Office Of The President US Airways
High Point University was featured in the Fall 2011 US Airways Magazine
A young man whom I had known since he was in high school stopped by to see me and proudly display his new MBA.
“I know a master’s degree alone doesn’t guarantee success,” he said. “What do you think is the most important quality for someone who wants to become a business leader?”
I answered without hesitation: The ability to communicate.
Individuals who communicate effectively with people at all levels, of both genders, and from a variety of cultures and backgrounds are today’s pacesetters.
In the old-style hierarchical, authoritarian setting, communication is relatively simple. The top person tells the underlings to jump, and the underlings need only ask, “How high?”
In a modern organization, communication requires more finesse. The leader is not a transmitter of commands but a creator of motivational environments.
The workers are not robots responding to switches and levers, but thinking individuals pouring their ingenuity into the corporate purpose.
The corporate ideal is not mechanical stability, but dynamic, innovative, continuous change.
The leader who can’t communicate can’t create the conditions that motivate. The genius who can’t communicate is intellectually impotent. The organization that can’t communicate can’t change, and the corporation that can’t change is dead.
The good news is that anyone can become an effective communicator. The door to effective communication will open to anyone who uses these five keys:
Human infants have an inborn desire to communicate, and that desire enables them to pick up words quickly and to enlarge their vocabularies continuously.
That same kind of desire can enable you to enlarge your stock of words and improve your skill in employing them. Demosthenes, the Greek orator, had a desire to achieve eloquence after he was hissed and booed off the platform in Athens.
He cultivated the art of speech writing, then went to the shores of the Aegean Sea, where he strengthened his voice by shouting into the wind for hours at a time.
To improve his diction, he practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth. To overcome his fear, he practiced with a sword hanging over his head. To clarify his presentation, he studied the techniques of the masters.
Today, more than 2,000 years later, the name Demosthenes is synonymous with oratorical eloquence.
(2) Understanding the Process.
Reduced to basics, communication consists of sending and receiving messages.
Language is the primary conveyer of thoughts and ideas. It turns abstract concepts into words that symbolize those thoughts. Those words take the form of spoken sounds or written symbols.
If the mind can immediately translate the sounds and symbols into mental pictures, communication becomes much more vivid and much more meaningful. If I say “I want a desk for my office,” my listener has only a vague and general idea of what I want. If I say “I want a brown walnut desk,” the listener has a more vivid mental picture.
The more skillful you become at conveying images, the more effective your communication will be.
(3) Master the basic skills.
Some people think the first requisite for good communication is an exhaustive vocabulary. Some people think it’s impossible to communicate well without first absorbing a heavy dose of grammar, then memorizing a dictionary of English usage.
Words are important. Good grammar is important. And yes, it helps to know which words and expressions are considered standard and which are considered substandard among educated people.
But slavish allegiance to the rules of grammar can actually impede communication. People will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid usage that somebody has pronounced “ungrammatical” or “substandard.” In the process, they forget the most important rule of communication: Make it clear and understandable.
The vocabulary you use in every-day speech has probably served you well. You use the words that you understand. Chances are, they’re the words your friends, colleagues and employees understand.
If you try to use words beyond the vocabularies of the people you’re trying to communicate with, you’re not communicating; you’re showing off.
Read the Gettysburgh Address, the Sermon on the Mount or Robert Frost’s poetry. The communications that endure are written in plain, simple language.
I remember a story that gave me inspiration. A young musician had listened with awe as a piano virtuoso poured all his love and all his skill into a complex selection of great compositions.
“It must be great to have all the practicing behind you and be able to sit down and play like that,” he said.
“Oh,” said the master musician, “I still practice eight hours every day.”
“But why?” asked the astounded young man. “You’re already so good!”
“I want to become superb,” replied the older man.
I teach communication skills to thousands of people each year, through seminars, audio tapes, videotapes and books. Most of the people I reach are content to become good. Few are willing to invest the extra effort to become superb.
To become superb, you have to practice. It isn’t enough to know what it takes to connect with people, to influence their behavior, to create a motivational environment for them, to help them to identify with your message. The techniques of communication have to become part of your daily activity, so that they are as natural to you as swimming is to a duck. The more you practice these techniques, the easier you’ll find it to connect with people, whether you’re dealing with individuals one-on-one or with a group of thousands.
