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How many times have you heard the phrase, “communication is key?” If you’re anything like me, the advice has now become trite, losing any significance or weightiness it once had. But ignoring this advice with any relationship can be detrimental to the deep connection you are trying to create with another person.

When we aren’t intentional with the way we communicate, things can turn sour quickly. In a workplace, and really anywhere, gossip and negative speech can disintegrate any trust or motivation that may have once been granted. Delivering feedback in the workplace has the ability to communicate where an employee struggles, and receiving it can help you as a manager or leader to become a better version of yourself.

I recently spoke at a From Day One conference and shared why workplace feedback is your missing puzzle piece.

Shane Metcalf, 15Five: From Day One San Francisco 2019 - Vimeo

The status quo has taught us that the hierarchy of an organization starts at the top with senior leaders and widens downward towards middle management and junior employees. This command-and-control structure left no room for workplace feedback, as it expected employees to fulfill orders from the top blindly. But the modern business model is moving in a different direction.

By flipping the organizational chart, senior leaders take on the new role of facilitators and coaches. When you see the potential in people, rather than viewing them as expendable resources, you can get to work on maximizing their talents.  This has the ability to unlock potential and productivity within every individual at a company. Emotional courage, vulnerability, and creativity are the new drivers of this economy.

Employee Lifetime Value

Most companies today are tracking customer lifetime value. This is how much money it takes to acquire a customer, tracking how long customers are staying and how much money they are spending. From these metrics, businesses are able to find gaps in their productivity so they can proactively create solutions. This system of measurement is effective and should be used internally as well.

Your employee lifetime value should be as closely monitored as your customers. Not only is the absence of a rockstar employee who leaves out of the blue felt deeply, but on average, the cost of replacing someone can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2x their initial annual salary. By keeping a close eye on employee lifetime value, you’ll retain people who are more motivated, productive, and engaged than ever before.

Listening to the wants and needs of your employees will create advocates that are passionate about your company’s mission. These employees are your biggest proponents and the most authentic way to create brand-loyal customers. It really is true what they say; a company is only as good (or extraordinary) as its people.

Business relationships are personal relationships

“We’re moving into the era of the intelligence of the heart” – Claude Silver, Bainer Media

Work-life balance, while nice in theory, is purely a myth. Let’s face it, life is all encompassing, it does not pause for the 8 hours a day that you are working. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us are averaging far more than 40 hour weeks.

It’s safe to say that our work occupies about half of our lives, and if that statement upsets you, I invite you to shift your perspective. If we treat our lives at work as a separate entity, we will find ourselves going through the motions and missing out on some of life’s best experiences. So, my advice to you is… don’t separate it.

Build meaningful relationships with the people you see on a daily basis, and eliminate the category of “business relationship.” No matter how or where you make relationships, they are all personal because the common denominator is you.

Relationships impact our everyday lives and allowing for honest feedback will strengthen the quality of these connections. It’s through these relationships that strong foundations for great companies are built, and personal success can reach higher heights.

Strengthening emotionally intelligent connections is an unorthodox metric to measure, but these vital aspects of human life should be a top priority. With the use of strategic employee 1-on-1s, continuous learning and development, and honest workplace feedback, you can begin practicing emotional intelligence at work and gain new skills that can be woven into other parts of your life.

All relationships in your life are personal because the common denominator is you.
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The Golden Ratio of Feedback

American psychological researcher and clinician, Dr. John Gottman, has studied relationships for the past 40 years. In one of his studies, he asked couples to resolve their conflicts in front of him and was able to predict with 90% accuracy if a couple would beat the test of time and remain together for years to come. If you had to read that twice, I don’t blame you.

Dr. Gottman was able to make these predictions after discovering the antidote to conflict was a specific ratio between positive and negative interactions, thus the Golden Ratio of Feedback was conceived.

The Golden Ratio of Feedback says that for every one negative interaction, you must have five emotionally positive interactions to balance it.

“Negative interactions during conflict include being emotionally dismissive or critical, or becoming defensive. Body language such as eye-rolling can be a powerful negative interaction, and it is important to remember that negativity holds a great deal of emotional power, which is why it takes five positive interactions to overcome any one negative interaction,” says Dr. Gottman.

During the course of a workday, many negative interactions can take place. Maybe it’s a passive aggressive email, or your great idea was cut short in a meeting, or maybe an uncomfortable conversation took place with your manager. These negative interactions are incredibly draining, and can do a number on your mental state.

To counteract this negativity, begin with appreciation. Appreciation fulfills so many human needs and creates a culture of belonging. And while this is an easy first step, most organizations are appreciation-deficient. For many years, the false idea that showing appreciation would make your employees “soft” or entitled have driven the harsh cultures that so many organizations still have today. This is not the psychologically safe environment that people crave today.

Managers, when giving feedback to your employees, don’t forget to first recognize them for their accomplishments. We often focus on the bad, when really there are so many more wins throughout a single day than there are fixes to be made. Implement this and it will become contagious throughout the workplace and even beyond the office walls.

How to incorporate a cycle of workplace feedback

Growth doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without the help and buy-in of your team. By implementing a structure of workplace feedback, you’ll begin seeing a pattern of heightened productivity and excellent execution. 15Five found that asynchronous weekly check-ins, regular 1-on-1s, OKRs, quarterly reviews, and the recognition of accomplishments create a cyclical habit of success.

Asynchronous weekly check-ins are a time that you and you’re employees are engaging in self-reflection. The focus is not on work as much as it is on one another. Don’t be afraid to ask, “how are you feeling?” By basing the conversation around this question, you’ll spend these moments fostering a deeper connection, getting to the meat of the conversation quicker and therefore leading to more powerful 1-on-1s.

1-on-1 meetings are scheduled times each week that are intended to be career development conversations. During these times, you can discuss your priorities, challenges, wins, what drains you, what excites you… whatever you find important. Through these conversations, you’ll be able to better track your employee’s OKRs.

Tracking your objectives and key results, otherwise known as OKRs, creates alignment around the most important goals. As a senior leader, there are always things to be done but the constant distractions can heavily impede on your time. OKRs point you in the right direction with manageable action items to get you to your goals. These goals can be discussed in your quarterly reviews.

No longer are the once-a-year reviews cutting it. It’s simply not possible to squeeze in every value point over a year’s time in one conversation. Now, quarterly reviews are the way to reorient after each quarter and discuss important items in a timely manner.

So much of our lives are spent working, that separating the professional  from the personal won’t actually create a balance, but will add unnecessary complexity. The more hours you spend in one workplace, the more that experience takes a solidified shape in your life. Instead of fighting this or feeling shame over the hours spent on the job, commit to becoming your best self at work everyday and enable your employees to do the same.

Shane Metcalf is Chief Culture Officer at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360°reviews. Shane has spent his career studying organizational & human development, which now translates into the high performing 15Five culture.

Photo By: Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

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Pop quiz: in what year was the term “telecommuting” coined?

Even trivia connoisseurs may be surprised by the answer.

Like most, you may have guessed a time after the invention of the internet, but in fact, the first known remote worker was an employee of NASA in the early 70’s. (So perhaps a very remote worker?) In 1979, the Washington Post published the article “Working at Home Can Save Gasoline,”and from there the idea of telecommuting gained popularity.

In 1996, the National Telecommuting Initiative was launched in the U.S. to promote remote work within the government. As a result, Congress approved the use of telecommuting in Federal agencies.

Today, thanks to modern technology, remote work has evolved and now offers more flexibility than ever, and companies are able to choose from various remote work models. Now, telecommuting saves a lot more resources than just gasoline.

According to a survey by CoSo Cloud, 77% of workers demonstrate greater productivity when working remotely. They spend less time and effort on commuting, and more time producing quality work.

In this post, we will discuss several remote work models to help you find one that fits best within your company culture.

Model #1: Centralized Office + Occasional Work-from-Home

With this model, employees are required to work primarily from the office, but with—you guessed it—the occasional work-from-home option. This model is attractive to just about anyone, but may be especially beneficial for busy parents or those who live further away from the office. The number of remote hours varies from company to company, but most who have this policy allocate at least one full remote day per week.

