We know you can’t do this alone. If you could have, you already would have. You need an outsider’s invaluable insights to help sharpen your vision, hone your team’s skills, and map out a plan for action. Someone who provides the spark that gets you fired up and moving. We can do just that. And once we’ve gotten you moving in the right direction, we’ll be out the door…so you can stay busy advancing your mission.That’s how ISI Consulting accomplishes success.
There once was a time when people strolled. They ambled, moseyed, meandered. No running, no checking the heart rate monitor. No counting steps. No set schedule, and most likely no set destination. They sauntered down city streets. Wandered through parks. Rambled across fields of wildflowers. Meandered around the neighborhood on a quiet walk after Sunday dinner. There seemed little or no purpose to their strolling.
Except there was a purpose, even if people didn’t recognize it. Strolling is essentially active thinking. Because you’re not focused on one thing (your heart rate, for example) it allows you to become aware of many things, and you begin to notice your surroundings. Strolling engages all our senses…sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. You might see the flash of a bluebird, smell the aroma from a nearby bakery, hear children laughing in the distance, feel the leathery leaves of an agave plant, or even taste the salt spray from the ocean. Because of the slow pace of a stroll, you actually have time to take in and enjoy those experiences. You get to process the information your senses register, and then your brain has the time to make connections, to see patterns, and to learn.
Ample evidence shows we spend far too much time today scrolling on our computers and on our phones. The constant onslaught of information, notifications, emails, texts, updates and calls simply overwhelms our neural networks. That deluge impairs productivity, creativity, and most important, the restorative power of sleep. We even take the world with us as we move around…a phone and ear buds are now part of our daily routine.
Not long ago, I got overloaded by work issues, family challenges, the state of the world, and about a dozen other things. In frustration, I just dropped my phone on the kitchen counter and went outside for a short walk. Within a few minutes, I realized my head was beginning to clear and I was able to relax and enjoy the sunset. I noticed the sunlight on clouds, the flowers on neighbor’s porches, and the smell of someone’s freshly cut grass. By the time I returned home, those “monster” problems were starting to shrink, and I even had some creative ideas about how they might be solved. I was more relaxed and mentally energized. A simple stroll had shifted things.
If a simple saunter could change things so quickly for me, I’ll bet it can do the same for you. And so, I want to issue a challenge to you this week. Sometime over the next five days, take time for a stroll. All alone, with no agenda. Just let your body and your mind meander, wander and dawdle. Focus on your senses instead of issues. Let your brain do what it does best…just process and think. I’m convinced you’ll be amazed at what pops up.
Inclusive participation matters. There is a mound of research that shows that engagement drives greater productivity, ownership and work quality. What are you doing to include and engage everyone to unleash problem solving in your organization? What are you doing to advance innovation and achieve those aspirational outcomes?
I know, it’s August. Summer is winding down. Vacations are over. School is starting back. And it’s still HOT. But guess what…August is the perfect time to dig deep and make small shifts in your meetings, interactions and engagement with your partners. I’m not asking for monumental change as we close out summer…I’m just asking for all of us to see what we can do to amplify the wisdom of others in the room. Because small shifts now can reap great benefits in September and beyond.
Below is a list of ten principles of inclusive engagement for you to consider. Which one do you want to experiment with in August? Just try one and see if it doesn’t improve your organization in some significant way.
I’d love to hear about your successes. But if you are struggling with one of these, the ISI team would be excited to help you. Set up a time for a chat and we’ll provide you with a FREE tool or resource to help you out. Thanks for being a partner and friend to ISI Consulting.
Have you ever heard of the one-inch rule? It means that stopping one inch short of your goal is just the same as never starting. It means that you are laser-focused and present until the very end, and you are not going to lose sight of your goal or stop until you have crossed the finish line. You follow through, without compromising and regardless of what else is going on.
How often do we lose focus in that last inch? You’re almost there, and it seems you can coast across the finish line. But you can’t! A NASCAR or Formula 1 driver keeps their foot to the floor until the finish line is crossed. A champion marathon runner puts as much effort into that last stride as they do the first. A winning golfer is just as careful lining up their last putt as their first. You get the picture…the end is just as important as the beginning.
