Tag Archive | culture

Strategic Disengagement

office_fun_MichalTaliStrategic Disengagement. It’s not a term you hear much and I remember the first time I did. I was working for a wonderful HR director who had at the core of her intention, the creation of a better culture in the workplace. We work hard in my company – just like people do everywhere. And one other thing we do is become too serious, sometimes too internally focused, and always intensely focused. The culture can quickly turn to too much stress. What I know about over-stressed people is that they go into survival mode, can become territorial, and collaboration can suffer.

That’s when I learned the term, strategic disengagement. It’s a simple concept really – it’s deliberate downtime even during the work day when the intention is to connect as people and not as co-workers. It’s sharing a bit of fun. It’s getting to know each other and our values, hobbies, families, and sense of humor. It’s a release valve for the pressure cooker of an overly focused workforce. It’s also a brilliant concept when trying to re-boot the culture.

The beauty of it is that it can be spontaneous or planned. Planning a work group outing or lunch to celebrate successes, acknowledge people’s accomplishments and milestones, and just have some fun is key to shifting the energy. But so is that spontaneous practice of a mid-day chat over coffee or a quick trip to the ice cream parlor or a walk around the building.

tacky-sweater1-290x284It may not seem intuitive but it is true that sometimes you have to “go slow in order to go fast”. That means, if you build in the down time in order to re-energize, you’ll come back faster. If you take the time to get to know the people as you go, you’ll have the foundation of collaboration when it’s time to solve a crisis or business challenge. I haven’t seen a team or work group yet that didn’t come back from some strategic disengagement with more energy, more focus, and a clearer vision. If it’s not part of your business practice you might consider starting small to test the waters. And this is a great time of year to test it. Laugh a little. Add a bit of holiday cheer and fun to a group meeting. Challenge each other to a “tacky holiday sweater” contest or some other little way of breaking up the monotony of the work day. Do this for you and for your organization and you will all reap the rewards.

Disengage and be blessed!

I have witnessed a coup!

The World Choir Games have come to the U.S. for the first time in their history. And lucky for us, they came to Cincinnati. What a cultural coup!! Cincinnati is already a wonderful city from an arts and culture standpoint. The influx of international musical talent has taken it to another level. Affectionately now known as the “City that Sings”, we have been fortunate to host over 200 events, with 23 categories. Choirs ranged from very young to seniors and came to our fair town from all corners of the globe.

I was fortunate to attend 2 of the events – the first was one of the free Friendship concerts where I got to see the talents from my alma mater, McAuley High School and my son’s alma mater, LaSalle High School. That was a fun way to support the local talent and get a “dip” into the World Choir Games festivities. Congratulations for winning the Silver in your category McAuley & LaSalle!

Today I was thrilled to see the Champion’s Concert featuring this week’s winners.  I enjoyed the humor of our MC, Drew Lachey, former singer in the boy band 98 Degrees, and winner of season 2 of Dancing with the Stars. Drew and his brother Nick, who is one of the Masters of Ceremonies for the entire event, are local singing talent that add a modern musical touch to our city. And the performances we saw today – all I can say is WOW!!!! It was so apparent why each of these groups was judged to be the best of their category. I was brought to tears a couple of times as the groups laid their talents and their voices on the stage for the sold-out crowd to appreciate. I was honored to see all of these performers of the 2012 World Choir Games! The ending was especially grand with the Kearsney College Choir of South Africa who won the Folk category. The power, passion, dance, and voices made a spectacular end to the day. STUNNING!

Only the closing ceremonies are left and I wish I could be there to see it.

Yes, indeed, the World Choir Games was a positive coup that allowed us to build bridges between cultures and create a positive musical atmosphere for all who participated.

Sing a song, make a joyful noise, and be blessed!

Thank You

Where I work we have a relatively new process for informal thank you’s. What I love about this program is that it creates an atmosphere of appreciation AND connection.

Here’s how the program works:  When you receive one of the official thank you cards you drop it into a common box. Once a month we have drawings from the box and the prize is a free lunch for both people involved – the person who thanked them and the recipient. This has a two-fold benefit. First, the program rewards the appreciative behavior. Secondly, it creates time together, in an informal setting. The pair benefits both on a professional/business level as well as on a social/networking level. The program is a great success. The thank you’s are sincere and thoughtful. And the whole process changes the tone of the business. We are now a group of people who are more aware and more vocal in our appreciation of our co-workers. Nothing changes a person’s perspective quite like a little appreciation. They feel valued and noticed for their hard work or going above and beyond.

