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- THE PLANMonth By Month
A DAY IN THE LIFE
"I NEED MORE FROM MY EXHAUSTED TEAM"
GIVE THE CULTURE BACK ITS ENERGY BEFORE YOU DEMAND MORE OF IT
- PROVIDE CONTEXT. Reinforce why recent decisions have been made; relate them to fixed aspects of the company—standards, named strategy, performance goal, and constant margin requirements. Explain that a good strategy is constantly open to revision as market conditions change; then remind them of all the things that aren’t open to revision.
- PROVIDE PREDICTABILITY. Hold a predictability drill: Explain to your culture what needs to be done by when and then list every likely and unlikely thing that could occur between start and finish. Make sure to get your culture’s opinion rather than just providing the list. Then, confirm exactly what would happen should any of these scenarios take place.
- PROVIDE SENSE OF SELF. Remind the team of everything good and noble about your own organization: what it takes to be a member of the team; its quality standards; its impact on the larger company, on customers, on the world. Explain that the more you do what you do, the better it is for everyone who depends on how well you do it.
- DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT TIME YOU NEED IT. Regularly fill these three sources of your culture’s energy so it can provide more to you while keeping enough to protect itself.
"I NEED TO SELL CHANGE"
PROVIDE AN ANTIDOTE TO UNCERTAINTY
- DON’T depend on business logic, management authority, or any compelling competitive urgency to sell the change for you. These are secondary influencers to an employee culture.
- EXPLAIN what isn’t changing at the same time you introduce what is changing. The character, purpose, standards, goals, products, people—anything and everything you can think of. The big things, the small things, the good things, the frustrating things.
- SELL it like a consumer product. Get to the early adopters first and transform them into cultural disciples. A message from your culture to your culture has maximum credibility.
- LIMIT the number of changes. Every change is a reminder to your culture that it has little control over its worklife—maybe anything could change, maybe everything could change. Your culture can only fight a war on so many fronts as it battles the risk to its survival and emotional prosperity posed by each change announcement. Too many changes, and it will simply detach.
“I NEED PEOPLE TO TAKE THAT HILL FOR ME”
GIVE YOUR PEOPLE SOMETHING WORTH PROTECTING
- UNDERSTAND YOUR PERSONAL VALUES. They are your own definition of what life looks like when you live it the way you want to. What do these values—family, integrity, learning, adventure, intelligence, creativity, or whatever they may be—give you in your life that makes them so important?
- TELL YOUR PEOPLE WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU. Understanding your deepest motivations is a welcome gift to your culture. It is the clue to survival and emotional prosperity in your world and an understanding of what never changes in a world of uncertainty.
- TRANSLATE YOUR VALUES TO A BETTER PLACE. Explain to your people how the meaning of your values translates into better working conditions. Together the team can make these conditions real by protecting and promoting them. Contrast this with the “bitter place”—any unsatisfactory current state of these values-based working conditions and the emotional security they provide the culture. Give your culture a sense of significance by pointing out how important it is to move to the better place; a sense of belonging by pointing out that you are betting on this special team to do it; and a sense of self-worth by explaining that it isn’t easy to get to the better place and describing the qualities your culture has to have to do it.
- ALWAYS TALK WHY. Put anything extraordinary you want your culture to do in terms of protecting what’s important: working according to this better place. This is the character of the team; this is the sure sign of what doesn’t change; and this is the ability to control the quality of their work life as they perform. And so this is worth their protection by delivering to you whatever you ask them for.
“WE NEED TO HEAD INTO UNCHARTED TERRITORY”
LIGHT THE PATH AHEAD
- EXPLAIN CHOICE POINTS. Point out where the culture is going to reach a crossroads between doing things the old way or doing things the new way, and indicate which is the safe path to take.
- EXPLAIN CHOKE POINTS. Point out where the culture may be unsure of what to do without disappointing someone. Tell your culture that it is safe to raise a hand if unsure; management won’t think less of anyone for it.
- EXPLAIN SELF-MONITORED BENCHMARKS. Point out 1–2 things the culture can do that will prove it’s performing correctly. Make these things benchmarks that the culture can certify for itself at any time, without asking anyone to verify.
