Seize Opportunities to Shift Resistance to Positive ChangeHow to get your team to shift from active resistance to positive movement.
A while back, I started a project at a mammoth global client. They had just gone through a merger. Ok, not “just.” It had been five years – but you’d never have known it. The us/them dynamic between the two original companies was alive and well. Resistance to more change was rampant.
To make things more interesting, they were in the middle of a full SAP implementation. Anyone who has been through a big ERP project knows that it’s a huge change management effort, touching process, technology and people. No one looked ready. Management didn’t walk in the hallways; they ran. Everyone seemed breathless and unsure.
My team and I had been brought in to conduct a straightforward needs assessment workshop. Given the environment we encountered, I realized we had to change our plan. Soon after we started the first session, we put our agenda aside and listened. By the end of the session, they were in a more productive place. Here’s why.
They got it out.
The group was made up of employees from both original companies. They all had issues with the merger and with the imminent ERP. But it became clear that each person had vented only to those on “their own side.” For the first time in five years, the enemies looked at each other and spoke about the issues that had been troubling them. They had to say “you” instead of “they.” And after one perspective had been expressed, those on the other side had a chance to listen and respond.
They were able to focus on the differences that mattered.
By talking directly to each other, they were able to define their many differences. But then they saw that some of those differences weren’t relevant to what they wanted for the future.
At one point, someone mentioned that when he tested the new SAP system, he found what he considered to be glitches. He proudly described an intricate workaround he had put in place. His confession opened up a conversation; many others revealed that they had also constructed ways to get around SAP transactions and processes. This created a bond between the two sides. It also started an honest conversation about why workarounds would ultimately fail and keep them from what they wanted.
They had an epiphany.
They realized it couldn’t get any worse. The suffering of these two groups was real. They were working in a state of chaos, confusion and stress. I wondered aloud if maybe participating in the needs assessment and contributing to a good implementation might actually help. “Well, I guess it couldn’t make things worse,” said one participant. Another said, “Yeah. Let’s get this over with.”
While I can’t pretend they were enthusiastic about the big change ahead, there was a clear shift: from active resistance to reluctant positive movement. We hadn’t yet touched our agenda, but we felt we had accomplished a lot.
Executive Alignment and MessagingExecutive alignment isn’t just a business buzz word. It’s essential.
A wise person once said, there are no statues of committees. But what if there were. Would your executive team get one? Executive teams provide strategy and leadership to drive performance. But good teams aren’t simply the right people with the right organization design. “Executive alignment” isn’t just a business buzz-word. It’s essential. When executives are not aligned, they can wreak havoc on an organization. The effects range from lack of coordination between functions to the emergence of warring factions. At a minimum, we see unnecessary competition for resources, hoarding of information, inefficiency, waste, and missed business objectives. The outcome is a decline in performance and organizational effectiveness.
The solution: executive teams must determine their values. These values provide framework – a set of shared ideas to guide the organization. Leadership values are like the organization’s soul. They answer questions like: Who are we as a business? Are we innovative, eco-friendly, or safety-focused? How do we get things done, through process or people? How do we treat each other; are we supportive or competitive? Values provide consistency – a foundation for the organization.
There are several steps teams must take to reap the benefits of a values-based organization. Here’s how to get started:
Determine Your Values
The leadership team must discuss and agree on their values. Start by brainstorming, then remove anything that’s not a value, but instead a strategy, tactic, or initiative. If you end up with a long list of values, distill it to the essentials – discarding the weaker suggestions and combining values that are similar. Shoot for a list short enough that everyone can remember it – no more than eight.
Share, Live and Celebrate Your Values
Use your values at leadership meetings. When making decisions, filter them through your values. Make sure they are understood at every level of the organization. Executives should talk to managers; managers should talk to employees. Use them in company communications. Build them into performance management. Highlight your top performers who demonstrate the values. Reinforce them during company celebrations. Partner with other companies and charitable organizations that share your values.
Share Your Values with the World
Values are an important part of your brand. Make your values visible in marketing and recruiting. They will strengthen both your customer brand and your employment brand.
Validate Your Values.
Pressure-test those values during annual strategic planning. Discuss the relevance of each and how it is demonstrated throughout the organization. Does one need more focus from leadership? Any that are no longer relevant? A value that should be added? Change the list thoughtfully, though; values are meant to endure.
