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Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

It was a match made in heaven. Research showed a healthy company. Financials checked out. Meetings went great. The courtship was a success. But after the transaction, seemingly out of nowhere, things didn’t go as expected.

From Amazon and Whole Foods to HP and Compaq and Marriott and Starwood — there is no shortage of bumpy integrations. Too often we hear, “We couldn’t have predicted this. We couldn’t have prevented this.” But is that true?

The pivotal mistake.

Watching organizations make investment decisions using traditional due-diligence is like watching the protagonist in a horror movie run upstairs from the murderer. WHY do they keep doing that when there are so many other options? Don’t they know the statistics are not in their favor?

Unfortunately, the odds are just as dismal on Wall Street as they are on Elm Street. Over 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to meet their objectives. Why?

To be fair, It’s not that traditional due diligence is missing the mark completely, it’s that it brushes over a critical component—the people. At the end of the day, it’s not just dollars, cents, and strategic plans that make a company successful, it’s the people. People control how dollars are spent. People are in charge of carrying out plans. Peoples’ behavior and decisions define workplace dynamics. People will make or break your investment.

Human beings are behind the numbers that we crunch and the strategies that we analyze when we target investments.

It’s critical to success that investors start looking beyond the numbers to leadership readiness and culture compatibility. That they are clear about strategic goals and weigh them against questions such as:

  • Are executives ready to lead through change?
  • Are your cultures compatible?
  • Is the team ready to scale?
  • Which norms and behaviors might prevent synergy?
  • Will existing dynamics obstruct success and growth?

These predictive insights are quantifiably proven to impact ROI after a transaction, so why is it not a mandatory component of the due diligence process? Perhaps because it’s normal to want to run in the opposite direction of things that seem counterproductive to our immediate objective. Analyzing people seems too subjective, too immeasurable to be an accurate and valuable indicator of ROI. But it’s the missing component that experts predict will be a game-changer in post-COVID mergers & acquisitions.

Flipping the script

The good news? After years of working with leaders to scale teams and build resilient companies, we have found that people are predictable (and coachable), patterns do emerge, and gathering quantitative data on leadership and culture is not only possible, but advantageous to transaction outcomes and ROI. A non-financial evaluation adds depth to due diligence by evaluating factors that are proven to impact an organization’s ability to thrive after a transaction. And incorporating these evaluations into a financial due diligence process is quite seamless.

As the M&A plotline continues to thicken in the wake of a tumultuous year, non-financial due diligence could mean the difference between a blockbuster transaction and another mediocre sequel.

Take your due diligence to the next level. 

Contact us to learn more.

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways. With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

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What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What has your journey been like over the past few months? Have you and your organization adapted to the current realities or are you still reeling and in shock? Collectively, we are facing an unprecedented adaptive challenge.

 

What’s an adaptive challenge?

In our current world, leaders must distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges (Heifetz, 2009).  Technical problems have technical solutions that can be applied using existing know-how and management best-practices (linear thinking). Adaptive challenges do not have known or obvious solutions. Instead, they require interdisciplinary dialogue to support the emergence of an adaptive approach (non-linear thinking). Most complex challenges have both a technical component and an adaptive one. But simply trying to apply a technical solution alone to an adaptive challenge will result in failure and frustration.

How does it affect your organization?

The current global crisis is reinforcing how difficult it is for organizations and people to pivot quickly and illuminating weaknesses that have been existing within organizations unresolved. Adaptive challenges feel very scary and threatening—they provoke deep fear and anxiety in us. When we feel deep fear and anxiety, we resort to dysfunctional behaviors (such as addictions, distractions, and busyness) to cope with these uncomfortable emotions or numb-out the pain. And in our work and personal relationships we can come across as aggressive, passive, or withdrawn.

Our ability to think creatively and act wisely is greatly diminished when we experience a prolonged threat response.  In such scenarios, we just do what it takes to survive from hour to hour, or even minute to minute. This approach works to a limited extent to help us feel safe in the near-term, but will ultimately keep us stuck in the long-term.

What is your responsibility as a leader?

