Sustainable Business Conversations, Nov-Dec 2017

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Sustainability Discussion November 2, 2017 Topic: Strategies for the Cold Months

Perseverance is the top thing to get to sustainability. We were trying to find the cause of periodic loss of hot water at El Moore. It took three people to figure it out. Turned out that a valve on the device that mixes cleaning solutions was creating negative pressure and interfering with hot water flow. We talked about it a lot and listened to each other and figured it out. If you have a problem in sustainability get a group of people who care and talk about it. Always be a student.

Make yourself useful - what are some things to do to prepare for winter? Change the furnace filter. Wear warm clothing in layers Hot drinks (tea) and hot food (soups, stews) Fleecy throw blankets to stay warm Seal windows with plastic sheets and rope caulk Space heaters Make sure all windows are fully closed. Surprising how many windows are found cracked open Warm a bean bag in the microwave and use it to heat your bed. Add herbs (lavender, chamomile, hops) Use a hair dryer to warm up a bed Wear arm warmers or fingerless gloves while you work. Wear a hat Put weatherstriping around outer doors. Use a snake to reduce drafts Flannel is your friend - flannel sheets and pj's Be sure to close the fireplace flue. If you don't use the fireplace, install a balloon to seal the chimney. Close the garage door in an attached garage Use a programable thermostat to set back the heat when you're away Check the tire pressure on your car - changes with colder temperatures Lower the pressure in bike tires to get a better grip on snow or ice. Winterize your car - check battery, anti-freeze and windshield washer fluid Stock up on ice-melt pellets Smartwool products - sweaters, long johns, socks Wear outer clothes that are water and wind resistant Furry slippers Put a shovel in your car in case you get stuck or plowed in Put a blanket in your car and a broom Cook with spices, make hot curries and stir fries Tea to boost your immune system - rosemary, fresh garlic, ginger root and lemon juice Bitters to improve your health Make sure your pipes don't freeze Have an energy audit for your home to find places where cold air comes in


Sustainable Business Conversation, Nov 16, 2017 Topic: What to Do About Toxic Work Environments

One example is a founder with very tight control of their business who cannot leave room for others to be creative. A toxic environment affects individual health, mental health, people's families and communities. One can take steps to find a supportive and positive community. If you're trying to help someone who is not willing to take steps it can be frustrating. You can start with small steps. Watch the movie, What about Bob? In my experience, Ford was mostly run by good hardworking people. But the number one reason people left was a stressful relationship with their boss. Lots of people forget how to get along with others. In order to manage people effectively you need to understand that there are different types of people and some need to be managed differently. If you are the subordinate, it can goood to go to your boss first and try to talk things out. Apologize if you did something wrong. If that doesn't work go to the next level. Create a paper trail - cover yourself. A good work environment includes effective feedback loops. Start with communication. Bad news early is good news. Bad news late is just bad. The organization needs to face the facts and see what can be done. When putting on a play, the director needs to check in with folks regularly. People should get to know each other better on an even playing field. Sometimes you need to get people out of their comfort zone. In one job the environment was especially toxic for me because I did not fit the culture. You may need to find an organization that's right for you. The right plant in the right place works best. As much as possible, design the organization around the people that are there. Some love process - an in box and an out box with tidy. repetitive tasks. Others are project people and want to be challenged with something new. When someone is angry the cause is important. Are they being passionate about the issues - or are they frustrated? Some people retreat from anger so that someone who comes off as angry scares people away. A leader should select the most effective leadership style for the situation. Have at least three different styles in your pocket. Sit down with your team and share how you'd like to receive information. Leaders need to create an enviornment for success. There needs to be honesty about what's really going on. Problems are almost never about pay. Figure out how to create a healthy environment for people to work in. What used to work yesterday may not work today. Ask your team - what is worrying you about what we're doing together?


Sustainable Business Conversation, Nov 29, 2017 Topic: Creating and Environment for Success

Leaders need to create an enviornment for success. This means a safe enviornment in multiple dimensions. Things like bullying, toxic gossip, unsafe or threatening behavior cannot be tolerated. There is a power of history in a stable environment. A leader needs to remind people of the organization's mission. There needs to be a benefit to the individual who works there. The martyr business (self sacrifice) is not sustainable. If it feels like its your job to the the guy who throws himself on the barbed wire so that the whole company gets through, that may not be good. It may be passive-aggressive to throw yourself on the barbed wire when its not needed. There may be anger behind it and it may be an unhealthy way to get attention. People don't always realize that they are acting too aggressively. There is a middle ground that works best. When teaching a Black theater class, it needs to be clear that the point is not to beat up on white students. Instead, learn to recognize white privlege and us it to advance the common good. Leadership is being willing to step into challenging situations and listen. Don't ignore the problems - step in and try to create health for the organization. May be good to restate ground rules. Power dynamics need to be taken seriously. We need to understand psychology and find ways to work with different kinds of people. There is no such thing as a born leader, we all have to work at this. Ask about what is going on if someone is acting differently and seems uncomfortable and shut down. Sometimes it's OK to be uncomfortable - and sometimes someone needs help to get unstuck. We all need to keep learning. There's a spectrum of behavior and feelings - illegal, immoral, unethical, awkward, uncomfortable. Sometimes its OK to be uncomfortable. Matt Lauer got fired for sexual behavior in the workplace. But what about upper managment? These behaviors were well known and talked about for many years without any action on the part of Lauer's boss or management. They allowed him to get away with things for a long time. Will this make others worried that they may be fired for behaviors that used to be tolerated? At Atari managment created a postion for Steve Jobs to allow him to work without making others uncomfortable. They created a night shift and surrounded him with people who could cope with his difficult personality style. He made valuable contributions, but was not easy to work with. Leaders need to value creativity. Autism and Asbergers spectrum are increasingly common in the population. Some behaviors may not change. You have to be committed to find solutions. In a garden of people, who will flower in what place?


Sustainable Business Conversation, Dec 7, 2017 Topic: Creativity in Leadership, Allowing People to Flourish at Work

Creativity in leadership, finding ways to allow people to flourish at work. Some people have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and it's good for a leader to understand that condition and how to make allowances and manage the work enviornment. Temple Grandin has autism and writes about her experiences. She has a unique point of view and extreme attention to details that many others overlook. She has been very successful at designing livestock management facilities but needed initial opportunities to demonstrate her ideas and gain respect in her professional community. In designing the Green Garage, much attention was paid to natural light in the building. The width and angles of the windows make a difference. The Edison workshop at Greenfield Village was one source of inspiration. Are we going back to older, traditional ways before modern technology? Liberal arts students communicate really well and tend to see the big picture. Some large companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Coca Cola are hiring anthropology majors to figure out what people really do in relation to their products. Humans are not interchangeable machines that you can plug into a business as interchangeable parts. Leaders need to frame a business as a living thing - not a machine. Work needs to support the whole person. When I was a new manager I had one employee (a programer) who produced two error-ridden programs. Should he keep this job? Someone offered to help and the next program that employee turned in was error-free. How did that happen? The employee was offered a reward (2 Red Wings tickets) if he produced an error-free program and it worked! That person continued to do good work after that. Individuals being led need to trust the leader. A good manager is like a shepherd who understands the sheep as individuals. If the enviornment is unsafe and people fear they will be fired for the first mistake, creative thinking gets shut down. Not everyone wants to be creative. Some just want to be told what to do and are fine with repetitive tasks. Why do some organizations drain creativity from people? There can be a culture of avoiding failure at all costs and blaming others as much as possible. Counting productivity only in financial terms takes the humanity out of work. Making art re1quires a balance of creativity and discipline. Music can start with a framework, a simple structure with room for variation and creativity within the structure. Avant garde artists learn the structure first and then step outside of it. Some people don't understand this. Sustainability initiatives like composting don't appeal to all businesses. Start with those who want it and build a foundation, then go to those less interested. A community is forming. There are more and more customers looking for sustainable features in businesses. How can you get people to understand the basics? Sometimes its not fun to go back to basics. Create areas where people can play and see the big picture. It's kind of like how babies learn language by playing.


Sustainable Business Conversation, Dec 12, 2017 Topic: Dealing with Fear in the Workplace

Your business is worthless if its totally dependant on you. A child with Asbergers has a lot of unique needs but they may be very subtle. Most have strong areas and weak areas and often have to take a different route to success. It's important to gain respect for strenghts, or you will just be seen as an oddball. Asbergers is often un-diagnosed. A typical organization chart is a set of boxes and management is supposed to find people to put in the boxes. People are often promoted to their level of incopmetance (Peter principle at work). A different approach would be to design the workplace around the people, with awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. My children went to a Montessori school that was located in the same building as a program for cognitaively challenged kids. It was a wonderful experience and there was a lot of interaction between the programs. OUr education included learning about differing abilities. There was a girl scout troop of mixed abilities. We found out that kids like to push wheelchairs and be helpful. At some points in time challenged people have been segregated and warehoused. Not good ideas. What if 100% of society is mentally challenged? Different zones of the brain are remarkably unbalanced among all people. For instance an introvert doesn't like to initiate contact with new people. Some people are naturally disorganized, but can develop habits to keep from losing things. Fear doesn't have to control you - it can be a motivating factor. Fear comes down to feeling helpless about something. But fear of not meeting a deadline can be an edge that gives you a push to work hard. A lost opportunity can lead to a fear of failure. Unrealistic expectations can result in fear. I hate doing cold sales calls but can get better at it with practice. I need to understand that there will be many rejections. Someone reported that it takes an average of 400 online views on Etsy before achieving a sale. Do we expect things to be easier than they are? Is fear always bad? Some people need a little fear. Fear contains elements of wisdom. We need to not get wrapped up in someone else's fears. For my own fears, it's good to unpack the reasons for resistance or fear. Some use fdear to gain control of a situation and may drop emotional bombs. If you're selling security systems, you may find ways to encourage fear in your potential customer. If a workplace is downsizing and going through cutbacks, rumors fly and people become afraid. It can be a toxic environment. Museums used to have an attitude of fear about letting people touch things or be active participants. This is changing. Now lots of museums have areas for kids to make things or touch things. The Rosa Parks bus at The Henry Ford is open to walk through and sit on the seats. Museums now see themselves as more eucational institutions than just preservation spaces. Curators are facilitators not guards. It's normal to be concerned about failure with a new product or service. Small failures are part of the learning process and are better than huge failures after lots of investment has been made. When you put more at risk, there's more fear in the system. Better to start small and not risk too much. There is a learning curve. Magical thinking happens sometimes in non-profits with an idealized mission. The mission should include financial goals. It's not sustainable to elevate the mission over finances. Both are connected.