The past two weeks has been tumultuous! Starting from sharing of best practices in our business planning that leads to highly focused, segmented and revenue oriented marketing activities, detailing out two cooperative collaborations and being the point man for an extremely lucrative and high- profile industry project its’ been a crazy yet, in its own way, a very satisfying two work weeks.As I sit back and take stock, specifically to get the project process in place, issues revolving primarily around “attitudes” come to mind. I felt, that it would be a good blog post.
So, readers, here’s my take on “attitudes and its impact on work”.
In my day job I wear three hats:
- Business Planner
- Marketing Head
- Point Man
Those of you involved in organisational planning, HR, and performance measurement, would immediately say—“What the…!” Yes, its 3 specific functions, that for the past 10 months I’ve delivered on. And, I’ve loved every minute of it! The thrill is in the fun of doing it and doing all three well, within the timeline. Anyways, lest I detract, so let me come back to the topic.
The advantage of doing all three roles was simply this — it allows me to be totally involved (with the C Level) in the organisation’s long term business plans. This, in turn, allowed me to develop a marketing strategy that delivers specific activities (aimed at delivering revenue and image) which makes marketing measureable. Finally, in my last role, it allows me just the level of control I need to ensure the activities are on track to deliver the planned results.
Whilst that the positive there’s a negative (or is that too strong a word?) side to it too. The negative is having to attend an awful lot of meetings (some of which simply have no focus) and spend an equal amount of time in undertaking discussions with key executives across staff and line functions. In sum about 6 to 7 hours of a work day goes in just interacting with people and I have to put in quite a bit of personal, family time, as the “think time” required in order to deliver effectively.
By now you may be wondering where I am going with this. Bear with me, dear reader, as this background is important for you to understand the how attitudes impact on work deliverables.
Given the amount of time I spend in meetings & discussions to get project activities rolled out, I’m exposed to a variety of people with a range of skills and expertise (and some are major prima donna’s in their subject matter expertise). The one common thing that I have learnt is this— “an individual’s attitude towards life, reflects and affects how he/she approaches a task”.
In my day job, the organisation is in the midst of implementing and running a new business model. This is change and big change for majority of the organisation’s staff. And change is not easy for all to handle. For some, they take to change like duck takes to water. For others it’s a continuous battle to try and pull the line back to status quo. A continuous see-saw battle of intellect, process management and aligning of personal goals with the business goals.
For my organisation what this change process has achieved is, it has brought to fore, each individuals’ attitudes towards work. Some are reacting and not acting through thinking; whilst others are simply running on the same spot and feel they are doing a lot.
And the need for speed and quick thinking is testing executives acutely in terms of their management skills. Instead of planning project resources and requirements calmly and logically the push back comes in varied forms—on one extreme it’s couched within massive words of subject matter expertise or on the other end in utter silence to communication going around. In the midst there’s nary a solution to project requirements. And this is where attitude comes to bear!
Challenges that provide a playing field to demonstrate one’s expertise, aid the team and in turn the community (business stakeholders and ultimately the community within which the project would have an impact) should be seen as opportunities to improve one’s self, perform and aid in delivering business goals. They should not be seen as additional work. So as business managers and team leaders, should we take cognizance of our team’s attitudes? YES! Without understanding and aiding the alignment between the individuals’ personal goals with that of the organisation, obtaining effectiveness from a team member (no matter how qualified and experienced that member is) is next to impossible. What would happen is at best a mediocre output which would impact on the professionalism and image of the organisation, not to say the bottom line. In my next post, we’ll cover the probable solutions that affect attitude development that enable an organisation to effectively obtain positive impact on its daily work.
- Culture eats strategy – and it will eat your new processes too (flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com)
Challenging times show an organisation’s ability on creating a high performance organisation through work culture and the employees attitude towards performance. One of the factors affecting the employees’ attitude is the depth of engagement that the employees have with their corporate brand.
The stronger and deeper the engagement between the employee and the brand, the more productive and effective the manifestation of the brand to its stakeholders.
The organisation or corporate brand is brought to life through the employees across all management levels. Senior management is the de-facto ‘role-model’ whose attitude and behaviour is replicated by mid and junior management in peer-to-peer interaction and in external business dealings. Thus being a key influencer in the overall brand experience that a stakeholder gets to feel.
In the current business environment, with product based differentiation extremely difficult, highly competitive market segments and low competitive advantages coupled with fragmented consumer segments with low loyalty towards brands, how can an organisation ensure a strong brand identity?
