Motivate Without Authority

Motivate-Your-Teams

In most organizations you have to know how to get things done by working with others. There are often times where you don’t have direct authority for a team or a budget, but you are accountable for the outcome of the project. Most companies focus on teaching the skill how to influence without authority in these situations. The emphasis is learning what is important to your stakeholders and demonstrating how you can bring that value to them. I have taught and trained on this concept many times over the years and do believe that learning how to navigate organizations and relationships is essential. But I recently asked myself, why do we call it influence without authority and how are we inherently framing up relationships with that language? The definition of influence is “the act or power of producing an effect without the direct exercise of command.” Synonyms for influence include impact, determine, guide, and control. Now contrast that with the definition for motivate, which is “to stimulate (someone’s) interest in or enthusiasm for doing something.” Synonyms for motivate include inspire, stimulate, encourage, and excite. I’d like to coin a new phrase and discussion about how to get work done in organizations: Motivate without authority. In this definition the emphasis is on connecting to the customer, embracing autonomy vs. authority, and inspiring through your actions.

Connecting to the customer. Engagement surveys over the last three decades have shown that meaningful work is the single most important element to employees. Purpose is a huge intrinsic driver and one of the most powerful ways to create meaning is to connect people with the end user. At Deere & Company, farmers who buy tractors are invited to visit the factories with their families. Assembly line employees are then invited to meet the farmers, hand them their tractor key, and watch them start their tractors for the first time. Olive Garden restaurant managers regularly share letters from customers with their teams and thank them for creating a great guest experience. Instead of influencing your team, show them how the new project/process you are talking about will meet the customer’s needs and drive meaningful work.

Embrace autonomy vs. authority. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but most of us have very little authority over others. But instead of bemoaning that fact, how can we embrace autonomy? Appreciate the reality that each group you want to motivate likely has different, perhaps competing, schedules, priorities, and resources. Instead of trying to control the outcomes, think about how building trust can make your team much more efficient. Often our desire for authority comes from a lack of trust. Ask yourself if you trust the team, then ask yourself if others can/should trust you based on your behaviors. Reflect on your motives and competencies and see if/how they might be impacting your team dynamics. Stephen Covey’s Speed of Trust offers a list of 13 behaviors that can build or erode trust and provide some great ideas on how to motivate without authority.

Inspiring through your actions. Forbes conducted an interesting research project. They looked at a list of the 1,000 most inspiring leaders and analyzed how they inspire those around them. They came up with a list of six different skills used by these inspiring leaders:

  • Visionary—providing a clear picture of the future and being able to communicate that to the team.
  • Enhancing—creating positive one-on-one relationships along with team relationships by being a great listener and connecting emotionally with people.
  • Driver—displaying a focused pursuit to make the numbers and complete things on time and generally being accountable for personal and group performance.
  • Principled—providing a powerful role model of doing the right things in the right way.
  • Enthusiast—exuding passion and energy about the organization, its goals and the work itself.
  • Expert—providing a strong technical direction that comes from deep expertise.

I think the two skills that are most often overlooked on this list are being principled and leveraging your expertise. Many people inspire through their vision and their enthusiasm, but it is equally impactful to motivate others by showing in your actions that you are principled and have a valuable expertise. Whatever your natural style is, show your team that you are authentic and that you are committed. They will not only be influenced, they will be inspired.

Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” I believe we grow commitment not through influence or authority, but through motivation. By connecting teams to the customer, embracing their autonomy, and inspiring others through our actions, we can motivate others without authority and build lasting commitment.

Refresh Your Training Menu

Stuart SaladYou are planning a dinner party and want to serve today’s most popular dishes. You do a little research and get to work on your menu: homemade cream of celery soup, potato chip tuna casserole, and broiled grapefruit for dessert. Right on trend- for the 1950s. If you served that today, your guests would, at minimum, be surprised. But many of us in HR are still serving an out of date training menu: 3 days of content delivered lecture style with big clunky binders for participants. Our customers consume content in a totally new day today. They also curate and create content daily. It’s time for us to update our approach to learning and focus on what our busy leaders and employees can digest. This is not to suggest we should abandon workshop sessions that provide the time to go deeper on content and apply new learning. It is to suggest, however, that it’s time to expand our learning menu by serving bite sized learning, adding new ingredients, and trying some new recipes.

Serving Bite Sized Learning. Our employees and leaders are interested in their development. The challenge is that development is “important but not urgent” and is competing with throngs of “urgent and important” and “urgent and not important” emails, calls, and texts. We can help our teams find time for themselves by serving bite sized learning that has 10-15 minutes of content. There are so many great resources for this, including business and leadership book summaries from Get Abstract, hundreds of free videos and discussion guides at Lean In, innovative speakers and ideas shared through Ted Talks, and curated content from sites like Flipboard. These can also be great reinforcement resources to send out after a training to follow up on the learning.

