Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why you’re giving recognition the wrong way

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Three giant mirrors will reflect sunlight onto the valley floor of a small Norwegian town for the first time in winter

The South Norwegian town of Rjukan, will be getting sunlight for the first time this winter. Situated below a mountain the small town of 3000 people is shaded by the mountainside between the months of September and March, but this year huge mirrors will reflect the Sun’s rays down onto the town.

The $825,000, 550 sq foot mirrors are a welcome and innovative approach to recognizing these inhabitants needs for what we all expect to receive. Is there a correlation with managing peoples’ expectations? Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch but a question I asked myself was why did they build a town in the shadow of a mountain? That kind of questioning we can use to discuss how well we’re reflecting light on our people. If we’re constantly having to recognize and illuminate the work of others we should ask ourselves these 3 questions:

  1. Results should naturally stand out – why are we having to shine a light on them?
  2. If we’re in constant praising and appraising mode – does the work not generate any satisfaction itself?
  3. Evaluate the job – how would you feel doing a job in the shade?

If somebody’s role or work is left in the shade it may be the wrong decision to reflect a light onto it, instead look for the root cause and ask yourself why was the job was designed in the dark?

How do you recognize peoples’ work that normally goes unrecognized?

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What you can learn from being Wrong

How could an approach so successfully applied and proven in the past go so horribly wrong?Image

Adrian Gaskell identified 5 ways we get collaboration wrong, it is a good insight into how accepted approaches to leading people can often result in failure.  I recently asked a newly formed team to individually describe the finishing line, in essence what would success looks like? They all had significantly different viewpoints of the goal.  They needed to start at the end, as Janine Popick describes succinctly in The Importance of Goal Setting they want to know how what they do is meaningful to the company. 

It was shortly after that I witnessed the weakness of my start/end approach;  I was asked to manage an investigation into what appeared to be a breach of contract by a service provider.  I was left gobsmacked when a colleague proceeded to inform the service provider of possible sanctions; in effect here was an example of starting at the end going horrendously wrong! Instead of building a strategy we were creating tension and defensiveness with somebody we needed to be open and forthcoming. How could an approach so successfully applied and proven in the past go so horribly wrong?

The lesson for me here was how being wrong about something teaches you more than being right.  When things are going well try to remember these 3 things;

  1. Getting things right is more important than being right
  2. Just because it worked before doesn’t mean it will work again
  3. Sometimes you need to see people practice what you preach to realize you’re wrong.

At her TED talk in 2012 (see below) Margaret Heffernan identified that 85% of executives had concerns with their company that they were afraid to raise, out of fear of the conflict that would ensue.  We are often accused of taking the easy route, following previous successful paths is probably the easiest route we can take, where it will take us though is not guaranteed.