Coal to Diamonds – Raising Team Performance

Rebuilding an underperforming team or department is a huge challenge. The issues you will face from the team could include low morale, rapid staff turnover and high absenteeism levels. The managers involved could alsoCoal to Diamonds have poor leadership skills, which is likely to hinder not help the situation. If employees are uncertain about their own future this can have a further negative affect and will make matters worse. A manager in this situation could feel so overwhelmed by all the problems that they will stick their head in the sand and hope it will go away.

A team needs to analyse its structure – how it works, what its strengths and weaknesses are and the role each individual plays within it. You need to get quickly to the root cause of problems and plan remedial measures to implement quickly. Self awareness plays a huge part. People often don’t know how other members of their team see them. One manager might see himself as an assertive leader but in reality he is an autocratic dictator. He in turn might have a low opinion of the quietly spoken people. Everyone needs to appreciate that both types of people are essential to the success of the team. It relies on three factors:

• Self and team awareness – identifying individual’s strengths and limitations

• Recognise different contributions – teams bring together complementary skills and experience

• Plug the gaps – modifying behaviour brings enhancements to the team.

One factor that differentiates “dream teams” from “teams from hell” is a strong platform of understanding. Self awareness and an awareness of other people’s style are crucial if a team is going to reach more ambitious performance goals. There needs to be an acceptance that WE have a joint problem and WE need a joint strategy to tackle it. Differences are not good or bad, better or worse. A High Performance Team will be aware of the work styles of the different profiles and that each contributes to the team in its own way. Each member must recognise their own limitations and recognise that there are people on the team who can do things better than themselves. People need to cover the bases they are good at and concede to others where they are better. Teams fail because of mismatched needs, unresolved conflict, personality clashes and lack of trust. All these can be addressed through understanding and recognising how each person in the team behaves and responds in different situations.

Improving the self-awareness of your managers and key people will create a strong platform of understanding from which more ambitious performance goals can be achieved. Highlighted below are 6 ways that you can begin to raise team performance:

1. Resist firefighting

When you start a turnaround process, there will be no shortage of people telling you what the problems are and how to fix them. But you need to form your own views, so immerse yourself in the culture of the department, watch it in action, spend time with managers, talk to people and sit in on team meetings. The problems of any failing department will involve people, processes and technology. While success depends on addressing all three, people are the most important and you need to ensure that all members of the turnaround team recognise this. Highly motivated and skilled people will make poor processes and IT work, but the best technology and processes available will still fail if people lack the appropriate skills or motivation.

2. Get the buy-in of all involved

You need to be open and honest with people to get their buy-in. Remember that no one understands a service like the people who actually deliver it. It’s not change agents, managers or consultants who turn things around, but the staff themselves. If you can engage most of them, you’ll have a powerful force for change. Try to win employees’ confidence by listening to their concerns, rather than coming in with a one-size-fits-all change methodology. Ensure any action plan you introduce takes account of concerns, as well as performance and service issues. Discuss the action plan with people in the department and monitor progress, ideally through staff opinion surveys. At this stage it is also a good idea to identify internal champions – people with a can-do attitude who will support you in driving through change.

3. Turn managers into leaders

You need to get the department’s management team on side. Retaining and developing existing managers sends out a positive message, whereas replacing them is risky, expensive and time-consuming. But resistant managers can subvert the change process and there are times when you must be prepared to make difficult decisions. Managers of failing departments need to accept some responsibility for the past and overcome their resentment at others being brought in to fix the problems. While it is important to learn from the past, you need to get them focused on the future and help them to develop new skills and regain confidence. Identify development needs and use external help where you need specific expertise. Managers can feel swamped by multiple reporting lines and targets and may need help in prioritising what’s important. You should also encourage new habits. Get them to leave their desks and offices to engage with the wider team. With a little support, the changes can be dramatic.

4. Empower managers

Failure fosters a blame culture where managers become fearful of making decisions. This does not make problems disappear. On the other hand, bad decisions, though best avoided, can be great learning experiences. Boost managers’ confidence by giving them a chance to test decisions before taking them. Some will only need a little support and encouragement; others may need help to recognise all the implications of a proposed course of action. Encourage courage: managers must learn to make difficult decisions and see them through. Once they have done so and recognise that they have done the right thing, their self-esteem will grow and they will start acting less like the managers of a failing department and more like their successful colleagues.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

You can’t communicate too much. Use different methods and tools to put out clear and consistent messages that relate back to the overall action plan. If you are part of a team, all members will have some responsibility for communication, but it is critical for you to retain a high-profile with your team. Face-to-face communication is best. You need to demonstrate that you are making an effort to meet people at times that are appropriate to them – for instance, by fitting in with shift workers rather than expecting them to stay after hours. Complement meetings with newsletters, team briefings, emails and via collaborative tools such as SharePoint or Yammer.

