Talent Development 24 Business Partnerships

January 28, 2021

Section 3.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Consulting and Business Partnering. Section B reads, “Skill in establishing and managing organizational and/or business partnerships and relationships.”

In this article I will outline the process I use to establish, maintain, and enrich business partnerships. The bottom line is a pretty simple equation that starts with a lot of networking.

Networking

You are not going to build a strong team of business partners if you aren’t out there meeting new people all the time. The best advice I received when I retired from the corporate world was to keep active in lots of organizations to keep my network strong.

At one point I was simultaneously involved in 17 different volunteer organizations and associations. I have scaled that back a bit, but still am active in over a dozen groups. The networking leads to friendships that can, and often do, grow into strong partnerships.

Mutual Benefit

You must maintain an attitude of mutual benefit. Both partners must be gaining by the relationship or it will atrophy over time. Choose your partners carefully so there is always a synergistic relationship.

Not Competitive

Avoid becoming partners with a person who is doing the exact same thing as you in the same markets. You can be friendly with these people, but they do not make good partners because they will pursue the same organizations or clients that you do.

It is better to find an individual who has skill expertise that feeds into what you do rather than competes directly with you.

Contribute Freely

Give of yourself to enhance the relationship. Support the other person in every way you can and be generous with your time and your resources. It is a good idea to nominate the other person for awards or find ways to praise the person on social networks.

Establish a Great Working Relationship

If people genuinely like you, they will be excellent partners. Invest in the relationship and work to keep it from going dormant. This is especially true in times when people need to be working remotely. It is easy to lose touch with mutual friends when you do not see each other as often or you only see each other on Zoom.

I find that personal Zooms with another person are a wonderful way to keep the partnership fresh and vibrant. Keep a list of your personal partners and be sure to contact each one often enough to keep the momentum going.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.






Talent Development 23 Communication

January 18, 2021

Section 1.1 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Communication. Section A reads, “Skill in using communication strategies that inform and influence audiences.”

Communication is such a basic part of leadership that we often take it for granted. If you study the numerous employee satisfaction surveys that are taken around the world every year, it turns out that poor communication is often the most mentioned gripe for workers.

The Root Cause

I believe the basis for this problem is that leaders believe they have communicated if they have said or written something and people appear to have heard the verbal output or opened the note.

Unfortunately, communication has not happened until the majority of people fully understand the content. Sharing information verbally in a Town Hall Meeting (live or virtual) and telling people about the latest policy change is not fully communicating, but most leaders think it is adequate to get the job done.

In the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, Richard Edelman made an observation of a large shift in responses to the following question: “How many times in general do you need to hear something about a specific company to believe it is likely to be true?”

Edelman noted that prior to 2013 the most common response was one or two times. Starting in 2013, he saw a shift where most people responded three to five times. That was a major change that most leaders did not recognize or factor into their communication strategies. Of course, 2013 was a long time ago, but Edelman believes the bar for good communication remains at three to five times.

The implication is that leaders need to find creative and different ways of putting information out so people really grasp the meaning and believe it to be true.

Examples of Different Strategies

1. You can often involve people in the decision while it is still in the formative stage. If people have contributed to a decision, they are much more likely to support it.

2. The Town Hall format or webinar (which can be recorded) is one method of communicating to a large group what is about to happen, but we cannot stop there and think we have communicated.

3. Follow up with individual or small group meetings where people can relax and ask any questions they have.

4. Verify people have heard the real meaning by asking questions about what you just said.

5. Involve people emotionally in the content by asking their reactions to a decision or action.

6. When people tell you something relative to the decision, be sure to wear your “listening hat” and absorb the input deeply. Ask clarifying questions and use reflective listening techniques.

7. Consider that currently, and in the future, there will be a hybrid situation where some people will hear the content live and others will be virtual.

8. If part of the audience is international, take into account the time zone differences that may limit the coverage. You might consider recording an important message to be played at a more convenient time.

9. Put the information in writing either with a physical letter or an email, because some people need to read the material several times for it to sink in.

10. Consider texts or tweets to reinforce the messages and provide for dialog if there are questions, but recognize you will not reach all people with social networking.

11. Post the information on a bulletin board or on the internal company news channel or employee website.

12. Circle back a few days after an announcement to identify if there is a deep understanding of the implications of a decision.

You do not need to do all these steps for every decision, but do strive to have important announcements disseminated in three to five different ways for maximum understanding.

