Leading through a Seismic Shift

As the pandemic fades, people are returning to a new, hybrid workplace—where some are working from home and others are back in the office. To guide leaders through in this unfamiliar territory, our company has been offering a series of free, helpful webinars. You can sign up for them here.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our organizational cultures have changed over the last 15 months. The old rules no longer apply and the new rules, it seems, are up for grabs.

Harnessing the Power of Your Organizational Culture

In the new, hybrid work environment, how do leaders get the support of their employees and return to pre-pandemic levels of performance?

New York Times bestselling author Stan Slap provides lots of great ideas in the first webinar of our five-part series, “Back to Better: How to Return Your People, Purpose, and Performance.”

“This is not a physical relocation issue,” says Stan. “This is a cultural commitment issue.” Stan is a lively and entertaining guy, so it’s fun to watch him explain how leaders must work with the existing organizational culture to create predictability, energy, and a sense of belonging and relevance.

He also expresses the importance of the human connection: “Be a human first and a manager second.” Great advice!

Taking Advantage of a Rare Opportunity

In the second seminar in our Return to the Workplace Series, “Vision & Execution: Making the Most of an Opportunity to Change Your Organization,” Scott Blanchard makes an important point: this moment in time presents a rare opportunity for leaders to influence their organizations.

“Right now, return-to-work is a critical strategic mission for almost every company out there,” Scott says. He stresses that now is the time for leaders to step up.

“Leaders might be underleading the return to work,” he continues. “Our company’s research reveals that up to 75 percent of people report needing more direction from their leaders, not less.”

Scott points out that good things rarely happen by accident. “When good things are happening in an organization—from a Girl Scout troop all the way up to a nation state—it’s always a leader who is responsible for creating that positive momentum. And whenever things are not going well, the leadership of the organization is a part of that situation.”

Creating an Engaging Picture of the Future

The world has changed in the past year and a half, and your organizational vision and return-to-work strategy need to reflect that.

Scott stresses how important it is for leaders to take concrete steps and pivot to the future. “Peter Drucker said that the only things that happen naturally in organizations are inefficiency, friction, and political mayhem. This is especially true in an environment where things are changing.”

So, what is the solution to the potential chaos in your organization?

“Success requires a vision, a plan, and the tenacity to stick with the plan,” says Scott. “First, create an engaging picture of the post-pandemic future that excites people and inspires them about your mission. Next, help people see how their current roles and responsibilities connect to that vision.”

Leading Successful Change Requires High Involvement

Leaders cannot pull off successful change strategies without the support of their people. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to be other focused rather than self-focused. What do your people need to deliver on the vision and plan? What are their concerns? Are you listening to their feedback, including them in decision-making, and staying involved as the plan moves forward?

Research shows that top-down change—where leaders do little more than set the strategy—is often doomed to failure. Yet more than 80 percent of organizations still manage change from the top down.

An Epic Shift

Transitioning to the hybrid workplace “is an epic shift of millions of people,” Scott concludes. Now more than ever, your behavior as a leader matters. Your people want to know: “Does my leader have my back?” If the answer is no, they will become disengaged, and your strategy is likely to get derailed. If the answer is yes, this can be an exciting new chapter for you and your organization.

Learn More in Our July 7 and July 21 Webinars

What’s the best way to communicate in the new, hybrid workplace? How do you regain people’s trust and support? Find out in our next two complimentary webinars. To register, use this link: https://www.kenblanchard.com/Events-Workshops/Returning-to-Workplace-Series.

Creating a Gung Ho Culture

If you follow me on Twitter (@KenBlanchard) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KenBlanchard/), you may have noticed that I recently posted about being in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take part in a celebration at a company called Mudd Advertising. The company, which was founded by my friend Jim Mudd Sr. was celebrating 20 years of using the principles of Gung Ho!, a book I wrote in 1998 with Sheldon Bowles from Winnipeg, Canada. I met Sheldon through the Young President’s Organization (YPO) when I spoke at one of their big conferences.

