The 18th Camel – A Story About Innovative Problem Solving


This is awesome! We talk about innovation and “thinking outside the box” but one of the most interesting things about this article is that it implies that sometimes, thinking in the box may be just fine as well. A hard lesson, but we should all be a bit more aware of each situation individually.

Better Life Coaching Blog

My senior minister, Mark Conner, recently shared this great story on his blog.

A father had 17 camels and when he passed away, he left them to his three sons.

The will of the father stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 camels while the middle son should be given a third.  The youngest son should be given one ninth of the 17 camels.

As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the three sons started to fight with each other.

So, the three sons decided to go to a wise man.

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All psychologies are indigenous psychologies: Reflections on psychology in a global era


All psychologies are indigenous psychologies: Reflections on psychology in a global era.

I love this!  Everyone in the psychology field, and really any Western-society focused research science, should be reading this and taking heed.  It’s entirely too easy to think that what we see here generalizes everywhere, but cultures and people are different based on too many other factors.  I would love to work with this author on some research in the future!

Human Performance Systems Thinking: This is NOT just a Buzz Word!


For anyone that knows me, I am a nut about understanding the way that organizations and people work, especially as it relates to increasing and maintaining performance.  Unfortunately many organizations of all sizes fail to see the many systemic components of this and how they work together, or they only have a cursory awareness without the clear connections and methods of helping them work together.

Whether you are a Fortune 100 company, or just started a month ago there are certain areas that need clear focus from the onset.  It is really easy to let certain things fall to the wayside, especially when you are focusing on trying to get your business off the ground and become self-sufficient.  I would like to share a few things that I believe that all businesses, work groups, teams, and divisions should think about as systemic components of your Human Performance program.

  1. Leadership needs to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and ensure they get the development and guidance they need to support the business and their people.  This may seem a bit of a no-brainer,  but it is a critical component of your Human Performance system.  The leaders and senior leaders are the drivers and examples (or should be) and need to focus on developing and growing as much as or more than many others.  This serves the purpose of not only increasing capability and knowledge, but I believe also helps foster humbleness by reinforcing the fact that senior leaders do not know all the answers.  How many conversations and relationships would be, or are, different because of someone showing a bit of humility?
  2. Training is not always the answer…only for new skills or refreshes on old skills.  When someone is not performing, often the first go-to is to train them again, because the assumption is that they must not know how to do whatever it is.  Ask some questions first, such as: “Did they know how to do it before?” “What has changed for them personally and/or professionally?” “Are they engaged by the task/work/project/etc.?”  Answers to these questions can assist in directing toward either a training event or other solution, which leads to some of the other points.
  3. Determine what you can and should hire for, and what you really need to and want to train for when someone joins your team.  This changes the entire system drastically in many cases.  If I hire with expectations for certain knowledge, skills, and abilities then that reduces the amount and depth of training necessary to provide.  This also changes the potential of getting production faster and with potentially more varied perspectives.
  4. Re-evaluate roles and positions regularly to determine if what they were still fits for today and tomorrow.  Some of us get bored being stuck in the same thing all the time, and want the opportunity to grow and move in to other areas.  Re-evaluation of roles and responsibilities regularly, while including those currently in the role, can go a long way to engaging employees.  Additionally, it is important to ensuring your organization is best prepared not just for where you are, but where you want to go.
  5. Ensure performance management is built in to the day-to-day, nor reserved for mid-year and end-of-year.  It has been said a million times, but it deserves reiterating.  Performance management as a practice is one of the most hated things for most managers, but the reality is if the culture of the organization and team includes coaching people for success as they take on new jobs, tasks, responsibilities, etc. and then continues providing direction and feedback after, the process goes much more smoothly.  This changes the discussions and can increase engagement and feelings of trust and rapport with leaders.
  6. Create the culture that you would be excited to be a part of, lead it, and reinforce it.  Again, this is not new, but you are the one others look at.  The way you act, or the way you don’t influences others.  The way you communicate, or don’t, influences others.  The trust and transparency you have, or don’t, influences others.  Never lose sight of the impact you really have.
  7. Management and Leadership are a job, not an afterthought.  I really can’t stress this enough.  Managers need to lead, and the activities that a manager should be doing are very different than what individual contributors should be.  This should be evaluated regularly and people who are really stronger as individual contributors should be given the opportunity to do those types of jobs at no penalty.  Additionally, managers need to be able to put the overwhelming majority of their focus on building a strong and stable team, growing them, removing barriers, and getting things done.  If you are not doing these activities at least 85% of the time, you are NOT a manager.  You simply have a title.

Your Human Performance System is critical, and very real.  It is also very complex, and understanding and working with it can be difficult.  But that does not lessen the importance or necessity of working on it constantly. It is dynamic and needs constant focus, and many times adjustments and change.  Are you focusing in these areas?  How?  What else would you add to this list?  I’d love to hear your comments!