- KEEP MOVING THE LIGHT.
“I REALLY NEED MY PEOPLE TO BELIEVE ME ABOUT THIS”
USE COMMUNICATION TO PERSUADE, NOT INFORM
- DON’T MEET CYNICAL WITH CHIRPY. Your culture may be justifiably cynical about new management proclamations, given its history with some of the old ones. Don’t pretend this doesn’t exist, which your culture will find insulting and uncaring. Instead, give that cynicism respect by acknowledging that it reasonably exists. Then, let your culture tell you how you can help overcome it.
- MAKE SURE THAT YOU BELIEVE IT FIRST. Your culture may need to deliberate on its own before delivering you a response. Key to this is that it believes that you believe what you just told it.
- NEVER MISINTERPRET SILENCE AS COMPLIANCE. If your culture is a little quiet, that’s okay. If your culture is completely silent, it may be sending you a message that indicates big mistrust or fear. Silence is a protective mechanism for your culture, and if it’s happening this has to be sincerely investigated. Being defensive won’t help you. Your culture is reacting to what it perceives are the risks in trusting management. This may be about you but may as easily be about who came before you or overall company actions. If your culture still won’t talk, earn trust a little at a time and start creating legends to get to its belief system.
- CAUSE YOUR CULTURE TO TALK TO ITSELF. Remember, a culture communicates with legends, which are proof points about what you say vs. what you do. It trusts these legends and acts accordingly. Intentionally create a legend now about what you want your culture to believe: Start by emphatically declaring what is most important and then do something noticeable to prove that you mean it.
“I NEED TO REINFORCE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY”
FOCUS ON THE MEANING, NOT THE MONEY
- SHOW THE EFFORT BEHIND THE REINFORCEMENT. Know the members of your culture well enough to know what will move them the most. Write, do, make, or arrange for things that show it was important enough to you to pay attention and do it thoughtfully for them. This isn’t about spending money. You win points with your culture for effort and creativity, not scale or expense. Your culture wants most to know that its performance moved you enough to respond immediately, situationally, and intimately.
- EXTEND TO THEIR INFLUENCERS. Family, friends, customers, coworkers—anyone who is in a position to add their meaningful congratulations.
- CELEBRATE HOW IT WAS DONE, NOT JUST WHAT WAS DONE. Of course you’ll want to reinforce performance goals achieved, but increase the celebration if they were achieved with the standards, principles, purpose, and personality of your organization. And if those were done well, celebrate some even if the performance goals weren’t completely achieved.
- AVOID RITUALIZING REINFORCEMENT. Skip the routine awards––of the month, of the year, etc. The more performance reinforcement is treated as a commodity by you, the more it will be treated as a commodity by your culture.
“I NEED MY NEWLY ACQUIRED OR MERGED TEAM TO ACT AS ONE”
- PROHIBIT A CONQUERER MENTALITY. Your executive team needs to set the strong standard of equality, often and loudly. The acquired employee culture built a company worth acquiring, and once the organizations are merged they are under equal protection and deserving of equal respect. Start by learning from the acquired company, even if it is smaller—especially if it is smaller and had to do more with less.
- LET ACCELERATION BUILD. The employee culture that is new to your organization is going to be understandably cautious about how to perform in a way that best assures its survival and emotional prosperity, when it’s still trying to figure that out. Send a clear message of accountability to all in your existing manager and employee cultures that they should show the tolerance and respect that will make performance acceleration a positive experience.
- TREAT THE SACRED AS SACRED. An acquired culture is going to be hypersensitive about the threat to what it considers sacred—big things and small things. They are key indicators to the culture about whether it is going to get respect and empathy from the New Deal. Whatever you can keep should be kept; whatever you can improve should be offered; and whatever you have to eliminate should be done with some feeling. Whatever you can learn that will help make the new company better should be appreciated.
- GET SOME FAST WINS. Both new and old cultures need to know that they can win together. Give them the opportunity to get points on the board and invent new ways to celebrate when they do.