What do we need to do to work more effectively with each other as a team?Continue reading
Why is it that some of the best ideas are never considered and idiotic concepts that we know will fail are?
How did AT&T decide to focus on the picture phone and sell off the rights to the cellular telephone? Research clearly showed that the number-one reason people placed a phone call instead of showing up in person was speed and convenience. The number-two reason was they did not want to be face-to-face with the person they were calling. If you are at home on the phone in your underwear, do you really want people to see you? (OK, some of you do, and you know who you are, but let’s move on.) Why did it take so long to get squeeze-bottle ketchup? Squeeze-bottle mustard was on the market 20 years earlier! Were there really people who believed that ketchup in a glass bottle was sacred and could never sink to the lows of a seemingly misguided mustard?
The issue is that some of us are just much better at getting people to agree with us than others.
It’s why it took so long for people to wear seat belts and yet pet rocks sold instantly. We interviewed some of the most persuasive people in the Wynn Solutions top-performers research pool and found some interesting information about getting people to see things your way regardless of how ineffective your ideas may be:
- Find out what people value most before you start talking. People are much more likely to listen to your ideas if you can prove you know what’s important to them first (agreeing that it’s important will also help a lot).
- Make sure your ideas are clear. It does not matter how smart you are if no one knows what you’re talking about. You may need to have your top expert teach their concepts to your top presenter. A lot of great ideas are not considered because people don’t want to admit they don’t get it.
- Make sure you can explain the basic value in about 20 seconds. People buy into what they can understand quickly. “The longer it takes you to explain value, the more people think you don’t have any.” Show how it will make the person(s) you are talking with look good personally. What’s in it for them?
- Show the similarities first and differences second. The main reason people don’t want to change is that nobody wants to be a “senior beginner.” When things change, people are afraid their expertise will have less value—they may not be as important to the organization as they used to be. Show how the new way is similar to the old way first, and then the new way feels more valuable.
Our research showed that ideas have to be more than great. They have to get supported by humans as they make their way toward implementation. Some pretty weak agendas get moved forward because they are presented 10 times better than an agenda that was …well … 10 times better.
Change is always the same. Change itself is not the issue; it’s the resistance to change that causes problems.
Many of us learned this growing up as we competed in sports, or for the attention of others. In the business world, the resistance is naturally strong when we explain our great reform is based on doing more with less. We tell our coworkers and even our bosses that the future is based on being more productive with fewer resources. (I don’t know about you, but I always dreamed the future would somehow involve physically doing less with much more cool stuff.)
We can attempt to cultivate buy-in by explaining how to be more productive and how to lessen the cost of that productivity, ultimately enabling us to wrap our fingers around that holy grail of business achievement: profitability. But let’s get real. All signs might point to profitability as a logical product of the changes being proposed, and yet logical humans need to see how a change in process will make them look good before they will give it their all.
Through our surveys of top professionals who serve as change agents, Wynn Solutions has noticed a critical first leg of the buy-in journey. (“Critical” and “first leg”? It sounds like change is limping already!) We found that top professionals who succeed in implementing change begin by tactfully explaining that the more people focus on making change work, the more value they have to the company.
Additionally, these professionals dealt with the good-old-days syndrome that prevents some people from creating their own future. You may have heard that to spread change through an organization, you have to prove to key players that the new way is at least as good as, if not better than, the old way. You might think you need to provide some physical evidence (data) and a couple of testimonials (people thought of as straight shooters saying positive things about the changes) as well.
However, if you want people to see it’s possible to succeed by doing more with less, you need to find or create change agents who will massively benefit from the change and who have an outstanding advocate network, great communication skills and “above all” really big mouths.
It’s no mystery that we expect our leaders to tell us the truth — and we hope…Continue reading
The ability to read people’s emotions, understand what they value and make sure they feel valuable does not make you a genius. It does, however, make you the kind of person every company needs and an extremely important member of any team.Continue reading
So it’s really what we believe about something that is the issue, not what we are actually experiencing in the moment. And, the more people who validate the belief (agree that this really sucks and is the biggest problem you have), the more likely you are to get stressed and make an overactive decision…with a hammer!Continue reading
Leadership and communication skills mean nothing if no one wants to listen to you. Many knowledgeable, committed people have zero personal influence simply because they are not interesting. We have all been bored by someone to the point where we imagine ourselves on a Caribbean beach sipping a big umbrella drink and listening to metal drum music. That’s right – we will choose the sound of someone beating on harmonically modified oil drums as we sport embarrassing beverages rather than stay tuned in to information that just moments ago we thought would easily hold our attention.
