Dancing Around New Opportunities

Back in college, I was very involved in the student-run dance club on campus, not only as a dancer and choreographer, but as an officer in the club. My friends and I took our leadership roles very seriously, always looking for creative new opportunities to perform, ways to recruit new dancers, gimmicks to advertise our shows, offer more classes and club activities, and so on.

As passionate and dedicated as I was to the Colby Dancers, I remember dreading our weekly club meetings, and not because of the “boring” official business stuff (even at age 19 I had a deep appreciation for process and structure). The club officers would present our latest ideas about club events or improving our offerings, only to have the other members (who were good friends of ours!) point out a million reasons why our proposed changes wouldn’t work.

“I like that idea, but....”

Obviously, no one loves having their ideas shot down, but what actually bothered me was that no one would propose other, better ideas. We’d explain the rationale behind our ideas and the problems we were looking to improve, and ask for new suggestions, only to hear silence.

That was my first experience with the common group phenomenon I call the overeager nay-sayer.

I’m sure you’ve encountered this in your work: to facilitate a change, a few people (maybe the leadership team or a special working group) will propose ideas to solve a problem that is affecting a larger group. Often this problem is something that people have been complaining about for weeks or months. But once an idea is put forward, the nay-saying starts, the idea is tabled, and status quo is resumed. And no one is any better off.

“I really wish we could do something about ....”

I’ve since learned a great technique to introduce organizational change with minimal nay-saying: appreciative inquiry. The idea behind appreciative inquiry is that it’s much easier to get people on board for change and open to new ideas when you start the discussion with “what’s working well?” as opposed to “what’s not working?” You get people talking about what they like about the status quo, how the current method of doing things benefits them, and how you can expand on these positive aspects.

This strategy has two immediate benefits:

  1. The group starts off in a good mood because you are talking about positive experiences and outcomes.

  2. The earliest nuggets of ideas for improvement come from the group, and these organic, spontaneous suggestions are less threatening than proposed, fully formed ideas that came from an authority (whether real or perceived).

The great thing about appreciative inquiry is that often the conversation about what’s good indirectly highlights what’s not-so-good, since they are two sides of the same coin. Then you can get consensus on how and why change would help everyone, and you can start narrowing down the options and plan a course of action. I wish I knew about appreciative inquiry back in my college days. We could have danced our way to organizational change much more effectively.

5 Ideas for Simple, Sensible Workplace Culture Improvements


Unlimited complimentary food and coffee. Craft beer in the break room. Free massages and gym access. Bring your dog to work days.

These workplace perks might seem like overkill, but for a multibillion-dollar company, providing these extras is a no-brainer. It’s not rocket science that when employees are healthy and happy, working in a positive environment, they produce better work and create more successful businesses. Yet so many workplaces tend to ignore the data.

Harvard Business Review and Forbes recently reported results from national polls on company culture and wellbeing. According to findings, employee disengagement leads to greater errors on the job, higher absenteeism, and a greater number of workplace accidents. This disengagement is often the result of high stress jobs in high-pressure companies that show little to no concern for their employees general well-being. Contrary to what some believe, putting pressure on employees to produce great work under tight deadlines will not motivate them to work harder or better, but rather will stress them out and lead to higher turnover rates.

Given that the main driver for businesses is to be successful and profitable, it is important that companies recognize the importance of employee well-being and work to create positive culture in the office.

How does one do this you might ask?

Creating a positive workplace culture is not just about dishing out higher salaries or bonuses and giving away free snacks. It’s about creating an environment in which employees feel that they are value.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Encourage a culture of caring for colleagues. It’s critical for managers and execs to lead by example and emphasize the importance of showing colleagues that you have their best interest in mind, empathize with them, and genuinely care about their well-being.

  2. Avoid blaming employees when errors occur. Learn to forgive mistakes and create a plan to move forward. Mistakes are just that, mistakes; they are not intentional and should not be used to hang over someone’s head. It’s likely that the employee is already beating himself up over the error and will not benefit the added blame.

  3. Invest in employees’ professional development. Showing someone that you care about their career and want them to grow and succeed will go a long way.

  4. Promote health and wellbeing by creating a healthy environment in (and out of) the office. This can be done by providing healthy snacks in the break room, offering reimbursement for gym memberships, or simply organizing a daily walking group or office-wide wellness challenge. Studies show that active, healthy employees feel a greater sense of wellbeing at work.

  5. Provide regular check-ins with supervisors and opportunities for peer feedback. Employees love to know when they’ve done something well or seek advice on how to improve.

Creating a positive office culture does not have to be expensive or complicated. By making small, concerted changes you can greatly improve employee engagement and the overall productivity of your business.

How DO You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Or Any Other Problem, Really….

When something goes wrong, our first instinct is to fix it. Stop the bleeding. Patch the hole. Just make it go away. We are good at jumping right into action on the first and most immediate solution that pops into mind. And we often muster up considerable creativity and ingenuity in developing work-arounds and short-term solutions.

How To Do A To Do List

If you’re like me, you feel the constant notion that you have a million things to do. With only 24 hours in a day - 16 hours if you eliminate the ideal 8 hours a day that you should be sleeping – it is vital that tasks are identified and prioritized to maximize productivity. The simplest way to do this is to create a To Do list (or two) using the steps I’ve outlined.

Secrets for a Successful Shared Drive

Developing and maintaining a system for keeping shared folders and files organized is challenging, but it’s doable. And it’s worth the effort, because the potential risks from not having a centralized and orderly shared drive are far worse when you have multiple people involved than when it is just one person. This post discusses the key considerations to determine what kind of system will work for your team.

4 Steps for Developing a File Organization System that Actually Works

One of the most common if only list items I help clients tackle is organizing their electronic folders and files -– whether on a cloud storage system, office shared drive, or individual hard drive. Unless you’ve taken time to figure out a good system for where you save these files and how you name them, it can get very hard to find them again when you need them. In this post, I outline my four steps to creating a system that works for you!

How to Love (Or At Least Not Hate) Your Inbox Again: A Case Study

Many of us suffer from email overload. Between e-marketing campaigns, auto-subscribe newsletters, and rampant abuse of the “reply all” option, it’s not uncommon to receive several hundred messages a day –- often across multiple email accounts. Read on to learn how I helped one client reclaim control over and start managing his personal inbox once again.

A New Year, A New Approach to Getting Organized

For this first blog post of 2019, I’m going meta: I’ve written a case study about applying my own organizational processes to my own business, and how I came up with a new system for planning, developing, and writing blog and social media posts.

It’s the MOST ANXIETY-FUL Time of the Year

The holiday season is upon us, and for many this also means the onset of constant stress. Maybe it’s the thought of spending a lot of time with family and in-laws or maybe it’s coordinating travel. It could even be the stress of a tight budget with a growing list of holiday expenses. Whatever the reason, the holidays, while often one of the most joyful times of year, often cause significant stress.

How to Manage Stress Better Than Ryan Reynolds

Unfortunately, we cannot control all the aspects in life that cause us stress. It’s not up to us what traffic will be like on a given day. What we can do, however, is control our reactions to these stressors and try to mitigate situations before they overwhelm us.