“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Last week I was in a meeting with a client I hadn’t worked with in about four years. In that time, as CEO of her organization within a larger global organization, she had doubled the company’s size. I asked her how she got those types of results in such a short amount of time. She felt that certain strategic initiatives, some operational efficiencies, and the most significant one, an MMFI rallying cry.
In fact, when this young female CEO mentioned MMFI on a global call, the enterprise CEO turned to his leadership team and said, “That is what the rest of our company is missing.”
What exactly is MMFI? It essentially is the belief, that when you see anyone who touches your business you should envision them with an invisible sign that says, “MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT!” In a world full of big box stores and impersonal online businesses, it is more crucial now than ever in our business world.
The reason for this is simple: when people feel important, they are more likely to stay loyal to your company and continue supporting your mission. Whether it’s providing excellent customer service, developing innovative products, or being an active member of the community, making everyone feel important can create a strong foundation for your business that can lead to growth and success.
Tenets of MMFI
To really embed “make me feel important” in a culture it is essential that every single person in your organization prioritizes it as a commitment. This means that everyone from the top down is actively working to ensure that anyone who touches the business feels valued and appreciated including customers, employees, vendors/suppliers, or members of the community. It means being responsive to their needs, taking their feedback seriously, and always striving to exceed their expectations.
But how exactly can leaders make everyone feel important? Here are a few tips:
1. Listen Actively: People want to feel heard and understood. Ensure you actively listen to your employees, customers, and vendors to understand their needs and concerns.
2. Show Appreciation: Don’t just say thank you; show your appreciation in meaningful ways, whether it’s through bonuses, public recognition, or a simple thank you note.
3. Under Promise and Over Deliver: Hold back on overselling and instead be both proactive and thorough when taking care of all your stakeholders.
4. Be Transparent: Honesty and transparency build trust, and when people trust you, they feel more important.
5. Foster a Sense of Community: When people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they are more likely to feel important and valued.
I remember a trip I took to one of our most loyal client’s headquarters. A new HR VP had been appointed and she was moving fast to make changes…including potentially heavily impacting our long-time relationship. I flew in to meet with her and instead of taking a defensive stance, I listened to what she saw needed to be changed in their established programs. Then I spent about 2 hours offering very objective reflections and options…and it was from a very selfless perspective. That was the turning point in our discussion because she then saw us as a partner that was there to take things off her desk instead of a line-item cost. She got the depth of the partnership our two companies had and we got off to a great start.
What is a Rallying Cry?
So how can you get everyone in the company to buy into the MMFI framework? Make it a Rallying Cry! That means rallying around the single most important thing we can be doing, especially in moments of dramatic change (the story of our life in business the last few years!), does more than aid progress on a single objective — it sets a sequence of events in motion that will significantly impact your team and embed what you are driving in the culture.
The concept of having a rallying cry and defining objectives is a simple one, and therein lies its power. It provides us with a manageable list of relevant issues that we can get our hands and minds around over an extended period. And just as importantly, it gives us permission to ignore other issues that would otherwise compete for our attention. Essentially it is the One Big Thing we are working on together!
In conclusion, making everyone feel important is essential to the success of your business. By making it your rallying cry and embedding a culture of MMFI, you can create a strong foundation for growth and success. So, as a leader, take the time to listen, show appreciation, be transparent, overdeliver, and foster a sense of community. By doing so, you will make everyone know how important they are to you and promote loyalty, respect, and inclusion. Don’t we all want that?
Here is a great resource if you want to learn a little more about a rallying cry!
As I was walking to dinner with my family in Kansas City last week, I was updating one of my business partners about a tough situation and decision I was having to make for the good of the business. It was something that I didn’t want to do, but a decision I knew needed to be made. Then he said, “I know you have the RESOLVE.” That word stuck with me and carried me through that week. Little did I know how rough last week was going to be. Not only did I have to make that difficult decision, but I also lost my lifelong mentor and had numerous other issues that every business owner encounters. As a business owner, I wish I could say that life gets easier. That it gets to be more predictable, smooth, and easy. But that would be unfair because it’s not true. Business life can be heart-wrenchingly gritty and will poke at your sore spots.
There is a quote that says, “True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.” One of the biggest gains I have had as a leader recently is building my resilience and confidence in my decision-making. Many of the leaders I coach, just like the rest of us, had to make some tough decisions in the past couple of years while maintaining our “True North”. Now is my decision-making always perfect? No. But with good intentions and good reason, I know I can get close.
Do we ever need to pivot as leaders and go in a different direction? Absolutely. Sometimes, knowing when to give up can be just as important as knowing when to keep going. In any organization, there will always be times when the going gets tough and it seems like the only way out is to give up. But great leaders never give up on the mission even when they must chart a new direction. They have the resolve to see things through to the end. So, what is the secret to their success? How do they always seem to find the strength to keep going when the road gets rocky? That is what I’ll be discussing today!
1. Differentiating Between a Setback and a Roadblock
One of the first things that need to be clear to you and your team is whether you are encountering a setback or a roadblock. To differentiate between them, it’s important to understand what each term means. A setback is an issue or obstacle you encounter along the way that can be overcome. It does not have to be a huge or devastating issue – it can be small or large, but the important thing is that it can be moved past with some effort and perseverance. On the other hand, a roadblock is an issue or obstacle that is much larger and cannot be circumvented no matter how much you have planned or how hard you have worked.
A good example of a setback is when your team encounters a small problem while completing a project. This is likely to be a relatively minor issue and something that can be fixed with some hard work such as a supply chain glitch or an employee that quits. In contrast, a roadblock is an issue that cannot be easily bypassed, such as an unresolvable technical problem or a larger financial concern.
