Project Oxygen

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Convincing high-achieving, independent, autonomous engineers that managers are valuable assets that can improve the work environment is a daunting task, but Google set out to do just that with its multi-year Project Oxygen research initiative. Based on the belief that the best way to win the hearts and minds of knowledge workers was through scientific methodology, the initiative was heavily data-dependent and constructed to test assumptions.

Project Oxygen sought to identify the behaviors representative of good managers and provide actionable guidance for managers so they could improve going forward. According to the data, the most effective managers:

  1. Are good coaches.
  2. Empower their teams and do not micromanage.
  3. Express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being.
  4. Are productive and results oriented.
  5. Communicate well, including listening and sharing information.
  6. Help with career development.
  7. Have clear visions and strategies.
  8. Possess key technical skills that enhance advisory capabilities.

The program has won great favor with both employees and managers, convinced skeptics, and yielded significant and measurable improvement results.

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TIME EFFECTIVENESS

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Time is a precious and scarce resource. Once it is spent it cannot be replaced. However, time is routinely squandered in the business world thanks to excessive emails, unnecessary meetings, and unjustified initiatives.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.02.40 pmBecause time is such a valuable commodity (and can be quantified monetarily), business professionals must learn to manage their time as carefully as they manage their money. The following eight practices can go a long way toward making the time a company and its employees spend worth the investment:

  1. Make sure there is a clear and selective agenda for every activity.
  2. Create a time budget that resets at zero.
  3. Insist that every initiative have a compelling business case before approval and implementation.
  4. Standardize and simplify processes and share management across all business units.
  5. Identify the proper authority for approving time investments and treat those investments like financial investments.
  6. Create standardized decision-making processes.
  7. Improve the quality of meetings by requiring clear, objective-based agendas, advance preparation, an on-time start, and an early ending whenever possible.
  8. Monitor and measure time spent across the organization to understand where time is wasted.

Contextual Intelligence

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In today’s global economy, companies routinely expand into new geographies, applying their successful business and operational models to new locales. Routinely, many of these businesses fail. By operating from the principle that what works well in one place should work just as well in another (with minor tweaks), companies frequently do not recognize how much context matters.

There are numerous contextual factors at play (including government regulations, infrastructures, and cultural norms) in various geographies that can derail even the most successful operational models. Understanding and adapting business and operational models to these new contexts is not a simple matter. But it can be done.

The first step in overcoming this problem is developing contextual intelligence — the ability to recognize knowledge limits and adapt them to new environments. Contextual intelligence enables an entity to gain deep insight to the contextual differences between geographies and then make the best decisions about how to alter, redefine, deconstruct/reconstruct, or completely abandon a business model in order to successfully expand into a new environment. Sometimes the best decision is to not expand at all.

Common practices in acquiring contextual intelligence include hiring cultural natives, creating local partnerships, and conducting cross-disciplinary training. Additional suggestions for improving contextual intelligence are:

*Researching a country’s institutional context.

*Recognizing that not all countries will migrate to a free-market economy.

*Understanding that geographic differences are often multi-layered, complex, and not easily generalized.

*Experimenting with new models and taking an entrepreneurial approach.

*Learning to distinguish between the general and the specific.

*Realizing that change can take a very long time.

*Creating data in-house rather than relying on others’ data.

*Being patient.

SPECIAL MODEL

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How to Make People Feel S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

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Oftentimes, people stop getting along with each other because one of them no longer feels important, but ISTD makes people feel special. The cause can be as simple as someone believing they have been overlooked or disregarded. There are seven ways to make sure this does not happen and that people feel S.P.E.C.I.A.L.:

1. Serve. Be eager to serve, and by meeting other’s needs there is a good chance that people will meet their own needs as well.

2. Personalize. Personalize engagements with others. Use the names of clients, family members, and friends when talking with them and anticipate their needs.

3. Encourage. Encouragement can take many forms, but it should be given regularly and often. It can be as quick and succinct as a text message or brief email.

4. Courtesy. Show respect and civility toward others. Say “please” and “thank you.” Think about the needs of others and act on promises.

5. Interest. Express an interest in others and follow-up by really listening to what the other person has to say.

6. Appreciation. Make time to show appreciation of others and put some effort into it.

7. Listen. No one wants to talk to someone who is preoccupied. Really listening and paying attention to others is a very valuable skill.

Integrate New Ideas

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Companies seem to continually be on the lookout for the next new management practice that promises to improve organizational effectiveness. In this effort, they all too often look to emulate other companies that have implemented successful managerial innovations. However, this tendency can be very risky, costly, and demoralizing. What works well for one organization could be very dysfunctional in another. This is because organizations are often very different from one another, and those differences can derail even the most enticing innovation.

There are basically two methods companies use to integrate new ideas into their organizations:

  1. The observe and apply approach, which works well when companies are very similar to one another and their management practices consist of just a few standalone steps.
  2. The extract the central idea approach, which removes all the contextual issues that make organizations different from one another (such as size, organizational structure, and culture). This approach seeks to capture the key principles behind the practice then apply them in a way that easily fits within the organization.

Any organization looking to make a change should first develop a strong sense of corporate self-awareness, then adhere to the following structured process for evaluating and implementing the change:

  1. Take the time to observe the practice in other companies first.
  2. Perform a thorough analysis of the essence of the practice.
  3. Understand the hypothesis behind the practice.
  4. Analyze the results other companies have achieved with the practice.
  5. Experiment in-house.

SMART TRUST

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THE FIVE ACTIONS OF SMART TRUST

There are five actions of smart trust:

  1. Choose to believe in trust.
  2. Start with self.
  3. Declare your intent … and assume positive intent in others.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do.
  5. Lead out in extending trust to others.

There is a dramatically increasing number of people and organizations everywhere engaging in the five Actions of Smart Trust–thereby avoiding their opposites and counterfeits–and getting remarkable results, according to Covey and Link.

ACTION 1: CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN TRUST

Belief in trust is the first smart trust action that the authors consider, and it’s no accident that it’s number one. Belief is essential to getting results, and is the foundation of success. Deciding to believe in trust is the basic choice from which all of the other smart trust actions emanate. However, this belief in trust is not a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t thing, done only for convenience, appearance, or when there’s no risk involved. Trust has to be the underlying approach that determines day-to-day actions.

Among the companies offered as examples is W.L. Gore & Associates. Founder Bill Gore believed in trust so greatly that he set up what is known as a “lattice organization” that still exists. Employees are considered “associates,” and rate one another’s contributions. A new CEO was chosen in 2005 based on employee feedback of who they would like to follow.

The authors note that many organizations tend to be based on a top-down structure, and an assumption that people cannot be trusted. However, the highest form of control does not come from reams of rules and regulations, but from a high-trust culture.

An extraordinary example of trust–and all the good that can come from it–occurred in 2007, when Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook, got a call out of the blue from Steve Jobs of Apple, who was considering using the company’s technology. After fruitlessly trying to get Skyhook’s technology noticed, it seemed as if this was the company’s big opportunity. However, before the deal was done there was an Apple event, and Jobs needed Skyhook’s code to showcase its products there. The code was the key to Skyhook’s technology, and Morgan was advised not to give it out. However, he trusted Jobs, gave him the code, and was rewarded when Jobs showed off Skyhook’s technology to an eager audience. Skyhook took off from there, thanks to a single act of trust between Morgan and Jobs. Who knows what would have happened if Morgan had refused Jobs.

It can be hard to overcome life experiences–ones that have quite possibly led to distrust. However, it can be done. Trust glasses can be put on and used to view the world and govern actions. If a person believes in trust, they can trust. Covey and Link are convinced that developing a belief in trust is the most powerful thing people can do to begin to access the benefits of trust in their lives.

