Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What energy do you bring to a room?

Imagine if you could be a fly on a wall and observe yourself.
When you attend meetings or staff training, or when you are at your desk performing your role, what energy would you see yourself bringing to work?

Gary RyanWe don’t live in a perfect world and things could always be better. Most people get that.

Yet some people bring a downright energy-sapping vibe with them, which follows them everywhere they go. Other people find them exhausting to be around because they are constantly drawing energy from others so that they can continue to generate their negative energy.

From my experience these people seem horribly unhappy, and it is as if they want others to share their unhappiness. I feel sad for them that they seem so unhappy. Yet it also appears as if they believe that their unhappiness is everybody else’s fault and that they are stuck with no other option but to keep turning up to this job with their negative energy.

As the fly on the wall, do you think that these people have the right to draw on the energy of others so that they can feed their negative mindset? Life is hard enough for us all without having to constantly manage some else’s negativity. Life is also an amazing gift, something that I constantly remind myself about, especially given that I was born the ninth of 11 children. I appreciate that in most families, number nine was never born, so I recognise that I am lucky to be here and as such I should fully embrace the good, the bad and the ugly that life has to offer.

Maybe you don’t have to be the ninth born in your family to share that view of the world.

So, have a think. What energy do you bring to work? What energy would you like to bring?

You do have a choice.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When policies and practices don't align...

A 15 year old boy (let’s call him ‘John’) recently commenced work for a multi-national fast food chain in Australia. He is a delightful young man, having been recognised this year by his secondary school as the most outstanding student for his year level, as well as being awarded the most outstanding player for his Australian Rules Football Club in 2014. His peers have elected him Captain of his football and cricket teams for the past two seasons. He really is a terrific young man.

Given his qualities he was assigned to front counter duties. Two months in to his new job he received a text message from his shift manager from the previous Saturday shift requesting he meet with her at 5pm to discuss an error with his till. He received the text message at 4:30pm. It was a Tuesday. He replied and said that he would be on site as soon as possible.

He arrived at 6:30pm. He was informed that his till had been down “about forty dollars”, that the CCTV video footage had been assessed and that it was clear he had not stolen the money, but because of the amount that his till had been down he “had” to be given a written warning, which he was compelled to sign.

The three major sections of the written warning are provided below:
Blank Warning
Note the section, ‘Record employee’s response.’

What does the word, “No” mean?

Given I know this young man, I did some investigating. He told me that despite the policy that only one till be handled by a single staff member, and that each till be opened and closed according to each person’s shift, this was not what he had experienced in his two months working for the organisation.

In every shift he had worked, including the shift in question, his till had been used by other staff, including the shift manager. In fact, during the shift in question, the shift manager and at least one other staff member had used ‘his’ till during the shift. In addition, a staff member had slipped and suffered a suspected broken ankle during the busy lunch period and an ambulance had been called to attend to the staff member.

Having worked as a young man myself on the front counter for a fast food chain I found it easy to imagine a fairly hectic scene. The sort of scene where, if a mistake was going to be made, this is when it would be made.

I asked him about his recorded response to the second question above. He said that when he told the shift manager, who was leading the investigation (the very same shift manager with whom he had worked during his shift – it seems that for this organisation closed loop investigations for missing cash are the order of the day) that other staff had used his till, the shift manager said, “No. I have checked the CCTV footage an no one else used the till.”

He said that because he had seen his shift manager use his till, and she had denied it, what could he do? He was then asked if he had anything to add and he said, “No.”, which is why that was recorded as his response.

When I spoke with him he was completely unaware of the serious nature of a written warning and because of his desire to ‘do the right thing‘, had thought that he should simply sign the document and move on. His shift manager had told him that she had received a written warning when she had started working for the organisation but it hadn’t stopped her from becoming a shift manager, so it wasn’t a very big issue. But, it is a big deal. A written warning is about as serious an issue that an employee can experience.

His father immediately understood the serious nature of the written warning and visited the site to speak with the shift manager. He was calm and wanted to understand the process that had been followed. He was informed that the missing amount was “$44.65”, that his son had definitely not stolen anything and that the CCTV footage of his shift had been observed and no one else had used his till. The following day, John’s mother also attended the site and observed a busy lunch shift and noted multiple staff using multiple tills. The one till per staff member was just a policy; it was not reality.