Your team may have worked for the last five months on a project and in the last week, the team loses momentum and nearly disbands. Don’t let that happen! Do whatever it takes to keep holding on to the gains you’ve made and rally your team forward for that last inch. As a leader, it’s your job to spend time encouraging and motivating your team to follow the one-inch rule. The end is in sight!
I’ve often felt that the media has it wrong when they cover a story. Press covers the beginning of things – ribbon-cuttings, campaign launches, factory openings, or whatever. There are banners and balloons and lots of enthusiasm. But the media rarely gives as much fanfare or attention to the end of things – closing out a project, keeping a team together for years, or successfully meeting milestones. Don’t believe me? Try getting your local media to cover the fact that a manufacturing plant has gone one year without a workplace injury. They’re far more likely to cover the opening of the newest fast-food outlet.
So that leaves it up to us. As leaders, we need to be cheering folks who follow the one-inch rule. The ones who keep moving forward until they cross the finish line. Those teams who commit to taking this goal or project through that last inch, no matter what happens. Let’s favor finishing over starting, and winners over the beginners.
Everyone on your team needs oxygen. I’m not talking about air to breathe, silly, but space and time to rest, recover, rejuvenate and restore ourselves. Different team members may require very different activities to “breathe.” For some it may be binging on Succession or Yellowstone, or going to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Others might recharge by biking, cooking or golfing. I find that going down a fast hill on my bike gets my heart pumping in new ways, and I’m often more creative the next time I sit down. Your recharge activity may be completely different – you be you! If we are solely focused on work and only work, we are going to exhaust ourselves, and quality will go down drastically.
As leaders, encourage your team members to find their oxygen. With so much turnover in the workplace, it’s paramount for team members to breathe. It’s easy to become solely focused on work, and that’s the perfect recipe for exhausting ourselves and diminishing the quality of our work. Remember that job satisfaction – and retention – is closely linked to a sense that your team members’ work matters, and their time and talents are appreciated. Don’t let your team members become one-dimensional…where all they do is work, go home, then wake up the next day and do it all over again. That’s a spark-killer for sure.
I’ve spent the last month building Pinterest boards for redecorating our living and dining room. My oxygen has come from painting bookcases, looking at different pillow and rug samples, and scoring the greatest find at the local antique store. Our blue-and-white living room has allowed me some time to engage my mind and heart in a new way. And I think both home and work are going to be better for it.
I’ve recognized that while sanding the wooden bookcases, I’m able to stop thinking constantly about whatever is going on at work. My eyes and mind are solely focused on the wood and the 80-grit sandpaper I’m using (and the muscles that are hurting that I never knew I had). This little reprieve from work has helped me BREATHE. It provided some much-needed rest and actually rejuvenated me. Not to mention the very attractive set of bookcases I’m going to have when it’s all done!
Encourage your team members to enjoy their time away from the office. Find what helps them breathe, and then make sure they take time to actually do it. In fact, if they need a little extra push, something that pertains to their favorite activity makes great birthday or holiday gifts. Personally, I’m hoping for an electric sander.
Nothing’s Off Limits When Improvement’s on the Table
Well, we’re in the dog days of summer, when everything seems to slow down to a crawl. That’s certainly true for ISI Consulting, and maybe your business, as well. We’re not facilitating that many meetings and trainings have come to a slow and gradual decline. I’ve heard it said that for lots of organizations and businesses, activity tends to slow down in the “J months” (January, June and July). Seasonal lulls (whenever yours hits) can be a great time for you to reinvest in your organization or business and evaluate all aspects of what is working and what is not working. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, should be off limits during this evaluation period.
There is always room for improvement. During these slower periods, look around and watch for areas that may need a little love. What can we do more efficiently? Where can we be more creative? What needs to be re-organized? What could do with a little more polish or finesse? Are there things or projects or ideas that need to be tossed out completely? Is there something that has always been on the back burner that you actually may have time to work on now? Ask your team members two simple questions…“What can we do better?” and “What can we systematize?” I promise if you ask them these simple questions, the flood gates will open. Before you know it, you’ll have more than you could get done in the J months and more.
