How to Maintain a Purpose-Driven OrganizationThe purpose of your founder’s company doesn’t always fit your organization of today. It’s time to re-align.
What is your purpose? If your organization disappeared tomorrow, what would customers miss? If your organization’s purpose is not fulfilled, you might as well be gone. Customer relationships are threatened. Living a diminished version of yourself puts you at risk in the marketplace and emboldens the competition.
Purpose is different from values, Values are behaviors that orient the organization to deliver the purpose. They are the “how.” Purpose is the “why.” Values look inward, Purpose looks outward.
Living your purpose requires attention. It shouldn’t be a line on a poster or a PowerPoint slide. It is an intentional set of activities by leadership, management and employees. The organization’s founders know this better than anyone – they certainly knew why they created the company. But, as the organization grows and scales, it’s hard to maintain attention on the activities that make purpose real. Don’t make that mistake.
Five Ways to Activate and Maintain a Purpose-Driven Organization
- Harmonize it. Make sure your purpose and values agree and reinforce each other.
- Lead it. Leaders should live the purpose. They should use it to filter decisions and messages to the company.
- Orchestrate it. Hold purpose-driven events; create reinforcing rituals and symbols.
- Model it. Identify key behaviors for executives and managers to demonstrate purpose. Tap high-potential champions who can cascade purpose-based activities through the organization.
- Align it. Make sure organization design, performance management, incentives and recognition support purpose-driven activities.
Delivering a consistent purpose will drive your performance in the marketplace.
A Recipe for SuccessCheck out our basic recipe for success to make sure you have the essentials.
A great chef might tell you that the key to a success in cooking is confidence. But belief in your success comes with experience. Before you get out the blender for the first time, you need a recipe and a vision for the finished dish.
The same applies to getting great results for your organization. Humans are more likely to feel optimistic and get on board if we understand where we’re going and what it will take to get there.
Regardless of the end result, successful change has some essential ingredients. Here’s a quick recipe to give you the confidence to jump-start your next project!
- Combine at least one strong sponsor and a shared vision; mix until smooth. Slowly fold in strategy and pour into a message frame.
- Chop business knowledge and expertise with project oversight and spread across the top.
- Sprinkle on another pack of communication.
- Whisk together training, practice, and shared values. Spread over employees, and drizzle with inspiration.
- Gently heat employees until you see desired behaviors.
- Season with recognition.
Most importantly, allow enough time for preparation. Your organization will love the results.
The Good News and the Bad News at WorkWhat do you do when there’s bad news or big change on the horizon at work and you’re the one who has to share it? Just do it.
So many of us have experienced bad news at work. It’s bound to happen at some point, right? Sitting here today I can remember more than one layoff, company sale, significant process or system change, firing…the list goes on. Interestingly, the only negative memories I have come from bad news that was not addressed by leadership openly, honestly and early.
I certainly understand the tendency to keep bad news under wraps. When my stepson was young, my husband and I would hide the bad news from him until the last possible moment. We cared so much that we wanted to shelter him. After all, he had already been through so much: a divorce and new step parents. But we noticed early on that it was so much worse when we didn’t share bad news in the moment, or when he learned the news from someone else. He became quiet, unproductive and frustrated. We learned that he needed time to let the news soak in and talk through his concerns.
The more open we became, the less drama we all faced and the more patient he was with us during transitions. More importantly, he got to celebrate the good news that came with the bad!
When I was a young manager, I had that same fear of telling people about difficult changes. I thought for sure everyone would stop working to complain or gossip. It took me only a couple of times to realize that good communication can stop the gossip altogether! I also became more comfortable with letting people feel uncomfortable. Discomfort is a catalyst for change.
Besides, there is nearly always good news with the bad. A new system to learn means efficiencies. A reorganization improves the bottom line. When a new leader is hired, there is innovation. You get the idea. People may not like change, but they really like growth!
Here are a few things to think about when it’s time to share bad news with your organization.
- Your team is capable of understanding. Armed with knowledge, your team is more likely support the change than resist it.
