Tell the Truth – Are You Bored at Work?

It’s the dreaded phrase all parents hear that makes them want to pull their hair out –“I’m bored.”  Boredom isn’t just a complaint of many an eight-year-old.  It’s emerging as a key contributor to what people are calling “The Great Resignation.” Proactive leadership can make a difference.

Chances are, You’re Not Alone

The BBC recently had an article about the rise of a condition they call “boreout.” We’re much more familiar with its fellow work ailment, burnout. Boreout is defined as being bored by your work to the point that one feels it is meaningless. It can be created by an environment that feels demoralizing, by feeling underchallenged for a prolonged period of time, and, yes, from being confined to Zoom and the same four walls for months on end.  Burnout and boreout have very similar impacts. Among them are higher turnover, checking-the-box behavior, lost productivity, decreased strategic thinking and innovation, and lost opportunity.

The difference between the two is that burnout can be seen as a badge of honor.  You suffer from it because you’ve really been driven and making things happen.  Suffering from boreout is perceived as not being motivated enough.

We probably can sense boreout quickly when (or if) it happens to our high performers and we will jump into to help them re-engage. For our poor performers, we assume they lack motivation. It can go unrecognized in the core of our team – those 60-80% who are good, solid performers who are less likely to actively voice what they are experiencing. Boreout among this group is going to have the most significant impact. That’s because of the sheer volume of that segment of our workforce… and because it goes undiagnosed for a longer period of time. But make no mistake, if you miss the signs of boreout with your top tier talent, or don’t address it effectively, it’s impact is obvious and has long-term leadership consequences. Top performers are more likely to leave because they know they have more career mobility.

We shouldn’t assume that boreout only happens to front-line team members. Senior leaders sometimes confide in me that they feel a strong need to find something new because they aren’t challenged by their role anymore. Our conversations then focus on how we can make that happen within their organization.

No matter what level of leader you’re managing, making it okay to talk about prolonged boredom or lack of challenge has to be the first step in addressing the issue. It’s not a sign that they are unmotivated. Actually, quite the opposite. Boredom means they’re motivated to do more. So, create relationships built on high levels of trust.  Make sure there is the safety to talk about tough issues – boredom being only one of them.  Let people know that you don’t see boredom as their failing, but as an opportunity to expand or change their role so that they have new challenges. The organization gains from their increased engagement, productivity and impact. Some people will still perform well, for a certain period of time, when bored. But don’t wait to check in until you see a drop off in performance, or worse, see talent walking out the door. Be proactive about it.

11 Decisions To Make About Your Hybrid Team

What does it mean to return to work? For a lot of people, it means their organization is implementing a hybrid model. My question is — what does that mean? I’m sure you’re grappling with this question, too.


At one level, it’s about flexibility. Organizations are allowing more flexibility about who needs to be in the office, and when. On another level, it’s cost – financial, psychological, emotional. The hybrid solution is not one-size-fits-all. An organization I partner with is implementing a hybrid model that means everyone is in the office Tuesday through Thursday with flexibility on Monday and Friday. Others are viewing it as some people come back to the office full-time and others stay remote full-time. For others, the model will vary by work function. I could fill the better part of this blog with the various options that will be implemented.

No matter the option, the question leaders and their teams should be asking on a deeper level is what does this really mean for us? For how we operate? For how we build our team?

As you and your team move into the next new-way-of-working, here are some decisions you need to make:

11 Key Decisions About Hybrid Teams

  1. How will we fulfill our vision or purpose working this way?
  2. What does success look like for us in our hybrid model?
  3. How do we ensure we don’t slip back into patterns that no longer serve us?
  4. How will we apply the lessons learned from how we worked during the pandemic?
  5. How will we communicate to our customers – internal or external – about our work arrangements?
  6. How will we ensure strong collaboration across boundaries and silos?
  7. Will we need to be more intentional about how we build or maintain our culture?
  8. How will we measure performance?  Does our current approach to measuring performance give an advantage to people who are in the office? What if it was built for a completely onsite workforce?
  9. How will we ensure career growth?  How will we create visibility for those who are remote?
  10. How will you onboard remote team members?  Will it look different from team members who are in the office?  How do you make it feel highly engaging for both?
  11. How will we increase our diversity, equity and inclusion in our version of the hybrid model?
It’s a lot to think about.  How many of these decisions have you already made?
We partner with leaders who know they need to change how their teams or organizations operate and need help making it happen more quickly. Working with teams at inflection points is one of the things we do best.

