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Providing an exceptional customer experience is more important than ever before. Consumers won’t think twice about taking their business to a competitor if they have a poor customer experience with your brand. According to Bain & Co, a customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related vs. price- or product-related.

The key to delivering an exceptional customer experience starts with the Voice of the Customer. Voice of the Customer (VoC) describes the process of capturing your customer’s expectations and feedback to shape employee behavior and improve operations.

Using VoC feedback is imperative to creating a customer-oriented business strategy. VoC feedback can align your organization with your customers’ expectations. It can also shape employee behaviors. However, an organization’s primary challenge to hearing and acting on VoC feedback is often the failure to enroll its front-line staff in staying attuned to the customer.

Why is it Difficult to Engage Front-Line Employees?

The typical front-line staff member faces a “double-whammy” on a daily basis: a barrage of unplanned requirements, coupled with limited ability to resolve some of the situations that create customer dissatisfaction.

Adding a strategic initiative such as enrolling employees in the project of hearing and acting on the voice of the customer can seem onerous in these circumstances. These employees don’t feel empowered, and often don’t see the benefit that a voice of the customer program will bring them. And reversing this mindset is the key to securing their buy-in.

Securing Employee Buy-In for Voice of the Customer Efforts

Consider a call center employee. This person has probably directly received customer feedback. He or she may also have been involved in processes to collect feedback at work or elsewhere. But how often have their managers asked them their views on how to resolve the issues that customers raise? How much leeway do they have to resolve an issue in the moment? Are they compensated or rewarded for securing or acting on customer feedback?

Achieving employee buy-in for voice of the customer efforts requires two things:

• That the employees’ voices themselves be heard in the voice of the customer process
• That employees feel empowered and rewarded by the program

A support center worker who hears the same issues over and over likely has insight into the issues and how to fix them. How often does he get the opportunity to share this insight? If the management team meets with staff members to discuss improvements and use the suggestions of employees to resolve customer concerns, those employees will gain a sense of ownership and empowerment.

Training for front-line employees should emphasize the importance of listening to and recording the positive and negative feedback of customers. Incentivize front-line employees for their contributions. Motivate them to help the business enhance the customer experience. Consider, for instance, recognizing employees who have made noticeable efforts to collect and act on VoC feedback by announcing their contributions in meetings and/or by selecting them as the employee of the month.

After you collect VoC feedback, interpret and share the data, take steps to improve customer service and assess the effect of any changes you implement. To learn what managers should do after VoC feedback is collected, please click here.

Contact us for more information about using the Voice of the Customer to drive successful business outcomes.

The post How to Engage Front-Line Employees to Hear and Relay the Voice of the Customer appeared first on The Clearing.

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Peak performance cultures maintain a felt sense of creative tension. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says creative tension is the “gap between vision and current reality. It is a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision.”

Creative tension can create better ideas and outcomes. This tension causes focus and a deep-seated desire to resolve the tension thus catalyzing heightened activity and maximum production. You can feel the sense of excitement and even anxiousness.

Too little creative tension causes the organization to feel flat, compliant, and lethargic. Too much creative tension can take a sense of anxiousness to a point of anxiety.

Peak performance leaders pay close attention to the amount of creative tension being experienced by their people and they know how to increase or decrease this tension as appropriate.

There are three essential building blocks of creative tension. To establish and maintain creative tension there must be agreement on the following:

1. Current reality.

Your people must have a collective understanding of the way things are today. They need to be brutally honest and recognize the absolute truth about their current situation. Shared understanding of “what is” generates a sense of authenticity and credibility.

2. Desired future.

Your people must have a shared vision that moves and inspires them. The vision must be articulated in such a way that people are motivated to do whatever it takes to realize it. The vision is less about employees or the company.

A powerful vision is about the world and the opportunity to help cause this great world you desire. You will need to decide what needs to change about the current reality to achieve this vision.

3. What’s at stake.

In addition, and critical to the establishment of healthy creative tension, people must be convinced that something important to them is at stake if they don’t resolve this gap. Your people must have a shared and felt sense of consequence should they not rally and achieve this vision as well as a clear understanding of the benefits of moving ahead.

