A small team creates a revolution

An accounting firm was having trouble making a decision at senior partner level to move forward with a series of our programs. Believe it or not one of the issues they identified was poor decision-making processes! In the end, we proved that a small team can create a revolution in culture change.

Out of frustration, one of principals decided to move forward with our programs in her regional office. We started out with our Profiling Program for the partners and managers and followed that with Strategic Planning, Performance Management and Advisory Skills Development.

In eight weeks, we have seen the changed processes and behaviours in the regional office create enormous interest in other offices. The interest was like a groundswell from people in middle management and junior levels who were interacting with people in the regional office.

small teams can create large scale change in an organisation.

The groundswell began as informal conversations and then we noticed emails being sent to managers, partners and senior partners. The messages were clearly motivated by a fear of missing out, FOMO.

The most common topic in the groundswell was about the new client projects the team in the regional office were working on. These were apparent both in SharePoint and the CRM used by the business. The most common topic among the senior partners was the increase of $55k in the 8 weeks after the Advisory Skills Program.

Other changes took a bit longer to be noticed. The Profiling Program expanded in the regional office to include all of the accounting professionals. As usual, this prompted people talking about their profiles and their efforts at becoming better communicators and relationship builders. People in the regional office would innocently ask about the profiles of their colleagues located in other offices and this generated the ‘why didn’t we do the profiling?’

The revolution was underway. In July we begin our Programs in the head office with a roll-out plan across the firm ending in September. You can drive organisational change beginning with a tribe. In our case, the smaller regional office became the role models for what is possible. They will now be our role models, coaches and mentors for participants in our upcoming programs.

Do you want to learn more about how we initiated and executed this revolutionary change in a staid culture? Get in touch.

Strategy in the age of urgency

There are some organisation and culture shifts you and your leadership team may want to consider when developing your strategy.

Focus on speed by encouraging decision- making outside safety net you may have in your culture. Do your people make decisions with enough information or are decision stalled by too much research and risk aversion?

Design your strategy and execution plan to accommodate the dynamism that exists in your industry sector(s), competitors and within your organisation. Resist the common temptation to build objectives based on expected outcomes and focus on value creation. Value creation may demand more course correction and fluidity in business processes.

Push decision making to the points in your organisations that are faced with the immediate need to make those decisions. Remove your fear and recruit and develop your people to make decisions rapidly and in response to needs. This is becoming even more critical in the competition for the best customer experience.

Change your training models to focus on individual needs. One size fits all may be ok for compliance training but if you want to attract and retain talent, you must offer tailored development that will benefit your people and your organisation.

As you empower people to make decisions quickly, change your thinking about leadership. Shed the outdated model of leadership bestowed by title and position. Any person can be a leader and you want as many in your organisation as you can recruit and develop.

Using principles to align your people and your organisation is far more effective and adaptable that stacks of policy and procedure manuals. Principles require modelling and incessant communication at all levels of the organisation and particularly by leadership.  Principles need to be part of the performance review process.

Engaging your people is not that hard.

As a CEO, entrepreneur and business advisor I understand how critical employee engagement is to developing and sustaining a great culture. Great culture is a huge competitive advantage with benefits flowing from low turnover, higher productivity and levels of innovation. 

Engagement is not complex. People engagement stems from the most basic elements of human needs and behaviour. I think businesses should start with the basics and measure the results. 

These are 8 actions you can take without spending money to improve your people engagement.

8 Actions You Can Do Now to Boost Engagement in Your Business

  1. Write accurate position descriptions for every role in your business. People need to know the parameters of their work and the expectations for the position they hold. 
  2. Implement a three phase performance review process. I usually start at a three phase process but ideally it is more frequent. The first phase is goal setting. The second phase is a progress review and course correction as needed. The third session is a performance review that is used to plan development, succession, remuneration etc. 
  3. Cascade your strategy by scheduling weekly team meetings between managers and their teams. The purpose of these meetings is to track tasks and activity aligned with the strategic goals of the business. We use a set agenda for these meetings and they are of enormous value in keeping a business on track to achieve its strategy. 
  4. The business owner or CEO must be visible to the people in the business. This means the CEO is accessible informally as well as formally. You can learn a great deal about a company culture by the body language of employees when the CEO is nearby. 
  5. The business owner or CEO must use a channel of communication that keeps all people up to date with what is going on in the business and in the market they operate in. Some of my clients use newsletters or simple emails. I prefer a video that can be delivered from the company intranet or via Vimeo or YouTube.  
  6. People must have access to learning opportunities. Many firms have adopted learning management system to offer online learning for both professional and personal development. Some of my clients have created some very engaging learning using iPhone video, screen recording and other low cost tools. They deliver this video based learning on YouTube or Vimeo. You should at least have a process to encourage people to request training and demonstrate your commitment to training by allocating a budget for this purpose.
  7. Coaching and mentoring will do so much to ensure you do not lose valuable knowledge when people leave your business. Most people really enjoy the opportunity to coach and mentor other people. You must ensure there is a purpose and a pathway for the coaching and mentoring to avoid the program going off the rails. 
  8. Celebrate! Celebration is a social activity that is one of the easiest ways to build relationship bonds between people. I always recommend that no birthday goes un-celebrated. You can celebrate new sales, achievement of goals, personal milestones etc. You can also include social functions around the holidays such as Christmas. One of my personal favourites is including your key customers in some celebrations. What better way to forge strong bonds of engagement between your people and the people they serve. 