- Well-informed people make better decisions. OK, we know that well-informed people don’t always make good decisions, but good decisions almost always start with well-informed people.
- Credibility builds trust. Leaders who have gained their employees’ trust are more likely to have an engaged and motivated workforce.
- Accurate information stops rumors in their tracks. Even if you don’t have all the answers yet, sharing news sooner than later minimizes misinformation and distraction.
- It is the right thing to do. For so many people, change is unbearable. Give them time and enough information to adjust and prepare for what lies ahead.
How We Turned HR Into Change AgentsRead this story of an HR team that changed its own behavior to drive successful change for their business.
We live in disruptive times. New tools, new markets, new policies, new trends, new clients, new employees… Every successful organization grapples with a wide array of changes, big and small.
HR professionals like me are responsible for the employee experience. We continually design and implement people processes to support our employees through a landscape of constant change. But good policies and processes are not enough. We need to start thinking of ourselves as change agents.
Let me tell you a story close to my heart. It’s about the launch of a leadership development program to improve the team-building behaviors of a company’s leaders, world-wide. The program was a smashing success (unlike many past similar projects). Why? Because HR made some significant behavior changes of its own.
- From understanding business needs to forecasting them.Having ears to the ground, HR could see early on that the business model was shifting from individual contribution to team performance. Soon, leaders would have to work with multiple global cross-functional project teams and get them to collaborate quickly to drive business outcomes. Because we anticipated this need, the program was not merely a reaction to a problem; it was a proactive solution.How we did it: We claimed a “seat at the table” and participated in business decisions. We held regular meetings with employees and managers and asked the right questions. We also conducted frequent pulse surveys to gauge the mood of the employee base and respond.
- From tracking metrics to owning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).The HR team committed to employee engagement (a company KPI) instead of focusing on tactical metrics like total training hours or training feedback scores.How we did it: We kept organizational goals front and center during every conversation and work session. We brainstormed with our clients to identify the right HR success metrics achieve employee engagement and to drive the desired employee behaviors. For example, training didn’t end in the classroom but was followed by simulations and mentoring to ensure that the learning stuck and leaders managed their teams optimally.
- From understanding diversity to fostering inclusion.Even though corporate headquarters was in the U.S., the move to team performance was global. We knew many typical elements of training and communication didn’t resonate globally, so we paid special attention to that.How we did it: We crunched the data to identify the diversity numbers. We then used the quantitative results to make the program culturally inclusive. We knew that, for example, employees in other countries might be alienated if we continued to use U.S. baseball metaphors. So we asked our geo stakeholder to share their stories and metaphors, then applied the lens of local culture to all experiences.
- From following HR trends to focusing and executing the most relevant trends.The HR team had a good sense of multi-generational workplace and digital revolution but we decided to thoroughly examine how these trends impacted the company and how best to manage them.How we did it: We read the research and reached out to networks and business stakeholders to get their input. We investigated trends and analyzed impacts. These findings guided all relevant HR actions. We made sure the communications, training and tools we rolled out resonated with the target audiences. For example, we used the latest technology platform to engage digitally savvy millennials who were primed to be future leaders.
As we became more involved with company strategy and our stakeholders, we better understood our pivotal role in all organizational change. HR is responsible for promoting employee behavior change. Sometimes it’s important to start with ourselves.
How to Change Behavior: Al Gore Balances Fear and HopeAl Gore illustrates principles fundamental to behavior change in An Inconvenient Sequel.
“I’ve been delving into neuroscience and behavioral psychology. I’ve had day’s long sessions with both of those groups. The first thing I’ve learned is you have to keep those groups apart.” Vice President Al Gore presented at the Commonwealth Club of California in late July, and showed up relaxed, authentic and funny. And while he is on a mission to save our world, he is also clearly a colleague in behavior change.
His new book and movie An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power focuses on three questions change practitioners examine daily:
- Must we change?
- Can we change?
- Will we change?
