Competing Values – understanding Yellows

February 11, 2016

 

The Competing Values Framework shows that organizations are the arena where seemingly opposing values compete: the Yellow “Cooperators” versus the blue “Competitors” on the one hand and the green “Creators” and the red “Controllers” on the other hand.  Competition is inevitable and these 4 mindsets must be harnessed to work together effectively to deliver the outcomes required to meet the specific business needs.

As Jeff deGraff from the University of Michigan Business School points out, value is created through the organization’s specific culture, competencies and practices and it is always assumed that the right culture, competencies and practices are determined by market and business needs.

However, research shows that organizations quite often adopt the culture, competencies and practices demonstrated by the leader rather than what the market needs! Simply put, Green leaders tend to produce green organizations, blue leaders produce blue organizations, etc. when what is required is a subtle blend of all 4 mindsets to meet complex market expectations. As we said previously, to succeed, all companies need all 4 mindsets.

Let’s therefore start with the “Cooperators” or “Yellows” as Jeff deGraff calls them.

Yellow Focus: Relationships

The “Yellows” occupy the upper left flexible/inwardly focused quadrant of the Competing Values Framework. “Yellows” are essentially people-focused and share objectives around building community, building trusting relationships, increasing morale, empowering, mentoring and coaching, all activities focused on relationships. “Yellows” are very much “feelings” oriented people and seek to get things done together in teams, seek consensus, are very much risk averse and consider their organization as a family. The tools, methods and processes they rely on involve “employee surveys”, “focus groups”, “team building”, “training and development”,  activities and all types of actions that focus on team spirit, creating a feeling of group and togetherness and acting through consensus.

Yellow Strengths

They are usually helpful, seek to resolve conflict, empower, listen well, encourage participation, seek to build harmonious environments and spend a lot of time networking and communicating informally.

 

Yellow Weaknesses

The decision making process with “Yellows” is often extremely slow as they are focused long-term and like to get things done through consensus. “Yellows” are slow to decide and even avoid decision making, can be perceived as resistant to change, prefer informal decision making to formal procedures, spend a lot of time networking and of course, as they reason in terms of building a family, taken to the extreme, they can sometimes perhaps be perceived as hostile to being challenged and may even appear somewhat  “clannish”, again in some extreme cases.

 

Value-centred leaders

De Graff explains that quite often “Yellows” are what he calls “Value-centred” leaders who are “true believers” in the company culture and values and, as they readily adhere to the organizational goals, they are as a result paradoxically quite often the hardest to change.

Yellow type organizations and preferred roles

According to Jeff deGraff, good examples of “Yellow” type organizations would be consultancy firms and the world of solution selling which rely on getting things done through others. Examples according to Jeff deGraff would be McKinsey and Facebook and even  Harley Davidson because the latter culture is heavily focused on “clan-like” family, togetherness values. “Yellows” are to be found particularly  in functions like HR and organizational development, in sales & marketing, and of course in customer support, all functions the role of which is to serve others internally and/or externally and depends on strong relationships.

So why do organizations needs “Yellows”?

Why therefore do organizations need “Yellows“? Because  as  Jeff deGraff says, “Yellows” help to build long-term organizational sustainability through reinforcing employee loyalty, engagement and a shared identity and by helping to build the skills and competencies the organization needs to meet present and future needs.

All of these strengths and weaknesses of course “compete” particularly with the Blue “Competitor“, whose profile we will look at in a future blog.

In the meantime, check out Jeff deGraff  enjoying himself explaining the strengths and weaknesses of  “Yellows” in the video above. Do you agree?

 

 

 

Simplicity beyond complexity – The Competing Values leadership framework

January 31, 2016

Organizations today are more and more complex and it is very challenging indeed for managers to understand how to deal with this complexity in an effective way. Quite often, managers are torn between what would seem to be “competing” and even “conflicting” requests pulling them in opposite directions simultaneously. At the same time, their surroundings seem more and more complex, inhibiting effective action. They understand that simplicity is required but such simplicity would seem hard to reach.

The “Competing Values” leadership Framework, first conceived at the University of Michigan business school is a very simple leadership model which provides managers and team members alike with a very simple and coherent tool, allowing all  to “see” through the apparent complexity of their organizations to the underlying simplicity driving their business, thereby offering an insight into the apparently contradictory but inevitably positive and complimentary  tensions and constraints acting on them, tensions that can be harnessed to work effectively and positively in a constructive way.

How does the “Competing Values” leadership Framework work?

As Jeff deGraff explains in the Video below, the “Competing Values” model looks at two positive tensions found in all organizations:

Tension 1: On a vertical axis, there is a necessary tension between the organization/person seeking “flexibility” and the organization/person seeking “stability“;

Tension 2: On a horizontal axis, there is a necessary  tension between the “internally facing” organization/person and the “externally” facing organization/person.

Capture d’écran 2016-01-31 à 17.02.28

These two positive tensions create 4 specific profiles  that occur at the individual level, the organizational level and of course at the outcome level.

