And This Years Winner Is…..Teamwork

That One Day in September

Last weekend here in Melbourne it was the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football competition that involved the clash between two mighty football teams – Hawthorn and Fremantle. On the big day an audience of 100,000+ supporters sat in the famous and historical MCG stadium and cheered loudly as they encouraged their team towards victory with the goal of being the 2013 Premiers. However, only one team can be victorious and this year the winner was Hawthorn.

Prior, during and after the game, it is always interesting to observe the behaviours of the two team’s supporters. Each supporter dresses up in their football team’s club colours, waves team flags and provides “verbal encouragement” to their players, the opposition and particularly the umpires. Although the supporters have allegiance to their individual teams, after the game there is minimal malice and they depart on mass with “friendly” banter amongst their own supporters and those from the opposition team. In this instance, it could be said that the real winner was “football” as the game was a spectacular ending to yet another great football season that was enjoyed by all supporters of the game.

Let’s explore this team concept further in the corporate office. Many organizations are functionally structured into discrete work groups (marketing, sales, HR, production, etc), or business divisions, or via geography (Australia, Denmark, Japan). Over time, these groups tend to develop their own work culture and ethos that crafts and encourages certain good, and some bad behaviours. Unfortunately, this may also lead to an “us” and “them” mentality where one group tries to score points off another work group, just like in the game of football.

However, the key is for these work groups to recognise that there is one larger and more strategic team, that of the total organization. Sure, there can be a work group team credo under the direction of their General Manager (“team captain”), but only if the real winner is the overall business.

In football, it is the umpires role to keep order in the game and to administer and implement the rules to ensure an equal opportunity for all players. Taking this thought further, do we need to establish a band of independent “Behavioural Umpires (BU)” that freely roam the corporate organization calling poor intergroup teamwork with a series of Red, Yellow and Green “behaviour cards” and associated penalties?

For instance, a person given a “Yellow behavioural card” could be placed into a “behavioural sin-bin” for a day where they are forced to watch DVDs of greater teamwork effectiveness? Those awarded a “Red card” may need to spend a day working in the work group they have offended to learn about that team’s ways of “goodness”? However, the “Green card” would reward positive teamwork behaviour and could result in a financial incentive and other forms of recognition. The BU would have a special uniform, complete with a corporate branded whistle, so they are easily recognisable as they wander through the various work teams.

At the end of each financial year, the BUs could get together and have a “best and fairest” award for those employees deemed to have exhibited the optimum in teamwork excellence. There could even be a corporate dinner at a prestigious hotel to celebrate the occasion with a large and impressive trophy presented to the winner by the organization’s CEO.

So may I suggest that work teams never lose sight of the larger organization to ensure that the winner is always the one team, and not the individual!

Just a thought…..

 

Serving up the Corporate Communication

dinner

 

Have you ever considered the humble beef steak and the many variations in which it can be prepared and served to meet the varying eating requirements of diners?

Some people like their steak raw, others partially cooked, others with a more highly tuned animalistic appreciation, savor it burnt with a delicate charcoal after taste that lingers just that little longer on the palate.

Others like their steak transformed into another eating format such as mince, a sausage, hamburger or even placed on a metal skewer garnished with an array of coloured complimentary ornamental vegetables to add that certain nutritional balance to the eating diet.

The overall result is that many people will happily eat steak owing to the customized presentation and delivery format that meets the endless variety of fickle needs of the consumer.

Let’s explore this thought with respect to corporate communications. Rather than having one single communiqué to the broader organization, a tailored message for each user group is required (you just can’t serve raw steak to everyone!). The message needs to be crafted to meet the consuming needs of each work group. Some groups will like to hear the message straight (don’t cut the fat off their meat), others will need it to be refined (cut into smaller more palatable pieces), some will need it simplified and reduced (via the use of a food processor), others may want some condiments to compliment the taste of the message.

In all the above message scenarios the origin of the communication is the same (just like the original cut of the steak) the skill is in how the Corporate Communication Director (or should I say chef) dishes up the “meat” to ensure that each employee (diner) eagerly greets the communication and is ready to eat it all up and is fully satisfied without the need for seconds, or a dessert!

So in summary, corporate communication is really just food for thought…..isn’t it?