Adding New Ingredients. A great Ted Talk I recently watched was titled Three Ways to Spark Learning. In this talk, Ramsey Musallam talks about how being a science teacher, a dad, and having a health scare gave him some new insights about learning. His take always are that curiosity comes first, we should embrace the mess, and practice reflection. Imagine you are leading a training on performance reviews. Your leaders come in, eyes rolled, expecting a lecture. But this time you take a new approach. Instead of telling them that performance reviews are great, drive engagement, and create performance records, you start by asking “I wonder how we could make the performance review process easier?” After gathering their ideas, you acknowledge that performance reviews are messy- both in the execution and in the delivery. You then offer some ideas on how to make the best of everyone’s least favorite process. You end by asking the leaders to reflect on their last performance review discussion and what they will do differently this time. You can still include tactical information they need to know and do some skill building in the class. But by adding some new ingredients to your facilitation, you just might spice up the discussion and the learning.

Try Some New Recipes. We encourage learners to take risks and try new approaches. But we don’t always this advice ourselves. Here are two creative approaches to learning to consider: a flipped classroom and an unconference. Flipped classrooms are common in education. The concept is that instead of lecturing when the kids are in the classroom then sending them off to do their homework on their own, teachers provide video/online lectures to watch at home, and use class time for discussion and projects. The same approach can be used in adult training. Send out pre-work and use more of your classroom time for discussion, questions, and application. If you are feeling really brave, try an unconference. The concept is very simple. At an unconference, there is no agenda. No topics or speakers have been pre-selected. Instead, attendees review a list of all possible content and decide what they want to hear about. Most unconferences includes less common approaches such as Big (or Little) Question sessions where someone asks a question he/she want to know the answer to and engages the group in a peer  discussion. Show and tell sessions give participants the chance to share a cool project/update and use that as a springboard for discussion. There are also more traditional lectures and/or group discussions options offered. This approach may be more stressful for the facilitators but almost always increases attendees’ engagement and participation. 

Julia Child said, “No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.” Julia Child also included recipes for cream of celery, potato chip cassarole, and broiled grapefruit in the Joy of Cooking in the 1950s. But she continued to evolve her craft, grow with her audience, and innovate new dishes. How can you refresh the training for your organization?

 

 

Engage Grief at Work

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July 21, 2015. I was leading a team meeting when my phone rang. It was my husband, so I picked up and told him I was in the middle of a meeting and asked if I could call him back. “No,” he said, “You’re going to need to step out. I have some bad news to tell you.” He told me that my dad had just passed away. In that moment I had to recompose myself, tell my team that I was leaving, and begin my journey of navigating the logistical, legal, and emotional process of losing a loved one. You suddenly find yourself a member of The Club No One Wants to Belong To, and wishing that you could go back and be more supportive and understanding of those who joined this club before you. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant capture so many lessons learned in their book Option B. Here are a few lessons we can deploy at work to help employees who are grieving, that also improve engagement for the full team: acknowledge the elephant, build confidence, and be flexible.

Acknowledge the elephant. Western society doesn’t have norms on how to deal with grief. “How are you?” may be a polite greeting, but it isn’t a helpful one. As Sandberg says in her book, “I wanted to scream my husband just died, how do you think think I am? I didn’t know how to respond to pleasantries. Aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” We worry so much about saying something awkward or reminding our coworker about their loved one that we err on saying nothing. A good opener can be, ” I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I want you to know you don’t have to go through this grief alone. We are here for you.” Give the person the opportunity to talk about their loved one. After my dad passed, a coworker commented, “Your dad must have been a great guy. There were so many loving stories of him at his service. I’d love to hear more about his time in the Peace Corp if you’re up to talking about it sometime.” Showing a sincere, specific interest and giving the person the choice of how and when to talk about it builds gratitude and engagement. Inviting the elephant into the room allows the person to be authentic, and builds a trusting environment for the entire team.

Build Confidence. Losing a loved one shakes you to your core. You lose your center and have to rebuild.  When people return to work, it is important to help them find their new normal in the office. Before he/she returns, ask the grieving person how they would like their first day to go. Share with them what is on the team agenda and invite them to attend any and all meetings they feel up to. We are trying to be helpful when we say things like, “I’m sure you’re not up to taking on this project yet so I gave it to Mary.” Or, “I know you have a lot on your mind so you don’t have to come to the sales meeting.” What that can sound like to the grieving person is, “You clearly don’t have it together, so I don’t want to give you something you will screw up.” Find a project that uses the person’s skills to help accelerate his/her path to productivity.  Let him/her get some quick wins and show your appreciation. This same grace should be given to our high potentials in stretch assignments and our new hires/transfers joining the team. Showing that we are confident in people’s talent gives them the confidence to climb the learning curve and engages their hearts and minds at work.

