Posts Tagged business
I recently attended an annual dinner/forum for a local non-profit group which focused on Drug Abuse Prevention. We’ve all heard, or experienced first-hand, the devastating effects of drug abuse on family, employment, education, and just about every other facet of human life. What we don’t always hear about are the amazing efforts by some making an incredible impact on prevention. By taking small steps to identify risk factors, especially for our youth, we can have a tremendous impact. At the forum, one of the panelists made a great point about how parents and doctors don’t ask the difficult questions, and often times because they are afraid of the answer, or maybe they are suffering themselves. Why do our doctors have no problem asking us about our diets and suggesting cholesterol screenings, but very seldom ask us a simple question like, “How are you feeling emotionally?” or, “Does your child seem to be fitting in, and participating in a healthy way?” When we look at diabetes and heart disease compared to major depression or substance abuse disorders only a small fraction of those suffering from behavioral disorders are actually being diagnosed and treated compared with their medical counterparts.
As the prescription drug epidemic continues to rise we need to do more in the area of prevention. Here are some wonderful resources for prescription drug abuse prevention from our friends at Peer Assistance Services:
Manager, Business Development
In over 35 years of working with people on making change, improving their performance, and living more fully it is still interesting to me how many people persist in doing the same self-defeating actions over and over despite saying they want to improve, grow, or change for the better (whatever that means). So the following are four questions worth asking yourself if you want to improve your performance in some area of your life.
- Situation Questions – Tell me about your life? How is it working now?
- Problem Questions – Can we be specific about what is not working? Are you concerned about your current quality of performance?
- Implication Questions – What happens if you don’t do something different?
- Need-Payoff Questions – If you act and it improves – how does that impact your life?
Take time to reflect on these questions, write down your answers, and be curious about where this may take you. If you find yourself resisting the questions or process, look more deeply into that instead.
It’s up to you….as they say “no one can do your push-ups for you.”
Exchange love and happiness with everyone you meet today.
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
I ran across some interesting information on the role of niacin, depression, and alcoholism in performance at www.doctoryourself.com. It is well documented that depression and/or alcoholism may negatively affect performance across just about any domain one can perform in. In the treatment of depression and alcoholism there are very effective cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy interventions. In addition, exercise and medication may add additional therapeutic effects. The role of nutrition may have further potentiating influence.
According to this site, Bill W., the founder of AA, was successfully treated for depression with 3,000 mg of niacin a day. Unfortunately, this information has not been widely discussed or published in the media. I would be interested to hear from any of you who have used niacin as a means of treating depression or alcoholism and what your results were. Please let us at MINES know.
Have a day filled with mindfulness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
Dan Siegel, M.D., has described a system as an integration of energy and information. In his lectures and recordings, he goes on to say that this is the one time in his life he was able to get 30 academicians to agree on something.
This definition has significant implications for the psychology of performance at the individual as well as the organizational level. If difficult people in our organizations are those whose behavior, cognition, or affect interfere with the integration of information and/or energy, then we now have another schema to interpret the situation and the impact on the system. For example, if someone is depressed, their energy is lower. How does this present itself in the work group and what effect does the lower energy have on the group’s energy as a whole? We know from the social psychology of comparison, emotional contagion, and the neurology of mirror neurons that the other team members’ energy will be lowered and therefore the productivity of the team may be lower. The converse is also true. In this situation, what if there is too much energy going into the system? If there is a workaholic team member, the team will experience stress, potential energy overload, and subsequent burnout or turnover.
How does information affect a system? Information is central to a system self-regulating – whether it’s the pace and flow of patients through a medical facility, financial information, or any set of data incorporated into a dashboard. If the information is late, corrupt, or in any way not accessible performance can suffer significantly. What if there is too much information? In this case, there is an extensive body of research on choices essentially stating that the more choices a person has beyond 3-5; the more inefficient they will be in making a decision – up to and including not deciding at all. In most of the organizations we consult with, the leadership has to make complex decisions regarding ill-structured problems on a regular basis. The quality and quantity of the information just keeps flowing and the decision makers may not have the opportunity to step back and evaluate what they really need to lead the organization while finding themselves in analysis paralysis.
Take the time to step back and evaluate your organization or individual performance from this perspective and see if it provides you with some new insights. Let us know what you discover.
