I wish you could have seen it. Twenty teenagers and four YMCA leaders — including me — were about to embark on a two-day rafting trip.

These kids could not have been more different. Half were from the inner city; half from the suburbs. Two inner city leaders joined us two from the ‘burbs. None of us had any experience with whitewater rafting. We were enthusiastic beginners, through and through!

The good news is we hired a terrific rafting company with experienced guides. They’d been running trips on the American River in Northern California for nearly two decades. The only thing we newbies had to worry about was to learn our roles, do our jobs, and work together. And to not get hurt, of course.

There was a lot to learn. We spent three hours on the sand that first morning, learning terminology, commands, safety gear, safe use of our paddles, how to shift positions safely when “under way,” and other key skills. (read more…)

 Flex cover photoThis post is an excerpt from “Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences,” (March 2014, HarperBusiness), by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. The book is available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

As individuals we can accomplish only so much. We’re limited in our abilities. … Collectively, we face no such constraint. We possess incredible capacity to think differently. These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress, and understanding. — Scott Page, “The Difference”

Two senior-level managers read through the performance evaluations for their team members, preparing for upcoming annual reviews and a rankings meeting. As they comb through the evaluations, they keep in mind a mid-level managerial spot that has recently opened up, scanning for top performers they might tap to fill the position. “What about Ursula?” asks one. “Her numbers are fantastic.”

“Yeah …” The other man pauses. “Maybe. She’s a rock star — don’t get me wrong. (read more…)

Taso Du Val is CEO and a co-founder of Toptal, which provides companies with elite software engineers and developer teams on a full- or part-time basis. I recently asked him about what challenges face young companies that have found initial success, and what that means for the CEO’s focus and behavior.

So, a company has found initial success, but now the task is maintaining and expanding upon that. It makes sense that this starts with the CEO. What should the CEO focus on first?

The CEO needs to maintain a positive, engaging atmosphere to focus on the continued success of the company. He or she should actively communicate company goals to the rest of the organization while also forming a solid growth plan and allowing employees to be involved with the process. Most notably though, the CEO should express the value of employees to the company and its continued success.

To follow up on that, what should the CEO not be as engaged with, to avoid being overwhelmed? (read more…)

EdMarx-2Ed Marx is the senior vice president and chief information officer at Texas Health Resources in Arlington, Texas. His career in the health care industry spans 24 years, 16 of which have been spent as CIO. Prior to joining Texas Health in 2007, Marx was CIO of University Hospitals Health System of Cleveland. He previously served in a variety of IT leadership roles with health care organizations such as HCA (Tennessee), Parkview Episcopal Medical Center (Colorado) and Poudre Valley Health System (Colorado). Concurrent with his career in health care, he served 15 years in the Army Reserve, first as a combat medic and then as a combat engineer officer.

Congratulations on receiving the John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year Award. This award is given for innovative use of technology in health care organizations. What is the most innovative way you have employed technology at Texas Health Resources?

I am profoundly honored and humbled by the award. (read more…)

Look up the word “agenda” in any dictionary and you will likely find a definition similar to this one: “a list, plan, outline, or the like, of things to be done, matters to be acted or voted upon.” While the definition seems innocent enough, we know that the word agenda is oftentimes viewed with negativity and mistrust, particularly in the work environment.

Where does our skepticism come from? Why does a phrase like “she’s got an agenda” strike a raw nerve? The answer is that we naturally assume that someone is aiming to manipulate, to prioritize their desires over our own. We resist because we loathe manipulation and power plays, particularly ones that alter our equilibrium or affect our routines and responsibilities.

You are likely aware that change-management guru John P. Kotter has written that 70% of change initiatives in organizations and businesses flop. Kotter outlines eight reasons for such failure, including leaders not establishing a sense of urgency, not creating a vision for change, and/or not effectively communicating their vision. (read more…)