Lynette Silva - Author Archive

“The Seventh Sense” – A Book Review and Thoughts on Humanity in the Age of Networks

by Lynette Silva

Book Cover: The Seventh SenseRecognize This! – Our world is highly networked today and will become more so in a more secure fashion. Leaders must help ensure we retain our humanity as we become at once more connected and more secure.

I’ve just finished a book that’s possibly frightened me more than the Exorcist. (And that’s saying something. I didn’t sleep after dark for a week after reading that.) On the upside, the book also gave me my first sense of true hope for how humanity will navigate the coming decades in which we are all far more deeply connected and intertwined – networked – with each other than we likely realize or want to admit.

What’s the book? The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo. He’s a futurist who brings his global perspective, deep technical knowledge, and expansive interests to helping us understand not just the way in which the world works, but how and why, too. I picked up this book after seeing it listed by four CEOs in a McKinsey article on “What CEOs are reading.”

What is the Seventh Sense? “A feeling for how networks work that is joined to a sense of history and politics and philosophy.” What does that mean? Essentially this: We are living in a rapidly changing and ever more quickly evolving world due, largely, to the nature of the intense amount of networked connection now common in nearly every function of life – financial markets, food distribution, work/job distribution, biomedical research and development, even terrorism.

A key through line is the idea that connection changes the nature of an object. And by extension, “connection elevates those who control that connection to a level of rare power and influence.”

Another through line is the morphing of the manufacturing era adage of “You can have good, fast, and cheap, but only two out of three at any one time” into the networking age truism of “You can have secure, fast and open, but only two out of three.” In today’s world, we are largely operating in a “fast and open but not secure” environment. If we want more security in our networks and in our lives, then the likely option to give up is open.

How do we gain security in a networked age? By setting up “gatelands” where access is controlled through a clear set of rules and values. Remember, connectivity is power. With that reality, Ramo proposes new geopolitical structures based on “Hard Gatekeeping,” which he defines as “the construction and development of secure, carefully designed communities to manage everything from trade to cyber-information to scientific research.” Ramo points out that today we have very few gates and walls (and tremendous cyber-insecurity). Gatelands may be the answer – gated networks that are far more secure and run faster than open ones. And as an added benefit, gated networks “offer not merely security, but influence: The cost of being exclude from gatelands of finance or information will be nearly total.”

Gatelands are fast and secure, but definitely not open.

How do we retain our humanity in a networked age?

Two basics of what it means to be human are enhanced and even accelerated in this new age.

  • Connection to others (and our trust in them that makes deep connection possible). Trust is another through-line in the book. As Ramo says, “When you connect to a person or an object, you connect as well to its whole history of decisions about whom to trust…. If you are what you are connected to, you are also the sum of every trusting (or untrusting) choice someone or some machine has made.” We may become more cautious or circumspect in our connections overall, but the depth of trust we have in our connections will likely grow.
  • Inevitability of the passage of time and ultimately death. As biological creatures, our mortality is a constant. And yet, a basic human desire is to do more, be more, achieve more with the time we are allotted. Networks can help because they give us the means for tremendous efficiency. Ramo points out, “The compression of time offers the possibility to live more with less time.”

What won’t work? An attempt to return to an isolationist, disconnected structure. The networked age is our current reality. Let’s take as an example the call in the US to build a wall. Set aside for the moment whether the idea is right or wrong and ask instead why the idea seems to be so popular. The obvious answer is fear, but fear of what? Immigrants taking jobs and committing crimes? I don’t think so. The fear runs much deeper than that. It’s a fear of changing expectations and how life works. It’s a very real and reasonable fear based on the realities of the networked age where jobs are very fluid, both in structure and in where they can be done and by whom. Building a physical wall isn’t the solution. In fact, it’s the antithesis. If we want to help resolve the underlying concerns, we need to build stronger connections and more secure gatelands.

A message of hope and instruction from Ramo for those with the Seventh Sense:

“Possession of the Seventh Sense isn’t about just letting the tech do its thing. It is not about passivity in the face of so much power. Rather, it demands grasping the nature of a connected age and seeing how it might be used to further, not erode, the things we care most about.”

Just how networked is our world? Here’s a small, personal example. As I was drafting this post, I received an email from Tim Leberecht, a past WorkHuman speaker. In a brief email exchange, I mentioned I’d just finished this book. He replied with his intent to read it soon as Joshua’s wife is Tim’s friend. Our world has become very small, indeed.

