Posts Tagged ‘Frederick A. Miller’

Leading the Way Through Collaboration

Posted on: April 28th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Liz Smith, MBA Candidate at Bainbridge Graduate Institute

People are the greatest asset within our organizations, and it is through the quality of their collaboration that we get the most out of their contributions. Yet creating a culture of collaboration within an organization is a highly nuanced and complicated process. At the Spring ’14 SVN Conference in San Diego, Judith Katz and Fredrick Miller, colleagues and authors of the book Opening the Door to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys That Change Everything, shared their 40 years of experience and expertise in helping teams and individuals to collaborate effectively, and begged us to ask ourselves the question: who do I need to be thinking with?

Judith Katz

Building our “Thinking Team”
The first step in building a culture of collaboration is to get really clear on one thing: identifying whom the individuals are that we need to be thinking with. Whether from within or outside of the organization, by surrounding ourselves with a thoughtful group that balances out our leadership style and skill sets – a group Katz & Miller call our “thinking team” – we can bring depth of wisdom to our companies.

Judging vs. Joining
Merely teaming up with the right group of people is not guaranteed to lead to collaboration. In fact we cannot effectively collaborate or be part of high performing teams if we cannot communicate with each other. Katz offers the view that we have a fundamental species choice to make: do we want to judge – an action that leads to defensiveness, frustration, and a shutting-down of the creative process – or do we want to join one another? To join together, the epitome of collaboration, is to look your team, your employees, yourself, in the eye and say, “yes, I trust you”.

One place we can begin to “join” is within our own organizations. Katz looks to the hiring process to explore this concept. Company hiring is an activity that requires a tremendous amount of resources as we vet candidates to join our team. Yet oftentimes, when we make the hire, we force the employee to go through a process of proving themselves, resulting in a culture of judging. If we want to start joining one another, we must create an environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork within our organization. This all starts with the conversations we have with one another. Ask yourself: am I engaging with this person in a way that makes them feel big; feel valued? When we start from that place we set in motion the trust that’s necessary in order for high-performing teams to thrive.

The EILEEN FISHER Story
This methodology of developing thinking teams to co-create collaboration has been put into practice by Katz & Miller through their consulting firm, The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, in a number of organizations around the country, including at EILEEN FISHER, a mission-driven women’s apparel company. In attendance at the SVN conference to share her experience of how Katz & Miller’s work impacted the organization was Susan Schor, Chief Culture Officer at EILEEN FISHER. After first meeting 12 years prior at an SVN conference, the three partnered to develop their own thinking team. It is thanks to their work and the effectiveness of this process that EILEEN FISHER has experienced significant corporate structural changes which have led employees to feel a sense of ownership over the work and the company, while fostering a culture of collaboration, ultimately leading to overall company growth and development.

Collaboration begins with who you sit at the table with. Look around you and identify the people you need to be thinking with in order to foster collaboration and bring out the full potential of our greatest assets – ourselves.

A Moment for Focus on the Larger Purpose

Posted on: January 18th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Author’s note: I see the Social Venture Network as a place to learn, experiment, and interact with some of the world’s foremost thought leaders. Through SVN I met Eileen Fisher of EILEEN FISHER, INC.; it was Eileen who introduced Judith Katz (my business partner) and me to the idea of starting meetings with a minute of silence to center oneself and the group. From this introduction, Judith and I have taken the concept around the world, introducing the “Moment for Focus” to organizations and leaders as a way to increase their meeting and life effectiveness. We appreciate SVN for the many opportunities we have to learn from others.

Speed may be essential for success in today’s marketplace, but continuous speed comes with a cost. People often lose sight of the larger purpose in the rush to complete to-do lists, daily tasks, and rounds of meetings. The organization’s core mission and values too easily become mere slogans on the wall.

This is a challenge for any organization. It is a big challenge for SVN members—because the larger purpose is why we do what we do.

When a sufficient number of people move constantly at warp speed, whole organizations can lose their moorings. Doing the urgent (with drama) becomes the norm. The truly important tasks fall to one side. Mission-critical thinking can go out the window. As a result, people do not bring their best selves and their best thinking to many situations. Performance suffers; so does fulfillment of the mission.

Nowhere does this loss of focus take place more than in meetings. Not so long ago, meetings were something people prepared for, rather than back-to-back-to-back events with no time in between. Many of today’s meeting participants are already distracted when they walk in the door, to say nothing of the multitasking that many people do during the meetings. While they are multitasking, their attention is elsewhere, and their colleagues lose the opportunity to hear and learn from them. As a result, the decisions that come out of those meetings may often lack the combined wisdom of the group.

Ironically for such a big dilemma, one solution is surprisingly simple—and effective.

In our work with organizations, we have developed this solution (building upon our experiences at EILEEN FISHER, INC.) to slow people down and enable them to be their best contributing selves in that moment. By using A Moment for Focus, people can align themselves around the purpose of the meeting or task, connect it to the larger picture, and be mindful about their own presence and contribution to the organization’s mission.

A Moment for Focus, often used at the beginning of a meeting, gives people a brief time of silence—one or two minutes—in which to breathe, reflect, absorb, or just be, and to focus on what is in front of
them. During that time, they can ponder the objectives of the meeting, what they will do to maximize its success, or how they want to “show up” so that they and others can do their best work. The use of the time is up to the individual; since meetings are not spectator sports, however, the ultimate goal is for each person to consider how she or he can contribute.

Moments for Focus often produce more than just focus for the individual. A question afterward—for instance, “how was that Moment for Focus for you?”—invites people to share the insights and feelings that came to them during that time. Since people are generally focusing on the meeting or task at hand during the Moment for Focus, their sharing is more than likely to advance the goals of the meeting.

The applications of the Moment for Focus are not limited to the meeting context. Individuals can use it when juggling multiple projects and tasks to ensure that they are addressing the right work at the right time. A Moment for Focus can help people mentally switch gears amid shifting priorities, bring their full attention to the task at hand, step back from the details of a project to see a different perspective, or re- center discussions that have gone off track. Sometimes, as a result of Moments for Focus, solutions to “unsolvable problems” have the opportunity to arise, new ideas emerge to move projects forward, and people connect on a clearer, deeper level.

More focused people, aligned with the organization’s mission, leads to a more focused organization. The ability to focus on the now enables people to bring their best thinking and together do their best work—which positions the organization to accelerate movement toward its larger purpose.

About the Author
Frederick A. Miller serves as CEO of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. With more than 40 years in organization development, he specializes in using Inclusion as the HOW®—a foundational transformation mindset he co-created with Judith H. Katz—to accelerate results and achieve higher operational performance. Fred has also co-authored three books with Judith H. Katz, most recently, “Opening Doors to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys That Change EVERYTHING” (Berrett-Koehler, forthcoming May 2013).