Jamie Notter

Consulting: Targeted projects to strengthen your culture and improve performance.

Speaking: Keynotes and concurrent sessions on social business, conflict, and generations.

Writing: Two books (Humanize and Generational Diversity) and an industry-recognized leadership blog (see below).

teambigIt’s not a random collection of your “best” people. We tend to think that putting the smartest, most capable people together on a team is the best decision, but some research I saw reported in the New York Times says otherwise. High IQs of team members was not a predictor of team success. Their study of effective teams identified three characteristics that made some teams generally “smarter” than others:

  1. Equal participation. Teams where 1 or 2 people dominated were not as strong.
  2. Emotional intelligence. Being able to read the emotions in a situation and be aware of what other people feel, know, and believe.
  3. Women. Not equal balance of men and women, but more women (tied in part to women’s general superiority when it comes to the emotional intelligence part).

As traditional hierarchies break down in organizations (which I think is inevitable), the importance of teams will be elevated. If I were you, I would start developing teams with this research in mind (or hope that your competitors don’t).

Engagement Is a Two-Way Street

twowaystreetMaddie and I worked with a client last week on the topic of member engagement, and one of the insights that was particularly useful to this group was the idea that engagement is a two-way street.

When we think about engagement–which could mean customers, members, or even employees–we very often think of it in one-way terms. Like THEY engage with US. The members read our newsletters, attend our events, buy our products, join our association. The customers watch our ads, visit our stores, buy our stuff. The employees show up on time, do their work, stay at your company. All of this is true, and part of engagement, but engagement is fundamentally a relationship. It is the time, attention, and money that is spent by BOTH the member/customer/employee AND the organization and the people within the organization.

If you want to improve member engagement, have you even looked at where your organization devotes its time, attention, and other resources? Or is your focus only on manipulating specific behaviors in order to increase the specific, measurable pieces of their engagement (getting them to read more, buy more, attend more). True engagement is about meaning and value. It’s important. That’s why I think it works best to think about it in terms of a relationship, and like any relationship, it means paying attention to your own stuff and your own assumptions and your own behavior.

Screenshot 2015-01-25 09.31.41The launch date for our new book is rapidly approaching!

And as part of the launch, we are offering some special deals for organizations that are interested in bulk orders. We have produced a PDF flyer describing the different packages in detail, but basically if you want to order 100, 250, 0r 400 books, we’ll throw in a webinar and various speaking and consulting offers, depending on the package. (And if you’re interested in a different amount, contact me and we’ll work something out.)

These deals are ONLY available now, and they expire within about a month of the book launch, so you only have until mid-April to commit (though the speaking and consulting can happen later if you like).

This is an important conversation to have inside any organization, or among members of your association. We think leadership and management will undergo surprisingly big changes in the next few years, and this book will help you navigate those waters. Don’t miss this opportunity.

disappearedstaffOr, at least, you shouldn’t be.

On Tuesday I posted about a great article on LinkedIn about a company that gives its employees a MINIMUM number of vacation days they must take each year. They do this because they care about their employees and want them to be healthy, and not burned out. Within the article, Mathias (the CEO of the company) makes an important point:

A company has to learn how to function when people are on vacation and unavailable, however important their role is.

This is where most organizations will be unable to heed this CEO’s advice. They can’t implement a minimum vacation policy, because they can’t live without their employees working all the time, particularly those at the higher levels. And certainly the boss could never take five weeks off throughout the year, right? But here’s the rub: just because your current system “needs” everyone available all the time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it.

Mathias took three weeks off in France, totally out of touch with the office, and they didn’t implode. In fact, if you can’t pluck someone out of your office for a couple of weeks, and have others fill in that gap, then you’re doing it wrong. You don’t have the right people, and you haven’t developed a system that is smart enough and learning quickly enough to fill in the gaps. Fix that. And give people their time back. You’ll be amazed at what whole, focused people can accomplish.

snailraceEveryone knows that the speed of change has gone through the roof these days, but that’s not precisely what I’m talking about when I suggest you’re falling behind. I’m talking about management.