Aligning around your values is well worth the effort. Knowing who you are and what you believe in, as an organization, brings incredible clarity, focus and success.
What Do Good Project Sponsors Do?How to be a stellar project sponsor
Are you a project sponsor? Are you a good one? Solid change management means identifying the right people to sponsor a project – the right role…the right qualities. Yet, often, those “right” individuals accept the role of sponsor and then sit back and watch the program. They attend a meeting when asked. They take action on an issue when prompted.
If that sounds like you, you are not a good sponsor. Don’t worry, you can be one. You just have to understand that it’s not a passive role. Actually, it’s a very dynamic role, if you’re doing it right. A good sponsor does these things (and more), throughout the lifecycle of the project.
How to be a Stellar Project Sponsor
Identify and Resolve Issues
Don’t wait for your team to uncover issues. Take an active role in identifying and resolving problems. And tackle as many as possible before they become problems – risk mitigation is an essential part of your job.
For example, resources are common roadblocks. Be proactive; leverage your influence to grab the best people in your company for the team. When the team says they are understaffed in an area, listen. Bring in additional resources, as needed. And resources are not just human. Help the team get the facilities, technology, funding and organizational support they need.
Bare Minimum Tip: Review risks and issues once a month.
Sponsors should not only receive communication from the project team, they should be active communicators on behalf of the project. Your job is to be on message, keep the company on message, and create the sense of urgency that maintains project momentum.
Before you can communicate a message, you have to have a message. Work with company leadership to make sure all understand the essentials: why is the current state broken, what the solution should be, what action the company is taking, and what the result will be.
Bare Minimum Tip: Contribute at least one key message in monthly project communications sent to all stakeholders.
Acknowledge the Good and the Bad
Good sponsors communicate the positives and negatives of the change. There will be pain points. Good sponsors make tough decisions to move forward…to pause…to change directions…or to stop. As the project team discovers the impacts on stakeholders of those decisions, it’s your job to communicate them.
These are great moments to keep your company’s culture in mind. Have you done a culture assessment? If not, you should. If you use words and examples that resonate well with employees, bad news won’t stall your project.
Bare Minimum Tip: Don’t hesitate when you communicate the “not so positive” news. Sharing the truth before alternate stories circulate earns you trust and credibility with stakeholders.
Review Progress and Support the Project Team
Good sponsors stay on top of project milestones at all times. They review status and understand what the project team needs to be successful.
You are the face of the project to your organization. So if there delays to communicate, new resources needed, or changes to the solution remember that the buck stops with you. Don’t suggest the team has stumbled; keep the company’s eye on the results you all want.
Tip for Sponsors: Once each month, plan to attend a project team status meeting to hear directly from those who are doing the work.
Endorse the Project
Part of your role is cheerleader. Goals and benefits should be on the tip of your tongue, and there’s no substitute for authentic enthusiasm from you.
Think about how to frame the benefits of the project for each audience. Why will employees love the new way of doing business? What speaks clearly to executives? Tell them which project results will deliver for them, in their own terms.
Bare Minimum Tip: Share project progress at regular executive meetings and all-company events.
These steps are easy to remember if you put their first letters together: I C A R E. If you do, this is how you show it.
Master Your MessageOrganizational communication is deceptive. It seems simple, yet it’s often responsible for costly losses.
Organizational communication is deceptive. It seems simple – just writing or speaking a message to managers and employees. Yet it’s often responsible for costly losses. Change in organizations – mergers, reorganization, process change, new IT solutions — is often a big investment. In a 2008 survey of 47 global companies, two of the top three reasons for unsuccessful change initiatives were a) not articulating a “burning need” for the change, and b) poor, untimely, unclear or inconsistent communications.
Why do so many communication efforts fall flat? Or, more importantly, why is YOUR communication ineffective?
We can’t know until we examine you. Yes, we treat a communication problem like a doctor treats a patient. There are many things that need to go right, to be healthy. When it comes to communication, five things have to go right; you must understand your audience, leverage organizational culture, have the right message, deliver it the right way, and balance your “push” (pain) information with “pull” (aspirational) information.
But let’s focus on some two common ailments: developing a poor message and delivering it badly.
The Right Message
The best messages are short, simple and easy to remember. They are the 30-second elevator speech — the 30,000-foot view. They are the distillation of everything into simple, compelling, “message points” – single words, each supported by a few phrases, facts or quotes that reinforce that point.
Because most adults are visual learners, you’ll help people remember your message if you associate it with both words and pictures. Imagine drawing a box or a triangle. Now imagine each corner labeled with a major message point. Remember, message points are best if boiled down to one word. That simple visual helps those responsible for telling your story stay “onmessage.”
Successful messages invariably leave some good stuff on the cutting room floor. A message is not a treatise on everything an organization or project does. It is a tool to earn the attention of your target audience and to help align key messengers. When a busy executive meets a colleague in the hall, her ability to recall the three key words and associated facts (without relying on a PowerPoint deck!) increases the chances your audience will hear about the change in a consistent and sincere way.
Think of messages like pieces of meat used to distract the dog guarding the jewels. They are the best arguments you have to grab people’s attention, answer problems, refute weaknesses, highlight strengths – and steal the jewels – whether that is their support, their resources, their business, their financial assistance or their hearts and minds.
The Right Delivery
There is nothing magic about delivering a message in the right way, yet it so often goes wrong. A few things can improve your chances of success.
First, use a personal touch. Tell real stories that support your message. It’s important to include comments and quotes from people who are a lot like your target audience. And, in addition to referencing others like them, use experts. Third-party validation of your change, by trusted sources, is really powerful. Remember, “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum.”
Second: repeat, repeat, repeat. Re-use facts, stories, and information. Studies show the average person must hear, see or read a message seven times before really understanding it. Once you and your team are sick of your message — when it rings in your ears at breakfast like a bad jingle – know that your audience is just starting to hear it for the first time.
Third, maintain message discipline. Each presentation, every article, public remarks, emails, etc…must be on-message. Wandering off-message is easy because your product, project or organization is about much more than the message. But talking about those other things takes you off track. It distracts from the message you’ve been repeating, over and over, to create a shared direction.
Write the Story of Your Success
Companies face many challenges when they approach change. But the right message, delivered in the right way, puts you ahead of the game. Following sound communication practices lets you tell your story – consistently, repeatedly — on your terms.
Originally posted July 26, 2012.
Consider Culture Before an AcquisitionWhat’s a growth-minded organization to do?
Over half of all mergers and acquisitions fail, and many sources put the failure rate above 80%. Over half of those failures can be attributed to corporate culture clash.* While many deals look great on paper, few organizations pay proper attention to the challenges of combining two cultures. Culture is difficult to shift; combining two organizational cultures is even more challenging.
Over the weekend Kraft Heinz, the consumer goods giant controlled by Brazilian private equity group 3G and Warren Buffett, made and withdrew a $143B takeover approach for the Dutch-Anglo consumer goods group Unilever. The deal would have been the second-largest corporate merger on record.
Though it remains to be seen whether the alluring mega-deal is dead, Kraft Heinz might have been smart to veer away from Unilever in the first place. Since 3G consolidated Kraft and Heinz in 2015, Kraft Heinz has doubled profit margins to 30% and reduced employee headcount by more than 20% (to 42,000). The combined company derives more than 75% of revenue from the US market and operates eight major brands with declining revenues. Kraft Heinz is focused on driving costs out of the business. It does not reinvest substantially in its brands and thus needs an acquisition to grow revenues.
Unilever could not be more different. Unilever’s CEO abandoned quarterly reporting to concentrate on long term-revenue growth. It operates 13 major brands with 58% of revenue coming from emerging markets. Also, it has only half the profit margin of Kraft Heinz and employs 169,000 people worldwide. Unilever’s most important shareholder is a charitable foundation; their focus is on long term sustainability and profitability, not on cost-cutting for the sake of short term profitability. Unilever believes strongly in investing in its brand to drive organic revenue growth.
To those of us with expertise in corporate culture, these facts suggest very different cultural archetypes.
So Kraft Heinz could undoubtedly improve profit margins at Unilever, but would that equal success? It is doubtful the Unilever brands would continue to flourish under a drastically different management philosophy. The Financial Times reported one Unilever executive’s summary: “The deal made perfect financial and strategic senses for them, but absolutely none for us.”
Before making an offer, Kraft Heinz should have examined culture. Evaluating cultural fit, up-front, is a great investment. It helps companies avoid the high cost of a failed deal or the embarrassment of an open rejection.
What’s a Growth-Minded Organization To Do?