  • Profile 1: the “Create” profile. In the top right quadrant, the “Create” profile seeks high flexibility and is focused on the external world. When we think of this profile, we think of the person who likes to “do things first“, the “innovator“, “pioneer“, “inventor“, the “artist“, the “visionary“. Steve Jobs would be a good example of this “Create” profile. The upside of this profile is that he/she is most likely to come up with the right solution. The downside, there is a lot of risk involved. Organizations with a “Create” profile run high risk and rely on radical innovation to progress quickly. All will remember the ad campaign run by Apple which even had as a banner “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” which illustrates the “rebel” nature of the “Create” profile.

  • Profile 2: The “Control” profile. Opposite in the bottom left quadrant, is the internal, stability focused profile. This profile seeks to “do things right” through robust processes, procedures and lots of metrics. This is a profile operating in a highly complex environment requiring large amounts of data with a lot of scalability where risk and failure is not an option (engineers, surgeons, doctors, pilots,…). Such organizations seek incremental innovation with little risk and seek to avoid radical transformation at all costs.

The interplay of these two profiles “Create versus Control” creates a tension around innovation and “how much” innovation a company needs.

  • Profile 3: The “Competitor” profile. In the bottom right quadrant, we have the individuals/organizations that are “externally and stability” focused and who seek to “do things fast“. These profiles are strongly goal oriented and seek to win “at all costs“. These profiles are focused very short-term. The down-side of this group is that they are not very good at building sustainability because their sole concern is “winning the game today“.
  • Profile 4: The “Collaborator” profile. In the top left quadrant is the Collaborator profile who is inwardly and flexibility focused, who wants to do “things together that last” and is held together by very strong values that he/she is trying to instill in the organizations he/she serves. These profiles are great at building “sustainable, long-term” organizations but they don’t always move so fast.

The interplay of these two opposing profiles “Competitor versus Collaborator” creates a second tension in any organization concerning “How fast the organization should innovate”. Do we go really fast to obtain the short-term goals or do we go a little less fast so that we can develop the culture and competencies that will make the organization more sustainable in the long term?

Jeff deGraff reminds us that there are 3 key points to be remembered when applying the “Competing Values” framework to any organization:

  1. Any organization is only as good as the “weakest” quadrant. To develop, grow and succeed, you need all 4 quadrants to play an integral part. For example, if we are great at the “Create” quadrant but not great at the “Control” quadrant, we won’t be able to take that radical new idea and turn it into a really big idea that will work everywhere because we won’t be systematic enough. So all 4 quadrants are necessary and they have to work in sync.
  2. We must build a management “portfolio” because one style of management won’t work everywhere. We may start a project in the “Compete” mode with a strongly goal focused project manager but at a certain moment in time, we may want to transition to a “cooperator” profile if we want to make the project sustainable in the long term.
  3. Most importantly, “how we create” is “what we create”. In other words, define your processes to the outcome you expect. If you want a radical new idea, select a “Create” profile and not a “Control” profile, pick the right kind of processes which encourage a “radical” outcome and don’t burden the project with excessive processes and procedures which will inhibit action and the generation of a radical outcome expected.

To summarize, as Jeff de Graff points out, rather than being counter productive and to be eliminated at all costs, the tensions generated by the interplay and competition of these four profiles : “Create versus Control” and “Compete versus Cooperate”  through “constructive conflict” can produce the hybrids and types of innovations today’s complex organizations are looking for.

The Competing Values framework attributes a color to each profile: Green for “Create”, Red for “Control”, Blue for “Compete” and Yellow for “Cooperate”.

In a later blog, we will look in more détail at the specific leadership attributes of each color, how each interacts with its opposite and what strategies can be adopted to function more effectively with one’s leadership alter ego !

For the moment, what color are you ? What color is your organization ?

Check out  Jeff de Graff’s website for more information on the Competing Values framework at Competing Values Leadership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: 3 keys to driving higher performance

January 16, 2016

Why organizations need to rethink their carrot and stick approach if they want to motivate employees to deliver higher performance.

The “carrot and stick” approach is a tried and trusted classical way of rewarding performance in business organizations. Paying someone more for reaching specific objectives is generally considered as a simple way of driving the behaviors an organization needs to get the results it requires to satisfy customers and share holders. Money is considered to be the key driver of employee motivation and most organizations have some form of “carrot and stick” policy whereby they reward good performers with bonues and ignore poor performers (or worse). This “carrot and stick” approach is indeed so classical that most organizations take it as self-evident and as “the only way” to recognize performance and motivate employees.

 

But what if this very simple and fairly universal way of driving performance is not as effective as it is generally thought to be? Not only that, what if the good old “carrot and stick” approach not only doesn’t deliver the good performance it is supposed to but in fact even drives poor performance, the very opposite of its intended purpose?

 

This is what Dan Pink asserts in a very thought-provoking presentation on the subject of Employee motivation and the factors that drive higher performance.

For Dan Pink, the basic and supposedly “self-evident” notion that you inevitably get the “behaviors you reward” needs to be challenged. He draws upon different studies made by experts at MIT on the link between monetary reward and increased performance which seem to demonstrate that increased monetary reward, rather than driving higher performance, produces in fact poorer performance. Briefly stated, MIT performed a series of tests with students where they rewarded the participants according to their performance in a series of academic and cognitive tests. The best performers would receive most financial reward, the worst performers would receive nothing.

