Human Up

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We spent the better part of the last century, and the beginning of this one, figuring out ways to automate work. We’ve created machines, processes, and computers to streamline our labour and make it more efficient.

However, while we’ve eliminated downtime, errors, and simple conversations around the coffee maker in search of more productivity, we’ve stripped ourselves of the humanity that makes our work truly matter.

If we want to make a difference through our work now, we need to human up. We need people to make mistakes to find better ways to do their jobs. We need people to take risks that open up new opportunities. We need people to argue and butt heads so we gain new levels of understanding. We need people to just sit and talk to build stronger relationships.

We need to stop thinking machines are the only answer and remember that behind every great discovery was a group of people. Let’s embrace what makes us human.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What human qualities are important to your work?

  2. What can you do more of as a team or company to bring more humanity to your company?

  3. What one thing can you do today to human up?

Making feedback not suck

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Most of us don’t respond well to feedback. We intuitively understand that feedback is important to our growth and development – not just professionally, but personally too. But we tend to shy away from it.

Receiving feedback can be a painful process. We take it personally – hitting us in our ego. It can be demoralizing. I strongly believe that most people want to do a good job and be good people, so when they receive feedback, it can seem like those two things are under attack.

So how can we learn to not only accept feedback, but maybe, in time, embrace it?

The key to taking feedback well and learning from it is by having confidence and self-awareness.

We all use different methods to do things. Sometimes our style isn’t the same as others. And that’s okay, as long as we accept the differences will still lead to the same result. We can choose to change our ways or not. We can adopt new ways of thinking or not. There’s no need to get bent out of shape when we are faced with new suggestions. Just be confident in your own path, or confident enough to be open to new ones.

Other times, we may very well have dropped the ball. It’s alright to mess up sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Feedback (when it’s given for the right reasons) means someone cared enough about you to show you the error of your ways with the hope it will help you in the future. Have the awareness that we all make mistakes sometimes; it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or unworthy. Be grateful for others who are there to gently put you back on your feet.

As Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Be confident, be self-aware, and don’t fear feedback.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What (if anything) makes it hard for you to receive feedback?

  2. Are you in the habit of asking for feedback?

  3. What can you do to become more comfortable receiving feedback?

Mattering moves us

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If you want to drive up levels of engagement in your organization or team and motivate people to bring their A game to their work, one of the best things you can do is make sure they know they matter.

We all want to matter. We all want to feel like we are important, that the work we do is valuable, and that we would be missed if we weren’t there to do it.

Mattering is both something others give us, but also something we give ourselves.

We need to feel appreciated by others. We need to have those conversations where we see how we fit with our group. We need to have our strengths recognized and utilized.

But we also need to see our own value. We need to believe deep down that we have something to give that no one else can. We need to feel we are worthy of belonging to a team. We need to feel confident and comfortable putting ourselves out there.

When we feel like we matter, it moves us, but we must always remember that it’s both an outside and inside job.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What is something other people do that makes you feel like you matter?

  2. What is something you do for yourself that makes you feel like you matter?

  3. What are things you can do more of to make other people feel like they matter and to make yourself feel valued?

Do you have an elephant?

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I want to hear about your problems. Or more accurately, I want to hear about how you deal with your problems. It’s easy to congratulate ourselves on having a great company or team when things are going well. It’s when issues arise that we are truly tested.

Healthy organizations view problems not as things to avoid, hide or punish but to grow and learn from in the future. They trust their employees to own their mistakes, point out problems and work together to make improvements.

So how do you measure up?

  • Are people comfortable speaking up when they’ve made a mistake?

  • Are they comfortable speaking up when they see others make a mistake (including their leaders)?

  • Are they skilled at letting others know they’ve made a mistake or there’s a problem without causing unnecessary conflict?

  • Do people distance themselves from people who’ve made mistakes or have a problem rather than trying to help them?

  • Do people own their mistakes and come up with solutions to fix them or do they play the blame game?

  • Does the organization see mistakes and problems as opportunities for learning and growth or punishment?

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How many questions were you able to answer positively?