Be Flexible. Business marches to a quarterly drum that seeks order and deadlines. But there is no one experience or timeline for grief. A key part of helping the grieving person re-acclimate at work  is setting an initial plan, then adjusting it regularly. When one of my employees had a stillborn, we talked about how she wanted to return to work. There were days when it was important for her to be at work, and there were times where working at home to crunch out some reports was the right thing to do. She knew I trusted her and I knew that offering increased flexibility allowed me to retain a valuable employee. We also revisited her workload on a regular basis. The team worked together to temporarily reorganize our work to help our friend have a successful re-entry while ensuring our commitments were met. Outcomes based goals are meaningful and motivating for everyone on the team, and help the team ensure the most important things get done. It also gives the grieving person the flexibility he/she needs to re-acclimate to the workplace.

Anna Quindlen wrote,”Grief is a whisper in the world and a clamor within.” We all have something clamoring within, that appears only as a whisper to others. Engage your team by acknowledging elephants, building confidence, and offering flexibility. This also creates a safe place for grief to reside and allows grieving employees to thrive.

Champion Experienced Talent

Wimbeldon

This year’s Wimbledon was notable – Roger Federer won his eighth singles championship and, at age 36, is the oldest man to do so. Venus Williams was the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova to reach a Wimbledon singles final at age 37. In sports and work we often focus on our up and comers – which to be sure are a critical part of our talent pipeline. But what is our strategy to keep our most experienced talent engaged and winning? These employees hold our tribal knowledge and legacy resources, but instead of drawing them into our inner circle, we often assume they are on their way out to pasture. To get the most out of our most experienced employees we should take some lessons from our Wimbledon stars – go big and go home, draw on and redraw experience, and grow your grit.

Go big and go home. Federer is featured in an ESPN article, titled Once More with Feeling. The critics have been questioning his ability to stay competitive and overcome his injuries, suggesting it may be time for him to retire. It is true that he has been nagged by injuries – including tearing his meniscus in 2016 while bathing his children in Melbourne, which required surgery. Federer could have seen this as a sign it was time to hang it up. Instead, he changed his approach to training. He focuses on how he can save energy, picking and choosing key tournaments. He also embraces his time off, realizing that time off the court is a key part of allowing him to succeed. “I can just play the tournaments I want to play and enjoy the process,” he says. “If I do show up and play, I love it. When I’m in training, I enjoy being in training. When I’m not in training, if I’m on vacation, I can enjoy that. I’m not in a rush. So I can take a step back and just actually enjoy.” As leaders it is important for us to encourage and celebrate this kind of balance for our experienced talent. Imagine that instead of lamenting “Mary”s” inability to travel as much anymore, we sent her to our most critical engagements, and had her spend more time in the office training and mentoring the team? What if we partnered with “Dave” on a phased retirement plan, allowing him to work for us part time so we can preserve his knowledge? Expecting results and respecting personal time are not ideas in conflict – in fact they are both essential ingredients in retaining our most experienced employees.

Draw on and redraw experience. Federer’s reputation is that it all comes easy. He is seen as the standard of perfect tennis by many, and it is this perfection that draws in many of his fans. But even Roger Federer experiences doubts and negative self talk. In the 2017 Australian Open he was down and getting down on himself. But then he said he reset his mindset, “not thinking too much about the what-ifs … the pressure, the moment. I know it’s huge, we all know it’s huge, but just try to shake it off. Don’t freeze up. Fight, but don’t try too hard and want it too much.” He went on to win the game, and in his opinion, have one of the best matches of his life. In moments of great stress, our most experienced talent has the frame of reference to draw on what has worked before and the confidence to redraw the final chapter. As leaders we need to learn how to tap into this combination to fuel the team. Is your Lean project team feeling stuck? Invite your most senior salesperson to share her customer knowledge and help shape the final design. Struggling with your new marketing campaign? Ask some of your tenured technical experts what feels authentic to your brand, and where you are coming off wanting it too much. Encouraging our experts to share their experience and thoughts with us can drive both engagement and innovation.

