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How People Analytics Informs HR Strategy

People Analytics

Let’s face it- technology has our brains inundated with unprecedented amounts of information. As a result, we’ve developed countless platforms and pieces of technology infrastructure that keep us organized, efficient, and profitable. The advent of technology in the business world combined with its future potential makes this an exciting time for us all. Technology can rapidly access troves of data in seconds, enabling us to make decisions that are much more informed than those of yesteryear. However, we should think of these technological capabilities as tools to help us make more informed decisions, not as mechanisms to make decisions for us. Although this advice can be applied in several domains, it’s no more relevant than in the world of people analytics.

So what is “People analytics”?

People analytics, in layman’s terms, refers to the analytical method used to make decisions about human resources and human capital in an organization. People analytics informs HR strategy, hiring/downsizing efforts, and selecting the right candidates (to name a few). Fortunately, we’ve developed technological platforms that can assess and analyze certain variables to “predict” an employee’s success in his/her role. This can be done through simple correlation tables, more complex regression models, or even through advanced predictive modeling. Regardless of the method of analysis, organizations want to know they’re hiring the right person for the right role. They also want to know how to keep these people while understanding what contributes to longer tenure, or on the flip side – higher turnover.

Organizations that use people analytics to inform hiring decisions have the ability to remove objective bias. McKinsey Quarterly’s article brilliantly sums this up with, “The important advantage of the new analytics techniques…is that they are predictive, rather than reactive, and they provide more objective information than the more qualitative findings of a one-on-one discussion.” When combining skilled HR hiring professionals with the proper analytics platform, organizations can reduce bias, increase accuracy in job placement, reduce the risk inherent to hiring new people, and decrease retention expenses in the long run (as evidenced by the aforementioned article’s examples). Although people analytics is helpful to the hiring process, the data can tell you more than just the best candidate for a job.

When organizations apply people analytics to their existing workforce, they gain insight into motivates them, what leaders should continue doing, and how they might improve. For example, Fecheyr-Lippens, Schaninger, and Tanner used people analytics in a study to understand employee retention. Their data indicated that “a lack of mentoring and coaching and of ‘affiliation’ with people who have similar interests” were leading drivers of those considered a “flight risk”. Additionally, the researchers point out how predictive analytics within the realm of human resources helped organizations understand what their employees value while reducing the costs associated with turnover.

Although people analytics and predictive modeling have become more advanced, we must remember the human element in all HR decisions. Our technological capabilities should do nothing more than provide decision-makers with the most accurate and relevant data possible so they can make an informed decision. There are several risks associated with “over-datafication” when people rely too much on data and technology, but that’s a topic for another day…

Are Your Employees Ready For The “Superjobs” Of The Future?

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of David Epstein’s Range, his 2019 counter punch to the drive for specialization, often represented by the 10,000 hour rule, as the best path for achieving future success. In his book, Epstein pushes back against the idea that deeper and deeper specialization is the best way to achieve success, especially in rapidly changing and unpredictably complex environments. “We are often taught that the more competitive and complicated the world gets, the more specialized we must get,” Epstein notes, but according to his research, given that most business environments today are not governed by standard rules and predictable patterns, maintaining a competitive edge will require organizations to hire or train generalists who are often more willing and better able to find solutions to novel challenges.

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, many business leaders see the trend towards needing more employees who are capable of taking on diverse and varied job tasks. According to the report, a vast majority of respondents expect that the increased adoption and use of technology will mean that jobs in the future are far more multi-disciplinary than they have been. And that as artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, and robotic process automation take hold, there will be a trend towards “superjobs”, or jobs that combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles – these jobs will span the hyper-specialized areas of expertise of many current workers.

These same leaders are keenly aware that their current approach to learning isn’t well suited to training the generalists that will drive their business in the future, with 86% of respondents reporting they must reinvent the way their organization learns to maintain a competitive advantage. If you are charged with reinventing the way your organization learns, here are three key features that should be part of your new learning strategy:

 

  • Create learning environments where it’s safe to fail – While generalists are often the source for innovation, their application of novel mental models to solving emerging challenges means that failure will always be a part of the path to success. Corporate learning & development functions must drive cultures where failure is seen first as a learning experience and find ways to encourage failure that’s in alignment with the risk tolerance of the organization.

