“Everyone Needs Their Alignment Checked Every Now & Again”

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   “Everyone Needs Their Alignment Checked Every Now & Then”

   This was a witty response an advocate of mine once said to somebody who was inquiring about http://www.mattsilver.ca and what it is my company does.  The comment was meant to be funny (metaphorical reference to car alignment being checked), and also meant to be serious.  What makes it witty is that both statements are equally true!

   As mentioned in previous posts, I often find myself engaged in some energizing and interesting conversations with people.  One of the more common topics that naturally arise is the definition and purpose of organizational alignment.  People often ask me what it is and how I go about achieving it within an organization.  I’ve had several dozens of these conversations over the past few years, and can now safely say there are some patterns I’ve learned to recognize in myself and the people I talk with.

  Some people will recoil or question the validity of new words, titles, or ideas – that’s just human nature.  Anything ‘new’ means change, and change isn’t something we usually enjoy.  When we encounter something ‘new’ it also means we aren’t as comfortably in control of what the ‘new’ word, title, or thought process is, mostly because we’re encountering it for the first time.  Because of this, I’ve found some unique challenges when contacting new advocates and/or clients who are curious about ‘organizational alignment’. 

   I’ve now experienced a few times where advocates and clients have felt: “I know how to best organize the leaders, vision statements, and teams in my organization, I don’t need any help at all! Who are you to tell me that I’d be healthier with your help?!!”  Politeness usually stops them from saying it directly to me, but on those rare times when somebody does feel this way, you know it’s there!  It’s in their eyes and body language with bright flashing neon signs and loud sirens making sure you haven’t missed the emotional cue this isn’t something they feel in control of or informed enough about to be comfortable with.  Again, it’s our human nature to project an image of being in control and well informed… Who doesn’t want to look in control and informed?

   So how should a person answer (or advocate) what an organizational alignment specialist (like myself) does, while at the same time trying to minimize the potential of raising their guard?  Let me interject a moment of vulnerability here and say I don’t have a perfect solution to this quite yet.  The reason being that each individual or group I talk with has it’s own unique sensitivities and/or receptiveness to organizational alignment and the ways we all need help.  From dealing with organizational CEO’s and boards who need a healthier and clearer mission statement, to supervisors & team leaders who need established healthier teams, all the way down to the teams themselves who need to work together in a healthier and productive way.  Every level of every organization needs an outside-in perspective, along with a helping hand in their organizational alignment…  That’s where I come in! 

   To this day I still find it humorous that the struggles of being an organizational alignment specialist don’t occur when I’m working with organizational heads, leaders and/or teams…to be honest, those are the most rewarding parts of this job!  My clients find the process to be enjoyable once I get involved which energizes me even more and round and round the positive circle goes.  The best part is that my clients are not only the benefactors of the process, because I work in partnership with them, they actually get to take ownership of those benefits!  

*Shameless plug –> feel free to read my testimonials page at http://www.mattsilver.ca for more proof of this). 

  The problem that pops up from time to time is during initial contact with potential advocates and clients.  If only they could see the end results for themselves and how easy it is to get there, I wouldn’t find myself worrying a perfect iron-clad answer to what an organizational alignment specialist does.  Truly, that is 65% of where the stress load of my company arises…  

   I fully believe the end results of healthy organizational alignment speak for themselves which is why I probably fall short as a salesperson (I’m happy I don’t have to be the guy who sells ice to people living in the Arctic, because I know they don’t really need it, nor would they benefit from it).  So as I sit here today, returning to the world of blogging my company’s journey, I would encourage you to stop and read some of the many articles that are being written on the necessity of healthy organizational alignment and team dynamics… The sheer amount of research and published reports that are proving the necessity of these things is staggering, and I encourage everyone to get on board before they become the last (and least productive) organization to do so.  

To learn more about this, please visit http://www.mattsilver.ca  Together we can change the culture of your organization and actually enjoy doing it at the same time!

When Is Happy Too Happy?