 

The Mathematical Idea

Numbers

If you were an accountant, just imagine if the unthinkable happened?  What if you were at the crucial stage in developing a strategic profit and loss statement, or an annual budget and you ran out of numbers!

Yes, instead of numbers being an unlimited thought concept, what if they were an actual physical asset that was purchased, had a market value, and were manufactured in a finite quantity? How would the accountant cope? If they ran out of “4”s, could they continue the financial analysis that they were working on by replacing the “4” with a “3”, after-all they are close? Somehow, I suspect not!

So why is it that some corporate organizations tend to have a greater proportion of innovative ideas compared to other companies? After all, aren’t ideas, like numbers unlimited and freely generated?

One probable answer is the culture of the organization and the environment that has been established to encourage and promote innovation of thought. Many progressive companies are well aware of this requirement and have developed a range of thought creation initiates to drive and maintain the innovation process focused on targeted applications. If we go back to the accountant, it is all very well have an unlimited supply of numbers, but the key is how these numbers are applied to a specific problem thereby creating a solution. The same can be said for ideas, it is great to have a plethora of them, but the real opportunity is obtained when they initiate a creative solution that leads to additional sales revenue via a new market or product.

So next time you use your calculator to solve a mathematical problem, try to think of the numbers on the keys from a slightly different perspective. Why not view those numbers as the inputs for a range of ideas which when combined via a systematic approach lead to the generation of a creative and new solution. By the way, in this calculator there would be no “Error” function, for when generating ideas, there are no mistakes, just opportunities for improvement!

The Corporate Reception Area

Circular Reception Desk

When you enter a shop for the first time your senses are seeking out data points with which to form an impression that usually influences your buying behaviour whilst in the store, and afterwards with respect to potential repeat visits. Each store tries to create their own individuality that differentiates themselves from their competition through a variety of different coloured décor, sounds, smells, staff dress code, personality style and other mannerisms.

So what can we learn from this in the corporate world? The answer is heaps, particularly with respect to the business reception area.

Business reception areas are the portal through which all new clients enter and they are in essence the “shop front” to the corporate organization. So why not make this “experience of entrance” one that will place your business on a pedestal that will be the envy of your opposition?

Some thoughts for achieving this that are that “little bit different”:

1. Facial Recognition
For clients that have visited your business previously, why not use facial recognition to send their details electronically as they are walking to the receptionist who can provide them with a personal salutation of welcome when they sign in?

2. No more dull waiting time
Should your clients arrive early for a meeting, why should they sit around aimlessly reading the traditional range of dated and boring magazines and newspapers?
A much better and innovative alternative is to provide a range of other more interesting options such as; a dedicated barista to provide that optimum coffee brew, free WiFi so they can check E-mails, a well stocked library with comfortable reading chairs, a golf practice putting area with your company logo on the green, or an array of dynamic computer games, etc. I’m sure that these options would be much better appreciated!

3. Video Messaging Booth
Should you client not have sufficient time for the meeting with your organization through no fault of their own, or should your employees be double booked with too many meetings, the reception area would be equipped with an array of video messaging booths. Here the client could sit down in private and make their presentation or provide feedback to a video camera which would record their message. This could then be E-mailed to the appropriate person in your business for viewing at a later date.

4. The Outdoor Reception Area
Why not have a built in outdoor glass enclosed reception area instead of one with the more traditional corporate appearance? This could comprise a variety of outdoor garden elements that are in sync with the climatic seasons with a well defined footpath meandering to the reception desk. For instance, there could be a grassy mound with occasional animal (eg cow, kangaroo, horse) strolling past the clients, an intermittent and random rain shower requiring the use of strategically placed umbrellas or an ice-cream stand located amongst a sand dune or rock-pool?

I’m sure that these creative and rather unique additions to the corporate reception area would have a lasting and positive influence on any client that may visit your business.

Why not consider some of these ideas when designing your next office building?

I’m sure that it would indeed make people “think that little bit differently”!

 

The Infectious Smile

Heike

Wow…..that was a great smile I told myself when receiving my coffee in the cafe! When this woman smiled, I, and everyone else she met just had to smile back. Her smile was genuine, natural, unforced and infectious.

This got me thinking….

How many people in your office “really smile”? Every business needs a “smiler” to initiate that human touch, to let people know that they are important and not just another employee number in the corporate organisation.