ACTION 2: START WITH SELF

The second smart trust action is to start with self. It is not enough to believe in trust; trust has to begin somewhere. Individuals, leaders, teams, and organizations that operate successfully in today’s world also behave in ways that grow out of that belief. It takes both character and competence to give a person the confidence to not only trust themselves, but inspire others to trust them as well. Self-trust affects not only a person’s worthiness to be trusted, but also the way people see and interact with others. The authors go outside the business realm to offer as an illustration the story of how a young rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers named Magic Johnson rose to the occasion in his team’s 1980 championship series with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers’ regular center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was injured, so Johnson filled in and led his team to victory. He drew on the trust in his own character and competence to inspire the Lakers to victory. It was not ego–self-trust is never ego, arrogance, or bravado–but a quiet confidence –a trust in his own abilities that compelled him.

Other examples of people with the capacity to be trusted include Peter Aceto, head of ING Direct Canada, who trusted himself enough to ask his employees outright if he should stay on, and John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who committed to the school when another came calling because he had given his word to UCLA. Another example of a person who has self-trust is Almaz Gebremedhin, a cleaning lady and single parent who put all five of her children through Penn State and was named Good Morning America’s Woman of the Year.

Self-trust works for countries as well. In Denmark, 88.8 percent of the people express a high level of trust in others. Denmark is one of the most productive countries in the world, considered the happiest nation in the world, has the least corruption (along with New Zealand and Singapore), ranks number two on the prosperity index, and has the fifth highest GDP in the world.

The authors also examine some companies that once had great trust then lost it. One is Johnson & Johnson, which established great trust in the Tylenol crisis of 1982, then badly fumbled their handling of the Motrin situation in 2008. Another is Toyota, which had established a deep bond of trust with its customers that was shattered when the company mishandled an incident with sticking accelerators.

Restoring trust is much more difficult than establishing trust. Take, for example, the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. A notorious con man early in life, he turned his life around and restored trust in himself as a security consultant who helped expose potential security system faults for businesses.

ACTION 3: DECLARE YOUR INTENT … AND ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT IN OTHERS

The third smart trust action is to declare your intent and assume positive intent in others. To declare intent, a person is signaling his behavior to others, telling people why an intended action is going to occur. As an example, the authors talk about the Charlotte County, Florida, school district. A hurricane devastated some of their facilities. The district superintendent called a meeting and declared his intent that all employees were going to be paid as soon as possible and that no jobs would be cut. As a result, the district built a strong trust with their employees, one that has carried over to contract negotiations and beyond. Two other famous cases of declared intent are Babe Ruth indicating that he was going to hit a home run on the next pitch and then doing it, and President John F. Kennedy declaring America’s intent to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s.

Declaring intent is a performance multiplier that provides numerous benefits. It creates context, inspires hope, encourages reciprocity, and shows respect for others. It also increases trust. Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter said: “We’ve learned that the best way of building trust is by letting people see for themselves what we’re doing.”

Failure to declare intent will usually cause people to react in one of two ways: Either they will try to guess intent, or they will project their own intent. In low-trust organizations, the guess is usually a worst-case scenario. A low-trust relationship will cause people to project their fears, suspicions, and worries more often than their hopes and dreams. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”

Declaring intent builds trust fastest if the intent is based on caring and mutual benefit. No motive builds trust as quickly and deeply as the motive of caring. Numerous examples are given of caring intent, such as Zappos’ slogan: “Zappos is about delivering happiness to the world.” Another example is Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey, who said: “Ultimately we cannot create high-trust organizations without creating cultures based on love and care.” Other examples of caring intent include PepsiCo, whose mantra is “Performance with Purpose,” and Procter & Gamble, which strives for “purpose-inspired growth,” evidenced by its giveaway of a water purification powder that resulted in the creation of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program.

Most effective leaders assume positive intent, which is an extension of trust. The act of assuming good intent changes the dynamic of a relationship. It inspires reciprocity. It leads to trust-building behaviors. It creates a virtuous upward cycle of trust and confidence rather than a vicious downward cycle of suspicion and distrust.

ACTION 4: DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO

The fourth smart trust action is do what you say you are going to do. Trust will fail if the person promising trust does not “walk the talk.” Delivering promised results builds trust faster than any other action. This smart trust action combined with action three (declare intent) packs a powerful one-two punch. These two actions have the greatest power to knock out suspicion and distrust. If something happens so it becomes impossible to do what was said, communicate that fact quickly. It helps to reframe expectations and can also engage others in either renegotiating or helping to find alternative solutions.

Doing what you say you are going to do is the ultimate brand creator. It defines a person’s own brand and it defines a company brand. In today’s business world, a strong brand is imperative. The authors cite studies that the trusted brand is the most popular, as well as the most profitable. In addition, trusted brands (Rolex, Sony, Mercedes, etc.) command higher prices in the marketplace. As a bonus, declaring intent and doing what you say are the fastest ways to build a reputation and trust. Among the stories used as illustrations of this action is that of Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines. By instituting a smart trust policy, and doing what he said he was going to do, Bethune turned a struggling airline into the most admired airline in the world.

ACTION 5: LEAD OUT IN EXTENDING TRUST TO OTHERS

The fifth and final smart trust action is lead out in extending trust to others. This is what leaders do–they go first, they are the initial ones to extend trust. If a person is not inspiring and extending trust, they are managing, or maybe administrating, but they are not leading. Extending trust produces results, increases trust, and elicits reciprocity. Extending trust can break negative cycles of distrust and suspicion. This leads to greater prosperity, energy, and joy for all stakeholders.

Covey and Link offer numerous stories as illustrations of extending trust, such as that of the Ritz-Carlton employee who was searching for a guest’s lost ring. He did not find it, so he searched the laundry. Still not finding it, he took a washing machine apart and there it was. The Ritz-Carlton had extended the trust to him to follow his own initiative, and this sort of trust pays off for the hotel chain. Research reveals that guests who are actively engaged with Ritz-Carlton and its staff spend 23 percent more money than those who are only moderately engaged. A four-point increase in employee engagement scores companywide means an extra $40 million in incremental revenue for Ritz-Carlton.

When leaders lead out in wisely extending smart trust, their actions have a ripple effect that cascades throughout the team, organization, community, or family and begins to transform the behavior of the entire culture.

Businesses can also extend smart trust to their customers. Connecticut-based Zane’s Cycles, one of the three largest bike shops in the United States, allows customers to go for test drives without asking for identification. “We choose to believe our customers,” says founder Chris Zane. The company loses only five bikes each year out of 5,000.

One area in which smart trust can be particularly useful is with mergers and acquisitions. Eighty-three percent of mergers fail to create value, while more than 50 percent actually destroy value, mainly because of the people and cultural differences. Smart trust is the “secret sauce” of a successful merger. It creates the trust necessary to integrate the two cultures.

SHARE STORIES

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Storytelling is an important aspect of being a front-line leader. It can be used to build emotional connections with others and inspire them. Stories Sharecan come from outside the organization, but it is best for them to come from within., as those stories create a sense of shared belonging and make employees feel part of the company. Stories grab people’s attention in ways that no other form of communication can. They highlight the human side of an organization, rather than simply focusing on facts and figures, and they remind people why they show up for work every day.

Stories also help leaders share who they are as individuals. Employees like to know more about for the people they work for. Leaders should not be the only ones encouraged to share stories. The culture of an organization should be such that anyone can tell a story and give his or her career more meaning. When people are encouraged to share stories and engage in this way, even otherwise dull tasks can be met with excitement and renewed interest.

BLIND TRUST OR DISTRUST: IDENTIFYING ONE’S GLASSES

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People view the world through two different types of glasses that various factors throughout their lives have helped to shape. Covey and Link identify these glasses as blind trust glasses or distrust glasses and offer a third alternative: smart trust glasses.

Looking through blind trust glasses creates a naïve, gullible, blissful trust in almost everyone and everything. These glasses are easy to wear because they do not require much effort or thought. People want things to go well, so they ignore the evidence. Unfortunately, blind trust glasses open the door for all manner of fraud and schemes. Blind trust is risky, and it typically does not represent the smartest way to operate in a low-trust world.

Glasses of distrust are often people’s choice after they get burned by a blind trust experience. In a low-trust world, glasses of distrust seem like a natural response. They can feel safer, less risky, and give the feeling of more control. While most people realize the cost of trusting too much, they do not stop to consider the cost of distrust. The authors call this a “wasted tax” that can result in unwanted outcomes like redundancy, bureaucracy, turnover, churn, and fraud.

Distrustful behavior often brings huge taxes. The authors relate the story of a business that sold sunglasses. To try and halt inventory shrinkage, which the owner figured was caused by customer or employee theft (or both), he instituted a tie-down system on every frame so that the glasses could not be pulled off the shelves. He reduced the shrinkage problem from two percent to 0.2 percent. Unfortunately, because customers could not try on the glasses, sales decreased by 50 percent. Distrust not only affects relationships with customers, it also affects prosperity, energy, and joy within and between companies.

Neither blind trust nor distrust is sustainable for a lengthy period. Those who trust blindly eventually get burned and those who live with distrust eventually experience financial, social, and emotional losses.

PRISM

TRUST : Hard to build

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People perceive the world today as a very untrustworthy place. Statistics indicate that only 46 percent of survey respondents trust business to do what is right. Furthermore, only 20 percent of Americans trust the country’s financial system. The federal government’s inability to hammer out a deficit/debt solution, and the ongoing European Union debt crisis, has led to an historic lack of trust in government as well, leaving the world seemingly without trust.

The headlines and statistics leave no doubt that the world is in a trust crisis. Yet, paradoxically, trust is more important than ever. The bottom line is directly connected to trust. The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that more than three-quarters of informed respondents refuse to buy products or services from a company they distrust. Even more eye-opening, high-trust organizations outperform low-trust ones in total returns to shareholders (stock price plus dividends) by 286 percent. From 1998 to 2010, high-trust organizations outperformed the market by 288 percent. Trust has become the new currency of the global economy.

There is a direct connection between trust and prosperity because trust always affects two key inputs to prosperity: speed and cost. In low-trust situations, speed goes down and costs go up because of the many extra steps that suspicions generate in a relationship, whereas two parties that trust each other accomplish things much quicker and, consequently, cheaper. The authors call high trust a “performance multiplier.” High trust creates a dividend, while low trust creates a wasted tax.

However, trust affects more than just prosperity. It has a positive impact on creativity, health, emotions, and overall well-being. Trust dramatically improves employee engagement, leading to such benefits as increased innovation. Trust also improves joy, which has become more and more important to people. The authors point out that Denmark, the most trusted nation on earth, is also the happiest country in the world.

In the same way that trust quantitatively changes prosperity, it qualitatively affects energy and joy. Some examples of flourishing high trust companies are Wipro, a large IT company in India, and Zappos, the Internet shoe retailer. These are just two of thousands of teams and organizations fueling the renaissance of trust.

Trust has many facets, one of which is creating a climate that benefits all stakeholders not just shareholders. PepsiCo, where CEO Indra Nooyi started a movement for the company “to deliver sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet,” is one of the many examples of companies trying to improve the world just as much as the bottom line. The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, another example of a business with an enlightened sense of corporate responsibility, Andrew Witty, says “If you don’t have the trust of the societies you serve, you don’t have a long-term sustainable business model.”

However, even as people come to realize the importance of trust, there may be reasons why they find it difficult to trust. It all has to do with which glasses they are wearing.