  2. If you couldn’t answer some of the questions positively, what do you think is causing the distrust?

  3. What can you do as a team to create a culture that embraces mistakes and problems?

In praise of the weird

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Fear of rejection handcuffs too many of our organizations into mediocrity.

As humans, we strive to belong. We need the security and love that comes from being part of a group. Because we dread being left out in the cold, we learn from an early age to hide the parts of us that we don’t think will be accepted – to soften the hard edges and swallow thoughts unsaid.

We deny the parts of us that make us different. The very parts of us that would elevate the groups we belong to – that would make them stronger and better. Conformity never leads to creativity and innovation, it only leads to more people toeing the line into infinity. But the odd, and the weird, and the unique have a way of fostering all kinds of ideas and growth.

If we want to rise above average, we must start by giving one another permission to let their strange sides come out of the shadows. We need to embrace the weird and let it show us the wonderful things it can do.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Have you ever held back a part of yourself, or not spoken up because you were afraid of what other people in your group might think?

  2. Do you feel that what you had to contribute would have benefited the group?

  3. What can you do more as a team to encourage people to not hold back?

How to sell people on change

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We know change is inevitable. We know change often leads to good things. We know we should embrace change. But most of us hate change. We’re not fond of it in our personal lives where we directly see the results. We’re even less fond of it in the workplace where the results may not be so tangible.

So how do we sell change to people?

The same way we sell anything to anyone.

1. Have a reason.

Sometimes we think it should be obvious to people why we need to change something. Spoiler alert – it’s not. Be explicit why something needs to change. The more you can connect the change personally to team members and their work, the better.

2. Highlight the benefits.

Drill down on the benefits that will come from making a change. People need to feel what the change will bring to their lives. Don’t just say it once either, keep at it until people see that change may be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

3. Make it easy (or at least as easy as possible).

Going outside our comfort zones is awkward enough. It becomes excruciating if changes are unnecessarily complicated or we feel we don’t have the help we need to do them well. People will balk at change if they don’t feel they are supported.

4. Have fun.

The easiest way to get people to embrace change is to make it fun. Kids like reading books they find interesting. People like exercising when it becomes a social event. Check out this video encouraging people to take the stairs more. If you can add an element of fun to your change, people are much more willing to accept it.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Think of a time when change felt painful. What made it difficult?

  2. Think of a time when change was welcomed. What made it easier?

  3. What can you do as a team to embrace change in the future?

What would you do if you couldn't fail?

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What would you do if success was guaranteed? This is the question we were asking around our office the other day. It’s a powerful one. It’s essentially the adult version of asking kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

What are we saying when we answer this question? We are showing our priorities and needs. We are showing what we’d be willing to give up to get what we want. We are also revealing where our deepest vulnerabilities lie – what fears have kept us back from pursuing it.

This question is an eye-opening one to contemplate not just for individuals on a professional and personal level, but also for teams and organizations.  

If you stumbled upon a genie in a bottle or were visited by your fairy godmother, what wish would you ask for?

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. As a team, what would you do if success was guaranteed?

  2. What’s holding you back from pursuing this goal?

  3. What can you do to make your wish come true?

Corner Office Culture vs. Water Cooler Culture

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It’s not unusual for leaders to think their cultures are healthy and motivating while employees have a completely different view. The perspective on workplace culture becomes rosier the higher up you go in an organization.

This is the difference between Corner Office Culture and Water Cooler Culture. The more senior the leader, the more disconnect there is with the reality of the employees. And this makes sense, senior leaders are not supposed to be as involved in the day-to-day grind; they are meant to be strategic and with an eye on the future. However, a poor workplace culture will seriously hinder any future goals.

It is imperative to the success of any organization that leaders keep a finger on the pulse of their culture, whether this is making a habit of spending time being around employees, having regular meetings with employees and less senior leaders, or having someone closer to the action advise them.

The more informed everyone in the organization is on workplace culture, the better equipped they are to make important decisions on the present and future.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Have you worked somewhere where there was a disconnect between how senior leaders saw the culture and how employees viewed it?

  2. What type of impact did it have on employee engagement and the organization’s success?

  3. What can you do to help ensure there isn’t a disconnect at your organization (or at a smaller level, within your own team or department)?

