Posts Tagged ‘Teamwork’

Top Strategies for Developing Your Team – Part 3

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Great businesses, great staff and great teams don’t just “happen” any more than an 100-storey sky-scraper just “happens” – there is vision, planning and skill in achieving either.

Last week we covered Points 7-10, so this week we will outline the remaining strategies for developing your staff:

11. Create An Investment Plan With All Staff

If you’re going to set yourself apart from the crowd and establish a truly brilliant business, you are going to need one essential ingredient, and that is a truly brilliant team!

Truly brilliant teams don’t happen by accident, and they don’t come cheap! Not that they have to cost a lot of money, but they will require a significant investment of time and planning – mixed with a passion for excellence – if they are to form in the first place, and grow thereafter!

You’ll need to give some thought as to what you will need to invest in each of your team members to bring them to a level of competence and commitment that will make them your strongest and most valuable asset. The obvious candidates are “training” and “positive work experience”, but the less obvious candidates can be even more important: “inclusion”, “security”, “recognition”, “belonging”, “personal and professional growth” and more.

Then you’ll need to develop a process for delivering both the invitation to growth and personal investment, and then the actual experiences, agreements, understandings, and culture that will make that growth a highly likely outcome.

You could always start this process with a briefing on your desire for and interest in their personal and professional growth. This would be followed by an outline of the knowledge and skill training that you will provide, support or require them to complete, but it won’t stop there. In fact, the picture won’t be finished until you have created a culture where people learn and grow and support each other as a matter of course.

So, how would you do that?

12. Find Out What Makes Them Tick

We’d hope that you had a fair idea of what makes your new (and old) team members tick before you selected them. This point re-iterates the fact that it’s nearly useless trying to motivate people with your “external goals” – i.e., goals or rewards that you provide as opposed to their own internal, private or personal goals.

Much smarter to align the rewards you place on the behavior you want, to a team member’s achieving their own, personal goals. For example, rather than talking about their hitting a sales or other performance target to qualify for a bonus, you might ask them what they feel they need to be doing to hit the performance goal that is going to put the deposit on their new car/house/boat/toy.

Ask yourself, which one of these approaches is likely to gain the most buy-in from John:
• “Come on John, how can I help you hit your sales goal for the month, and qualify for your bonus?”; or
• “Come on John, how can I help you get that deposit for your new sport car?”

The second point in this step is to be aware that “people’s motives change over time.” You need a process for staying in touch with those changes as they occur in each member of your team. That process could be as simple as a weekly lunch or game of pool, with plenty of opportunity for relaxed chatter about life and goals outside of work; or it could be a formal and dedicated day during which each team member gets to share their personal and professional goals with their team.

Whatever your process, just ask yourself whether by knowing what really matters to each member of your staff, you would be in a better position to help them to achieve their goals, and to grow them personally and professionally.

13. Rate Your Performance as Their Mentor, Coach & Guide

It has been said that “feedback is the breakfast of champions” so does it make sense, if you are really aspiring to have and to lead an excellent team of people, that you seek and welcome feedback on a regular basis?

Give some thought as to how you would measure your own success in your chosen role. A rather scary suggestion: Your score will be equal to the average of the performance of each of your team members!

You could also seek feedback through a “mutual performance review” during which you provide each team member with an assessment of their performance, after which they provide you with their assessment of yours. That is even more scary.

And so we come to the $64,000 question: What would your business look like, function like, perform like, the year after you implemented your own version of these 13 steps? And how big would the suitcase need to be to carry all those extra profits to the bank?

If you know what to do, but are short on how to do it; or, if you know what and how, but also know that you will have a challenge committing to apply your knowledge, it’s probably time to talk to me about how I can get you to where you want to be, more quickly, more surely and more safely than you can get there on your own.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Top Strategies for Developing Your Team – Part 2

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Last week we covered Points 1 – 6, so this week we will outline a few more strategies for developing your staff:

7. Assess Their Commitment To Your Business’ Goals

This is an “imprecise measure,” but what you are looking for at this stage in the assessment process is an indication as to whether this person is a “committed” or a “renegade”.