The reason this differentiation is important is that I’ve worked with teams and individuals on teams that “catastrophize” even the smallest hurdle. Understanding the difference between a setback and a roadblock can help your team to settle down a bit and for you to know the best course of action in any situation. You and your team know you keep going and put in more effort when you encounter a setback, or if you need to seek alternative routes and workarounds when you encounter a roadblock.
2. The Importance of Resilience
Once you have identified if you are dealing with a setback or a roadblock, it’s vital to have
resilience and perseverance. In any situation, good leaders keep pushing forward in pursuit of a
goal, despite the challenges or obstacles they face. To become a great leader, you need to
cultivate qualities of resilience and commitment to your cause to be able to find solutions to
problems and move forward, rather than giving in to the status quo. The most resilient leaders have
a growth mindset and are continuously learning. So you might be asking yourself if you are
considered to be resilient. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see:
● Are you exhausted when faced with setbacks and find it hard to keep trying?
● Are you unable to sustain your energy long enough to bounce back after adversity?
● Are you unable to adapt well to change?
● Are you unable to maintain a positive attitude when faced with conflict?
● Are you unable to find solutions to problems when faced with ambiguity?
● Are you unable to maintain a growth mindset during difficult times?
● Are you unable to be coached?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you could use a tune-up on your resiliency skills. Great leaders often exhibit resolve when facing difficult situations, inspiring their team members to achieve more than they initially thought possible. Leading by example and showing just how far you can go with hard work and dedication can be outstanding examples of what is achievable. With perseverance, you can reach your goals and build even great resiliency for both you and your team.
3. The Difference Between Grit and Determination
Grit and determination are closely related, yet there is a critical difference between the two. Grit,
simply put, is making a concerted effort, and staying focused and determined to reach a goal.
Determination is an internal drive to achieve something. When you are determined it takes a goal
further, giving it context and passion.
Grit requires strength, dedication, and repetitive effort while determination requires mental
discipline and an unwavering commitment. Having grit and determination will help leaders stay the
course and reach great heights. It’s also crucial as a leader to share your experiences and stories
when you have hit rock bottom and stayed strong to keep moving toward the goal. After a bit, you
might get a few eye rolls from people you have worked with for a while, but don’t be fooled! They
find it inspiring! Sharing stories of grit and determination gives team members confidence and
when they find themselves in a position of struggle, they will remember the stories which will serve
as motivation and reassurance to keep pushing forward until they have reached their goal. People
who have storytelling skills are not given enough credit in business.
4. How to Develop Mental Toughness
Developing mental toughness may seem like a daunting task, but there are some simple steps
one can take to develop it:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings – The first and most important step is to acknowledge the difficult
feelings you are having and face them head-on. Understanding that these thoughts/feelings are
normal and temporary will help in the long run. It is because you care!
2. Develop a Positive Internal Dialogue – One of the best methods for developing mental
toughness is by changing your internal narrative. Replace negative thoughts with positive and
encouraging ones. Optimism can be developed!
3. Focus on What’s in Your Control – Learn to tell yourself what is truly within your control and
what is out of your control. Being mindful of the things you can and cannot do will help you not
get frustrated and expend energy on things you cannot change. Then focus on what you can!
4. Strategic Flexibility – Realize that you are always looking for the best way to achieve the
mission with others. So, while you have a definitive way forward, you must remain flexible leaving
room for continuous learning and improvement.
5. Take Action – Acting is one of the best ways to release energy and focus on the task at hand. It
doesn’t have to be a big step; taking small and measurable actions with confidence in your
reasoning will help in the long run. Plus, your decisiveness will be noticed!
5. The Role of Hope in Leadership
I have always said that people need HOPE! Hope is the cornerstone of any successful change leader. As a leader, it is important to remind yourself and your team that difficult situations and times will pass—there is a shrinking light at the end of the tunnel. As a leader, you must also be aware of how each team member is feeling and respond to them with kindness and compassion. Reminding yourself and others that all these tough times are short-term issues can bring solace and lift morale. Maintaining this positive mindset is an important way for a leader to stay in control, even when the situation feels beyond their control. It is essential to keep the end goal in sight and not get too weighed down by setbacks.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, find something that can give you comfort and hope—grounding yourself in your “Why”, going for a walk, talking to trusted advisors, or even hanging out with your furry friends helps. Having a few small moments of hope in your day can help to bring your energy and focus back on track. There are so many ways to find hope; it is up to the leader to find the one that works for them and their team.
As I sat across the table from Brad and Tonia in a quaint little café in Tulsa, I realized what a great partnership this could be. They were looking for a customized leadership program that had their Core Purpose, Values, and Vision at the heart of it. Brad said, “This project is a white canvas, and you can create exactly what we need.” Wow. Being able to create what was truly best for the company was going to be incredibly rewarding work – I could feel it! Over the next 8 months, there were numerous meetings, discussions about the needs of the business, calibrations with the leadership competencies, selecting the right assessments, creating the intellectual property, putting measures in place to be able to prove ROI, and appointing the inaugural class. We knew it was a big lift, that key stakeholders would need to be behind it, and the participants were going to have to be open to change. On that note, we kept in mind the Steople Behavior Change Model that we regularly utilize with our clients:
Fast forward to now…we have been delivering our flagship leadership program for about 8 years now! I’m happy to say that over the years, individuals who have been chosen for this program have developed into incredibly valuable leaders for the companies they serve. So, what makes for a good leadership development program? I thought I would share with you the guidelines we have used through the years…and do a little extra digging in the research just to make sure. If you are considering a leadership program here you go!
