Tag Archives: corporate culture

Preserving indigenous languages one app at a time

Ogoki Learning Inc. is the world leader when it comes to language apps

Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. During the past 100 years or more, nearly ten, once flourishing languages have become extinct; at least a dozen more are on the brink of extinction. When these languages vanish, they take with them unique ways of looking at the world.

Ogoki Learning Inc. is trying to preserve indigenous languages one app at a time.

It all started when Darrick Baxter, President of Ogoki Learning, created an Ojibwe language app for smartphones and tablets. Soon after the release, he noticed the app was doing what he hoped it would, teaching kids the Ojibwe language while keeping them engaged through mobile devices.

From that moment Baxter, who grew up in Winnipeg’s North End, knew he had to share the app with everyone, so he released the app for free.

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Cirque du Soleil is coming back to Winnipeg, but this time with its most acclaimed Big Top Show, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities.

The show will make its home at the corner of Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard under the iconic blue and yellow Big Top for just over a month, premiering June 2nd.

Kurios will take the audience back to the latter half of the nineteenth century – to a time of innovation in a changing world. With inventions such as the telegraph, railroad systems, gramophones and bicycles, people believed anything was possible and that the world could be explored in a new way.

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The price of a collegial atmosphere

Think Shift-Balaji Krishnamurthy
Think Shift-Balaji Krishnamurthy

Photo by Reyner Media

In the U.S., we do not discuss politics at work. And if somebody expresses an opinionated position, we simply smile, nod, and move on to the next topic. Why? Because politics polarizes people and we want to maintain a collegial atmosphere at work.
I grew up in India and I have spent a fair amount of time in Europe and Asia. Political discussions are not considered to be as polarizing in those regions of the world; they are viewed simply as a healthy debate.
Does a collegial atmosphere require lack of disagreement?
In a collegial atmosphere, can people disagree, express their opinions with passion and conviction, and close the conversation agreeing to disagree? We tend to believe that discussions must end in agreement or some sort of resolution. This tendency results in inauthentic conclusions to discussions.
Diffuse speakers relax their convictions and specific speakers dig in their heels for an argument.
Do all disagreements have to be resolved one way or the other? Can people maintain healthy relationships knowing full well that they disagree on certain important matters?
Healthy relationships are not measured by the number of hugs, but rather by the number of fights that end in hugs.
It is the ending in hugs that is important, not the lack of fights. Healthy relationships should foster healthy debates. Lack of debates might well be an indicator of the relationship not being healthy.
In creating an intentional corporate culture, you might strive to create a collegial atmosphere. The shadow side of this strength is fear of conflict – where people are reluctant to express their opinion because it is not aligned with the opinion being otherwise aired.
Fear of conflict leads to the loud and obnoxious shouting out the quiet and thoughtful. It leads to the multitude of subordinate opinions deferring to the single opinion of the superior. It leads to the new and different ideas being overwhelmed by the status quo of tried and true practices.
In a culture of collegial atmosphere, it is important that you empower, encourage, and enable people to face conflict and have healthy debates.
How do you teach people to have a healthy debate?
We offer three common causes for debates to turn ugly, and from it, three ways you can turn debates healthy.
The first cause is Aristotle’s principle of the excluded middle. The belief that there is a right and wrong. Something is good or bad. It is either true or false. Either you are on my side or you are with the enemy.
This polarization of thought causes debates to become personal. What is the solution? Try throwing in expressions like, “I believe…” The more you use the term “I believe,” the easier it is for the other person to receive your opinion.
So, do you turn everything into a belief?
That naturally leads us to the next reason debates turn ugly – facts versus interpretations.
In a wonderful book called The Communications Catalyst, my good friends and colleagues Mickey Connelly and Richard Rianoshek explain how people co-mingle facts and interpretations. By separating facts (that can be observed and measured) from interpretations (that are your way of looking at the facts and drawing conclusions from them), they argue that you can have more “accurate” and more “authentic” conversations.
Instead, people pursue “sincere” conversations where, by co-mingling facts andinterpretations, they pursue “their truth,” convinced that it is the truth. So separate facts and interpretations and preface your statements with those labels.
Finally, ignoring the old adage, people fail to seek to understand before they seek to be understood. In our opinion, the most important aspect of a healthy debate is the ability to understand and advocate the other person’s point of view.
Showing that you can argue the other point of view demonstrates mutual respect for the individual(s), concedes the existence of multiple points of view, acknowledges an appreciation of the strengths of the other side, and in the process, expresses a recognition that the parties at play are not good or bad, right or wrong, based on which position they hold. It leads to hugs at the end of fights.
Dr. Balaji Krishnamurthy, chairman of Think Shift, is a veteran executive with more than 30 years of corporate experience. Time Magazine recognized him as one of 25 Global Business Influentials, and publications such as the Wall Street Journal have featured Balaji and his innovative concepts as representing a new genre of corporate leadership. Known for his innovative and thought-provoking ideas, Balaji works with CEOs to develop organic leadership through an intentional corporate culture.