 

  • Provide ample opportunities for employees to explore new disciplines – In Range, Epstein notes that elite scientists are much more likely to have hobbies in the performing arts than their “average” counterparts.  He argues that having an avocation that exercises different ways of thinking and being than their vocation provides the high performing scientists with the opportunity to see new patterns, develop new schemas, and expand the solution sets they bring to their core discipline. So, while offering a class in acting or modern dance may be a bridge too far in the corporate world, L&D leaders need to look for ways to expand the horizons of their staff beyond building the traditional technical skills that are seen as essential for job performance.

 

  • Aggressively promote learning in all its forms – The success of your L&D function and, arguably, of the organization overall relies on continuous learning through both formal and informal means. Whether your encouraging generalists to continually broaden their horizons or helping specialists deepen their expertise, your primary role as an L&D practitioner should be to drive a culture where all employees see themselves as lifelong learners – consistently working to build whatever capabilities they need to create value for the organization. So, along with building programs and learning opportunities that drive progress toward organizational goals, L&D professionals need to constantly look for ways to promote and incentivize all employees to transform themselves as a path for transforming the organization.

 

The cost of ineffective training is high. In fact, Grovo, a division of learning management system provider Cornerstone, estimates that ineffective training costs organizations $13.5M per year per 1,000 employees. But the cost to organizations that fail to adapt their learning & development approach to meet the changing demands of the workforce will be much higher. What are you doing to transform your corporate learning function today to deliver the resilient workforce you’ll need to thrive tomorrow?

Managing Military Millennials

Managing Military Millennials

Let’s face it: Millennials and Generation Z are taking over. They account for more of the talent pool every year and, as every organization should know, they are motivated differently than previous generations.

Unfortunately, many senior leaders in the business world don’t understand what younger team members value and how to get the most out of their younger professionals. This causes high turnover rates, more expensive employee retention efforts and less pro-organizational behavior. Some perceive the frequent job switching of Millennials and Gen-Zs as irrational or impulsive, but many times they simply lack leaders who can adequately motivate and challenge them.

Ironically, one of the world’s most rigidly bureaucratic organizations – the United States Military – discovered effective ways to motivate Gen Z. The US military is at the forefront of understanding younger generations because it hires, onboards and trains more than 150,000 young people from all over the country every year. Their leadership has helped maintain an unparalleled force of readiness and provides several lessons for civilian leaders of every organization.

Military leaders seek to understand their people, learn what they value and use their talents to accomplish missions. After briefly considering what makes Gen Z different, we’ll explore organizational and individual approaches the military uses to effectively motivate Gen Z and provide a few concrete examples that business leaders can emulate.

Who Are These People?

First, it’s key to understand younger generations. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) have experienced a lot in a short period. They saw the “dot com bubble”, 9/11 started two wars, and the housing market crashed right when they were trying to build wealth. Not to mention the technological revolution redefined how they engage with their colleagues, social circles and the market. As a result of their experiences, it makes sense Millennials are confident and self-reliant and value collaboration and career advancement (Özçelik, 2015).

Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015) are unique since they’re the first generation to be bombarded with technology from birth. They never had to get a ride from their parents to the skating rink or arcade to see friends. For Gen-Z, technology has replaced the clunky old ways of socializing and made it largely internet-based. As a result, one study found that they’re less likely to get a driver’s license, go on a date or go to the bar with their friends than previous generations. Since the average Gen-Z member will see 200,000 online and TV advertisements before graduating high school, they value authenticity and purpose more than any other generation (Reid, 2018).

