Blog

Incremental Dismantling of Communities

Working with and in communities in the capacity of economic development for over two  decades I’ve seen the subtle, incremental dismantling of good economic development practices.  Incremental dismantling of a community is created and fueled by poor public administration, misguided policy, and ego driven behaviors.

Economic development in many communities is taking place at the expense of the citizens and community resources.  In the past economic development was shaped by community development, which included planning, civic service, and a sense of the greater good.  Over the last decade or more it appears in many places to be morphing into a win at all cost, any project is a good project, ‘shoot at anything that flies, claim anything that falls’ charade.ThinkThrough

Does planning still take place in communities?  Often planning does take place, implementation however does not always follow.  I had a conversation a few weeks ago with someone who makes a very nice living creating community plans. He voiced frustration and discouragement of repeatedly seeing his work completed, only to go sit on a shelf in an office never to be actually implemented.  So we know paying for a plan isn’t enough.  Staying focused and implementing policy to  support a plan is vital.

In the places that economic development has become a shell of the original intent you can see a direct correlation between the incremental dismantling, or even production of poor policy to feed the ‘beast’  as community resources are squandered. When economic development is more about headline and glory grabs community members will disengage and a downward cycle will develop.

True economic development is focused on community engagement, growth, planning, and development supported by well thought out and implemented policy.  When good policy is in place the public administration path is clear and the influence of politics and/or ego diminishes.  That is a formula that leads to community and  resource growth, as well as civic pride.

 

Lack of Concentration=Less Productivity

What is the cost of distraction within the workplace?  Do the math… if it takes approximately 20-ish minutes to return to the point of focus prior to a distraction, social media continues to increase our level of distraction, well you get the picture. Ongoing distractions impact our ability to concentrate. We live in a world that is fully aware of this problem, creating terms like continuous partial attention (CPA), and apps to deal with it. Continual distraction is bad for not just workplace productivity and profit, it is bad for employee health and wellness too.

“We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.” (Source: “The Lost Art of Concentration”)

Distracted

Dr. Wilson’s 2005 research shows a clear correlation between distraction and concentration.   Social media distractions have grown substantially since his study subsequently so have the impacts. So the question becomes, knowing their is a negative impact on employee health and wellness, as well as positive organizational outcomes, why do we fail to address the issue?  The more distracted we are, the harder it is to concentrate. This dynamic leads to higher anxiety and stress as employees try to do more in less time, rushed, and with less attention to details.  Again, the outcome for companies and employees is not a positive one.

Creating an environment that requires, and supports mindfulness is difficult as our culture continues to veer in the opposite direction; however, it is necessary unless management is ready to lean into and accept lower productivity and an ongoing reduction in quality.  Employers are in the midst of normalization of deviation due to social media which results in both short and long term losses.

 

 

 

Influencer vs Sales Professional

Last week I had a fantastic conversation with a professor who teaches sales and marketing on the university level.  We discussed perception vs. reality in sales within our world which is full of real and wishful “influencers.”  sales.png

Bottom line is influencers talk at their audience, as that is their deal, they influence.  In the world of sales however influencing isn’t a long term plan, especially in business to business sales which was the topic of our discussion.

Sales is relational, unless you are operating with a ‘one and done’ attitude-big, but temporary gains.  Building a business requires engaging with people and listening to their needs, challenges, etc.  Like the saying goes, “people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”  Sales is about listening and  shining the spotlight on the customer not yourself.  Most of us are already burned out on the barrage of social media showing us the greatness of others so hearing it from someone that wants you to give them money too isn’t an incentive to buy.

If you’ve ever networked you more often than not get the mini version of the difference between sales and attempted influencing.  It is the reason many of us dial our networking back to the level of infrequent.  Talking at me, pushing your product in my face and space while telling me your story doesn’t engage me, and rarely interests/engages others.  A sale via that approach isn’t relational, it is more in the realm of ‘I’ll buy it if you please go away,’ a one and done exchange.

The professor I spoke with summed it up nicely explaining introverts are often the best sales people due to being good listeners.  As an introvert I’m biased to believe his statement as gospel; however it does make sense as we reside in environments that often demand we focus outside of ourselves, as well as compare ourselves through media, social and otherwise.  Selling is optimized when engagement is the priority.  Selling is sustainable when the customer has an opportunity to feel accommodated.