Continuous advertising of the brand communicating the same old key message is no longer an effective solution. Doing what one was doing in the past, prior to the global recession, no longer holds well in assuring brand profitability. Today an organisation’s BOD (board of directors) is only interested in “growth and profitability” simultaneously.
As a COO how do you deliver this?
By having a 100% consumer centric view that brings forth:
- Leadership through innovative practices,
- Creativity in growth planning and
- Ensures brand risk management
The key here is the 100% consumer-centric approach. This will lead the strategic planning process and provide a clear roadmap that would have to be communicated (to employees) and implemented.
Through the communication and clear instructions of process (i.e. what and how to do) there will come about a attitudinal shift amongst employees resulting in effectiveness. Through this shift the organisation would be able to move, albeit slowly but surely, towards a continuous growth path.
But, beware, the path to achieveing such attitudinal shift is not an easy one! In order to achieve the results planned for, it’s often necessary to make some very hard choices that include changing the way work has been done till date.
One of these hard choices is for senior management to change in their approach to work, in order to affect the results. I.E.:To bring about change in ‘preference for the brand’ the organisation’s senior management cannot keep doing what they have always done. Senior management in the key functions of HR, Production, IT, Marketing and Finance need to be innovative in their functional roles. They need to be ingenious and creative.
The lead for such an environment will come from the CEO/COO. As a COO you would need to lead by example and constantly demonstrate innovation and effectiveness.
No change means zero sum game! There’s an old saying– “You can’t do what you’ve always done and expect better results.”
It’s that simple!
To achieve effective results, an organisation must step up its game. After all, its consumers have. Given the times, their approach to a brand experience and their purchasing behaviour has radically altered. If an organisation doesn’t recognise this and take account of it in its business process, it’s driving its brand to the ground!
Bringing about such a change can be categorised as ‘adopting innovative practices’ — taking a totally new approach to the issue at hand keeping the key stakeholder’s benefit in mind.
Two critical resources would be needed to ensure success:
- High Performers are problem-solvers, not the excuse-makers. Rather than wallow in hardship or defeat, they take positive steps. They are motivated when others aren’t. They stay focused on the desired outcome and creatively work on figuring out a way even when everything’s stacked against them. What separates High Performers from the rest is how they respond to difficult challenges and the roadblocks in front of them.
- The engagement process for a high performer needs to be quite different from rest of the employees. The high performers are ultimately the organisation’s internal and external ‘brand champions’ ie. They represent the dynamism and effectiveness of the brand. Thus they need to be empowered first or brought on board to develop the strategic business direction and thus have ownership which will bring about engagement.
B. Clearly understanding the strategic insight from the stakeholder’s perspective in terms of what their need is—i.e. in simple marketing parlance this means knowing what’s the consumer’s subconscious need or want that the brand must fulfil:
- E.g.: for a financial service product such as credit card, it would be key to know why exactly the consumer needs a credit card. Is it regulatory requirements? Is it peer pressure? Is it an unsaid social status announcement? Delving into this would automatically bring out the consumer’s financial knowledge base covering spending and savings habit. This would provide for risk coverage as well as fixing of credit limit (and thereby aid in restricting bad debts for the financial institution). Additionally, identifying the specific need would open up a ‘direct’ avenue for brand communication, possibly using social media, to help the consumer and thereby aid in the relationship development between the brand and the consumer.
Such strategic marketing approach is considered ‘innovative’ as it uses cross-industry best practices coupled with core target audience research, socio-economic and cultural trend mapping. Without such new approachs an organisation would end up doing what it was doing in the past and not achieve any positive results.
The lead for such changes in the work culture has to come from the senior management. Recognising the change areas, identifying required skill sets and direction setting can only come about through leading by example and identifying the high performers who can put in place a changing work culture.
Without innovative leadership and a focussed brand growth and profitability approach at the senior management level, an organisation would lurch on in its day-to-day activity resembling a ‘headless chicken run’.
Net result—employees would become ‘captive’ brand stakeholders with absolutely no engagement with the brand and in it just for the salary! An extremely harmful and dangerous scenario for any corporate brand, as the brand experience, that would manifest externally from such employees would be disastrous.
The past week at work had been an exceptional one for a couple of reasons:
1. Realisation of the fact that there were just a few executives who were stepping up beyond the call of their current roles (yours truly included and sacrificing work -life balance in order to ensure quality deliverables on time for the benefit of progress).
2. The various work processes were, actually, hampering work flow and decision making.
Recounting the week, made me ask myself this question—“Are processes helpful”?
The answer is Yes.
