Rich Sheridan on Leading with Joy

Rich Sheridan is the CEO of Menlo Innovations and the author of Joy, Inc. and Chief Joy Officer. As opening keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, he inspired us all with his uncommon approach to leadership and productivity in the modern workplace.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Rich for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Rich’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

How do you tie joy to values and guiding principles?

First we define joy … quite clearly. We ask, then answer two simple questions: Who do you serve? What would delight look like for them?

Thus we align our joy with deeply satisfying those we serve. In other words, we don’t make it about us.

We declared we want to “end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Our primary focus are the end users of the software we are designing and building. We don’t believe we can do this with a team that doesn’t care of itself and each other. Thus, we speak in our guiding principles about how we wish to “Create meaningful, positive human impact. Always demonstrate integrity and authenticity. And act in a way that expresses care, hope, love and joy.”

What’s the best way to convince my boss to try experiments on projects?

My suggestion is to first try to see the world through your boss’s eyes. What are the likely challenges that he or she faces? How are the experiments you are running or suggesting going to help your boss with his/her goals? If you happen to have copies of either of my books available, refer to the index and read all the pages where I talk about Bob Nero, who was my CEO at Interface Systems, Inc. When I better learned to see the world through his eyes, he became VERY supportive of all the experiments I was running.

Does leadership require passion in what they do to be successful?

I believe there are many different ways to lead. We don’t all need to be energized cheerleaders. I feel what is more important is to be your authentic self and truly, passionately BELIEVE in the systems and practices you are creating. Your team will have a finely tuned sense of smell for this authenticity and belief. If they sense it, most will follow, especially if there is trust.

What role does mindset play in a team environment? 

Mindset, in general, is always going to be important. I love Carol Dweck’s work (described in her book Mindset).

Ultimately, we typically don’t make change if we don’t believe change is possible. However, behind just the mindset for change, we need to be open to actually trying things. As leaders, we also need to accept that when we do try things, we need to give some space that things will at first be cumbersome and slow. This is really hard once we are very good at something. It is hard to get back into learning mode. It can actually hurt our brains as our brains start to rewire themselves. A great book on practicing new techniques is Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata.

Besides the nature of the project, and the technical skills, what are other criteria that you use to pair up team members? And as I am sure it happened before, how do you overcome personality challenges? 

We overcome the personality challenges by practicing (constantly) how to work with other people. It helps so much that we pair every minute of every day and we switch the pairs frequently. (I don’t think you need to be as diligent about pairing as we are!). However, the essential ingredient is to practice working with various different kinds of people.

The next step is to practice how to give effective feedback to someone. This is why Crucial Conversations (the book byVitalSmarts) and Leadership and Self-Deception (by Arbinger) are so important to us.

Do you discuss this office environment in your onboarding or interview process for new employees? 

Not so much discuss, as immerse them in it. We offer public tours once a month and many of those interested in interviewing here will come to a public tour before they even declare they are interested. So they can see the office set up outside of an interview event. Our interview process itself is not an interview, but a group audition that simulates the work environment. We recently had 28 candidates come in for two hours. They’d paired with other candidates three times, working together on a shared exercise. Menlonians observed their work together and noted evidence (or lack thereof) of good kindergarten skills: do they play well with others, do they support the person sitting next to them, do they share?

This interview setup isn’t a surprise. We send them a detailed writeup of what to expect. When we introduce ourselves to the group, we tell  them we want them to succeed so we describe the things to avoid.

Does your organization have remote staff, and how do you incorporate them into this process? 

We have been running more and more experiments with remote staff (and remote clients whose team members often pair in with us). We don’t prefer remote work, but we are making it work. We use screen sharing, video and audio technology. It’s working OK. I think there are still improvements to be made. We’ve been running these experiments for about 4 years.

Recommendations on how to do reviews without setting team member against team member? 

My suggestion is to change the compensation process first to not feel like a zero sum game. Second make all review discussions about collaboration and teamwork rather than individual contributions. Did they help others around them succeed?

Understanding you can influence your own team and company. Have you had any conflicts when dealing with customers that are “old school” and very formal? How do you influence your customers?

ALL THE TIME!! Thanks for asking. We spend a lot of time up front (as much as they need) teaching not only how our system works, but WHY we do things the way we do them. We make deep use of storytelling to illuminate the problems we are trying to solve with the approaches we take. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s so much fun when the light goes on for our clients. 🙂 Once it goes on, it never goes off again!

