Joy at Work(er) Blog

How not to freak out in a global pandemic

leadership May 03, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

As we go further into the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of low-level anxiety is increasing.  The end is uncertain.  We may have much further to go.  Although many have a low probability of danger from the virus, the very existence of a global pandemic coupled with consistent news stories and press conferences that describe terrible scenes of overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted medical staff all fuel the anxiety that seems to be within us all.  On top of all of this, the economy has slowed and tens of millions are out of work, furloughed, or dealing with reduced hours.  I’ve had two significant experiences with persistent low-level anxiety.  What I learned from those experiences is helping me now as I deal with my own anxiety as well as helping my loved one’s anxiety.

Finding Inner Calm
In 2018, I was diagnosed with oral cancer.  I did not smoke.  I exercised.  I was in good health.  It was a...

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What does empathy mean now?

joy research Apr 25, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Empathy became a popular word to use at work a few years ago. Have you thought about it lately? 

I admit I can be a bit jaded about words that become popular in the workplace because I’ve seen them enter the vernacular with good intention, then end up being meaningless or used to appear informed. Sadly, they can become another source for breeding employee cynicism and even weaponized. Adding to a kind of workplace blather. 

The word "vulnerable" has been through this cycle, ironically. And, so has the phrase “failing fast”. It sounds great but talking about it without examining the lack of safety (in the practices that a culture values) just grows more cognitive dissonance which subtracts time and energy from creating value, the purpose of the company.

So, have you thought about empathy lately?

Take a look at these synonyms for empathy:
What do these words mean to you now? Do you have more of this at work? Less? How do they show up...

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The 3 (and a half?) Types of Virtual Meetings

management virtual teams Apr 06, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

As we all scramble because of the COVID-19 outbreak of the coronavirus to move to virtual work that means virtual meetings.  Anything that has not gone well with our in-person meetings is going to go even more horribly with your virtual meetings.  Every distraction, every unfocused agenda item, every meandering conversation without conclusion or action, will be all the more so in a virtual environment.  So let’s use this time of COVID-19 driven separation to make our virtual meetings fantastic.  They can be a source of trust-building as discussed here.  They can even be a way to bring Joy at Work, even more so because so many are anxious about the future.  Now is the time for leaders to step up and be the voice that provides calm and guidance.  Meetings are the place we can do it!

Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings, the better. 
-Peter Drucker

There is significant risk in contradicting a...

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Building Trust...Virtually

virtual teams Mar 30, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

With the coronavirus raging across the world and organizations asking people to stay home, we will all need to learn how to work better virtually. There are certainly practical tips for conducting a meeting virtually that you can review here.  Also important in a virtual work environment is building trust.

“One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life.” -- E.M. Forster

But what is trust? And, why do we want to build it? These may not have easy answers to the simplicity the questions suggest.  Let’s start with trust. We place our trust “in” things and people, as in, “I’ll put my trust in this old car,” or “I’ll put my trust in Angela,” or even “I’ll put my trust in God.”  We talk about “my trusty pen,” or “umbrella,” or “screwdriver.” But how do we know we have trust?  The one key...

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Do you need a coach or a mentor?

leadership Jan 19, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

The words coach and mentor are often used interchangeably making distinctions between them murky.  This is unfortunate because the value of each can be tremendous for a person’s career, but where and how that value shows up is significant.  Furthering the confusion, people call themselves a coach or a mentor without even defining what they mean. Some clarity is needed here.

   “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”  --John Wooden

As the coach of UCLA’s incredibly successful basketball team, John Wooden certainly knew something about coaching.  But is his coaching the same kind of coaching that we would want to see in business? The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.  Coaches honor the client as the...

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3 questions that tell you when to lead (instead of manage)

leadership Jan 12, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

The words leader and manager are often used interchangeably and with that, their individual meaning is lost.   Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis are often quoted as saying:

“Management is doing the things right and Leadership is doing the right thing.”   

It’s pithy and points to deeper insights.  Management is about making things happen. It is literally about manipulation.  The words management and manipulation both come from the Latin word manus meaning hand.  If done well, there are efficiencies gained and improvements made in every aspect of what the managers’ organization is doing but that success is circumscribed.  Great managers are still working inside the confines of constraints that have been given to them. They can be awesome but only with what is given to them. Leadership is about seeing beyond the confines and setting a vision for something better.  The origin of the word is very...

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Change and the Elusive "B"

change Jan 12, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Early in my change career, my boss, my colleagues, and I were learning the art and science of change work by absorbing everything we could get our hands on. We poured over books together to see what we could glean that was relevant to our current business problems and applied the concepts right away. We were learning like crazy. It was energizing because we knew we had to get it right. Our reputations depended on it. A lot of people were depending on us.
At the time, most of the advice we were taking in was about getting from current state to future state, point A to point B. The goal was to have a clear articulation of both, examine the difference, then dive in to close the gap. All great concepts, but we quickly ran into a brick wall. 
My boss was spending a huge amount of energy and time to get our senior leaders to articulate "B". It was exasperating for her. Over and over again, she'd come back to the team feeling like...

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The People Part of M&A

management Dec 27, 2019

Written by Ed Cook

The amount of research on why Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) succeed or fail is voluminous but not particularly clear. M&A is often not successful. Early research focused on strategy and structural factors, but the results were mixed.  More recently cultural factors are the focus, but this opens up significant complexity onto the study of M&A.  Still, the work is revealing.  

Intriguingly, some scholars have found a positive effect between cultural differences and the success level of M&A.  

This finding seems to be explained by the core strategic idea that merging two different sets of capabilities can produce a better performing combined company.  With more skills and a broader knowledge base, the new combined company can more readily succeed. The key activity is capability transfer so that the abilities of the two organizations are combined into the new one.  To get fantastic success means that the...

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Conducting Joy

leadership Dec 08, 2019

Written by Ed Cook

While watching a symphony or orchestra or choir, I’ve often wondered what the value of a conductor is to the other musicians. Afterall other music groups seem to do fine without one. Rock bands, jazz groups, a cappella ensembles, all manage without a conductor. I got an interesting glimpse into just what a conductor does after viewing this smile-inducing clip. A professional ensemble sets up on a city street with a sign that invites passersby to “conduct us.” We are then treated to a series of would-be conductors who produce...what? The ensemble does not need them to create music. Yet each of these conductors brings something!

As the first conductor steps forward, the glee on the faces of the musicians is striking. They are truly ready to take on whatever the conductor can provide. As each new conductor steps forward, we see some take on a persona of a conductor, some test the limits of their powers by spotlighting a particular...

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Competency Fallacy

management Oct 18, 2019

Written by Ed Cook

In corporations around the globe, managers are engaging in a process to develop their associates. At least they are trying to do it. These well-meaning attempts typically include some sort of a model of competencies. The manager is supposed to “ground” an assessment of the employee’s competencies with behavioral examples when they exhibited higher or lower levels of these competencies, then finally give the employee a score against each competency. There are a few core questions to examine in this system of thought. 

First, what is a competency? So many companies talk about these. Rate their people on these. Determine promotions, bonuses, and raises on these. Companies define competencies like “strategic thinking” and “builds relationships.” These certainly seem useful. Who wouldn’t want an employee to be great at these two competencies and others? Typically, competencies are the more intangible traits that a...

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