I Wonder….What You Wonder?
I wonder at the remarkable changes in our society in the last few hundred years and the strides we have made in recent decades alone and I wonder where that accelerated pace of change is going to lead us to in my own lifetime?
I wonder just how long I’ll be here, I guesstimate maybe somewhere around 2050 to 2070.
I wonder who my children will become? I wonder what path they are here to walk? I wonder in which ways they will change the world? I wonder if I’m getting in their way? I wonder how I can remove any obstacles that stand in their path? I wonder if that will weaken them? Of course.
I wonder how easily I can sit with watching them navigate their obstacles? I wonder if that too is part of my journey? Of course.
I wonder at what point I’ll be living my life’s purpose more. I wonder if the feeling of lack is holding the more at bay. Of course. I wonder how I can fill up in other ways to distract me? I wonder how to connect with more people who want my help?
I wonder when I will get to the point of loving those who get my back up?
I wonder when I will get to walk the Camino de Santiago with my spiritual friends? I wonder if that will help me get better at allowing others to be who they are without it getting my back up? I wonder when I’ll get to travel more?
I wonder at the many twists and turns my life has taken so far and I wonder where it will lead to in the future?
I wonder when most people will wake up to the fear that rules their life? I wonder how to connect people with their inner power?
I wonder at some of these ‘world leaders’ people voted in? I wonder whether people really think about the power they are giving away each time they vote to give that power to another? I wonder at the mastery that allows both blatant and subtle subjugation of the masses to the egos of a few? I wonder if people realise the extent to which dogmas espoused by others are ruling their lives?
I wonder if people can truly understand the power they have within themselves?
I wonder at the power we have vested in money. I wonder at what point we will wake up to – rather than just accept and continue to enable - the bondage that has created? I wonder where the solution beyond exists? I wonder whose soul it burns within?
I wonder at the systems of health care that are perpetuated by money in pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals designed to sooth your ills rather than cure. A system designed to keep illness alive. I wonder at the overuse of antibiotics. I wonder at the scorn cast upon those who chose not to vaccinate and the silence as diseases return even among those who have been vaccinated.
I wonder when people will wake up to the wellbeing inside? I wonder when the concept of the mind-body connection will be simplified to its most basic component – when you feel bad, whether about something now or something that happened 70 years ago, it shows up in your body in very predictable patterns?
I wonder when people will wake up to their own power?
I wonder when we will treat education as a lifelong journey rather than an obligatory 10 year slot that one should see as a privilege? I wonder when we will wake up to the inherent intelligence in our newborn and help them to access it rather than thwart it each step of the way?
I wonder at how technology has increased connection significantly yet decreased presence just as significantly. I wonder when people will begin to understand that technological connectedness is a crude replica of the connection that exists when we are able to be fully present. I wonder when the masses will tap into that state of presence and connection, which is infinitely more powerful.
Despite all that, I wonder at all we have achieved in recent years. I wonder at the advances we have made in our acceptance of gender, colour and orientation as equally valid expressions of humanity, with equal rights. I wonder when we will get to the point of realizing that we are each expressions of a whole and that being reflected in our interactions with one another?
I wonder if there is an end point in all this wondering? No. More Wondering. Wonderful!
I wonder what I can do to help all of this evolution? Evolve myself. Of course.
What do you wonder?
With thanks to Sonia Choquette for making me wonder.
If what you read here resonates and you’d like a fresh perspective on a situation in your own life, feel free to contact me. There’s no charge or strings attached, I truly enjoy helping where I can, click here for further information. To be the first to receive these posts, you can also opt to subscribe to my blog.
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from years spent in corporate roles is the role of humility in problem solving. Sure, it’s true that most spend too little time in the definition of the problem also, but it is the lack of humility and involvement in the process that holds at bay some of the most obvious and effective solutions.
Many have an aversion to negative words, drummed in over years of personal development, and ‘problem’ sounds like one. When you have a boss, or a boss’s boss, that thinks you have a problem, it sends a red alert straight to your brain and, generally, throws the best of us into our flight and fight response. Not the optimal starting point.
Before you respond, relax. Seriously, do whatever it takes to relax first, it will open you up to new ideas. Remember, the problem is just pointing to a space to create a solution, likely to lead to something better. It’s not in anyone’s best interests for you to simply spew out a solution then and there; in fact it’s not in anyone’s best interests for you alone to even define the problem.
For those who have been on any self respecting management development, project or process improvement training, you will know the steps in a good problem solving process. It’s fairly simple: first you identify all the facts and assumptions, then you define the problem (making sure you’re defining the real problem and not just part of the problem or symptoms of the problem), from there you flip to the positive and define the objective, before generating alternative solutions, evaluating them, deciding which to go with implementing, followed lastly by evaluation and follow up.
