When ON-Brand Partners created our online collaboration and learning community for clients, the ON2net, eight years ago, we wanted it to be ‘a place for people who want to create better organisations – organisations with renewed purpose where everyone is engaged, empowered and excited to deliver on it’s brand promise and improve performance’.
And to do that, we knew we needed to share a range of blogs and articles that got people thinking differently, and stepping out of their comfort zone. Think of the ON2net as a form of self learning that is less about downloading and being tested on resources, and more about exposure to new perspectives that generate real insight and related conversation. It's important, if not critical today, that managers are exposed to a diverse range of thinking, and not just from within their organisation because, as Gary Hamel says...
"My fundamental belief is that if a company wants to see the future, 80 percent of what it is going to have to learn will be from outside its own industry."
This related article, For Those Who Want to Lead, Read, originally shared with me by Suzi McAlpine from The Leaders Digest, talks a lot to the need for leaders to read about what others, outside their industry, are doing to create better organisations. In an age when most people are supposedly reading less, and at a shallower level because they are so "busy", the title says it all.
The article says that "broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness". All those things we are passionate about in our ON2net community.
I particularly like this recommendation...
"Apply your reading to your work. Are you struggling with a problem at work? Pick up a book on neuroscience or psychology and see if there are ways in which you can apply the lessons from those fields to your profession."
I have no doubt that successful businesses going forward will be the ones that understand critical concepts like the psychology of humans (those great regulators of success) and how to get the best out of them. And there is an absolute wealth of great, free, knowledge across the internet on subjects like this, so lack of access to other peoples insights and new ways of doing things can never be an excuse. Strangely, so many leaders seem to want to do it on their own, when so much insight off the back of what others have done, is already available to help shape their thinking.
And remember learning shouldn't be a nice to have in your job, it should be integral to your job. Try dedicating just 1% of your time to self development and you'll likely find the other 99% of your time is so much easier to manage. We encourage our community members to commit to spending just 1% of their time, looking beyond their "busy" day, to seek out better ways of doing things. Ways that will likely save them a lot more then the 1% of time they allocate to them.
It still surprises me how many senior leaders are sceptical of the value of investing in culture as a critical foundation for future success, but if they were to scan most of the publications that talk about what makes an organisation successful today (and tomorrow), there is again, an absolute wealth of information on this, and the critical value it is delivering. The evidence is profoundly strong so why are many senior leaders still not seeking out this information, and not looking to others who are doing things well and learning from them?
To me there is no question that For Those Who Want to Lead, Read. It's critical to keeping us all excited about the possibilities ahead, and how we tackle them.
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
Such sweet words to any leader who is trying to transform their business into something better and who needs their people to collectively tackle the big challenges that are coming thick and fast.
Yes, people perform much better when they feel that they have a voice and are actually being heard.
So we were delighted (but not surprised) when team members from a UK client shared the following feedback after their latest ON-Brand TeamTalk session.
There is truly nothing better that everyone speaking up, sharing their ideas on how to make the business better, and then seeing them come to fruition. This is how you build a culture of innovation and collaboration that has the customer at the heart of everything it does.
Does this happen in your organisation?
Forward thinking organisations are now achieving outstanding results and unlocking their ability to transform in areas which had previously confounded them. Frustrated with disappointing results, they realise that transforming the way people think and therefore act requires unconventional thinking to augment the conventional training, communication and engagement programmes most organisations already have in place.
Their starting point for success is reframing how they think about the nature of their transformation challenge, viewing it as a social challenge, as well as a technical and organisational one.
With this in mind, they apply approaches and tools which are able to shift the mindsets and behaviour of the organisational ‘society’ – leading edge practices which are specifically designed to shift the way people think and therefore act.
This article shares how successfully transforming organisations are thinking about how they can achieve the social change they require.
A safety critical infrastructure operator needed to transform the way performance is managed across 13,000 colleagues to enable accelerated delivery of their scope of work and a new operating model, in a complex and highly unionized environment.