Improve Remote Performance – The Power of Connection

High-performing individuals and teams feel well-connected to the things that matter most. That includes a deeper connection to mission and strategy, their goals, and to you and their fellow team members. Working remotely often leads to lower levels of connection. Here are some ways you can build a more connected – and better performing – team.

A good deal of research shows that remote employees are often more productive than their on-site peers.  But, as a manager, as a leader, you’re more interested in performance than productivity.  Productivity is a measure of how much you do… in other words, activity. “I get a lot done when I work from home.” Performance is about how effective your work is. “My team improved client satisfaction by 5% over last quarter.”  Certainly, productivity and performance often go hand in hand, but not always. We all know people who work hard and get a lot done; but, still, they just don’t seem to be able to move the needle far enough.

No doubt, over the last year or so, you’ve been flooded with all kinds of advice on how to keep your newly remote team of managers or professionals engaged and performing well .  Here’s a slightly different way of looking at how to make that happen – by leveraging key leadership techniques in ways that keep people connected. Connected to their mission, their goals and to you and their team.

Connect Your Team to Mission / Vision / Strategy 
Working through COVID conditions has meant facing and overcoming a lot of challenges.  People have had to deal with a myriad of urgent and often difficult changes to our personal and work lives.  When that happens, it’s easy to get distracted.  It’s critical that we focus and refocus our team members on why we’re here.  What’s our purpose? What’s our strategy for making that happen?
  • Keep it in front of them.  You can do this at team meetings.  “This new project aligns with our mission to…”  And when problem solving.  “Part of our strategy calls for cross selling more technology products.  With that as our primary criteria, let’s discuss which of these projects will make that happen more quickly?”  When answering questions.  “The reason we’re going to move to a 70/30 remote model is because of the upcoming business acquisition.  We’ll need maximum levels of trust and collaboration to make this work.  And that means more face-to-face time in the office.”
  • Make it personal.  Virtually every organization has a mission or vision and a business strategy. So too should every team. How does the overall business strategy map to your team? How do you make high-level strategy make sense in your part of the organization? In fact, how do you help each of your team members align what they do with mission and strategy? Take the time for a formal process of aligning your team’s mission and goals with the organization’s. One meeting isn’t likely to be enough. Make it a short project, assign a lead to it, and ask people to come prepared to the meetings with their own ideas.
Connect Them to Their Goals and Objectives
This is another important touchstone that drives connection and improves performance. With organizations facing an evolving post-pandemic world, significant changes are already taking place again. For many, if not most, that means more disruption. Another way to reel people back in is to help them stay focused on their goals.
  • Keep their formal goals up to date. Don’t wait until the end of the year to align their work goals to new business goals and initiatives and new ways of working.  These changes provide a perfect opportunity to get their attention. Talk about goals, find out what challenges they have, and help them create a plan for addressing them. Remember to make this a robust two-way conversation.
  • Set clear expectations.  Remote management is usually harder because communication is more difficult and less frequent. Don’t let distance get in the way of clarity. You’ll want to let your team and your employees know exactly what’s expected. For example, it’s not enough to tell them you want them to maintain or improve collaboration. How do you expect them to do that?  “Remember, we’ll be switching to Flowdock next quarter. I expect everyone to have 100% of their team members attend the product training by no later than September 15th.”
  • Hold people and teams accountable. Expectations without accountability are a half-measure. Even highly motivated people need to be accountable for how effectively they perform. Remember to role-model what you want to see. If you ask the managers who report to you to update their team’s performance goals, but you don’t do it with your own team, it’s likely to elicit a half-hearted and incomplete effort on their part as well.  For more on remote accountability, look for our upcoming article.
Connect Them to Their Team and to You
We’re saving the best for last. It’s a well-established fact that personal connectivity to one’s team and boss positively impact engagement, talent retention and performance. Even for those who love to work remotely, almost all of them still need to connect with the people they work with. In addition to holding regular individual and team meetings and events, here are some ways to improve personal connectivity.
  • Empathy (and loads of it), not Sympathy.  As organizations continue to sort out the future of their organization’s work structures and practices, it’s important that leaders be empathetic. Note that I did not say sympathetic. Here’s the difference. When a leader is empathetic, they understand and share the feelings of another person. They recognize the person’s challenges. “It must be hard to have to re-organize your personal life around the new work arrangements.” It’s supportive. On the other hand, when someone is sympathetic, they are signaling that they feel pity or distress for them. “I’m so sorry that you have to come back to work in the office full time. It really stinks.” This also sounds supportive. But managers who sympathize (instead of empathize) are more likely to excuse poor performance and lower their expectations. It also crosses the manager/employee boundary and makes it harder to be objective with an employee.
  • Help them help themselves.  People like and respect leaders who help them solve problems, not managers who dictate solutions. Ask questions. “You’ve been late getting the financials to me two months in a row. What’s going on? Why do you suppose that’s happening? What do you think will solve that problem?” Of course, if you see something else, you’ll want to mention it, but collaborative course corrections are the most effective. It’s also important to ask how you can help. This technique also works well for teams. Help them define and then solve the collaborative challenges they have, and ask what you can do to help.
  • Set team goals.  Individuals need to know that they will be held accountable for how well their team(s) perform, and that collaboration is critical to their success. See above.
  • Remain focused on professional development. Don’t lose sight of helping your team members develop their skills and acquire important experiences. Remote employees are more likely to be overlooked when it comes to development opportunities. Pick your times wisely, but make sure it remains part of the ongoing dialogue you have with them.

