For several years, I had the privilege of teaching the Organization Behavior course in the McKendree University Louisville campus business school. I always included the Pike's Place Fish Market story when we talked about highly effective organizations, and here's why.
I honestly can't think of many jobs that I would dislike more than working as a fishmonger - the smell, the gore, the pre-dawn start to every workday, the hard labor of setting up the ice displays, and did I mention the smell. And yet, on the brink of bankruptcy, owner John Yokohama and his crew embraced a bold idea - to become world-famous.
Being world-famous wasn't John's master vision that he delivered to his team because he already knew that his top-down, traditional management style wasn't working. Instead, defeated and exhausted, John hired a business coach who showed him how to replace his command-and-control practices with an invitation for employee engagement.
Facilitated by the business coach, Pike's Place Fish Market employees sat together in a meeting room and reimagined their future. The compelling vision to become world-famous and the idea of turning the fish market into an entertainment destination was generated, embraced, implemented, and perfected by the team.
What happened from there not only saved the company with
When John and his team first gathered, I can only imagine that skepticism and distrust were present. Hiring a skilled professional who has the facilitation skills to bridge divides and makes space for every voice is essential to success. It is work to set aside old assumptions and beliefs and redefining relationships. Well-crafted questions, reframing of situations, and gentle reminders to practice new skills accelerate results.
Need help? I'll show you how, just like CEO Tiffany Howard, who recently hired me to help restore the high-performance culture in her organization. Read her review here.
Many people felt compelled to declutter their living spaces between feeling trapped during the "safe at home" orders and the need to make room for work and learning spaces.
Then we saw a surge in divorces as people looked at their 24/7 home-life and realized that their relationship with their partner no longer sparked joy.
Next social and political tensions grew, causing people to remove themselves from social media platforms or trim their friends to escape the negativity.
Now businesses are returning to in-person operations, leading employees to re-evaluate their joy equation at work and sparking the Great Resignation.
To understand what sparks joy at work, you need to understand the three avatars personifying the varying levels of commitment and engagement at work.
ACTIVE AVERY feels tremendous pride and ownership at work. They have the opportunity to do what they do best daily. They feel heard, appreciated, and regularly receive affirmation of their value as a contributor. A strong, positive connection exists between the organization's purpose and values and their own.
APATHETIC ALEX is dependable and gets the job done but isn't passionate about their work and contribution. They rarely feel energized by their work and do not see the value of doing more than minimally required. They see their relationship with their employer as transactional and never intend to stay too long in a job or company.
ABSENT ASH is checked out, a warm body filling a spot on an organization chart. They resent their treatment at work and feel completely disconnected from the company's purpose. Their needs are not met at work, causing them to act out in ways that undermine the commitment of others. They announce their unhappiness loudly and often, seeking company in their misery.
Depending on the makeup of your workforce, the Great Resignation could be the nudge you've needed to embrace the wisdom of Good To Great (Jim Collins, 2000) and focus on getting the right people on the bus.
Identifying the Absent Ashs and encouraging their departure is essential to prevent a few rotten apples from spoiling the whole barrel. Active Averys don't want to carry dead weight. They want to be surrounded by coworkers who share their commitment and pride. They also don't respect leaders who tolerate Absent Ash behavior.
In other words, if you want to not only keep your Active Averys, but attract more of them, continuing to accept "warm bodies" is not an option.
Next, assess your operating norms to ensure you are meeting the four basic needs for a highly engaged workforce.
Third, revise your talent acquisition strategy to take advantage of the influx of career changers. According to a recent article on hrexchangenetwork.com, "A relaxation around an emphasis on previous work experience coupled with creative approaches to talent development is leading to employers finding a great amount of talent that they weren't seeing previously due to preconceived rules the company had around expectations and qualifications."
Connection is the key to sparking joy in every part of life. Now more than ever, you must have a people strategy that focuses on employee engagement. By focusing energy on cultivating the right environment for Active Averys, you are guaranteed to get the best out of every person, even if they only stay for two years. And, your reputation boost will make it easier to replace vacancies with more Active Averys.