Creative tension exists when the people of your company sense a gap between their current reality and their articulated vision.The gap created calls forth action.The benefits of establishing and maintaining appropriate amounts of creative tension are:

Laser-like focus.
Have you ever woken up at night plagued by thoughts of unfinished tasks at work or around the house? Perhaps you’ve had a nagging feeling after an argument with a significant other or a colleague about things you should have said and you keep replaying the discussion in your head.

Your response to these loose ends is known as the Zeigarnik effect, named after Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist and a member of the Berlin School of experimental psychology. Zeigarnik discovered that people remain unusually focused on aspects of their life that are incomplete. And they hold this heightened focus until the act is complete. This focus can help increase productivity and push you toward that desired future.

Increased ingenuity and innovation.

The desire to eliminate the gap and resolve the creative tension drives the people into a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality thus rendering them more open to new ideas and non-linear thinking.

My consulting firm manages creative tension through complete transparency. Everyone in the company knows what and why things are happening. We acknowledge shortcomings and celebrate successes. Our leadership team has weekly meetings with senior team members, informal feedback delivery during one-on-one meetings, and monthly discussions with the larger employee population so our staff has a full sense of how we are doing and what is required and expected to get us to our collective desired future.

Every employee, no matter their seniority, understands how their contributions and actions directly impact our ability to achieve our mission. This two-way dialogue and transparency helps our team stay focused and motivated.

Walk through the halls of your company and take the temperature of the creative tension. Is it too much? Too little? Just right?

Engage with people to see the degree of agreement they share in describing the current and desired future and what’s at stake if they don’t succeed. Through conversation, do what you need to in order to establish and maintain optimal creative tension.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

The post How to Manage the Gap Between Vision and Current Reality appeared first on The Clearing.

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As business leaders we routinely find ourselves in the middle of arguments. At least we hope so. Because the more passion we generate about our company and its mission, the more our people will engage in arguments about strategy, structure, budgets, and action plans.

Peak performance leaders know arguments and debates are inevitable. They also know how to best resolve the arguments and get the team aligned and moving forward together. This skill is an essential part of leading anything.

So how do they get past the roadblocks in a way that everyone remains committed?

Right versus right dilemmas — the hard choice.

Peak performance leaders recognize the hardest decisions are not a matter of one choice being right and the others wrong. They know the arguments that stymie groups happen when “rights” collide to create an ethical dilemma.

As an example, think about a company after an acquisition. It needs to merge two back office operations, but the managers of each back office are at odds – which one gets to absorb the other? Each manager is “right” to argue for the good of their department.

This is an ethical dilemma called “good for the unit versus good for the whole.” Dr. Rushworth Kidder, author and founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, wrote about these dilemmas in his books Moral Courage and How Good People Make Tough Choices.

Ethical dilemmas are defined by Kidder as “right versus right” and “at the heart of our toughest choices.”  It’s “right” to protect your employees as a department head, and “right,” on the other hand, to protect the interest of the company. According to Kidder, there are four dilemmas:

  • Good for the unit versus good for the whole.
  • Good for the short term versus good for the long term.
  • Truth versus loyalty.
  • Justice versus mercy.

These dilemmas have been part of the human experience since the dawn of creation. They are prevalent today and guaranteed to drive people crazy in the future. As business leaders we’re sure to face them, so what can we do?

1. Solve ethical dilemmas by adopting “and.”

Peak performers recognize collisions of “rights” and move the group away from making each other wrong and towards resolving the dilemma. To do this, invite the group to design a solution that embodies the magic of “and.” The narrative then becomes:

  • Good for the unit AND good for the whole.
  • Good for the long term AND good for the short term.
  • Truth AND loyalty.
  • Justice AND mercy.

When leaders can get the group to use this powerful orientation, they will most likely resolve the dilemma.

2. Think about outcomes.

If you find yourself in a situation when this approach doesn’t work, you can resolve a right versus right dilemma by finding the highest “right.” Kidder wrote that there are three ways to make the best choice when faced with these types of dilemmas:

  • Ends-based: Select the option that generates the most good for the most people.
  • Rule-based: Choose as if you’re creating a universal standard. Follow the standard that you want others to follow.
  • Care-based: Choose as if you were the one most affected by your decision.