Expert facilitators should be great teachers, engaging in their communication, providing timely coaching, and establishing a trusting relationship. For us, a deep understanding of the business as well as great relationships with key internal stakeholders is key to our success.
Honestly, it is a lot of work to put together a successful leadership program! But, rest assured that we have done it for some time now and we are here as a guide if you decide to embark on the journey. The payoffs are there, but you have to be incredibly thoughtful, innovative, and intentional in what you are wanting to build. Let us know what you have found to be most helpful in crafting a development program for your company or if we can do anything to help…such important work!
We believe that leadership development is incredibly important to the success of a business. We are constantly adding new ways to communicate and explain the benefits of investing in your people. We are happy to provide you with a brand-new commercial illustrating our leadership development program. Stay tuned…more to come!
LEADERS CAN BE MADE
STEOPLE HIGH-POTENTIAL LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
Written & Produced by: Cristina Filippo | Executive Producer: Isaias Centeno | Directed & Edited by: Hyped Visuals
At the Steople holiday lunch last week, the question was posed, “What is your favorite Christmas gift ever?” Everyone’s face lit up as we talked about puppies, Grease albums, and tennis shoes…but even better was the next question, “What was the best gift you ever gave?” That one sparked tears as we remembered loved ones and some of the meaningful moments through the years. Of course, we are a team of deep thinkers, so we loved that discussion!
Now in thinking about the Holidays, one of the things that I love the most about the season is giving. Of course, I love to receive great gifts too, but if you know me you know I am a gift-giver! I love people opening a present with excitement and joy – it is like the kid in them comes out! Now I do know that personality-wise there are people who are motivated by altruism and affiliation more than others, so it is not to generalize here, but isn’t that what we do this time of year?
Giving Has Great Benefits
The holiday season is upon us and with it the hunt for the perfect gifts for family and friends. But what exactly happens in your brain when you give a gift? And is the old saying really true that “giving is better than receiving?” It turns out, gift-giving, particularly when the giftee is someone with whom we have a close relationship, activates key reward pathways in our brain, provided we don’t let stress take away the joy of the occasion.
In fact, several studies over the last decade have demonstrated that spending money on someone other than yourself promotes happiness. That’s because when we behave generously—be it donating money to charity or giving a loved one something they really want for a holiday—it creates more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with processing social information and feeling pleasure. In one example, researchers gave 50 people $100 and instructed half of them to spend it on themselves, and the other half to spend it on someone else over the next four weeks. Then, they performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure activity in the brain associated with generosity and pleasure during a social sharing task. They found that those who spent money on other people had more generous and fair interactions with other people and reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.
“Oftentimes, people refer to it as the “warm glow,” this intrinsic delight in doing something for someone else,” said Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., who studies the neuroscience and psychology of compassion, kindness, and gratitude at Berkley. “But part of the uniqueness of the reward activation around gift-giving compared to something like receiving an award or winning money is that because it is social it also activates pathways in the brain that release oxytocin, which is a neuropeptide that signals trust, safety, and connection. It’s often referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone.’”
When oxytocin is part of the equation, the reward is slightly different in that it can be sustained longer, unlike the brief lifespan that a pure dopamine response has. These effects on the brain are even present during various steps leading up to the actual opening of the gift, such as shopping for the gift and wrapping it. The whole experience of figuring out what to get for someone you love and simply anticipating being in the room with them while they open it activates those same reward pathways and is all part of the joy of gift-giving. Maybe that is why most of us, during this time of year, find joy in finding just the right gift.
Still, while gift-giving and gift-receiving can often lead to hopefulness and excitement, the lead-up to giving a gift can bring on other emotions, including stress and anxiety, said Scott Rick, Ph.D. at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Rick is known for developing the Tight Wad-Spend Thrift Scale which found that there are real brain and behavioral differences between tightwads and spendthrifts and that they’re related to an emotional experience called “the pain of paying.” “When it goes right it can be a wonderful thing but can also come with a lot of anxiety over how much you’re spending or whether or not they will like the gift,” Rick said. There’s also the dreaded experience of being in a position where you receive a gift from someone you were not expecting to, and don’t have a gift of your own to reciprocate. This awkward scenario can cause patterns in the brain that mimic an actual pain response. None of us love that moment because we all crave the moment of wonder when someone else says, “I absolutely love it – it is perfect!”
Giving In the Workplace
So, what does all of this have to do with organizations? Well, during this time of year our society, including our workplaces, is very inclined toward gift-giving. Whether it is a round of dirty Santa or a cookie exchange, or bonuses…this is the time of the year when all of these rewards and pitfalls come into play. We want to give a gift, but we also want to make sure we are on the right track as we do. So, as you close things out for the year, and hand out those last-minute gifts to your team members, keep all the above in mind, and consider these suggestions for giving in the workplace:
1. Keep it voluntary. It should never be mandatory for an employee to purchase gifts for co-workers. Making it spontaneous and informal makes it much more natural.
2. Stay professional. Make sure you understand the company’s culture before you give a “gag” gift. Ensure that you give something that is appropriate. If you pause and wonder if you should give it, that is probably a clue to go a safer route.
3. Be fair. Giving everyone the same gift is the preferred method of workplace gift-giving. If you plan to give gifts to only a few co-workers with whom you are particularly close, do so outside work. Showing favoritism, even accidentally, can be extremely counter-productive, and sometimes detrimental to your company’s culture.
4. Keep it simple. Try to tailor your gift to the taste and personality of your co-worker. And don’t overdo it – no one wants to be uncomfortable or caught off-guard when receiving a gift.
