Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is your message and the experience you create aligned?

This really isn't rocket science but I am continually amazed at how many organisations get this wrong. Recently my family have been doing high school tours to help us make a decision regarding the right school for our eldest child.

The schools have had many different approaches to this process. However, their messages have been very similar, "We create a caring, belonging and nurturing environment for your child where we seek to create well rounded young adults with strong academic and life skills."

Yet it is our experience of this message that has stood out the most for us. One school that had over 900 students crammed us into a room where three teachers and three students spent 60 minutes 'telling' us about the nurturing and sense of belonging that the school creates. The speeches were fine, the images shown to us on the PowerPoint presentation also looked fine.

The teachers then stayed in that room while the three students led over crowded tours around the school. Classrooms were closed, it had become dark and lights were off and we spent most of the time peering in through windows trying to get a sense of what the school was like.

After a while the litter on the ground became more and more noticeable. After all, there wasn't much else to see or experience.

It seems to me that if you are going to promote a sense of belonging, then that is the 'experience' that you should do your very best to create. This is a classic case of ensuring that your message and the experience you create are aligned. All it takes is a few moments to ask this question, "Is the experience we are going to create aligned with our message?"

The school I have described is no longer on our list. Other parents who have also visited the school for their tours have expressed similar concerns. The school is completely unaware of the misalignment between their message and the experience they are creating.

How do you make sure that your message and the experience you create are aligned?

This article has been re-posted after having originally been posted in October 2010.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't plan your future - just live in the moment

"I don't plan for my future. I live in the moment and everything works itself out. After all, I used to plan everything and then I got burned by my ex wife. Everything that I had been working for came crashing down around me. So living in the moment is what matters. You need to be happy now. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow."

I hear this type of view fairly regularly. There is no doubt that it is a valid view for some people.

However, when I have the opportunity to drill down and ask a few questions from people who hold this view I discover that when they said that they used to plan for the future, the plans that they are talking about were in their heads and contained no detail about how they were going to be put into action. Their plans were really just high level goals.

When they then got "burned", usually by their partner or their employer, they externalised the situation and believed that they had no control over nor contribution to the negative outcome. It was everyone else's fault. It was also the fault of their plan, even though it wasn't really a plan, it was just a list of high level goals. So that's why they don't plan anymore. It's safer to just go with the flow.

My experience is that when you have a plan that includes your high level goals and what you are going to do to achieve those goals, you are more likely to be happy in the moment as you travel the journey of creating the future you desire.

Recently my eldest son and daughter provided such an example. My wife and I have clear plans regarding how we want to raise our children so that they are respectful, happy and contributing members of society when they are adults. The journey of implementing our plans is at times challenging as we balance teaching our children vital life lessons while enabling them to enjoy life at the same time.

On a Sunday morning when I wasn't home my daughter noticed our 85 year old neighbour struggling to mow his lawns. Sienna called to her 12 year old brother who was still in bed to let him know what Joe was doing. Liam quickly climbed out of bed, put his clothes on and went across the road to offer his services. Thankfully Joe let him complete the task.

When I returned home and was told this story I was delighted. My daughter and my son had both seen an opportunity to help our neighbour and had taken action to do so. This was an example of the behaviours we are hoping to instill in our children for their future being lived today. Do you think my wife and I were happy in this moment?

Absolutely!

When you plan for your future and you know both why and how you are going to bring those plans into reality, your capacity to be happy in the moment increases. So planning for your future is not about post-poning happiness. It's about doing the things that will enhance your happiness in the future, that also increase your awareness of happiness in the moment.

How are you planning for your future?

Gary Ryan facilitates the OTM Plan for Personal Success® Program. Visit here for information about this program.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Managing High Performing Culture Breakers

A recent article When to Fire a Top Performer on the HBR Blog Network by Eric Sinoway caught my eye. In the article Eric classifies employees into four categories based on their performance and their alignment with the organisation's values and culture.

Sinoway's four categories include:
  • Stars are the employees we all love — the ones who "do the right thing" the "right way" .
  • High potentials are those whose behavior we value — who do things the right way but whose skills need further maturation or enhancement. With training, time, and support, these people are your future stars.
  • Zombies fail on both counts. Their behavior doesn't align with the cultural aspirations of the organization and their performance is mediocre.
  • Vampires are the real threat. These employees perform well but in a manner that is at cross-purposes with desired organizational culture. 
The 'Vampires' as Sinoway calls them can cause untold damage to your organisation, despite the appearance that they 'get results'.

Reading the article reminded me of a framework I had learned from Jack Welch while he was CEO of GE.
In this matrix, the vertical axis refers to 'on the job performance and the horizontal axis refers to alignment with company values. Welch argued that so called high performers who didn't align with company values hurt the company in the long term, despite their short term 'performance' results. 

Welch's view was that these people damaged both internal and external relationships and as such would damage the company in the long term, which is why he fired them.