Processes play a critical role in work flow management and output. However, the work flow and its respective components are as good as the people who manage it i.e. Human Resource. To ensure that the process is effective and efficient, it’s critical to have the right skills and attitudes in the right job functions so that the team works as one.
As a business planner and marketer (just two of the three hats I often have to wear at work), whilst planning for business growth and revenue, there are two specific areas that I’ve often found organisations overlooking in the process of detailing their business goals:
1. Focus: on the economic trends & key customer feedback and
2. People for the job: job fit i.e.—right skills & attitudes in the right function
This, continuous, over-dependency on the process is amazing!
The process is seen to be the job and not analysis of the information and logical fact based decision making.
But, in reality, what works is:
- Focussing: on the external and internal environment that affects the organisations’ ability to deliver with quality and competitively.
- Right People: having in place a select, small team of people who are the right fit to lead the implementation with various revenue units
By focussing on critical issues that needs to be addressed for the business to grow and having the right people in charge ( red that as-’empowered with authority along with responsibility’) the organisation gets the right attitude on the table.
People caught up in the “No. It’s not possible” line of thinking mistakenly think that having done the same process for years, it will still deliver and no change is needed. Unfortunately, this is a disguised form of negativity. And negativity sabotages the chance for success by keeping the team from innovating (within the process) and providing cost beneficial solutions. It creates an extremely unhealthy environment which in turn simply kills the process of ideation and thus any innovative approaches..
Secondly by having the right attitude people leading change it would bring in a work culture oflistening, discussions and simplistic evaluations.
These two functions, together, allow for implementing beneficial cross industry practices and strategic options that would enable growth and profitability.
This enables the organisation in having a motivated, passionate, engaged and objective oriented team of high performers who become brand ambassadors for the organisation.
In my last post—‘Employees make the Brand’—I had written about how important an employee is for an organisation to project the brand personality and image. Further to that and as an internal communications and employee engagement program, a few areas that can be taken into consideration are:
- Create a mission statement and a set of core values. Having a clear and tangible mission is the cornerstone of a great company. Communicate the same with the staff. Ensure they understand the values that the brand needs to project and why.
- Consider what are important to your employees (and their families). Non work related but common social causes such as fitness sessions (at a local gym) for the family; community youth education; adult education etc are potential areas through which an organisation can develop a strong and engaging relationship with its employee.
- Institute regular events that build trust and dedication. In addition to the monthly bowling meets and karaoke nights, staff meetings to fill people in on company plans and financials are important. For e.g. sharing the quarterly financial results, along with achievements, scenario analysis and plans for the next quarter with staff, leads to the employees feeling as part of the decision-making process. As a result, a sense of ownership and willingness to do better due to seeing the benefits they will reap, comes in.
- Make a fuss over each new employee. Institute an orientation program (it doesn’t have to last more than a couple of days to a week), and introduce new employees to everyone in the company. For e.g. assigning a “buddy” for the first week, to take the new employee around as well as take the new employee for lunch, or introduce to other colleagues during the coffee break and be a ‘buddy’ to the new employee ( on the first week at work, there’s a lot as the newcomer we want to know but don’t know where or who to go to).
- Follow up. After the orientation program, check in and get a sense of how new employees are doing in their jobs and what they would change if they could. (A new employee can give a very honest and refreshing perspective on how the brand is seen based on his/her first week at work).
And a few areas that should not be taken for granted, when initiating an internal communication or engagement program:
- Don’t think it’s all about the benefits. Though they are important, benefits can’t replace constant communication and treating employees well.
- Don’t think employees don’t care about meeting the CEO. They do, and they appreciate getting to know top management and learning about the company.
- Don’t forget the small stuff. Make sure to learn to pronounce employees’ names correctly, celebrate small victories, and include employees in the decision-making process.
These, small areas, often are overlooked. But if used, properly, are very strong motivators and binders in terms of developing a relationship of the brand with the employee, leading to the employee projecting/communicating positive brand values and image to the stakeholders.
Mid of this year I was involved in a change management assignment. One of the key areas of change was to create a fit between the organisation’s business goals and the employees’ individual objectives. The goal was to make sure a smooth brand experience delivery from the employees.
I was instrumental in evaluating the existing corporate culture and recommending strategic changes in the same to have more ownership from the employees. As I started with meeting key employees, I realised that, both the senior management & the employees, had never really sat down and articulated the work culture or even the philosophy of the organisation that created the prevailing, lackadaisical attitude towards how the brand was projected. Attitudinally the employees were hostile towards the brand!
