Strategy AND Culture For Success

Culture AND Strategy for SuccessHow many times have you seen stories in the business press or seen first-hand within your business examples of failures and successes that have been put down to poor strategy OR the wrong culture?

One company that suffered the fallout of the strategy/culture collision is Kodak.

Kodak was not ambivalent about changing times, making repeated strong statements about where they needed to go, yet they didn’t appear prepared to steer their corporate cultures in that direction. Kodak’s downfall was blamed on its inability to make the leap to digital media, but Kodak had been positioning itself as a digital imaging company for more than a decade. Why was it unsuccessful?  At its core, Kodak was a chemical company whose culture embraced film coatings and processing. When digital media came along, Kodak re-branded itself as a digital imaging company, but the move took it further away from its roots, and company culture could not adapt quickly enough according to many articles written in the last 12 months. The likely re-financing of Kodak  and the sale of its patents and all or part of its document imaging and personalised imaging services likely means that a restructured Kodak would largely focus on commercial imaging, rather than the consumer business. I’m not convinced that this will be the end of their troubles.

Another, even more recent example, is the demise of Comet. Alongside Like Argos, JJB and Habitat, which have also announced closures of many high street stores in the last year, management continued to focus on the high street sales and not moved quickly or effectively to online sales and / or repositioning of its brand. Comet had a great brand and could have developed a strong presence online but did not execute an effective strategy to change its business model and culture with pace.

Conversely, Amazon has grown from the world’s largest book-store into the world’s largest retailer, and is now extending its brand to hardware (the Kindle family of devices) as well as enterprise cloud computing and storage.  Since it began, Amazon’s brand strategy and organisational culture have always been aligned with customer satisfaction, scale, and delivery.   This enables them to remain a global player, even in changing economic conditions.

There are also business commentators and writers that argue either Strategy is more important than Culture or vice versa. From my experience, I would argue that you absolutely require both in equal measure to build a sustainable, successful and profitable organisation giving great service to its customers.

In their book, “Execution – The discipline of getting things done” Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan say:

“When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO’s strategy was wrong.  But the strategy by itself is often not the cause.  Strategies most often fail because they aren’t executed well.  Things that are supposed to happen, don’t happen.  Either the organisations aren’t capable of making them happen, or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment or both.”

If the corporate culture is incompatible with business strategy, objectives will not be met. Before changing the corporation’s strategic direction, top management should be prepared to reshape the organisation culture to fit the new strategy.

How do you ensure that these key strands are aligned?

What is your organisation’s culture?

Culture is an expression that suffers from a vague and loose set of definitions, often used conversationally to mean a myriad of things. Numerous business articles and papers refer to corporate culture in fairly simplistic ways, suggesting that it needs to be changed, without bothering to define what the “it” really is.

The more comprehensive our understanding of ‘it’, the greater the likelihood we can factor in culture’s impact on our organisations, and the greater the likelihood that leaders and others can anticipate its consequences.

1. Ask questions of your Leadership Team, your middle managers and your wider organisation

Start at the top and ask yourself some pretty basic, but fundamental questions. Some example questions might be:

a. Why is our organisation here? What do we do and how do we do it? A simple question I know, but I’m willing to wager that you get different answers from those you ask.

b. What are our personal values and those of the organisation? Don’t be afraid to dig beneath the surface. Keep asking the question ‘what else?’ to get to your core values.

c. What are we famous for?

d. Do our values and what we’re known for align with the strategy we have for our business today?

e. How is the organisation structured and which functions tend to ‘lead’ the organisation today?

f. What are the things stopping us from being a ‘Great’ organisation?

Once you have some clear AND agreed answers to these questions test them out with your wider organisation through a combination of surveys, face to face workshops and 121’s with key influencers within the organisation; by influencers I mean people at any level of the organisation that have significant positive OR negative impact with their peers or wider teams.

2. Analyse the results and refine or rework

Spend time analysing your results. Does the wider organisation agree with the Leadership Team on these key questions? You may get some different views! If you do, then you may have a bigger issue and a bigger hill to climb if you want to be successful. Dismiss this feedback at your peril.

Be prepared to go back to the drawing board if your Leadership Team’s answers are completely different to your employees. If there are broad and significant differences I would suggest bringing in a cross-section of people from across your organisation to work on it with you – These could become Change Agents you will need for the next stage of the process.

3. Agree on who you are, what you stand for and why you’re here.

Hopefully after a few refinements or a rework or two, you have got to a point where the Leadership Team, your management and a cross-section of your organisation have agreement on your culture, your values and how it is aligned or not with your strategy.

What does the culture of your organisation need to be to ensure execution of your strategy?

Now that you have a good view of how your organisation’s culture looks today, think about how you want the organisation’s culture to look, if everything were to be correctly aligned, and if you were to have the ideal culture that you know will support you in the execution of your strategy.

Using the same people and questioning process build up a view of what the future organisation looks like.

What needs to change – People, Process, System, Measurement & Behaviours?

Identify the differences between the today’s culture and tomorrow’s. Considering the organisation’s strategic aims, objectives and deliverables:

  • What cultural strengths have been highlighted by your analysis of the current culture that need to remain and grow?
  • What factors are hindering your strategy or are misaligned with one another?
  • What factors are detrimental to the success of your strategy?
  • Which factors do you need to change?
  • What new beliefs and behaviours do you need to promote?

Plan, Prioritise, Execute and Measure

Using your ‘change team’ that you have built up over the previous steps start to build up your plan of attack. Under the headings of People, Process, System, Measurement and Behaviours list out the initiatives and sub-initiatives required to affect the necessary change required to meet and beat your strategic goals. You might find a download of the  ‘The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation‘ series useful to help you.

Finally I would suggest 3 areas of focus to ensure that you succeed in aligning your Strategy AND Culture:

1. Executive Sponsorship – Build a coalition of top leaders focused on a set of culture priorities that are meaningful and important to the organisation, their own group and to themselves personally. Without this commitment, passion and belief from the top, your change initiatives have a high probability of failure.

2. Cross-Functional Team –  Engage senior and middle management in making changes to cross-functional processes to introduce more aligned behaviours and values. Build cross-functional teams to assess impact and learn together. Demonstrate success early. Again, ensure that people are fully engaged in the reasons ‘why’ the organisation needs to change and ensure that you get the most passionate people involved in the project.

3. Create momentum – by engaging more and more people, especially managers and supervisors, in shaping culture by design. Build capability. Create organisational energy by creating new ‘heroes’ and quick wins. Build in feedback loops for continuous learning.

As ever, would love to get your feedback….

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007 ~ An Agent For Change – Think Oak! – 50th Post Edition

Agent, Change AgentAs both James Bond and myself are sharing a 50th anniversary I thought I’d discuss Agents, Change Agents and how we should all aspire to be one!

Firstly what is a Change Agent?

A Change Agent is a person who leads change within an organisation, by championing change and by helping to communicate the excitement, possibilities, and details of the change to others within the organisation. A change agent doesn’t need to be a full-time, formal role. It can be simply the way someone chooses to be in an organisation.

What are the personal qualities of the ‘007’ of Change Agents?

The Best  Change Agents ‘LIVE AND LET DIE’

L – Love Change!

Probably not a surprise to you that the best agents of change, love change! They thrive on being involved in new ideas, initiatives and projects and are not afraid to roll their sleeves up to get the job done.