As a result of how these two generations came to fruition, they have distinct values that leaders can understand and use to benefit an organization. Millennials are collaborative, driven to succeed and want to experience all that life has to offer. Generation Z values authentic environments and an organization’s mission. Also, both of these groups value company culture, a strong sense of identity and purpose, and they are basically intent on saving the world. This is crucial to understand. Cash may still be king, but culture is in command. The military understands this, and they’ve been able to create an attractive environment for younger generations at both the organization and personal level.

Innovation Through Dissent

One critical way the military motivates younger generations at an organizational level is through its recent emphasis on allowing individuals to pursue truth through innovation-focused organizations. While there are examples of individual innovation peppered throughout military history, innovation has been less organizationally encouraged until recently. For example, disruptive thinking Millennial junior officers returned from deployments overseas and refused to accept stale answers and sub-optimal solutions to some of our nation’s critical security challenges. Their writings and actions spawned a slew of innovation organizations and competitions including DoD’s Hack the Pentagon, the Air Force’s Spark Tank Competition, the Navy’s Athena Project and the Marine Commandant’s Innovation Challenge. Not to be outdone, the Army exerted significant organizational resources to establish a permanent innovation lab (Army Futures Command) to modernize the Army.

Companies that deliberately foster employee innovation can harness the inquisitive, purpose-based outlook of Millennials and Gen-Zs while focusing their efforts to improve the organization. Corporate leaders can learn from the military’s willingness to foster innovation, especially if their current approach is not working. At their core, innovators like our younger professionals are creative truth seekers. They want to be able to make meaningful contributions that improve the world around them.

Culture In Command

At the individual level, the military created an atmosphere of shared accountability, teamwork and a sense of identity that resonated well with our younger generations. Marine Corps leaders build cohesion and identity through knowing what motivates their people, creating challenging scenarios and inducing competition.

Military leaders know their people and what motivates them. They leverage talents and interests to accomplish a mission instead of relying solely on scores and observation, which boosts morale and productivity. The second-order effect here is reciprocity, where the team members feel a sense of gratitude and indebtedness to their leader. There’s little translation needed here – get to know your people and what they want and be creative on how to provide that while meeting a company goal. You’ll be surprised at the kind of response you get from our younger generation.

Another way military leaders have been able to build purpose, identity and commitment in younger generations is by creating challenging scenarios to train them. Challenging scenarios spark creativity, force individuals to rely on others and build leadership skills among their subordinates. It also provides a great opportunity for an individual to showcase unique skillsets. A close friend is a Marine Reconnaissance Company Commander and described his approach:

“The first critical step is figuring out where you want your team to be better. Define the ideal state, then challenge the team to achieve it through adversity like inability to talk, restrictive timelines, etc. Get creative on this adversity you’re building. Continue to change one variable at a time as they get better through multiple training iterations. Finally, make sure you create scenarios where the team cannot succeed without working together.”

His last point is the most important: When you create a challenging scenario where individuals must rely on one another to succeed, you force them to ignore biases and opinions. The team members learn how to contribute their special skills, engage in groupthink and experience how their teamwork has an exponential effect on their collective performance. As a result, their in-group tribalism grows in a healthy way and the team builds vital intangible traits like implicit communication and empathy to understand one another. Ironically, individuals build self-confidence and social capital despite it being a team environment. One business example is to have your team complete a project while relying only on message boards and chat rooms without being able to speak to one another verbally. Introducing a time restriction can also add training value.

Finally, inducing competition is another great way military leaders motivate young generations, especially those collaborative Millennials. For example, Marine units often compete with other units to see who’s stronger, faster or can shoot better. When preparing for competition, Marines within the unit become closer and are united through their hatred for losing and their temporary disdain for the competition. This fosters a sense of what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls pathological dualism, where the Marines develop an “us vs. them” mentality. During the competition, individuals are extremely dedicated to one another and work to defeat their opponent. Communication improves, skills are sharpened and morale skyrockets. This also drives the concepts of identity, meaning and purpose further home – which was the intent the whole time.