6. Celebrate success

A reputation for poor performance can become self-fulfilling. Other departments may have concealed their own failures by blaming yours. Talented people will not want to be associated with a department that is seen to be failing because of the risk to their careers. People can’t take too much failure. It is therefore important to break the cycle of bad news and give them something to celebrate. Publicise good news: the first praise in months from a happy client; another department saying “thank you”; a delivery ahead of schedule; or a real change in performance. You can create your own good news by introducing a person or team of the month award. Over time, as the situation improves, you’ll have much more to celebrate – and a department to be proud of.

I hope you have found this post useful and as always would love to hear any feedback or your experiences.

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Avoid the Mushroom Culture – The Seven Deadly Sins

Mushroom CultureI’m sure many of you have heard people say – ‘They treat us like mushrooms. They keep us in the dark and feed us manure or nothing at all!’

Nothing stifles an organisation’s possibilities more than poor communication. Actually that’s not strictly true. Three things do – telling lies, partial truths or nothing at all.

In this post, I’d like to highlight some of the common pitfalls around communication or lack of it.

Common Communication Pitfalls – The Seven Deadly Sins

1. Not Communicating The ‘Why?’

As Simon Sinek says in his fantastic leadership book , ‘Start with why‘, he says ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. In your organisation, do your people know the ‘why?’ Do they know why they didn’t get a pay rise this year? Do they know why headcount needs to be reduced? Do they know why you’ve just restructured the organisation? Do they know why their job is important to the organisation? Do they know why your organisation exists at all? Do they know why customers buy from your organisation?

As Simon also says in his book, and I paraphrase – ‘Every single one of us knows what we do. Most of us know how to do our jobs, but how many of us know the ‘Why?”

When communicating any message, good or not so good, it’s hugely important to impart the ‘why?’. In my experience, people who are motivated, passionate, and really good at what they do, tend to understand the ‘Why?’. In fact I’d go further and say that I believe the ‘Why’ drives the passion and motivation. It might be a personal ‘Why’, but it will be there.

In today’s economic climate, most people understand that difficult decisions need to be made, but you need to tell them AND the authentic reason for them to buy-in to the message.

2. Communicating Too Slowly or Not At All

People assume the worst when they hear nothing. Good and passionate employees want to know what’s going on in their organisation, and beyond their department boundaries. They want some visibility into the organisation’s plans and where they fit within them. Senior managers who can’t  or won’t discuss their organisation’s goals, strategies, vision and performance are all but guaranteed to spend a great deal of time recruiting. Marketable top performers want to be engaged and involved and won’t stand for being left in the dark without the information they need to do their jobs well.

Just as damaging can be when senior managers hold out for so long on making an announcement that employees start walking the corridors for information. Very often, they are forced to draw their own conclusions (and often the wrong ones!) about the reasons for what’s going to happen or has happened. Perceptions about the company withholding information are often more damaging than providing the “negative” news in the first place.

3. Not Being Honest

The very worst you can do in communicating a message is to lie and only marginally better, to not tell the whole truth. You WILL be found out, and your personal credibility and /or that of your organisation will be damaged, possibly irreparably.

I will make a bold statement. Your people can handle it. You don’t need to couch your message in fluff or half-truths. If your organisation is publicly owned or the message or timing is sensitive, be as honest as you can be without breaking confidence or legislation AND when you are able to say something more, make sure that you do at the first opportunity.

4. One Size Fits All Communication

People process information differently. For some of us, we like to be walked through in a great level of detail in order to fully understand a change or a message. For others a quick email will suffice. For others they may need to hear the message a number of times before the impact of a change on them is understood. Organisations that send out a  single global email imparting important news are failing to get their message across and failing their people. A mix of communication channels need to be thought about carefully when delivering important news or change. Face to face communication is always best, but with the geographic spread of many organisations and service organisations with call centres and shift patterns, this may not always be practical.

I find that a mix of communication channels is the most effective. Further detail on communication channels can be found in a previous post Communicate or Fail Part 1 and Part 2.

5. Assuming Your People Wouldn’t Understand

Organisations don’t employ stupid people. If they do, that’s a whole different blog topic and a short-lived organisation! People have mortgages, children, debt, cars, bills to pay, personal challenges to deal with, bereavement, stress, relationship challenges…I could go on. They can deal with difficult messages. They may need support, but they can handle it! They are also very aware of when a message is being dumbed down or the full story is not being told. If you have a complex message to deliver, make sure that you consider how the message is going to land, what reinforcement might be needed, whether you need to engage with external agencies to help you and what you want and need the outcome to be.

6. Not Checking That The Communication Has Been Understood

I am astounded at the number of businesses that do not measure whether messages or change initiatives are understood, never mind effective. In some cases huge sums of money are spent on internal ‘campaigns’ that are completely ineffective at best or actually have a negative impact on the people that they are trying to motivate. It’s hugely important that all communications campaigns – either external or internal are measured. Even anecdotal feedback from across key influencers within your organisation will give you an indicator of how a message has landed and whether further work is required.

7. No Reinforcement Of Communication By Managers and Supervisors

The ‘Marzipan’ layer as I call it, is rife in many businesses and public sector organisations. Information often stops at the senior management layer and gets no further, at least not consistently if it does. It’s not news that managers are key to effectively delivering messages and engaging employees. When leaders and managers convey confidence to employees, they build trust, which can help stoke employee engagement. In many ways, managers and more importantly team leaders and supervisors are the face of the organisation for employees, vital for translating mission, values and strategy into behaviour and action.

The best companies recognise this connection and go beyond simply providing managers with information to pass along to employees. They prepare managers to move away from cascading corporate messages and toward sharing the meaning of these messages with their team – back to the ‘Why?’. This requires engaging with managers, listening to their reactions, supporting their personal change journeys and crafting content that can be delivered in a manager’s own voice.

By avoiding these 7 deadly sins you’ll have a much better chance of engaging your employees in change.

As always would love to get your feedback and thoughts. Until next time…

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 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.

Communicate or Fail ~ Part 2

Personal CommunicationCommunicate or Fail is a two-part post focussing on communications at an organisational level and on a personal level. Part 2 will focus on personal communication. Click here if you missed part 1.

Effective communication remains at the heart of business. It is a crucial skill that must be mastered in order to be successful, even in today’s twitter-based world. While literacy levels continue to fall and good expression seems irrelevant to many, the ability to convey your message effectively will help you and your organisation stand out from the crowd.

From short emails, to mission statements, to large business proposals, effective communication is a skill you cannot afford to be without. If you can make your point or present a case clearly, you have a better chance of influencing people, gaining their support and motivating them. If you can give people clear instructions and information, they are better equipped for the tasks asked of them.  It could be the thing that helps you win that big client or a promotion!

Each person has a unique communication style. By getting to know your style, you can achieve greater self-awareness and learn how to develop more effective interpersonal relations with colleagues, customers and even at home.  Accurate self-knowledge is truly the starting point for effectiveness at work. Understanding other people’s communication styles improves working relationships by increasing our acceptance of other people and their way of doing things.

I personally find the DISC model and Myers Briggs the most useful tools to help you understand communication styles. Once you have established your natural communication style you can start to think about how you can adapt your style to drive the right outcomes with others. Adapting your communication style is not about changing who you are nor is it about changing your intended message. Adapting your communication style choice is only about conveying your intended message in the manner that the other person is going to be best able to receive and understand it.

The diagram below, based upon the DISC model, shows the four basic communicator styles: They tend to be called different names depending on the methodology used, but they’re all pretty similar.