The committed are “joiners”; they like other people; they like working with others, collaborating and teaming to build projects larger than they can handle alone. They look for causes to join, visions to buy into, and goals to meet.

Renegades are “users”; they intend to use the business, its resources and the position almost solely for their own ends. Sure, they will “do the work” – they may even be highly productive – but they tend to view their work as the product of their efforts alone (or at least see themselves alone as deserving of credit for any results to which they contribute). The often have a poor opinion of the others in their crew, and seldom step out to lift, grow or assist others – unless there is a clear pay-off involved.

A simple test for this factor is to ask questions that explore about how they feel or felt about their last or previous positions. renegades tend to give the game away with comments that display arrogance, ego, negativity and lack of respect for others. Committed generally convey a positive account of their experience.

8. Clearly Convey Your Core Concepts

If you want someone to give more than their physical presence and base labor to your business, you are going to have to sell them your Vision for the business (the “picture of perfection” towards which you are striving; your Mission (the path you are following to achieve that Vision); your Values (the boundaries of behavior along that path); your Goals (the milestones on the path; dated measures of performance); and your Code of Conduct (the way we treat each other, our Customers, and the assets of the business).

When it comes to your Core Concepts, don’t make the mistake that many larger corporations make in spending huge resources on having a expert in semantics design great sounding concepts; having an artist render them under glass and hang them in the boardroom and reception area; and then never looking at or talking about them again – except to quote them in their Annual Report.

Your Vision, Mission, Values, Goals and Code of Conduct should be wound into the daily fabric of your business and the lives of those who make it work.

When you go out into the labor market seeking new team members, you need to carry these Core Concepts with you both as a beacon (to attract those who resonate to them) and as a touchstone (against which to test each candidate’s personal core concepts for alignment with your own).

It’s going to be a lot easier and less costly to incorporate someone into the team whose core concepts already resonate with your own.

9. Craft A Powerful Investment Process

When you bring any new team member on board, you are faced with an inevitable investment of time and resources so as to enable them to come up to speed and meet your performance requirements as quickly as possible. So why not convey this process – explicitly – as the beginnings of your on-going “Investment in Them”?

Their first month or so on the job will set a tone that is likely to persist, so invest the time and thought required to design an excellent process – a system – that provides each new team member with:
• A clear understanding of our “Investing in You” philosophy.
• A detailed Job Description and/or Contract that is framed around results and outcomes, rather than activities and tasks, detailing all performance requirements, assessment processes, and any rewards associated with those.
• A clear statement of your termination process.
• An Organization Chart that clearly depicts the formal lines of communication, support and command and their position, responsibilities and authority within that structure.
• An introduction to and (actual, verbal) discussion about your Vision, Mission, Values, Goals and Code of Conduct – and a written copy to which to refer thereafter.
• A Team Member Guide introducing each member with a self-written thumbnail sketch, to speed the development of relationships and integration into the team.
• Statutory materials – OH&S guidelines, employment matters, etc.
• Position-related information (i.e., for a salesperson, this would include background on key account clients)
• A duplicated sign-off receipt that verifies that all of this material has been received by, and explained to, your new recruit.
Consider your responsibility for, and the benefits of, creating and managing a social process that quickly folds new recruits into the team and promotes the relationship building essential to high productivity and staff longevity.

10. Design A Performance Assessment & Recognition Process

When staff are asked, “Is your boss happy with your performance?”, too often the reply is, “He must be; he hasn’t fired me yet!”

Is this level of feedback likely to promote top performance among team members? Or could it be done better?

There are two key points to any assessment and recognition process: The period of assessment should be agreed and honored (how many bosses do you know who keep putting off periodic performance reviews?); and the assessment criteria must be transparent, mutually-agreed between the parties (at the outset! – no point trying to change the rules mid-game) and as objective as possible.