Rise above the status quo

How we think, behave and act can be largely affected by the environment that we are part of. People become the ideas that surround them.

If an environment is drab, chaotic, filled with negative conversations or doesn’t provide people with the feeling of making a difference, they will only give their bare minimum.

Environments filled with optimism, passion and purpose inspire people to do great work. We must strive to create environments filled with motivating ideas.

Employees are molded by the cultures they work in. Status quo won’t do.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What about your current environment de-motivates you?

  2. What about your current environment motivates inspires you?

  3. What could you do to create a more inspiring environment?

How we survive and thrive

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We’ve been trying to build strong teams since… well, since the beginning. But we didn’t always call them teams. We used to call them tribes. We’ve based our ability to survive and thrive on working together. Anything great we’ve done since has been because of teams, from families and communities to politics and sports.

The distinguishing feature of whether a team will succeed or not is pretty basic – it’s trust. As Simon Sinek says, “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust one another.” Trust allows us to share our weaknesses so others can compensate for them. Trust allows us to take risks knowing others will support us. Trust allows us to deal with conflict without fear of destroying the group.  

Trust can’t be bought. It must be earned every step of the way.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What is it like to work on a team that has low levels of trust?

  2. What is like to work on a team that has high levels of trust?

  3. What are ways to increase the amount of trust in a team?

Who are you choosing?

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You’ve probably heard the saying that blood is thicker than water. We use it when trying to explain how we should stay close to family.

However, do you know the original version of the saying? It goes: ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.’ This completely changes how we view it. Now the meaning is that the tie between two people who’ve made a commitment to one another is stronger than those who just share common lineage.

This will always be true. Our best relationships are formed when we commit our best selves to others – through our thoughts, actions and behaviours. These are the relationships we believe in and work on.

Are you building these types of relationships?

On a side note, the saying ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ was originally ‘Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.’ So, don’t be afraid to go out there, be curious and learn something new.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Give an example of a strong relationship and a weak relationship in your life

  2. What’s the difference between the two?

  3. How can you transform a weak relationship into a strong one?

60 seconds to a better culture

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If you could start changing the culture of your team in just 60 seconds, would you?

We often talk about starting the day off on the right foot. We all know the dangers of getting up on the wrong side of the bed. But what about how we finish the day? It’s just as important to tie up the loose ends and ensure things are not only ready for the next day, but that we are going home feeling good about what we’ve done.

I watched a great video the other day about an activity a teacher had their high school students do at the end of every day. Students either took a moment to appreciate someone, apologize for something they’d done (big or small) or share an aha moment they had during the day.

The teacher explained that the purpose was to have time to reflect on the day. I think this could have a big impact on our teams at work as well – sharing recognition, improving relationships and building knowledge.

And it’s important that it happens at the end of the day. It’s easy to forget about thanking someone. It’s simple to convince yourself overnight that what you did isn’t a big deal and you don’t need to apologize. Insights don’t seem as notable the next morning when you’ve got so many other things to attend to.

So be sure to start your day off with some pep in your step, but don’t forget about how you feel when your head hits the pillow at the end of it.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What type of morning rituals do you have?

  2. What type of an impact might have a moment to reflect at the end of the day have on your team?

  3. Take a moment to either recognize someone, apologize for something you’ve done or share an aha moment.

Human skills

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Patience. Compassion. Forgiveness. Kindness. Generosity.

These skills are often seen as soft or weak, but in reality they are the hardest to learn and only the strong possess them.

These are not soft skills. These are skills for life. These are human skills. They force us to take a good look at our actions and behaviours and ask ourselves if they are helping us be the people we want to be.

Because we don’t just do these things to be good humans for others, they are as much for ourselves and our own well-being.

We spend less energy being patient than frustrated.

We gain more understanding being compassionate than intolerant.

We feel less pain forgiving than being angry.

Our lives are brighter, happier and filled with more potential being kind and generous than callous.

Don’t take the easy way out – do the hard work on the soft skills. You’ll be glad you did.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What are some other “human skills”?