Al Gore and Panel Illustrate Principles of Behavior Change
- Remember: Facts do not change behavior. We cull our experiences to support the viewpoint we’ve already established. Scientists call this selective perception, and we all do it. John Cook’s formula (p. 208 An Inconvenient Sequel) provides an alternative to debating facts: target the undecided majority, boil down key points to their “simple and sticky” essence, and “inoculate against misinformation.”
- Show how the current system is broken. Mr. Gore tells the stories of John Leonard Chan, Catherine Flowers and Ivy Chipasha, giving names and faces to climate change impact. He equates the climate crisis to the moral imperative of the civil and gay rights movements. In our work, we often present only the vision for where we are going. But we must demonstrate that the current situation is unacceptable or people will not act.
- Provide a way out for entrenched nay-sayers. Mr. Gore described the experience of Jerry Taylor, who spent 20 years as a senior fellow with the Cato Institute denying climate change. Now as a founder at the Niskanen Center, he regularly speaks with conservative Republicans who would like to support the climate agenda, but worry about negative consequences.Professor Dana Carney talks about this from another angle. Once a person takes a public stand, even if it’s based on an impression, it’s unlikely they will change their view.We can address this in two ways: 1) Focus our efforts on people who are naturally open to changing their mind. These early adopters make it safe for others who are entrenched. 2) Look for ways to break a big change into very small steps. Research shows that progress reinforces momentum.
- Make your case visual and emotional. Our brains crave it; pictures and emotions appeal to our most primitive brain and they are easier to encode and interpret. Look at Mr. Gore’s book. He uses infographics and hero stories that are visually rich, varied and compelling. The book’s images focus our attention. It highlights data simply. It illustrates drama and trauma. It shows faces of climate heroes, and allows us to see how we can become one.
- Balance fear and hope. Ms. Cohen described Mr. Gore’s reference to a “hope bucket,” that provides people with enough hope that they will be willing to act, rather than be paralyzed by despair with the problem. “…please remember how important it is to guard against feelings of despair. Despair, after all, is simply another form of denial, and can serve to paralyze the will we need to fight…” (p. 13)Throughout his conversation, Mr. Gore repeats a common cadence within the same breath: problem/progress; scare/inspire. He juxtaposes President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown’s commitment to it. He describes how we’ve had 11 devastating “once-in-1,000 year events” in the last seven years, then describes how developing countries are taking the lead in adopting non-carbon technologies because they require little infrastructure, and are cheaper than the alternative. He holds that the sustainability revolution is as big as the industrial revolution coupled with the speed of the technology revolution.
- Define concrete actions. The entire second half of Mr. Gore’s book is devoted to concrete actions people can take to make a difference. The guidance is simple, concrete, specific. He provides examples, and alternatives. It’s compelling. In business, many people are open to changing, but we fail to tell them specifically what we want them to do. We fail to provide alternatives so individuals can choose what resonates with them. It takes effort to break a generalization (Use the new system! Function as one team! Don’t work in silos!) into a tangible action. But this effort on design is important, and the impact is profound.
In climate change, Mr. Gore addresses our existential crisis employing principles about human behavior. While we deal in comparatively mundane matters, we can learn from a master.
Don’t Wait to Tell Your Team About Big Change AheadFive tips for getting ahead of big change and keeping your team on track.
By Emerson Consultant, Kelley Egre
I became a change manager for one reason: I genuinely care about people and I want everyone to succeed. In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, success isn’t possible without a commitment to change. And, although we all know it’s necessary, constant change is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. Every big change strikes fear in the hearts of employees. If you ignore that fear, you can end up with widespread dissatisfaction, lack of focus, and lagging business performance. Just what you don’t need!
Despite those consequences leaders often choose to wait until they know every detail before announcing a big change to the organization. Understandable, but naïve – rumors spread quickly. Pretty soon, leadership has lost the chance to get ahead of the story.
In 20 years managing communications for large national and global brands, I’ve supported thousands of employees through transformative change. I’ve seen many initiatives up close. I can attest that clear, thoughtful and empathetic communication – early and often – builds trust and takes the momentum out of rumors and dissatisfaction.
