Tag Archives: motivation

Are you a corporate zombie?

Corporate zombiesYou have probably heard of the corporate athlete by Jim Loehr. The HBR article describes how you can keep yourself fit at corporate level. They give tips like taking breaks, clearing your head, and physical exercises.

So we know that there are fit and unfit corporate athletes, but I would like to add another employee type, the corporate zombie. Corporate zombies are the day walkers among the others. The ones who are at work, but are not really at work. You probably know a colleague who acts just like this.

Are you a corporate zombie?

Take the test below.
  1. You work from nine to quarter before five. The last quarter is dedicated to looking or waiting at the time-clock.
  2. You only follow your job description. Everything else is not your concern.
  3. You are known for your idea killers.
  4. The last training you followed was obliged by your team leader.
  5. Initiative is for others.
  6. You like to complain processes and procedures, but hate it to participate when there are initiatives to solve it.
  7. You are known for your skepticism with corporate change projects.
  8. You best discussions are the gossip sessions in the coffee corner.
  9. Before giving your opinion, you first look to your left and right to check if anyone else is listening.

Do you recognize at lease five of these characteristics? In that case it’s time for a change!

Some tips to overcome zombieness

  1. Are you sure doing the right job? Check your talents, find your passion.
  2. Work at your enthusiasm and motivation:
    1. Find purpose in your job. Even if you don’t like what you are doing right now.
    2. Evaluate your day. Write down one thing that went good.
    3. Ask more autonomy to fill in your day job.
  3. Unlock your creativity. Participate in creativity exercises or games.
  4. Engage in after-work events. Get to know your colleagues on another level.
  5. Avoid using idea killers (eg. like “yes, but…”), but see through the idea and discover its possibilities.
  6. Find a mentor, explain your situation and plan a weekly meeting where you discuss the passed week.

To end with a quote:

Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda, Star Wars

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Lessons from triathlon for corporate athletes

Last week I went to a presentation where the athlete & Belgian triathlon champion, Simon De Cuyper, gave an interview about setting clear targets. Just like in the corporate world, in the sport world is setting targets an important part when acquiring results. During the interview Simon shared some of his experiences and lessons learned.

Triathleet Simon De Cuyper

Triathlete Simon De Cuyper

I’ve made a list of key insights for you to share.

Focus on the process and process targets

When you’re only focussing on the end result and the end target, you might get caught up by stress too much. Simon has learned to focus on the process and set process targets. For example, the start of the swimming part of the triathlon and the change-over between the sports in triathlon.

When you only keep the end target in mind, focussing on it might freeze you. When you focus on the different steps and parts to make it to your target, you’re focussing on how you’re doing your job in the best possible way.

To quote Steven Covey: “Begin with the end in mind”.

Set a target

One of the differences between a professional and many recreative athletes, is the principle of setting targets. When you want to improve upon something, whether it’s triathlon, squash or incident management, you’ll have more chance to success when you set a target.

The target will keep you focussed and allows you to measure progress, which motivates.

Set a realistic target

Simon has set his target for the 2014 Olympic Games to be in the top 8 of triathlon ranking. “Why not go for gold?” was the next question of the interviewer. Simon replied that he was aware of his capabilities and choose to pick a realistic target. A target where he needed to stretch himself, but which he could make.

I’m not sure what to do with this takeaway. I understand how this could work, but history has learned us that setting inspiring targets can work too.

See for example Microsoft, Apple and the Nasa.

President John F. Kennedy, May 1961: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”

Bill Gates, Microsoft: “A computer on every desk, and in every home”.

Steve Jobs, Apple: “What we want to do, is to change the way people use computers in the world.”

Use a coach

Unlike in the corporate world, in the sports world it’s very common to have a coach. A coach who coaches you, supports you, challenges you. The coach doesn’t have to be better than then athlete, but who is committed to the success of the coachee. A good coach will make you stick to the commitment of running 4 hours a week, even when it’s raining.

In the corporate world the same logic can be applied to the role of a coach. The coach doesn’t need to know it all, the coach doesn’t have to be older, … The coach needs to be committed to the success of the coachee, provide an honest mirror to him and motivate him when the going gets tough.

Know your limits

Simon works at continuous improvement, but he is aware of his (physical) limits. There will be a day when continuous improvement is not possible anymore. A big “transformation” will be needed then, maybe a change to a total new sport, like long distance running, he testified.