In order to think clearly and act skillfully, we need to effectively manage our fear and anxiety. This is where true leadership is fundamental to overcoming these behaviors. The essential role of leadership is to support people to regulate their fear and anxiety. In order to do this, the leader must first have the capacity to self-regulate.

Adaptive leadership means dealing with the uncomfortable emotions of self and others in a productive way. Failing to address and respond effectively to fear and anxiety will undermine change efforts and sabotage attempts to successfully adapt to a chaotic business environment and world.

If a leader is not mature enough to regulate their own inner landscape, they will not be able to support others to do so. As a result, such a leader will not be capable of handling the complexity with which they are confronted. To develop the capacity to self-regulate fear and anxiety, leaders can use practices such as meditation and mindfulness at work. The most effective self-regulation practices involve an embodied experience of presence and awake-awareness.

However, due to blind spots, genetic programming, and powerful psychosomatic conditioning, it is nearly impossible to do this work alone. This work is often referred to as emotional intelligence development. Finding the trusted advisor or voice of reason with whom to bounce ideas will be critical to finding the correct path forward.  Whether it be a co-worker, business partner or outside advisor, finding someone to support the regulation of fear and anxiety will lead to creative thinking, skillful action, and adaptive approaches to tackle the extraordinary challenges at hand.

Reference:
Heifetz, Ronald A., Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press, 2009.

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways. With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways.

With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

For starters, look beyond the happy.

Workplace culture is often misconstrued for happiness—“are my employees happy?” But “happy” is just a bi-product of culture, not the definition of it. 

If you’re serious about promoting a culture that values diversity, equity, and belonging, here are some questions to ask beyond “are my employees happy?”

  1. Do all employees feel heard and feel comfortable being themselves?
  2. Do women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, etc, have higher turnover rates?
  3. Are employees in the same position being paid equally?
  4. Is there true representation at senior levels?
  5. What corporate goals, metrics, and incentive programs align with desired behaviors?

Next, take a look in the mirror.

Ultimately, workplace culture starts with its leadership. A leader’s decisions, what and how they communicate with others, the policies they create—all of this and more—set the foundation for culture. Leaders are the first stewards of an organization’s values and they must lead by example, personally practicing and reinforcing the behaviors and beliefs that they want to define their organizational culture.

Every member of a team has the potential to contribute to the culture of an organization as well. Each brings their own personality, perspectives, and realities to the table. But, it’s up to leaders to create an environment that enables them to do so (both a physical and psychological environment).  

Finally, shift intentionally

Cultures that are left on “autopilot” are likely to stray from an organization’s core values, and worse, allow unacceptable or toxic behaviors to become the norm. This can ripple outward, endangering everything from morale to the bottom line. 

An ideal culture is formed with intention and informed by clearly defined values. Start the shift by:

  1. Talking one-on-one with employees. Remember that as a leader, you do not have a monopoly on “the right way” of doing things. It is important to listen to employees’ ideas and concerns. 
  2. Re-evaluating your organizational value statement. Does it incorporate DEI values?
  3. Infusing your values into process, evaluations, and promotions. 
  4. Establishing D&I working groups and giving them a seat at all key leadership discussions.

Always remember that integrating diversity and inclusion values into your culture is not a linear process with a stationary endpoint. It involves ongoing evaluation, iteration, communication, and growth. Just as the conversation in our nation continues to evolve, so will your organization. It’s important to check in often, and push the cultural narrative forward with humility and intention.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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Conscient Strategies welcomes Carole Zawatsky

Conscient Strategies welcomes Carole Zawatsky

We are pleased to welcome Carole R. Zawatsky to the team.

Carole has worked in the arts, culture, and non-profit sector for over 25 years, and is known for facilitating dynamic partnerships between the funding community and the institutions she has directed. Most recently, she served as CEO of the Edlavitch DCJCC, where she raised over $20 million for a complete renovation of the 65,000 square foot historic building. Over the course of her tenure, Carole also expanded programming and brought national recognition to the Center for its world class arts and culture offerings. She stepped down from the position in June 2020 to join the Conscient Strategies team.