Previous attempts to change practices had floundered, even though they applied recognized industry best practices, strong communications approaches and technological enablers. Employees strongly – and successfully – resisted the imposition of change, undermining the ability of the organisation to transform.
Viewing their challenge in a different way, leaders were encouraged to think: “What might we do to start to shift the behaviours of a close-knit society the size of Whitby?”.
This led to the adoption of a radically different system of ‘subjective’ approaches to augment the conventional ‘objective’ organisational systems they already had in place. Some of these approaches were:
Outcomes achieved in the first six months of adopting the approach were:
1 - Transformation is a complex process of social change – and it happens over time.
The process isn’t linear or predictable – it defies most GAANT charts! A key approach is to generate positive momentum, make sense of what is changing for the better and why, then do more of it. Core to this is the involvement of networked informal leaders from within the operation – those who really know where the bodies are buried.
Often the greatest change momentum is generated by those who are seemingly most vocal against change and outspoken against management initiatives. At ON-Brand Partners, we focus much of our efforts with clients on identifying, then equipping these networked leaders to drive transformation from within, through building a real community within a community. This produces a formidable internal force for sustainable change.
2 - Appreciate what’s already working and build upon those strong foundations.
Most people react badly to criticism, and it impairs their ability to focus on solving problems. This is a challenge to the conventional consulting approach of gap analysis, whereby the primary focus is on the problems which need to be fixed.
The complimentary ‘subjective’ approach augments this by using organisational narrative approaches to surface what’s already working well, to understand why, and to focus on the cultural attributes of the organisation which are in place when they are at their most successful. Then we help clients to find ways to apply what already makes them successful to the areas which need to change. The outcome is very high engagement, as people enjoy applying their strengths to solve new challenges.
As the CEO of one leading Financial services organisation put it:
“If we are serious about changing our culture, we need to change the conversations which are happening right across our business”.
4 - Leaders at all levels need to walk the talk.
Those who are seen as leaders need to send clear, consistent and enduring signals about who we are and how we need to behave. Transformation efforts commonly fail when leaders’ up- front sponsorship of the new direction isn’t matched by on-going and active involvement over time. Leaders need to live it.
Successful transformations include in-depth and on-going work with influential and senior leaders, educating them about how to steer and guide complex change, and equipping them with new tools with which to do this. This requires leaders to augment their strengths in ‘download, direction and deliverables’ with the new transformational leadership skills of ‘dialogue, guiding and creating momentum’ which are required to shift the social system.
Bottom line: transforming organisations need to build approaches into their programmes which are specifically designed to shift thinking and behaviours
These approaches augment, and powerfully accelerate the benefits of conventional best practice, through creating a self-sustaining ‘pull’ from within the social fabric of the organisation. The experience of deploying them feels different to traditional change management practices. This can challenge some in the organisation, but the benefits are both observable and measurable, providing reassurance and evidence for decision makers.
If the transformation your organisation is facing into feels challenging and the outcomes uncertain, perhaps it’s time to look at it anew from the ‘social’ perspective?
In Part 1 of the blog The art and science of transforming cultures we looked at the principles of success when it comes to culture change, and how having an appreciation of those principles is useful. But we also shared how that appreciation doesn't answer the deeper and more important questions...
‘Why’ are those principles important? and ‘How’ they should be applied?
To understand that, we can look at important breakthroughs from cognitive science in recent years. Put simply, and believe it or not, creating new patterns of behaviour within an organisation requires actual physical changes to the brains of the people within it!
The power of organisational cultures is such that existing behaviours have been reinforced over years of workplace routines, conversations and habits. It’s hard-wired into their brains. The power of this is such that even new employees start to be influenced (attitudinally and physically) within just a few weeks.
"It only takes 1-2 weeks for employees to start treating customers the same way the employer is treating the employee"
Colloquially, we often refer to this concept as “the way we do things around here”. It reflects part of the organisational identity – what makes each organisation unique.
If there is no need to change, these culture patterns are usually a strength. They allow organisations to have a rhythm and enhances their efficiency and consistency. In contrast, if they aren’t strengths they become the key factor inhibiting transformation and change.
