Category: Strategy

What Are Cultural Values?

The Business Dictionary defines cultural values as, “The commonly held standards of what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong, workable or unworkable, etc., in a community or society”. Here’s an example: A Hindu man would rather starve than slaughter and eat a cow, despite the fact that cows roam throughout his village. To the average beef-eating American, this seems strange. If you’re hungry, why not use some of the cows for a food source? After all, they’re just walking around in the street, blocking traffic. What’s stopping the Hindu man from taking advantage of this obvious food source? The answer – cultural values. The Hindus make up over 80% of India’s population and believe that cows are sacred and should not be slaughtered.

A group’s cultural values are often difficult for outsiders to understand. But for those inside the group, cultural values are the core principles that dictate the behavior and actions of an entire community. We’re seeing cultural values come into play more and more in today’s workplace. As various cultures are brought together in an office, some will place importance on a particular set of values, while others will have a completely different view. It can be challenging to navigate through it all and meld a diverse pool of employees into a cohesive, productive group.

Each of us is raised in a belief system that influences our individual preferences to a large degree. Often, we can’t even comprehend its influence. We’re just like other members of our culture and we’ve come to share a common idea of what’s appropriate and inappropriate. But understanding cultural values goes beyond the list of “dos and don’ts”. There are so many factors that make up a culture – manners, mind-set, laws, ideas, rituals, and language, just to name a few. Understanding the “why” behind culture is so important, particularly in today’s world. We need to understand how groups have been influenced over time by political, historical, and social issues. This is particularly evident in the workplace, which is becoming more and more diverse.

In order to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent, it’s important to be mindful of employees’ cultural differences, along with who they are as individuals. We are currently conducting cultural value assessments for organizations and we’re ready to help you delve into this important topic. Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Examples of American Cultural Values

Cultural values are really the collective programming of our minds from birth. These values shape the beliefs, mind-sets, and practices that we often adhere to at work, home, and social settings. We looked at an example of a Hindu cultural value in our previous article and how that value shapes the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of that group. But what are some values that are distinctly American and have helped shape the American workplace for generations? The U.S. is a culturally diverse society, but there is a dominant culture that has developed over many years. Here’s a sample of a few American cultural values:

  • Personal control over environment and destiny: The future is not left to fate and lies in our hands.
  • Equality and egalitarianism: People have equal opportunities and are important as individuals, not based on the family they are from.
  • Competition and free enterprise: Competition brings out the best in people and free enterprise leads to progress and success.
  • The importance of time: The achievement of goals depends on the productive use of time.
  • Change and mobility: Change equals progress, improvement, and growth.

When discussing cultural values, it’s important to remember there are no rights and wrongs. Chances are, each of us has been raised with a different set of values from our colleagues. Education is the key to understanding these differences, particularly when diverse groups of people are working together. To learn more about how cultural values shape your organization and to discuss conducting a cultural value assessment for your business, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com.

Effective Communication In The Workplace

Have you ever walked out of a meeting scratching your head and wondering, “What was that all about? What exactly am I supposed to do? What’s the goal of our discussion?” We’ve probably all been there. It comes as no surprise that effective communication is one of the most important issues in the workplace. Strong communication helps everyone feel heard and understood, resulting in a positive, encouraging, and productive environment. On the other hand, ineffective communication causes ideas to fall flat due to lack of follow-through, frustration, and an overall decline in morale.

If you feel like your team is stuck in a communication rut or you’re just looking to improve your skills (and we all can!), here are some things to keep in mind and strategies to employ:

Give Undivided Attention: Whether it’s a group meeting or one-on-one, offering full attention to those you’re with goes a long way. How often have you had a conversation with someone who continuously looked down at his or her phone or seemed lost in another world? Lack of focus devalues conversations and causes people to tune out.

Remember to Listen: Listening may not sound like a component of communication, but it is one of the most important ingredients. Being an effective communicator means listening, as well as talking. It sounds easy, but it can take some practice. How often do you find your mind wandering during a meeting or a conversation? It can be helpful to keep a mental checklist of all the main points the other person makes. When the conversation is over, try to recall at least three important things the person said. Get in the habit of doing this until listening is second nature.

Be Mindful of How You’re Communicating: Body language and tone contribute a great deal towards the effectiveness of your message. Maintain a relaxed stance and facial expression, rest your arms by your sides rather than crossing them in front of you, and make eye contact. Remember that words only make up a fraction of your message.

Follow Up in Writing: A lot of information and ideas are thrown around during meetings and it can be challenging for everyone to remember what was shared. Prior to meetings, designate someone to take notes and then assimilate this information into a concise email. Having a follow-up and refresher is an important step to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Effective communicating is more than just talking; it’s about connecting with the people around you. It’s integral to team development, company culture, employee engagement, and innovative thoughts and ideas. If you’d like to improve the communication process in your office or are interested in doing a “wellness check”, we’re armed with lots of strategies and ideas to help. Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Effective Communication With Remote Employees

Remote work is becoming more and more common in the modern workplace and the number of remote workers is increasing every year. Technology has made it easier to embrace remote work, but it has also brought about new challenges when it comes to team communication. Here are some tips to help the wheels of communication keep rolling when you don’t work under the same roof:

  • Establish standards for communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Make sure transparency is a priority. Share all documents, decisions, upcoming deadlines, etc. in one area.
  • Find a balance between over-communicating and not communicating enough.
  • Make sure new remote team members get to know the rest of the team via video chat.
  • Use real-time communication technology.
  • Be concise and get to the point at the beginning of messages!
  • Always proofread and edit messages to avoid confusion.
  • Give space when needed. If remote team members need to take a break from being accessible online to get something done, make sure they know they can do it.

Remote team members add another layer of challenge when it comes to workplace communication. But by using some strategic tactics, it doesn’t have to result in a communication meltdown! For more tips and advice on how to improve communication with remote employees, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com.

Common Causes of Miscommunication in Workplace Teams

“I thought that was obvious.”

“What did he/she mean by that?”

“I thought he/she was working on that!”

If you’ve ever been a member of a team in the workplace, the phrases above probably sound familiar. They’re all examples of common and frequent miscommunications and they can cause frustration, conflict between team members, and a serious roadblock to productivity.

A lot goes into running an efficient, positive team environment, but effective communication may be at the top of the list as the most important component.

Miscommunication can be blamed for a significant amount of conflict among workplace teams. It’s unrealistic to think all miscommunication can be prevented. After all, people are people and personality conflicts and differences of opinion are going to happen. However, awareness and understanding of the causes of miscommunication can go a long way towards decreasing the number and frequency.

Here are a few examples of the most common causes of miscommunication in the workplace:

  • Making Assumptions: This is the number one cause of miscommunication in the workplace! It starts with assuming that a particular need is obvious, others view a problem the same way you do, or someone knows what to do. If people don’t feel comfortable asking questions or speaking up, issues can escalate quickly.
  • Providing Only The Basics: It may save time to communicate only the bare necessities to team members up front, but you’re going to spend a lot of time cleaning up the results. Workers may be hesitant to speak up and just try to figure things out on their own – often with incorrect results.
  • Using Confusing Body Language: Not all communication is verbal and a lot is conveyed through gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. If someone is distracted or having a bad day, a simple request or statement can be easily misconstrued.
  • Failing to Assign Ownership: Accountability is key and team roles must be defined and clearly understood. Otherwise, it can lead to workers dumping duties on others, incorrectly assuming another worker was responsible for something . . . and the list goes on and on.

Language is a tricky thing. It can be difficult to interpret at times, resulting in little misunderstandings that can quickly escalate into big problems. Is your team suffering from miscommunication issues? Or are projects running fairly smoothly, but have room for improvement? Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and we’ll work with you to create a clear and effective communication strategy for your workplace teams.

Ways To Alleviate Miscommunication

If you’ve ever led or been a member of a workplace team, you’ve probably witnessed (or been involved in) a variety of miscommunication issues. What started as a simple question or concern may have quickly ballooned into a full-blown problem, resulting in frustrated, angry teammates. And you’re left scratching your head wondering how things got out of hand so quickly. Miscommunication is one of the biggest problems facing workplace teams and can cause missed deadlines, an erosion in morale, and higher turnover. Fortunately, it can be alleviated with the right approach. Here are some suggestions to help:

  • Address issues immediately and openly: Ignoring a workplace conflict will only make it fester. Address any issues right away and make sure you’ve gathered facts from all parties involved.
  • Set Clear Expectations: No one is a mind reader. Set expectations early, make sure all questions are answered up front, and be available for clarification as the project progresses.
  • Improve Your Listening Skills: Make sure it’s not “in one ear and out the other.” Active listening is an undervalued skill, but it can have a huge impact on how often conflicts arise.
  • Recognize and Respect Personal Differences: Keep in mind that everyone can interpret the same thing in a different way. Understanding how the members of your team communicate can help you diffuse any potential problems.

Miscommunication can happen anywhere at any time, but awareness of the problem and a strong plan can help put everyone back on track. The key is to give your team the right conditions to develop and grow. If nurturing a healthy team culture is important to your workplace, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s work together to make it happen.

How To Practice Kindness in the Workplace

When we think about how to optimize success in your workplace, compassion isn’t always the first thing that enters our mind. We talk more about things like increasing efficiency, sales numbers, and billable hours. But studies show kindness makes good business sense and there’s a lot of research showing some pretty compelling numbers. For example, employees of companies described as having kind cultures perform at 20% higher productivity levels, are 87% less likely to leave their jobs, and make fewer errors, saving their companies time and money. The companies themselves have 16% higher profitability.

Whether you’re a manager or an entry-level employee, there are many ways to bring kindness into the workplace. Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Get to know your colleagues
  • Offer guidance to a co-worker
  • Build a collaborative environment with idea sharing
  • Check the motivation behind your words, decisions, and behavior
  • Acknowledge co-workers’ strengths and positive characteristics in front of others
  • Lend a hand to someone who is under a tight deadline
  • Encourage employees to openly communicate and share their thoughts
  • Organize occasional teambuilding activities and have co-workers submit ideas and suggestions

Creating a culture of compassion in the workplace is where many successful companies are placing their attention. And rightfully so. For ideas as to how to incorporate more kindness into your company and reap its many benefits, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss how we can help. And stay tuned for March’s newsletter, when we provide a really fun “get to know your co-worker” activity you can use in your office!