Low Investment, Increased Employee Productivity

Decades ago, when I was a stressed out adult probation officer, someone gave me a book on meditation. I was hooked upon experiencing the positive outcomes of meditating. I occasionally taught meditation classes in groups and even to high school staff. Decades later I’m busy running a business, teaching in higher ed. and generally trying to have a balanced life to boot. Nevertheless I do still meditate every single day. Why? Because it reduces my stress and sharpens my focus in a world that is constantly throwing every possible distraction at us through a myriad of media.

focus.pngI’m not alone in the taming the beast of stress related distraction, and you don’t have to look very far to see institutions such as Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, Yale, etc. have explored, studied, and validated the positive outcomes. If you knew even 10 minutes of employee mindfulness/meditation would boost your company’s growth through more engaged employees, create a safer environment with more focused employees, and reduce your healthcare costs why wouldn’t you pursue it? If you’re thinking 10 – 20 minutes of employee time would result in lost productivity, I can guarantee you that same amount of time is currently being lost due to the almost 70% of employees nationwide who are actively disengaged in their jobs.

As far as employee engagement tools go meditation has scientifically proven positive outcomes, and the price tag to implement it is minimal, and maintaining it cost zero extra dollars. You’ll be hard pressed to find a stronger return on investment.

focus.png

Accountability Gets A Bad Rap

Oversight is very popular, and obviously necessary within the workplace.  Accountability seems to be less of a mandate, and that is a problem.  The only way to engage yourself, employees, and/or customers is to combine oversight and accountability. accountability

I’m not sure when accountability fell out of fashion, but a lack of accountability equates to lost employees, lost profits, lost vision.  I’m talking about accountability on every level. Are you being honest with employees about the job they are interviewing for and/or the culture of the company?  Are employees working within a dynamic that they operate knowing win or lose people at every level of a decision making, or production making process will be held accountable? Is the organization showing appreciation for those exceeding the bar? Are people being both rewarded and held responsible for both the good and the bad? You get the picture.

Accountability seems to surface during conversation that are wrapped within something that may or has gone wrong.  This is where it gets its bad rap.  Regardless of whether or not your organization is engaged in accountability, it is impacting you.  Best to stay ahead of the curve and implement it on a level that makes your brand, product, and workplace more attractive to both employees and customers.  Doing so will show a return on investment.  Not doing so will create a people, product, and paid loss.

 

 

 

Three Things That Won’t Solve Workforce Challenges

Ten or so years ago workforce development was the job of professionals within the workforce development field. Now, workforce development has morphed into an effort that for some reason more people and professions than needed are trying to contribute to. The issue in many cases is “what” the non-workforce professionals are trying to contribute. Here is a list of three things being forced into the workforce development arena that are limited at best, and counterproductive at worst. paperwork_overload_by_primousinwonderland_d5eu4w7-fullview

1) Government training and engagement funding programs. Paperwork, with a side of paperwork is curbing enthusiasm and the ability to access some potentially good State based programs. Money will be left on the table when the process consumes too much of human resource’s time. Why? Because human resource’s time equals money as well. Additionally, they are already busy people. Yes to training and engagement funds, but let’s simplify the hoops and time consumption currently attached to them.

2) Economic developers. I am a recovering economic developer so I say this with love. Economic development is a full time, and important job in communities. Impact and ability are diluted when workforce is added in as ‘economic development.’ Almost any economic developer who was around 10+ year ago went kicking and screaming to Workforce Investment Act meetings because it ‘wasn’t what an economic developer did.’ Let’s quit forcing people into conversations and dynamics that take away from what they were originally hired to do. The exception, creating a job or department within the economic development organization specifically to target partnerships with workforce professionals and support growing workforce efforts.

3) Incentivizing only job creation/retention growth. Incentivizing manufacturing growth only when it includes jobs created doesn’t make sense anymore, especially in rural areas. You only need to look at demographic trends to see the issue. If you only incentivize job creation, rural areas will eventually lose their manufacturers and they will at times move to secure both more people and the funds that come with them. Most of us know multiple companies who have jumped locations for economic development funding. Why? Because many States have built incentive programs creating a dynamic which makes it more profitable for them to do so. Would I move across the city or county line if incentivized to do so? Yes, yes I would if I was in the business of ending a year with a profit. Incentivizing automation eases the workforce challenges when it comes down to the bottom line of having enough people to fill positions. It contributes to stabilizing communities.

By continually adding everyone under the sun into the workforce discussion and/or program planning the only outcome you are on the path to is progress at a pace that is detrimental to manufacturing. More action, less meetings, more smart conversations, less of talking things into the ground and then burying them with endless paperwork.

