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September, 2020
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September, 2020 | Article

President Message - September, 2020

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Millar, Dawn
Author Dawn Millar

September, to me, means the start of a new year. I know that technically it’s only the start of a new school year, however, there is something about the lazy days of summer coming to an end combined with the fresh fall weather and back to school hype – I always feel like I have more motivation come September than the New Year if I were to consider changing routines, starting a new project or making a new resolution.

Understandably, this summer has looked a bit different than most, what with COVID-19 playing its role. Vacations, kids’ camps/programming, concerts, theme parks – even the CNE(!) were all cancelled or modified to be done virtually. Social distancing, face masks and the term “your bubble” have all become part of our everyday lives and lingo. And as the kids go back to school, many of us are prepping to go back to the office. For me, the last few weeks have been about preparing our office for a “soft” re-opening, after Labour Day. Organizing supplies, special arrangements, various schedules – it really is like going back to school!

Whether big or small, a fresh start can be an incredible catalyst. It can motivate you to get things done that you have been procrastinating about, drop habits that weren’t helping you, develop new habits that are in line with your goals and take meaningful steps toward being your best self. It can also bring clarity, a change – a fresh start – in one area of your life that might just be what you need to see the rest of it with clearer focus.

We have a busy fall line up of new SIGs. Check out TLOMA’s Event page for more information. If you purchased the compensation survey, mark your calendars for the results webinar, which will take place on September 22. Be sure to register here.

Signing off, in these times where everyday feels like ‘Groundhog Day’ to me, I will leave you with this: “Don’t count the days, make the days count” – Muhammad Ali

Dawn Millar is the Chief Operating Officer at Pape Salter Teillet LLP.  She is responsible for overseeing the firm’s day-to-day operations including managing a team of legal staff and creating, facilitating, and implementing office initiatives to optimize performance.

Dawn has over 20 years experience in the legal industry and strives to provide integrated, strategic approaches to legal office management.  She is always eager to gain new knowledge and implement ideas that find efficiencies and embrace emerging technologies.

In her spare time, Dawn likes to keep busy – volunteering as well as learning new skills.  She sits as President on the Board of Directors of a not-for-profit childcare organization and is fluent in American Sign Language, often attending her daughter’s school to teach ASL to children.

Dawn also enjoys keeping active, and practices self-defense and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  In 2017, she began training as an amateur boxer and in June 2018, she stepped into the ring to compete in a charity match in support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

September, 2020 | Article

COVID-19 Checklist

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McNeely, Louise oct21
Author Louise McNeely


1.  So, let me get this straight, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?

2.  Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree yet? I have run out of things to do.

3.  When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.

4.  If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet, particularly among politicians and bureaucrats.

5.  Just wait a second – so what your telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right!

6.  People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds. As if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

7.  If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.

8.  Another Saturday night in the house and I just realized the trash goes out more than me.

9.  Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.

10. Remember when you were little, and all your underwear had the days of the week on them. Those would be helpful right now.

11. The spread of Covid-19 is based on two factors: 1. How dense the population is and 2. How dense the population is.

12. Remember all those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Well, wish granted. Happy now?

13. It may take a village to raise a child, but I swear it’s going to take a whole vineyard to home school one.

14. Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for this week.

Louise is the Office Manager of Laxton Glass LLP.  She has many years of law firm management experience. Her responsibilities include Operations, Finance, Human Resources. Technology and Facilities.

Louise is a CPA, CGA and has been a long standing member of TLOMA.  She has volunteered for the Association and often  and she currently serves as the TLOMA Volunteer Coordinator.

Louise is currently the Past President of the Rotary Club of Mississauga-Dixie. She is also an avid duplicate bridge player and is a Sapphire Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL).

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September, 2020 | Article

The Top 4 Must-Have Features Your Firm’s Website

The top 4 Must-Have - September 2020
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carole_wright_bio
Author Carole Wright

When people need legal help or want to connect with a local law office, the first thing they will do is search the Internet. Even if they have received a referral or recommendation, the odds are high that they will scope you out online. Is your firm’s website set up to properly welcome, inform and impress visitors?

Your website is a reflection of your practice. If it is outdated, difficult to navigate, or lacks key information, it could be a turn-off – not just for potential clients, but for future hires and prospective business partners too. First impressions matter; it’s about showcasing your firm and staying true to your brand. Furthermore, there are website compliance standards that are often overlooked, which could put your practice in hot water with regulatory bodies, including the Law Society of Ontario.

Let’s take a look at the 4 must-have website features that are particularly important for law firms that will help you attract and retain valued clients while remaining appealing, compliant, and secure:

1.         New, High Quality Content

A stale website lowers your rankings on search engines and doesn’t give your users anything to come back for. Google loves new content and its algorithms will push your search engine traffic up with each new update. Keep the content fresh by regularly uploading a variety of relevant elements, such as blog posts, staffing announcements, ‘in the news’ articles, case studies, awards, community contributions and more. Adding high quality, pertinent content and images (including optimized keywords) is key to your website’s success.

2.         Feel The Need For UX And Speed

You’ve likely heard about user experience (UX) when it comes to websites, which encompasses a variety of features to make a site not only functional, but intuitive and enjoyable. Top UX components include the following: Easy navigation, mobile friendliness, few pop-ups, simplicity and the optimal use of images and videos. It also involves load times. An ultra-fast website is essential for today’s busy scrollers. Even if your site looks fantastic, if a page takes too long to load, users will move on to something else.

