Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Halley Bock for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
* * *
Don’t just tell your employees they’re your most valuable asset — show them. And get your CEO involved in talent management efforts to drive home the message.
Most organizations widely publicize the fact that talent is their most valuable asset — and that’s often true. But when employees see a disconnect between such claims and what actually happens behind closed doors, there are bound to be repercussions in engagement and retention. To avoid this, organizations must show, not tell, their people how they’re valued — and this can start at the top with the CEO.
[Halley offers three specific suggestions. Here's the first.]
Create a people-first culture. While there are many responsibilities a CEO can delegate, setting and reinforcing the culture isn’t one of them. Herb Kelleher, famed former CEO and co-founder of Southwest Airlines, understood this to a degree that many leaders still struggle to comprehend. By placing utmost importance on defining the culture and ensuring it had everything to do with his employees, he created one of the most successful airlines in history. Kelleher’s motto was, and continues to be, “You have to treat your employees like customers.” By treating them right, he could be assured that they, in turn, would treat the customer right.
Creating a people-first culture has more to it than just coming up with a catchy motto. A CEO must be committed to the employees at the deepest level. This means addressing their needs through increased flexibility in corporate policies, caring for the employee’s family by extending inclusive benefits and investing in their future by prioritizing promoting from within.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company that drives results for businesses by improving workplace communication. She can be reached at her firm.
In the writing skills course that we teach at Creative Communication Network, entitled Write Your Way to Success, we discuss how to handle e-Mails.
Most of our participants claim they write e-Mails as more than 85% of the type of writing they do on the job.
Obviously, writing e-Mails is often responding to other e-Mails.
And, the question is, do you control e-Mail, or does e-Mail control you?
Do you remember the Southwest Airlines commercials a few years ago, where a woman dropped a cake because she heard a “bing” on her computer, announcing an e-Mail? Or the one where the guy jumped over a cube wall to get to his e-Mail? They were exaggerated events, but not too far from reality.
You likely remember the synopsis of the book that I presented at our First Friday Book Synopsis entitled The Tyranny of e-Mail by John Freeman (Scribner, 2009). In that book, he presented a strong set of hints for writing and reading e-Mails, including scheduling a time to read e-Mails so that you concentrate on what you read and what you write, and so that you control e-Mail, instead of it controlling you. If you missed the original presentation, you can find it on 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
I thought this piece published on February 21, 2012 in the Harvard Business Review blog by Amy Gallo, entitled “Stop Email Overload,” was also provacative in the same sense. Click here to read the entire article.
Think about some of these principles. How much more productive would you be if you dictated when and how you went through your e-Mail? What if you decided how e-Mail fit into your day instead of jumping to check it everytime your computer beeped to tell you something new has arrived?
Let’s talk about it really soon!
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
* * *
In a volatile world, anxiety and uncertainty make people a little testy.
Cranky people can drag everyone else down by spreading negativity and sowing seeds of doubt just when leaders need commitment. And when everyday crankiness is exacerbated by performance problems, then the merely grumpy can become disgruntled former employees out to do damage to the team.
Early in my career, when sharing a vacation house with a group of friends, I learned an important lesson from a classic book by anthropologist Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: It takes a lot of people cooperating to keep things neat, but it takes only one disgruntled dirt-monger to mess things up. The task for everyone else is not to let them.
This has become a favorite management insight as I advise bosses and boards. In one recent case, the chief financial officer of a small company was fired for possible expense account violations, and he was also seen as a poor strategist and weak team player. The former CFO did not go quietly. He consulted a lawyer, then went to a second and a third when the first one said he didn’t have a case. He rallied friends who sent emails to prominent customers about his grievance. Meanwhile, the CEO and new CFO had to raise capital and revenues to make up for the shortfall, which the disgruntled former CFO blamed on everyone else. His loud voice and tale of mistreatment threatened to topple the entire enterprise.
When faced with cranky, grumpy, or disgruntled people, these Do’s and Don’ts can be helpful.
[Here are five of the nine. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Don’t give them power. Don’t let their claims occupy disproportionate time and management attention. Have one person manage so that everyone else can continue the real work.