Automation In Rural Manufacturing & Why It Should Be Incentivized

There are plenty of debates over automation in manufacturing. More often than not part of an automation debate includes automation vs. jobs. Automation is a complicated issue with multiple layers, but for this post, let’s focus on the’ jobs will be lost if automation comes’ myth in rural communities. That’s right “myth”. Let’s get this out of the way, jobs will not be lost, jobs will change.  automation

On January 24 this year Marketwatch had an article based on a Brookings Institute study. The Marketwatch item had the super sexy title, “Over 30 million U.S. workers will lose their jobs because of AI”, big stuff. The article went on to say “…“high exposure” to automation — meaning at least 70 percent of their tasks could soon be performed by machines using current technology. Among those most likely to be affected are cooks, waiters and others in food services; short-haul truck drivers; and clerical office workers.”

On January 25, 2019 CNBC had a piece based on that same Brooking study and CNBC titled it a semi-sexy, “Automation threatening 25% of jobs in the US, especially the ‘boring and repetitive’ ones: Brookings study,” less sexy, but still disturbing if you are cruising through life with only enough time to catch headlines as many of us are.

The two articles above are great examples of why the word “automation” can send fear into the workplace and leave workers feeling insecure. But here is the thing, automation in rural manufacturing is what will save many rural communities. Subsequently, anyone in the market of incentivizing via economic development needs to get on board with offering incentives to manufacturers who are automating, and quit tying incentives to job creation only.

Rural communities continue to see a decline in population. There is no indication that this trend will stop, it may slow, and occasionally adjust a bit, but overall rural economic and community development need to engage in clear conversations regarding doing as much and/or more with less people. This applies to rural manufacturers as well, many who already feel the workforce shortage pain, subsequently the need for automation. Failure to support the growth of automation within rural communities will, not might, but will result in rural manufacturers eventually having to pack up and leave due to a lack of workforce.

The current rural workforce reality has shifted from a dollars per job created equation, to a dollars per job retained and/or dollars that will remain within the community based on supporting, and stabilizing manufacturing growth. Unfortunately most States have not shifted away from the dynamic of only incentivizing ‘per job.’ And realistically rural communities will have limited capacity to do so themselves on a large scale.

So the bottom line, automation is necessary in rural communities if they are to survive. And when you look at employment opportunities vs. available workforce in the majority of these communities it is clear automation will not take jobs, it will change the type of jobs to a higher technical level, and/or assist in smoothing processes where a lack of employees exist. Not assisting manufacturers in automation will result in not just jobs lost in rural areas, but companies lost.

Zone of Genius

zone of geniusWhat is your zone of genius?  A lot of us reside in a working world hanging out in either a zone of competence, or zone of excellence.  This may sound like a positive, but hanging out in a zone of competence or even excellence is why we have over 70% of employees disengaged.

How do you know what/where your zone of genius resides?  Easy.  It is whatever gives you the highest ratio of satisfaction and target income and makes you feel wonderful doing it, knowing you are really great at it.  It is earning a living doing something you really love, not just something you are good at.  A zone of genius feeds you, not just because of ego driven “I’m good at this”, but because you are good at it, and you find it deeply satisfying, which cycles into additional positive energy further feeding your pursuits.

Integrity Sometimes Means Breaking Commitments

I saw this post from a friend on social media this morning.  It really rang my internal bell.  He is currently at Everest, and if that isn’t inspiring enough the insight he shared (below) is critical. In a world that seems to be polarizing more and more, do what’s right, even if it means changing your mind, path, and/or commitment – that’s integrity.everest

Phil Gore’ Post:

The Memorial to Lost Climbers on Everest

Integrity is oneness with yourself. It means doing the right things in the moment, regardless of what others may think. It means that you are true to yourself.

It does not mean you always stay with your plans or keep your commitments. Integrity is keeping commitments when you should and breaking them when that is the right thing to do.

Most of the dead people remembered by this memorial, either they or someone they believed in were more stubbornly determined to keep their commitment to a summit than they were to doing the right thing in the moment.

This is not criticism or throwing stones. I have made this mistake. Once, it nearly cost two lives, and once it cost a life.

If you read this far, examine your understanding of the word integrity. Don’t buy an ill-conceived understanding of the term. Sometimes, it means keeping commitments, and sometimes it means breaking them. May God help each of us to live lives of integrity and do right things in the moments we have.