I don’t think people realize that management–those assumptions we hold about how you need to run things inside organizations in order to be successful–is starting to change at a rapid pace. This is really new, because for the last 100 years, management has been changing at approximately the pace of a glacier. As in, it changes, but you can’t particularly see the change because it happens so slowly.

But not any more. The changes are starting to come quick, and as we suggest in our upcoming book, that pace is not going to slow down. Here’s some of the latest evidence.

This post on LinkedIn by Mathias Meyer explains why he has started REQUIRING employees to take vacation. You read that right–he has a MINIMUM vacation policy (not a maximum), where all employees MUST take 25 days off (yes, 5 weeks), and they are paid.

My entire working career, it was a given that if you got a job, then you “earned” vacation days, typically starting at two weeks (10 days) and then moving upward the longer you stayed with a company. Over the last couple of years, I was noticing the number of companies that were doing away with that policy and giving unlimited vacation. No more tracking days. Just take vacation whenever you want for as long as you want. As long as you’re getting the job done, then we don’t need limits.

This idea by itself is hard for a lot of companies to swallow. What if employees abuse the policy? Now there’s no reason for them to stay longer at your company! Most organizations seem to be staying with the traditional route. Limit the days off, force people to work, and give them an extra day off per year for working there.

But here’s the new speed of change: Meyer adopted an open vacation policy for his company–people could take off as many days as they wanted–and has already evolved it. He realized that leaving it open meant that people took LESS vacation and there was pressure NOT to be that guy who took the most. The result was burnout, and as he said in the article, “vacation is cheaper than severance and training.”

This is an example of what Maddie and I write about in Chapter 3 of the new book. It’s a digital mindset, where you focus on meeting the needs of the customer, which, in the case of management, is the employee. Smart companies are doing this, and attracting the very best talent in the process, while the rest of us are figuring out ways to claim more comp time so we can amass more vacation days. On which side of this trend do you really want to be?

The Problem with Goals

targetsEveryone knows that you have to set goals in order to be successful, right? There are data to back up that assertion. I don’t remember the exact source now, but I remember hearing a study that saw a correlation with significantly higher salaries for people who had clear career goals versus people who didn’t–and even among those with clear goals, the ones that actually wrote the goals down had even higher salaries than those who didn’t write them down.

So we take this to heart in organizations and set goals, often through strategic planning. We make them specific and measurable, and maybe even big and hairy and audacious. But we know, without a doubt, that if we DON’T set the goals, then we will flounder.

But are we fooling ourselves? Has it occurred to you that perhaps it’s not the goal that actually drives your success, but the clarity that you achieved in setting that goal?

I was very interested to learn that the Construction Financial Management Association recently eliminated its goal of growing membership. This sounds like blasphemy for an association. Isn’t it a given that they should grow membership? Perhaps, but unfortunately for CFMA, focusing on that goal each and every year didn’t seem to be helping them to achieve it. But as soon as they let go of the goal, they were able to focus on something more important: actually being valuable to the members.

Please stop setting random membership or sales targets. Instead, dig a little deeper into what actually drives your success and focus on that.


springcrocusWe had a particularly cold week last week here in the D.C. area–down into the low teens at night and highs in the 20s. That’s not normal for this area, where high temperatures, even in January, average above 40 degrees. Fortunately, I work from home, so there were a couple of days last week where I didn’t even need to venture outside at all. That’s what we do in winter: we hunker down, and retreat to where it’s warm, and get as much work done as we can. It’s hard and not always comfortable, but that’s the work of winter, and deep down we know that spring is coming. We know that we will soon emerge and have our day in the sun (metaphor alert).

When you’re stuck in winter, it’s important to remember that spring is coming. You need that seed of optimism to get you through the hard parts, to keep you moving and working, rather than just giving up. Every year you hit that same point where you want to give up, but you remember that spring is coming, and you put one foot in front of the other.

Society is in the middle of a winter-to-spring transition right now, particularly when it comes to leadership and management. That’s what Maddie and I have written about in our forthcoming book, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business. You’ll obviously be seeing much more about this book in the next two months on this blog, as we gear up for our early March release date.