How networked is your corner of the world? What gatelands do you work within today or see as being critically necessary in the near future?

Want to Learn How to WorkHuman? Go to Jail!

by Lynette Silva


 Alcatraz – Inside the Main Cellhouse, CC BY 2.0 – By Daniel Ramirez, Honolulu, USA

Recognize This! – Respect is a foundational element of working more human, in any work environment.

What’s the most inhumane work environment you can think of? Hard field labor in the blazing sun? Dangerous construction or energy work? After listening to an NPR interview with a Mother Jones reporter who went undercover as a prison guard in a for-profit prison, I’m thinking prison certainly makes the list of potentially the most inhumane work environments. And I’m talking about the conditions for both prison employees and inmates.

If working human means we strive to celebrate the strategic, business and human imperative to bring more humanity back to how we work and how we work together, we would be remiss if we also didn’t consider who we work for. In prison work, the community of law-abiding citizens would ultimately be the customer. I would argue the inmates are customers, too, in that by better serving the inmates as humans in need, we can reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for the greater community when prisoners serve their time and return to that community.

So, how can we make prisons more human for everyone involved – the correctional officers as well as the inmates? Bob Garvey serves as an excellent example. He is sheriff of Northampton, MA, and is retiring after more than 30 years as the superintendent of the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction. Highlighted in a Boston Globe report, Garvey’s work to honor the humanity – all of the humanity – within the correctional system is inspiring and a lesson in why working more human matters.

Respect Critical in Human Workplaces

Throughout the article, the clear respect officers and inmates have for each other is clear. And it’s that respect that lays a foundation for better outcomes for everyone. Respect shows itself in three ways:

  • Respect for staff and their training needs.

“We’re also trying to create an atmosphere here,” Garvey says, “where the employees feel safe and positive about what they’re doing for the client population… One of the most important things we do is screen the people who want to work here. We want people who aren’t overly aggressive and who really think. All our officers are heavily trained. They know how to de-escalate. We want both sides to respect each other.”

  • Respect for inmates and their human needs.

“They used to think that punishment was cleansing,” Andrea Cabral, former Massachusetts secretary of public safety, said in 2014. “We now know that’s not how humans actually work.”

“Most of these guys come in angry,” [Garvey] continues, “and if they’re angry, addicted, or even hungry, you can’t treat them. To get their attention, you have to get the drugs out of their system, feed them, show them respect, and hope they’ll deliver the same back. And, surprisingly, when they get over the shock of being treated well — at first they think we’re toying with them — they usually do.”

  • Respect for each other’s connection needs.

“Garvey and his staff regularly have meals in the cafeteria with the inmates, sitting at the same rows of shiny stainless steel tables and eating the same food as the inmates… Garvey sees eating together as a way to show that but for different circumstances and behaviors, staff and inmates are all the same. It’s also a way for him to connect.”

What kinds of results can be achieved when we respect the humanity in everyone? In Garvey’s world, the success is clear.

3 Signs of WorkHuman Culture – in Prison

  1. Inmates ask to get in, writing repeatedly to ask Garvey for transfers into his prison.
  2. Inmates see the prison experience as one of the best things to happen to them.
  3. Inmates don’t come back with recidivism at 19% in Garvey’s jail (compared to 60% nationally).

How did Garvey manage to accomplish this? Perhaps it’s because he wasn’t trained in corrections. In a nod to lessons learned in Adam Grant’s latest work Originals, “Garvey’s knowledge of corrections is largely self-taught, which his supporters see as a good thing, allowing him to approach problems in a different way.”

How can you approach WorkHuman challenges differently in your organization? What small teaks could you make to build respect, connections, and ultimately better outcomes?

2 WorkHuman Lessons from the NFL

by Lynette Silva

Bennett BrothersRecognize This! – Working more human requires we allow our humans to be fully themselves, inside and outside work.

You could call me a football fan if, by “fan,” you mean I sit and a read book next to my husband while he watches the Patriots game. But I seem to have picked up more than I realized by this fan-through-proximity method. Being in Patriots country (and a communicator by nature), I’ve noticed how Patriots team members communicate with – or rather, don’t communicate with – the press. And that’s why I was intrigued by this story from ESPN on the Bennett brothers, the younger of whom (Martellus) is now a Patriots tight end. Let’s just say the Bennetts don’t hold back on their thoughts and opinions.