Nobody becomes a polished, professional communicator on the first try. It takes patience. A few years ago, William White, a journalism and English instructor, edited a book of early writings by Ernest Hemingway. The young Hemingway was a reporter for a Toronto newspaper, and this book was a collection of his articles written between 1920 and 1924.
The writing was good, but it was not superb. It gave a faint foregleam of the masterful storyteller who would emerge in The Old Man and the Sea, but it wasn’t the Hemingway of literary legend.
What was lacking?
Experience. The genius was there all along, but it needed to incubate. The sands of time can abrade or polish. It depends on whether you use your time purposely or let it pass haphazardly.
Acquiring skill as a communicator requires constant, careful, loving attention to the craft.
The cub reporter didn’t transform himself into a successful novelist through one blinding flash of literary insight. Like most people, he progressed from the “good” to the “superb” through hundreds of tiny improvements from day to day.
You can use the five keys to effective communication in many settings, under a variety of circumstances. You can be a virtuoso at inspiring your work force, at negotiating business deals, at marketing your products and at building a positive corporate image. All these are important communication skills. But always remember: Whatever communication task you undertake, your objective is to connect with people.
Peter Drucker claims that more than 60% of all management problems result from breakdowns in communications.
A major study by the Rockefeller Foundation found that 68% of the customers who quit buying from their regular suppliers do so because employees fail to communicate effectively with thosecustomers.
Efficiency experts claim that at least 40% of the average worker’s time is spent doing tasks that are either unnecessary or have to be done over because they were not done according to instructions.
So, as you can see, the ability to communicate with precision has a tremendous impact on the bottom line. One way to communicate precisely is to put it in writing.
Executives can multiply their influence by learning the techniques of forceful writing. High-powered writers learn to focus words the way a laser beam focuses light.
A few years ago, Earl Nightingale and I recorded a cassette program on this subject. In it, I recommended some pertinent guidelines:
Focus your objective. What is the purpose of the material you want to write? Writing can help you achieve the five I’s: It can inform, inquire, influence, instruct and incite.
Focus your audience. Written materials such as reports and brochures can be valuable positioning tools. They should be written with a specific audience in mind — the audience you wish to influence to buy your products or services.
Focus your content. Make sure that your message is the right message for the right audience. Don’t let unnecessary ideas intrude on your principal message. To quote Professor William Strunk Jr., the renowned authority on English usage:
“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
Focus your organization. A good piece of writing flows like a symphony. Organize your material so that each topic flows easily and naturally into the next.
Focus your clarity. Some writers think they can hide fuzzy thinking by burying it under a mass of words. To have impact, ideas must be expressed precisely and concisely. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address required only 275 words, and 196 of them were of one syllable.
Focus your refinement. Perfection rarely emerges from a first draft. Ambrose Bierce once said that “a saint is a dead sinner revised and edited.” Great writing is rough copy revised and edited.
Be your own toughest editor, but don’t stop there. Let others read what you have written before you submit it to your audience. You know what you meant, but you can’t know how others might interpret it until others have read it.
Focus your results. Unless results are built in, they don’t happen. Good writing always does four things:
-It creates a feeling.
-It gives an idea.
-It gives the reader a benefit .
-It produces a desired response .
A super book I read recently is Anatomy of an Entrepreneur, by my dear friend, Dr. Joe Jacobs, chairman of Jacobs Engineering. Joe founded his company in 1948 on a shoestring and built it into one of the world’s 10 largest construction firms. His book is fascinating reading and a good example of clear writing. Some of the techniques that come through in Joe’s writing may be helpful to you:
*Technique Number One: Get your thinking straight.
All communication begins with thoughts. In fact, thoughts are the vehicles through which you communicate with yourself.
Before you communicate your thoughts to the outside world, take time to organize them.
Think about the things you want to say. What is the most important point? What facts, data or arguments do you need to support this point? Organize your points in the order of importance, along with supporting points. Then decide upon an effective, attention-getting introduction.
Next, present your material in order of importance. Conclude by summarizing the material or telling your readers how you want them to respond to it.
* Technique Number Two: Write what you mean. Write exactly what you mean.
In face-to-face communication, the speaker can receive immediate feedback from the listener. In written communication, the feedback is not immediate. In fact, you may receive no feedback. So you must get your point across accurately the first time, or your communication is futile.
* Technique Number Three: Get to the point .
If you’re writing a letter to ask for an appointment, ask for it in the opening paragraph. If you want more information, request it. If you want someone to buy something, ask for the order.
