What If?

What If?

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #3

In episode #2, we explored unexpected benefits resulting from changes in our lives that were outside of our control. In this episode, let’s dig deeper to see just how change can truly enrich our experience – in the rear-view mirror.

How many different people have you been in this lifetime? I’ve been at least five – and that’s only counting my professional lives. 

In case you’re interested, there was the entertainment writer / local TV producer (ask me about my interview with Jerry Seinfeld), the year and a half I was a licensed life and disability insurance salesperson (for real), then came the very serious business journalist interviewing true titans of industry. At some point, I veered into the corporate world as a… wait for it… change agent. Let’s hop, skip and jump a few years to today: I think I’m morphing once again from a somewhat stable business owner to something slightly more creative (but you’ll have to ask my colleagues about that… or just ask me). 

The point? What if I never what-iffed? I would have missed the big move from the Midwest to the Big Apple. I wouldn’t have interviewed a CEO who later became our nation’s Treasury Secretary. I would have missed out on getting to know so many amazing and inspiring clients. I’d have a whole lot fewer friends. And I definitely wouldn’t have learned to practice Reiki. (Yup. Certified Level 2.)

None of these zigs or zags were planned. Not a one. They just came… and, gazing in the rear-view, it seems I said “what if” quite often, in the sense of why not?

So, I got to thinking: Could you turn my personal “what if” habit into a deliberate practice? Let’s try it. 

What if….

  • You could switch on a different internal circuit before responding to change coming at you from an external source?
  • What if your prevailing thoughts and reactions weren’t focused on your survival – your ability to earn a living, pay for food and shelter, clothe and educate your kids?
  • What if, like in mindfulness meditation, you could tame the “monkey mind” by acknowledging that the concerns (fears) you have are real, and then gently and respectfully put them aside to see what other more productive possibility may be hiding there?
  • What if instead, you could switch your thoughts over to a completely different, far more liberating and empowering circuit? (Consider the train track that branches off to a new destination.) 

That last what if (and heads up… it’s a big one!) could take the form of some reflective thinking guided by a whole new set of questions. The questions I’m talking about redirect our brains from the constricting fight or flight response to a far more expansive mindset of abundance and opportunity. 

What if you could train yourself to think like that the next time your company announces big changes coming your way? And every time after that?

I’ll explore what those questions could look like in the next episode… I hope you’ll join me.

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!

Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #2

In episode #1, we established that going with the flow has its merits… and that doing so sometimes even produces beneficial outcomes. But what if it gets even better than that?

We spend SO much energy resisting change. I wish there was a way to calculate this in concrete terms, like number of brain cells suffocated by anxiety, or dollars draining from our personal asset base, or… something other than gray hair. 

Here’s an alternative way to look at it from my personal arsenal of recent experiences.

Four people I care a great deal about – and who have been within arms reach on a near constant basis for years – have LEFT ME within a few weeks. This includes my two kids and two of my very best friends. (Okay… so they haven’t left me, per se. But none of them live anywhere near me anymore, so you get what I mean.)

You would think I would be feeling pretty blue. But I gotta say… I’m kinda reveling in the new and unexpected space. 

Let’s start with my newest luxuries of home and hearth:

  • I haven’t tripped over a twisted pile of boxers on the floor in months
  • Cupboard doors are – miraculously – closed, hiding whatever is meant to be hidden
  • There isn’t a dirty dish in the sink… unless I put it there
  • Not one Goldfish has crunched under my ass when I relax on the couch
  • My cat knows just which lap to climb into (… finally! The one who feeds him!)

Moving on from the mundane to the more meaningful:

  • The new rhythm of my days, nights and weeks are suddenly shaped by MY interests, MY priorities and MY intentions
  • There are friends I get to see that I haven’t seen since sitting on the sidelines of T-ball “games,” and new ones presenting themselves in my path
  • Events I’ve always wondered about in a distant way are finding a committed spot on my calendar – activity partner or no
  • And also, unexpected bouts of loneliness that are both deep and challenging; inviting me to get real about how I want connection to thread its way into and through my life

So now I’m thinking: What if we could drop our natural resistance to change when it happens “to us” at work and open to the world of what-ifs? What if we could somehow flip that switch from “Danger Danger” to an “Oh, that’s interesting… tell me more” position the next time the winds of change blow our way, bypassing the whole fear, anxiety and resistance cycle completely? What kinds of possibilities might cross our path when we learn to dim the fight or flight response so that our vision is made a bit clearer? 