A couple of points in the wide-ranging article really struck home with me, especially from a context of making work more human. Reading the article, even a football neophyte like me can see that working in the NFL, especially as a player, isn’t really an experience of honoring the human at work. That’s why I particularly appreciated these two comments from elder-brother Michael Bennett (defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks).

When bosses “let you be you,” magic happens.

“The Bennetts maintain that, contrary to the beliefs of certain traditionalists, they play better when they’re given the freedom to improvise, both on and off the field. Michael found that equilibrium in Seattle. ‘A lot of white coaches want to be fathers to black players,’ he says. ‘Pete Carroll’s not like – “You gotta tuck in your shirt.”’ He shakes his head. ‘Do you know how much easier it is to work for somebody when you can be yourself? Why do you think Google, Apple and Facebook are so successful? When people can be who they really are, they do so much better.’ The Seahawks, he says, are the Google of the NFL. ‘They let you be you.’”

In a WorkHuman culture, it’s understood everyone can bring much more to the table when we don’t ask our people to pack up parts of themselves and leave it at the door on the way into the office. When we do, we’re often asking them to pack up exactly the parts we need most – their creativity, their passion, their desire to make a difference and an impact.

Making success about more than work makes work more successful.

“Michael says he doesn’t care about making it to the Hall of Fame. ‘Success is measured in so many different ways,’ he says. ‘To me, success is being super happy and enjoying your family. You look at these people who have so much money…and they can’t even be themselves… When I win, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home. When I lose, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home.’”

Clearly, I’m no athlete, not even on a casual level. Yet I’m sure when a pro athlete can keep a loss in perspective, rebounding to return and win is easier. Michael’s statement here is a tremendous example of achieving a good work-life balance. It’s all about perspective and remembering priorities. And having the team behind you to make it possible.

What makes work more human for you?

3 Ways to Make Work More Human

by Lynette Silva

WorkHuman NYC CommunityRecognize This! – Regardless of industry or company size, all employees need authenticity, mindfulness and recognition.

Why do we WorkHuman? Simple – how else could we possibly work? We are human, after all. And yet, our workplaces or work experiences often aren’t structured to honor, support or encourage the very humanity we bring to the office.

During the last two weeks, I’ve had the honor and privilege of hosting several WorkHuman Regional Forums across the United States (check out our 2017 WorkHuman Regional Forum schedule). The conversation and collaborative learning in these sessions has been enlightening in many ways.

Three recurring themes I’ve seen throughout the conversations in the three local WorkHuman communities to date are:

  1. Authenticity and vulnerability – As Amy Cuddy says, when we are comfortable being our true, authentic selves, we can also be more open and vulnerable with those around us. When we feel safe enough to be authentic, we can bring our whole human selves to work.
  2. Mindfulness and time to pause – Our days are often hectic, dashing between meetings, projects, and priorities. We need time to pause, reflect on and process what was just discussed, accomplished or requested. Building time into the day for short 5-minute reflection and mindful meditation breaks increases focus and productivity. One way to start is simply ending meetings 10 minutes early.
  3. Recognizing the whole human—There is much to celebrate in the people around us. Yet the focus of celebrations is often on the projects or outcomes, and not the humans that delivered the results. Recognizing the people behind the results is critical, as is celebrating the uniqueness each of us brings that creates a far more cohesive and successful whole.

How do we make work more human?

Answering that question is the responsibility of all of us – of any human who has worked, will work, or works today. We owe it to our fellow humans to contribute to a work environment that not only “pays the bills” but also brings us into closer community with others, fulfills our need for greater meaning and purpose from our contributions, and increases our sense of gratitude and appreciation.

How can you join the WorkHuman conversation?

How does your organization WorkHuman today? What are your priorities for making your workplace more human?

Be the Colleague People Want to Work With

by Lynette Silva

Big: Robert Loggia, Tom Hanks

BIG, Robert Loggia, Tom Hanks, 1988. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

Recognize This! – As humans, we all bring different personality tendencies to our teams. We can choose how to amplify those that contribute to the greater good.

Relationships. We all have them. Relationships with others are a condition of being human. From superficial to very deep connections, we cannot navigate this life without deep relationships with others. That’s no less true for being our most effective selves at work.

I just read a terrific article in Strategy+Business by the person who might have the best view into work-based relationships – Reid Hoffman, executive chairman and cofounder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital fund in Silicon Valley. Reminiscent of WorkHuman speaker Adam Grant’s work in Give and Take, Reid describes how we choose to form alliances at work based on four categories of how people typically behave:

  1. “I’ll do something for you, if you’ll do something for me.” Very short-term thinkers who must see the immediate return/benefit to them in order to engage with you.
  2. “I’ll do something for you, but I’m keeping track of what you owe me.” Similar to the first group, but are willing to let the payback be on a longer time-scale (but the payback will come due).
  3. “I’ll invest in this relationship, and I expect you to invest commensurately over time.” Understands the importance of the relationships, and trusts that it will be mutually beneficial.
  4. “I’ll invest in this relationship because it’s the right thing to do.” The most altruistic in that there is no expectation of payback.

This got me thinking about four collaborative types of working I tend to see. I’m sure there are more, but these four have been much in mind the last several months.

  1. Connectors see the invisible lines between people, ideas, and potential outcomes. They go out of their way to bring the right people together. Connectors can be the most valuable team members because of their insight into the skills, talents and abilities of everyone. Their primary goals: to help people succeed, to get things done, to create cool stuff.
  2. Disruptors tend to be the negative voice in the room, raising the potential challenges, roadblocks and less desirable outcomes. Because of this, they get a bad rap. They are not the enemy. In fact, they are critical to ultimate success by forcing consideration of all angles. Their primary goals: to contribute to success by eliminating pitfalls up front.
  3. Contributors may not take the lead, but they are vested in helping achieve the goal. They want to help “get the job done.” They often work tirelessly and are committed to the success of the team and the project. Their primary goals: to add value with their unique skills.
  4. Blockers stall progress. These are critics who do not suggest solutions. If Disruptors are not the enemy, Blockers very well may be. For whatever reason of ego, ownership or fear, Blockers stop progress in its tracks. Their primary goals are hard to define as motivations can be as diverse as they are divisive.

I don’t have much use for Blockers. I tend to hold the line on, “You’re welcome to bring up all the potential challenges and problems you want, but you must also offer some ideas towards a solution, too.” Or Harry Kraemer’s management approach: “For every problem you bring, you get 1 point. For every solution, you get 1,000 points. The person with the most points wins.”

That said, we all likely have the tendencies of all of these types. An awareness of ourselves, the four types and when we may default to a particular type (or strategically apply a type when needed) can help us all work more human together.

How do you tend to form alliances (based on Reid’s take)? What’s your typical collaborative work style?

5 Lessons for Values-Based Leadership from Harry Kraemer

by Lynette Silva

Book Cover: From Values to ActionRecognize This! – You don’t have to be manager of people to be a leader of people. To lead, relate to other’s needs and always remember where you came from.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Evanta Chicago CHRO summit. It was an honor to be a part of a tremendous roster of industry leaders and speakers. Case in point – Harry Kraemer who kicked off the event at the governing body dinner. Harry, former chairman and CEO of Baxter International and current professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management MBA program, shared insights on how to be a better leader from his new book From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.

I took away 5 key lessons and reminders from both Harry’s talk and his book, summarized here.

1. Understand the Key Characteristics of Leaders

Leaders keep things simple, demonstrate common sense and start leading as soon as possible. To keep things simple, always ask two questions: “What’s the issue we’re trying to resolve?” or “What’s the opportunity we’re trying to take advantage of?” These questions help put things into perspective and expand thinking more globally outside of the narrow, immediate issue. Leaders also don’t wait until they have a team of direct reports to start leading. Leadership is all about the ability to influence people to do what they might not otherwise do. This requires honestly relating to people.

2. Identify and Avoid “Those Guys”

“Those guys” are the people in the organization we tend to point to when we say, “It’ll never work. ‘They’ already said no to a similar idea five years ago.” Leadership growth is slowed by spending too much time waiting on “those” guys or worrying too much about what “those guys” would say or do. To overcome “those guys” syndrome, ask people two questions: “Whatever your job is, are you one of ‘those guys’ who can actually do something?” and “Whatever your job is, are you watching the movie or are you in the movie?

3. Establish Rules of the Game

The rules of the game all leaders should share with their teams are simple. Every problem or issue you bring to my attention = +1 point. Every solution you bring to my attention = +1,000 points. Whoever has the most points wins

4. Think Globally

Ask yourself, do you want to be a truly phenomenal head of ____ group? Or do you want to be head of the company who happens to know a lot about _____? (The blank can be filled by any function – HR, marketing, finance, etc.) Real leaders have their functional role, but their real job is helping the head run the company. Always look across functions to identify the global need and solution.

5. Apply 4 Principles of Leadership to Get People to Change and Lead

If you want to be a leader of others, you must first understand yourself. Applying these for principles (daily, if possible) will prepare you.

  • Practice self-reflection – Don’t confuse activity and productivity. Take time to turn off noise and ask yourself:
    • What are my values?
    • What do I stand for?
    • What is my purpose?
    • What am I going to do about it?
    • What did I do right today to advance of all of those?
    • Where did I miss and what can I do better tomorrow?
  • Seek balance – Understand ALL sides of the story (there’s generally more than two).
  • Develop true self-confidence – Know what you do know and what you don’t know (and who knows what you don’t know) and learn every day. Ask yourself: Are you comfortable admitting “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”
  • Internalize genuine humility – Understand why you are really successful. It’s likely a mix of luck, timing (right place, right time), your team (other people who’ve helped you succeed), and the talents you were given. Always remember people don’t relate well to egomaniacs. Remember the cubicle and never forget what it was like for you when you started out.

Harry ended with this reminder: To lead at any level, know what you are really at and the people who know what you don’t know.

What additional leadership lessons have guided you?

Ubuntu: Becoming More Human Together

by Lynette Silva

Humans togetherRecognize This! – Our humanity is strengthened through the support and care of fellow humans.

This weekend, I took my mother to the airport at 3:30 in the morning. While a ridiculous hour to be on the road, I’m grateful. On the way home, the TED Radio Hour was on NPR. Just as dawn was starting to break, I got to listen to Boyd Varty share the South African concept of Ubuntu.

Who’s Boyd Varty and what’s Ubuntu? Good questions.

Boyd Varty is a South African who grew up on the Londolozi Game Reserve where his role was to “take people into nature.” Londolozi may be familiar to some as the place where Nelson Mandela went when he was released from prison to recover his strength and prepare to unite South Africa. Boyd talked about how his observations of Mandela informed his understanding from a young age of the old idea of Ubuntu.

Watch Boyd explain in his TED talk (email subscribers, click through for the video):

Did you catch that? Just in case, here’s the definition of Ubuntu:

Ubuntu: I am because of you. Or, people are not people without other people. It’s not a new idea or value but it’s one that I certainly think at these times is worth building on. In fact, it is said that in the collective consciousness of Africa, we get to experience the deepest parts of our own humanity through our interactions with others.”

How powerful. How human. We become more ourselves when we help others become more, too. Later in the talk, Boyd expounds:

“In a more collective society, we realize from the inside that our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others. Danger is shared. Pain is shared. Joy is shared. Achievement is shared.”

I suggest this is also the definition of what it means to WorkHuman. Instead of the more cutthroat business approach of “for me to succeed, you must fail,” we think in terms of “we can all achieve greater success by focusing on the success of others around us.” If we fail, we fail (and learn) together. If we succeed, we succeed together.

This TED blog shared the perspectives on Ubuntu from global luminaries (Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton) and even technology and sports. I like how Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee defines Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

That’s the definition of any successful workplace – we are what we are because of what we do together. And the better we become about sharing risk, challenges, workloads, achievements, successes – about celebrating, recognizing and praising the exceptional effort of our peers and colleagues – the stronger we all become. The more successful the business becomes. The more human work becomes.

How can you apply the principle of Ubuntu at your work?


How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.


And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?


Are You Psychologically Safe at Work?

by Lynette Silva

People shunning another personRecognize This! – Successful work teams require a sense of psychological safety, which is key to working human.

Newsflash – no person is an island, especially at work. Okay, maybe that’s not much of a newsflash. In today’s complex work and world cultures, little work gets done by an individual contributor working solely on a project all by herself. We are all part of teams working toward end goals. Even within those teams, I doubt any of us work on the same team for an extended length of time. We may be assigned to formal, hierarchical teams for reporting structures, but the work tends to get done through informal teams that are constantly forming, breaking apart and reforming with new members based on the needs of the latest project.

And yet, so many engagement efforts seem to focus on the individual. How do we make the individual more effective? What can we do to inspire, motivate and encourage the individual?

It’s time to take a much closer look at the dynamics of the individuals within a team and what makes the team work more effectively. Google has done that heavy lifting through their Project Aristotle (described in this New York Times article) – a classic data-crunching study of how their people interact and collaborate to get work done. The findings were threefold:

  1. The individual people in the team don’t really matter in assessing the success of the team’s outcomes.
  2. Successful teams consistently showed two features – members listened to each other (no one person dominated conversation or leadership) and were sensitive to the feelings and needs of the team members.
  3. “Psychological safety” – a sense that it’s okay to take risks within the group – is critical to success.

