In my last post I jumped right into the fray of describing a whole system for data-driven software development that includes normal stuff (Business KPIs, OKRs, Software metrics) but also some weird stuff - what I call Positive Behavioral Metrics. I didn't describe what I meant, so I am going to do that now.
I also didn't describe what to do with the other half of that coin - negative feelings and behavior - but I am going to do that separately, in a future post.
Positive Behavioral Metrics is keeping track and counting all the good stuff that people do. A system to do this (could be software-based or not) should have the following characteristics:
A means to create and track 'wins' or instances of people doing good stuff. This could be someone who gave a great presentation, won significant new business, or contributed to the positive roll-out of a new initiative. Really anything that is good (for individuals, teams, or the organization in general) - large or small does not matter. Concrete behavioral information is preferred - a specific good thing is better than a vague good thing. But honestly, even starting with vague is better than nothing.
Notification - the person should always be notified when someone recognizes them.
Notification of Others - the person's boss and their boss's boss (if applicable) should be notified about the good thing that was done.
Reports - a person should be able to go in and see all the good things that they did in a time period (last month, this year, a certain year) so that it can be used in reviews.
Track positive behavior to company values: any time that someone does something good and it is tracked, they person entering should have the ability to track this to some part of the company's values.
Provide a report on people who consistently recognize other people. These are your energy fountains - the people producing energy in your organization. This is another key number, in addition to the people who get recognized the most.
Organization-level Reports: should include reports on doers - those doing the good stuff and recognizers those doing the recognizing. For both you want to know how much of it is happening, where it is happening, and to be able to drill down and see who is doing it and who they work for.
This is really pretty straightforward - honestly this can be built for very little $$ and you could get away with 1,2, and 3 to get started. You don't need more than that.
Outside of the system, you need a program around the raw numbers and reports to really drive maximum effect. And I don't mean prizes or gift cards. I honestly think that tying it to rewards or awards isn't terribly interesting or effective.
I'm really talking about how this applies to people's growth, to their careers, and to their happiness. This is what will make it the most powerful. This should generally include:
Personal recognition - by which I mean, if you're in charge and you get the emails about people doing awesome stuff, then walk around or visit the people and talk to them and show them that you are aware of what they do. You can take them to lunch if you want, or have a dinner or something, but do some form of recognition where their peers see you talking to them about what they did.
Thank you notes - I'm personally terrible at this, but many people swear by it. Sending handwritten thank you notes to people (or their spouses) is something that can be very effective.
Use of reports - encourage people to review their data, especially at review time to be sure that they use this data when filling in their reviews or 360 evaluations.
Encourage managers to recognize - use the recognizer score to ensure that recognition is happening and that you have even consistent coverage in your organization.
There are many other things you can do. These are simple examplesthat you can start with that don't cost much but do build a lot of energy in your organization.
I've been meditating and using focused attention training techniques for all of 2017 and a little more than 1 year in total. So, I decided to reflect back on how that year has gone, what I've got out of the practice, and what I've learned so far.
I describe my journey in the steps below. I hope it will be valuable to others who might be considering meditation. While I'm focused on business leadership in particular, I hope my list will be useful to anyone in terms of what you can get out of meditation. In particular I'm talking about the question: How can meditation help you? It's a personal activity, but here, described in detail, is how it helped it me.
Why does that matter? Well it matters because I often see 'improved focus' or 'stress reduction' as benefits. So, then how - exactly how - does that work? My answers are below.
As a leader I feel it's important for me to frame this in one more way. As a leader you deal with stressful situations at work. Most of us can handle these types of situations, if you couldn't handle them you wouldn't be a leader or manager very long. But after 10 years in management in several different organizations, I was unhappy with my stress management techniques and wanted something better.
So I decided to try mindfulness and it has had a big impact on me in one year. I recommend it.
Without further ado, here are the ways in which I feel meditation has helped me this year. These go in roughly chronological order as they happened during the year:
Almost immediately I began to be able to see an emotional reaction coming and to distance myself from it, if only slightly. This was imperfect (it didn't work all the time) but it was consistent enough to be noticable, and it has improved in consistency over time.
By being aware of my reaction I began to see that I was making a situation more about me than was really necessary. Is this person upset? Well, yes, but they're really just looking for help and I know how to help them. By focusing my thinking in this way I could get even more distance and be more effective in high-stress situations by focusing clearly on the problem.
Understanding the connection to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This book is an important tool and framework I've used in my career long before I started to practice meditation. The foundation of the Seven Habits is to be proactive. There's a lot more on this topic in this blog post, but suffice it to say, I see meditation as a useful tool to understand your responses to events and improve your ability to be proactive (and not reactive) in response. Meditation allows you an ability to practice this awareness in an offstage way. This is an extension of 1 and 2 to some extent, but for me it is a useful extension that places my practice in a broader context. It's also a useful way in talking about this topic with colleagues.
In Andrew's class I learned about Negativity Bias - this helped me understand some of the why behind the reactions that I was having. It isn't that I'm a pessimist. My brain is built to identify negative (and potentially negative) situations. This is an evolutionary adaptation which served early man well, and kept them from being eaten by bears, but it needs to have some regulation to be useful to a modern person. It is very helpful to be aware of this fact and no when Negatiiy Bias is in play.
I began to be able to predict some of the time when I was headed into a situation that might produce an emotional response. This allowed me a little bit of forethought on how I would handle this situation and the possible stress responses I might have.
Working on Positivity Bias. By reading Hardwiring Happiness I was able to not only identify Negativity Bias but to actually work toward adding Positivity Bias. This is achieved by focusing on positive experiences and success and more fully integrating them into our conscious and subconscious minds.
The Waste of Worry. I know that people trust a worrier - someone who is obviously aware of possible future implications is often considered more trustworthy than a person who seems unaware, even if their lack of awareness makes them confident. This is useful up to a point, but also puts a wasteful burden of stress on people worrying about things more than is necessary.
As it relates to number 7, I don't have a final resolution to perfect balance. I can counteract some of the stress from it and help others to do so, but it is useful sometimes. As I work on it I hope to integrate it both for myself and help my team. I want to balance the necessary concern and planning that is crucial to individual, business, and societal success with more tools to keep that in its proper place.
After a year of meditating, I feel that mindfulness practice has helped me to manage stress better than I could without it. But stress reduction has been achieved through the advancements listed above, not on it's own as a separate outcome.
Here's hoping that 2018 will be a great year with further refinement and improvement of the abilities listed above and new discoveries as well.