Slideshare: Being an excellent but quirky boss means you need to get opinions from the “straight men” on your team

It’s hard for one not to like a show that demonstrates spot on storytelling and character development despite its 30 minute format. It’s hard not to like a show that not only makes you excited about music but inspires you to see connections between art and the realities we live in. This show was just plain fun to watch and it re-affirmed to me the importance of passion and commitment as leadership qualities I admire. Maestro Rodrigo embodied these characteristics, and I spent time examining how and why.

Continue reading ‘Slideshare: Being an excellent but quirky boss means you need to get opinions from the “straight men” on your team’

Why I’d love to have Rodrigo De Souza as my boss

Sometimes it takes a character on TV to show us what a good boss looks like…

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Continue reading ‘Why I’d love to have Rodrigo De Souza as my boss’

Using QR codes & your CMS to create media enabled learning workstations

I’ve been playing with this idea of using QR codes at workstations to help link employees to training content and media. The idea is that the learners easily access any learning media associated with the workstation equipment from a phone or tablet that they access using a QR Code tied to this content. If multiple process instructions are needed at the workstation, multiple QR codes, labeled appropriately can be listed on a laminated card present at the workstation.

This would provide a great opportunity to leverage tagged learning content housed in a Content Management System (CMS) built in Drupal or possibly SharePoint (with some jerry-rigging). The proper administrators could monitor and update content as needed and editors or approvers could be notified when new content needed to be reviewed before publication. You can leverage some of the content administrative tools to log dates from last updates and who was involved.

I am still working out the details around this plan. I will update as I flesh out more.

A few additional considerations:

  • Always make sure closed captioning is available or employees have access to headphones to avoid distracting co-workers with audio or video content
  • Decide if the content is not appropriate for viewing outside the firewall. If so, the phones or tablets used would have to be given access within the wall
  • If you’re providing video, audio content or demos, make sure to always include text content of scripts or step action tables. Enable users to forward or email links to this content to their email accounts or workstations. There are always a handful of people who want to read things on their own. As always, it’s best to accommodate as many learning styles as possible
  • Set up a scheduled update procedure for content. Even if content does not need to be updated it’s always good practice to coordinate a regular review with SME’s to check on if processes or software updates may impact the procedures documented
Click to view recipe card in full size

Click to view recipe card in full size

A deeper look at collaborative leadership

Previously I mentioned that I’d like to delve into what leaders can do to develop a more collaborative and innovative culture, but before I do that I thought I should better define “Collaborative Leadership.” I did previously write a brief post on this earlier inspired by a blog post on the topic.

In an effort to rapid prototype my work I’m putting a rough-cut of a presentation here as a start. This is based off of the infographic from Innocentive. This was my effort to paint a picture of what collaborative leadership looks like vs. the traditional leadership many of us are used to. You can view the draft slides by clicking the image or link below.

As I mentioned previously here, collaborative leaders are more likely to focus on leveraging the collective strengths of their teams (engaging all members). I suspect leaders in cultures that are hierarchical in the traditional sense will have to learn or un-learn a few things when it comes to leading this way.

But there is a demand for building those collaborative leadership muscles that come from the need to flex and adapt to a market that requires change at a break-neck pace.

Slide set front page view

Click to view the a quick examination of what it means to be a collaborative leader

CollaborativeLeadershipGoogleSlides

Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear

In a previous post I posed three questions that one should ask before trying to make change happen in an organization:

“1) Who is successful or who thrives? Who fails?”

But beyond making change happens, what happens if a group’s make up becomes dominated by the same kinds of people? When a culture starts to dominate a group’s thinking, people in the group start to echo each other. Groups start hiring more people that think or behave just like they do. Whether they form a culture of doers and followers or a culture of collaboration, the impulse to regularly hire for fit can result in homogeneity or sameness. It’s been argued that highly uniform cultures can lead to stagnation. Diverse cultures on the other hand  potentially promote sharing of ideas, innovation, and change.

Has your workplaced hired itself into a "Stepford" culture?

Has your workplace hired itself into a “Stepford” culture?