What does this all boil down to? Human dynamics at work. And what does this mean for readers of this blog? To make our work teams most effective, we need to help the humans on those teams be more psychologically sensitive to their teammates to create the safe space necessary for magic to happen.

And this brings us full circle – helping the team requires us to help the individual. Sue Bingham in SmartBlogs wrote about the five factors individuals can focus on:

  1. Positive assumptions about your teammates
  2. Trust in them and their abilities
  3. Inclusion of everyone and their ideas
  4. Challenge with interesting work
  5. Recognition of desired behaviors to reinforce outcomes

Acknowledging these needs of the individual combined with the needs of the team is what enables us to WorkHuman. We are unique individuals that bring a myriad of “personal” factors into our team experience – and both must be integrated to get the best results. As Google learned:

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.”

Emphasis on that last sentence is mine. Work can be – should be – more than just labor. And we have a better shot at achieving that when we enjoy our work with others.

To Change Organization Culture You Must Change This First

by Lynette Silva

Women working on computerRecognize This! – All organizational change rides on changing the daily behaviors of the humans first.

Company culture. What is it? What does it do? How can you change it or at least manipulate it? All are questions we encounter often with the organizations we work with regularly. And it’s such a popular topic because leaders realize they are working within a strong and forceful culture, whether it’s the one they want, the one they inherited or the one they’ve “allowed to happen” over time.

Culture has been a topic of this blog, our books, and the WorkHuman movement many times. Because of its importance, it’s a topic I like to revisit and bring back to the fore from time to time. This time, it’s a terrific article on the 10 principles of organizational culture by Jon Katzenbach, et. al. in Strategy + Business. I like particularly how the article helps frame the answers to the most common questions about organizational culture.

What is organizational culture?

At its simplest, culture is all about the underlying behaviors of the people:

“A company’s culture is its basic personality, the essence of how its people interact and work… Culture is the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things are done.”

And because humans are involved, change can be complex:

“Corporate cultures are constantly self-renewing and slowly evolving: What people feel, think, and believe is reflected and shaped by the way they go about their business. Formal efforts to change a culture (to replace it with something entirely new and different) seldom manage to get to the heart of what motivates people, what makes them tick. Strongly worded memos from on high are deleted within hours. You can plaster the walls with large banners proclaiming new values, but people will go about their days, right beneath those signs, continuing with the habits that are familiar and comfortable.”

Why try to change culture if it’s so difficult to do?

The simple answer – because the benefits are astounding. Organizational culture is a top component of employee engagement. And as Katzenbach points out, it’s the engagement of the people in achieving your priorities through your culture that drives business results:

“When positive culture forces and strategic priorities are in sync, companies can draw energy from the way people feel. This accelerates a company’s movement to gain competitive advantage, or regain advantages that have been lost.”

How do you change organizational culture?

It’s not easy, but it is simple – focus on the behaviors of the humans involved. Katzenbach recommends:

“Behaviors are the most powerful determinant of real change. What people actually do matters more than what they say or believe. And so to obtain more positive influences from your cultural situation, you should start working on changing the most critical behaviors — the mind-sets will follow. Over time, altered behavior patterns and habits can produce better results.”

This illustration from Katzenbach shows the steps change culture – notice how they all focus in one way or another on behaviors.

More to the point, every one of these 10 principles can be strongly influenced through social recognition practices that encourage every employee to notice and very specifically appreciate the desired behaviors in others. True social recognition reaches across organization and geographic boundaries to unite everyone in a common sense of purpose and mission in a way that visibly shares the successes and contributions of others in demonstrating those desired behaviors.

Chart view of cultural mobilizers

Source: The Katzenbach Center For further insights: See

Need additional proof? Look to the seemingly unchangeable culture of the U.S. Navy. As WorkHuman speaker and author of Give and Take and Originals, Adam Grant points out in an HBR article on building a culture originality, if you want to “unleash innovation and change in the ultimate bastion of bureaucracy,” you need to change the accepted and prized behaviors. In this case, find, nurture and replicate “a network of original thinkers who would collaborate to question long-held assumptions and generate new ideas.”

Do you have the company culture you want? Or are you limping along in a culture that holds you – and everyone – back?