Communication Styles

How to interact with each style:

Relators

Relators like to work with groups and build relationships. Security is important to them and they like consistency and focusing on areas of specialisation. You should:

  • Be sincere and personable
  • Take an interest in him or her as a person
  • Be patient in drawing them out
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Present new ideas in a non-threatening manner
  • Give plenty of time to adjust
  • Clearly define individual goals and roles
  • Offer and provide personal support
  • Focus on the benefit of his or her contribution to the group

Socialisers

Socialisers like recognition and pride themselves on being popular. They like freedom of speech and freedom from control and detail. They work best in an open environment. You should:

  • Create a positive, friendly environment
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to speak about ideas, people, and their intuition
  • Engage them with stimulating and fun activities
  • Reinforce conversations with written documentation
  • Foster a democratic relationship
  • Incorporate incentives for taking risks
  • Encourage him or her in thinking outside of the box

Thinkers

Thinkers know there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Correctness and exactness are highly valued. You should:

  • Take time to prepare your case in advance
  • Make an appointment
  • Provide both the pros and cons of your plan
  • Support your ideas with volumes of data
  • Assure that you’ve eliminated all surprises
  • Provide a detailed plan with a precise explanation of how it fits in the big picture
  • Stay focused on the issue when disagreeing
  • Be prepared to provide many explanations with patience and persistence

Directors

Directors must be in charge. They pride themselves on achievement and focus on results. The bigger the challenge, the better they feel. You should:

  • Provide direct answers
  • Get to the point
  • Be brief
  • Stick to business
  • Show how your plan will get results, solve problems, and allow this individual to be in charge
  • Identify ways in which your idea will benefit the Director
  • Ask questions that focus on “what,” not “how”
  • Avoid direct disagreement

Communication Basics

There are 3 skills you need to hone to be an effective communicator, namely listening, speaking and writing. You won’t be astonished to read that, I hope! However, you would be surprised at how little effort people invest in them.

Listening

Listening is really where all good communication begins. Misunderstanding what another person is saying is one of the biggest obstacles to communication. Each of us sees the world in a unique way, and we usually assume that everyone sees it the same way we do.

Below are some barriers to effective listening. You’ll probably recognise that most of them apply to you at one time or another.

  • We can think faster than a speaker can talk, and jump to conclusions
  • We are distracted and allow our minds to wander
  • We lose patience, and decide we are not interested
  • We overreact to what’s said and react emotionally
  • We interrupt

So how do you become a generous listener?

1. Don’t talk. Listen. People want a chance to get their own ideas and opinions across. A good listener lets them do it. If you interrupt the speaker or put limitations on your listening time, the speaker will get the impression that you’re not interested in what he is saying — even if you are. So be courteous and give the speaker your full attention.

2. Don’t jump to conclusions. Many people tune out a speaker when they think they have the gist of their conversation or know what they’re going to say next. Assumptions can be dangerous. Maybe the speaker is not following the same train of thought that you are, or is not planning to make the point you think they are. If you don’t listen, you may miss the real point the speaker is trying to get across.

3. Listen for the ‘unsaid’. Concentrate on what is not being said as well as what is being said. Remember, a lot of clues to meaning come from the speaker’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. People don’t always say what they mean, but their body language is usually an accurate indication of their attitude and emotional state.

4. Ask questions.  If you are not sure of what the speaker is saying, ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Do you mean . . . ?”or “Did I understand you to say . . . ?” It’s also a good idea to repeat what the speaker has said in your own words to confirm that you have understood him correctly.

5. Don’t get distracted. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the environment or by the speaker’s appearance, accent, mannerisms, or word use. Paying too much attention to these districations can break your concentration and make you miss the point of the conversation.

6. Be open-minded. Don’t just listen for statements that back up your own opinions and support your beliefs, or for certain parts that interest you. The point of listening, after all, is to gain new information. Be willing to listen to someone else’s point of view and ideas. A subject that may seem boring or trivial at first can turn out to be fascinating, if you listen with an open mind.

7. Provide feedback. Make eye contact with the speaker. Show him you understand his talk by nodding your head, maintaining an upright posture, and, if appropriate, interjecting an occasional comment such as ”I see” or “that’s interesting” or “really.” The speaker will appreciate your interest and feel that you are really listening.

Hearing is natural. Generous listening is a skill that we learn.

Speaking

We’re not all born with a natural talent for public speaking or getting our message across effectively. Many people lack confidence in their ability to express themselves verbally – not necessarily all the time, but perhaps in certain situations or circumstances. However, talking to one another does tend to make things happen! It is not always what is said, but how it is said that can make the difference between good and poor speaking skills.