I – Innovative

I’m not talking of their ability to develop exploding pens, but innovation in the way they communicate, engage and enrol others in the change effort. They don’t just come up with ideas, they know how to apply them.  Great Change Agents are curious, experimental, and they apply their discoveries to the organisation’s goals.

V – Visionary

Great change agents help to shape the future. They can see very clearly where the change effort needs to go and have a clear vision of what the future will feel and look like, and more importantly the key steps to take the organisation there.

E – Enthusiastic

Change Agents need have enthusiasm in abundance. It can often be a tough role and often requires a great deal self-motivation to keep momentum in an organisational change effort.

A – Articulate

Communication is THE most important part of being a good agent for change. The best of the best have the ability to articulate the WIIFM – ‘What’s In It For Me’ at all levels of the organisation. They know what makes people tick and know how change will impact individuals and teams alike.

N – Not afraid to speak the truth

This one is certainly near the top of my list for a killer Change Agent. Change Agents, by their very nature, speak to people on the shop floor right the way up to Chief Executive levels in organisations. They hear what the ‘troops’ are saying and they see how the senior management interact and behave. By being effective, and by speaking the ‘awful’ truth when necessary, they can be the conduit from bottom to the top of an organisation, conveying key news, good or bad, straight to the people who can change things for the better.

D – Deliver + 1%

Bond always delivers and then some. So do great Change Agents. They always go the extra mile to ensure that everyone that is impacted by change are engaged, enrolled and bought in to what is required of them. They work tirelessly to engage with the key influencers to ensure that the organisation is as prepared as they can be for change.

L – Listening

Those that are avid readers of Think Oak! know of my passion for generous or active listening. Great Change Agents are masters at listening for what is being said and more importantly for what is not being said, taking time to really understand the challenges that individuals, teams, departments and functions face. They take this feedback and tailor communications and training as well as feeding the learning back into the wider organisation.

E – Empathetic

To many people, change is unsettling, at best and to some downright scary. A solitary piece of generic communication to the organisation is unlikely to affect change and unlikely to address people’s questions or concerns. Change Agents invest time to understand people’s worries and address them with empathy to get the right results.

T – Trusted

For Change Agents to be effective, they have to a reputation of trust with their peers and others in the organisation. They always do what they say they’ll do.

D – Decisive

Change Agents can’t be procrastinators. Decisions often need to be made quickly especially around people issues and business impact challenges. Great Change Agents act with urgency and aren’t afraid to deliver difficult messages to senior management or management teams.

I – Influencer

Stakeholder awareness and management is crucial to the success of any major organisational change programme. An effective Change Agent is a key influencer in an organisation. The have the ability AND relationships, to overcome issues and barriers quickly. They very often anticipate the challenges ahead and engage with key stakeholders in advance to smooth the road ahead.

E – Egoless

Top Change Agents are not in it for themselves. They are 100% behind the change itself and the success of the organisation.

So whilst a ‘007’ Change Agent isn’t quite as glamorous an individual as James Bond, they’re still pretty special.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always, would love to hear any feedback you may have.

Fail to Learn, Learn to Fail

Failure

In this post I’d like to cover some common failures of leaders and managers. We all make mistakes, and that’s actually a good thing, as long as you learn from them…and learn quickly. I’m going to draw from my experiences and those of people I’ve met along the way and hopefully save you some time and some pain.

1)    Waiting too long to address under-performance

I’ve seen this so many times in my career and have been guilty of it myself in the past. Many of us like to think the best of people and think that with encouragement, coaching and focussed objectives everyone can make the grade or better. Not so, certainly not all the time. There comes a point when you have to take decisive action.

These situations almost always get worse if left alone. They never get better on their own. Understanding the real issues and taking action quickly leads to faster improvement and reduces the risk of unrecoverable failure for your team members and yourself.

You need to ask yourself the following questions?

a)     Does your team member know what is expected of them? Have they got SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)?

b)    Does your team member have the capability and skills to do what you need of them? Do you and they know what needs to be changed? Have you got time to get there?

c)     Are they passionate about what they do? Maybe they’re ‘a square peg in a round hole’ i.e. they’re in the wrong role for their skills.

d)    Have you ensured that they are receiving feedback? Don’t trust that just because you’ve discussed it with their manager, it’s happened…Follow up. Don’t trust that just because the words have come out of your mouth, they’ve got it. Get them to play back what they’ve heard and let them tell you what they’re doing about it.

e)     Is their performance impacting other members of the team negatively? Are you hearing this from more than one or two people?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, make a decision to act and then act. Stick to a plan. Set objectives, measure performance, give feedback, coach, give more feedback and if the person’s performance or behaviour doesn’t change, make a decision, and yes follow process, but move the person; either to a different role, or out of your business. It will be hard, but it is the right thing to do – Right for you, for the team, and in my experience, right for the individual.

2)    Not linking Strategy to Objectives or Pay

If you pay your sales team only on winning new business and you’re not setting objectives to any of your teams on retention or great customer service….you will fail.

If you incentivise your people on revenue, they won’t focus on profitability and you will fail.

If you want the best customer service in your industry and you pay people on lowest call times…you will fail.

If you want your executive team, or your management team to change the culture of the business for the long term, make sure that they are compensated on it, or you will fail.

You get the picture, but many don’t. If you want to shift the momentum of a department or a function or a full business, you need to align how people are compensated behind that vision.

3)    It’s ‘their’ fault

Let’s get something straight. If you take ownership for delivering something, big or small, it’s no-one else’s fault but your own. True ownership means, tenacity – not taking ‘no’ as an answer, not taking ‘it can’t be done’ as an answer. You keep going, keep pushing, you fight for resource, you fight for priority, you fight for your goals. You make yourself unpopular. Yes…but. No buts. If you agree to take ownership of something, you deliver it or you face the consequences. Stand by your goals!

4)    I thought they knew what they had to deliver

This is a big one. Communicating top priorities creates the basis of focus for an organisation, team or individual. However, without clear definitions of success, management and employees can be aiming for very different levels of performance. This creates significant risk in execution to committed operating plans and strategic projects.

Leaders need to be very precise in defining how they are going to measure success. What indicators are going to be used? What weight will be put on different measures? And what are the specific target levels for each of those measures that are expected?

Highly visionary leaders struggle with this more than most. They tend to be heavy on pitching big ideas, but very light on communicating priority and specific expectations.

a)     What’s the big idea?

Visionaries get this. They have the idea. They have the passion. They feel they have communicated it. But your team may not.

b)    What are the under-pinning principles?

What guiding principles underpin the big idea? No more than 5 – In priority order if possible. These principles will help your people define the boundaries of the big idea. Make sure that your people, especially your influencers understand the big idea AND the principles.

c)     Get your people to shape the plan

Ok, so your key players understand the big idea, they’ve thrashed out principles and priorities with your help. Let them build the plan. You sign it off. But let them ‘own’ the plan…and the targets.

d)    Review and feedback

Keep on top of the plan, regularly. Give feedback, but don’t take over. If you’ve got the wrong people on the team, change them. If the numbers aren’t coming, evaluate what you’re doing and either change your course or focus extra energy on results.

5)    Accepting the status quo

I’ve spent my whole career being frustrated by the status quo. No system is perfect. If it was, the animal kingdom would not have evolved. Competition would not exist. Siblings would not try to out-do each other. There would be no Olympic Games or Premier League. Business is no different.

I’m amazed at the lack of attention to detail in business. We get feedback every day from our customers – directly or indirectly. Do ‘we’ listen to the news, surveys, research, phone calls, letters of complaint….?

Only the best businesses truly listen to feedback and act upon it. And by business I mean, every part, every person in the business listens and more importantly ACT on feedback.

Companies that stick with the status quo, fail.

6)    Stop communicating – Engage, Enrol, Involve

People are not stupid. They have lives, they have mortgages, they have complicated relationships, they have children, they have debts, they have secrets, they have dreams. Don’t give them a mouse mat or a piece of paper and expect them to ‘vote’ for your strategy. Talk to them, listen to them, find out what they care about, let them help you with your strategy. Listen to their ideas. Morph your strategy to the best ideas. Bring the most enthusiastic into your inner circle, no matter what their grade.

Forget emails, slides, videos, intranets and 3 minutes at a team briefing in isolation. If you only use these methods without truly engaging with your people and getting their buy-in and belief, you will fail.

7)    I won’t tell them, it’s in their best interests.

Rightly or wrongly, businesses often hide the truth from their people and often for the ‘right’ reasons. The days of mass union action have gone. Some will disagree.

Everyone that has an element of commercial awareness, knows that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. One day that could impact you.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather know. I would then have time to make plans.

My advice, some would say naively, tell people the truth. Give them enough time to make plans or change direction.

I hope this post provoked some thought and hopefully some ideas to help you reflect on past failures and how you may improve, going forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 4

Execution of the Plan

In part 3 of this four part series of blogs I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Communication:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The fourth and final part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Execution of your plan to acheive your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

Execution

Thomas Edison famously said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” It’s true. And as the hallucinations of countless business leaders have proved, knowing what you want to do or where you want the company to be may be less than half the battle.

a) Co-ordination and control of programmes and projects

Failure to execute has several root causes. Below are several common reasons why companies fail to execute their strategic plans fully:

  • Poor prioritisation of resource – Every goal cannot be the top priority, but we set ourselves up for failure by treating them all as if they were equal. Organisations lack the energy or focus to take on too many goals at once. Even if the capacity were there to take on unlimited amounts of work associated with implementation of strategic goals – it is a bad idea to over extend.
  • Lack of detail planning to support goal achievement – Detailed planning involves breaking down work into smaller parts. It is far easier to solve a small puzzle than to launch into solving a massive one. Inch Pebbles not Mile Stones!
  • Poor communication and coordination – Failure to communicate and educate is a huge factor in many failed plans. Employees who are responsible and accountable for their scope of execution must understand what is to be done, when and how that affects the overall outcome.
  • Strategy and culture misalignment – Execution cannot be planned without consideration of the organisation’s culture.
  • Accountability missing from goals – Everyone is accountable in accomplishing their individual tasks that are required to achieve the overarching OMG and some, including the CEO, may be accountable for reinforcement of the tasks.
  • Poor governance – Governance enables organisations to manage the interrelationships of all underlying initiatives comprising their OMG. Governance also provides the boundaries and check points needed to keep programs in alignment with the plan.
  • Ill-defined initiatives – Once ambiguity creeps into the scope of any initiative, it leads to confusion and failure in execution. The language used to state goals is usually where the problems start. Initiatives must be carefully constructed in order to be crisp and well understood. In addition, they must be measurable.

To be successful a project must:

· Deliver the outcomes and benefits required by the organisation

· Create and implement deliverables that meet agreed requirements;

· Meet time targets and stay within financial budgets;

· Involve all the right people;

· Make best use of resources in the organisation and elsewhere;

· Take account of changes in the way the organisation operates;

· Manage any risks that could jeopardise success;

· Take into account the needs of staff and other stakeholders who will be impacted by the changes brought about by the project.

· Keep stakeholders and staff in the loop as to your progress and get them ready for any impacts of the project.

b) Ownership and accountability

At work, people who have a high level of accountability will take initiative to ensure the success of a project, provide early warning of potential problems, and try to resolve a problem even if it is not their fault.

One reason we hesitate to tackle the accountability problem in a timely way is a lack of clarity on what the person is accountable for in the first place. Discussions about accountability can be straightforward and potential conflicts less intense when everyone knows ahead of time what is expected and how success will be measured. Establishing this clarity also reduces the likelihood of having to have the discussions in the first place.

Being accountable comes naturally to some people. For many of us, however, the more natural tendency is to justify and explain why we are not responsible when things go wrong. Although you cannot change human nature, those of us in a managerial or leadership role can help create an environment that enables others to operate at a higher level of responsibility. The key is to set people up for success by clarifying expectations up front and building in time to make course corrections before the deadline. This helps avoid the need to make excuses.

When targets are missed, asking three questions can solve the problem: What can you do right now to get back on track? How did you contribute to this situation? What can you do in the future to ensure this will not happen again? This approach doesn’t try to pinpoint blame and helps minimise the threat to the person’s self-image. These three questions, along with techniques to deal with a defensive response effectively, also minimises the need to make excuses as you and the other person collaborate on finding a solution.

c) Rapid and Effective Decision Making

There are three things you can do to improve the quality and speed of decisions.

a) Make sure that people closest to the action are making the decisions. This can require a change in organisational structure and, when this is not possible, empowering people and holding them accountable for taking the initiative and addressing issues when they arise.

b) Involve the right people in decisions. This helps ensure that you include perspectives and experiences other than your own and also helps fill in relevant data that you might not possess.

c) Use an objective, systematic process so that you won’t let emotion or bias cloud the issues or simply default to the kinds of decisions you’ve made in the past. This will also force you to incorporate risk assessment in your decision-making.

These last two actions ensure that we have access to a range of perspectives and information that might not otherwise be available to us, and increases the likelihood that we will be more thoughtful when making choices.

Organisations that are the best at execution also create operating plans that are coordinated across departments and levels, expect and encourage top performance from everyone, hold people accountable for results, make high-quality decisions by ensuring that the right people are talking about the right things at the right time.

In summary, PACE – Planning, Alignment, Communication and Execution will drive speed in your organisation. You as a leader will need High Energy and Focus to keep PACE on track and you’ll need a strong team around you to deliver your OMG. The rewards in achieving your OMG will be worth it!

That concludes the final part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation. If you missed the first three parts please click Part 1 – Planning, Part 2 – Alignment and Part 3 – Communication.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 3

communication and collaborationIn part 2 of this four part series of blogs, I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Alignment:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The third part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Communication of your plan, your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Communication

a) Senior management creating a sense of purpose

All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives; we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  The workplace offers a great opportunity for people to connect with a purpose, your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

The reality is that people care less about working for a company and much more about working for a ‘noble’ cause. Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance.

The first strategy to satisfy this basic need is to give employees a ‘noble’ purpose and then help them connect with it emotionally.

Take a close look at what your people are doing day in and day out. You might find that their hearts are much bigger than their jobs. Get team members inspired about your OMG, and their hearts will follow.

Implementing improvement requires constantly reviewing the dynamic forces that drive an organisation. Understanding these dynamics, anticipating their consequences, and acting to accelerate, or redirect them is a complex task. The complexity is further compounded when companies engage in improvement efforts without viewing them as part of their strategic thinking. Assumptions as to what’s involved in change often understate the difficulty and miscalculate the amount of energy, preparation, and time required. Without proper attention, diagnosis may be inadequate and off the mark, leading to ill-fated plans.