 

Surprisingly, these tests reveal two startling results:

 

  • As long as the test involves purely mechanical skills, the higher the reward, the better the performance. In other words, the “carrot and stick” approach seems to work perfectly for mechanical, unimaginative tasks.

 

  • However, once the task calls for more than rudimentary cognitive skills, surprisingly, a larger financial reward led to poorer performance. The more the task requires conceptual and creative thinking, the less financial reward seems to drive performance.

 

 

This does not mean to say that money is not a motivator. However, money, as Maslow and Hertzberg amongst many other thinkers on human motivation have pointed out, usually only helps to reduce the impact of  “dissatisfaction” rather than increasing causes of satisfaction.

 

Paying someone more is simply a way of getting money off the table as an issue and removing it as a distraction.

 

However, paying someone more won’t necessarily get you better performance, particularly when it comes to knowledge workers.

 

So if money in organizational terms doesn’t make the world go round, what does?

 

Pink points to 3 key factors leading to better performance:

 

  • Autonomy

 

Back in the 80’s, Peter Drucker already pointed out that you can’t manage people the way they were managed in previous decades. The more educated the worker, the more he/she is driven by a desire to be self-directed. The old “command and control” management mindset cannot work with today’s generation of highly educated, technology biased, highly mobile, generation Y workforce. Today’s workforce needs to feel in command of its own destiny and self-direction is key. Command and control is great if you want compliance but not so great if you want engagement and today, all organizations know that it’s no longer enough to enforce compliance to get good performance. Engagement is the key and engagement cannot be commanded. It must be nurtured.

 

The key to higher performance today is employee engagement. Organizations need employees to engage, go the extra mile and you can’t force employees to engage and give the necessary discretionary effort upon which all success really depends today. The less self-directed an employee is in his  job, the less motivated he will be and the size of the carrot won’t change this. So for Dan Pink, the first challenge facing all organizations seeking to drive higher performance is to drive autonomy down into the organizations so that employees can direct their own activity aligned to the organizations goals.

 

People will no longer accept being told what to do. They can accept being told what goals need to be reached but they won’t accept being told how to achieve those goals. Empowerment is therefore critical to driving higher performance. Give people more autonomy, empower them to act and you increase the chances of ensuring they  deliver more.

 

Pink gives a very concrete example of how a company can seek to empower its workforce to be more productive through greater creativity and innovation. He mentions an Australian software company, Atlassian, which seeks to encourage the creativity and innovation of its employees, not through an “innovation bonus” but by allowing their software engineers once every quarter to work on what they want for a whole day. There is only one precondition: the software engineers then have to produce the results to the company in special workshops. Just one way management can get out of the way (if only for a day) and allow employees the autonomy to do what they want to do aligned to corporate objectives.

 

2) Mastery

A second factor driving performance is mastery. The more we feel we master an area of expertise, the more satisfied we are. This is why people take up different hobbies and try to develop expertise in all sorts of exotic areas. We all like to progress and grow and become better at something. More money won’t give us a feeling of mastery if our role is more restricted, more specialized and if we feel we are not growing as individuals and learning more. So individuals will be motivated by tasks which help them acquire more mastery of their area of expertise and money won’t replace satisfaction felt when one has more mastery of a subject.

 

  • Purpose

Finally, more and more organizations realize that we as individuals are not only “profit maximizers” but “purpose-maximizers“. We all need a purpose greater than ourselves to get us up in the morning and get us to engage fully in any activity. Sportsmen in any arena will give their all for their team and the winners are not always the highest paid. Some people will give up everything to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and the destitute. Why?

 

Because a fundamental aspect of all human motivation is transcendence and living one’s life dedicated to a purpose greater than oneself. More and more organizations are coming to realize this. This is why so many organizations spend so much time and effort  formulating mission statements with elaborate declarations of purpose, in the hope of engaging employees to adhere to a common purpose which transcends the simple pursuit of profit. As Pink points out, more and more organizations realize that if you fail to link your profit motive to a “purpose”, you not only fail to deliver good performance but you drive bad performance and the result is poor products, poor customer service, poor working conditions, higher accident rates, etc. Many examples abound of corporations who have lost the link between their “profit motive” and their “purpose motive” to quite often dramatic effect (Enron, etc.). In Pink’s words, there is a higher risk of poor performance when the “profit motive” becomes “unmoored” to the “purpose motive“.

 

So money can buy you a lot of things but it can’t always buy you higher performance because to get higher performance, you need to build an organization which gives employees more autonomy, allows them to develop their skills and mastery of their chosen areas of expertise and allows them to feel that their efforts and commitment feeds into a greater purpose beyond the pure pursuit of profit.

 

So how does your organization seek to empower your employees? How does it seek to develop their mastery of a specific field of expertise? How does it link its financial purpose to a greater, more socially responsible purpose? How is your company moving away from the classical “carrot-and-stick approach” to capture the creativity and conceptual talents of your workforce?

 

Many thanks for your ideas.

