Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Exceptional Leaders Enliven Vision through Infectiousness

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

In a recent post (March 26), I wrote about effective communication as one of the 12 behaviors of exceptional leaders  identified by Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart & co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Today’s topic is another of the 12: infectiousness.

Infectiousness isn’t a trait that usually is cited as a key leadership skill, but I suspect it’s because that trait is often described differently. It could fall under the oft-mentioned “charisma,” “charm” or “engaging personality,” or a number of other descriptors. Infectiousness also could be encompassed in other characteristics, particularly passion, which is another of the 12 behaviors on Bradberry’s list. But I like the fact that he calls out infectiousness to stand on its own because unless the leader’s passion is expressed in a way that employees “catch the bug,” it won’t have a lasting effect.

As Bradberry explains, “Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.”

untitledStarbucks’ Howard Schultz is a great example of infectiousness. First, he looks for employees who share his customer-centered values,  including a desire to contribute to their community. Building on his belief that “people want to be part of something larger than themselves,” new employees, or “partners,” as Starbucks calls them, undergo 24 hours of classroom training. The company also pays for additional workshops and classes that partners choose to take.

New senior leaders are put through a four-month “immersion in the Starbucks culture” to ensure that everyone understands the coffee business from start to finish. And Schultz emphasizes the values that comprise the culture by sharing his “unbridled enthusiasm and love” for the company at regularly-held district meetings.

Quoting the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

Employee Engagement, Culture, Leadership Top Issues in 2015

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

2015 Predictions by Bersin In his “Predictions for 2015” report for Deloitte Consulting LLC, Josh Bersin underscores the need for organizations to re-direct their focus on employee engagement, corporate culture and leadership. Why? Many employees are “overwhelmed” and employee engagement and retention is at an all-time low.

“While many people are still looking for work, more and more people are getting fed up with the 24/7 work environment…so they go to social websites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor.com”– and they get job offers. The companies that win the competition for the best and brightest employees are those that are “focused on mission, culture, and leadership,” Bersin says.  “They understand that people are not ‘talent'”; rather, the most desirable companies to work understand that employees are fully-developed people who have “their own personal needs and aspirations.”

I would add that the following leadership communication practices are highly effective tools for accomplishing Bersin’s recommended goals:

  1. Establishing personal connections with employees through regular direct contact
  2. Communicating clearly and consistently about mission, values and goals, and
  3. Demonstrating vulnerability by sharing stories from the leader’s own experiences to impart important lessons learned

A writer on the ever-changing landscape of business-driven learning, HR and talent management, he bases these views on a survey by Glassdoor.com. It reveals clear differences between companies where employees are highly engaged and those where employees are actively disengaged.

Bersin says that the transformation he sees in today’s workforce is the most dramatic he’s seen in years. He says the main drivers for business success are “Engagement, Experience, and Environment… because ultimately employee engagement is all a business has.” He calls on leaders to direct their energies to building “highly engaged teams” along with achieving the desired business results, and his report includes guidelines on how to make this critical shift.

Storytelling and Listening for A Collaborative Culture

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Do you have a collaborative culture? One where people are open to others’ ideas? Where individuals consider how their colleagues’ ideas can work, rather than instantly pointing out why they won’t work? A culture where people are comfortable expressing even “far out” thoughts,  knowing that it’s safe because everyone realizes that sometimes the farthest out ideas are the ones that spark absolutely brilliant new products or services?

If you don’t have a collaborative culture but want to build one, storytelling is a tool you can’t do without. By sharing stories with one another–where you came from, why you believe what you believe, how you learned valuable lessons about work and life–you get to know one another, discover shared values and interests–and Speakingbuild strong connections. The bonds developed over time through workplace story swaps lead to a strong sense of “being in this together” and motivate people to listen carefully to one another. They will begin to treat treat one another with more respect and will develop a ready willingness to collaborate and help one other. I’ve seen this happen time and again when leading work teams through my Corporate Storytelling® system.

Listening to others’ stories is a crucial component of the process. As Nelson Farris, Nike’s official storyteller for many years, says the company’s success “is based on collaboration, and the only way you’re going to collaborate is to talk to each other. That means you have to talk and then listen.