Improvement efforts with an OMG often not only require readjusting the way that organisation leaders and employees think, they also require substantially changing behaviour. They require business leaders to manage energy in new ways and make difficult choices. Because these are often needed in the areas of employee empowerment and involvement, they call for new forms of courage. Many within the organisation have to make higher-risk decisions, requiring greater levels of personal development. Improvement efforts mean that cross-functional teamwork, innovation, and personal initiative become part of the defining values of the organisation.

To be successful, it is crucial that your senior management team are 100% behind your OMG, that they actively engage with their teams on a regular basis about your OMG, and that they make the OMG real for the people in their function – tailoring the messages for their people’s specific roles and responsibilities, and tackling the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ questions. They need to be passionate, committed and demonstrate the behaviours underpinning your OMG for it to be taken seriously by their teams. Paying ‘Lip-Service’ to your OMG will work for a while, but destroyed on the 2nd or 3rd occasion that a senior manager strays from this path.

b) Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is vital in driving pace in your organisation. Improved communication and collaboration across your organisation represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organisation requires a transformative approach to culture, processes and technology—along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. The working environment is changing; there is an increase in flexible working, home working and mobile working and a blurring of all three. A clear collaboration strategy will ensure that productivity is not lost and employees feel as much part of the organisation as their colleagues based in head office. Optimising team performance can be achieved by building trust and strengthening relationships across geography and cultures; encouraging participation and knowledge/expertise through the use of communities; locating experts within real-time and accelerating decision-making; and using availability and presence tools to help reduce budget by meeting virtually. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative behaviours, put processes in place to help people work better together and adopt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energised organisation that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

c) Communications Approach

To achieve real organisational buy-in to your One Magnificent Goal you must inform, inspire and involve employees so they will choose to go where you are attempting to lead them.

Inform

Informing is the first step in aligning employees and getting buy-in.  It starts with sharing the why, what and how of your OMG.  Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan.

To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:

  • Why you exist as a business
  • How you will behave
  • What you offer to key stakeholders
  • Where you are going in one to three years
  • Key areas of focus for the entire organisation

Although the need to communicate has not changed over the years, the tools we use to communicate have.  Thanks to the internet and other new technologies, today’s leaders can (and should) communicate in many different ways.

The old standbys — memos, meetings and newsletters — still have their place, only in most cases these have gone digital.  In addition to these tools, today’s leaders and managers use e-mail, intranets and online newsletters to communicate quickly and effectively with employees.  They also use blogs, webinars and video clips to educate and update employees about company goals and objectives.

Companies with geographically dispersed workforces use conference calls and video teleconferencing to simulate face-to-face interactions.  And the more tech-savvy companies, especially those with younger workforces, are using instant messaging tools like Microsoft LyncTwitter and corporate social media tools like Yammer or Chatter to stay connected.  Whatever technologies you employ, the key is to communicate often in many different ways to ensure that all employees are focused and aligned.

Inspire

Today’s employees want to believe that their work is making a difference in the world.  To inspire others:

  • Share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like.  How will that vision make the world a better place and improve their lives?
  • Constantly discuss the aspirational components of your OMG.  Why should employees aspire to achieve it?
  • Share why you believe the destination is compelling.  What is it about where the company is going that inspires you?
  • Communicate with enthusiasm and passion.  Become an evangelist for the organisational goals.
  • Ask employees what the OMG means to them.  Share their responses via e-mail, intranet and in company meetings.
  • Share positive customer feedback.  Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does.
  • Celebrate achievement of milestones.  We all want to be part of a winning team, so recognise the progress and success along the way to your goals.

The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the OMG mean to them individually.  The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.

Involve

When employees feel involved and engaged in the delivery of your OMG, they bring more than just their bodies to work.  They bring their hearts and souls as well as their best thinking.

  • Spend time with your team regularly to check on their progress.  Make sure all individual goals remain aligned with your OMG.
  • Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals.  Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support.
  • To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings.
  • Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums.  Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.

So, you’ve now got your people on board, they’re informed, inspired and involved. In the final part of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the fourth, and arguably the most important element of PACE, Execution.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 2

AlignmentIn part 1 of this four part series of blogs I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Planning:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The second part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Alignment of your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Alignment

a) Organise your teams around your One Magnificent Goal! – Your OMG!

The benefits of a well aligned team are no surprise to anyone. A great deal has been written about how to create better alignment within teams, through team building, incentives, and other management techniques. However, the first step in any effort to improve the alignment amongst a group must start with an honest evaluation of the current state, and a desire to improve and a clear view as to where you’re going.

Convene a group of key managers within your organisation to help you look at the impacts, both positive and negative, of your current organisation structure and how it might look when aligned to your OMG. When realigning, you want to ensure that you don’t lose any core competencies. You also want to ensure that any proposed changes will support the goals you have set as well as continue the things your business already does well. A group of managers who understand the detailed workings of your organisation will help you greatly.

Develop several alignment models from which to choose. Consider movements with your existing people, additions, subtractions and combinations of these things when devising different structures that might support your goals. Use organisational charts to help you express these models so they are clear and tangible.

Solicit input from other business leaders you know, respect and trust. Examine the financial, strategic and organisational culture impacts your various alignment ideas might create in order to help you to arrive at your decision. You also need to understand any Human Resources / Employment Law ramifications of your decisions before you begin to implement.

b) Align performance goals and rewards around your OMG

To ensure achievement of your OMG you must align all your teams’ performance goals and rewards to it. In so many organisations, individual departments have separate performance metrics that do not align to their OMG. More importantly people are often rewarded against Key Performance Indicators that are misaligned. Some common examples of this might be; Sales are paid on revenue and the OMG is to increase margin; Customer Services are rewarded against hitting call statistics when the OMG is around improving customer satisfaction. Neither is complete misalignment, but both can cause a big enough gap in behaviours for the OMG not to be achieved.

When metrics and rewards systems are not realigned with changes in structure and business processes, the impacts are predictable:

• Individual performance targets compete with the OMG.

• Roles and accountabilities are confused or continue to be aligned around the old organisation design.

• Decisions are made to optimise performance in one unit contrary to the needs of the larger organisation.

• The organisation is slow to act and burdened with internal conflicts.

• Leaders resist change (because it is rational to do so when incentives encourage old behaviours).

• Individuals begin to question the impact of the organisation design changes on their personal economic well-being, distracting them from winning in the new formation.

Again, sound out your leadership team to ensure that cross-organisation goals and rewards are not in conflict with each other before you implement. Talk to leaders and managers in other companies to get some broader context of what works and doesn’t work elsewhere.

It’s really important that the reward structures align from top to bottom within your organisation and there is an OMG specific payment when you achieve it – A Long Term Incentive. That encourages everyone from Executive to Admin Assistant to shoot for the OMG. Obviously the levels of reward might be different, but everyone wins when you achieve your goal!

c) Push decision-making authority as far down the organisation as possible

In the era of organisational flattening, there are less and less layers of management. We are happy about getting rid of hierarchies, but we are less good at understanding the associated challenges. If a layer of management disappears, decision-making should go to the lower level and not to the higher one. A reorganisation where layers go down from 6 to 3, but where senior management absorbs most of the decision rights that became available tends not to work effectively.

A consequence of decision-making being pushed down is that there are many new ‘decision homes’ where empowered people could make a decision on the spot. One of the big problems associated with decision rights flowing upstream, to a higher level, is that these decision rights tend to go or be deferred to the management bodies that only meet from time to time.