A good speaker:

  • Relates to the listener
  • Is respectful of others
  • Encourages trust
  • Shows empathy
  • Is purposeful and clear
  • Uses appropriate vocabulary
  • Speaks with fluency
  • Is confident and credible
  • Is approachable and responsive
  • Uses body language well
  • Involves listeners
  • Enables participation
  • Knows what to leave out
  • Generates interest
  • Uses silence well
  • Varies pitch/pace/tone according to the situation
  • Is passionate about their topic

By far the best way to improve your verbal communication skills is to practice, particularly in areas where you are least confident. Put yourself in situations that require you to communicate effectively, be that one to one, or to a group. Speak at work. Speak at your child’s school. Speak at a town hall meeting. Speak in your car. Speak in front of the mirror.

You won’t ever achieve perfection. But you will improve. Little by little, your practice will result in improvement. Feedback is crucial to improving your speaking skills, so take the good and the not so good on board and work on those areas for improvement

Writing

The first step to writing clearly is choosing the appropriate format. Do you need to send an informal email? Write a detailed report? Create an advert? Or write a formal letter?

The format, as well as your audience, will define your “writing voice” – that is, how formal or relaxed the tone should be. For instance, if you write an email to a prospective client it should have a different tone to that of an email to a friend.

Start by identifying who will read your message. Is it targeted at senior managers, your team, or to customers? With everything you write, your readers, or recipients, should define your tone as well as aspects of the content.

Composition and Style

Once you know what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing, you actually have to start writing.

Start with your audience – Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?

Create an outline – This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.

• What’s in it for the audience? – For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.

Identify your main theme – If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.

Use simple language – Unless you’re writing a technical guide,  it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Structure

Your document should be as “reader friendly” as possible. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbering whenever possible to break up the text.

After all, what’s easier to read – a page full of long paragraphs, or a page that’s broken up into short paragraphs, with section headings and bullet points? A document that’s easy to scan will get read more often than a document with long, dense paragraphs of text.

Headers should grab the reader’s attention. Using questions is often a good idea, especially in advertising copy or reports, because questions help keep the reader engaged and curious.

In emails and proposals, use short, factual headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article.

Adding pictures is also a smart way to break up your text. These visual aids not only keep the reader’s eye engaged, but they can communicate important information much more quickly than text.

Good luck with improving your Personal Communication!

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.

THE Key Performance Indicator – Keep People Inspired

Keep People InspiredBusiness is all about measurement. Peter Drucker was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” and his quote – “What gets measured gets managed” is never more true than in today’s tough economic climate. The use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are at the heart of most high performing businesses. However, there is often one important KPI missing,  and that is Keeping People Inspired.

That might sound trite, but without measuring the motivation of your teams in your business on a regular basis, understanding and addressing the root cause of any areas of low morale, you could be setting yourself and your teams up to fail.

An easy and cheap way to measure the motivation of your employees is through observation of how enthusiastic they are about arriving at work, interacting with colleagues and engaging in tasks they are given. In addition, the level of motivation among the work force can also be measured by the improvements in performance appraisals, and the quality of work performed. For those people new to the work force, the motivated employees will likely be the ones who demonstrate initiative by asking for additional work or more challenging assignments. For seasoned employees, their motivation is obvious in the ways they offer assistance to new employees, and seek ways to improve company processes and procedures for better efficiency and effectiveness.

A more formal and effective way to measure how your team is feeling is to survey them in some way on a regular basis. This could take the form of an online or paper survey. There are numerous examples online to help you shape your survey and ask your managers and team members to input into questions. Alternatively you can use survey agencies to help you create, compile, collate and analyse the results. Surveys should be anonymous and the questions unambiguous to get the best results. It’s important that you understand the results fully and take note of even the smallest shift backwards in team motivation. Play back the results to your team and ask them for feedback on how areas can be improved. The most important element here is to ACT on agreed changes and ACT quickly. Not acting to improve areas for improvement will decrease morale and motivation further in your team.

Assuming you’ve got measurements in place and are acting upon the results, how do you personally Keep People Inspired (assuming they were inspired at all in the first place!)?