Some years ago, neuroscientist Jeffery Schwartz teamed up with David Rock to write a path-breaking article “The Neuroscience of Leadership”. It challenged a number of traditional change management principles – which still pervade much of the management population today.
Behaviourism doesn’t work.
Rock and Schwartz found that change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) don’t work. Using a stick to crack into habitual problems (particularly in a public or team environment) simply refocuses the brain on the problem, reinforcing the neural pathways that are causing them.
The carrot is more effective, especially for those whose behaviour is aligned to what’s wanted in the organisation (i.e. they are ‘on-brand’). But not for those demonstrating ‘off-brand’ behaviours, as public recognition of others simply raises their anxiety further.
Our view is that the key is to place more emphasis on recognising the successful event or example (because it promulgates incidences of ‘insight’) rather than the individual in a public environment. And individuals should receive positive feedback in a more private context, and be recognised more for their ‘effort’ than the outcome.
Humanism is over-rated.
This is the bedrock of ‘classic’ coaching – listening to people’s problems, attempting to understand them in their own terms and, allowing a holistic solution to emerge.
And in our view there is no doubt that a person-centred approach has its merits. But it is much more relevant in dealing with an individual’s behavioural challenges. It takes a lot of individually concentrated time. So while it can be deployed on case-by-case basis, in most organisations there simply isn’t the time to undertake this in a systematic way across the entire population.
Focus is power.
An important insight from this is that different functional specialists in organisations (e.g. IT versus HR, versus Finance, versus Marketing etc), develop physiological differences that effectively prevent them from seeing the world the same way.
In fact, we often say that although specialists from different functions appear to be having a dialogue, often they are actually having parallel monologues – speaking in different dialects, which mean they don’t really connect in their thinking.
This actually forms one of the foundation principles of ‘ON-Brand’. We encourage people to look at their organisational world through a ‘new’ lens – the brand.
One of the reasons (but not the only one) this is helpful is because in effect the ‘brand lens’ is a new and neutral ground for the different functional roles and therefore provides the basis to drive greater consensus in interpretation and alignment. That argument has been substantiated through our experience by virtue of the fact that ‘marketing’ is often that area that struggles most to make an adjustment. Why? Because they have already developed their paradigm of ‘brand’.
Expectation shapes reality.
People’s expectations, whether conscious or buried in their deeper brain centres play a key role in their perceptions of what is happening. As Rock and Schwartz point out, this has important implications. The example they cite is that two customer service representatives could view the same customer interaction fundamentally differently. One who ‘sees’ customers as trouble-makers will hear complaints that need to be allayed. Another, who sees their customers as busy but intelligent professionals, would hear valuable suggestions for improving the product or service. We recall one senior airline Executive once saying "passengers are just baggage with attitude!". How is that for a unique perspective on the customer.
Attention density shapes identity.
Critically, for insights to be effective, they need to be generated from within by the individuals themselves, not given to them as conclusions as is so often the case.
“Leaders wanting to change the way people think or behave should learn to recognise, encourage, and deepen their team’s insights” conclude Rock and Schwartz. As the McKinsey survey demonstrated, “Employees need to ‘own’ any kind of change initiative for it to be successful.
As we often say...
...to create is to own.
At ON-Brand we stimulate this change through various means:
Why? Because attention on these catalytic insights must happen time and time again. There needs to be sufficient ‘attention density’ to really facilitate long-term change in the neural pathways. Which is why ‘training’ alone has only modest impact – no matter how insightful and inspiring it seems at the time, it can only be a (admittedly useful) starting point.
So, to summarise, here are some simple guidelines for leaders:
Focus on successes not the problems. Reinforce and talk about positive examples and shape conversations that encourage your people to generate insights from them. This is why, what we call ‘on-brand stories’, are a powerful vehicle. Try and avoid giving them the right ‘answer’ even when it’s obvious to you. That’s central to coaching methods, but expand on that and apply the idea to day-to-day conversations and team meetings.