The best way to achieve transparency is to agree on one or more objective measures of performance; for a sales person, that may be sales revenue or gross profit per period; for administration staff it may be a maximum turn around time for quotations, or the timely filing of tax or other regulatory returns. Whatever the measure, it should be directly related to the results required of the position, and progress towards it should be regularly discernible by all parties (that is, the assessed person should not find out the result during the assessment, but should have been progressively aware of their performance throughout the period of assessment).

One important factor in creating an effective review process is the frame of mind in which it is administered! If, in the understanding of the parties, the assessment is to determine “whether they have failed or not”, the process will be cast in a negative light – and will probably be avoided by all parties as well!

If, on the other hand, the assessment process is seen as part of the team member’s personal and professional development (a sort of periodic look from which their next course of support and development will be planned) it will more likely be viewed in a much more positive light – and be carried out!

So how are you doing so far? Hopefully, you see the merit of the approach. More next time.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Top Strategies for Developing Your Team – Part 1

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Great businesses and great teams don’t just “happen” any more than a 110-story sky-scraper just “happens” – there is vision, planning and skill in achieving either.

Here’s a little help on the planning side:
1. Build Better Specs
Always start with the end in mind! List the outcomes, the results that you want from anyone filling a position in your team.

Be specific; use numbers and dates where applicable. Specify the periods over which performance will be measured. Wherever possible, work out the value of this level of performance to the business so that you can apply some perspective to the salary package you may have to craft to acquire a person capable of delivering those results.

Use the 3:1 Rule as a test of your final cost/benefit assessment: The new team member should generate around three times their grossed up cost to the business, in gross profits. Their grossed up cost will be something like their pre-tax salary, plus 30% (to cover overhead, holidays, sick leave, etc).

2. Align Personality, Skill and Character with the Role
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that certain personality types are better suited to certain tasks than others. For example, if we simply divide people into “big-picture” and “detail oriented”, which of those two types might be better suited to sales, strategy and marketing? And which would you like doing your bookkeeping or accounting?

There are a number of tried and tested profiling tools that may help you to identify characteristics that will align with the results that you are looking for from your new team member. With a DiSC Analysis, you can save yourself a huge amount of time, money and angst that picking the wrong person can cost you.

3. Write Your Advertisement to Your Ideal Candidate
If you write an average ad, you’ll get an average unemployed (or about-to-be-unemployed) person replying to it. Is that what you want?

Given that, if you attract the wrong people to your position and make a poor selection, you could be weeks or months of salary and hair-pulling down the track before you terminate them and start again. So is it worth spending time (maybe hours) and resources (maybe hundreds of dollars for a skilled copywriter) to end up with an ad powerful enough to pull the perfect candidate for your position, away from their current employment and straight to your door? It would appear so.

Tips for an excellent advertisement for a position:
• Start by writing a rambling letter to the ideal candidate about what you want and what you are offering them. Start with money if you must, but then go all the way through “security”, “belonging”, “recognition and rewards”, and into “autonomy, responsibility, and opportunity for personal growth and expression” territory. The right person is going to join the dream that you so persuasively sell them, rather than selling their soul for the money you offer.
• Boil your rambling personal letter down to an elegant letter and put it on a page of your website, and link to it from your ad.
• Boil your elegant letter down into an ad that describes the ideal person in such a way as they would recognize themselves; and describes the job in terms of what they will gain from owning it.
• Rack your brains, take advice – do whatever it takes – to come up with a headline that will call out to your ideal candidate (and which will probably frighten, or put off any less-than-ideal candidates) by being a challenge to growth and adventure.
• Do your research and find out where your ideal candidate is likely to read this.
• Think about leaving the ad running even after you find your ideal candidate. After all, what’s harder to find: An ideal team member, or work for them to perform?