Once you’ve identified an ethical right versus right ​dilemma, lay out your options according to these three principles. One approach will immediately present itself as the “most right.”

3. Keep the group committed to the decision.

No matter what decision-making approach makes the most sense for a given situation, it’s important to keep the group committed to the decision. To do this, adopt a working definition of consensus as the group tries to resolve these dilemmas. Instead of using the traditional definition of consensus where everybody is expected to agree with everything, switch it up to use the following definition:

  • Was the process to make the decision deemed rational and fair to all involved?
  • Was each person involved in the discussion treated well and listened to?
  • Assuming the group is satisfied with No. 1 and No. 2, can they live with and commit to the outcome? (Notice it does not say agree with the outcome.)

Listen carefully when people unknowingly argue about right versus right. Often it’s not apparent to the people involved. Point it out and they will begin to think about these situations differently. And make sure they are using the working definition of consensus when forging their agreements.

Using these skills, you will become intensely important to the vitality of the company — you keep the group moving forward in spite of their inevitable encounter with ethical dilemmas.

This article first appeared on Inc.com.

The post How Great Leaders Make Tough Decisions appeared first on The Clearing.

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A good leader is highly attuned to their organization’s culture. And because it is a leader’s responsibility to model the language of accountability, responsibility, and taking authority for our actions and results, those employees who do not fit this behavior tend to challenge us the most.

These employees have a victim mentality. This mentality can be incredibly damaging for team morale and often creates a toxic work environment. But there is a way to change this mentality: The Victim-Leader PRIME. This PRIME says that leaders should listen for when groups start to discuss things outside of their control and use them as excuses for why they are not more effective employees. When this happens, leaders should guide them back to focusing on that which they can affect.

Signs of a Victim Mentality Among Employees

Before we dive into important insight from the Victim-Leader PRIME, let’s start with the signs of victim mentality. If a team member regularly displays some or all of the following behaviors, it’s possible that he or she may have a victim mentality:

  • They often blame others for their problems.
  • They refuse to accept responsibility for their own problems.
  • They expect others to feel sorry for them.
  • They focus on their problems and complain about them without making efforts to solve any issues.
  • They turn down fun work activities, and never admit to enjoying themselves.
  • They assume that most of their colleagues have negative intentions towards them.
  • They imply that other people have better or easier tasks and can therefore perform better.
  • They tend to reject constructive feedback or performance assessments.
How to Put a Stop to Victim Mentality and Empower Your Employees

Transforming a victim mentality into a leader mentality starts with active listening from the leaders within your organization (upper-level managers, board members, etc.). The Victim-Leader PRIME states that great leaders pay close attention to which way a group is headed by listening closely to the tone and direction of their team’s conversations. Because of this, great leaders are quick to identify when team members start complaining about things they cannot affect and blaming others for their problems.

When you notice a team or employee playing the victim, this behavior can be stopped by encouraging them to engage in discussions that focus on what the person can control. These conversations will show the individual that they are in fact empowered to make change, which will open the door for the employee to accept responsibility while eliminating the opportunity to blame others for their problems.

As an example, consider a team member failing to complete an important, time-sensitive report by the requested due date and then blaming another department for not providing the data needed to complete the report. Blaming another person or group does nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, encourage the team member to communicate challenges as they are encountered instead of waiting until the report is due. Ask them how they could work around the issues that are being raised in order to keep moving toward their goal. The key is to maintain focus on what the individual or team can control and minimize effort spent outside of those areas.

A Self-Actualized Culture Takes Constant Work

Team mindsets change constantly. Because of this, it is important to note that effective leaders not only help victim-oriented groups or team members regain their power, but they also help empowered groups sustain theirs. Acknowledging difficulties, keeping teams oriented toward achievable solutions, and re-focusing complaints to potential actions that can be taken will all help keep empowered groups functioning at a high level as they encounter new challenges.

The Victim-Leader PRIME describes how managers can guide their team members back to focusing on that which they can affect.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on how to manage group dynamics and problem solving.

The post Are Your Employees Victims, or Empowered? How to Create a Company Culture of Self-Actualization appeared first on The Clearing.