As one Stanford study suggests, allowing employees to work from home at least some of the time is essential, as it increases employee productivity by 13.5%. Plus, it significantly increases the efficiency of recruiting. According to a recent survey, 67% of jobseekers want more flexibility at work and 84% of millennials seek greater work-life balance.

One of the biggest pro’s to this model is that employees are given more opportunity to incorporate work-life balance and alleviate the hassle of everyday commuting (subway riders, I’m talking to you.) For many, the occasional work-from-home policy provides the break in a weekly routine that many employees need to avoid burnout.  

These reasons among others are why many renowned companies, such AirBnb, Oracle, Deloitte, and Glassdoor, incorporate this occasional work-from-home policy. For all those who want to join this crew, we recommend starting with baby steps. Allow one work-from-home option twice a month and listen to the feedback your employees offer. Once you understand where the consensus lies, you can begin scaling this model to find how it compliments your company culture.

Want to keep your remote employees engaged with the company culture? Try High Fives to increase peer recognition!
Model #2: Centralized Office + Work-from-Anywhere

This model takes the flexibility from model #1 and turns it up a notch. Companies who subscribe to this policy give their employees freedom to choose where they work, whether that be the office, their couch, a coffee shop, or far-away lands. Any place with a stable Internet connection and quality coffee should suffice.

Many companies embrace this policy by offering employee benefits that allow remote team members to find a place where they can be the most productive. For instance, Automattic has a centralized office in San Francisco, but doesn’t consider location a factor when hiring their talent.

The company offers a generous stipend to spend on home offices in addition to the necessary tech equipment. Automattic even sets aside a large travel budget for teams to hop on a plane and meet up anywhere in the world whenever they please. These culture choices have played an important role in building this billion-dollar startup.

Companies that choose to join Automattic through adopting the work-from-anywhere model also opens the door to a much larger talent-pool. In a CIO survey by KPMG, 65% of IT leaders report a lack of software engineers in their area.

Even video conferencing pioneer, Skype outsourced its back-end development work to a team of four engineers from Estonia. The success of this company is largely due to the talent of this small remote crew.

For all those interested in making the switch to this model, make sure there is full buy-in and alignment among all senior leaders, especially your CFO. While promoting remote work could significantly reduce your operational costs, it could require budgets to be moved in order to accommodate other expenses.

Introducing a remote work model to your company can grant you access to a much larger talent-pool.
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Model #3: Fully Remote Team Without a Centralized Office

This model is by far the most advanced remote work policy a company can embody, as team members are distributed all over the world, across different countries, and time zones. Companies that use it have most likely been remote since day one with no prior physical office. So, leaders who are in the early stages of starting their venture, this model is a great one to consider.

According to the data by Hallway, there are currently over 60 companies in the world that have incorporated this model, and that number will continue to grow as technology continues to take the world by storm.

Often times, the leaders and employers within these companies are digital nomads who change their location for a number of reasons. Fortunately for them, this model will not disrupt their work or their travel choices, making this extremely desirable for those who can’t commit or sit still in just one city.

One advantage companies have with this model is being able to adjust employee salaries based on where they are in the world. For example, if you hire an employee based out of Birmingham, AL, their cost of living may be much lower than an employee based out of San Francisco, and therefore won’t require a salary to compensate for it.

Great examples of companies that have been fully remote since day one include Buffer and Zapier. To ensure maximum employee productivity, Buffer pays for staff education, computer accessories, company retreats, and even anxiety therapy. Same goes for Zapier, that also offers a whopping $10,000 moving allowance for employees willing to move out of the Bay area and seek happiness outside the tech hub. These examples demonstrate just how powerful virtual capabilities can be for your remote employee.

Over to You

With the help of modern technology, more companies can benefit from offering telecommuting options than ever before. There is a reason why dozens of tech companies have adopted these models with open arms, and more are following suit.

Each policy is being used by some of the world’s leading companies with resounding success. If you’re worried you might make the wrong choice, just consider the needs of your business at your current development stage.

If you want to increase employee happiness and engagement, the occasional work-from-home model is a wonderful option. If you have lofty goals and are excited to take the plunge into an unconventional work environment, the work-from-anywhere model has a certain malleability that can fit to your unique needs. However, if you feel compelled to diversify your team and don’t want the constraint of a central office, then collaboration with remote offshore teams could be the one for you.

As you can see, finding the right remote work model boils down to your business needs. Choose what works best for your company by asking your employees and listening intently as they share their specific needs. This way, you’ll have greater chances implementing the best solution to keep your employees happy and keep them around for years to come. Even if “around” is halfway around the globe.

Mary Atamaniuk is a digital content strategist at YouTeam, a YC-backed marketplace that helps companies to build remote teams of world-class engineers in less than a week. Mary’s areas of interest include digital marketing, tech entrepreneurship, and influencer blogging.

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Wellness can be defined as the active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. It is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.

At 15Five, our focus is on people and how to improve the performance management process for both you and your employees. But for employees to perform well, they must be well. This means that everyone must practice living a healthy lifestyle by taking care of themselves physically, mentally, and socially. Keeping employees well means having a workplace environment that promotes the health and wellbeing of the whole individual.

Although many companies offer medical benefits, only a select few actually promote holistic wellness on a daily basis. Some companies may assume wellness programs are too expensive or too difficult to implement, but what these same companies may not realize is that there is a strong correlation between a person’s well-being and their performance.

The Wellness and Performance Connection

You’ve no doubt heard that employees who are engaged in their work perform better. But it is hard for them to be engaged when they’re sick. Even a mild illness like a cold can decrease an employee’s energy level and distract them from the current task. A longer term condition, like stress, can have the same effect. When you or your employees feel unwell, whether it is due to physical, mental, or social causes it impacts work and productivity.

The correlation between wellness and performance can easily be seen in almost any organization. For example, we know that today’s employees are more stressed than ever before. A recent survey from Cigna shares that four out of five people say they are stressed, with 15% of those same respondents claiming their level of stress is unmanageable. Not only can chronic stress lead to burnout and turnover, those who stay in these environments increase their risk of stress related illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and mental illness.

Stressed employees are also expensive. The American Institute of Stress did the math and found that healthcare costs, accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, decreased productivity, and worker’s comp from highly stressed employees tallies up to $300 billion for the U.S. each year.

While it is difficult for your employees to deliver peak performance when their under stress, have a physical ailment, or even feel isolated, the opposite is also true. Employees who are well and happy perform significantly better. Numerous studies, such as one from Psychologist Shawn Achor found that employees who are happy are 31% more productive than those who are not. Not convinced? The study also found that salespeople who are positive have 37% better sales, and positive physicians are 19% better at diagnosing illnesses. Happy employees could mean the difference between life or death in some cases.

To be clear, organizations can’t “make” an employee happy, however, they can develop a collaborative culture of health and promote wellness initiatives empowering employees to feel their best-selves.

It’s no surprise that engaged employees perform significantly better than those who are unhappy. Try 15Five to get more out of your 1-on-1s.
Getting On Board with Wellness

As companies realize the impact of wellness on their employees, leaders are increasingly developing and promoting various programs that encourage employees to be more active and to pay more attention to their health. Nearly half (46%) of companies surveyed by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) offer various health and wellness programs. Some large corporations may have epic offerings for physical wellness, such as onsite gyms and napping pods. Other activities can be incorporated to focus on social wellness, with table tennis, Friday happy hours, co-ed softball leagues, or team challenges that build community.

Not every company can launch a spectrum of programs, but the companies that do find that implementing alternative culture boosts create a good start to wellness.

For example, marketing technology consultancy, GeekHive began offering employee yoga classes led by Shannon Brennan-Cressey, their director of digital marketing and a certified yoga instructor. Because prolonged sitting and inactivity can lead to health problems, and GeekHive’s employees typically sit at a desk and work on computers all day, Brennan-Cressey decided to introduce the Hatha Yoga approach, focusing on stretching the hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and wrists.

Workplace yoga is known for its relaxing benefits, but it also increases focus and confidence. Breathing techniques used in yoga bring oxygen to the brain, increasing relaxation or energy as needed. Breathing is also key for meditating, which increases mental clarity. Not only do these yoga classes help GeekHive employees physically, the social aspects of trying something new together and the mental benefits of yoga contribute to employee well-being.

