When Does the Season of Joy End?

Valentine’s Day is almost forgotten, Fat Tuesday calories are still being mourned, the season of Lent is in full swing, and spring break plans are being laid.  Have you thought much about Christmas?  Christmas is over, right?

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons a part from the celebration of my faith.  I enjoy the beauty and calm of the first snow fall, of twinkling lights hung on every house, how stop lights even appear to be hung for the colors of the season, all along with a change in attitude of complete strangers smiling more to each other and extending gracious yet common social courtesy.  Christmas time is truly a season of joy.

In the first two weeks of January, most households dismantle their holiday cheer often spawned on by city deadlines for tree pick-up services.  In the northern parts of the country whether brought on by frustration at the difficulty of driving in icy conditions or simply forgetting how good it felt to be courteous to one another, motorists drive selfishly once again.

When does the season of joy end?

What is the acceptable date to take down Christmas decorations?  What makes this date acceptable?

When does it become acceptable to dismiss extensions of grace?

A ‘season of joy’ exists outside of the Christmas celebration as I would say we all experience a season of joy in our relationships both personal and professional.

Think of the new hire’s first two weeks in the office; how he’s treated and how he acts.  Think how you behave in the first few months of a new relationship.

Initially everyone is on their best behavior as well as providing the benefit of the doubt for actions misunderstood.  We even go above and beyond expectations to delight our new partner, boss, colleague, or friend.

In this season, everyone is mostly happy, contributing, and collaborating.

Then what?

It changes.

You know what I’m talking about:  suspicion, jealousy, pride, mistrust, disillusion, blind ambition, etc.  It all comes rushing in.

The season of joy ends.

But Why Must It End?

My question in response to this change of attitude is, why?

Why does it have to change?  What stops us from continually providing the benefit of the doubt to each other?  What stops us from honestly helping our colleagues without ulterior motives?

Does your organization support a culture of true team work?

Does your organization support a culture of true autonomy?

Are your managers leading their teams in supportive ways?  Are your managers providing servant leadership to the lowest person on the totem pole?

Similar to holy days marking a calendar, our relationships experience a time-line of change as we get to know each other more and work together longer.  Unlike holy days however, we have no excuse to take down our personal decorations, aka, our positive attitude or to stop being supportive of one another.  We have no excuse to take advantage of others, to stop providing the benefit of the doubt or to desist in giving our personal best.

How do you keep the season of joy strong in your work place?

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Jennifer Werth runs a
lean process development & training organization.
She can be reached at jennifer
@werthexpertise.com and through her blog.

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Why Leadership Transparency?

I have been wondering lately how important it is for companies, non-profits, and the government agencies that I deal with to be transparent in their dealings with their consumers, investors, and the public.

This Got Me Thinking

I volunteered with a great nonprofit organization that did great work for over three years.  This group helps people in financially difficult situations get into safe, affordable, and decent housing where they can have the confidence of knowing it’s as permanent as they need it to be.  It’s amazing how providing stability in someone’s life can turn their whole world upside down yet right side up.


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Like many nonprofits (and commercial ventures), this group has been struggling to raise funds.

As a volunteer, I was always surprised to learn that they struggled for donations because I knew their programming was so strong.

As a volunteer, I was always surprised to run into people who had grave misconceptions about the program and its benefits.

As a volunteer however, I could never find out exactly how the program was funded.  No one could or would answer me directly about where the money went and how much was actually needed.

The goals were not clear.

I found it difficult to help them, often guessing at what they might need.

My fellow volunteers shared the same concern with me.  We’d guess as best we knew and do the best we could.

I would find in conversation with potential donors that they also had the same questions as I did but with many misconceptions about the program as well.

What if this were a commercial venture?

What would you do if this was your commercial venture?

The same rules apply don’t they?  Frankly, I can hear the gears over-heating in your head:

  • Communicate a clear message to the team on what needs to be accomplished!
  • Get everyone unified around a real and tangible long term goal.

What else would you add to this list?

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Jennifer Werth runs a lean process development & training organization.
She can be at jennifer@werthexpertise.com and through her blog.

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In Defense of Negativity

There’s good reason to not feel so positive these days.


war in Afghanistan

nuclear threats swine flu

market crash global warming injustice

housing foreclosure crisis

downsizing selfish leaders demanding customers

low sales high unemployment


Events, attitudes, and circumstances can throw us for a loop.  How we react to these things  can be based on fear, experience, upbringing, our values, understanding, and openness to change.  We can react negatively in spite of our age and all the self-help books we’ve read.

We have good reason.  Negativity is akin to grieving.