Connection is Powerful. Connecting with others and with purpose are deep-seated personal needs, and that includes in one’s work life. High-performing teams thrive on the level of trust and respect that connection helps drive.

When is Bad News Better than Good News?

When is bad news better than good news?

When you put off communicating important information to your organization until you have something “good” to say to them.

There’s an old saying that “no news is good news.” That may still apply to some things in life, but it’s decidedly untrue when it comes to communicating important information to your organization.

When people don’t have any or enough information about what’s important to them, what happens? One typical result is that they get anxious. And anxious team members are more distracted and less productive. In fact, in a recent business survey reported by McKinsey, “Employees who felt included in detailed communications about what’s decided and what’s still uncertain were nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity.”

Employees (and leaders) who don’t have enough information will also begin to develop their own ideas about what’s going on. They suppose something is true without having evidence to confirm it.  And then you’re playing defense against a difficult foe with multiple tentacles: the rumor mill.

Decades of leadership research and best practice application support the “over-communication” of information to employees when an organization is facing change, particularly during the most trying of times. That means direct, open communication on the status of what’s important to employees on a regular basis through multiple channels from all levels of management.

Some leaders have a difficult time dealing with uncertainty themselves and assume others will too. For them it’s tempting to “wait until we get it all figured out before we let people know what direction we’re going in.” What these leaders often fail to realize is that it’s a lot easier as a more senior leader to deal with uncertainty when you have much more real-time information available to you; and this is especially true if you have some control over the decisions and direction the organization is heading in.

It’s better to be frank with your teams about what the challenges are, what decisions have been made and what is still pending. Explain the competing variables the organization faces and trust them understand the complexity. It allows people to process information along the way. That makes the eventual decisions that are made easier for people to accept and adjust to because they will have felt involved along the way.

The competition for talent is never over and the best talent wants to feel that their leaders are making them part of the dialogue about what’s important. It’s up to leadership at all levels to share the news… good, bad, or incomplete.

10 Things that Keep You from Hiring Great People

Over the years, one of our most popular workshops is Accelerated Hiring.  That’s because hiring great people is one of the toughest and most impactful of leadership responsibilities.  A lot of hiring mistakes are self-inflicted.  Some are a function of the organization’s approach (or lack thereof).  As we come out of the Covid pandemic in the coming months, hiring will take off, and the competition for top talent will seem like a contact sport.

I love this article by Lou Adler about the 10 Things Managers Intentionally Do to Avoid Hiring Great People.  We address almost all of these in Accelerated Hiring.  See if any of these 10 things resonate with you:

  1. Filter candidates on skills and experience
  2. Target the wrong talent pool with the wrong message
  3. Using compensation to save time but prevent the best from being evaluated
  4. Looking for the person to fit the “perfect” job rather than modifying the job to fit the “perfect” person.
  5. Use of generic traits
  6. Believe gut feelings, first impressions and that the “halo effect” predicts performance
  7. Allow a hiring in your own image mentality to exist
  8. Use gladiator voting
  9. Accept a safe “no” vote with no proof that it’s justified
  10. Don’t make hiring managers responsible

Even the most experienced leaders can find it challenging when it comes to making such a critical talent decision.  Are you guilty of any of these?

