Let’s Play 5 Things

In the world of the ComedySportz Show, 5 Things is often a centerpiece game. A player is sent out of the room and the audience is polled by the referee for five active activities that they’ve actually done. The ref then changes out elements of the activity to make it really difficult – like skydiving out of an airplane made of helium Jell-O piloted by the band One Direction, using semaphore flags as a parachute.

The guesser is called back on to the playing field and is given 4 minutes to do the activities – with clues provided by their team using gibberish and mime. It’s an amazingly difficult game that showcases communication skills, cooperation and the ability to fail gloriously and graciously. 5 Things is also fun to play and watch.

Today’s post pulls together 5 different thoughts from blogs and articles folks have sent me. Your job is to guess how they are connected.

1. It’s a Post Called “5 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Best People”

Peter Economy talks about important things like encouraging risks, giving people advancement opportunities and encouraging play.

2. Focus is the Next Big Thing

We spend a portion of each workshop we lead playing games that reflect on the importance of focusing on what and who is in front of you. Improv performers talk about “being present”; in today’s hyper-information world, just being present sets you apart and gives you a huge advantage over the pack. Dr Marla Gottschalk refers to a Stanford study that shows multi-taskers at a disadvantage in focusing on the task at hand. Here is the link to the study, in case you are too busy to read Marla’s post.

3. The Only Woman in the Room

Ellen Leanse writes about the inherent sexism in high tech. I’ve worked in high tech sales and marketing, and I’ve seen these forces in action. Historically, it’s also been a problem in improvisation. It’s getting better in many groups and many places, but there’s still work to do.

More interesting to me, in the context of today’s post, is this: what opportunities are we missing when we surround ourselves only with people who share our backgrounds, culture and characteristics?

4. Talent Selection Instead of Talent Development

John O’Sullivan writes about coaching in “serious” youth sports; this interests me partly because I coach U-14 Rec Girls Soccer and partly because the same concepts apply in running an improvisational theater group. I try to think “long game” in both areas.Read this and think about the company(s) you work for and with. Are you able to think “long game”?

5. Motivating Senior Employees to Help with Onboarding 

Judith Shervin’s post is on point and practical. Your front-line leaders know what new people need to know now. Everybody wins, and a small sacrifice in the short game reaps benefits in the long game.

How many point did you get in today’s game of 5 Things? You are in control of the scoring – you make the rules. What connects these items of employee engagement?

Opportunity.

Patrick Short is busy developing a certification program Applied Improvsation for CSz Worldwide. As in ComedySportz, the points matter.

Yay for Microsoft and Boo for Yahoo!

Huffington Post posted an interesting item in their Tech blog on November 13. Read it here and then come back and talk. We’ll wait.

After years of grading employees on a Bell Curve and dumping those at the bottom, Microsoft figured out that they were destroying collaboration, trust and teamwork. High performers didn’t want to be on the same team as other high performers, because they would be graded against them.

I am amazed that a company as “smart” as Microsoft would ever fall for such a concept, but I’m delighted that they are dumping it now.

And now Yahoo! starts it up:

“CEO Marissa Mayer had recently begun implementing this exact strategy at Yahoo. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher reported that Mayer asked managers to rank their workers on a curve, and more than 600 people have been fired in the past few weeks.”

Nothing says caring, justice and employee engagement like grading people on a curve.

Employees are not “assets”. They are people. Giving people opportunity for advancement is one of the top things they crave in work. Helping people improve and adjust is hard work, though, so some companies, whose CEOs are so far removed from real work that their people become numbers, opt for the easy grading system – and they let other people do the firing too, I’m sure.

Employee engagement is real, hard work, and it can be fun, too. It’s easily the best way to create an atmosphere where collaboration, trust and excellence bloom.

If you’re not sure how to get there, talk to me. I know how to get it started, and I know people who can help.

Patrick Short is currently re-learning the art of middle management as music director in the da Vinci Arts Middle School production of I Ain’t Got No Home, written and directed by his wife, Ruth Jenkins. This week, he taught a workshop for Siren Nation. Next week, he’ll work with an architecture firm on integrating their 18 new employees into the firm of 44 people.

 

Employee Engagement

I was chatting with a colleague recently. She had just quit a job at a law firm because the boss was crazy and horrible to work with.  She also commented that there is “complete turnover in the firm every year.”

That got me to thinking. What does THAT cost?

Aside from a happier workplace with more innovation and the tribal knowledge that accumulates when employees actually stay with a company, does it save money to keep employees?

Yes, it does. Let’s read from the Wall Street Journal:

“Integrated reporting is in its early stages in the U.S., but German software giant SAP AG released its first full integrated report in March, combining traditional accounting benchmarks with newer metrics on things like greenhouse-gas emissions, research and development “intensity” and staff turnover.

SAP reported, for example, that its operating profit is helped or hurt by about €62 million, or more than $80 million, by each percentage-point change in its employee retention rate.

‘There’s a lot of support for meaningful and robust HR metrics for use inside organizations,’ says Timothy Bartl, of the HR Policy Association.”

(Apples, Oranges and Outliers, Emily Chasun, Wall Street Journal, Jun 4, 2013.)

So, buried in this article about FASB and reporting metrics is a bombshell about how important employee retention can be to the bottom line.

Why aren’t we doing everything we can to keep the people we have? Employee engagement is critical – not just in soft, unproven areas, but to profitability.

What could help the beleaguered law firm?

  • Leadership skills training
  • Communication and listening skills training
  • Team building
  • Creating an atmosphere of fun
  • Celebrating victories
  • Altering a culture of blame for mistakes

Applied Improvisation could help with all of that. If only they knew to ask…

Is there a company that you know could use this help?

We’ll be exploring this topic over the next few weeks. If you have comments or resources to share, we’d be delighted to hear from you.