2. Do keep telling your positive story about the organization’s purpose, mission, goals, and accomplishments. Remind everyone about the big picture.
3. Don’t adopt an angry tone. Stay calm and professional. Don’t stoop to their level by telling juicy stories. Recent studies show that badmouthing makes the tale-teller look bad, in a boomerang effect.
4. Don’t tell their story for them. Don’t start meetings or conversations by rehashing the situation. Stick to a simple statement or two that acknowledges your sorrow that there are complaints. Don’t sound defensive. Don’t lend credibility by providing your answers to things that audiences might not know or care about.
5. Don’t assume that being right is enough. Having the facts on your side might be enough in a court of law, but it is not necessarily enough in the court of public opinion. Other people are convinced by your actions. They need to see that you operate by principles. They will judge your authenticity and consistency.
* * *
Above all, do what’s right for the mission and stakeholders. Even in a volatile world that requires tough decisions, the best way to counter crankiness is through an inspiring, energizing purpose.
[Note: I cannot resist citing again what Herb Kelleher, former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, said when explaining the airline’s spectacular success: "We take great care of our people, our people take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders."]
* * *
Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at Twitter.com/RosabethKanter.
In her recently published book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy, Joan Magretta has much of value to say. In Chapter 4: Creating Value: The Core (Part Two), for example, she discusses Enterprise-Rent-a-Car, Zipcar, Southwest Airlines, Aravind Eye Hospital, Walmart, Progressive, and Edward Jones. Each has an especially effective strategy based on (1) a distinctive value proposition (actually, Aravind has two), and (2) on a tailored value chain.
Here are a few insights that caught my eye. Aravind is named after Sri Aurobindo, one of the 20th century’s most revered spiritual leaders and was founded by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy whose inspiration was McDonald’s. He wanted to produce cataract surgeries as efficiently and as consistently as McDonald’s produced hamburgers. He designed a system that did just that.
When Southwest established pricing, it was not to compete with other airlines also serving major cities in Texas; rather, to compete with the Greyhound and Trailways bus lines. That is why it has flown only 737s, eliminated most amenities, minimized turnaround time, and scheduled lots of flights for the lowest possible fares whereas American Airlines and other competitors schedule far fewer flights with much higher fare costs and usurious fees for basic services.
Enterprise is now the largest and most profitable rental car company but that was certainly not true when Jack Taylor founded it in 1957 in Saint Louis, leasing cars to residents. He had learned that 40% of all car rentals are by people who live in the same city and that most automobile insurance coverage included a car rental option for a modest additional charge. When expanding market penetration, he and his associates decided to select neighborhood locations that would be more convenient and less expensive than at airports. These locations remain within 15 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. Enterprise also cultivates strong relationships with all auto repair shops within or independent of dealerships.
Keep all this in mind as you now read what Adrian Slywotzky observes in his latest book, Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It: demand creators “spend all of their time trying to understand [begin italics] people [end italics]…They try to understand our aspirations, what we need, what we hate, what gives us emotional charge – and, most important, what we might really love…They seem to know what we want even before we do. They wind up creating what people can’t resist and competitors can’t copy. Yet they almost never succeed on the first try…These demand creators recognize the huge gaps between what people buy and what they really want – and they use those gaps as the springboard for a process of reimagination that you might call the demand way of thinking.”
Magretta and Slywotzky discuss dozens of companies from which invaluable business lessons can be learned. Here are three:
1. Forget about “being the best” in an industry or even in a market segment. Be the best provider of what your customers need.
2. Be constantly alert to their unmet needs, especially those that are imminent, and fill those needs with products and/or services that add greater value than any others can. Then continuously improve what you offer.
3. Be the easiest provider for your customers to do business with by eliminating all hassles. Every person in your organization must be not only willing but eager to “go the extra mile.” Convince them that it is a privilege to assist customers whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
4. Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers.
5. Don’t overestimate or underestimate the importance of good execution. It’s unlikely to be a source of sustainable advantage, but without it even the most brilliant strategy will fail to produce superior performance.
