Your Leading Edge Podcast: Curiosity in Business
This episode features Hank Boyer, CEO of Boyer Management Group and Christine Miles, M.S. Ed Founder of Ci Squared for an informal discussion about how you can use curiosity to your advantage in business. Tips and best practices discussed for leaders to use to maximize communications and effectiveness by asking questions and being curious.
Episode 3 – October 2018
Let me start with a Story of one of our key clients. XYZ is a fast-growing technology company, having problems between product development and product marketing. Product development certainly had a big job for their stable applications that were the backbone of the business. They were also quickly transitioning to a nimbler organization with design thinking and agile methodologies; but not quick enough for the functional units who relied on them. Product management was actively working with the new digital customers, frequently needing changes to respond quickly. Customers were demanding digital experiences monthly, weekly, and daily. Jane, the head of Product management was constantly in Chip, the VP of development’s office, first requesting then demanding that they move faster. Shift what they were working on and change on a dime was always the theme to Chip. Jane could not listen or hear why development could not meet this pace. Unfortunately, it got heated to the point that Jane and Chip stopped talking. This spread like wildfire through watercooler conversations, cascading to other loyal members of their teams. Tough issues became harder to disagree on and discuss. The conflict was having a large effect on product development, speed, quality, and even affecting customer satisfaction. Fortunately, in this case, the relationship became so broken that it bubbled up to the CEO, Bill. He was first very angry. Did they just not like each other? Not want the company to succeed? Why could these two senior executives let this happen? Then an idea hit him like a bolt of lightning: what if it was his leadership problem?
We believe that this is not an isolated incident in our fast paced world. Miscommunication and misalignment may be rampant in your organization. If so, it is sapping your company’s productivity, adding time and expense to large projects and slowing your organization down. Multiple technology disruptions are affecting us rapidly in Cloud, Big Data and AI, IOT and Blockchain. This coupled with the multi-generational transfer in the workplace is creating unprecedented change. We call it Digital Disruption, and want to help you turn it into Digital Transformation. How do you stay ahead, make sense of this chaos while exploring some new ways of communicating to increase productivity, move faster, reduce conflict, and drive real business results? By focusing on the human side.
Think about your workday and then extend it to the key people you interact with internally or externally. With not enough time to accomplish your important tasks and priorities shifting on a dime, you are frequently multi-tasking or transitioning between tasks. This creates a lot of opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstandings that result in doing things over. There is often not enough time to clarify for our understanding particularly when we disagree. Without this connection and empathic understanding, we are like runners in a relay race who constantly drop the baton.
The effects of our environment are making it harder and harder to communicate for real alignment. And unfortunately, it is hard to detect. These opportunities for miscommunication are unfortunately not as clear to your P&L as a lost piece of revenue, increasing costs, or an angry customer. The effects of undetected misalignment and miscommunication can be terrible with downstream affect on costs, employee morale, and your all important culture.
We understand that most of this miscommunication is occurring because the world is changing fast and we are all pressed for time. Unfortunately, the old communication tools and techniques that we have been taught are just not working. They do not teach the behavioral or psychological skills needed to connect with people or how to listen in a way to gain empathy and understanding. And they do not teach us how to slow down. When conflict starts happening, our urges to be right take over. Using communication skills 1.0 in this brave new 2.0 world are the root cause of many of our biggest problems. Why don’t we do something?
We believe that interventions and training that focus on the human side of change and communication will reap huge rewards for those leaders with the Insight to act now.
When businesses and the way they operate shift from their traditional mode of operation and management to the modern and technology oriented ways of operation, the transitions referred to as Digital Transformation or disruption.
A new survey finds a “widespread stall” in digital transformation efforts, suggesting that its leadership is in crisis. 39% of the senior executives surveyed said they encounter resistance to new ways of working and feel overwhelmed by the complexity of digital transformation efforts.
This month we are proud to have the President of CI Squared, John Geraci, present his point of view on the state of the corporate training world, drawing on his experience in the United States Army.
Do you feel like you’re flushing training dollars down the toilet? Frustrated and a bit angry, yet knowing training your people is key?
Like most of you, I have been a student, buyer of training and trainer for the better part of 40 years. I believe that we all have great intentions with training, but 80% of our training results in very little behavioral change or real business results—WHY?
While pondering this, my subconscious reminded me of a Story… I was a captain in the United States Army, Airborne/Ranger Infantry. After graduating from the Infantry Officer Advanced course at Fort Benning, I was chosen to participate in a major Army Training Initiative which prepared newly inducted soldiers to be more competent when arriving at their unit. It was an honor to be selected and I would no doubt learn from this experience, but it took almost 40 years to truly appreciate training and how to use it to scale operational performance and gain leverage to train soldiers (people) to execute effectively.
The training struggle for the Army in 1980 was two separate training programs in two locations for basic and advanced trainees. This meant programs were executed by separate cadres and instructors. With typical bureaucracy and overhead, precious time was wasted moving troops from one location to another. They also realized that much of the training was disjointed and had to be repeated. After the 16 week training programs, they were graduating high rates of students per class. But field commanders who received these “newly trained” recruits were left incredulous and frustrated at the unpreparedness of these soldiers and used their own time and resources to bring soldiers up to speed.
General Don Starry, Commanding General of Tradoc, wanted to blow up this model and develop a centralized process that delivered highly trained soldiers to their combat units at a lower cost. This went on to be dubbed “OSUT”- One Station Unit Training.
I was asked to help in the planning to innovate the old into new, so we worked with active infantry units to better understand their needs and problems when trainees arrived. Reimagining how to deliver higher quality, enforceable soldiers while linking the training goals to skills that could then reinforce the principles in the field was a huge step forward. With focus, simplicity, and consistency, less could be more. After 18 months of trial and then implementation in the field, the cost, time, and number of resources, cadres and trainers, was reduced to achieve a better outcome. The graduates left experienced and motivated, battlefield commanders were ecstatic, and the Tradoc Commander and Army Chief of Staff were happy with the cost and overall quality increases. I was proud of the small part I had played and was sure that it would lead me to my dream assignment of working at the Ranger Department. The Army had different ideas, and I became a civilian with the blessing of choosing the nascent Software Industry as my new battlefield.
At this point you may be wondering, what is the point of this Story? Who cares that you trained soldiers and left the Army? How can this Story help me? I may not know everything about your company, but I see a lot of companies making the same mistakes. There are too many disjointed training programs with no focus or reinforcement; programs being thrown over the fence with no active alignment with first line management; exorbitant amounts of time and money spent on classroom with very little practice and reinforcement; training departments working very hard but with no clear goals, alignment or collaboration with field leaders.
Here are 4 lessons to think about as you invest your training dollar to help your employees deliver high performance:
- Start any idea of a training initiative with the WHY and WHAT in mind? What do you need to change or enhance and WHY? Increasing sales productivity to drive revenue from X to Y; increasing customer service conversations to drive satisfaction and more buying from Sat score X to Y and customer revenue from X to Y; aligning people to an organizational change initiative to increase revenue and decrease the cost of a project? If you do not know the business metrics you are trying to change, you will not really be committed and short change the time and effort to make a difference.
- Training is NOT an event. When we trained soldiers to shoot rifles, we not only had 8 hours of classroom instruction, but also had 40 hours of on-range training, both live and dry firing. How many times do you conduct a 1 day or 2-day training and assume that your people can execute these skills post training? How do you reinforce the training? How do you continue to discuss and tell stories about results of training? How do you keep this alive as a core skill for competitive advantage?
- First line managers are key to reinforcement and practice. If the squad leaders were not bought into reinforcing the training and working pieces into their Battle Rhythm, these important skills would not be mastered and would atrophy over time. Are your first line managers bought into the training? Do they know how to reinforce and practice these skills in everyday situations so it fits into the natural cadence of their work? Or are they first time participants from training scheduled by some HR or higher-level leader with no energy or passion to help make these skills habits that lead to real results?
- Training is a campaign, not an event. The OSUT training program we devised all linked together in a way that reinforced the key modules and integrated into the rest of the soldiers training. There was ongoing reinforcement and field practice supervised by competent first line leaders. The skill did not become an effective and efficient behavior until well after the initial training with the necessary focus and emphasis on using this competency to get results. How often do you have this approach?
Let’s learn the value of training and take from the General Don Starry Commander book and design your next training initiative as a campaign to send your troops (employees) into the field with military precision and the right tools to battle and win business.
CI Squared is a leadership and sales training company focused on communication through Storytelling. We are bringing all of these ideas to our training programs in a desire to innovate or “change the training game”. We deliver real behavioral change to achieve your business results.
Learn more about John’s Story:
What can Whale sharks and Great Whites teach us?
The start of the new third quarter and second half of the year is an ideal time to identify changes necessary for a monumental second half. What has gone well and what needs to be tweaked is worth time and reflection. Some people feel uneasy when facing the year-end deadlines… cue the shark music… because they subconsciously know this is the last chance for changes to influence 2017 performance. Taking a break to evaluate how you’ve met goals personally and professionally can be the difference-maker between sink and swim.
Even the big sharks have to pivot to stay relevant and achieving in current climates. Think about this:
- Amazon just announced hiring 50,000 new warehouse employees in the United States
- Apple’s main supplier Foxconn is making substantial change by committing to a large factory and 3,000 new hires in Wisconsin
- A declining Sears franchise has finally struck a deal to sell appliances through Amazon
These are significant improvements, innovations and changes with an expectation of adding shareholder value, increased revenue profits, customer satisfaction and employee engagement. These positive business results sustain life in a company, just as the water that must be constantly pulled over a shark’s gills provides oxygen.
Simon Berg of Ceros wrote, “If you don’t change things (experiment), how can you ever make things better (find out the outcome of your test)? You don’t have to know what the results will be to make a change. In fact, you usually won’t know what outcome to expect. That’s the compelling thing about change–you often end up with a result you would have never guessed. …It’s about making change when something feels broken, could be better, or even just because you’re curious.”
Certain breeds of sharks die from lack of oxygen if they stop swimming. Implicitly, we know change is a good thing but does fear of change stop us from swimming? Simply pause, evaluate and adapt.
Don’t look back and don’t get comfortable with the status quo. We hesitate when faced with the unknown in front of us because of the comfort associated with our experiences and biases. Inherently, change is necessary and provides challenges and new circumstances. CI Squared’s book The Art of the Nudge tells us: “At the subconscious level, we are already programmed to do the thing we are doing, and it becomes automatic. We have a lot of connections, experiences, and repetitions that make it simple and easy to do. So we are afraid of new things. Our conscious brain puts up blockages; reasons about what could go wrong; and just plain feels uncomfortable.” (pg 43)
We know change is vital and possible, but don’t change for the sake of change. Change-your thinking, a process, a department-to make something better. “Although your automatic reaction comes first from the subconscious brain, you can bypass that wiring with a new story that empowers you to take a different action…We also believe that understanding the story we are telling ourselves to see whether it is empowering us to take the appropriate action, is important. And if it’s not, the story can be nudged. Although our brain connections (superhighways or dirt roads) are developed as we grow, they can be altered.” (The Art of the Nudge pg 47)
What kind of shark do you want and need to be? Do you know what stories you are telling yourself about the changes you need to make to impact your business results in the second half? How can you build a new story that will keep you swimming toward your goals without sinking to the bottom?
Nudge: Stop, slow down and evaluate what in your company or business could benefit from change in the second half of the year.
How can you ignite passion?
According to a Gallup research poll, only 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in its work. Shockingly, the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential. Analyzing how and why your employees are motivated is worth investing in to ensure success and productivity for your business.
While many exist depending on the company, there are 2 main reasons why your team is not committed:
- Employees focus on WHAT they are doing, not connecting with WHY or their passion.
- Leaders don’t have a compelling vision
In our fast paced world today, everyone is moving at light speed and leaders don’t take the time to inspire. Leaders finds themselves lost on what inspiration to tap into because they have not taken the time to ask employees about their passions. So how can we understand peoples’ passion and motivation to help inspire them to bigger dreams and successes? We try to do it with simple words or phrases, but do these attempts truly harness the passions and desires of the team? Does it help them see how they make a difference and ignite their potential for action?
It all comes back to the fundamental basics of understanding people. For true understanding and empathy, you must take the time to listen. Use this information to shift your conversation or Story to one of inspiration.
- Gather the stories of your people and understand how to inspire them into action. How can their individual “WHY Story” be tied into the purpose of the company and real business outcomes?
- Lead. Your team is looking to you for inspiration – be a beacon of hope and dreams. Make your employees passion the key to your company culture and you will tap into unprecedented excellence in all aspects of your business. Tell and celebrate internal Hero Stories of employees who overachieve and delight your customers.
- Communicate your vision/strategy and their role in achieving this success. Explaining the “why” and the “what” to your employees makes empowering them to execute with their own “how” that ignites their 100% commitment, leading to innovation and success.
Have you asked your team “Is this really what you want to be doing with your life?” If you think, NO, then instead of fearing, be open to ask why, gather the challenges and redefine. You may not have all the answers, but be open to asking, telling and sharing. If it is “YES I am,” then find ways to harness this passion on your key activities and projects allowing you to execute with passion. Your colleagues and leaders will take notice.
A passionate workforce is a productive workforce. Everyone benefits from listening and gathering to understand. When the struggles get tough and performance/ productivity starts to lag, you will be able to re-inspire your team if you tap into their WHY and passions. We all fundamentally want to win and succeed.
As quoted in The Art of the Nudge: “Unfortunately empathetic listening and playing back emotions is a rare skill…When you truly believe that someone really knows how you feel, you identify, you feel safe, and you let your guard down. This intent focus by someone else can make you feel like you can be more than you think you can, and accomplish almost anything.” Pg 98 and 99
Nudge: Go deeper than just small talk with your employees. Start a conversation about passion, commitment and purpose.
Other points of view:
Millennials…Start ‘Em Early
Remember back in the day when “1999” by Prince thumped on every boom box? The ominously funky jam was the perfect song to celebrate the new millennium. Yet as the reality of “Y2K” sunk in, people responded with panic, triggered by great fears of the unknown. So many questions, worries and tragedies were predicted. With some minor glitches and adjustments, we all survived. So why does a momentous generational shift already in motion alarm your company?
Millennials are the generation born then between 1982 and 2004, now 13 to 35 years old and quickly maturing into the work force. They’re most known for filling positions formerly held by baby boomers but “This group’s values, needs, wants and ways of working are different and will cause the same kind of disruptions and opportunities that the baby boomers who preceded them did” (The Art of the Nudge pg 17).
The Bersin by Deloitte report highlights, “…more than 3.6 million company chiefs are set to retire as younger professionals ascend to managerial slots. Companies are busy planning for this transition anticipating the massive loss of boomers” (Altman). Once again, the impact of the “millennium” creates its own sort of chaos as this unique workforce comes in requiring a cultural shift as well. Communication-wise, Millennials appear to be the most connected digitally, but disconnected interpersonally. This generational shift requires training and development programs to allow new employees, managers and leaders to adapt. Are you investing time to train Millennial employees to adapt? You should be.
Leadership expert and author of Liquid Leadership, Brad Szollose says, “You can’t put someone in a leadership role assuming they have the skills to lead, only to train them 10 years later. If you want Millennials to succeed, invest in their leadership development today.” Leadership qualities and soft skills are invaluable and critical to prioritize in training Millennials.
With 200-300 social/digital media posts coming at Millennials every day, the number of disruptive ideas accentuate the pace of change. It’s no surprise Millennials’ priorities shift rapidly; they are distracted and racing to keep up!
New leaders need to be able to communicate in a way that:
- Engages people by listening and respecting them;
- Creates a compelling vision that they want to and are able to “opt into”;
- Gains alignment so they take action with passion and persistence;
- Creates high performing execution;
Employers view these characteristics as critical a skill set for high performance as competent, technical skills. Gathering stories from others fosters unprecedented understanding of them so we walk away from conversations knowing how we can help one another in a mutually beneficial way. A human leader speeds up your real business performance. We find Millennials to be thirsty for learning to elevate their skills and inspired by the idea of slowing down to truly understand people, their needs, wants and desires through empathic conversations.
Nudge: Think about what are you doing to create these new Millennial Leaders. How will you help unleash, embrace and empower their enormous potential?
A song in the new film La La Land (Chazelle, 2016) contains the lyrics: “Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know”, describing the fortuitous serendipity which evolves into a meaningful meeting or interaction with someone. Do just a few people have magnificent stories or do only the tenacious find them? Actually, everyone has a story that is meaningful in its own way, including your boss, coworkers, family members and friends. For example, CI Squared’s President John Geraci and his colleague Bill, who have shared a 20 year friendship, discovered that Bill had no idea about a significant event shaping John’s life until Bill watched John’s “Why” video recently. The sharing of life stories have the ability to bond people in an unprecedented way.
We’ve heard it before: technology impedes human interaction and connection. When you’re not connecting or bonding with your colleagues, the work suffers greatly. People know this. What they don’t know is that life stories are a solution to the problem.
Life stories are a composition of noteworthy events like the best scenes of a movie edited together. People could argue the workplace is not a cozy camp fire, therefore compelling anecdotes have no place; but they do. As people start to open up, you understand them in a beneficial way, finally understanding why the person is the way they are and therefore able to Nudge them to a higher performance. A more empathetic culture develops from understanding. Businesses with a more empathetic culture and people who easily work, communicate and collaborate together can only thrive. Truly Understanding others’ stories is a way to construct this culture.