Communicate in your employees’ preferred language

By Lisa Cefali (photo by Flazingo photos)

There are many useful business books penned by astute individuals on almost every topic. I came across one unexpectedly this past year, as the authors typically write about improving personal relationships, but had now made the leap to expand their message to the workplace.
Our work relationships, as we know, are with people that we often spend more time interacting with on a daily basis than even our own partners, families and friends.
Within the current climate of multi-generational employees in the workforce; more jobs than there are people to fill them; and a need to retain talent, the more we know about valuing our employees will be key to our success.
The premise of the book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman and Paul White, is that each individual has a primary language in which they wish to be appreciated. If we appreciate them in that primary language, they will respond positively.
If we choose to appreciate them in a different language, they will not respond as positively; in fact, they may not respond at all.
We all know that the golden rule states: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” However, this new concept is a variation on this rule. Rather than treating others in the way you would want to be treated, treat others as they would like to be treated.
If we want an employee to feel valued enough to continue to be motivated, perform to his/her own best and be committed to the company, we need to understand the language within which they wish to be valued. Otherwise, organizations can spend a great deal of time and money thinking they are appreciating their employees’ contribution and yet always missing the mark.
The 5 Languages of Appreciation
Words of Affirmation – Use words to communicate a positive message to the employee. Be as specific as you can. Providing affirmation of one’s character traits, although it may be more difficult to determine, is even more powerful.
Quality Time – Perhaps after a project is complete, you often hear an individual say how they think the group should all go out and celebrate. Or maybe you’ve seen the individual who comes to your office, makes themselves comfortable, and asks how things are going or wants to tell you about their day, their weekend, or some life occurrence.
This is the language of Quality Time being shown to you! Allowing the individual to spend time with you is how they feel appreciated.
Often this language is misunderstood in the workplace. People think the person is trying to be buddy-buddy with the boss so as to gain advantage. It is a genuine desire to share time with their boss and feel appreciated. Give the person your focused attention; do not multi-task, do not lose eye contact, and listen attentively – they’re looking for quality time.
Acts of Service – This language resonates with people who are of the mentality: “Don’t tell me how much you value me, show me!” It is about people helping others and doing things for them – whether to assist with the project he/she is working on or to simply help to make his/her day go more smoothly.
Tangible Gifts – This language is the most understood and is the one that is most easily used in the workplace. However, if there are five languages, is it possible that you are missing the mark a certain percentage of the time, while spending a great deal of money in the process? For those that have this as their primary language, they feel valued when they receive a gift card, or tickets, or a bonus for a job well done.
The words may be said, but the real proof is in that gift that they can use, enjoy, and experience. This is a very powerful expression of valuing an individual to many; however, it can also have minimal impact and can even turn people off to those whose main language is not Tangible Gifts.
Physical Touch – This language is one of the most difficult to translate into the working world, especially since physical touch can be inappropriate in the workplace. Appreciating one’s work with a handshake, a high five, or a simple pat on the back demonstrates the use of this language and establishes camaraderie. As long as this language of appreciation is well-defined as friendly and cordial, it can be used effectively.
Does it seem like way too much work to gain this understanding of individuals versus buying everyone gift cards? Consider this: not investing in understanding how your team would like to be appreciated could cost you more.
As employers, we need to know what actions will hit the mark and effectively communicate appreciation to each team member. True appreciation equals true engagement.
With the start of the new year, performance reviews are often in full swing or about to begin. How will you show your feedback and appreciation? Perhaps investing in the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace could be worth a shot.
Lisa Cefali is the vice president of executive search with Legacy Bowes Group, where she uses her many years of business experience, and assessment of emotional intelligence, to uncover organizational insight and those attributes that provide the best fit for her clients with their strategic planning needs. Please feel free to contact her at lisa@legacybowes.com for your executive search, recruitment, coaching, and strategic planning needs.