5. Avoid items that may be considered too personal. Steer clear of giving gifts that could be misinterpreted. A token of your appreciation or a kind gesture at the end of the year can be derailed if a gift is too personal or inappropriate. If you question it, ask for advice from someone you trust.
6. Baked goods are king. If you are unsure about what to give your co-workers, treat them with sweets. Baked goods are a great opportunity for employees to show their thoughtfulness without being viewed as going overboard.
The holidays are a time for celebration and appreciation. My guess is that you don’t know what a gift you are to us here at Steople. We see the amazing work you are doing in your workplace. Please stop for a moment and let that soak in – we appreciate you! You are our colleagues, clients, and friends. Thank you for doing all you do in the world of work…leading and influencing within an organization is not for the faint of heart. From your Steople family we are hoping you have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year.
Have you ever had a month when the same themes keep coming up over and over? It happens to me often…not sure if that is because I am looking for it or if the universe is trying to get a message to me. This month has been like that. The theme seems to be…take the time to focus on relationships, not tasks. The first evidence of this theme was a story by Pam Berg that I read on Instagram:
Make the Chili
“A good friend of mine unexpectedly lost her husband. A couple of months later we were running together chatting about nothing. She asked what my dinner plans were, and I told her my husband wanted chili, but I didn’t feel like stopping at the store. We ran a few more minutes when she quietly said, “Make the chili.” It took me a few minutes to realize we were no longer talking about dinner. It was about going out of your way to do something for someone you love because, at any moment, they could unexpectedly be taken from you.
So today I’m sharing with you that wisdom handed to me by my dear friend, that I’ve thought of many times since that day. Next time someone you love wants to go for a walk or watch a football game or talk to you about their struggles or just put your phone down and give them your undivided attention, just do it. Make the chili. Love deeply and selflessly.”
A couple of weeks ago, Layla and I traveled to deliver a leadership program at an LNG company in Houston. The fourth business quarter is always a race to the finish as a consultant. We are completing work that needs to be delivered before the holidays (everyone using their budget when they can) while also ramping up to deliver the needed work in the new year. We often refer to it as “semesters” where sometimes there is a little more leisurely pace and other times it is finals. It is easy to get burned out at this time and we all take a breath during our time off over the holidays.
The last couple of months had been incredibly busy so I knew I wanted to do something fun so that we could relax and re-energize together. We were going to be staying downtown which just happened to be within walking distance of the Toyota Center. Fortunately, there was a concert – Post Malone… which we both love…so I purchased tickets for us with dinner and drinks before the concert. We had SO much fun. We had a great dinner, the margaritas flowed, and we got to sing and dance, cutting loose to one of our favorite artists. And you know what Layla said to me while one of the last songs was playing? “I really needed this”. So grateful we took the time because guess what? So did I. This was my second piece of evidence that a theme was developing.
Hanging Out and Feeling Loved
Opening up the mail one evening, I received an invitation from a friend to a “Girl’s Night Out”. That friend, Candice, is an amazing woman in the community whose family has always been dear to me. They are a hard-working family whose son played basketball with my son and, since graduating high school, has had an amazing professional career. I’ve always been incredibly happy for their success and, at the same time, admired Candice because of her authenticity and dedication to the community. Of course, I immediately texted her and told her I would be there.
As I approached the front steps of her house, I still wasn’t exactly sure what this evening was about. Fundraiser? A longstanding party with women I didn’t know? I wasn’t sure, but I was up for the adventure. I was greeted with a hug, a glass of wine, and a quick spin around the room. There was amazing food, a fresh flower station where you could build your own bouquet, a permanent jewelry booth, a tree with a present for everyone, a photo booth, and a room full of about 50 new friends. Once all of her guests arrived, Candice clinked a glass for attention and shared a story about a dear friend of hers who had ended up ill in the hospital. She spoke of the regret she felt standing at her friend’s bedside. The truth was, they were great friends, but with small children and a busy life, they had not made enough time to get to together. She talked about how busy all of us get…moms, wives, and daughters… and how her intention for the evening was to create an amazing night for each of us to get to know one another, get a bit pampered, and build a community of strong women.
As Candice spoke, I teared up. Here was my friend taking the time to make a difference in our lives. She was reminding each of us how much we mean to one another and how little we value it enough to slow down and take time together. During that evening, I met new friends, felt loved and valued, and, overall, was inspired! She had done an incredible job of making people her priority with a generous spirit and a few beautiful indulgences that touched our hearts. The third evidence of a theme, do you see it?
Why Making People Your #1 Priority is Your #1 Priority
Now, why am I telling you about these little reminders that I seemed to be getting this last month? Well, first, because I care about you, and second because I care about the people you are called to serve. As a leader, I want you to get the same message I have been getting – slow down and be intentional in how you spend your time – especially these last few weeks of the year. I know we all fall into the hustle and bustle of the season…but how can you relax a little and make it more meaningful with those you care about?
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” including the capacity to identify emotions, harness emotions, and apply them to tasks like problem-solving, and the capacity to regulate emotions and support others in the regulation of their own emotions. I’m sure you have heard this before, but it is a very important concept for people who are in positions of leadership. Our belief here at Steople is that as a leader you need EI to handle the time and energy that you must invest in your team.
Leaders must develop the capacity to care for and support team members as they encounter personal and professional challenges, from failed initiatives to failed marriages. This capacity changes the lens through which a leader looks at every meeting and interaction. Instead of approaching time with employees as solely a business-oriented strategy conversation, high culture/high-profit leaders focus on the support they provide to the team members involved. Certainly, much of that support is strictly professional (what resources do I need to expend, for this effort to be successful?) but a significant proportion is emotional as well (what support can I expend, for this person to be successful?). There is a business case for truly caring about and investing time in those who stand by you day in and day out reaching for your combined goals.