Encouraging Physical Movement with Fun Activities

Physical movement doesn’t just burn calories, it causes your cardiovascular system to perform better, and even helps you to think more clearly. Simply walking more can boost creativity by 60%. Walking increases blood flow to the brain, particularly the areas of learning and memory, increasing attentiveness.

Not everyone wants to sweat it out at the gym, but companies can incorporate movement into the workday. Next time you have a meeting, instead of booking that conference room, try taking a walking meeting and get some fresh air while you’re at it.

Physical movement doesn’t just burn calories, it can help boost your creativity by 60%.
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Another great example of a creative employee wellness program comes from Zappos, the online shoe retailer and cultural innovator. The company is known for its phenomenal customer service, and one way it keeps employees prepared for the marathon of phone calls is through Recess Tuesdays. Just as it sounds, every Tuesday, wellness coordinator Kelly Maher puts playground equipment on the plaza so employees can feel welcome to come outside and play. It organically draws people in without forcing them—and who doesn’t want some adult recess time?

Companies can also rally the troops with gentle competition from a step or weight loss challenge, using a common exercise app. This can help employees meet coworkers outside of their usual social circles, have fun, and create a sense of accomplishment. If participation is voluntary and senior leaders are all in, this enthusiasm can introduce a new sense of motivation.

Creating Relationships for Social Wellness

Ensuring employees feel like they belong is an important part of wellness. Studies show that employees who have besties at work are more engaged and less likely to leave. On the flip side, employees who are lonely (and most are) are less productive, less healthy, and even more likely to quit. The effect of lonely employees costs U.S. employers $3.5 billion per year.

Companies can help employees cultivate relationships by creating social wellness programs that bring people together. Celebrations and other social activities show employees they are seen and valued. Departmental retreats, virtual coffee dates with people on remote teams, taking a non-work related class, hosting a lunchtime potluck meal, or learning how to form a flash mob are fun ways your company can bring people together.

Within the walls of the office building, provide a breakroom and the opportunity to use it in order to foster interaction throughout the day. Include all employees (yes, remote workers, too) in activities by establishing an online Slack channel for informal team conversations. This helps employees feel connected wherever they are, especially when the GIFs start flying.

It’s easy for remote employees to be unintentionally overlooked—out of sight, out of mind. Spend a few moments at the beginning of meetings to check in with one another as employees might naturally do outside of work. Since clues about a remote employee’s personal life aren’t usually visible, be sure to ask and show interest in what motivates them outside of the office. Questions about their plans for the weekend or their tennis league final shows you’re paying attention to them as individuals.  

When you set out to build a healthy workplace culture, remember that this change is not a one-and-done process. Use a wellness survey to find out what areas concern your employees the most (i.e. what is their greatest pain point) and start with activities to improve that area.

Even if you start with a simple activity such as a step challenge, your overall message authentically conveys that the organization cares about the employees and recognizes the importance of holistic wellness long-term.

Build a healthy organizational culture where people have a prevalent sense of well-being. Not only will they be more engaged at work, they will begin to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Pamela DeLoatch is a B2B technology writer specializing in creating marketing content for the HR industry. With a background as an HR generalist and specialist, she writes about the employee experience, engagement, diversity, HR leadership, culture and technology. Follow Pamela on Twitter @pameladel.

Photo By: Cole Allen on Unsplash

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Every great leader possesses unique leadership skills that have propelled them to the top, but one quality they all share is a strong commitment to continuous learning. Take Bill Gates, the legendary founder of Microsoft, who reads over 50 books a year. This is Gates’ primary way of gaining new knowledge and testing his understanding.

But in case you’re not ready to average four books a month, we’ve gathered five powerful TED talks below, each focusing on a particular facet of leadership, from learned behaviors, to goal setting, and even incivility in the workplace. Besides, who needs to read the full book when you can spend the next 12 minutes listening to the author speak? (It’s not cheating, we checked.)

1. Elizabeth Lyle: How to Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach the Next Generation of Leaders

Leadership development expert, Elizabeth Lyle, begins this talk by confessing her habit of dirty dish stacking. Lyle shares that this began during her time in college, and she used every excuse she could think of to push off cleaning them. At some point, stacking dishes became second nature and she stopped questioning why she was leaving them there in the first place.

The inability to keep yourself accountable is how bad behavior is shaped, and in our formative years during our twenties, it’s more important than ever to kick these habits before they sink in (pun intended). This behavior can seep into other areas of your life and affect your professional development.

Learned behavior can also be passed on to others. But in this ever-evolving business landscape, bulldozing your way to the top with little regard for those around you is no longer the metric being rewarded. With every interaction, leaders are subconsciously shaping the routines and practices of our leader-of-tomorrow. “Organizations are evolving rapidly, and they’re counting on their future leaders to lead with more speed, flexibility, trust and cooperation than they do today.”

So, how can leaders intervene earlier? Lyle shares that the best learning happens on the job. Empower your employees and give them opportunities to try new things with you there as their safety net. In doing this, both you and your employees will continually grow together.

Lyle quotes Warren Buffet from a school lecture he gave 20 years prior, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.” Mentors, it’s time to embrace new behaviors and build stronger leadership skills and capabilities.

2. Adam Grant: Are You a Giver or Taker?

After three years of studying the dynamics of success and productivity, Organizational Psychologist, Author, and Professor Adam Grant talks about the three types of people in every workplace—givers, takers, and matchers.

Takers are only focused on what you can do for them, and seek to gain as much as possible from every interaction. Givers, as you can imagine, keep others top of mind and consistently give without expecting anything in return. Matchers are those who believe in a just world with equal give and take.

To find out what role each of these personalities play in an office, Grant surveyed 30,000 people. He found that most fall under the category of matchers. But of the three types, who are the most successful and who are the least? Surprisingly, givers are both the best and worst performers. This is true because many givers get exploited and burn out, but the rest achieve extraordinary success through their selflessness and strong leadership skills.

When more people are helping others, an organization does better on every level. “Success is really more about contribution,” says Grant. Creating a world where givers can excel will pave more opportunity for organizations and leaders than ever before.

3. John Doerr: Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals

“We’re at a critical moment. Some of our great institutions are failing us. Why? In some cases, it’s because they’re bad or unethical, but often, they’ve taken us to the wrong objectives. This is unacceptable.” – John Doerr

As an extension from his book, Measure What Matters, the “Johnny Appleseed” of OKRs, John Doerr gives this insightful talk on why the most successful leaders from Google to Amazon know how to set the right goals.

These goals are set using a system of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). This simple system is intended to answer two questions; “where do you want to go,” and “how do you want to get there?” This opens the door for collaboration and creates the necessary alignment for even the most audacious goals. From here, execution of your key results become far easier and more manageable.

Many people aren’t setting the right goals, and even more people aren’t setting goals at all. If you’re guilty of either of those mistakes, take a step back and begin with finding your true purpose. What is your “why?” Teams with extraordinary success marry their ambitions with purpose in clear, concise ways.

Remember, OKRs aren’t intended to be the alternative for a healthy culture or effective leadership skills. But through the use of OKRs, you’ll begin matching your ambition with measurable metrics, and eliminating the ambiguity that would otherwise stunt your progress.

4. Martin Danoesastro: What Are You Willing to Give Up to Change the Way We Work?

Picture this—you look in the sky and see a flock of birds moving in perfect synchrony. Each bird is autonomous, yet works concurrently with each shift in direction. Now imagine If there were only one leader. How might this disrupt the flow?

This description represents the modern workplace. As technology speeds up processes and work capabilities, so should the time it takes to make important decisions. Transformation Expert, Martin Danoesastro says creating small, autonomous teams are the key to this change.

Transparency and open communication, when incorporated to any organization or team, serves as a catapult for success. While this advice may seem cliche, many leaders still hold information close to their chest as they fear letting go of their hard-earned power, but the opposite is true. According to Danoesastro, welcoming transparency not only gains respect from teammates, but you are also able to find the right solutions to issues before it’s too late. The result is a collaborative culture with a brand new energy, and (much) less hierarchy.

Incorporating change into any company is no easy feat. In order to embrace the new, you must first find the courage to shake off the old habits that no longer work. So, what are you willing to give up?

5. Christine Porath: Why Being Respectful to Your Coworkers is Good for Business

Associate Professor at Georgetown University, Christine Porath gives a science backed talk discussing the severe impacts of incivility. Treating people with disrespect in any form can hinder your success, but the price of rudeness can even add up enough to impact your company’s bottom line.

There are various behaviors that fall into this category. What might be disrespectful to you could be perfectly civil to others. But small, uncivil actions can lead to much bigger problems, and while we may not mean to make someone feel a certain way, there can be big consequences to not choosing our words more carefully.

Porath launched a study and found that incivility demotivates all parties involved, even those who witness it. A multinational technology company took these findings from Porath’s study and estimated that incivility in their workplace costs around $12M a year. “Incivility is a bug. It’s contagious, and we become carriers of it just by being around it.”

The number one reason why people treat others rudely or insensitively is because they feel stressed. These types of people also feel that appearing nicer is less leader-like, but truly, those that are seen as civil are two times as likely to be viewed as a good leader. This empirical evidence confirms that despite popular opinion, jerks aren’t the ones that get ahead. Those who lift up their peers daily will garner more respect from them and a higher chance of success in the long run.

Each of these experts offer invaluable advice for those looking to up-level their leadership skills. If you want to practice some of the same habits as great leaders before you, like Bill Gates, stay firm in your commitment to continuous learning.

You no longer have to sit through a full book to gain new knowledge. Instead, fill the pockets of your time using the resources available at your fingertips. Read a thought-provoking article, sign up for an interesting webinar, or even take a moment to watch a new TED talk. These new learnings have the ability to transform the way you make important decisions, manage your teams, and interact with the people closest to you.  

Baili Bigham is Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her picnicking at a nearby park with a book in hand, or riding her bike through San Francisco.

Photo By: Avi Richards on Unsplash

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Welcome back to Talk Nerdy To Me, 15Five’s academic blog series where we get nerdy, talk to the world’s best thinkers, and break down the latest academic research that you can apply to your workplace. This time around, I spoke with Dr. Shannon Arvizu on the topic of professional relationships.

Shannon is a tech sociologist and founder of Epic Teams where she applies her unique background in behavioral science, positive psychology and team performance to help Fortune 500 companies and startups develop high performing managers and teams. Shannon has taught extensively at Columbia University, where she received her Ph.D. in sociology with an emphasis in technology, organizations, and social movements.

In this episode, Dr. Shannon Arvizu gives a deeper focus into the importance of cultivating strong relationships amongst team members. Learning to thrive can seem like a nearly impossible goal for some, especially for those who find it stressful to work closely with colleagues or don’t have a great rapport with their manager. This environment certainly doesn’t allow a person to show up day-to-day as their best selves. The relationships we have, good or bad, can influence the quality of our everyday lives, and professional relationships aren’t exempt.

Making the shift into a more enjoyable and productive workspace requires a collective effort from your team members. This can include having more transparency within the team, honest conversations, and giving open feedback during 1-on-1s. The new mentality of modern work culture looks to leadership to encourage psychological safety, and in this interview you’ll receive tips from Dr. Arvizu for how to foster an environment that allows your employees to become their best selves.

Interview Highlights include:

• Tips and tricks to increase psychological safety at work

• Strategies to foster high-quality professional connections

• How to strengthen professional relationships through microstructures

This conversation has been edited and condensed. To listen to the full conversation, click the video below.


Courtney: Tell me about your background and work at Epic Teams.

Shannon: As a sociologist, I study relationships and groups. Humans are social creatures both at home and at work. If we don’t feel safe to work together, if we don’t feel like we can be heard or seen, and if we don’t feel like what we say matters, performance will suffer. At Epic Teams, we work directly with leaders and managers, many of whom are leading for the first time, to give them tools and techniques to accelerate their ability to work together, which in turn impacts performance.

Courtney: Since we’re talking about relationships – let’s start with Esther Perel (psychotherapist, New York Times Best Selling author and TED talker), who just spoke on this exact topic at South By Southwest. Esther is a psychotherapist who primarily works with couples, but now she is consulting with companies on how to improve professional relationships. She says “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives… it’s equally so, that the quality of our relationships at work determines the actual quality of our work and our overall ability to succeed. Today, relationships have become the new bottom line.”

Obviously, this is a really important topic in the world of work today. Can you share more about the science behind effective relationships at work?

Shannon: I draw primarily from Amy Edmondson’s work on psychological safety and the importance of reducing learning anxiety. Often times employees need to do things they have never done before or work with new people and are under tight deadlines. It’s important that people feel safe to experiment and try something new. People also need to feel like it’s safe to make mistakes and fail. I draw from this research to help people understand why it’s so important to develop the relationship first.

“The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives” – @EstherPerel
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Courtney: Psychological safety is the foundation of strong professional relationships and is defined as the belief that your environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking. Key indicators include a climate where people feel safe to speak up. People will ask for employee feedback, give candid feedback themselves, ask questions, openly admit mistakes, share information and express ideas and concerns. The impact? Increased learning, performance, engagement, and employee satisfaction. University of Michigan professor, Jane Dutton, and her colleagues show that peer support and relationships are critical for psychological safety.

Unfortunately relationships are sometimes seen as soft skills that Esther says, “people love to idealize but disregard in reality.” What’s one step leaders can take to make strong relationships a reality?

Shannon: Self awareness is a great starting point. First we help managers understand both their own strengths and sabotaging tendencies. Then it’s important to increase awareness at the team level. For strengths discovery, I recommend strengths assessments including Gallup Strengths Finder or VIA Character Strengths. Some people are more relational, whereas some tend to focus more on execution. It’s helpful to have this baseline assessment to see where you and your team is the strongest.

Next, managers should understand the sabotaging tendencies of their team. Sabotaging tendencies are automatic, unproductive mental habits, and everyone has them. They are limiting beliefs and assumptions that impact how we handle challenges and they result in lots of stress and negative emotions.

To help teams identify their saboteurs, I recommend Stanford lecturer, Shirzad Chamine’s New York Times bestselling book, Positive Intelligence and his free online assessment. There are multiple sabotaging tendencies, including the pleaser (someone who overextends themselves to others are becomes resultful as a result), and the hyper-achiever (someone who is dependent on performance and achievement for self validation) to name a few. The Hyper-achiever is the most common tendency I see in the start-up tech community.

In sum, a great starting point for psychologically safe team relationships is to develop an awareness of your strengths and saboteurs – both as leaders and as a team. Do this at the beginning of every working relationship.

Courtney: What are other techniques that managers can use to increase emotional intelligence, vulnerability, authenticity, connection, belonging, trust, and empathy?

Shannon: Other techniques include discovery questions, feedforward techniques, global listening, and positive communication.

Discovery questions are a core coaching technique and critical for strong relationships. Discovery questions are more open – whereas directive questions and are more closed. For example, discovery questions sound like “tell me how you’re thinking of this?” whereas directive questions sound like “why did you do it that way?” Research shows that in high performing organizations, leaders ask just as many questions as they provide answers. Do your managers ask questions and seek others viewpoints or only state their position?

Feedforward is an alternative approach to feedback that focuses on the future instead of the past. Feedforward expands possibilities, rather than points out problems. Instead of saying, “that idea won’t work because…” say “what if we added this…?”

“People need to feel like it’s safe to make mistakes and fail” – @DrShannonArvizu
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Global listening is a practice that helps managers listen beyond words that are spoken. It takes into account the emotions behind the words, the body gestures, and tone. In other words, the form of a conversation is just as important as the actual content. Academics call this relational energy, or how interactions affect emotions, and higher relational energy leads to better employee engagement and job performance.

Positive feedback is also critical for strong relationships. Research shows high performing teams have more positive feedback (supportive and encouraging communication) than negative feedback. Positive feedback is important for strong relationships because they act as emotional credits. As a leader you may say something the wrong way or maybe you didn’t invite someone to the meeting that should have been there. One word or one phrase can shut down psychological safety. If you don’t have enough emotional credits, or enough positive interactions with people to be able to cushion the blow, people shut down.