Our Most Read LinkedIn Articles of 2020

As we all welcome 2021, we thought we’d look back to 2020 and some of our most-read LinkedIn articles.


COVID has taught us that we can and must be able to change rapidly, to transform on the fly if need be. We’ve had no choice but to go more completely digital, transforming our customer, employee, student and supplier experiences. Truly listening with empathy, and being agile became key not just for leaders, but for everyone. Change can’t just be a priority for a few people at the top. It needs to be a priority for everyone. And, honestly, that’s kind of exciting. 

1. 10 𝑻𝒊𝒑𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝑯𝒆𝒍𝒑 𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝒂 𝑫𝒊𝒔𝒓𝒖𝒑𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝑬𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕: http://bit.ly/3q8oMg

2. 𝑺𝒊𝒍𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝑳𝒊𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑪𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅 19: http://bit.ly/3qbjpi0

3. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆… 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑾𝒆 𝑵𝒆𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒔: http://bit.ly/39uetOF


NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions. Please let us know how we can help you in 2021.

Conversations On The Curve: Bob Kelleher

Boost Your Team’s Engagement

Employee engagement is a challenge even in the best of times. This year, Gallup shows only 36% of US employees are engaged. Why does this matter? Companies with high levels of engagement are 21% more profitable and 22% more productive.

One of the complicating factors this year is the unprecedented change in the economy and how work is getting done. So, what does employee engagement mean in a virtual world? How do I, as a leader, meet the challenge of engaging my team at a time when stress and distractions are so high?

In this interview, Edith talks with Bob Kelleher, a leading expert in employee engagement, and founder of The Employee Engagement Group.

Here’s our conversation!

To learn more about Bob Kelleher, click here.

 

7 Tips for Better Virtual Reviews

Most managers have a hard enough time communicating with their team members. And doing so virtually is even harder. But there’s still good news for delivering that performance review virtually. A few basic techniques will go a long way to easing the difficulty.


Just like in-person reviews, the key to successful virtual reviews is to focus on the conversation.  It should be a dialogue between you and your team member that is focused on helping this individual perform at the highest level possible, to build on their strengths and support their development.  Here are 7 tips to make your virtual reviews effective.

1. Provide the review ahead of time. Give the person at least an hour or two to look at it prior to your conversation. That provides enough time for them to process the information and get beyond any initial reactions. They can “walk into” the meeting more composed, with thoughts and questions more fully formed.

2. Set the stage. Put aside your Zoom fatigue and use video (not the phone) so that the conversation feels as much like in-person as possible. If you usually rely on others to manage video calls, do a dry run so you’re able to focus on the discussion, not the technology. Know what you’re doing to do if there are connection issues. Reschedule as a video call, not a phone call.

3. Start with empathy. Begin the conversation by recognizing 2020 has been challenging and talk about specific challenges the individual has faced. Ask how they are doing (yes, even if you asked them that last week – you want to build empathy as part of the virtual conversation). 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. 92% believe it remains undervalued. Empathy will make a virtual conversation go more smoothly.

4. Focus on strengths.  Recognize their hard work. A great deal of research shows that managers and organizations should focus the majority of their feedback on a person’s strengths. The 80/20 rule on the ratio of positive to “corrective” feedback might look more like 90/10 this year. Of course, poor performers will require a higher ratio of “corrective” feedback. But if you go a bit easier on most people’s performance than you might normally, it will pay off in 2021.

5. Listen carefully. Active listening is harder on a zoom call. But it builds trust and shows respect. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person time to respond. Remember there can be video delay.

6. Don’t shortchange the review. We’re all tired of endless video calls. For many, they’re more taxing than face-to-face meetings. It will be tempting to create a shorter than normal agenda or rush through the meeting. Resist that temptation. Especially in a year that requires a little more managerial TLC.