4. Sell Your Vision For Your Business
Do you want people who work (just) for money? Or do you want people who want to contribute to something fabulous, that’s bigger than themselves, into which they can put a piece of themselves and of which they can feel proud?

If you’re after the second lot, then you had better be very good at selling a crystal-clear vision of your dream for your business to them – otherwise you’re likely to attract drones!

What is your Vision? How will you share this in a way that will cause the right candidate to go, “Wow!”, and walk out of their current job to join you?

Yes, you can save yourself the brain drain and skip this step, but what type of candidate are you then likely to end up with?

5. Tailor A Quick Assessment Process
Sometimes it’s just smart to sit down with a professional recruiter at this point (and not before this point!) and have them take charge of the pre-selection process for you.

It can be a time-consuming task sifting through a number of candidates, and it is likely that a good professional will be able to grade a field of candidates against a clear selection criteria quicker and more efficiently than you can. Besides, it puts someone between you and the candidates until you are ready for that one-on-one meeting.

If you are one of those “hands-on” people who wants to run the selection process from end to end, it may still be a smart move to consult a recruitment specialist to develop a set of questions specific to your needs, that will sort the candidates into “As” (appear to have everything we want, right now); “Bs” (could qualify with a bit of development work on our part); and “Cs” – not for this position.

To these “standard” questions, you’ll then add others to determine any objective or professional qualifications, background, experience, etc, that you require or desire in a candidate, by which time you will then have the basis for a quick, preliminary grading system that should avoid you wasting time on the “Cs”.

6. Discover Their Goals And Aspirations First
Give someone enough rope and they are likely to hang themselves – so turn the traditional job interview process around by letting the candidate do the talking.

Use purposeful, open questions (ie, questions that can’t be answered with a single word); ask follow on questions based on their answers to explore some depth to better understand your candidate; occasionally use extending questions (“Tell me a bit more”) or friendly silence to encourage them to go on.

Ask questions to find out what they know about you and your business. If they are worth their salt they will have researched you before their interview (whether on the web, by walk in, or by talking to people who already work for you, know your business, etc).

Set out to discover what makes them tick, and why they would want to work for and with you. Discover what talents, experience, knowledge and ideas they bring to the table, and explore those a little. It is entirely possible that you could start out interviewing a candidate for one job, but end up targeting them for another particularly suited to their talents or background.

Then invite them to ask questions of you. Form your opinions based on the quality of those questions, and the background knowledge from which they are asked.

Listen for the assumptions in their speech to gain a feel for how well their values and expectations align with your own, even at this very early point in your relationship.

Bottom line: You’ll learn much more by listening to them talk and having them ask questions about the job, than you ever will by telling them about the position.

Will cover more in the next blog – so stay tuned.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Stress and Communication – Part 2

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


In small doses, stress can help you perform under pressure. However, when stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can hamper effective communication. It disrupts your capacity to think clearly and creatively, act appropriately. When stressed, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior.

Quick stress relief for effective communication

When stress strikes, you can’t always temper it by taking time out to meditate or go for a run, especially if you’re in the middle of a meeting with your boss or an argument with your spouse. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely face any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.

First, recognize when you’re becoming stressed. Your body will let you know so learn to recognize the cues.

Next, the best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Find things that are soothing to you. A TIP for instant stress release:

Pick one thing that inspires a sense of calm, balance and peace within you. One example would be a calm ocean on a clear day. If you live near enough to the beach to be able to physically go there then that’s helpful, but if not, you can use a photo, image in your mind or video. Once you find yourself in a relaxed state – preferably whilst strolling along the sand taking in the smell of the salt on the cool breeze as it gently brushes over you, or otherwise just while meditating or relaxing at home, gaze in a relaxed way at the ocean or image and allow a sense of peace and calm to pervade you. Feel yourself expand with joy, then say over and over to yourself a mantra or verbal cue that you are associating with that image and that feeling for example “calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean”. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Repeat this process as often as possible to really cement it into your mind and body. These are your cues, so the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation that you can’t escape from, take a few slow deep breaths and repeat your mantra to yourself “calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.” Allow it to infuse a sense of calm as it soothes your adrenals and nerves. You can do this with whatever imagery appeals to you. Some other examples are a green lush forest, a butterfly, a yacht sailing off into the distance, a gentle stream, or fish swimming in a tank.