3.         Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

Ontario law firms must adhere to some key areas of website compliance.

The first is marketing. Your website promotes your practice, maximizes your visibility and generates leads, transforming it into a marketing tool. Consequently, law firms must follow the LSO’s Rules of Professional Conduct in marketing and advertising, or face substantial fines.

What's more, your site must include a clearly defined privacy policy and terms of use agreement. Privacy policies are often overlooked, but they serve an important role in outlining how your firm collects, manages and discloses personal information and safeguards users’ privacy in accordance with the law. Terms of use agreements and disclaimers are written to mitigate liability and define the rules for how users interact with your website, law firm, services and products. 

Finally, there are laws governing website accessibility designed to support people with disabilities. In Ontario, there are requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that depend on the size and type of organization. Additionally, business websites must comply with the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These rules relate to several issues, including a website’s readability and organization, as well as specifications for font sizes, colours, forms, tables, and so on. If audited, you want to be able to meet these standards and pass with flying colours.

4.         Security 

Malware and hackers are always looking for new ways to gain access to your site. Prevention, detection, and monitoring help to effectively battle cyberattacks. While regular website and password updates will help keep your site protected, there are other critical steps needed. These include:

  • Investing in security software (or plugins) offers enhanced protection, as does an HTTPS encryption (the “S” at the end of HTTP is a definite bonus).
  • Limiting the use of forms or areas where information is uploaded.
  • Install an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer), referring to the technology used to keep your internet connection secure and tell users that your site is trusted, while protecting sensitive information that gets sent back and forth.
  • Pay attention to the location of your site’s server or host. You want it to reside here in Canada, as that means your website and its data fall under Canadian legal jurisdictions and is not controlled or influenced by foreign policies or legislation. Local data residency also means you’ll benefit from faster website load times while supporting Canadian businesses.

After reviewing these top four must-haves, take a fresh new look at your firm’s website. Does it feel dynamic, fast, user-friendly, secure and accessible? If it does not have these key features, take time to explore the best practices available to update or re-develop your site.

A Western University graduate, Carole has over 20 years of experience in creative, dynamic roles such as project coordinator, marketing lead, and most recently as head content writer and blogger. She’s living the dream: walking to work & loving the agency life.

Carole can be reached at carole@element6.io or 705-503-7066.

September, 2020 | Article

Social Cohesion and Unwritten Rules

Cohesion - September 2020 (002)
Leitner, Jeff
Johnson, Jan
Authors Jeff Leitner and Jan Johnson

Part 1: Our Organizations and Workplace Needs a New North Star 

Jeff Leitner: We need a new north star. In the midst of unprecedented uncertainty — about our jobs, organizations, communities, and economy — we need something to guide us to and through whatever’s next.

The old north stars won’t do it for us. An article published before normal went off the rails this year said there were eight ways to increase productivity, including “be efficient” and “reduce distraction.” In just a few months, that benign advice seems antiquated, as our workforces are distributed and our lives are a cacophony of distractions.

Jan Johnson: We have the same challenge in workplace design. Our standard metrics—which are oriented to cost and space—like square footage per employee—don’t make sense now. And they never reflected how the built environment contributes to value creation.

Jeff Leitner: So when the chaos was unleashed earlier this year, I looked around for clues as to which organizations would survive this economic meltdown and thrive on the other side. I looked for clues everywhere my clients and friends worked. And a pattern began to emerge. The organizations that seemed to be doing better than others had two things in common: cash and social cohesion.

Jan and I will leave it to others to talk about cash. We’re here to introduce you to social cohesion.

Jan Johnson: I knew how important and powerful social cohesion is when Jeff and I started talking about it. Allsteel sponsored a study a few years ago which found social cohesion as the factor most tightly linked to knowledge worker teams’ productivity. And the more we talked, the clearer it became that social cohesion is that north star we need now — for both organizational success and workplace design.

Jeff Leitner: Here’s why social cohesion is so promising: in addition to being the best predictor of team productivity, it’s linked to better individual performance, more motivation, increased employee engagement, higher learning outcomes (though only among high IQ employees), and more resilience in the face of fear, stress and anxiety. Social cohesion is also negatively correlated with burnout and social loafing, which is scientist-speak for not pulling your own weight.

This is a gold mine of benefits. If there were a single food that made us more productive, improved our performance, increased our motivation, made us smarter, and helped us stay calm in the midst of chaos, we’d all eat it every day.

So what exactly is social cohesion? In short, it’s sticking together to chase a common goal. In sports, it’s that vague and mysterious “team chemistry” that explains how a group can win without the very best talent. Everywhere else, social cohesion is the science behind a successful culture. Consider the ubiquitous Maslow hierarchy of needs. Social cohesion is the beating heart of his model — the love, belonging, and esteem that connect basic human needs and security to ultimate self-actualization.

Scientists have been studying social cohesion for several decades, but not in relation to our organizations. Instead, it’s been a way to measure countries. In the most recent ranking of the world’s nations by social capital — which the researchers associated with social cohesion — the United States ranked number 142 out of 180. This places the world’s largest economy 141 slots behind Finland, 101 behind Canada, 57 behind Mexico, and one ahead of South Sudan. I’m guessing that given how chaotic everything feels right now, you’re not surprised by this.

Jan Johnson: In subsequent posts in this series, we’re going to dig into a few things: how to evaluate social cohesion in your organization, the four critical dimensions of social cohesion, and how we can support social cohesion by adding new tools to the design process.