Grow your grit. Venus Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Williams holds fourteen Grand Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles, five Wimbledon singles titles, and at this year’s Wimbledon, extended her record as the all-time leader, male or female, in Grand Slams played, with at total of 75. She has won four Olympic gold medals, and has 49 singles titles, second among active players on the WTA Tour. She is second to sister Serena Williams, who has been her most challenging rival. Williams has demonstrated incredible grit on the court – including several comebacks after injuries and being diagnosed with Sjögrens Syndrome. She has also shown grit off the court, facing criticism for her physical looks and play and for her outspoken style. She fought for – and won – equal pay for female athletes at Wimbledon, and she was cited as  “the single factor” that “changed the minds of the boys” and a leader whose “willingness to take a public stand separates her not only from most of her female peers, but also from our most celebrated male athletes.” Honoring the grit of our experienced talent is key to showing our employees what we really value. Consider creating a Grit Award in your organization, highlighting the finance leader who helped you successfully navigate multiple mergers and have him share his lessons learned.  Expand – or start – Lean In Circles in your organization and have experienced women share their war scars and wisdom with other women – and men – in your company. 

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”- Billie Jean King.

On the court and in your building are champions who have been working hard to perfect their game over the years. They have a tremendous amount of knowledge, connections, and resources that can help you serve up an ace if you tap into them to help you go big and go home, draw on and redraw experience, and grow your grit.

 

 

 

 

Leadership Lessons from Princess Bride

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“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”- Dread Pirate Roberts.

It is the 30th anniversary of the cinematic classic, The Princess Bride, this year.  This fairy tale adventure centers around Princess Buttercup and the hero, Westley, who is on a quest to find and save her. It is also a story that unfolds as the grandfather reads the Princess Bride book to his grandson, while the boy recovers from his illness. There are so many great quotes and moments in this movie. There are also a lot of good, timeless leadership lessons embedded in this tale, including some gems from Prince Humperdink, Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, Westley, and the Grandfather.

Prince Humperdinck:  Prince Humperdinck has a leadership title but does not focus on or rally supporters. He is totally self-absorbed and pursues Princess Buttercup not for love, but for power. There is a scene where Westley was captured and Humperdinck is asked if he wants to come to the dungeon. The Prince responds, “You know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.” Ever worked for this guy? The outtake: Titles don’t make leaders, character does.

Vizzini: Vizzini is the movie’s villian, hired to kidnap and kill Princess Buttercup. He plans elaborate schemes to trick others and to try to get his way. He is convinced that he is the smartest person in the room and that no one else can be trusted, so talks down to everyone he encounters. It is “inconceivable” to him that anyone else could outwit him. In an exchange with the Man in Black he states, “I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains…Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? (They are) morons.” His ego prevents him from connecting to others and ultimately, in an elaborate game of slight of hand costs him his life. The outtake: Leaders need brains, and they also need humility.

Inigo Montoya: Inigo Montoya joins our hero on his quest, not to save Buttercup, but to avenge his father. His life’s purpose has been to find and kill the man who killed his father. He has unquestionable dedication and drive- but it is this same single-mindedness that narrows his perspective of the world. He laments to the Man in Black that “It’s been twenty years now and I’m starting to lose confidence. I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.” After almost wrongly killing the Man in Black, he does finally get to put his iconic line “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” into action. The outtake: Leaders are motivated by passion and the big picture.

Westley: Westley is our hero. He is a farmhand in love with Princess Buttercup who sets out to earn the money needed to ask for her hand in marriage. Of course like all good movies it is not all smooth sailing for our hero, Westley, who has to use his wits and his sword to fight pirates, to outwit Vizzini, and to find his way back to Buttercup. His simple background and demeanor belie his commitment and passion. This may be best represented by his line “As you wish.” At first Princess Buttercup thinks it is because of her status that he defers to her but as their relationship progresses she comes to see it is because he loves her and wants what is best for her. The outtake: Leaders are found at all levels.

Grandfather:  The Grandfather brings the book the Princess Bride to read to his sick grandson who initially wants nothing to do with it. Once the Grandfather promises to skip all “the kissing parts” the grandson relents, then is quickly enraptured by the story.  As the grandfather is reading the story to the grandson about the Buttercup’s upcoming marriage, the grandson interrupts, “See, didn’t I tell you she’d never marry that rotten Humperdinck?” to which the Grandfather smirks and replies, “Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.” The grandfather successfully draws his grandson into the story by inviting him to partake in the adventure and letting his Grandson form his own ideas and draw his own conclusions. The outtake: The best leaders draw the outline and let you color in the details.