- Assess your own cultural identity.Culture is made up of the unspoken rules by which people in an organization act, every day. A strong culture is a source of synergy and efficiency. Cultures aren’t better or worse than each other; each successful organization’s culture is, by definition, good. You shouldn’t try to change it. But you should try to figure out what it is, especially if you want to manage an acquisition effectively. Conduct an evaluation to identify your own organization’s dominant culture. Many culture assessments assign the organization an “archetype,” which captures the mind-set and behaviors of leaders and employees.
- Conduct a culture audit of potential partners. Assessing the culture of the target company should be part of the due diligence process. The acquiring party must look for companies that fit, add to, or extend its own culture. The acquirer might look at qualitative data like mission/purpose, culture, vision, values, goals and future aspirations, and/or quantitative data from workplace assessments. Some companies have done their own culture assessments; in that case, the acquiring company should ask for those results. If, like Kraft Heinz, your culture is consistent with financial agility and tools like cost-cutting, don’t buy an innovator that requires massive, long-term, thoughtful investment to be successful.
- Define the new organization with culture in mind. Even in the case of a good match, the new combined entity must redefine itself as one organization with a shared mission, values and culture. Smart leaders build plans for culture integration and include them in the approach strategy and offer. And before the organizations become one, management must be aligned around the key strategic and cultural themes for the new organization.
Consider the “Different Works” ad campaign from Alaska Airlines and Mekanism, its branding agency. Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are both great brands with a loyal consumer following, yet neither customer base was excited about the recent merger. The new ad campaign highlights the fact that while a pairing may seem strange at first, it could be a great fit. In its ads, Mekansim asks us to consider electricity and guitars, labradors and poodles, salty and sweet, comedy and romance, chocolate and bacon, and now Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
One gets the sense that management did consider the cultural pitfalls of acquiring an iconic brand. Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines said, “Alaska and Virgin are different airlines, but we believe different works. The two airlines may look different, but our core customer and employee focus is very much the same.” Mike Zlatoper, EVP of Mekanism, explained, “What we really wanted to do was lean in and acknowledge the truth. On the surface these airlines are different but underneath there are lots of similarities.” Alaska Airlines has tapped into a fundamental success factor in corporate mergers: once you believe you have a good partner, focus attention on the synergy.
Note that we are talking about focusing attention, not simply communicating. Bringing together two companies creates a whirlwind of information. Employees and other stakeholders will try to filter and make sense of all of it, drawing their own conclusions in the absence of clarity. Unless you focus attention on the right information, uncertainty will reign. Uncertainty is the greatest enemy of sustainable change. Employees need to feel confident and secure during a business combination. Unless leaders and managers focus on the right messages and a clear path forward, any other efforts of the leadership team will be negated.
Managing a business today is hard enough. During a merger the challenges are acute and the stakes are much higher. Culture is one key to success.
*Taken from public sources such as Bloomberg, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal
Christian is Vice President, Consulting for Emerson Human Capital. Christian has led enterprise wide transformational retail consulting projects for Gallup and Accenture and worked in global development for Walmart and Metro AG.
Living In a Post-Truth WorldIs your leadership team ready to manage in a post-truth world?
The Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year is “post-truth.” The expression has been around for a while, but usage spiked after Brexit and throughout the U.S. presidential election.
President Obama reminded us in his farewell speech that we now live in a post-truth world. “Increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.” Referring to climate change, the president lamented that “without some common baseline of facts – without a willingness to admit new information and that your opponent might be making a fair point and that science and reason matter – we’re going to keep talking past each other.”
This problem is not new, it’s just come to a tipping point. “Confirmation bias” is a tendency to perceive information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. The term was first coined by English psychologist Peter Wason in 1960, and has been supported by many researchers since then. Daniel Kahneman was the first psychologist to win a Nobel Prize in Economics along with his colleague Amos Tversky, for their work in decision-making and behavioral science. Kahneman pretty much predicted our post-truth predicament and fake news obsession in his 2011 book, Thinking Fast and Slow, “Contrary to the rules of science, people seek data that are likely to be compatible with the beliefs they currently hold.”
In other words, when we read an article or an email, watch the news, or hear a presentation, we unconsciously cherry-pick data and focus on information that agrees with our existing position. And we dismiss information that doesn’t fit that position. Dr Kahneman also observed, “People generally look for a plausible scenario that conforms to their understanding of reality. We are unable to imagine…installing a third-party president.” It’s safe to say most of us did not imagine a Trump presidency a year ago.