Creating friendly competition between teams in your organization can bring team members closer together, build camaraderie and morale and give your people a chance to shine. You’re giving a young Millennial or Gen-Z’er the chance to showcase their talent, learn something new, contribute to something greater than themselves and potentially reap a reward. Also, if you get creative with the incentives, you can provide a way for your teams to contribute to a charitable organization, improve the community or benefit the environment. It’s just like the first rule of economics: People respond to incentives. In this case, pick the ones your young team members value.

Millennials and Gen-Z’ers will continue to expand their influence in our business world. They don’t solely value money. They value intangibles such as purpose, company identity, improving the world, collaboration and overall experience. These factors have a strong impact on their decision to join (or stay) with a company. Leaders should seek to understand what younger people value and how to provide that, both inside and outside the workplace. We can also get creative in teambuilding since happy hours or bonus metrics aren’t the main motivators for younger folks.

Challenge them to work together. Give them the chance to prove themselves through competition. And finally, get to know them so you can provide value beyond the paycheck.

This article originally appeared on PeopleScience.com.

gothamCulture Welcomes Tim Bowden as Partner in Washington D.C.

October 7, 2019, Washington D.C. – gothamCulture LLC announced the addition of Tim Bowden as a Partner in the firm’s Washington D.C. office. Bowden was formerly Partnership Advisor and Measurements Lead at the Stand Together Foundation in Arlington, VA.

“Expanding our government consulting practice on a national level is a strategic priority for the firm,” said Chris Cancialosi, Managing Partner and Founder of gothamCulture. “Tim brings an impressive array of skills as an organizational development professional, especially in the government space, to our team, and we are delighted that he’s joining us.”

Bowden focuses on providing data-driven, individual and organizational performance improvement solutions that put people first. He consults with clients to address critical organizational development and human capital challenges in the areas of Organizational Culture, Leadership & Workforce Development, Learning, and Performance Improvement.

His diverse experience includes developing leader development strategies to drafting policy and guidance documents for integrating human considerations into the design of complex military systems. Combining business unit leadership success with core technical expertise he delivers practical performance improvement solutions that have measurable impacts on organizational goals.

Bowden earned his MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at University of Central Florida and his BA in Psychology at Rollins College.

 

Tim Bowden | 321.438.8950 | tim.bowden@gothamculture.com

Occam’s Razor or Beware of the System Complicators

Clarity

I bought a disassembled propane grill one time.  There were at least a thousand parts (well, maybe not that many) and the directions were about 20 pages long.  I began a long, tedious process of following each step and carefully assembling every subcomponent.

About an hour into the assembly, the idea slowly dawned on me that something was missing: simplicity and common sense.

The factory technical writers might have thought they were helping the consumer build the grill, but they had focused so much on the minutiae of the assembly process that no one told me that there were only perhaps five or six basic steps.  What I call a “Systems Complicator” had somehow infiltrated the factory and had written the instructions. They had focused on so many details and the “micro,” of the assembly that they never told me the “macro,” or what we all call the big picture.

They forgot good old Occam.

Occam was a 14th-century Franciscan friar who posited that “More things should not be used than are necessary.” The corollaries for this abound, including the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely one when encountering a problem or dilemma.

I’ve often expressed this philosophy in business and in life.  Occam is too often overlooked (as are Ptolemy and other philosophers who first presented the idea).  While some people’s brains seem to key on details, it invariably helps any project or challenge to first define the goal or objective and some of the key steps that need to be taken to get there.  Without that framework, we all can get so focused on the minutiae that we forget the goal. 

By complicating things with detail, we lose clarity, focus, and simplicity.  We can needlessly overload ourselves and in the process even forget why we all got together. 

Each of us takes turns being systems complicators.  It can often stem from our particular focus that day or even our basic approach to life.  Sometimes it can emerge from resistances that we feel about moving into the unknown area we call change.  By spending time with endless details in the meeting, we can effectively buy time for ourselves by continually presenting enough small challenges that we stop the idea dead in its tracks.  We can complicate the simplicity and clarity of the idea to such an extent that we lose the momentum and the big-picture view of the challenge. We system complicate it.

