Archive | May, 2010

Memorial Day: Remember Those Who Lost Their Lives in American Wars

Monday May 31, 2010, is the USA’s annual Memorial Day celebration, a time to remember the sacrifices made by US service men and women who gave their lives to protect our country and the freedoms we hold so dear. I wanted to learn more about the history of this holiday, so went to the US Department of Veterans Affairs web site for more information.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans established “Decoration Day” as a time to decorate the graves of our war dead with flowers. Some communities had already held springtime tributes as early as 1866. It wasn’t until after World War I that the day was expanded to honor all who have died in American wars.

In 1971 Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, scheduled for the last Monday in May.

Throughout our country’s history, our national culture has expected Americans to demonstrate appreciation for those called to serve and for those who lost their lives serving our country. That has not always happened (witness the reception our Vietnam War veterans received upon their return from duty in the 70′s), but expressions of gratitude are consistently demonstrated today for the men and women currently serving and for those who lost their lives in service to our country.

A crowd of about 5,000 people attended the first Memorial Day ceremony in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance. The tradition of placing small American flags on each grave began at that first ceremony and continues at many national cemeteries today.

Over 1.1 million Americans have died in the nation’s wars. Let us honor their sacrifice by taking part in the “National Moment of Remembrance,” enacted by Congress in late 2000. Wherever you are at 3pm local time on Memorial Day, pause for a minute of silence to remember those who have died in service to our nation.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How Aligned are your Company’s Vision, Strategy, Systems, and Goals?

I’m looking forward to a visit with my chiropractor this week before I start back on the road. I know that my day-to-day activity can cause my body’s bones and musculature to get out of alignment. Two back surgeries and nearly six decades of gravity take their toll. Dr. Doug’s magic touch helps release muscle groups that hold me in an ineffective, unhealthy posture.

I swear by the magic touch of another practitioner, as well: Becky, my massage therapist and acupuncturist. Her work has increased my awareness of bad habits and muscle tension that get in the way of the body’s energy flow. When my “chi” is flowing freely, I’m more present, more focused, more at peace, and more able to apply my skills and enthusiasm in effective ways.

As a human who was brought up valuing Western medicine (“just take this pill, it’ll be all better!”), the effectiveness of their work has helped my beliefs change to embrace these very powerful approaches.

Alignment in Organizations

These experts’ work on my physical, mental, and spiritual being have also increased my appreciation for alignment within organizations. When I engage with senior leaders to help them refine their organization’s culture, I start with interviewing senior leadership team members and select managers, supervisors, and front line staff to learn how the culture operates today.

When I compare current practices with the best practices of high performing, values aligned cultures, I consistently find unclear vision and strategy. Gaps typically include goals in one part of the organization that are in conflict with goals in other parts of the organization. Systems typically have evolved to support current practices, despite inconsistent quality, poor customer service experiences, and difficulty getting agreement about how to address daily issues.

Just as my mis-aligned skeletal structure and musculature cause me pain and difficulty in moving, mis-aligned organizational vision, strategy, structure, systems, and goals waste time and money, and cause conflict and poor productivity.

How can you learn if these key organizational elements are aligned? Ask this question of a random sample of leaders and front line staff: “What gets measured, monitored, and rewarded around here?” It is very likely that you will find that the culture emphasizes results and performance, yet doesn’t equally emphasize values or valued behaviors. You may also discover competing goals – a classic circumstance is the drive for sales creates division and friction in the delivery or manufacturing side of the business.

Start at the Top

Begin with the end in mind: revisit your organization’s vision of the future. What do you want to be to key stakeholders, who include customers and employees? Clearly state what your vision is, seek input from all staff, the communicate the final draft throughout the organization.

Formalize your organization’s strategy by answering questions like these:

  • What and/or who is your target market?
  • What do customers in that market need?
  • Which of your products and services best address those needs? Are there new products and services you could offer that address those needs more effectively than your current product/service mix does?
  • How will you communicate your solution(s) to that target market?
  • How will you know when you’ve made an impact in that market? What metrics will you use to gauge your success?

Formalize that strategy in a written statement. Share it with all employees to seek their insights, then publish your final draft and communicate it broadly throughout your organization.

Only after vision and strategy are clear can you take on mis-aligned systems and goals. Aligning these elements is a great deal of work that requires constant monitoring and refinement. But that’s what effective senior leaders do. Every day.

