09 Feb

The How of Heart

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

Collaboration. Empowerment. Win/Win. Integrity. Authenticity. We’re finally recognizing the efficacy of acting with humanitarian values! But how do we DO it? How do we know when, or if, to change our comfortable communication patterns? How do we modify any unconscious behaviors to make new habitual choices and recognize when what we’re doing no longer is sufficient?

WHY BEHAVIOR CHANGE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH

DOing kindness, collaboration, and authenticity isn’t as easy as wishing it to happen. It takes a change in our behaviors; it means we have to change our habits and status quo. And that means we must do more than merely knowing we ‘should’. The problem is that our behaviors occur unconsciously and systemically, and won’t necessary accede to our desire to change. Here’s how it happens.

Our brains unconsciously choose our behaviors from our cache of lifelong subjective experience, values, and unconscious rules that forms our unique status quo. I call this our system – a well-oiled machine that keeps us ticking congruently every moment of the day. Our viewpoints, our styles, our behaviors are all pre-determined and habitual, and represent us consistently so we maintain our individual, unique systems (Systems Congruence) according to our own personal rules. I realize we all think we have unrestricted choice; we don’t. We follow our personal ‘company line’ in every action, every communication. We remain who we are in everything we do.

The problem arises when we wish to do anything different: our unconscious system will resist anything new because it is seen as a threat even if it’s something we’re nominally in agreement with. For any change to occur, our brains must first align the new with the old/habitual so we remain congruent. We know we should go to the gym more often, or eat healthy; we know we should allow our relatives to have disparate political viewpoints. But try as we might, we hard-pressed to permanently change our behaviors. This is the problem with conventional training and Self-Help books. We cannot change just because we seem to want to.

Why can’t we just DO something different? Because before we do, we must figure out a way to bring in the ‘new’ in a way that garners buy-in from the rest of our system so we can continue to be congruent. It’s a belief issue, not merely a behavior change problem. And our behaviors are merely the action, the outward manifestation, of our beliefs. The 400-pound man walking down the street will not heed an offer of a half-priced gym membership – not because he hasn’t looked in the mirror lately or because he’s ignoring his doctor’s warnings, but because his eating and lack of exercise are habitual and match the rules he’s already got in place: to make a permanent change, he’d have to ‘chunk up’ as they say in NLP, and go beyond the ‘What’ or the ‘Why’ to change his beliefs about who he is. He’d have to become a healthy person.

‘What’ to do is behavioral. ‘How’ is structural, systemic, and unconscious. Here’s an example of the difference: ZDNet has an article on transforming an organization on the principles of collaboration. They say it’s necessary to “Empower staff”: “To accomplish this goal it is important to train, support, and mentor staff to help them work more collaboratively. Staff must also practice their new collaboration skills back in the workplace so it becomes the new daily business and not just the latest management fad.”

Great. But HOW does one accomplish this? Everyone will interpret these words subjectively, according to their own beliefs about their skills. Obviously there can’t be organization-wide consistent adoption with just the What; information doesn’t cause change, and ‘What’ doesn’t address how to reconfigure our brain’s automatic choices. ‘How’ demands that we

  • add automatic unconscious choices to our habitual behaviors to comply with our new goals;
  • recognize the difference between what we think we’re doing and what we’re actually doing and notice there is a gap that prevents excellence;
  • install the change we seek without offending what’s been working well;
  • facilitate internal systemic buy-in to ensure our Status Quo is ready and able to change;
  • override habitual behavior choices and replace them with the new as appropriate;
  • maintain systems congruence.

It’s far more complicated than just understanding What to Do. It’s actually How to Be.

CHANGING BELIEFS CAUSES CHANGED BEHAVIORS

The problem with seeking to act with authenticity or empowerment, etc., is that we attempt to make behavioral changes without shifting the underlying system that holds our current behavioral choices in place. To enact any internal changes, to take on new habits or change behaviors, we must shift our core Identities and Beliefs, with new Behaviors the enactment of these shifts.