If you need some help assessing and building your culture, let's chat. DM me or use this link to hop on my calendar.
Before the pandemic, most businesses adopted an operating preference for face-to-face engagement. On rare occasions when someone joined a meeting remotely, they were typically forgotten and marginalized during conversations.
Safe-at-home practices to combat the spread of COVID-19 catapulted our adoption of remote work technology. Not only did we learn to connect effectively, but most businesses also reported an increase in productivity. The combination of necessity and existing relationships made this transition seamless.
Offices are reopening, and employers are hiring, bringing a new set of challenges for hybrid workplaces. Rather than slip back into our pre-pandemic ineffectiveness, here are five essential practices to keep remote workers integrated and connected with their in-person teams.
Proximity effect is the idea from social psychology that physical and/or psychological closeness increases interpersonal liking and attraction. When workers share an office space, they have physical proximity, which facilitates collegiality. Thus, it is vital to generate psychological closeness amongst teammates by adopting intentional practices to deepen trust and interpersonal relationships.
Gallup's employee engagement survey includes several questions focused on feeling recognized and valued. Beyond job performance, it is essential to know the person and care about who they are and what matters to them. Regular and consistent feedback, acknowledgment, and listening communicate authentic seeing, caring, and valuing.
No one wants to be the redheaded stepchild. It requires focused effort to give equal consideration to everyone on the team regardless of their location. Structure and facilitate meetings so that everyone has the same participation opportunity. And avoid defaulting to those who share physical proximity.
Throw out all of your paint-by-numbers management tools. To inspire and engage, you need to know each individual and modify to match their needs. Replace one-size-fits-all prizes and praises with genuine appreciation that fully leverages the strengths of each team member. Get curious and invite generative dialogue that grows mutual understanding and respect.
Can't take the crew to lunch or gather in the conference room for a celebration—no problem. In The Power of Moments (2017), the authors share how to craft positive, memorable moments using four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. To engender true engagement and connection, employees need to experience these types of moments, which spark intrinsic motivation and fuel positive self-esteem.
To learn more about the challenges of hybrid teams, check out this recent article I published on LinkedIn.
If you'd like help crafting your new leadership approach, hop on my schedule for a free coaching conversation.
Several years ago, when my girls competed in cheer and gymnastics, my side hustle was coaching their sports. Now let me be perfectly clear, I'm not an expert in either of these sports, so I spent a lot of time working side-by-side with seasoned professionals, soaking up all the wisdom they could impart.
The physical training for these sports is incredible. Strength and endurance are required, so every practice included conditioning. Often we used stations so that each individual worked at her own pace. Each athlete chose to complete the whole set or cheat by reducing the number of repetitions. As coaches, we decided not to micro-manage this. Instead, we always remind the girls of this simple truth.
If you cheat on your reps, you are only cheating yourself and your ability to achieve your scoring goals at the next meet.
Today, I'm putting on my coaching hat and sharing a similar message with you.
When you need to make a decision and commit to an action, not making a decision is a decision to keep the current state, and you're cheating yourself if you pretend otherwise.
Inaction is a choice, and frequently it's the wrong one. Why? Because it is a passive acceptance in which active options such as the following are ignored.
Decision fatigue is legitimate. It is best to avoid important decisions when we are not thinking clearly. It is also different from the avoidance behavior resulting from fear that allows indecision on little things to grow into more significant problems.
Can you relate to any of these examples of fear-driven avoidance?
The next time you face a decision, and the thought of it makes you tired, be sure to ask yourself why you are feeling this way. If you don't have the energy to deal with it, put it on the top of the list for the next day. However, feeling dread or avoidance is a symptom of fear.
So, how do we combat our tendency to default to passive indecision when we're uncomfortable. The simple answer is to shift from feeling pressured to make a change to actively seeking more information. This response de-escalates our fear response and sets aside our default assumptions and judgments in favor of learning.