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Government agencies deal with a wide range of challenges – adapting to new technology, adjusting to new leadership and regulations, and dealing with a variety of employee issues like training and retention. Government agencies can use change management best practices to more successfully address challenges like these, while boosting employee morale.

Change management can motivate and inspire people to understand and adopt a change, thus overcoming our natural tendency to resist the change. It also helps leaders become more aware of and intentional about the change they want to enact, while minimizing possible negative outcomes. The slow nature of bureaucracies likely contributes to frustrated employees and constituents. According to the “Best Places to Work in The Federal Government Report“, the average government worker comes in 13 points below the average private-sector employee in terms of job satisfaction.

The most successful organizations in both the private and public sector are those who address challenges through change management best practices. Change management best practices recognizes and addresses obstacles such as employee buy-in and communication. In order to navigate these obstacles and maintain an efficient change management plan, government agencies should use the following steps as a guide to success.

1.Identify the Issue and Establish a Vision

Before developing a specific change management plan, leaders must have a collective understanding of the way things are today, the desired outcomes as a result of the change, and what changes must occur to achieve this vision. Staff should be empowered and motivated to act by the vision of the ideal future and the agency’s impact on the world.

High performing leaders resist the temptation to present a fully formed vision to the workforce and other stakeholders. Rather, they set the stage and invite others to contribute to the vision. By doing so, all who participate develop a deep sense of ownership in what they hope to create and own the responsibility for bringing it to life.

Furthermore, leaders must establish and communicate their vision, or the desired state after the change with employees. When stakeholders understand why the change is occurring and what the ideal outcome is, morale will likely increase and they will feel empowered to adapt to changes as necessary.

2.Engage Stakeholders

A governmental change efforts study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton found that 75% of successful change leaders used a collaborative approach when developing and implementing change, compared to 33% of unsuccessful change leaders. Engaging both internal and external stakeholders is critical to developing an efficient change management approach.

Government employees typically work for their agencies for a long period of time, so they have seen first-hand how change efforts have been handled in the past. Agency leaders should look towards these employees, or, internal stakeholders, for useful insight on past successes and failures. Not only will leaders have a better understanding of how to implement the change, they will also gain employee support necessary for success.

External stakeholders should not be ignored either. External stakeholders are no different than internal ones – they can provide useful insight and ideas based on their experiences. When stakeholders feel like they have a say in the change, they are more likely to support the change.

This co-creation draws on the broad diversity of experiences and ideas across the agency and its stakeholders, and generates the buy-in that will be essential during implementation of the change.

3.Develop a Communication Plan

Visible engagement and effective communications is critical to all leaders involved in planning for change and implementing the change. Develop a communication plan about the change efforts to consistently engage in multi-directional communication with the workforce and stakeholders.

Leadership should demonstrate transparency and build a culture of trust and credibility. The workforce will benefit from greater insight into leadership’s vision for the future and how it ties to organizational priorities.

4.Manage the Change For Better Results  

Once the agency has the right internal and external stakeholders involved and enrolled in the vision, it’s time to create and implement your change management plan. That plan will be different depending on the needs of the agency and the change involved, but it should always offer a detailed, step-by-step outline with date specific goals that clearly illustrates the actions to be taken. Check-points should be built in to assess performance and ensure that the plan stays on track as individuals work to implement changes in a smooth and satisfactory manner. An internal person with change management experience or an outside change management consultant can help the agency to stay on track and guide employees through the transition.

Keep in mind, however, that a consultant is just that. While a change management consultant will provide advice, support, and evaluation, the agency leaders themselves should still be engaged in the change effort by overseeing, monitoring, and addressing employee responses to the change.

At this stage, it is important that the agency’s change management team is prepared to address new challenges along the way, and refocus efforts as needed to avoid being sidetracked or derailed by interruptions.

Want more strategies to increase efficiency within your organization? Subscribe to our newsletter today!

The post Change Management in the Federal Workplace appeared first on The Clearing.

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‘”And it is my pleasure to introduce Chris McGoff. Chris is …”

As a professional speaker, I hear myself introduced all the time. My host usually reads an introduction that I wrote, so I was surprised by my negative reaction when I was recently introduced as a serial entrepreneur. It wasn’t the first time that phrase was attached to me, but it was the first time it felt wrong.

