manageable and stave off a mutiny, how about saying no to what’s urgent and focus instead on what’s important. And stop giving gold stars to folks who run around a lot, make a lot of noise but at the end of the day don’t add a whole lot of value or move the yardsticks up field.

That explains a few things

Sat in on a great presentation about demographics. Here’s a breakdown of the categories we all know by now:

  • Pre-Boomers (1934-45)
  • Boomers (1946-59)
  • Cusper (1960-68)
  • Buster (1969-78)
  • Netster (1979-88)
  • Nexter (1989+)

I’m a charter member of the Buster club. According to the demography gurus, my work ethic is all about principle and satisfaction. Lifestyle first, work second. No need to lead. Loyal to skills instead of an employer. Don’t care what others think. Prefer to work alone. Technically savvy. Must have a mission. Individual first. I win, you win mindset.

In terms of communciation styles..Just do it. Just tell me what you want done and I’ll do it. Do not participate, attend meetings or need to hear others’ opinions. Want people to get the result as quickly and quietly as possible. I know what kind of job I’m doing. If a boss recognizes my work, that’s nice but it’s frosting on the cake. We hate strategic planning, because how can you honestly know what’s going to happen next week, much less five years from now?

And from the seminar handout, this great insight…

"When a Boomer says to a Boomer, ‘this needs to be done’, both understand that’s an order but nicely put. Likewise, when a Boomer says to a Boomer, ‘would you mind’, the anticipated answer is ‘no, of course not’.

However, when a Boomer says to a Buster, ‘this needs to be done’, the Buster hears an observation, not an order. Boomers are astounded when they ask a Buster ‘would you mind’ and they state quite frankly the reasons why they would mind."

Some more recommended summer reading

And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. A debut novel about life at a dying ad agency with a cast of all-too-familar characters. Word to the wise. Don’t steal the still warm office chair of a Walking Spanish coworker.

Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Here’s hoping Barry Bonds never hits another home run and finishes his career on the DL. Not only should MLB Commissioner Bug Selig stay home if Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s all-time HR record. All the rest of us should to. Let Bonds hit his dinger in an empty ballpark.

Welcome to mediocrity

Let’s say you’re at a meeting where everyone’s thinking the same thing.

You’ve come up with less than impressive results. Underwhelming. Not what you expected. Not what you’d hoped for. Sort of embarrassing.

So what do you do? You blame the process that got you the results. The process is broken. It doesn’t work. Lousy process = lousy results.

Now, do you scrap the results, start over and try again? Or do you settle for less and with what you’ve got? Believe that it’s okay and acceptable because you followed the process and at the end of the day that’s what matters most? And do you tell each other that you’ll tweak or blow-up the process sometime later, when you’ve got the time and the drive that you know you’ll never likely have.