Category Archives: Change

Leaders Listen

A recent Learning Dynamics training workshop with managers of a healthcare organization served as a reminder of the importance of listening at every level of the organization. The program, Leadership Communication, includes a discussion and exercise on active listening, and it was one of the most productive parts of the day’s effort.

Nearly everyone has heard the term “active listening,” but how many of us use the skill regularly? In Leadership Communication and other communication-themed programs, we highlight the value of asking questions, listening without interrupting, paraphrasing, and confirming understanding. We know that many people don’t use active listening techniques often; rather, they frequently are just waiting for their turn to talk.

On this day, we asked the participants to pair off and ask a simple question: “What can I do to help you be more successful in your job?” These were not people who reported to each other. They were managers who lead their respective work centers, so this is not a question they frequently present to each other. The results were thought-provoking.

Within minutes, one of the participants said, “This is great! We never have a chance to speak like this.” After several minutes of productive conversation using intelligent questions and active listening skills, all came away with ideas to help each other move the organization forward. The total invested time was ten minutes.

So, what can leaders take from this exercise? Here are some ideas:

Encourage idea-sharing vertically and horizontally within the organization. Schedule some high-value business partnership time to allow for activities like that described above.

Ask questions at all levels. Then listen. Employees in customer-facing and production roles likely have ideas to share. After all, they are the ones executing on management’s direction. What might they teach leaders who are willing to listen?

Managers don’t always have the best answers. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, we hire smart people, so shouldn’t we listen to them?

Finally, employees become more engaged when they feel heard. A key engagement question concerns one’s ideas and opinions carrying weight. What better way to show an employee that her opinions count than by asking questions and actively listening?

It is not always easy to just listen. The potential benefits – new ideas, better team work, and more committed employees, to name a few – make it worth the effort. Be a better leader and listen.

= = =

Learning Dynamics offers several instructor-led, webinar-based, and digitally-delivered learning and development solutions to help your team members become better communicators. Contact us today to discuss your priorities.

Employee Experience as the New Competitive Edge

Almost everyone today is familiar with the term “customer experience.” According to Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, 80 percent of businesses compete on the basis of customer experience.   But new research shows that customer experience alone is not enough. Progressive companies are now focusing on “employee experience” as the newest competitive edge.

So, what is “employee experience?”  It is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to that organization – from recruiting to the end of their employment.  It is not perks, parties, employment branding or employee engagement. Mark Levy, former head of Airbnb, defines it as “anything that sets employees up for success and improves our culture.”   Those companies investing heavily in employee experience often find themselves on the Best Places to Work lists and also have improved profitability as well as two times the average revenue.  With social media commentary available to all, prospective employees review comments made about employee experiences in selecting which companies they wish to apply to.

So, in looking for a new competitive edge for your company, ask yourself how you can enhance and elevate the employee experience in your company.  What processes and practices are in place that set employees up for success and ensure an improved culture? It’s worth the time to ask.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com.

Learning & Development is More than a Class

tooopen_sy_141978421559

When our Consultants at Learning Dynamics meet with clients to discuss training initiatives, we always start by asking what the client wants to accomplish. Combined with a thorough understanding of the current conditions within the client’s company, sometimes down to the individual employee, we make recommendations that go beyond training alone. Here is the story of one client engagement that called for much more than instructor-led training.

Our client was a small specialty healthcare organization, and it saw some need to improve performance in its patient contact center. The department was made up of contact center agents and a supervisor tasked with training them, monitoring performance, coaching, and delivering on revenue objectives. Senior management’s opinion was that their people could be doing more.

Learning Dynamics engaged in a detailed review of the workflow, the talent, and obstacles to success. By bringing in a Consultant with contact center management as well as learning and development experience, we were able to identify several opportunities to help. Our proposed solution included instructor-led patient service training, follow-up written training materials (Learning Dynamics Skills Sharpeners), and performance coaching for the supervisor. Significantly, our solution also included developing a call monitoring and evaluation tool so the supervisor had a standard process and criteria to evaluate performance.

The process of creating the call monitoring tool was itself revealing. Our Consultant sat with the supervisor, listened to recorded calls, and identified immediately some opportunities for improvement. One issue – extended and unnecessary hold times – was addressed immediately. The tool continues to be used for agent coaching and has helped produce great results.

This engagement also allowed us to demonstrate flexibility to respond to the client’s needs. Toward the end of the coaching period, a senior manager identified agents’ time management and prioritization skills as needing further development. Knowing that pulling all agents off the phones for a long class was not practical, we created a 45-minute webinar, delivered before the contact center opened for the day, that delivered the essentials of what the agents needed. The feedback has been terrific.

