6 Insights for a Culture Change

February 27, 2019 by  

One of the greatest business challenges is effectively changing workplace culture. In order to do that, you must understand the underlying issues involved in order to make it happen. In addition, you need to answer all the questions and concerns that people may have and provide them with the compelling reasons why this change is going to be beneficial to everyone.

Here are some insights to consider when making a culture change:

Insight #1: Culture is the key to success and the key to the long term survival of any business
It is easier to decide on change than to get people to change. The more companies looked at, it seemed most were a bit like dysfunctional families. They had turf issues and trust issues, resistance to change, and it was very easy to do things in some companies, but it was almost impossible in others.
The greatest predictor of a company’s future is its culture. That culture is created and maintained by the leadership.

Insight #2 – The “Jaws of Culture” chew up most initiatives
Most companies invest in their strategy, initiatives, processes, and structure. All those issues have to go through the “Jaws of Culture”. The jaws are the dysfunctions of an organization:
• Are there turf issues or is it one company?
• Do people blame one another when things don’t work or are they accountable?
• Is there a positive spirit in the organization?
• Do people feel appreciated?

The primary Jaws of Culture in most organizations today are a lack of collaboration and agility and not much of a learning mindset for the kind of world we are in. No matter what the initiative is, those issues are going to chew it up, and those are the “Jaws of Culture”.

Insight #3: Creating a “one company” culture
Culture has really hit the tipping point because, in addition to the need for agility, most companies are very fragmented. Most big corporations today are a collection of acquisitions or geographies or business units or product lines; they aren’t one company. Truthfully, if they are going to survive, they really can’t afford to be fragmented today. In order to establish trust and rapport with the customer, control costs effectively and in the end just be successful, an organization needs to present itself with a united front. So, sadly there are very few fully integrated companies.

The answer is creating an allied or shared business model, and that only works with the right culture. It means creating a culture where decisions are made for the greater good with everybody having some common higher cause and being part of the process. Creating one company is critical today for big corporations to succeed.

Insight #4 – Diagnose the organization, Create your From-To model
Every organization has a culture. The only question is: Does it shape you or do you shape it?
In most organizations, people just step in and pick up behaviours of people who are there. That’s what culture is about, and yet you can systematically and intentionally shape a culture if you model it and commit to it.

Step 1 is to diagnose the organization. Given what you are facing, what are the behaviours you need and what are the behaviours you have? At this moment in time, in order to execute your strategies, what are those shifts you need to make happen and how will you make those shifts? That’s the diagnostic.

Step 2 is to then create a “From-To” model: Shift from being hierarchical to being more empowering. Shift from being siloed to being more collaborative with better lines of communication. Shift from being resistant to change to being very agile and open to change.

Insight #5 – Culture shaping needs to start at the top
Culture shaping definitely needs to start at the top of the organization. The principal issue here is that organizations become “Shadows of Their Leaders”. You affect your company so if you commit to the particular culture and model it, it will be more likely to be mirrored by those around you.

Insight #6 – Engineer ‘aha moments’ to shift thinking and behaviour
The challenge faced is how do you change habits of adults? Here is a thought: When we are young, we are like a flowing river, and then we freeze.” We get stuck in our habits. So how can be get ‘unstuck’? That only happens if we decide we want to change and then commit to doing what is necessary to make it happen.

Most models of change today are behavioural models. People define a set of values and then they communicate them. They talk to people about them. That doesn’t necessarily tend to change people. We all know we should do things that we don’t do.

So in the end, what does change people? It often takes some sort of wake up call to truly get someone’s attention and make them really consider embracing the change that is necessary. So how do we create those “aha” moments???

Here is an example: Do you remember when your mom told you if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all? So, that’s an underlying belief you likely espouse.
Then, you can have an insight that says, “As a leader, if you work for me, my job is to help develop you so that you can fulfill your potential. In fact, I need to show you that I appreciate your contributions and provide constructive feedback so that you can grow. If I do those things, I will be a good leader and be of benefit to everyone and the organization.
So, if you can have that shift in mindset through an epiphany, and change that behaviour, then you are going to really execute differently going forward. So, the next step in the process is to “unfreeze.” In other words, in order to make people want to change, you must offer reasons to change their mindset and allow your people to be able to accept the new idea and then make that their new mindset.

