Steve Jobs will long be remembered for his entrepreneurial savvy, design intelligence, high standards, and ability to predict the future. The Wall Street Journal called him “the secular prophet.” I will remember him also as Steve Jobs the philosopher. His 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford is among the best I have heard or read—and I have heard and read a lot!
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
The older I get the more I do feel that my time is limited. And I’m trying hard to help people discover and heed their own inner voice, heart and intuition. But most importantly, I am working on tempering my own “noise.” How about you?… [ Read all ]
Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have been analyzing 12,000 diary entries created by hundreds of employees in many different organizations in an attempt to understand inner work life: “the conditions that foster positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions of colleagues and the work itself.” It is about the work, not the “accoutrements.” Meaningful work, clear goals, autonomy, help, and resources are the required elements identified in their new book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. “And it depends on showing respect for ideas and the people who create them.”
Their work has revealed that “…people are more creative and productive when they are deeply engaged in the work, when they feel happy, and when they think highly of their projects, coworkers, managers, and organizations.” They were also startled to learn that 95% of the hundreds of managers they surveyed misunderstood the most important source of employee motivation and ranked “supporting progress” least important.
Thinking back over my own career my inner work life has clearly been “joyful” in those situations where I felt good about the work I was doing, had the resources with which to be effective, and the trust of my supervisor to do the work. I still remember going to the best supervisor I ever had with a problem to her expecting … [ Read all ]
It has been quite a week. Tuesday afternoon an earthquake rattled many of our facilities around the Northeast. Little known fault lines named Lakeside and Spotsylvania near Mineral, VA, the epicenter, made themselves known over several days with at least seven aftershocks.
The Washington National Regions Records Center in Suitland, MD was the hardest hit with damage to the masonry at the tops of the fire walls and in the fire egress stairs. The building is closed until all safety issues are addressed.
Other damage to NARA facilities included some loosened mortar in the Rotunda and a cracked wall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue; a cracked window, cold storage vault disruptions, and minor parking garage damage at College Park; and a damaged panel in the pavilion at the JFK Library.
Certainly nothing like our friends on the West Coast have come to take for granted, but powerful enough to leave lasting memories.
And just when we thought it was safe to go back to work, Hurricane Irene heads our way with heavy winds and downpours. The FDR Library server room in Hyde Park, NY had a significant leak and lost power. The staff at our Market Street facility in Philadelphia report some flooding and puddles of water in the basement. And one minor roof leak in Suitland.
Survey research varies but at least 25% of the population identifies itself along with me.
I still remember the session at MIT where we were getting ready to take the Myers-Briggs when the instructor was explaining the Introvert/Extrovert characteristics: Are you the kind of person at a cocktail party who hangs around at the edges and observes? Or do you immediately move right to the center of the room and engage in conversation with those around you? And I sat there thinking to myself; I’m not even at that cocktail party. I’m home reading a book!
Marti Olsen Laney, a librarian turned psychologist, in her book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, lists what extroverted employees should know about their introvert colleagues. We:
Like quiet for concentration
Care about our work and workplace
May have trouble communicating
May know more than we reveal
May seem quiet and aloof
Need to be asked for our opinions and ideas
Like to work on long complex problems and have good attention to detail
Need to understand exactly why we are doing something
Dislike intrusions and interruptions
Need to think and reflect before speaking and acting
Work alone contentedly
May be reluctant to delegate
Prefer to stay in the office or cubicle rather than socialize
Reading Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage (“The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”), “Find a Better Job” in the latest issue of TimeOut New York (yes, I have maintained my subscription just to keep up with life in the Big Apple!), and Glen David Gold’s novel, Carter Beats the Devil—the fictionalized account of the life of Charles Joseph Carter, at the same time spurs some thoughts on work culture.
Achor defines happiness as “…the joy we feel striving after our potential” and stresses the pursuit of positivity (positive emotions) as the key to success. He suggests a series of activities to help raise one’s happiness baseline from meditation to finding something to which to look forward to exercise. Two of his suggestions (Commit conscious acts of kindness and Infuse positivity into your surroundings) especially overlap with the TimeOut analysis of five New York City work environments. Common factors among the five:
Openly encouraging creativity and innovation—listening to ideas from staff and making them a reality
Providing a truly collaborative atmosphere
Showing appreciation for staff in some way on a regular basis—making fun at work a priority
Seeing the head of the company “in the trenches”—visibility and accessibility of the senior staff
Creating an environment of continuous learning—everyone plays a role in sharing knowledge
Having grown up on the public service side of libraries, I am always on the lookout for examples of organizations and companies who can articulate a service culture. My latest discovery is Zappos.com, founded in 1999 “…with the goal of becoming the premiere destination for online shoes.” Although I have never been a customer of Zappos.com, I am surrounded by folks who swear by them!
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. A book by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
According to Tony Hsieh, the Zappos CEO, “…our belief is that if get the culture right, most of the other stuff—like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers—will happen naturally on its own.”
That culture is defined by 10 core values:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
People who have worked with me know that “sparkle” and “dazzle” are two terms I will inevitably use in a public service conversation. Sparkle describes the active engagement and genuine interest of the service provider in the … [ Read all ]
The Nation’s Report Card, recently released by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, doesn’t have good news about our student’s academic achievement in American history. Just 13% of high school seniors, 18% of eighth-graders, and 22% of fourth-graders ranked at the proficient level. “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Here at the National Archives we are attacking this problem with our new DocsTeach product, our Boeing Learning Center activities, and our diverse program and education activities. We feel a strong commitment to contributing to the solution.
But on Thursday I was honored to participate in the National History Day Awards ceremony at the University of Maryland where 8,000 students, teachers, and parents gathered to celebrate history! Every state and territory was represented with an enthusiastic contingent who paraded around Cole Field House before the program started. The papers and projects were superb. I got to celebrate with the Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New York representatives. Restored my faith in the academic chops of our students!… [ Read all ]
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivered this year’s Commencement Address at the U.S. Naval Academy. In it he reflected on his 46 years of public service—Air Force, CIA, White House, and Pentagon, serving under eight presidents. He states, “From this experience I have learned that real leadership is a rare and precious commodity, and requires qualities that many people possess piecemeal to varying degrees, but few exhibit in total.”
Gates’ leadership qualities:
Vision—”the ability to get your eyes off your shoelaces… and see beyond the day-to-day tasks and problems.”
Deep Conviction—“a strength of purpose and belief in a cause that reaches out to others, touches their hearts, and makes them eager to follow.”
Self-confidence—“the quiet self-assurance that allows a leader to give other both real responsibility and real credit for success.”
Moral Courage—“the courage to chart a new course; the courage to do what is right and not just what is popular; the courage to stand alone; the courage to act.”
Integrity—“for a real leader, personal virtues–self-reliance, self-control, honor, truthfulness, morality—are absolute.”
Common Decency—“treating those around you—and, above all, your subordinates—with fairness and respect.”
One of the six outcomes of our transformation plan is the creation of an agency of leaders—fostering a culture of leadership as the way we all do our work. I am inspired by the Secretary’s words and intend to use … [ Read all ]
I grew up in the Libraries at MIT, an institution founded on the principles of practical education. The motto of MIT, Mens et Manus, captures the spirit of that philosophy–mind and hand. For a young librarian it was a great experience to provide service to a bright and engaged campus community and to serve Nobel Prize winners, former Presidential Science Advisors, and the best of the best in terms of students from all over the country.
One of my favorite faculty members was Harold “Doc” Edgerton, an electrical engineer from Fremont, Nebraska, who, among other accomplishments, invented strobe photography. (View the Edgerton Digital Collection (EDC) Project.) Doc kept a collection of postcards of his photographs with him at all times and when you answered a reference question or held a door for him, you were rewarded with a signed card. I still have quite a collection!
Milk Drop Coronet, 1957. By Harold “Doc” Edgerton.
Doc’s life philosophy closely mirrored that of MIT:
Charles O. Rossotti was the Internal Revenue Commissioner from 1997 to 2002. In his book, Many Unhappy Returns, he tells the story of “one man’s quest to turn around the most unpopular organization in America.”
I’m always interested in reports of “lessons learned” and this is one of the best, especially as I reflect on our own transformation—how far we have come and how much farther we have to go. Every one of Mr. Rossotti’s basic beliefs applies to our own situation. Successful change:
Means improving the way an organization performs its mission on behalf of all of its stakeholders and rejecting an either/or model of performance.
Means getting the right people in the right jobs.
Requires the right measurements and incentives.
Depends on moving to an organizational structure, business practices, and technology that are up-to-date and aligned with the needs of customers.
Requires knowing what is really going on where it counts—on the front line.
Requires open and honest communication inside and outside the organization.
Requires change, not just communication about change.
Depends more on having the right governance, leadership, direction, and authority than on rules and mandates.
Has its limits—set by the broader constraints of the context within which it operates.
Customer focus, the right people, listening to the front line, excellent internal and external communication, and more action. Sound familiar? If you’ve … [ Read all ]
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