From the start of the issue, John was open to the possibility that he had been the one whom had caused the error. However, he couldn’t remember making a mistake and given that other people had, from his perspective, used the till, he believed that there was enough doubt about who had made the error that it felt “pretty bad” that he had received a warning. He also said, “It is pretty clear that I am just a number. They really didn’t want to hear what I had to say and I was guilty and had to prove my innocence; not the other way around.”

There are times in life when you just have to go straight to the top. Encouraged by his father, John contacted one of the owners and asked to speak with her in confidence. John was concerned that if he spoke up about his experience and if it wasn’t confidential, then he risked being ‘victimised’.

Fortunately, the owner was happy to speak with him in confidence and was willing to accept his version of the story, partly because she told him that the missing amount was actually $41.25, not $40 or $44.65. How the actual number was not properly communicated is anybody’s guess. His written warning was changed to a file note that was to include the fact that other people had used his till. Personally, this still doesn’t seem a fair outcome.

The owner asked John if he believed the shift manager had viewed the full three hours of his shift. He told her that he didn’t think that the shift manager had, simply because he didn’t think she would have had the time to do so based on his experience of seeing how busy they are every shift.

Despite her decision, the owner informed John that the one till per person was the corporation’s policy that the franchisees were expected to follow it.

It seems to me that at no stage, other than when the owner of the business spoke with John, that his welfare had been considered. And this is what happens when policies, generated by head office, don’t work in practice.

Boxes might get ticked. Reports may get filed. Written warnings may be issued. And it is all an illusion that people use to report on how well everything is going. Even when, in reality, it isn’t.

John said that serving the customer was paramount which is why multiple staff would use the tills during a shift. He also said that the shift managers didn’t appear to have the time to ensure that a till was opened and then closed at the book-ends of a shift. While he had been taught these policies during his induction, he had quickly learned that in reality they don’t work.

However, those very policies were used to initiate a formal, written warning.

I share this story with you so that you can think about your policies. Which ones are being ‘worked around‘ by your staff because they simply don’t work. Or, if you are really serious about your policies, are you prepared to receive the customer backlash that will be caused by the reduction in service that your policies will generate? Your challenge is to create policies that are both customer and employer friendly.

It’s a pity that John has had his experience. He shared with me that he didn’t feel as excited about working for this organisation anymore. Surprise, surprise!

It only took a global corporation two months of casual shifts to teach a fine young man that he doesn’t really matter to them. And isn’t that a pity.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The mis-use of percentages

Very recently, a manager of a client of mine presented his goals and objectives for 2016. One of them included a customer satisfaction rating to reach 80%. The current figure is around 74%, which is well above the industry average of 60%.On the surface, this target looks appropriate. But, if you dig a little, and look at what the percentage actually means, maybe it isn’t such a good target after all.
Gary Ryan
When you have 80% of people saying they are satisfied, that means that 20% aren’t satisfied. And this is where the use of percentages can be misleading.

Twenty percent of five is one. If one person isn’t happy, while not perfect, it might not be a big deal. But 1,200 dissatisfied people is a big deal.

The manager above leads an area of the business that has just over 6,000 members, plus another 4,000 plus people who use the facilities. If we just focus on the membership figure, 20% of 6,000 is 1,200 people. That’s a lot of people who will be dis-satisfied with the organisation’s level of service!

It is fair to say that when I asked the manager, “Are you saying that it is okay for you to plan to have up to twelve hundred of your members dis-satisfied with your service?”, that both he and everyone else in the room responded with a resounding, “No!”.

By focussing on the improvement from 74% to 80%, what the real impact of what those figures represent had been lost. The improvement sounded good, but the reality of it was that the organisation was effectively planning to have upwards of 1,200 members walking around who were dis-satisfied with their current level of service. And 1,200 people is a lot of people to be unhappy.

Approximately one third of all dis-satisfied customers are dis-satisfied because of something they (the customer) didn’t understand correctly. When I share this figure with people, most of you nod in agreement that the number sounds accurate. The challenge for organisations is that you can’t put your finger into the breast-bone of your customer and say, “You silly fool, you misunderstood something and are blaming us for it!”. Clearly, you can’t do that if you want to keep your customers.

You have to find ways that enable your customers to recognise their errors in a manner that allows them to save ‘face’. No-one likes feeling like an idiot.