As for the workplace, there’s a lot of buzz about what it might look like when some or all of us return to the office. Let’s resist the temptation to make it a maze of plexiglass and higher walls around workstations, and look to this new north star of social cohesion.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how to assess social cohesion in your organization.

Part 2: How to Know If We’re Getting Social Cohesion Right

Jeff Leitner: There is a strong case for social cohesion as the new north star — to help us reshape organizations and workplaces for our present cluster of catastrophes. But we can only do it if we can measure social cohesion, find where it’s lacking, and know when we’re getting it right. And up to now, that’s been a real problem for scientists.

They’ve long tried to measure the cohesion of groups, teams, and organizations with what are called self-reporting questionnaires. But these self-reporting questionnaires — with questions like “On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you trust your boss? — are problematic.

First, we don’t know how much we trust our boss. And even if we did, we probably don’t think about the world on scales of 1 to 5. Second, we would undoubtedly base our answer on all sorts of things that don’t have anything to do with trust, like whether we felt appreciated. That’s just human nature. Third, we’re never sure how honest to be on questions like that, even if we know the survey is anonymous. 

Even with all that, the biggest problem for scientists is that self-reports don’t actually measure how groups think and feel; they just measure how one member of a group thinks and feels. But teams and organizations aren’t just collections of individuals. You can’t figure out how an organization works simply by asking each member of the organization how he or she works.

Organizations are complex, dynamic, living things, where what I do and say affects what you do and say and vice versa. Or in stuffy, scientist-speak: cohesion is a relational emergent state that emerges over time as teammates interact.

We need to stop asking about the “I” and figure out how to ask about the “we.” Fortunately, there’s a new, more effective way to do this. Jan and I have been researching, writing, and touring the country talking about it for the past couple of years and our audiences agree it’s helpful.

The answer is unwritten rules. Every organization has dozens or hundreds of unwritten rules that dictate how things in that organization work. I’m not talking about formal policies. I’m talking about the kind of things you would confide to your best friend before he or she starts work with your company. Here are some unwritten rules from organizations we’ve talked to:

  • If the boss can’t see you, you’re not really working.
  • Act like this job is your everything.
  • Titles don’t reflect who’s really in charge.
  • The people who go to the bar with the boss get ahead.
 
Notice that three of the four examples have to do with management. That’s not a coincidence. Most unwritten rules have to do with management. That’s because unwritten rules are collective beliefs that run counter to formal policy. Let me say that another way because it’s important: unwritten rules are what we believe when we don’t believe formal policies. While a formal policy might state that the best producers who work hardest get ahead, an unwritten rule might say that the people who go to the bar with the boss get ahead. If that were the formal policy and unwritten rule in your organization, you know which one you’d believe.

That wouldn’t make you cynical. It’s just that unwritten rules have a bigger influence on us than formal policies do. Formal policies are transmitted through official structures, communicated through proper channels, and packaged in solemn language. And unwritten rules are whispered by our peers, in private conversations, and bundled up with emotion. Of course, we put more stock in unwritten rules; we’re people, not machines.

So what does this all have to do with social cohesion? Unwritten rules are the DNA of social cohesion. Unwritten rules tell us whether an organization has good cohesion or not-so-good cohesion. Unwritten rules tell us whether people trust the boss or work well together — far better than a self-reporting questionnaire can. If you want to measure social cohesion, find where it’s lacking, and know when you’re getting it right, figure out the unwritten rules.

Jan Johnson: Uncovering unwritten rules is a critical tool for strategists and designers.

While we’re accustomed to asking leaders how their organizations work, the problem is that leaders don’t know unwritten rules in their own organizations. For one, the people in charge play by a different set of rules than everyone else does — whether they know it or not. And two, unwritten rules are usually a response to the formal policies leaders have laid out. We must look to a healthy cross-section of workers for the organization’s unwritten rules.

I can’t say this strongly enough: finding unwritten rules has to be a part of the needs analysis and programming process. Exploring how workers really work will not only give us their functional requirements, it’ll give us profound insights into interdependent behaviors and experiences — and get us much closer to the “we.” Without these insights, we cannot help our clients strengthen social cohesion.

Beginning in our next post, we’ll break social cohesion down into its four critical elements, so you can begin to shape a strategy for strengthening your organization and designing a better workplace.

Part 3: Life Might Not Be Fair, but Our Organizations Should Be

Jeff Leitner: You don’t need to know or care about football to notice there’s something odd about the National Football League. You can see it if you turn on a game and watch who’s stalking the sidelines in a sweater or a sportscoat. You can see it on the news if you catch who’s addressing the media. Chances are very good — just over 90% — that the head coach will be white.

If we weren’t talking about the NFL, this wouldn’t be a problem. About 10% of head coaches are black in a country where about 13% of the population is black. That’s not too bad, especially when you consider that African-Americans only comprise 3% of executives across all other organizations in all other industries.

But we are talking about the NFL, where 70% of the workforce is black. That means that no matter what the NFL says, it’s not fair. Its best employees, no matter how smart, talented, and hardworking they are, stand virtually no chance of being promoted to the top job.

That’s the kind of problem that makes it impossible to build social cohesion — which is a key to everything your organization cares about, including productivity, performance, motivation, engagement, learning, and dealing with stress. So if you’re not inclined to solve a problem like this just because it’s the right thing to do, then do it because it will greatly enhance your organization’s odds of success.

