5 Books That Should Be In Your Workplace Trends and Working Out Loud Tool Box

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As I continue to explore how to work out loud and grow our employee communities at Walgreens I’m always on the look out to find good books that give me inspiring ideas and stories about how to work better and develop our community strategy. So I thought I’d share a list of books about working better that I’ve enjoyed recently and along with highlights and key takeaways.

The Future of Work

The Future of Work by Jacob Morgan continues to be a valuable resource for me ever since I read it back in 2014. The structure of the book is based around the five trends of the future of work. Morgan frames the trends as an opportunity and a blueprint to retain top talent, build better leaders and build a strong people-focused organization. He weaves in stories, data, research and case studies from the companies who are leading the future of work evolution.

The main theme in Morgan’s book is that if companies don’t acknowledge, embrace and take action on the trends of the future of work they will do so at their own peril. There’s an opportunity cost at stake for those companies who don’t take action on the future of work trends because these trends have a tremendous impact on maintaing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

I’ve used concepts in this book to help our teams, change agents and community champions at Walgreens understand the bottom line impact and business value of what is happening in our employee communities and the value of having a community-focused business model and organizational structure.

The stories and data in this book have been helpful in explaining why changing how we work is important to improving the customer experience, because, a company needs a strong internal collaboration and community strategy in order to successfully execute their external customer strategy.  As you read The Future of Work I hope you have the same inspiring discoveries and can put the shared knowledge to good use in your organization too.

Show Your Work!

Show Your Work! is the follow up to Austin Kleon’s bestseller Steal Like An Artist. Show Your Work is not a workplace type book, but still, it’s a must for your tool box if you’re a writer, designer or any sort of creative person who wants to learn how to get noticed and grow your craft by proactively and consistently sharing your work. That said, even if you’re in the corporate world you can still take advantage what Kleon says and learn how to share your work to further your career regardless of what you do for a living.

I love how the book is designed as it gets to the point and is easy to read in a few settings then you can dip in and out when you want to get some quick inspiration and motivation. I love the truth-packed quotes and the openness of Kleon’s writing style. He gives you a welcomed insight in to his creative process and doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize the creative process. He gets down to business but does it in a fun and inspiring way.

The call to actions that Kleon mixes in are also simple when helps you build momentum and take things one step at a time, which is always a sound way to go when beginning any creative process.

As I wrote my three words for 2016 and set the stage for a successfully and productive year, I took to heart what Kleon says about the value of cleaning out our “creative house” and why being a creative hoarder can hold us back from discovering new ideas. So I took a look at my own “creative house” and deleted a bunch of old blog drafts and got rid of other creative baggage that was holding me back.

This is definitely a book that I’ve turned to when the creative writing battle wages on and the always present adversaries of doubt, procrastination and overthinking as they nasty villains try to keep me from showing my work. (I actually re-read it to work through finishing this post!)

Work Rules!

Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock is a great read that takes you inside the mind of Google’s head of people organization. I learned a lot about how Google runs its HR organization and what I love the most about this book is its openness, experimental and adventurous read. It’s inspiring, yet practical and realistic.

One of Bock’s goals with the book was to share what he has learned both in his career and during his time at Google. Bock shares details on various experiments he ran at Google to refine communication between managers, leadership and thousands of Googlers. I love the level of details he uses to share the thought process behind emails that were sent, why they made certain decisions to change the hiring process and what he’s learned from succeed and failing as leader and a manager over the years.

My two big takeaways:

  1. First, Bock stresses the importance of always making decisions based on data. Many times throughout the book he shows how most decisions made at Google involved some sort of data-based decision. I love this because too often we make communications, culture or business decisions without solid data. With the increasing use of communities and Enterprise Social Networks within companies and our growing understanding of Big Data, I believe leading companies will make it a priority to use the data from their internal networks to make all types of better business decisions and discover future leaders in the ranks.
  2. Secondly, I love learning about how Google experimented with “nudging” to improve communication and collaboration among the middle management. Nudging is such an important concept to realize and champion change in a large organization. I’ve used nudging to build communities at Walgreens and it was fascinating to learn how Google did it for their workforce too.

No doubt, Work Rules!, is a challenging, provocative and dangerous read.  It will force you to think about what’s working and not working at your company. It will make you feel uncomfortable (in a good way.) It will challenge you to think about all the ways you can improve your teams and empower your people. It’s definitely a must read for leaders or those aspiring to lead, especially managers who want to learn how to lead their teams better and get insights into how leaders like Bock think.