Encourage ‘purposeful practice’ on a regular basis. Change requires persistence, especially at the beginning. It’s no different than learning a new skill in sport or music. It takes practice before it becomes natural and second nature (when it does we can be confident the new brain connections have been formed). For example in the pilot store of the retailer, people were encouraged to take a few minutes every day to solely focus on the new behaviours.
Reorientate focus when individuals or teams fall off the wagon. But do it in a quiet and encouraging way. Don’t castigate or admonish people when they get it wrong. Remember, they are only fighting against long established and deeply embedded behavioural practices.
This may sound straightforward yet few managers find it easy to do. And that’s not surprising – for the very same reasons their people find it hard to adopt new behaviours and practices. After all, most management models that have been reinforced through both study and are embedded inside organisations, put a very strong emphasis on ‘problem solving’ (i.e. looking for what’s not working and addressing those shortcomings)
Ultimately the change process starts with you and your management behaviours. And the higher you are perceived to be in the organisation (more of a ‘who-said’), the more important your practices and behaviours matter.
Finally, back to the first part of this blog and the Retailer and pilot site where the store managers applied these principles. Their gut-feel that things were changing positively was right. Three weeks after they received “the new approach is failing” message, the first wave of customer research (exit surveys, mystery and accompanied shops) were delivered. On the key measures - ‘I was made to feel welcome’ ‘I was offered help and assistance’ and ‘I felt appreciated’, - the scores virtually doubled! And that was after just month one.
Culture change is more challenging than most but the answer to the 'How' are there. And we'd be happy to discuss this further with you if your priority is to build the 'right' culture to to take on a world of change.
References and further reading:
A senior project team of a major retail organisation is presenting to their Executive group. They have been tasked with developing an approach to achieve the first stage of transforming the customer service experience.
The CEO, listens for some minutes and then interrupts, “I know what our long-term goals are, but to start with all I want is for them to say ‘hello’ to our customers. Don’t overcomplicate it”.
The project team leader responds by saying “we have focused our people for so long on the ‘task’ part of their job, getting them to focus on ‘service’ is a big change for them”.
“Then just tell them it’s another task”, the CEO implores of them. “In fact, let’s make it black and white. Tell them that every time a customer comes within ten feet of them, they must say ‘hello’. Tell them that we’ll be measuring it through mystery shopping and I expect 95% compliance”.
A short time later, an HR Advisor from Head Office walks purposefully around the store that has been designated as the pilot site for the new approach. She’s popped into the store at the end of the day on her way home. In the previous 2 weeks, all the staff from this store had attended a workshop session (generally 2 hours) to introduce them to the new approach on customer service. The workshops are one part of the solution. She notes a number of instances where staff who are stacking shelves, manning counters or preparing prepacked fresh goods, have NOT said ‘hello’ to a customer that passed them by.
The HR advisor approaches and questions one of the staff.
“Have you attended the service workshop?”.
“Yes, 3 days ago” says the young man who had been busy filling the banana bin. “I really enjoyed it, better than any training I’ve been on before”.
“So, you know that we want everyone to say ‘hello’ to customers” the HR Advisor asks. He nods in the affirmative. “So why did you not say ‘hello’ to the last two customers who walked by you?” she asks. He sheepishly shrugs his shoulders, and she moves on to another.
Later the HR Advisor reports back to her Head Office colleagues that the new approach...“is not working!”.
Eventually word filters back to the store management that Head Office is not happy. The store team are shocked and confused. Being on the inside of the store environment they know things really ‘are’ changing. Everyone can ‘feel’ that there is a new energy and attitude developing. Sure it’s not perfect yet, it’s not evenly spread, and confidence is fragile. But the buzz is growing, staff and managers are interacting more, teams are helping each other out. People are joking about the fact that a couple of senior managers have had ‘personality transplants’.