Where we run into trouble is this, ego. The secret to great solutions is humility. Why?
Think about it, most organizations are constructed as a hierarchy. In that hierarchy you are given certain powers. The further up the hierarchy the more humility is required, yet it is a rare quality witnessed. More often the status quo is that the decision makers are far removed from the problem but either worry that they should know the answer or think that they already do.
This is true from the perspective that they have a more strategic view. But that is only because those further down the chain don’t have the delegated authority to access the information and communications that would give them the strategic view.
For many years I spent my career climbing the corporate ladder, but when I hit the level of head of the function I was interested in, that was the limit of my ambition. While I am wired strategically and found it relatively easy to look at companywide issues from broader perspective, sitting endlessly in decision making forums discussing subjects of very little interest just didn’t float my boat.
When one of the team asked what it was that had motivated me to the level I was at, it made me realise it was control. Pure and simple, I wanted enough control to make a difference. As it turned out, that was based on the flawed premise that positions hold power.
Organisational construct is always evolving, although this idea of hierarchies has been around a long time in human history but it’s no longer serving us. Sure, everyone has a role to play, and not everyone can do everything, but allowing people the bandwidth to contribute and create around the thing they do well is where most companies are missing the boat.
Last year I wrote a few articles about this in more detail, questioning the need for managers in today’s world and pointing towards a more self managing construct that some companies have adopted, where profit, purpose and personal fulfillment can thrive together.
At the crux of all of it lies humility, the recognition that others have skills, ways of looking at issues, ideas about solutions that we don’t have.
Even in the traditional hierarchy, rarely do companies train their managers, hone job descriptions and performance management matrix’s to be explicit about what each level of management needs to focus on and let go of, as you climb a hierarchy. Consequently many are doing the jobs of many of their teams, and too few are really focused strategically enough in their roles.
It is common to see a chain reaction from above based on an innocent comment from the chief executive or one of the directors. In essence, people all throughout the hierarchy scrambling to save someone higher up’s ego, someone who thinks they should have known the answer to that question straight off the bat.
Huge swathes of activity get focused on what was deemed urgent rather than important. Executives everywhere are often horrified if they get visibility of the useless activity spurred by an innoxious comment or question. In fact, the bigger the company, the more of this kind of activity is often seen.
At home each member of the team is a fully functioning, powerful, free individual. They look after their own finances, make investment decisions, run households, bring up children, deal with crisis, sickness and death, many are even leaders in their communities or in clubs, sports or other activities. In other words they are both free and whole.
Yet in the workplace, the job description, the hierarchy, treats individuals as far less than whole. It is a rare thing to see those involved in downstream delivery involved in upstream design; it is a rare thing for those closest to the problems to be involved in the definition or creation of a solution to the problem. It is a rare thing for all employees to be entrusted with all the information that is relevant to the allow them to perform to their highest potential in their role.
Instead, feeling a lack of power, our human instinct is to take it back. In organisations activity based on this instinct is rife, activity that serves only to undermine the vision and goals of the company, knowingly or not. Whether it’s unproductive conversations or out and out sabotage, much of the power in the organisation really lies there, because it can either support or diminish what those who hold the positional power are trying to achieve.
At our heart we are creators, let your people create. Great problem solving involves getting the biggest perspective you can on an issue; from that perspective you can get real clarity on what your real problem is. You will often not only be amazed at the real problem, but also the solutions that come forth in answer to it. Even better, given the wider involvement in the issue, the more commitment you have to its solution, and the process of change become seamless. Be humble and you will shine.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/17423713@N03/17426879444">Problem Solving</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
For most CEO’s, the notion of simply scrapping your entire management structure is a little uncomfortable to say the least. But let’s look at this more closely. Is your management structure adding value, or are managers actually the cogs in a cumbersome machine that is now past its best?
"people today want to be part of something meaningful"
People today want to be part of something meaningful, feel empowered and valued for their contribution. Organisations must move past trite vision statements and values, made trite only because those who ‘do the work’ are often not involved in their creation, so the organization doesn't 'live and breathe' the words written on its collateral. Rallying to a purpose means involvement, which leads to commitment.
As discussed in my last article on why trust leads to better business outcomes, traditionally we apportion trust in organisations in the form of access to information, decision making power and financial authority. This strips many of the people ‘doing the work’ of any real power, we want those very people to take a more holistic view yet we don’t treat them as whole.