Known for building strong leadership teams that drive institutions forward, Carole approaches her work with optimism, enthusiasm, and creativity. She believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to leverage their natural talents builds the self-confidence necessary to grow as professionals. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

Carole’s leadership expertise make her an ideal addition to the Conscient Strategies team, and one that will surely be an asset to our clients.  To learn more about Carole, click here.  And, please join us in welcoming her to our team by sending her an email.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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Agile Strategy During Crisis

Agile Strategy During Crisis

During times of crisis, leaders need to focus on the countless urgent needs of the business. You need to make quick, and sometimes painful, decisions. Taking risks with an eye to the future might feel contrary to the desire to be protective of your operations. An agile approach to strategy can help you lead your team and take actions that help you to shift in crisis while positioning your organization to emerge from crisis successfully.

Your strategy should enable you to adapt, not hold you back, during times of chaos and uncertainty. The COVID-19 crisis is an extreme situation, exacerbating and highlighting the constant change and disruption that have characterized the environment over the past few years. During these uncertain times, your strategy provides guardrails for decision making.

 

 

Agility involves evaluating a rapidly evolving business environment, testing ideas, and continuously iterating on a living strategic plan.  Your strategy tells you who you are and what you are known for, things that are important to hold on to, even now. If you don’t have a living strategy, we recommend you set aside time to rapidly clarify  the defining elements of your organization. Does everyone on your team know your values, mission, and unique market proposition? What are the non-negotiable aspects of your culture? Once that critical, strategic first step to navigating successfully through this period is complete, you will have a better sense of how best to maneuver through this ever changing landscape.

Click here for more on agile strategic planning.

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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Culture in the Time of Imposed Telework

Culture in the Time of Imposed Telework

How to Make Your Culture Work for You through the Current Crisis

How are leaders maintaining organizational culture while everyone is unexpectedly working remotely? Recommendations focused on the tactical implementation of teleworking are exploding. How, though, does an organization continue to nurture the culture that is at the core of the business?

Leaders must focus on two main components – maintaining regular business functions and established operating rhythms as well as acknowledging that during crises, consideration for employees as individuals must be taken into account.

Some recommendations for maintaining organizational culture include:

  • Take time as a team to define what working remotely looks like. Outline expectations, address hesitations, and give your employees a chance to voice what they are thinking. Establish a sense of cohesion even when employees are not in the workplace.
  • Allow time for chit chat at the beginning or end of virtual meetings. This will create a sense of belonging and cultivate a resemblance to the in-person workplace environment.
  • Make it fun. Propose a contest to see who has the best home office or the funniest decorations in their home. Have employees post pictures on a secure intranet site, or share the best finds for binging on Netflix.
  • Keep all communication lines open and be intentional about communication. Leaders should initiate and actively seek communication. Email, text messages, Slack – allow people to use their preferred methods of communication and keep connectivity at a maximum.
  • Maintain your normal business rhythms as much as possible. All employees, if able, should be present on video at regularly scheduled meetings. Scheduled team lunches should remain on the calendar – just do them virtually!
  • Advocate for personal-professional separation. It can be hard to separate work from personal life, especially when you’re teleworking. Honor the end of the workday and urge your employees to do the same.

Exceptional circumstances require different responses at the individual level too. Individuals will confront different challenges, and working with employees to tackle their personal circumstances without worrying about any repercussions on their jobs is key to keeping your team engaged. As a bonus, this behavior also drives longer-term loyalty.

  • Be upfront about communication. Tell all your employees that they can raise any concerns with you. Make it easy for your employees to be forthright and honest about any personal changes that could affect their ability to do their job, and encourage them to work with the leaders to find a solution.
  • Create a safe platform for employees to anonymously post questions. Someone who is too afraid to approach you in person will be grateful for the safe space.
  • Relax policies and adjust guidelines. Employees who have to look after a sick relative or friend, have kids who can no longer go to school or daycare, or who are sick themselves, may no longer be able to work the same hours. Empathy, understanding, and a willingness to be flexible go a long way. Helping employees to feel valued and be heard are always important, and never more so than in these circumstances.
  • Update, update, update. This outbreak is constantly evolving. As information is updated, company policies might need to be modified. Keep your employees informed about any updates and do whatever you can to mitigate risk to the business and your employees.
  • Share, anonymously. With permission, share individuals’ circumstances and how you helped them make accommodations. This could help other employees in similar situations who either don’t know what to do or are reluctant to approach you.

