Square Peg, Round Hole – Can The Traditional Organization Afford to Focus on Strengths?

By | Building a Company, Culture, Talent | No Comments

Is performance management upside down in Corporate America?  Here are a couple of quick observations:

1.  Jobs are structured for the company, not the employee.  I’m not saying that’s wrong, just outlining the facts.

2.  90% of the time we spend talking about performance is about how to manage negative variance.

3.  We don’t spend a lot of the time evaluating how we can continue to maximize a person’s strengths.  We’ll tell them they are doing great, give them an “exceeds”, then move on to how they can improve their “areas of opportunity”.

4.  The combination of those competencies, that create “jobs”, are pretty inflexible in corporate America.

With that in mind, it should come as no shock that while we love to read books like “Now Discover Your Strengths” and nod accordingly when discussing, we pretty much go back to the coal mine and expect people to fit in the traditional spaces we’ve defined.

Scott McArthur talked awhile back about the power of positive, strength-based psychology in the workplace.  From the sweet rundown at McArthur’s Rant:

“Positive psychology suggests that by focusing on people’s strengths rather than on their development needs we can transform wellness at work and as a consequence improve organizational performance.

The notion behind the work that is being done under the banner of Positive Psychology is to enhance our experiences of love, work and play and by doing so encourage wellbeing. This is in contrast to the traditional ways of thinking in both psychology and business where the focus is on finding what isn’t working and trying to fix it.

Techniques such as Appreciative Enquiry and Strength Finders as well as writers such as Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience have been extolling the value of adopting this approach for some time. In Gallup’s case they have produced some strong statistical evidence that it works..”

Scott acknowledges in his post that while focusing on employee strengths is a powerful tool, it’s problematic for the traditional organization to figure out how to do it.

Here’s my take.  The power of focusing on strengths in corporate America is probably best used in a combination of performance management and engagement.  The smart managers know that they can’t adjust a role to fit the employee’s strengths with a 100% match.  But with the right amount of praise, coaching and organizational flexibility, they can create an environment where the employee understands that the more efficient they are in their formal job, the more they can chase what they really love to do, and maybe even innovate and create stuff on the way.

And that would be a pretty cool thing…

Making the Move from Service to Sales

By | Culture, Professional Development, Talent | No Comments

By now you know that DAXKO believes in promoting from within.  In fact, over half of our team members aren’t in the same role as when they started.  We like giving folks opportunities to grow, take on more responsibility, find a role they love… and rock at!  There’s lot of those kinds of stories here at DAXKO.  Here’s one…

Sally, Product Specialist
DAXKO Claim toFame: Now in her third role at DAXKO, Sally first rocked it on the customer service side of the house and now works to promote our products and services to future customers.

Q: In your first role as a Trainer, what did you most enjoy?

A: I LOVED seeing people ‘get it’ – seeing it ‘click’ and watching people realize how our software can fundamentally change the way their business runs.

Q: After almost 2 years as a  Trainer, you moved into a new role.  Tell us about that move.

A: I was seeking a new challenge and looking to take on more responsibility.  I became DAXKO’s first CRS – Customer Relationship Specialist (now called Adoption Specialist).  I worked with our customers to better understand their needs and to help them fully adopt and optimize our solutions.  Since then, that team has more than doubled in size (now 3 people).  The company has seen positive results from creating that role and is continuing to invest in the vision.

Q: What did you learn during your time as a CRS?

A: One of the most important skills I learned during that time was how to ‘triage’ a situation – gather the necessary info, delegate tasks, and put out the fire.  I also learned how to step back and allow others to handle those delegated tasks.  That was hard for me, but I feel like it helped me develop some self-discipline that was missing before.

Q: A year and a half later, you joined the Sales Team as a Product Specialist.  Are you glad you made the move?

A: Moving teams was the absolute best thing I could have done for my career!  While I enjoyed my time in Professional Services, moving to an entirely new team within DAXKO broadened my horizon of how a company should operate, how teams should work together, and the importance of sound businesss processes, accountability, and metrics.  I feel like the move helped me to grow professionally and better understand what I want to do long-term.

Q: How has your role as a Product Specialist evolved?

A: I’ve definitely brought some structure and accountability to the role.  I’ve also taken on two additional products – DAXKO Accounting and MobileFit.  In order to help my team operate more efficiently, I’ve thrown myself into their environment, even taking on some admin responsibilities with our internal CRM system.

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your current role?

A: I love supporting the Account Executives that sell our products and services.  The Account Executive is like the quarterback.  My position varies based on who we are facing defensively.  I’ll play wide receiver, tight end, or running back… whatever it takes to help my quarterback score the touchdown!

Q: What does the future hold for Sally?

