Archive for the ‘Teams’ Category

Annoying CoworkersLast week I wrote a post about what I appreciate most in coworkers.  Thanks to all who made it one of my most read posts for the year to date.  This post addresses the flip side of the issue by discussing those things that really get under my skin about coworkers.  Of course, I’m writing a summary post from 40 years or working and am not airing a bunch of dirty laundry regarding my current team – a team I am incredibly impressed with and glad to be part of.

Here are the things that most annoy me in no particular order of importance:

1. Negativity.  As someone who prefers optimism over pessimism, I find it draining and depressing to be around Negative Nellies all the time.  Whether this is in the form of constantly complaining about one’s work environment, other people, personal matters at home, management, work to be done, one’s health, opinions concerning project plans, or a host of other possibilities, please don’t pollute the office and the daily experience of those around you by bringing more negativity than positivity to the office.  If you’re that miserable at work, then find something else somewhere else.  If you’re like this wherever you work, then the problem is you – not others or the work environment.

2. Excessive absenteeism.  I realize people take vacations, get sick and have family emergencies that take them away from work from time to time.  Heck, I’m writing this in the middle of such a few days myself helping to take care of my wife after an accident Sunday and in anticipation of her having surgery tomorrow.  But I have worked with some people who have more weeks per year with days away than weeks with all five days in the office.  With these folks, there always seems to be some crisis du jour that causes them to come in late, leave early, take another day off, etc.  It leaves me wondering just how many days a year these people take off and how that all reconciles with limits the company places on paid time off.  Is anyone holding them accountable?

3. Not delivering results.  I don’t care how many lofty plans you think up or what good intentions you announced at the last staff meeting.  I want to see work completed and done so in a timely manner.  I could line my cube wall with the empty promises of what others said they would do and never got around to finishing.  I’d rather line the walls with lists of amazing things accomplished by the team.

4. Managers who don’t hold people accountable.  This relates to the previous one, but focuses on the manager rather than the coworker.  I have been on teams where  managers inconceivably let slide month after month and year after year the lack of deliverables from some people on the team while others consistently churn out work at an incredible pace.  Is it because the manager doesn’t see it?  Does he not care?  Is he clueless about how to hold people accountable for performance results?  Doesn’t he realize what this disparity in apparent expectations does to the morale and potential performance of the rest of the team, not to mention the toll it takes on interpersonal dynamics?  It may be easy to convince oneself that letting people self-manage and requiring team members to hold each other accountable is the emotionally mature way to go, but doing so sure smells a lot like abdicating one’s management responsibilities when individual performance issues never get addressed.

5. Backstabbing.  I prefer to trust people until they give me a reason not to.  One way to quickly and permanently lose that trust is to stab me (or others I trust) in the back.  If you think doing so makes you look good, you’re wrong.  If you’re doing it to climb up the corporate ladder via the bleeding backs of others, then you will ultimately fail.  If you have something to say about the work I do, how I do it, or about any quality or capability I bring to the table, then do so to my face.  If you would hesitate to say it to me, then that ought to be a clue that you shouldn’t say it to others either.  Word gets around sooner or later, and a pattern of backstabbing others will get you a reputation that does you far more harm than good.  Build others up; don’t tear them down.

6. Jumping to conclusions.  I have to chuckle at times at the swift speed at which we go from very limited information to unfounded and inaccurate conclusions.  Learn to ask more questions and find out more facts about a situation before you take off on some rant or devise some unnecessary solution for a misdiagnosed problem.  I see this on our company’s internal social network all the time when someone will have one little piece of info or limited experience and then take off on some speculative discussion path rather than take the time to first inquire and understand the whole picture.

7. Failing to involve others in decision making.  It is the style of some “leaders” to think they need to make decisions in a vacuum or only with the involvement of very few people impacted, and then announce that major decision to others impacted by it.  That is a mistake.  With today’s ease of communication in organizations via internal social media, and especially if all impacted are easily gathered together for discussion prior to decisions, we are far better off tapping the collective wisdom of the entire stakeholder community before decisions are made.  This results in a far greater likelihood that the best decisions will be made and that broad buy-in from the ranks will be there from the start.  Leaders who get this right will find an appreciative workforce who provides valuable feedback, feels like they are partners in the enterprise, and who are strong advocates of final decisions made.  Leaders who continue to make major decisions behind locked doors, making some big announcement after everything is set in stone, only foster distrust about what will be handed down next.

