Entertain with Video

Problem:

There’s not enough fun and entertainment in your work environment.

Solution:

Create an entertaining video that people will talk about.

Now, I’m not talking about something with song and dance in it (although that might not be a bad idea), I’m just saying that you need to be a little creative in assembling a good video.  It’s amazing how hard it is for us to create an entertaining video when we’ve all grown up watching them on TV.  There must be some kind of deception factor that lulls us into the TV and we think that is just real life or something.  It’s actually probably the skill of the producers.

Sure, footage on TV is done by a whole crew, with top notch equipment, writers, directors, and the works, but that shouldn’t stop us from learning what we can from what we see.

The next time you watch a commercial, instead of getting drawn into the message or story, try to step back and observe all the pieces of the production – the different camera angles, the short clips, the music, the script, storyline, transitions, etc.  And see if you can add a few of those concepts to your videos.  Those pieces make it entertaining.

It’s nice to have nice equipment, but you’ll have more creating something unexpected and entertaining that helps people remember you or your message.

P.S. I do have more videos in the works, but I’m going on vacation next week, so you’ll have to wait. (I just had an idea: VACATION Videos!  No doubt I’ll have some interesting footage I can share.)

Show Up

Problem:

You don’t know enough people, you’re not connected, you feel like you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re not contributing significantly.

Solution:

Show up. 

By that I mean a couple of things.  First, it means to actually show up at meetings or events where you can connect with other people and learn what’s happening.  Meetings always get a bad rap, everyone hates them and thinks  they’re a complete waste of time.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love meetings.

The reason is because meetings are where you have the opportunity to connect with other people, to exchange ideas, to learn things, and to get involved.  The general disdain for meetings has come from poorly run meetings where you’re not engaged and the purpose is unclear.

So as you show up for meetings, participate and get involved, you’ll be able to have more people connections, and be recognized as someone who’s active and engaged in a lot of things.  Also, the more people you know (and what departments they work in) the more helpful you’ll be to other coworkers in the future who want to know about a particular area.  You can say you know so-and-so and point them in the right direction.

The second meaning of ‘show up’ is about being actively present in all that you do.  It’s about taking initiative and making something happen.  Don’t just be an observer.  Speak your mind, participate.  Your contributions are valuable, don’t hold back.

That’s how you begin to make a name for yourself and become recognized as someone who’s well connected.

Just show up.

What does ‘showing up’ mean to you?

Build Influence

Problem:

You don’t have much influence at work.  You’ve worked at the same company for a long time, have experience with all the in’s and out’s, know how to get around the usual hurdles, and you do good work, but no one is really coming to you for advice.  Your boss has no idea how valuable you are.

Solution:

Build your influence.  How?

Let’s take a look at what influence is in terms of an equation.

Influence = (number of people changed by your message) x (the number of messages)(raised to the power of your message)

Let’s look at each component:

(the number of people changed by your message) – You could have said, (the number of people who hear your message) but that’s not real influence, that’s just noise.  You could get a lot of people to hear your message by using a loudspeaker or putting up flyers, but it’s only when they are impacted by it in some way that it makes a difference.  Of course, having your message reach more people may give you a higher probability of increasing this value, but I don’t recommend focusing on that angle.

(the number of messages) – Your influence will increase when you have more messages.  A ‘message’ could also be interpreted as an interaction.  So whether it’s a one on one connection, or a one to many message, those are all messages you are providing to others.  If you don’t talk to anyone or write anything and live in a cave, you won’t have much influence. (Although that may have not been true with Nelson Mandela, but he’s a unique case.)

(the power of your message) – This is the real kicker.  They don’t call it a ‘power’ for nothing.  If you just had one message (okay, at least two, because the math doesn’t work with the number one)  but it was a really powerful message, you could have a lot more influence than if you had a lot of messages that were weak or meaningless.  Think about a lot of blogs or tweets that are just drivel, they aren’t building influence.  Seth Godin, on the other hand, writes a short powerful blog post every day.  Over time, he has built tremendous influence.

I may not have the equation exactly right, but it’s close to something like that.  Maybe you have some better ideas, and can help me get it right.  What do you think the equation is for ‘Influence‘?

Ricky’s Big Toe

Problem:

Everything’s the same.  You live in monotony, sameness, and routine.

Solution:

Do something completely out of the ordinary.  Write a poem. Wear unmatching socks. Sing at a group meeting.  Create some excitement and variety in your life while practicing the skill of fighting the status quo.