We often hear this remark at the work floor too: is it possible to keep on improving, even with tiny bits? Instead of improving peanuts (and violating the Pareto-rule), it might be interesting to question it all and try something new. To make a transformation.

Additional reading

The Making of a Corporate Athlete by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

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Find your best fit KPIs

Best fit KPIDuring a KPI workshop we were thinking about which KPIs we could measure. Typical KPIs for measuring the project management triangle (scope, time, budget; aka. project management triple constraints) were easy found. The fourth one, quality, often put in the middle of the triangle, gave us a harder time.

What defines quality?

I always say (or quote?): “Quality is in the eye of the beholder”.

This means: if you want to measure quality, you need consult the one evaluating it. In most cases this will mean you need to consult your customer (VOC), but also your superior or his superior (VOB).

What does “doing good” mean?

And then it hit me: we were having a hard time to find best fit KPIs, because we were doing it wrong. Before we can measure how the project is doing, we first need to find out what “doing good” means for every party.

We need to find our goal for using KPIs. Why are you measuring? Because you want…, you need …, your customer needs, … Once you have defined the goal for measuring, you can start with the how of measuring (ie. which KPIs).

The goal for measuring

Back to quality. Since the customer defines quality, you need to do a Voice Of the Customer and check what is important to him. Will it be timely delivery, zero incidents or a 24/7 service with answer by email in 1 hour?

Next step is to find out what quality means for your organization (Voice Of the Business). What is important for your organization? Do you get carte blanche for servicing your customer in every possible way? Probably not: you will need to balance the needs or the organization versus the needs of the customer. No need to rack your brain over it: just ask. Ask your superior. Check the strategy of your entity.

Use KPIs that inspire

When you did a VOC and VOB survey you know what is important for your customer and your organization. But you are not there yet. I recommend adding a flavor of team motivation to your KPIs. KPIs like cost/income ratio, customer satisfaction, project budget, on-time-in-full, … will not motivate your team. (Remark: I’ve actually seen customer satisfaction as an exception to this when working with a mature, customer focused team.)

Find out what makes your team go the extra mile. What really, truly motivates them?

For example, in an ICT project environment, we typically define KPIs like project budget, number of defects, percentage of reopened defects, customer satisfaction, … But these KPIs will not keep your team awake at night.

In a mature ICT team the goal of the project was to optimize the currently used custom tailored software. They studied the customer’s vision statement and picked up that cost transparency and production costs are important. So they started measuring them.

The costs were measured by the bill that was send each month.

For measuring production costs they went a step deeper and selected KPIs like CPU time, number of database transactions and data traffic in Megabytes. These KPIs are leading for the cost KPI, but even more: these KPIs express how good the IT people are doing their job.

These KPIs were good motivators for the team because it really meant something to them.

Budget or production incidents will not inspire them, but measuring the core aspects of the job they liked did.


To summarize: when selecting your KPIs:

  1. Do a VOC: what is important for my customer?
  2. Do a VOB: what is important for my organization?
  3. Pick KPIs that motivate your team
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A daily sense of measurable accomplishment

To measure is to know. How can we apply this principle to our daily jobs?

Every day we drag ourselves to work. Why is that? Why aren’t we eager to wake up and take up the challenge?
This drag could be related to job satisfaction. Every day we do our best for accomplishing our different assignments, but how do we know if we’re doing a great job? When we apply some of the principles of result planning, we could install metrics for ourselves that tell us if we had a great day or not. An example metric for a consultant or coach is the number of people coached during the day, the number of improvement opportunities identified, the number of successful workshop lead by your coachee, …

If the metrics are installed you can see how you’re doing for the day, but we need to go further. Make sure you know what your and your team member’s contribution is. Why are you doing that job? Why is not someone else doing it, but you are? How can you make a difference? When people know that they matter, they will perform better. That also counts for you.

For example, when you are using a whiteboard for your team planning, are you checking on them or are following up on the work done (ie. the results)? Are you rewarding your team players for the great work they have done? Do you celebrate successes in public?

Don’t make the same mistakes as when they did when designing the ISO9000 standard. If the only goal is to confrom the measurements, you won’t increase the job satisfaction of you and your team members.

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