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http://www.wimp.com/firstword

   As everyone knows, there are battles of various philosophies and mindsets in every organization.  People live in constant conflict with one another because, well quite frankly we’re human.   We have emotions that fluctuate, we have different external forces acting upon our lives (positive and negative), and we each come to our own conclusions on what the ‘right’ solution is to our problems (ever notice how another person’s solution starts and ends with what you should do?)…

 

   After watching the above video of a mom teaching her baby the word ‘happy’ http://www.wimp.com/firstword, I was reminded of a study released into the media earlier this week on the effects of happiness in the workplace.  Enter another conflict.  ”You can’t just worry about people’s happiness! If you do, things will never get done while they’re at work!”  This is the mantra most of us have been raised with.  It also comes as no surprise this teaching is further propagated by various cultural & socio-economic values that work & fun are on opposing ends of a spectrum – that is to say, they simply can’t happen at the same time in the same place!   But wouldn’t you know it, we’ve now discovered this to be completely false! 

 

   Turns out that happiness is directly related to productivity within an organization.  Take for example Google, who rank as one of the highest spending organizations on employee happiness.  What did they discover?   Within a short amount of time after spending more financial & human resources towards employee happiness, their productivity shot through the roof!  Some reports indicating as much as 37% higher in fact!  And yes, I hear the naysayers and those who generally put their own ‘rightness’ over their organizational well-being, saying:  “There’s no evidence to suggest that we can’t get better productivity without having to use all these incentives.  We’ll just pay them more because it’s their job to get the work done, that’s why they’re here!”

 

Really?  Let’s take a look at that…  The average household income has risen quite substantially across Canada & the USA over the past 10yrs (exact amounts depending on which reports you look at).  Simultaneously two other scales have gone down at an equally rapid pace in the past 10yrs –> employee satisfaction rates and productivity rates.  Coincidence?  I think not.   About 7yrs ago I attended an academic forum on the issue of relative wealth and it’s impact on organizational structures within society.  The two main speakers were co-authors on a book of similar nature.  Their presentation focused on how wealth which has traditionally been thought to be a good motivator of human behaviour, is being revealed as a poor motivator.  They argued in fact that so long as an individual has a secure amount of relative wealth compared to their surroundings, an increase in wealth has next to (and sometimes negative) impact on organizational productivity as it relates to the individual(s) in question. Translated:  Paying somebody more money to do a better job when they don’t like the job or the environment doesn’t work!

 

How about that?  An individual can stop caring about their productivity regardless of the money they’re being paid, but they will never stop being motivated by a better workplace environment!  Will this stop the debate?  Of course not.  The trenches have been dug deep into the psyche of many cultural, capitalist, and traditionalist thinkers who simply don’t understand how organizational growth in productivity occurs through something as simple as happiness!  Nothing gives me greater joy than going into organizations who are convinced proper placement and training of staff in team environments will yield nothing more than time and money wasted.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  I have helped several organizational environments change from being places where staff dreaded entering, to being places that actually had staff and volunteers wanting to stay beyond their required responsibilities!  I believe the same can happen at your organization!  Contact me at: http://www.mattsilver.ca and let’s create something that works for you and your organization!

http://www.mattsilver.ca

Old Tv’s & Better Organizational Alignment: A Perfect Match!

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I have some of the most generous friends and family that an individual could ever want.  So generous in fact that it left me with a dilemma this past weekend…  Two big screen tv’s were recently given to me by friends & family when they decided to upgrade their own tv’s.  This meant the two old 24-inch box tv’s I had been using were now unwanted in my home.

No problem.  I approached friends who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford a new tv and asked them if they would like one of my tv’s.  Problem was, I had no friends that wanted one.  I thought:  ”No problem, I’ll find a nonprofit or charitable organization that would like to have a couple 24-inch tv’s donated to them.”  Again, no one was interested.  So I decided to announce on my facebook page that two free 24-inch tv’s would be donated and delivered to anyone in need on my behalf.  All they had to do was tell me where to drop it off….Again, no takers.