The store management have also started changing or introducing a number of practices – morning team briefs with everyone that help set the day up well, capturing and sharing great customer stories (dozens of them), and supervisors shifting their focus more to guiding and coaching their teams. These are not things they were ‘told to do’, but ideas that emerged through facilitated conversations they were now having on a regular basis. And people are noticeably happier when they arrive at work and when they go home. It’s becoming a fundamentally different place to work in than it was just a few months before.
This true story goes to the heart of the conundrum of cultural change. Sure, saying ‘hello’ to customers seems like simple stuff. It should be easy. It should be straightforward. And surely it should just happen!
Changing products,changing packaging and signage is easy by comparison. And the change is immediately visible. The ‘cause-effect’ is ‘direct’.
For cultural transformation, read ‘social change’. This requires different reasoning, different tactics and different expectations to other types of change. And actually, there are no guarantees of success (even with the best analysis and planning).
However, by applying certain core principles and using important technologies, you can maximise the probability of success.
One thing is for sure. Taking a compliance approach will (in most instances) minimise the probability of success.
Compliance (and command-control management) maximises the resistance and stress involved in change. “Tell people what to do”, and subconsciously they push back. Sure, you can hold a gun to someone’s head and many (but not all) will comply with the required behaviour. But when you consider that in the current age much of the transformation being sought typically includes higher ‘engagement’ (emotional resonance) – both between employees and the organisation, and between employees and customers, you quickly realise that such an approach is also counter-productive. It creates an ‘emotional dissonance’ within and, between people. They become stressed and tired, while the quality of decision-making and creative thinking is also significantly reduced.
Cases in point (from our retailer):
So, where do we look for those principles of success. Fortunately, in recent years a good deal of research has been undertaken, which provides us with much more guidance. For example, in 2010 McKinsey conducted a global survey of major organisational transformation, analysing the data to understand what drove the difference in levels of success.
Three critical and consistent themes emerged:
1 - The importance of engaging employees (including the front-line) collaboratively throughout the transformation journey
When frontline staff felt a sense of ownership and were able to take initiative to drive change (i.e. staff were able to contribute their own ideas and ‘co-create’ the change initiatives at their localised level), the success rate of the transformation rose to 79%. By comparison when these principles were not applied, the success rate was only around 10%.
2 - A focus on strengths and achievements (not just problems), throughout the entire transformation process is strongly tied to success
Of the ‘extremely successful’ transformation strategies identified, 63% focused on strengths at least as much as they focused on weaknesses. In contrast, in those transformation strategies that were ‘not successful at all’, 80% had focused more on weaknesses than strengths.
3 - Explicitly identifying the underlying mind-sets that must change for transformation to success is critical
In fact, 60% of ‘extremely successful’ transformation strategies had focused some of the initiatives entirely or mostly on ‘changing mindsets’, while only 12% of unsuccessful transformations had done so.
Those that have worked with ON-Brand Partners on transformation initiatives will appreciate that each of these principles is deeply embedded into the ON-Brand approach and methodology.
While an appreciation of these principles are useful, studies such as the McKinsey survey do not answer the deeper and more important questions: ‘Why’ these principles are important and ‘How’ they should be applied.
More on how ON-Brand Partners answers those questions in The Art and Science of Transforming Cultures - Part 2
Culture is an important driver of organisational success. Now, more than ever, the shape of the internal environment influences the external outcomes and customer experiences and ultimately the bottom line. It is the way people behave, what they believe and how the values are upheld in the business that is crucial.
Given the importance organisational culture has on performance, it’s surprising that, according to Better Boards, many have little to do with it and leave it to the CEO and Executive team. But is that true here and what role should Boards play?
Rob Campbell is one of New Zealand’s most experienced board members. He has been a member of a number of boards including NZ Post, BNZ, Ports of Auckland, ACC investment committee. He is currently Chair of Summerset Group Holdings Ltd, Tourism Holdings Ltd and SKYCITY Entertainment. He has recently been awarded NZ Shareholders Association 'Beacon Award' 2017 and the Deloitte NZ 'Chair of the Year' 2017.
