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The Secret To Controlling Your Emotions — Before They Control You

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We’ve all felt how draining fear-based emotions can be. Nothing saps our team’s life force more than panic, overreaction, and upset that is unfounded.

Emotions Have Energy

Thanks to David Hawkins, MD, PhD, we have proof that emotions have measurable energy and can either foster or negate actual cell life. Dr. Hawkins’s groundbreaking work, as explained in his book Power vs. Force, shows how a person’s log level, the measurable energy level in his or her magnetic field, increases as that person experiences more positive emotions. Hawkins’s most interesting finding was that cells actually died when the log level was below 200, where the emotions of scorn, hate, anxiety, shame, regret, despair, blame, and humiliation reside. This evidence provides us with further reason for us to regulate and manage our emotional state, not just for our overall well-being (and that of those around us) but also for our physical health.

Identify The Emotion

To consent to our emotions, we first need to know what they are. But only a select few of us can accurately identify our emotions as they occur. According to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0:

“Our research shows that only 36 percent of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.”

Wow.

 We see it in our training sessions and executive coaching sessions all the time. This is why the Emotion Wheel is so helpful.

You can use the Emotion Wheel from the inside out to identify your primary emotions first, and then move outward. Or you can move from the outside in, if your specific emotion seems clear and you want to identify the primary emotion beneath it. Or you can simply pop around as you explore and identify how you feel.

Generally, we’ve found that people experiencing intense emotion will first identify with the main emotions in the inner “pie” slices, while those experiencing less intensity will often identify emotions on the very outer rim. Either way, when we can name how we feel, we become more present to our current situation. And we must be present before we can shift it. There are, of course, many emotions not on the wheel. Use this tool as a way to “prime the pump,” so you can then identify the emotion you are currently experiencing.

Make A Choice

Here’s a quick exercise to help you experience the energy of both resistance and consent, using the Emotion Wheel. Let’s assume you’re learning something new, and you’re a little bit confused. You now have a choice:

Confusion → resistance and/or rejection → frustration → anger → dismissal → reject learning

or:

Confusion → consent → curiosity → inquiry → open-mindedness and/or new perspective → embrace learning

Which path do you default to?

Which path would you like to default to?

Make sure to keep the Emotion Wheel handy and share it with your team!

Why Is Resistance A Necessity For Growth?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

You may be familiar with the Chinese finger trap. It’s a toy that traps the victim’s fingers (often the index fingers) in both ends of a small cylinder woven from bamboo. The initial reaction of the victim is to pull their fingers outward, but this only tightens the trap.

Resisting our experience has the same effect. We resist things, situations and people we perceive as hurtful, painful, or threatening to our safety, belonging, or mattering. Without these three key emotional experiences, we can’t shift to our Smart State and we can’t navigate our constantly changing landscape to reach self-actualization. Also, we are wired to resist what we believe will create a worse feeling for us.

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Resistance Is The First Step Towards Change

The origin and etymology of resist (Late Middle English) is from the Latin resisterere- (expressing opposition) + sistere (to stand). Aha! So resistance really means to stand in opposition. What are you taking a stand against?

Let’s also take a look at the word reject, which is what we’re doing when we are resisting our Present State. The origin and etymology of reject (Late Middle English) is from the Latin verb rejacerere- (back) + jacere (to throw). Reject means to throw back or throw against. This stance isn’t just in opposition, it is opposing by attack. Yikes, this is even worse than resisting.

Resistance isn’t necessarily bad. It’s often simply the first step of navigating change. The goal is to move forward rather than get stuck resisting. Resistance shows that someone is engaged to a degree, which is much better than being disengaged. Don’t be surprised if resistance turns to mockery, as some people express their upset that way. As leaders, it’s essential to move your team through this stage by asking what they are resisting.

To help them identify what’s being resisted, ask them to contemplate what’s:

  • Annoying about the particular change or initiative
  • Dumb about the particular change or initiative
  • Unreasonable about the particular change or initiative

Then we address what we can, with the agreement that they’ll try the new initiative or plan. Ultimately they’ll find some aspect of it to be useful. Over time this process will become habitual and eventually a new standard is established. Voilà! Enjoy the afterglow, until the next change comes along.

Embrace Change And Gain Energy

The trouble with resistance is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy in the form of pushing back and rejecting. When we direct energy toward what we don’t want, it actually helps draw it toward us. For example, the more you try to pull your fingers out of the Chinese finger trap, the tighter it becomes.