Our minds cling to reason and sensibility, which is good for many reasons, but sometimes it keeps us from pushing the boundaries, from exploring the edge of what is possible.  It keeps us from doing things that are remarkable because it’s safer to fit in, not stand out.

Creativity has the power to solve all your problems.  But you’ve got to exercise that muscle.

And watch out for Ricky’s big toe…

Schedule an Event

Problem:

There’s nothing happening in your organization.  No excitement.  No momentum.  No forward progress.  No innovation or remarkable things to talk about.

Solution:

Schedule an event.  Sure, everyone’s busy doing their work.  Stuff is getting done and you’re delivering product to customers.

But if you don’t have events, it just doesn’t feel like anything is happening.  In a large corporation, sometimes you feel like you’re in your own little corner and disconnected with the big picture.  And maybe you are.

So having an event, a unique, out of the ordinary, one time event that gathers people together and gives them something to talk about, will create momentum.  Even if the event doesn’t turn out that well, or not very many people show up, the fact that you had an event means that something is happening in your area.  You are connecting people.

All your advertising to all those people who saw your announcement (even if they decided not to attend for whatever reason) created a perception in a lot of minds that something is happening and that they are missing out.  This perception or awareness has value in and of itself.  It signifies action.  It means a gathering is taking place.  And it reaches a larger audience than those who just show up.

And when people gather, things can happen.  Connections are made.  Relationships strengthened. Plans are developed.

It hardly even matters what the event is about.  Schedule an event.  You’ll make progress in more ways than you can tell.

Create a New Organization

Problem:

You’d like to collaborate more with other employees, but your corporate organization silos keep you from breaking out of your usual circle of interactions.

Solution:

Ignore the silos and create a new organization.

Organizations consist of two elements: 1) a purpose 2) people committed to accomplishing that purpose.

So, in order to create a new organization, the first thing you need to do is figure out what purpose you want to collaborate with others about.  Then, all you need to do is post your purpose in a place where people will see it, or where those who you think might be interested in that purpose will see it.

That might mean an  internal blog, or a web site, or even an email distribution list.  It could even be putting up flyers for a meeting in a certain conference room.

Then when people show up, connect.  It doesn’t matter how many.  If you get 3 people, that’s enough to start something.

And you don’t need permission from your boss or current organization.  People get together all the time to talk about what interests them, vacations, little league baseball, hot rods, etc. Your purpose just might have a little more meaning.

When you gather people around a subject, you’ve created a new organization.  You can connect, collaborate, and possibly make a difference (depending on your purpose.)  What ever organization they currently work in becomes irrelevant.  The silos disappear.

It’s almost too easy.

Make a WIP (Work In Process) Board

Problem:

Your boss has no idea what you’re working on, and he or she is always giving you items that are number one priority, causing you to drop what you’re currently doing (which used to be top priority) and switch to this new item.

Solution:

Showing status is one of management’s favorite pasttimes.  There are an infinite amount of ways to show or measure progress on a project and it’s your management’s job to find all of them and require you to create a chart for each one this week.

I don’t mean to be harsh.  It’s true that if management’s job is to ‘manage’ what is happening, then they need to know what’s going on.

Well, here’s a simple little tool you can use to not only let your manager know what you’re up to, but to help you actually be more productive and increase your throughput (the number of things you complete.)

Create a WIP (Work in Process) board out of paper, a white board, or whatever material you choose.  All you need are 3 basic categories:

Backlog           |              WIP             |            Complete

Divide your board into three columns containing these categories, then use sticky notes to capture your specific tasks.  Line up the tasks you plan to work on in the near future under your Backlog column, and put them in priority order, with the next one you plan to work on at the top (or you can have a horizontal right to left orientation.)

Put the task – and this is key, only one or two at the most – that you are currently working on under the WIP column.  It is important to stay focused on one item at a time until it is complete.  We think we can work on multiple things at once but all we’re really doing is bad multi-tasking, switching from one thing to another, which causes everything we do to take longer. (See previous post, Carve out Some Focus Time.)

When you finish a task, put it in the Complete column.  At the end of each week, count how many things you completed and try to get better every week.

The idea is to see movement of your sticky notes across your WIP board, so you need to determine the level of detail that is appropriate to capture on each sticky.  Don’t make a task that is two weeks long, because you won’t see it move and it’ll be unclear if it is stuck or if you are actually making progress on it.