I was at my wits end trying to understand why nobody would want a free tv (each weighed about as much as a baby elephant), while at the same time trying to figure out how to avoid throwing them into the local dump.  So it finally came to me, ”I’ll just take them to the local Good Will or thrift store!”  They may be old and heavy, but somebody would be happy to have them. The plan was perfect.  So I sweated, grunted, stumbled and pulled many muscles loading them into the back of my car for one last adventure with the two most used sources of entertainment in my home over the past decade.  I’d say a tear was in my eye to part with them, but truthfully I was far too busy cursing under my breath because of how heavy and awkward they were trying to get them into the car.  A trip to the donation box at Good Will seemed appropriate payback at this point in time!

So I pulled up to the donation door with a big smile on my face, a song in my heart, but a quick shift to frustration as I realized the tv’s would get one last victory over me knowing I would have to once again lift them out of the car in order to get them into the donation bins.  I was willing to pay that cost one last time.  I walked in through the door to let the staff know that I had two tv’s lined up and waiting to come in.  ‘‘Oh we don’t take tv’s anymore.”  (This is the point where you’ll have to use your best imagination and think of all those cartoons where the character’s jaw drops through the floor as they hit their breaking point of sanity).  I stood there, in silence….looked back at my car (I’m convinced the tv’s were now laughing at me)…I looked at the worker again who gave me the ”Is there anything else you need sir?” look as an indication that I’m now taking up valuable space and time.  And yes, I felt defeated.  ”I don’t want to throw out perfectly good tv’s when somebody can use them!’‘ I once again reminded myself.

Long story short, I refused to give up, drove around a large chunk of the city trying out different thrift stores that would take these two tv’s that I had to get out of my car one way or another, and after the 3rd try I found one!  Not only did I find a store that was happy to take the tv’s from me, but they were thankful.  Not in a polite, courteous, way…but truly thankful.  I told them of my adventures and they were amazed that I hadn’t given up and dumped them in the local dump.  Surely that’s what most people would have done.  I was asked by the staff member who helped me bring the tv’s into the store:  ”I’m really impressed you went through all that trouble to drop off the tv’s here, why did you do it?”  And it became clear to me, the same principles that apply to old tv’s are the same that I apply to organizational alignment: ”I didn’t give up, because everything (and everyone) that works, has a place and value that needs to be used for everyone’s benefit! Things that work well, should never be thrown out or left unused just because they’re not wanted anymore.”

It still astounds me how often I walk into an organization (or look at the organizations I am involved with now) and see how people are either being unused for their skills or have simply become discarded from anything ”important” because they don’t fit in where they once did before.  We treat our teams, staff, and volunteers like we treat our old, heavy, tv’s.  If they don’t work the way we want them to fit in, we just ignore them and hope that eventually they will fade away.  Unfortunately this leaves the organization in an unhealthy state of function where some people are ”actively aligned”, with others being ”out of alignment” in helping achieve objectives.

I’ve really come to enjoy the process of helping turn things around for organizations.  The mission statement, staff and teams that worked 10yrs ago will eventually need to be changed – that’s just the nature of an organization (and life in general).  This doesn’t mean there’s no room for the things that worked 10yrs ago however.  If things still work, then they still have value!  I love highlighting organizational leadership, staff, teams, and mission statement planning and how they still have value in the face of change.  In most cases they simply need to be utilized in a different way.  Organizational alignment doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen by working itself out.

To learn more about how I can help your organization with it’s alignment please take a look at my website at http://www.mattsilver.ca and let’s work together on getting the most out of your mission statement, leadership, teams & staff.

Happiness…Not The Luxury You Thought It Was!

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   I watched the TED video above with great reservation after a friend told me:  ”Matt this is a very good video about happiness in the workplace, it’s what you’ve been saying for the past 13 years in your organizational analysis and consultation business!”  There it is – I continued in skeptical thought: ”Everyone thinks they’re an expert in behavioural psychology because they picked up a book, or read an article, or in this case watched a TED talk.”  I must confess I occasionally fall victim to this level of cynical reaction, especially when people are passionately trying to teach or share something with me they think I haven’t heard of before.  In this case however, my cynical nature wasn’t fully aroused because I knew this would be something I could add onto what I’ve been advocating for a long time.

