This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
So, what’s a good question? ¬†Today I’m going to share with you what I think is not just a good question it may be the best question: ¬†”Why?”
Yes the question is: “Why?” ¬†And if you’re asking me “Why?” Here’s why.
The answer to the question “Why?” will get to motivation. ¬†And motivation in leadership and communication is everything. By asking “Why?” until you get to the motivation you will find that the answer is either to:
- Make something go away? Problem-solve.
- Bring something into being? Create.
Problem-solving and creating are fundamentally different. ¬†They have different energy. ¬†Creating will always allow you to build momentum toward the thing you’re creating. ¬†Problem-solving will not.
“Why?” you ask. Well that’s a very good question…. ¬†For leaders and communicators knowing the difference is fundamental.
Looking back to an Apple ad from 1997 for a little inspiration.
Where are the “crazy ones” in your world? “The misfits? The rebels? The trouble makers? The square pegs in round holes? The ones who see things differently?” Where are the people crazy enough to change the world in your organization?
What are you doing as an institution to support and encourage their crazy world changing ideas? ¬†If you’re looking for innovation, this may just be what it takes.
I’ve been struck in the past few weeks by the number of times I see communications go wrong because of one thing. Little or no thought was¬†given to the “audience” for the communication. No one is asking:
- if or how the ‘news’, information, change will impact them;
- what they need or want to know from their point of view;
- how they might feel about it; and
- what they might do with it, or, even
- what the communicator wants them to do with it.
It’s as if communicators are on automatic pilot. ¬†No human empathy or understanding at all.
Unfortunately, internal communicators are especially guilty. ¬†After all of the executive inputs, edits and reviews it’s very easy not to remember who you’re trying to reach.
“All employees” is often the answer. ¬†But not all employees are created equal when you’re doing internal communication. ¬†Some will be affected directly by the thing you’re communicating, some indirectly and some not at all.
Understanding these differences and framing the communication based on impact is one way of increasing meaning. ¬†And, today it’s something we don’t do very well. ¬†It’s got to be the #1 failure of internal communicators. What do you think?
It’s coming up on that time of year again. Year end results. Launching new strategies and plans – for brands, for products, for businesses. The big employee event. And, maybe an employee campaign.
A recent article in the Globe and Mail, “A question of engagement: do you employees want to come to work?” got me thinking about this. According to the report, 67% of Canadian employees aren’t engaged. They would rather be somewhere else, doing something else than coming to work. The article goes on to make two important points:
- An engaged workforce isn’t necessarily a happy workforce. [think about nurses - super engaged, but given their working conditions not so happy]
- An engaged workforce isn’t necessarily a productive workforce. [it may be a contributing factor, but just one of many]
- in knowing what they’re expected to do and how that work contributes to the overall ‘customer’ experience
- in having what they need – information, tools, workspaces – to make it easy for them to do their jobs well
- by developing leaders that know how to listen and to respond as well as to tell and motivate.
The first thing that crossed my desk this morning really caught my eye. ¬†Empowering patients. Crowdsourcing as the next big step in medicine!
And, just a few hours later, a second piece. ¬†This time ¬†an article about empowering amateur astronomers and crowdsourcing as the next big step in science.
So, what do you think? Empowering employees. Crowdsourcing as the next big step in management?
Last week I read ¬†an article in the Globe and Mail‘s Report on Small Business. ¬†The article is part of a regular weekly series where the paper asks experts to advise small and medium-sized businesses on how to handle a particular business issue.
In this case¬†¬†the CEO of a small agency felt his company had become the training ground for other, bigger¬†agencies. ¬†The company provides compensation and benefits in line with bigger firms. They’ve started funding professional training and development.¬†They offer “perks that would make it fun to work there – from beer flowing on Fridays to staff bonging outings.” And still they’re losing employees. Recently 3 employees were actively headhunted and recruited by one company.
Three experts offered their advice.
- Implement a bonus plan
- Get potential employees to work harder to get the job in the first place by having them do a presentation to all staff so they’ll be less likely to leave. ¬†Reduce the number of employees and pay them more
- Identify and get to high performers faster to demonstrate your commitment. ¬†Titles matter.
Not one of the experts suggested asking employees what they want. . ¬†Maybe beer on Fridays isn’t what they’re after.¬†The truth is the CEO doesn’t know. And, he won’t know unless he asks them.
For exiting employees: ¬†Why are they leaving? ¬†Is it something we have control over or not? ¬†I think the exit interview is one of the most under-utilized communication channels. ¬†And even when it’s used the information gathered doesn’t seem to be fed back into the system in a way that makes any meaningful difference.
For current employees: ¬†What do they like about their work? the agency? their teams? ¬†What would they like to see change?¬†What aretheir expectations for their careers?
For new employees: ¬†How did they make their decision to join the agency? ¬†What attracted them? ¬†What expectations do they have for the work and their careers?
Sometimes there’s really nothing that can be done organizationally. ¬†Turnover can just be a feature of the industry [and may even be welcome]. ¬†And sometimes we can learn a lot and make even small changes that make it easy for employees to stay. ¬†It starts by asking and listening to employees!
This morning I came across three articles. Three different perspectives. Same conclusion. The more connected we are as leaders and as organizations the better.
Perspective 1 -¬†CEOs.¬†A study of 65 chief executives from around the world discovered that CEOs spend an average of 6 hours out of their 55-hour work week alone. The remainder of the time is spent in business meetings [virtual and face-to-face] and lunches and on the phone. CEOs may not like it, but it is how their work gets done and confirms Henry Mintzberg‘s seminal study “The nature of managerial work” ¬†.
Perspective 2: Leadership teams.¬†In their new book Strategy & Business, Rob Cross and Jon Katzenbach describe how: “In most companies, the phrase top team is a misnomer…” Instead, they go on to say: ¬†[P]ower comes from … members’ informal and social networks, their determination to make the most of those connections, and their ability to work well in subgroups formed to address specific issues… [A]s much as 90 per cent of the information that most senior executives receive and take action on comes throughout their informal networks – not formal reports or databases.” The conclusion: Enriching networks enriches organizations.
Perspective 3: Organizations.¬†”Web 2.0 … promote[s] significantly more flexible processes at internally networked organizations: respondents say that information is shared more readily and less hierarchically, collaboration across organizational silos is more common, and tasks are more often tackled in a project-based fashion.” This study goes on to demonstrate that the more networked an organization the more business benefits. If you, or your leadership team, ever had any doubts it’s worth taking a look.
Connecting is what we as human beings do. We’re social creatures. Our organizational work gets done with, and through, other people.
Helping your employees connect.¬†A little idea with huge potential business benefits.
It’s a potentially beautiful thing.
“A [symphony orchestra] conductor doesn’t make a sound. ¬†His job is to awaken the possibility in other people.”
This is what Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic,¬†says.¬†
And, how do you know you’re doing it? ¬†
“If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it… It’s about how many shiny eyes are around us.”
As a leader, how many shiny eyes are around you?
A while ago, I came across a post by Brian Solis – “We are the 5th P – People“. ¬†His argument is that the product, price, place, and promotion model that everyone whose ever taken a Marketing course knows is missing a key element – People. And, the people he’s referring to are customers. ¬†His “… bottom line is that customers are not necessarily looking to build relationships with brands. They‚Äôre, we‚Äôre, looking for solutions, direction, insights, and value…¬†”
But, customers are only one P. ¬†Employees are another. ¬†And they are looking to build a relationship with the brands and organizations they work with. ¬†Every employee I’ve ever known has begun their job wanting to be involved. ¬†Wanting to be proud of the work they do, the team they belong to and the organization they work for. Unfortunately many of them end up, sooner or later, disappointed and cynical. Maybe the P we should be focused on is the one that actually wants a relationship!
Brian goes on to critic current approaches to social media marketing:¬†”We‚Äôre not driving experiences, we‚Äôre reacting to them.¬†We‚Äôre not introducing meaningful value, we‚Äôre pushing content and creative.¬†We‚Äôre not designing programs around intelligence, we‚Äôre focused on monitoring.”