A “smiler” is like a little heat spot in the building that generates and radiates warmth that people are attracted to when needing a motivational uplift.

So why don’t we formalise the role of the “smiler” in the organisation chart? Those with the recognised “smiling skill” could list this attribute on their CV, and for those that are deemed “Masters of Smiling”, there would be a large salary increase entitlement to entice them to stay in the business! After all, these prized “smilers” would be the target of many a head-hunter (or smile-hunter)!

I also would suggest that each work department needs at least one accredited “smiler” to raise morale. For those working in the more dull work teams (eg accounting – apologies to any accountants that might be reading), a second “smiler” may be required!

So next time you see a person with a magnificent smile, please savour the moment and try to learn from the experience with the view of embellishing your own smile in the direction of “smiling grandness”!

 

Leading the Troops

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Never has the role of a leader been more critical than when an organisation is undergoing a severe dislocation derived from a Change Management program.

The impact on the business could possibly be likened to how a soldier’s behaviour changed when faced with trench warfare in the First World War. In the trenches the soldiers lived in constant fear of having to go over the trench wall to face a highly risky and unknown future. To an employee, the analogy is unfortunately very similar! Consider the following:

1. Casualties
The soldier was continually seeing many casualties inflicted on their comrades by the enemy (the employee experiences many of their co-workers being made redundant and lives in fear that they too may also lose their job)

2. Lack of Information
Most soldiers were kept in the dark regarding the military mission and only saw short term actions which appeared to be rather foolhardy (employees do not fully understand the end goal of the Change Management, but rather judge the progress being made by how it is impacting themselves and their immediate coworkers)

3. Rumours
A lack of regular communication and dispatches from the military command resulted in many rumours spreading amongst the troops (if there is a lack of communication from management, rumours become rife and spread quickly throughout the organisation leading to poor morale)

4. Environment
The living conditions in the trenches became intolerable and basic hygiene quickly deteriorated resulting in discontentment and potential mutiny (employees will cope with poor work conditions and uncertainty for a limited period of time, however, should this continue many employees will seek employment elsewhere).

5. Recognition
Those soldiers who exhibited extreme courage were awarded decorations of valour, such as the Victoria Cross (employee contribution should be recognised and rewarded).

The military commander needed to have the ability to inspire and motivate the troops to have the mental and physical fortitude to leave the perceived safety of the trench and to risk their lives to fight the enemy to gain a forward position.

Here the manager must also lead their fellow employees along the Change Management journey to ensure the success of the business reorganisation, otherwise the structural change process will undoubtedly fail. Employees need to believe that their individual contribution is significant and will make a purposeful contribution to the long term survival of the business.

So before you raise your “manager’s sword” and utter that famous “charge” command, make sure you have considered all the aspects associated with the life of a soldier struggling in the trenches so you taste victory instead of defeat in your Change Management activity!

Are You on the Bus?

Double decker bus - London

In many change management programs within business you would have heard the phrase…”Are You on the Bus”?

Let us explore this analogy a little further. Many of us when at school have experienced those bus excursions which were brilliant, and others that were a complete disaster. So what are some of the key elements that differentiated the two experiences?

The Good:
The Bus Driver was a great storyteller that engaged the passengers throughout the journey.
Your fellow passengers created their own excitement and fun.
The scenery from the bus windows were continually varied and made the view a delight to behold and appreciate.
Passengers moved around the bus to experience different perspectives on the journey.

The Bad:
The driver was an utter bore and provided zero inspiration.
The passengers did not interact, were silent and uninterested.
The view outside the bus was monotonous and made the passengers switch off because they were not engaged by the scenery.

So what are the learnings with the bus analogy for management?

The driver is critical! Managers need to have the ability to inspire and lead their employees along the change management journey so they are eager to participate in the activity.

It is important to motivate the co-workers who are already on the bus so they inspire their fellow passengers so nobody wants to get off.

Passenger comfort along the journey needs to be maintained. Here the manager needs to understand and appreciate how their employees are feeling emotionally and physically. If the temperature or mood is too hot or cold, it is the driver who is on control of the air conditioner and needs to make the required organizational climatic change.

However, there might be some passengers who really don’t like the journey. If so, just let them off at the appropriate bus stop otherwise they may become a negative influence on the other passengers.