So, pushing the decision rights down to a lower level also means that many decisions could be taken ‘in real time’. Provided that people are empowered to do so, there is no reason why they should delay the decision-making process. Pushing decisions downstream and making decisions ‘in real time’ as much as you can are two simple disruptive rules. They won’t cost much but they have the power to transform your company on a big scale.

Some principles you should consider:

  • Implement decision-making at lower levels across the business, not just in one or two departments
  • If something can be decided at a lower level, it should. And you should make it lower and lower all the time.
  • If nothing can be decided at a lower level, you are the problem.
  • Your management goal is to decide less and less every day.

‘Closure’ and decisions made in meetings and committees may be efficient, but not necessarily effective if it could have been done at a lower level.

The amount of ‘deferred decisions’ (as opposed to real-time ones) in your organisation is a good indicator of your agility and empowerment. How many organisation even measure this I wonder?

d) Clearly defined roles & responsibilities

In order to effectively manage your people, it is important to provide them with a clear definition and understanding of their role, function, and responsibilities in the workplace. This will provide them with a good understanding of the job and tasks they are to perform as an individual and within any teams they are a part of. It also provides information on where they fit within the organisation and who they report to, helping to avoid disputes and misunderstandings over authority.

Failing to define workplace roles and responsibilities can create tension, miscommunication and inefficiency within your business. People may be unsure as to what jobs are their own and who they are required to report to. Mistakes and omissions can also occur where people are unsure of what is required of them, therefore creating inefficiencies which cost time and money.

e) Stopping projects / activities that don’t support the plan

Tighter goal alignment and goal visibility allows for quicker execution of organisation strategy by enabling your management team to more effectively allocate resources across various projects. By exposing business initiatives not aligned with your OMG, it also increases overall efficiency by ensuring employees are not duplicating the efforts of others. Plus, goal alignment strengthens the leadership at your company by allowing managers to:

  • Understand more clearly all responsibilities associated with specific goals
  • Eliminate redundancies across job titles
  • Focus their staffs on your company’s most pertinent goals

So, you’ve now got the right people, organisational structure and performance culture to deliver your plan. In Part 3 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the third element of PACE, Communication.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 1

Driving PACE in your organisationSucceeding in today’s competitive business environment requires that your organisation be agile enough to respond quickly to internal and external change. To stay ahead, you have to explore new ways to grow your business – for example, by launching a new product or service or targeting a different marketplace. Speed and focus could become your biggest competitive advantages.

For this to succeed, you will need to rapidly align resources and people so as to drive speed, efficiency, and profitability. But how do you achieve this level of organisational agility – and ensure focused execution across your business?

The key is driving organisational alignment – an elusive goal for many companies. This requires strong executive alignment, an organisational mind-set that values performance management, and the ability to perform effectively. Once these elements are in place, you need baseline information to devise the right strategies, a clear understanding of interdependencies, and insight into where to deploy personnel and budgets. To drive adoption, you must communicate strategies to employees in ways that they understand and embrace and that are within the context of their roles. You must provide the right tools and incentives to help them execute on a daily basis and in alignment with corporate strategies.

However, if your organisation is like most, there is a significant gap between strategy and execution because of breakdowns in one or more of these areas.

You need to consider how to implement PACE in your organisation: Planning, Alignment, Communication and Execution

This first post, in a 4 part series, will focus on:

Planning

Why is planning so important and why must it be done in parallel with strategy? From a macro perspective, business today gets done in a global marketplace. Change is occurring at an unprecedented pace. Time and distance continue to become less and less relevant thanks in great part to the explosive growth and convergence of technology and the internet.

There was a time when strategic planning was done by only the biggest companies, and those who lead change. Now it is a requirement just to survive. Leaders of business must be looking ahead, anticipating change, and developing a strategy to proactively and successfully navigate through the turbulence created by change.

a) Clarity of Strategic Goals and Markets

How are you going to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going? Everyone in an organisation needs to know what you sell or do, who your target customers are, how you compete and in which markets you operate. A good strategy will balance revenue and margin generation with productivity initiatives. Without strategic planning, businesses simply drift, and are always reacting to the pressure of the day. Companies that don’t plan have exponentially higher rates of failure than those that plan and implement well.

For many business owners and leaders, creating a vision, company values, and a strategic plan can be a daunting task for reasons like time, energy, commitment and lack of experience. It requires business leaders to accept that yesterday’s success does not ensure success in the future. It requires challenging the status quo, potentially changing behaviours, implementing new procedures, hiring different people, and putting new systems in place in order to deliver on the strategy.

Make no mistake; the best plans and ideas without great execution are just plans or ideas, they don’t result in much of anything. Regardless of the size of a company, a strategic plan is the foundation on which all business activities can be connected and “aligned”.

b) OMG! – One Magnificent Goal!

The idea for One Magnificent Goal is derived from the fantastic book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – They termed it ‘BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal’

OMG is THE goal that really stretches you to think differently about how you do business. It’s THE goal that is going to help you transform your business, rather than being satisfied with incremental change. It’s THE goal that’s going to inspire you to do your best work and outshine your competition.

What is THE ONE BIG aspirational idea that your people can really get behind; that will really make them deliver +1%?

  • It could be Target Driven –  JFK’s – ‘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 Earth.”
  • It could be Competitor Driven – Crush Adidas! (Nike, 1960s)
  • It could be Role-model Driven – Audi’s OMG in 2005: To match the exclusive image of mighty Benz and BMW
  • It could be a Business Transformation – Amazon.com: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds

When you consider OMGs for your organisation here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • It should be so clear and compelling that it requires little or no explanation
  • It should fall well outside your comfort zone
  • It should be so bold and exciting in its own right that it will stimulate progress even if the leaders disappear
  • It should be consistent with the company’s core ideology

If your OMG doesn’t meet these criteria you should really think again!

c) The Plan Itself

If you are serious about reaching your OMG, you have to develop a plan that  clearly takes you through milestones or even better,  ‘Inch Pebbles’ to meet that OMG. If you don’t, you can’t even  expect to get close. You have to do more than you have ever done. You also have to look for  new and creative ways, to get to the result.

I’m not, in this post, going to be prescriptive about how you build a plan, but I would ask you to consider the following questions:

How do I bridge the gap? – How can you most effectively get from where you are now to where you want to go? And in what time-frame? What strategic initiatives are needed to bridge the gap?

What are the controls I need to put in place? What monitoring, project management, reporting, and performance management do I need to put in place to achieve these initiatives?

What people do I need to ensure I reach my OMG? Will the team you have today be enough to deliver your OMG? Do you need more people or different people? Do you need to change the people (training & development) or change the people (restructure & recruit)?

Can I afford to do this? What costs will be incurred in delivering the initiatives that will help you reach your OMG? Over what time frame? What would be the cost of not doing them? What contingencies do you need to put in place along the way if some of your initiatives fail?

Answering these questions will help you formulate your plan.

So, you understand the market place and your strategic ambition within it, your OMG. You have a plan to achieve it. Have you got the right people, organisational structure and culture to deliver it? In Part 2 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the second element of PACE, Alignment.

Playing Politics without the Politics

Politics without the Politics

Office politics is a fact of company life. Wherever there are two or more people working together, there will be politics and there will be opportunity for conflict. However, destructive office politics can demoralise people in an organisation, hamper productivity, and increase turnover of good staff,.

Much as you might like to avoid them, the best way to deal with political environments is to engage them, to turn toward them. To turn away is to abdicate your responsibilities as a leader and manager. It is to let down yourself, your team, and even the organisation as a whole.