8. Policy and process guardians with no common sense.  People who want to respond to every bad thing that ever happens with another policy or unbending process written in stone need to lighten up.  You can’t have an agile, creative, innovative, effective workplace that responds to today’s business needs and climate realities if every attempt to get work done is stifled or significantly delayed by people enforcing extremely conservative policies and complex processes that may be even prohibit the very actions they are presumably established to guide.  The business does not exist to enforce its policies and processes.  The policies and processes exist to help the business accomplish its objectives, and when they impede that progress, they need to be called out and changed by those empowered to do so.  That seems like common sense to me, but as I’ve heard others say, “If common sense was common, more people would have it.”

9. Making it hard for others to reach you.  This comes in a few different forms.  For example, when I read an email, I expect a signature block to contain basic contact info, even if you are from within my own company, but especially if you are from another company.  Unless you’re sitting within earshot of me, include your phone and any other relevant contact info in your signature block.  I don’t want to waste time having to look you up in the company directory or in previous emails or notes every time we need to talk.  If the company provides an instant messaging platform, then set up your PC to log in to it automatically every day for those quick exchanges that don’t warrant an email or phone call.  If you’re out of the office for a time, update your voice mail and email to note that so I don’t think you’re just ignoring me and so I can direct my questions to others while you are away.  If your area is responsible for some process that others must go through, then make clear on your website or somewhere who to actually contact if there is a need to talk to a real, live person instead of some generic email address.  Go out of your way to make it easy for others to reach you.

10.  Passing the buck.  How many times have you been sent from one person or department to another when trying to track down information or assistance with some matter?  I understand that not everyone is responsible for everything, especially in a large company.  Certain business areas own certain processes and aspects of the business and need to take pride in that ownership, making the areas for which they have responsibility run as smoothly as possible.  That means owning up to failures without pointing fingers to others who may have influenced failure in some way.  The kind of person who most impresses me in this regard is the one who will take ownership and initiative in finding answers, information and solutions even though it most certainly is not their actual job responsibility to do so.  That kind of customer and problem-solving focus is greatly appreciated by anyone who has ever experienced the exasperation of a string of people unwilling to take responsibility or to help.

So there you have the ten things that most annoy me about coworkers – a list compiled from reflecting on many years of work across many teams and under many different managers.

What about you?  What annoys you the most about coworkers?

Good WorkerLast month I wrote a couple of posts about The Best Behaviors I’ve Shown As An Employee and The Worst Mistakes I’ve Made As An Employee.  They were very well received with the post on worst mistakes being the most viewed post on this blog in the two years the blog has existed.  Having examined myself first in those posts, I now turn my attention to what I appreciate most and what annoys me the most in coworkers.  I’ll split the topics into two posts.  Having worked at a number of places over 40 years, do not make any assumptions about particular places, teams or individuals referenced.  I would never name names in a negative comment.

Since many working adults spend more waking hours with coworkers than with their families weekly, how we get along with others at work is important.  When relationships are good and healthy, when work is fun and fulfilling, life is good.  Most of us, though, have experienced those jobs or coworkers from time to time where interpersonal conflict and other issues cause stress and dissatisfaction.  This post focuses on the characteristics and behaviors that I most appreciate in coworkers.  My next post will deal with the flip side.

Here they are, not in any particular order of importance:

1. Strong work ethic.  I don’t necessarily expect everyone to willingly and consistently put in the 50-55 hours per week I typically give, but I do expect people to work hard and to go above and beyond when needed.  It turns me off if someone is so tied to a clock that they don’t consider putting in more than the minimum required.  I love working with people who are driven to give their best and to put in the time necessary to put out quality work.