Let’s do some more sums. One third of 1,200 is 300. If we apply this figure to the above scenario, 300 is 5% of 6,000. Providing you have easy to use and open communication channels with your customers, these 300 hundred dis-satisfied customers can quickly be turned into satisfied customers by helping them to understand what they have mis-understood in a manner that allows them to save ‘face’. This would leave you with 15% of genuinely dis-satisfied customers and clearly you would need to use your open and easy-to-use communication channels to identify what was upsetting them so that you could work on closing the related gaps.

What percentage should the manager have presented?
Aah, good question!

My suggestion is this, “We are striving for 100% satisfaction. We understand that this is a destination that we may never reach. However, we continue to genuinely strive for it none-the-less. Last year our satisfaction rating was 74%, and 70% the year before that. Our current figures mean that 4,440 of our members were satisfied with our service and in a moment I’ll share the reasons they have told why they are happy with us. However, our results also mean that 1,560 members were not happy with our service. Clearly, both figures need to improve and we are trending in the right direction, but the sky must be the limit for our projected improvements for next year.”

I would then suggest that the manager would detail how the organisation is going to bring those improvements to life.
While the organisation may not achieve 100% satisfaction the following year, maybe they could reach 88%. I can assure you that if your target is 80%, you’ll most likely reach it, maybe even a little bit more, but not a lot more.

I encourage you to look at what your percentages really mean. Have the courage to challenge each other and not to passively accept the way that percentages are used to represent data. The real meaning of the data is too often hidden by impressive looking percentages and these can mask the real situation. Shoot for the stars – you never know, you just might reach them.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Entrepreneurs have the power!

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremony for a Leadership Symposium at the Monash Business School. One of the keynote speakers was Creel Price.
Gary Ryan
As the owner of a small business, Creel made a statement that caught my attention.
“It is not governments or large corporations who are going to make the world a better place. It is entrepreneurs.”
I had subconsciously believed in Creel’s statement before he said it. He simply provided the words to describe what I already knew to be true. Ever since we started our enterprise in 2007 we have been giving a percentage of our income to specific charities. Late last year I was introduced to Paul Dunn, co-founder of Buy One Give One (B1G1). Upon learning of Paul’s vision, we immediately became Lifetime Partners of B1G1 and have been enjoying the power of habit, impact and connection ever since.

To understand why we made this decision, please view Paul’s Tedx Talk  and consider becoming part of B1G1 yourself and sharing The Power of Small with other entrepreneurs in your network. We can and are already making a real and positive difference in the world in which we live. You can too.

Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Should you be thanked for just doing your job?

How often do you recognise people for doing their job? Not the over and above work, just the work that they are ‘paid’ to do. You know, the ordinary work that is part of their job.

By ‘recognise’ I mean a simple thank you or a quiet pointing out that you appreciate such and such being done.
Gary RyanMaybe a junior administrator completes photocopying tasks for you. Simply saying, “Thanks for getting that done so quickly, I appreciate it.” can go a long way to helping that person feel valued. When people feel valued they are more likely to keep repeating the (often) simple behaviours that have been recognised.

I’m not talking about going over the top and making a big deal about ordinary tasks. In fact, my experience indicates such behaviour would have a negative effect on your colleague.

Interestingly, I find quietly appreciating people for their efforts works just as well with children and adults outside of the work environment. I have five children of my own (aged from 15 to four) and am also heavily involved in junior sport where parental support is essential for the teams to function properly.

‘Catching‘ children doing the ‘right thing‘ and pointing it out helps them to repeat those good behaviours (although isn’t it interesting how many adults are very good at pointing out the poor behaviours that children do but completely miss pointing out the good behaviours! Then this pattern is repeated at work – only the poor work is noticed!).

Quietly and subtly thanking parents for their support also re-enforces the supportive behaviours. It doesn’t matter who does more or less in terms of contribution, what matters is that the jobs get done (and done properly!) and the team co-ordinators aren’t left ‘pulling teeth‘ to get parents to help them.
In simple terms, appropriately acknowledging people for doing the right thing at work, home and in community organisations simply makes life easier and more pleasant too! 

As Dan Pink says in the RSA Animate video below, treat people like people and organisations can make the world just a little bit better!



What simple, yet effective methods do you have for recognising people for ‘just doing their job‘?
Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Do you know how to Dialogue?

In 2011 Michael Porter and Mark Kramer wrote an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) about organisations creating shared value.
Porter and Kramer argued that organisations need to operate from a new paradigm. One where value creation is not just about profit generation but also about how organisations can contribute to solving community and societal problems. Interestingly their article was not solely about corporate social responsibility.

They spoke about a genuine paradigm shift in which profit and social responsibility create equal value and they argued that it is possible to create such an organisation.

Shared value provides value to the organisation achieving its objectives, provides value to the employees of the organisation in helping them to contribute to worthwhile projects and provides value to the broader community in contributing to solving social problems. Importantly, shared valued will enhance your performance and therefore your career.

A challenge you face is that it is highly likely that neither you nor your colleagues know how to have the conversations that will enable the paradigm shift that Porter and Kramer described. This is difficult for professionals to acknowledge because in doing so you will be admitting that, from your perspective, you are not fully competent in your role. After all, aren’t you supposed to have developed your management competencies both from your education and your experience over time?

If you see yourself as a life-long learner you will be okay with identifying skills that require improvement.

Unfortunately you won’t have been exposed to the set of skills required to enable you and your colleagues to engage in dialogue. The short video below explains where dialogue sits within the Conversation Continuum, and the essential skills that underpin its development.



The fastest way that you and your colleagues can develop the conversation skills required to enable a paradigm shift to occur, is to learn dialogue together. A safe environment where both you and your colleagues are willing learners will enable you to quickly master the skills associated with dialogue and create the opportunity for paradigm shifts described by Porter and Kramer to occur.

Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good and has been teaching dialogue for more than 15 years.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quality Workplace Conversations Matter

Here's a formula.

High quality conversations lead to high quality decisions, which lead to high quality actions and ultimately, high quality results and performance. The reverse is also true. Low quality conversations eventually lead to low quality results.

Achieving high quality results and performance are worth the effort to learn how to conduct high quality conversations.
Gary RyanThe point of leverage in this model is high quality conversations. But what is a high quality conversation?

Unfortunately you have experienced more than your fair share of low quality conversations. These are ones where you walk out of the meeting and think any one of the thoughts below:
  • “Wow, that was a complete waste of time”
  • “When will people finally start to listen around here?”
  • “Why does everyone have to make my life so difficult? Why won’t they listen to me?”
  • “There’s no point saying what you really think around here because no one is going to listen anyway!”
High quality conversations are more natural than you might think. Peter Senge, author of the Fifth Discipline states,
"As far as I know, no indigenous culture has yet to be found that does not have the practice of sitting in a circle and talking."
For the ancient Greeks dia logos was the ‘flow of meaning’. It was the cornerstone of civic practice. The polis was the gathering space for conversation. The purpose for the dia logos was about enabling self-government to occur. This system was the birthplace of the western world.

As time has passed the practice of dia logos has diminished. When you converse in a workplace your purpose is no longer to consider what is best for the whole. Rather, your purpose is to win. You are a master of debate. I win. You lose.

Our modern word for dia logos is dialogue. When we dialogue our purpose is not to win. It is to discover what no individual could discover on their own and it is to discover what is the best solution for the whole, not the part.

Think about the conversations that you have at work, especially the ones where everyone in the room is ‘representing‘ a specific department or unit. What is the intent that each of you bring to those conversations? Is it to do what is best for the whole organisation, or is it to defend, protect and/or promote what is best for your department or unit?

The root cause of the lack of dialogue in organisations is the lack of the practice of dialogue itself. Quite simply, well-educated and/or experienced people don’t know how to dialogue. The reverse is true. They know how to debate. It is little wonder that debate rules, but the overuse of debate lowers the overall quality of your conversations.

Debate is not bad. In fact a form of debate (known as ‘opposing’) is encouraged in the practice of dialogue. The issue with debating is that it is overused. Our conversations are out of balance. We require more use of dialogue to improve the quality of our conversations.

The solution is to learn dialogue together. The beauty of the learning process is that you can practice dialogue, while learning it, on real organisational issues.

In the foreword to William Isaacs’s book, ‘Dialogue and the art of thinking together‘, Peter Senge highlights that,
"In almost every setting where practices of dialogue have become embedded and part of everyday routines, the ensuing changes have become irreversible, as near as I can tell."
The projects to which Senge was referring involved practical people such as line managers, executives and staff from mostly Fortune 500 companies. The improvements were clear. Improving the quality of work-place conversations improve performance.

The effort is worth it. Higher quality conversations lead to higher quality decisions which lead to higher quality actions and ultimately higher quality results and performance. Results and performance matter and so does improving the quality of conversations in your organisation.
What actions are you taking to improve the quality of conversations at your work-place?

Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®

If you would like to learn more about learning how to Dialogue, contact Gary here.