Do you find your structure beneficial for remote workers? 

We skew towards an in-person culture and steer away from remote work. We do have some remote work (either temporarily due to some life events, or permanently due to a life change … one of our great team members married a girl from Moscow and moved there!).

We make it work. It’s just not ideal for the way we have chosen to work.

Can you talk a little about when you get furious, get curious?

This phrase reminds me of the part of Crucial Conversations (by VitalSmarts) called Master You Stories. I think we often get furious because something ends up going differently than we expected. If we assume good intent on the part of the person we are upset with then we can ask:  why would my valued colleague act this way? If we start asking questions like: Are you OK? Is there anything I did to upset you? Am I seeing the full picture? We can diffuse a whole bunch of “furious” feelings once we see the bigger picture.

Regarding the pairing concept: your presentation sparked an idea for me to run the experiment of pairing different roles together–people who are stakeholders in each other’s deliverables. Have you paired different roles together? If so, how’d it go? If not, why not? 

We often pair different roles together. It works just as well as pairing within the role. We even often pair our client team members (say a project sponsor with the Menlo project manager). It’s so much more effective than trading lengthy and misunderstood emails!

How do you go about changing an organization whose culture is ingrained with a sense of entitlement and “this is how we’ve always done it”? 

As Deming once said so delightfully … Change is not required. Survival is not mandatory. 🙂

I’d say, start small, stay hyper local. Change you first … makes changes in your immediately team, group or department. Read the stories of MassMutual, GE and the DTW McDonald’s for examples!

How do you create positive stability among teams with different ways and processes? 

Use simple, repeatable, measurable, visible systems to manage work. For us, we use 8.5” x 5.5” handwritten index cards to describe work. We then estimate the amount of time we need for each index card, then prioritize them to 40 hours of work per week/per person so that we are never overloading our team. We never let work “sneak in the back door”. It all must be handled this way. By keeping our system under control (with very simple tools) we can keep our work from getting out-of-control.

We then work hard to keep fear at bay. If someone shares bad news our pre-programmed reply is to say “thank you” with a smile! As we say, “fear doesn’t make bad news go away, it makes it go into hiding” and then we can’t manage it!

Which book is a good intro book of the ones you listed?

This might seem self-serving, but I’d suggest Joy. Inc. as an introduction as it ties all the pieces together. From there my suggestions will be about where you’d like to start!

For building better relationships, I’d start with Leadership and Self-Deception or Crucial Conversations.

For building better teams: Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

For better team players: Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player.

For better design: Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, and Alan Cooper’s The Inmates are Running The Asylum and the Nightline Youtube videos (Parts 1,2,3) of The Deep Dive about IDEO.

For system’s thinking: Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline – The Art of Practice of the Learning Organization. And John Gall’s The Systems Bible (or Systemantics).

Then I’d study Deming, Drucker, Schein, and Tom Peters.

I’ve now given you a lifetime of reading assignments!  🙂


Joanna Durand on Why Passionate Leadership Matters

Joanna Durand is Global Head of the Enterprise Project Delivery Excellence Office at TD Bank. As a keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, she gave us an understanding of what passionate leadership looks like in practice and shared indispensable tips on how we can become passionate leaders ourselves.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Joanna for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Joanna’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

Can you deploy your solution to poor leadership?
How can a leader learn to not instill fear into employees? 
How can one of my leaders earn back the trust they have lost to their employees?

We detect a theme in these questions so will answer all of them together.

The person in question has to be receptive to feedback and coaching in order for any change to be successful and lasting. There is an opportunity to give constructive feedback if a feedback loop exists. The leader needs to be able establish and work through a trusted feedback loop to receive candid feedback, or leverage company structures like HR coaching or formal 360-degree feedback mechanisms. If this does not work and the organizational culture is not aligned to the leader’s behaviour, you are likely look at an exit scenario. Otherwise, as outlined in the keynote, you will risk the loss of the team members who work under that leader.

What would be some actions you identified successful to change the organizational culture to reflect and foster passionate leadership? 

The organization itself has to have a view that the people side of the equation is valuable to its success. If that is true, passionate leadership will flourish. If people are seen as interchangeable or disposable, then only a microculture could exist around a specific passionate leader or team.

How can a leader make sure their passion is reflected to others?

By being authentic, listening openly and reflecting back. Use a feedback loop to understand how you are being received by others.

In many organizations the team members report to a functional manager, so this can diminish the authority of the PM. Do you think passionate leadership of a PM can help?

