Learning Goals for Growth

“Start with the end in mind”. This wise approach, advocated by Steven Covey, applies to many things, especially leadership development programs. All too often, training programs, both corporate and university, forget to focus on the prime objective: the learning goal is to acquire new skills, insights and practices to grow more effective at the job and/or life.

In a recent conversation with leaders about turning their companies into CILOs – Continuous Improvement Learning Organizations – our conversation focused on how we can promote each person’s ability to learn and grow into a more effective member of the organization. The learning goals for growth should include:

· Job relevance: the learning syllabus must increase job effectiveness

· Strategic Corporate relevance: it must also relate to the larger corporate picture

· Personal relevance: It should address the person’s ability to feel more competent

· Practical applications: the person should apply the lessons to real or similar situations

· Accountability for success: KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) enable progress to be measured

By incorporating these elements into the learning process, everyone within a CILO knows what to learn for more effective performance and why creating a win-win situation for individual and corporate growth.

What’s your experience with setting and assessing the impact of learning goals for employees? Share with us!

Does Your Culture Foster Innovation?

We hear often about how companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are generating innovations, especially regarding artificial intelligence, through their corporate R&D departments. What lessons can smaller companies like ours learn from them?

Recently, Dr. Ishak, Chief Technologist for Corning Research & Development Corporation reflected on this question in McKinsey Quarterly (Sept, 2017) and identified a number of “less intuitive” ideas based on his 40 year experience. They include:

  • Practice “innovation parenting”. Innovation leaders should ground creative people in accountability for the organization’s objectives, key focus areas, core capabilities and stakeholders. Then give them broad discretion within these parameters. Obsessing too much on budgets and deadlines often kills ideas before they get off the ground. In addition, pay attention to innovator’s social development. Millennials, especially, expect and seek out opportunities to interact with people who interest and excite them; these exchanges build innovation energy.  Encourage relationships with colleagues in the internal innovation chain, from manufacturing to marketing and distribution; this helps them overcome the assumption that they must do everything. The result is that it reduces wasted effort and inspires burst of collaborative creativity.
  • Open up organizational space. Facilitate people to bypass barriers and hierarchies that often sap creativity and identify outside-the-box resources.
  • Encourage the unreasonable. While companies value unconventional thinking, cultures trend to reinforce tradition. Assure brainstorming participants that there are no bad ideas and encourage outside-the-box approaches. Challenge assumptions about products and markets; engage in scenario planning in which competitors challenge your strengths, and force you to rethink what you’re doing and up-your-game.
  • Stay focused. Taking on too many projects, because only one will be “boring” leads to a lack of ownership and commitment. Concentrate on a primary, immersive project, with the possibility of shifting gears to the other if the first hits a temporary roadblock.
  • Cultivate external relationships. Today many companies are feeding their innovation pipelines by partnering with external companies, including star-ups, national labs, universities, business accelerators, etc.. Allowing the internal and external partners to interact leads to greater achievements, as it did for Corning: bend-resistant optical fibers and Gorilla Glass.
  • Hire the best and do it fast. As with other parts of the business, identifying recruiting and retaining innovators and visionaries is a big challenge. Always be looking for great people!

What do you think?   What’s your experience in creating an innovative culture. Share with us.

Teaming: An Onboarding Priority

 

Talk to any hiring manager and you’ll hear that it’s hard to find people with the skills the company needs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that in addition to the “hard’ skills is the issue of “soft” skills which enable people to become effective members of high performing teams.

Teamwork requires more than simply collaborating within teams in the sense of people taking on specific roles as specified by a division of labor (e.g., assembly line work). It requires teaming: communicating and collaborating with people across boundaries, such as expertise, seniority, experience and/or distance, spontaneously and continuously. Today, authority and power often give way to Influence as a teaming tool. (Robert Cialdini’s book,  Influence,  provides many valuable insights.)

This involves several skills:

  • Understand the big picture. Know the team’s strategy (mission and goals) and each component’s individual strategies. Align your own efforts with those of others, so both individuals and the team “win” simultaneously.
  • Initially, over-communicate, so you and your team members hear and understand each’s perspectives. Have empathy, understand the emotions and logic behind differences. Negotiate areas of conflict to reach a collaborative framework.
  • Manage up, across and down. When people leave school for a full-time job, they may have had prior part-time experience, in which their boss “managed down”. This includes setting responsibilities, enabling you to execute your skills, develop new ones and give you feedback. Today, working effectively with a team means learning how to work more effectively with your boss (managing up) and work with the team members (managing across). Understand expectations being set for you and discuss what you need to effectively do your job. Don’t make assumptions: check and double check that you’re on the same page with everyone else. Feedback and adaptation is essential for effective teaming.