You’ve likely heard the expression “what we resist persists.” Look at what you’ve resisted. Did they stick around in your life longer than you would’ve liked?

Resistance merely stabilizes your Present State. Whatever we focus on, we fuel. When we resist the emotion, we make it stronger.

Once we embrace resistance, we are ready to transform resistance.

Five Ways To Get Optimal Outcomes From Your Team

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

What makes a team optimal?

Alignment, communication, collaboration, energy management, leverage, trust, and what else?

Google did some comprehensive multi-year research on this topic. I’ll refer to it below and map it to my work during the past 30 years in the areas of safety, belonging and mattering.

I’ve found it all comes back to safety, belonging and mattering, no matter what structure you want to wrap around the idea of optimal teaming. Let’s look at what Google learned in its extensive research on the topic.

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Over the course of two years (ending in November 2015), Google conducted more tahn 200 interviews where it assessed more than 250 attributes of what makes an optimal team. The findings from the 180 teams studied were surprising.

While they had hoped to find a recipe for an optimal team (for instance, take one Ivy League MBA, one extrovert, one expert engineer), Google actually found that who was on the team mattered far less than how team members interacted, structured their work, experienced their contributions. The answer was in behavior and emotional resilience. The results echoed some of what Carnegie Mellon researchers found back in 2010 with their collective intelligence work.

They learned that five key dynamics resulted in optimal teams:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high-quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Google found that psychological safety was by far the most important dynamic. Without this people don’t feel comfortable speaking up, asking questions, checking in. There’s too much risk of being labeled as “out of it” or “clueless.” All humans want to belong to a  group, and we’ll take tremendous risks (such as not speaking out even if we feel it’s very important) if we feel we may become an outcast, lose status in our tribe or be ostracized somehow.

Googlers now use a tool they call gTeams. It’s a 10-minute check-in on the five dynamics. A modified check-in is below, one that our clients find works very well. During the past year more than 3,000 Googlers across 300 teams have used gTeams and focused on the fie factors above. They often will kick off team meetings with each team member sharing a risk they took in the past week. The net is that they’ve seen psychological safety ratings increase by 6% and structure/clarity increase by 10%. But the best part is the increased connection in the team due to increased communication.

Rate Your Team Per Google’s Five Dynamics

Consider the five factors from Google:

  • Psychological Safety
  • Dependability
  • Structure & Clarity
  • Meaning of Work
  • Impact of Work

On a scale of 1-5 where 5 is excellent, rate your experience of each factor in your team. Now total up your score. Here’s our rating format. If your total score is:

Up to 10: High Risk. There’s a lot of work to do. Use the table below to map to safety, belonging, mattering. Get a neuroscience-based coach, and get to work healing your culture.

11-18: Risky. Your team is not performing nearly as well as it could. Let’s get everyone more connected and collaborative. Time for team training and coaching.

19-25: Solid. Congrats! You’re on a high-performing team. Time to raise the bar!

Below is a shortcut to help you figure out where to focus, how to get better, and a way to talk about this concept with your teammates in a structured way.

Let’s now map frameworks:

Easy, yes?

All other models simply help you implement programs to deliver these three core human needs.

See how this model helps your team!

Derailed By Distractions? How To Get And Stay Focused Now

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Where is your focus right now?

How present are you?

Do you have a little voice in your head listing all the things that you need to do today, tomorrow, and next week?

We’ve all experienced that nagging internal voice that keeps us from focusing on what is right in front of us. As leaders, this distraction can derail your day and your leadership effectiveness with your team.

Why To Be Here Now

To be present we have to know what we want to create in an interaction or meeting, and focus on what is actually happening right now so that we can course-correct if necessary. If we are repeatedly avoiding something or if we feel like a pattern keeps repeating, chances are there is an “intended positive outcome” to not be present. For example, if we repeatedly avoid confronting a direct report, it is probably because it feels better and safer not to.

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It feels better not only in that moment but also retroactively in all the other times that you avoided something and survived it. This is normal! Our brain is wired to keep us safe, and once it learns a specific way to do so, a survival pattern, it generalizes and continues to keep us safe in just that way. Unfortunately, this keeps us in our Critter State and not in our Smart State. Changing that pattern and learning to be present with discomfort and even conflict means that we have to understand the parts of us that want to run away. These parts are doing their job, they are keeping us safe. Instead of fighting them or making them wrong, we can accept them, learn to understand what they are telling us, and even honor them.

