The Beauty of Audaciousness

Move over HBR and hello Motivated! Just kidding, I love HBR but I found another favourite magazine, if you have not already you must check out the new Summer 2010 Motivated magazine for a mere $5.95 per issue or $19.95 per year (4 issues)!

The theme this month has me spinning with revelations, validations and yes, motivation.  Shevaun Voisin opens with an invitation to explore audacity in a new and refreshing light. Shevaun decouples audacity from ego with the distinction that audacity comes from internal confidence while ego seeks external recognition, the beauty in audacity occurs without ego.  Audacity is the theme of this issue and you will come away with a new appreciation for it’s purpose.  My biggest revelation was accepting that audacity is really about giving courage to your internal fire.

The first article that moved me was Make Some Noise by Silken Laumann.  I highly recommend reading the full article but here are my favourite take-aways:

“Keeping company with dreamers and doers inspires me to keep pushing, to explore my talents and follow my dreams.  It also makes me wonder about our often conflicted relationship with high achievement.”

“For most of us, our greatest battle in living audaciously is our own self doubt.”

“Looking for the right way of moving forward is often a disguise for the fear of moving forward.”

“A talent I have noticed in many of the high achievers and audacious thinkers that I know – they seem completely unaware of just how fabulous their contributions really are.  This isn’t false modesty; merely an understanding that they’ve had opportunities to pursue their greatness, to be audacious in their thinking and their actions, and usually feel pretty blessed to have had the opportunity to pursue their talents.”

Silken is a four-time Olympic medalist, a dreamer and one of Canada’s top inspirational speakers and I am now following her on twitter.

The next article that captivated me was Have the Audacity to be Remarkable, an interview with Seth Godin by Shevaun Voisin.  I’m going to assume you are all familiar with Seth’s perspectives, a day does not pass without him being quoted and no doubt many of you have read Linchpin.  So I will only share my favourite take-away and his closing response.  When asked “What do you feel in your heart you are still destined to accomplish?” Seth responded “I’m skeptical about destiny.  I think we have opportunities, and we take them or we don’t.  I’m hoping that moving forward, I’ll use the leverage I have and take the opportunities that present themselves, as opposed to shrinking from them.”  I could not agree more!

Last, but certainly not least of the most inspiring articles was The Merits of Naked Consulting by the author of my favourite book Getting Naked, Patrick Lencioni.  I dug into the naked way in my recent post Part 5 of 7: Are You Ready to Get Naked? In this article Patrick eloquently describes the power of naked consulting.  “The essence of naked consulting is that clients are more interested in candor, humility and transparency than they are in confidence, authority and perfection.  That’s not to say that competence is irrelevant; clients need to know that we have the knowledge and experience to help them.  But once we’ve reached that level, the best way to differentiate ourselves from competition – not to mention help a client implement the ideas we’re recommending to them – is to be vulnerable with them.”

Being respectfully audacious is not just intended for customer experience management, however it is a business movement that requires audaciousness to gain awareness and momentum.  Have the courage to move from the “how” into “doing” and next time you see someone else exercising their audaciousness, resist negative skepticism and congratulate them for stepping up.   I’m not suggesting you blindly support them, ask the tough questions, while trying to resist protecting the “rules”.

There are a lot of other good reads in this magazine, these are just my personal favourites, it’s worth subscribing!

Part 7: What Are Your Corporate Beliefs?

This is part 7, the final part, of my 7 part series focused on the health of your corporate environment.   This series started with the question, why do some of the best customer experience management strategies and road-maps struggle or worse fail?  The reality is that developing a solid plan and effectively implementing that plan are entirely at the mercy of your corporate environment.  I have developed a Corporate Diagnostic Chart to assess the health of your corporate environment.  It examines the 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment. They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values. At the end of the series I will post an extensive survey that will further help you diagnose your company’s environment.

Our focus today is on valuesValues govern your corporate beliefs, they provide a higher sense of shared purpose and shape our words and actions.  A companies values reveal what is important to them and their words and actions validate the importance.  Value driven actions and words breed respect and loyalty from your employees and customers.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter from HBR recently posted 10 Essentials for Getting Value from Values, in the post Rosabeth summarizes what smart companies do to bring values to life.  Values tend to be similar from company to company and passive in nature, but that does not mean they do not matter, in fact values can have a very powerful impact on your corporate environment.  There are 3 things I would add to Rosabeth’s post, 1st is to invite your employees to help develop your core values and then again as you tune them along the way.  Your values should be shaped by your aspired customer experience.  The 2nd is to her statement in closing “In short, it’s not the words that make a difference; it’s the conversation.” I agree with this statement but would add “and actions” to the end of the sentence.  Values need to be common dialog and common action. My 3rd add is that your customer experience based values should shape performance reviews and rewards.  Most performance reviews are shaped by corporate, divisional and individual goals, incorporate your values and this will bring further purpose and empowerment to your employees.