What are your experiences with school graduates joining the workforce when it comes to being effective team members? How do you help them learn “teaming”?   Share with us!

How Well Are You Executing?

When people think of strategy, they tend to focus on planning and design: getting the right people from the right bus – to identify what the company should be doing. As Wharton Professor, Lawrence Hrebiniak, notes in Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, without adequate attention to execution –  changing behaviors that are currently leading people in the former direction and  executing new behaviors to achieve the new direction – success cannot be achieved.

He notes four sources of the “knowing-doing” gap:

  • Leaders are trained to plan rather than execute
  • Senior leaders tend to leave execution to lower-level leaders and team members; they review progress only periodically
  • Strategy formulation is typically done by relatively few people; execution is a team- or business-wide endeavor
  • Formulating a strategy is an action step; execution is a continuous, long-term process.

When I teach strategy for CUNY, I share experiences from companies in the news and those of the CEOs with whom I work at Vistage Worldwide (which serves 21,000 established CEOs), to drive home the “gap” problem. Key is an ongoing system to:

  • Monitor people’s execution performance
  • Hold them accountable for actions related to the new strategy and the underlying cultural values (as we discuss at Eval2Win.com – see overview)
  • Provide people with ongoing learning opportunities to acquire and perfect the new skills they need. (This is easier if your company is a CILO (Continuous Improvement Learning Organization) where learning is an essential part of the each aspect of a staff’ person’s job description.

Indeed, Vistage Inside was created to help CEOs change the organization to better align senior executives to the strategy and culture, increase collaboration and teamwork, facilitate learning by the staff they supervise, and hold people accountable to one another (e.g., members of the executive team to each other and employee-supervisor dyads to each other).

How well are you executing on your strategy? Is it easy to understand and compelling? Does everyone know what they should do? Are people ready, willing and able to perform their strategic activities? How well are you and the senior team holding everyone accountable for success?  If the answers aren’t positive, what are you doing to improve? Contact us for help: jerrycahn@presentationexcellencegroup.com.

Yes, ADAP Works!

Thank you for your success stories and questions. For years, we’ve been teaching presenters how to use the ADAP formula – Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations, to produce winning presentations. Usually the focus is on the first part – how to be audience-driven. This month, people asked about Authenticity and I thought we’d discuss it.

Audience-Driven means that a presentation has to understand the audience’s full-set of needs/wants and deliver the information in a way which:

  • Acknowledges the limitations in the presentation setting (e.g., how much time will the prospect give full-attention) and conform to that reality
  • Resonates with the audience’s value system and uses power words to create enthusiasm
  • Recognizes personal and external resistances that the prospect (and her/his colleagues) may have to adopt a new framework and provide the hard data and social support to overcome them, develop trust, and facilitate acceptance
  • Advocates action which is easy to understand and doable by the prospect.

This week a major presentation was made by a client to a C-level executive at a top financial firm. The original presentation had the facts, but there was no “energy” in the presentation to motivate the prospect to take the risk or see the presenter as a “trusted advisor” with the necessary expertise to execute.  In the new presentation, the presenter adopted a framework that made it clear that their solution could align all external and internal forces to give prospect the “firepower” necessary to succeed with the complex project. Deal sealed.

We’re not always witness to an inauthentic presentation, but the nation saw an example, that’s not often so public. When the President first addressed the issues involved with what happened at the Charlottesville rally, you could tell he was speaking from his heart. When criticized for not blaming the groups advocating bigotry, he gave a speech the following day designed to address the criticism. People who watched/listened to it noted its lack of enthusiasm with a low-level cadence that accompanies reading copy written by someone else. That apparent lack of authenticity was confirmed when he volunteered to speak on the issue the next day, reinforcing the initial position and reversing the prior day’s comments. The lesson for all of us: make sure the message you deliver is one that’s authentic to you – so you present it persuasively.

Keep sharing your ADAP-related experiences. If you want to master it, attend one of our workshops (see presentationexcellence.com) or request one-on-one coaching/consulting.

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