Courtney: You also mentioned the importance of structures. Tell us more about how why we can’t just rely on relationships and why we need structures.

Shannon: There are two systems to a team, 1 the relational system, which is composed on emotions, the relationships, the memories and ways of relating, and 2 the technical system, which is about procedures, tools, and how the work is structured. It’s about joint optimization of both the social system and the technical system.

We look at what are the workflows, where are the most blockers? Where are the bottlenecks? How can you adjust the structure to increase performance? Having structured ways for people to diverge and converge in a way that feels participatory and collaborative is also really key.

The information shared by Dr. Arvizu includes evidence-based techniques that have boosted performance in many companies where leaders have focused on relationship building, instead of trying to drive performance at any cost.

Leaders can create environments that are psychologically safe, focus on employee strengths, create awareness around unproductive mental habits, and value employee feedback by asking the right questions on a regular basis. By joining together the relational and the technical to increase performance and professional relationships, businesses can facilitate a healthy and sustainable culture alongside a high performing one.

Courtney Bigony is Director of People Science at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. She is also the founder of The Deep Feedback Movement, where she provides actionable insights for People Teams based on the latest social science research, and a Fellow at the Center for Evidence Based Management.

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Stone buildings without mortar won’t stand long. A great exercise program is hamstrung without the right diet. Golfers who don’t practice their short game will never bring down their handicap.

Cutting corners in its various forms may get some things done faster, easier, or less expensively, but will more than likely end up costing you in those ways in the long run. The same holds true in the business world. Your success depends on your people, the lifeblood of any company. A continuous performance management process is critical to staying connected with them and ensuring their growth is on track, rather than becoming stagnant.

This management process must be holistic, though. By piecemealing, you create gaps that weaken a system specifically designed to be interlinking. If, for example, you have OKRs but no ongoing check-ins, how are you gauging progress? Conversely, if you have check-ins but no OKRs, what are you even evaluating in the first place?

Let’s take a look at what makes a truly end-to-end performance management system so important for the success of your people and ultimately, your business.

Today’s Management Landscape

The same employee evaluation trends have been surfacing for a while now. Deloitte research from 2015 revealed that 82% of businesses felt conventional methods weren’t worthwhile. McKinsey corroborated these findings through a 2017 survey in which a considerable number of responses pointed to such approaches as having no positive effect on performance. In other words, there’s no shortage of studies showing that old-school processes make little to no impact on everything from employee motivation to company ROI.

Studies show that old-school management processes make little to no impact on employee motivation or even company ROI.
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This has sparked a shift toward more of a servant-leadership, a Jerry Maguire help me help you model, if you will. Through tools like check-ins, 1-on-1s, and self-reviews, employers are creating the type of ongoing two-way dialog and development opportunities that employees not only need, but want.  

As this approach has become more widespread, it’s hard to argue with the results adopters are seeing. Deloitte has profiled a number of companies experiencing improvements across the board after redesigning their performance management system and process:

• GE removed ratings in favor of ongoing touch points and opportunities for immediate feedback. These steps, among others focusing on development rather than appraisal, have dramatically increased employee engagement and time to market.

• Patagonia re-engineered its communication process between managers and employees. Within two years, higher comfort levels with candid conversations and positive-over-punitive feedback improved individual and financial performance.

• Google, Intel, and other Silicon Valley blue chips have all pointed to proven tools like OKRs as being important factors in their success. Other metrics such as workplace satisfaction also improved, as seen by a 10% increase in Adobe employees recommending their company as a great place to work.

Ideal Performance Management is Both Continuous and Complete

Companies-as-ecosystems is a common analogy in the business world, and for good reason. Ecosystems are completely interconnected, often in ways that may not be obvious. Remove any one part—however seemingly insignificant—and it disrupts the entire balance, sometimes catastrophically.

In business, like in nature, such consequences are potentially far-reaching. Internal gaps in performance evaluation and career development can impact employees in unfortunate ways. This could eventually influence their dealings with your external business partners and customers. This, in turn, could then affect your bottom line.

So, a continuous performance management approach itself is not enough. It needs to be complete and cohesive in order to generate the kind of results you want from your investment. Otherwise, the differences between your workforce and that of competitors employing an all-inclusive process can be stark:  

Piecemeal Management Process:
• Haphazard adoption could create confusion
• Incongruent solutions may be counterproductive
• Different goals or incentives can lead to mixed motivations


Holistic Management Process:
• Structured dialog uncovers performance roadblocks quickly
• Consistent goal-setting and tracking facilitates growth
• Systematic application generates measurable ROI

Data from the past decade consistently backs this up. But don’t take our word for it, here are two different studies analyzing various forms of this approach:  

Study #1

Publisher: Harvard, 2008

Key Takeaway: “Motivating employees begins with recognizing that to do their best work, people must be in an environment that meets their basic emotional drives to acquire [rewarding performance], bond [collaborative culture], comprehend [meaningful work], and defend [transparent processes].”

Supporting Data: “A company that falls in the 50th percentile on employee motivation improves only to the 56th by boosting performance on one drive, but way up to the 88th percentile by doing better on all four drives.

Study #2

Publisher: McKinsey, 2017

Key Takeaway: “[Performance management] practices are mutually reinforcing: implementing one practice well can have a positive effect on the performance of others and leads to more effective performance management overall.”

Supporting Data: “Among respondents who say their organizations perform well on all three practices, 84% report a positive impact on performance management. They are 12 times likelier to report effective performance-management systems than respondents who say their companies have not implemented any of the three.”

Continuous Performance Management must be complete and cohesive in order to generate the kind of results you want from your investment.
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Both the Harvard and McKinsey studies clearly identify that separate performance management practices, when done together, have a positive compounding effect. Data shows that cherry picking one or two separate practices will compromise results and hinder your company from reaping all the possible benefits.

Leveraging 15Five’s Complete Performance Management System

We can summarize this entire philosophy with a single line we’ve all heard before: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is true in almost every conceivable instance from sports to science to business, hence the cliché.  

That’s why we offer a continuous performance management system comprising a series of interconnected parts, not an à la carte menu of options that lose effectiveness when siloed. Each core feature directly impacts the others on the way to achieving a unified goal:

• Our product suite’s Profile page serves as home base for outlining each employee’s job description and key strengths. Crystallizing these up front clarifies roles and expectations, which are critical to successful performance management.

• This software is a resource for setting reminders and housing information related to Weekly Check-Ins and 1-on-1s. Regular touch points ensure continued alignment on goals, progress in growth and development, and healthy relationships between managers and employees.

• These meetings also provide a forum to discuss calendarized Objectives. Closely monitoring measurable key results—what each person, department, or the company at large is trying to achieve—keeps the endgame in sight and sets the stage for quarterly or annual reviews.

• Meeting and exceeding these objectives shouldn’t just be acknowledged behind closed doors. It should be celebrated with the team in real time, which is exactly what High Fives are designed to do.

• Once it’s time to sit down for more formal development meetings, our Best-Self Review allows managers and employees to have productive, meaningful conversations that are directly informed by the other tools used throughout the year.

Maximizing efficiency can be a wonderful thing for your business, but not at the expense of your workforce. An investment in a holistic performance management system is an investment in your company’s future. By implementing an end-to-end plan, you show your team members that you care about them not just as employees, but as people.

And they’ll thank you for it in more ways than one.

David Mizne is Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web & The Economist. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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For years, leaders in the HR/Management space, academics, and top business minds have all sought to define organizational culture. They have largely failed.

This is, of course, no easy task. Culture is nebulous, something that we feel but just can’t put a name to. It’s like the immortal soul. We can’t point to it, and some say that it doesn’t exist, but who can deny that there is something magical and mysterious about our lives?

Left with little choice, people define the intangible by pointing to the elements of it—where people bend the rules, the way that people speak to each other, or the feeling most people have when they visit the office. All of these intangibles coalesce into the essence of your organizational culture.

But I’d like to offer a specific definition:

Culture is life. It introduces necessary flexibility into an otherwise rigid system. In this case, the corporate system.
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Too big to fail?