Also, don’t make a task so small (like a phone call) that you’re moving sticky notes every 10 minutes.  You need to ‘chunkify’ your projects into reasonable sizes so that you’re showing progress every day or so.

This is a simple tool that actually accomplishes a lot of purposes.  First, it allows you to measure your productivity – how many things you get done – which in turn causes you to want to increase it.

Second, it allows you to place incoming requests in your backlog or queue according to their relative priority.  So if your boss gives you a new ‘hot’ item, you can ask how it relates in priority to these other items that they have asked you to work on.

Third, it helps you stay focused and say ‘no’ to certain requests, or at least have a better prediction of when you can start working on a new task.  People (or customers) may not be comfortable at first having their task in a backlog, but once they see that you will get to it soon, that you will focus on it and not let anyone else interfere, and finish it well ahead of schedule, then they will appreciate your new system of effectiveness and productivity.

A WIP board: An easy thing to make to cause a huge impact (and no whipping involved.)

I’m sure you’re aware of similar methods and tools out there to provide status and improve productivity.  Share them, and let’s learn some more together.

Work in Pairs

Problem:

You want to bounce ideas off of someone else, but everyone is so busy.  Also, some people appear to be slacking in their projects because there’s no real accountability.

Solution:

Work in pairs.  Give a project or a pretty meaty task to two people and have them work together to get it done.

They can decide how they split up smaller tasks among themselves, they can bounce ideas and suggestions off of each other, and they can be accountable to one another for getting stuff done.

Two heads are always better than one, so by collectively picking a strategy or tactics to accomplish your task, you’ll usually come up with something better than you would have by yourself.

And when you’re working closely with a peer, there is a certain amount of accountability because you know what each other is supposed to be doing.  There’s no slacking off.

Of course, you must avoid the politics and positioning and selfish competitive stuff that happens among coworkers.  Both individuals should be given equal credit for the accomplishment of a successful project or task.

Some people or personalities may work better together than others, so be aware of this dynamic and don’t keep people together for extended periods of time, unless they specifically request it.  Even then, pairs should be rotated so that everyone has a chance to work with multiple people.

There are probably additional benefits to this tactic.  Can you think of any?

Inform the Inside

Problem:

Sometimes employees within a large company don’t really know what people are saying about them on the outside.

Solution:

Sure, most people know about the big news headlines on your company, but not everyone knows about all the little conversations and stories that spread. 

So every once in a while (or on a regular basis) do a google or a twitter search for your company and find something interesting that people are saying.  Then send a link to your group, or to people within the company who you think might care about that particular story or item.  If there are entire internal communities on that subject, send the link to the email distribution list.

It might cause a stir if your company is misrepresented or some information is inaccurate, but that’s not really your purpose (unless you want it to be.)  What this will do is make you known as someone who’s connected, who has the pulse on what’s happening on the outside.  It might establish you as some kind of expert, or a ‘go to’ person in certain situations.

Sure, anyone can search google or twitter and find the same info, but the fact is they didn’t.  You did.  And you shared it with those who care.

So do it first and establish some credibility.

Stay Connected, Over Time

Problem:

You develop really close relationships with the people you work side by side with, then an opportunity comes along, or a reorganization, or for some reason you or they move to a different group and you never see them anymore.

Solution:

If you’ve developed a good friendship, it doesn’t take much effort to stay connected.  It could be months or even years later that you might run into them again and you would pick up right where you left off, it could be just like old times.  It’s always fun to see old friends.

What I’m suggesting is that you make an effort to make that happen, instead of it happening accidentally.

Every few months, or year, or whatever time period makes sense for your level of friendship, send your friends an email, or give them a phone call, or just show up at their desk and say “What’s up? How’s it going?  How’s the family?”  Maybe even take them out to lunch.

Reconnect and reminisce.  It’s so much fun, but it’s also very valuable and develops good grootship.  Not only will you find out about how they’re doing, but you’ll learn what’s happening in the old group, who’s doing what (did that one guy ever retire?), or how the company is working in that area.

This strengthens your connection, so in the future, if you ever need some information or help from that part of the company, you can just call up your friend and say “Do you know about…?”

This is easy, immediate, and free information or access that happens so much faster than filling out some form, or following a process, or calling a bunch of different people to find the right person you need.

Trusted networks are powerful.  It’s how things can get done fast in a large company.  So strengthen your network by staying connected, over long time periods.  You never know when you might need someone’s help, or when you might be able to help someone else.

Besides, it’s fun.