Once your team has identified areas to improve, prioritize the list, assign owners to each of the mini projects, set some deadlines and get started! We did just that at ISI Consulting, and by the end of June, we already had four items marked off our list. Wohoo! Our One Drive digital filing system has been completely re-organized and makes so much more sense, new user-friendly templates have been created and our You Tube channel is about to be launched. These mini projects have re-energized our team and ownership is at an all-time high. The same thing can happen for your organization. Go ahead and tackle some projects. What’s been on the back burner? What have your thought about, but never actually tackled. Often these items won’t be “urgent” but they’re so important as you grow and scale. Let’s all be about the business of systemization and improvement. Our team members, customers and clients will thank us for this!
I’ve been without two key team players for the last two weeks. Good ole’ summer vacations have come around and I’ve been left with lots of tasks that I don’t normally do. Let’s just say that I may have used some colorful language on the printer, scanner, laptop…and even the ice maker this week. Yes, I know that yelling at inanimate objects isn’t productive, but somehow it made me feel better.
I’ve been doing some tasks this week that I haven’t done in the last three years plus…and man, I’m glad that I have. You see, my perspective on the complexity of a task and how long it should theoretically take has shrunk over time. I have been diminishing tasks and underappreciating all that goes into moving something from a requested task to a completed task. I had lost perspective.
Will Guidara (2022) says this so well. “Perspective has an expiration date, no matter how hard you try to hold on to it.” I needed to tap back into what it means to be the administrative assistant, project manager, video editor, social media coordinator, data analyst, and…the roles go on…and on…and on. I had lost a valuable viewpoint for the very people I was managing.
I absolutely want us to be super-focused on scaling our businesses and organizations. That is important (and probably is in your strategic plan). However, let’s scale our business without losing perspective in the process. Your organization cannot run without the valuable individuals in the office and working remotely – without subcontractors, freelancers (go Fiverr), vendors, volunteers, and even the occasional family member. We’ll all be better managers and leaders if we take time to gain, or regain, some real-world perspective. I don’t mean just reading about it. I mean blocking off some time on your calendar and getting your hands dirty. Do some jobs you usually delegate. Let’s all dig in and remember that our best recollections and memories of a task are probably out of date, and we need to get some fresh perspective. Your team members are really going to thank you!
They arranged to rent a bus for the day. And a medical doctor and two nurses devoted a half day to help my family enjoy visiting Table Rock State Park with my father…who died just three months later. The Hospice team didn’t have to do this. The doctor and nurses didn’t have to do this. There was no billing code for reimbursement for their services, but they still did it.
Why? This special Thursday came about all because a doctor listened carefully and then showed unreasonable generosity to my family. He heard my brother and mother talking about hiking to the top of Table Rock, swimming in the lake and getting ice cream at Aunt Sue’s restaurant. Quietly and with no social media optics moment, Dr. Kumar (pictured here with my mother and father) made it happen. Had he and his team ever done this before? Nope…and it didn’t matter.
Why would a physician and two of his nurses do this? Showing love and genuine care was a non-negotiable for them. It defined who this hospice organization was, and you didn’t need to read a strategic plan or mission statement to experience this in action. They baked it into their organization from the ground up, and when an opportunity to show love and genuine care presented itself, they didn’t ask “Should we?”, but “How can we?”
I know the terms welcoming, belonging, and inclusion are being used more frequently around the staff and board table. I want us to really dig deep and uncover what that means for your organization or business. How might we approach being welcoming and inviting with as much passion as we devote to our product or service line? We live in a world where money is getting tight(er), everyone is tired and stretched, and folks are slowly starting to pull back. We need connection like never before. Even in lean times, don’t slack up on your values. Hold true to the reason your organization/business exists. Lean in and be relentless in making your values shine even brighter. We all need that.