Five Tips for Getting Ahead of Big Change
- Tailor all of your messages by audience. And, don’t just tell them what the change is. Tell them what’s in it for them and what you will share with them next.
- Say it and address questions. Then say it again and again. People need to hear the same message seven to ten times to really get it. And the more you can deliver those messages in person, the better.
- Use multiple messengers. Make sure it’s not always the same person talking. Information should come from leadership, first-line supervisors, peers, and third-party experts. Choose the messengers based on their influence and credibility.
- Share examples that motivate. Human examples and real numbers are memorable and build positive momentum for your change.
And, my most important tip for communicating big change…
- Tell the truth. Trust is critical to your success. Employees would rather hear “I don’t know that answer yet” than to find out you lied. It’s scary sometimes, but your honesty can help you come through the toughest change with a stronger organization.
How to Position Your Change InitiativeChange management positioning techniques
We resist change at work because we fear loss – specifically, loss of competence. It’s justified. One day we’re good at our jobs and feeling safe and sound. The next day some benign-sounding initiative ending with “transformation,” “migration” or (heaven forbid) “rationalization” shows up and shuffles the deck. Suddenly, we realize that so much will be different: how we work, how we fit into our teams, how we’re evaluated and rewarded, how we get to that feeling of personal strength and success.
Resistance based on fear and uncertainty is natural and it’s going to happen. A leader’s role is to position change so our teams see the path forward – so they understand how to move past the trauma and recapture their confidence.
Change Management Positioning Techniques
The Monster in the Closet
When my son was four, we moved into a new house and he moved into a new bedroom. On the first night, he woke up and screamed at the top of his lungs that there was a monster in his closet.
I sprang into action with the time-tested Monster Consolation Protocol: turn on the light, present the monster-less closet, give the “no such thing as monsters” speech, and lie down with him until he falls back to sleep.
I was on the last step of the process – he was just about to doze off – when something completely unexpected happened. (No, there wasn’t actually a monster in the closet.) My wife, back in our bedroom, began frantically screaming, “There’s a ghost in the bed!” Don’t judge; my wife grew up in a part of the world where people often believe in ghosts. That part wasn’t up for debate. To be fair, we did discover that the previous owner had died in the house.
Now I had a terrified four-year old and a screaming wife! I jumped up, looked at my son and asked him whether he wanted to come with me to check on his mom. He looked at me like I was completely out of my mind and yelled, “No way!” I could see his point – “I might have a monster in my closet, but somebody in the other room has a ghost in her bed! I’ll stay put and take my chances.”
So what’s the lesson? If our change project is a monster in the closet, then we need to position the status quo as a ghost in the bed. What we are moving away from must be scarier than what we are moving toward.
Tell people that the change is happening for a reason. Sticking with the current way of doing business will have dire consequences. Describe those consequences early on, and in vivid terms. For example, “We’re migrating to a shared services model because, if we don’t, we’ll have to shut down entire business units. We might even go out of business altogether. We must do this and do it now.”
Sugarcoating or avoiding negative consequences of the status quo stymies the change.
The phrase has negative connotations today. When it was originally coined by the Romans, it symbolized strength and commitment. When invading foreign lands, it was common practice for the Roman army to burn the bridges behind them so that retreat was impossible. They had to fight or die. It was a harsh but effective strategy – the Romans didn’t lose many battles.
Fortunately, most of our projects aren’t matters of life and death, but the principle still works: the path forward is easier to follow when all other options have been removed.
One way to do this is to make your desired outcome the default. Think of the many ways this works in our day-to-day lives. When we subscribe to a cable TV package, we don’t get to pick and choose every channel we want. We can purchase Package A, Package B, or Package C. Like the cable company, we must lay out the “givens” of the change and the choices people have within that framework.
An even faster path to transformation is to take a switch-over approach, where the choice is binary: change and move forward or come to a full stop. There are lots of ways to learn a new language, but most people agree that immersion is fastest. When we put ourselves in a place where nobody speaks our language, there is no alternative but to learn theirs…and so we do. For our change projects, this means shutting off the old system or making the old way working impossible. Switchover Approach Safety Tip: the new system or process must be 100% reliable! Make sure you thoroughly pilot, test, and then test again.