Trust is a value that has been profoundly shaken in the business community at large, yet it is what the majority of us and our customers value most.  I could not be a loyal customer to someone I did not trust.  Trust is about integrity and is earned through consistent transparency and confident humility and vulnerability.  ClienteerHub has a powerful video posted The Truth About Trust, smart companies will incorporate values that inspire trust.

There you have it, the 7 key elements of your corporate environment.  This model can be applied to a company of any size regardless of the products and/or services.  It can also be applied at the division and/or team level and even on the individual level.  I would love to hear your perspective.

Next I will be posting an in depth survey to evaluate your corporate environment, stay tuned!

Part 6 of 7: Is Your Company Aware?

Today is part 6 of my 7 part series focused on the health of your corporate environment.   This series all started with the question, why do some of the best customer experience management strategies and road-maps struggle or worse fail?  The reality is that developing a solid plan and effectively implementing that plan are entirely at the mercy of your corporate environment.  I have developed a Corporate Diagnostic Chart to assess the health of your corporate environment.  It examines the 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment. They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values. At the end of the series I will post an extensive survey that will further help you diagnose your company’s environment.

Our focus today is on awareness.  Awareness governs your corporate capacity to see, seek, share, use (and reuse) honest, open, meaningful information.  It is really the self awareness of a company as well as the collective self awareness of all of it’s employees.  The self awareness of the leaders within a company determines the potentiality of self awareness broadly.   John Baldoni from HBR illustrates this in his blog back in 2009, “To bring people together around a common cause, it is critical that a leader be self aware”.  Awareness also encompasses a company’s collective customer awareness and industry awareness.  (Community awareness is also relevant, this was explored as it’s own element earlier in the series).

How does a company achieve awareness?  The first step is acknowledging the significance of awareness.

Here are some tips for developing awareness and then harnessing it:

Self awareness: In an article from Inc. Chris Musselwhite shares the benefits of self awareness and offers some steps to begin to increase your awareness “…seek feedback on your performance from others by asking good questions and listening without justifying or defending your actions. Remember, organizations benefit far more from leaders who take responsibility for what they don’t know than from leaders who pretend to know it all.”

Customer awareness: In Bruce Tempkin’s The Four Customer Experience Competencies, his 4th competency is “Customer Connectedness”.  The message is simple, embed deep customer insights into all decisions and operations within your company.  Two of his suggestions are great ways to increase your company’s customer awareness, the first is to built a voice of the customer program and the second is to make customer insight widely available to your employees.

Industry awareness: Social media is a great tool to help you keep up to date on industry trends and insights.  Companies have some valid concerns with regards to promoting employees to spend excessive time with the abundance of information to sift through, however by assigning ownership to this responsibility and setting in place guidelines and governance you can share targeted industry intelligence with your leaders and employees that will empower them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

It is important to make all of the intelligence generated from your collective awareness widely available within your company, it is also important to provide guidelines and governance to develop consistency and alignment to all of the other elements in your corporate environment.  To do this I recommend assigning ownership of this to your PMO and ensuring they have the required skills to employ awareness broadly.

Finally, once you have started on your path of corporate awareness, recommend that your employee’s spend 15-30 minutes every day developing awareness.  An enlightened team will out perform exponentially.

“Enlarge your consciousness. If your consciousness is small, you will experience smallness in every department of your life.” – Robert Pante

Stay tuned for the final part of my 7 part series, last but certainly not least is values.  Thank you for following the series, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Part 5 of 7: Are You Ready to Get Naked?

Today is part 5 of my 7 part series focused on the health of your corporate environment.   Why do some of the best customer experience management strategies and road-maps struggle or worse fail?  The reality is that developing a solid plan and effectively implementing that plan are entirely at the mercy of your corporate environment.   In a recent blog I provided a Corporate Diagnostic Chart to assess the health of your corporate environment.  It examines the 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment. They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values. At the end of the series I will post an extensive survey that will further help you diagnose your company’s environment.

Our focus today is on transparency.  Transparency governs your corporate honesty, openness and vulnerability.  It requires being completely authentic and humble without pretenses with your customers, employees, partners and peers.  It takes courage to practice transparency and we are all susceptible to the fears that go hand and hand with being open and vulnerable.  Patrick Lencioni, author of Getting Naked brilliantly captures the challenges and value of transforming your corporate environment to embrace transparency.

