Posts Tagged "book review’

A Guidebook for Building a Human Workplace (A book review)

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – No workplace would exist without humans. Why don’t we build more workplaces for humans?

Cover of book The Human WorkkplaceWhat does it mean to truly work human? The answer is as complex as humanity itself, but centers on enabling our people to bring the fullness of their humanity into the workplace for the benefit of their colleagues, their customers, the company, and the community. (To learn much more, including practical tips, be sure to join us at the annual WorkHuman conference, April 2-5, in Austin, Texas.)

A key part of making work more human is, of course, creating a human workplace. And now friend and repeat WorkHuman speaker Andy Swann has written the book on it – “The Human Workplace.” As the founder of Simple Better Human, a specialist agency that helps major organizations and global brands thrive, Andy knows what he’s talking about, defining a human workplace this way: “The human workplace is one that adapts, innovates fast, involves everyone, communicates, understands and acts in perpetuity. It creates relationships rather than transactions.”

There is much to consider when creating a workplace fit for humans, and Andy tackles them all thoroughly. The thread running through every element, however, is connection. A truly human workplace has connection at its heart. The need to connect with others, to a purpose and through action is a basic human need. Andy elegantly outlines these and other critical elements of connection, which I highlight below along with key quotations from the book to illustrate.

  • Purpose – Humans are wired to want to contribute to something bigger than themselves, to know we are having an impact on something of importance.

“The organizations of the future are no longer machines or systems, they are movements. To make a successful human workplace, you need to start a movement.”

  • Values/behaviors – Humans are also willful creatures. Restraining that will results in also restraining creativity, passion, and influence. Yet some level of control is needed in workplaces to keep humans from running amok. Defining clear parameters, along with what matters to organization success, frees people while offering necessary guidance. Most organizations have these today in the form of core values or similar.

“When people are unleashed to be amazing on their terms (within the parameters of the organization), their potential is unlocked.”

  • People/community – Humans crave connection. We see it in our family structures and in our friendships. Why would we ignore that need in the workplace? Instead, we should facilitate and foster it.

“Families are based on human relationships, not transactions. In a family, it matters who someone is, not just what they do … Valuing people as people reinforces the connection. It’s a balance of thanking, trusting, listening, and rewarding. It’s about a wider connected contribution, rather than a two-way exchange.”

  • Ability to contribute – A good deal of frustration in the workplace arises when people don’t know or don’t fully understand how their day-to-day efforts contribute in a meaningful way. Making valuable contributions and knowing that your contributions are valuable (and those are two different things) are both critical in a human workplace.

“Valuing your people is about valuing their contribution as part of the community, not bowing down in thanks because they show up. It’s a two-way thing. Contribution is exactly that and a condition of membership in the community.”

  • Continuous feedback – To know our contributions are valuable, we need feedback on it. Receiving feedback (and giving it) across the spectrum from constructive to positive and up and down the hierarchical chain helps us grow and develop.

“Every individual is in perpetual beta, seeking to develop and do their best work … In the community of a human workplace, feedback … is part of recognition. Recognizing the contribution, successes, and developmental needs of each individual, in order for them to participate fully in the community. When everyone is able to do that, the community benefits.”

  • Authenticity – Humans can detect sincerity as well as inauthenticity quite easily in most cases. Building and strengthening connections requires authenticity, trust, and fairness.

“Connecting people with the organization … needs to be authentic. Human workplaces are built on real connections and anything not done for the right reason will be recognized for what it is, because the power is with the crowd.”

What other steps can you take to create a more human workplace? These three themes run through Andy’s book, which is filled with case studies from organizations and people around the world:

  1. Simplify – Reduce complexity. What’s the minimum viable solution that removes distractions and unleashes human creativity and talent? “There is absolutely no valid reason to make things more complicated than they need to be.”
  2. Offer freedom and flexibility – Give people the space they need, in work style and in work location, to bring their full creativity to the fore – as long as they act within established guidelines and parameters. “The challenge for traditional organizations is how to force people to do their best work. The challenge for a human organization is how to enable people to do their best work.”
  3. Measure success – Be sure people take responsibility for contributions and outcomes. As Lee Mallon, founder of Rarely Impossible, says in one case study, “An organization’s legacy is not defined by their performance, accolades or profits but for the collective human moments that they create – the welcoming smile; a supportive colleague; the customer call that starts at 4:59 pm.”

In the New Year, what can you do to create a more human workplace – for yourself, your team and your organization?

Time Management: A Book Review

by Derek Irvine

Time for ChangeRecognize This! – Time is an irreplaceable resource. How we use our limited time is a choice.

It’s that time of year – New Year’s resolution time. How many of us set resolutions with every good intention to follow through, but after a few months bad habits creep back in? One resolution I’ve committed to in past years that has produced good results is time management. Over the years, I’ve become a fan of research and recommendations from the likes of Tony Schwartz and his Energy Project as well as studies showing multi-tasking makes us less productive rather than more.