Rob will share his perspective on the role Board members play and drive discussion on the value he sees in building a strong and distinctive organisational culture. And, it’s not only his experience that will lend itself to a great conversation, with a Master of Philosophy in Economics you can be assured of some good debate.
Join us for the first of our 2018 Executive Stretch series.
4.00 – 6.30pm, Wednesday, 28th March 2018
ON-Brand Partners, G3, 317 New North Road, Kingsland, Auckland, New Zealand
(Old Kiwi Bacon Factory, entry via Aitken Terrace)
Tickets are $85.00 and can be booked via Eventbrite
About Executive Stretch
ON-Brand Partners know that change happens in the conversation and getting stimulating conversations happening is the goal of Executive Stretch. This is a series aimed at executive level leaders who are curious and open to different perspectives. It’s about stretching our thinking and challenging the paradigms that exist. We keep the group deliberately limited to 20.
*The $85 event price includes a $40 per ticket donation to a charity of our speaker's choice.
“To change the culture, change the nature of the conversations across the company. And put stories to be at the heart of those conversations”.
This was the answer given to a global executive of one of the world’s largest companies when he asked us where they should start to build a more customer orientated organisation.
Increasingly, more people agree that use of stories is a key leadership competency. Why? Because they are central to influencing and inspiring change.
In a world where the rate of change means that organisations are increasingly having to roll back command-control practices and build more collaborative and empowered cultures, stories can play a pivotal role in educating and empowering employees at all levels – from senior executives to the least experienced staff. Consider this....
“Norma and Bruce are customers that own a Muffin Break franchise. A couple of months ago Norma came into the branch to do her daily banking. One of our customer service representatives - Robyn - commented to Norma that it looked like she had lost weight and seemed a bit stressed. Norma said that it was a tough week - 3 staff were off sick on the same day, she had to fire another, and, her husband has had a heart attack and is struggling to cope day-to-day.
Now we are going down to Muffin Break and picking up their banking & change order - save her queuing for a couple of weeks! - not a biggie, but Norma was so appreciative she cried!”
Most people find this story, which was shared amongst the team members of a bank branch, and then the whole organisation, fairly impactful. Stories generate emotions and feelings, and they stimulate the imagination. There’s no surprise that we remember the best stories, the ones that have touched our hearts or made us laugh.
At an organisational level, stories are not only personally meaningful, they are also a source of real knowledge. Think about it. Historically, all cultures and civilisations passed on their knowledge from one generation to the next by drawing pictures and telling stories.
“Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.” – Ben Okri
The same is very true of organisations! If you change the conversations and the stories being told, you will change the organisation. Now imagine an organisation where dozens, even hundreds of stories like the one above, stories uncovered from ‘within’ the organisation, are being shared and discussed on a weekly basis.
Stories that depict value being created – what we call ‘on-brand’ stories - can provide a real catalyst to change behaviours. Not because they prescribe rules or procedures to follow, but because they describe success in action. And they allow people to develop new insights around them and inspire them to do 'similar' things under different circumstances.
It’s interesting to think ‘why’ stories are so effective in this context? Sure there’s the usual thought – stories tick the box on many of the principles of effective communication. Go deeper, and science tells us that stories literally change the way we think and the way we act.
For example, neuroscience highlights to us that it is through ‘stories’ and the ‘experiences’ people have that new pathways are created in the brain (by discovering insights for ourselves), which ultimately influences how we make sense of the myriads of data we are exposed to in the world (or in this case the organisation).
We might think of culture as the neural patterns of the organisation. Stories illustrating and reinforcing vision and strategy, are an important conduit in creating new neural pathways at a company level (c.f. new organisational mindsets).
They create an environment where everyone has those ‘aha’ moments – an insight that connects what they do to the ‘something bigger. As that occurs, a different pattern of behaviour starts to emerge.
Very quickly, we start to see that success stories in organisations work at multiple levels.
Firstly, the sharing of success stories influences the climate of the organisation, simply because we are sharing and talking about successes. It helps to counter-balance all that time and focus we dedicate to problems and issues. It’s reshaping the subconscious of the organisation – the place where the core beliefs that underpin an organisation’s culture reside. Fundamentally it’s helping to build ‘confidence’ in doing things differently, which is undoubtedly an enduring characteristic of most of the most successful organisations and teams.