A: That’s a good question!  Currently, I’m working with my team lead and an experienced mentor to figure out where I want to go professionally.  We’ll see…

Thinking Shapes Action… I’m Positive

By | Communication, Culture, Healthy Stuff | No Comments

Our very own Tom Patterson once told me the story of 2 shoe salesmen who were sent to the jungle.  Upon arrival both men noticed most of the natives were barefoot.  One salesman called HQ and said, “Whose bright idea was it to send me here?  Nobody here wears shoes.”  The other salesman called HQ and said, “Send me two containers ASAP.  Nobody here wears shoes!”

The ability to focus your thoughts, your speech, your actions on positive outcomes comes more naturally to  some than others, but we can all benefit from making a shift to the positive side.

As we move into the final stretch of the year, I challenge you to do a little reprogramming of your brain.

The reprogramming I’m talking about is a subtle change, but it has enormous impact. It’s the power of positive positioning, mind share, and action. It starts with speaking in the affirmative, which is fairly easy to put into  practice once you get the hang of it.

A few examples:

  • Man, that Ops Review was brutal  >> The Ops Review feedback is helping us identify ways to get better
  • I have no idea where to start >> With some guidance from you, I’m sure I can run with this
  • We can’t be everything to everyone >> With greater focus we can put our skills to better use

We can achieve more (and be happier doing it) if we train ourselves to think and ACT in the affirmative.  The affirmative actions are focused on:

  • opportunities, not problems
  • strengths, not weaknesses
  • solutions, not excuses

I’m not professing that we should walk around here like the cast from Little House on the Prairie.  Affirmative practitioners don’t ignore that negativity exists (they would truly be in la-la land.)  Instead, the affirmative practitioner acknowledges a negative situation then articulates a positive action.

I’ll leave you with 3 last thoughts on the topic:

  1. The affirmative practitioner is the rescuer, not the victim.
  2. The affirmative practitioner takes responsibility for his/her actions and knows the result will be good.
  3. The affirmative practitioner is a natural leader because others are drawn to possibilities.

If the challenge to make positive changes to the way you think and act resonates with you, check out the following resources:

Book: Change the Way You See Everything – Asset-based Thinking

If you’re not up for a whole book, but are willing to really contemplate Ten Tips, here are some good ones: Ten Ways To Take Control with Positive Thinking

Newbie Spotlight: Meet Val…

By | Culture, Interviewing | No Comments

One of the great things about being new to the DAXKO team is that you usually don’t have to wear the ‘new guy’ hat for long.  We’re always adding A-players to the roster and growing our team.  The ‘Newbie Spotlight’ series is intended to introduce you to these folks and provide a glimpse into what life’s like as a candidate and new team member at DAXKO. (Disclaimer: These are the unedited experiences of our team members.  Don’t be scared by what you read.)

Newbie: Val, Quality Assurance Engineer

Q. What was it about DAXKO that first intrigued you?

A. The emphasis on employees and the “team” concept.

Q. What was your first encounter with DAXKO?

A. I met several DAXKO team members at TechBirmingham’s TechMixer EXPO.

Q. During the interview process, what were you surprised to learn about DAXKO?

A. There are no private offices – even the CEO and COO sit in open spaces. AND the CEO is involved in the interview process. (At my last job, I only saw the CEO twice in the 2 years that I worked for him.)

Q. Did you deliver a presentation during the interview process?  If so, tell us about that experience?

A. The presentation was intimidating and somewhat stressful. To be able to present the assignment and handle Q&A in 30 minutes was tricky. I probably over-analyzed the entire presentation (redid it 3 times) and probably had more back copies than anyone has ever brought to the presentation: 3 thumb drives, 1 copy saved to my hard drive, 2 burned CDs, emailed it to my blackberry, and even had handouts just in case I had to go old school . By the time I delivered it, I was more relaxed from over-preparing.

Q. Do you think DAXKO’s interview process is intense?  Why or why not?

A. Absolutely, but that is how they get great team members! The first round of interviews was 3 hours. The second round was an entire afternoon. Both days involved interviewing with multiple team members.

Q. Ultimately, why did you decide to join the DAXKO team?

A. My previous employers really never put an emphasis on employees. Most were just there to ensure that my paycheck was deposited every 2 weeks. DAXKO was different. I really liked the way that they focused on the employee in ensuring that they are part of a team, not individuals just paid for their work. DAXKO offers room for growth, and I’ve never had that before.

Q. Why do you like the work you’re doing?

A. I’m a geek and finding defects is a challenge that intrigues me. If I can find something instead of the customer finding it, then I have a sense of accomplishment.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about working at DAXKO?

A. There are no hidden agendas, personal empire builders, or other selfish behaviors that I’ve experienced in the corporate world. Everyone wants to help everyone else out.  AND our customers are AWESOME!