Navigating Major Life Transitions

Originally published at movethisworld.com.   It feels like the world has changed so much in the last ten years, let alone the last 3,000, when Heraclitus uttered the first iteration of, “change is the only constant in life.” Many changes can feel daunting, scary or overwhelming — like preparing for first-time motherhood while writing a curriculum overhaul and leading organizational growth from California to Texas to Tennessee. Let me tell you straight from the heart: it’s been an incredibly challenging time. I’ve had to adjust my focus, work with my team (my team in the office and my team in my husband), and develop new strategies for success — at work and at home. But I also feel that I could not be more prepared for such a herculean task; in fact, I’ve been preparing for this every day of my life. Flexibility. Openness. Empathy. Forgiveness. These are all core elements of our work at Move This World, and we practice them individually and as a team every day of the week. We practice laughter. We meditate. We workout. We Move This Day. We work, and we play. It’s what has allowed us to change locations, shift our model, and work around the world while staying focused on our greater mission. At the end of the day, we don’t really know when major transitions are going to take place. We might have hints or ideas, but life comes at you quickly. The only way to prepare for the inevitable is to be proactive, to work the mental muscles every day. We need to be flexible. We need to be open...

Rethinking Six Management Mantras for Better Innovation

As originally posted from the “Stanford Social Innovation Review” by: Polina Makievsky Innovation is no longer optional for social sector organizations. In the face of constant fiscal pressures, growing demand, and a quickening pace of change, we all need to build innovation-ready cultures. A report commissioned by our organization, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, looked at the financial data of more than 200,000 nonprofits in the United States and found that community-based, human-service organizations are in financial peril. Nearly one in eight human service nonprofits are technically insolvent, and nearly half have a negative operating margin over a three-year period. Yet there are a number of “north stars”—opportunities for the sector to move forward and better face these challenges. One important opportunity is the sector’s development of its innovation capacity. Participants at an Alliance for Strong Families and Communities innovation summit. But what does it take to build innovation capacity, and how can nonprofit leaders set the right conditions for innovation to flourish? During a series of two-day innovation summits last fall, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities brought together more than 300 people to participate in a condensed human-centered design process we developed in partnership with Greater Good Studio, a design firm committed to working with social sector changemakers. The goal was to use human-centered design to examine longstanding challenges and new opportunities through a different lens. We aimed to build our “innovation muscles” so that we could begin to tackle old challenges in new ways. In the process, we realized that the creative problem-solving methods we were applying were breaking some of the typical management mantras that have dominated our...

The Unintended Consequences of Reorganizing Your Workspace

Original post from “The Conference Board of Canada”  by: Jane Cooper If you look at the latest trends in office design, you would be forgiven for thinking that sofas play an outsize role. There is a lot more to reorganizing the workspace than just putting in soft seating. Many organizations are increasingly concerned about helping employees collaborate on the job. This includes creating comfortable spaces where people can gather to relax, share ideas, and generate new insights. The outcome, they hope, is a more innovative organization. But are there costs? The jury is out on the role of sofas in driving innovation, but it is clear that the drive to increase collaborative spaces in the office can have unintended consequences. The Conference Board of Canada’s new research series Transforming the Way Canadians Work looks at changes to the nature of work, where work takes place, workplace culture, and how the success of these changes is measured. Our research has raised some practical questions that organizations may want to consider before they tear down any walls: Will shrinking the office footprint have the same effect on quiet work as it does on collaboration? With high downtown rents, both public- and private-sector organizations want to reduce the number of square feet per employee in their offices. Our research suggests that when offices shrink, the space for quiet, focused work is more likely to be cut than the space for collaboration. Workers still need access to space both for working together and for quiet individual work. But as offices become smaller, trade-offs are being made, and space for quiet work is losing out. Will your...

How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

Here are some tips for successful remote management: Have well-structured and regular weekly meetings  Have a plan and try to stick to it by being organized. Don’t forget to communicate this plan to your team and senior management. There should be no surprises – people should know where you are. Also, if possible, try to see your team members in person on a weekly basis. Communicate is key and should be regular This should be done both formally and informally. Pick up the phone to say “hi, how are things” without a business agenda. Be open to feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding how things could operate more efficiently. This will hopefully help to build the engagement of the team. Be aware of your team and the efforts they are making You may not be in the office to see the extra hours being clocked up. Other managers in the business should let you know if extra hours are being done. It is really important to acknowledge and praise these efforts. Schedule quarterly team meetings A quarterly get-together is important to consider how things are going, areas that require focus and most importantly to celebrate the wins and to plan ahead.  Trust is vital Put the key measures in place, set the expectations and if you have the right people in your team, you should be able to trust that they are following the plan.    ...

Develop and maintain high performing teams

  Work teams are the backbone of contemporary work life. You need know when to retain the right people and know when to lose those who are not right for your business. Here are some tips to help you develop and, more importantly, maintain high performing teams: Focus on the long-term Review performance data and keep an accurate, objective assessment of potential. consider the following: Determine who the current star performers are and what qualities unite them Identify these qualities in more junior members of your team Facilitate opportunities for these prospective star performers to grow; investing time and resources into their development. Let your best people know their value There’s a way to show your appreciation for your staff without over-inflating their egos. By letting your team know that their efforts are appreciated, their results noticed, their future progress within the company guaranteed and their hard work rewarded, you can cement their loyalty and therefore stand a much better chance of retaining their services. No one is indispensable Expect and prepare for some of your team members to move on after a while. You should never leave yourself so exposed that if one high performer leaves, overall performance declines and the team crumbles. Your robust long-term plan should help you to ensure that you are able to cope with losing a star performer. There are many measures you can take towards retaining your best staff, and they all feed into the broader measure of making your staff feel valued. Once you’ve done so, and you have a smooth succession plan in place to deal with any unexpected losses,...

Encouraging Your Team to Develop Themselves

  From time to time it is important to let your team struggle as this ultimately has a positive impact on their long-term development and wellbeing. By giving your team room to solve problems on their own and overcome challenges without jumping in and taking control every time will benefit both parties in the long-term. As a team leader, you need to know when the results are too severe for your team to fail and when you need to step in. However, if you always jump in, you risk behaving like an overly protective manager which prevents effective teamwork and development. Interdependence is an essential condition for team working. This is focusing on problems that can only be solved by team members working together. Supporting interdependence means you, as the team’s manager, have to be ready to let go of exerting too much direct control. This is also important for helping the team feel they have the levels of autonomy they need to effectively operate – simultaneously improving their wellbeing and performance. When you do not let go, or give your team enough operational space, there are usually a few common justifications, such as: “I need to stay close to what they are doing as I’m the one that’s being held accountable for their performance.” “The only way I can be sure they will stay focused is by staying directly involved.” “They just don’t have enough experience yet to operate without frequent direction from me.”   These can seem reasonable in the moment when facing heavy delivery pressures. However, if they become default reactions they usually need to be...