Working Out Loud

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Working Out Loud by John Stepper is a guidebook for how to work out loud to better your career and life. With the workforce constantly changing and job uncertainty a constant reality, it’s an extremely timely book because it gives you an actionable and simple plan to create, build on or discover a new career path.

I’ve found that you can read it a couple different ways. One way is to see it as a book to create a career you want by following the steps and starting the working out loud circles that Stepper maps out.  The other way is to see it as a stand alone resource for changing how an organization can work better.

That said, at Walgreens, I’ve begun to experiment with introducing concepts Stepper presents in his book, such as reframing how we share work knowledge, which is to see working out loud as making contributions and teaching employees a new way of working that’s focused on helping others and the broader organization to solve problems together versus working in silos or only sharing for selfish and self-promotional reasons.

Working out loud is a new concept that’s been around for several years but it’s just now starting to take root with the increased use of Enterprise Social Networks within companies.

So, when co-workers and leaders at Walgreens ask me what working out loud is and how they should do it and why they should do it and how and why we should use our employee communities to further the concept, I guide them using the understandable framework and examples that Stepper presents.

Stepper ends the book with the call to create working out loud circles. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how working out loud circles fit within our employee communities and broader employee work experience. But even though we’re still figuring out how to integrated circles into the our communities strategy, I will tell you that I’ve dog-eared several chapters and pages and shared them with leaders as I explain how working out loud can help us work better at Walgreens.

For example, I’ve used working out loud as a way to explain who employees can take an active role in our community and collaboration strategy at Walgreens. I’ve integrated elements into our playbook and how we measure success and progress in our communities.

Stepper’s book is filled with honesty and actionable inspiration. Some of my favorite parts are the contributions chapters and the letter that Stepper wrote to himself in which he tells the story behind how his own “ah-a” moment led him on the path to write the book and create the career he encourages us to create. It’s all very inspiring stuff that I’ve taken to heart as I continue to work out loud in my own life and take daily steps and an active role to chart my own career path.

Show Your Work

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Though it has the same title as Kloen’s, Show Your Work by Jane Bozath takes a different scope on the phrase and explores how organizations can leverage working out loud and sharing your work to improve engagement, share knowledge and break down information barriers across the company.

Bozarth is a learning and development pro and it shows throughout the book. The flow of stories and how they’re presented hit on the key pain points that would keep an organization from getting value from teaching their employee to share their work. But Bozarth doesn’t just point out the issues. She provides real and helpful and practical tips and solutions using stories from others who are sharing there work and having success at doing it.

I read the book through a few times and I keep it within arms reach on my desk at work. Being a change agent for working out loud and showing work is hard and can be a lonely endeavor, and many times I’ve used Bozarth book to refresh, inspire and reenergize me. I often use the book to quickly show others on my team and our communities advocates why and how to share their work.

I love the simple, yet impactful stories Bozarth shares.  Its coffee table design makes it easy to dip in and out and grab a thought and then put that thought or insight immediately into action. Like the others book above, this book is a must have for any working out loud champion.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and I’d like to hear what books are helping you to work out loud and share your work.

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Come Get Your Weekly Inspiring Buzz of Enterprise Social Networks during #ESNChat

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ESNchat

Each week I look forward to the inspiring buzz I get from #ESNChat and I’m excited to join the team leading #ESNchat. If you’re new to #ESNchat, it’s a weekly Twitter chat founded by Jeff Ross in September 2013 for those interested in Enterprise Social Networks (internal social networks for employees of businesses). The topics covered are primarily of interest to ESN community managers, but anyone with an interest in ESNs is welcome to participate.

For the last two years I’ve always gotten a lot of value from the chat and it was a pleasure to have guest hosted last year’s Risk topic. Honestly, the hour flies by and when the chat is over I always get a rush of ideas and a new, valuable perspective on how to approach the future of work, business of community management and enterprise social. #ESNchat is also a great opportunity to connect, share your experiences and learn from others who are managing ESNs at their company. You can check out the archive of topics here and here, and I hope you can join us today for this week’s topic: Holiday #ESN Do’s & Don’ts.

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#ESNchat just celebrated it’s two year anniversary and I’m honored to now partner with Jeff and the rest of the new co-hosting crew Brenda Smith, and Jennifer Honig.  (Special thanks to the team at the Community Roundtable for putting together this entertaining, adventurous and fantastic photo of the new ESNchat team.)