How to engage your “entitled” millennial employee

Think Shift-Balaji Krishnamurthy
Think Shift-Balaji Krishnamurthy

Photo by The Next Web

If you don’t have any millennial employees today, you will soon.
Born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, millennials will comprise the bulk of the workforce in 20 years. As a generation, millennials are accused of wanting everything given to them, which, some believe, has been.
They feel entitled to get a degree in a discipline with few employment opportunities, hang out in their parents’ basement, work as a barista at the local Starbucks, and post to Instagram from their iPhones, which are covered by their families’ plans. As Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post writes, “To some, this arrested development is evidence of a prolonged adolescence and a rejection of self-sufficiency, perhaps encouraged by indulgent helicopter parenting.”
The Great and Silent generations that have retired from the workforce found a loyal employer to whom they gave their working life. For these “one-company” professionals, engagement was essential.
The Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers realized there was no guaranteed employment; they had to guarantee employability for themselves. So, they devoted their working life to a career, albeit with different employers. For these “one-career” professionals, it was in their interest to be engaged and get the most from the job.
The millennials seem to centre their choices on a particular lifestyle. They choose a lifestyle and construct the necessary underpinnings of work, family, relationships, etc. to support it. Engagement in the job? Only to the extent that it supports my lifestyle!
In the “one-company” view of the world, employers could invoke John F. Kennedy’s language and encourage workers to “Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company.”
That rallying approach even worked in 1980 at Chrysler when Lee Iacocca returned from Washington with a loan to save the company, and as recently as 1995 when Lou Gerstner made a similar appeal to save “the greatest computer company in the world,” IBM. Can you imagine making that appeal today? How would your employees respond?
A culture of loyalty encourages going over and above the call of duty when the company needs you.
All cultural benefits have a shadow side weakness. In the case of loyalty, it can be entitlement. The employee argues that if he or she is expected to do something for the company when the company needs it, shouldn’t the employee expect the company to be there when he or she needs it? This sense of entitlement permeates loyalty-based cultures. When millennials enter into such an environment, they are more likely to grasp one side of the equation and not the other.
Why do the millennials not give as much?
Are they just takers? Not really. In fact, some say the millennials actually believe that they can “do well by doing good.” They were raised in a generation where doing good – good for people, good for the environment, good for the disadvantaged, good for different races, etc. – was in vogue. Their apathy toward corporate America stems from a different source.
Millennials entered the workforce just as the market crashed in 2008.
The recovery never trickled down to them. They don’t believe it ever will. Millennials have different utility associated with different resources. So, their utilitarian economics, if we may call it that, is very different from previous generations.
Whereas the previous generations were willing to readily give of their time in exchange for money, millennials find a very different balance in that equation. Whereas the previous generations had a lower discount factor for time value of money, millennials put less trust in long-term investments, and hence apply a high discount factor.
Whereas the previous generations respected their predecessors for their knowledge and experience even if telling them to modernize, millennials know that the non-digital previous generations are dinosaurs from whom they have little to learn. Finally, the millennials saw how their parents worked hard only to get nowhere, and the time they put in was just not worth it.
The millennials aren’t going to do that.
So how do you engage millenials?
You understand their lifestyle! Then attempt to not only see, but to advocate on behalf of, their point of view.
Dr. Balaji Krishnamurthy, chairman of Think Shift, is a veteran executive with more than 30 years of corporate experience. Time Magazine recognized him as one of 25 Global Business Influentials, and publications such as the Wall Street Journal have featured Balaji and his innovative concepts as representing a new genre of corporate leadership. Known for his innovative and thought-provoking ideas, Balaji works with CEOs to develop organic leadership through an intentional corporate culture.