Check out Dan Pink “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates people” by clicking on the link below

 

Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. Albert Einstein

Why is productivity in some organizations so disappointing? Despite all the innovations in technology and all the investment in training and developing employees and managers to adapt to more and more complex organizations, why does it appear (and statistics would seem to bear this out) that a significant number of workers are disengaged from their jobs and feel unhappy at work?

In his insightful presentation, Yves Morieux gives his views on the main drivers of employee disengagement. More than that, he offers 6 simple rules for driving employee engagement and higher productivity.

For Morieux, traditional approaches on how to engage employees to be more productive have up to now focused on two main management pillars:

  • the “Hard” pillar which seeks to improve productivity by working on structures, processes, systems, statistics, KPIs,…
  • the “Soft” pillar which seeks to work on the interpersonal communication and personal relationships, the traits and personalities of the individuals in order to help them adapt their personalities to the constraints of the organization

Many companies spend large amounts of money on reengineering their structures, processes and systems in order try to drive higher productivity and engagement and/or on training their managers and employees to adapt to these new structures, processes, systems.

But for Morieux, these two pillars of management are obsolete and are even counterproductive. Why?

All organizations are becoming more and more complex and by trying to improve engagement using one or both of these two traditional management pillars (work the structure and train the people to adapt), they in fact only add on more complexity.  Rather, they add on layers of “complicatedness” to an already complex environment.

For example, in the car industry, a drive to reduce repair time led to the creation of a specific “repairability” requirement which in turn led to the creation of a specific “repairability” function, the role of which was to align design engineers to repairability objectives. This inevitably led to the creation of a specific “repairability process“, a “repairability scorecard” and “repairability KPIs “to measure engineering  alignment to process objectives. But when one considers that there were 25 other competing functions each with its own process, scorecard and KPIs, very quickly one realizes how complicated it was for the engineers concerned to comply meaningfully with so many competing constraints and requirements and for “Mr Reliability” to impact positively on the “repairability” issue in a meaningful way.

The inevitable result is that rather than improving productivity, such a traditional approach only complicates things by adding extra layers of administration, back office work and non added value tasks. Costs are higher for zero results.

The secret for Morieux lies in not drawing additional boxes with complicated reporting lines or adding on extra organizational layers. It lies, as he says, in understanding the “interplay“, the connections and cooperation required between functions to deliver the required result. In simple terms, what is key is how the parts “cooperate” or should “cooperate“. As Morieux points out, “every time people cooperate, they use less resources and not more“.

Conversely, when functions don’t cooperate, they always need “more time, more systems, more processes, more teams….which means higher costs. 

But who pays for this?

Not the shareholders. Not the customers. Individual employees must eventually pay by overcompensating for the lack of functional cooperation  through higher effort and this inevitably leads to burn out, stress, disenchantment and disengagement.

Faced with such productivity problems, the “Hard” management pillar seeks to add on extra boxes to the “organizational skeleton”. The “Soft” pillar believes that if functions  like one another and fit better together, this will solve the problem. But in fact, the result is often the opposite because to maintain the relationship, functions will seek to add on extra organizational layers expecting these extra layers to resolve the conflicts or deliver the tough trade offs required which they don’t want to address themselves  for fear of endangering relationships.

These two approaches are therefore obsolete in a complex organization because they only generate unnecessary complicatedness and Morieux offers instead 6 key rules for smart simplicity :

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

We need to go beyond the job descriptions and the organization charts and understand what others really do operationally so that we know how different functions depend on and interact with one another. The designer should understand the consequences of his design for the customer services team and for the repair teams before he commits a design and generates costs further down the line.

Rule 2: we need to reinforce the role and powers of the  integrators.

Integrators are not middle offices but managers who must  “have an interest in and be empowered to make others cooperate“. How do you empower managers? Firstly, by removing unnecessary organizational layers. When you have too many management layers, you have more and more managers who are  “too far removed from the action” and who need “KPIs and score cards” to see reality.  What they see is not reality but a proxy of reality. Secondly,  you also need to simplify the management rules because the bigger and more complex an organization becomes, the more you must give discretionary power to managers to solve their problems at their level. Quite often, we do the contrary and we end up by creating huge systems of rules which freezes initiative and drains local managers of responsibility. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules but it is vital to ensure that the rule book is lean and that managers can act effectively and quickly.

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

If you want more employees to take initiatives and “engage” more with the organization, you must give more power to everyone so that they feel they can use their initiative and intelligence to good effect and that they have all the cards in their hands to make a difference. Only then will they be ready to take risks and really seek to cooperate meaningfully with others.

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

You must expose employees to the consequences of their actions by constantly creating feedback loops, thereby creating a shadow of the future.  This is what the car industry did when they told  design engineers that they would move to the after sales service three years on so that they would have to live with the consequences of their own designs. If you empower more people, you must also ensure that these empowered people get effective feedback on their actions so that they are constantly  adapting their behaviors to organizational expectations and can clearly link their actions and organizational results.

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

This means “removing the buffers that make functions self-sufficient”. There is too much dysfunctional self sufficiency in organizations, largely fed by increased organizational layers and sub layers. Remove these unnecessary layers and interfaces which interfere with meaningful cooperation and we will encourage greater productivity. Above all, seek to design your organization in a way that creates interdependencies between functions so that only cooperation can deliver the required result.