On the other hand, we watch people on reality shows who are seemingly devoid of value, babbling about stuff we can’t even relate to, much less learn anything from that remotely applies to our own lives. (I won’t name names but it starts with a Kar and ends with a Dashian.) What is it that makes something we truly want to know unbearable and makes useless drivel so appealing? Is it a big personality?
I don’t know about you, but I have had to relocate on a mercifully semi-empty airplane because my seatmate had too much personality. It’s easy to say we choose entertainment over education. (If that’s true, why can’t I stop watching Antiques Roadshow?) We can’t get the education we need to forward our lives because we won’t take the time to study, but we will watch Honey Boo Boo and Swamp People until we begin to develop grammar problems! We can’t focus while at work, but we come home to watch someone do their work on TV. Recently, a very honest woman struggling to sell real estate told me she was not willing to work late because she wanted to watch a show every night about real estate gurus easily selling mansions.
Contrary to what we have been told most of our lives, it seems that we are oddly interested in things we can’t relate to very well. For instance, if you can’t sell a fixer-upper in a questionable neighborhood, then watching a show about superstar realtors selling 30,000-square-foot houses supports my theory. When it comes to shows like Hoarders, we watch and feel better knowing that our messy house is not so bad. Interestingly, though, we won’t clean our house in response; instead, we watch as someone cleans the hoarder’s house. Actually, the show makes most people decide to stay in their relationships because you are less likely to gain 100 pounds and sleep on a pile of pizza boxes if you have a roommate.
General Hospital is still on TV while PBS, which airs some of the best documentaries we’ve seen in years, struggles for funding. Great shows end because they run out of ideas after five seasons, whereas General Hospital has had a 50-year run and hasn’t changed a bit. Sure, some characters who’ve died have come back to life, and sometimes the series just switches actors in a key role, as though no one will notice. It’s just not very realistic … and that’s what we like. What family has someone in the hospital every week? If you knew that family, would you want to hang out with them?
In that same vein, science fiction and fantasy are the top movie and TV draws. From Star Warsto Game of Thrones, we can’t get enough of shockingly unrealistic concepts that try to deliver a moral message. What have I learned? Be nice to dragons and always hang out near the escape pods!
In short, we choose escape over importance, spectacle over value, reality TV over reality. Consequently, if you want to get people to listen to you, you need to start with an over-the-top story that makes others feel like they could never achieve such a lofty, unrealistic dream. Or, if it’s over the top in a negative way, it should make them glad that this mesmerizing train wreck did not happen to them. We don’t care for personal tragedy, but we will actually pay to see the misfortunes of others. That’s why your college professor who told weird and probably untrue stories had so much impact on you. It also explains why you slow down to look at accidents even when you are late for work.
Armed with this insight, what can we do to make sure that people absorb what we want them to hear?
- The most ridiculous, outlandish story you have needs to be put to good use. Points are easy; good stories are hard to come by. Take a great true story (embellishments are OK; you can even admit you’re exaggerating as you tell the story) or an untrue story you can use as metaphor and find the points you need. You can adjust the story to fit your points, but keep in mind that it requires focus. Saying “Hard work creates opportunity” is easy; getting a great story to illustrate that point is much tougher. I once heard a former IRS tax attorney talk about some intensely boring subject matter, but he used really crazy stories about agents tackling celebrities in their front yard and people trying to deduct payments made to prostitutes. I still remember his basic points about record keeping and how to make sure you’re maximizing deductions but playing by the rules. I don’t want to be tackled!
- Make sure you start with the problem or issue, then the solution, and finally why the solution is valuable. This order is important for impact. Even the worst reality show with the lowest production value is easy to follow. You can present an over-the-top problem that you solve with a straightforward solution and then a dramatic, metaphorical explanation of value. If you can be funny, be as funny as you can. (If you are not funny, don’t be.) Humor that works always gives you an advantage. We can remember a good joke we heard two years ago, but we don’t recall what we had for lunch two days ago.