Have a day filled with love and happiness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
I had the opportunity to observe an organization as its leader became seriously ill, recovered, then got ill again (different problem, serious again). While this was going on the organization was at a standstill on the strategic and executive level. Operationally, it still delivered what it was supposed to. But in the meantime, the board kept waiting for the CEO to get well. Strategic marketing initiatives were put on hold, revenue was diminishing, cash reserves were being used at an unprecedented rate, and the organization was eventually on the brink of extinction. This organization had been in existence for over 40 years. The board was long-standing. Staff had been with the organization for extended periods exceeding 8 plus years. So how did it get to this point? What were the psychological factors that could account for this? Could something have been done sooner?
Wait until so and so gets better. We will get back on track then…. (This did not happen).
Diffusion of responsibility. Staff did not have the authority or accountability, and as the Board of Directors was volunteers, they had no day-to-day authority. Everyone kept waiting for someone else to do something. Finally the President of the Board did step in.
Misinformation to the Board. The Board received information that key reports were completed and that action was being taken. This information was incorrect. Nothing had been done and the board had not done “truth through verification.”
Negative momentum in the community. The community resources were being compromised by rumors that the organization was going out of business which then created more momentum for it to go out of business. Damage control was started months after it could have been.
Not my problem. Ultimately, many individuals said, “It’s not my problem.” They quit the Board to allegedly avoid liability, did not roll their shirt sleeves up to help raise revenue, and became indifferent or apathetic.
Could this have been avoided? Absolutely. Hindsight is always 20/20. What is useful about this case study is for all of us to start pressing earlier for the plan B, C, or D when a leader becomes ill. It is important to have sufficient bench strength for staff to step up when a leader is ill, even if they are coming back. How does your staff and organization measure up?
Have a day filled with kindness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
MINES’ communication theme for July is “Fortifying the Family.” For BizPsych, this theme in particular brings up some fascinating thoughts regarding organizations and organizational development/business psychology. Many of our clients like to think of their businesses or their teams as a “family.” Typically this is when things are going well or were in the past – “we used to be like a family.” I suppose that means that when things are not going well it is like a dysfunctional family, although since none of us really want to associate with that we tend to say “we are no longer like a family,” or “we have lost the family atmosphere.” Even in these references it is clear that a business may feel like a family, but is not a family. In this post, I would like to explore some of the important differences and similarities between family and business.
First, what are the essential differences between family and business? Here is a quote from The Family Business Magazine (Summer 2011 issue):
“… families by definition are the bearers of legacy. Their mandate is to perpetuate and teach familial characteristics – beliefs, morals, assumptions, standards, history, trauma, intimacies, triumphs and failures of past generations. The difficulty lies in the dissonance between these characteristics and what is required for success in the business world.”
The current Wikipedia definition of “business” is as follows:
“A business (also known as enterprise or firm) is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, in which most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit or state-owned. A business owned by multiple individuals may be referred to as a company, although that term also has a more precise meaning.”
These are vastly different basic foundations. What is the mission or purpose in a family as opposed to the mission of a business or organization? In my view, a healthy family provides support to each individual within the context and relationship to the roots and primary environment of that individual. One of the essential purposes of the family is to create a bond and environment that supports the success of the individual and helps perpetuate a legacy to the future. In the case of a business or organization the primary purpose is to foster the success of the business in meeting the need of its clients or customers. The ultimate goal of the business may be to make profit, or in the case of nonprofits, to maintain and grow the capacity to serve the needs of its clients and the community.
This essential difference leads to what is targeted as a primary difference between family and business and that is the principle of loyalty. Interestingly enough, this is a principle that has shifted significantly in business in the last thirty years. It has become evident that businesses cannot and do not maintain loyalty to its members (i.e. staff) at the expense of the “bottom line.”
“But saying your business is like a family raises expectations that most companies are unwilling to meet. As former New York Knicks coach and basketball commentator Jeff Van Gundy told the New York Times concerning the rash of NBA coaches already fired this season: “It’s always intriguing to me that everyone preaches we’re all in this together, we’re a family. The difference is we are in this together only when it’s going good.” (Fredric Paul InformationWeek December 17, 2008 05:05 AM).