Oversupervision vs. Undersupervision: Finding the Perfect Balance


This article falls nicely in line with what I was talking about in my article earlier in the week. You have to strike a balance. Simply allowing your tasks to take precedence over leading and managing places you back in to an individual contributor position. It also pushes you to exactly the “you’re responsible for your own [fill in the blank]” talked about in this article. Leading and managing needs to be respected as a job, not as simply an extra thing that happens. We have really lost our focus on each other as people, and our responsibilities to help each other and that many times goes double for managers. Every one wants to be the hero, but that can mean different things depending on the role you are in…you need to decide if you are okay being the hero in that way or leave the position.

Why Lead Now

Having direct reports can be hard. There’s so much work as it is and having to manage several employees on top of that can be overwhelming. And especially when there are urgent tasks to complete, it can be difficult to prioritize time with your direct report.

Some managers tend to pull back in situations like this, leaving the direct report to fend for him- or herself. Interestingly enough, other managers tighten the reins, keeping a closer eye on the direct reports and micromanaging, leading to more time lost. Contradictory, I know, but this does happen.

So how do you give your direct reports what they need, while also preventing them from feeling like you’re breathing down their necks? The answer is the same as what can save a marriage on the brink of disaster or stop a heated discussion from erupting into a fight: communicate. I mean, honestly, who…

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Engaged with Gamification!


Many years ago I started to explore the concept of gamification, which is essentially the use of games and game theory to accomplish some other task.  Originally, the research and information I found talked about Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) that provided research on leadership, innovation, and communication skills and gave some indication that there was potential for leadership development and assessment using these methods.  To me, this was an amazing and wonderful prospect!  However, I never quite got the traction behind any initiatives to use these methods (insert sad face here).

Well, not long ago I was contacted by the CEO of an awesome new company called OfficeVibe.  And guess what…they focus on workplace gamification!  Not in the “let’s-get-together-and-hack-and-slash-goblins-and-build-guilds” kind of games, but rather with an ingenious engagement tool that brings multiple activities in one place worth points, and that encourage each of us to be better personally and professionally.  It runs similar to platforms such as Yammer that connect users via business email addresses, or even using their extant Yammer account.  I think it’s brilliant, and wanted to share it with everyone I can, so please check them out at www.officevibe.com.

Now, to make this even better, today I received a fantastic newsletter with a wonderful infographic about employee engagement from OfficeVibe that I also wanted to share.  Enjoy, and please stop by and check them out!  This is an amazing tool to meet many needs that many of us have today related to the engagement issues we all know we have and that the infographic beautifully illustrates!

10 Shocking Stats About Employee EngagementInfographic crafted with love by Officevibe, the corporate team building and employee engagement platform.

The Open Office Debate: I Love To Hate It!


I have noticed a considerable amount of chatter recently related to open work spaces (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), and the debate about whether they really help or hinder productivity and creativity.  Personally, I can’t stand open work spaces…all the time.  And here is where I think the debate is missing the mark: It may not be the best at all times, or for all things.

To explain this a little more clearly, I refer to another ongoing debate.  This second debate is about the “10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert” rule.  This is another one that has some staunch supporters on both sides including the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Goleman (see here, here, here, and here).  In this debate, however, there is a poignant point presented: it’s not just about the number of hours, it’s about the quality of the time spent.  In other words, if you practice the same wrong thing for 10,000 hours, you will potentially be very good at doing the wrong thing, but still not at expert level of doing what you need to be doing.

Using this same logic, let’s look at the open office.  Is the open office the right setup at all times, for all work, or for all people?  I would like to believe that most of us would emphatically say no. I like the open workspace at times when I need to work with others off and on, say when I am working with SMEs to design and develop materials for learning programs, or discussing ideas for restructuring roles or teams.  However, when I need to concentrate and write material, reports, or other mentally intensive and focused work, the open work environment is completely distracting.

Now, I’m sure I will receive some backlash from this, but I want to use other examples from the high-tech industry as well.  At my current organization, we have many engineers and designers/developers working on networking infrastructure and coding.  They use an Agile methodology for much of what they do, as well as using DevOps methodology.  Both of these require a considerable amount of collaboration at times.  However, I still see plenty of these roles who retreat to their cubicles with the lights turned down low, headphones on, and in some cases even a shade of some sort over the top of their cube to create their own environment.  The reason is simply creation of an environment where we can concentrate.

We work best in small bursts of concentration of a minimum of about 45 minutes to a maximum of about 90 minutes.  After that, our mind tends to begin losing concentration and focus.  This means that while it may not be necessary to stay closed off to everyone all the time, there are times where we need a private, quiet space to escape to.  Working from home or a coffee shop often provides this type of environment, because while it is open, we do not know most people and therefore feel isolated and able to concentrate with the ability to look away from our computer or other work for a few minutes as necessary.  At work, this concept breaks down because we generally know most of the people around us, which creates a more social environment that can contribute to a drop in productivity and creativity at times.  So, as stated in the beginning the debate misses this mark.  Open work environments may not be the worst thing in the world, but they are not always the best.  The quality is what counts, and as always that depends on other circumstances and means different things at different times.