If leaders would put more energy into how they communicate with people, we could reduce the problem of people feeling that communication from their leaders is lacking.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.








Talent Development 22 Future Readiness

January 10, 2021

Section 3.8 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Future Readiness. Section A reads, “Knowledge of techniques to promote, support, and/or generate innovation and creativity, for example design thinking, brainstorming, and ideation.”

Creativity is essential for forward movement in any organization. Unfortunately, the tools to have high creativity are often not used well, so the end result is muted rather than brilliant.

One of the more misunderstood techniques to bring about creativity is brainstorming.

Do brainstorming right

The technique of “brainstorming” was developed by Alex Osborn in the year 1967. His book “Applied Imagination” laid out a specific set of rules for brainstorming sessions.

Rule 1 – go for a high number of ideas – He suggested that quantity was more important than quality when creating fresh ideas.

Rule 2 – suspend all judgment while coming up with the ideas. This is the rule that most groups find difficult to follow.

The concept of coming up with “wild” or “crazy” ideas allowed a spontaneous flow of new concepts. Even though most of them were impractical or stupid, there were some nuggets among them.

Osborn suggested that people in the group “hitchhike” or create variations of the ideas of others. In doing so, mutations of different ideas would often lead to an actual practical solution that could work.

Some interesting other techniques have come along that put the concept of brainstorming on steroids. One such invention was “Morphological Analysis.”

The Technique of Morphological Analysis

This concept uses brainstorming but in a way that forces the combination of concepts that we would not normally even consider. The technique was developed by Fritz Zwicky in 1969 at Cal Tech.

He would create a matrix of three or four different variables and present them on two axes. For example he might have objects on the x axis. I will use an example here of car, house, hammock, and brick. Then on the y axis he would identify some other concept, let’s say emotions. So, he might have chosen love, sorrow, fear, levity.

Now he would ask people to brainstorm several different ways you might imagine the intersection of the concepts. He would ask questions like “How can we use a car to create levity?” (answer: you might dress it up like a penguin) or “In what ways can we use a brick to create fear?” (answer: using a string, suspend the brick 20 feet above someone’s head and light a match).

The exercise would continue until all of the intersections or “boxes” were full of crazy ideas. Think about how you would use a hammock to generate sorrow. It really stretches the mind beyond the way we normally think.

Here is another technique to get more ideas using brainstorming in a slightly different way.

One, Two, Four, All

My friend David Finger studied the technique made popular by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz in a structure they call “Liberating Structures.” Here is how David describes how he uses the technique in his work.

Step 1: Define the question that will be answered. This question must be very specific so that everyone answers the same question without interpretation. One question I recently used was, “What feature of Zoom Breakout Rooms is your favorite?”. As you can see, the question is not a monumentally difficult one, in fact it should be one that EVERYONE can come up with an answer for, but that there is no one “right” answer.

Step 2: Ask each person to write down (this is important whether in-person or virtually) their best answer to the question. One answer per person, and it must be written down. (I generally just tell them that part of this process is that they must write it down; I don’t explain why. People comply with simple rules like that fairly quickly, if it’s not a complex instruction.) Maximum time for this is 1 minute.

Step 3: Each person will be paired with another person, and together they will share and discuss their ideas with each other. Within 2 minutes, they need to agree to move forward with ONE of their two ideas. The time limit is necessarily short so they just act without a lot of waffling. They need to decide and move forward.

Step 4: Each pair of people is now put together with another pair of people, and they will each share their agreed-upon move-ahead idea. The way I usually phrase this is, “Between the 4 of you, you have 2 ideas. Work as a team of 4 to decide which ONE idea is the best.” Also, each team of 4 will decide on who will present this one idea to the rest of the group after the decision is made. Maximum time 2 minutes to decide on one idea and assign a spokesperson.

Step 5: Each 4-person team’s spokesperson now reports their ONE idea in an all-participants session. (This is the “All” part.)

Step 6: You now have one top idea from each group of 4 people. Depending on the question and the objective, you can use multi-voting, weighted voting, etc. to choose the one idea to go forward. Alternatively, you can adopt all of the top ideas as things to work on.

The one, two, four, all technique works equally well in a virtual setting as it does in person, so this method of brainstorming may become more popular in the future as a larger portion of the workforce will likely be working from home.

Using an organized approach like the one, two, four, all technique or Morphological analysis creates a richer and more lively brainstorming session that allows the best ideas to move forward. Just remember to keep it light and have fun with your creativity sessions.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.