Being Intentional with a Plan
To me, it is great news that studies have found that CEOs (and all leaders) who spend more time with their employees lead more productive companies. It makes our job so much easier as we speak with each of you in your respective companies making the case that keeping people the priority pays dividends. So what can you do to be more intentional? Well, my recommendation is to start today and consider implementing the following:
I’ll be totally transparent, much of the time, I choose what I write about based on what I am “feeling” now. I’m working on this “slowing down” right along with you. It is SO easy to get pulled into the running of the business and delivering to our clients. Even as an organizational psychologist who knows all of this, I must continue to work on it. It is easy for me to tell myself that people are busy, they don’t want interference, they don’t value the time to pause, and that I have other things that take precedence. But even worse than that…one day can just roll into another without INTENTIONALLY making the time. I believe that being honest and normalizing what our tendencies are is the first step to changing for the better. So my question is, what are you going to tweak over the next few crazy weeks either personally or professionally? Let us know how we can help continue to build those great leadership habits as we close out this year and move into 2023. Remember, the next time someone you love wants to go for a walk or watch a football game or talk to you about their struggles or just put your phone down and give them your undivided attention, just do it. Make the chili. Love deeply and selflessly.
I woke up the other morning to the news that Bob Iger is returning as CEO of Disney. Iger came up through the ranks in a 50-year career at Disney and has an almost mythical status as the leader. He spent 15 years as CEO and was instrumental in acquiring major brands like Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, the home to Star Wars. Iger also closed the $71 billion deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox and kicked off the streaming revolution with Disney Plus. Most people would say that anyone would be hard-pressed to find someone who says a bad word about Iger. And what does he attribute his success to? Building relationships, demanding excellence, and sweating the small stuff.
I’m sure most of you have been to the magical world of Disney. It is a rite of passage as a parent that you bring your kiddos to Disney to see that look of wonder when they set eyes on Mickey and the Princesses for the first time in person. We did that as a family…staying on property at The Animal Kingdom, getting Fast Passes, chasing after those character autographs, and watching Tinkerbell float across the sky during the evening light show. It was magical! But one of the memories I have of that trip has nothing to do with the Disney characters and more to do with a mistake I made that Disney helped me correct with their legendary service.
We had been having a great day in the Magic Kingdom…until I realized I didn’t have my phone. Now, this was in the early days of cell phones, and I remember that phone well…it was small and had a black and white checkered Coach phone case. Of course, panic struck and as I made my way to Lost and Found, I had very little hope that it would be there. But guess what I walked into? A room filled with cell phones…and there was mine sitting on the shelf! I couldn’t believe it and automatically told the lady at the front desk…if this was any other theme park, it would have never been found. She nodded and said they had a swift protocol of how to handle a lost phone. They had even shut it off so that it wouldn’t drive the employees crazy and so that the battery would be saved when found by its owner. That was a WOW experience for this customer. It perfectly illustrated the care and planning for every single detail that Disney is known for.
The Story Behind Disney’s Trash Cans
Along with this “small catch” the theme park had implemented, there are 1,000 other small things that are tended to. At Disney, attention to detail is something of an art form, stemming from the founder, Walt Disney. His passion, which one could argue is at the very core of the company’s values, was famous for his eye for detail, and he made sure that everyone paid the same attention that he did. As an example, Disney trash cans are legendary. It Is rumored that there are holes underneath the cans where the trash is swept away in underground tunnels. It isn’t true, but what is true is that each and every can is created to be a piece of art that is specific to the part of the park that it is located. The cans are ever present in the background of Disney vacation photos. They’re a vital necessity to a pleasant guest experience. Yet, they’re barely noticed. The humble Disney trash can might be easily overlooked, but actually has celebrity status with people vying for the trash can merchandise and swag that can be found in the Disney stores.
Why did Disney focus on trash cans? First, Walt realized that if you keep a place tidy, it’s more likely that guests will throw away their trash, so he did research into how far someone would walk before they dropped their trash on the ground. He found that 30 feet was the magic number, so wherever you go in a Disney Park, a trash can will never be more than 30 feet away from you. Second, every trash can is designed in a way that blends into its surroundings and doesn’t remove the guest from the immersion of their experience. They are works of art and are meant to enhance the customer experience. Again, the little touches here and there truly make a difference.
Customers Notice Everything
You may not be consciously aware of it, but you are subjected to annoyances every day. Some you might just filter out and move on, but others might really bug you over time and impact your satisfaction. Interestingly, there is a human premise that it’s always the little things people seem to notice and get annoyed about, not the big things. See if any of these annoyances resonate with you:
These are the things we notice; they cause us to rethink whether we want to continue to do business with the guilty organization. These are the things they expect NOT to happen. They represent the basics of business, and we expect them to be performed without a flaw. But when things break down, we are emotionally caught up in the event and often behave in a way that doesn’t reflect who we really are. We confront the person who greets you at the phone store for not seeing us on time. It’s a small issue and shouldn’t matter, but it does. These are the things that we tell ourselves might indicate an organization is not concerned to do what’s necessary to finish the job completely for us. It says to us that they want to get it done and move on to the next customer.
Take Care of the Little Things
People get tired of the “big box culture”. Someone once told me – people want to feel special and that they matter. To be honest, that includes not just customers, but employees as well. That mantra has always stuck with me and has made me become more intentional in how we show up at Steople. My question to you is what small details in your company would frustrate customers? Not the big things, but the little things that might negatively impact your brand. How can you work on making the minute details as important as the big deliverables? What can be done? Here are some sample actions that might be taken to implement strong “little things matter” values.