Surviving is a good thing, needless to say. But it’s super limited to just that. Basic surviving and not thriving. We’ve all experienced leaders that are just barely surviving. And they rarely can sustain periods of growth, deep employee engagement, and personal fulfillment. 

You Can Get There From Here

The goal is to retrain ourselves to have a choice. We could avoid things, but to lead effectively we have to have the choice and the preference to address most situations in the present.

One of the best ways to get and stay present is to focus on how you are increasing safety (and encouraging people to take risks), belonging (“We’re all in this together, we’re the same” experience), and mattering (“It matters that you, specifically, are here; I see your unique gifts”) in each interaction you have. With this focus, the discomfort won’t take you out of the game. The constant parade of bright shiny distractions will have less ability to pull your attention away. You will also avoid boredom (which pulls us away from being present) because you’ll be focusing on the fascinating person you’re interacting with. Everyone, I promise, is fascinating in some way. As I’ve said before: Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust.

What is the “cost” or risk of not being present to these things? When do you need to become present to them? What will the “reward” be if you become present?

Three Keys To Effectively Managing Remote Workers [Infographic]

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

In a mere 3 years the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of U.S. employees.

Is your organization ready?

According to Gallup, remote working has been on the rise since 2012: from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. The desire to work remotely is here to stay and it isn’t limited to a few select industries. Gallup found that the finance, insurance and real estate industries experienced the greatest surge in time spent working remotely, followed by transportation, manufacturing or construction, and retail industries.

We love this infographic from HR Magazine which shows the latest statistics and trends:

Society for Human Resource Management

While remote work may not make sense for all organizations or for all roles within an organization, it is important to take a closer look. Whether you have a remote workforce or are thinking it may be a good idea to implement in your organization, there are ways to make sure your team stays engaged. Let’s dive into the three keys to optimizing your remote workers’ experience.

Explicit Communication:  We want to ensure that we are giving someone Safety, Belonging, Mattering via our words and written communications. When we communicate often (results, requests, info updates) we include people—and we foster a sense of us all belonging together. We want to engage everyone during meetings and if possible, have those meetings via video conferencing. Remember, only 7% of communication is the actual content, so seeing each other is essential. When relying on other methods of communication, such as text or email, you can use my coding system to optimize email communication to get optimal results. This will save time, clear up confusion, manage feedback and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Effective Delegation:  There is effective delegation, and there is “rubber band” delegation: when we delegate something and it snaps back to us incomplete. Here’s our 5-Step Effective Delegation Process that our clients find helps them to end rubber band delegation, and increase ownership and accountability. With remote workers effective delegation is even more essential as the “walking by your cubicle” conversations are non-existent. This fosters ownership and reduces the likelihood of the “order giver-order taker” dynamic, which crushes the spirit of ownership, innovation, and a feeling of empowerment.

Perceptual Positions: These make the difference! Perceptual is your perception in relation to immediate sensory experience. Position is the physical location of your body. This is an exercise that my clients and their teams have found to be extremely helpful when conflict arises in their organizations—or prior to a potentially challenging conversation taking place. This tool is ideal for remote workers because if we can gain clarity into what the other person is experiencing, even when we aren’t in the same office space as they are, we can communicate more effectively as well as understand their potential struggles. The result? Productivity rises and outcomes are achieved faster. You can try out Perceptual Positions here. The key is to get on another person’s “map”—to get a feeling for what it means to be them. Taking the time to meet a person where they are the greatest way to establish rapport, connection, trust.

Remote workers are on the rise. Are you ready?

Competitive Advantage: The Power of Embracing Neurodiversity

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

“Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind.”

Harvey Blume, Journalist & Autism Advocate

We all know diverse teams perform better. It’s been well documented since Carnegie-Mellon’s Collective Intelligence work was released years ago.

And now a recent article in Harvard Business Review has explained how the next level of diversity–neurodiversity–provides competitive advantage.

Neurodiversity includes conditions such as autism (including Asperger’s syndrome), dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD. The goal of the term’s creation was to shift the focus from the negative connotation of these conditions toward the positive. Neurodiversity is an idea which: asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation.

