~ Archive for Conversation ~

Employee Engagement Misses a Network Perspective


Almost all of us have had the experience of encountering someone far from home, who, to our surprise, turns out to share a mutual acquaintance with us. This kind of experience occurs with sufficient frequency that our language even provides a cliché to be uttered at the appropriate moment of recognizing mutual acquaintances. We say, “My it’s a small world.” – Stanley Milgram, The Small-World Problem

The Org Chart

As companies have grown in size, it becomes increasingly difficult to fathom in its entirety. The org chart tends to be used as short hand for the subcomponents. There’s department X, Y and Z. But who works in those departments, and what do they do? In very large organizations, it can begin to feel like a very big jigsaw puzzle with sections coming together to form clear images while the rest are grouped into generic piles by color or texture with little understanding of how they fit together. (more…)

‘Collaborative Overload’ – A Response


There are countless stories of conversations that did not happen, but should have.  Coworkers unknowingly doing duplicate work, as well as seemingly unsolvable challenges whose answer is less than a skip, jump or hop away.  Often times the greatest value a good consultant can provide is to talk with a broader range of the company than is usually involved in such matters and then present these ‘new’ insights to leadership.  An entertaining spin of this is the CBS show Undercover Boss, where owners discover first-hand how far detached they are from different areas of their business, often despite the best of intentions.

It is from this perspective that I wish to respond to Rob Cross, Reb Rebele and Adam Grant’s recent piece in Harvard Business Review, Collaborative Overload.  Over the past couple years, I have had the pleasure of speaking with each and derived significant inspiration and reassurance from their research.  This piece aims to resurrect important points that we share in common but seem to be lost among echoes by readers (e.g. ‘collaboration leads to burnout’, and ‘collaboration curse‘) that have taken their most recent work as a statement that enough is enough when it comes to collaboration.

At the heart of Cross, Rebele and Grant’s piece is the need to more effectively manage teamwork, so much so that they call for the establishment of a Chief Collaboration Officer. !

The Power of Conversation at Work


Every morning she walked past the reception into the elevator and pressed the button for the 7th floor.  She walked down the long corridor and turned left, at which point she could see her corner office at the end of the hall.  Her days were packed with meetings, until the time came for her to retrace her steps and go home.  This occurred day in and day out, until someone made two rather mundane observations – she had never spoken to the majority of the staff in her division, and this was a problem.

This vignette was inspired by a story shared with me by Alan Arnett, founder of The Exploration Habit.  A suggestion was made that the leader in the vignette make it a priority to stop and talk to someone new each time she was going in or out of the office.  Despite spending her days in meetings, this leader found it hard to approach staff that she had never spoken to.  How would she break the ice?  Would they be nice or just stare blankly? How would she explain why today she stopped to talk to them, after years of just walking past without even a glance or a nod? (more…)

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