2. Sense of humor.  It’s amazing how much quicker a day goes by when it is sprinkled with laughter and good-natured fun along the way.  The presence of humor makes me want to be with the sources of that humor.

3. Creativity.  I don’t claim to be very creative, but I appreciate others who can look at issues and tasks in new ways, present solutions I would never think of, and turn something otherwise mundane and bland into something that meets a need in an appealing, attractive, and unique way.  There are almost always better ways to accomplish things, and being surrounded by creative minds increases the likelihood of coming up with remarkable solutions to business needs.

4. Willingness to help.  When coworkers notice that a colleague is sinking under a heavy workload and needs help, it is encouraging to see them offer to share the load even if they already have a full plate themselves.  Sometimes we all need a helping hand, and having colleagues you can turn to in a pinch or who initiate offering help is a godsend.

5. Emotional maturity.  It is not helpful in an office when people wear their emotions on their sleeves and don’t know how to stay professional.  I like working with others who can address matters calmly, reasonably, and with a common purpose of solving problems, moving forward, and getting things done.  It is nice when people can receive constructive criticism and suggestions willingly.  It’s helpful when others do not take things too personally when the intent of the conversation is to do what is in the best interests of the company and the work to be done.

6. Integrity.  I like working with people who do what they say they they will do.  I respect people who are honest in all situations.  I expect that of myself and of others.  Without it, I just can’t trust you, and that will negatively impact our ability to work together.

7. Initiative.  It is invigorating to work on a team where individuals constantly think of new things that can be done as well as new and better ways to do what has been done in the past.  When colleagues act on those inclinations, you have a scenario where the workers are fully engaged and enthusiastic about what they bring to the table, and the company ultimately benefits.  It’s a win-win for the worker and the business.

8. Willingness to bend or break the rules.  This one may get me in trouble.  While it is important to live within corporate policies, it is also important to put faith in trusted, proven individuals and give them some leeway to act on their knowledge, experience, and instincts, even if some rules get bent in the process.  Most of us don’t have to think too long and hard to come up with frustrating examples of corporate practices and policies that have been allowed to morph into some giant, life-sucking, time-consuming albatross around the necks of people who simply want to get their jobs done in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  The rebel in me loves people willing to break rules in order to do a better job at something, asking forgiveness rather than permission.

9. Managers who give me a job to do and turn me loose to do it.  I have been blessed with more managers than not who have trusted me to get my work done without them breathing down my neck and trying to micromanage everything I do.  If I need help, I’ll ask for it.  Otherwise, they can know that all is well.  Check in with me every week or two to hold me accountable, but otherwise give me space and I’ll do you proud.  Those who understand that and give me that freedom get my best work.  Those who do not are now former managers.

10. Friendship.  I don’t have to be best friends with anyone at work, but I do like thinking of several as genuine friends – people with whom I would be glad to hang out outside of work from time to time.  That requires common interests, liking each other, and someone taking the initiative to get together outside of work occasionally.  There is much to be gained from simply going out for a meal together or joining in some fun activity just for the heck of it.

So there you have my top ten characteristics or behaviors I most appreciate in coworkers.  Some of my roles and teams have aligned better with those expectations than others.  I am incredibly fortunate to be on a stellar team now that lives up to all of these.

What about you?  What do you appreciate most in a coworker?

Rock Star SoMe Team

Lewis, Chuck, Patti & Jeff

I’ve had the good fortune of working on a couple of outstanding teams in my 9+ years at Humana.  One year ago today I started with the Enterprise Social Media Team where I love being responsible for our internal enterprise social network and where I share responsibility for some of our external social networks.  We are a small team consisting of our manager Lewis and my colleagues Patti and Chuck.  We work hard, do our best, enjoy one another, have fun, and hopefully make a positive difference inside and outside out company.

Our team is expanding by adding another community manager/moderator which is the same role that Patti and I each have.  Lewis made the picture shown here for posting about the job, inviting interested applicants to join our “rock star” team.  How can you not like a manager with that mindset and creativity?  He even put me in as the drummer on the right of the photo.  How did he know I always wanted to be a drummer?