* Technique Number Four: Be concise.
Don’t waste words. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and simple. Always use the shortest, most familiar words. Don’t endeavor when you can try. Don’t finalize when you can finish. Don’t utilize an instrument for manual excavation when you can dig with a shovel.
To quote Winston Churchill, one of the great masters of language, “Short words are best, and the old words when short are the best of all.”
* Technique Number Five: Be real.
Each of us has a personality, a blending of traits, thought patterns and mannerisms — which can aid us in communicating clearly. Be natural, and let the real you come through. Don’t try to write like a Harvard scholar unless you really are one. Don’t try to imitate street language unless it comes natural to you.
* Technique Number Six: Use images. A picture is worth a thousand words.
My book, How to Be a Great Communicator: In Person, On Paper & On the Podium, devotes a whole section to the skillful use of images. Why the emphasis? Because we think in images, or mental pictures. A good example is the line that once divided the Communist world from the Free World. It was just another political boundary until Churchill called it the “Iron Curtain.” That gave it a powerful image that made clear its true nature.
When you have an abstract idea you want to express, try to think of something familiar to liken it to. Make sure it’s familiar to you and to your audience. One writer, explaining the workings of a nuclear reactor, likened the nucleus of an atom to a rack of balls on a pool table, ready to fly apart when struck by a speeding cue ball. Instructors in problem-solving like to compare knotty problems to logjams, which can be broken by finding and releasing the key log.
Communication is not a nice-to-have skill. It is essential to success in the business world. To produce and market the products and services to support the billions of people who now inhabit the earth requires a level of communications undreamed of in previous centuries. When the quality of your product depends upon the collective efforts of dozens, hundreds or thousands of individuals, communication becomes the lifeblood of your enterprise.
In fact, communication is at the heart of everything we do. It is the foundation for interaction among human beings. Communication has to do with meanings, with understandings, with feelings, with desires, with needs and with ideas. Our world is filled with information.
But the greatest need is for understanding — for building bridges between human beings so we can better live together, work together, get along with each other, and make this earth the best possible home for the human race.
- All People are motivated.
We cannot motivate them.
We can only guide them by their motivations.
- People do things for their own reasons; not for yours or mine.
Show people what they want and they will move heaven and earth to get it
- People change because of pain.
When the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing, people will change.
- The key to all effective communication is identification.
When something becomes personal, it becomes interesting.
- The best way to get people to pay attention to you is to pay attention to them.
Little things mean a lot.
- Pride is a powerful motivator.
Everybody is proud of something.
- You cannot change people; only their behaviors.
Attack the behavior; not the person.
- The worker’s perception becomes the supervisor’s reality.
What they see is what you get.
- You consistently get the behaviors you consistently expect and reinforce.
Reinforcement can be positive or negative.
- We all judge ourselves by our motives; but we judge others by their actions.
Any of us can do anything we can convince ourselves we are justified in doing.
If your company is going to stay in business, it has to change, and that can be scary.
For many people, change is more threatening than challenging. They see it as the destroyer of what is familiar and comfortable rather than the creator of what is new and exciting. Most people, and organizations, would rather be comfortable than excellent.
But these days, if you don’t change, you stagnate and die. We must implant change in the corporate culture.
As a businessman myself, and as an adviser to executives, I’ve encountered many examples of constructive change brilliantly executed.
Let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned:
- People will change only if the alternative is worse than change
Sometimes it’s hard for people to internalize the need for change. A Naval aviator once made an interesting observation to me that illustrates the point.
He said many pilots have died because they stayed with their disabled aircraft too long. They preferred the familiarity of the cockpit to the unfamiliarity of the parachute, even though the cockpit had become a death trap.
Many businesses have died because their people preferred the familiar but deadly old ways to the risky but rewarding new ways. We must teach them that to stand pat is to perish.
- People hunger for stability amid change.
The steady, reliable people in any organization are often fearful of change. We must keep them in mind. We must assure them that change doesn’t mean an end to their world; it means a continuation, but with improvements.
Here are some things we can do:
Explain the reasons for the change. When people understand the logic behind change, it becomes more rational and more comfortable.
Show how our plans keep risks to a minimum.
Emphasize the things that will remain the same.
Let them know what to expect, step by step.
Let them know that top management is fully behind the change. Our confidence in the value of the changes will be reassuring to them.
Commend them and recognize them for the constructive changes they make.