Attention to detail is a culture that leads to sustainable competitive advantage because most organizations don’t have — or don’t desire to have — the competency. They don’t understand the little things aren’t little at all, they’re HUGE and can make the difference between a wildly successful business and a mediocre or failed business.
This is the time of year for reflection on the last 12 months. I encourage you to take stock of those things that might need to be focused on in the new year. Here at Steople, we are always here to support you and help you with the things that matter most in your culture. We are grateful for your partnership and wish you a great holiday weekend!
I know so many of you can relate to what I am about to say…we are looking for great talent! It is the #1 need of our clients right now and we are in the exact same position. We have about a 90% success rate so far and want to make sure that we keep our great record of hiring great talent alive and well. Probably much like everyone else we are looking for people who are smart, diverse, caring, fun-loving, business-minded, entrepreneurial, team-oriented, and problem-solvers (I know what your thinking – is that it?). Well, since we talk to so many of you about your strategy, we thought we would give you a peek behind the curtain at what our talent strategy is and our thinking behind it. It comes out of years of seeing best practices from other companies we have worked with:
1. We are highlighting that we are a great place to work in our branding.
If we don’t tell our story, others will do it for us—and it might not be the narrative we want. Having a clear job description was a prerequisite 10 years ago, but it’s time to up our game. Not only must we use our website as a platform to showcase what makes the work we do incredibly meaningful, but we must also carry our brand message across social media channels and in the stories we share in person. For example, recently we applied to the 2022 Best Places to Work, and on the question “How likely are you to recommend your organization to a friend or colleague?” we scored 100%. We don’t highlight that enough! Doing so will paint an accurate picture of what we are about for prospective hires and let them know what it’s like to work for our company.
2. We are maximizing employee referrals.
An astonishing 96 percent of companies with 10,000 employees or more—and 80 percent of those with fewer than 100 workers—say referrals are their #1 source of new hires. Honestly, if an employee is willing to put their reputation on the line and bring in one of their friends or family into the company, that is our best tactic! Every employee should be a recruiter for their company, but few think that way. To fix that at Steople, we offer a large bonus check to any employee that provides a reference that is then successfully hired. Then it makes it worth employees’ time to reach out to their contacts, rather than expecting them to do it out of the kindness of their hearts. We believe you must truly incent people, not just say “thank you”.
3. We are offering benefits based on our core values and being transparent about who we are.
We continually emphasize what sets us apart from our competitors and acknowledge that we are not the company for everyone. For example, while we are a global company, we have smaller, more boutique offices in various regions that offer bespoke services to our clients. Often, we have young college graduates who want to be at larger firms with Fortune 100 clients. What I impress on them is that it depends on what they want…in a large firm they will learn a lot, but they will be a cog in the big wheel, while at our firm they will have a voice and essentially be able to “own” their own business. Another differentiator is that, while we work hard, we have a lot of flexibility and aren’t the “road warriors” working 80+ hours a week that the big firms do. See where I’m going? Additionally, we are always revising our benefits package ensuring it aligns with our core values. Examples include offering a personal development budget because we are a learning culture and concierge medicine benefits, so employees can focus on their well-being.
4. We also love our committed contract workers and their need for flexibility.
Since 2009 we have utilized contractors who you would never know weren’t employees. Their commitment and dedication are remarkable. The pandemic has ignited the gig economy in other sectors and people are now embracing part-time talent especially since it is so difficult to find good talent or excessively costly to hire full-time employees. Since we are a service firm the nature of our work is flexible and project-oriented, so it really lends itself to part-time workers. But what we have come to realize over time is that it isn’t the number of hours a week worked, but the commitment to the team, the clients, and excellent outcomes that is important to us. Embracing “new” ways of working that aren’t a part of the typical employee pool is important, especially during times of low unemployment numbers when full-time talent is so difficult to find.
5. Remote work expanded our talent pool significantly.
We aren’t going to fight the relocation battle. So much of the work we do in our firm now is either via Zoom for coaching or we travel to do in-person work with teams. We realize that talented candidates have myriad career choices, and many of them are going to opt against moving to pursue a job opportunity…in fact, over 80% of today’s workforce wants to work remotely in some fashion. But what we also realize is that most organizations fail to effectively structure and manage remote workers which can turn a potential solution into a waste of resources as remote workers struggle to understand and complete their duties…that is something we are keenly aware could be an issue and want to guard against. Yes, we really are organizational psychologists that are that self-aware!
Now, all we need is your help in finding our next great talent! Send a great one our way today…
You will find a QR Code below to send on to anyone you know who might be a great fit for the Steople team!
As I sat in the passenger seat of Debbie’s car, she gave me a tour of the beloved Ft. Worth children’s hospital she had worked at for the past 43 years. She spoke with love and respect about what she had helped build over that time. She reminisced about the two small buildings they had started in all those years ago and pointed to the numerous blue-topped roofs and sprawling grounds they decorated with adorable, welcoming-to-children topiary landscaping. We saw the Ronald McDonald House and the staff childcare center, as well as the numerous areas for reflection and relaxation for those suffering a physical setback. She talked about how the pandemic trauma of the last two years had impacted the culture they had built and even threatened to crumble it.