7. Beware of an office bias. If you have a split office/remote team, remember that many managers still have a bias toward people who work on site. In a year where many people don’t have a choice, it’s important to not penalize people for their work arrangements.

Does Your Onboarding Experience Still Work, Post-Covid?

How are You Onboarding (or Re-boarding) Post-Covid?

One of the challenges of having so many people working virtually is creating and keeping a vibrant culture that helps everyone feel connected and driven by a shared purpose.

Among the earliest experiences our people have with the culture is during on-boarding.  Working in the COVD and post-COVID environment, onboarding needs to be different.  By assessing what works and what doesn’t in your onboarding, you can design an experience that’s adapted to a virtual environment and reinforces culture and connections.

Late last year – pre-pandemic – we helped a client design an onboarding process.  The design focused on making the process a more powerful tool for creating culture in a dispersed team that had grown 200% in the previous 18 months. While few companies are experiencing that kind of growth now, the lessons are relevant in today’s environment, too.

This biotech’s culture was a key differentiator for them in terms of how they achieved results and how they attracted high-caliber talent in the market.  Facing a period of unprecedented growth with geographically dispersed offices and remote employees, they were seeing a higher attrition rate, especially among employees who had been with the company for a short period of time.  They were concerned that they were not creating an effective new-hire experience. After creating a highly experiential new-hire orientation program, our client believed there was still something missing for their recently added team members — the onboarding experience onto the new hire’s team.

The first phase of our work together was to assess:
  • how onboarding was approached across the various functions/departments within the company
  • the perception of how effective onboarding was
  • how well it aligned with their corporate onboarding and overall talent strategy.
We conducted interviews with functional leaders and focus groups with recently hired team members. Our findings indicated:
  • A much more consistent and robust functional onboarding experience was needed
  • The process needed to be scalable and adaptable
  • We needed to develop resources that could be accessed by a dispersed workforce during onboarding and beyond.

During phase two, the client wanted to introduce gamification technology to deliver onboarding, manager support, and other HR practices. Our challenge was to create a functional onboarding design that worked within this platform. We knew this approach had to be highly interactive, feel personal, and provide information in bite-sized chunks across multiple formats.

The design of the functional onboarding included:

  • Video welcomes received prior to start dates
  • Visual tours of departments and office spaces
  • Videos describing each department’s purpose and responsibilities
  • A manager toolkit to lead conversations with new team member within 2-3 days of start and at Day 14.
  • Day 14 online check-in for the team member to complete
  • Gamified introduction to the company culture and how it looks in our department
Through this process, we were able to design a solution that would: 
  • Create a unique and engaging new-hire experience that more effectively integrates new hires into the culture and their specific teams.
  • Utilize technology to enhance the onboarding experience for all team members – HQ-based, field-based and remote
  • Allow for adaptability and scalability as changes impact the organization
Covid19 has changed the business reality of virtually every organization.  A winning culture attracts and integrates top talent and, post-Covid, that requires a new onboarding process that leverages technology while creating a highly personalized connection to the organization.

 

Top HR and Talent organizations, not only recognize the need for a vibrant new onboarding process, they are spending the time to assess and design a powerful experience for all internal clients.

Why Is It So Hard To Get My Organization To Change? And What To Do About It.

Why Is It So Hard To Get My Organization To Change? 

You know that change is hard. You’ve experienced it. Often, leaders feel that, with all the day-to-day demands on them, they just don’t have the time to be working on how to get to the future. It could be that the team is faced with a challenge so complex that it seems un-manageable, so they don’t face it head-on. Or it can simply be that assumption that people really don’t want to change.

Close-Up Radio

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending 30-minutes with Jim Masters on the difficulty of change and related topics. We also talked about what leaders and organizations need to do to thrive through continual change, why we call our firm NextBridge and how I came to this place in my career.

Listen to the interview.

What Role Does Purpose Play In Being Agile?

Being agile means asking people to step out of their comfort zone and into uncertainty. That can be a scary proposition. Purpose is the north star of an agile organization. Purpose creates the guardrails for action.

Trends, Bends and Opportunities

Dr. Loren Murfield, Pat Lynch and I discuss this topic and how to create agility in your organization. This daily Facebook Live podcast is a learning opportunity that helps you navigate your business in a rapidly changing environment. We discussed practical information everyone can use today to build agility and stay ahead of the competition.