- Be aware of what your audience values and believes in, even if it’s an audience of one. TV and movie companies do lots of research on this and create things that match what they know about the viewing public. If you know people who really dislike a particular sports team (that’s weird, I know, but it happens), then being over the top in a negative way grabs their attention. I spoke at an NFL event, at a pre-Super Bowl meeting attended by fans and staff of only one of the teams. There had been recent news coverage about players saying negative things about the team I was speaking to. It had gotten out of hand. I mentioned that I had a desire to fight the other team’s mascot because he was annoying – and that I was qualified to do so because I had once taken down Barney in an ugly altercation in a Toys R Us parking lot. They cheered and clapped for a full minute. Then I made my point: Sometimes the best action is restraint, followed by introspection. To win, we must keep a cool head and not be distracted by our personal resentments. I admitted to the large crowd that extreme loyalty to a football team was not my issue. I clearly have a problem with people in big furry animal suits. I trace it back to a Disney trip at age 11 when Goofy and I had it out over a funnel cake.
To ensure that we are seen as interesting, we have to be realistic about how people respond and what they respond to consistently. Being sincere, factual, relatable, relevant, and on point can never compete with a personal, colorful, funny, over-the-top, hard-to-believe story or metaphor with a good, solid, easy-to-understand solution or idea that focuses on delivering value to the listener. Here’s the proof: Whether you liked this article or it rubbed you the wrong way, you seemed to have no problem finishing it!
How the Millennial Work Ethic May Permanently Improve the Economy
Can we achieve more by working less?
If you are in your 20s, you are hoping the answer to this question is a big, barefooted “Yes!” If you’re in your 50s, this is a goal you have secretly cherished while professing the opposite to your employees and kids. If you are in your 30s or 40s, you think this is just the propaganda of the lazy trying to weasel their way into a shorter work week; and if you’re 60 or above, you think this question is the beginning of the end of the world. But if it’s true – if embracing the Gen Y work ethic could actually have us working less while achieving more – we could crown Gen Y as the real “greatest generation,” leaving a lot of World War II survivors and baby boomer historians and journalists with disturbed looks on their faces.
Let’s be honest: Baby boomers have worked fewer hours, and in cushier conditions, than their parents did. They are much more educated than their parents, lived at home longer, got married later and wanted to automate so they could get better results with less effort. Have they produced fewer results than previous generations? Do we think of them as entitled and lazy?
It’s almost a pattern we can trace through the past century: Each generation expected long hours and hard work to bring prosperity but then saw those expectations disappointed somehow, leading the next generation to reexamine what success looks like. Until the 1920s, most Americans had jobs that required 12-hour workdays. They believed that if they worked hard enough, the value of their companies would rise with the power of their efforts – but in the 1930s the economy crashed. Nowadays, hardworking Gen Xers can be very critical of the Gen Y work ethic, even though Gen Xers themselves were viewed as slackers by baby boomers and faced the economic fallout of the early 2000s. My point is that people of every generation have tried to make things easier, still working pretty hard in their own way while facing the judgment of previous generations; but they haven’t seen long-lasting results. We seem to have a work ethic that is by all accounts noble but fails to sustain success.
How is Gen Y different? They are told they’re too confident in their abilities and think too highly of themselves. But wait a second…these are their bad traits? When did liking yourself and believing you can succeed regardless of circumstances become undesirable attributes? Well, it’s complicated, so stick with me on this. If you force a lot of self-esteem into a 5-year-old, you end up with some unwanted results. For example, a percentage of males who believe “I’m OK no matter what, so there is no need to be successful” don’t exhibit a lot of ambition. (Only about 40 percent of U.S. college freshmen are male – and although pursuing a college education is not an exclusive indicator of ambition, the trend is telling.) A percentage of females will believe “If I’m OK no matter what, then nothing is really ever my fault,” so they don’t have a basic level of personal accountability. (Interestingly, the women of Gen Y are much less likely to apologize than boomer women.)
