Archive for November, 2011

Values Define the Culture, Tell the Story

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Ranked for several years as one of Fortune’s “Top 100 Companies to Work For” globally, NETAPP is a company that understands the importance of creating a corporate culture. As reported recently in Singapore’s Business Times recently, the company says its culture centers on a positive work environment with opportunities for growth for everyone who works there, including the leadership.

The five values that differentiate NETAPP from other organizations are:

  • attitude is contagious, i.e., a positive outlook generates good energy
  • candor is encouraged so that honesty is maintained
  • a positive approach attracts followers, e.g. recognizing individual successes within the company is more important than focusing on competitors
  • leaders should appreciate employees’ work and inspire them rather than simply manage operations
  • openness to change is essential in today’s ever-changing, innovative world

What are the core values of your organization? Is everyone familiar with them? And especially: Is everyone aware of the importance of conducting business accordingly?

Creating Inspirational Leaders in the Lab?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

In an effort to understand what makes a leader inspirational, researchers are hoping to be able to identify areas of the brain that are different in those who are inspirational–and then to use neurofeedback to develop similar wiring in others in order to develop more charismatic leaders. So far, their research findings are promising.

As reported in the “Academy of Management Perspectives,” researchers have identified the area of the brain that helps form “socialized visionary communication,” which in turn helps followers to perceive a leader as inspirational or charismatic. What do you think about this? Is it reassuring to think that a person’s wiring can be manipulated this way? Or a bit frightening to realize how close we’re getting to the sci-fi scenarios described in Brave New World?




As Employee Engagement Goes, So Goes Retention

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In a recent post in Workforce Management entitled “Losing Lifeblood,” author Garry Kranz says many companies are feeling the effects of neglecting employee engagement as they’ve focused on the challenges of the extended recession. Often when employees disengage, they begin looking for other opportunities; this is especially true of top performers, who assume that they can (and usually do) find a company that will offer a more supportive environment and reward them appropriately.

Even if employees stick around, a drop in their level of engagement is commonly accompanied by a drop in productivity and commitment to customer service. Have you noticed these symptoms in your company? If so, what are you planning to do about it? You may want to launch a storytelling initiative. It’s a proven managment tool for reminding people of shared values and keeping them focused on the long-term vision.


How to Tell Employees Bad News

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

All you entrepreneurs out there–especially those in high tech–can imagine the panic of discovering that a giant company just released a product almost exactly like yours. Even worse, that industry-dominating giant is giving it away! Yes, that’s right: free!

How do you tell your employees the bad news, and how do you assure them you have a plan for staying in business and thriving, even though your product is on the market at a premium price point? As reported in Fast Company, James Siminoff, CEO of Unsubscribe, faced that reality when he was running his previous start-up, Phone Tag, a voicemail transcription service. When he learned Google had introduced a product nearly identical to his, Siminoff was ready. He knew such a situation might develop and had prepared for the worst.

First, he flooded the media with his core story: Google may be bigger but our product is better and our customers agree. He commanded attention by being outrageously outspoken to the point of profanity, realizing that the media loves wild behavior.  Second, he informed employees by sending out a group e-mail followed by conversations with each individual. Then he kept them focused on customer service, sales and close customer contact.

Initially Phone Tag lost about 25% of its business to the new service, but eventually the company won back 4/5 of them–and added 30% more new customers. About a year later Siminoff sold the company at a handsome profit and started his current start-up. He says in retrospect, he’s grateful for Google’s entry into the voice transcription market and wouldn’t change a thing about how he told his “bad news” story.

Read the whole story here:

Keep Your Story Simple!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Simplicity is one the six qualities of a message that makes it sticky, according to Made to Stick authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Let’s look at two wildly different examples of reducing a message to its simplest form.

With a year still to go before the 2012 national election, the landscape already is cluttered with messages from the field of candidates for U.S. President. Only one has a simple message that has garnered a lot of attention: Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan for overhauling our tax system. Regardless of your political affiliation, you’d be hard pressed to think of a short, clear message that stands up to that for a simple, repetitive messages that cuts through the clutter.

The other is a short video of author Kurt Vonnegut explaining the “formula” for shaping a good story. It’s tongue-in-cheek, highly entertaining and brilliant! Take a look and tell us what you think: