Very Close to my Heart: Creating a Bully-free Workplace

For those who know me well, they know the issue of bullies in the workplace is an issue very close to my heart. It is amazing how much bullies can suck the motivation out of a team and how this can have a direct impact on performance. You can hire the most competent people on the planet, but if you subject them to bullies, you will ruin them.

A startling 37% of American workers — roughly 54 million people — have been bullied at work according to a 2007 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute. The consequences of such bullying spreading to the targets’ families, coworkers, and organizations. Costs include reduced creativity, low morale, and increased turnover — all factors that weigh heavily on the bottom line.

Among targets of bullying, 40% never told their employers and, of those who did, 62% reported that they were ignored. This suggests there’s a significant opportunity to increase profits and beat the competition by eliminating the prevalence of workplace bullying in your organization. But how?

The first step is to identify the root of the problem.

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Improve Your Speeches

I could have used these three steps to better speeches a few days ago. I’m always looking for techniques to be a better public speaker.

First, step out from behind the podium and choreograph your relationship to the audience.

Second, listen to your audience.

Finally, focus on your emotional intentions for approximately three minutes before important meetings and speeches.

Practice these three shortcuts to effective leadership communications and watch the bar go up — way up — on your performances.

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How Are You Stimulating the Flow of High-Quality Contributions?

Dr. Jacques Bughin of McKinsey & Company throws a question to how are organizations stimulating an influx of content. My own response to this question is the following.

One of the keys to pulling content from readers and turning them into participants is by asking relevant questions. For example, this particular blog post ends with a call for opinions. This is just one strategy used for stimulating contributions.

In a qualitative analysis that I did of 5 bloggers in the field of training and development, one of the things that I ascertained was that when bloggers asked questions to their readers, this stimulated discussion.

Another stimulator that I have come to find in my research on communities of practice (focus of doctoral research) is that one of the ways to increase participation in to offer up a problem that requires resolution to a community of experts and let them “hash it out” so to speak. It is amazing to see lively discussion being captured in a thread and see new perspectives emerge through discussion.

In learning environments, creating activities in discussion forums such as case study analysis, is a great way to pull in information.

Since Conversation Theory (see Gordon Pask) is core interest of mine, I have been researching exactly this question for a few years. At the moment, I am administering a booming prototype for a community of practice in the Aviation Industry.

The key is letting the participant know that their contribution is of value and has the potential to advance thought and/or practice.

Early analyses of user participation pointed to the importance of building large communities, creating effective incentives for participation and implementing more flexible forms of organization. Looking back a few years later, the good news is that active participation continues to spread. The bad news is that harnessing participation is more difficult than we thought. Stimulating a continuous flow of high-quality contributions should be the focus of companies that want to take advantage of user participation.

A few years have passed since those observations. Looking back, what can we infer from them?

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Better Leaders Ask Better Questions

Nothing gets to the heart of things like discussions and nothing stimulates discussions like a great question!

Leaders who excel at asking good questions have honed an ability to cut to the heart of the manner in a way that disarms the person being interviewed and opens the door for genuine conversation.

  • Be curious.
  • Be open-ended.
  • Be engaged.
  • Dig deeper.

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