Secondly, as discussed above, every story we share provides us with insights, by highlighting what we or, others were doing during ‘high-point’ moments. Individuals and teams can then be easily led into a conversation about where else those ‘learnings’ can be applied.
Organisations that are serious about this are building in ‘deliberate practices’, which embed the use of stories into their day-to-day practices. They are also reinforcing the value of ‘looking out’ for examples of value being created. And the benefit of that goes well beyond providing a regular source of stories to share. They understand that by nurturing behaviours of seeking success stories they are further influencing the culture.
Thirdly then, it creates much greater awareness of what is actually going on and encourages people to think about what they are observing. That heightened awareness is fundamental to changing the patterns of behaviour and ultimately, the culture in the organisation.
Finally, if people are committed to finding success stories, it influences their behaviour towards creating those stories – as they go about their work and interact with others. I often say that an organisation is simply a group of people who come together to create something of value for others. And if that is true, then what matters is the quality of connections that are made between people on the inside of the organisation, and the quality of connections they then make with stakeholders on the outside. At the heart of that ‘quality’ is the demonstration of the ‘value we create for others’.
In this context, leadership is about giving people a clear and compelling picture of that value, then individually and collectively, really changing the mindsets of the people around the way ‘we work together’ to create that value. So make sure you always have two or three stories in your back pocket, which depict the value that your organisation aims to create for others. Try starting your team meetings by sharing one and take a minute to discuss. Simply ask, ‘what’s an insight we can get from that story?’. Then see how the tone and focus of the meeting shifts.
What makes a good story?
To start with many people can struggle to find and communicate a great story – and often end up with a ‘commendation’ or ‘opinion’ or a story that does not convey a key insight.
While there are a number of models relating to stories, we find the following framework developed by Australian business narrative specialists Anecdote to be particularly useful as a guide for assessing impactful stories:
The power of corporate storytelling is integral to the culture change initiatives we work with our client partners on, and is one of ON-Brand Partners core principles.
Hugely compelling McKinsey article here on Why leadership-development programs fail
We've all seen this happen, many people now know it happens, yet huge amounts of money are still spent on development programs that...
Are far too many leadership development programs still a reflection of managers or HR just wanting to tick a box to say they've done something? Anything?
We couldn't agree with the folks at McKInsey more, and with our TakeON! Management Matters programme we've done something about this. TakeON! is peer-led, applied to real work challenges, all about turning ideas into action, and designed to change behaviours so improvement in leadership skills is sustained.
TakeON! helps create better leaders and organisations, who can tackle the challenges a fast moving ambiguous world throws at them with critical competencies like these...
Read the article Why leadership-development programs fail and see if your organisation needs a better approach to creating the type of leaders you need.
If you are now worried that to be a good leader you need great cheekbones, a slim waistline and a pout from hell, then rest easy because there is a different kind of modelling you should be focused on... Role modelling.
Great leadership is about inspiring people to action, and in my eyes nothing does that better than when leaders live the values, or consistently demonstrate the behaviours they are wanting to achieve. Which is why these principles are inherent in the TakeON! Management Matters programme - inspiring leaders to step up and lead the way with their own behaviours.
This week, for some reason, I have seen lots of great examples of role modelling being profiled, that are worth sharing.
There is a fantastic example of the power of this, in this article...
Why PepsiCo CEO asks his team to ‘leave loudly’
And again in this article which features our friends at Tauranga City Council...
More than 50 council staff proud owners of electric bikes
And in this story as well about a climate scientist who knows, to be credible, he had to change his life to consume less carbon...
Top scientist's climate-friendly, flight-free 2018
All good examples of leaders stepping up and leading by example.