One of the first things families do when they bring a child into the world is to sacrifice one of their most precious assets i.e. sleep for the benefit of their newborn. That is loyalty. The marriage contract typically asserts, “in sickness and in health… till death do us part.” Families stick together “through thick and thin.” Of course this is not always nor should always be the case. Couples divorce, family members become estranged, and teenagers sometimes get “kicked out of the house.” However, this is typically not because of lowered productivity, substandard performance, or to maintain profit margins. We have recognized that in many cases maintaining loyalty over excellent performance can be extremely damaging to business and the organization. Often times in families, loyalty over performance yields positive results for both the individual and family system.
Then there is the middle ground i.e. family business. Much has been written on this topic as well. Several of my consultant friends specialize in family business consulting. Herein may lay the key to understanding some of the essential differences. Typically the articles on this subject differentiate private business from family business. Here are some of the differentiating characteristics that have been identified between family business and “private business:”
- Different Goals: Many times small business owners may have different goals other than their company’s success. There may be certain charities which the owner feels strongly about, but, cost the company more than it can afford. Publicly owned companies are not in position to do this, because of legal reasons, and negative criticism that they will receive.
- Nepotism: Sometimes the owners of family businesses feel an obligation to hire family members rather than hire someone else who may have better credentials. This causes many problems, and can even cause a company to go out of business. There are sometimes fights within the family.
- Less Profit Margins: Public companies have an easier time producing mass number of items, and thus they can get larger profit margins. Mostly the profit margins are twice as large in public companies.
- Less Care about Profits: Many small business owners, specifically family businesses, have a tendency to search for non financial things. They often try to do things that don’t bring profits to the company. They will often try to lower their price to make there customers happy, even though they can’t afford to do so which is not the right business strategy.” (John Elton Article from articlesbase.com)
The article goes on to identify some of the strengths of family-owned businesses:
Strengths of family-owned businesses:
- Teamwork: In family businesses members don’t doubt other’s intentions because they are related, and thus working for a common purpose. In public companies however they may try to do things that hurt others in order to get ahead and gain promotion.
- Greater Sacrifice: In family businesses family members are often willing to work longer hours with efforts for less pay, because they know that they are doing it for the family, and that they are making the company stronger for their kids and grand kids.
- Loyalty: In family businesses it is rare to find turnover, specifically in management, which makes it easy to keep employees for a long period of time, who know what they are doing. In non family businesses employees/managers will often go to a different company for better services and salary and may start off their own company in direct competition to yours. Even if a family member does decide to quit their job, it is very unlikely that they will compete against you.
- More Concerned Employees: In small family businesses the employees are concerned about their company’s success rather than their own success. In public companies the employees often just expect to work for a 40 hour workweek, and then go home, not thinking about their job until when they go back the next Monday. The commitment difference is seen from this.
It is necessary that small businesses recognize their strengths and weaknesses so that they are able to move in the right direction. (John Elton Article from articlesbase.com)
In sum, there are many essential differences between a “healthy family” and a “healthy business.” It is important to keep these essential differences in mind lest we create expectations that are not realistic or helpful to the business (or to the family for that matter). It is also important to recognize some of the similarities and characteristics that are constructive in both families and business.
Consider these tips for communicating with aging parents from ones of MINES’ July newsletters: (Source: Parlay International ©2010 from MINES and Associates’ July 12, 2011 Weekly Communication)
- Set aside appropriate times to talk
- Talk about one thing at a time
- Equal time for talking and listening
- Avoid blame
- Avoid exaggerations
- Focus on problems and solutions
Hmmm, this is an article about family, but seems to identify some of the communication tips we often share with managers and employees in business. Seems it pays to be mindful of both the similarities and differences between family and business – whether private, public, or family-owned.
Patrick Hiester, MA, LPC
Vice President, BizPsych
Why is it that we, as Americans, defer so quickly to lawsuits when we have a dispute instead of trying to resolve our differences privately on our own? Today, litigation happens so frequently in the United States that it has almost become a way of life. It has certainly become a part of our culture and has created quite a demand for attorneys. But is this a good thing for our society and for business?
No business goes into a relationship expecting a legal dispute. But neither does a skydiver jump out of an airplane expecting his parachute to fail. However, in both cases, the wise person will prepare for the worst in case it actually happens. Just like the wise skydiver carries a spare parachute, the wise business owner will include a provision in his contracts that outlines how the parties will resolve disputes, should they occur.