We are dealing with an unprecedented situation that calls for exceptional measures and flexibility. Change is hard, and when it is thrust upon us, empathy, action, and creativity in solutioning are particularly helpful. Leadership drives behavior. Your thoughtful actions are likely to set the tone for the ways your employees behave towards you, the organization, and each other. Your organization might end up even stronger than before.

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways. With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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Worried about Retaining Your MVPs?

Worried about Retaining Your MVPs?

Employee churn is expensive. American businesses lose a combined $11 billion in profit due to employee turnover every year. In the nonprofit world, high staff turnover impacts more than the bottom line.

Pervasive staff burnout. Siloed teams. Strained budgets. The tendency to overburden enthusiastic new hires. The result is reduced quality of service and decreased impact for the communities those organizations serve. These challenges are all too common at nonprofits, but your organization doesn’t have to experience this turmoil.

How do you retain your MVPs on a nonprofit budget?

As a nonprofit executive, I was in leadership at an organization that served children with disabilities and communities affected by homelessness and hunger. Creating one-size-fits-one community programs was challenging and fulfilling. My dedicated team was resilient and worked tirelessly to serve our clients.

Leading that organization gave me the opportunity to recruit and hire top talent. I had to learn how to leverage limited resources and inspire a thriving culture to retain those MVPs. Over time, I successfully kept my top people by following the principle of the three Rs:

Reconnect
Repurpose
Re-engage

Principle 1: Reconnect your team to a greater purpose
The first step towards retaining your MVPs is to reconnect them to the mission. Remember that your staff likely traded higher compensation elsewhere for the opportunity to do meaningful work. As a leader, consistently return to that mission at meetings, in conversation, through performance feedback, during challenging deadlines, and when celebrating success.

Articulate each individual’s roles, responsibilities, goals and growth in the context of your mission and the overall team effort. By giving your team the why behind their tasks on an ongoing basis, you connect them to each other and to a greater purpose. Seeing the value of their daily efforts feeds your MVP’s internal motivation to do great work.

Principle 2: Repurpose existing resources
Nonprofits often have an inspired vision for their clients, but operate out of a sense of scarcity when it comes to their own staff. Siloed teams often compete for funds and see other departments as rivals rather than partners. In this context, individuals hoard their knowledge and resources, stifling cross-team learning and professional growth.

By repurposing existing resources and leveraging your MVPs strengths, you create a learning culture that will both retain current staff and help you recruit future leaders.

Within my own team, I accomplished this by incorporating our mission into an MVP development charter. We clarified the values and incorporated mutual trust and open communication into our business operations and management practices. We then created an internal training and staff development model that connected teams, fostered knowledge sharing and rewarded learning and collaboration. In that environment, my MVPs felt recognized and valued, and offered their excellence and loyalty in return.

Principle 3: Re-engage leadership and ownership at every level
Positively engaged leaders can inspire engagement across an organization. To keep your MVPs invested, it is important to have a shared vision for how they can grow and develop over time.

Be curious about your employee’s unique strengths, particularly those that may not manifest within their daily responsibilities. As you identify those strengths, re-organize teams to ensure the right people are in the right roles and connect MVPs with mentors.

Establishing a mentorship program creates connection and communication between different teams. Mentor young MVPs for future roles as a senior leader and take the time to equip senior MVPs with the skills they need to stay at the top of their game. Purposefully building teams that leverage unique strengths and support each other lead to higher levels of engagement, happiness and productivity.

 

Remember, money is not the only motivator for your top talent. MVPs stay where they feel valued and have opportunities to learn and grow. Your organization’s compelling mission and innovative projects may have attracted great people. By reconnecting, repurposing and re-engaging your team, you can create an environment that makes them want to stay.