Rule 6: Reward those who cooperate, blame those who don’t cooperate

Rather than promoting a culture that blames failure, we should promote a culture that rewards cooperation and blames non-cooperation. Morieux cites the CEO of Lego who believes  that “blame is not for failure, blame is for not helping or not asking for help“. This indeed changes everything because it encourages us to be transparent and to cooperate.

These 6 rules have profound consequences for organizational design, for finance policies, for human resource management in complex organizations. Above all, if we implement these 6 simple rules, we will manage complexity without being paralyzed by complicatedness. We will create more value at lower cost. We will simultaneously improve performance and job satisfaction because we will have removed the root cause that hinders both : “complicatedness“. This is the real challenge facing all leaders of complex organizations.

Why some succeed where others fail. Start with “Why” and not “What” or “How”!

November 5, 2013

Why do some succeed where others fail?
Why are some organizations so successful where other organizations fail ? Why for example is Apple so innovative year after year after year whereas other computer manufacturers such as Dell or Gateway have failed in various initiatives to diversify?

Why should customers buy your products or services in a market place where your competitors have the same access to talent, the same agencies, the same marketing tools, the same market conditions, the same resources, the same technical expertise? What makes you different?

Start with “Why” and not with “What” or “How”
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action” answers these questions in a very clear and simple way. The reason why some organizations succeed where others fail is for one simple reason: those who succeed are those who think, act and communicate in a totally different way and follow what Sinek calls the principles of the Golden Circle. Successful and inspirational leaders start by defining “why” they do what they do before explaining what or how they do it.  In other words, they define their purpose clearly and act and communicate aligned to that purpose. They communicate from the “Inside out”.

The Golden Circle

Communicate from the “Inside-Out”
Most organizations communicate from the “Outside-In”: they describe what they do, how they do it and then expect or hope customers to make a decision based on the facts presented. In fact, many organizations proceed this way because they don’t know “Why” they are doing what they are doing.

But this “Outside-In” approach as Sinek point out is very uninspiring and doesn’t capture the minds and hearts of the largest audience and certain doesn’t set us apart from the rest. Indeed, if you don’t know “Why” you are doing what you are doing, how can you hope to inspire others to buy your products or follow your lead?

Rather provocatively and counter-intuitively, the goal of business, Sinek reminds us, is not to do business with people who need what we have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what we believe.

When we communicate from the Inside Out and get others to buy in to our Purpose, we speak to the fundamental drivers of human decision making, the “emotions” and we inspire those who think the same way as we do, feel the same as we do, see the world as we do, who are ready to trust us because we share something in common more than simply a basic business need.

Apple is so innovative because it succeeds in inspiring those of us who share the same purpose and see the world as Apple sees it. Apple doesn’t first try to sell us technology or extra functionalities. Indeed, their products as a whole are perhaps no better than those of its competitors. But what they do best is sell a vision and a purpose which many customers buy in to perhaps even despite the short comings of the products themselves.

Indeed, the Golden Circle principle can be applied to all areas of human endeavor.

Hire people who share the same goals and values
From a Human Resource point of view, when seeking to build a great team, we shouldn’t simply seek to hire people who can simply do the job. As Sinek says, attracting people who want to work for the paycheck is not enough. We must seek to attract people who believe what we believe, who share and identify with the goals and values of the organization because only those who share the same goals and values will go beyond the simple actions required to earn the paycheck and will engage fully with the organization, especially when the going gets rough. How do we find those people? By talking about who we are and by communicating from the “Inside-out”, we will attract more people who share the same values as us.

The perhaps apocryphal advertisement supposedly placed by the Irish Arctic explorer, Sir Edward Shackleton in the Times newspaper illustrates how building a strong and effective team depends on much more than simply knowing how to perform the tasks required. The ad is supposed to have been published as below:

“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”

Perhaps this ad was never indeed placed but it captures what all high achieving teams really need. Going the extra mile, making the extra effort depends on much more than simple technical competencies and in Shackleton’s case, his team survived because they shared the vision, the same goal and values.

Leadership by authority versus Leadership by inspiration
From a leadership point of view, Sinek makes the difference between those who are in leadership positions because they have power and those who are leaders because they manage to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Power is not enough to inspire others and all the great leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, JFK, Churchill (to name but a few), were effective leaders because they managed to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences through a shared vision and purpose rather than through any exercise of pure power. As Sinek so provocatively suggests, leaders inspire us to follow them for ourselves and not for them, because they personify what we believe.

Check out Simon Sinek on TedTalks for a fascinating and charismatic presentation of his views on how answering the question “Why” makes such a big, big difference.

The science of ethical persuasion: 6 key principles

November 2, 2013

Whatever our role in the workplace, be it a sales person, product development manager, marketer, customer support manager, accountant, HR, even CEO, much of our success at work will depend on our ability to influence and persuade others to say yes to our requests.