Better Brand and Bottom Line – Ditch Your Call Centre asserts that the role of a call centre is unnecessary, costly, and even harmful. But in Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together - A Remarkable New Organisational Construct I discuss a wider - though similar - issue, learning from organisations who have transcended the issues faced by most by adopting more self managing constructs.
So has the role of management become another middle man that is perpetuating unnecessary costs? Having been a manager for many years myself, it’s a question I’ve pondered more and more. Initially there was an ego attachment to it, a status that goes with having ‘power’, but then came the responsibility of having to achieve outcomes through others. Quickly I understood the value of intrinsic motivation and the ability to find and ignite it.
There is certainly an art to good management, but the question is whether it's necessary. Do managers simply have to learn these skills because of what has, in essence, been taken away from those in the value chain (doing the work that lies at the heart of the company's existence)? Take away control and many lose that intrinsic motivation to succeed on their own.
In an article, published in Forbes, Jacob Morgan talks of 5 must-have qualities of the modern manager. He covers removing roadblocks from the paths of employees to help them succeed, empowering and engaging people, having a handle of what consumers are saying online, which social and collaborative technologies are making their way into the enterprise, using those collaborative technologies to lead by example, being open and transparent, embracing vulnerability and sharing information and collective intelligence.
These are great qualities, but still, I wonder where the value-add is. How many of these things would be necessary in an environment where those who plan ahead and those who 'do' worked together in self managing teams, are these not things that can be achieved by anyone with the right access, savvy and relationships?
“there would be chaos”
Those who are managers may not have faith that all the people they currently manage could self manage well. Some may even think there would be chaos. Yes it could be a bumpy ride at first, but people quickly adapt and evolve given the right support.
There has to be a huge amount of effort put into training managers that move through the various levels of managers anyway, why not invest that elsewhere, cut out the middleman?
Most people manage perfectly well outside of work, in all the other areas of their life, without someone managing them. Those you manage are after all parents, homeowners, leaders in the community, sportspeople and so on. With experts like Frederic Laloux (author of Reinventing Organizations) and Yanik Silver (author of Evolved Enterprise) around, there is plenty of support to create organisations that manage themselves in quite a different way.
"firms that follow these principles have outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000%"
The organisations of the future are those who rally to a real cause (both those who work in the organisation and their customers), encourage the whole person to show up (rather than the narrow professional slice that has become the norm) and have constructs that facilitate collaboration (internally and externally). In the book Firms of Endearment, the authors show how firms that follow these principles have outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000% over 10 years.
If you want to stick with a management structure to achieve those things, you can, though it’s probably not the most efficient use of your resources in the long term. I’m not suggesting you fire all your managers, it’s the ‘managing people’ part of the role that is largely redundant. In the case studies that Laloux cites, the organisations that have transformed to self managing structures retained all their managers but in roles that added more value.
Regardless of how to choose to evolve, evolve you must in order to thrive in today's world and in order to just to survive in the world of tomorrow.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/45393120@N07/5997001123">HA0521-031</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
CEO's Note: Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together - A Remarkable New Organisational Construct
“If we can’t think outside the traditional organizational structure, the best we can do is to try and patch up the unhealthy consequences of power inequality with more enlightened leadership.” Frederic Laloux
As I discussed in my last article on why evolving your culture is, ultimately, the only way to win, the cycle of boom to bust is more akin to a slow death cycle given the construct of most of today’s companies. It is time to evolve or face extinction.
The old constructs found in most organisations simply don’t work for us anymore. People - you, your staff and your customers – are evolving, they are looking for something more. If you have any doubts about this, just look at people across the generations and you will quickly see a pattern – the younger people are, the more they expect. This isn’t about money, it’s about meaning.
After many attempts to implement significant changes and travel the road to transformation in traditional organisations, I know two things for certain: enlightened leadership is an improvement but not the answer, and the only person who can drive a true transformation in ‘the way things are done around here’ is the CEO or the Board, whoever is the ultimate decision maker.
A conversation with my former boss a couple of years back, when taking on his new role, centred around how to create lasting transformation in that part of the company. The problem we were trying to solve was difficult to articulate at first, too often the brand experience of customers who contacted us was atrocious, there was an immediate need to stop hemorrhaging money, and the culture that pervaded that part of the company – which accounted for almost a third of the staff – seemed like it was taken straight from the Lego movie, it had been heavily micromanaged.
I remember recommending that his leadership team read, action and embed Patrick Lecioni’s ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ and ‘The Three Signs Of A Miserable Job’. My opinion at the time was these leadership fables tell you everything you need to know to get started building your team and creating a culture that will work for everyone in today’s world – win-win-win (bottom line, staff and customers).