The movie Princess Bride has humor, action, and adventure. It also has a lot of good leadership lessons embedded throughout the film. Think about the characters in your office and the parts that they play.  Most importantly, remember that “wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv. ”

 

Retune Your Approach to Communications

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I recently read Seth Godin’s blog Greatest Hits Are Exhausting, and it really hit home. We are enamored with what is comfortable and popular. But, as Seth so eloquently says, “Popular isn’t the same as important. Popular isn’t the same as profound. Popular isn’t even the same as useful.” Think about your favorite singer/band growing up. I am guessing after you bought the album you came to like most of the songs, not just those you heard on the radio. In college, I collected B sides from my favorite artists so I could expand my understanding of their music. Yet today we have fallen prey to the Itunes algorithm mentality both in music and at work. We pump out greatest hits stories to our candidates, employees, and customers instead of embracing our full, rich library of experiences. We focus on what we think our audience wants to hear at the expense of trusting them with our full story. And it is not working. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Index , only 52% of respondents believe that businesses are trustworthy and only 37% believe that CEOs are trustworthy. The CEO rating is an all time low, with 23 of the 28 countries surveyed rating CEO trust below 50%. How can we react to numbers this dismal? Our best play is to tune our communications to be authentic, to share everything you can, and to read between the lines.

Be Authentic: Trust is earned, and broken, by how we engage with our teams. In Stephen M. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he talks about the “trust tax” most companies incur because employees don’t think their bosses communicate honestly. The tax is the expense of reduced speed and increased costs that result when people are distrustful. Communicating authentically is the number one action leaders can take to improve trust within their organizations. That means eliminating phrases like “achieving operational excellence” when the truth is “we need to reduce staff because we are eliminating this product.” The same is true with candidates.  Imagine if you skipped over the first date politeness with candidates and let them know that “we are a global company with lots of opportunities and resources. However, we also have a lot of bureaucracy and politics, and you’ll need to be good at navigating that here to be successful.” Employees and candidates have already formed their opinions about whatever you are selling. Focusing on facts and transparency will go a long way in gaining their buy in and their respect.

Share everything you can. Layoffs and acquisitions are part of business. Employees know to expect them.  However they also personally know Mary, who was just laid off after 30 years. They know that in the last acquisition jobs were lost and are worried about their security. Engage employees in dialogue- don’t subject them to a monologue. Share your personal thoughts and feelings about the announcement. Be honest about what is keeping you up at night- and ask for your team’s ideas on how to address your your concerns. The same notion holds true with customers. If industry news breaks about your company, don’t wait for the client to call you. Call them first and confidently share what you can about the news. If you are thinking of restructuring your sales team, share your thoughts and ask them for theirs. This is more than just a communication tactic. It’s how you build a reputation internally and externally.

Read between the lines. Great leaders have the uncanny ability to focus on the unspoken message in the room. Nodding heads don’t necessarily mean agreement or support. These is much to hear in the unsaid words behind an employee’s question. Leaders who focus on their talking points miss the message coming back at them. Invite the elephant into the room and host the conversation that needs to happen. Use questions, humor, stories, analogies, and data to engage the team. You may leave having had a totally different conversation than you planned, but likely it was the one that needed to occur.

Tina Turner once said “Making a greatest hits album is easy because you don’t actually have to do anything.” In today’s fast-paced, results-oriented world, there is comfort in repeating and replaying popular messages. But that approach tunes out new ideas and limits our possibilities. Retune your communications approach to drive engagement and business results. Engaging employees, candidates, and customers by being authentic, sharing everything we can, and reading between the lines will be music to their ears.

 

 

You Can’t Spell Change Without a D

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“If you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela.

Change is inevitable. Change moves us forward. Yet 70% of change initiatives fail. Many companies are taking on large, complex business transformations and are investing in change management consultants and change training to improve their odds of success. These investments are valuable – according to Prosci, projects with excellent change management have six times the rate of success than those that don’t. But the consultants leave, change training often isn’t sustained, and leaders jump into the next initiative without looking back. Prosci’s ADKAR model spells out the critical elements to making change successful: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Most leaders understand the importance of awareness. Explaining why the change is happening and necessary is a critical step in the change process. We often invest a lot in knowledge via training and, if it’s done right, that knowledge can spur and develop people’s ability to make the change. What we often overlook is the importance of desire. Desire is the most challenging element of change because it can’t be solved with a process or a Powerpoint. Many managers believe we pay people to do what they are told and are uncomfortable leaning into the personal side of change. But organizational change is dependent on individual change. Addressing desire means giving employees a voice, focusing on the WIIFM, and acknowledging individual’s choices.

Giving employees a voice. Once we decide to embark on a change initiative, we should quickly solicit employee input on the change. Engaging those closest to the work early in the change is critical. A recent Aon white paper showed that when companies undergo a large change, connection and control are two of the biggest drivers of engagement. Employees want to have a personal connection to leaders. The Best Practices in Change Management 2016 report states that the number one contributor to a change initiative’s success is how visible and actively engaged senior leaders are. Leaders need to engage in two way dialogue to listen to and validate employee concerns and to provide factual information about what is changing. Giving employees a voice is an important part of giving them control. In most changes employees feel the change is happening to them rather than feeling they are involved in the change process. Inviting employees to provide ideas, react to different scenarios, and have a say in the outcomes allows people to participate in the change rather than simply being recipients of change.