This year my commitment to time management and its myriad benefits was renewed by Kevin Kruse’s latest book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management. I’m sure many readers of this blog have also read blogs, articles and other insights on how to manage time, which is one reason I appreciate Kevin’s book. As the tagline says, Kevin has brought together in one place “the productivity habits of 7 billionaires, 13 Olympic athletes, 29 straight-A students, and 239 entrepreneurs.” Because Kevin is looking across so many sources, he’s able to observe trends of what works for time management – and it’s not the oft-advised to-do list. As he observes:

What I discovered is that highly successful people don’t prioritize tasks on a to-do list, or follow some complex five-step system, or refer to logic tree diagrams to make decisions. Actually, highly successful people don’t think about time much at all. Instead, they think about values, priorities, and consistent habits.” (emphasis original)

Here are some of the top habits that stood out to me, many I already incorporate into my workday and some I will begin to in future.

1) Live by your calendar and not to-do lists. Kevin calls this “time-blocking” where you block off your calendar for work you need to do so you avoid shuttling your own priority assignments behind the requests of others. Our time is truly a precious resource. How we choose to spend it can indicate what we value and prioritize. Blocking off time in the calendar on those projects I deem most important helps to ensure the projects I value and prioritize get some of my best time and attention. Several quotes throughout the book rang true for me on this point:

  • “You can never lose time and get it back again.”
  • “There will always be more to do and always more that can be done.”

2) Lean to say “no.” We can only time-block successfully if we also learn to say “no” to the constant requests on our time. This is a skill difficult for many, not because we are push-overs but because there are so many tantalizing, interesting projects we can become involved in. Prioritizing requires saying “no,” even to something good. Kevin offers seven different ways to say no to many of the most common requests on our time at work. Again, a few good quotes:

  • “We routinely let people steal our time, even though it is our most valuable possession.”
  • “We mistakenly think we will be less busy in the future than we are in the present.”
  • “Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something in the future.”

3) Realize you aren’t the only one who can fulfill the request. It can become easier to say “no” when we can figure out ways to help others achieve the same end. How? “Instead of asking ‘How can I do this?’, ask ‘How can I get this done?” We are likely surrounded by smart, capable people who can help accomplish the goal, if we reach out and involve them.

Additional ideas and observations that struck me as I read the book:

  • To better enjoy your vacation (and for some of us that might mean taking a true vacation disconnected from work), schedule buffer days before and after your vacation during which you do nothing more than handing off work, and then catching up upon your return.
  • Follow the “touch it once and move on” rule, especially if it only takes five minutes to complete. Thinking, “I’ll deal with that later” simply means you’ll deal with it again.
  • Follow Kevin’s formula for success: E-3C. Energy, Capture (in a notebook), Calendar (instead of to-do lists), Concentrate (shut off distractions).

Aside from interesting insights, trend spotting, and good advice, Kevin also offers many extra give-aways including plans, tools, tips and tricks. The book can be read in one sitting and is well worth the investment of your time in order to gain back much more time through better time management approaches that work for you.

How do you manage your time?

Book Review: Employee Engagement for Everyone

Recognize This! – A quick, practical guide to pursuing engagement for yourself and creating an engaging work environment for everyone, Kevin Kruse’s latest book is well worth the read.

With employee engagement research, studies and findings overflowing inboxes and RSS feeds, have you ever wished for short, to-the-point guide to actually assess and increase your own engagement as well as create a more engaging work environment for others?

If so, I recommend to you Kevin Kruse’s new book, Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work. Through examples, quick case studies, and exercises to make the reader think through their own situation and actions (or reactions), Kevin guides the reader to understand and answer these questions among others:

  • Who is responsible for engagement? We all are.
  • How does disengagement affect me? Less than desirable work performance, yes, but also negative impacts on health, personal relationships and other factors outside the workplace.
  • How does engagement affect my company? Increased engagement is directly linked to increased profits and organizational success.
  • What triggers increased engagement? Communication, growth and development, recognition and appreciation, and trust and confidence.

On this last point, Kevin shares tips for improving in each of these areas critical to employee engagement, as well as a quick assessment tool to help you determine which method most engages you. Particularly helpful is a section on how to deal with the “Debbie Downers” at work – those people who make it a point to be negative and actively disengaged from their work, their colleagues and the goals of the organization. Even more important in this section is guidance to ensure you are not (or don’t become) a “Debbie Downer” yourself.

My copy also came packaged with Lego-style foam building blocks, reinforcing the four key building blocks of engagement – a great addition for the tactile/playful learners among us. Most helpful, too, is a comprehensive list of 101 top employee engagement experts along with their websites, twitter feeds and blog address.

Be sure to check out Employee Engagement for Everyone for a quick, very helpful guide to actively pursue engagement.