The rise of unabashed “post-truth” thinking is more evident than ever before. People effectively cease to see what’s in front of them. For example, even though the earth gets hotter every year, many people deny the existence of climate change. Many simply could not imagine a Trump presidency, so they ignored signs to the contrary.
Some in the news arena have taken advantage of this bias, intentionally publishing “fake news” and highly one-sided content, targeting eager audiences. This appeals to our confirmation biases – there’s no need to swat away information we don’t agree with; it simply isn’t there.
Most of us aren’t in a position to influence news organizations or political dynamics. But many of us are in business leadership positions. We live in times of fast and fundamental transformation. During then President-Elect Trump’s recent news conference the stock market fluctuated wildly as he singled out the pharma, auto and defense industries. Cutting defense spending; taxing infrastructure investment in foreign countries and slashing pharmaceutical prices are all on the table.
Is your leadership team ready to manage in a post-truth world?
I’ve spent over a decade working with corporate leaders to apply behavioral economics to transformation. To survive, we will have to get employees to change the way they work, probably more than once. Managing big change is already a tall order, but understanding behavioral bias can help us navigate these choppy waters.
What can we do based on our understanding of confirmation bias?
- We know employees will approach any change with a bias – for or against. We know that the bias will act like a filter – causing people to accept and believe our messages only if they fit that bias. Often their bias is based on history – they will look for experiences that are similar to whatever it is we want them to do. The last system implementation? The last wave or policy changes? The last layoff? We should give them the right bias. Get ahead of it – offer employees the thing we WANT them to compare this change to. Compare the change to something that went well. Or tell a compelling story of a company that did the same thing, and came out shining. “Remember BigBang 2010? We all pulled together and it was a great success – our company grew and everyone was pumped. Now get ready for BigBang 2018! We’re getting ready for a whole new level of excellence.”
- We know employees will also have a bias based on the team involved. We should engineer the face of the change to use that bias. Did consultants lead the last painful transition? The bias: consultants are bad. No amount of talking will change that – your praise of this new consulting firm will bounce right off them. So put popular and influential employees out front. Did employees learn about that system that failed through all-hands PowerPoint presentations? The bias: big presentations mean bad news. You could put the best news in the world into a deck and they’d still be suspicious. So use a channel they already like – maybe their own small team meetings, or the celebratory company off-site.
Michael Lewis, in his new book, the Undoing Project, brought a fresh perspective to Kahneman and Tversky’s work. He writes that when people become attached to a theory, they fit the evidence to the theory rather than the theory to the evidence. The key to a post-truth workforce is not a barrage of facts and rationale. Don’t combat bias directly – use it strategically and everyone wins.
Christian is Vice President, Consulting for Emerson Human Capital. Christian has led enterprise wide transformational retail consulting projects for Gallup and Accenture and worked in global development for Walmart and Metro AG.
How to Deal With Election StressFour tips to reduce stress and move forward
It’s been three weeks since the presidential election. Regardless of how you voted or what you’ve experienced in the past, it’s normal to feel uneasy long after the results have been tallied. For many of us it is simply the stress of the unknown, while others are grieving a loss.
According to Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winner and psychologist notable for his work in behavioral economics, we feel the pain of loss more acutely than the pleasure of a win. And for more than half of voters this year, the election was a monumental loss.
We weathered a contentious campaign, often focused on exposing our deepest and darkest fears. 24-hour access to social media also blurred the line between truth and fiction, encouraging candidates to continually defend their actions instead of focusing on the issues. Researchers agree that it is common – particularly when we feel passionate about something – to make decisions based on our emotions and then search for facts to support our choice. Unfortunately, these emotional decisions can lead to sleepless nights and painful interactions with family and friends who don’t feel the same way.
I’d like to think that it is not a coincidence that Thanksgiving falls soon after the election. When experiencing big change, it is so important to recognize what we are thankful for, take time to decompress, and surround ourselves with whatever is familiar, controlled, and allows us to be successful. During the holiday season, that means connecting with family and friends, eating comfort food, celebrating, and taking part in traditional activities. It is all about surrounding yourself with what you know and what empowers you.
For those of us still anxious after the holiday, here are four tips to reduce stress and move forward.
Break obsessive thinking. When we are in a state of fear or anxiety, we obsess. Obsessive negative thoughts can disrupt our health – even alter our eating and sleeping patterns. We tend to imagine the worst. Why? Loss aversion. We are hard-wired to anticipate the worst in service of our own survival. To successfully refocus, we must divert attention from the obsessive behavior.