All of us have unique Identities; our Beliefs are the operating manuals; our Behaviors exhibit our Beliefs in action. Every day, in every way, we ACT who we ARE. I, for one, work out at the gym 9 hours a week. I hate it. But because I have determined that I AM a Healthy Person, I need my Behaviors to carry out my Identity accordingly: I eat healthy, exercise, and meditate. And on the days I would prefer to stay in bed, I ask myself if I’m a Healthy Person today and almost always, get my lazy self up and go to the gym.

This dependence on our Identities and Beliefs is foundational: we will do nothing – nothing – unless there is buy-in. When anything seeks to change us – when we receive training, or get told to ‘do’ something, or when coaches ‘suggest’ or sellers ‘recommend’ or leaders promote a new change – it shows up as a threat and will be resisted unless it’s accepted and adopted by our Identity and given a value set in our Beliefs. Once we ARE the change we seek, our new Behaviors will be natural and permanent.

To act with compassion, to have empathy, to lead with values, to design collaborative environments, we need a set of core Beliefs (I am a Kind Person; I Care About Collaboration With Colleagues) that get translated into new habitual choices; we need to inform our system to match the Doing to the new Being. We cannot congruently act the Doing if it’s incongruent with our Identity. It’s the most difficult aspect of change – creating consistent, habitual actions – because it’s unconscious, systemic, and resistant. It is possible, however, but not simple.

Working, speaking, acting with Heart is not behavioral. We must first Be the people with heart; Be kind, collaborative, authentic people. Organizations need to shift their corporate identities and manage behavioral adoption; we must become Servant Leaders and compassionate Leaders. We just need the Skills of How to accomplish this.

I’ve spent my life coding and designing models that create habitual, unconscious change. Although my work often shows up in the field of sales, it’s a generic model that is used by leaders, coaches, managers, doctors, and teachers, to lead Others (buyers, patients, clients, employees) through the necessary changes to shift their status quo congruently and embrace real change; it’s the ‘How’ of Excellence. After 35 years of teaching this material, I’m well aware of how difficult real change is. But if we begin by aspiring to Collaboration, Integrity, and Authenticity, we can become the change we seek.

_______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 457 0246. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

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29 Jun

DOing vs. BEing: creating rules that put customers first

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenI recently purchased dysfunctional products/services from three vendors who were unwilling to go outside company rules to fix the problems they caused. How can we take part in the Trust Economy if our corporate rules preclude us from taking care of customers? Too often there’s a divergence between company rules and customer needs. I’ll use my vendor issues as a starting point:

  1. Wheaton International Movers. After researching a big cross-country move, I picked Wheaton. But it was a nightmare: their driver was drunk on both ends of the move; boxes were lost; an expensive sculpture was broken by their packer. Getting reimbursed was a 4-month nightmare: I was ignored, lied to, and finally only paid a fraction of what I deserved even though they accepted responsibility. I was regularly told: “Well, unfortunately Ms. Morgen, that would go against our rules.” No one ever apologized; I’m still missing a favorite painting and important office paperwork; my sculpture is gone.
  2. CVS online pharmacy. These folks sent a bottle with crushed pills. I fought for weeks to get the pills replaced but I was told I should send them the offending bottle first (the post office is in a different town). “I understand your concern, but we must operate according to company rules.” Rules before my health?
  3. Fitbit.  I purchased a broken Fitbit from an online vendor. Fitbit said they’d send a replacement I never received; the replacement from the online vendor was also broken. Reps at Fitbit actually said they received hundreds of calls a day about the problem but weren’t allowed to do anything about it until their ‘fix’ was ready. What?

As a consumer, I trust I’ll receive what I pay for, and be cared for if there’s a problem. Yet each company above took care of their rules before taking care of me. They put the DOing before the BEing.