According to Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano’s article in HBR, “Most managers are familiar with the advantages organizations can gain from diversity in the backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender, culture, and other individual qualities of employees. Benefits from neurodiversity are similar but more direct. Because neurodiverse people are wired differently from ‘neurotypical’ people, they may bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value.” I agree.

Neurodiversity Talent Opportunities

A report by Drexel University found that 58% of young adults (early 20s) with autism are unemployed. This is a huge pool of Generation Zers! We’ve done a deep dive into what is compelling to Generation Z in the workplace. How can we adapt this to those that fall in the spectrum of neurodiversity?

First, let’s look at a few of the skill sets that can benefit your organization.

  • Autism Spectrum: gift for detail, enhanced perceptual functioning, high levels of concentration, reliability, technical ability
  • Dyslexia: often strong in spatial intelligence, many are 3-D thinkers, holistic thinkers, mechanical aptitude, and have entrepreneurial proclivities
  • ADHD: hyperfocused, creative, inventive, spontaneous, energetic

All of those skills are qualities and traits that we want within different divisions of our organizations.

An individual who falls in the neurodiversity spectrum often finds getting in the front door a challenge. How can we, as organizations, make this first step easier for this untapped workforce?

Keys To Hiring & Onboarding Success

The hiring and onboarding process for individuals on the spectrum isn’t that different from the status quo. A few simple adaptations in the following areas are needed.

  • Impact Descriptions: Include a space for applicants to highlight any support adjustments they may need at the interview.
  • Interview: While the interview is the rock star moment for the candidate, it can be challenging for those on the neurodiversity spectrum. They may have challenges making eye contact, starting or maintaining the conversation or thinking in abstract ways. You can adjust by asking closed questions, asking questions based on their real life experiences, and prompting the candidate in order to obtain all of the information that you need.
  • Successful onboarding follows a similar path to what we’ve discussed previously. One of the adaptations can be made during training. Northwestern University in Chicago found that when using virtual training, 8 out of the 15 people who received virtual training found a job or volunteer position within six months, compared with 2 of the 8 who were not trained. According to Paul Wehman, professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, even people with severe autism who might not seem like good candidates for the workplace can do well if given enough initial support. Virtual training may be something that your organization wants to consider for your new team member.

After the onboarding period, the path to successful new employee engagement is:

  • Clear Communication: explicit communication about expectations (written and unwritten). Be concise, specific, supported and honored.
  • Performance Reviews: on a regular basis and keep them brief
  • Feedback: sensitive but direct and provide reassurance in stressful situations
  • Office Accommodations: These may include accommodating sensory needs, keeping office doors closed or moving their office to low traffic areas.

It’s amazing how when we explore our differences, we usually learn something about ourselves. When we can value and accept our own brain, we will more easily accept and value the unique brains of our team. Diversity is always achieved by inclusion.

Success Stories

Hewlett-Packard Australia, SAP, Microsoft all have initiatives to hire more people on the neurodiversity spectrum. One of the coolest stories I came across was that of ULTRA. ULTRA has roughly 32 employees and three-quarters of them have autism. They found that tapping into this overlooked talent pool is hugely successful. They have little turnover and they feel their testers outperform those at other companies.

EY (formally Ernst & Young) started a pilot program in 2016 with the goal of employing people with autism in order to explore the benefits of having workers of different cognitive abilities, such as greater productivity and building a more talented workforce. They recruited candidates and adjusted their training and onboarding processes. Then a really cool thing happened: the company’s managers started to reflect more deeply and stretch to make sure they were communicating in a more effective manner. 

Right Person, Wrong Role? Or Wrong Person, Period?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

People get into the wrong roles for a number of reasons.

Perhaps there was a reorganization and the company didn’t want to lose them, so they were reallocated without consultation or training. Maybe they were promoted beyond their capability without a training plan. Or maybe they were hired to do a project that’s now irrelevant and they’ve not been redeployed to produce meaningful results elsewhere. And then there’s our all-time favorite, the Untouchables.

Do you have Untouchables? Also known as Sacred Cows? These are people who were hired because they are related to (or friends with) the CEO or other powerful team members. Even though their performance is sub-par, they get promoted or allowed to stay on for emotional reasons.