  1. Lead by example – Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. Be the change you want to see in your business or organisation.  If you really want to inspire others to do something, then this should be a big part of your life.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to be passionately involved.
  2. Be authentic – Find the courage to keep being yourself. It won’t always be easy.
  3. Be passionate – Passion is something you must be willing to express if you want to inspire others.  You can gain a lot of influence just by publicly expressing that you are excited and passionate about a topic.  Expressive passion is contagious because of the curiosity it stirs in others.  You’ll get people wondering why you love what you love so much.  Naturally, some of them will take the time necessary to understand what it is about the topic that moves you.
  4. Be great at what you do – People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.  Be someone worth emulating.  Most people are inspired by GREAT musicians, writers, painters, speakers, entrepreneurs, engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc.  There’s only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do.
  5. Genuinely care about people – Most people can see through a colleague, manager or leader that doesn’t genuinely care about them as individuals. Spend time talking to your team and be genuinely interested in who they are as people.
  6. Challenge people to be the best they can be – If people know we expect great things from them, they will often go to great lengths to live up to our expectations. You are letting your people down if you do not try to develop them and help them to meet their potential.
  7. Speak up for your people – We are very connected to each other in various ways, the most important of which is our thoughts.  Out of fear, or shyness, lots of people hesitate to articulate their thoughts.  If you take the risk and say the things others are holding back, you become the glue that brings people together.
  8. Make people feel good about themselves – People will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  Start noticing what you like about others and tell them.  Go out of your way to personally acknowledge and complement the people who have gone out of their way to excel.
  9. Share your Lessons Learned – When you can, be a resource to those around you. Mine the experiences of your life and share the lessons you have learned in your career.  Be vulnerable.  Be willing to share your failures as well as your successes.
  10. Keep your promises – If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!
  11. Listen intently to what others say (and also to what they don’t say) – Make people feel important, and inspire them by showing them that they are.
  12. Communicate, communicate, and communicate clearly – Keeping things to yourself does not inspire.  Share your vision and ideas often with those around you.

I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve been inspired and what motivates you?

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 5

Reinforce - Brand New Brand YouIn the fifth part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fourth step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Reinforce.

Now that you have started to establish the Brand New Brand You, it is important that you continually reinforce your personal brand. In this post I’ll focus on some key pointers that will keep Brand You fresh and at the front of people’s minds.

1. Deliver + 1%

This may seem obvious, but the best way to reinforce Brand You is to DELIVER. Whatever your role, if you consistently deliver to time, cost and quality expectations you’re reinforcing your personal brand. Delivering the extra 1% is how you will really differentiate Brand You. What do I mean by 1%? In short, exceed expectations. Going ‘the extra mile’ will get you noticed – by your managers, by your peers and by your customers.  That doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to put in long hours every day, although sometimes that might be the case. In my career, I have found that ‘Rising Stars’ have gone the extra mile by:

Demonstrating a ‘Can Do’ attitude – People that embrace change initiatives, find ways around problems, take ownership of tasks through to conclusion and are passionate about their job make a difference and are invaluable to high performing teams.

Being a self-starter – People that spot an opportunity to fix a problem, come up with the solution and implement it effectively drive continuous improvement helping their team be more effective and / or efficient.

Continuously looking at ways to improve themselves – People that consistently ask questions with a view to improving themselves, ask to be involved in key initiatives and drive their own personal development planning are often ‘stars’ of the future.

Always thinking of their customer’s needs – People that can think beyond the specific task and ask themselves about why they are doing it in a certain way and putting themselves in their customer’s shoes. By doing this they may change or enhance the delivery or even change a process for the better.

Helping others – People that continually support their colleagues in delivery not only help their teams achieve but build a strong reputation with their peers and help build strong professional relationships.

Putting themselves forward for new projects – People that work beyond their job descriptions and volunteer for those important projects that often come up and just need to be done.

2. Express yourself and your passions

Being confident in communicating with your peers, managers, customers or your network is a very important part of reinforcing Brand You. It’s not something that comes naturally for everyone, myself included, but is something you should practice at every opportunity. Try to put yourself into situations that require you to speak about your views and passions; whether that be key meetings internally or speaking at external meetings or events and with new people you bring into your network.

Remember to be consistent with your brand values and your vision statement. Plan in advance to ensure that you make the most of the opportunity and that you present yourself effectively.

3. Build influence with key stakeholders

Who are the key people who could influence your career for the better? Who could be an advocate for the Brand New Brand You?