Game designer and author Jane McGonigal advocates the use of technology to create a positive state of mind. She suggests playing a strategic game like Candy Crush or Terraria to fully occupy your brain. Go for a run, read a book, complete the New York Times crossword puzzle or knit a scarf. When you are able to clear your head, it is easier to break the cycle of obsessive thinking.
Gather your “power-ups”. According to Dr. McGonigal, real-life “power-ups” are people, activities or events that give you energy and encouragement. Try joining a morning exercise class or take a run to your favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Not as active first thing in the morning? Listen to music while getting ready for the day or play with your children. I try to start and end my day using the Five Minute Journal. It helps me focus my attention on what is right in the world.
The key is to do something that makes you smile first thing in the morning.
Design your future. Mahatma Ghandi said it best, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” But that is a tall order. How about starting with a plan or written strategy for overcoming your fears. Make sure your plan includes small steps with milestones so you can see your progress. When we see progress – success — we are more likely to continue.
Comedian John Oliver has been a great resource for those who want to make an impact and suggests donating or volunteering for causes you care about. Even five dollars toward something you believe in can give you a sense of control. It is also important to stay informed and vote in the next election. There will be another opportunity for your voice to be heard!
Be kind. The rhetoric in this election was painful and we all know that words can and did incite aggression on the campaign trail, and protests afterward.
Actively engage in kindness. It’s a small but powerful step in the right direction. Start in the car. Slow down. Check your anger. Don’t honk your horn. Safely let someone in. Imagine the slow car in front of you has your own sweet parent or grandparent driving and treat them as you want your loved one treated. Our nation could use a little kindness right now. Kindness is a muscle that needs exercise. Find a way to practice it daily.
So You Want to Work for UsHow to get a job at Emerson Human Capital
I remember the recruiting calls I made from our first company headquarters – Trish’s basement. It was comfy down there. I conducted phone interviews surrounded by the livestock – Trish’s cat, her large poodle and the overly friendly neighborhood animals who made their way in through the open window.
“Can you tell me a bit about what made you contact us?” I asked a candidate. “Well, actually,” she answered enthusiastically, “my dad said great things about your company. He used to work for Emerson!”
That’s nice but, actually, no he didn’t. At that time, we were just a few months old.
In those early days, the average person thought “Emerson” was a window company or the electric company, depending on their geography. Candidates often said they knew our work, but that was rare.
Today, candidates seem to be as informed about our company as we are. They have worked alongside our employees at client sites, attended our workshops, read our books, and have visited us at our conference booths. They know who we are and they know they want to work with us.
That makes my job harder. The candidates I talk to love Emerson. They love what we stand for, what we do, how we do it and who we are. I love them right back. I sometimes wish I could hire all of them, but I can’t.
Recruiters have to make tough decisions. Want to land a job with Emerson – or any company? Here’s what I recommend:
Impress us with your resume.
If you represent Emerson, you will help clients create business outcomes. There are a lot of documents and deliverables that support those outcomes, and they have to be exemplary. The first deliverable we see is your resume. If we wouldn’t present it to a client, we can’t hire you. Is your resume well written, succinct, good-looking and honest? Great! We’re already interested.
If you are smart, polished, funny or professional, I will love talking to you. But if you are consciously trying to seem smart, polished, funny or professional…you won’t. You will just sound you like you aren’t being yourself. Or, worse yet, you might come off sounding pompous or defensive. We want to get to know the real you. That’s the only person we want to meet.
Do your work.
I talk to some people who misunderstand what we do. If you don’t really understand what we do, your examples will just make things worse – they will prove you don’t know the job you’re applying for.
I talk to other people who DO understand what we do, but they’ve never done it. They’ve been around it, next to it, have a friend who does it, but they’ve never done it. Writing an article about a house fire is not the same thing as being a firefighter. Just be clear and distinct about your experience. Not having every skill we need is better than “stretching” your experience to seem like you do.
Answer the question.
The bulk of an interview is made up of questions and answers. Our conversation will go smoothly if you answer the question that was asked. Sometimes it’s simply too much of a good thing – enthusiasm can make you lose track or talk in generalitiies. Or, maybe you don’t know the answer. That’s ok! It’s always better to be honest. When you are honest, we can have a real and productive conversation and get to the right answer for both of us.