From a brand’s perspective, importance of corporate culture to and for an employee, is a very key reason in the output of the brand’s image and experience to its stakeholders.
Employees are one of the main stakeholders of any brand. In-fact they are the heart of the brand as its their actions and inter-actions that create the image perception of the brand in the targeted stakeholders mind. Yet, it’s strange, as to how many organisations (small and medium-sized), fail to acknowledge the importance of “corporate culture” vis-a-vis the employee.
An organisation having strong ethics, shared goals and an individual development base, inspires the employee to strive for delivering to the best of his/her ability. This comes about because the employee “likes” going to work every day, “learns” and is ““appreciated” and that makes the employee imbibe the brand values and project it. Strong teamwork is visible. Positivity is visible. And success ,of the tactical brand activities, occurs.
So how do we develop, implement and inculcate a change in an existing corporate culture?
It’s possible and do-able provided the senior management team finds value in it, believes in it and champions it through action.
How can it be done?
1: Identify the platform on which the culture would be based: This would need to be based on certain business ethics and social norms that the brand would want to promote and foster among all its stakeholders. Based on this ethical platform find the “values” that the corporate brand should project/uphold.
2: Inform and internalise: through a planned series of interactive workshops, these values to the employees by clearly linking them to their work functions and relating back as to how, not projecting, the same affects the brand and in turn affects the bottom-line.
3: Get the employees involved: Get them to put down, in their own words how they would personalise i.e. project the values themselves and thereby project the culture internally and externally. (At this point also identify and have a few “champions” i.e. leaders who would in a way “police” the cultural implementation.)
4: Ensure measurement: A measurable, performance indicator has to be in place which should be clearly explained to the employee and ensured that comprehension is there i.e.: the employee should be clear that his/her performance (in this area) will affect the company overall and there is direct accountability.
Having initiated the program, keeping momentum going is extremely important. This is where a structured internal communications program for regularly highlighting the employee achievements, undertakings are communicated.
What this does is:
A) It informs the organisation as to who’s championing the specific activities
B) It motivates the competitive spirit within divisions and dept.’s to do their bit and get their names on the “communication roster”
On the whole, the entire staff moves in one, planned direction, thereby projecting the desired behaviour. This benefits the brand as all other stakeholders’ receive a “positive face” of the brand. This in turn strengthens their relationship with the brand and viola leads to increasing revenue.
A SMALL BUSINESS PERSON’S PRESCRIPTIONS ON THIS 2011 U.S. LABOR DAY WEEKEND
Just the day that everyone in the U.S. is heading out to the beach or go see families to enjoy summer’s nice weather one last weekend before schools reopen, we got hit by the “No New Jobs added in August” bad news. As expected stocks tanked along with crude oil, while gold and silver rallied, and all this followed by the usual “expert” analysis and counter-analysis from CNBC and Fox Business economists on how political uncertainties in Washington are making things worse, how various scenarios of quantitative easing, tax cuts and tax credits need to be considered to jump start the economy.
As a small business owner who’s responsible for paying my business’s current payroll, rent and other obligations on time, but also as a finance professional with advanced education in accounting, economics, finance and global trade, it makes me wonder why certain solutions that seem fairly obvious to me and my fellow entrepreneurs elude the Washington and Wall Street elite? Is it because those solutions are so watered down by back room compromises and loopholes that the ideal solutions are just that “ideal”? Or is it because most of them have never created nor know how to create jobs themselves?
So after many heated discussions with my fellow entrepreneurs, sales people and other “real” job creators, here’re my humble recommendations to the leading corporate and government key decision makers:
1. Adopt Flat Income Tax as opposed to the Progressive Tax Regime we currently have: Steve Forbes’s concept of a flat tax of let’s say 15% warrants more serious consideration than it has received. Extremely wealthy people and corporates usually don’t pay anywhere near their marginal tax rates, so why pretend Progressive tax structure works? It doesn’t with all the loopholes and exemptions in place.
2. Rationalize Payroll and Social Security Taxes: Under the current U.S. tax regime, both employees and employers pay payroll taxes but only to a maximum salary level, with no taxes after that threshold. Why should people making less than the threshold pay higher proportional taxes than those above it? That makes no sense!
3. Stop emphasizing virtues of home ownership: Nothing has destroyed more American wealth in the last decade than the misplaced, misguided emphasis on home ownership. While it was virtuous to try to get minorities and low income households to own a home, it was neither realistic nor sustainable as we’ve seen. Nothing wrong in renting, people! Housing market is strictly a function of supply and demand, so government should stop interfering in the housing market, and let it improve with the uptick in employment and immigrants moving up the income curve.