RULES

When companies construct internal rules that are juxtaposed with customer needs they ignore the consequences

  • Without customers, there’s no need for rules.
  • Customer’s complaints go viral.
  • Hurting, cheating, disregarding, and ignoring customers always, always loses business.
  • For each customer who doesn’t feel fairly treated, companies lose unknown-hundreds of prospective clients for an uncertain time moving forward.

Too often companies confuse their rules [the DOing – regulations, results, performance] with a customer’s needs [the BEing – values, feelings, requirements]. Too many companies make it binary – company rules OR customer criteria – rather than Both/And. How do we design customer service scripts and training, how do we instill a primary focus on serving customers, to achieve Both/And and win/win?

The difference between DOing and BEing is Heart – heart, being one of those ‘soft’ ‘feminine’ words that assumes it’s not possible to make money and make nice (While training Buying Facilitation® at Morgan Stanley I heard they were conducting ‘closing’ training the following week. What? Why do you need both training programs? “Because BF is ‘soft’ and we need ‘hard’ skills to close.”). Isn’t it time to meld heart and head and DO-BE-DO-BE-DO? To make money AND make nice? All research shows the BEing is more profitable.

HOW TO PUT CUSTOMERS FIRST

There’s a way to put customers first AND take care of corporate rules. A few examples:

  1. Use an impossible customer request as a means to create a life-long partner.

“I hear you’d prefer if we were able to X. Unfortunately we aren’t able to do that, but we want you to be happy. Is there anything else I can do to get you what you deserve? Let’s see if we can get creative.”

Years ago while working with Bethlehem Steel during a trucker’s strike, I had my clients actually purchase steel retail from Pittsburg Steel to make sure Mazda wouldn’t have expensive downtime. We took the hit on cost to keep the customer happy. Well – to keep the customer!

  1. Use customer’s feelings to exhibit your dedication to them. During month 4 of my Wheaton ordeal, someone said “If you don’t stop shouting I’ll hang up on you!”  Seriously? The rep should have been taught to grow a pair and not take it personally:

“Wow. Sounds like you’re really upset. I can imagine how annoyed you must be. I’m so sorry.”

  1. Make sure each Rep owns the problem. Nothing makes customers more angry than having to call back again and again (and be on hold forever) to find someone to help them, or having to repeat repeat repeat the same complaint to each new Rep. Assign the first Rep to own the problem to resolution.

MAKING MONEY AND MAKING NICE

To operate effectively in this new world of connection, workarounds, visibility and competition, your main differentiator may be how you take care of employees and customers.

  1. Design company rules that put customers first. So, instead of ‘Send us the damaged pills first [so we can fix any internal problems here]’ it would be, “That prescription is important to your health. I’ll send you an entirely new bottle and include a return mailer so you can send the bad ones back at your convenience. I’m sorry.”
  2. Trust that customers aren’t your enemies: they pay your bills.
  3. If you broke it, it’s yours. If you send a bad bottle of pills, a bad Fitbit (twice), or break a sculpture, fix it easily. Don’t take your costs out on the customer.
  4. Make sure that every customer is happy by the end of each interaction. An unhappy, screaming customer cannot be passed on.
  5. Create a vision statement that includes the words ‘Customer Service’. So: We are a Customer Service company that designs CRM software.
  6. Employees are customers. Happy employees take care of customers. I’ve never heard of a company that’s loving, kind, and respectful to their employees and mean to their customers. It’s that BEing thing again. I want to share a story that embodies the Truth of this.

Years ago a client sent a new employee to one of my Buying Facilitation® public training programs to get him caught up with the team I already trained in-house. This man, call him Glen, was angry, rude, mean, and dismissive of everyone around him. I called my client: Who is this mean person? He’s making everyone cry. Why did you hire him? “Do whatever you have to do to break him. I hired him because he’s got potential.” So I went into action on Day 2 and facilitated Glen through the outcomes he was causing. On Day 3 he came to class like a saint – supportive of others, kind, gentle, fun. What happened? Here’s what he said:

Every day, I’ve had to leave my house for work and put my ‘mean’ suit on. I was told I had to convince prospects, push closes, bias discussions about our products to promote a sale. I hated it: I had to shift my personality to ‘Do’ this manipulative, insensitive person. I told myself I had to become a shark. I’ve been miserable and my family has suffered; I didn’t know any other way to keep my job except to follow their rules and be miserable. Now I’m learning it’s possible to make money AND make nice; now I can be my real self and do my job successfully.

As a testament to his change, he got a huge – huge – tattoo of a shark on his back the evening he had his realization. He came to class the next day with the tattoo stating “I’ve put the shark behind me.”

To determine if you need to rethink your rules, to be part of the Trust Economy, consider these questions:

How will you know that the rules you have in place are customer-centric? If you need several layers of customer service to handle angry customers, or you regularly read negative Tweets or Yelp comments about you, there’s a problem.

How can you tell if you’re putting employees first? High turnover might be an indication.

How often do customer problems get escalated? Have you trained every level of staff to seek win/win results?

If you put people first, how would your rules change? And what beliefs would you need to reconsider?

What skills do employees have to achieve win/win when a problem occurs? Remember the mythical customer service rule Nordstrom was famous for? “Use your best judgment.” Of course that changes your hiring criteria. So be it.

I realize regulations are necessary to run a company. But so are customers. It’s possible to do the DOing and the BEing in a way that promotes income and care. What’s stopping you?

_______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 457 0246. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

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21 Apr

Guest blog: Do you want to lead? or have someone follow?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.

IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD

Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

  1. Facilitate congruent change and choice,
  2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
  3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
  4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
  5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

  • Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
  • Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.

POWER VS. FORCE

Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

  1. Listen for systems.This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
    2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
    3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?  She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation

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07 Apr

Guest blog: Training vs. Learning: do you want to train? Or have someone learn?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenTraining successfully educates only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during class but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN
We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility.

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted. It similarly effects selling/buying, coaching/clients, doctors/patients, leaders/followers.

A training program potentially generates obstacles, such as when

  • Learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new
  • Fear they might lose their historic competency
  • The new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs.

We are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new unless our beliefs/mental models recognize that the new material will align with our status quo regardless of the efficacy of the required change.

HOW WE TRAIN

The training model assumes that if new material

  • Is recognized as important, rational, and useful
  • Is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • Allows time for experience and practice

It will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo): it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients. It has little to do with the new, and everything to do with change management.

Truly experiential learning has a higher probability of being adopted because it uses the experience – like walking on coals, doing trust-falls with team members – to shift the underlying beliefs where the change takes place. Until or unless there is a belief change, and the underlying system is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material into the accepted status quo, the change will not be permanent.

One of the unfortunate assumptions of the training field is that the teach/experience/practice model is effective and if learning doesn’t take place it’s the fault of the learner (much like sellers think the buyer is the problem, coaches thinks clients are the problem, and Listeners think Speakers are the problem). Effective training must change beliefs first.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. Buy-in from the belief/system status.
  2. The system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones. I called my training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: : “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Briefly: Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Day 2 enables learners to identify skills that would supplement their current skills to choose excellence at will, and tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

——–

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What?. Did you really say what I think I heard? She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation.

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21 Feb

Atrendia Friday Video 23 – A Conference Call in Real Life

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In this YouTube video you’ll relive those agonizing on-line meeting moments that make you want to pull out your hair!  You’ll be jumping up and down shouting: “So true!”.  Share this with colleagues – especially those who need some help in this area.

Image

Although it’s fun to poke fun at this, virtual conference calls are extremely important in our work day and creating best practices for your teams, instead of relying on common sense, has become a necessity. Many novices – and even seasoned professionals are unaware of “best practice” guidelines that can determine the success of conference call.  Something to think about….

Duration: 4:04

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Click HERE to watch the video.

Happy Friday!