- For change to be successful, it must be planned.
We must be in control of the changes instead of at their mercy. Successful changes are based on values.
As Levi Strauss CEO Robert Haas told Harvard Business Review, “Values provide a common language for aligning a company’s leadership and its people.”
Levi Strauss summarized its values in a document it calls its “Aspirations Statement.” Everyone in the company is familiar with it and is guided by it. Whenever a Levi Strauss team analyzes a new idea, among the first questions asked is “Is it aspirational?”
When Honeywell decided to change its orientation from national to global, it adopted a set of values that included integrity, quality, performance, mutual respect and diversity.
These values enabled it to steady its course through the sea of change.
- Planned change involves a three-step process: softening, reshaping and restabilizing.
The softening stage is the most uncomfortable for employees. After years of doing things the same old way, they have been hardened into rigid habits. Now they have to unlearn them.
When you want to soften something, you usually apply heat. During the softening stage, we apply heat by attaching a stigma to the old behaviors we want to discontinue. We stop rewarding them.
This is the time when you’re likely to encounter the greatest resistance to change. Even your management people may dig in their heels. After all, you’re changing the system under which they rose to their present jobs.
Here’s where you need skillful communication: You must make clear the reasons for change and the consequences of not changing. The gain and the pain must be made clear to managers and employees alike.
John F. Welch Jr., the CEO who led General Electric through a highly successful change in corporate culture, identifies four types of management individuals with whom we must deal during the “softening” stage. Here’s how he classifies them:
- People who deliver on commitments and share the new values. These are the people you want to retain and reward.
- People who don’t meet commitments and don’t share the new values. These are the people who must go.
- People who sometimes fail to meet their commitments, but who share the values. For such people, a change of environment may produce a change in behavior. Give them a second chance.
- People who meet commitments but don’t share the values. In Welch’s words, this may be “the autocrat,the big shot, the tyrant” -people who try to force performance instead of inspire it. The results they get aren’t worth the price. They’ll have to change or go.
The reshaping phase calls for a positive approach. We’re now less concerned with rooting out old ways and more concerned with implanting new ways. Managers and employees must be convinced that the new way is the right way.
Your staff and employees now must learn a whole new attitude toward their work. Managers must see themselves as facilitators, not dictators. Employees must see themselves as value adders, not order-takers or machine operators. This calls for a well-thought-out educational program.
Finally comes the restabilizing stage. During this period, you want the new behaviors to become a natural part of the everyday routine in the work place.
Pilot projects can help managers and employees feel comfortable and natural with the new ways during this stage. Let them try out the new methods in “practice runs” to see how they work.
Another way to replace the discomfort of change with the comfort of familiarity is to provide suitable role models. Find people who are familiar with the new ways and let them model them for the rest of your managers and employees. When your people witness the success of the new methods, they’ll feel more comfortable about following them.
The system of compensation and rewards should be based on the new behaviors we want to encourage. If we’re asking people to value teamwork above individual effort, then the system must be set up to reward team efforts.
My friend Joe Jacobs, founder and CEO of Jacobs Engineering, used this principle to great advantage during the ’80s. Jacobs Engineering’s individual offices each operated as separate profit centers. When Joe took on a project that required the pooling of resources from several offices, he had difficulty getting the teamwork he needed.
Executives from each office looked at the project from the standpoint of its effect on the profits of their respective offices. Joe solved this by tying each executive’s compensation to the performance of the company as a whole. When he did that, he got genuine teamwork.
Throughout the change process, everyone from line workers to senior management must be convinced that the company is behind the change. CEOs themselves must take responsibility for encouraging the new behavior. They must model it as they deal with people on as many levels as possible in the organization.
It may take years to effect fundamental change, and you should never consider the job finished. Instead, you should look for ways to institutionalize change. When your people are oriented to change and educated in effective ways to bring about change, you’re geared up for the future.
The other day I was talking to a CEO about the educational and development needs of his corporation, and he remarked, “You know, Nido, leadership isn’t what it used to be. I used to think I knew what to look for in leaders. Now I’m not so sure.”
He continued: “When I first went into business, a strong leader could say ‘Follow me,’ and people would follow. Now when you say that, your employees want to know where you’re going, what you expect to find when you get there, and what’s in it for them if they follow you.”
His comments were very perceptive. Today’s business climate requires a different type of leader, because we’re dealing with a different type of work place and a different breed of followers.