As an attorney, I would say that generally litigation is not a good solution for resolving disputes and should be considered a last resort. It’s expensive, time consuming, and it often can be argued that no one wins but the lawyers. For this reason, I recommend that disputes be resolved outside the courtroom as much as possible. This usually involves what is called “alternative dispute resolution” or “ADR.” Typically, ADR refers to either “mediation” or “arbitration.”
Mediation is a non-binding method that involves a mediator who brings both parties together to discuss ways to resolve their concerns. The idea is that a mediator who does not have a vested interest in the outcome can see things more clearly and with less bias, and as a result can recommend solutions that the disputing parties are unable to see. Mediation is far less expensive and time consuming than litigation and it can sometimes even salvage the relationship.
Arbitration is a more formal method of ADR that involves an arbitrator who hears both sides of the argument and then makes a decision as to how the dispute is to be resolved. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on both parties, similar to the ruling of a court in litigation, but is far less expensive and time consuming.
Both of these methods of ADR can be an effective alternative to litigation that benefits both parties, and it would be wise for businesses to consider including mediation or arbitration in their contracts as their method of dispute resolution.
Wade Hardie, JD, MBA
MINES Corporate Counsel
Our organization’s theme for May is “Mental Health Matters.” In our world of BizPsych we are deeply involved in and committed to supporting overall organizational health. In our work this typically means things like:
- Efficiency and effectiveness
- Healthy life span development
- Effective systems and procedures, etc.
However if we try to focus on the mental health of an organization – what exactly could that mean? A dictionary search of “mental health” brings up a couple definitions:
“psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life”
“the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental disorder (as neurosis or psychosis) and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and ability to meet the demands of life”
For now, removing references to “psychological, mental, and emotional,” which will reference a little later, we can begin to piece together aspects of mental health in business:
- A satisfactory adjustment to society and demands of life – The organization has a legitimate place in meeting needs of groups of people i.e. “society.” The organization adjusts according to its place or position in the social order and adjusts to the needs of the society it serves. A great example is Facebook. This organization is constantly challenged to adjust its practices as it shifts in impact and importance to the society. What began as an informal social networking interest on a college campus has now become a society changing force with billions of dollars impact. Is Facebook mentally healthy?
- Absence of neurosis or psychosis – Is the organization obsessed with its internal workings and anxieties? This may be characterized by fearfulness to make any moves or changes forward. The organization becomes paralyzed and ineffective. The organization may be so stuck on a single definition of itself that it fails to adjust, or is so insecure about “who” it is that it constantly redefines itself so no one else knows who it is. These “neurotic” organizations don’t thrive. In order to thrive they must address these neuroses. A step beyond this is the organization gone psychotic – confusing internal reality with objective reality. Enron, Bernie Madhoff – say no more…
- Feeling comfortable about oneself – This can be reflected in the culture of the workers of the organization. Ever been to Discount Tire? The employees typically appear to feel empowered, have ownership over their work, and make you, the customer, feel comfortable. Comfort is a rather elusive term as applied to business. However, an organization that is comfortable “about itself” should be reflected in a workforce that is comfortable and proud of the organization.
- Positive feelings about others – Do we care about our customers? Do we feel positive about the contributions we are making to our customers? Do we feel positive about the contributions we are making to the community? Numerous small nonprofits come to mind. In addition, we work with several health care organizations; the commitment to the patients they serve gets them through many rocky times.
- Ability to meet the demands of life – In addition to what is stated in #1 above, perhaps this is like organizational “work-life balance.” We must meet the demands of our customers and at the same time make money, keep the doors open, survive the recession, grow and change, and not become so stressed that health declines. Look into your organization and question if it is achieving this balance. What needs to shift to achieve balance?
One note about the “mental” and “psychological” language in the definitions of mental health. (Don’t you hate it when the definition contains the word that is being defined?) We ran across a wonderful CD series in our research for a health care project that BizPsych was involved in. It is entitled “Mindfulness and the Brain” and is essentially a conversation between Jack Kornfield, the Buddhist Psychologist who has specialized in mindfulness meditation practices, and Dan Siegel, an Interpersonal Neurobiologist. In the course of this discussion Dr. Siegel references that despite the thousands of “mental health” practitioners and volumes of “mental health literature” there seems to be no shared definition of the “mind” (presumably responsible for our mental health vs. merely the brain). He offers a definition which he states has been accepted and agreed upon by a good number of stubborn academics. The definition he offers is that the mind is “an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information” (Mindfulness and the Brain 2010). If this is an acceptable definition of the mind, then perhaps the psychology or “mind” of the organization is that somewhat intangible “heart and soul” of the organization that is the shared relationships and how they regulate the energy and information flow of the business. Supporting relationships then, is key to achieving the balance suggested in the mental health applied definitions in this blog.
