Engagement Gone Wrong

All organizations institute change processes at some point, and most do it very poorly -- which is what compelled author Richard Axelrod to write "Terms of Engagement" in the first place.

Here, Richard lists The Five Ways Organizations Mess Up Engagement (Despite Their Best Efforts):

1. Ignore unfairness
Everyone has a fairness detector. When it reads unfair, you disengage. Leaders who award themselves bonuses while they lay off thousands promote unfairness. Leaders who treat people badly yet remain in leadership positions set off unfairness alarms. When your fairness detector reads unfair, the innovative and collaborative part of your brain shuts down. Not good if you want a productive organization.

2. Create thermometer solutions
A leadership team was upset about the low employee-recognition scores from their employee engagement survey. They proceeded to create a new employee-recognition program. One year and another survey later, employee-recognition scores remained unchanged. This is a typical thermometer solution⎯you read the results and create the solution without understanding the underlying cause. Had the leadership team reviewed the results with employees, they would have learned that a simple thank you would have sufficed.

3. Increase engagement gaps as the few decide for the many
Have a tough problem? Find a sponsor, hire a consulting firm, and create a solution. Then worry about “buy-in.” In most corporations, this is the way change happens. In this scenario, leaders and consultants are highly engaged in challenging work. Meanwhile, the engagement gap increases as employees sit on the sidelines and worry about what “they” are going to do to “us.” The engagement gap shrinks when you widen the circle of involvement from the get-go. People connect to each other and to the issue, they learn from each other, innovation occurs, and the foundation for a speedy implementation is set.

4. Constrain talent
Why does Chris, a check-out clerk, love to work at Best Buy? What makes West Monroe Partners one of the best places to work in Chicago? Instead of constraining talent, they unleash it. Chris, a twenty-year retail veteran, is able to make her own decisions at Best Buy⎯decisions that required supervisory approval at former employers. The Chiefs Program at West Monroe Partners provides time for employees to work on issues they think are important, issues for which they have energy and passion. The Chiefs Program is so successful that West Monroe Partners made it part of their recruiting program.

5. Conducting time-wasting, energy-sapping meetings

As conducted in many conference rooms, meetings are fast-track disengagement vehicles. It is in meetings where people decide to sit on their hands or put their whole-hearted selves behind what needs to happen. In our workshops, leaders are able to identify within five minutes what it takes to create a meeting where no one looks at their BlackBerry as well as a meeting guaranteed to put people to sleep. When leaders realize that every meeting is an engagement opportunity, they stop putting people to sleep and start conducting engaging meetings where no one looks at their BlackBerry.

Thoughts? Reactions?

Five Deens that Make the Difference

Author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a practicing Muslim and a dedicated environmentalist. It would surprise many to know that these two aspects of his life are essentially the same thing. This is because Islam advocates for sound, humane, and sustainable environmental practices.

In fact, many Muslim groups and organizations have been putting environmentally-conscious principles into practice for a while now. Below, Ibrahim lists five examples of measures being enacted by Muslim organizations and governments worldwide to encourage greater environmental guardianship:

Example 1:
Greening the Hajj (Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca/Medina): The Saudi Government

Hajj is the single most largest gathering of humans on the planet Earth. Upwards of two million Muslims each year gather in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to pay respects to the Holy City and to participate in thousand-year-old traditions signifying their commitment to God.  With this gathering comes a giant carbon footprint including transport vehicles such as airplanes and cars, and waste products from packaged food and water bottles.  The Saudi government is working on both fronts to reduce energy emissions and trash.  First, the government is developing a rail system with stops for all the cities that are visited during the Hajj.  By 2011, the train will transport almost 72,000 passengers every hour, reducing the need for automobiles by thousands.  Then, the Saudi government aims to ban plastic bottles -- thereby dropping the some 100 million plastic bottles accumulated after Hajj, to zero. 

Example 2:
Zero-trash Iftars during Ramadan: The DC Green Muslims

Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims fast for 30 days -- each day from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is also a time of community development -- each night, to break the fast, hundreds of people come together at mosques around to country to eat and pray together.  This is called, "Iftar." Iftars can generate a lot of trash including paper products, leftover food, and assorted plastics.  The D.C. Green Muslims held the first ever "Zero-trash Iftar" this past Ramadan.  At this Iftar, attendees had to: bring food to share in a reusable dish; bring their own water bottle or drink receptacle, and bring their own plate, cutlery and linen napkin.  Food is served by volunteers and each person is asked to only take what they know they can finish.  The result: Zero-trash and inspiration to make every Iftar one without waste.

Example 3:
Making meat more than Zabiha: Establishing

Zabiha is to Muslims like Kosher is to Jews. Zabiha meat is sacrificed in a very specific way -- with a single cut to the animal's jugular vein to minimize pain and to drain all blood, preventing bacterial infection, and is also blessed. Considering meat is a staple of most Muslim diets, there is a push for Zabiha meat that comes from animals who have lived a good life. Consumers wish the meat to be from animals that were free-range, grass-fed, and well-treated by family farmers.  Green Zabiha is advocated for in the Quran.  Yasir Syeed, founder of, wants Muslims to raise, harvest, cook, and eat food with a deeper consciousness.

