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Ask, Listen and Evolve: Be The Culture That You Value

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This week’s featured article is 5 Questions Every Manager Needs to Ask Their Direct Reports, from the Harvard Business Review. Increasing numbers of workers continue to opt out of existing career paths at record numbers to start new professional journeys. The churn resulting from these transitions is significant and costly across multiple dimensions. This mass migration reinforces the need for work that allows us to meaningfully manifest our values, strengths and expertise in service to our professional purpose.

Leaders have an opportunity now to proactively elicit what motivates and inspires their teams. Understanding why people stay in their roles, what can be done to increase their effectiveness and what is necessary to propel their continued development can, on one level, serve to facilitate retention efforts. On another, and arguably deeper level, leaders who role model thoughtful questioning, active listening and the execution of strategic workplace improvements have the ability to create a sustainable culture that values our gifts and inspires us to bring the very best of ourselves every day.


Harvard Business Review: “5 Questions Every Manager Needs to Ask Their Direct Reports” “When managers make checking in with these five questions a regular part of how they interact with their employees, it helps ensure that people feel seen and valued. And when managers help individuals on their teams feel that way, they’re more likely to be rewarded by employees who become advocates for the department and organization, no matter how long they stay.”

Vox: “Is confidence a cult? These sociologists think so” “A new book aims to show why directives to ‘just be more confident!’ are so harmful.”

Fast Company: “The most popular design thinking strategy is BS” “The ‘How might we’ design prompt is insidious, and it’s time to bury it.”

Psychology Today: “The Lies We Tell Ourselves” “Ego and self-serving biases shape the life story we share with the world—and with ourselves. The good news: An internal reckoning will help us better comprehend who we truly are.”

Knowledge@Wharton: How Employees Can Become Better Organizational Citizens. “A key takeaway from the research is that creating, communicating, and implementing interventions — then measuring their impact — can be an effective way to drive behavioral change and make better organizational citizens. But equally important is the timing of these practices involved in the intervention.”

Harvard Business Review: “Rethinking Negotiation: A smarter way to split the pie“…The pie framework reveals the otherwise-hidden equality of power. It will allow you to negotiate more logically and more clearly and make arguments that persuade others. It works whenever there’s an opportunity to cooperate with another party to maximize the value you create together. It also works when negotiating with people who don’t care about fairness. They will have no good counterarguments against the pie principle, and refusing to accept your case for equal division will paint them as inconsistent or intransigent and may cost them the deal.”

The New York Times: “No More Working for Jerks!” “For almost two years, couches have been cubicles. Colleagues are instant message avatars. And people are reconsidering how much they should have to put up with from a boss.” My fellow Biznology contributor, David Strom just wrote about this same topic recently here, in an article titled, “Time to Fire Your Jerk Boss.”

The Wall Street Journal: “As Employers Scramble to Fill Jobs, Workers Relish a Feeling of Power” “With plenty of companies hiring, workers are quitting their jobs in droves and starting their own ventures. ‘I refuse to accept a position that’s just a position.’”


The Joy and Light Bus Company (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #22), by Alexander McCall Smith
“In this latest installment in the beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Mma Ramotswe is tempted to put the brakes on a business venture before it even gets rolling.”


This American Life: What We’ve Got Here is Failure to Communicate. “Getting the point across — or trying to, anyway.”

The Ezra Klein Show: Timeless Wisdom for Leading a Life of Love, Friendship and Learning. “Today, we are supercompetent when it comes to efficiency, utility, speed, convenience, and getting ahead in the world; but we are at a loss concerning what it’s all for,” Leon Kass writes in his 2017 book “Leading a Worthy Life.” “This lack of cultural and moral confidence about what makes a life worth living is perhaps the deepest curse of living in our interesting time.”

Dare To Lead with Brené Brown: Brené with James Clear On Atomic Habits. “In part 1 of our series, we talk specifically about developing identity-based habits and how we can become the architects of those habits, not the victims of them. We also talk about the intersection of his work and mine, the collective stories we make up, and how our mindsets and our systems can set us up for success. [In part 2 or our series], …we talk about how and why habits are atomic and how to build a habit or break a habit. We also look at our environments and how we can tweak them to support the habits we want to have, and then dive in and talk about organization habits and how we create habits in a team and in organizations.”