The old-style leadership was well-suited to yesterday’s mechanical-type of organization in which employees were regarded as cogs in a machine and only management did the thinking. When only managers were allowed to think, you needed leaders who could give orders with authority and employees who were willing to follow without question.
But smart executives nowadays realize that you can’t remain competitive while running a mechanical organization. You must have a thinking organization, which means that people at every level must be able to think and must be free to think.
As cooperation becomes the norm from the senior management team to the self-managed teams on the work floor, we need to take a careful look at the types of leadership necessary to mobilize this new-style work force.
Here are the characteristics I see in successful leaders of thinking organizations:
|They help people decide for themselves what to do; they don’t tell people what to do.|
|They lead in the creation of corporate visions. They align their personal visions with the corporate vision and help others in the company to do the same.|
|They expect excellence in those around them, and they make those expectations known. The people on their teams usually live up to these expectations.|
|They invite people to speak up, and they listen and respond to those who do. They welcome good news and bad news from their associates, knowing that they can’t lead wisely unless they are fully informed.|
Today’s leaders can’t be guardians of the status quo. They must foster a climate in which the search for higher quality and better methods becomes a way of life. This calls for creative thinkers.
Obviously, if you want your organization to think creatively at every level, you need creative-thinking leaders at every level.
Such leaders don’t bark orders. They use positive reinforcement to influence people toward the behaviors they desire.
They don’t isolate themselves from the people they lead. They mingle with them, ask about their problems and concerns, and look for ways to help them. They promote a sense of “family.”
They don’t pretend to have all the answers. They ask for information and advice before making decisions.
They don’t try to do it all themselves. They make full use of the talents of those around them.
They don’t lord it over others. They treat employees, clients, customers and associates with respect. They are not condescending toward any of the corporate stakeholders, but regard them all as members of the team.
They encourage a constant search for improvement and a constant quest for excellence. They provide the educational and developmental programs needed to achieve these goals. Some people think leaders are born, not made. It’s an old idea. It gave rise to the traditional leaders — tribal chieftains and later kings and emperors who passed their authority on to their descendants.
This gave rise to the theory that good leaders had to have certain inborn traits, such as physical strength, high intelligence, commanding voices, and aggressive personalities.
Later theories dealt with what leaders do instead of what they are. People led others, it was believed, by performing leadership functions such as organizing, controlling, staffing, and coordinating.
Then, in the early part of this century, it was discovered that workers, left to themselves, will develop their own informal group processes, guided by their own informal but powerful customs and traditions.
What’s more, when workers were allowed to follow these informal procedures, they became more productive than when they followed the rules and regulations laid down by appointed bosses.
This has led to the modern concept of leadership: a process by which management creates an environment in which people voluntarily align their efforts toward common objectives.
The good news is that one doesn’t have to be born with certain “traits” to exercise this type of leadership. Leadership skills can be taught to your staff, your associates and your employees, and they can be employed by people of a wide variety of temperaments. My staff and I at Creative Services teach those skills every day, and have been teaching them for two decades. They work.
So when my friend observed that “leadership isn’t what it used to be,” I responded, “Yes, and thank goodness for that.” American competitiveness demands leadership that can come only from creative thinking at all levels of the organization. A team educated in this new style of leadership pays handsome dividends in the competitive global marketplace.
Let me make a suggestion that at first may sound strange, coming from a management consultant. If your company has a training department, do away with it. Replace it with a Department of Education and Development.
The reason: The new business environment needs fewer people who are trained to do things a specific way and more people who are educated to find new ways of doing things.
As Stanley Marcus once said, “You don’t train people; you train dogs and elephants; you educate people.”
What’s the difference?
Let me put it this way: Would you want your teenager to have sex education or sex training ? The choice is clear.
The word education comes from the Latin educo, which means to change from within. Training provides an external skill. Education changes the inner person. Training deals only with the doing level. Education teaches people how to think.
Let me give you an example: I once ordered an apple pie and a milk shake at a fast-food restaurant. The server smiled and asked, “Would you like a dessert with that?”
This young woman had been trained to act. She had been conditioned to smile and try to upgrade the sale by reciting her memorized lines. And she rehearsed them to perfection.
But she had not been educated in customer interaction. She hadn’t been taught to listen to the customer, to think about what the customer ordered and to acquire a feeling for what might appeal to the customer under the circumstances.