A key step in identifying ourselves as system complicators is to work on our own awareness of how we are really feeling about the idea.  Ask some basic questions about change next time you hear an idea:

  1. Do I understand the concept?
  2. Do I like it?
  3. Do I want to do it?
  4. Am I able to do it?

If we can honestly answer these threshold questions about our own possible resistances, we can then focus on the merits of the idea and to allow ourselves to see the overall concept rather than the details.

A fellow senior vice president at a former company once listened to an endless conversation in a senior meeting one day.  A major initiative had been proposed, with initial thoughts about goals, objectives, and frameworks. The conversation abounded about “what ifs” and “what about this?” and “we can do it this way,” for hours.  By the end of the meeting, we were all exhausted and barely remembered why we had come to the meeting.

My friend looked around the room, surveying the wreckage of an idea that had been killed by System Complicators, ruefully smiled and said, “Well I guess that’s enough reminiscing about the future.”  

Occam would have understood.

 

Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches is a former senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry.  Dave is also a Senior Associate with Gotham Culture.

Focusing On Customer Experience Is No Longer Optional

Customer Experience

Ready or not, the customer experience (CX) game is on. No matter what size or industry you may play in, you are now competing based on the experience you provide to your customers. Government agencies, this applies to you as well. So, if you’re not thinking that customer experience is something that you need to be concerning yourself with, you may be digging your organization into a hole that you may not be able to climb out of.

Why has CX become such a fundamental component of brand success?

While certain brands that have understood the power of the customer experience for many years and have continued to refine their CX delivery in new and profitable ways, the notion that all organizations need to consider the experience that they provide to their customers as a competitive driver has really only become something of note over the last decade. One primary reason for this is due to the great leaps and continuous improvements that these CX leaders make to their customer experiences which continue to raise customer expectations.

Brands like Amazon, Apple, and even Uber Eats have provided customers with the ability to engage in experiences that are designed around their specific needs and wants- and they like it. As expectations around experiences evolve those brands that are unable to deliver will undoubtedly lose the affection of their customers. This reality creates the need for organizations in all sectors and industries and of all sizes to ask themselves what they are doing to both understand what their customers want and need and what steps are they taking to be able to evolve their experiences to deliver on those expectations.

The experience that a customer has with your brand, positive or negative, can have a significant impact on your organization. Several years ago, I wrote a column about my experience at Walt Disney World- a trip that I was not looking forward to. To my great surprise, the experience that Disney created at every touchpoint that I had with their brand completely won me over. Since this experience and my reflection on it, I find myself continuously taking mental notes of the way in which my experiences with other brands live up to my expectations (or fail to do so).

A study published in 2018 by Forrester Research compared the stock prices of a sample of CX leaders and laggards to the S&P 500 and found that leaders significantly outperformed both laggards as well as the S&P. The message is clear, those organizations that are better positioned to meet and exceed the experience expectations of their customers in a consistent and repeatable way and those that are best able to adapt to the changing needs of their customers are those who will continue to outperform the competition.

The performance benefits of improving CX make it hard to ignore. From increasing customer engagement, trust, and likeliness to forgive a brand for making a mistake, to improving voluntary compliance to requests, CX has been shown to make the delivery of services more cost-effective. Oftentimes, in fact, the savings gained by improving CX delivery can make the financial arguments against the investment moot. Many organizations that embark on improving their CX delivery find that the effort becomes, in effect, a “self-funding” activity where the savings they see from improving CX delivery outweigh the investments to improve.

Who is your customer?

For many, day-to-day contact with end-user customers is rare. If this is the case for you, it doesn’t mean that CX is not important. Support, or back office, personnel may find themselves serving multiple customers though they may be internal customers. The same principles that serve organizations well when enhancing the end-user customer experience can be applied internally to your internal customers to help facilitate your interactions.

I asked David Hicks, CEO of CX advisory firm TribeCX to weigh in on what differences may exist between improving CX delivery for end-user customer versus internal customers. “There really aren’t significant differences, CX is a way of thinking. Seeking out, what is it that I do in my job that really makes a difference for colleagues/customers and then being fanatical about persistently and consistently improving on it and delivering it can benefit customers regardless of who they may be,” Hicks suggests.

