Archive for February, 2013

How to Win Employee Support for Your Core Values

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

As part of a storytelling initiative, I’ve been conducting interviews with a representative sample of the client’s managers and employees at all levels and all locations spanning two states. The purpose of the interviews is to establish a benchmark for 1) employees’ familiarity with the core values, 2) their support of those core values as evidenced by their behavior as well as their expressed support, 3) their ability to tell the organization’s “umbrella” story, and 4) their ability to identify and tell stories that exemplify the company’s values. The findings will guide the storytelling training that will follow, with particular focus on identifying, crafting and telling values-based stories that will engage key audiences and stick in their minds.

I’ve been struck by the unusually high degree of consistency of their responses. The consistency is is particularly impressive when I ask them to name the top 3 or 4 values that drive day-to-day decisions. Most of the interviewees named the company’s four core values as those that drive daily decision-making.

Would you get the same result if you were to conduct a survey of your employees? In my experience most organizations wouldn’t. One strategy this company uses to ingrain the values into everyone’s minds could easily be adapted in any organization. The strategy is this: One of the four core values is the theme for one quarter each year. Meetings and other activities focus on the meaning of the value and how it should guide employees’ actions. In addition, budgets allow for managers’ discretion in planning special rewards, such as catered meals or field trips, for their teams or branch offices.

If you’re inspired to implement a similar program, let us know how it goes.


Dare to Tell Small Stories to Generate Large Emotions

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

In his new book, noted author William Zinzer offers sage advice to aspiring writers: “Dare to tell the smallest of stories if you want to generate large emotions.” This advice literally cuts to the heart of the matter; the stories that reach people on a personal level are the ones that touch the heart. Zinzer’s own focus is on writing about “people whose values I respect.” As he explains, “My pleasure is to bear witness to their lives.”

Another subject covered in a recent review of Zinzer’s latest book, The Writer Who Stayed, is his dismay over widespread abuse of the English language. I couldn’t agree more. Author of a classic text on writing, he bemoans the use of terms such as “reading experiences” when referring to articles and “content management systems” for article collections.

My favorite is his critique of the word “relationship,” which he rightly points out can mean whatever someone wants it to mean. “Relationship” certainly never appeared in classic literature about famous lovers. Romeo and Juliet were not described as being “in a relationship”; neither were Tristan and Isolde or Antony and Cleopatra. Further, “relationship” doesn’t work well in a song. Imagine, Zinzer says, Cole Porter writing, “Let’s do it, let’s have a relationship.”

Does such non-specific language bother you? Let us know what you think. Or, if you like, tell us a small story.




Creativity Is Essential Workplace Skill for Future

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“Increasingly, the new core competence [at work] is creativity — the right-brain stuff that smart companies are now harnessing to generate top-line growth,” says “The game is changing. It isn’t just about math and science anymore. It’s about creativity, imagination, and, above all, innovation.”

Leaders will need to guide changes in the business culture from the bottom up to foster learning and will also need to inspire innovation. Employees at all levels will need to be able to adjust quickly to new ways of doing things, which will include collaboration with both internal and external partners.

An IBM Global CEO Study confirmed this view and found that current leaders are concerned about their provide the leadership required to keep their organizations competitive in the “new world”.  Based on interviews with more than 1,500 CEOs in 60 countries and 33 industries, the study reported the following key findings:

  1. Most of the CEOs (79%) expect the business environment to grow even more complex in the future.
  2. More than half the CEOs interviewed doubt their ability to manage the increasing complexity.
  3. A majority of CEOs cite creativity as the most important leadership quality required to cope with this growing complexity.
  4. CEOs in the West believe economic power will shift rapidly to developing markets and regulation will increase as well.

How about your business? Is it emphasizing the growth of creativity and innovation?