One last note: The Webster Dictionary search did not yield a definition for “mental health.” The only thing that came up was “mental health day.” This was defined as “a day that an employee takes off from work in order to relieve stress or renew vitality.” So then, how does an organization take a mental health day?
Patrick Hiester, LPC
Vice President, BizPsych
Reference: Sounds True Audio Learning Course. Mindfulness and the Brain: A professional Training ion the Science & Practice of Meditative Awareness. Jack Kornfield, PhD and Daniel Siegel, MD. Sounds True 2010.
In my line of work as an organizational consultant, I often get to see the impact of having an impaired individual in the workplace. Now, because this month’s wellness theme is “Overcoming Addictions” you might ask yourself, “What does an organizational development consultant have to do with working with people who are struggling with addictions?” It’s a reasonable question, especially if one’s definition of addictions pertains to the classic substances that people associate with addictions such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or gambling.
While I do work with teams who have had to deal with the consequences of having an impaired colleague, more often than not, the types of “addictions” that I get asked to consult on have to do with counterproductive behaviors that create psychological toxicity in the workplace.
If we think of addictions in the broad context of “being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming” then I can affirm that I do work with people who make a “habit” out of engaging in unskillful behaviors. The behaviors can include, but are not limited to: yelling and screaming, diffusing responsibility, conflict avoidance, defensiveness, micromanaging, or speaking to people in a way that comes across as demeaning or condescending.
In the world of business psychology, we focus on the intersection of human behaviors and business systems. If a person habitually engages in a way that is unskillful it can create a hostile work environment. Think of it as “secondhand smoke” in that those types of behaviors are a toxin in the work environment and have a negative effect on everyone.
Our division offers trainings on how to effectively deal with counterproductive behaviors and workshops that are designed to minimize the stressors that often trigger unskillful behavior. In addition, for individuals who are truly invested in making positive changes, enhancing their work relationships, and “kicking the habit’ of engaging in counter productive behaviors, we offer individualized executive coaching. Visit www.bizpsych.com for more.
Organizations grow through a developmental life cycle process similar to human beings, or at least, we can see the similarities. Therefore, we can consider organizations to also be organisms. They have a life process. If this is the case, then how do we properly feed and nourish the organization in order to foster health? Some companies are too fat, some are too lean. Some companies come from “dysfunctional families” and carry disease. Do you think the basic nutritional principle of “garbage-in, garbage-out” applies to our organizations’ health? What is the right nutrition for healthy organizations?
Some food for thought
As organizations grow and develop they may need to focus on getting their calories from different sources. According to the organizational life cycle guru, Ichak Adizes, at inception the organization needs to focus on sales or “entrepreneurship.” In infancy the company needs to focus on performance and execution. In the rapid growth stage the company will continue to focus on performance, production, and sales. Then in adolescence, the organization focuses less on production and more on systematizing and consistency while still focusing on entrepreneurship. As the company moves to prime it will re-focus on production as well as systems and sales (“Corporate Lifecycles” Ichak Adizes 1988).
One size does not fit all!
- Challenge your assumptions. Are we doing things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them? Our organizational muscles can get flabby and weak. We need exercise!
- “Where the mind goes the energy goes.” Are we aligned as an organization about where we are headed and what we stand for? Do we have an organizational intention that we all know and focus on? Our results are based on our practices. Underlying our practices, are our intentions and beliefs positive and forward-looking?
- Do we take as good a care of our people as we do our computers and printers? Do we maintain them regularly, or only when they break down?
- Are our leaders emotionally intelligent? Do they get the coaching, feedback and information they need to be the best role models for the health they seek in the workforce?
- Create Energy. Do we exuberantly celebrate our successes, use our setbacks as learning opportunities, and create times of rest and repose? How are we creating good energy versus stress and burnout?
A healthy diet and regular exercise builds strong organizations every way.
Just some food for thought.