“Listening is huge. If we don’t listen, then the collaboration begins to disintegrate.”

Here are a few steps to get started with storytelling to build a collaborative culture:

  • Tell a well-developed organizational story, or a personal “lesson learned” story that conveys your values, your mission and your specific goals
  • Tell this story–and others you develop–repeatedly and systematically
  • Train others in your organization on how to tell stories
  • Underscore to your employees and other stakeholders the importance of telling values-based stories
  • Incorporate storytelling in regularly held meetings

Culture of Communication Maximizes Employee Engagement

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

According to a recent Gallup poll, over 50 percent of the current workforce is not fully engaged with the company; they simply show up and do what they need to do to keep their jobs–a steady income, in other words–but they do no more than absolutely necessary. What’s worse, nearly 20 percent of employees are “actively disengaged,” which presumably means they “push the envelope” on how little is enough to get by.

Margie Warrell, a leadership coach and author, discusses this woeful situation in an article on Forbes.com. Pointing out the urgent need for effective leadership communication, Warrell says that a leader’s level of interaction with employees makes a huge difference in how the workforce feel about their organization. As she rightly asserts, it’s crucial for a leader to regularly walk through the workplace and talk with employees. Transparent communication that divulges failures as well as successes is at the heart of creating a truly connected workplace, a culture of interdependence and mutual trust. And reminding people that their contributions are valuable inspires lasting commitment.

When people feel connected, they support one another fully and provide top-notch customer service. As Warrell says, “Relationships are the currency of the workplace, and so the stronger a leader’s connections, the better placed they will be to engage their employees…. Only when leaders demonstrate the courage they wish to see in those around them will they be able to unleash the human potential within their teams and organization, tap ingenuity,  raise the bar on innovation and optimize the value their organization contributes to all of it’s stakeholders.”

Stories are the best way for a leader to make those essential connections: stories that envision the future and make it palpable; stories that remind people of successes, both past and current;  stories about “lessons learned,” including those that describe mistakes the leader has made–and that have shaped the leader.

Over the past 21+ years, during which I’ve led hundreds of Corporate Storytelling workshops and delivered tens of keynotes, I’ve seen thousands of people light up when they experience the power of story. It’s the way humans derive meaning about life, from daily routines to remarkable accomplishments. Stories are the way we learn about one another, discover shared values and appreciate how much we can accomplish together.

Leaders who leverage the power of story with clear, consistent communication are sure to beat the competition. Their workforce will be fully engaged and committed to doing whatever it takes to realize the vision.

5 Easy Ways to Use Storytelling in Corporate Communications

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

After 21 years in the practice of Corporate Storytelling, I’m surprised to still get the question, “How can stories be used in business (or any other organization)?” I usually respond by pointing out that storytelling is a communication tool, then ask, “What do you commuicate about?”, or “What’s the main message you want people to get when you create a document or deliver a speech? What story can you incorporate to make your point come alive?”

Stories, after all, are the ideal way to create and sustain the culture of any type of group–business, nonprofit, government agency, family, friends, etc.  Stories touch hearts as well as minds, and the emotional connection they generate is one of the key reasons for the inherent power of a good story.

Here, then, are five ways you can begin using stories in your own communication efforts:

  1.  Convey corporate values: Leaders need to continually remind people of the organization’s core values. By telling stories about employees “caught doing something right,” they underscore core values, give recognition to deserving employees, and celebrate individuals’ successes.
  2. Build more effective teams: When a new team forms, have the members share stories of their experiences–in the organization, their careers or their personal lives. This builds connections and solidifies relationships, leading to better mutual support and, ultimately, improved customer service.
  3. Help people cope with change: As a company goes through major change, such as a merger, acquisition, or reorganization, morale and productivity usually take a nose-dive. People feel unprepared for the change, and that makes them uncomfortable and anxious, so they seek solace from one another instead of focusing on the job at hand. Managers who share their own “war stories” of successfully adapting to change will calm employees’ fears and increase workforce effectiveness and commitment.
  4. Increase sales: As natural storytellers, gifted salespeople often tell prospective customers about past customer successes to explain product or service benefits. Sales managers can help their people be more successful by sharing stories of exceptional customer service, rather than just raw sales figures, so salespeople can learn better “how it’s done”.
  5. Attract and retain employees: Organizations that accurately convey their values and culture attract and retain employees who not only fit in easily but also become loyal supporters who stay with the company.