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

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As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways. With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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The Change Offensive: Part II

The Change Offensive: Part II

In our last post we discussed why employees (and most people) resist change even though change is critical to the ongoing success of organizations. We identified 4 major causes of resistance:

  • Upending Routine: Much of what employees do day-to-day is habit, and habits are deeply ingrained and take a great deal of time to change.
  • Social Bonds at Work Drive Performance: Strong relationships at work are a key predictor of performance. Shaking up and breaking those bonds leave employees unable to focus productively on work.
  • Excellent Presentations, and no Communication: When leaders tell and sell, employees don’t listen. Communication is a two-way endeavor.
  • WIFM (What’s in it for me?): When employees don’t know if a change will affect them positively or negatively, they are unlikely to support the change.

So in the midst of a strategy realignment, a post-merger integration, growth, or leadership change, how can senior management excite and engage employees? Our experience has highlighted 5 key actions that make change happen more smoothly and sustainably.

  1. Articulate and Share Your Vision: What is the purpose of the change? What is the vision driving the change? What will the business and the organization look like? Being part of a movement to achieve a goal creates momentum and engagement. Doing so requires a shared vision and a clear understanding of the actions and milestones, of the benefits to be had, and of one’s role in making it all happen.
  2. Cultivate Followers: People want to be involved in high-energy movements. When “everyone” is involved, no one wants to be left behind. Creating a movement, however, requires that the first few followers are key influencers, people whom others WANT to follow. Carefully selecting the first few followers and involving them in the change is critical. Nurture your Change Champions, create opportunities for them to showcase their excitement about the change at hand. Be explicit about the role of the Champions and be sure they see What’s In It For Them.
  3. Release Those Who Don’t Fit: Angry, bitter employees and those who dig in their heels and actively reject change can sabotage your best efforts. Just as Change Champions can create excitement, Poisonous Pats cause doubt and fear among their peers. Give people time to adapt and the attention they might need to understand the change, but once you definitely decide that an employee is a bad fit, take action.
  4. Allow Realistic Time for Individuals’ to Change: People experience loss, fear, curiosity and then acceptance. People and organizations in the throes of change move from a state of disruption to disorder and with the right support will emerge with a fresh perspective and increased engagement. Each person is at a different place on the continuum at any given time and will stay at each point for a different length of time. Make sure that your plan allows people to travel at their own pace.
  5. Tell Employees How the Change Affects Them: No matter how lofty and exciting your new vision and strategy might be, every employee worries about how the change will affect her personally. Be as clear as possible as early as possible. Employees worried about losing their jobs, losing their power, or losing what they most enjoy at work are measurably less productive. Let them know what is in store for them.

Understanding why change is so hard and how to overcome the challenges eases the journey for all. Most of all, share your excitement! It is contagious.

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A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

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read more
How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways. With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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The Change Offensive: Part I

The Change Offensive: Part I

Organizations must change & evolve. Research suggests that 80% of employees expect continuous rapid change within the workplace. And yet, human behavior tells us that individuals strongly resist change.

What makes organizations change? They respond to changing markets, or they take the lead and change a market. They respond to disruptive forces, or they disrupt. They change their culture to stem employee turnover, or they redesign the workplace to attract and retain new generations. Whether proactively or reactively, organizations change. Without attention to these changing forces within and around them, organizations fail.

Employees applaud the idea of organizational change, yet they resist change that affects them personally. The resistance to changing comes from two sources:

  • Internal – Changing habits and routines is difficult. Changing how we perceive the world around us and our place in that world is even harder. Habits and routines make living and working easier, and the constancy of our perceptions creates stability.
  • External – Change around us can be threatening. Why would someone support change that might not be in his or her best interest?

In this post, we delve into WHY change is SO hard. In the next post, we will discuss what you can do about it.

What Makes Changing So Difficult?

Upending Routine. Just give it a year (or more). It takes time for new behaviors to replace the worn physical and mental grooves of old behaviors, and the pace of change varies by individual. Phillippa Lally at University College London found that it took on average 66 days for simple new habits, such as drinking a glass of water with lunch, to become automatic. And the time required to form those new habits ranged from 18 to 254 days. A great deal of what employees do at work is habitual, and habits make everyone more efficient. Habits allow us to free up brain space to focus on key issues. Change requires that many daily habits are modified or shifted. That takes time.