According to Martin Davidson, companies need to break this habit of building cultures of sameness and hire more “weirdos.” His chief argument is that it’s the odd-duck who potentially contributes to finding the best innovative ideas or solutions. But it’s the manager’s role to ‘harness’ that weirdness and creativity to provide or bring value to the company’s goals.  As he notes:

The key for leaders is to figure out how to support weird people so that they create—not destroy—value for the company. Some of these people have stifled their offbeat creativity out of social fear, camouflaging their true selves because they think it’s not appropriate at work to be as they really are.

Hiring the right kind of weirdos is harder that it seems. Obviously, if managers/leaders have been so dialed into identifying and selecting ‘normals’, then how could they identify a helpful weirdo? As Davidson notes, it’s important for the leadership and hiring groups to understand where their own weaknesses lie. Taking an organizational self-assessment can provide a baseline. If you have more planners and doers in your group, perhaps you need to hire or grow more strategists. If you have more big idea people maybe you need more logistically minded individuals.

Also, ability to communicate effectively despite one’s weirdness is still a necessity in any eligible job candidate. Though if someone is challenged with communicating effectively, it is possible to learn as long as one demonstrates the willingness and capacity to do so. Also, as Davidson hints, communication style differences can also be mitigated by managers and project leads who are savvy at building collaborative bridges and trust within diverse teams. So hiring and promoting managers for their ability and potential to get various work styles to jive in harmony should be considered when reviewing candidates. For groups with highly proactive employees regardless of their talents, an introverted leader is an ideal manager because introverts often allow these highly proactive and talented individuals to contribute and share before diving in and solving problems for them like an extroverted manager might. Extroverted managers impulse to lead by throwing out solutions can stifle and frustrate employees or event prevent developing their capacity for independent proactive problem solving.

Extroverted managers are needed, but with employees or workforces that look solely to leadership for direction or cues for action. My father-in-law likes to refer to them as employees “with a strong back and weak mind.” This type of work culture might not be useful in situations where people need to think quickly and not require their boss for guidance on decisions. For example, teams that rapidly develop solutions or innovation for example, can do better with a leader who lets them solve problems on their own.

So now I have my diverse dream team? How do I get them to work with each other effectively?

Continue reading ‘Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear’

Using social media to connect with employees to promote engagement, learning & innovation

We're extinct? I must have missed the newsletter.

“We’re extinct? I must have missed that newsletter.”

There are tons of articles and proposals out there that tout the benefits of using social media at work to enable communication and collaboration. Companies that are early adopters and embracers of social media for these purposes have learned lessons that can help the rest of us implement social media practices more effectively. These pioneers have help answer some of the questions and arguments against. All the answers are not there, but the dialogue for usage has begun.

If I were to propose social media usage to my own group or department, I would want to have a good picture of how it can be used to help the company meet its business goals. I started exploring this topic a year ago and recently spent the time to develop a brief informational presentation to outline my learning. You can view a .pdf by clicking the image below.

An obvious use for social media in the work place – communicating news

Hopefully the use of social media platforms at work will drive that monthly or quarterly newsletter into extinction. Use of social media platforms as a news delivery tool may provide an more timely effective news channel for employees. Those traditional newsletters that come via email often get shuffled into mail folders or are simply ignored or deleted. I’d like to be able to search for news, past & current, on certain company-wide initiatives via a search engine rather than having to spend 5-10 minutes scratching my head as I wonder where I saw that particular newsletter with the info I’m looking for.

Other uses for social media in an enterprise environment

Continue reading ‘Using social media to connect with employees to promote engagement, learning & innovation’

Building the best learning & development site ever

WebDesignforLearning If websites are like kitchens, then the best sites are the ones where you can get what you need quickly to get the job done. Perhaps none of the idealized websites as kitchens presented in the image above do that. While the third option is the most clean and organized it requires the user to know exactly where things are kept. If you are like many instructional designers that work in corporate environments, at one point in your career you have maintained or kept a learning and development website that is not unlike that messy and unorganized kitchen where you just can’t find what you’re looking for. Many of us have also had the pleasure of curating large bulky ‘link farms’ that require targeted searching (strategic use of “Ctrl + F”). But targeted searching implies that the user knows what to start looking for from the beginning. What about those users/learners who have no clue where to begin? The technology used for content management for the web can allow us to break out of those old-fashioned static content sites and linky boondoggles. There are several platforms available that allow us to effectively design for our learner’s need to find their content, instead of forcing them to use a contrived or even ad hoc designed and confusing structure that resembles a Dr. Suess building.