Why not be a sourpuss?  You can share with the world your anger by wearing a frown on your face, ignoring people you work with, being snappy with answers to questions, being incredibly aloof, only giving out small tidbits of information but not all the information your coworkers need to do their jobs well…


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What else can you think of?

Perhaps you could also rally resentment against a manager by quietly questioning their whereabouts when absent from the office.  This is especially effective when you know the manager is at a legitimate meeting, but no one else does.   You could undermine the manager’s leadership when they have delegated something by going to that person and asking any series of questions such as:

Why doesn’t he do it?

Does he even know how this is supposed to work?

Or better: “That’s not appropriate.”

One could make a new employee that they resent feel this negativity vibe in a variety of vibrant ways.

  • Perhaps one could make them:
  • Not be a part of a new hiring initiative
  • Feel incredibly unwelcome through the silent treatment
  • Withhold information from them
  • Point out superficial, made-up, or exaggerated faults about them to fellow colleagues.

(Negativity Tip: This last idea is best executed in small huddled groups where upon seeing the new person coming across you in the hallway or break-room, you immediately stop talking and remain silent until the person passes. Hehehe…It’s a blast!)

Denying critical elements that a new employee needs to do their work is also an excellent negativity tool to wield.  Examples of this could be falsifying customer deadlines, withholding an office key, or forgetting to convey important messages.  This type of anger transfer is especially useful in spreading negativity when the new person has nothing to do with why you are angry, hurt, or unappreciated. The effectiveness of this negativity is wonderful because the poor sap never sees it coming and will be completely blindsided by the treatment.

But why go to all that bother?

Wouldn’t all this bad behavior only drain energy from you?  What good could come of it?  If you find that you’re not able to accept new direction or effect change in your workplace positively through collaborative healthy means, perhaps a job change is better for everyone, especially you.

The difficulty in negative behavior is that it rubs off.  Like it or not, we tend to learn and mirror patterns we witness in others.  Negativity is best tackled quickly.

Luckily, good leaders know this too.  They know how to ignore petty negative passive outbursts and when to step in.  They understand that learning the root of the anger will help bring resolution quicker moving everyone forward. Establishing trust and creating an environment where a negative employee can open up and start to describe what is wrong in a one-on-one environment can lead to mutual understanding and positive change in how you work together. Long term everyone benefits, even if this employee chooses to leave the company.

How have you tamed a bad seed?

What tools do you use to help your teammates shine?

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Jennifer Werth runs a
lean process development & training organization.
She can be reched at jennifer
@werthexpertise.com and through her blog.

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I had a manager once tell me that, “Every time a new member joins a team, there is a power struggle as that person asserts themselves and the existing leader of the team defends their territory.

It didn’t matter how long the team had been in existence, he’d say, every time someone new comes in, there will be puffing out of chests.

So this rings true in every group I’ve joined.  The most dynamic and rare teams of course have been where all parties have gotten over themselves and worked for the greater good of the team..

Boy, those were fun projects!  ..but enough reminiscing.

I’ve joined a new team recently in a significant role.  I read with much empathy and motivation about George Brymer’s experience trying to figure out what my “chair swap” could be.  It’s been interesting to watch the territory protection of a few of my new colleagues along with their personal styles: quiet and avoiding, negative and distrustful, as well as loud and confrontational.  It’s important to remind myself daily, that these otherwise tender-hearted people would react this way to anyone in my position, no matter who it was.

Many things have become important actually:

It’s been important to have a strong support group outside of this environment.

It’s been important to have a clear understanding of my role there.

It’s been important to focus on long term strategy and the mission of our group.

It’s been important to defuse triggers intended to explode set by these new colleagues.

It’s been very important to stay on track and perform flawlessly.

It’s been important to listen most of all to learn important details on culture, operations, and clients to uncover information trying to stay hidden as well as illustrate my sincerity.

Eric Klein, creator of Dharma Consulting says it best on a recent blog post, that all leadership problems aren’t necessarily solvable nor do they need to be solved.   A team certainly can’t be fixed the same way a dimension in a plastic injection molding tool can be tweaked.  Changing personnel only brings with it new challenges and loss of information.  In a world where there is so much conflict, if we can strive to just get along in our work & volunteer groups, I’d like to think we can make progress in getting along elsewhere.

If the motive of each individual is true to the project and they are respectful of others, change will settle quickly.  If the motive gets muddled, then the whole team should brace itself for a long rocky ride.  I know I’ll come out of this learning more about people, leadership, and how to overcome difficulty.

In the mean time, it’s important to be yourself, help others as you would normally in spite of their behavior, be the servant leader you wish the rest to model, and excel to surprise and delight as you’ve been hired to do.

This is how I’m working through the situation.

What would you suggest?