I remember a colleague of mine once saying that most people supported improved public transport because that would get other people off the road so they were then able to use the roads freely. I'm pretty sure that mentality is commonplace with people sitting in queues of traffic bitching about it, when all the while they are absolutely part of the problem and need to change their behaviour as much as the next guy. For this very reason I now use public transport two days a week, even though my journey takes longer, simply because I don't want to be part of the problem. I want to be the solution and role model the behaviours I want to see in others. My plan is to progressively increase the days I use public transport but in the meantime I've made a start with two.
So what is a role model? The simplest definition is ...
a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated
The big challenge with role modelling is that it needs to start at the top. This article The Need for Digital Know-How Starts at the Top does a good job of describing the issues and the challenges with getting senior leaders to lead with the very behaviours they want to see in others. In this case creating organisations with a strong focus on embracing digital innovation.
As the article says...
"Do you remember the last time you received an email from a senior leader touting some new transformative technology you’d soon be expected to use? It was going to revolutionize the way you work, change your company’s culture, and inject digital acumen into the organization.
How did that turn out? Most employees probably followed along for a while, then looked around and saw that the heads of their divisions and other executives were going about things the same way they always had. So much for that new culture."
So remember when it comes to getting change in an organisation, if you're a leader then your mantra should be...
"It starts with me"
And if none of the above works, you could always try traditional modelling and nail that pout...
If your organisation needs assistance with creating a culture where modelling of the right behaviours comes naturally, we'd love to talk.
One of the more common issues raised by our clients at the start of their change journey is that a 'silo mentality' creates real barriers to getting things done as an organisation. So a key part of our role is to help clients build the ‘right’ culture that allows those silos to start dissolving, so the wealth of knowledge, ideas, experience and insight held in the organisation can be released for everyone's benefit.
Anyone that's ever worked in a large organisation (or even medium sized for that matter) knows what the impact of internal silos can be. Silos are those seemingly impenetrable but invisible barriers between functional areas and teams that prevent people working together to get the best result for the organisation and the customer.
I think the ex CEO of HP, Lewis Platt, summed the cost of silos up really well when he said
“If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable"
Clearly he could see immense value in breaking them down and actively encouraging people to share what they know with others.
Silos really only exist because the culture of an organisation allows them to exist. These tend to be cultures where:
If silos are an issue in your organisation, here are a few articles I’ve found useful reading.
Have a read of Why Cross-Pollinating Your Work, Works and think about how you, or your team members, might benefit from spending time in other areas of the business. Would it give them a better line of sight to the customer?
This article talks about the value of letting people move around and work in other areas of a business, to see what they do, build relationships and share their ideas for improvement. This approach helps people start to connect the dots and understand how what they do impacts on others, and to look for better ways of doing things. As the article says…
“Many companies, whether by design or by accident, tend to be very compartmentalized. In essence, you are given a tiny box within which to work on your project but you often won’t have a good idea of what’s going on in other areas of the company; the opportunities for cross pollination are limited unless you commit to moving positions/projects.”
This short article in Forbes magazine titled 'Breaking down silos' from the insightful John Kotter, looks at the consequences of silos and three of the things you can do to break them down. My favourite is ‘Focus on opportunity, not crisis’!
Lastly this article from Businessweek about Smashing Silos has five great tips on how to get collaboration going. My favourite is the one about Establishing Cross-Functional Mentoring - a great way for people to get a perspective on other parts of the business and what is and isn't working.
I hope these articles are useful in getting some dialogue underway in your organisation around silo-busting. Considering silos destroy trust, break down communication and foster complacency they really need to be gotten rid of.
To get a feel for the real sense of excitement and opportunity that emerges when silos are being smashed, consider these comments from our clients.
“The entire floor of IT Ops told me today that they see a huge change in how we all talk to each other and collaborate”.
“It's an attitude change, we are working together. What's really amazing is how quickly it happened. it has only been 5 months!”
“Silos are breaking down. Better working relationships are being built across areas. Enthusiasm to make changes has increased. Peoples ideas and opinions are being encouraged and heard. People feel more valued by the company.”
If you need help to start smashing down those silos then the team at ON-Brand Partners is here to help.