What alignment strategies work for you & your body – and for your work team? Share your insights in the comments sections below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Three Ways to Engage Employee’s Heads, Hearts, and Hands

I am working with a new culture change client, which is always an exciting experience for me. Despite working successfully with clients to help refine their cultures for over a decade, I have learned that I have not seen it all and don’t know it all. Each organization is different, and the opportunity for change is different. I must be open to how our proven process can help a particular culture shift to a more desired state.

My coaching efforts with this organization’s senior leaders has focused on one key concept – that their job as senior leaders is to create a high performing, values-aligned culture where employees commit their heads, hearts, and hands to their efforts. Every day, with every task, with every interaction.

Most senior leaders see their role as that of managing processes and results within their functional units. The role models they’ve had through their careers probably reinforced that belief – and it is likely the culture they live in today reinforces that belief. Yet when I ask senior leaders about their best bosses – managers they worked for that created an environment where those senior leaders were very productive while, at the same time, were very excited and engaged in their work – they don’t tell me how focused their best boss was on their results. They tell me how inspiring their best boss was, linking their unique skills to the task at hand, praising and encouraging their progress, teaching them how to do new tasks in service to their customers, and helping them feel how much their contribution was valued.

For them, as for me, my best boss helped engage my head, heart, and hands.

Engage my Head

To make followers smart about their work, best bosses educate their followers about the context of their efforts. They share business strategy, customer needs, and explain the systems in place to help deliver products and services to meet those needs. Building knowledge of how the follower’s skills create valuable products and services, how to best work with other departments, and how our company makes money helps followers make great decisions when the boss isn’t around.

Engage my Heart

For followers to love their jobs, their tasks, their boss, their company, and their customers, they must feel respected, honored, and trusted. They must believe that they are paid fairly, and experience gratitude from co-workers, bosses, and even customers, for a job well done. When mistakes are made, best bosses treat followers as smart, kind people who had a mis-step, not as morons who shouldn’t have gotten out of bed that morning.

Engage my Hands

This is where most bosses focus their efforts today, yet it is only one of three vital areas to proactively manage. Application of developed skills at the right place and time is how consistent high-performance is reached. Only when business strategy, customer needs, and opportunity are evaluated can development of required competencies occur before they’re needed.

When I’m able to help senior leaders understand that they need to be their direct reports’ best bosses, they proactively shift their behaviors from managing processes and results to managing people’s energy!

How are you doing at these three vital engagements? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Demonstrated ROI of Culture Change

When I meet with senior leaders to discuss the impact of culture on their business, I am not surprised to learn that many senior leaders don’t understand that powerful impact. I ask questions like, “What would the creation of a high performance, values-aligned culture mean to your business?” and “How would employees, customers, and stakeholders benefit?” Our discussions help senior leaders understand that they may not have much experience with a values aligned culture. Most are intrigued by the possibility.

However, there is nothing like demonstrated return on investment (ROI) to generate strong senior leader interest in our proven culture change process.

I have helped many organizations around the globe create high performance, values-aligned organizational cultures. The underlying principles of our process are simple: clarify performance expectations, define values in behavioral terms, and hold leaders and staff accountable for both. Implementing these principles is hard work over time, but the results can be astounding.

Our approach has a 10 year track record of demonstrated ROI. Here are highlights from select global clients:

  • ASDA – Since implementing Blanchard’s culture change process, this retail division of Walmart in the UK has been voted the number one employer of choice in a survey conducted by The Sunday Times. 80% of employees believe management listens to and understands their needs. In terms of sales and profit, the company has outperformed the whole of the UK retail sector for growth over a two year span, with profit goals well ahead of plan.
  • Banta Catalog Group – This catalog printing and distribution center outside of Minneapolis, MN generated significant benefits during the culture change process. Two years after starting the process, the plant found:
    • Profitability has increased 36%.
    • Within 6 months employee engagement improved 20%.
    • Employee Retention improved 17%.
    • Recruiting costs have decreased.
    • Training costs for new employees have decreased.
    • Employees actively look for ways to cut costs and improve the work environment.
  • Bowater Pulp and Paper – This newsprint manufacturer and de-inking facility had generated positive impact from a total quality initiative, but Patrice Cayouette, VP and plant manager, wanted to “engage employee’s hearts.” Blanchard’s culture change process helped the Bowater senior leadership team do that. Bowater has realized more than $50 million in cost reductions, health and safety records have improved, and employee satisfaction has risen dramatically. In comparative studies prior to and following the culture change initiative, employees indicated (among other positive changes) 20% improvement in quality being a priority; 40% increase in clarity of work objectives and responsibilities; 20% gain in employees having authority to make decisions; 44% in management follow-up to employee suggestions; and 24% increase in positive interdepartmental relations. In addition, the company has been named a Dow Jones gold medal service and quality winner for several years in a row.
  • Foodstuffs Auckland Limited – New Zealand’s biggest grocery distributor and retailer chose Blanchard’s culture change process to build on their successes and develop leaders at all levels of the organization to ensure focused growth in their market. Results from the program have been exceptional. Within the first year, ROI on the project has been over $600,000, a more than tenfold return on the training investment. In addition, participation, collaboration, ownership, teamwork, morale, and the inspiration to make a difference have all increased. Foodstuffs has achieved:
    • A 28% reduction in employee turnover within three months in just one supermarket
    • A 1% out-of-stock reduction, resulting in $100,000 additional profit
    • A reduction in delivered cost per carton of 9.5% through one of their Distribution Centers, resulting in $200,000 in additional profit
    • A huge positive shift in employee morale and attitude. One employee comments, “This has been extremely valuable; I want to pass it along to others. It provides the skills needed to have an impact in the workforce and turns values into behaviors and performance.”

These numbers are significant, and prove that Blanchard’s culture change process can have a real dollar positive impact on your business.

What is your experience? When you’re in a high performing, values aligned work environment, what ROI benefits have you seen? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Accountability = Consequence Management

One of the issues I hear most consistently from senior leaders, managers, and supervisors is their daily struggle to hold staff members and teams accountable for performance or for values. One senior leader recently told me, “It’s so hard to hold people accountable when you’ve known them for years and years. I just wish they’d do what they said they’d do!”

I spent 15 years in non-profit management and, honestly, I experienced the same struggles. I believed that:

  • My staff members should know what they are supposed to do.
  • They should be committed to doing it, and
  • What the heck is going on now? They’re not delivering and I’m frustrated.

(That’s a lot of “shoulds” in one belief, isn’t it?)

The reality is that, without consequence management, you are not leading, you are creating chaos. Your credibility is maintained, day by day, when you do what you say you will do. For example, if you announce that, from this point forward, every team member will be expected to demonstrate our team’s valued behaviors, you have set a standard. Educating team members about desired valued behaviors is important, but, without accountability, those valued behaviors are just one more set of expectations that your employees can ignore.

In this scenario, unless you proactively praise those who demonstrate desired valued behaviors (positive consequences) and coach/redirect those who do not demonstrate desired valued behaviors (negative consequences), the standard you set is not real. If the standards you set are not real, then your team members cannot trust your word, your feedback, your coaching, or your direction. The result? Chaos.

One of my best bosses, Jerry Nutter, helped me learn that accountability is really not that complicated. Jerry taught me that holding people accountable involves three steps, all of which are the leader’s responsibility.

Three Steps

  1. Clear Expectations: Begin by formalizing your expectations. Ken Blanchard says that all good performance starts with clear goals. Describe the outcome in specific terms: “Your goal is to reduce waste on your team’s shift by 10% by the end of the month.” Formalize the expectation in writing (hard copy or electronic, whichever works for you and your team member).
    This step isn’t finished until you gain agreement by the responsible player to meet or exceed the expectation.
  2. Proactive Observation: Seek information about your team member’s performance on that expectation. Take time to watch your team member working on the goal or task. Create feedback channels so that the team member’s key internal and/or external customers can provide you with their perceptions about goal or task delivery (or progress). Gather and review these data points so you will be confident of the team member’s performance on that expectation.
  3. Consequence Management: Apply the appropriate consequences. If they are doing what they committed to do, praise, encourage, and reward the team member. If they are not doing what they committed to to, engage them in a conversation to understand why progress has not been made. If you learn that it is an ability problem (i.e. circumstances have gotten in the way of their performance on this goal or task or they do not have the skills to complete the task), you may have to renegotiate the deadline, provide training, etc. If you learn it is a motivation problem, coaching, redirection, or even a reprimand will help them learn that you’re watching and you require they deliver on their commitment.

One thought – in most organizations, leaders and employees alike believe they are not praised or encouraged regularly. There are a lot of good things that employees do every day – be sure to praise and encourage legitimate progress towards goal accomplishment. If you are seen as a leader that praises and encourages regularly – as well as coaches and redirects when that’s needed – you will go a long ways towards creating mutual trust and respect.

If you struggle with holding staff members accountable, try this approach. Give it time and stay committed to this accountability strategy. Over time, your staff will learn that when you say something, you mean it, and you will hold them accountable for their agreements. Your employees will be more satisfied, your customers will receive higher quality products and services from your team, and you will not “should” yourself to an early grave!

How well are consequences managed (proactively) in your organization? Do people keep their promises and honor their commitments without consequence management in your company? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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