Remember the “I” in team
For the purposes of our interviews, there is an “I” in team. If you’re a great person to work with, you’re probably used to acknowledging other people’s contributions and seeing every victory as a team effort. And we love that – that fits our culture beautifully. But, just for this conversation, I need to know what you did. We’re not hiring your whole team. What was your role? What did you deliver? What difference did you, personally, make to your company or client?
Mind your manners
We are grateful for your interest in our company. We appreciate the time you take in getting to know us. We feel lucky you sought us out as a potential employer. We like it when we can tell you feel grateful, appreciative and lucky too.
We hire experts in behavior change. They are smart, capable, kind, collaborative, down-to-earth people with a great sense of humor. If this describes you, and you take my few bits of advice, we’d love to hire you. Who wouldn’t?
An Agenda for Forming a New Executive TeamA thoughtful approach to aligning an executive team.
Two years ago, a friend began a company turnaround. His first task: tell his executive team they would not receive bonuses due to missed goals, despite growing revenue and EBITDA.
The team had never met face-to-face. Some had been through three management changes; others were new hires. My friend had a daunting challenge and asked for help building his team.
In preparation, we agreed upon the following principle: high impact teams result from meaningful work, not team-building exercises.
We met twice a year over two years. During that time, this team increased sales 50% and EBITDA 300%.
The Model We Used to Build the Executive Team.
Meeting 1 Outcomes – Strategy and Working Agreements.
The CEO had an overall vision for the turnaround. The team, shell-shocked from bad news, needed to hear it. Because they needed to jell quickly, we wanted them to overtly agree on how they would work together.
At the first meeting, we:
- Defined the culture they wanted.
- Described the strategy using four key words and personal stories.
- Determined specific actions for the next 180 days.
- Agreed upon how to work together.
Meeting 2 Outcomes — Momentum, Working Styles and “Yes!”
In the first 180 days, the team agreed on a new budget, met five new distributors, introduced three products, and hit their targets.
In this second meeting, we:
- Celebrated a successful quarter.
- Identified their preferred working styles and examined ways to adapt to their colleagues’ styles.
- Explored how to work with existing assets to increase profitability.
Meeting 3 Outcomes: A Visual Vision.
People crave meaning. The most successful companies are clear on what they stand for and why. Now that the team had worked together for a year, they were ready to clearly articulate their purpose.
Here, we summarized their:
- Core Values – what they stand for.
- Core Purpose – what they exist to do.
- Aspirations – what they want to be.
- Visual Vision – what the future looks like, in hindsight.
Meeting 4 Outcomes: Focus, Goals and Connection.
The team was winning, clearly focused on a differentiator, and had resolved factory capacity to increase profits. The CEO wanted them to sustain progress into the new year, create long term impact, and strengthen their connections as a high-functioning team.
- Examined how they accomplished what they did and how to sustain it.
- Created steps to achieve their personal goals with the differentiator.
- Applied strategies to stay focused.
The CEO had inherited this team. Using a thoughtful structure, we created an experience that helped the team jell.
Change Your People’s Behavior in Three StepsSimple steps to change behaviors
Want to know how to change employee behavior? Take a look at My Blood Is Black and Red, genius work by Leo Burnett that elegantly illustrates three basic elements of behavior change.
1. Be clear on the behavior you want, and focus attention on it.
In 2012, the famous Brazilian soccer team, E.C. Victoria, decided to address a national problem – blood banks were depleted. Victoria thought they could address this need by getting their fans to donate blood.
They focused attention on the desired behavior in a powerful way – by taking their team’s symbol, the striped jersey, and replacing the red stripes with white. It surprised people, and caused them to talk about the problem they were trying to address. Even the black market picked up the cause, replicating the black, white, and red jerseys.
2. Identify a trigger.
A trigger is the signal that prompts a person to engage in an action. When do people typically donate blood? When someone they know and like needs it! Victoria decided to redefine the trigger: Donate blood when you see our team play!
3. Reinforce the behavior.
Reinforcement means quick feedback – an immediate, observable consequence of the action. As blood donations increased, Victoria added a red stripe to the jersey. Over the course of five games, the team added red stripes. In two months, fans increased blood donations by 46%.
As Dr. Edgar Schein observed, when a group of people engage in a behavior successfully, they repeat it. The continued repetition of that behavior becomes habit, which in turn becomes culture.
Check out the video here.