Unless you reach out, engage others, and create active, on-going relationships — relationships you sustain even when there’s no immediate problem — you will lack the ability to exercise influence beyond your group. And even in your own world, your influence will be limited. If you’ve ever worked for a boss who lacked any organizational clout or credibility, you know how frustrating that is.

I’m not saying you have to play ‘politics’, but it’s important that you can see when it’s happening, build the right relationships and communicate effectively with key stakeholders in your organisation on an ongoing basis.

So how do you play politics without the politics? Be P.O.L.I.T.I.C.A.L.L.Y S.A.V.V.Y

1. Perform!

First and foremost, be a top performer. Do your job, plus 1%. Be known as a “Star”  — someone people want on their team. Volunteer for projects and new initiatives.

2. Observe behaviours

Observing your peers and managers act in certain situations can teach you a great deal about peoples’ inter-relationships, their allegiances and their battles. An understanding of these relationships and power struggles may help you in building the right relationships and avoiding unnecessary conflict in the future.

3. Lead by example

People in an organisation look to leadership to see how to act. Do you want your team to refrain from negative politics? Do you want to see collaboration and teamwork instead of petty rivalries, jealousy, and back-stabbing? Act the way you want your people to act, and they will follow you.

Stand for the right things. Reputations are hard to build and easy to destroy. Be known as a person who is trustworthy, reliable, honest and fair. Do what you say you will do. Speak up when you hear false rumours, unfair criticism or slurs. Even if you are not liked by everyone, you will be respected by most.

4. Invest in others’ success

We all have responsibilities and objectives, and those things should receive priority. Nonetheless, if it doesn’t take too much time, being helpful to others can reap benefits for you. Be willing to share your expertise, experience and insights with others. You’ll gain greater confidence as people develop and, as they advance, you’ll broaden your network and access to information, resources, etc. One way to convert your ‘competitors’ to allies: help them succeed.

5. Think Win – Win

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him or her. Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agree resolution and not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice, but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace. Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long-term.

6. Identify key players

To survive office politics, know who the key players are. Obviously, you can pick out the senior management team. There will be other people in the organisation who are looked to for answers and opinions, even by the boss. They may or may not be the most senior or experienced. You can pick them out because they will usually voice an opinion or provide input on most subjects. You will observe people going to them for counsel, advice and insight. Knowing who’s who in your organisation is important, as you need to learn from these people and understand what is being prized and rewarded.

7. Cast the right shadow

The best way to keep out of trouble politically is to be seen as someone who doesn’t play office politics. Do what you say you’re going to do, alert people to problems, and admit your mistakes. Others will respect you, even if they don’t always agree with you. More important, you have a lower chance of being a victim of politics.

8. Avoid Gossip

Gossiping is the fuel for workplace politics. Gossiping means that things are not dealt with directly and can be very damaging. Whatever has been said is usually distorted as it is passed around, whether intentionally or not. Be direct and deal with things professionally. Try not to gossip — and if someone tells you something, don’t pass it on. You can let your co-workers know (verbally or by your actions) that you don’t want to engage in gossip. This can be hard initially but once people see that you mean what you say, they will respect you for it. Take a step back and try and be objective — it will help you to keep a professional distance and avoid being pulled into politics yourself.

Resist the temptation to publicly blame and criticize those above you — they may not be
perfect but they’re probably doing what they believe is best. Work to see the whole picture of a situation but realise that you’re rarely privy to every piece of the puzzle.

9. Learn lessons fast

Be willing to own up to your mistakes and failures; people will respect (and, hopefully, forgive) you for your courage. Always look for the lessons learned so you don’t repeat them. If the company’s culture and politics are making you miserable, move on. Decide it’s time to go before you are asked to leave or before you have lost your self-esteem. When you leave, don’t burn your bridges. Use your lessons to find a role or company where you start with a clean slate and thrive.

10. Live and work by your values

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who’ll do anything to “win,” but character and credibility count. You don’t need to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks. According to research by the Political Skill at Work authors, the four competencies that demonstrate organisational political skill are: sincerity, networking, interpersonal influence and social astuteness.  These are all highly ethical and respectable behaviours, not the underhanded or unsavoury ones often associated with office politics.

11. Your inner voice is normally right

Learn to trust your instincts. They’re normally right.

12. Strengthen your Network

Few of us succeed without help. Cherish friends and supporters. Cultivate mentors and confidantes who will offer good counsel and share important information. Seek advice from people you can learn from, people who can influence your career. Ask for candid feedback regularly.

13. Anticipate

To get things done, you have to see the world through the eyes of others. Too many leaders spend too little time anticipating. They over-focus on what they’re trying to do and don’t think about the roadblocks others may put in their way. Before you say or do anything you have to understand the agendas of those around you. Anticipating the arguments they’ll make is the first of the skills you need.

14. Value your people

Imagine the success your business could achieve if you truly engaged and motivated your employees by developing a climate that provided them with absolute clarity about where the business was going and their contribution to the journey; a climate that inspired only standards of excellence where employees strived to offer nothing but their best and were free to innovate and create; a climate that recognised and rewarded individuals based not only upon their contribution to success but also tailored to satisfy their personal needs and values.

This type of climate cannot be achieved using a Terminator leadership style, which inadvertently kills employees enthusiasm and passion for the job that they do and the company they work for.

Business success today demands a different inspirational leadership style that understands the importance of finding out what makes employees tick.  A style that enables employees to understand why what they do is worthwhile and feel valued for doing it.  A style that develops employees who look forward to coming to work and who are willing to go to extreme lengths to deliver excellence in a job and company they are proud of.

15. Visibility with the Boss

Unless you have unique and irreplaceable knowledge or skills (or are related to the CEO), your boss has more power than you do.  Your manager also has greater access to key decision-makers.  So it’s better to have your boss as an advocate than an adversary.  Politically savvy people know how to “manage up”.

16. You have a choice!

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react.

Thanks for taking time out to read ‘Playing Politics without the Politics’ – Hopefully you’re now a little more POLITICALLY SAVVY.

Would love to hear how you’ve dealt with Office Politics!

Communicate or Fail ~ Part 1

Communicate or Fail!

Communicate or Fail may sound a little extreme. It’s not. Organisations and individuals can succeed or fail on the effectiveness of their communications. Communicate or Fail is a two-part post focussing on communications at an organisational level and on a personal level. Part 1 will focus on organisational communication.

Good organisational communication can help an organisation increase market share and competitiveness, improve customer service and satisfaction, and keep employees motivated and engaged. Poor or no communication, on the other hand, can be extremely destructive.

The communication landscape is more complex than ever before. We have a myriad of different channels at our disposal; audiences are more selective in how they use and react to these channels, and it is almost impossible to quantify the number of messages that compete for the attention of those audiences.

People learn and process information in many different ways. Research tells us that we retain 10% of what we read; 20% of what we hear; 30% of what we see; 50% of what we see and hear; 70% of what we discuss; 80% of what we experience; and 95% of what we share and communicate to others. On this basis, sending an email to engage an audience is probably not going to set the world on fire in its own right!

In considering organisational communication it is important to distinguish between formal and informal communication.  The most common form of formal communication within an organisation is communication downward (vertically) through the hierarchical structure of the organisation arising from top management level.