More details and how to participate

The chat is held each Thursday from 2-3pm Eastern Time (except major American holidays).  While the scheduled chats are weekly for one hour, the conversation never ends as we invite you to share thoughts and article using the #ESNchat hashtag in your posts. Here’s how you can participate.

  1. Join the #ESNchat on tchat.io and take advantage of the user-friendly interface there.
  2. Use the Twitter tool of your choice (such as Tweetdeck.com, Hootsuite.com, Nestivity.com or Twitter itself) to view a stream of tweets in real time that contain the hashtag #ESNchat.
  3. Follow @ESNchat on Twitter for updates regarding the chats and for discussion questions during the chats.  Questions will be posted at regular intervals by the moderator during the scheduled chat.  Answer questions, engage in conversation, retweet, learn, and have fun!

 

Thanks for spreading the news and I’ll see you in the chat!

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What I Told Grad Students About The Future of Work and Internal Communications

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking to graduate students at Depaul University in Chicago about the future of work and internal communications.

Looking back on this talk I was surprised and delighted because it was not only a chance to talk with students about the future of work that’s unfolding within organizations, the talk was an opportunity to reflect for a moment on my own career journey. It was a chance to give back and share what I’ve learned as I’ve seen and experienced first hand how internal social media, community management and other elements of the future of work are transforming and involving the conversation between companies and their employees, making it more transparent, meaningful and relevant behind the firewall.

Here are a few of the presentation slides, highlights of what I shared, plus a few extra thoughts and post-presentation reflections mixed in.

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As I mentioned in my working out loud like a toddler post, my son has challenged me to think about what the future workplace will be like. Seeing the world through his eyes inspires me to think about the changes we need to make today in the workplace to create the best possible future work experience, a work experience that won’t hold back or limit employees but instead will inspire and empower future generations to thrive at work and in their careers. This new way of thinking isn’t just about technology. It’s also about changing that way we approach management, leadership and give employees the tools they need to be inspired about the work they do.

To explain some of the key behaviors that employees will be exhibiting in the future, I shared a picture of my son watching a Ted talk on an iPad and related it to the Seven Principles of the Future Employee that Jacob Morgan has spoken about in his book The Future of Work.

Watching my son grow up and watching how he uses technology to learn about the world around him, it’s obvious to see how today’s workplace must evolve. Organizations must be ready for my son’s generation. But what I stressed was that many of the elements of the future employee and the future of work are already here. I told the grad students that the organizations, at least the ones that want to be relevant and in business 10 years from now, need to adapt to the reality that’s coming and one that’s already here.

Expectations and Opportunities

Looking at my son, I can’t help but see the importance of championing these new ways of working today. He’s going to expect to have these tools to do his job, and if employers don’t change and adapt these new tools and management approaches they’re going to have very frustrated and disengaged employees. And even worse, those employers who don’t evolve will be seen as “behind the times” and won’t attract the top talent and thus will be at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

I explained that those entering the communications profession have a tremendous opportunity to be champions and change agents themselves. I encouraged the students to not be a spectator in the future of work. Be an active catalyst for change where ever you work. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Experiment. Challenge yourself and others no matter where you sit in the org chat (if the org chart still exists.)  Make mistakes and learn from them. Always be improving. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. The career path always favors the risk takers, linchpins, and early adopters. And when companies allow ALL their employees to think, act and work in this new way, the company is at a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

I told the students that they can influence the future of work regardless of age or work experience. I encourage them to be bold and be courageous when they face adversity in the workplace.  I was also real with them. I explained that though it’s an inspiring opportunity, it’s not without it’s challenges.

Road blocks are certain to come. I’ve faced many in my career and I expect many more to come my way. I shared with them a glimpse into how rolling out the future of work at any organization, large or small, is like running a marathon.  And if they weren’t long distance runners yet, they should consider starting because it’s a great metaphor for the exciting challenge that lies ahead.

Sharing a few personal experiences of when I had to push back and challenge my managers and leaders during my career, I explained how many of the old ways of working are still deeply engrained in organizations and you will get push back and resistance. Bet on it. Embrace it, I told them. See it as opportunity to grow and develop yourself. If you don’t embrace it, you’ll get frustrated and stop making progress. You must push on and not get discouraged by setbacks.

Why push hard against adversity? Because that’s where the real learning comes in. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and successes. Yes, without a doubt it’s an immense challenge to transform a company from the old ways of working and lead them into the future of work. What I’ve learned over the last five years at Walgreens has been priceless and each day that goes by I’m reminded of what I learned, and I challenge myself to apply what I’ve learned to in the past to help me in the present and plan for the future. Because that’s what the future of work is all about. Fail quickly so you can learn quicker. And improve faster.