Stressful conversations

Some practical ways of diffusing a stressful conversation include:
Acknowledge the other persons point of view, “I can see that this is something that you are very passionate about” or “I can feel how frustrating this has been for you”, or “I recognize that you have put a lot of time and effort into this.” Sometimes the acknowledgment and validation can be enough to start to shift a person from stubborn argumentativeness into a softer place of negotiation. We all want to be seen and heard and validated.

Put it on hold. Take a quick break and move away from the situation. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes focusing on your breathing. Sounds obvious, but try it and see what happens. Breathe in for a slow count of 5, hold for 5 then breathe out for 5. Allow a slight pause between the out breath and the next in breath. You should only need to do this for 1 minute to feel a result.

Physical movement can quickly reduce stress as well. Try going into your office, if it’s private, or into a toilet cubicle. Now this may sound weird, but shake your hands around in front of you, move your arms back and forth like a birds wings, jump up and down and stamp your feet. Shake your head and stretch your jaw like you are doing the worlds biggest yawn, literally shake that stress off of you. Make sure you do this in private lest people think you have lost it.

To make sure communication is one of your strengths, why not try a couple of these tips.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Stress and Communication – Part 1

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

We all come across stress and we all need to communicate. Let’s face it there is no avoiding either of these in our hyper-connected world. Here are some tips and insights that may help to improve both your stress levels and communication.

Communication Tips

  1. Behave. According to Susan Tardanico, CEO of The Authentic Leadership Alliance, “your behavior is your single greatest mode of communication, and it must be congruent with what you say. If your actions don’t align with your words, there’s trouble. And it can turn into big trouble if not corrected swiftly and genuinely. Since it’s often difficult to see the say-do gap in yourself, rely on a few trusted colleagues to tell it to you straight and flag discrepancies.”
    Pick your feedback team and give them explicit permission to be brutally honest with you, you are looking for people who will call you on your BS and call a spade a spade.
  2. Clarity is king. People these days are bombarded by information. Simplicity has never been more powerful or necessary. Effective communications distil complex thoughts and strategies into simple, memorable terms that people can grasp and act upon. If you’re having trouble distilling something to its essence, it may be that you don’t understand it. So get clear and look out for technical jargon and business speak, which add complexity. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.
    One way of testing this is by asking yourself, could this be understood if I had to explain it to a 12 year old.
  3. Listen. A very gifted and highly intelligent scientist once told a story about one of his university professors telling him “you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a very good reason – listen twice as much as you speak especially if you know you’re not the smartest person in the room. By the way, if you can’t figure out who the smartest person in the room is – then it’s not you”.
  4. Body Language. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Remember that effective communication is two-way. It’s easy to be so focused on getting your message out – or persuading others – that you don’t tune in to what you see and hear. You need to read between the lines. Look for the nonverbal cues. Sometimes a person’s body language will tell you everything you need to know. Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact slip, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.

Experts recommend using body language to convey positive feelings even when you’re not actually experiencing them. If you’re nervous about a situation-a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example-you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you’re not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.

Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Your Body language Shapes Who You Are, demonstrates the power of this.

Make communication one of your strengths.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

How to Give Praise

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

This is a follow-on to the Recognition piece we discussed last time.

We’ve probably all cringed at one time or another as a well-meaning person mangled their attempt to publicly praise someone, usually by directing their praise at the person and their qualities, and thus causing huge embarrassment on the part of their subject and on their audience alike. The intended purpose – to celebrate the result and to have the individual feel elevated and valued – is usually swamped by the huge cringe-factor and is lost entirely.

