Author Archives: Michael Boyes

The Google Boogle: Diversity without Difference

Google is back in the headlines for botching its diversity initiatives. I expect that they will be there for a long time. That’s because their thinking is all “boogled” up.

In August, James Damore’s screed on Google’s botched diversity efforts went viral. Soon thereafter, he was fired for violating an unspecified company policy. Seeking to clarify their action, Google said that Damore was “spreading false assumptions about genders.”

Now Mr. Damore is suing Google for discriminating against people who are “perceived to have conservative political beliefs.” At the same time, Google is facing two lawsuits for paying women less than men. It seems that the US Department of Labor found evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap. How ironic!

Diversity is a sensitive and complicated issue. So it’s not surprising to learn that Google “presumably” pays women less while aggressively enforcing norms against politically incorrect speech. It seems to me, however, that Google’s woes are due as much to “boogled” thinking as to the complexity of the issue.

James Damore points out a number of well-documented differences between men and women in areas such as openness to feelings, neuroticism, and math scores. Despite the body of research supporting Damore’s observations, Google labeled Damore’s observations: “false assumptions.” Meanwhile, Google has affirmative action goals for women, but pays them less when they get there. So, Google denies differences between men and women, promotes women as “diverse,” and pays them less. Perhaps this is as crazy as it sounds-or maybe Google is just interested in anatomical diversity.

Instead of dealing with the plain truth, Google exercises convoluted thinking that can only lead to failure. How can they reconcile policies that give favor to women on the basis of their differences while denying that they are different than men? We can neither honor people nor capitalize on our diversity by acting like we are all the same. James Damore is right. Google is oblivious to their biases. Their irrational attachment to liberal orthodoxy is bound to frustrate them from attaining an otherwise noble pursuit. They are all “boogled”-up.

It’s a shame. Mr. Damore handed Google a chance to practice what it preaches. He gave them an opportunity to demonstrate openness to different ways of thinking and to learn from people who disagree with them. By firing him rather than engaging him, Google made Damore an outcast and invited their people to label him ignorant, backwards, and sexist.

They didn’t just miss an opportunity, they contradicted an espoused value and failed to address the real flaws in Damore’s arguments.

Because of their greater warmth, openness to feelings, and concern for relationships, women make highly desirable Google team members. Programming and engineering are stereotypically introverted activities, but they are also creative endeavors. Since creativity thrives in collaborative teams, women can be strong candidates for leading greater creativity and innovation in Google. While it is true that there once was a large gap in math test scores between the sexes, women have all but closed that gap. At the end of things, Mr. Damore had his facts right, but his analysis was flawed as was his judgment. That is the picture Google should have seen, but they didn’t. Instead, they saw a sexist who threatened their diversity canon.

Google is a diversity mess; it’s a ball of contradictions protected by liberal dogma. They would do well to break from the pack and face reality. If not with the pack, where should they be?

Diversity matters when and because people are different. Men and women think and behave differently due to variances in their genetic code and their life experiences. So, awareness of the systematic differences among people in personality, abilities, perspectives, culture, assumptions, communication styles, etc. is fundamental to any diversity initiative. It is also necessary to equip people with effective communication and relational skills so they can build real relationships and address differences person to person. Forums and procedures for relational reconciliation without the threat of punishment are also important. People behave defensively when they fear punitive action, so why not create reconciliation offices rather than grievance offices?

Each of these things: acceptance of truth, knowledge of differences, interpersonal savvy, and a concern for reconciliation are vital to realizing the hopeful vision of a diverse workforce. Still, they are not enough. Without love for your teammates, it all fails. No knowledge or skill imbues compassion, let alone the desire to honor others. Only love does that, and that is the truth.

I’d like to see how Google handles that!

Not the Creative Type? How Then Will You keep Up?

Oh no, not me; I’m not really the creative type.

I meet people who say they aren’t that sort of person – you know the “creative type,” and I get concerned for them. As I look around, I see that our economy favors people and businesses who see problems in new ways and who find novel ways to solve them. Who knew that people needed Recharge clothing to reduce fatigue and soreness after a workout?

Personally, I just feel bad for the “not creative type” people. Where is the fun in that? I want to tell them “Take that wool off your eyes and go knit a sweater!” We are all the creative type! It’s in our design, and our lives prove it out. We make up games, stories, rules, policies, computer programs, laws, and on and on.

According to a 2015 Accenture Survey, 96% of executives believe that innovation drives their company’s success. In that same year, Forbes magazine published a list of the world’s most innovative companies simply because innovation is such as powerful driver of business success.

Imagine for now that you are one of those executives, that you are serious about innovation and that you expect it from everyone in your company. What would you do to encourage innovation in your company?  You could start by investing in your only creative resource – people.

Hire the Right People

Though we are all creative, some people are more naturally disposed to it than others.  Two qualities in particular are consistently linked with highly creativity: intelligence and the personality trait “openness to experience.” So smarter and more open people tend to be more creative than others.

