September 20, 2018

Business Helps Students Find Homes

It was a pleasure to write the article Business Helps Students Find Homes for Young Money Magazine.  The article features Arel Moodie and Bert Gervais, the founders of PlaceFinder.com.   Congratulations Bert and Arel!.

Managing a New Generation: Why Not?

I was interviewed earlier this year by John Gordon, a writer and editor  for Golf Courses.com for this article.  John did a great job, and I want to share it with you.

Gen Y:  Managing a New Generation:  Why Not?.

Is Your Organization Truly Built for Innovation?

Is your business or organization really designed for innovation?  Are you sure?  Every day I speak to leaders who swear that their businesses are designed for innovation, but in my opinion, this is usually not the case. Why? Because they are stifling open debate, shooting the messenger and making it unsafe for people to voice their opinions.

If your business or company is truly an innovative one, your doors will be open for debate, and your culture will be designed to make it psychologically safe for both employees and customers to voice not only their suggestions, dreams and goals but their concerns, complaints and frustrations.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review: The Customer-Centered Innovation Map is a must read for any business that wants to thrive in the future.  The article comes from the perspective that when a customer buys a product or service from your company, they are actually hiring you to get a job done.  This “job to be done” could be to make more money, look more beautiful, live a more healthy life, move into a dream home, become more credible or build a better relationship.  At each step of the process of the job getting done, both your employees and customers are going to experience both successes and struggle points (and some people will struggle more than others.) By carefully mapping the job a customer is trying to get done, you can find golden opportunities to innovate as you help the customer through your process.   Along the way, you will want to ask questions such as “How can we do this much more efficiently?” and “What struggles and inconveniences are our customers experiencing?” and “How are trends affecting the way the job gets done?” and “What causes execution to go off track?”  As you move through the life cycle of working with a client, looking at each and every compliment, complaint and challenge can open the door for your company to provide a new product, offering or level of customer service that will set you apart from your competition.

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Leading Through Change

I need to make a change in my company! How do I do it, and how do I manage it?

This is a question I hear from business leaders every day . . . yet the question often comes to me after the fact . . . when people are up in arms and ready to bolt. A change can be something as simple as new stationery or as tumultuous as a merger or acquisition, and while the change is often seen by top leadership as necessary to move ahead of aggressive competitors, this is not always the case for employees. Why? I believe the answer is this: Your employees are not angry about the change itself . . . they are angry because they are often the last to hear, you did not get their buy-in, their vote didn’t count , and bam . . . Trust is shattered!”

Imagine this: During a strategic planning meeting, the executive team of a large technology company makes the decision to launch a new product line and ditch an existing one. Ditching the existing product line means that a few talented employees will become obsolete, and the new product line will require a new pool of talent. The executive team chooses to “keep this quiet” until they are ready to launch (yeah right!) They begin to meet after hours in a locked room to discuss their plans. They want custom swimming pools atlanta ga to build them big pools. As human behavior often teaches us, it is very hard to keep a secret when you know you have one inside you. So . . . Sally Smith, CIO, makes the decision to tell one person outside the executive team: “I have something to tell you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone” (yeah right . . . again.) In addition, the janitor knows something’s up . . . he cleans after hours and sees the big dogs locked in a room every night for three weeks, and he begins to whisper in the halls to his comrades. Suspicion builds and the grapevine begins to circulate rumors: “I hear the company is closing,” or “I heard we are merging” or “I heard that we are headed for a 20% lay off” or “I heard that the company is in big trouble” and so on. The fear, doubt, worry and anxiety begin to build. People are not sure what is going on, but all they know is that it must be big, and they are nervous . . . very, very nervous!

Change efforts are delicate, and they require finesse . . . they can’t be taken lightly, and they must be communicated from the top to the bottom of the organization. I believe that the key to success during any change initiative includes three very important aspects:

Communication – Communication needs to be clear, consistent and repeated again and again. Repeat the communication until you hear yourself and others saying “Okay, okay . . . we got it . . . we are tired of hearing about it . . . we are on it!” Communicating a change takes time for people to really hear it. The have to roll it over in their minds, talk about it with others and get clear about what’s what. The first time employees hear about a change, they are usually hearing it through filters of fear, doubt, worry, and confusion. So . . . don’t expect them to get it the first time, and by all means . . . don’t send it in a memo! Use verbal communication . . . talk to them, talk to your managers, talk to your team, and keep repeating the message again and again.

Gain Commitment – During a change initiative, it is critical for a company to gain buy-in from everyone in the organization. You want each person in the company to support the change and to feel as if they have been a part of planning the change initiative. Empower your employees by inviting them to collaborate during the change. The “town meeting” format is perfect for this purpose and coupled with smaller management meetings. This approach can provide an open forum for people to be able to clear (a form of venting which is highly constructive . . . allow for 10 minutes of clearing in the beginning of each town meeting,) ask questions and above all to allow their ideas to be heard and implemented.

Coaching – Emotions will be running high during a period of transition, and I believe that coaching for the entire organization during this time is not a luxury…it is a requirement. Managing people during change is one thing but managing their emotions is an entirely different animal. It requires listening, empathy and the giving of time. Coaching during change can support an organization in building teamwork and can foster a sense of support and trust.

As thought leader Phil Harkins, President of Linkage, Inc and author of Powerful Conversations: How High Impact Leaders Communicate says “The organizational change coach operates like a free safety—a term for the player who can move freely around the field as the play requires. In other words, the coach must be able to work when and where the need arises, in order to facilitate the shift that is taking place.” From The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching by Howard Morgan, Phil Harkins, and Marshall Goldsmith..

Accountability Trumps the Blame Game Every Time

“When is John going to get me that report?”

“What is going on in marketing? When are they going to finish that project?”

“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”

“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”

“Hey…that’s not MY job.”

Does this sound familiar? If so, your team and company may be faced with a very big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your company thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity, customer service and job satisfaction. This article offers leaders five basic approaches to increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability or even going so far to adopting accountability as one of the core values of your company.

Communicate the big picture- Accountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your company embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire organization. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the company. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.

State clear expectations- If one person on the team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.

Accountability work groups- One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities and they relate to the goals and growth the team intends to achieve.

Move to action- In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that your verbal warnings mean nothing, and the cycle of blame will escalate.

Implement an inspiring reward and recognition program- Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance.

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