Many organisations attempt to facilitate upward communication within organisations through measures such as staff surveys and suggestion schemes.  Staff surveys are often used to help the organisation identify actions that will improve performance. But this in itself often presents its own potential problems and leads to misleading information being supplied to management.

By managing the proper integration across this mix of activities, a communicating organisation ensures that information not only flows up and down within the organisation but also flows across functional teams and between itself and external stakeholders, including its customers and suppliers.

So what forms of communication should you be thinking about for your internal communications?

Key Themes for Effective Internal Communication

1. A Shared Vision

“If you don’t care where you’re going, then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

If your people don’t understand where they’re going, why they’re going there and what happens for them on the journey and more importantly when they get there – guess what, you don’t have motivated, engaged and passionate employees. If they don’t care where they’re going, you’ve got a much bigger problem!

Communicating the vision of an organisation, a team or a new direction is an opportunity to invigorate the work force, explain the challenges ahead, and tell your story. It is an opportunity lost if it does not enroll the workforce in a call to action and stir people’s passions. So many times in my career, have I seen company vision statements that have been developed by senior managers or an agency and delivered via posters and mouse mats, and then management wonder why their people don’t immediately change their behaviours and get behind it?

Ideally you should work with your people to shape your vision. If your organisation is small enough, use everyone and get their input. If you work in a larger business use a good cross-section of people from all levels and departments. Where possible use your ‘rising stars’ that are passionate about, not only the organisation, but also driving change and influencing others.

I can thoroughly recommend Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner if you want to learn more around creating a shared vision for your business.

2. Senior Leadership Involvement

Visible buy‐in and engagement at the top is essential. Ensure that the head of your organisation is fully briefed on internal communications, has an opportunity to shape the strategy and is fully involved in key internal communications.  This is important not only as the CEO is a key communications channel, but also because his or her behaviour will help set expectations for transparency and authenticity. Consider opportunities to demonstrate a real commitment to information sharing, in order to illustrate that information hoarding is not acceptable within your organisation’s performance or culture.

It’s also important that the wider senior leadership team are bought into whatever you are communicating. At best they won’t be reinforcing the messages you are trying to get across. At worst, they could be sabotaging your efforts.

3. Understand Your Audience

Understanding your audience is crucial to building a successful communications plan; the bigger the message and impact on the organisation, the more important the analysis.

Before you communicate with your people, there is some basic information you need to discover about them. Ask them how they feel about the current level of internal communication. Discern whether they feel informed about changes, if they feel comfortable sharing their opinions, and how they would like to see communication improve.

Ask the hard questions. See if they would be willing to share specific examples of when they felt out of the loop or ignored. Try not to be defensive when they share; listen with an open mind.

Identify how employees like to receive information: email, newsletter, face-to-face, or other options. Ask if the method depends on what information is shared. For example, a weekly announcement can be communicated via email, but a major staff change needs to be shared in person.

4. Employee Engagement

There is nothing worse than being preached to or what I call communicating ‘at’. Your people will not get behind this kind of communication. Make sure that communication is two-way and you build in mechanisms to capture feedback, tweak your messages to your audience and keep reinforcing your message. Marketers often get bored if they have to do a ‘campaign’ more than once or twice.  The rule of 7 is a traditional marketing practice that suggests people must see a marketing message 7 times before they take action.  When communicating messages, whether to internal or external customers, the concepts remain the same.  Think of on-going communication with your teams; communicate it often and through various delivery methods.

What’s In It for Me? Employees will internalise any message communicated. How will this affect me?  What does this mean to me?  Will it make my job harder?  These questions are natural. The more relevant our messaging, the more our employee will be comfortable with the message.

Paint a picture of what this may look like: use examples representative of your audience. This kind of communication engages and excites employees, promotes teamwork and aligns everyone toward achieving company goals.

5. Line Manager Reinforcement

It’s no secret that the relationship between a line manager/team leader and their team has the most direct impact on engagement. Focus on the behaviour change and require managers to report results on actions they’ve taken to impact engagement in their teams. This should be weighted as an indication of performance when someone manages others directly.

Regular team briefings with managers can improve relationships and help your people feel involved and informed about developments that affect them. Cascade team briefings can quickly disseminate key messages throughout the organisation. This method is also very effective at quashing grapevine rumours.

The team environment means that no one is overlooked and it reinforces group motivation. Team briefings should not replace regular team meetings with the staff’s line manager – which is the most popular form of communication – but the brief can be given at the start of the team meeting.

A system for feeding back and responding to questions from staff should also be built in to the process. You need to monitor the system regularly to ensure that it is operating effectively across the organisation.

6. Multi-channel Communication Tools

  • Face to Face Communication – Wherever possible and practical, employee communication should take place face‐to‐face. In‐person exchanges are the most effective and trusted forms of internal communication. What’s more, that direct conversation can also unravel otherwise effective communications activities such as newsletters and intranet content if the spokesperson fails to establish trust or authenticity. Design communication strategies and tactics around meaningful opportunities for face‐to‐face exchange. If distance is a challenge, explore the use of web conferences as a means of bridging that geographical gap rather than relying on the passive and cold medium of email.
  • ‘Live Meetings’ – with the advent of applications like Microsoft Lync you can reach large numbers of people quickly, effectively and across the globe with multimedia interactive broadcasts to get your message across. These meetings can be extremely interactive if planned well and more personal than email or a conference call.
  • Enterprise Social Media – It’s no secret that social media is transforming the way people communicate in the workplace. As more and more companies are realising the value of engaging their employees online, social media is quickly becoming a preferred way of increasing knowledge sharing, encouraging teamwork and collaboration and adding value to the employee experience. To this effect, many businesses and organisations are using social media tools, like forums, blogs and social networks, to enable their staff and stakeholders to converse, collaborate and connect – Chatter via Salesforce.com and Yammer being two fast-growing enterprise-wide examples.Using social media as part of your internal communications plan has a number of benefits. For one, companies are able to have real-time, authentic conversations with employees. Plus the very nature of social media means that anyone can participate in discussions, allowing communication to flow from the top down, bottom up, and even from side to side. If you are part of a national or global company it also means you can connect with people all over the world on a more involved level than just email and phone.
  • Blogging – Blogs are a better communication tool when you want to get information out to people, and want to enable feedback, but keep the original text intact. Internal blogging is frequently used to communicate  activities like product development, support issues, product releases, planning events and conferences, providing informal updates on miscellaneous issues. Blogs usually encourage readers to comment, provide feedback open dialogue and exchange ideas in an informal context.
  • Intranet – Unless heavily adopted and promoted in your organisation, intranets are not the best place to ‘engage’ employees. They’re great to store information, get someone’s mobile number, read policies, log a fault on your PC and catch up on things when you have time. They’re not great by themselves to enrol your people in your message!
  • Email – Email is a good system for keeping track of conversations and saves on time and energy. You can email large groups of people and ensure that they were aware of the discussion because there is a common expectation of reading emails regularly. However emails are impersonal if used to large groups, prone to all types of mistakes and often ignored if used regularly.

7. Continuously Measure Effectiveness

Measurement is always an important part of any form of communication strategy, but it is especially relevant in the case of employee communication. Setting up clear indicators of performance will be vital in calibrating the strategy and tactics with appropriate precision. Internal communication may be deployed to track against outcomes such as morale, retention, recruitment, productivity, job satisfaction and/or employee safety. Being clear about “what success looks like,” and establishing internal alignment around that end state is instrumental to having high impact employee communication programs that deliver results.