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Case Study: Company X

Company X was a tech consulting firm with a $37 million in annual revenue and approximately 270 employees, about two-thirds of whom were consultants. They were tracking at $137,000 in revenue per employee… ouch! The company was run by a married couple, John and Sarah, who initially contacted us about perfecting their sales process. They felt that their salespeople could be performing much better. What we found was a much bigger issue.

Assess: What We Found

The findings were grim: a fear-driven culture with 53% employee turnover each year. Company X did an exceptional job of technical training for new hires, only to see them leave for higher pay within a year.

The two owners of the company had virtually opposite Meta Programs, and this was causing chaos. Sarah (Active, Toward, Options, Difference) would proactively start an initiative, rally the troops to move toward the new goal, then jump to the next option/project. John (Reflective, Away, Procedures, Sameness) would want to analyze before launching the new initiative, so he would kill it or block it, minimize exposure, and set up a procedure to handle the proposal through testing, no matter how much or little the cost associated risk. The resulting chaos was confusing to the team and sending them deep into Critter State.

The glaring gap in the consultant’s training curriculum was in sales. Even though their role was heavily client-facing, the consultants weren’t trained in the basic selling skills and had no incentive to do anything but fix technical problems. They also had no interaction with the sales team — which was sequestered in a different area of the building. The consultants were the right people in the right role — but with no support to perform their best.

Harry, the new sales manager, had been with the firm for three months. Shortly after hiring Harry, the company had reorganized to close a failing business unit. Sarah and John had moved their niece, Toni, the VP of the failed unit, into a new role as the VP of sales and marketing — wait a sec! What? Did we read that right? Yep, the niece was given one of the most important roles in the firm after killing an entire business unit. Sounds like a sacred cow to me.

There were three problems with this scenario:

  • Harry (who now was sales manager) had no sales expertise — his entire background was in Internet marketing)
  • Toni was an experienced sales manager but wasn’t strategic and had no marketing expertise
  • The two disliked each other — Toni was threatened by Harry and Harry thought Toni should have been fired for her lackluster leadership of the failed business unit

To make matters even more fun, Toni’s boyfriend, Taylor, had been hired as director of client care. He had solid experience, but a perpetual mocking smirk when interacting with anyone but Toni.

Act: What They Did

The first thing we had John and Sarah do was to create clear and compelling mission, vision and value statements. This would help everyone know why they were coming to work, and where they were going together, and how they agreed to behave. They posted these statements in the lobby, and the managers worked with smaller teams until everyone was on board.

Next we established Needle Movers together (first for the executive team and later for everyone) in line with the new mission, vision, and values, and radically increased accountability using weekly reporting and the Accountability Equation. We created a reporting process for the sales pipeline and marketing effectiveness metrics and set up an incentive plan for the consultants to source future sales.

We also redefined the roles and responsibilities throughout sales and marketing to get the right people in the right roles. Some people were reallocated, and one or two were let go respectfully. Since the company had a history of high employee turnover it was key to minimize Critter State via thoughtful communication.

John, Sarah, Toni and Harry worked on their on key challenges. Toni got the tools to turn her department around. Harry was moved out of sales management and into the right role — marketing — where he is brilliant and a perpetual learner. He still reports to Toni, who now manages the sales team directly. Harry’s initiatives have made Company X top of mind in their target market. Now that John and Sarah communicate more explicitly, they are no longer creating chaos, and Toni and Harry have developed mutual respect for each other. Taylor had to be let go. He didn’t want to uphold the company values, and had burned too many bridges to be salvageable.

ROI: What They Got

About six months into the change process, things got pretty scary. The consultants became resistant and didn’t want to work on internal projects for which they had no billable hours, and John and Sarah almost pulled the plug and reverted to chaos. Instead they applied energy management tools, worked through their own resistance, recommitted, and held their team accountable to the direction they had chosen together. The results were not all immediate — patterns occasionally resurfaced and to be readdressed — but overall the results have been phenomenal. They zoomed through the $50 million inflection point and are preparing for $100 million. Their employee retention is now normal for their industry, and employee surveys show that engagement and satisfaction continue to improve.

Two Myths About Strategy — And Two Tools To Make Yours Work

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We all know that setting a strategy matters. It’s one of the first steps to steer your company to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. So why do strategies so often fail?

Because making strategies work requires execution.

Why Strategies Fail

Strategies fail when the average bear doesn’t know how to execute, and they aren’t empowered to adjust to meet the goals. When strategies stay in the clouds, employees get lost in the woods. Meanwhile, back on Earth, they’re trying to figure out exactly what to do to execute the strategy.