Events in life stories do not have to be particularly formidable, as the simple act of sharing and understanding is monumental. A vulnerable moment holds the potential to change relationships and even business outcomes. CI Squared’s Chief Architect Christine remembers the story of a workshop/Storytelling breakout session where best failure stories were being shared. Out of the 6 people, one man shared a story of his son’s extraordinarily rare learning disability and feelings of failure and remorse as he struggled to help his son. Suddenly, someone else in the group spoke up. They went on to explain that their son too had the exact same learning disability. Two people who had never spoken were now irrevocably bonded through shared life stories. They went on to deliver the largest revenue deal for their unit that year.
Ask yourself: What would it mean to you if someone knew your story? Empathized with you in a different way? Would you be inspired to help the team achieve and succeed and they, you? How do your stories influence people? What’s the most fascinating thing you know about your neighbor at work? If you’re not telling, asking and gathering, you’re missing people, both colleagues and customers. Making a conscious effort to tell your story and gather the stories of others has unparalleled business benefits. Ask, then listen and you won’t need fortuitous serendipity to meaningfully connect with your colleagues. Find in someone an opportunity to learn something new and connect with a life story.
Nudge: at your next team meeting tell your colleagues a story about yourself that will bond you with them and to you in a unique way. The result is an extraordinary impact just waiting to be experienced in work process, relationships and Revenue, Profit/Cost, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Engagement and Shareholder Value.
“…stories…that make a point, cause us to feel something, and lead us to take action, a NUDGE.” (The Art of the Nudge Pg. 85)
Other Points of View:
IT’S THE NEW YEAR. DO YOU KNOW WHY YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE?
In terms of famous laws and rules, the Golden Rule is probably one of the most famous. We’re all familiar with this Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto you. But why, we are realizing, is it not always so golden? While well intended, in the fast-paced and diverse world of today, this rule doesn’t work like it was meant to. When following this rule, we assume people want to be treated the way we want to be treated therefore walking into an interaction without the necessary empathy. Let’s consider a different “rule” that takes that into account: the Platinum Rule.
The Platinum Rule takes the Golden Rule and inverts it, stating: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you.” While we, here at CI Squared, didn’t invent this rule, much of what we fundamentally believe in is based on this empathetic vantage point. It’s a paradigm shift because the Platinum Rule requires us to think of others’ first and adjust our behavior to treat them as they would want and need. And because of that, we meet people where they are and therefore get what we want too. But how, and why do we do that?
The world and outstretching environments are unquestionably more diverse than they used to be, teeming with an infinite number of different personalities. Personality profiles, however, are an analyzed way to whittle down personalities into 4 basic categories that help us understand others’ core behavioral motivations. Our book, The Art of the Nudge, explains that this isn’t necessarily new. From page 73:
“The history of personality profiles goes back to 444 BC. The two most widely known psychologists of this discipline in our western world are Carl Jung and William Marston. Their theories stem from the Greek physician Hippocrates’ sorting of earth, wind, fire and water as the basic elements that affect our personalities.”
They’re all espousing the same thing, just in different ways. Critics sometimes question the validity of these tests, and while they obviously don’t completely define us as individuals, they do give us a solid, simplistic overview of who we are and, something DiSC pointedly exposes, why we are that way. The motivations behind our main personality trait is the most important aspect to understand. After receiving answers to a series of questions, DiSC uses sophisticated algorithms to give the assessment-taker their own personality type in the form of 1 of 4 letters.
(D) Dominant’s motivation: “get it done”
(i) Influence’s motivation: “get connected”,
(S) Steady’s motivation: “get along”
(C) Conscientious’ motivation: “get it right.”
Once you recognize the motivations behind someone’s core personality with the tools of DiSC, you can logically apply the Platinum Rule by using empathy and ultimately meeting someone where they are existing. For example, if you’ve identified yourself as an S and you are meeting with a D personality, you may try to get along first. Instead, adjust by focusing on getting it done first and the interaction will be successful. You may choose to get to your point faster or focus quickly on an outcome.
Another example of an interaction: with a “C” personality, you should be prepared with all your plans and answers to possible questions. Or make an extra effort to talk to your boss who you’ve identified as having an “I” personality because you understand that connection is his/her main motivation. Knowing motivations is half the battle of communication with diverse personalities. And now you have the weapons/tools. What will you do with them in the new year?
Nudge: Thinking about the motivation behind personalities, approach communication with the Platinum Rule.