Social bonds at work drive performance. Strong relationships at work are a key predictor of performance. Two work-related findings from much of the psychological research on happiness are that (1) people who have a best friend at work are more highly engaged and significantly more likely to engage their customers, and (2) social support at work increases feelings of personal control at work. Organizational change often disrupts those bonds. A lack of trust and increased fear result; dealing with those emotions affects both productivity and quality of output. Who has time to focus on work when they are expending so much energy on resisting change and protecting themselves?

Excellent presentations, and no communication. Social media has thrived partly because people believe their friends more than they believe experts or those in authority. Groups of friends in conversation listen to one another; they share ideas and insights and feelings; they engage over time. But when communication is a series of one-way presentations, individuals allot the presenter about 60 seconds to capture their attention, establish credibility, and motivate them to listen. They also discount all those upbeat superlatives often used to define the coming change and its benefits. Employees do not want to be “sold;” they don’t like announcements and presentations. They want to participate in a web of conversations. Not feeling heard, and not hearing from personally trusted sources, creates a culture of fear.

WIFM (What’s in it for Me?). WIFM has been around a long time, and it is still at the core of much resistance to change. Employees who do not understand how they will personally be affected will rarely support a change. Uncertainty generally creates negativity and can significantly affect productivity. So, what IS in it for an individual? Why should employees support change that might change a work environment that they like – or leave them unemployed?

This is why change is hard, and few proactively embrace it. But stay tuned. We will be sharing how you can ensure that the people who work for you embrace change and don’t bring down your business.

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A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

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Preventing your Growth from Killing Your Business

Preventing your Growth from Killing Your Business

A perfectly round and bouncy balloon explodes if it gets too big. Small, perfectly formed pastries lose their shape and structural integrity when made too large. When you take something that works beautifully and try to make it bigger, it often does one of two things. It explodes, or it loses its shape and function.

Organizations are much the same. How do you take a well functioning organization and scale it successfully? How do you ensure that the elements that kept it together won’t begin to sag? Or explode?

Scaling successfully involves two parallel efforts. Procedures and processes need to be restructured to maintain efficiency and quality. A lot of attention is usually paid to this effort.

Culture, however, is often ignored, and culture often causes growth to stall or stumble or collapse. How do you maintain the intimacy and transparency and trust of a small team of 10 when it expands to 50? To 200? To 2000?

We have been working with an organization to scale their operations from one location and a handful of people to four locations coast to coast. The culture of the team had been carefully nurtured and was key to the initial success of the group. Then the team expanded.

With growth, not everyone knew each other; team meetings involved sporadic video technology and sometimes static audio; “sharing” was becoming politic rather than a chance to delve into key issues. The leadership wanted to maintain the culture that had brought them success. To do so, we had to unpack the culture and reassemble how it manifests itself.

Articulating the elements of the culture, and specifying the implications of each of the stated behaviors is critical to scaling culture. For example, most organizations say that they want “A+” employees. But does that mean you want technical experts? The most well-rounded individuals? Team players? And what do you do with competent and well-liked B employees? Should they be terminated? What are the implications for recruiting? Hiring? Performance feedback?

Restructuring meetings is fundamental. The weekly team meeting that had fostered support had deteriorated into quick updates that kept the leadership informed but did little to unite the team. So, we cancelled the weekly meeting and created a new meeting structure. Because knowledge & information sharing is core to the culture, we have also built a knowledge management and communication structure around the meetings. Small groups of 4-6 cross-location staff meet every other week to recreate the intimacy and deep sharing that used to happen at the staff meeting. Leadership is not invited. This is safe space to talk about challenges and insights. The alternate week is devoted to location specific meetings, with an all staff meeting taking its place every 6 weeks. Once a quarter, the whole team physically gets together.

Leadership focus on culture is central for the scaling plan. We created a specific time in the new meeting structure for leadership to meet and discuss only the culture of the team. The agenda is simple: leaders from across the locations gather to discuss specific behaviors in order to identify cracks in the team before they become critical – pink flags before they turn into red flags. This time also helps ensure that all locations stay aligned and do not create rogue cultures.

Bottom line: As business grows, scaling and nurturing culture is critical to keeping the organization intact and in shape.

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