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Jennifer Werth is the founder and principle consultant of a training and engineering service organization
She can be reached at jennifer@werthexpertise.com and at her

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Securing Your Legacy

What’s your exit strategy?

“What? Who? Are you talkin’ to me??”

If you are about to jump ship or you are plotting to move your career elsewhere in the next 3 to 5 years, then I’m talking to you. And here is a serious question that you should be consistently considering:

How will your leadership be regarded after you have left the job and have hit the road?

In considering your leadership legacy and beginning to work on an exit strategy, you need to be concerned with three thing:

Your ideas, your initiatives, and your people.

I’m sure you’ve had some great ideas and maybe even implemented several of them. But will they persist after you have gone?  Will both your initiatives and the people on your team shine when you are not there to mentor them anymore? What is your legacy going to be once you are no longer there? Here are the three things to think about in building that better legacy.

On Ideas

Every leader has the responsibility to come up with creative problem solving ideas that are supposed to keep things running smoothly. Some positions require a lot more ideas coming in than others. Some workplace environments are more conducive to change, while others are more reluctant to the concept of implementing “new & improved” ideas. But no matter whether you are overtly required to come up with ideas or not, it is going to be required of you in some degree. And as a leader, your ideas matter. So take a look at the ones you have already created.

So, do your ideas stick around after you are not pushing them?

Are they dependent upon you, or did you build them with longevity and a legacy in mind? a great leadership legacy has tried and true ideas that stand the test of time.

On Initiatives

Structuring change so that a smooth implementation is engineered with collaboration and buy-in from all quarters involved is key to a successful plan roll-out. And just like with any strong structure that is built to last, it is also foundational to the long term success of your project after you’ve moved on.  Perhaps you wrote the product launch procedure, you developed the new marketing communication program, or you’ve created the strategy for increased client sales.

How are you rolling it out to the team and to the company so that it is effectively communicated and designed for efficiency?

How much are you involved day to day and what happens when you go on vacation? A great leadership legacy is built with plans that roll out smoothly so that foundations are built with strength and durability.

On People

It’s inevitable that some on your team will require more hand holding than others.  And what about those whose goal is to take over your job.  Are you afraid of that occurrence and are trying to thwart their efforts? Or are you grooming them for the future with confidence and poise? If you have in mind securing a great leadership legacy, you will be asking yourself compelling questions that allow you the freedom to leave gracefully.

Ask yourself: “How am I helping the right person achieve eventual success in my current position?” And “Who is next in line to take over my position and responsibilities when I have moved on?

Preparing your team through training and mentoring in addition to providing critical information is key to setting them up for success when you’re gone.  I’ve found that allowing those working for you to spin and toil on their own problems and allowing them to come up with their own solutions helps them grow more quickly than if I had stepped in to intervene immediately.

When I help someone who has less knowledge or experience with a critical sales call or with a leadership presentation, it continues a mentoring process that both stretches my employee as well as enables them to appreciate me for my responsibilities. This helps everyone learn and grow toward a better legacy.

Some of us truly are indispensable and control information critical for our position.  How are you making this available and easy to understand for the one who follows you?

The mark of a great leader is the legacy one leaves behind.

How your company survives and recovers from your absence is a tribute to your leadership.

Are you setting up your company for success in the long term? What is your exit strategy? Will the company remain strong and not falter upon your departure?

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Jennifer Werth is the founder and principle consultant of a
training and engineering service organization.  She can be reached via email, jennifer@werthexpertise.com and through her blog.

Image Source: farm1.static.flickr.com

Sustainability in Leadership

There’s a lot of talk about sustainability of the planet, our energy sources, transportation choices, and our products, but what about the sustainability of our leaders?  What about the sustainability of your leadership?

What is your environmental impact on others?

Our words and actions are powerful in how others respond to us and how they perform their work.  As a leader you are responsible for motivating your teams and moving your business in a positive direction.

The cost of uninspiring leaders is hard to measure as external factors are easy to point to as possible root causes to long launch cycles, lack-luster ideas, high PPM, low moral, and head butting between groups.  As humans we’re wired to want to do good work and to be successful.  Our personal pride runs deeper than any corporate directive.  Consider how productive one might be however if your leadership combined with the corporate directive aligned with the personal motives of your team.

Just for kicks, let’s compare our needs and goals relative to plants:

P L A N T S   P E O P L E    
Grow and get bigger We want to grow, improve, succeed
Need sunlight   Want to prosper,    
    Be seen as successful,  
    Want to shine    
Need water   Need encouragement  
    Need feedback    
    Garner respect    
    Need to be empowered  
Need support   Work better in teams  
    Need a leader’s protection  
Need fertilizer   Need training    
      Want to learn new skills  
      Sometimes need guidance  

Like plants our needs are simple and just like plants we can still find a way to exist without enough water, sunlight, and support; the result is similar:  smaller yield, less stunning product, lower functioning groups, and more issues.