Understanding the answers to these two questions will help you understand where you need to exert effort in reinforcing Brand You. As long as you have identified the right people, building strong relationships with these individuals will have a positive impact on your career. Below I’ve highlighted some areas that you may want to spend some time thinking about before you engage with stakeholders.

a) Be patient. Building strong relationships and influence takes time and could take months or longer.

b) Be respectful. It is highly likely that the stakeholders you have identified are more senior than you and are likely to be extremely busy people. Be respectful of their time and position when making any requests of them.

c) Be committed to the stakeholders’ success. By gaining an understanding of what is important to them professionally, you can then potentially support them in achievement of their objectives.

d) Be able to put yourself in their ‘Shoes’. Often, concerns will not be vocalised, particularly if there’s not yet a degree of trust in the relationship. Try and see the world from your stakeholders’ perspective and anticipate how a particular stakeholder may respond to what you have to say. By addressing concerns from their perspective before they raise them you will start to build trust and will help you progress your ideas or proposals.

e) DELIVER (No apologies for mentioning ‘Deliver’ twice in this post!). Whatever you agree to do for or with your stakeholders, make sure you deliver against your promises. Nothing will hurt brand you more than non-delivery.

4.  Join like-minded people

A key way of building your network and Brand You is to join professional organisations.  It is better to belong to fewer organisations and take an active role (board position or volunteer role)  than to belong to many with superficial connections to the membership.  Truly participating allows you to get to know people and build strong, enduring relationships.

If there isn’t a professional organisation that feels right to you, create one.  It can be a physical organization or a virtual one. Being the founder of the organisation gives you instant credibility with your entire membership and an opportunity to define and evolve it. And with the opportunity to build private social networking groups on the web, it’s as easy as it is valuable.

5.  Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to build professional relationships while contributing to the community. Take a volunteer position that allows you to use your strengths or develop new skills. Your network will grow along with your sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.

 6.  Continue to create and grow your online content

In Part 4 of this series, I talked about contributing to industry forums, writing blogs or contributing to other blogs to create an online presence for the Brand New Brand You. Keep it up! Building an online following takes time and effort, but if you create strong content, it will start to build your credibility with your network and drive growth of your network.  

7. Keep Networking

To be truly successful building Brand You, you need to be continuously making new connections while at the same time nurturing the relationships you have. Remember, if you take the attitude that it is about you, you will be less successful in retaining your network.  But if you treat your network as a group of people you serve and support, your experience will be much more positive and you will attract what you need to be successful.

That concludes the fourth step in START. Good luck with Reinforcing Brand New, Brand You  – let me know you get on!

In the last post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fifth and final step in the START process, Test.

If you missed the first  four posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Implementing Change Effectively

Change Management

There are many theories about how to manage and implement change effectively. Many originate with leadership and change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, Kotter introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change” with a follow-up work “Our Iceberg is Melting” in 2006.

Step One: Create Urgency

Building a sense of urgency is a necessary step to implementing change successfully. If you don’t find a way to make the change exciting, compelling and necessary, you may find the implementation phase a little more challenging than it should be. For change to happen, it’s crucial that the majority of the company really want it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change – people need to really understand and engage in the ‘Why’.  This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.
  • Make it real for everyone in your teams….How will the change affect them, or more importantly what might happen for them if the organisation doesn’t change.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition

Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.

You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

In putting together a Guiding Coalition, the team as a whole should reflect:

Position Power: Enough key players on board so that those left out cannot block progress. This is really important – No senior buy-in at best or Senior Management sabotage at worst means that success isn’t likely!

Expertise: All relevant points of view should be represented so that informed intelligent decisions can be made.

Credibility: The group should be seen and respected by those in the organisation so that the group’s outputs will be taken seriously by other employees.

Leadership: The group should have enough proven leaders to be able to drive the change process.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organisation – not necessarily managers – People that are rising stars, are highly networked internally and always deliver.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people – Are they behind YOU and CHANGE 100%?
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change

When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember.

A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

Effective change visions have six key characteristics:

Imaginable:  They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.

Desirable:  They appeal to the long-term interest of employees, customers, shareholders and others who have a stake in the organisation.

Possible:  They contain realistic and attainable goals.

Clear:  They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.

Flexible:  They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.

Understandable:  They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization – Ideally short, emotive and memorable.
  • Create a strategy and plan to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the organisation, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Openly and honestly address people’s’ concerns and anxieties.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

Step Five: Remove Obstacles

If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).
Milestones

Inchpebbles NOT Milestones

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your organisation a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your people can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyse the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.

Step Seven: Build on the Change

Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyse what went right and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Drive for continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognise key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

I would love to hear about your challenges and successes from implementing change in your organisation.

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