Would love to get your feedback on this post. I know I’m only scratching the surface of this topic. Part two of Communicate or Fail coming soon!

Destiny or Design ~ Choose to Succeed

Choose to SucceedLife is not something that just happens to you, something you are powerless to do anything about. You have choices. You can make the choice to succeed. It is never too late to improve your life and implement the changes that are going to lead you to your ambitions.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but below I’ve highlighted a few areas to focus on that will help you be more successful in whatever you choose to do.

1.        Have a Plan

‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ as the saying goes.

Where do you want to be in 5 years? What steps do you need to take in order to get there?

a)      Work out a goal

b)      Plan how to achieve it

c)       Break it into small tasks

d)      Introduce a time frame and make a timeline that works for you

e)      Work out what the key barriers are

f)       Stick to the timeline as much as possible

g)      Measure your progress

2.       Learn Lessons….Fast

It’s never easy to admit you’ve made a mistake, but it’s a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving yourself. Admission of a mistake, even if only to yourself, makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame and towards understanding. Wise people admit their mistakes easily. They know that they can only make personal progress when they do.

Success in learning from mistakes often requires involvement from other people, either for advice, training or simply to keep you honest and give you feedback. A supportive friend’s or mentor’s perspective on your behaviour will be more objective than your own and help you identify when you’re in denial!

Consider your actions from other people’s perspectives. Think about what you did and whether you made a good decision given the information you had at the time. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, analyse your approach, and be honest with yourself about whether you had the capabilities to avoid mistakes. This ruthlessness will allow you to see more clearly and understand what you should have done instead.

No amount of analysis can replace confidence in yourself. When you’ve made a mistake, especially a visible one that impacts other people, it’s natural to question your ability to perform next time. But you must get past your doubts. The best you can do is study the past, practice for the situations you expect, and get back in the game. Your studying of the past should help broaden your perspective.

3.       Never Give Up

Winston Churchill gave a speech in 1941 to a group of school children, that still holds true over 70 years later:

“The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem. Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense”

There is no way around it: sometimes life gets hard. Obstacles can seem insurmountable. But success is often the result of pushing through these problems. People who find success rarely have an easy path but their willingness to persevere helped them to eventually meet their goals.

There are few things that will drive you toward success as quickly as a strong work ethic. People notice when others work hard. While working hard isn’t a guarantee that you’ll become a Chief Executive or a top sports person, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Few successful people got to where they are by sitting back and doing nothing, as it’s often a hard road to the top.

4.       Learn to Communicate

Good communication is not an easy process and it can take a lot of practice. However, if you are able to develop self-awareness and work towards clearly expressing your feelings and develop your listening skills you will be on your way to becoming an effective communicator which will undoubtedly have a positive and long-lasting impact on all your personal and professional relationships.

Look out for the upcoming post dedicated to Communication – Communicate or Fail

5.       Set Challenging Personal Goals

Goals need to stir your emotions in order to motivate you to do whatever it takes to accomplish them thus the importance of setting challenging goals. By increasing the level of challenge you set yourself, you can also increase your motivation to accomplish the given aim, particularly when you know that the achievement of this goal will result in a positive outcome for you and your financial security. Every time you set a new goal try to make it a challenge that is not that easy to accomplish, but still reachable and realistic.

6.       Believe in Yourself

If you believe it, you have a better than average chance of achieving it. Few successful people got where they are by having a low opinion of their abilities. Before anyone else can believe in you, you have to believe in yourself and your ability to achieve what it is you want to achieve. Those who are confident are often more successful as leaders, regardless of the field, and chances are you can’t name too many leaders in business, politics, or any other field who don’t have this quality.

7.       Choose your Role Models

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to have known a number of very bright people, from different industries, backgrounds, cultures and time zones. I’ve not really formalised too many of these relationships as ‘mentors’ or consciously as ‘role models’, but I have worked hard with these relationships to learn more and more about business, people and success.

The people you choose to adopt as your role models or mentors throughout your life can be virtually anyone whom you respect and from whom you believe you can learn something towards your goals. It could be a co-worker, your manager, a friend, a customer….anyone who you believe you can learn from. As you select a person, you’re looking to obtain new knowledge or emulate some aspect of that person’s success – you’re not trying to actually become that person. Throughout your personal and professional life, you will evolve and your mentoring needs will change.

8.       Be Positive

Many people believe that success will make them happy.  They work long hours, sacrificing time with family and friends, because they are convinced that they will find happiness when they finally achieve success.  But according to research in positive psychology it is the other way around.  Being positive makes it more likely that you will be successful.

Positive attitude is not only about choosing to have a good outlook through good times and bad, but also about learning to love what you do. I have observed that outstanding business people are successful because they deeply love their work. The achievers of this world know that if you can learn to love your job, you’ll be more productive, more creative, and more content. Think of most successful people you know, and you may agree that most are passionate about what they do, are rarely affected by negativity, and tend to enjoy their work. I know for certain that the better your attitude the better your work and your life will be for you.

9.       Recharge the Batteries

While there are many people who are financially successful, there are many that don’t really have much balance in their lives. Balance really is an essential component to a happy life. After all, what does money mean if you’re lonely or miserable? Giving the mind time to relax, step away from work and responsibilities, and just enjoy life can actually lead to greater success as a rested mind is better able to think quickly and be creative.

Easier said than done. Believe me, I know. But in a 24-7 world, a work-life balance is no longer a nicety but a necessity, for organisations and individuals. The reality is that humans don’t have Intel inside and unlimited energy, only caffeine. Without proactively managing your downtime the result will be stress, burnout, illness and increased anxiety —all of which reduces chances of success at home and at work.

Everyone has different ways that they replenish their energies, be that through exercise, art, religion, reading and so on. Make sure you find yours and make time for yourself.

10.   Build and Nurture Your Network

You never know when you’ll need to tap into your network of contacts on your path to success. You may find a previous post (Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…) useful.

Choose to Succeed11.   Take a leap of faith

If someone invited you to go sky-diving, would you go?  If you were offered a top job in an industry that was unfamiliar to you, would you accept the position?  Whether it’s a fear of heights, a fear of the dark, or a fear of public speaking, we have all experienced fear. Perhaps the biggest fear for many of us, is a fear of failure.

But if we never try, how will we know the outcome?  So many people worry about what will happen if they fail, that they lose sight of what could happen if they succeed. Fear can keep us from moving forward. Consider the missed opportunities in your life. Think about the relationships you didn’t pursue, or end. Think about the career opportunities you allowed to pass you by because you were more comfortable with the status quo. Think about the dreams and goals you once had, but are now stuffed down into a seemingly unreachable place in your memory. Imagine if you had taken a leap of faith.

A leap of faith is just that – a leap from what you know and trust and to the unknown. Frequently, personal growth lives on the other side of the leap – try it!

12.   Be Open to New Experiences

An old proverb says, “If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve already got.”

You may conclude that the converse of this is therefore: If you want something that you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something that you’ve never done.

To achieve continued success, you must open yourself up to new learning experiences that may make you feel uncertain at best and incompetent at worst. Remember that those feelings are temporary and a prelude to greater future.

13.   Be Accountable

If you do what you say when you say you’re going to do it, people will trust you because your word will mean something. This can be a big deal when it comes to getting promotions, managing others, or even negotiating business deals. Honesty, integrity, and fairness are all aspects of personal accountability worth working on and will help others view you as more responsible and dependable.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Would love to hear any comments or feedback.

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