How are you nurturing the environment around you?

We give water to our teams by providing encouragement and feedback in a way to help them do better in the future.  We support by matching our employee’s skills to the task and partner complimenting skill sets.  Through empowering others and setting them up to succeed, we also enable personal responsibility and ownership to succeed.  We support our teams by running interference between them and upper management, justifying work loads, timing needs, and effort to protect them from unneeded stress.

I once took the heat for a two-day delay in a program because an experienced and highly respected designer made a simple mistake causing a week’s worth of effort to be trashed and all designs to require rework.  We were lucky in that the mistake was caught by the team.  The designer knew the stakes were high and volunteered to work overtime squeezing seven days lost into two.

Did my upper management need to know the name of this individual and his oversight or could the team (namely me) take the hit?

By protecting this individual, his reputation was not tarnished, his personal stress level did not rise from leadership pressure, and the team felt empowered by catching and readily fixing the issue.  At the end all that was remembered was how well our team performed because our product launched successfully first pass.

What is your leadership story?

How did you nurture your team today?

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Jennifer Werth is the CEO of a training and engineering service organization.
You can reach her at jenniferATwerthexpertise.com
and through her blog.
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It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist

Rocket Scientists
If statistics show that 88% of people leave a job because of how they feel they are being treated, would building an organization with people who had excellent soft skills help raise employment retention rates and keep everyone staying put longer?

Long ago I found myself interviewing with a small private company anticipating the landing of my first job out of college with a highly respected firm. During the final interview, I got an early and abrupt taste of how “feelings” get thrown into the mix when thinking about being employed at any particular firm or organization. The only way I can describe the abruptness was to say that I felt that I got slapped in the face during that final session.

And by slapped, I’m talking about these words:

“We start at 7am here

We work most Saturdays, minimum two per month

There is no swearing.  Ever.

We pray at every company meeting

You’ll be expected to put in on average 60 hours per week

And Oh, don’t worry about looking up for your next job, your manger will constantly be on the look out for you to grow within the company.”

Wow. This was a shocker to my young imagination. And not being a morning person, my mind was still stuck on the 7am part;  I just kept smiling and nodding my head robotically.

So, with much to learn about the workplace and wanting to work at this firm, I took the job. Slap and all.

Soon, I began to welcome the 7am starts because of the smiling faces of the production staff that would greet me during our morning stretch routines.   Gratitude exuded from all in that we were showing up for each other.


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Saturdays were a whole other ball game.   It was difficult at first, but it changed for me rather soon. Reluctantly I dragged myself in weekend after weekend to donuts, more smiling faces, and sometimes an on-site cooked breakfast by our manager.  Rather than the cold slap in the face feeling I had in the interview process, I was able to experience the other side of “feelings” and how they work to motivate in the workplace. These mornings became great catch-up times where the week days were fast paced and business-only venues.  The Saturday mornings were a chance to reset and decompress as well as spend more time on the production floor learning about the lives of team-mates. Saturdays were warm and welcoming, not cold and “slappy.”

This company is a leader in its industry with a reputation of a high standard of quality. Although a leader in the industry developing and delivering  high tech products, problems arose there just as they do in any other company. One difference here though: problems were looked at as opportunities for success rather than opportunities for blame. When a problem arose, it was a time to demonstrate strength in character, not a hot-head full of steam. When “issues” happened, rarely were voices raised.  Product issues were simply product issues because it was never interpreted as anyone’s fault.  It was always seen as a process oversight or a machine failure. It wasn’t viewed as a personal failure by someone or a team or an opportunity to degrade people.

So what made the difference?

Respect for each other’s abilities, values, and contribution made the difference between finger pointing and getting our work done.  The attitude cultivated by leadership to respect and be present for one another enabled focus on solving the issues at hand.

Some how there always existed the skill set to solve any problem.  Ironically there was always a solution to any problem.  Pretty good, huh?

Consensus doesn’t necessarily mean a solution that “kinda fits.” It is something that is borne of constructive open dialog between trusting colleagues.

Were we just a bunch of rocket scientists who could fix anything?  Likely and most definitely not.  It is likely that the company heavily hired engineers that had the people skills first, technical ability second.

Did it make a difference?

I’ll ask my question again: If 88% of people leave a job because of how they feel they are being treated, would building an organization with people who had excellent soft skills help raise employment retention rates and keep everyone staying put longer?

What would you do?

What works best in your organization and why?

Jennifer Werth is a contributor to L2L Blogazine.
She can also be found posting regularly on various topics here

Image Source bagnewsnotes.typepad.com

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