South Carolina has 47 amazing state parks scattered from the coast to the Upstate. Let me suggest you visit one of them and build some memories of your own. Because they’re incredibly important during times when we’re all stretched and need connection. If you have never visited Table Rock State Park (Table Rock | South Carolina Parks Official Site) I highly recommend it. It’s the first place my future husband and I said, “I love you” and one of the last places I shared an embrace with my father. I have since visited the park with my three-year old son. He never met my Daddy, but boy do we share stories.
Good on-boarding of new employees and volunteers in your organization is THE secret ingredient in 2023. Finding and retaining team members is a recurring theme playing out right now across the country. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee turnover rate in 2021 was 47.2%. In addition, the average cost to replace an employee can range anywhere from half to two times their salary, according to data from Gallup. And those numbers are only getting worse. You must…I repeat…you must flip your on-boarding process on its head if you want to keep your new team members.
On-boarding in 2023 needs to be completed in phases. I call it the sprinkle spiral. Let me explain. The common/outdated/ineffective – “fire hydrant” – approach is to spend one to three days with a team member and provide them with all of the information, tools, tasks they could ever need and then walk out the physical or virtual door. Boom…you’re done. You encourage them to reach out to you with any questions. You notice that “deer in the headlights look” but think…they will magically be fine the next day. You’ve done your part, and after all, you have important work to do and need to get caught back up. You recognize that the “fire hydrant” approach isn’t working when you’re frustrated and not sleeping at night because you are not getting the results you and your team desired. Sound familiar?
We need to move away from the “fire hydrant” approach and do the sprinkle spiral. I’ve completely made this phrase up – so please don’t Google it. Instead of soaking newcomers with information, let’s spray team members with information in different chunks. Start with broad/high-level information and then go deeper – just like all of the adult learning models show works best. Allow time for the team member to practice/demonstrate a skill before moving to the next item on a checklist. We put together a plan that could range anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on the complexity of the job role. We must adopt a mindset of the long game. We want this team member to be wildly successful and with us past the 60-day mark. To accomplish that we must invest our energies to train in more engaging and effective ways. We all need to create spray spirals.
I have no doubt that new team members and volunteers will be excited to join your team this year. But I want them to stay excited past the first day and three month mark. How might you flip the on-boarding fire hydrant on its head and have spray spirals across your department?
Let’s all start doing the sprinkle spiral. And if you and your team want to work on some strategies to help develop your own sprinkle spiral, give me a call, and let’s get together. I cannot wait to hear your success stories!
Yeah, you heard right. Don’t wiggle out of the squiggle. According to Leith Sharp (director of Harvard’s Sustainability Leadership), squiggle is all of the variation that happens in the “in-between” phases of any project. Apparently, it’s the new jargon for the “messy middle.” New ideas and new projects all have their own set of “issues” – stakeholders, risks, opportunities, budget, history, context, etc. With these issues onboard, the journey is rarely if ever linear. The journey is most often up, down, and all around and sideways. Yet, the final story we share is the linear story. Leith Sharp and others want you to embrace the squiggle and share all parts of your story. Let’s be real, and don’t hide the messy middle.
Just last year while teaching a project management bootcamp, I encouraged team members to be aware of what’s known as the implementation dip. As soon as you get going, there will be a dip in productivity. Beware! Don’t let that dip take you by surprise.
But I failed to tell them that, in all honesty, this process looks more like a roller coaster ride than a single dip. They needed to beware of 250 dips and squiggles that are somewhere in the middle! Did I warn them of that? Heck, no! I just showed one dip on the implementation journey and then moved on to how to sustain momentum. Shame on me.
If you know it’s coming, you won’t wiggle out of the squiggle. Keep going. Keep learning. Keep making adjustments. It’s part of the real-life project life cycle. Embrace the ride. And one more piece of advice. Let’s talk to our newest team members (Gen Z) and let them know to expect this. There are going to be a lot of mistakes, concerns, and questions along the way. Those can make your newest team members really uncomfortable. Build trust on your team and welcome this! We do not wiggle out of the squiggle. We are going to embrace it and move forward. Let’s all be more comfortable and willing to share our real – squiggly – journey so others can learn along the way.