Ten Steps to transform your team or workplace

Ten Steps to transform your team or workplace

I just finished reading Laszlo Bock’s “Work Rules!” – an excellent read on the various HR practices that will transform the workplace.

In the book Laszlo talks of 10 steps that would transform your team  or workplace.  They are

  1. Give your work meaning
  • It is about having a purpose, finding a meaning – inspiring people around them perform at their highest levels.
  • Non profit organizations have a way of attracting and motivating people based on a shared vision. Emily Arnold Fernandez founder of Asylum Access built a world class team enabling refugees to find work, send their children to school and rebuild their lives.
  1. Trust your people
  • Be transparent and honest with people and give them a voice on how things work and create an ethos of ownership.
  • Things like asking employees what they would change to make things better or what would they change if it was their company – would make them feel engaged and trusted. Give up a little bit of authority,  giving them the space to grow into it.
  1. Hire only people who are better than you
  • Never compromise on hiring quality. A bad hire is toxic, destroying not only their performance but also dragging down the performance, morale and energy of all those around them.
  • Hire by committee, set objective standards in advance and periodically check if the new hires are better than the old ones.
  • The proof that you are hiring well is that nine out of ten new hires are better than you are !!
  1. Don’t confuse development with managing performance
  • Be open to learning and growing. Start with an attitude of “How can I help you to be successful”?
  • Once a performance period has ended, have a direct discussion about the goals that were set and what was achieved and how rewards are tied to performance. This conversation should be about outcomes not about the process.
  • For development, solicit input from peers even if it is as simple as asking or sending out a short questionnaire.
  • For performance evaluation have managers to sit together calibrate assessments as a group to guarantee fairness.
  1. Focus on the two tails
  • Put your best people under a microscope. Identify not just your best all round athletes but the best specialists.
  • One of the best ways to learn a skill is to teach it – enlist stars as faculty. Have them articulate how they do what they do – and this process will help them grow as well.
  • Have compassion for your worst performers. If you are hiring right, people struggle not because they are inept, but because they are put in the wrong role.   Help them to learn and find new roles – if it still fails, exit them immediately.
  1. Be frugal and generous
  • Most things we do for our people cost nothing. Have vendors bring services in house or negotiate lunch delivery from a local sandwich shop.
  • Save the big checks for times when your people are most in need, the moments of greatest tragedy and joy.
  • Your generosity will have the most impact when someone needs an emergency medical attention or when families are welcoming new members
  1. Pay unfairly
  • Performance follows a “Power Law distribution” in most jobs. Ninety percent or more of the value of your teams comes from the top 10 percent.  As a result your best people are worth far more than your average people.  Make sure they feel it. Even if you don’t have the financial resources to provide huge differences in pay, providing greater differences will mean something.
  • The “B” players may be a bit unhappy about their rewards – but it is important to be honest and explain to them why their pay is different and what they can do to change it.
  • Be generous in your public recognition, celebrate the achievements of your teams and make a point of cheering failures where important lessons were learned.
  1. Nudge
  • Small signals can cause large changes in behaviour
  • Nudges are about influencing choice, not dictating it. Grocers putting the most essential items like milk at the farthest end of the store, and impulse purchase items like candy at the checkout.
  • Figure out what percent of your income you save today and then save a little bit more from now on. It is never easy – but it always worth it.
  • If you need people to collaborate and are stuck with cubicles, knock down the walls.  HP had high walled cubicles – Bloomberg arranged his offices as a bullpen optimized for swift exchange of ideas and information.
  1. Manage the rising expectations
  • You will trip up some times and need to take backward steps. Tell people around that you will be experimenting with ideas before you start experimenting.  This will help transform them from critics to supporters and they will extend you more benefit of the doubt, if things go awry.
  1. Enjoy! And then go back to No. 1 and start again
  • Help create a place that will attract the most talented people on the planet.
  • Building a great culture and environment requires constant learning and renewal.
  • Don’t worry about trying out everything at once.  Experiment with one idea from the book or with a dozen, learn from the experiment, tweak the program and try again.
  • A great environment is a self reinforcing one – creating an organization that is creative fun hardworking and highly productive.
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