Regardless, as we pulled into the parking garage, she greeted the parking attendant warmly and asked how he was feeling, saying to me, that he had just recovered from surgery. As we strolled the brightly colored hallways, Debbie chatted and hugged her way across the campus. She would quickly point out those individuals who had been with the hospital for decades and were so dedicated to the cause of helping children heal that they wouldn’t think of leaving until retirement. During this tour, I fell in love with this new hospital client of ours and told Debbie how inspired I was to be a part of their purpose on this planet.
The whole experience was remarkable and seeing so many long-term employees reminded me of another group I had worked with the week before who had recently been acquired by one of my clients. During our joint company strategic planning session, we were discussing the “talent war,” and we all listened intently as two of the owners of the acquired company talked about the team that became family over the years. They had started at the age of 16 working in the lumber business and were set to retire from that same company in the next 5 or so years. They talked about others in the business who grew up together, got through school, enjoyed fishing trips as a team, went to one another’s weddings, and celebrated when they had children. We are talking retention of 31…28…19 years, which are unbelievable numbers in today’s world.
So how is this possible and do we have any chance of recreating this in today’s job market? Some will say “No way, today’s workforce isn’t nearly as loyal, and it is not realistic.” But is that true? Or can we at least aim to be a significant part of an employee’s work history? I believe we can.
Develop a Great Retention Initiative
Many employers are no doubt wishing that the Great Resignation, where employees have been quitting their jobs in record numbers since the Spring of 2021, would suddenly become a very different trend: the Great Retention. But research suggests that many workers remain confident about their prospects in the current hiring market, in fact, 41% of respondents are currently looking or plan to look for a new role in the next six months. This means employers must still be vigilant about the risk of top performers walking out the door.
This, in my opinion, is the number one issue, outside of finding talent, for companies today. Every single coaching or consulting conversation I have includes the current challenges with talent. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. We have to look at those companies who are doing it well, come up with creative strategies, and listen to what our most-valued employees are telling us. Based on research and my own anecdotal evidence there are 8 areas that I believe you need to focus on as a leader to retain your talent. I hope these resonate with you and inspire you to work on at least one of these:
1. Create and Support an Inclusive “Family” Culture
Having a “sticky” culture where people take care of one another and truly care is crucial. Through the years that is one common thread in companies I have seen be successful in keeping their employees long-term…they are one another’s work family and it would be unthinkable to leave that family. Now with that kind of vulnerability, you must make sure there are good boundaries in place so there is no “family dysfunction”, but essentially these teams support one another through the good times and the bad.
2. Find Each Team Member’s Motivation ‘Lever’
“Money” is not the reason people stay in a job. It can be demotivating if they are paid unfairly but thinking about throwing money at an employee who is thinking of leaving is the wrong strategy. Every person has his or her levers of engagement and motivation: Fun. Authority. Development. Responsibility. Autonomy. Respect. Recognition. Challenge. Variety. Figure out what each individual needs, then figure out how to best work towards it. Meeting those individuals where they are is one of the best things you can do as a leader.
3. Emphasize Shared Non-Negotiable Core Values
From the beginning, recruit people whose values align with yours and the company. This builds a positive atmosphere and culture, which resonates with people and keeps them on board. Consult with your people, find out what they care about, and build collaborative solutions that inspire their loyalty and commitment. People like to feel included, and valued and that their contribution makes a difference. The great thing about this is that if there is a value mismatch the team will pick it up instantly and advocate to keep the shared values on track.
4. Rally Everyone Behind an Emotionally Driven Purpose
Most employees want to feel part of something bigger and to be proud of it. In addition to rewards and positive feedback, leaders can inspire others by consistently and regularly communicating a clear purpose that people connect with emotionally. It is easy to get mired in the day-to-day details; step back and connect those details to a broader vision. This means embedding it in your everyday work not just from a “marketing” perspective (posted on your website), but in daily conversations as evidence of working towards that incredibly important purpose beyond making money.
5. Change Old-School Thinking Against Flexibility and Track Results Instead
In 2022, people value flexibility more than ever. If someone is in a role that can be effectively carried out through flexible work, then offer this. Not only is this hugely rewarding for employees, but it also gives them a sense of comfort, knowing that you trust them to carry out their role effectively and manage their own time. And don’t automatically assume the younger generation will take advantage of it. Depending on what stage of life and career people are in will determine how much or how little structure or time in the office they will need or want. Track results, not “butts in chairs”.
6. Get Everyone Directly Involved in The Company
Money is the result of successful work and not a sustainable source of motivation. Other important forms of compensation include having fun, working on something great, recognizing and appreciating colleagues, and the feeling of having achieved something challenging. Coming from this mindset, rather than just exchanging their time for money, the culture should encourage an “owners’ mindset” in the employees. The employees can then be a part of building something inspiring that they can be incredibly proud of.
7. Recognize Your Team Member’s Humanity
The most meaningful way to recognize employees amidst all the difficulties we are facing in the current challenging business and social environment is to first and foremost recognize their humanity. Know the individuals on your team and recognize each employee’s unique challenges as the year unfolds. Command and control are out. Prioritize time, space, and opportunity for them to thrive and reach their goals by guiding their growth and investing in them. Compassion is one of the most overlooked leadership traits to leverage, especially after a couple of tough years.
8. Share What Each Employees Role in Your Vision for The Future Is
Inspire people to want to work with you and each other by sharing your vision and their role in it. You might be working your way through current challenges, but your eyes are on the future. Tell them about three indicators informing your vision for the future and why those give you confidence. Assure your people that they are building the foundation for a future in which all of them play a part. Be honest, specific, visionary, and hopeful. People love making a difference and being a part of something big.
The list above is near and dear to my own heart. The two that were highlighted by the clients I was working with the last two weeks were knowing one another on a personal level and ensuring people understood how relevant their contribution was to the success of the organization. This aligns nicely with Patrick Lencioni’s work on employee engagement. I would hope that you might look at the above list and rank yourself from 1 to 5 on each. Then ask yourself which one you might need to work on from now till the end of the year. If you are diligent in working on it, it will pay off…I promise! If you need more resources, please let us know, and, as always, best wishes in your leadership journey!
As I crossed the street in downtown Melbourne with my fellow directors, I reveled in the idle chit-chat I had been missing for 3 years. I was back in the Land Down Under for our annual Strategic Planning Meeting…out of Zoom Room Purgatory! As we walked, we randomly talked about the rich history of Italian influence on coffee in Australia, the difference in men’s dress from Sydney to Melbourne, and the politics of the most recently elected prime minister. How much I had missed my peers and the banter we always had back and forth! We were all energized because we were going to a bonus in-person client event. This one was special because it was taking place on a Tuesday at lunch at the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) with a handful of Aussie clients and colleagues to simply connect and discuss what was weighing heaviest on their minds.
As I entered the venue, it was absolutely gorgeous with antique cars, beautiful furniture, exquisite chandeliers, and elegant waitstaff! We were served appetizers and adult beverages as we were waiting to be seated. Upon being introduced to people we had not met, we all commented how decadent it felt for a Tuesday afternoon…and, in some ways in our minds, it was a celebration of the return to us getting back to in-person events. I met several outstanding professionals in the retail, financial, hospitality/food service, government, and not-for-profit sectors. We were all seated and after putting in our lunch orders we got down to business. There was no agenda and the question posed was “What are the current wicked problems in your business to be solved?” It was amazing how similar the themes were, and I have captured them here, hoping that they resonate with you (you are not alone), dear readers.
Current Pressing Problems
What is going on from my point of view? For many skilled, professional workers, the historical changes to their lives and the way they work over the past two years have essentially flattened Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the past, job security, decent compensation, and at least a tangible opportunity were the price of entry for people coming into organizations. Now a massive number of employees not only want to feel invested in the work they do, but they also want to see that their employer is invested in the same things they value and believe in. Employees, at the very least, want to:
Now, none of this comes as a surprise to any of you, I know. But, what strategic initiatives have you put in place to address these in your core ideology, hiring practices, employee benefits, DEI work, leadership programs, and ability to build high-performing teams? With some research on best practices and input from your employee base, you can create strategic initiatives to begin to address these issues. Yes, it takes time and, just like you, sometimes I feel like I take one step forward and two steps back, but that really is what leadership is. Without the obstacles the journey wouldn’t be as sweet, would it?
2. How can we enhance our employee value proposition (EVP) so it resonates? One of the clients who was sitting at our table spoke at length about the cultural work their company had done in the past year. They talked about how important creating a clear core purpose was to establish a great culture. The result was the team rallying around such a deep, important reason for being in existence and that driving performance and engagement within the organization. This conversation led to the group agreeing that previously, having one clear employee value proposition was enough. Not so now. The great organizations ask themselves what can we do to make people feel loved and safe? The employee value proposition is not a one size fits all and there must be several. Companies must listen and realize what is important to the different groups.
What is going on from my point of view? With so much riding on escaping “the Great Resignation” unscathed, employers are starting to realize that they must start from scratch and create a strong, multi-dimensional EVP that fully delivers on their company’s employee-experience promise. One that fuels a culture where everyone can bring their full range of talents, feel included and valued, and do great work in a great environment. In order to have a really great EVP, these are 3 of the things our clients are including in successful ones:
Warren Buffet talks about a Value Proposition is a moat that separates you from your competitors. It is tough to cross and get to your castle. In other words, what sets you apart as an employer that would be hard to replicate by other businesses in your sector? That is your EVP…and you can’t just rely on one. You have to have several that address the diversity of your employee base. Don’t you want to be the employer of choice? It is such hard work!
3. How Can We Convince Leaders That They Have to Lead Differently? The final theme that jumped out at me as I sat at this luncheon with a room full of incredibly smart, thoughtful people had to do with leadership. Of course, a subject near and dear to my heart. I don’t have to tell you that the pandemic changed leadership forever. It started with CEOs I know having weeks of sleepless nights putting together contingency plans and solving problems for an event that few predicted and even fewer prepared for. If their thinking didn’t flip on its head during this time, then they are being left behind. They had to pivot their thinking on the hybrid work environment, how to hold remote people accountable, how to shift away from the top down, how to create psych safety in a scary environment, how to influence people to get into leadership roles, and how to get more comfortable with technology in a split second…among 100 other 360 degree pivots. We all did. But, what many of us are facing now is not just the logistics of leadership, but also the mindset and that is what this table of high-level thinkers was grappling with.
What is going on from my point of view? Remember prior to the world shutting down when we used to talk about VUCA? Wow! We had no idea what we were even capable of then! We have come so far, yet we can still start to drift towards old ways of thinking. The three things I am seeing will not revert back and we need to help leaders need to rally around are:
What was remarkable about sitting around this table was the depth of the conversation at hand. This was a group of individuals that did not know one another before this event, but they absolutely opened up and discussed some of the most pressing pain points in their own companies freely. We ended the lunch by asking them what they sought out of a partnership with a company like us. It warmed my heart that what Steople on the other side of the planet brought was insight, perspective, and a richness of resources. Partnering with skilled professionals who brought both science and practical business knowledge to accelerate learning and change throughout each organization had been invaluable. Our value proposition is there for you – deep relationships, research of best practices, and pragmatic solutions. As always, we are here for you and your leadership journey. We want nothing more than to see you succeed!