How have you used stories in the past? Which of these five easy ways will you try next? Share your successes with us!

Truth Be Told, Your Story Must Reflect Your Culture

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

True StoryDoes your corporate story reflect your company’s values–and your leaders’ behavior? Or are prospective employees told one story, only to see a totally different one enacted after they’ve been onboarded?

With the youngest generations in the workforce expecting to move up quickly, and moving on much more often than previous generations would even consider, companies need more than ever to ensure that the story of their culture is true. If they don’t, they’ll find themselves struggling to compete not only in recruiting the best and brightest, but also in retaining them. As a result, they’ll incur increasingly higher costs due to employee turnover and continuous recruitment.

In a recent worldwide survey, Randstad found that the trait people want most in an employer is honesty (78%). They want to know that the story they’re told is true! The survey of 11,000 prospective employees also found that 71% value reliability and 62% look for financial security.

How does your corporate culture stack up with those traits? Does your core story ring true?

If there’s a disconnect in your stated values and the behavior employees observe, it may be because not everyone is clear on how to enact the values. To ensure alignment of values, mission and purpose with goals, department by department and employee by employee, you need clear, consistent communication. You need a collection of stories that exemplify the desired behavior and show employees how to succeed in the organization.

That’s where Corporate Storytelling comes in. If you’d like to explore how the Storytelling system will help your organization  reflect its true values clearly and consistently, let’s talk!

 

 

Corporate Story Collections Essential as Boomers Retire

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Any organization that hasn’t yet started to systematically collect its “sacred bundle” of stories is going to lose a priceless treasure of knowledge when the last of the Baby Boom generation retires in the next 20 years or so. Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers started exiting the workplace in the late ’90s and those who continue working until age 70 will be gone by 2034.

As Daniel Burrus wrote in his blog Monday, the retirement of Boomers is a Burrus Hard Trend™ — one that’s based on “measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects.” His proprietary Hard Trend system is used by many top companies, such as Deloitte, Lockheed Martin and IBM, to forecast future needs and develop strategic plans. Soft Trends, he says, are projections that “might happen: a future maybe. Soft Trends can be changed, which means they provide a powerful vehicle to influence the future and can be capitalized on.”

So the fact that Boomers are retiring is a Hard Trend, the best-selling author, innovation expert and global futurist says. A reasonable projection based on that fact “would be which companies will implement a system to collect knowledge from them” and “implement a knowledge-sharing network” before they go. Systematically collecting and cataloguing stories is an effective way to capture and manage knowledge, as some consulting firms have learned and many corporations are catching on.

The Environmental Protection Agency is first organization I’m aware of that began a story collection when it realized it was about to lose a vast amount of valuable knowledge due to retirements. The people who began leaving 30 years following the founding of the agency carried with them not only nuggets of the developing culture, but the details of the early years. Those details include how regulations were established, why they were written as they were, and the intitial dreams as well as the stated long-term goals. To capture that knowledge, the EPA began shooting a series of video interviews with legacy employees so that following generations could learn from them “first-hand,” in a sense, by “sitting in” on the interviews.

What is your organization doing to preserve the knowledge stored in the minds of the “elders”? Their experiences encapsulate invaluable information about the history of the company; the major challenges and how they were overcome; the main characters; and tales about everyday experiences that enliven the culture through the years.

If you haven’t yet begun to capture the stories, get started before it’s too late! If you need help, a Corporate Storytelling® workshop will give the foundation for identifying, developing and telling your core stories. Follow-on writing and coaching services will help you establish a solid base collection and keep the program on track.

Capture your stories before all that valuable knowledge walks out the door! And tell them often. Stories live only when they’re told.

21st Century Business Culture Requires Soft Skills

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

According to branding expert and best-selling author Dan Schawbel, 61% of managers value soft skills over hard skills. If you haven’t yet developed and honed your own soft skills, including the ability to tell your own unique story, this book promises to be a valuable guide, outlining what it takes to build a successful career in new business culture of the 21st Century.

Soft skills include effective interpersonal communication (listening as well as speaking or writing), the ability to prioritize work and handle conflicts, and basic traits such as having a positive attitude. As Schawbel explains in his latest book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, having these skills and being able to brand and promote yourself is more crucial today than ever due to the dynamics of the internet, social media, and a non-stop 24/7 business schedule.   

Schawbel’s book explains how to navigate this new environment as an employee. Based on his own research on the current workplace, he details outdated standards and details how to succeed despite economic uncertainty and the need to constantly adapt.

Among the topics Schawbel covers in this book are how to use your current job as a platform for landing a better one; today’s new rules for the workplace; the need for continuing education; and how to use social media appropriately. He explains the disconnect between Gen Y and their managers and posits that the awareness of your own unique strengths and the ability to differentiate yourself are crucial.

Stephen R. Covey, who rose to fame with his first best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says “Schawbel’s book is a game-changer for any employee who is looking to get ahead at work. It reveals the skills and strategies that will turn you into a future leader.”

Two Steps to Creating a Culture of Learning

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Employees certainly need training on occasion, such as when they first join a company and need to become familiar with the organization’s processes; or when new systems are installed; or when they’re being groomed for a higher-level or leadership role. But why is training so often boring? Is it really necessary to be so dry as to put the audience to sleep?

Those are the questions by an article at blog.crowdbase.com–and of course, the answer is, No! Training doesn’t need to be–and shouldn’t be–boring! In fact, professional trainers know very well that getting the audience involved and giving them opportunities to apply key lessons right away are crucial elements of learning. What’s more, it’s been shown that when people are having a good time (yes, actually laughing and having fun!), they learn more easily and retain the knowledge.

The crowdbase blog offers two great tips for creating a culture of learning without breaking the bank: 1) Involve your employees by inviting them to share their own expertise and providing the tools, such as videos, for doing so; and 2) Nurture a storytelling culture in which people share their successes; in this way, co-workers learn from one another and create a database of tried and true techniques and professional practices.

Both ideas are excellent for several reasons: 1) People like to learn from people they know and admire; 2) Lessons from co-workers are automatically relevant and valuable because the parties involved work in the same culture with the same set of values; 3) The “teacher” is readily accessible for follow-up questions and discussions; 4) Employees want recognition more than monetary rewards, so being asked to share their knowledge and experiences is highly valued compensation for a job well done.

How can your organization create a culture of learning–or strengthen its current learning practices? If you aren’t yet sponsoring  employee-led classes or fostering storytelling circles, how soon can you begin?

Tell Stories Worth Telling, Win Customers and Employees

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

“Fast Company” recently posted an excellent article on 10 ways that companies can bring core values to life, which emphasized that in today’s information-loaded environment, having a purpose that benefits your community is essential. The article reports that 87% of global consumers believe businesses “should place equal weight on societal issues and business issues,” and a study on meaningful brands found that “73% of existing brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t care.”

Three of the 10 ways to bring core values to life align with three main points in my Corporate Storytelling® system. They are

  1. Make customers the celebrity of your brand story, explaining the benefits of your products/services
  2. CEOs must lead by example, enacting the values on a regular basis so that employees understand the desiredbehavior that will be rewarded
  3. Inspire employees to become brand advocates

Each of these can be achieved by clearly articulating a relevant story that engages your employees, customers, and community and galvanzies support for your mission. Stories are powerful communication tools for many reasons; chief among them are that stories touch people emotionally, act as glue that sticks your brand in their minds, and motivate them to promote your business.

The lesson here is that you have to work harder to cut through the information clutter, and the most effective way to do that is to tell a story worth telling–one that clearly communicates values your customers, employees and community share.

To ensure that your company’s brands aren’t among that startlingly high 73% that the marketplace doesn’t care about, read the “Fast Company” article and assess how well you’re doing on all 10 measures recommended. http://tinyurl.com/nwvewr5