   None the less, there I was watching a short TED video and still found myself a bit cynical of the presenter (Shawn Achor).  Another speaker, another message, and the same questions in my mind:  ”Why should anyone listen to anything he’s saying? Will this talk be relevant to people’s lives?  People’s organizational lives (work, school, non-profits) are stressful places where the demands and expectations are overwhelming and never ending. And he wants people to smile through it all?!!  Does he really expect them to be happy when they’re stuck in environments they don’t want to be in?  With coworkers they don’t like?  And supervisors that are ill equipped to lead?!  Really?!!”  (The irony of course being these are the questions I fear the most when it’s ME as the consultant and/or guest speaker on this same topic)! 

 

   …Afterall isn’t happiness a theoretical dream that can only happen when a person is wealthy & powerful enough not to care about others?  Or even worse, if we decided to just drop everything and focus on happiness, wouldn’t we end up being poor and desolate? Without anxiety and pressure, how can we produce anything that leads to the wealth and power which ultimately frees us from our unhappiness? …Or to put it another way:  Isn’t happiness simply a luxury we can’t afford?

  

   Most people reading this article are intelligent enough to try and skip ahead to what they know is the ‘right answer’ –> ‘‘Yes, absolutely I need happiness otherwise all those bad things I saw and heard on talk shows will happen to me!  Yup I’m super duper happy, look at me…happy happy happy!”  (Thankfully most people are equally intelligent and perceptive enough to know when somebody is genuine and when somebody is in horrible denial of their actual feelings).

  

   This past week I had a great conversation with an elderly gentleman who asked me what I did for a living.  I excitedly told him about http://www.mattsilver.ca, and couldn’t help but share some of the things I enjoy most about my company.  His response really caught me off guard:  ”Oh no, so I bet people are worried and don’t like seeing you come into their organizations huh?”  I thought I must not have properly explained how my company’s focus was on helping organizational mission statements, teams, and personnel placement for the purposes of increasing their productivity and satisfaction levels.  So I tried once again with even greater emphasis on how good things have turned out for my clients and their organizational environments.  His response was still not what I expected:  ‘‘Yeah but when people see you come into their organization, it means things are going to change and they probably won’t like that very much.”

  

   Of course I wanted to debate that point, but I realized, he’s right!  We as a society have become so comfortable in our environments of unhappiness that we simply accept it as the norm.  Furthermore, we actually believe the lie that was earlier mentioned:  If we don’t live a life of pressures, demands, guilt, frustration then how would we know if we’re working at our best?  This is an incredibly destructive lie many (dare I say most of us) have bought into.  At our workplaces we believe we need to work ”hard”, not work ”happily”.  In our schools and educational institutions we reward those that ”persevere” instead of those who ”thrive” in their learning.  In our non-profit organizations (religious or otherwise) we reward those who really work ”with conviction” instead of those who work with ”joy”.  There are countless stories and examples I could list for each of these environments, but again I suspect that most people are wise enough to know this to be abundantly true.  I recently read an article even praising a certain well known author who lifts up certain cultures for their ”hard work habits” and credits that attribute as the best means to wealth & power…  We are saturated by this destructive ”norm” at every turn!

   But what if happiness wasn’t a luxury reserved for the wealthy & powerful?  What if a happy person was more likely to experience greater health & finances than a hard working person?  And what if a shift towards organizational job satisfaction lead to greater productivity not less as is believed by most?  Could it be that folks like Shawn Achor & I aren’t the crazy pollyanna personalities some would easily dismiss because it conflicts with their ”work hard and suffer” philosophy in life? 

 

I’m happy to see a new generation of research and facts on human and organizational behaviour starting to be taught but we need to keep moving in this direction or else this too shall pass as the latest ‘fad’ in our social evolution…  If you’re in an organization that is looking for ways to cultivate an environment of joy & satisfaction, don’t wait.  Feel free to contact me at http://www.mattsilver.ca and let’s get working on it together.  Afterall, part of my greatest job satisfaction only takes place when I know that my clients are happy and satisfied with how I’ve helped them out.