Beyond the initial review of applicants on paper, our team will have a group interview of those in whom we are most interested, meaning our team will jointly meet with one candidate at a time – not that multiple candidates will meet with us in the presence of other candidates (been there, done that, not fun).  As I shared in a January blog post, I look for three C’s when hiring: competence, character and chemistry.  Team interviews of candidates easily answer the chemistry question.

Given the quality of the others on the team and the expectations we have, I am certain of this… that we will bring on the right person with the right attitude, the right skill set, the right passion, the right personality and the right fit for the team.  Some may hire with lesser goals in place, perhaps focusing only on subject matter (competence) regardless of character or chemistry.  But those hires usually don’t last long, and if they do, they cause more trouble than they’re worth.

If you’re going to add someone to a team, you need to follow leap year lesson #352: Hire the right person.

(By the way, if you think you may be the right person for the job, go here to check it out and apply.)

pinterestOur Social Media team at work took some time yesterday to get together and have a “Pinterest pinning party.”  That means we grabbed our laptops, found a spot away from our office cubes, grabbed a beverage and then all worked together on helping get our company’s Pinterest page up and running by pinning (linking and uploading) a number of items to our boards.

What could an insurance company put on Pinterest boards?  Lots of things!  So far our categories include recipes for well-being, motivation, animal therapy, live well, family time, work healthy, healthy home, gardening tips, health infographics, grandparents, volunteerism, healthy kids, fitness, and views from the office.  We’ll add more before we start officially promoting the site, but you can get a sneak peak now at pinterest.com/humana.

While it was great just to sit together, have fun, laugh and make some serious strides on getting the site ready, the lesson learned from the experience has to do with the value of scheduling time as a team to focus and work together on one specific thing that’s been hanging out there to get done for a few months.  We’re all busy and the person on the team who has been working on this project has way too many other things to get done every week to focus on just this.  So it really helped for us to set aside 2.5 hours as a team to all work together on it.  It won’t be the last time we do that, I’m sure, as it was enjoyable and successful.  In fact, we’ve previously talked about picking some night to pull an all-nighter in the office to knock off a crazy amount of work together, complete with middle-of-the-night run to White Castle.  Count me in on that experience, too.

Each of us has more on our plate than we can possibly get done as soon as we’d like.  How nice is it just to carve out some time and all focus together on getting one thing done in a fun atmosphere ?  Good, caring, focused, compassionate, determined teams can do that.  I’m proud to be part of one.

Leap year lesson #334 is Schedule team time to focus on one task.

Some of you reading this never saw a TV episode of The Lone Ranger, so I’ll just refer you to this article about it for background.  For purposes of this post, all you need to know is that there is a saying “Don’t be a Lone Ranger” that deals with the value of working with others as opposed to trying to do everything yourself.  One part of today was a good example of that.

Several involved with a major project rollout at work wanted to communicate what is coming soon with anyone interested.  First, I commend them for even thinking about informing others and soliciting feedback rather than just implementing changes.  Acceptance of the changes will be greater and the changes themselves will be better because of the feedback.

I also want to acknowledge the innovative way they sought to inform and engage others in the process.  Many would have just sent out an email to the masses – one-way communication – and assumed they had communicated.  Instead, this team set up a public town hall using our internal social network where they explained and demonstrated the coming changes and invited questions as well as future feedback.  The event was scheduled for an hour.  Six of us gathered in a conference room to make sure all the bases were covered from content and technical standpoints.  Each had his or her role and worked together to present, read questions, answer questions verbally and online, and keep things moving until all was accomplished.

It would be easy to imagine a scenario of one person or perhaps two trying to do it all, but it would have been more chaotic with greater risk.  By planning on several being present with each focusing on his/her role, it all came off very well.

I realize that it is sometimes easier to just do things yourself than to involve others – the Lone Ranger was great and right at what he did – but you run the risk of accomplishing less than what several working together can accomplish.  Sometimes it’s better to tackle things as teams.

With no disrespect to the Lone Ranger intended, leap year lesson #331 is Don’t be a Lone Ranger.