Education deals with the feeling level. The ways you and I act are based on our responses to stimuli. First we think about it, then we begin to feel it, then we act based on that feeling.
Ronald Reagan won a landslide election in 1980 by asking people to think, feel and act. He did it with a penetrating question:
“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
The voters thought about it. They felt uncomfortable about the economy. This feeling of discomfort moved them to behave in the way Reagan wanted them to behave. They voted against the incumbent administration.
Training attempts to add on the qualities needed for success. Education builds them in.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should never train people. Training is essential when a specific skill must be learned, or a specific procedure must be followed consistently in a manufacturing process. But training should be part of a broader educational process.
One of my favorite proverbs conveys the wisdom that when you give people fish, they’ll be hungry tomorrow; if you teach them to fish, they’ll never go hungry. Training gives your employees a fish — a specific skill applicable to a specific task. Education teaches them to fish.
Corporations have no choice but to invest substantial resources in developing people. So it’s best to invest in ways that let people grow; that teach them to think for themselves; that create a pool of solid candidates for promotion to higher positions.
My message to clients is clear:
- Training focuses on teaching people yesterday’s skills.
- Education focuses on teaching them to develop tomorrow’s skills.
Education without the vision for a better future is only training.
As Charles Kettering said: “You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday.”
We’ve spent entirely too much time in the past teaching people what to do instead of concentrating onhow they think and how they feel and how they behave; far too much time getting a job done instead ofproducing excellent results; far too much time conforming instead of creating.
Yesterday’s thinking looks at the tasks people perform today and asks, “How can we train our future employees to do these things?”
Today’s thinking looks at the kind of people needed to fulfill corporate strategy and finds ways to develop them.
A reporter once asked Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, why he always seems to be where the puck is. Gretzky replied, “I don’t do that at all. I always go to where the puck is going to be.”
Executives, too, must go where the action is going to be. We need to look down the road 5 or 10 years and ask “What kind of company do we want to be by then, and what kind of employees will it take to get us there?” Then we can plan educational and development programs to develop such employees.
To carry out such programs, you need behavioral change agents, not trainers. Trainers are easy to find. They are plentiful and inexpensive. Behavioral facilitators are less plentiful, and they’re in strong demand. But they nurture lasting qualities that won’t become obsolete when the next technological breakthrough occurs.
In our company, Creative Services, Inc., we’ve dedicated the last two decades to helping clients transform their corporations from mechanistic organizations into thinking organizations. Mechanistic organizations are like machines, doing the same things over and over. Thinking organizations are constantly alert for new concepts and new methods.
Think about your company. Is it a thinking or a mechanistic organization? Some hints that will help you:
|In a mechanistic organization:|
|New ideas and methods are discouraged because they vary from the mechanical norm: “We’ve never done it that way before.”|
|Managers and supervisors rely solely on their own judgments, backed by the policy manuals, instead of empowering their people to make on-the-spot judgments that might improve quality and service.|
|Rigid procedures discourage employees from playing with an idea or a solution during its development.|
|Communication flows “through channels” rather than spreading throughout the business organization.|
|Some identifying marks of a thinking organization:|
|People at all levels can talk directly to people in other departments and divisions, and to customers and suppliers.|
|Teams are formed across departmental lines, including employees at all levels, to execute new projects or to solve common problems.|
|Line employees are routinely asked for their opinions and rewarded for ideas that work.|
|Failures at innovative projects are regarded as learning experiences and not as black marks against the person who failed.|
|Corporate structures are flexible and therefore able to adapt to the stress of innovation.|
Educated, thinking organizations aren’t made up of people trained only to turn screws and wield levers, although those procedures are certainly essential to some jobs.
They’re made up of people educated in such skills as goal-setting, problem-solving and decision-making, communication, conflict management, negotiation, total quality management, time management and teamwork.
Such people, I’m convinced, are not churned out by training departments. They’re molded and nurtured by departments of education and development.
Education must replace training in organizations that succeed in the global marketplace. It’s a prerequisite for survival.
Success results from a solid strategy.
Even the greatest ideas are of little value unless they are backed up by a practical and workable plan of action. The word strategy comes from an ancient Greek term which literally means to be a general leading troops into battle. Setting up a good strategic plan involves five steps:
The first step is to translate your vision into measurable and achievable goals.
You decide specifically what you want to accomplish during the next five to ten years – those are your long range goals.
Next, you break those goals down into intermediate goals – things you wish to accomplish during the next six months or year.