Not only is this ethically the best approach, customer today are demanding it.  The good news is that transparency breeds loyalty.  Not just with your customers, but also with your employees, partners and your peers.   When you pretend to know something, people see right through that, when you cover up mistakes, people feel manipulated.  So why is it so hard to say “I don’t know” or “my apologies, we made a mistake”?  Most will say the reason is fear, fear of disappointing or losing trust, yet ironically owning it, being transparent, builds trust.

That said, there is an art to “telling the kind truth”.  Transparency requires mindfulness and respectful communications in order to be effective.  It does not mean you need to air your dirty laundry for the sake of being fully transparent.   It means being mindful of when you are misleading others.  It also does not mean you have a license to be hurtful or insensitive for the sake of being direct.  It means demonstrating respect and tact in your approach for communicating delicate matters.  A naked approach has a pervasive impact on your corporate communications, culture and values.  This is the most untapped element that has the most potential to foster loyalty.

If you’re skeptical, read Patrick’s book and try it yourself at your next meeting.  I read Patrick’s book in one sitting, it is simple yet powerful.

Bottom line, transparency breeds loyalty.  Yet the practice of transparency is not common, nor is it easy for many to implement.  Consider adopting Patrick’s “Getting Naked” approach as core to your corporate environment.  Provide training and coaching and introduce “naked” dialog into your corporate language.

Next we will explore awareness.  Stay tuned!

Part 4 of 7: Is Your Corporation Socially Responsible?

If you have been following this series you know that I recently posted a Corporate Diagnostic Chart to assess the health of your corporate environment.  It examines the 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment.  They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values.

This post is part 4, in a 7 part series, where we are exploring each element of the corporate environment in a little more depth.  At the end of the series I will post an extensive survey that will further help you diagnose your company’s environment.

Our focus today is on the 4th element, community.  Your community governs corporate social responsibility (CSR), compassion and development of a higher sense of purpose.  Historically, social responsibility was left to the not-for-profit companies but I am happy to say that is no longer the case, there are many organizations today that are very passionate about giving back to their community in creative meaningful ways.  Investing in a CSR strategy benefits much more than the community, it has a positive impact on your brand, employee experience, customer experience, communications and customer loyalty.  Without as CSR strategy you are more likely to encounter a lack of teamwork and team spirit as well as a general lack of compassion for one another and your customers.

In 2008 Chris McClean of Forrester published  How The World’s Leading Businesses Address Corporate Social Responsibility. Chris says “Corporate behavior is approaching celebrity status. Executive scandals, product recalls, unethical labor practices, and environmental disasters are more closely scrutinized than ever, and the information age does not permit incidents to be swept easily under the rug. As employees, investors, customers, and partners pay more attention to corporate responsibility, companies are responding by strengthening and reporting their efforts related to environmental, social, and economic issues. “

One such company is KPMG, they have made their CSR strategy a priority.  A few years ago Forrester completed a case study on KPMG’s CSR strategy, the study shares that “In 2008, KPMG set a number of corporate wide environmental goals, including a 25% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2010.”  Their CSR strategy is aligned to their vision, mission and values.  “We have a clear vision of the role of KPMG firms. We believe we should use our skills and our resources to become fully involved in finding sustainable solutions to global and local issues, working alongside governments, civil society groups and international agencies. This vision is in line with our values — where we make a commitment to the communities in which we work.” Says Micheal Hastings, Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity, KPMG International.  KPMG has numerous key leadership roles dedicated to corporate citizenship world wide.

Adobe is another company with a demonstrated commitment to the social community.  I think many would be pleasantly surprised to learn the extent to which Adobe has invested in their corporate social responsibility.    “Adobe supports strategic programs and partnerships that help make our communities better, stronger, and more vibrant places in which to live, work, and do business.”  They have community giving programs that include grants, an employee volunteer program and a software donation and training programs.  In addition Adobe has it’s own foundation ” Adobe Youth Voices their global signature philanthropy program designed to provide youth in underserved communities with the critical skills they need to become active and engaged members of their communities and the world at large.” A powerful example of this at play took place on February 5th 2009 when the Adobe Foundation, the Black Eyed Peas and the Entertainment Industry Foundation announced a new partnership to help underserved youth access and learn to use multi-media production tools, including those for video, dance, music and art, to comment on critical issues and spark social change in their communities. The collaboration was highlighted with a benefit concert hosted and performed in Los Angeles by the Black Eyed Peas and other musical artists. This is corporate social  responsibility at it’s best!