If the intention of the person issuing the praise was to reinforce the behavior by attaching a pleasant experience to it, they may well have had the exactly opposite effect by motivating their hapless subject to never again perform at a level that will bring them public notice and humiliation.

It pays to be aware of the huge, positive, free energy boost delivered to all parties when recognition is effectively delivered and to invest the small amount of forethought required to ensure that you do an expert job of it each time the occasion arises.

Here is a simple, four-step process that works every time:

Clearly state the precise result for which the person or team are being recognized and put it into the context of the organization’s goals (“Thanks to your work, we’ve just won first place out of more than 250 competitors in this month’s Service Awards Ratings.”).

Give some details of the key behaviors that brought about the result. (“The judges said that our team was the friendliest and most helpful by a significant margin. We go the extra mile for our customers without any hint of frustration or impatience and make everyone feel welcome when they contact us. As a result our customer satisfaction score was one of the highest they have ever seen.”)

Praise the behavior with reference to your values. (“It fills me with enormous pride when I hear of our people breathing life into our Mission ‘To create extraordinary shopping moments with quality products and sincere service.’ Your performance was as ‘extraordinary’ as the experience you created for your customers; and the sincerity of your service was certainly borne out by their feedback. Well done everyone. You deserve the prize this month, and you deserve the respect of every one of us on your team.”)

Ask a relevant question. (“So, is there any one thing that you chose to really focus on that you think played a key part in your results?”)
The last step in the process is intended to short-circuit any embarrassment that may be rising in those being recognized. It does so by deflecting their (and their audience’s) attention away from themselves and towards your question and to reflection on their actions.

If you omit this step, there is the risk that a shy person may be deterred from future excellence, or that a person of low self-esteem may, in the instant of receiving the praise, question their right to be recognized and may subconsciously reject the praise. Thus, they would have negated its effectiveness in endorsing their worth to the team and to themselves, and its effectiveness in motivating them towards further excellence.

Hopefully, you now have a tool to help you next time you give praise.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

A Sense of Belonging

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Once we have addressed the need for Physiological and Safety needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy, we move to:


It has been argued that Man’s tribal or communal nature goes back to our origins when we grouped together for survival. Whatever the reasons in our modern world, most of us seek and enjoy the company of others and draw satisfaction and fulfillment from working and achieving together.

So the need for friendship, intimacy, understanding, communication and the support of others, while not a matter of life-and-death, is still very basic and common to most of us, and our working environment – where we spend the majority of our time. Given its potential to meet a large part (and for some folk, all) of these, our social needs, it can provide us with a sense of belonging.

Any wise leader being aware of this fact will realize that structuring the work environment to meet some of the social needs of their people is likely to deliver a number of benefits, not only to the individuals themselves, but also to the organization as a whole.

Values and Belonging

One of the most robust foundations of a sense of belonging is shared values and particularly, sharing those values that impinge on “how we behave towards others”. Shared values create the opportunity to “play in the workplace according to commonly known and accepted rules” which, in turn, promotes a strong sense of belonging, inclusion, acceptance and respect – and even friendship.

A wise leader will be aware of the role of values in this context, and the positive effects of protecting and projecting those values at the same time as ensuring a positive and supportive physical “venue” within which their people can work.

If you have selected the right people and put them into the “right” environment, you can usually expect to enjoy the “right” outcomes.

Legislation and Belonging

While a shared vision, mission, and goals are likely to provide all that is needed to create a tribe to which people feel they truly belong, there are a number of legislative imperatives on businesses which, if viewed in a positive light, can be seen as further projecting and protecting an inclusive work environment.

Laws promoting equal opportunity recruiting, and discouraging workplace discrimination and harassment can be seen as fitting hand-in-glove with positive values to promote an inclusive, diverse and engaging workplace for those who seek it.