Sheldon gave me a first draft of a manuscript entitled Raving Fans and said he wanted me to coauthor it with him. I was polite and said I would read it—but as we were going back to our room, Margie and I both wondered how good it could be. After all, Sheldon was the president of a company, not a writer. Little did we know that he had been a journalist when he was young and the draft was terrific. Do I need to say more? Raving Fans was a major bestseller!

Our follow-up book, Gung Ho!, was a response to people asking “How do we turn our employees into Raving Fans of the organization they work for?” Sheldon and I were told that a lot of organizations were trying to create Raving Fan service with tired, uninspired, and even resentful employees who, in many instances, hated to go to work. Wow! What a challenge.

So Sheldon talked to Native American leaders and developed three secrets to creating a Gung Ho culture: the Secret of the Squirrel; the Way of the Beaver; and the Gift of the Goose. These secrets became the basis of Sheldon’s and my second best-selling book, which for 20 years has been required reading for each new employee at Mudd Advertising and central to the way they operate.

When you enter Mudd’s corporate headquarters, one of the first things you see is a mural depicting the Gung Ho philosophy:

SPIRIT OF THE SQUIRREL: Worthwhile Work

  • Knowing we make the world a better place.
  • Everyone works toward a shared goal.
  • Values guide all plans, decisions, and actions.

WAY OF THE BEAVER: In Control of Achieving the Goal

  • A playing field with clearly marked territory.
  • Thoughts, feelings, needs, and dreams are respected, listened to, and acted upon.
  • Able but challenged.

GIFT OF THE GOOSE: Cheering Each Other On

  • Active or passive, congratulations must be TRUE (Timely, Responsive, Unconditional, and Enthusiastic).
  • No score, no game, and cheer the progress.
  • E = MC2—Enthusiasm equals mission times cash and congratulations

At The Ken Blanchard Companies, we’ve endeavored to create a Gung Ho culture by providing worthwhile work—our mission is that someday, everywhere, everyone will be impacted by someone leading at a higher level; by empowering our people to be in charge of achieving our goals in a way that creates Raving Fan customers; and finally, throughout the process, by cheering each other on and catching each other doing things right.

If you think your company would benefit from a Gung Ho culture, it probably would!

Greetings from a Servant Leader

“Good morning everyone, this is Ken. It’s a little bit after eight o’clock in San Diego, California….”

That’s an example of the way I begin my morning message that goes out to most of the people in our company every weekday morning. I’ve been doing it for the better part of twenty years now!

When folks outside of the company hear that I send a daily morning message to our people, they usually ask, “How can you think of something new to say every single day?” They think it sounds like a lot of trouble. But I enjoy doing it. Why? Because knowing that people are expecting my daily message compels me every day to think of things I feel lucky about. What did I do yesterday that was interesting? What did I learn? I’ll ask for prayers and love to be sent out when I hear someone is ill or when they lose a loved one. And sometimes it’s about celebration—I’ll congratulate a person or a whole department on something specific they did right, like giving great service to a client or making a big sale.

Sending out a daily message helps me stay in touch with almost everyone in our company at once. I’ve been told it keeps our company culture top of mind for people I don’t get to see very often—those who work in the field or in other parts of the world.

Sending a morning message does as much for me as it does for the people who receive it. I highly recommend it as a great communication tool for any servant leader!

Improve Collaboration with a Safe and Trusting Culture

As a leader, do you create a safe and trusting environment where your people can express concerns and share information freely? That might be a difficult question for some of you to answer. In our new book, Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew and I describe how to build trust and take responsibility for creating a culture of collaboration.

In the previous post I introduced the UNITE acronym to describe the five elements that every person must adopt to make collaboration a part of the corporate culture. We encourage everyone to Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talk openly; and Empower themselves and others. I wrote about Utilizing differences in the last post and this time I want to share more about how to Nurture safety and trust.