As it grows past a certain size, if it does not have flexible elements built-in, any company will collapse under its own weight. This can happen because communication breaks down and people tend to serve themselves over the collective. When human connection and shared beliefs fail, the organism that is a company begins to die. Or worse, when toxic elements arise, like people who try to undermine the existing beliefs, decay is introduced into the system.

In the natural world, monoliths crumble all the time, but a tree can live and continue to grow forever. The reason for that is because trees are living things made up of smaller living components. They have leaves that eat sunlight, branches that sway in the wind, and seed pods that can lie dormant for decades until the right event signals to the organism that the time has come to proliferate.

And life comes with a component lacking in a dead system— flexibility. Even the biggest of trees that look indestructible and unmovable is flexible; it sways in high winds to prevent itself from breaking. Indeed, it is this wind that strengthens trees as they grow. If the wind is a turbulent marketplace, with factors beyond your control and sometimes even your predictability, wouldn’t you prefer to ride out the storm with strength and flexibility, instead of holding fast to rigid and breakable systems?

Your company, like a tree, is also comprised of living components called human beings. While they can be given strict standards, policies, and guidelines to adhere to in the course of doing their work, they are living things that require a certain amount of autonomy and freedom. They require nourishment and room to grow. This balance point between the rigid and the flexible is unique to every culture.

Businesses use systems and policies to create uniformity for good reasons; collecting useable data points, avoiding employment litigation, etc., but these systems are often rigid, and inflexible. They are the hallmarks of bureaucracy and top-down management styles. If you focus solely on them you are allowing human connections and trust to break down.

So instead, celebrate what makes each individual at your company unique, forge genuine relationships, and provide growth opportunities lest you calcifying the very flexibility that you need to survive and thrive.

Why organizational culture?

Some business leaders may think that competitive pay and benefits are sufficient, that a healthy culture isn’t necessary as long as the company and employees are financially successful. Sure, revenue growth and compensation are important. It helps you stay competitive and lets employees have enough financial abundance to alleviate fear and stress that might otherwise impact their work. (Or maybe it’s a status thing. But let’s leave the tech bros out of this conversation.) The bottom line is that salaries and benefits do help you compete for talent, but in the end they are not enough.

Salaries and benefits do help companies compete for talent, but in the end they are not enough.
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Science has proven that humans aren’t fully motivated by compensation past a certain amount. So anything above that eventually fades into the background. And other perks like catered meals or plentiful snacks become normal expectations over time. Culture responds to different and higher human needs, the sense of psychological safety, of belonging, and of fulfilling a higher purpose.

Culture is what already exists at your company (whether you create it intentionally or not) and must be periodically directed or redirected by the efforts of leaders. It has touchpoints like a mission that provides purpose, and core values to provide direction. But all of these create a loose container that people have space to move within. For example, some days an employee may be aligning mainly with our value of Hold and be held accountable, on a different day it may be Dare to Dream. Each employee has guidelines and the flexibility to work within them to do what they deem is of the highest contribution.

Creating culture in an existing business

In some businesses, leaders did not at first know how to intentionally create an organizational culture from the outset or did not consider it a priority. If you as a leader have not intentionally created your culture, that’s okay! There are already existing elements that have naturally emerged at your company. You just have to extract the values from those experiences and codify them. But to access these you have to be tapped in to your employees.

For example, a new 15Five employee was once asked to end a meeting with a phrase to kickstart the action items developed during the meeting. Put on the spot, he paused and eventually stammered, “Hope we do good”. Everyone laughed and the phrase was repeated over the years to the point that it has become a traditional and inspirational quote. This story became a cultural phenomena of sorts. Leaders can use moments like that. Maybe tie it to a value like Always Do Good or Hope Is Not Enough. Eventually people may forget about the inciting instance, but the value will remain.

You may not have planted the tree (created the culture), but you can provide the rain, soil, and sunlight now. Organizational cultures must be nurtured like any living thing– to grow in the right direction and to be pruned back when certain elements grow out of control and threaten the organism. You don’t create the tree, even if you planted the seed, but you must diligently care for it or it will die.

Company cultures must be nurtured like any living thing in order for it to grow in the right direction.
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Creating cultures from scratch

If you are fortunate or forward thinking enough to be conscious of culture-building when you begin your company, then you will ideally establish values and purpose-creating elements like a mission and vision. You can then hire people who share the same values and are inspired by the same company purpose. (Note that “shared values” can lead to a homogenous workforce. Always consider the power of diversity and inclusion when building the team.)

But make no mistake, as you grow (especially as you grow rapidly) culture becomes harder to maintain. Microcultures will form on different teams or within certain groups that will either fit inside of the macroculture or threaten it. You will have to choose what flexibility will be in that system, how microcultures are allowed to differ, and what the universally shared values will be. Unless you want a deliberately competitive culture you can’t allow a rogue faction to be created within the organization. Steve Jobs did this with his Mac team in the 1980’s and it created strife at Apple among the teams.  

As a company grows, culture becomes harder to maintain.
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Tools like employee feedback software allow for the safe creation and maintenance of team microcultures within the greater macroculture, because they help managers build authentic relationships with their employees. Microcultures can exist on teams when there is strong company-wide communication because they are not competitive and silos can’t form. These are just naturally occurring conversations and experiences on different teams that have their own center of gravity. While there is some uniqueness in each microculture, there must also be common threads of purpose and core values that connect everyone in the company.

When organizational culture itself becomes a rigid system then you are screwed. Some companies try to layer in language that becomes the way people speak. This type of conditioning can be off-putting, and in the long run people will eventually mock it. So, one way to bake in flexibility is to allow space for individual uniqueness. While there is a comfort to shared language, people also need to be creative and to interpret language to make it their own.

A great example of this is your elevator pitch. Do you want your go-to-market teams to sound robotic and uniform, regurgitating memorized boilerplate? Or do you want each person to have their own take on the same basic message? Again, flexibility is important.

The exact ratio of flexibility and rigidity in the system is ever-evolving. Too much rigidity and the system will break. Too much flexibility and the system cannot stand.  So how do you determine the perfect ratio in every moment? Each system from a particular team’s microculture all the way up to the entire company macroculture must be analyzed on a regular basis to see if it still fits.  

So many programs, books, and terms have been created to define organizational culture – The Culture Code, The Culture Blueprint, culture of communication, transparent culture… there is no right way of doing culture, because every company is unique. You as a leader have the opportunity to assemble a unique constellation of human being whose individual talents become expressed in the group field. Ensure that field is as fertile as possible and then watch your business grow.

David Mizne is Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web & The Economist. Follow him @davidmizne.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Disruptive companies aren’t created by accident. In order to hold this badge of honor, a business must successfully change how people think and behave. This is quite a tall order, especially for those companies just getting off the ground. While there’s a recipe for each business that makes it unique, only the top companies deliver innovative ideas that destroy all old ways of doing something. To do this, a company must stay agile.

Take Netflix, for example. Netflix initially took on Blockbuster as their biggest competitor. The company mailed out DVDs to customers who wanted a blockbuster-like experience without leaving their home. After carefully listening to their customer base and realizing there was greater potential, they flipped their business upside down.

Flash forward to today. Because of Netflix’s agility, their quick decision to change into a TV-stream service has created a product that has millions of people across the globe “binge-watching” on their platform. Over half of U.S. households are subscribed to Netflix or other similar services.

Netflix was able to make this strategic game-time decision using organizational agility. This term refers to a company’s ability to rapidly change and adapt in response to trends in the market. Having organizational agility can help businesses react successfully to new competitors, the development of new industry-changing technologies, or sudden shifts in the market.

A big area of focus for agility in most companies is within their HR department. The key to practicing agility is to do it both quickly and often, and in order to do that, a company culture must provide ample space for flexibility. This calls for leadership transparency, open communication, and synergy. HR plays a vital role in keeping culture intact and shaping the way a business holds up to competition through gaining the right talent.

As a disruptive startup we understand that change is constant and keeping ahead of the curve is simply the standard. Staying behind industry and technology trends is a quick way to run a business into the ground (morbid, we know). This is why organizational agility is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity for all businesses to achieve.