What’s Important To You In 2018?

A shiny new year is upon us, ripe with possibilities and opportunities to make changes. Most of us spend at least some time reflecting on the events of the previous year and what we can do to make improvements over the next 12 months. But too many of us are overwhelmed, disconnected, and feel like we’re going through the motions without a lot of purpose. It can be challenging to figure out what’s truly important in life and even more challenging to make an action plan for change.

If you’re determined to live a more purposeful life in 2018, now may be the time for a “life audit.” It’s a chance to be honest with yourself, think about what’s really important to you right now, and organize your life a little more. So, grab a pen, a pack of post-it notes, and block off an hour or two of time. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Write down every goal, hope, and life necessity on a different post-it note (for example: ‘look for a new job’, ‘move to a different city’, ‘start a family’)
  2. Organize the notes by category as themes start to emerge (for example: career, family, hobbies)
  3. Organize by time (for example: how long it will take to check-off each note)

You may want to set a goal for the number of post-it notes you fill out. Maybe it’s 100 in one hour or more over the course of a weekend. It’s not a revolutionary system, but the point is that you’re thinking about yourself, your future, and how to reach your goals. If you feel like you’re at a loss getting started, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What life do I want now? How about in 5, 10, 25 years?
  • What makes me feel satisfied at work?
  • What areas of my life could be improved?
  • What’s my motivation?
  • What do I believe in?
  • What do I consider essential?
  • When do I feel the most successful? The most energized?
  • How am I using my gifts and talents to help others?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What do I want to leave behind?

The great thing about writing all of this down on post-it notes is that you can hang them on a wall in your office (or wherever you’d like) and look at them everyday. You can move them around into an organizational system that works for you, perhaps by weekly, short term, long term, and lifetime goals.

A New Year is the ideal time to look at long term goals, what’s working, what’s not, and where there’s room for improvement. And we can help you every step of the way! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Finding Fulfillment Outside The Office

We’ve all watched a show or read an article where someone has an epiphany about their priorities and life direction, quits their job, moves to an island, and starts a new life running a bar or giving surfing lessons. Sounds appealing, right? For the rest of us, the mortgage, family obligations, and day-to-day responsibilities makes this type of dream impossible. You may feel like you have no way out or that you will never find happiness because of your career. You’re really good at what you do, but there’s no fulfillment. However, there are ways you can create purpose and fulfillment outside of the office. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create it yourself: Whatever it is you want to do, make time for it! Join a class for beginners or a club with people who share a similar passion. You may even notice your attitude at work changes because you aren’t putting pressure on your job to satisfy every aspect of your life.
  • Make time: Work takes the majority of our time, but not all. Take control of your weekends and evenings again and cut what isn’t absolutely necessary. Make fulfilling activities a priority!
  • Give Back: Using your gifts and talents to help others can be one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. Whether it’s mentoring or volunteering, sharing your talent may be the biggest gift you give in 2018.

Productivity in the office begins with fulfilled employees who understand the importance of a work and personal life balance. A New Year is the ideal time to lay the groundwork! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Prioritizing What’s Important During the Holidays – And All Year Long

The holiday season is upon us and consumer culture is out in full force – think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas Eve rush for last minute gifts. Whether it’s trying to score the hot new toy for your child or finding the perfect gift for your spouse, it can feel like our holidays (and even the rest of the year) are more about “stuff” and less about what’s truly important in life. Compared to 50+ years ago, Americans today have more cars, bigger homes, and eat out far more frequently. But are we happier because of it? Or is it a case of more money, more problems?

It’s said that if you take a look at someone’s checkbook, you will know what his or her priorities are. Is it true that where your money goes, so goes your priorities? What better time than the holidays and before the beginning of a new year to take a look at what’s really important in your life. Here are 5 ways to help:

  • Determine what you value most about your life: Try choosing five things you value most as a starting part. By consciously making these choices, it’s a reminder of what things in your life you can’t – and won’t – do without. Consider it the backbone of your life.
  • Assess the way you use your time: After determining the five areas you value most in life, take a look at how you spend your time and evaluate which things are absolutely necessary for these areas. Assess how much time you spend emailing, texting, and staring at a screen. How can you cut back?
  • Cut the clutter in every area of your life: Do you really need everything you have or does it feel like too many possessions are wearing you down? This also goes for emotional clutter! Reevaluate what’s truly necessary in your life for where you are now.
  • Spend more time with people that matter: Assess how much time you actually spend with family and close friends. Is it quality time where you’re truly interacting?
  • Make time to be alone: Do you tend to put yourself at the end of your priority list? If the answer is ‘yes’, take some time to reconnect with a hobby or activity you’re passionate about. There is nothing selfish about spending time recharging alone – it could be the healthiest gift you can give to yourself.

By determining what’s most important in your life and breaking free from the clutter, you will not only see changes in your everyday life, but in your work life as well. An increase in prioritizing and productivity are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to learn more about how we can help you start the new year happier.