When organizations chunk down their strategic plans into tangible, measurable, specific quarterly goals, their teams know what to do. They can keep moving and course-correct if they get off track.

Two Myths About Effective Execution

In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull report on their effective strategy execution research. They interviewed 7600 managers in 262 companies across 30 industries to gather their data. Organizations studied in their sample were typically large (6000 employees on average, with median sales of $430 million), and across volatile sectors including financial services, IT, telecommunications, and oil and gas.

The research busted several myths about effective strategy execution. Two of which I find essential to discuss in the context of why strategies fail. I’ll also share two simple tools that will help you put your strategies to work!

Myth # 1: Execution Means Sticking to the Plan

No strategic plan can accurately predict the future. Even if a plan includes detailed roadmaps that specify who should do what, when it should be done by, and what resources are needed. In practice, unforeseen crises or unexpected opportunities can throw plans off.

Leaders must make it safe to adapt to address obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. Because sometimes sticking too rigidly to the plan can run counter to the strategic objectives.

That’s why I find one of the most important activities any organization can undertake is to create the right decision-making spaces when setting accountabilities.

TOOL #1

Decision spaces cover what someone fully owns, and can make autonomous decisions about. So when something unexpected happens, they are empowered to make decisions swiftly, effectively, and in accordance with their competency. Put simply, they don’t need to call on anyone to make the call!

Compiling a list of answers to the following will help you when setting decision spaces:

  • What you can make decisions about
  • What you can’t make decisions about
  • Who to escalate a decision to that is outside of your space

Myth #2: Communication Equals Understanding

It is true that people in the organization need to know exactly what the goal is, why they are doing it, how their department is going to achieve it, how each team member is going to contribute, and what the success metrics are.

However, many executives believe that communications (e.g. emails sent, presentations delivered, etc.) are automatically understood. Not so! Sending out communication pieces does not guarantee they are understood. Just like sharing a lot of words with someone doesn’t guarantee they are heard properly, nor does it mean it will inspire the right actions.

TOOL #2

One of the simplest tools you can use to help staff understand and connect to a strategy is the Outcome Frame (OF). The OF simply helps chunk your strategy down — it brings great clarity as to the “why” and “how” of it, and then you can distribute this clarity to the relevant areas of your organization.

In addition to helping people understand their accountabilities, the OF also emotionally engages the team in the outcome that we hope to achieve from the strategy. This is helps them have their own insights around it — which is key.

Employees must feel connected to the strategy. Human beings make decisions based on emotion, and they will default to activities that lead to the best-feeling. No emotional connection, no engagement. Period. 

This doesn’t mean work must be all about joy, happiness, or inspiration.

Here are some of the OF questions I recommend using to elicit detailed responses from people. I’ve provided sample responses for clarity’s sake:

1. What would you like? “I want to double our client retention rates.”

2. What will having that do for you? “I will feel happy, fulfilled, and excited about the work I do — and the team I have! It will also give me more commissions to send my kids to the best colleges, making me a proud parent!”

3. How will you know when you have it (specifically)? “50% of the existing client base I oversee will agree to renewing and extending their contracts with our company for at least another 2 years.”

4. Where, when, with whom do you want this? “At this main office which is responsible for 2 major global markets (U.S. and U.K.), by the mid-year, with my team of four.”

5. What of value might you risk or lose to ensure you achieve this outcome? “I would be willing to let go of clients who are no longer aligned with our mission, vision, and values — so we can focus on those who are. I will overcome my disagreements with Sales and collaborate with them to help identify and secure new client accounts that are better aligned with us. I’d also have to spend more time cultivating my team, so I’d likely lose a few hours of strategic time each week for the first 3 months of this change.

6. What will likely happen if you don’t solve this the way you want? What will be the impact on your business and life? “Not achieving this outcome would delay funds available for reinvesting in product development. If we don’t fund innovation, we might lose market share to our competitors. Personally, this places financial stress on me as a parent providing for three children at home. Since part of my commission is based on retention metrics.”

7. What are your next steps? “Schedule a meeting with the sales team to define the optimal client profile, meet with marketing on retention programs and outreach to new prospects, set up recurring meetings with my team to mentor them on our new approach, set monthly targets and celebrations as we approach our goal.”

Try these tools to boost the success of your strategies. Then let me know your results!

Ready To End Silos, Sabotage And System Dysfunction In Your Organization?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Got silos?

How about sabotage?

System dysfunctions like these are generally symptoms of low cultural alignment.

The two founders of Company Z were at war. The CEO was aggressive, the CTO often sabotaged the CEO, and the company was divided into two camps. In addition to their personal strife, there had been recent technological breakthroughs that were changing the way customers worked and put their product at risk of becoming obsolete.

Productivity across the organization was plummeting, and the executives didn’t trust one another and didn’t cooperate either. All the CTO wanted was to work on strategy, but he was afraid he’d lose whatever power he had if he shifted to a new role and let go of his direct reports. Further, because the culture was low on communication and high on fear, the COO had set up her own camp, and the CRO repeatedly said all the executives except the CEO were “impossible” to work with. The silos were spreading.

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Assess: What We Found

Team members were dispirited. The feud at the top had not gone unnoticed and translated into turf wars, mixed loyalties, internal competition, and low motivation. When client projects were specified, the CTO’s team and the COO’s team didn’t talk, so the CRO was often livid when client deadlines were missed and projects were delivered with missing functionality.

In the early days, the company had revolutionized its industry, taking it out of the Dark Ages and into the twentieth century. The problem was that it was now the twenty-first century and their competitive advantage was eroding fast. They could no longer attract and keep the engineering staff they needed.

Act: What We Did

The CEO needed to help the CTO move into a new role before anything could happen. This was a priority to recover from their stuck spots because the firm badly needed his talents to be focused on creating a new strategic direction.

We helped the CEO learn to speak the CTO’s Meta Programs to shift him out of his Critter State. The CEO used this messaging to start the CTO’s shift into his Smart State: “I need your help [give CTO power, enroll emotionally]. We’re crafting a new strategic direction and I know we’ll be growing really fast. I’m concerned that we’ll move too quickly without mitigating the risks or taking the time to properly create the foundations to ultimately move even faster [Away, Reflective]. We need a step-by-step [Procedures] implementation plan to ensure we’re ready for the growth that’s coming, and I need someone who knows how to do this [Internal]. Few people here can see both the forest and the trees [General-Specific] like you can. You’d mentioned that you want to shift to a more strategic role and free up your time from management work. With a role like this you’d be doing what you’re great at [External] and have the hassle of management work gone [Sameness with Exception].”

We helped the CTO get very clear on what he wanted (no direct reports and work on strategy only across departments). We also coached him to set up office hours to avoid the constant interruptions that made him crazy. Additionally we coached him to replace his sabotaging behavior toward the CEO with influencing skills. The CTO changed roles to become Chief Systems Architect, letting go of his direct reports, and he accepted reporting to the CEO with clear conditions that honored his priorities. He gave up his seat on the company’s board, creating an opening for an industry influencer to be added.

The CEO and new Chief Systems Architect hashed out and communicated a new vision that team members owned and were inspired by. That act alone created the same kind of motivational buzz that they had experienced in their early years – and they had created it together. The bond was being rebuilt!

The stage was now set to bring up the rest of the team. This involved reducing the number of direct reports to the CEO partially through internal promotion and in one case through recruitment. We coached the entire C-suite on clarity of communication and taught them tools for explicit communication.

Next, we guided the C-suite and senior management team through the process of creating new accountability structures to get on track. They learned how to move from problem thinking to outcome thinking and how to develop rapport using Meta Programs. By making all the changes structural rather than symptomatic, this team was able to turn their ship around and create sustainable growth. One critical factor to making collaboration more seamless and comfortable among previously disenfranchised team members was the use of social technologies. We followed Vala Afshar’s ten steps to build a social enterprise and get everyone communicating more easily.

What Company Z Got

• The CEO of Company Z gained back ten hours a week and improved his relationships, both personal and professional.

• The new chief systems architect (the former CTO) now adds huge strategic value as he and the CEO work together to orchestrate the next industry revolution.

Company Z was able to make their new strategic direction profitable quickly as it capitalized on existing assets and they accelerated through the $250 million inflection point at which they had been stuck. About one year later, they sold off an unprofitable part of their business and regrouped under the guidance of the realigned CEO and Chief Systems Architect. Then they secured funding for their next surge. With renewed intention, they are now accelerating toward the $500 million mark.