The first of four critical dimensions of social cohesion Jan and I will talk about in this series is fairness, which means that an organization believes that its leadership is evenhanded. Fairness has four key attributes:

  • Equal opportunity: Are you really giving everybody the same chance to succeed or are you just saying you are?
  • Impartial treatment: Are you rewarding and punishing the same things for everyone or are you playing favorites?
  • Consistency: Are you predictable or all over the place? Fairness is one of those qualities that has to be universal to exist at all. In other words, you can’t be fair if you’re only fair 90% of the time.
  • Transparent decision-making: Do employees know why you’re doing what you’re doing or is it mystery to them?

 

Let me clarify something about fairness. It doesn’t mean that every employee is treated identically. That makes no sense. Every employee is differently equipped, prepared, qualified, and committed. But every employee should have the opportunity to do the most with what they have.

Employees are perceptive. If you’re not fair, they’ll know it. They probably won’t tell you because, well, you’re not fair and it will come back to haunt them. But they’ll tell each other what’s really going on through unwritten rules about how to succeed in your organization — rules like these:

  • Inappropriate jokes are OK if the boss does it.
  • Don't upset the old boys club.
  • If you have kids, you get weekends off.
  • Be sure to invite women and minorities to client meetings.

 

Unwritten rules like those are a giant flashing sign that your organization has problems, specifically problems with being fair to its employees. Problems like that will not only disincentivize your employees but they will sully your reputation in the marketplace — probably worse than any other non-felonious problem you can have.

In organizational management, there’s only one strategy to increase fairness: do everything you can to be fair. The unwritten rules will give you the roadmap. Wherever there’s an unwritten rule in your organization that suggests you treat some people — men, women, old-timers, newcomers, anybody — better than others, you should stop doing that. The hard part is discovering our unconscious bias; the easy part is what to do about our unconscious bias: just stop acting on it.

You don’t need to make a broad, organization-wide proclamation. You don’t need to put it on your website or stencil it on the walls of your office. Given that there are unwritten rules that suggest you’re not fair, no one will believe you anyway. Once you’re fair consistently, the same informal network that said you weren’t fair before will deliver the word that you are now.

Jan Johnson: Like unwritten rules, environmental cues are more powerful than written rules and can reinforce behaviors that increase social cohesion. We believe what we see and experience more than what we hear and read.

I’m a big advocate of activity-based planning. It’s about the “we” and helps us design spaces that support the full range of functional and behavioral activities — which differ from team to team. Accounting and software development are very different and with an activity-based approach, they can have exactly what they need.

Activity-based planning to build social cohesion is better than both the one-size-fit-all approach — which requires people to adjust to space, rather than space adapting to its users — and the status-based approach, which reinforces entitlement and ultimately decreases social cohesion.

Part 4: Our Organization Must Get Real

Jeff Leitner: Earlier in my career, I was vice president of a small consulting firm. For reasons I don’t recall, we were having cash flow problems. So the president suggested the executive team forgo our paychecks for a while to ensure that everyone else in the company got paid. We all agreed and I remember being proud to do it.

But about two months in, I returned from a long weekend to find that while everyone else on the executive team was forgoing our paychecks, the president wasn’t. He was paying himself just as often and just as much as he ever had. That was a heck of a job but I resigned that day.”

Whether you would have resigned yourself, you undoubtedly get why I did. There’s something about discovering that things are very different than they seem that rocks us and leads us to question everything around us. Can we trust the people we thought we could trust? Are we really in this together like we thought?

In a world of spin and overstatement, we’re sadly accustomed to reading and listening skeptically. But that inauthenticity is a big problem when trying to build social cohesion — which is a key to everything your organization cares about, including productivity, performance, motivation, engagement, learning, and dealing with stress.

The first critical dimension of social cohesion is fairness, which Jan and I talked about in our last post. The second is authenticity, which means that an organization believes that its leaders mean what they say.

The four key attributes of authenticity are:

  • Clarity — Are you being clear about what you expect or do you leave expectations just fuzzy enough so that you can be impulsive later?
  • Completeness — Are you telling employees everything they need to know or are you just giving them part of the picture?
  • Straightforwardness — Are you saying what you mean or are you intentionally leaving employees with a misleading impression?
  • Consciousness of power — Are you mindful that by being in charge, what you do and say carries a disproportionate amount of weight. No, you’re not just part of the gang.

 

If you say in formal policies, town hall meetings, or one-on-one conversations that you don’t care when employees get to work in the morning, that has to be true. You can’t then nick employees in performance reviews or deny them promotions and raises because they come in a half hour later than everyone else. If you say in the mission statement and on the company website that you prioritize quality work above everything else, you can’t penalize employees for taking the time to get everything right.

When leaders say one thing and hold employees accountable for another, it gives rise to unwritten rules. You’ve heard rules like this:

  • Don't be honest about why you're calling off work.
  • Never leave the office before the boss does.
  • Optional events are not really optional.
  • When the boss says "It's your call," it isn't.

 

These rules are red flags that an organization’s leadership is inauthentic and an giant obstacle to building social cohesion. And notice that inauthenticity has nothing to do with whether we’re back in the office or working remotely — inauthenticity is a problem that permeates any and every working arrangement.

As for organizational management, there are a few critical steps to boosting authenticity.