Whether we are seeking to sell more products and/or services, bring new products or services to the market place, influence company strategy, introduce new tools, change behaviors in the workforce, develop new techniques and ways of working, explore new markets, much of our success will depend on our ability to get others to say yes to what we are proposing.

How to persuade others and get to yes has often been considered as an art only accessible to a few who are gifted with a special ability to influence others.

This may indeed be the case that some people have special gifts and can intuitively influence and persuade others to say yes.

However, the good news according to Robert Cialdini, Professor in Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, is that persuading others is, in fact, a science based on 6 simple principles and these principles can be studied, learned and put to good use in a an ethical and honest way.

We no longer have to rely on gut feeling, hunches, intuition when we want to persuade others to say yes. We can learn and adopt effective persuasion strategies based on 6 clear principles.

Even more surprisingly, successful persuasion techniques based on these 6 principles allow us to make small and quite often costless changes to our persuasion strategies which can deliver quite significant results, allowing us to build positive, productive and long-term relationships with those around us, be they customers, colleagues, employees, friends, spouses, children, etc.

So what are these 6 principles?

Robert Cialdini defines them as follows:

1) Reciprocity: we are always more willing to say yes to someone who has already said yes to us. If someone invites us to a party or has done us a favor in the past, we feel obligated to reciprocate. Robert Cialdini gives the example of a restaurant where a small gift (a mint or a sweet) by the waiter increases the amount of the tip left by a customer. If we want to use this principle to influence others, we should be the first to give, we should personalize the gift and the gift should be unexpected. Simply put, we should give before we expect to receive.

2) Scarcity: People are more motivated by the idea of loosing something rather than the idea of gaining that same thing. Robert Cialdini mentions the case of the work he did with US Hi-Fi equipment manufacturer BOSE where by changing the marketing message from one which emphasized newness of the product to one which emphasized what the customer risked loosing if he/she didn’t opt for the new product, Bose increased the sales by 45%.

3) Authority: we are always more ready to follow the advice and say yes to people recognized as experts in their field. Doctors and dentists have long known this and usually post their diplomas in their consultancies to remind patients of the legitimacy of their expertise. Cialdini gives the example of how a real estate agency applied this principle to its business by instructing its receptionists to mention to callers the length of experience of its real estate agents before putting them through. This simple technique reinforced the confidence of callers and future customers and led to significant increases in business.

4) Consistency: a basic fundamental trait of human psychology is that we constantly seek to be consistent and congruent with our own personal values when we make decisions. This means that we seek to ensure that future decisions are congruent with previous commitments. So the challenge is to get people to make small commitments in writing if possible which will then lead them to make further commitments later on down the line on bigger issues.

5) Liking: we are more likely to say yes to people we like and Cialdini points out that there are three factors which lead us to like other people:
– We like people who are similar to us
– We tend to like people who pay us compliments
– We like people to seek to cooperate with us to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes

So when we are seeking to influence someone and get to yes, establishing a sincere and positive bond with the other person by bringing to the surface shared values, behaviors, experience, interests will help us build confidence and trust with the other person.

6) Consensus: when trying to persuade others, we don’t always have to rely on our own powers of persuasion but we can seek to demonstrate what similar others are doing. We are all indeed influenced by what our peer group are doing and how they are deciding. Especially in situations where there is uncertainty as to what to decide (how to vote, what product to choose, etc.), if we can show to someone that people similar to him/her have already said yes to our proposal, we increase our chances of getting to Yes. Cialdini gives the example of how Barack Obama’s team went about presenting the audience of their candidate’s supporters as being made up of all the spectrum of society (rich and poor, young and old, ethnically diverse, well-dressed, poorly dressed, etc.) and this strongly influenced indecisive voters to row in with their peer group and vote yes for Obama.

So how or why are these principles “ethical”?

As Robert Cialdini points out, when needing to persuade others, the difference between influencing others and manipulating others lies in genuinely looking at the situation for one or more of these principles that truly exist in that situation.

Do we genuinely have expertise on such a matter? If so, it is legitimate for us to want to bring this to the surface.
– Is there genuine consensus on a given option? If so, it is legitimate to want to bring such consensus to the surface.
– Is there genuine similarity? Do we really share something in common with the other person? If so, then it is legitimate to build on this similarity to build trust.

Cialdini calls this approach the detective’s approach as it involves investigating thoroughly the situation and bringing to the surface the principles that are real and appropriate to the situation or problem to be solved.

However, if you are not a legitimate expert and you mislead the other person by pretending to be something you are not, then this becomes manipulation. You may succeed the first time in fooling your customer but you won’t get away with it a second time. Robert Cialdini calls this the smuggler approach. Just like a smuggler, you import into the relationship illegitimate and false values and behaviors and such an approach is bound to fail as no long-term relationship can be based on deceit.

As Robert Cialdini points out, the most surprising thing about his research into the science of persuasion is that the most successful persuaders spend more time preparing how they will make their value proposition based on some or all of these 6 principles rather than on structuring what they will offer. The most effective persuaders act as gardeners and prepare the ground thoroughly using these 6 principles before they try to plant the seed!

Listen to Robert Cialdini to understand how you can put these principles to good use, be more persuasive and build more positive, rewarding and long-term relationships in an ethical way with customers, colleagues, employees, friends, family members and all those with whom you need to get to Yes!