Additional and even more valuable revelations about “the principles that distinguish great organizations from good ones”
For as long as I can remember, Jim Collins has been a research-driven business thinker. In each of his prior books, he and his associates (usually Morten Hansen among them) share what was revealed during many years of research to learn the answer to an especially important question. For Built to Last, it was “Why are some companies able to achieve and sustain success through multiple generations of leaders, across decades and even centuries?”; in Good to Great, “Why do some companies make the leap from good to great… and others don’t?”; then in How the Mighty Fall, “How and why do some once great companies fall and other companies never give in to the same challenges, problems, and setbacks?”; and now in Great by Choice, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?”
Collins, Hansen, and their colleagues conducted a nine-year study (2002-2011) and share what they learned. Here are the findings that caught my eye:
1. For reasons best revealed within the book’s narrative, in context, some companies and leaders thrive in chaos. Those on whom the book focuses have out-performed their industry’s index by at least 10 times and (key point) under the same extreme conditions with which others in the same industry must also contend.
2. Characterized as “10X” companies, those selected were paired in a “near-perfect match” — for purposes of both comparison and contrast – with companies during “eras of dynastic performance that ended in 2002, not the companies as they are today. It’s entirely possible that by the time you read these words, one or two of the companies on the list [i.e. Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker] has stumbled, falling from greatness.”
3. The research invalidates well-entrenched myths (see Pages 9-10) with regard to the 10X companies and their leaders. For example, “the evidence does not support the premise that 10X companies will necessarily be more innovative than their less successful comparisons [during the same timeframe]; and in some cases, the 10X cases were less innovative.”
4. Leaders of 10X companies display three core behaviors that, in combination, distinguish them from the leaders of less successful comparison companies. They also call to mind the behaviors of Level 5 leadership, examined in detail in Good to Great. Specifically, 10Xers exemplify fanatic discipline (“utterly relentless, monomaniacal, unbending in their focus on their quests”), empirical creativity (reliance on “direct observation, practical experimentation, and direct engagement with tangible evidence”), and productive paranoia (channeling their fear and worry into action, preparing, developing contingency plans, building buffers, and maintaining large margins of safety”).
5. In the Epilogue, Collins and his associates acknowledge their sense that “a dangerous disease” is infecting today’s culture, one that incorrectly suggests that greatness “owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline.” Yes, they agree, good or bad luck plays a role for everyone, including 10Xers and Level Fivers. However, they offer an eloquent reassurance that many of us need to hear: “The greatest leaders we’ve studied throughout all our research cared as much about values as victory, as much about purpose as profit. As much about being useful as being successful. Their drive and stamina are ultimately internal, rising from where deep inside.”
Organizations do not make choices, their leaders do, and the fate of each of those organizations depends on the quality of the choices its leaders make, especially amidst uncertainty, chaos, and luck…three realities that even the best leaders can only manage rather than control. That is the challenge but also the opportunity to which the book’s title refers. The single most important difference between the 10X companies that Collins and Hansen discuss and those with which they are compared/contrasted is that those who lead them make better choices as they build and then sustain a culture within which everyone else does.
How to create a demand-creating culture
Many books published in recent years offer excellent advice on how to create and then sustain what I call a hyphenated culture: quality-driven, customer-driven, innovation-driven, results-driven, etc. The given objectives are eminently worthy and I have no quarrel with any of them, nor does Adrian Slywotzky. The fact remains, however, that an organization must have compelling appeal to those on whom it depends for success: employees at all levels and in all areas with talent and skills as well as character and commitment who create great value for customers. That’s precisely what Herb Kelleher always stressed when asked to explain the extraordinary success of Southwest Airlines: “We take great care of our people, our people take great care of our customers, and our customers then take great care of our shareholders.”
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want Slywotzky’s latest book is a “must read” for business leaders in organizations that are struggling to answer any/all of questions such as these:
• “How can we get our customers to buy more of what we sell?”
• ”How can we convince more of our competition’s customers to buy from us?”