However what I missed is, regardless of how enlightened the leadership, in organisations where there is a management and support structure, all the processes and systems required to maintain each span of control breed mistrust in all those people who are not in those roles – often the very people doing the work that is the lifeblood of the organisation.
If you have any doubts about that, think about the way information is handled, especially if there is a sensitive change taking place. All the classifications about who gets to know what basically tells everyone who is ‘not in the know’ they can’t be trusted.
This week Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organisations' arrived in my mailbox. As soon as I read the words “The way we manage organisations seems increasingly out of date, deep inside we sense that more is possible. We long for soulful workplaces, for authenticity, community, passion and purpose.” I knew I had to have a copy; especially given that the book describes in practical detail how organisations large and small can operate successfully in this new paradigm.
This was a book Laloux wrote after researching pioneering organisations that have been operating on breakthrough principles for a long time, as much as 30 or 40 years, and not just with a handful, but with a few hundred and sometimes tens of thousands of employees. Among the pioneers are for-profit as well as nonprofit organisations, retailers, manufacturing companies, an energy company, a food producer as well as a school and a group of hospitals.
Back when I wrote Better Brand and Bottom Line – Ditch Your Call Centre, I cited many examples of the ridiculously expensive, soul destroying practices that surround call centres, a common function in many organisations. The conclusion in that article was to ‘cut out the middlemen’, let those developing products and services talk directly to their customers. In Laloux’s study he concludes the same, only in reference to the entire management and traditional support structure of any given organisation.
This may sound radical and unworkable, especially if you are in just the type of role rendered redundant in the blueprint of these new organisations. However, ask yourself, just how content are you in your role? Do you feel you are really making a difference? Are you able to be completely yourself, the real you, or is there a ‘corporate’ version of you that turns up? Are you valued for the breadth of talents, passions and purpose that drive you?
Like Laloux, I believe change is inevitable, and was excited to read concrete examples of companies that had transitioned from the traditional hierarchical structures we largely have today, to a very different paradigm. In those cases, the vast majority of the management and support teams remained with the company, albeit without their previous ‘powers’. Instead, these people found roles that added real value, in a way that allowed them to be more whole.
What Laloux has written manages to interweave personal fulfilment and enlightenment, together with a fairly easily understood - yet scholarly - look at human development, giving context to organizational development. Most importantly, he describes in every crucial aspect what one needs to know to create such organisations.
‘Getting over our bad selves’, an expression I’ve heard people say jokingly with increased frequency, is key to making this transition. If you are still reading this, it means there’s at least a part of you ready to transcend ego and ambition for wholeness and purpose. For those who are the ultimate decision maker in your organisation, here is a workable way forward, a necessity for us to thrive. For those intending to start a company, you’re in the enviable position of being given a blueprint.
What about the vast majority of you who are feeling ‘stuck’ in your role? Reading this may have given you a glimpse of something you now feel is beyond your grasp; it isn’t. Your actions will hasten change. If you can focus on the goal of uncovering your innermost self and being true to that, as I describe in Making the Shift from Ambition to Purpose, we will all be one step closer to a better world.
This article was originally published in LinkedIn.
Get your developers and marketers taking customer calls; you’ll soon stop developing anything that requires your customers to endure to pain of calling you. Seriously.
Come on, hands up, how many of us live in fear and dread of having to call any company for help? Generally speaking, it’s a fairly hideous experience. You want someone to answer, quickly, who can actually help. You would think this is simple, but generally it’s not.
I came into the customer service industry through the back door, so to speak. Starting at the complaints end, I saw the rich, fertile ground for improvements. Simple improvements that often get overlooked.
One radical improvement in customer service though, in my opinion, is to get rid of your call centre. Call centres are an amazing hive of industry all of their own, likely devastating to your brand and bottom line (despite the often heroic efforts of those working in them).
We’ve made a science out of something that simply shouldn’t be.
Let’s step back. You are the provider of a product or service. You want your customers to buy what you offer, remain loyal and recommend you to others. So brand is important, feedback is important and continual improvement is important.
Here’s the thing. Call centres as a rule tend to remove the customer from your business and cost you a phenomenal amount of unnecessary money. In larger companies we’re often talking tens of millions of dollars each year in staffing alone. Then there’s the technology, any other capital investment and – most devastatingly – the damage to your brand.
Think about how they came to exist. Back office staff were getting too many calls distracting them from their ‘day job’. So call centers were born; a false economy.
My interest in customer experience transformation has often meant I’ve found myself in roles managing call centre contracts, or having one in my portfolio. In my last role, one of the most visionary people I’d worked with went for the big ‘call centre’ job, I was horrified. Worse, he wanted me to come and help him create a transformation.