And that – what if – is the topic of my next post. Stay tuned.

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck

What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #1

I’m a beginner with plants. Having spent 2+ decades raising kids (and a business), I’ve decided to start slowly with the green stuff. 

That’s why my best friend and I picked out this plant early last summer for my back deck. 

They’re succulents, she told me. Therefore they won’t need much attention. Perfect, I thought. Bought and paid for!

For the first two months, all went smoothly with the succulents. Then a few weeks later, this happened: 

Those tall protrusions that look like they desperately want to become flowers never really did. They only made the whole pot oddly asymmetrical and prone to blowing over in the wind.

But one thing they did produce: something that my beloved hummingbirds loved to feed on! Almost as much as the homemade nectar I keep stocked in the nearby feeders all summer long. (I like birds better than plants… and almost as much as my kids.)

And what does this have to do with change, you ask? I’ve concluded these 3 things from my summer with the succulents:

  • We simply don’t know what we don’t know. So why not stay open to possibilities?
  • You never really know what’s coming until it does. And even when it isn’t all that attractive, it can – and often does – pave the way for something new, exciting and better than was there before. (More weird succulent protrusions = fewer trips to buy sugar for the homemade nectar. Oh, and… will the little seeds from those un-flowers become next summer’s succulents? I believe they might.)
  • Relinquish control, especially regarding outcomes. The control thing was probably an illusion anyway. And oh, how much energy we waste on just the attempt to control. 

That last point – the energy required to resist change? Stay tuned… it’s the topic of our next post. 

What new door opened for you when you least expected it?

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

 
Get Started NOW to Hit the Ground Running in January

Get Started NOW to Hit the Ground Running in January

You know that feeling that comes every year just after Labor Day… like you’re getting shot out of a canon?

You’ve finally put away your vacation clothes, started thinking about replacing the summer annuals with fall mums, and are lamenting that the days have already become noticeably shorter, when…. Wham! Annual planning for NEXT YEAR pops up on the team meeting agenda.

This time, you have a plan.

We’ve got everything you need to align with key leaders and engage your biz partners now so that together you’re poised to activate managers and engage employees in what matters most in 2020 and beyond.

Here’s how we do it at On the Same Page:

 

Need help? We meet you where you are with these three easy options:

  • Coach and Advise:  The focus is you as we develop workplans, timelines, templates and tools to help you and your team complete the work yourselves.
  • Behind the Scenes:  We work with you and your team to develop workplans, timelines, templates and tools, PLUS we provide the support they may need to engage business leaders for maximum strategic alignment.
  • Extend Your Team:  On the Same Page team members integrate seamlessly into your organization and represent your team while developing and implementing workplans, timelines, templates and tools to carry out the planning process.

Could you benefit from our expertise? Email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.

Three Actions to Build Trust and Keep At-work Relationships Productive During Volatile Times

Three Actions to Build Trust and Keep At-work Relationships Productive During Volatile Times

Rage. Rancor. Resentment. Disgust. Celebration. Defiant. Fervent. Partisan.

These words, and others like them, have dominated news reports in the U.S. over the last few weeks. Just when we thought the country could not feel more divided than it was leading up to and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, recent events surrounding Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings demonstrate that emotions – and strongly emotional responses – continue to escalate in nearly every forum from dinner tables to not-so-friendly conversations among friends to classrooms to workplaces. And with mid-term elections one month off, the tenor of public and private discourse is likely to become even more fraught.

These are risky times for leaders and managers committed to engaging workers in a shared strategy for their organizations. We know that among the most critical skills engaging leaders demonstrate is active listening. But how – and where – to draw the line between encouraging open dialogue and providing a cover for divisive behavior (especially covert, masked behavior) is a major challenge.

These three actions will help CEOs and senior leaders build trust and keep at-work relationships productive during volatile times.

  1. Name the elephant in the room. Acknowledge that these are trying times for many, with extremely strong emotions having been stirred across the political and personal spectrum.
  2. Establish clear expectations – and boundaries. Remind employees that diverse opinions and perspectives are critical to solving business problems and innovating new ideas, products and services. And on the flipside, personal opinions and perspectives on divisive issues simply do not belong in the workplace. Encourage workers who have personal concerns about workplace practices or actions to take them promptly and directly to a designated resource, such as their Human Resources professional or an Employee Assistance Program advocate.
  3. Recommit to the dignity of every individual. This is one example of where “say-do” is sacrosanct. We often talk about respect in the workplace, and many companies include that word in their values statements. That’s good. Now scan the way you carry yourself, the way you interact with colleagues at all levels – the words you choose and your body language. Make sure that you are “doing” respect as much as you are talking about it. Whether or not they realize it, employees are watching you for cues about what is acceptable behavior. If you are a senior leader, you are used to living in a fishbowl. Recognize that this is truer now than ever.

For more on communicating during divisive times, check out this article, posted on Inauguration Day, 2017.

IMPACT:  Now

IMPACT: Now

The roles of Corporate Communications and Human Resources are SHIFTING – and increasing visibility along with demand TO DELIVER for the business.

What is the difference? IMPACT is delivered and quantified. For example:

  • $14 million saved through engaged employees at the frontlines
  • $725 million in cost reduction through Human Resources process improvements
  • Three plants changeover systems at the same time, on the same day through clarity of personal expectations, defined roles and responsibilities, and active leadership

First, what is driving this demand for impact from Communications and HR and the need to shift?  The lineup of drivers includes:

  • Digital and social media
  • Reputation management
  • Employee engagement

Next, what do you do?  Look at your world from a simple 20-60-20 perspective:

  • 20 percent of activityeliminate activity that is not measured or build processes and tools to shift implementation to other functions for self-service
  • 60 percent is for excellence executionkeep those initiatives where measurement is currently used or can be implemented to illustrate that projects of Communications and HR are moving in the right direction, e.g. surveys, feedback
  • 20 percent for impactidentify the one-to-three areas where you can have an impact for the business in terms that can be translated to financial gain, e.g. cost out, productivity improvements, customer fill rates

Third, where do you start?

  • Make a best friend in finance.
  • Be sure your team clearly understands what is important to the business. This means the approach needs to shift to excellent execution with an operations mindset for delivering impact.
  • Determine together where the team can define and deliver impact! A sense of collaboration working across functions is an interesting byproduct and builds more impact… followed by more impact!

Who to contact for building your impact model: Connect with On the Same Page by contacting Tracy.

WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute Conference Highlights

WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute Conference Highlights

Reflecting on our favorite moments from the WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute in New Orleans. Reflect on… Relationships, why WBENC, the future of healthcare and consumer products and retail: http://bit.ly/2mJEl3f

Summit & Salute is one of two national events where the WBENC network comes together to create and develop dynamic relationships while also taking time to celebrate the successes of our Women’s Business Enterprise Stars and America’s Top Corporations. The Summit engages participants in a two day program focused on the future of various industries, business networking and development opportunities. The Salute! Dinner is a festive evening that highlights our 2016 America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises.

On the Same Page is proud to be certified as a Woman-Owned Business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and honored to support our clients’ commitments to maintain a culture of diversity – inside their organizations and with their external partners.

The Ultimate Balancing Act

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Messages about cost out and growth may seem contradictory. They’re really not – if the company and its leaders are extremely clear in communicating the direction and they see the link in freeing up resources from one area in the company in order to fund growth initiatives in others.

Communicate openly – employees deserve it…and they can handle it. The most successful leaders practice three simple and fundamental principles when it comes to engaging their employees around these priorities.

