Here’s what a great workplace looks like – high performance teams

Members of Sokol club in sport costumes, approx. 1900. author: Šechtl a Vose?ek Uploaded with approval of inheritors of the copyright

What does a great workplace look like? Walter Ulmer took a stab at defining it over 25 years ago. He saw that there was a big difference between regular teams and high performance teams, one where everyone took it to the next level.

And what is the essence of a “supportive” climate that promotes esprit and gives birth to “high performing units”? It may be easier to feel or sense than to…

The Power of Mentoring (And Why You Didn’t Get It)

Gov. Martin Henry Glynn with his secretary, Frank Tierney ca. 1913, By Bain News Service via Library of Congress

[updated 2013 August 29]

Did you ever think that the reason why you didn’t get a mentor was that it was almost impossible to mentor you? A good mentoring relationship requires you to share a growth trajectory in how you handle complexity.

Most people’s capacity for handling complex work issues increases over time along predictable paths once in their 20s.

It sounds pretty…

Being Happy Makes You Less Productive. Sometimes.

Suck My Kiss by Jan Tik. CC BY 2.0

Happy workers are better workers, right? Nope. At least not all the time. And maybe not even most of the time. Find out why. [Full Post]

Don’t Think You’re Smart If You Want To Succeed

Marine Sgt. at New Orleans, La. By Howard R.Hollem. Library of Congress collection via Flickr.

One of the remarkable things that Carol Dweck showed is that students who thought that they succeeded because they were smart did more poorly in new tasks. They wouldn’t ask for help because they were supposed to be able to figure it out themselves, or perhaps because they thought that if they asked for help they would be shown as not being smart.

Of course, this can be mixed with a DIY attitude, to make it even worse. I’ll chime in here with a personal story: when I was in college, I wouldn’t go to the math profs’ office hours because I somehow believed that I shouldn’t ask for help. It could have been a result of believing I succeeded because I was smart. It was at least also a part of “don’t ask for help” that was a cultural thing with my family. Compound the latter with the former and you get someone who could have done much better in differential equations than he did. (It didn’t help that I really don’t have a strong aptitude for mathematical thinking, arriving at most of my conclusions through intuition and guesswork.)

So internally you need to think that you succeed because of effort.

Lots of people ignore this advice. This leaves them open to being manipulated by you to your advantage, as long as you are willing to not be the smartest person in the room.

Barbara Fredrickson Talks Positivity on WUNC

Alicia recommended this NPR show in a comment on “Unhappy? Stop Trying to be Happier!”. It wasn’t podcasted yet, but is now.

If you missed it, like I did, here it is, with no added commentary from me. (Maybe later: I need to get through it.) But feel free to comment if you learn something important.

Finding a Dime Can Make Your Last Year Happier

Stack of golden George Washington dollar coins,. (c) 2007 Bill Koslosky, MD (CC BY 2.5)

Remember things as being happier by contemplating something positive before you write your resume / CV. You can use this to help you feel happier at interviews and other situations.

You Won’t Lose Unhappiness By Trying To Be Happy

Manhattan Bridge under construction-1909

Dan Ariely reports that pursuing happiness can backfire. Trying to be happy doesn’t work.

Bonuses Backfire by Reducing Long-term Employee Performance

Etna eruption seen from the International Space Station

New research shows that bonuses backfire on companies, even blocking common sense. A summary.

Getting Rid of the "Dead Wood" at GE

Lit light bulb

GE’s practice of firing the bottom 10% would have seen as evil leadership by the Romans, who practiced “decimation” only on cowardly or mutinous troops, and even then rarely.

The Bros. Heath Explain Incentive Pay Structures


This post has been one of my most popular since I wrote it. If you’re coming to this site for the first time, let me know what you thought in a comment below.

In January, I scored a copy of the Bros. Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die as I was working with an Australian start-up. I commend their book in its entirety — very useful, and it explains in clear…

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