The 8 actions above should be done regardless of whether you see signs of deteriorating engagement in your business. If you are aware of the need to improve people engagement it may be time to get some help.  Let’s face it:  it always helps having another person to give you perspective and honest feedback.  You need to get some advice from a person who can bring ‘fresh thinking’ to your business and get your people engaged and performing at their peak. 

Do you need a trusted business advisor, someone who can help you see your business and goals through ‘fresh eyes’?  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.

Strategy without learning is flawed

Leaders of organisations around the world understand the strategic need to build capabilities in their organisations to remain competitive. There are many methods used to build capabilities and on-the-job training remains very common. Strategy that is designed without learning is seriously flawed.

Online learning is a key part of any strategy to build capability. In my experience, many organisations start out with a compliance focus for online learning. When moving to include other purposes for online learning, e.g. leadership development, it is critical that a framework is developed to support the learners and measurement of outcomes.

How do you create a learning strategy that will help drive performance and be fully aligned with your strategic objectives?

  • Build your learning plans based on customer feedback and adapting to changes in expectations that customers have in dealing with your organisation and your competitors.
  • Assess how much of your learning and development resources are allocated to frontline employees. Performance increases in your frontline employees are often easier to measure and possibly faster to achieve.
  • When you develop learning plans, align the curricula to strategic objectives. A capability gap analysis is going to provide more accuracy to aligning learning with strategic objectives. I like to see capability gap analyses performed as part of a strategic planning project.
  • Learning and development needs to be predictive. Your strategy is designed to keep your organisation competitive. I recommend you drill down from macro-environmental changes in your market all the way down to succession and recruitment needs within a time horizon that makes sense for your business.

To support your learning strategy and sustain performance improvements, I suggest the following:

  • Consider incentivising self-directed learning. There are so many effective ways to do this.
  • Standardise learning processes as much as you can to assist in measurement. You may choose different target populations for standardisation as opposed to standardising across the organisation.
  • Some of the most effective capability building strategies include directly linking learning to the performance management process.
  • I encourage my clients to build learning more deeply into the fabric of a culture by adding learning engagement to the key objectives for managers. I have seen excellent results when managers include learning in their weekly and/or monthly team and individual meetings or catch ups. The benefits achieved include higher levels of learning engagement and a feedback loop on learning experiences and future needs.
  • Encourage blended approaches to learning by identifying subject matter experts in your organisation. You might consider adding communities of practice or a coaching/mentoring program to leverage knowledge in support of learning activities.

If you would like to discuss these ideas or want to explore implementing a new learning strategy in your organisation, you are welcome to get in touch with me via the contact details on this site.

High Performance Culture and Alignment

According to an excellent whitepaper by Aon Hewitt, (Getting Real About Creating a High Performance Culture, 2016),” ….46% of organisations identified defining or aligning culture as a key priority.”

Culture is a key competitive advantage. Change is occurring too rapidly to forecast accurately. The workforce is facing challenges in their personal lives that may lead to increased fear and uncertainty about the future. The separation between personal and work life has always been a myth. Now that we have non-stop news and information overload assaulting us from every device we have, it is impossible to imagine the workplace as a quarantine. It is a tough time to define, build and sustain a high performance culture.

In some experiences I have had recently, organisations have had leadership adopt a ‘batten down the hatches’ philosophy. The indicators visible to an external consultant working with such an organisation include poor strategic communication, confusion about accepted behavioural norms and fear. The fear is not always easily identified. I always find it in companies that lack meeting rhythm between managers and employees. I see it where there is little ‘ground level’ innovation going on to improve effectiveness and productivity. There are other ways fear is identified.

How does a leader deal with culture in this geo-political economic era? I suggest it is a return to some very basics of interpersonal relationship skills. It would be great if it was not a ‘return’ as opposed to a refocusing. Most people involved in an interpersonal relationship and particularly an intimate one, would identify communication as the primary contributor to the health of the relationship.

It is no different in an organisational culture. However, many leaders of organisations have behavioural styles that deliver communication in short direct bursts as opposed to a story or interactive dialogue. Communication is often delegated and diluted. People see through this and it only leads to greater fear, uncertainty and disengagement.

I believe vision is critical. Vision is critical to individuals, couples, families, organisations, communities and all the way up to nation states. Without a vision it is impossible to build a compelling strategy and even more impossible to engage people to execute the work needed to achieve strategic objectives. 

Without a vision, your mission will be detached and unaligned to anything meaningful to your people. Lack of meaning equals lack of engagement. Lack of engagement kills a high performance culture.

These are only two big picture contributors to a sustainable high-performance culture. Communication and vision. There are others. I offer below two of the most impactful high- level initiatives that will contribute to changing a toxic or poor performance culture to a high performance culture.

·        Learning and development is part of the culture and not dependent upon people asking permission or waiting for approval. Senior leadership support learning and allocate resources to learning opportunities openly. Learning is linked to performance management processes. Learning is used to support innovation and collaborative, social knowledge sharing.

·        Senior leadership is visible and accessible. There are some huge companies I have worked with that have leaders who leverage technology to remain accessible. When senior leadership communicates, they do so openly and transparently. Senior leadership repeats vital messages to ensure there is retention. The senior leadership never cease to show the alignment of strategy to the work that people are doing throughout the organisation.