CX in government agencies.

Recent research by McKinsey & Company shows clearly that government agencies, particularly those in the federal government, are lagging behind when it comes to the level of customer experience that they provide. Government organizations have their own, sometimes unique, challenges that make delivering high levels of consistent CX a challenge without a doubt. Many subject matter experts are retiring, draining critical institutional knowledge. Legislative and regulatory rules can make collecting data from customer difficult. Agencies may collect a great deal of data but a lack of integration of legacy systems can make drawing insight from this data a real nightmare. In addition, the role of CXO seems to still be something akin to seeing a unicorn in the public sector indicating that CX has not been at the forefront of managers.

What the most successful organizations do.

McKinsey’s (2018) research on the topic found that the most successful organizations do three things exceptionally well and consistently:

  1. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Really, truly taking a hard look at the brand experience through the lens of the customer can be tough but opening the curtain to understand the realities that exist is critical to understanding the opportunities that exist.
  2. They understand their end-to-end customer journeys.
  3. Isolate the moments that disproportionately shape the experience.

Where do you start?

Understanding that you have an opportunity to take a long, hard look at your current customer experience and committing to improve that experience over time is a good first step. David Hicks suggests that leaders begin by, “… buddying up with a front-of-house colleague for an entire day and to listen carefully to them and to the customers with whom they interact. Ask them what the single most important thing is to focus on first. This sends a powerful explicit and implicit message to your staff.”

Regardless of your sector or industry, customer experience is a factor of organizational life that is here to stay. Those that are best able to adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers and that are able to continuously increase the ease of interacting with their brand at key touchpoints are those who will enjoy a substantial and sustained differentiator over their competitors. As customer continue to get comfortable with their newfound new-found power to choose when and how they interact with brands, those that are unable or unwilling to make the effort to truly understand what their customers want and need run the very real risk of becoming irrelevant.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

8 Books That Will Inspire Your Workplace Culture

The team at gothamCulture recently put their heads together to curate a list of book recommendations that will inspire your workplace culture and leadership development. Consider choosing one of these for your office book club. We hope you find these helpful!

The Culture Code: Daniel Coyle explores the question, “How is it that some groups add up to be greater than the sum of the parts, and others do not?” The book is based on research over a period of four years, looking at some of the best/most successful team cultures. The discussion is organized into a presentation of three skills known for generating high-performing groups: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:  a book about how to change things when change is hard. It can be about you, a job, friends, or even family. Change is very difficult and hard to do without a little motivation. The book helps you to look at things in a different way than you had before. Seeing the good things about why you should change and why it was better before.

Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution:  Successful business strategy lies not in having all the right answers, but rather in asking the right questions, says Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons. In an excerpt from his book Seven Strategy Questions, Simons explains how managers can make smarter choices.

Conversations Worth Having: ‘Conversations worth having’ are affirmative, appreciative-based conversations that add value, as opposed to ‘critical’ or ‘destructive’ conversations that are statement-based (and devalue).

Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World: Developing professionals, especially leaders, who can understand and effectively navigate the complexities of twenty-first-century organizational life—a central aim of many adult educators, school administrators, professional coaches, and organizational consultants—is a daunting and critical task. In her book Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, Jennifer Garvey Berger explains how attending to one often-overlooked dimension of human diversity—what she calls form of mind—offers the potential to increase the impact, reach, and longevity of programs and practices aimed at promoting such development.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success: Adam Grant emphasizes the importance and impact of interaction, and how different interaction styles can either enhance or take away from productivity or performance. He encourages outwardly-focused, positive interactions, but recognizes the need to balance the roles of “giver” and “taker.”

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover: Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonders if she’d traveled too far if there was still a way home.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity: Radical Candor is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring it’s obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither it’s manipulative insincerity. This simple framework can help you build better relationships at work, and fulfill your three key responsibilities as a leader: creating a culture of feedback (praise and criticism), building a cohesive team, and achieving results you’re all proud of. Radical Candor offers a guide to those bewildered or exhausted by management, written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Taken from years of the author’s experience, and distilled clearly giving actionable lessons to the reader; it shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.

Your Company Culture And The Uniqueness Paradox

Organizational Stories

Advising senior leaders on the topic of organizational culture for the last fifteen plus years has provided me with a multitude of opportunities to examine the ways in which groups of people organize themselves to accomplish their work and to achieve their mission. There are a wide variety of methods that I use when helping clients to understand the cultures of their organizations. One of these methods is engaging members of a client organization in order to listen to and attempt to make meaning of the stories that are told.

Stories have served a critical purpose in organizing groups of people for thousands of years. Stories are engaging ways to educate members of a group about what is valued by the group. What the group expects from its members. What gets rewarded and what gets people punished. Stories spark different areas of our brains than other forms of communication and this is why they have, and continue to be, utilized to share important ideas amongst and across groups of people.

Stories, due to their unique contextual factors, tend to reinforce the belief that each is a special, one-of-a-kind thing. Stories are not the only organizational phenomenon that foster the belief that organizations and their cultures are unique and special snowflakes but, in reality, organizational cultures and the stories that are shared within them share many commonalities in terms of structure, delivery, and ultimate purpose. This is what researchers Martin, Feldman, Hatch, & Sitkin refer to as the uniqueness paradox.

Read More…

The Unseen Backpack

Man with backpack

I was driving down the street the other day, dutifully following the GPS instructions, which wended me through neighborhoods, built-up areas and a variety of other places.  At one point, a driver suddenly pulled out in front of me and proceeded to move forward at no more than ten miles per hour.  I couldn’t see the driver and I felt for a moment that I should get irritated that someone had the audacity to hold up my very important (or so I thought) trip.

Then I saw the building the person had pulled out from.  It was a local hospital.  My mind shifted from some level of irritation to a feeling of embarrassment and compassion.  The driver might have just left the bedside of a loved one, or received a diagnosis that was life-threatening.  Or maybe a relative, friend or neighbor might have just passed away.  I thought about such times in my life and instantaneously wrote a narrative of understanding and empathy for the driver.

In life and the business world, we often don’t get such stark reminders of our own need for emotional intelligence, appreciation, and understanding of another person.  So we are prone to draw conclusions that are judgmental, perhaps giving us a high level of justification for our own feelings and a near-certainty that the other person might just not care or is oblivious to our needs or the needs of the business.  Doing so can serve as a sort of misplaced validation of our own importance or our own instincts, I suppose.  At least I know I have felt that way at times. Read More…

7 Best Practices for Delivering on Business Transformation

story and business transformation

What does it take to deliver on the promise of transformation? In the face of high-velocity change, communication is everything. Things are moving so quickly, people don’t know what story they’re in anymore. It’s why they need a compelling narrative that answers who we are, what we do, who we serve, and why it matters. This narrative needs to be embedded across the entire organization. Clear messaging produces org-wide alignment: shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, metric to metric. The best practices below have been mined from over 15 years of experience in helping leaders successfully create sustained transformation.

1.) CONVEY AN INSPIRED FUTURE

Why It Matters: OKRs are powerful, yet they rarely convey the vision. A vision needs to be aspirational, emotional and functional—beyond just financial growth and moving the metrics. Why should we be excited about what we can create together? Your vision needs to demonstrate faith in the future.

Where & When? 

  • CEO messaging
  • Annual summit
  • Quarterly all-hands
  • Keystone videos & collateral

2.) STAY DISCIPLINED

Why It Matters: Transformation doesn’t happen by just “winging it”. You need catchy, repeatable keywords and slogans. Develop memorable frameworks, mental models, and taglines that can be repeated on a frequent basis. That message has to be personalized by every leader for believability.

Where & When?

  • Cascade down the line
  • Internal comms channels
  • Marketing touchpoints
  • Coaching execs for consistency

Read More…

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