Example 4:
Greening the next generation: Santa Clara Muslim Green Team

The Muslim Community Association (MCA) is one of the largest Muslim congregations in Northern California.  They are also home to the Muslim Green Team - young people dedicated to saving the planet because they believe it's their religious duty to do so. Each year, they sponsor an Eco-Fair, showing the adults of their community fun and unique ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Hundreds attend the Eco-fair, and everyone gets a reusable canvas bag and reusable stainless steel water bottle.  The Muslim Green Team sets an example for everyone in the community.

Example 5:
Helping developing countries choose energy from Heaven: The Miller Family

The industrial world has gotten ahead by relying on energy from Hell -- oil, coal, non renewable sources that require extraction and destruction.  As the developing world tries to catch up, they have a choice. The can choose to follow in the footsteps of the the developed world, or they can choose to innovate and turn from followers to leaders by choosing energy from Heaven. The Miller Family -- American Muslims dedicated to harnessing solar energy -- are helping the Sierra Leonian government install solar panels throughout the country's capital of Freetown. 

Thoughts? Reactions? Questions?


Five Things You Need to Stop Believing about Entrepreneurship

Chris Rabb knows a lot about entrepreneurship and its rewards, but he has also learned (and written his book) about the limitations that seemingly invisible factors enforce on a number of entrepreneurs. The Horatio Alger myth states that anyone with a good idea, drive, and pluck and succeed, but Chris disagrees.

Here are five ways we have been programmed to think about entrepreneurship that are entirely inaccurate:

1. Entrepreneurship is Part of the American Dream
Whether you read Horatio Alger or if you listen to the financial gurus on television, all you need to achieve material success in business, it appears, is to work hard, have a great idea, and radiate positivity. The problem here is that as straight-forward as this advice may sound, it's simply not true.

There is no statistically significant correlation between hard work, development of an objectively great idea or embodiment of a positive outlook on life and conventional business success. It's called the American dream because it is just that -- a fantasy not rooted in any reality.

2. Entrepreneurship Means Small Business and Small Entrepreneurial Ventures Represent the Backbone of the American Economy.

Entrepreneurship is really more about innovation and opportunity than it is about smallness. Small businesses are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as any for-profit, non-farm firm with fewer than 500 employees. That's over 99% of all U.S. firms! So, does that mean that 99% of all businesses are also entrepreneurial?

Just because a firm is small or new doesn't make it entrepreneurial. And the reason small businesses are considered the engine of the U.S. economy? Because 997 out of every 1,000 firms is a so-called small business. That's just cloudy math.

3. Entrepreneurship is inherently good, ethical, and beneficial to all.

Entrepreneurship is not inherently good. The value spawned by entrepreneurship can be every bit as destructive as it can be creative.

Remember Enron? Enron was emblematic of corporate entrepreneurship. They created opportunity through bold innovation to maximize profit. Starbucks Coffee was a great independent, entrepreneurial venture before it became the mom-and-pop-coffee-shop-killer. Entrepreneurship is agnostic. Like so many things, it can be leveraged in service of greed and graft or for puppy dogs and rainbows. The choice lies in the hands of the founding teams, their investors and how society advocates and rewards entrepreneurs to conduct their businesses.

4. Entrepreneurship Symbolizes a True Meritocracy.
Entrepreneurship appears to be one of the last pursuits that most people believe takes place on a level playing field. Unfortunately, these people are just plain wrong.

Assuming you're not a eugenics buff, it would stand to reason that the rate of business participation in the U.S. would more or less mirror the diverse demography of our country. It doesn't. While anyone can start a business, what it takes to fund, grow and sustain a business is highly predicated on the extent to which you have and know how to leverage invisible capital. Invisible capital is that fickle mix of human, social, and cultural capital that together encompasses your skills, experiences, resources, knowledge and networks along with the ascribed assets one has that they cannot control or change such as gender, ethnicity and class of origin. Invisible capital determines on which side the playing field rises.

5. This country needs more entrepreneurs!
We don't need more entrepreneurs or businesses in this country, we actually need fewer but better prepared business owners.

Every year about two million people start new ventures. Most of them meet an unceremonious end, and most of the ones that are still afloat are just barely so. The reality is, according to the Kauffman Firm Survey, it's easier to be accepted into an Ivy League college (16%) than it is to grow a business that will survive 4 years, generate annual revenues of $25,000 or more, and hire at least one employee (12%).

Given those odds, and given how, unlike your college choices, there are no "safety schools" when it comes to entrepreneurship, why would you push people in this direction?

Which of these misconceptions about business and entrepreneurship surprise you most? Which do you quietly admit you (used to) embrace?