Sometimes great things come at a cost that at first glance is too high to pay. Could the “I’m OK no matter what” mindset be siphoning some millennials’ potential to achieve? It’s possible that as many as a third of Gen Y may have been sacrificed to produce the most confident, empowered generation of all time. So what makes what’s left of this generation so great? They believe that every problem comes with its own set of solutions; they were taught to partner and collaborate to succeed. They were taught it is, in fact, possible for everyone to win. If you get a group of millennials together to deliberate, they end up with an agreement; if you ask a bunch of boomers to try to work out their problems, they just end up with some very sophisticated blaming techniques. (“I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m just saying that your ideas won’t work under these conditions!”) Just turn on your TV and watch the news; it’s full of gray-haired people in disagreement.
Most people in their 20s don’t need to be as right – or make others as wrong – as previous generations. They are also much less prejudiced and much more tolerant. This means that Gen Y could resolve political and religious differences that have existed for centuries. The collaboration worldwide will likely improve all economies. But it’s the desire to focus on working smart rather than working hard that will change the world forever. Free from the belief that effort and long hours are the foundation of innovation, they are uncovering new technologies to make more time in life for fun and to make their jobs meaningful and enjoyable.
People who don’t like their jobs don’t do a good job. That’s a fact, not a theory. More than any other generation, millennials will quit a job that leaves little time for the things they enjoy. For Gen Y to reach its potential (at work and in the world), they must find engagement in their workplace. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 70% of all employees are not engaged at work. Disengaged employees are much less productive, which has led more than a few top business consultants to consider disengagement the biggest issue in corporate America. In short, hard work is not as productive as liking your work, because your commitment and awareness are lower. Working long hours with maximum effort while you are emotionally disengaged also increases your chances of making mistakes, according to Evolve Performance Group, a research firm that has surveyed thousands of employees in 46 countries and 28 languages.
Even more interesting, Harvard Business Review’s Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance outlines some basic keys to engagement as follows: (1) knowing my boss cares about me, (2) seeing a clear path to leadership and (3) knowing how my job helps the company be successful. Frequently cited by millennials, these engagement factors are all about feeling valuable in order to perform better at work – not about performing better so they can feel valued. That’s something to consider. Gallup surveys have shown this for 70 years; but still leaders have touted long hours, hard work and inflexible conditions, until recently, as we see Gen Y CEOs changing the model. What do you think the engagement levels are at Facebook and Google?
When Gen Y comes of age, based on what we have seen so far, they are likely to be the most productive workforce in history. It’s just that they might do it by showing up at 10 a.m., leaving at 5 p.m. (with a long lunch in there somewhere), and working late at night. The future never really looks exactly right to the people from the past. It may be possible that it took this many generations for mankind to figure out that hard work is what you do when you don’t really know how to succeed!
The only way to effectively hold others accountable is to first hold yourself accountable in front of them.
As a leader, if you want employee engagement and long-term influence, you must take a look at the role you’ve played in your team’s problem and make sure your people know that you’re examining your own involvement. When you do that, your group’s level of animosity (if any) drops, your skills and communication improve, and you create a sustainable culture of accountability.
This is not an opinion or an idea; it’s how human nature affects a situation if we allow it to take its natural course and we are honest with ourselves. It’s also an overall conclusion drawn from decades of Gallup studies. It’s why some leaders who regularly unveil mediocre ideas from the latest book they’ve misinterpreted have the undying loyalty of their people, while brilliant strategists with good track records run off top talent. Have you ever wondered why highly skilled people who don’t apply themselves for one leader can hit home runs for another? Think about it. How hard would you work for a boss who never claims a role in any mistake?
If we want people to perform at the highest level, to buy into change and to adopt new processes with minimal errors and complaints, they have to feel their leaders are willing to accept responsibility. Then your team is positioned to perform its best. You will never really know how good your people are until they know you are accountable. It’s what many leaders rarely do and what the most successful always do!
A relatively new phenomenon is sweeping through corporate America (and some other countries as well): employees who will leave a job in a shorter time frame than it took to find one. Attrition rates in some industries border on the insane. As one corporate leader told me, “If only half our people quit every year, it would be a big improvement and save us millions.”
When did we become a culture of quitters? When did people start to think of most job opportunities as disposable? In this article, we give you the non-sugarcoated truth you deserve.
They don’t see a path that leads to better opportunity and pay. Telling someone that hard work and building relationships are key to getting promoted will no longer fly. Not only will this very reluctant dog not hunt; it’s possible that it never really picked up the scent to begin with. This single factor drives your most talented employees away while encouraging tenure among those who are short on talent and long on explanations. Your most talented people have options; they might have headhunters contacting them every week. But the people with no talent and drive — the ones who believe they don’t have a shot at a better life — are in for the long haul and will pledge their undying loyalty!