Most companies will unfortunately fall victim to time, failing to evolve and keeping up old habits. But, we’re here to help! We compiled this roundup of five articles by industry leaders who share invaluable advice for keeping your business sharp:

1) The 3 A’s of Organizational Agility

By: Kevin Oakes

CEO of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), Kevin Oakes is no stranger to Organizational Agility and the power it holds within companies. In this piece, Oakes gives a glimpse into major businesses that use organizational agility strategically and effectively.

For example, Oakes calls out major cell phone service provider, T-Mobile, during their 2012 low point. It wasn’t until the company brought in a new President and CEO, John Legere, that change began to happen.

Legere, now at celebrity-status for his strategic leadership moves in the eleventh hour, took a customer-centric approach to business internally, such as applauding good customer service. Productivity began to naturally boom as employees felt heard and valued. Because T-Mobile embraced change and stayed agile even under immense pressure, the company has now doubled in size since 2012.

Oakes shared i4cp’s recent report titled, Three A’s of Organizational Agility: Reinvention Through Disruption, in which there are three steps to creating a more agile business: anticipate, adapt, and act. For example, to better anticipate, a company should make room for change, and if you want to be a disrupter, you must invite change. Try this by moving talent often and streamlining organizational hierarchy to be more customer-friendly. A workforce deals with change better when it happens often.

To read more about the Three A’s of Organizational Agility, click here.

2) The Keys to Organizational Agility

By: McKinsey & Company

International management consulting firm McKinsey & Company conducted interviews internally with their leaders of organizational design. In these interviews, principal Aaron De Smet explains what organizational agility means and how companies can incorporate these ideals.

De Smet defines organizational agility as “the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.”

Throughout his interview, De Smet stresses two traits that organizational agility require:

• The ability to move fast
• Stability

In the most successful companies, stability is instilled at the very top. Organizational agility can’t be achieved in an environment of uncertainty and reckless fluctuation. This is why processes are extremely important. Through processes that allow for both top-to-bottom communication and feedback from the bottom upwards, leadership can minimize the risk of misalignment.

Keeping a line of open communication can be extremely difficult, especially as a company begins to scale. Try 15Five to efficiently facilitate your weekly check-ins.
3) 5 Steps To Greater Agility In Your Organization

By: Hugo Moreno

Forbes featured their Editorial Director, Hugo Moreno who shares insight on the role of corporate culture through the practice of organizational agility. Moreno describes organizational agility as the ability to adjust strategies, empower employees to make decisions, respond to uncertainty with flexibility and speed, and view unanticipated change as an opportunity for transformation.

In this piece, Moreno cites a recent report by Forbes Insights and the Project Management Institute (PMI), based on a global survey of more than 500 senior executives, Achieving Greater Agility: The Essential Influence of the C-Suite, that examines how companies can achieve and implement agility.

A common theme that occurred throughout the study was the issue of company culture. Culture can greatly contribute to an organization’s ability to stay agile, and if only a quarter (27%) of executives from this sample size believe their culture to be enabling, this means that most companies across the globe have some work to do.

Not sure where to start? Moreno shares three areas of your company culture that must continually evolve:

• People management

• Procedural overhaul

• A new mindset

Within these areas of focus, leaders can begin to recognize common issues, find solutions, and even tap into greater potential. If an employee feels they are empowered and supported by their leaders, they will act with greater agility and strive for better business outcomes.

Once you’ve recognized where to begin, Moreno gives five simple steps to greater agility for your company. One key step is to give employees all the tools they need to quickly adopt and implement new strategies through training, education, and technology tools. Through continuous learning and development opportunities, your employees will stay motivated and are more likely to reach their full potential.

4) 3 Ways to Reshape Your Organization to be More Agile

By: CIO.com

It’s no surprise that in the booming tech world, corporations and start-ups alike are evolving from legacy thinking to an agile mindset. In this piece, CIO.com shares three key areas to focus on when reshaping your organization:


“If increasing organizational agility is your goal, human resources is a good place to start.”

Traditional hiring methods have taught HR teams to hire for specific skill sets and team disciplines. This, however, is not conducive to an agile workforce. Instead, CIO.com recommends that a company seek talent that is creative, collaborative, and curious. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit will thrive in environments that are ever-changing and learn to adapt.


An easy way to implement organizational agility into your company is by, well, trimming the fat. Do this by removing layers of complexity that slow down the business, and empower all employees across the board to be autonomous.

Traditionally, a manager’s role was simply to assign tasks and follow up to ensure instructions were followed. Today, a manager’s role is far more impactful. They share company objectives and guide their employees to make informed decisions while soliciting useful feedback along the way.


Put core processes in place that support the free flow of information, collaboration, and accountability for quick decision making. This will establish scalable systems that promote transparency from top to bottom, and as your business changes, so should your processes. (These systems should also promote teamwork and learning and development.)

5) HR looks to partnerships to survive digital transformation

By: HR Dive

For this piece, HR Dive kept their insights short, sweet, and to the point. They focus on organizational agility as a response to the fast pace of technological innovation, and explore trends within the space.

HR Dive references a report from Information Services Group (ISG), that evaluated 50 digital business providers on their performance across a range of capabilities. Through this research, they found that digital transformation impacts nearly every facet of an organization.

Digital learning initiatives have taken the HR space by storm as it pertains to employee development. Businesses looking to remain competitive must take the initiative to incorporate relevant digital skills into their training. By doing this, you’re also taking good measures to maintain employee retention. Because many younger employees are more agile with technology trends, they are acquiring more digital skills to guarantee their future employability.

Not only does organizational agility condition a company to be more successful in the long run, it also helps with attracting top talent who seek deeper connections with the companies they work for. Transformation into agility for those orgs requires transparency from the top, stability in their processes, and a collaborative culture that promotes creativity.

Baili Bigham is Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her picnicking at a nearby park or riding her bike through San Francisco.

Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

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“Am I a good manager?”

If you’re like us, you’ve probably asked yourself this question on more than one occasion. The age old mystery of what makes a good manager has sparked many theories over the years, some useful and some (really) not. While anecdotes are nice, what we look for is hard evidence.

So, we did some digging….

When it comes to employee performance feedback, less is not always more

In a recent study of people management by The Predictive Index, their data uncovers that employees actually enjoy feedback. To give a closer look, the chart below shows employee respondent ratings of managers on a scale of 1-10. (10 being the highest rating, and 1 being the lowest.)

This study also revealed that 44% of managers are still giving little to no feedback, meaning the majority of respondents lie within two categories, the first being “I don’t get any feedback,” and the second being “I get some feedback, but not as much as I’d like.”

It may not be surprising that employees prefer to be given the “right amount of feedback,” but an interesting find is that giving too much performance feedback is still preferred over less. Don’t be afraid to share your insights with your employees if you feel it could be useful to them in the long run.

Another study by Gallup found that 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work, and 23% of employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful performance feedback to them.

To put it lightly, these are scary numbers.

From each of these findings, we now know for certain that to be an effective manager, you must provide meaningful employee feedback to everyone on your team. Ideally, you will do that on a regular basis and in-person. This has come to be known as a 1-on-1.

Since 1-on-1 feedback is so vital to high performance, we recently produced a webinar on the importance of regular 1-on-1 feedback and a walkthrough of one of our most popular features:


Importance of the 1-on-1

Companies can effectively drive employee engagement through one step- recurring and impactful 1-on-1 conversations. In a previous post, 15Five CEO, David Hassel discusses the true value of 1-on-1s and how they benefit all parties in the long run:

“It seems counterintuitive that spending time will free up time, but that’s exactly what these meetings can do. 1-on-1s help managers to get out of overwhelm by making sure that every employee is focused on the right task. Taking a few minutes to coach employees frees up your time to focus on your own work with the confidence that you won’t be putting out fires later.”

Over the course of time, benefits of 1-on-1 meetings don’t stop at streamlined work efficiencies. These dedicated moments of listening and engaging with your employee will contribute to a deeper sense of belonging at the company and allow for mentorship along the way. As a manager, this is when giving the right amount of performance feedback becomes organic and intuitive.

The 1-on-1 meeting revisited

1-on-1 meetings are not intended for minor status updates or task overviews, they are your opportunity as a manager to be purposeful and delve deeper into the needs of every direct report.

The most valuable part of your week should be the uninterrupted time you schedule with your employee. Through this time, you are helping to bridge the gap between often ambiguous digital communication and quality face-to-face conversation.

15Five not only holds you and your employees accountable for attending 1-on-1 meetings, but more importantly it helps everyone focus on what matters most without wasting valuable time. Your employees will begin to feel seen, heard, and challenged in their work.

Here are a few tips for how to bring more value to your 1-on-1s:

1. Create the space

Before you begin the meeting, be intentional and set the context of human care. These moments to connect should foster a relationship based on mutual respect and personal investment.

From there, you can proceed to check in with the other’s mental space. How are you feeling? Do you feel fully present? If your direct report doesn’t feel they are in a safe space to be open, they may respond with an inauthentic answer that reflects what they think you want to hear. Build trust by sharing first and setting the tone.

2. Have an agenda

In order to be efficient in a 1-on-1 meeting, you must be purposeful with the direction of the conversation. This time with your employee is a collaborative effort, and agenda items should be based on concerns from both sides. Don’t forget to include talking points that support both the employee’s professional and personal developmental objectives.

By providing a thoughtful agenda prior to an upcoming 1-on-1, managers can save time by turning performance feedback into swift action.

3. Address the highs and the lows

Always celebrate the victories, big or small. Employee recognition is an easy way to keep your employees motivated and empowered. Positive reinforcement trumps negative reinforcement any day, but don’t be afraid to address challenges and concerns.

Part of being a good manager and an effective coach includes challenging your employees to step out of their comfort zones and guiding them to find the best solutions. These moments, while sometimes uncomfortable, can lead to transformative growth for both you and your direct reports.

4. Action items

Outline clear action items that your employee can identify as a priority with clear expectations and timelines. This can be a great time for the employee to present follow-up questions and clear up ambiguities, if any.

5. Follow up

1-on-1s work best when they are recurring and consistent. Keep this commitment and you will create a cadence of valuable performance feedback. Over time, the coaching you provide and trust you build during these meetings can allow employees to adapt a true growth mindset. Maintaining a growth mindset can help them shake bad habits and develop new skills through experimenting and learning.

Like most of us, your day-to-day probably consists of a lot of communication via email, text or phone calls, but it’s the time during your 1-on-1 meetings that hold an irreplaceable potency. They have 3 basic purposes; build the relationship, answer the most pressing challenges, and re-align the employee with team or company goals.

More 15Five tools coming soon!

We have two new tools in our pipeline to help you and your employees have the best 1-on-1s possible.

  • Talking point templates: These templates will allow anyone using the 1-on-1 feature to save recurring talking points so they can be applied to future meetings.
  • 1-on-1s beyond your manager: Soon, you’ll be able to have 1-on-1s with anyone in your organization. This feature will allow you to skip levels or jump cross-functionally for scheduled time within 15five.

For more details on the full product walkthrough webinar:

Maru Carrion is a Product Designer at 15Five, a continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. She brings her design expertise to create the ultimate user experience for our customers. When Maru is away from her laptop, she can be found dining out or walking her dog, Dali.

Paco Flores is an Enterprise Customer Success Manager at 15Five. Paco has worked in customer success for 5 years, and had a prior retail career for 12 years.

Image Credit: Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

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When does the “performance management” of a new hire begin?

Most leaders will tell you it takes place during those first days or weeks of a new hire’s arrival, when manager and employee sit down and establish goals. Progressive managers may add that the performance management process is an ongoing activity, with frequent check-ins and periodic overall reviews as the employee moves forward in their career trajectory.

But what if your performance management strategy considered what happens even before an employee’s first day of work?

Including onboarding as part of performance management enhances the employee experience, which in turn improves retention and helps to create a more productive and connected workforce.

We’ve joined forces with the People Operations Strategists at Sapling to bring you the Guide to Integrating Employee Onboarding With Your Overall Performance Management Strategy. Below, you can read the first two chapters of this phenomenal resource.

Employee onboarding is more than orientation

While companies typically provide an introduction to the company culture, workplace rules and processes, and to each specific job through a new hire orientation, onboarding is something far more involved.

A typical first-day orientation goes something like this:

• Employee complies with the email that instructed them to show up at 8:30 am.

• Upon arrival, they have to wait at security because they don’t yet have a badge.

• Once they get clearance, someone shows them to their department, but the manager is in a meeting.

• The computer and other equipment are on order or with IT, so the new hire is told to have a seat at an empty desk where they can fill out paperwork and read a lengthy tome entitled The Manual until their manager is free.

• They watch one or several videos to help orient them.

• New employee glances around the workspace, feeling forgotten, unimportant, and wondering if they’ve made the right career decision.

Or perhaps a company is more prepared and has the new hire’s equipment ready and waiting. Maybe the manager is there to greet them and sits down to discuss the responsibilities and goals of the job and how evaluation takes place. While the employee appreciates getting this concrete information, they also don’t have context for it. They feel inundated with information but don’t feel comfortable enough to say anything.

Onboarding helps new employees shift from being outsiders to insiders of an organization.
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These situations often happen on an employee’s first day, but neither of these are examples of proper onboarding. Onboarding is a process that helps new employees shift from being outsiders to insiders of an organization.

Intentional employee onboarding is important for building a healthy, thriving company. This part of the employee lifecycle is particularly necessary for companies that are rapidly expanding, since those organizations risk losing their cultures in the process. The sooner new employees can become part of the fabric of a company, the less likely they are to leave.

A proactive management strategy

Employee onboarding is more than a “feel good” process. Its roots are in the social science that looks at the very human need to connect. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once physiological needs (having food, water, and shelter) and safety needs were met, the next major need is to belong. In the work world, this need to belong translates to a need to connect with others and to feel seen and valued.

In today’s tight labor market, where employers struggle to fill jobs and employees know they can easily find a replacement position elsewhere, effective onboarding creates better employee relationships with the company. It leads to lower turnover, higher performance and productivity, higher job satisfaction, and lower stress.

Research shows that organizations that engage in proactive onboarding are more effective than those who don’t. Despite the multiple benefits of effective onboarding, only 20% of companies do it, which means those organizations that do it well have a distinct advantage.

The cost of poor employee onboarding

In contrast, consider what happens when an onboarding process is not done well. The two most critical times for a new hire are 1) after they accept the job but haven’t yet started work and 2) the first three to six months of employment. Half of all hourly workers leave their jobs in the first four months and half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months. With this revolving door of employment, companies can spend the majority of their time recruiting and training, and never reap the benefits of the employee succeeding in the job.

In addition to the time and money lost in repeatedly hiring for the same job, employees who do stay, despite a poor onboarding process, may never reach their potential. A new hire’s trajectory of success is set as early as the first two weeks. That means if the onboarding process is not implemented well from the start, your employee’s motivation and performance may be limited for the remainder of their career with your company.

Keys to a Successful Onboarding:

• The goal of onboarding is to get your new hire socialized to the team, manager, and role. Do they feel emotionally connected to the mission of the company?

• Foresight and planning go a long way. Don’t ignore the employee development phase. Help them understand what success looks like and what’s expected of them.

• Role clarity is the key to success. Only 50% of employees clearly know what is expected of them at work. As role clarity increases retention and productivity increases.

• Onboarding is complete when your new team member feels like an insider, ready to help onboard new hires with comfort and ease.

By creating a memorable onboarding experience and incorporating it as part of your overall performance management strategy, you can help employees ramp up more quickly, boost their productivity and have them feel connected to your company far more deeply than you may have thought possible.

Shane Metcalf is a seasoned executive coach and speaker who is obsessed with building healthy organizations, and creating the opportunity for people to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Driven by his deep belief in the potential of our species, Shane co-founded 15Five, industry-leading performance management software that is unlocking the potential of the global workforce. As Chief Culture Officer, Shane understands what fundamentally motivates people, how to architect high performance, and which principles and rituals create “self-organizing cultures”. Shane has been featured in XConomy, LingoLive, and the Association for Talent Development. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image Credit: Kwan Fung on Unsplash

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