  • One, you have to replace the inauthentic with the real. If you’re doing or saying things that are intentionally fuzzy, incomplete, or misleading, stop. There may be good reasons not to share information with employees, but there’s never a good reason to share inauthentic information.
  • Two, you have to align your formal policies with the unwritten rules. This doesn’t mean turning unwritten rules into formal policies, but you do have to account for the discrepancy between the two. Maybe it’s worth eliminating formal policies that nobody follows or believes in. That’s better than having official rules on the books that everybody knows are bunk.
  • Three, you have to align your formal organizational structure with your informal organizational structure. Every organization has an unofficial, organic org chart. It’s populated not by people with the right titles, but by people employees trust to look out for them and give them the best information. Again, you don’t have to turn the informal structure into the formal structure, but you do have to account for the discrepancy between the two. If there are people in your organization who are really running the show — and trust us, there are — you would be wise to leverage them.


Jan Johnson: The workplace can also help organizations be authentic. Designers have two responsibilities: help clients use space to send authentic cues and stop them from using space to say things they don’t really mean.

It starts with digging into the unwritten rules, which tell us about workers’ authentic experiences. We need to respect what we learn and use it to balance out what we hear from leadership. If we don’t, we’ll design spaces that are inconsistent with how organizations work, which will ultimately decrease social cohesion.

We then need to pay attention to what artifacts mean. Do glass walls really represent transparency, like leadership says, or are they used to keep an eye on employees? Do ping pong tables build camaraderie or send a fake signal about playfulness? Do leaders really believe employees are their greatest asset or are they prioritizing real estate efficiency over worker experience?

Part 5: We’re All in this Together—or We Should Be

Jeff Leitner: About 10 years ago, I launched a project in which I’d invite really experienced strategists, scientists, artists, and other intimidating people to tackle social problems. We’d get together for one day to work with a prominent organization, like NASA, TED, or the U.S. State Department. And nobody — not me and not anybody I invited — got paid.

So when the project started showing up in people’s bios and on their LinkedIn pages, I was confused. They participated for a single day and were paid nothing. But there it was, alongside their already impressive credentials. I didn’t understand until I started digging into social cohesion.

As we’ve discussed, social cohesion is the key to everything your organization cares about, including productivity, performance, motivation, engagement, learning, and dealing with stress. It has four critical dimensions. The first two are fairness and authenticity, which we addressed in previous posts.

The third dimension is partnership, which is the degree to which employees in your organization are interdependent. The enigmatic basketball coach Phil Jackson said it this way, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” The six key attributes of partnership are:

  • Receptivity: Do employees really listen and take in each others’ ideas or just nod and do what they were going to do anyway?
  • Reciprocity: Do employees naturally share ideas, efforts, resources with each other or hoard and keep score?
  • Frankness: Are employees candid and straightforward with each other or are they playing office politics?
  • Shared Obligation: Do employees believe that they should have each other’s backs or believe it’s every person for themselves?
  • Shared Benefit: Do employees believe they succeed when everyone succeeds or believe success in your organization is a zero-sum game?
  • Psychological Safety: Do employees believe they can speak up or fear they’ll be mocked or degraded?

 

When we create the right environment — like I did accidentally with those one-day, no-pay projects — people bond to the organization, the work, and each other. When we don’t, it gives rise to all sorts of problematic unwritten rules like:

  • Be sure to talk about how busy you are.
  • Act like you know what you're talking about.
  • We want your creative contributions, but not too much.
  • Just do it yourself.

 

I wish unwritten rules like these were unfamiliar, but I’m willing to bet you have encountered them somewhere along the way. I absolutely have. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ways to increase partnership in organizations. Here are two:

  • Make the work a stretch. Too many people are checked out at work and watching the clock because the work they do isn’t challenging. Challenging isn’t bad; it’s what keeps us engaged and pushes us to work in partnership with others. It’s what makes time fly and makes us feel good at the end of the day.
  • Make the work meaningful. This isn’t a platitude. Sadly, too many people in too many organization spend too much time doing stupid stuff. By stupid stuff, I mean tasks that don’t serve clients or customers and don’t really serve the organization. If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, I’m talking about TPS reports [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy3rjQGc6lA]. You need to strip away as much of this meaningless work as possible to keep employees engaged and in partnership.

 

Human beings are naturally social creatures, biologically inclined to work together to get complex tasks done. Among the things that suppress our natural drive towards partnership is rote, meaningless work.

Jan Johnson: Knowledge work is a team sport. Workplace strategists and designers came to understand this a while ago and have been transitioning away from the emphasis on individual space. Remember when private offices and workstations were 80% of the floorplan?

We need to keep pushing forward. Even though half the average employee’s day is spent in solo work, the other half is spent interacting and collaborating with coworkers. For example, the increasingly popular agile development process relies on teams toggling back and forth between precise, linear work done individually and highly ambiguous work done collaboratively. That means we need to incorporate the space and tools they need, like forms of visual persistence to map their processes and capture progress, priorities, and next steps.

Teams might require tech-rich spaces (and platforms like Trello) that support scrum-like sessions that let others see the work in progress; or project rooms that support cross-functional, months-long projects. These forms of team expression and transparency also tick the authenticity dimension of social cohesion — if this isn’t used to micro-manage teams.

Returning to Jeff’s basketball reference, socially cohesive teams know what plays they’re running and what each player’s doing. When we explore teams’ unwritten rules, we understand how they work and design more relevant spaces.

Part 6: When We Belong, We Prosper

Jeff Leitner: It might be a weird time to bring it up, as we’re in the midst of a pandemic, but a former U.S. Surgeon General says that loneliness is a public health crisis. Or maybe it’s a perfect time to bring it up, as so many of us are working from home or not working at all.

“Most people go to work wanting to enjoy their relationships with the people they’re working with, wanting to feel like they are contributing to something meaningful in the world. But that is not the experience many people have,” Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy told The Washington Post.