Positioning change is about reducing the psychological barriers that prevent teams from moving forward. Changing behavior often requires us to both push and pull: Push the team away from a comfortable, yet failing, current state while pulling them towards a clear and unobstructed view of the goal. When we do it right, we use a balanced and thoughtful process. We can present a stark view of the present, as long as we also provide an optimistic and obtainable future.
How to Hire the Right ConsultantWhat you should ask to find an effective change consultant.
Years ago, I met a surly executive, whose staff actually lit his cigar and handed him scotch whiskey as he entered the hotel lobby for our meeting. He greeted me with, “So, you’re the touchy-feely person.” That’s a change consultant. Touchy feely. Soft and emotional. That perception creates two problems. First, it attracts people who don’t have the disciplined background to be effective. I once facilitated a panel for a well-regarded professional organization. One of the panelists had a website promoting both her change practice…and her massage therapy business.
Second, this perception creates chaos for those trying to buy credible change services. Who should we trust? Our IT implementer? A noted author? An academic? Someone who is certified? Certified by whom?
The result? Wasted time, money, and credibility. Another project implodes because the employee side of the system/change was handled poorly, and the organization learns once again that failure is acceptable.
We know the required questions to ask a change consultant: What is your experience? Who are your references? How long have you been in the field? Are you the one who will actually do the work? But these questions do not separate the best from the rest.
What to Ask to Find an Effective Change Consultant
- Are you (the IT partner) willing to “throw in” the change work for free or at a high discount? A “yes” tells you the company sees the people side of the work as secondary – as a commodity – not a strategic imperative. This perspective affects who they hire, how they train, their retention, etc. In other words, you won’t get a strong change management team. In fact, many IT implementation firms have a habit of dismantling their people practice and associated training programs then rebooting them when the market notices. Ask how long each proposed change team member has been with the company, and in what divisions – that should give you an idea of when the company last revived their change management practice.
- Are your change practitioners full-time employees or a network of affiliated consultants? This speaks to the vendor’s commitment to the field and their investment in developing their people and solutions from one project to the next. Beware also of companies with a large rolodex of talent – a wide net shifts the screening process from the vendor to you.
- What am I buying from you, exactly? Are they methodology wonks, who love to show detailed processes and models? Far from being an assurance of effectiveness, this means you are buying activity rather than outcomes – usually slide decks, documentation, and “deliverables.” Your consultant should be talking about your business outcomes, not training plans and communications vehicles. The consultants with degrees in communications, learning, marketing, psychology or economics – the fields devoted to human behavior – are best equipped to focus on the behaviors that deliver the results you want.
- Do you do strategy, implementation or both? Beware the firms that do strategy only. Those who implement their strategy learn what works and what doesn’t. Companies that focus exclusively on strategy wash their hands of accountability. They tend to blame poor outcomes on bad execution. If you want results, focus on change management partners who take ownership for your success.
- Will you tell us about the outcomes we will see? You are not hiring a company to do change management; you are hiring them to deliver a promise someone made about your initiative. That usually looks like faster implementation, people using the system, increased revenue, undisrupted customer service…real benefits, clearly stated, with metrics attached. Having a laser focus on your outcomes matters. Your new partner should be able to express that clearly, in plain language, and help you stay on-message to your organization. In the midst of a difficult implementation, words like “pivot,” “unpack” and “value-add” will drive you and your organization crazy.
Answering these five questions will get you better results and some peace of mind. That leads me to the last tip. Any big initiative is stressful, so the most important question is: do you like the people you are meeting? If so, you’ve given yourself a gift – someone who makes the inevitable tough times lighter.
Retraining the Workforce for Industry ChangeRetailers have an opportunity to turn the traditional associate of yesterday into the company advocate of tomorrow.