While these practices are always important, the complex and sometimes confusing dynamics operating within most organizations today make them downright indispensable. We find that while employees may not agree with all of a company’s decisions, particularly the ones that have a negative impact on them and their co-workers, they’re far more likely to respect their leaders and do what is asked if they understand the basis for the actions. Leaders often forget that employees are adults who in many cases run their own households. They understand the basics of revenues and expenses, and most are actively involved in addressing their own life challenges while balancing their household budgets.

For more information, feel free to email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.

Drivers of Sustainable Workplace Engagement

Drivers of Sustainable Workplace Engagement

Companies that rank high for employee engagement are more profitable, more productive, have better customer ratings and fewer safety incidents (Gallup).

Here are five tips to help fire up employees engagement.

Before you take any of these steps, consider this a building exercise. In other words, these steps should be taken sequentially and over the course of a year or so, with each step building on the progress and momentum created by the ones before. This will protect from immediate rejection (too many new practices to absorb at once) and lead to a sustainable culture change.

1. Connect with employees. This starts with telling the story – this is the big picture vision of where the organization is going and why this particular company is uniquely able to get there. In addition, leaders should explain the roadmap – the plan for achieving their vision, including what it means for employees and their jobs. Establish an open communication environment by inviting, acknowledging and responding to employee questions, concerns and ideas. Importantly, leaders must keep the dialogue – and their visibility – going so that it becomes “the way we do business around here.”

2. Establish expectations. Set the workforce up for success by establishing behavioral expectations for managers and employees and providing the necessary resources and recognition to win. Objectives should include general business metrics (e.g., gross margin, productivity) as well as those reflecting key drivers of success, such as customer service levels and loyalty and recordable safety cases. Training in communicating and engaging employees can be provided to managers who wield the most influence over employees’ behavior.

3. Develop a Customer First mentality. Introduce the customer as the company’s “raison d’etre” (reason for being) by bringing them – and their ideas – into the company. Invite groups of employees to observe focus groups of customers and competitors’ customers discussing the pros and cons of the organization’s products or services. Hold follow-up meetings with the same employees to hear their reactions and brainstorm how the company can incorporate some of the new ideas. Ask these employees to go back into the workforce to assemble teams and see which team can come up with the most suggestions. Celebrate all of the suggestions by inviting all employees to a “Customer First” party.

4. Share best practices. Establish a mentoring program, matching high performers with those who are not as high performing (but don’t bill it this way publicly!). Ask the partners to identify and focus on two things that each partner can work on to improve, and ask them to commit to specific actions and monitor progress.

5. Make it personal. Engage employees in building a winning team by holding a “What’s the coolest part of working for ABC organization” contest. Submissions should be posted in a highly visible, high traffic area, such as the employee entrance or break room and employees can vote for winners in categories such as Most Creative, Most Practical, Most Customer Focused.

Read more about practical actions companies are taking to sustain workplace engagement from the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.

Looking for more ways to drive employee engagement? Schedule a Complimentary Clarity Call with me today to identify where to shine the light and spring clean, and what to amplify, so you can level-up your impact — and that of your team.

Setting the Stage for a Successful CEO Transition

Setting the Stage for a Successful CEO Transition

After a failed first attempt, #Starbucks #CEO Howard Schultz’s second departure announcement went much smoother. In a post for The CEO Magazine blog, I share why effective communication during a transition means more confidence from your stakeholders.

Here’s a preview of the post. (Visit the full blog post here.)

The steps necessary to mount a successful transition depend on whether the new leader comes from inside or outside of the organization. In both cases, investing time to understand and build on the relationships of the business is crucial.

Here are five keys to success for any new CEO:
  1. Carefully respond to and set expectations.
  2. Connect with employees.
  3. Identify and exploit quick wins.
  4. Get to know the influencers.
  5. In dire situations where market share is evaporating or where a company is losing money, a new CEO especially must act quickly.
Can you hear me?

Can you hear me?

For many U.S. voters, today (Inauguration Day) is a day of reckoning. Depending on your perspective, it’s the day you’ve been longing for or the day you’ve been dreading. If there is one thing to be learned from this past U.S. Presidential election, it is this: As a society, we haven’t been listening. And, as a result, we also haven’t been heard.