The dictionary lists speculator, tycoon, magnate, mogul, hustler, and wheeler and dealer as synonyms for entrepreneur. And to be sure, in every one of my ventures, the initial phase required me to take on ways of being that these words capture aptly.

If you’ve ever tried to start a business, you’ve experienced what I call the “figuring it out” phase. It’s exhilarating and full of fast processing of new ideas, innovations, and rapid prototyping. New ideas are your friend, and the capacity to take big risks is table stakes.

Some of my serial entrepreneur friends and a few of my former partners are addicted to the exhilaration, chaos, and risk of the “figuring it out” phase. They never want it to end.

These are folks I invite to parties because they’re so much fun, but I’ve learned to shy away from partnering with them in business. I’ve learned that to grow successful businesses, I need to partner with people who are willing and capable of balancing their level of risk tolerance and their search for new ideas, with their willingness to adopt discipline, standards, and processes with the evolving needs of the business.

I want partners who are willing to become who the business needs them to become. I want to partner with ‘business builders.’

So if you or your business partners have been unable to move beyond the entrepreneurial mindset, try adopting these mindsets, which will help you and your business move to the next level:

1. Launching.

This phase is all about building sales and capacity, and you should get through it as quickly as possible. It’ll require you and other leaders to evolve your mindsets.

You must be prepared to mute your thirst for risk and fixation on the next big idea and take on an appreciation for structure, repeatability, standards, processes, and discipline. And until you as the leader evolve, the business will not be able to evolve.

Once you have something figured out, the business is ready to evolve into its next phase. Repeatability becomes the watchword in this phase.

2. Scaling.

Once you’ve developed a way to systematically increase sales and delivery capacity, the business is ready to move to the scaling phase. This mindset is all about standardization — using what works and hiring more people to support business demand.

Serial entrepreneurs are often challenged in this phase and will be tempted to improve upon what’s working, but this will send the business back into design and testing and away from scaling.

The business now needs ‘business builders’ to place high value on reliability, integrity, and discipline. Consistency becomes the watchword.

3. Innovating.

Your business is thriving — congratulations! Now it’s time to move into the innovation mindset.

The business has two very distinct needs. The business should remain vigilant and consistent in its systematic scaling of sales and delivery capacity of its current offerings, while simultaneously figuring out new offerings the market wants.

This is often where I see most people struggle. How can you innovate yet develop new offerings that align with your current ones and help support your overall vision for the company?

The ‘business builders’ must value repeatability and consistency and at other times take some big risks and try out some game changing ideas. Balance becomes the watchword.

The takeaway.

My advice is to party with serial entrepreneurs and risk junkies all night long — but partner with people who are capable of and willing to adopt the discipline necessary for a successful ‘business builder.’

Time to go re-write that introduction.

This article first appeared on Inc.com.

The post Why Creating a Successful Company Requires You to Go Beyond the Entrepreneurial Mindset appeared first on The Clearing.

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I was fortunate as a kid that I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up; I was going to be a pilot. With a surname like Wright, my flying career seemed to be predestined, so it was no surprise when I went on to become a helicopter pilot in the military and an airline pilot upon retirement.

I’m often asked if I’m related to the famous Wright brothers (I’m not) but I find their story of hard work, grit, and ambition inspiring. With no formal training beyond high school, they taught themselves basic engineering and scientific principles.

Approach Problems Differently

Early aviation pioneers were convinced that more power was needed to lift a craft off the ground. The focus of their effort was generating more power out of newly invented internal combustion engines, which inevitably led to bigger, heavier engines.

The Wright brothers took a different tack.

They observed numerous types of birds and how they used the wind to their advantage. They noticed that these birds were not generating an enormous amount of power relative to their size. Rather, the birds seemed to expend more energy on harnessing the natural lift provided by the wind.

The Wright brothers pursued this alternate angle ruthlessly. They built gliders to practice their flying skills and invented a method of control called “wing warping.” Their work led to the first man-powered flight down in Kitty Hawk, with their “wing warping” control system (which underpins how we control planes today) and a lightweight engine.