Intimacy and Belonging

How much belonging is too much? Are group hugs, conga-line back massages, beer busts and fraternization necessary to encourage or promote a sense of belonging?

For answers to those types of questions it’s probably helpful to look at the army’s approach to promoting the esprit de corps essential to survival and victory in warfare. What the army strives for is, first and foremost, acceptance of and obedience to “the rules.” However, it also encourages aspiration towards values such as valor, courage and self-sacrifice. There is absolute acceptance of the fact that people who share the rigors and deprivations of squad training, often coupled with the threat of imminent death, develop some of the deepest relationships of their lives.

Nothing is much different in business so a few useful lessons can be drawn from military wisdom:

A rigorous environment in which all “suffer” equally can promote a very strong sense of belonging, so be more concerned about creating a disciplined, fair and challenging workplace than one more resembling a club lounge.

A shared, highly-charged challenge promotes bonding, not only through the necessity for coordinated action, but also through the natural desire to “share the load” and to cover one another’s back. Progressively challenging goals and campaigns that demand much of people, and which hold the promise of a share of the glory and a little of the spoils once goals are achieved, are good for business.

We’ll cover another level next time.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Creating a Safe Environment

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The next need on Maslow’s hierarchy is Safety.

Once a person has attained a comfortable level of income they usually want the additional comfort of knowing that it is likely to continue. For, if it were to continue, they could plan their economic future, commit to a house purchase for the next 20 years, buy a car on finance and know they can meet the payments, and start saving for their children’s education, holidays, or their future financial freedom.

Who knows, they may even want to put enough capital together to buy their own business (which, if you think about it, has the potential to make them excellent, attentive and motivated employees as they work through their “entrepreneur’s apprenticeship” with you)!

Sound Management

Taking the issue of economic security to its source – the very economic viability of the organization itself – most thoughtful employees take a measure of security in knowing that the organization to which they daily lend their intelligence, talent and energy is sufficiently well-managed as to be able to weather the ups and downs of the market without having to throw a few good people overboard to lighten the load at every squall.

By keeping the ship safe and sailing strongly, and letting their crew know all is well – not only is the leader likely to increase profits, but they are also likely to tick the “security box” for the majority of their employees at the same time. And the cost – nothing!

Consistency and Fairness

The second source of security for employees has its roots in the organization’s values and the consistency with which their leaders honor and protect those values. Ironically, the consistency of adherence is probably a greater contributor to a sense of security than the actual values themselves!

Think of it this way: As humans we engage in a wide range of sports, all of which have very arbitrary and artificial rules and we accept the rules of the game while we play it regardless of the fact that it may seem like a nonsensical rule. In much the same way, many people are prepared to work under a wide variety of values provided they are consistently honored, and so provide a strong degree of predictability and certainty (security) in their workplace.

So what does this mean in practice? It means that leaders must consistently honor and protect the rules (values) both in their own behavior (they must walk the talk) and in consistent enforcement, if or when those rules are violated by others. It also means that those with authority cannot arbitrarily apply it outside of the rules, for example, by embarrassing, abusing or firing someone on a whim or as a result of a bad mood.

A leader’s consistent behavior – in fact, more precisely, their consistent fairness – in accordance with the organization’s values is a powerful source of security.


A third source, and vital source of security for everyone in a working environment, springs from strong and consistently honored commitment to sound occupational health and safety procedures. Ultimately, everyone has the right to safety in the workplace and any behavior, procedures or practices that impinge on that right will lower the fundamental sense of security for the average person.

Most people, sensing that they are secure in their workplace, then place a higher priority on the next need in the hierarchy. Stay tuned.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

What Motivates You?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015


Without it we are unlikely to do anything at all.

If we are not experiencing hunger or appetite, we are unlikely to pursue the goal of satiation via food; if we are not uncomfortable we need do nothing to continue to enjoy the goal of comfort; and if no one is threatening or tempting us to pursue a goal of their devising, we are unlikely to respond to them; and so on.

Though, we may just get up and start building something because we can imagine a better world.

So what causes people within an organization to do, or not do, things so that we can influence their actions in a way that serves our goals?

Prime Movers

According to Maslow, our unsatisfied wants and desires (our “needs”) strongly influence our behavior, and do so in a sequence such that as we satisfy the most pressing need it ceases to be a motivator and is replaced by our next most pressing need.

Maslow proposed that we all experience five broad categories of needs and ranked them from basic to complex (from physiological to the psychological). In the classical expression of his theory those needs were, in order of priority:
1. Physiological – sufficient air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and heat to ensure immediate survival.
2. Safety – with immediate survival secured, then an assurance of continuation becomes desirable.
3. Belonging – feeling safe, the avoidance of loneliness and the enjoyment of others emerges as a need.
4. Esteem – in the company of others we are likely to seek confirmation of our self-worth and value to others.
5. Self-actualization – when all other needs are met, then we tend to seek expression for our true nature or essence in our activities.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has generally been poorly translated into the context of building a great team within a great organization.

So, within the framework of business thinking, how can we use Maslow’s insights to optimize the work environment in a way that strongly motivates people to do the things that the organization needs done in order to achieve its goals, mission and vision, all within the constraints of its values?

We will develop this further – stay tuned.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Does Everybody Know Your Name?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

“Generational names are the handiwork of popular culture. Some are drawn from a historic event; others from rapid social or demographic change; others from a big turn in the calendar.

The Greatest Generation (those born before 1928) “saved the world” when it was young. It’s the generation that fought and won World War II.
The Silent generation describes adults born from 1928 through 1945. Children of the Great Depression and World War II. Their “Silent” label refers to their conformist and civic instincts.
The Baby Boomer label is drawn from the great spike in fertility that began in 1946, right after the end of World War II, and ended almost as abruptly in 1964, around the time the birth control pill went on the market.
Generation X covers people born from 1965 through 1980. The label long ago overtook the first name affixed to this generation: the Baby Bust. Xers are often depicted as savvy, entrepreneurial loners.
The Millennial generation falls into the third category. The label refers those born after 1980 – the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.

Generational names are works in progress, and labels that once seemed spot-on fall out of fashion. But add to those over-arching definitions some further delineation:

Employees who behave like an entrepreneur within the confines of their existing role. They provide surprising or unexpected value to their companies in a way that capitalizes on new business opportunities. Often responsible for product innovation, Intrapreneurs are an emerging segment of the workforce that aren’t afraid of stepping up to the plate and taking charge. While some companies might see this as a practice that doesn’t fit their culture or organizational structure, others believe in the value it brings to engaging employees and ultimately, retaining them. Intrapreneurs are risk takers who aren’t afraid to take chances and shake things up within an organization. Management needs to take a top-level approach at fostering an environment in which these workers can thrive, or risk losing them to more agile companies.

Data Analytic
Often seen as introverts, the office analytic sees figures, stats and data as an essential element to any project or task – a perfect fit for today’s data-centric and interested corporate world. They are forceful users and believers in the value of data-backed evidence. These workers are the office advocates who ensure your company references its data footprint to make proper and smarter decisions regarding future spending, technology or strategy.

On-the-Go Mobile Pro
Nearly 30 percent of employees work from multiple locations with multiple apps and devices. Rarely seen at the office, but when they are spotted, it’s with a mobile device glued to their hand. With digital labor a reality, meaning companies need to adapt, adopt and invest in the right tools and technologies to support their needs of an ever-growing mobile staff. These tools should include the infrastructure and workflow processes that allow these digital workers to access, share, and transform the data that they, and their coworkers, rely on to stay connected and get the job done.

You might take a look around your workplace and see if you can come up with a few more.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge:

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at