I only had a short time to talk and I wish I had more time, but what I did share was that I love the rewarding feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. I love the opportunity to help fellow co-workers and leaders do their jobs better.

Connecting people and building relationships is what inspires me, and it’s one of the things I love about what I do for a living. Yes, it’s hard work. But it’s worth it because I know that my work doesn’t just impact the company but it goes beyond the firewall and helps customers too.

Making Cluetrain A Personal Manifesto

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It was fun sharing this above slide because it was a chance to reflect back on and unpack a bit of the-way-ahead-of-it’s-time wisdom from the Cluetrain Manifesto. It was amazing to see what’s evolved, and what’s not, since Cluetrain first came out in 1999.

Looking at the Cluetrain Manifesto in context of internal communications and community management was a blast as I focused on a few key areas; corporate intranets, importance of communities within organizations and the need for a human voice. I explained to the grad students how we are working hard at Walgreens to integrate these concepts into our daily flow of strategic internal communications.

I shared personal stories of how over the last five years I challenged both myself and others at Walgreens to put the concepts of the Cluetrain Manifesto into action. I explained how it takes bold thinking and courage to step from behind the proverbial and unfortunately pervasive corporate curtain and speak to employees in a real human voice that’s honest, vulnerable and transparent.

Risks, Rewards and Why Humans (Not Robots) Are The Future of Work

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I shared stories of how I’ve taken risks (and reaped the rewards) during my journey into the future of internal communications. I explained how we utilize technology like Enterprise Social Networks and concepts like Working Out Loud to have real, meaningful and transparent conversations with employees. I shared examples of how members of our corporate communications team have modeled the behaviors of the Future Employee and The Future Manager.

And most of all, I stressed the importance of not thinking that it’s all about technology. Yes, much of the future of work does involve using technology and though I am a big fan of Daft Punk and their robot rock, we don’t need to be robots or be robotic in how we work in the future. We’ve already done enough of that in the past. It’s time to be human.

The future of work needs leaders who are human and are courageous enough to reprogram the system with their humanity. Leaders that are brave enough and smart enough to be vulnerable, admit and learn from failure, embrace their humanity and use all those human elements to transform the workplace and how we work.

Why is being human so important for the future of work? Because, honestly, at the heart of the future of work are humans, humans with which we need to communicate and engage with in an authentic and personal way.

Humans that need to be cared for and guided mindfully and thoughtfully along the way. Humans that need to be encouraged and told (often) that it’s okay to work is this new way.

Humans that need leaders to show that the future of work is blessed by the organization and is top priority for the company.

Humans that need to be led through this new and often scary behavior change.

The Future of Work Needs Leaders and Partnerships

Okay, so I made the point that you can’t have the future of work without real people and we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that just because IT rolls out new technology that employees will know exactly how to use it and know exactly how it should be integrated in to their daily flow of work.

The other important things we need are leaders and partnerships.

Looking at the five trends of the future of work we clearly need leaders at all levels of the organization to guide the workforce. We need to look at leadership differently. From the C-suite to the front lines, I believe we need everyone to be empowered and to have a sense of leadership and ownership of the future of work. The challenge, and opportunity, ahead of us is to complex to only have a few people leading the way and charged with guiding employees through all the psychological, emotional and sociological parts of the human experience that’s unfolding before us. Traditional hierarchies, old ways of management, and department silos won’t get us to where need to be. I’ve seen progress in other companies who are making inspiring changes but we need to continue to push to make it the future of work a reality not the exception.

I ended with the truth I’ve shared with other audiences stressing to the students that it’s critical that strategic partnerships are formed between communications, IT, HR and legal. Those areas of the company must find a way to work together. They must have a shared vision, a clear roadmap and a unified purpose to make the future of work a reality for their organizations. It’s been a key element to success of our community and collaboration initiatives at Walgreens. And if those partnerships are not formed and a priority, the future of work will only be a fragmented effort with limited impact and worse, a failure.

It was a blast and huge pleasure to speak to students about the future of work and internal communication. And I loved the conversations I had with the students afterwards. Special thanks to Ron Culp for making this talk happen and I hope I inspired a few brave and courageous souls to join the journey. And judging by those chats I had with students, the future of work and internal communications looks bright, indeed.

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