Anne Lewnes, SVP Global Marketing at Adobe recently blogged “CSR is a great opportunity for all companies to strengthen their brand and connection to their customers. Companies should choose a cause close to their product and culture, so there is good alignment, and they shouldn’t be shy about promoting their CSR cause to their customers. Our own research has shown that our customers really want to know more about what Adobe is doing in the CSR space, so we’re going to continue to get the word out.”

There a many more companies doing great by their community but where do you start if you have not yet developed a CSR strategy? Or if you do have one and want to improve it, what is the best approach? On the highest level you need to ensure it is aligned to your corporate mission, vision and values.  Here are a few helpful tips to help shape your strategy:

  • Ideally it should leverage your core products or services
  • Invite your employees to actively participate
  • Be sure to consider your employee community, solicit what is important to them, you can extend this to your customers as well
  • Consider what would improve your own internal environment, it is ok to benefit from your CSR strategy
  • Explore partnering with other corporations
  • Develop and invest in your CSR strategy the same way you would approach a for-profit strategy, it is important to measure and validate the impact

Is your company doing anything innovative for it’s community? If so please share!

Part 3 of 7: What Does Your Corporate Culture Reveal?

In a recent blog I provided a Corporate Diagnostic Chart to assess the health of your corporate environment.  It examines the 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment.  They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values.

This post is part 3, in a 7 part series, where we are exploring each element of the corporate environment in a little more depth.  At the end of the series I will post an extensive survey that will further help you diagnose your company’s environment.

Why do some of the best customer experience management strategies and road-maps struggle or worse fail?  The reality is that developing a solid plan and effectively implementing that plan are entirely at the mercy of your corporate environment.  Your customer experience transformation requires a healthy corporate environment for sustainable results.  What we tend to see today are isolated customer experience grass root efforts that yield results isolated to their area of influence and power.

Our focus today is on the 3rd element, culture.  Your culture governs the authenticity of your business environment as a whole.  In other words, a corporate culture magnifies the gaps across all 7 elements and amplifies what is working well.  You can not fake culture, it is a result of your company’s collective intentions, words and actions.  Typical symptoms of an unhealthy corporate culture are lack of employee pride and motivation, employee segregation and dysfunction, lack of identity, high levels of absenteeism and entitlement issues or the opposite, job security issues.  The financial cost of cultural problems might surprise some leaders, but it is the impact that really needs to be understood.  Poor employee experience = poor customer experience plain and simple.

Let’s go a little deeper on that, poor employee experience = poor customer experience.  So many customer experience management initiatives begin with the voice of the customer, this makes perfect sense but only when you add the voice of the employee do you have the full picture.  I find it painfully ironic that it is usually the customer service department that suffers the lowest employee experience.  I believe this is a result of the actual cost of providing good quality customer service.  When Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh was originally evaluating outsourcing their customer service call center he was smart enough to recognize that the cost savings would come at a much bigger cost.  “As we thought more about it, though, we realized that it wouldn’t be matching our actions to our words. If we were serious about building our brand around being the best in customer service, customer service had to be the whole company, not just a single department.” The take away here is to make employee experience a critical element of your customer experience initiatives.

Back to the broader topic of corporate culture.  Bruce Tempkin’s “#1 new management imperative” is  to “invest in culture as a corporate asset”. I highly recommend reading Tempkin’s The 6 New Management Imparatives. His key message being that culture can amplify the value of your business and needs to be recognized as a real corporate asset, I could not agree more, it truly belongs on the balance sheet.  Bruce shares 4 great ways you can do this: track employee goodwill, develop a voice of the employee program, establish a vocabulary around culture and to actively manage your culture.  “Bottom line: don’t squander your corporate culture asset.”

Adding to Bruce’s “establish a vocabulary around culture”, there are powerful tools and resources available that can truly amplify your culture, establish a common dialog, stimulate open creative communication, and drive awareness and appreciation of all 7 elements of your corporate environment.  For example,  DISC is a model for understanding behavioral styles, it was developed by William Moulton Marston, Ph.D. over 75 years ago, and has become one of the most widely-used models for understanding the behavioral differences in people.  The Language of DISC is a tool that leads to behavioral change, it builds mutual understanding, communication, teamwork, trust and respect among team members.  In application you can tailor the training to shape cultural beliefs that reflect your company core values.

What does your corporate culture reveal?  Does your company recognize culture as a corporate asset?

So far we have explored foundation, communication and culture, next we will explore community.  Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts!