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Great Leaders Have An Attitude Of Gratitude — Do You?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

The combination of leadership and gratitude is extremely powerful. Gratitude helps you feel better and see the good things in life. When combined with a gratitude practice, you will also be able to anchor that positive feeling into your brain and body, thus being able to call on that positive emotional reserve whenever you need to.

The power of gratitude gives leaders the edge they need to quickly pivot during stressful situations, such as their team not performing or their bottom line dropping. When leaders pause for 60 seconds and use the Gratitude Practice outlined below, they give their brains and their bodies a chance to recalibrate. This allows them to focus not only on the present and how they can turn things around, but on hidden opportunities to be grateful.

While we tend to only think about gratitude during the holiday season or when a monumental event occurs, gratitude doesn’t need to be limited to those two scenarios. We can be storing up a large reserve of positive energy, generated through gratitude, all year long. Leaders can use this energy to ground themselves when life gets stressful.

There are several ways that you can incorporate gratitude into your daily routine, such as journaling and mindfulness practices. My executive coaching clients have found the Gratitude Practice to be the most beneficial.

Gratitude Practice

Close your eyes. Focus on a blessing in your life… something you are thankful for. See an image of this blessing in your mind’s eye. Offer a silent “thank you” to the person or object of your blessing.

Relax into the feeling of gratitude. Take a deep breath. Feel more gratitude.

The latest brain research shows that six doses of feeling 30 seconds of gratitude daily (a whopping three minutes!) will enable your neurons to fire together and wire together around gratitude within a mere two weeks.

This means you’ll more easily and frequently access the feeling of gratitude.

Heck, we’re grateful for that!

Doing Good Feels Good

When leaders engage in this practice on a regular basis, they are able to generate gratitude from within, which allows them to show gratitude to others. This practice also reinforces a feeling of gratitude as second nature because it reinforces myelination. All of these amazing results occur in under 60-seconds. We all have 60-seconds per day to devote to gratitude.

What are you grateful for today?
 
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Featuring case studies and proven techniques, Power Your Tribe provides a set of powerful neuroscience-based tools to help managers identify emotions, release resistance, end isolation, focus on outcomes, and course-correct for continued success.

Learn More
 
 
 
 
 

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Why You Aren’t Getting The Respect You Deserve

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Feeling unappreciated and disrespected? We’ve all been there. So how can you shift things in your organization so that you can start receiving the respect you deserve?

The answer lies in expanding your beliefs. Because when we expand our beliefs, we create new behaviors. And through these behaviors, we are able to authentically give and receive respect. Let’s unpack this.

Every moment we are bombarded with sensory information. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory information is constantly coming our way via our five senses. The way we interpret this sensory input contributes to how we structure our experience of the world. The senses that most dominate our behavior are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, so we’ll focus on those three.

What we call “thinking” is actually a series of pictures, sounds, and feelings that go by at light speed in our brains.

How You Create Experiences

As we interact with the world around us, we internally store images, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes that craft our experience.

Think of your favorite place in your home. Chances are good you just called up a picture. We’ll call these visuals, or Vs in neuro-shorthand. Sometimes our brain distorts stored pictures (Vs) to give them different meanings. Maybe we don’t want the intensity of a full-color picture so we store it in black and white, or maybe our brain wants to prevent us from repeating a dangerous experience so we store it in overpowering color.

Additionally, when we have or recall an experience, our brains hear sounds, which can be tones or words either outside ourselves (existing in the environment) or inside ourselves (talking to ourselves, hearing an old soundtrack). Think of the last time you made a mistake and internally said, “I can’t believe I did that! Sheesh!” That’s an internal soundtrack. Think of the sound of a phone ringing. That’s an external soundtrack. We’ll call these sounds auditory input, or As in neuro-shorthand.

Our visual and auditory experiences lead to feelings, or kinesthetic responsesor Ks in neuro-shorthand. Maybe your shoulders are tight, or you feel a knot in your stomach. These physiological feelings are now translated into emotions you can name, such as fear, excitement, joy, or anger.

From these Vs, As, and their generated Ks, our prefrontal cortex makes meaning about the world, other people, situations, and ourselves. The meaning we make about these experiences formulates our beliefs.

Deletions, Distortions & Generalizations Impact Your Beliefs

Before we discuss beliefs, we must understand that the brain is a “meaning-making machine” that deletes, distorts, and generalizes information. Every second, overwhelming amounts of information come our way, and we filter that information to make sense of it by deleting a lot of what we deem not relevant or useful, so only some of it gets through. Otherwise we would experience information overload!

The brain also distorts information. For example, how often do you hear someone respond to the question “How are you?” with “Nothing is wrong with me!” The question was distorted to be the assertion “Something is wrong with you.” However, distortion also has its uses. It is what allows us to be creative. For example, a musician can listen to a song and create a new version of it as his or her unique expression.

Beliefs are generalizations about experiences, based on the meaning our prefrontal cortex has generated. For example, the brain generalizes that a chair is a chair, and objects that resemble a chair-like structure are appropriate for sitting. This is useful. That way, we don’t have to figure out whether or not we can sit on a particular object every time we walk into an office.

Another example is when we see someone point a finger at another and assume that the person doing the pointing is rude. “Everyone who points their finger like that is a rude person!” is a generalization and a belief.

Our beliefs about the world, others, situations, and ourselves drive our behavior. Beliefs about ourselves lie at a deeper level and are called identity. So in a stressful situation, when a person believes, “I can do this, and our team will get through this,” these beliefs reinforce his or her identity and his or her team’s identity as being solid and capable. As a result, the person with the “solid and capable” identity has the behavior of handling things and moving forward, while others may be panicking. Their behavior matches their identity.

When we expand our identity, we create new behaviors. This applies to leaders and to their individual team members. Through this shift, a new baseline is created in the organization and each individual member will begin to give and receive respect that is based in truth, rather than through distortions, deletions and generalizations.

How can you start this shift in your organization?
 
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Featuring case studies and proven techniques, Power Your Tribe provides a set of powerful neuroscience-based tools to help managers identify emotions, release resistance, end isolation, focus on outcomes, and course-correct for continued success.

Learn More
 
 
 
 
 

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The #1 Tool Successful Leaders Use To Radically Shift Their Reality

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

As a leader, in what area of your life do you need to shift from being disempowered to being empowered?

We form our own reality based on visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues. These cues recall our beliefs about the world and ourselves (our identity), which results in either feeling good or feeling bad. If you’re on a sales team that feels bad, chances are you won’t be achieving your quota because your energy will be low as well as your motivation and creativity. Is there anything you can do right now to feel better and be more productive?

Stuff happens, and sometimes we need to do a quick “pattern-interrupt” to pause our default and choose a better-feeling alternative. Remember, it is not what happens that matters but rather, what it means that matters. Change the meaning, change the feeling. We need to make more helpful meaning. Reframing is a terrific tool for making new meaning quickly and easily, as well as for editing your belief system in the process.

By formal definition, reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to find more useful alternatives. It is a practical and valuable tool to shift perception, including your perception of yourself or others’ perceptions of themselves.

Think of reframing as putting on a different pair of glasses. What would you see if you put on a pair of sunglasses with a heavy tint when you were in a dark room? You would see shadows and dark forms you couldn’t identify. What would happen when you took off those glasses? You may see the most beautiful room in the world. When you switch your glasses, what you see changes.

Reframing, mentally and linguistically, does the same thing. It changes the story you tell yourself about what happens.

Harvard researchers proved a while back that the stories we tell ourselves shape our world. The good news is that we can also create new stories about the decisions we’ve made about ourselves, our abilities, and the world. We have the power to change our experience. Here are two examples.

In Business

Initial story: It’s really hard getting a job fresh out of college these days. The market is crowded, and overqualified people are competing for every single job. No wonder I’m unemployed and it’s tough.

Reframe: It’s awesome that there are a lot of people job hunting right now because it gives a person the opportunity to really bring his or her “A Game” to stand out. I’m sending my résumé in creative ways to get an interview, I’m doing more research than I ever have done before to prepare for interviews, and then I’m following up after the interviews using different methods. I am learning a ton!

See how the meaning shifts from defeat and deciding that job hunting will be hard (which means it will be because the universe is an exquisite mirror) to a sense of power, can-do, creativity, and agility?

In Personal Life

Initial story: I was a girl in a household of boys. My brothers and parents wanted another boy, so I was perpetually left out and labeled as a disappointment. I’ve never been good enough.

Reframe: I grew up in the perfect family to learn to see and honor my unique value. I was given great opportunities to be independent and forge my path in life. I also learned to be self-reliant, which has made me strong and fearless.

See how the meaning she is making shifts from disempowering to empowering?

 

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Featuring case studies and proven techniques, Power Your Tribe provides a set of powerful neuroscience-based tools to help managers identify emotions, release resistance, end isolation, focus on outcomes, and course-correct for continued success.

Learn More
 
 
 
 
 

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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.
 

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Featuring case studies and proven techniques, Power Your Tribe provides a set of powerful neuroscience-based tools to help managers identify emotions, release resistance, end isolation, focus on outcomes, and course-correct for continued success.

Learn More
 
 
 
 
 

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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!
 

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Featuring case studies and proven techniques, Power Your Tribe provides a set of powerful neuroscience-based tools to help managers identify emotions, release resistance, end isolation, focus on outcomes, and course-correct for continued success.

Learn More
 
 
 
 
 

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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!