Result of building architecture around immediate need vs. actual planning around user needs/goals

This is the result of building architecture around immediate need or whim vs. actual planning around user needs/goals

There are a number of viable options for creating a user-friendly yet flexible web architecture for your learning website that leverages resuable and taggable content (Drupa, Joomla, SharePoint). SharePoint when used as a content management system (CMS) can help provide a vehicle for learner-designed web experiences. However, there must be some administrative and programming customization to your SP platform and some careful planning of use based on well-thought out site usage goals. In the end, good web and user interface design relies on meeting criteria/needs of the end user while fulfilling your business goals. I’ve built a set of questions for sussing out this criteria for my learner/end users.

BIG QUESTION 1: Does your site help the learner achieve his or her learning & development goals? What are the learner’s primary goals? Develop their individual development plan? Seek out learning resources, courses or certificates in their fields? What fields?

BIG QUESTION 2: Does your site help meet your group’s business goals? Or is the content on your learning and development site relevant to helping learners achieve these goals? This is an age old set of questions that L & D groups who wish to stay relevant to the business should routinely and religiously be able to answer. What are your group’s business goals? How is your learning and development strategy supporting these goals? Can users access content for achieving these goals from the home page?

BIG QUESTION 3: Can your site’s content and views be personalized according to the various audiences and learners that visit it? Is your content presented in units that can be tagged by user groups or topics, or types. Are you employing a flexible structure or set of different audience based taxonomies? Or are you using one set navigation structure? Have you identified the specific user groups or user personas who visit your site? If so, have you designed taxonomies based on their specific learning needs?

BIG QUESTION 4: Can your users personalize their use of your site content? Can your learners apply their own personal tagging when it comes to organizing the site content per their needs? Can they organize or bookmark content that they like or find useful for easy reference afterwards? Can they contribute to the site’s helpfulness by rating individual pieces of content?

BIG QUESTION 5: Do you have a handle of your site content and structure? Is there a tracking or monitoring system set in place that allows you to measure usage of the site content? Do you have an archiving system or regularly scheduled process in which you cull what is no longer relevant? Do you have an approval workflow for enabling, multiple Subject Matter Experts to post new content for approval by a groups of site admin who can monitor and approve content based on set quality criteria? Is this workflow user friendly enough to allow less tech-savvy people to post content for review? Can you iteratively design your content and structure to change to meet both your business and user needs? Per Jeffrey Zeldman’s 10 principles. Good designs and web platforms allow site admin and developers to ‘seamlessly’ and gracefully adapt web-content to their users changing needs (or just to make things look and work better ;)) THE IDEA IS TO PROVIDE BOTH STRUCTURED NAVIGATION AND PERSONALIZED USE OF CONTENT If you can provide different ways to get to the content a learner needs without confusing them, then you’ve put together an effective site. I’ve created learning websites with multiple layers of navigation (easily accessible by users) that allow for the following layers. Each layer is presented as a navigation option at the top of the page linked from obvious labeling (“Group X Top Learning Focal Points,” “Most Popular Content,”  “Site Map”).

  • A layer based on business context – what are the group’s business learner goals. For instance if are business driven initiatives for learning (Improve strategic planning, drive use of cost-saving practices, build a more virtual savvy business team). Then the site can be built upon these goals
  • A layer based on usage and user driven popularity of content. This layer would feature relevance driven navigation based on what is most popular (visited or rated)
  • A layer that provides an index of all site content. Kept simple and put in alphabetical order. With proper use of tech, this layer can be built automatically from a good tagging system with set organizational criteria. This is the ‘kitchen sink’ layer

Example: This presentation illustrates the process in which we designed a smaller topic focused website that used user personas to create multiple layers of navigation.


Why?

My place outside of work to explore and make connections with the ideas and things (sometimes work-related) that I'm passionate about.

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 251,634 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105 other followers