• “How can we convert fence-sitters into buyers of what we sell?”
• “How can we attract, hire, and then retain the people who will create the greatest value for our customers?”
• “Meanwhile, what must we do each day to improve the quality of life in our workplace and increase the appeal of what we produce there?”
In each instance, the challenge is to create and then sustain demand.
Whatever its size and nature may be, every organization must be led by what Slywotzky characterizes as “demand creators,” people who “spend all of their time trying to understand [begin italics] people [end italics]…They try to understand our aspirations, what we need, what we hate, what gives us emotional charge – and, most important, what we might really love…They seem to know what we want even before we do. They wind up creating things people can’t resist and competitors can’t copy. Yet they almost never succeed on the first try…These demand creators recognize the huge gaps between what people buy and what they really want – and they use those gaps as the springboard for a process of reimagination that you might call the demand way of thinking.”
There are hundreds (thousands?) of books now on sale that offer advice on how to increase sales, how to market with “a bigger bang for the buck,” how to improve customer relations, etc. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book – certainly one that is most cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective – to explain “how to create what people love before they know they want it.” Dozens of real-world examples are provided to illustrate key points. They also suggest all manner of practical applications. It should also be noted that the wealth of information, insights, and recommendations that Slywotzky provides are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Moreover, after reading and then (preferably) re-reading this book, almost anyone can become a highly effective demand creator.
As Slywotzky explains, “Demand creators have a hidden advantage. Many of their rivals are ‘anti-demand’ organizations – organized in disconnected silos. Focused on meeting yesterday’s demand, and often remarkably immune to the signals that customer behavior is trying to send us…Great demand creators are special, in part, because they understand that the things we buy and the things we actually want aren’t always the same…Great demand creators eliminate or reduce the hassles that make most products and services inconvenient, costly, unpleasant, and frustrating.” With relatively minor modifications, these attributes of demand thinking insofar as marketing and customer relationships are concerned could also be said of recruiting, hiring, and training the talent needed as well as of creating what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists.” It is no coincidence that employees of the most highly admired organizations, “the best to work for,” are also their evangelists and refer to themselves as such.
Adrian Slywotzky has written a book in which all this is explained so well that the reader is well-prepared to become an effective demand creator. Then, after reading this book, I think that one of the first tasks at hand is to convince one’s associates to develop a sense of urgency about knowing whatever is required to help create “what people love before they know they want it.” Demand creators cannot do that alone. They build and excite great teams that effectively reach thousands or millions of customers. And by doing so, they seem to have a lot more fun in their business than many of their rivals do. Meanwhile, highly-valued workers do not leave; on the contrary, they are among the primary reasons why other peak performers and high potentials are eager to work with them.
Here is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Jon Katzenbach, Laird Post, Jonathan Gruber, and Aurelie Viriot, featured by The Katzenbach Center at Booz & Company. They explain how and why achieving strategic goals and accelerating performance results often require that employees at multiple levels of the organization change certain critical behaviors. Many companies do not succeed at helping those employees change despite investing heavily in formal initiatives such as financial incentives or training programs.
The problem is that they neglect an essential aspect of what motivates employees — the emotional commitments that they must bring to the organization and their jobs in order to do well and to exceed expectations. By mobilizing those emotional commitments, companies can accelerate the behavior changes required to elevate business performance. “Pride Builders” can play a substantial role in mobilizing the kind of emotional commitment that makes behavior change happen.
The co-authors go on to point out that Pride Builders are often overlooked and underutilized, though their potential is enormous. Organizations should follow a rigorous approach to determine who the Pride Builders are and then build on their insights and capabilities to influence behaviors. Pride Builders can be helpful allies in spreading both motivational behaviors and performance behaviors. In practice, an eight-step tactic we call a performance pilot is often valuable in gaining insights and demonstrating impact. Ultimately, companies can grow a robust community of Pride Builders and develop the institutional capability to observe, capture, and spread critical behavior changes throughout the organization.
To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.