“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” — Sun Tzu

“This lesson goes beyond war.

I recently spoke with an architect about the problems another one of his clients was going through. While they had originally interviewed the architect for the project, they wanted someone right away and thought he was too expensive for what they needed. Unfortunately, they currently find themselves buried in costly problems that he’s now solving for them with overtime.

Was this a poor choice or just bad luck? If we play out the same scenario 100 times — where a couple rushes through the selection of an architect and builder, picking the cheapest immediately available option — how many times do you think it ends poorly? 80? 90? 95?

While most of us would never choose to play life on hard mode, that’s exactly what we do when we put ourselves in a bad position. One way to visualize this is through the lens of billiards. We become so focused on making the first shot that we fail to consider how we position the ball for the next shot. When we go to take the next shot, it’s harder than it had to be.

Consider a few simple ways we put ourselves in a bad position.

We borrow too much money. Everything works great until it doesn’t. When things inevitably change, we find ourselves ill-positioned. What seemed like an advantage becomes a nightmare.

We try to save money in the wrong places. We balk at the $500 an hour lawyer with years of relevant experience and opt for the $200 an hour lawyer who says the right things. Inevitably, we find ourselves paying for them to learn the lessons that command the $500 an hour. We do the same when it comes to purchases. Often, we opt for the ‘cheaper’ option only to realize our mistakes. As the saying goes, buy it right or buy it twice. Cheaper in the moment rarely works out to cheaper overall.

We win the moment at the cost of the decade. Examples of this are everywhere. For example, we skip necessary maintenance on core assets to juice returns, we accrue technical debt that goes unpaid, and we monetize buffers and margins of safety. In the process, the smallest shock can cause massive damage.

We fail to take care of ourselves. We don’t eat healthy, sleep right, or exercise enough. When problems come, we’re ill-positioned to deal with them.

We try to save time. We cut corners on a job and cringe when we have to fix our mistakes.

Being in a position to capitalize when times are bad requires doing different things when times are good. This goes against human nature — we don’t want to look like an idiot when times are good even if doing so offers an unstoppable advantage when times are tough. Good times eventually come to an end. As Warren Buffett says, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

The main lesson here is to always put yourself in the best position possible no matter the future conditions. Not only does this mean avoiding costly problems, as the couple above learned, but it also means putting yourself in a position to perpetually play offense.

Brilliance might appear to win in the moment, but positioning wins in the end.” — Shane Parrish, Farnam Street

Arts, Music, Culture & Humor Corner

The Guardian: ‘I make stars look interesting, not beautiful’: “…The great portrait photographer Anton Corbijn relives five of his best shoots.”

The Atlantic “Is Old Music Killing New Music?” : “Old songs now represent 70% of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking.”

Psyche: How to be useless. “Follow the Daoist way – reclaim your life and happiness by letting go of the need to produce, strive or serve a purpose.”

The New YorkerThe Stress-Free Family Meal Plan”: “As the mom of four boys, two dogs, and a budding anxiety disorder, I know how hard it can be to provide your family with nutritious dinners that are also tasty, eco-conscious, cookbook-cover-worthy, and affordable. But because of misogyny built into the very fabric of our society, I’m somehow expected to! That’s why I like to meal-plan—to set myself up for success each week. Disclaimer: Success varies greatly. Typically manifests as failure.”


“When you are a young person, you are like a young creek, and you meet many rocks, many obstacles and difficulties on your way. You hurry to get past these obstacles and get to the ocean.

But as the creek moves down through the fields, it becomes larger and calmer and it can enjoy the reflection of the sky. It’s wonderful. You will arrive at the sea anyway so enjoy the journey. Enjoy the sunshine, the sunset, the moon, the birds, the trees, and the many beauties along the way. Taste every moment of your daily life.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan is an International Coach Federation-certified executive coach who serves as a strategic advisor, mentor and facilitator to executive leadership teams and private clients to achieve peak performance and agility resulting in sustained engagement and value. Drawing upon a career as a leader and consultant, Kevin is able to work with clients on personal and professional development, relationship optimization and team and leader dynamics. He has deep expertise and experience developing and realizing strategic vision through a relentless focus on optimized business operations. He is also skilled at building sustainable culture and workforce engagement through the power of people and organizational partnership, as well as delivering results and value with high performing teams during periods of intense change.

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