The bus may hit a large pothole in the road and get a wheel puncture? If so, the bus should quickly stop and address the problem and take the required corrective action to ensure that a smooth ride continues along the route to the intended destination. There is no point limping along with a damaged bus as it will negatively affect the experience of all the passengers.

So when next you as the driver (and manager) are about to start your next bus journey of change management, make sure you consider the above and then jump into the driver’s seat, start the engine and put your foot down on the accelerator and go!

 

Change Management – Coloured Breath Analysis

Sea Surface Temperature

It is common practice these days for an organisation to use various internal surveys or other methods of feedback to get an indication of the mood of their employees, particularly during a time of Change Management. These organisational pulse checks can be rather hit and miss as they are dependent upon the number of people who participate, and on the quality of the information that has been provided.

But….there could be a better way to accurately and instantaneously gain an understanding of employee sentiment via an innovative, yet to be invented process, called “coloured breath analysis”.

Consider the following……

If we could tag and classify a person’s emotional state in the office by measuring the “colour” of the air exhaled as they speak, this could be quite interesting. A “red” colour would signify that they were angry or agitated, “green” would indicate calmness, and “yellow” that they were neutral or somewhere in between the states of “red” and “green”.

Now, just imagine if these exhaled colour breath measurements could be plotted on an office location map, just like the synoptic weather map which indicates high and low barometric pressures? If so, this would provide an immediate, real-time measure of employee feeling that could be updated and reviewed on a continual basis.

Early warning signs of potential employee “cyclones”, or other impending “storms” that were brewing in the office would be readily identified so the appropriate corrective action could implemented in order to harmonise the corporate climate. It would also identify those more preferred “climatic” locations in the office which are more highly stable and have a calming influence on the surrounding areas.

Just a thought……but think of the possibilities if it existed!

Change Management and the Lily Pond

Pond Apocalypse

Have you every considered the humble lily pond?

Looking at the top of the pond you see clear blue water inter-dispersed with a variety of flat circular green lilies bobbing gently in harmony with the movements of the water. Should there be any sudden changes or displacements in the pond, the lilies move accordingly, the larger the change, the greater the movement.

As you explore deeper into the pond, the water becomes more murky with various weeds and algae until you finally reach the bottom where there will be a layer of thick black sludge that entraps any items that may visit.

The view from the bottom of the pond is in extreme contrast with the clear waters that percolate around the green lilies.

This got me thinking….let us now consider the impact of a change management program in the business environment and its correlation with the lily pond.

Those in senior management positions (the lilies on the pond surface) are usually more involved with the change process and have a greater appreciation of the overall business objective. This understanding assists in enabling them to cope with any turbulence during the process.

However, as you go lower down the corporate structure, their knowledge of the business objectives of the change program becomes less apparent. Here these employees have less visibility of the process and are typically focused on survival (keeping their job) as their environment becomes more harsh and tough (in the black pond sludge).

For the change management process to be successful, the “water in the pond needs to be continually in motion” and any detrimental “plant life” should to be removed, diluted, or transformed by the cleansing action of the water currents to avoid black pond sludge. Internal communication within the organisation is the key to keeping the “water in motion” thereby ensuring that everyone in the pond benefits from the continually moving currents.

So, just like in the pond where it is important to keep the water moving, so it is in a change management program to have communications that reach all levels of the organisation.

Be a large Goldfish…not a small one

Gold Fish Bowl Jump 089/365 [explore #150]

It is said that a goldfish when placed in a fishbowl, or larger watery space, will grow to a size that is suitable for that particular swimming environment. The larger the amount of available water volume, the greater the opportunity for the goldfish to increase in size.

This got me thinking….

Many employees have worked for quite a while in the same job role where they have fully mastered their position and are now regarded as the expert within their business organization. In essence, they are the “goldfish in the fishbowl” where they have grown to their maximum size potential.

However, what if they were moved into a new role, or transferred into another business division, or leave and join another company? They would still have the experiences that they had established and fine-tuned in their previous role, but they would now have greater opportunity to expand their vision, skills and learnings in the next one. This would be like the small goldfish being placed into a much larger bowl where they could now grow into a more impressive and bigger fish.

The key is to not let your current fishbowl size limit your thinking and career potential, but to always looks for the many free flowing streams that will lead you to a larger and more impressive fishbowl or pond (or even an ocean) where you can swim freely and get bigger!