U are alive! Avail of this “once in a lifetime opportunity” – Discover Maser, Dublin’s leading street artist

October 27, 2013

http://maserart.com/video/

Maser is a Dublin street artist whose work not only celebrates the city and the people of Dublin but ordinary citizens everywhere.

Maser’s message is simple and his objective is to use street art to raise people’s spirits.

He reminds us all to be positive and encourages us to remain resilient when faced with difficult times.

Maser teamed up with the singer Damien Dempsey to launch the “They are Us” project in support of the Simon Community which supports the Homeless in Dublin. His retro type faces and bright, bold colors combined with Damien Dempsey’s words splashed on the walls of Dublin city streets highlighting simple but thought provoking maxims and proverbs challenge us to rise above the gloom and look optimistically to the future.

Maser’s work is fun, very simple, very effective, reaches out to all and helps to remind us about what really matters.

Check out more at Maserart.com

Maser - tough to be a nice guy

Maser - Inside our minds we hold the key

Maser- Dare to be different

Maser_Belfast_Mar11_1000

How to change the world: the art of enchanting others

August 21, 2011

Driving change: enchanting others
We all seek to change or contribute to changing positively if not the whole world then at least that small part of it we inhabit. At work, after all, that is what we are paid to do.

Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist at Apple and influential business author, has a lot of challenging ideas on how to set about bringing change and in his latest book, “Enchantment, the art of changing hearts, minds and actions“, he presents some very simple and provocatives ideas on how to influence others at a personal level so as to make change possible.

The key for Guy Kawasaki is simple: to lead change, you need to enchant others.

He defines enchantment as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea. The result of enchantment is voluntary long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.

Simply put, if we enchant those we need to influence (customers, partners, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, share holders, etc), we will get their voluntary buy-in and engagement, which is always much better than resorting to command-and-control techniques or other forms of coercion or constraint which may deliver short-term results but never generates success long-term.

The first step: build your likability
For Guy Kawasaki, the first step on the road to enchantment is building your likability. On a subsequent post, we’ll look at how we can apply Guy’s principles to customer-focused business organizations but for he moment, let’s focus on how Guy feels we as people can build our own likability at a personal level.

Building your likability: 4 key factors
To build “likability”, Guy puts first things first and reminds us of that age-old rule that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Making a first impression depends on 4 factors:

1) Smile at people.
Nobody ever managed to enchant anyone by being grumpy and smiling at someone sends a very clear message about your state of mind. The key to a pleasant smile is to think pleasant, positive thoughts and as Guy says, when you meet people, “fire up the orbicularis oculi muscle that surrounds your eyes and make crow’s feet so that you light up the room. In other words, do your best to imitate George Clooney.
2) Dress appropriately. How you dress shouldn’t conflict with what you stand for. Don’t overdress (which may be interpreted as saying I am more rich and powerful than you) or be too informal(which could be interpreted as saying I don’t care and I’ll do as I please). If you’re in a supervision role in an informal organization, you may need to wear that tie because it is expected of you. Above all, dress in a manner that makes you feel comfortable. As Guy Kawasaki says, it’s hard to enchant people when you’re uncomfortable and besides, there is something enchanting about a person who is who he/she is and lets it rip.
3) Perfect your handshake. Humourously, Guy refers to a mathematical formula invented by Geoffrey Beattie of Manchester University to evaluate the quality of a good handshake which goes as follows:

Where e is eye contact(1=none, 5=direct), optimum value 5; ve is verbal greeting (1 =totally inappropriate, 5= totally appropriate), 5; d is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1 = totally non-Duchenne smile or false smile, 5 = totally Duchenne), 5; cg completeness of grip (1 =very incomplete, 5 = full), 5; dr is dryness of hand (1=damp, 5 = dry), 4; s is strength (1 = weak, 5 = strong), 3; p is position of hand (1 = back toward one’s own body, 5 = in other person’s body zone), 3; vi is vigour (1 = too low/too high, 5 = mid), 3; t is temperature of hands (1 = too cold/too hot; 5 = mid), 3; c is control (1= low 5= high), 3; and du is duration(1 = brief; 5=long), 3.

However, if we take a common sense approach, this formula translates pragmatically as follows. When you meet someone, Guy Kawasaki reminds us that we should:

Make Eye contact throughout
Make an appropriate verbal greeting
Make a Duchenne smile à la George Clooney
Grip the person’s hand a give a firm squeeze
Stand a moderate distance from the other person not so close as to make him feel uncomfortable and not so far away as to make him fel detached.
Use a medium level of vigor
Hold the handshake two or three seconds

This may seem over complicated and mechanical but in the high-tempo, fuzzy, distended organizations we all work in where a lot of communication is by electronic means, it is very important to remember that you can only enchant someone if you establish personal contact and emails can’t replace a simple handshake backed up by a positive smile.

Enchantment - Increase Likability

4) Use the right words. Words communicate your attitude, personality and perspective. Wrong words give the wrong impression. So Guy Kawasaki offers the following recommendations:
use simple words. If you use complicated words people need to look up in the dictionary, you know you’ve failed. Keep it simple.
use the active voice because it expresses action and determination.
Keep it short. The shorter you make your speeches, the better. People lose interest quickly.
Use common, unambiguous analogies. Especially in international environments, where different cultures need to work together, always try to find a common denominator in terms of words and analogies.

Increase your likability by defaulting to yes
Once you get the fundamentals right, Guy Kawasaki offers lots of other advice on how to develop relationships with stakeholders around you. For example, he reminds us that enchanting others depends most of all on proximity. As he puts it, the “single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person is neither personality nor mutual interests – it is simple proximity”. So wherever you are, get up and EBWA: enchant by walking around. Or again, don’t impose your values, pursue and project your passions, find shared passions, create win-win situations. Above all, the final way to become likable is to default to yes by adopting a yes attitude. As Guy Kawasaki says, to make a default to yes work, you must assume people are reasonable, honest and grateful for indeed, most people are and one can live one’s life in one of two ways, either think people are bad until proven good or think they are good until proven bad. You will enchant more people if you believe they are good until proven bad. Or as common sense teaches us, expect the best from people and you have more chance of getting the best. Expect the worst and you increase your chances of getting just that!

Read Guy Kawasaki for more insights on how to change the world by enchanting those around you.

In the video below, check out Guy Kawasaki discussing further his ideas on the art of enchantment.

Click on the link below to discover Guy Kawasaki’s trip to Ireland and his discovery of the ancient hill of Tara, Newgrange burial chamber (older than the pyramids), Guinness brewery and the Long Room in Trinity College Dublin.

Guy Kawasaki visiting Ireland

Grow your top performers in house – don’t buy them from the outside

February 19, 2011

Talent management is a very hot topic for many businesses today. A lot of time, effort and investment is being dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing key talent for key organizational roles. Quite a lot of companies are tempted to fill key roles by recruiting “stars” with proven track records from other firms, the logic being that success is guaranteed and results will come more quickly by bringing in someone from the outside with the specific skills required to do the job.

Such a policy can have a strong impact on workforce morale. Many employees may often feel they are neglected or passed over as the company seems to give a clear signal that it doesn’t have the skills internally to deliver the desired results and this in turn can lead to disengagement of good performers.

However, research recently performed by Professor Boris Groysberg from Harvard Business School indicates that it is not always such a good idea to “buy in” talent from the outside. Indeed, quite often, “stars” who have performed successfully in one environment do not necessarily succeed in their new environment and their “talent” does not necessarily transfer over into the new organisation. Why?

Boris Groysberg points out some very simple but fundamental reasons why talent is not automatically “transferable” from one environment to another.  Talent is not simply a question of “individual qualities” or “expertise” held by the person but depends also on the system which surrounds and supports that individual: the company culture, the team, the “talented” person’s  direct manager, the IT systems, etc. Talent is therefore also a product of the organization and the individual loses this when he/she moves elsewhere.

Above all, High Performance is a question of trust and depends on relationships with others. Even highly talented individuals need to build trusting relationships with the world around them and building such trust takes time.

When a “talented” individual leaves one organization for another one, building the trust network takes a lot of time and therefore the individual’s performance is likely to dip significantly in the short to medium term in the new organization while he/she is busy building such relationships.

In other words, companies may buy in the “talent” but they can’t buy the trust and that’s why  many individuals who have been successful in one organization fail to replicate their success in their new organization. Indeed, some individuals may fall victim to the “talent paradox“. A company recruits a talented individual to deliver immediate, short term  results but his/her ability to perform depends on relationships of trust which take time to build and so he/she is caught between the short-term requirement to deliver results and the long-term need to generate trust within the organization.

That’s why Boris Groysberg recommends developing talent in-house as you will then be able to lever the trust network built up by those key individuals whom you gradually grow to become  your organizational “stars”. In other words, companies  need to “make their own stars”  and effective talent management therefore requires systematic long term planning and investment, training, coaching and mentoring of key individuals from beginning to end.

In this interview, Boris Groysberg addresses many other key talent management issues such as:

  • should you inform your key people that they are considered stars?
  • do you increase the risk of losing your key people if you inform them they are considered key talents
  • Why do key talents end up leaving your organization?

Check out Boris Groysberg discussing Talent Development by viewing the video below.

Imagine yourself leading: be the change you want to see in the world!

February 12, 2011

At the heart of all human performance and engagement  is a fundamental desire to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. The world is changing so fast and so many barriers are collapsing. And yet, so many people are still so much in need. Never before perhaps has the world required positive leadership, not just from politicans but from all walks of life and especialy from ordinary people who have extraordinary powers to change things for the greater good. Many political leaders have already led the way by challenging the established order of things for the better: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi to name but a few. Business leaders have also taken the lead: Warren Buffet and Bill Gates for example. One common value unites all: each leader walked the talk and led by example. What’s more important is that you can’t resolve problems with the logic that caused those problems in the first place and the world needs new, fresh, innovative ideas. And those new ideas can come from everywhere and from anyone.

As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Check out XPLANE for inspiration on leadership.

What are your thoughts on leadership and change?


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