But I at least wanted to remind everyone that spring is coming. We included the phrase “ridiculously optimistic” in the title very intentionally. We can see the “spring” when it comes to the future of business. We’ve written in the book about the positive deviants that are showing us all how to create more powerful cultures, today. Regardless of what you think about the Millennials, they are moving into positions of power at the same time as a tectonic shift in business, so let’s follow their lead and venture out into the sunshine together.

holedigger…the first thing you do, is stop digging.

Don’t get in the way of your own progress. Your own behavior is actually the piece of the puzzle over which you have the most control, so take advantage of that. When faced with a problem, don’t rush to evaluate all the external factors. Look at what you’re doing and see you can do things differently that will create some space.

I’m reminded of a nice article by Joe Rominecki in Associations now that points out that associations are all stressing about their membership models and how best to provide value to members, yet they are also NOT actually spending time researching their market. Focus, people.


polevaultOn the last day of 2014, I made the mistake of getting a prescription filled. I didn’t intend to do it that day. That just happened to be the day I went to the doctor and he called it in to my local CVS. I showed up at the pharmacy a good six hours after it was called in, and waited in a line that was much longer than usual. The person in front of me was upset that her Rx wasn’t ready (though she had called hers in after mine). I got up there and they said it wasn’t ready, but they would expedite it–maybe 20 minutes? So I went grocery shopping (longer than 20 minutes), came back, waited in another long line, and when I got up there it still wasn’t ready, though they got it for me in just a couple of minutes. Lots of people were cranky and storming out of the line in a huff.

I didn’t realize that a lot of people fill prescriptions on the last day of the year for insurance purposes, though I get it with deductibles going back to zero and whatnot. But here’s what I don’t get: why didn’t CVS see this coming? Actually they did. I heard the staff saying that they thought the previous December 31st was even worse than this one. So why didn’t they do anything about it? That’s not to say that I know what they should have done. These are prescription drugs we’re talking about; it’s not like you can just hire some extra college kids on break to dispense them. But in this day and age, I find that I have very little patience for an organization that cannot solve a problem that it knows is going to happen.

Google reads my mind. Amazon plus my smart phone means I can go from “Hmm I think I need X” to opening the box in my home two days later, no matter where I am when I have that initial thought, and pretty much whatever “X” is. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the holiday season and their orders are through the roof–I still get it two days later. Things have changed a lot in the past couple of decades, and the bar has been raised.

Figure it out, CVS. You know this is going to happen again next year. If there’s no way to bring in short-term pharmacists, then figure out something else. Invent a system for triaging prescriptions so some get bumped (I could have waited til the next day). Find a way to automate a system to notify people that it will be longer waits than usual. Engage the docs in working to submit prescriptions earlier. Just do something, because telling the customer that you didn’t have the time or resources to solve this predictable problem is not going to cut it any more.


2014 Year End

I wasn’t expecting 2014 to be a real transition year (I thought that’s what I had last year, actually, when I went back out on my own), but as soon as Maddie and I decided to launch a joint consulting firm together (Culture That Works LLC), our new directions picked up steam. We started getting more clients together (in addition to existing work we did separately), and also (as promised in last year’s post) started out on our next book together. As I write this, the book is basically done, though it won’t be released until March of 2015 (and we can’t wait!). The new book is titled When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, and will be published by IdeaPress. We’ve set up a pre-order page on our site, and once we finalize the last few details you will be able to add it to your cart.

Happy new year, everyone!

Here’s 2014 by the numbers:

Miles running: 229 (down 43)
Miles biking: 1475 (down 195)
Southwest flights: 40 (my new airline)
Southwest points: 112,342 (ask me about Companion Status)
Following on Twitter: 6,356 (up 1,217)
Followers on Twitter: 6,633 (up 996)
Tweets: 13,954 (2,459 this year; about the same as last year)
Facebook Friends: 459 (up 21)
Linked In Connections: 1,468 (up 198)
JN Posts: 109 (1,075 total; down from last year but hey, I wrote a book)
JN Comments: 50 (1,231 total, not counting pingbacks)
JN Page views: 44,207 (204,762 total; about the same as last year)
Switch and Shift Blog Posts: 1 (but I’ll have a series next year on the new book)
SocialFish Blog Posts: 8
Feedly Feeds: 74 (up 9)