“Many people feel that the folks they’re working with are work colleagues, but they wouldn’t call them friends. They wouldn’t describe them as people they can trust. And there’s a real lost opportunity there, because when people have strong connections with the people they’re working with that can not only improve productivity and the overall state of the company, but it can also improve their own health.”

I’m not qualified to talk about health, but I’m struck by what he said about productivity. It appears Dr. Murthy might endorse social cohesion as the new north star for our organizations, as it’s a key to productivity, performance, motivation, engagement, learning, and dealing with stress.

Over the previous posts, I’ve introduced the first three critical dimensions of social cohesion: fairness, authenticity, and partnerships. The fourth and final dimension is belonging, which is the degree to which employees feel accepted and supported. Here are its critical elements:

  • Collective Interests: Are employees chasing the same goals or is everybody running their own race?
  • Validation and Affirmation: Does your organization signal to employees that they’re important to what you’re doing or just pay lip service to the idea?
  • Valuing the Group: Does your organization treat its own better than outsiders?
  • Encouragement of Employees’ Whole Selves: Can employees be themselves in your organization or are they discouraged from bringing that into work?
  • Encouragement of Professional Growth: Does your organization push employees to maximize their professional potential or just use people to do what needs doing?
  • Encouragement of Personal Integrity: Does your organization allow employees to be true to their values or expect them to swallow their concerns?

 

Big, bold declarations from leadership — either captured in formal policies or promised at company meetings — don’t tell you much about how an organization really works. Too many organizations have tried to use shortcuts like mission statements to transform themselves in employee paradises, where everyone is fulfilled and happy to be there. Of course, that never works. You need only surface a few unwritten rules to discover that people feel like they don’t belong, like:

  • Don't stick your neck out.
  • If the boss wants to gossip about people in the office, do it.
  • If you use all of your paid time off, you're not serious about your career.
  • Never say what's really on your mind.

 

Solving this problem — the employees’ sense that they don’t belong — is hard. It requires dialing up the other dimensions I’ve talked about: fairness, authenticity, and partnership. But in the meantime, there is something you can do. Identify something the organization is doing to signal that employees aren’t important and stop it.

There are hundreds of these things, such as celebrating people who don’t take time off, pitting one group of employees against another, raving about another organization’s employees, and taking employees’ contributions for granted. If this sounds like being a good parent, it should. The sense of belonging is an intensely personal feeling — maybe the most personal feeling — and should be addressed with care.

Jan Johnson: Our workplaces can enhance belonging. Environmental psychology tells us that encouraging teams to exercise “ownership” or spatial identity over their neighborhood — perhaps by displaying artifacts that represent their interests or work-in-progress — is highly correlated to performance.

That means we designers can’t be precious about our designs; these aren’t our environments and we can’t insist they stay pristine. Teams and whole organizations should use the spaces the way they need to. Take your photos before move-in and then enjoy watching those spaces come to life.

Individuals also benefit from personalizing their spaces, even if that means Star Wars memorabilia or cat memes, because it lets them bring their whole selves to work — which in turn, helps them build rapport, and feel they belong. Brene Brown says it beautifully, “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

To join Jeff and Jan for a presentation on social cohesion and the potential of workplace design, write Chloe Simoneaux at simoneauxc@allsteeloffice.com.  You can take a sample version of Jeff’s assessment to evaluate social cohesion on your team or in your organization here [unwrittenlabs.com]; and you can also learn more about the subjects they covered in this series here [unwrittenlabs.com/sources].

Jeff Leitner is a social innovator and theorist. He is founder and lead researcher at Unwritten Labs, a fellow at New America, and former innovator in residence at the University of Southern California. His work history includes founding and managing the first philanthropic think tank, which enlisted more than 700 big thinkers - in science, business, the arts, and philanthropy - to help 45-plus governments, institutions, and corporations. Together, we helped to create change for the U.S. Department of State, NASA, the Community of Democracies, Harvard Medical School, TED, Ashoka, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola. 

Jeff is currently exploring the curiously undervalued social phenomenon of unwritten rules — particularly their role in social cohesion in organizations and society at-large. My interest in unwritten rules emerged from decades of work with the social sector, on challenges ranging from healthcare to public education, and urban renewal to international diplomacy. 
Jan is highly respected as a workplace strategist and frequently writes and speaks about workplace topics. She has spent her career strengthening the correlations between business strategies and the planning, design and management of work environments.

Jan leads a key element of Allsteel | Gunlocke's research, mining science for insights into the effectiveness of work environments. She has contributed to the emerging field of workplace strategy in the U.S. and abroad through important works in the field's body of knowledge and by shaping and teaching the field's professional competencies. 

Jan is an interior designer by trade and, former chair of the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and teaches the three MCR.w classes for CoreNet Global
September, 2020 | Article

Productivity Technique for Remote Work

Productivty Technique - September 2020
TLOMA 2021 Virtual Conference HalfPage
Radulescu, Roxana 15aug19
Author Roxana Radulescu

Working from home might have seemed a great option, especially in this crisis. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's great to still have a job and to be able to work from home!

 

Many others don't have that option anymore, as they have been laid-off.

 

Others can't work from home at all, because they are there, in the front line, taking care of the rest of the world.

 

But...

 

This kind of work from home is not our regular work from home. It wasn't our choice. We’ve had to do it because our health is threatened. It is all happening in the midst of a huge crisis.

 

So, what does this mean? Well, like any crisis, it means that people need to plan, to communicate, to discuss, to meet, to engage in meaningful conversations related to their work, their future, their lives.

Someone told me the other day: 'this is crazy, working from home turned into meeting frenzy!'.

 

Familiar? Thought so.

 

What I want to say is, of course!

 

When we feel threatened, we switch to the good old fight or flight response.

 

And what this means in modern times is that, in a crisis such as this one, people who found themselves being part of a virtual team all of a sudden had to come up with a way to ensure they come out 'alive and well' on the other side of the 'virus'.

 

So, we meet, we plan, we strategize. We have to fight. Because there's no where we can flee.

 

And, because we need to communicate and, most of all, we need to feel we still belong.

 

Now, for those of you who need to focus and create the next plan, strategy or maybe simply your next email, and can't do it because of this new order of the 'meeting frenzy', don't despair!

 

Here's a well-known technique you can apply to create the much-needed time 

pomodore - Roxanna

to focus.
 

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s.  
He created this technique while a university student looking for a way to get more done in less time.                                                                                                     

Drawing credit Lia Radulescu

How it works

The 25-minute rule can be adapted to your needs, meaning that you can decide to continue with 25 minutes more after the first batch, and then keep adding to that, as you work your way through your big project.

The idea is that a 25-minute chunk is short enough for us to be able to ‘self-isolate’ and focus without feeling guilty that we are not taking calls, replying to emails, or participating in a social chat. The 25-minute chunk is also long enough for us to be able to focus and be productive and come up with great content or input, in small steps.

Otherwise, the risk is that we procrastinate starting to work on that important project, because we know how much we need our focus time and we know how difficult it is to find it. And the more we procrastinate, the worse we feel.

Pomodoro Technique Tracker

You can also use the tracker below to plan your 25-minute chunks. You can decide to adapt it to your needs, of course.

This is a good tool to use as you will be able to see what you’ve accomplished as well, not just your ‘to-do’ list. It’s a good way to measure progress.

Start with planning chunks for the most important task, then the secondary ones and then additional ones.

Keep a space for notes, as we all know that, while working on something, we suddenly get an idea of how we can solve something completely different. For example, while working on your client agreement, you might get an idea of an important topic you need to discuss with your team on your next meeting. Put it down in your notes, so that you don’t forget it, and keep focusing on your agreement.

At the end of the 25-minute chunk, you can decide whether it’s time for you to email your idea to your team members then or continue working on your agreement for another 25 minutes or until you’ve completed it.

Apart from the ‘meeting frenzy’ and ‘avoiding procrastination’, another reason for which this is a good method to use is that it is more difficult to make ‘focus time’ while working from home, especially for those who were not used to it, and even more so for those of you who are parents of young kids.

You can also download the Pomodoro Technique Tracker here.

Roxana Radulescu is a TEDx speaker, a certified Learning & Development and HR professional, Master Coach, and a certified GCologist®. Having worked in international Magic Circle law firms for 16 years and having led the firmwide Learning & Development department for 8 years, she started her consulting, training & coaching business, All Personal, in 2017.

All Personal is proudly the first Canadian Partner Organization to The Game-Changing Index® and works with corporate, small businesses and non-government organizations to help them build game-changing teams and cultures!

Roxana is also a course designer and instructor on ‘Workplace Communication, Culture and Success’ with York University and College Boreal.

She is also an author of online courses available on award-winning e-learning platforms!
Her online course on Emotional Intelligence is also accredited for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points with the following Canadian professional associations:
❖ CPA: https://cpdformula.com/course/emotional-intelligence
❖ Law: https://cpdforlaw.com/course/emotional-intelligence
❖ HR: https://myhrcpd.com/course/emotional-intelligence

Contact & Social Media
❖ +1 647 568 1596
❖ all@personalskillscoach.com
❖ personalskillscoach.com
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September, 2020 | Article

Charitable Activities During COVID

Charities - Mark Hunter - September 2020
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Hunter, Mark 10may19
Author Mark Hunter

I am a proponent of using charitable events as a way of getting people together and promote your firm. Internally these events can be great for employee engagement. Externally they are great brand building exercises. Individually they can be great business development opportunities. As we work through the global pandemic, many of these activities have been modified or cancelled all together.

Like many of you, I have certain causes that are close to me. For that past few years I have participated in the Northern Pass (#NorthernPass2020) which is a cycling event that raises money for Princess Margaret. Instead of simply cancelling the event, this year the group modified the ride to include five different challenges throughout the summer. Although we don’t get one great day, now we have many ways to keep engagement.

Part of the fun of these charitable rides, as with many charitable events, is getting people together. During COVID, I have chosen to ride solo only so that opportunity to connect is lost. However, what I have found is that my group which includes friends, colleagues and business partners have maintained all the banter we would have on the bike through other tools such as chat groups, Slack and other social channels. With the changes in format, we have actually been able to further challenge each other to raise funds for a good cause.

Other organizations that I support through our firm have found similar ways to keep their events going while ensuring safety and social distancing. The organizations that were able to quickly pivot and see an opportunity to change rather than cancel are excelling. Instead of events with silent auctions, they have taken the auction on-line. Others have shifted completely to create brand new events that they can manage safely.

Many of us are in positions where we are able to donate time and money to causes that are meaningful to us. We are the fortunate ones. While the pandemic may have changed what we choose to support, the idea of supporting a cause hasn’t. Maybe your firm rode the Big Bike for Heart and Stroke, participated with the United Way, or ran as part of the Santa Shuffle. As these events changes, see how your firm can change with them. Find ways to get staff and partners involved. Use these new opportunities to build your network and enhance current relationships. Don’t use the pandemic as a reason not to give, use it as a way to redefine how your give.

