Why you need an MSW (and why you don’t)

(Estimated reading time: 22 minutes)

It starts with one factor which may have prevented you from reading this today.

How many emails did you get today? How many texts? Maybe you haven’t noticed the exponential increase anymore; you’re too busy trying to keep up. If you told an earlier version of yourself just how many emails and texts you would handle each day, your younger self would likely be scared. If not, telling s/he about the prevalence of social media in your life might do the trick. Isn’t it funny how some things intended to make our lives easier have instead made it more complicated? 

This may not apply to you. Some of us have a knack for juggling asynchronous communication (the younger the better, it seems). But I’m sure I could find something else, because digital communication is just one example of what we are all struggling with: change

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How to Lose a Customer with a Single Word

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I once had a gig-job delivering pizzas (who doesn’t nowadays?) I’m not going to name the franchise, but I would say I enjoyed working for them – the values of quality and service matched who I am. 

Yet, there was a word we were supposed to use whenever we made a delivery, a word that was blatantly manipulative. That word was “only.” Pull up to the customer’s residence, bring the order to the door, knock, introduce yourself, summarize the order for quality control, and then punctuate the summary with “Your total comes to only,” followed by the amount. 

In an era when everyone says “saved”, the use of the word replaced what had become cliche (even though “save” is still strangely effective with many people). This was precisely the rationale given in the training material: the driver was subconsciously suggesting a lower than expected cost for higher than expected quality. 

Yet, stress-testing this word revealed unintended consequences. 

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Your One and Only True Business Offering as a Leader

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

A friend of mine owns a business providing a vital service. Without it, his customers would not only lose money, they would likely die. 

His business? Water. 

Specifically, anything and everything associated with drawing water out of the ground and distributing it to those in need. Someone else drills the hole; he does the rest. Among a multitude of charlatans and hacks, he is the genuine article, a fact his customers know well. 

His business is not my focus here. Rather, my focus is on his employees, many of whom provide manual labor with some degree of technical skill. Leadership skills are not necessary for fulfilling their roles; he directs what needs to be done, and they do it.  

Regardless, each year my friend takes his employees to a three-day leadership conference. He gives them paid time-off for the event, all while covering their expenses. Although this yearly conference is stuffed with innovative ideas regarding leadership, few, if any, of these ideas are directly applicable to his employee’s roles in his business. 

Why does he do this? 

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How to Fuse a New Organizational Culture from the Old Culture

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“You will never forget this time in your life.” He was right, although not for the reasons he was thinking.

Our guide was giving us a tour of our new home, a brand new casino resort featuring a new golf course. There was a lot of excitement over the potential, a potential which was soon realized. At the end of our grand-opening year, our casino would be the third-highest revenue producing casino west of the Mississippi. 

Yet, it almost didn’t happen.

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The Normal Curve in your Organizational Culture

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

After reading some of the posts on this blog, it would be reasonable to conclude that I am presenting a sort of naïve idealism regarding the nature of people.

I am not an idealist. Instead, I am a realist. The response when initiating a cultural transformation can be broken into three parts. 

The first are those who enthusiastically embrace the change you wish to see, adopting whatever individual changes are necessary for making that transformation a reality. Although they are the true believers, they are also few in number, and are never enough to initiate any lasting change.

The majority will not embrace your vision, at least not initially. They won’t tell you this. Publically, they’ll support your new initiative, often maintaining the façade through a few tasks and exercises. Privately, they’ll express their skepticism (or cynicism) through a few eye-rolls, all while demurring to their coworkers. For these, “cultural change” is just the most recent fad.

And then there are the remaining few who will seek to destroy your efforts from the beginning. These are your opponents for winning the hearts and minds of the skeptical majority. 

How do you win the skeptical majority? By expanding the few in your corner until they are the majority, thus isolating the few that are not in your corner. 

To put it another way, by understanding the normal curve in your organizational culture, and working towards skewing it.

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The Experience Many Leaders Miss (and how to gain it)

(Estimated reading time: 7 minutes)

How well do you know your followers? 

If you’re like many managers and leaders, the answer is “not much.” Time is always the challenge: the constant drumbeat of operational tasks interferes with the kind of in-depth conversations necessary for learning about them and their challenges. This dynamic is true for all leaders throughout any given organization, regardless of position in the hierarchy.

Some organizations recognize this problem, sponsoring efforts like company picnics for increasing association and building relationships. Although better than nothing at all, such activities result in leaders and followers knowing each other in only one way: as coworkers. 

The problem, of course, is that each of your followers is more than a mere employee. 

Regardless of the quality of the relationships, your association likely ends with the end of the workday. You commute back to your neighborhood, while they commute back to theirs. This disconnect between you and your followers is far greater than different neighborhoods. It also includes different associations, hobbies, interests, families, upbringing, heredities, religions, ideologies, education levels, values and norms, to name just a few. 

In short, you don’t know your employees because you don’t know their culture. 

And, if you think they’re like you, you’re living a lie, one likely reflected in your broken organizational culture.

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