Have you noticed more “For Lease” signs in your neighborhood? Small businesses I used to visit while walking my dog are closing their doors because customer shopping habits are evolving. It’s not breaking news: traditional brick and mortar stores are less appealing to an increasingly technology-savvy consumer base. The industry is changing…right?
Yes, but It’s a complex landscape. On one hand, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the industry has grown by1.5 million jobs in 2010. In April of this year, there were more than 570,000 retail job openings in the United States. Yet, advances in technology are changing the way customers shop. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has observed online sales gaining ground against in-store purchases.
We’ve talked about the changing retail industry before. Our VP, Christian Hasenoehrl, described a change management plan to ready your business for the new retail landscape. He focused on tactics for leadership teams, not on stores, managers, cashiers, salespeople – how do they fit into a retail change management strategy?
An Industry Opportunity
Retailers have an opportunity to turn the traditional associate of yesterday into the company advocate of tomorrow. Technology like self-service check-out will replace the need for physical cashiers, creating space for retail employees to focus on the consumer experience. The NRF offers credential programs targeted to entry-level employees. Retailers looking to turn their sales staff into brand ambassadors (think Apple Store associates) can get training from the NRF. Programs created by the NRF are supported by large retailers, but operate independently.
These courses fill a need well for many employers, but we suggest you think about custom learning. The company itself knows where it’s heading and can anticipate the skills and behaviors it will need in the future. Company leadership also knows its own workforce – not all retail employees are alike, nor do they come into training from the same context. So our strong recommendation is to identify the employee behaviors that drive your business strategy, then let custom training take your employees from where they are to where you need them to be. You’ll be building your future company from the bottom up.
Consider what’s working well at Walmart. They created an academy to train their retail workforce in more advanced skills. Over the past two years, trainers have taught nearly half a million workers. And they’re looking to partner with other big retailers to create industry-wide training standards to position both companies and their workers for the future.
This is the kind of investment and proactive thinking that will pay off for retailers, employees, communities and customers as society evolves.
The Dubs are Culture KingsHow Coach Kerr used change management concepts to create a culture of winning.
I admit that I only started paying attention to the Golden State Warriors two years ago. But I was glued to the TV this basketball season. KD! Steph! Klay! Draymond! And my favorite, swing man Iggie —Andre Iguodala. But my real hero is their coach, Steve Kerr. Thank you Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, and Bob Myers in the front office for funding this super team, but Kerr built and fostered the winning culture.
When interviewed, every player talks about teamwork and playing with joy. It’s no wonder that they led the league in most assists per game. And even though Kerr is too humble to take credit, most sports pundits attribute the winning culture to him. Another franchise could put great players on one team but would the team be as strong as the Warriors without the special culture? Nah.
We know that creating or shifting a culture is often difficult, if not impossible. Here are some change management concepts Coach Kerr used probably without even knowing it:
- Led by example by sharing the spotlight. Kerr consistently focused on his team, not himself. For example, when Kerr was too ill to coach and assistant coaches Luke Walton (2016) and Mike Brown (2017) had to step in, he gave them full credit for their decision-making and the wins.
- Used early adopters by showcasing selfless players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Yes, they’re talented players but they’re not showboats; they’re living testimonials to Kerr’s emphasis on teamwork. The “Splash Brothers” were part of the recruiting posse that convinced Kevin Durant to join the Warriors this season.
- Celebrated small wins by giving opportunities to younger players and patting them on the back for their efforts (even if they screwed up occasionally).
- Accepted diversity by managing the very passionate, soon to be crowned Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green. Not everyone has to fit the culture to the nth degree. Some dissention and variety are healthy.
- Created a movement by living the Warriors’ tagline “Strength in Numbers.” He optimized the team and kept everyone ready to contribute. When KD was out for 19 games, others – including the bench – jumped in to fill the void. During this period the Warriors still won 15 of 19 games. “Strength in Numbers” also applies to the fans. People could “hear us roar” from all parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.
A recent Harvard Business Review article* says, “…culture…has to live in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of ‘how things are done around here.’”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Golden State Warriors won their second NBA title in three years.
*Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate by Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule, June 20, 2017