Mark has over 20 years marketing and communications experience delivering strategic advice and operational expertise that guides and supports organizations. He has helped lawyers, engineers, scientists and planners understand where clients come from, why they get selected over other professionals and what they need to do to keep a busy book.

Mark has helped a number of organizations appreciate what differentiates them, how foundational awareness guides good decision making, and how to build a high performing cultures.

September, 2020 | Article

Deepening Engagement while Working Remote

Deepening Engagement - September 2020
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Jaime McMahon - Photo - September 2020 Edition
Author Mr. Jaime McMahon

Remote working technology has become a hot topic over the past few months, especially in the legal industry. In these unprecedented times, we have seen a drastic shift in the way that law firms are operating. Remote working has become the "new normal" that many organizations have already embraced, and there are even discussions about how many industries may not return to the office for the foreseeable future. With this shift, law firms are being forced into a new territory of thinking critically around accountability and engagement with clients and peers.

How do you make the same meaningful connections with your clients and your peers while working remotely? This list of 4 best practices around strengthening those connections should help!

Best Practice #1: Choose technology that will bring everyone together and get everyone connected.

In times like these, you need to make sure that you’ve invested in a technology that will help to bring everyone together. A multi-faceted communication and collaboration tool that is easy and intuitive to use will go a long way with bringing people together and making people feel more connected during a time of social separation.

When you have the right technology implemented for your firm, you’ll be able to ensure that your important and valuable work is done in a seamless manner. Collaboration will be just as easy as if you were in the same office once again! Plus, a centralized platform will give you a place where you can post important updates, ensure that your partners, peers, and clients have access to the important information they need when they need it, and give everyone a chance to communicate more effectively.

Integrations can help with building out a solid platform, and, in fact, several technologies just seem to work better together. Take, for instance, Workplace from Facebook and Microsoft O365, which can help you drive better engagement and adoption. And when you also implement Power BI with your Workplace analytics, you can provide your Executive Leaders with the right level of data needed to make critical decisions.

Best Practice #2: Take advantage of video chat.   

One of the single biggest hurdles when individuals move to remote work is an instant disconnect from those they are used to interacting with daily. The ease of consulting with peers who would normally be in your office with you has been taken away.

Providing an environment where you can have face-to-face meetings is vital to keeping the social connection healthy amongst members of your organization and clients. Video conferencing is the most critical tool for providing this gateway. Making it seamless and straightforward for your lawyers and clients is the ‘secret sauce’ to remote work success.

By implementing video conferencing technology, your firm can also continue to run efficiently while social distancing, and you can build connections with your colleagues on a whole new level. Lawyers no longer need to physically make their way to their offices to interact and work in partnership with clients or other lawyers on crucial cases. Plus, video chat technology can keep international organizations with branches in different locations around the globe working together in real time. Also, if utilized with the right Cloud-based solutions, data can be shared seamlessly during dialogue, therefore getting critical matters solved quicker. 

Best Practice #3: Host regular Live Video sessions.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is priceless – and Live Video is an entirely new way to think about communication. No more throwing a memo over the wall and hoping people read them. With Live Video session, you get instant access to your legal peers, team, or firm, with real-time feedback in the form of comments or reactions happening as you’re broadcasting your message.

This is especially helpful during a time when remote working is so prevalent. Similar to Video Chat, hosting a Live Video session can give people the feeling of sitting in the same room and being together – but apart!

Working as a mentor or need to attend training conferences? Certain live video platforms can also provide event or meeting attendees, external events partners, and remote employees with access to content after the fact, so people who miss the meeting or event can catch up later. For instance, Workplace from Facebook has a learning feature that can empower peer learning and enable scalable knowledge sharing.  In Delivering Custom Learning & Development to all Members of Your Organization, you'll learn how to use Workplace's Learning feature to empower peer learning and enable scalable knowledge sharing that’s accessible and easy to consume.

Best Practice #4: Use Insights to gauge your team's sentiments.

With the pandemic being so prevalent in the world today, our teams are going to be affected by a great amount of uncertainty, whether they are already remote working or have been told to move to remote working. It’s crucial in these high-tension times for law firms to understand that the messages they are putting out are not only being received, but that they have the desired effects, too.

Collaboration platforms can provide your users with analytics tools and insights, which can help you to understand what those in your firm are feeling about the current situation and gauging whether there are any concerns that need to be addressed immediately.

Understanding user adoption, engagement, and satisfaction are some of the key features that legal organizations should seek. Insights and analytics can empower you to make better business decisions, get a jump on monitoring company trends, measure the impact of your communications, track your team’s activities, and more.

Ready to take remote working to the next level?

These four Best Practices described above are just samples of what you can do to help your organization stay connected and engaged while working remotely.  If your firm is ready to take remote working to the next level, it may be time to consider Workplace from Facebook as your easy-to-use, easy-to-adopt communication and collaboration platform.

Visit the Business Partners Event page for more details on the complimentary upcoming virtual conference scheduled for September 22-24, 2020.

Jaime McMahon is the Chief Technology Officer ofLineZero, an affiliate company of ProServeIT Corporation and a Workplace from Facebook partner that specializes in connecting everyone in the company using familiar features like Groups, Chat, Rooms and Live video broadcasting to get people talking and working together.

September, 2020 | Movers and Shakers
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