Then you break them down further into short term goals covering the next month or six weeks.
The second step is to break your goals down into achievable objectives.
Dr. Robert Schuller says, “Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it’s a cinch.” Working by objectives helps you concentrate on what’s important, instead of spinning your wheels on those things that seem urgent, but don’t lead to your long term goals.
Objectives add purpose and direction to all your activities.
The third step is to set up your strategies for accomplishing your objectives.
Strategies are the specific ways you will go about achieving your objectives.
The more clearly thought out they are, the more effective they will be.
Fourth, you choose each task you must complete each day to achieve your goals.
This is where most planning breaks down. We tend to leave it vague – thinking that, as long as we are working hard all the time, we are achieving our goals. Most people I talk with are extremely busy – and most of them are working hard to do things right. The problem is they are not doing enough of the right things – the things that will help them achieve their goals.
It is not enough to merely list each task you need to do; you need to build it into your schedule. So many hours every day you are working on specific actions that will lead to accomplishing your definite objectives.
And, finally, build in the monitoring mechanisms that will help you keep track of your progress toward implementing your plan.
It’s one thing to have a “gut level feeling” that you must be doing something right because you are always working hard. But it is far better to design simple mechanisms to let you know precisely how much progress you are making.
Look for a few key indicators that will help you stay on track, and monitor those like a doctor would monitor the vital signs of a patient. It doesn’t matter how much activity is going on. What matters is how well you are doing at achieving your objectives.
One good example would be that you would target to contact three people each day to generate new business. At the end of the day, you’d know whether you have achieved that goal.
Your plan is not complete until it has been communicated satisfactorily to every person in your organization who must help to implement it.
Here are some guidelines to help you communicate your vision and plan to your staff, associates and others:
1. Involve others in formulating the plan. People tend to understand and support plans they help create.
2. Clearly identify roles and expectations. Every person needs to know clearly what you expect and understand the basis on which his or her performance is to be judged.
3. Make sure everyone understands all deadlines and schedules. A good plan has teeth in it, and the only way to give it those teeth is to set definite deadlines for specific actions.
4. Count on the plan for intrinsic motivation rather than seeking to motivate people with gimmicks. If the plan is built around the strengths and personal motivations of the people who must execute it, and has its own built-in rewards, motivation will take care of itself. If not, you cannot come up with enough gimmicks to make it work
5. Get feedback to make sure people understand exactly what you expect. It’s not very helpful to say, “Does everyone understand the plan?” A far better approach is to say, “Tell me what you understand the plan to be and how you see yourself fitting into it.”
If a company is going to stay in business, it has to change, and that can be scary.
Many people see change as threatening. To them, it is the destroyer of what is familiar and comfortable rather than the creator of what is new and exciting. Unfortunately, comfort can be the enemy of excellence. It can even lead to corporate death.
A Navy aviator once told me that many pilots have died because they stayed with their disabled aircraft too long. They preferred the familiarity of the cockpit to the unfamiliarity of the parachute, even though the cockpit had become a death trap and the parachute had become a ticket to life.
Many businesses have died because their people preferred the familiar but deadly old ways to the risky but rewarding new ways. We must teach them that to stand pat is to perish.
The secret to successful change is to make it controlled change. If the change is well- planned and under control, the people affected will have a sense of stability amid change, and that can be reassuring.
One of the most important things you can do is to explain the reasons for the change. Change is easier to take when people can see a rational behind it.
Another way of easing anxiety is to show how advance planning minimizes risks. Let people know what to expect, step by step. No surprises, no alarm.
Rank-and-file employees need to know that management is fully behind the change. If they’re learning to do things a new way, they need assurance that somebody up the management ladder won’t come by later and say “That’s the wrong way.” Commend and recognize employees who master the new way.
Planned changes usually move through three stages: softening, reshaping and restabilizing.
During the softening stage, employees have to unlearn old habits. During the reshaping phase, new ways must be implanted. During restabilization, these new ways must become new habits.
You can smooth the way toward change through pilot projects that enable employees to go through trial runs before “going live.” You can also find people who are familiar with the new ways and let them model them for the rest of your people.
I’ve learned, through consulting with companies implementing change, that the job is never finished. Successful companies look for ways to institutionalize change. When a company’s people are oriented to change and educated in effective ways to bring it about, it’s geared up for the future.