  2. Why are they difficult to develop and implement?

  3. What can you do to practice these skills more often?

Forget your failures

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What makes a person successful? Is it innate talent? Charisma? Hard earned skills? The ability to communicate well?

While all these are valuable tools to help you succeed, research has shown that there is one key area that increases a person’s chances of success. And it is an area that we can all develop.

It’s confidence.

Research by Albert Bandura shows that confidence is the strongest predictor of whether a person will set big goals, work through obstacles, be resilient in the face of failure, and eventually reach their goals.

Confidence is about focusing on our strengths and what we do well to plot a path for the future. Rather than trying to mitigate for our weaknesses, we use our skills and abilities to light the way. This allows us to develop the grit necessary to continue when times get tough, to embrace a growth-mindset we need to learn new skills, and to dream big in the first place.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. In your daily life, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you?

  2. What affects your confidence?

  3. How would focusing on your strengths and abilities impact your life?

A primer to better relationships

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Relationships are the foundation upon which we build success, whether that be success in business or life. Relationships provide us with support and resources. The more positive relationships we have in our life, the more we can draw upon to lift ourselves up. Relationships allow us to persevere when things get rough and leverage opportunities when times are good. But this only happens if we know how to nurture strong connections.

Relationship building is not something we are taught in school nor is it part of the employee’s manual at work. It is something we are expected to know how to do, but most people only have a vague understanding of how to do it.

Relationships can become especially difficult to cultivate at work where we may not share the same values, beliefs, likes and past experiences with our co-workers.

Here’s a primer to building better relationships. If do these four things, you will be on the way to building nurturing stronger relationships at work and home.

1. Don’t make people feel stupid.

No one likes to feel dumb. It’s a big hit to our self-esteem and we will avoid people who make us feel this way.

2. Don’t make people feel unappreciated.

Appreciation is the life blood of relationships. We need to know people value our contributions and recognize what we bring to the table. If we feel unappreciated, we won’t be motivated to give to the relationship.

3. Don’t make people feel unloved.

Belonging is a fundamental human need. We strive to be accepted as part of a group and be provided with the safety and security that it brings. If someone feels like an outcast, they will pull back and not put forth all they have to offer.

4. Don’t make people feel unworthy.

People need to feel valued just for who they are, not only for what they bring to the table. They need to know they are worthy of your time, energy and attention. If they feel unworthy, they won’t be able to bring their best to the relationship.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What makes a relationship strong?
  2. What makes a relationship weak?
  3. What can you do more of to nurture stronger relationships?

Don't sell yourself short

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Abraham Maslow said, “The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”

Each one of us holds a tremendous amount of potential – different in our own unique way. The problem is we tend to let circumstances, other people and our own attitude dictate whether we realize this potential. The seeds for greatness lie within each of us, but our doubt keeps them buried deep.

One of the most life-changing things we can do for other people is help them see the possibility that they have. It’s easier for us to recognize the abilities of others than to see it in ourselves. When you see someone’s potential – talk about it, ask questions, tell them how you appreciate it, give them some motivation to develop it.

The more we can tap into unused potential, the better our workplaces and world will be, and the happier each of us will be.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What factors prevent people from seeing their own potential?
  2. What factors have stopped you from acting on your own potential?
  3. What can you do more of to help people realize their potential?

After hours

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If you’re looking to do some self-improvement, doing it on company time isn’t what usually pops into your head.

However, our self-esteem, attitude and how well we are equipped to navigate relationships through our communication, collaboration and conflict skills have a large impact on how successful and productive we will be at work.

The sooner we stop looking at soft skill as less valuable than hard skills and something that happens only on nights and weekends, the better our organizations will be.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What type of self-development activities have you taken part in?
  2. What soft skills would you like to improve and why?
  3. How can your team/company do more to encourage self-growth in people?

A tip from Mr. Rogers

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Mr. Rogers was a staple for an entire generation of children. From his cozy sweaters (each one knitted by his own mother) to his familiar sneakers, Mr. Rogers showed kids what it meant to be a good person in a world that was sometimes too big and confusing.

And did he know what he was doing. Mr. Rogers advice transcends age. Watch just the last minute of any episode and Mr. Rogers will provide you with the key to improving any relationship in your life whether it be with your spouse, kids, parents, friends, co-workers, supervisor, even a stranger on the street.

He ended every show with this simple statement: “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

Mr. Rogers knew that deep down inside, we all want to feel appreciated for who we are. To be appreciated means that we are important, that we matter, and that we are worthy. There’s nothing more powerful to growing relationships, or more destructive to them when it is absent, than appreciation.

When we appreciate one another, it truly is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Describe a time when you didn’t feel appreciated. How did it impact the relationship?
  2. What are some ways to show appreciation? Which do you prefer?
  3. What can your team/organization do to promote a culture of appreciation?

Energy then engagement

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We talk a lot about wanting employees to be engaged. We want them to understand the big picture and how they contribute to it. We want them to own the company’s mission and work hard to realize it. After all, engaged employees are productive employees.

What we don’t often hear mentioned is the prerequisite for engagement – energy. It’s hard for employees to be engaged if the right energy isn’t there.

The prevalent energy in a culture will influence how engaged employees are with their work and each other.

Negative energy pushes us apart – it doesn’t feel good and it isn’t motivating. It keeps us closed-off, fearful and discontent. It forces us to focus on problems instead of solutions and to shy away from opportunities for growth.

Positive energy does the exact opposite – it feels good and is motivating. It primes us to do well by keeping us happy, open and willing. It pulls us together and drives us to do what is best for our team and company.

Positive energy opens the doors for engagement whereas negative energy suffocates it.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How are your attitude and actions different in a positive environment versus a negative environment?
  2. What type of energy does your company/team currently work with?
  3. What can you do as individuals to create/maintain a culture of positive energy?

For the glory

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The racers are gathered at the starting line. Some shift nervously from foot to foot while others laugh and joke with one another. They all know what lies ahead – grueling trails up steep ski slopes, two story rope climbs, sandbag and bucket carries (uphill), barb wire crawls, rings, hoists, cement drags and 8-foot walls, to name a few. An obstacle not completed means the all-dreaded burpees, 30 to be exact. This is Spartan, one of the many popular obstacle course races.

Some will finish the course in under 30 minutes, others will still be out there four hours later. It’s not just a test of strength and endurance, but one of heart.

So why do they do it? Why do they pay to do it? Surely, not just for the medal and t-shirt at the end?

Then a staff member steps in front of the runners and begins to speak:

“The day may come, when the courage of Sparta fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. For this day we fight! And to prepare you for that battle, I’m going to ask you, ‘Who am I?’, to which you shall respond… ‘I am a Spartan!’

He pauses for just a beat, “Who am I?”

“I am a Spartan,” the racers respond, a bit tentatively.

“We are honored by your courage and commitment to excellence, but know this… your mind, body and spirit will all be put to the ultimate test, for you chase glory on this day! Who am I?”

“I am a Spartan!” comes the chorus, louder now.

“Look at the Spartans on your right and your left, you will draw strength from them, as they will draw strength from you, you will not let them fail! Who am I?”

“I am a Spartan,” the racers yell enthusiastically.

“By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, sons and daughters of Sparta. Stand and fight! For today is the day that you rise to glory. Not tomorrow, not next week, right here! Right now! In your house, your home. Who am I?”

Now the racers are pumped, “I am a Spartan!” they call together.

“Who am I?”

“I am a Spartan!”

“Aroo, aroo, aroo, go!” he calls as they start running.

And this is the reason people flock by the thousands and pay to torture themselves – for the struggle and the glory that comes with it.

We have no issue with hardship, pain and adversity when we can see the victory that lies at the end. In fact, we relish the hard work we need to put in to get there.

We’d do well to remember the Spartan speech when it comes to our workplaces. Employees need to know the triumph that awaits them. They need a worthy cause to draw them together and say to one another, “I will not fail you.” They need to know they are working towards glory.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. When was the last time you took on a daunting challenge? Why did you do it?
  2. What big goal is your team/organization working towards? Is it clear? Is it motivating?
  3. What can you do to get people excited about putting in the work to reach this goal?