052 — Rules of Engagement

You can’t write a symphony when you’re drowning.

Change is perhaps the only constant we can count on. Whether you call it “disruption” or prefer, as author Carolyn Swora does, to use the more positive word, “evolution,” it’s no secret that we live in a world that demands adaptability. And yet, most organizations are structured based on outdated hierarchies, rigid decision making processes, and an industrial-era emphasis on process and productivity. We were delighted to host Carolyn Swora on the podcast for an in-depth discussion of her book Rules of Engagement: Building a Workplace Culture to Thrive in an Uncertain World. Carolyn shared her thoughts on the realities of living (and thriving) in a VUCA world, why organizations need to focus on people, not process, and why culture change efforts that are still based on industrial thinking around productivity are bound to fail.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • Globalization, disintermediation, technology, and demographics as the driving forces behind our VUCA world.
  • The unique challenges and opportunities of having 5 generations in the workforce. Right now there’s a huge focus on millenials, who happen to be quite vocal about their needs. But what about the other 4 generations?
  • Organizations don’t typically reward people for deviating from their plans—they reward individuals who deliver on target and on time. But in the VUCA world, deviation is inevitable—how do we manage performance in these turbulent times?
  • The power of the social/psychological contract—the unwritten agreement between employers and employees.The social/psychological contract is made up of things like: how you expect to be treated, how you work with your colleagues, what the work environment is like, how you feel when you go to work, etc.
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking for one and done solutions to fix your culture, engage your team, or “solve” the problems of VUCA, you’ll likely be disappointed. However, as a first step, focus on making the people in your team feel like they truly belong.
  • The Four Rules of Engagement for creating a Purposeful Workplace Experience™:
    • The Rule of Connection
    • The Rule of Adaptability
    • The Rule of Collaboration
    • The Rule of Equivalence

Actionable Quote: “When you deviate from tactics, it doesn’t mean you’re deviating from strategy.”

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