Now don’t mistake my statements here for any derision towards customer service professionals, quite the opposite. The people who work and rise in the industry are extremely dedicated, insightful, resourceful and knowledgeable. But, frankly, they are often set up to fail.
For a call centre to give great service, it requires a number of things. Here’s what typically happens in organizations with a call centre ‘machine’:
A call comes in from a customer – why? Because the company has failed to provide something the customer needs. So the first thing is, how do we recognize this customer? Where we all fall down in our thinking is to assume companies are like Big Brother, they know everything about you when you call.
There are various forms of CRM (customer relationship management) systems that can – in theory – help companies to not only identify the customer but give a good indication as to why they are calling (begging the question, why not fix it before they call). I say, in theory, because most technology would work amazingly well if it was all the company had ever owned and all its basic operating systems were the most compatible and up to date. In reality, most companies now have so many legacy systems it takes an army of specialists to even map it all out.
So, if you happen to be a customer of a company and use several of its products or services, to think the company would know our whole profile is a given, but it’s often not the case.
Once you’ve got past they ‘who am I’ part, then there’s the ‘what am I calling about’ part. This is often sent with yet another silent prayer, or, depending on your experience of queuing and being identified, many expletives and a desperate hope that this actual person you are now talking to will be able to help you.
To do that requires a huge amount of training in the company's products and services. Now, what do you think is often the first thing to get canned when call volumes and/ or company expenditure is too high? Good learning and development specialists, most managers, staff and customers all want employees to be excited about the brand that they work for, to be advocates outside of the workplace. In reality, very little investment gets made in this and any training becomes about how to press which buttons, with very little context about the bigger picture.
Then there’s the knowledge about the detailed inner workings of the product or services themselves. “Isn’t that what training is for?” people ask. Mm, training is useful but not to learn the contents of an encyclopedia, which is what it can be like trying to understand the in’s and out’s of some products or services.
This is where Knowledge Management Systems come in. A bit like CRM systems in term of their issues, with the added complexity of requiring constant upkeep and input. I’ve yet to see a fully ‘locked and loaded’ system, hence the array of post it notes and signs adoring many call centre desks.
So once the inadequately trained person on the end of the phone manages to somehow find an answer to your plight, the next task is to track customer issues and make improvements to your product or service. Well, that’s what you’d think.
Even companies with fabulous tracking systems (again, the same system issues arise as for CRM systems and Knowledge Management systems), generally fail to take adequate action. The reporting system, if there is one, produces statistics.
Decision makers might look at the reports and say, oh, it’s only x% of revenue or our customer base, accepting certain degrees of failure in their product or service; though it can be a leap to say these things get connected to even this degree.
At best there will likely be a handful of improvement specialists that tend to then fail to have a real impact in terms of systematically reducing the call/failure demand based on a lack of overall understanding and commitment of the wider leadership.
It would make good sense to have a customer service representative involved all the way upstream, when you have a new concept and then start the design, or particularly when you are redesigning an existing product. This is a rarity, even if they are involved, it’s seldom with any kind of sign off - even when there’s a direct impact on call centre resources.
Then of course there’s the internal politics of call centers. The typical dynamic is a mutual loathing between customer service and the developers and marketers.
Imagine instead a customer service department that was looked upon as the ‘looking glass’ of success or failure of the company. Where those developing the upstream products and services regularly visited to hear first hand what customers had to say. Likewise, imagine customer service departments that live and breathe the brand and are active users and advocates of your products or services.
There are companies that have programmes to encourage or enforce this, but these are often short lived due to costs. When it does happen though, it opens up a whole new perspective and, for a short time, dialogue begins. A new found respect can be seen and the customer gets considered right upstream where they should always have been anyway.
So here is the point, why do you have a call centre? Take a long look at the costs here, direct and indirect. If you can look through all the points above and say, “we are doing those well”, then great, you are in the minority. If not, seriously, take a close look at this self destructive machine you’ve created and either set it up for success, or get rid of it and send those calls upstream. Dare you.
This article was originally published in LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/10295270@N05/4500117446">R.I.P Dare</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
By signing up you will only receive emails from shonakeachie.com and you can unsubscribe at any time. This is a two-step process, you will have to verify your subscription by clicking the link in the email you should receive after clicking this 'Subscribe' button. If you do not receive the email please check your Junk mail, thank you.
Please note if you are using the Google Chrome browser and want to subscribe to the RSS Feed you will first need to get an RSS plugin from the Chrome Store.