Absolutely! The project manager owns the virtual team – the tension is the value and commitment to the project versus to the functional manager and resource pool. The Project Manager can change the full dynamic – for better or for worse.

How do you come across as authentic and positive without being fake?

Always BE authentic. Understand how you are perceived by others by asking and listening to feedback.

Does mindfulness meditation have a role in passionate leadership?

I think that depends on the individual and how they derive their energy.

What if the employee is not passionate about their job and not looking for ways to improve themselves? 

A direct career discussion is timely in this situation; indicate clearly how the employee is being perceived by yourself and others and try to understand that person’s desires and motivators, or potential causes of an interim abnormal behaviour.

How do you encourage team members who do not feel the passion? 

You need to have individual conversations with those team members to determine what motivates them, understand where they want to go and discuss what it takes to get there. However, you should also consider that some people just want a job…is this a really a problem for that person, role, or organization?

Can a person choose to portray “passion” and continue to grow a successful team, in a competitive environment? Without being a victim of company culture and the need to have a more tough approach?

Absolutely. Within a competitive and political culture, the passionate leader needs to set a vision based on fact and understand how they leverage their passion to achieve the organization’s goals. As the leader, you get to choose the how, not the what.

How do you steer your team to buy into this notion of keeping leadership accountable, especially to remain “passionate” consistently? 

You need to be authentic – then the passion follows. Everyone has ebbs and flows, so people may manifest varying levels of passion in different ways day to day.

Do you have any suggestions on how to work with a leader who may be passionate but mainly passionate about their personal success? Sometimes we don’t want to leave the job/position because of the leader and need suggestions on how to best work with them and maybe help them. 

It is important to recognize that the demeanor of your leader is important, and you may need to spend energy helping to make that leader successful. In turn, it is important to let the leader know what you need yourself, and if that is not forthcoming, you may need to leave and find the kind of leader you need for your own development and satisfaction.

What do you when you realize your immediate senior management (director) is not necessarily a “passionate leader”? How do you navigate through that? 

See the answer to the question asked above.

Do you have a business idol/mentor? What makes them so special and unique? 

I have had many mentors. A superior ability to engage is something I admire; observing people who are intensely committed is inspirational to me.


Managing Virtual Teams Successfully

By Dr. Willis H. Thomas, PMP, CPT 

Virtual teams are becoming more of the norm for organizations as they strive to acquire the best talent from anywhere in the world, minimize overhead everywhere on the earth and stretch their global presence on a worldwide basis.

Building High-Performance Teams necessitates that we utilize innovative tools and techniques to engage the audience. A study from MIT Sloan found “dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located teams, provided the right type of collaboration is in place.

As virtual teams move through the typical stages of team development (i.e., Tuckman model of forming-storming-norming-performing), they can benefit from a Simple Interactive Meaningful Practical Learning Exercise (SMILE).

Some may think of these engaging activities as games; however, while they are intended to be fun, the benefits should not be underestimated in terms of the potential positive impact they can have on team performance.

Two outcomes should be considered in the following examples:

  1. Quantitative Perspective
    • Decreasing employee turnover
    • Reducing job-related and personal stress
    • Increasing job satisfaction
    • Enhancing team relationships
    • Sustaining motivation through the number of reported productive hours
  2. Qualitative Perspective
    • Improving problem-solving skills
    • Inspiring creative thinking skills
    • Encouraging critical thinking capabilities
    • Strengthening interpersonal skills
    • Minimizing negative team conflict

As a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), I have come to look at the value that SMILEs can have on teams from the perspective of Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Quality (ROQ). First let’s keep the concept of ROI basic, which is in this context:

 

 

Applying this equation to a real-life example, if the cost for rolling out a SMILE activity = $10,000 and the estimated value of the program is $100,000 (considering quantitative and/or qualitative factors such as listed above):

 

 

This number is not exaggerated. For example, Malcolm Baldrige ROI has been computed as high as 700%. So considering that SMILE activities have a no cost to low-cost proposition, the computed ROI will typically be very high. This provides justification in allowing the virtual team to participate in the activity. SMILE cost may also take into consideration the amount of time that people are spending on developing the “gaming activity” during work hours as well as participating in it. So COMMON SENSE should be at the forefront to manage the perception of how these activities are facilitated.