When your company’s employees work together as a team, they multiply their effectiveness. A study of high-tech workers in a California laboratory showed that the star performers outperformed their mid-range co-workers by a margin of 8 to 1. When researchers looked for the reasons, they found that the star performers were more adept at working with others. They identified nine work strategies that paid off for these knowledge workers. They can work equally well for you. Here are the strategies:
Give more than you have to.
The people who get ahead are the people who are willing to reach out for additional responsibility. They perform beyond their job descriptions, volunteering for additional activities and promoting new ideas.
Exchange knowledge with fellow workers.
In today’s competitive world, nobody knows everything there is to know about the business. We have to share our knowledge and expertise with others. Just as importantly, we have to be able to tap the expertise of the people we work with.
The researchers discovered an interesting difference between the top producers and the middle performers at the California laboratory.
The top producers established relationships with their fellow workers before they needed the expertise. Then, when they needed help, they knew whom to call. Their co-workers were willing to share what they knew, because they knew the favor would be returned.
The middle performers waited until they needed the expertise before they went looking for it. This cost them time, because they had to earn the trust of their fellow workers before they could benefit from the expertise.
Learn to manage yourself.
Productive salespeople don’t need a manager looking over their shoulders every moment of the day. They know what needs to be done, and they do it without being told. They regulate their own work commitments, manage their own time, monitor their performance levels, and take responsibility for their own career growth.
Be a team player.
The most valuable people in any organization are team players who look for ways to coordinate their efforts with the efforts of others. When they’re working with a group, they shoulder their share of the responsibility for the group effort. They work to achieve the goals of the group, and are willing to exert their efforts where they do the most to advance toward those goals.
Be a leader.
No one can make you a leader by bestowing a title on you. Some of the most effective leaders have no titles as such. They are leaders simply because people are willing to follow them. They are good at helping their groups achieve consensus on common goals and at developing plans for achieving these goals.
Be a follower.
There’s a difference between a follower and an underling. Followers look for ways to help their leaders achieve their objectives. Underlings wait for their leaders to give them specific orders and instructions. Followers think for themselves, but share their thinking with the group. Underlings would rather let someone else do the thinking.
People who have perspective see the big picture. They understand how their jobs relate to their company’s overall mission. They also look at their work from the standpoint of others. Salespeople with perspective can put themselves in the shoes of the customer with a quality problem. Staffers can put themselves in the shoes of managers and managers can see things the way staffers see them. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything the other person says; it just means that you are capable of understanding things from others’ perspectives.
Be a communicator.
Successful salespeople are able to present their ideas clearly and forcefully, either orally or in writing. They don’t keep information and ideas to themselves, but generously share them with their co-workers.
Know the organization.
Every organization has its competing interests. Successful people understand these interests. They know that what might be ideal for their department or work center might be counterproductive for the organization as a whole. They cooperate for the greater good, do their part to resolve conflicts, and concentrate on getting things done.
Middle performers as well as top performers tended to follow these strategies. But they differed in the way they ranked them in importance, and they differed in the way they defined certain qualities.
The top performers were more interested in the strategies that stress performance. The middle performers placed greater importance on strategies that impressed management.
To middle performers, taking the initiative meant doing the ordinary things without being asked. To top performers, initiative meant doing the extraordinary — and helping their fellow workers to achieve the extraordinary.
Extraordinary performers who hog the limelight are likely to inspire jealousy and contention instead of admiration. The truly great superstars are those who are willing to share the glory with their teammates.
Henry Aaron, major-league baseball’s all-time home-run leader, was an accomplished team player. He once said that if he came to bat in the ninth inning and his team had an eight-run lead, he’d go for the home run. If he came to bat with the bases empty, two outs, and his team in desperate need of a score, he would also aim for the fences. But with the crucial run in scoring position and one man out, he would go for percentages, knowing that he was far more likely to score the runner with a controlled swing that resulted in a ground-ball single than with a powerful swing that could end in a strike-out or a pop fly.
Michael Jordan, the great National Basketball Association superstar, showed his team spirit in the 1992 NBA playoffs when, after a stunning individual performance in which his team lost, he began feeding the ball to his teammates. Jordan’s personal score fell considerably, but his team won.
This principle applies in your work as well. When the people in any organization compete with one another for glory, only the competition wins. When they cooperate internally, they become more competitive externally — and the entire organization wins.
When you cooperate with your fellow workers, everyone is pulling for you to win. When you compete against them, they’re all pulling for you to lose.