The implication is clear: hire smart, “open” people. That begs the question, “How can I reliably identify these people.” For that you would be wise to find a trained psychologist to help you find an appropriate test and a robust personality instrument.  Even then, your lawyer is likely to counsel you against any form of intelligence tests since they are highly controversial and a bit tricky for most employers. That leaves you to focus on openness to experience (OE).

People high in OE are intellectually curious, prefer novelty, and seek adventure and variety. This trait, which as has also been called “intellect,” is readily assessed using personality measures, like the NEO-IR, and through well-structured behavioral interviews. So, it’s relatively easy to hire people based on OE. As a smart executive however, you know innovation doesn’t stem from just a few special people: everyone needs to bring their creativity to the table. Inciting change one new hire at a time just won’t work. It’s a good thing that everyone can learn skills that amplify their natural talent, and that’s where training comes in.

Training

While we can’t fully explain intelligence or personality, we can observe pieces of them. Intelligence is observed in cognitive strategies that people use, and personality is observed in their patterns of behavior.  Since psychologist have studied both intensively, we know that strategies known as “inhibiting,” “shifting” and “switching” enhance new idea generation, and that high OE people are prone to play, explore, experiment, and eschew conventional ideas. Those same strategies and behaviors can be transferred to others through training built into the innovation process. That’s why I am partnering with Ken Kinard, my WorkWise podcast cohost, to bring Creativity Labs programs to the world of business.

Our Creativity Labs Workshops teach teams strategies and tools that boost personal and team creativity. We rely heavily on experiential group learning techniques that promote personal experimentation, discovery, and feedback all of which stimulate novel ideas for improving your business.

For example we:

  • teach practical strategies for exploring ideas, including the disparaged arts of dialogue and debate over controversial ideas. Proficiency in this form of communication enables honest, fruitful discussions, promotes trust, and results in more novel ideas.
  • equip participants with feedback skills and guide them through creative team challenges, because teams have more creative power than individuals.
  • apply “The Thinking Box” which is a useful and fun tool that deconstruct and recombine ideas in new ways. What’s more, it is an analytic tool that fits nicely into corporate culture, and that gives people the comfort to introduce this idea-building tool to others.
  • Practice using several reflection tools that help people to employ updating to open their minds and refresh their beliefs and assumptions.

If you are that executive, then you know that the social environment is changing rapidly and that your company must adapt to it. The business climate so demands continual learning, creativity, innovation, and collaboration that they can no longer be relegated to the moldy pile of “best practices.” Instead, they must be exalted as values and become part of company culture.

Today, there is a lot less room for people and companies who limit innovation with faulty perceptions about creativity. Tomorrow, there will be still less room. That reality has led me to make some changes in my business over the last year.

How about you? Are you ready to get started on building a culture marked by creativity and innovation? If you are, we are ready to help you now. If not, we’ll be ready to help you later when you are ready.

New Presentation Skills Program for Leaders

There is no ceiling on the communication skills leaders need. No matter how good you are, better is always better. No matter what your position, more skills for communicating in various situations will make you a better leader. Still some communication skills become critical at different levels of leadership responsibility.

Regrettably, most people enter management with little formal education in the communication disciplines, and fewer still find time in their busy schedules fill those gaps in their training. This is one the reason why “communication problems” is identified as one of the root causes of virtually every assessment of organizational dysfunction.

Because Credo is committed to helping its clients build healthy and production teams, we offer several workshops that help leaders strengthen their communication and the organization. Each of these programs is designed to maximize three things:

  1. The Leader’s Time
    We use online and distance tools as well as classroom learning methods to maximize learning and your investment in training.
  2. Practical Experience
    Experience, combined with feedback, is the best teacher. Our programs include learning assignments that begin before the in-person workshops and continue afterwards as well. This allows participants to practice communication skills in real-life scenario during workshops, and to ensure that participants are focused on improving their skills before and afterwards.
  3. Feedback
    Participants give and get feedback from each other as well as our coach-facilitators during skill building exercises.

Present, Persuade, Perform: Presentation Skills for Leaders

Check out our new program for leaders: Present, Persuade, Perform: Presentation Skills for Leaders.

Running Into Angry Arms

Have you noticed that the presidential race is fueled by anger?Screaming people

Tuesday was primary election day in Maryland, and I voted for a losing candidate. He isn’t angry about the right things for enough people. People of all stripes feel that their rights are being violated and declare, “it’s ‘s not fair!”

It’s difficult to be angry about the same things as everyone else because people are mostly angry with others who are angry with them.

Frustration, anger, and bitterness know no bounds.  We all carry and nourish them everywhere we go—home, work, and to the ballpark, and it is easy to see the havoc they wreak.

Somehow we have deluded ourselves into believing that politicians are responsible for and capable of making life fair and for ensuring that our “rights” are never violated.  So, we “run” to politicians who share our brand of anger, huddle with like-minded malcontents for affirmation, and harden ourselves against “them,” whoever “them” are.  We run into angry arms for justice.  To me, that is inane.

The unyielding insistence on being treated “fairly” is foolish.  We ourselves don’t always treat others fairly and cry out for understanding when we don’t.  So, really, we don’t always want fairness. We don’t want our just desserts once we realize what they are.

The “fairness economy” is a losing system; it feeds self-centeredness, bitterness, and resentment. Humans have a penchant for distorting reality and esteeming themselves more highly than we ought to. Psychologists even have names for our distortions, e.g., self-serving bias, self-enhancement bias, self-confirming bias, and the ultimate attribution error.  When others don’t treat us in accordance with our rosy self-portraits, it feels demeaning, and our anger is aroused. Then a battle ensues.

What if we didn’t make “getting our due” the supreme rule in life? What if we pursued a more noble cause in our businesses?

The apostle Paul commended people to live in the “servant economy” when he wrote:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Can patriotic American capitalists make this a guiding principle instead of “getting my due”?  Would that be contradictory? I think not.

  • When salesmen count their customers more significant than themselves, the customer is helped, sales are made, and loyalty is won.
  • When leaders consider their staff’s needs above theirs, people are treated with dignity and appreciation; they grow; they take risks and support their leader and his/her goals.
  • When team members look out for their boss, the team tackles problems, overcomes challenges, and meets their goals.
  • When colleagues look out for each other, trust is built, people learn, and the work climate is positive and productive.

If we would esteem others more highly than ourselves at work, we would take a giant step away from anger and towards reconciliation.  “If” is a big word though. There is a reason why people turn to politicians for justice.  It’s easier to toss the burden on someone else rather than to carry it personally.

I want to live in the servant economy.  How about you?  Which economy do you want to live in – fairness, servant, or another?

 

On Appreciation and Engagement

I have an enviable job; I get to help leaders figure out how to create productive, prosperous workplaces. Yesterday, Amanda Gianotti of Allogram Inc., and I spoke with the Women in Business at the Hunt Valley Business Forum. Our topic was Cultivating the Heart of Appreciation.

It is such a rich topic that we didn’t have time to answer all of our audience’s questions, so I’d like to provide forum for questions and commentary on the topic.

Here are a few of the questions that came-up during and after our presentation. Please let us know what is on your mind.

Q.  If I work with someone who isn’t a great performer, should I still show them appreciation?

A. Yes. Appreciating and rewarding people are not necessarily the same thing, though they can be. Appreciation is about valuing people for who they are and how they were made. Rewards are for motivating.

Everyone is “deficient” in some way(s). It is easy for us to allow our frustration with others to blind us to their value. People who show sincere appreciation for others are able to exercise influence and leadership. Those who don’t have a much harder go of it.

Q. You said that everyone has a language of appreciation; how do I know someone’s language?

A. That’s the million dollar question!  We generally find that people have a primary language and often a secondary language that speaks to them most clearly. A person tends to give what they want. A person who frequently encourages others is likely to have “Words of Affirmation” as their language. If you notice that a person frequently asks how they can help or readily jumps in to serve, he or she likely to understand “Acts of Service,” and that is the language you should speak to them.

What are your questions?

Is Employee Appreciation Day Coming Up?

gift box on wooden table on natural sunny background

gift box on wooden table on natural sunny background

Christmas and the end of the fiscal year are fast approaching. That has a lot of people thinking about “employee appreciation.” Visions of parties, bonuses, promotions and sugar plum fairies are dancing through senior managers’ heads.

Parties can be a lot of fun, especially when people already feel good about each other and the company. Bonuses and promotions are fantastic, but they can be as elusive as sugar plum fairies as well. That’s okay because while parties, bonuses, and promotions are nice, they don’t always speak “I value you,” as much as you might think.

So, what can a manager give to show appreciation?

Give SUVS

Managers, or anyone for that matter, can always give the gift of SUVS. It doesn’t cost much, if anything, at all. In honor of Employee Appreciation Day 2015, the Kronos Workforce Institute commissioned a survey of U.S employees. They found that what most people want in their workplace stocking is recognition for what they do. More than anything else people want others to see and appreciate that they are: 1) doing a good job like 90+ percent of the time, and 2) that their valued talents are contributing to the company’s success.

The Key to SUVs is:
See the people around you notice how they are made and what they contribute to the work community. This is easier said than done. The busyness of work and preoccupation with our own wants are formidable barriers to noticing others.

Understand: Study people to learn their motives, values, talents, and their Languages of Appreciation. Be curious about what you notice and explore it rather than glossing over it.

Value: Many of us are inclined to critique others, especially when they are not like us. Since there are about 7.3 billion people in the world, this is an inherently flawed approach. We have generational differences, gender differences, personality differences and dozens of different differences! While there are most certainly things that are morally right and wrong, good and bad, better and worse, many of us confuse our likeness as the standard. It is far wiser to look for the beauty in those differences.

Savor people like a fine wine. Just like fine wine, I am told, people are complex. There is much to enjoy about them if you take the time to dwell on their fine qualities.

The great thing about SUVS is that you can’t give it just at the Christmas party or just on Employee Appreciation Day.  It takes time to See, Understand, Value and Savor people, and when you do gratitude will flow naturally from you. Hopefully, you will be able express it in a Language of Appreciation that people understand!