This story is just one example of our ability and willingness to collaborate with our clients to customize a solution that meets your organization’s unique needs. Connect with us today to start the conversation about Investing in People™.

Call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com

What’s My Part?

Do you agree that people are resistant to change? Many reflexively agree with the idea – and they are often right – but it is not always the case. Sometimes people will embrace change if they just get some information. Most importantly, they want to understand how they fit in.

Whenever a change is made, leaders should go through a check of all communication to ensure that the basics are addressed.

WHAT is happening? What are the most important elements of the change?

WHEN is it happening? Team members need to understand the time frame so they can prepare.

WHY are we doing it? Share as much as you can. Work to be honest about competitive pressures, financial impacts, customer service improvements, and anything else that helped justify the change decision.

——

See “Why Your Change Message isn’t Getting Through” for more about leading change well

——

WHO will lead and participate in the change? Some individuals and workgroups will be affected more than others. Clarify the details.

HOW are we going to do this? Leaders have to explain the plan. Great leaders seek input from their teams to improve engagement and results. Teams that own the change also get through the emotional effects of radical change more quickly than those who are simply affected by it.

And this is where What’s my part?” is critical. If a change is important – and if it isn’t, why are you doing it? – committed employees want to be a part of it. When it succeeds, they want to be able to write themselves into the story, to paint themselves into the picture. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, and every player wants time in the game to make a difference.

Consider all these points and give everyone a chance to be part of the success. This is foundational to teamwork and leadership.

===

Learning Dynamics will help your company’s leaders prepare for, communicate about, and lead change. Visit our website for more information about our many customizable training programs.

The New “I” in IQ: Intuition

We have all heard of IQ and what it has meant in the past. With today’s complex workplace moving at such a rapid pace, it is now intuition that has become more valuable. What does your gut say based on experiences and surveillance of the external environment? Is this a course that could help the company excel, or could it sink it?

Intuition can help us look at and contemplate complex issues and can help push decision making. Intuition and creativity inspire a broader look at all the issues, encouraging us to expand our thinking. It is not enough to follow the rules and obey past practices. A new approach is needed to succeed.

In an IBM report of 2010, the key to complex problem solving – and valued skills among leaders – identifies four critical behaviors:

Creativity

Comfort with Ambiguity

Challenging the Status Quo

Ability to Change During Innovation.

The selection of highly intuitive and creative people with those behavioral traits will help organizations solve problems. There is no doubt that the new workplace requires different approaches to be successful. Hiring employees with intuition will be important, as will creating an empowering, stimulating environment in which intuition and creativity are allowed to flourish.

A challenge, of course, is creating a culture in which managers who might not be initially comfortable with this idea, one that allows team members to experiment and fail. Senior leaders need to set the pace build the environment where this can happen. The choices are clear, though: innovate with creative, intuitive people, or watch your competition to do it instead.

Barbara Phillips, Senior Vice President with Learning Dynamics, wrote this article.

Your Change Message Isn’t Getting Through

change bullhorn“The company is making strategic moves, but we don’t know why.” This is a common complaint when we get people talking. Maybe “never” is an exaggeration, but we see lots of agreement with the point during training sessions. Senior executives make decisions, the company is moving in a different direction, and employers further down the ladder don’t understand the rationale.

Followers are more likely to support change when they understand the reasons. As a matter of fact, one of the most common things that people do when they learn of change is to seek more information. Why are we doing this? What market forces or strategic calculations are part of the decision? How does this affect me? What can I do to help make this initiative successful?

Your best people will want to know how they can write themselves into the story. How can they make a difference and contribute to success?

Without information, rumor and speculation fill the void. Is the company failing? Am I going to lose my job? Should I be updating my résumé? Lack of detail and communication from the top can lead to distraction and lost productivity as gossiping floods the organization.

Here are a few ideas to enhance communication during change.

Over-Communicate: People don’t always get the message the first time. Repeat it, use different channels, and do it over a period of time. One email or memo is not enough for bigger changes.

Check for Understanding: If changes are significant, conduct listening sessions with the team. Do they have questions? Do they need clarification? Do they have concerns? Use your leadership team to open the door and executive ears to address all concerns.

Make Your Case: This is probably the most important. Develop a clear and compelling answer for the question, “Why are we doing this?”

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is communication. If she or he cannot articulate the reason for change, there is work to do. The effort will be worth it with a shorter change cycle and a faster return to normal – and hopefully better – productivity. Plan your change strategy to include exceptional surround-sound communication.