Business leaders have noted that election results have fragmented their companies. PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi said that her employees were “crying.” Some CEOs have even encouraged such division; GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney said Trump supporters weren’t welcome in his company. Now that the outcome is a done deal, what can CEOs and other business leaders do to heal such divisions and move their companies forward?

When people are denied a voice, for whatever reason, they begin to feel marginalized. That feeling of being unseen and taken for irrelevant, can build in intensity, and over time, lead to hostility or worse. PepsiCo’s Nooyi said that the real issues that face us as a country “such as technological unemployment, global trade, immigration” were not addressed in the lead-up to the election. Instead, the focus was personal and emotional.

Lacking dialogue about meaningful, substantive topics that affect us all has created a deep divisiveness that is not surprisingly finding its way into companies and other organizations. Unmitigated, leaders risk this deeply personal and vindictive energy overtaking the corporate narrative. In that kind of environment, divisions run even deeper and lead to employees becoming disengaged with their company’s purpose, strategy and outcomes. That’s not good for their customers, their shareholders, or our economy.

The most important lesson we can take from the surprising outcome of this election is that open, civil and thoughtful consideration of divergent perspectives is the glue that binds any society – be it a country or a company. And that presents a spectacular and critical opportunity for today’s business leaders.

Strategy #1: Dust off some fundamental communication skills

The road to healing requires leaders to practice four skills as part of their everyday interactions with colleagues:

  1. Active listening: Make a choice to listen for understanding rather than simply listening to hear. This means clearing your mind of your own thoughts, preconceived ideas and agendas in order to thoroughly consider what is being shared.
  2. Model constructive dialogue: Repeat key ideas that you are hearing in your own words to confirm alignment and ask probing questions to dig for deeper understanding. Adopt the mindset that you are studying for an exam rather than ramping up for a debate.
  3. Provide context: When sharing your thoughts, decisions or direction for the business, frame the issue thoughtfully. Many leaders forget that employees have not been immersed in analyzing an issue as thoroughly or for as long as they have and jump straight to the punchline. This robs the workforce of the opportunity to make the mental journey with you, arriving comfortably (or at least rationally) where you have.
  4. Create forums for open, hierarchy-free dialogue: Activate a mix of contemporary, digital platforms and traditional, in-person ones so that employees across the demographic and preference spectrum have opportunities to participate. Participate regularly in these forums, and clearly share with direct reports your expectation that they do so as well.

Strategy #2: Check your ego

Participating in the respectful exchange of views and ideas is one of the most humbling activities a leader will undertake. To be genuine, you must relieve yourself of the notion that you have all the answers. Isn’t that how we got here in the first place?

Will You Change the World? Top 5 Characteristics of a “Change Maker”

Will You Change the World? Top 5 Characteristics of a “Change Maker”

Are You a Change Maker?One person can change the world. Just look at inventors, politicians, political activists, religious figures, business leaders… History is full of people that have made a difference – for better or worse. What do these people have in common? Is there a formula for their success?

While many people may have wonderful ideas that could change the world, there is a core set of characteristics that define successful change makers. They are:

Curious and Creative Problem Solvers: Change makers become passionate about solving a problem (or problems). Inherently, they ask questions and look for creative ways to find solutions.

Risk Takers with Confidence and Courage: Instinct and intuition as their guide, change makers trust in themselves and preserver into new frontiers or against popular opinion.

Open-minded with a Positive Perspective: In order to succeed, change makers are optimistic about their results and success, and are open to different and new perspectives. This positivity and openness is what helps them see the solutions that lead to great change.

Engaging communicators: By the nature of a change maker’s passion for the change they seek, they must be able to inspire and motivate audiences for support. Change makers are storytellers that inspire action.

Doers with Ambition and Drive: Because of their passion for results, successful change makers will roll up their sleeves and dig into the work. They set up lofty goals and are willing to put in the hours until they reach them, very committed to success.

To become a Change Maker, you’ll have to learn to trust yourself. Check out this piece from Healthline to learn how.

Who is your favorite change maker and what should we learn from him or her?

Schedule a Complimentary Clarity Call with me to learn how to build this core set of characteristics.