The premise is that if it is worth doing, it is worth measuring. The COMMON CENTS philosophy means:

  • C = Calculate
  • E= Every
  • N= Necessary
  • T=Teaming
  • S=Situation

The bottom line is not only a financial measure, but we also need to consider the non-monetary benefits. ROQ takes into account the Cost of Quality (COQ) — prevention and appraisal costs. In this context, PREVENTION cost refers to the expense that is incurred to prevent defects, errors or a lack of desired performance; whereas APPRAISAL cost, or INSPECTION cost, is the expense incurred to identify defects, errors or lack of performance. To this end, expenditures that are reviewed to ensure that a team will function optimally might include factors such as:

  • Web-based platforms for collaboration, i.e., WebEx or GoToMeeting
  • Webcam equipment for real-time video conversation
  • Shared drive storage for document access

Set yourself up for success with IIL's course on Building High Performance Teams

Evolution of Learning Exercises for Collaboration

No one author or source can take credit for the evolution of learning exercises for virtual teams. Online gaming collaboration can be traced back to the introduction of the personal computer and software developers and came to life in the early 1990s when the Internet was introduced. Telecommunications also ran a parallel track, but slightly earlier when McGraw-Hill introduced Games Trainers Play (Newstrom and Scannel, 1980) and 201 Icebreakers (West, 1997). These McGraw-Hill publications refer to Experiential Learning Exercises, group mixers, warm-ups, energizers and playful activities.

Types of Interactive Exercises

There are a variety of interactive exercises that a virtual team can participate in such as:

  • Board Games
  • Video Simulations
  • Role Plays
  • Quizzes
  • Get-to-Know
  • Research
  • Trivia
  • Ice-breakers
  • Virtual escape rooms
  • And much more…

The investment a team will make in a SMILE will vary based on the following factors that can be thought of in terms of the competing demands:

  • Cost: How much it will be to finance, i.e., one time vs. license fee if applicable
  • Time: Length of time of the activity
  • Scope: Frequency – how often
  • Quality: Complexity – how challenging
  • Risk: Uncertainties that may be encountered in implementation
  • Resources: Number of participants, software, and systems required, facilities, etc.

Here are some examples of SMILEs that I began to create in 2004 in conjunction with my dissertation that focused specifically on project management. (These examples are referenced on my academic website at http://lessonslearned.info on the Support tab.)

Later, my dissertation topic would be condensed into a book titled The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned that won the 2012 Project Management Institute (PMI)® Cleland Award. Since that time, I have delivered speaking engagements on an international basis that discuss concepts from this book.

Example: Transferring Essential Lessons Learned

This Monopoly-style game enables the card deck to be customized with lessons learned. It supports up to 10 players to share lessons learned (i.e., agile retrospectives). This SMILE with the source code is made freely available with the purchase The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.

Taking Great Concepts and Creating a SMILE

In this example, I will look at Grateful Leadership by Judy Umlas. She is a recognized author that discusses how to use the Power of Acknowledgment to “Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results.”

Whenever SMILEs are associated with acknowledgment, it can create wonderful fireworks. In this example, the objective is to drive performance through recognition. A survey could be created that drives a visual dashboard of all team members participating in a specific initiative. As feedback is received, the dashboard displays the status of performance in real-time. Examples of how this could be used are solution centers (also referred to as help desks).

Solution Center Performance Example

In the above example, using this dashboard could allow stakeholders to change their ratings on demand; hence affecting the dashboard. A prize (i.e., $15 lunch gift certificate at a popular restaurant) could be associated with the highest score at the end of the month.

SMILE Development Tools

Getting started with SMILE should be easy; however, it should also allow for growth and challenges to keep it interesting. Most of the things that need to be created can be done with Microsoft Office, i.e., Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. For the dashboard example above, this will require macros in Microsoft Excel. For the TELL example above, this will require knowledge of HTML. For those over-performers, they may even consider developing an app that can run on an iPhone and Android platform. The key here is to make it engaging and enjoy the process as you enhance virtual team collaboration.

 

About the Author

Willis H. Thomas, PhD, PMP, CPT has worked for large corporations and academic institutions in the areas of human resources, learning and development, quality assurance, project management, sales and marketing, measurement and evaluation, and operations.

He has been in senior management for life sciences companies for the past 15 years. Dr. Thomas is a member of adjunct faculty at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, International Institute for Learning and Institute of Validation Technology.

His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.” This book was an 8-year effort that enhanced the framework for the evaluation of projects using the PMBOK® Guide.

He has been a featured speaker on an international basis and has received the Apex Publication Excellence Award for implementing useful tools for project management, evaluation and training.