4. Create More Effective Job Banks: One of the biggest problems we’re facing as a nation is the mismatch between jobs advertised and job skills. The internet job search has created a black hole thru which it’s very hard for candidates to get directly to hiring managers, thereby wasting everybody’s precious time and money. Why couldn’t there be a public/private job bank where volunteers similar to census workers could pre-screen resumes for private companies?
5. Provide jobs for Veterans, Homeless People, Petty Thieves, and Unemployed: So that we don’t condemn an entire generation to homelessness, despair and social assistance, we need local jobs programs that could pay reasonable wages to all those disadvantaged or unemployed for more than 6 months in exchange for essential work such as parks maintenance, street cleaning, neighborhood street patrolling, garbage pickup, infrastructure work, etc. E.g.Central Park, https://www.glwd.org/
6. Create manufacturing and design incubators: To rejuvenate U.S. economy, we’ll need to create local manufacturing incubators that share space, expertise, logistics, planning, warehousing and distribution. Politicians talk about energy independence, but what economic independence? Rather than becoming anti-imports, we need more products such as I-phones, I-pads and Kindle that are both Made in USA and price competitive at the same time. Problem now is securing components needed in the entire supply-chain and also getting affordable labor, but why not create localized supply chains through these incubators for microchips, toys, textiles and other labor intensive industries by training and employing the underemployed?
Rather than giving empty “Yes We Can” speeches, our politicians and business leaders should focus on public/private solutions that are local and entrepreneurial in nature. Businesses (at least SME’s) don’t create jobs thinking about tax rates, they create jobs by revenue growth and demand expectations. People who keep harping about tax credits as a precondition to creating jobs either knowingly or unknowingly ignore NOL’s and tax harvesting strategies that Corporates will employ even if the rate was 1%.
So let’s focus our energies in creating the right ground-up demand conditions and not wait for some bureaucrats in Washington for a hand-out!
Any Comments or Feedback? I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this article.
- The act of choosing; selection.
- The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choice )
Every minute of our lives, we are ‘Choosing’ i.e. selecting a course of action that brings about a particular effect. In other words, our process of choosing provides the cause and based on the choice we have an effect that affects us. In our daily lives we go through this process without even realising it. Where the effect has a low impact or is part of routine we don’t ponder on the choice for long. But when it’s to do with an issue that we feel is important, we do take our time to evaluate all the information we have and then ‘Choose’.
Yet, many a time, as professional managers, there are choices (for our careers, for our work and for our self-development) that we make where do not fully exercise C.H.O.I.C.E.
These simple six steps actually have been very helpful to me in decision-making and I hope it will also be helpful to you. Here’s how I use it:
Clarity Honesty Objectively Intelligently Commitment Express
- Understand what the problem, issue or opportunity clearly: without clearly understanding the issue we won’t know what information we need to solve it.
- Be clear on the result that you want i.e. the goal you want to achieve. Without clarity on the end result, we won’t know the destination we want to arrive at
- Be brutally honest with yourself and your team in identifying the problem or issue.
- And be honest in evaluating if you have the required resources and ability to deliver the chosen course of action to achieve the goal.
- Be rational in planning each step leading to the goal. Identify the skills, expertise and resources needed, who has them, where you can get them from and at what cost.
- Make the team members understand the problem and the solution recommended and how their individual skills and expertise would help in providing the solution to the problem. This will help in the team understanding their own responsibilities and value. In addition, it will help the team in developing trust for each other by knowing that individually they can’t achieve but pooling in their collective skills and working on each step together will bring them to achieve the end goal.
- Obtain the necessary information that you need to make an objective choice.
- Use information to fill in knowledge gaps where applicable i.e. a new market entry for a product—research the consumer segment, know all about the consumer’s need for the product you are going to introduce, understand competitive environment.
- Be committed to the task at hand. Show passion for it and own the project: A team that sees commitment will invariably be motivated to deliver their best as passion (with facts) is a very strong influencer in team dynamics.
- Communicate always with your team, your superiors, and juniors. Express your thoughts and your point of view succinctly and take feedback. This shows your willingness to make the choice based on rational and beneficial facts and empowers your team to support you in the decision-making process.
So the next time you need to make a choice, use these six steps. You may just surprise yourself at how smoothly you’d achieve your goal.
If you found CHOICE helpful then you’d like RENEW. Coming next– “PURPOSE” . Get it in your mail by subscribing to this blog by clicking on the Sign UP button on the right).