Collaboration in Action: Improv @ The City of Dallas

Collaboration is on a fast track at the City of Dallas. City Manager, Ron Foggin, called me to explore how we could deliver a fresh take on customer service - one of the City's core values. He wanted to approach it from both an internal perspective (among the City's various departments - community development, emergency medical services, fire, police, parks & recreation, finance, public works, and legal); as well as how to best serve the multitude of external customers (citizens). We created, "Empowered Service: How to Deliver Excellence in Customer Service with Emotional Intelligence + Collaboration".

City employees readily embraced the series of interactive exercises aimed at raising their emotional awareness and their ability to more fluidly work together. 

We engaged in some awkward and valuable listening exercises; we played at improvisation - not as comics but as team members understanding the value of "Yes, And" as a way to spark creativity and not shut down ideas; we explored how challenging it is to not use "I" in a conversation; the power of keeping agreements; and the energy of emotions in a game called, "Emotional Outbursts".  

I was impressed with how this team accepted the challenge and started identifying areas in their work (and in their personal lives) they can integrate emotional intelligence and collaboration. The knowledge and tools the team practiced are all critical building blocks for solid relationships.   


Create a Healthy Sense of Urgency

Organizational change guru John Kotter wrote an entire book on the importance of creating "A Sense of Urgency", noting the rate of change is rapidly going up (and this was written seven years ago!). Any significant change requires a sense of urgency to build traction-gaining momentum. 

Kotter describes having a sense of urgency as a way of thinking, feeling and behaving based on the premise that the world holds enormous opportunities and hazards that we must deal with today. He speaks to a "gut level determination" to get up in the morning and do what's right to move things forward.  It requires being alert; paying attention; courageously embracing the unknown; a personal sense of accountability; and the belief in one's ability to affect change. It also requires clarity and commitment. A sense of urgency can show up in something as straightforward as conducting meetings that actually accomplish something!

 Beware the "False sense of urgency" 

Organizations that exist at a frenetic pace may feel like they have a sense of urgency; but in reality they suffer from a lot of unfocused activity that requires an enormous amount of energy and is hampered by anxiety and stress. A true, healthy sense of urgency generates an on-purpose environment; one that can handle the plethora of opportunities and hazards. It fosters efficiencies; focusing on the right things; getting rid of the unnecessary and channeling resources.

Do you have an urgency problem? How can you ignite your team to embrace a sense of urgency that moves the right things forward?

Begin with clear priorities and aligned goalsbuild in accountability for results and give people permission - and the expectation - to "move now" to make things happen. This kind of on-fire intentionality will be immensely more rewarding and even fun. Your organization will be more resilient; and your team, more empowered. 

Conflict on the Rise (That is, the desire to learn how to navigate it!)

Since rolling out, "Where Conflict & Safety Intersect", at SafeBuild's 2014's final quarterly meeting, the topic has been in demand! 

Participants Gain Insights on How Healthy Conflict Can Positively Impact Safety Culture. 

Business owners, safety professionals, superintendents and project managers came together to explore how healthy attitudes and effective communication skills can make their safety culture more robust.

Communication has transitioned from being considered a "soft skill" to a skill that is seen as imperative to creating a proactive safety mindset - as well as creating efficiencies, high performance and the building of strong relationships. Participants explored the healthy and unhealthy attitudes and beliefs we hold about conflict and examined more effective, skill-based communication approaches to resolving issues and enriching relationships.

I believe people are hungry for the skills to navigate difficult conversations and enrich relationships, and the growing interest in this topic also tells me that people are ready to have the conversation! It's an honor to work with professionals ready to raise their game! 

Thanks Karen Blythe of SafeBuild, Roger Lenneberg of Jordan Ramis, Scott Jacoby of Schnitzer Steel and all the participants who have actively been engaged in growing their awareness and skills about healthy, constructive conflict. 

Cultivate Your Culture - One Conversation At A Time

“Company culture is a work of art where each person leaves their mark on the community canvas to make something beautiful that belongs to everyoneWhat I think people want is a place where their work matters. A place where they get to make decisions, build, invent, innovate, all with an amazing team at their side. People want to leave at the end of the day feeling good about what they do. Even when they make mistakes.”  -- Jaime Bancroft-Gennaro, Managing Director, Neologic PDX


When I work with companies in shaping their culture, one of the first places we look is how effective and authentic are the conversations between colleagues in various departments, between the office and field and between leadership and their teams. Regular, honest, respectful and direct dialogue fuels trust - which in turns feeds performance; initiative, accountability - even creativity.

If your organization is not where it wants to be, examine the culture of your communications:

  • How do you interact?
  • How do you speak to each other?
  • How do you speak about each other?
  • How are decisions made and communicated?
  • How do you run your meetings?
  • How aligned and informed are your team members?
  • How clear are expectations?
  • How do you recognize contributions?
  • How do you give constructive feedback?

Improving in this one core competency - communications - can help craft the kind of culture the drives performance. It can also have people leaving at the end of their day feeling a sense of satisfaction about their role in the company's success.

Keep the conversation alive. And keep it real.  Cultivate your culture - one conversation at a time.

Where Conflict & Safety Intersect

SafeBuild Alliance Quarterly Meeting

As a recent member of SafeBuild Alliance, I had the opportunity to co-present with attorney Roger Lenneberg (Jordan Ramis) on how conflict can impact safety. There are usually two camps on conflict: (1) Avoid it and (2) Aggressively attack it. Roger and I believe there is another way. Conflict is not something to be avoided nor aggressively addressed, but embraced early with healthy attitudes and effective communication skills.  Good conflict addresses and resolves the issue while enriching the relationship.

Conflict gets exasperated when we take things personally, make assumptions, let it go unattended or react defensively. One of the more healthful (and effective) ways to address it is to seek to truly understand the other person's point of view (to the point that you could actually convincingly articulate their position). Additionally:

  • Recognize that reasonable minds can differ.
  • Check your assumptions.
  • Address an issue early before has a chance to fester.
  • Be clear about what you want, need and expect.
  • Be accountable for your role.
  • Assume good intent.
  • Find common ground.
  • Cultivate an environment that respects and encourages healthful dialogue

When we fail to have regular, robust and candid conversations, we put our relationships at risk (eroding trust, respect and patience for each other). When the relationships deteriorate we tend to be more distracted and less attentive to our colleagues' well-being. These subtle and not-so-subtle ailments can negatively impact your safety culture.

For the sake of your relationships, and your health, seek to embrace the kind of conversations that get to the heart of the matter and build your team!    Click here for full article.

Former CEO of Xerox shares what it takes to navigate challenging times

Found this article of interest – interview with Patricia Nazemetz is former CEO of Xerox, from The SheSuite.  

I share it with you for insights into your own leadership styles and effectiveness. I would be curious to hear your impressions.

 My takeaways:

  • Biggest challenge today: resolving the pressure of profit optimization. Short / long term approach; defining “Growth” in an overall business value proposition, not just profit
  • To capture employees hearts – engage them in open, honest and constant communications. Transparency, honesty and sincerity are key.
  • People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Invite them in.
  • Strongest qualities in a leader: courage | integrity | intelligence | ability to really listen | conviction | commitment
  • Ask, Listen, Think, Thank and Act!
  • Leadership Development – Find those teaching moments; build your and your team’s self awareness

 Lead on!