The best way to start is by being a role model for the behavior you want to see in others. Share your own knowledge openly and encourage others to speak freely without fear of judgment. Welcome people’s ideas and truly give them consideration before making a decision. Give and receive feedback without judgment and be accessible, authentic, and dependable.

To build trust with your team, view mistakes and failures as learning opportunities and discuss them openly. If you punish people for making mistakes, they will learn quickly to cover them up and you’ll miss important opportunities to avoid future mishaps. I’ve found that some of the greatest learning moments happen when mistakes are shared and discussed. Encouraging these kinds of discussions will lead to smoother processes, improved communication, and innovative thinking.

To help people feel safe in their working environment, be transparent when making decisions. Make sure people know their role and what a good job looks like, and give them freedom to experiment. If people know what is expected of them and the boundaries they can operate in, they will flourish.

Rate yourself as a leader who Nurtures safety and trust by asking yourself these questions.

  1. Do I encourage people to speak their mind?
  2. Do I consider all ideas before decisions are made?
  3. Do I share knowledge freely?
  4. Do I view mistakes as learning opportunities?
  5. Am I clear with others about what I expect?

If you answered yes to most of the questions, you probably have created a safe and trusting environment for your people. But pay attention to where you answered no so that you can continue to build a strong culture of collaboration, because as the book title says—collaboration begins with you.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

Five Keys to Great Customer Service

Legendary Service Book CoverThink of a time when you experienced really excellent service. Now compare that to a time when the service you received was just acceptable—okay, but nothing special. Which organization do you want to do business with again? I’ll bet it’s the one where someone made you feel valued and cared for—someone who understood the true importance of Legendary Service.

That’s the central message of my latest book, Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care. It’s a story that I think will change the way people look at service. I wrote it with my colleagues Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey, two experts on customer service. As coauthors of our Legendary Service customer service training program, Kathy and Vicki have spent years teaching the concepts of Legendary Service to clients in every industry.

What we know from working with companies of all sizes is that most organizations recognize the necessity of offering great customer service, but few really get it right. They zero in on specific tactics or trendy catchphrases, or they provide training to just a small number of people in customer service roles. They don’t understand that the best companies work to create a true service culture—where taking care of customers is everyone’s responsibility, not just the job of the people in the customer service department. These companies look at service from three equally important perspectives:

  1. Frontline service providers, who play a critical role because they are the ones who have direct contact with the customer.
  2. Managers, who not only empower their frontline people to provide exemplary service, but also act as role models for both internal and external service excellence.
  3. Senior leaders, who fully embrace the service initiative and communicate desired behaviors to the entire organization. Their goal is to create an environment where associates feel that they are valued internal customers of the organization so that they, in turn, want to take care of external customers and make them feel valued.

Legendary Service is really an inside-out issue—in two ways. At an organizational level, creating loyal external customers begins by taking care of your internal customers—your people.  At a personal level, providing great service begins when you realize that, as an individual, you have control over the service experience each of your customers receives. You can create a loyal customer by the service you provide.

To get at this dual focus, we use a model we call ICARE. We believe that there are five steps to becoming a Legendary Service provider:

  • Ideal Service: Meet the customer’s needs on a day-to-day basis by acting on the belief that service is important
  • Culture of Service: Foster an environment that focuses on serving the customer
  • Attentiveness: Know your customers and their preferences
  • Responsiveness: Demonstrate a genuine willingness to serve others as you fulfill their individual needs
  • Empowerment: Take the initiative to implement the service vision

We’ve found that the lessons of this simple model, when applied, will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers—both internal and external—will receive.

You can find out more by joining my coauthor Kathy Cuff on April 16 for a free webinar called Creating A Customer Focused Organization, where she will be sharing some of the book’s key concepts. We have also created a special web page where you can take an online quiz about your company’s service mentality and read an excerpt from the book. I hope you’ll check out both of these resources and discover the value of creating a Legendary Service culture in your organization.