I share all of this because I see it making a shift in the “smell of the place” as they say. Even in times of uncertainty; even in days of intense business pressures and changes, we feel and build the positive connections. It’s one more reason why I love the Company I work for and the people I share my days with.

I challenge myself and my readers to thanks someone today. But don’t just say it – write it. It’s powerful to have those tangible kind words to remember and review on off moments. And … if you really want to make someone’s day – take them to lunch as well.

Be grateful and be blessed!


Disarm the Bullies

I often feel dissatisfied by the level of competitiveness that is in our society. Oh, yes, I’m a blue-blooded American who treasures the ability to compete and succeed. Don’t get me wrong on that. I believe healthy competition drives us all to do better work, create more innovation, and bring better and better options to light. But that’s business.

I think it’s ultimately hurtful and wrong to take that same level of business competitiveness into our personal interactions. Not every conversation needs to be a debate or argument to be won or lost. Not every activity needs to be you vs. me vs. the other guy. Sometimes we are served well to agree to disagree and not break the bonds of relationship. This is especially true when it comes to beliefs. There should be freedom for you to believe what you believe and make your choices accordingly. And the same for me – as long as those choices don’t hinder another or hurt someone. In general, that’s what I believe.

So when I read this quote from Mike Dooley I look at the world a little differently.

“When you understand that what most people really, really want is

simply to feel good about themselves,

and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words

you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this,

you begin to realize just how simple life is,

how powerful you are, and that love is the key.” ~ Mike Dooley

I see his words as a method to disarm the bullies. It’s a way to encourage the downtrodden. By looking at the true and beautiful essence of another we eliminate the need for winner/loser or better/worse labels. We no longer look at words like ugly, weird, stupid, geek, jerk, or any other as valid in our vocabulary.  When we show someone else they are valuable we open up the chance for them to see themselves that way too. Honoring the sacredness inside someone brings their divinity to the forefront. It honors all that is good in you and me because that thread of connectedness is one and the same.

So today, I hope that you see and focus on the loveliness of who you are. We are blessed by your existence. Share it and be blessed too!


I recently sent my foreign exchange student back home after being with me and my daughter for a full school year. The experience was something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school day dreaming about jetting off around the world on adventures. So this past year I decided to take advantage of my daughter’s final year of high school and make this happen.

Our student was a lovely girl from Norway. From the very beginning she seemed to fit our family well – she liked similar shows and activities as my daughter. She wanted to dabble in American sports and she signed up for several sports throughout the year. She worked hard in the beginning to get a handle on the US school system, and a Catholic private school at that (nope, she wasn’t Catholic, and she wasn’t religious in any form). Things got off to a great start.

We hit some snags but that’s to be expected along the way. I’m not sure if it was cultural or just the personality of our student but she didn’t bond with us in the tight way I had heard other students do with their families. At times I felt like she was simply on a 10 month vacation and sometimes I felt we were in her way because of our conservative beliefs and behaviors. We’re not monks of course but we certainly couldn’t compete with the California lifestyle I later found out she wished to have on her exchange.

At the end of the day I have no regrets. I’m glad to have done it. I’m glad to have provided this experience for my daughter and for our exchange student. But I’m also left wondering. I ponder whether the lack of bonding meant little to no influence in the life of this girl. She was polite and genial (well, for the most part). But I can’t put a finger on whether or not my dream to have her here had much impact on her at all. I wonder if our faith and what she learned about our culture has changed her heart or her behaviors in any way. I wonder whether she went home wiping her brow, glad to have gotten through it. I wonder if I will ever see her again. 10 months is a long time to give emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I feel a connection to her as a mom in a way that I’m pretty sure she doesn’t reciprocate. So I wonder and ponder and muse at the level of influence we had on her. I wish for her all the dreams of her young life. I hope that she remembers us and her time here fondly. I hope that a glimpse into our life plants a seed of faith for another day. I wish her love and happiness. And I miss her.