  That link once again…

In Need Of An Advocate…

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I’ve often wondered to myself, ”How do people do it?  How do they get that fine balance of aggression and confidence to go out there and advocate for themselves?”  I’m referring of course to everyone who, like me, is in a professional field where there is a lot of self-promotion or at the very least a lot of self-determination in how they will achieve their ultimate goal…

I’ve started to realize over the past few years however that everyone needs more than just themselves…everyone needs an advocate!  Some of us are fortunate enough to have many, while others only have one or two, but we all need them!  The problem as I see it is very few individuals are aware of how & why they need an advocate.

Think about this…  Consider your surroundings and reflect on that one ”superstar” who is in your office, or work site, or class, or wherever you find yourself daily.  Now think about all that it took for them to get to where they’re at.  Most of us would think about their talent, or ambition, or drive and motivation, maybe it’s even their experience and connections right?  I’m sure some or all of those things might be true, but they had much more than this…they had advocates working behind the scenes for their success!

I once read an interesting quote from Michelle Obama in an interview she did a couple years ago.  She was asked the question of what she would have become if she didn’t make the choice of marrying Barak (then the future president of the United States)?  Her answer was brilliant.  She said something to the effect of:  ”I wouldn’t know because if I wasn’t married to Barak he wouldn’t have become the president of the United States, and the man I married would have!”  Good for her!  Her answer was of course intended to be humourous, but it was also profoundly wise.  Why would we presume success could be achieved unless somebody had the very best advocates around them?  Or to put it into another example, why is it a common workplace story that hard working individuals get passed over for promotions or upward movement when somebody seemingly less qualified got the position?   The answer isn’t that hard if you think about it.  The people that moved forward simply had the advocates they needed.

Having the right advocates is critical with everything we do in life.  Whether you want to succeed in your job, your home life, your inner and spiritual development…etc.  We all need advocates.  The stronger and more determined our advocates, the better our chances of success.  Or to put it another way, the more people can advocate on behalf of our strengths and talents, the better our chances in achieving the results we want…

People sometimes ask me ”Matt why would I ever want to invest in something like organizational alignment and team analysis?  I hardly understand what it is, so why would I invest my money on it?”  My answer tends to be the same each time…

I go over the quick examples I listed above and further explain that everyone needs an advocate (be it in their personal life or within their organization).  To obtain the best results in our lives and/or organizations, we need advocates who have the ability to analyze our strengths and weaknesses.  We need people who advocate for the best usage of our strengths, while minimizing our weaknesses. When it sounds this simple and obvious you’d think every individual and organization has advocates like this working for them around the clock right?  Sadly no.  In fact my experience has shown only a few individuals and organizations take the time to intentionally invest themselves in a process like this.   Most people are comfortable continuing the myth that all the Barak Obama’s of the world got to where they’re at because they had enough individual power and drive to achieve it all on their own.  We furthermore believe that the million man march would’ve been just fine with only one determined individual marching down the streets of Washington.  And yes, we even believe our own lives and organizations will be just fine without anyone advocating on our behalf, we can do it all on our own thank you very much…

To learn more about the fuel that drives me, check out my company website: http://www.mattsilver.ca

It Comes At a Cost…

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I often asked myself, what would happen if I obtained all that I want?   Of course most of us know the philosophically correct answer, but if we’re honest we’d probably say ”Life would be better!” while interjecting our desire for wealth, prosperity, cultural and/or religious dominance…etc.  But I’m further curious, what about those of us who believe our goals to be more altruistic like solving world hunger, or poverty, or war, or environmental issues, or….etc?

For me it would be specifically asking what would happen if I did see people coming together with a real concern for one other and their community?  What if I did see my neighbours inviting each other over for dinner instead of looking out their windows to see if their neighbours are doing something politically incorrect, or illegal, or even worse You-Tube worthy?

My friends, family, community members, and even my clients often proclaim my greatest strength is identifying personality characteristics and bringing people together toward a common goal.  And yet, as I look at what society holds as the ”prizes of life” I still see many obsessed with the pursuit of wealth, power, and a fiercely guarded individualism.  Many of these are the same individuals who champion my talents and encourage me to work in the lives of others hoping they will successfully integrate altruistic principles in their organizations, homes, and personal lives.  We really are a funny species aren’t we?

So what would happen if one day I woke up to a whole new world?  A world where people listened before they reacted.  A world where people were ok with the diversity of society rather than allowing the media to turn us against each other.  What if a Gay, Black, Muslim were as welcomed in a Chinese Christian church as a member from their own community?  Would I be happy with these changes?  Again, my initial reaction is like anyone else’s:  ”Of course!  It would be great if society were to improve that way!”  Everything’s great right?  ….but what about those things I didn’t expect.  What if my daughter committed herself to the principles I teach others so readily?  What if one day she decides the same faith, cultural values, and goals I’ve set for her don’t matter because she sees the greater purpose in connecting with the diversity of people in her life?  Would I have an emotional flinch (coupled with a possible knee-jerk reaction)?

I stop and think of all the dreams I have of her marrying a devoted surgeon who donates his money to charitable causes, while maintaining savings for an average sized home, with an average sized family, and just enough money left over for my future grand kids. (Did I mention her husband should also be a Green Peace advocate, active community member, play sports, and be devoted to following his father-in-law during his spare time?)  All of that down the drain because my daughter decided to listen and learn from me…unexpectedly to its fullest!

I’m coming to realize there’s a cost in every desire we have be it the desire for individual gain, or the desire to change society for the ”better”.  Many have been taught the ”good things” in life (for us) don’t come at a cost to anyone, especially to ourselves.  But that simply isn’t true.  I was very intrigued to see this truth played out in a Canadian television series called ”Being Erica”.  The premise of the show is following a woman (Erica) in her late 20’s (possibly early 30’s?) who feels that she doesn’t have much.  Her friends have well developed careers and she doesn’t.  Her friends are married and she just got dumped by her fiance.  Her parents continue to interject and poke into her life as to why she isn’t more like ”other people” which only exasperates the tension.  And finally she wonders, much like I do, why can’t other people just come to realize that if everyone was just like…. (insert rule here) …then everything would be better.

In the first episode of the series she happens to come across a therapist who has the ability to send her back in time and change any decision in her life or the lives of others.  She of course leaps at the opportunity because she knows that if she could just make some changes, everything about her life would be better.  Wouldn’t we do the same?  So each episode is a new therapy session where she’s allowed to go back and make the changes she wants,  (and no she doesn’t use any of those episodes to go back and buy stocks in Apple, Facebook, or Google).  Her goals for the most part are altruistic and are believed to be for the better of everyone.

What’s interesting about this television series is we actually get to see the ”cost” of each change she has made.  In most cases she actually achieves what she was hoping for, but it always comes at a cost of the things she could never have anticipated.  She reclaims one friend only to lose two others.  She saves one life, only to find out another life is lost.  She stops one bad outcome for her family only to see a new issue arise….  No matter what she does, she finds herself back where she started – a life full of costs where nothing is perfect!  Funny how we never hear that side of the equation from pundits like Oprah, Dr.Phil, and media moguls who are reliant on solving our problems (just tune in and/or buy their products is all they ask)!   Again, it’s important to note there is no such thing as change without cost, not one single person on this earth can change it.

This is currently one of the things I stress to all my clients who are looking for me to ‘change’ their staff, their community, or their working environments.  Furthermore, it remains a point in which I need to remind myself of:  “Beware of what you wish for, because it must just come true, and in more ways than you could have imagined.”

Best wishes to all of you no matter where you find yourself at this moment in life…

To learn more about the fuel that drives me check out my company website: http://www.mattsilver.ca

A New Beginning…

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Hi everyone,

I’m building my online presence by adding a blog.  Here you’ll find weekly updates on what’s happening with MattSilver.ca,  as well as thoughts on relevant events & topics in the communities in which I am happy to help…  As always, I am looking to gain your valuable insight and help.  Please don’t hesitate to add helpful tips and thoughts as we go along.  Most of all, thanks for joining me for the ride.  Here we go!