In the end, this mostly boils down to how effective the leadership of any organization is. The better they are at communicating with impact, honesty, clarity and influence, the more likely they are to have a great culture and to be able to affect change in their organization as it is necessary.

5 Secrets to Effective Communication……The Communication Handbook

August 3, 2014 by  

Clear communication is such an important skill for every aspect of life that I decided to write a book: 5 Secrets of Clear Communication: how to build strong relationships at work, at home and at play.

The purpose of the book is to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can become more effective when conversing with others. Most of us think we know how to communicate because we have been doing it since we were born, however, what I have found in my work as a soft skills consultant and trainer is this: most people are NOT very good at it!
The structure of the book provides a full explanation of each of the 5 aspects included, offers examples, work scenarios, true stories and finally an exercise which allows the reader to try out what they have learned. The final page of each chapter offers a summary of the key takeaways for that topic.

The book describes 5 elements of communication and the introduction provides a definition for clear communication along with some background on why I wrote this handbook. The idea is that once the reader gains a fuller understanding of how effective communication works they will be able to communicate with impact, influence, and clarity.

1. Active Listening: the key communication skill comprises the first chapter. Examples, stories and a breakdown of this most important skill give the reader a deeper understanding of how to become a good listener.

2. Accountability: is a personal empowerment technique which offers the 3 options we have available to us for problem solving. None of which is easy, however those are our only choices.

3. Assertiveness: knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner is a continuation of accountability and teaches how to create a more successful outcome from a difficult conversation.

4. Gender Differences in Communication: how men and women communicate in very different ways, is explored and many humorous but familiar examples are included in this chapter.

5. Personality Typing: knowing the sort of person with whom we are having an exchange can give us insight in how we can adjust our communication style to be more impactful is covered in this final chapter.

Finally, I offer a summary of what is covered and challenge the reader to begin employing these most valuable skills in their daily lives so that they can reduce the conflict in their life, increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, as well as enhance the happiness factor in all that they do. Once they start practicing more effective techniques of communication; they will enjoy much more success in all aspects of their life; at home, at play, in volunteer situations, and of course, at work.

6 Tips to Closing a Sale

February 25, 2014 by  

One must remember that sales are not about you meeting targets or even precisely about your product or service per se. Rather, they are about gaining trust, respect and rapport with your prospect so that you can determine their specific needs. If you espouse the strategies outlined below you can expect to achieve more success in increasing your sales.

1. Do your homework!
Before you even make the call, spend some time researching the company or individual you are about to contact. It is not necessary to spend countless hours on this, simply find out enough so that you can speak intelligently about their possible issues.
2. Be punctual!
Never be late! If you say you will call someone at 11:00am, make sure you do so. Allow plenty of time for travel for face-to-face meetings with a prospect because you never know what you might find on the roads that could delay your arrival. Those Key Decision Makers are too busy to wait so be on time, it is a small thing but very important. In addition, be sure to reconfirm the meeting length as decided. Better to take less time with your discussion interview, then run over, which will also not make that busy person very happy.
3. Get to the point!
Don’t waste a lot of time on small talk or idle chit-chat unless your prospect initiates this type of conversation. Rather, get right to the reason for the meeting. Your prospect will respect you for your direct approach and it will do much to help you stand out from the competition. It also takes less time!
4. Recap!
Before you make your sales presentation, recap your understanding of the prospect’s situation, problems or concerns. By offering this short summarization of what you have learned, you clearly demonstrate that you have listened well to their issues. This will engage them, show respect and build rapport. In addition, it gives you the opportunity to modify the presentation if the prospect’s situation has changed since your last exchange.
5. Focus on them!
Remember this is NOT about you or your company; rather it is how your services or products are going to make their business more efficient, productive and successful. In other words, how you can solve their current problem or concerns. If they want more information about your company, client list, how long you have been in business or anything else, they will ask. So if you make sure their issues are the focus of your presentation, you will be more likely to make the sale.
6. Don’t overstay your welcome!
Make a concerted effort to keep to the allotted time frame for your meeting because most of the decision makers have very tight schedules and if you run late, you will be disrupting their already jam packed agenda. Again, if you can conduct your business in less than the allotted time you will impress your prospect and perhaps even provide them with a much appreciated break in their busy day. In addition, this consideration for their time will set you apart from other salespeople and once more enhance your chances for a successful outcome and the sale!