Looking at the examples above, consider this.
Instead of "confronting" your employee about their inadequate performance, ask questions to assess gaps in skills or knowledge before deciding what to do.
Instead of telling your customer, inquire about the impact of changing the deadline and whether it negatively impacts them.
As in the third example, sometimes you have to swallow your pride, face your fear, and own it. However, as the above examples show, often it is helpful to choose curiosity over decision avoidance.
Remember, when we avoid because of fear, we get a short-term respite followed by a more significant problem down the road. Your future self will thank you for avoiding the trap of passive indecision.
I'm fortunate that my husband is often my counterbalance. I'm a cliché product of my generation, driven to prove that I can do it all and be it all, which frequently results in over commitment on my part. Where I am quick to say yes to requests and demands, my husband excels at boundaries. He easily rejects crowding his schedule with back-to-back engagements. He grasped the importance of #selfcare long before it became a mainstream conversation.
The reasons so many of us struggle are numerous and universal, but most are grounded in fear.
Fear is often a hidden but dangerous motivator. Of course, we can attribute our actions using nicer terminology--I'm a people pleaser—but it is just a mask for a mindset tempered by fear.
Time is finite, making yes and no two sides of the same coin. So when we say yes to something, we are also saying no to something else. Consider these examples.
When we say yes to going out to a fancy dinner, we say no to putting that money into our savings to purchase a new car.
When we say yes to meeting our best friend for a run in the mornings before work, we say no to getting an extra hour of sleep.
When we say yes to doing the bookkeeping ourselves, we say no to spending that time on income-generating activities.
Filling our time with activities eventually means that our dance card is full. Initially, this may not be problematic, but over time problems tend to arise. We grow tired and overworked, raising feelings of resentment. Or worse, we feel forced to say no to something we want to do (like a highly lucrative client) because we can't fit it into our schedule.
One of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Peter Block is this, "Your YES means nothing if you can't say NO." Giving thorough consideration to when and why we agree to a commitment is good business. When we allow YES to become our default, we may please others while limiting ourselves.
So how do you stop the YES bully from stealing your time? Try these actions.
ONE. Set boundaries
My work with clients always begins at the end. We focus on outcomes and visualize how things will be different six months after the change. This exercise is also helpful for shining a light on what matters most to you so that you can set limits that honor your priorities.
When I was a corporate employee, I worked long hours. However, I also had a clear boundary. Once I parked my car in the garage at the end of the day, I did not take phone calls or work on my computer. My evenings and weekends were family time and a chance for me to disconnect from work. It was a healthy boundary that helped me avoid burnout, and I never received pushback from my colleagues, clients, or superiors.
Permission to create the balance you want must start with you. And as we say on our podcast, A Nickel & A Plan, it is never too little and never too late. Often changes don't have to be drastic. Start small. Once you open yourself to the idea that things can be different, you'll start to identify previously hidden shifts that allow your boundaries without sacrificing your other goals.
TWO. Listen for your NO
A few years ago, I worked with a therapist who told me that I had excellent instincts, but then I talked myself out of them. In other words, my gut reaction was to say NO, but then I'd talk myself into agreeing instead.
Here are some helpful hints that you know you should say NO.
Often it is easier for us to turn someone down when we can offer them something instead of sending them away empty-handed. Your cultivated network of professional resources is handy in these situations. For example, you can provide an introduction to someone else, send articles or other reference materials, or offer connections to other resources. These actions allow you to add value without making a time-consuming commitment.
Standing up to your YES bully requires intention and practice. Remember, fear is a liar. Challenging your assumptions and beliefs and identifying alternatives to avoid the worst outcomes taking over your thoughts is the path to freedom from this time thief.
How do you avoid falling victim to that niggling thought that you have to say yes? Let's crowdsource more strategies from this brilliant community and take back our time.