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08 Mar

Atrendia Friday Video 14 – Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work

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Last week, Yahoo!, CEO Marissa Mayer, sent out a memo (directive) intended to stifle Yahoo! employees’ ability to work from home. She effectively put an end to telecommuting for all Yahoo! employees.

Interesting. In one memo, in almost silent desperation, Mayer tries to close the lid on an unstoppable movement called the future of work.

In this Ted Video, Jason Fried takes the opposite stance: that the office isn’t a good place to do work. In his talk, he lays out the main problems (call them the M&Ms) and offers three suggestions to make work work.

Jason Fried

Perhaps it’s not about being a polemic.  Clearly there are times when being at the office is important, but in these days of high-speed networks, video-conferencing, Skype and what have you, working from a home office can be much more productive than working in a landscape situation where you have to find refuge in an empty office or conference room every time you have an important phone call. You decide – that is if you don’t Work for Mayer…

Click here to enjoy the video

Duration: 15:21

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Happy Friday!

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17 Dec

The benefits of a culture that puts problem solving ahead of the blame game

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I had an excellent session with a client today in which he told me about how he had to bring one of his employees into his office to remind him that, ”we simply can’t make these mistakes around here”.  My client told me that he had berated the employee with calm but stern voice, meaning that his intention was to wag a finger not kick him in the pants.

I thought about how many times I had done the same thing with my employees. And what do we get out of it? Will your employee improve? Will you score points with your employee? Is the employee grateful to be working at Acme Inc. now that you have laid out the law of the land? Have you solved anything? Have you ensured that the problem won’t repeat itself?

Situations where employees don’t perform well are indicators. The mistakes are the messengers, and we all know that we shouldn’t kill the messenger – which is why we shouldn’t labor about the individual errors that we find out about because without them we wouldn’t know where our challenges lie, and in turn, we would be unaware of our flaws. Let’s face it, no one likes to go to their boss when they have screwed up, but imagine if that culture were turned around and you actually won from doing just that.

It is our responsibility as leaders to transcend the anger and frustration (emotional baggage that follows us from difficult situation to difficult situation) that often comes with the disappointment of having found out that an employee has not lived up to our expectations. We can either focus on their mistakes or ensure that they won’t happen again, but just as we can’t go east when we go west, we can’t do both simultaneously.

There is the famous Stephen Covey quote that reminds us of how critical it is to ponder this idea:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space
In that space is our power to choose our response
In that response lies our growth and our freedom.

If we really want to lead in a positive direction then the choice to berate or support is obvious. The next common mistake in this situation is to then fix the problem instead of helping the employee understand that everyone makes mistakes, but they are accountable for theirs. This means that they should find a solution for preventing this problem from happening again. That might entail them asking your for help if they get stuck. (But they should get stuck first)

Imagine if your employees came to you with solutions for problems that they didn’t foresee earlier:

Rick, I missed the shipment to our number two customer yesterday because I failed to see the ticket. I’m sorry about that and I have done A, B and C in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

That would be a lot better than you finding this out from your number two customer, and since the employee came with a solution you will naturally be much calmer and perhaps even praise your employee for their insight and sense of accountability.

Not all employees do this naturally (actually rarely), so it’s up to you as a leader to invoke this methodology into your culture. The first few times are not easy, and you may be gritting your teeth, but after a while you, your employees and most importantly your customers will reap the benefits of a culture that puts problem solving ahead of blame game.

The best way to initiate this change is to be very transparent. Let them know that you want to move in this direction and that like every habit it will take time. Admit to them that you haven’t been good at it in the past but that you are obviously committed – especially now that they will be looking to see that you keep your word. This will actually help you to stay true to your promise – an excellent one to keep.

The truth is, that unless you lead this, and humbly so (admitting your mistakes along the way), it will not happen and you will miss out on an opportunity much more valuable than an order from your number two customer. As a matter of fact, if you do embrace this idea there is a good chance that your number two customer might become your number eight or nine or even better.

My client took this as a learning lesson.  Will you?

 

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