Folk who were aligned with the company's values but fell short on 'performance' were worth a second chance. Of course those who scored well in both areas were the company's stars and should therefore be promoted and their opposites, those who neither 'performed' nor shared the company's values were asked to leave.

The beauty of these models and approaches is that they provide us with a framework for conversations and decision making.

How does your organisation manage the dilemma of a high performer who doesn't align with the company's values?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Challenge of Multiple Purposes For Management Team Members

Recently, when talking with a client it became evident that when in Management Team meetings he was first a representative of his department, rather than first seeing himself as a leader of the whole organisation. Below is the dialogue from that conversation.

GR: "How do you believe the other members of the Management Team view their roles?"

Client: "Based on their behaviour, I'm one hundred percent confident that they would have the same perspective as me. None of them would see themselves as leaders of the company first."

GR: "When there is a problem that exists within the business, how is that problem approached from a Management Team perspective?".

Client: "Well if there was a problem with my area, for example, I would be asked what I was doing about fixing the problem."

GR: "What if you didn't know what to do?"

Client: "I'd have to work it out, or at least that would be the perspective that I would take."

GR: "Being brutally honest, if your colleagues continued to question you about the problem but you didn't have an answer, what would happen to your level of defensiveness?"

Client: "Oh, that's easy. It would go through the roof!"

This conversation highlights a dynamic that exists in far too many Management Teams. The team members see themselves and their colleagues as representatives of departments, not as leaders of the whole organisation first.

Such a view can lead to the following behaviours that can hinder an organisation from achieving high performance:
  • When problems arise they are to be solved from within the area from within which the problem arose
  • Team members wait for their turn to speak to the issues that relate to their department
  • Team members do not actively participate in attempting to solve problems that arise from departments that are external to their own
  • Avoidance of discussing issues that might reflect negatively on the performance of the managers themselves
Senior Managers need to be able to work from the perspective of dual purposes at the same time. While they are responsible for their department they are also responsible for the whole of the organisation as well, including the departments of which they are not directly responsible.

When Senior Managers are able to do this then they are able to genuinely inquire into and offer suggestions for problems that arise from departments outside of their own. In fact, they wouldn't even see the problem as being, "...out of their area". Rather, they would understand that due to the interactions and interdependence between departments that they would have an equal level of responsibility with their Management Team colleagues to solve these types of problems together.

This is not to say that Senior Management should abdicate responsibility for the problems within their own departments. Of course they need to be doing everything they can to solve them. At times, however, the problems will be of a type that require the assistance of their fellow Senior Team members if the problems are to be solved and/or effectively managed.

As Russell Ackoff used to say, it is not the efficiencies of the parts of a system that lead to high performance, rather it is the quality of the interactions between the parts of the system that matter the most. At a Management Team level this means that problems need to be addressed by the team as a whole, rather than being pushed back to being solved at the department level from which the problem was believed to have originated. The issue with the second approach is that just beacause a problem appears to have originated from a particular department, doesn't mean that it actually originated from that department.

What capability does your Manatement Team have to manage the challenge of multiple purposes?

Are problems at the Management Team level in your business addressed as team problems, or are they addressed as problems for the respective departmental managers to solve?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sir Richard Branson's Business Advice is Powerful in its Simplicity

Sir Richard Branson has recently posted an article that provides advice for starting a successful business. I'd argue that his five tips are just as important for continually improving an existing business.

Branson's tips include:
  1. Listen more than you talk - listen to everyone not just the senior people
  2. Keep it simple - why overcomplicate things?
  3. Take pride in your work - celebrate the talent within your business
  4. Have fun, success will follow - enjoy the journey; be human
  5. Rip it up and start again - learn from your mistakes
What are your thoughts on Sir Richard's advice?


Monday, October 8, 2012

Systems Thinking Explained by Dr Peter Senge

Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Founding Director for the Society of Organisational Learning explains, in simple terms, what "Systems Thinking" is and how to use its principles for solving complex problems.




According to the Employability Skills for the Future report by the Australian Government (2002), Systems Thinking is considered a critical leadership skill. Yet it isn't being taught to leaders.

Understanding this skill and developing it as one of your leadership capabilities is a high leverage activity that will enahnce your career. This short video is a terrific way to commence your understanding of this topic and you can also access other articles I have posted here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ebook for Senior and Developing Leaders Released


This complimentary ebook is for Senior & Developing Leaders who share our view that organisational success is created through enabling people to be the best they can be, was created from a selection of articles published on the OTM Academy from May 1st 2012 through to August 31st 2012.
The ebook includes articles to help you move from 'good' to 'high' performance.
Please feel free to join the OTM Academy - it's free!

In the ebook you will discover:

* What 'Truth to Power' is and how it affects performance

* Why communicating via multiple channels matters

* How Virgin Australia handled a brand damaging event

* Why change management is an oxymoron

* How to use three steps to bring organisational values to life

* How to be free of problems within your business

* How to use five steps to connect strategy to action

*And much, much more!
Order this free ebook to download here.
Contributing authors include:
  • Gary Ryan
  • Ian Berry