Talent Development 21 Data and Analytics

December 30, 2020

Section 3.7 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Data & Analytics. Section A reads, “Skill in selecting and/or using data visualization techniques, for example flow charts, graphs, plots, word clouds, and heat maps.”

The old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is really true. This is especially true when a lot of data is involved or there is a level of complexity.

Trying to explain the relationship between different concepts can be tricky in words, but the mind can quickly absorb a large amount of data immediately in a picture and draw a conclusion. This clarity of thought saves a lot of time in training, and it helps to keep people fresh.

Death by PowerPoint

Many trainers practice “Death by PowerPoint,” where they show numerous slides with a lot of words and then read the words to the audience, sometimes turning their back on the audience to read the screen.  People zone out quickly.

A real example

Let me share an example of a picture being more powerful than a word description. I compared the level of trust in an entire organization from data gathered at different levels in the organization.

I measured trust as perceived by the top leaders in the organization, the middle managers, the supervisors, and the lead operators.

First I will try to describe my observations in words, then I will show that a quick glance at a chart makes the whole concept much easier to absorb.

I asked leaders at several levels in an organization to rate their company on how much trust there is. The rating was 1 = low trust and 10 = high trust.

I then noted that leaders at the top of the organization (senior leaders) rated trust much higher than lower levels. People at lower levels perceived less trust in the organization.

A strange anomaly

At the Supervisor and Group Leader levels, a curious “hole” in the data began to emerge in the area of 5-6.

I puzzled over this hole in the data for quite a while. I now believe that when confronted with the challenge to identify the level of trust on a scale of 1-10, most people immediately considered 5 or 6 to be “average” (whatever that meant to them).

Then they thought, “well, we are somewhat better or worse than average,” so that gave rise to a cluster of votes lower than 5-6 and a cluster that were higher.

That word picture is pretty difficult to follow and remember, but a chart showing the same data is rather easy to interpret. The digits represent the number of people at each level that voted for a particular trust rating.

A chart spells it out more clearly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you agree that this single diagram makes the complex situation much easier to understand and remember.

With the COVID 19 Pandemic of 2020, it is even more important to use visualization techniques. We are living in a hybrid world, with some people at the office and most people still working from home or satellite locations.  Even if the vaccines are effective in controlling the virus in the future, most futurists predict we will never go back to a full in-person workforce. 

There will likely always be a significant portion of people working from home. For these people, the ability to show concepts graphically will be increasingly important.

When you develop training programs, make sure to include visual aids that are easy to digest. Also, go easy on the number of words used to keep people from zoning out.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014).

In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 


Talent Development 20 Measuring Engagement

December 19, 2020

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization Development & Culture. Section E reads, “Skill in assessing and evaluating employee engagement.”

I have seen dozens of instruments that purport to measure employee engagement. Some of these are simple 10 question surveys, and others are complex blockage surveys that try to identify what is getting in the way of full engagement.

Defining Engagement

We need to start with the definition of engagement. There are entire books that attempt to describe engagement and how to increase it.

I like the simple approach with the following definition: “To what extent do all people in the group understand the vision for an ideal future state, and how focused is their energy on achieving that vision”?

You can make it more complex than that, but I don’t think that is necessary.

If you buy into my theory, there is a very simple test that will allow you to find out how engaged any group is. It takes only a few minutes, and you do not need to have a complex survey instrument to do it.

Measure Engagement Directly

Take a three by five card and walk around listening to what people are talking about. If you hear someone griping about working conditions or what an idiot the person at the next work station is, put a hash mark on the left side of the card and walk on.

When you hear someone talking about something that relates to what the group is trying to accomplish, then put a hash mark on the right side of the card and continue walking.

In only half an hour or less you will begin to see a pattern emerge on the card.

If the left side of the card is littered with hash marks and only a few or none on the right side, then the group is not engaged.

On the other hand, if most of the hash marks are on the right side of the card, it is an indication of a highly engaged group.

This System Also Tests for Trust

This method also works to measure the level of trust within a group. If most people are focused on the vision and the important work to be done, then it is an indication of a high trust group.

If most people are myopic and focused in on each other and protecting their turf, then it is an indication of a low trust group.

I hope you can appreciate the correlation between trust and engagement. When you find a group that has high trust in all directions, I promise that you will find a highly engaged group of workers.

The relationship is as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.