These six tips are imperative in building the trust, respect and rapport so necessary in developing and maintaining good business relationship with our customers. We still do business with those we trust; so practice these elements and you will surely make more sales!

4 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Employees

December 19, 2013 by  

How often have you needed to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker or employee, and found any excuse to avoid the confrontation? Even highly assertive people struggle with difficult conversations, especially when it is with a difficult person.
As we all know, sometimes conversations with difficult people are unavoidable, and absolutely necessary for leaders. Many times, these conversations end up being arguments or difficult discussions because these people press our buttons. So, when such a conversation is necessary, what is an effective approach that will bring us win/win outcome?
1. Say it
Do not avoid the conversation. Despite the fact that the natural human tendency is to avoid the confrontation, avoidance does not make a problem go away, and over time, it can make the problem or issue worse and certainly harder to resolve.
2. Say it in a way they can hear you
Take the time to formulate your message in an honest and respectful manner using appropriate language for this particular person. (lighten it up, or be more direct depending on the personality type with whom you are dealing).
3. Listen
Without active, focussed listening, one cannot truly understand why we have this problem. Hear them out and repeat back what you heard for clarification. Ask questions to learn more about their take on the situation. Most differences can be resolved by actively listening and discovering where your areas of agreement lie. Then you can agree to disagree or find a reasonable compromise. However you will now better understand the other person’s perspective of the situation….maybe you will even learn something new.
4. Let it go
Following the difficult conversation, even if you did not get exactly what you wanted as an outcome, let it go. Their reaction is not your responsibility. You cannot control the result of this verbal exchange; you can only attempt to achieve a certain end. Honestly, you will feel better just for trying.

The four steps outlined above are not easy. However they are necessary and are actually the only way to find a solution. Some of the biggest growth opportunities in the workplace come through confronting and dealing with people with whom we may not get along. The more we know about our co-workers, we more we listen actively to their problems and points of view; difficult or not, the better we will be able to work with them in the future.

3 Tips for Effective Business Communication

May 14, 2013 by  

In business we need to impart beneficial information to our listeners….in order to do that we must use our voice to persuade and influence. That means paying close attention to the quality, warmth, tone and volume.

Here are 3 tips to remember:

1. Your voice is the agent of intention and expression. When combined with your facial expression sends more of the message than the words themselves and both must match and reinforce the verbal explanation. So use it your best advantage.
2. In order to do that, one must be able to create a calm and pleasant sound…that occurs with proper breathing techniques. A fullness of sound comes from belly or diaphragmatic breathing, which softens the voice making it sound soft, calm, and confident. Conversely, shallow breathing causes a thin, harsh sound which makes you seem hurried which can tire your audience.
3. To keep your audience engaged and comfortable you must appear and sound relaxed…your voice reflects your state of mind and the audience will hear that in your voice. If you are tense, nervous, distracted or anxious you will make the listeners feel that way; which will make it difficult for them to focus on your message.

Practice your presentation, get feedback, record it…this will help you to know how you will be received.

Your voice is your most valuable tool in any presentation…it must be honed, rehearsed, tuned, and strong.

Make sure your emotional investment is positive, energetic, confident, warm and responsive….it will pay huge dividends!

Are You Impactful When You Communicate?

March 17, 2013 by  

Do you have the ability to be impactful when you speak to others?
Can you persuade people to your point of view?
Can you easily articulate your vision to your team?

If you have answered yes to those questions you are an effective communicator….if not, here are 5 important tips to consider:
1. Consider thinking about the needs and desires of your audience. What do they care about? How can you get them to respond positively to any request that you make? Those are the approaches to consider when preparing your remarks.
2. Focus on the benefits to your audience and make them the common denominator in all aspects of your delivery.
3. Be authentic, sincere and true to yourself: show that you care about others and are passionate about your message.
4. Be sure to begin with a clear goal of what you wish to accomplish with this presentation.
5. Practice, practice, practice….the more you prepare the more confident you will be, the more relaxed you will become and the more effective you will be.

Remember, the speaker sets the tone for the audience; if you are enjoying what you are doing, comfortable in your style, and engaging in your manner, your audience will behave in similar fashion.  When you employ these elements, you greatly increase your ability to successfully connect with your audience, and when you achieve that connection, you enhance the value for them by making your presentation more impactful.

Accountability…the Key to Personal Empowerment

April 4, 2012 by  

Do you like being around a grumpy or negative person?
When unfortunate things happen do you stay in victim mode?
Becoming accountable can bring happiness and positivity to your life….here is how to move from being a victim to becoming accountable.

When something bad happens, particularly when it is beyond your control, instead of continuing to feel frustrated, out of control, angry, and upset or looking for someone to blame. Ask yourself these two simple questions:
1. How did I contribute to this?
2. What can I do now?

Now you have 3 choices:
1. Take an Action:
If it is something simple and obvious like taking a pet to the Vet, getting your car fixed, a leak repaired or the hot water tank replaced, we know what to do to take action. On the other hand, when it is a situation with a person, it becomes more difficult.
Most of us do not like to engage in “difficult conversations“. However if we are going resolve the problem, because it is our problem and so are the one suffering, we need to have that exchange. If we do not, we keep suffering and the person who caused this situation will remain in the dark.
Now, just because we screw up our courage and have the assertive exchange does not mean that we will get the result we expect or hope…we cannot make people do things they do not want to do. We will feel better for trying, though.
2. Manage your Attitude:
If step 1 did not work, even after trying it a couple of times you should try to change your perception of the situation so that you can live with it. Let it go or devise a strategy that entertains you rather than aggravates you. Play a game in your head by figuring out how long it will take for the person to do something which is upsetting or try to figure out what they would do under certain circumstances and reward yourself when you are correct. Also, pick your battles, dealing with every little thing is a waste of time and energy be sure it is worth the effort before engaging.
3. Leave the Situation:
If you have tried steps 1 & 2 without success, in order to save yourself sometimes we have to leave a situation, whether it is a job or a relationship. Your health is not worth a bad unsolvable situation and your life is too short to keep living in a bad place….move on!

None of these options are easy, however, in order to reduce our stress we need to be proactive and take those steps when we are faced with adversity.

If it is to be, it is up to me!
Do not stay in victim mode it is most unhealthy and if you are suffering, so is everyone else around you at home and at work.
Become accountable!!

Listening….the Key Communication Skill

January 6, 2012 by  

The cause of most conflict is Poor Listening.
Most of us think that because we have essentially been communicating since we were born that we know how.
Good luck with that!

Without actual feedback from the listener, we have no idea what they actually heard because there are many interferences between the delivery and the reception of the message. That is why most of us are not very effective communicators.

Here are some of the interferences:
1. Our brains process data at approximately 800-1000 words/minute. Most people talk at about 150 words/minute. No wonder staying focused on a speaker is difficult for our brains. Ever find yourself realizing that you haven’t heard a word the person you are supposedly listening to has said for the past 5 or 10 minutes? And then done the usual human thing… assumed you sort of knew what they are saying, which of course gets us into a whole pile of trouble!!
2. The condition of the listener can also impact upon the reception of the message…they could be hungry, tired, not feeling well, or worrying about something.  Which means they may not be concentrating on what you are saying.
3. The environment can negatively impact the reception…too hot, too cold, poor lighting, outside distractions (noise), inside distractions, or interruptions.  Again this can prevent the intended message from being received as it again interferes with concentration.
4. Language….be sure to use words that the listener understands, not technical language that they may not be familar with.  Because in order to not look or feel stupid, they will say they understood you even if they did not.
5. Preconceived ideas about what is going to be said or happen can interfere with the intended message being received as well.  Again feedback is the only way we can have any idea of what the listener heard.

Checking to find out what the listener actually heard can be most enlightening and helpful to ensure that the message you intended was truly what was computed.

Remember this: the verbal part of the message is only 7%, it is 38% tonal and 55% nonverbal, so in all it is 93% nonverbal….be careful of the messages you are sending, they may not be what you intended. Without direct feedback we can never be sure what the listener actually heard, so practise active listening and reduce the conflict in your life!!