* * *
Focus on the Critical Few Behaviors
The ever-increasing pace and magnitude of change in highly competitive business environments has created an unprecedented need for organizational agility. Driving behavior change rapidly throughout the organization is more important than ever. By behaviors, we mean the usual, repeated way in which employees spend their time, make decisions, conduct relation- ships, handle conflicts and truths,
and perform their job. But behavior change is hard to achieve. To illustrate that point: Think back to when you first met your spouse. How many real behavior changes have you been able to make (or motivate your spouse to make) since then? One? Two?
Organizations are no different. That’s why leaders have to pick their battles carefully and identify those few critical behaviors essential to achieving explicitly stated business objectives. Typically, addressing a set of three to five key behaviors is doable. Behavior change is not equally important for all employees. Consequently, it is imperative to identify the employee groups whose behavior change will have the most impact. In our experience, those groups are often leaders or frontline employees who either interact with customers or shape the company’s product and service offerings
But what exactly are the appropriate critical behaviors to target? Deciding which of the potential behavior changes you should focus on is often tough.
There are a number of dimensions to consider in selecting the critical few:
• Business impact: Will the new behavior make a difference in achieving the key priorities and objectives of the organization?
• Senior leadership support: Does management fully support this behavior change?
• Momentum: Does the behavior change create motivation and momentum for follow-up efforts?
• Measurability: Can we measure and track the targeted behavior change?
• Ease of implementation: Can the targeted behavior change be implemented with reasonable resources and appropriate support from the organization?
• Timing: Will the targeted behavior change happen within the required time frame?
In many cases, the critical behaviors that must change flow directly from a reassessment of strategic and operating priorities or a new strategy itself. For example, a telecommunications company adopted a new customer- centric strategy, then identified the few critical behavior changes required in its call centers for that new strategy to come to life.
It’s one thing to determine the critical few behaviors, but quite another to get your employees to adopt them. In most cases this cannot be done by decree, however desirable that might be. If behavior change is to become permanent and viable, it needs to be motivated, not just mandated. It must be anchored in the organizational culture, in the patterns of how people think, feel, and believe.
To motivate employees in this way, appealing to both their rational and emotional sides is necessary. Just look at the employees of such extra- ordinary organizations as Southwest Airlines, Apple, or the U.S. Marine Corps. Emotional commitment—not logical compliance—is what deter- mines employees’ exceptional service, innovation, and dedication to the organization. Unprompted, these workers go the extra mile for the good of their units and their organizations. For instance, at Southwest Airlines, it is not uncommon for pilots to help baggage handlers, and for flight attendants to interact with passengers before they get on the plane. At Apple, employees extensively network and communicate directly with customers and other Apple devotees who care as much about the company and its products as they do. And there are countless examples of battlegrounds where Marines have brought out more members—alive, wounded, and dead—than any other military unit operating in the same theater, as well as more trivial evidence of emotional commitment, such as the letters sent by readers to the Marine Corps Gazette magazine in which they show in words their devotion to the values of the Marine Corps.
* * *
To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.
Jon Katzenbach is a senior partner with Booz & Company based in New York. He leads the Katzenbach Center, which develops practical new approaches to leadership, culture, and organizational performance. With more than 45 years of consulting experience, he is a recognized expert in organizational performance, collaboration, corporate governance, culture change, and employee motivation. Prior to joining Booz & Company, he was a founder of Katzenbach Partners LLC. He is the author or co-author of several books on team performance, including the best-selling The Wisdom of Teams, Teams at the Top, and The Discipline of Teams. His latest book is Thinking Outside the Lines.
Laird Post is a principal with Booz & Company based in San Francisco. He advises organizations in the U.S. and globally on people, leadership, and change effectiveness
Jonathan Gruber is a senior associate with Booz & Company based in New York. He is part of the firm’s organization, change, and leadership practice and a member of the Katzenbach Center. He works with companies in the U.S. and globally on organizational transformation, culture change, and strategy.
Aurelie Viriot is a senior associate with Booz & Company based in San Francisco. She is part of the firm’s organization, change, and leadership practice and a member of the Katzenbach Center. She works with leading companies on strategy and organizational performance challenges.