Solution: These days, employees under 40 years old need to understand exactly what is required to accomplish their goals. That means it’s in writing, it’s very clear, and it adheres to a time line (within a three-year period).
You have a very restrictive cell phone policy. You may have noticed that many young people seem to have their phone in hand. They don’t just have their phone with them; they, in fact, are with their phone. It’s not in their pocket or their purse; it’s part of their person. That’s right — left to our own devices, we literally walk around staring at our devices. If you want to punish a young person, just take his phone away. According to a study conducted by InsightExpress in 18 countries with 1,800 respondents, 75 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds spend as much time socializing online as they do in person. Forty-six percent say they use their phone to text during meals, and 30 percent text every time they go to the bathroom. Furthermore, a random sampling by Wynn Solutions (using 18- to 30-year-olds to ask the questions) showed the InsightExpress figures to be relatively low. Let’s get real: If you ask a person under 40 years old how many times a day he or she checks the phone, the honest answer is “I lose count.” A device you carry everywhere and check first thing in the morning and the last thing at night is an extension of who you are (as disturbingly science-fiction as that sounds).
Solution: So, it’s common sense that heavy phone restrictions could contribute to employee disengagement and job dissatisfaction. It may be important for safety reasons to manage cellphone usage in industrial areas, but if there is no danger of distraction, you can have phone breaks built in to work schedules or experiment with how much work loss vs benefits you receive from having a phone friendly workplace. Many organizations these days have a very hard time retaining top talent when the competition declares “It’s cool to use your phones.”
Your initial training programs lack clarity and engagement. We can learn a lot from an anonymous comment left by a heavily recruited 24-year-old new hire after completing a training program: “It seems like there were some missing parts in the training, which is strange because there were, like, way too many parts. It kind of makes me feel unqualified, but it’s more likely that the training just sucks.” All too often, training programs are poorly constructed and delivered by unskilled presenters.
Solution: New hires from among Gen Y were taught how to take tests rather than how to grasp broad concepts. As a result, they need extremely clear training programs that start with what success actually looks like (not just the steps to get there); they also learn best from short modules that can hold their attention. These young, eager-to-learn employees can quickly become disillusioned if they feel they’ll have to move forward without an ironclad grasp on how to do the job well.
They don’t feel heard by leadership. According to recent research from Gallup, 70 percent of employees polled say they are disengaged. If you can turn the tide here and create engagement with your employees, you increase the likelihood that they’ll stay.
Solution: To achieve this, consider having an outside source conduct surveys within your organization. Employees’ anonymous responses to specific questions will reflect what they think, how connected they feel, and what they believe about your organization and leaders. The results help you understand your own work culture well enough to identify what needs to be fixed. You can then build a plan that addresses your employees’ needs, whether that means designing more effective training, tweaking your social media policies, or improving interactions between workers and managers. As employees see their input transforming your culture, they’ll feel heard, they’ll perform better, and they will likely stay with you longer.
The only thing worse than failing to overcome the competition is realizing you don’t even have the right people to compete. As stated earlier, the best employees will exit and the bad workers will stay. So employee engagement tactics that create retention are foundational to all organizations. Regardless of great technologies like robotics, manufacturing software, and social media, it turns out you still have to have a bunch of people in your building to qualify as an organization. And, though younger workers desperately need their “tech-tools” to take us into the future, you don’t want to get stuck with the ones that don’t grasp how humans are involved IN that future!
I recently spoke at a convention with a really cool hologram technology that had the CEO materializing at multiple locations simultaneously like he was beaming down from the starship Enterprise. One youngish, not-so-bright AV guy commented, “Wow, this meeting does not even need actual people to succeed!” Hmmmmmm.
I had to ask: “So, without people, what would you be beaming onto the holography platform on the stage?”
“Well… that’s a good point, I guess. Maybe just some charts and cool graphics.”
Really? I pressed in. “So how long do you plan to have this job at the hotel?”
“Dude,” he replied, “my boss is like super-smart and took another job that he likes a lot better and now I’m the only person that knows how everything works. I would never leave here now. I can keep this job forever.”
Make sure your good people stay!