Focusing on the WIIFM: This is the step where many organizations stumble. WIIFM is not what’s in it for the executives and the shareholders. It’s What’s It In For Me. The truth sometimes is that there’s not much in it for me. In which case we need to communicate the WIRM: What Is Required of Me. Employees are adults that we trust with our brand, our customers, and our IP. We need to give them that same level of trust with information about change. Executives are best positioned to explain why we are changing and the new organizational direction. Managers are best positioned to talk about the WIIFM and WIRM. Employees are more likely to trust their manager than an executive and are more likely to be candid with their direct leader. Managers can then raise feedback and concerns from their team back up to leaders. This means we need to ensure managers can explain the change confidently and accurately in their own words. Corporate speak about “leverage” and “bifurcated processes” won’t resonate. People want to know what they will gain, what they will lose, and what they need to do differently as a result of the change. The less room we leave for speculation, the more energy people can put into moving forward.

Acknowledging individual’s choices. Try as we might, we can’t will our way through change and sustain the results. Listening to and addressing employees’ concerns, modifying plans based on their feedback, and being honest about what’s changing are the bricks we lay to invite them down the path of the change. Acknowledging that people are going to have to make tough choices such as giving up their expertise in a certain system, moving to a new team, and/or taking on new responsibilities is important. It is also important to highlight the benefits of the change, including new incentives, appealing to employees’ values, avoiding risk, and/or improving the current state. Helping employees navigate the micro and macro choices along the change is essential to maintain the change’s momentum. Most people will come along once they understand the “why” and if they feel they had some voice in the “what, how, or when.” We also need to make it ok for people to opt out. As Jim Collins says in the book Good to Great, it is important to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. It’s ok if someone can’t get on board with the change. However that also means choosing to get off the bus and finding a new destination.

80-100% of change initiatives are dependent on people working in a new way. How quickly the change was adopted, how many employees are using the new solution, and how well employees are performing in the new model are tangible ROI change measures. If we want to win our team’s hearts and minds, we must listen to their thoughts and speak in their language. Desire may sound squishy but it is a key part of a change plan. Without desire, our investment in knowledge and ability won’t reap rewards. Giving employees a voice, focusing on the WIIFM, and acknowledging individual’s choices are key elements in building desire and in making change sustainable.

 

 

Your Best Work Can Be Done From Anywhere

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My dad was a 20+ year IBMer. He was an employee of the blue suit era – where people whispered if you wore striped ties. Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner worked hard to teach the IBM elephant how to dance, transforming the company from a computer manufacturer to a solutions provider. This transformation was not easy nor was it without casualties, including IBM’s culture of “employment for life” and pensions – painful changes for my dad’s generation. Gerstner recognized that IBM had to change it’s fundamental economic model and re-engineer how they did business or go out of business. IBM successfully branded and built their solutions business, and is pioneering exciting AI work with its Watson system. On IBM’s homepage they promote the power of Watson:

With Watson, you have the AI platform for business. Uncover insights, engage in new ways, make decisions with more confidence and do your best work with Watson, today.

IBM choose not to put its latest business disruption on their website: the decision to end remote working. On May 19th IBM announced, “In many fields, such as software development and digital marketing, the nature of work is changing, which requires new ways of working.” The problem IBM has identified is the need to drive greater innovation, improve communicate and make faster decisions. Their solution is to require all of their almost 400,000 employees to work on location. I strongly disagree with this decision, and think it is counter intelligent. Instead I would advise IBM and all companies to follow Watson’s recommendations: uncover innovation insights, engage in new ways of communications, and make decisions with confidence so that employees can do their best work wherever they work.

Uncover innovation insights. IDEO is an award winning product innovation company. Their success comes using empathy to uncover insights. By observing user behavior and putting yourself in the end-user’s shoes, you collect invaluable insights. Remote teams can help companies know and go to your customer across a large footprint. Leverage vs. eliminate remote teams to foster better customer collaboration. Innovation comes from shifting from “we can’t” to “we can if…”. It thrives when we welcome diverse perspectives and collaborate under constraint. Remote teams live in this petri dish and can help companies create best practices for innovation.

Engage in new ways of communication. The article News Flash From IBM. There IS a Downside to a Remote Workforce points out that it is more challenging to communicate on remote teams. It is hard to have impromptu conversations or to drop in on peers when you work remotely. But does harder mean impossible?  Global employees communicate across a complex network of remote customers, suppliers, and contractors everyday. Instead of opting out of this challenge, companies can and should apply the same principles for working with global teams and use them with remote workers. Create clear strategies. Connect the team’s work to those strategies. Check in frequently and personally with individual team members. Create space for unstructured, impromptu discussions in your calls and meetings. Invest in building good leadership and communication skills vs. dismantling remote work structures.

Make decisions with more confidence. Watson’s power is its ability to analyze multiple sources of information and derive insights and recommendations. On its website, IBM states, “Watson can understand all forms of data, interact naturally with people, and learn and reason, at scale.” The good news is teams, remote or co-located, don’t need a supercomputer to improve their decision making skills. We can understand data by staying objective and focusing on facts. We can interact with others to understand connections, implications, and lessons learned. We can learn and reason by using industry trends and experts in our field, then applying our knowledge of our company and customer to form a hypothesis. Good leaders know success doesn’t come from obsessing about the right decision but rather from making timely, confident decisions.

Watson is an incredible breakthrough for IBM and has thousands of exciting applications, including cancer research, aviation, and energy.  The Toronto Raptors are partnering with Watson to analyze the play of their roster, determine what skills are missing, and recommend the best players that suit its needs. Watson will include both basketball skills and team camaraderie skills in its analysis. I’d encourage IBM and all companies to apply this same logic to its workforce. Given it’s current employee roster and skill set, is it more advantageous to focus on clear goals, expectations, and engagement for remote teams or to let them quit and work for a competitor? IBM- and all employers- have the ability to uncover innovation insights, engage in new ways of communications, and make decisions with confidence so that employees can do their best work. Let’s make the intelligent decision.

 

Walk A Mile in My Gemba

Gemba-Kaizen-Quotes-Morpheus

Lean principles are no longer a new idea in the workplace. As many workplaces try to “do more with less”, identifying and eliminating waste not only makes sense, it is essential. A key element of the lean methodology is to “walk to the gemba.” The original Japanese term comes from gembutsu, which means “real thing.” It also sometimes refers to the “real place.” This concept stresses making a personal observation of work at the place where the work is happening.  Walking the gemba is a learning activity. We can learn how to do address delivery and quality challenges, how to deal with internal quality problems, how to sustain inventory, and how to make a better use of capital. We can also learn from our teams by asking the people closest to the work what they see as waste and what recommendations they have for improvement. I recently read the article Your Gemba Isn’t the Only Gemba to Walk by Aaron Hunt in the Lean Post. He highlights the value in seeing how others (your customers, your competitors) are working on challenges, and encourages us to walk their gembas for ideas. This got me thinking – what if we applied that to our own organizations?  The article The Future of HR: Run like Tech. Talk like Ops. Think Like Sales. Lead the Change by Jeff Palen offers some great recommendations on ensuring HR runs like a business. I think we can take this one step further by going to the gemba together to help each of these functions learn from each other. If we do, we can connect technology and talent, measure what matters, and be more customer-centric, and by doing so we will drive business value.

Connect technology and talent. Gone are the days of massive annual IT updates, where people were given big binders of instructions and had their systems down for hours while the new release was launched. Instead, technology has moved to micro releases sending regular, small updates in real time. HR could ask IT how to redesign the talent review as a micro release process instead of today’s annual, big binder process. By observing the process steps and the waste removed, HR may gain some insights on how to redesign their own talent process. In exchange, IT could ask HR how to engage stakeholders before a release is launched. An incremental release of a Workday program may launch but won’t stick unless managers understand why the change was made, believe this change is for the greater good, and understand how to execute the change.

Measure what matters. Operations teams are often experts in ROI metrics. Common customer experience metrics used by operations teams include on-time delivery, cycle time, and time to make changeovers. Walking through an operations gemba you may see the line stop and manufacturing employees giving feedback on an inefficiency that slows down delivery and/or cycle time. HR could ask Operations if performance reviews are efficient and if they measure what matters. Are managers delivering feedback in a timely manner? Is the cycle between feedback discussions optimal? Have managers changed over to the feedback approach you launched? In exchange, Operations could ask HR what internal customers are measuring. Is Quality measuring supply chain stability but Operations is switching to low cost suppliers? What are HR incentive plans designed to drive? Is that in synch with what operations is measuring? Making these connections is key to making ROI metrics real.

Be customer-centric. Sales people know that knowing your products is important but knowing your customer is essential. Key elements of the sales process are prospecting, conducting a needs assessment, and presenting benefits to the customer. HR could ask Sales how to better engage their customers.  For example, you may have identified major market segments (employees, managers, executives) but have you fully profiled each of these in order to adjust marketing tactics appropriately? Is your engagement strategy designed to solve your prospect’s problem? The only way to do that is by asking lots of questions. Asking good questions will not only help you determine potential solutions, but also builds confidence, trust, and may help prospects consider ideas they may never have thought of.  In exchange, Sales can ask HR how to better engage their employees. Gemba walks are a great way to do this, and anywhere a sales employee works is a place for a gemba walk. That could be in a home office, a car, or an onsite customer meeting. A gemba meetings looks at flow: what is the process, who are the people, and where is the friction. By asking the employee questions and offering him/her coaching, the sales leader can drive both results and engagement.

Most functions believe they know what their peer functions do. But as the quote says, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. By walking the gemba together we can get to the “real thing” we need to address to improve our performance. We can also learn from those closest to the work how we are generating waste and what recommendations they have for improvement. How could you walk the gemba with your peers at work?

 

Escape from Mentoring Women

Escape Room picture

The word mentor was first introduced as a character in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War. Odysseus turns over the care of his household and son to Mentor, because Mentor is trusted to act in Odysseus’s image. In today’s rendition of mentoring, we connect a senior, more experienced,  leader with a junior, up and coming, employee in the organization. Mentors are expected to share their experience and insights with their mentees to illuminate their work odyssey. Many mentoring programs focus on giving women a hand up in the organization. There is data to support this idea- according to a Forbes article, employees who received mentoring were promoted 5 times more often than those who did not. So what’s wrong with mentoring women? Mentoring, in its traditional format, reinforces the idea that men have the answers and experience needed to succeed and that women will succeed if they can be trusted do exactly as their male mentor would do. Instead, I’d like to propose a new model for mentoring that looks more like an Escape Room game- one focused on outcomes, challenging assumptions, and solving problems.

Focusing on outcomes. Mentors can be good sounding boards. Many mentoring meetings are a safe space to blow off a little steam, and a place to get some advice on what you could do differently next time. However, looking backwards rarely moves us forward. What if instead of just situational coaching, mentors and mentees focused on outcomes and used mentoring sessions to talk about obstacles, relationships, and skills needed to get to that outcome? When you enter an escape room you begin an odyssey — there is a mission, there will be challenges, and there is a timeline in which the outcome must be reached. Some of my best mentoring meetings helped me shift my focus from my frustration with a particular incident to identifying my goal around a bigger outcome. My mentors and I identified landmines, fiefdoms, and holy grails and these could impact my desired outcome. They respected that this was my quest and didn’t offer answers but instead prompted my thinking.

Challenging Assumptions. You see a clock in the escape room and it says it’s 12:00. Is that a fact, a falsehood, or a clue? You will need to take it down, turn it over, and evaluate it to find out. Successful mentors spend a lot of time challenging assumptions. Just because I took this career path, does that mean it is the only way? Or the right way for you? I have been successful because I am a confident extrovert. Does that mean I believe collaborative introverts don’t make good leaders? We have never had flexible scheduling here, so you will need to accept that. Or maybe I could help you bring your case for why that change is needed to the right people. Mentees also need to challenge their assumptions. I have to take that job to get ahead even though I hate it. I can’t take that assignment – I have two young kids and can’t take on anything else. I have to take that assignment even though I have two young kids and I am ready to quit. Good mentoring discussions take down the clock and look at it from all angles. What am I missing? What else could be? What if would happen if… Sparking that kind of critical thinking is a good for building relationships and for building business possibilities.

Solving problems. My biggest frustration with mentoring programs is when we build a plank over shark filled waters, then pat ourselves on the back that we have created a path to success. The sharks are still there. What if instead of teaching people how to precariously balance their way through a broken system, we instead focused on the system? HR analytics can be a good place to start- in addition to perceptions we hear or feel, what does the data tell us is holding women back? What roles have the fastest promotion rates for women? The slowest? Is this different for men? What functions have the most women in individual contributor roles and the fewest in leadership? Do high potential women advance at the same rate as similarly situated male counterparts? These questions allow us to look at root causes and discuss potential solutions. In an escape room the whole team needs to get past the challenge to succeed. We all need to put our pieces of the code together in order to open the door. Helping one individual can be a start but can’t be the end to a successful quest.

Homer said, “There is no greater fame for a man than that which he wins with his footwork or the skill of his hands.” Mentees can and want to succeed on their own path, using their own ideas and approaches. Mentors can play an important role in organizations by helping mentees focus on outcomes, challenge assumptions, and solve problems. If we all go all in, we can escape the fallacy of traditional mentoring and succeed in advancing women and advancing our business goals.