What about employees? ¬†Are we doing any better there? ¬†Are we driving the employee experience from it’s first moments to it’s last [when for B2C products and services the E remains an enthusiastic C] or are we reacting to them? ¬†Are we introducing value to employee communications? Or are we pushing content and occasionally creative? ¬†Are we designing employee programs around a deep understanding of what employees need and want to better serve organizational goals or are we monitoring their engagement levels and job satisfaction?
I’d agree with Brian’s conclusion that it’s time to ‘click to action‘, I just think we should start with the P that matters most. ¬†Employees. Power to our people!
Native Americans have a tradition of dream catchers. ¬†These web-like structures are created to protect dreamers from bad dreams. ¬†When hung in the light, dream catchers only let the good dreams through.
Everyday, in every organization, compelling human stories are being ‘written’. Important moments that we can learn from.¬†And, though much has been said about the power of storytelling to involve and motivate, to develop and learn, to build energy and momentum, most employee communications are about as far from storytelling as you can get.
Why is that?
We don’t recognize a good story when we hear or see one. In my experience the best organizations think about proof points when they are building their plans. They ask one simple question: How will we know when we’ve reached our objective? What will success look like?¬†Despite all the work that goes into building strategic plans, articulating values and vision statements, the true test comes when they are concrete enough that we can recognize a story that shows how they play out in the day-to-day life of the organization.
We don’t know where to begin to look to find a good story. Every organization has moments that are critical to the business – trade shows, proposal submissions, shareholder meetings, product launches. And, they are ¬†generally pretty predictable. In my experience the best organizations plan their storytelling annually. What are the key moments in our planning horizon? How can we share these moments with employees? What kinds of stories will have the most meaning and impact? How can we most easily gather, tell and share them?
We don’t have the resources – time or budget – to gather and tell stories. This is the fun part. The opportunities are endless. Employee networks are everywhere creating opportunities for roving reporters. Tools and channels grow daily. A little imagination and ingenuity goes a long way.
A story. One of the highlights of my career happened when I was the Director, Internal Communications for Bombardier Aerospace [for another]. ¬†Le Bourget is the largest aerospace show in the world and critical to Bombardier’s business. It’s a time to close deals – ¬†- more deals are signed there than at any other time of the year,¬†meet current and potential customers, and see what the competition is up to. ¬†Despite that few employees knew about the show. ¬†Those that did saw it as an executive boondoggle. Paris, foie gras and champagne.
We were introducing a new brand at the show – Ideas that fly – and decided very early on that we wanted to find a way to bring employees to Le Bourget and Le Bourget to employees. ¬†One of the most important and exciting things that we did was to introduce a new employee newsletter – BFlash. ¬†Over the first 4 days of the show, managers and administrative staff in Montreal, Toronto and Wichita came in each morning and found a pdf version in their inbox. ¬†Belfast in the afternoon. Given the limited access for plant employees we couldn’tt reach them directly or in real time, but managers posted the newsletter on bulletin boards and spoke about highlights from the show at the shop floor meetings that week.
It was important for us to humanize the story of the show without being able to interview customers. So, we made sure that the template was simple and colourful and thanks to the professional photographer that was there for marketing we had wonderful images of employees at the show. Each edition updated employees on the business facts – our sales and how the competition was doing in comparison but also told the story of one employee at the show each day [My Paris] and one employee’s experience of the show over the 4 days [Shasta's Paris - this ended up being a highlight], presented short interviews with executives from different functions about why they attend the show and what it means for their part of the business, facts about the show and our presence there, etc. ¬† We created buzz across the system. ¬†And a new understanding and appreciation for the role of Le Bourget to the business. ¬†The approach was such a hit that we continued to use this model for other key moments – new aircraft introductions, first flights, other air shows.
We’d built our first story catcher.
How often do your leaders tell stories? What forums do you have for sharing stories across the organization? Isn’t it time to build story catching and sharing into your communication strategies?