Two brothers, with no formal training, beat everyone else to flight.

Don’t Just Solve a Problem, Solve the (W)right Problem

Many non-flying careers follow a similar path to mine – a focus on becoming a technical expert in a specific field or industry.

Eventually, you reach a point where you observe some of the same problems over and over. Once you’ve “seen it all” your strategic vision becomes clouded. You face a challenge that looks familiar and begin to solve it before you even have all the facts. With this approach, you will end up with similar results as the Wright brothers’ competition – late to market.

Here are some tips to help you think like the Wrights:

  1. Take the long view – The Wright brothers assumed they would be able to create an engine capable of keeping their airplane aloft but they went one step further and asked – and then what? While everyone else focused on creating an engine, the brothers focused their experiments on the next problem – control. Assume you can solve the challenge you are facing today, what then? What opportunities become available? Does the solution create new problems?
  2. Ask the experts – Chances are that others have faced a similar challenge, how did they approach it? Use this information to illuminate your thinking, not as a crutch. What did they miss? What questions weren’t asked? The Wright brothers weren’t afraid to ask questions and often wrote to leaders in the scientific community to ask for resources.
  3. Find a bicycle maker – Talk with someone not in your industry and present your challenge to them. When you explain your challenge to someone, without relying on your work jargon, you will find the challenge becomes clearer as you explain it in different terms. A key factor in selecting this trusted advisor is to solicit their candid feedback, this is not time for a “yes man”! They will likely provide a fresh perspective that you may not have considered.

The glue that holds this entire construct together is hard work, and lots of it. The Wright brothers were tireless workers and threw themselves into whatever task they were given; from running a small bicycle shop to building gliders to test their theories. Their unconventional path to success was also one of the reasons they persevered over their competition.

The post Challenge Conventional Thinking By Approaching Problems Differently appeared first on The Clearing.

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There are numerous benefits of expanding your business through a merger or acquisition – you can obtain valuable resources and additional skills, diversify your product offerings, reduce costs and competition, and access a greater customer base. While M&As typically seem like promising business opportunities, executives often underestimate the challenges involved in successfully blending two distinct cultures together. According to a Bain survey, culture clash is the number one reason for a deal’s failure to achieve the promised value.

Culture Clash

A classic culture clash example that led to a failed M&A was the Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merger in 1998. This merger was predicted to be the perfect union between two automakers and perhaps on paper this was true, but in reality the merger was a flawed idea that had little chance of success. Chrysler was an American company with an entrepreneurial spirit that embraced risk, while Daimler was a hierarchical, German company that was risk adverse. Executives failed to make efforts to blend these two distinct cultures, and Daimler took the reins on the new company. The merger lasted just a few years until the two entities split in 2007.

In order to ensure that a merger or acquisition transitions smoothly and is positioned for long-term success, the following strategies should be used to proactively address and overcome differing cultures.

Analyze Cultural Differences Before the Merger Happens

M&As often fail because most companies don’t consider differences in culture when analyzing potential mergers. Although identifying differences in culture isn’t always easy, there are numerous tools that companies can use to diagnose differences before the acquisition, including:

  • Analyzing process flow charts that indicate how work gets completed
  • Conducting interviews with customers to determine differing customer perceptions of each organization
  • Conducting interviews with management and upper-level employees to determine managerial styles
  • Distributing surveys to employees with questions about accepted and unaccepted behaviors

These tools will help executives identify any cultural disparities between the two entities. Once executives feel confident in their abilities to overcome these differences, they can begin to move forward with the M&A deal.

Communicate & Listen to Employees

Effective communication is a crucial way to influence employee buy-in. Employees need to understand why the merger or acquisition is happening so they can hop on board with the change. Furthermore, employees need to know where they stand so they still feel valued and secure in their positions. Senior leadership should be responsible for communicating this information to employees.

If employees are frustrated by the merger or acquisition and their concerns aren’t being heard, they are more likely to leave. Executives must actively listen to employee feedback by distributing regular employee surveys and hosting one-on-one meetings. Not only will employee retention improve, but executives will also gain valuable insight on whether the M&A is heading in the right direction or not.

Define & Implement Your New Culture

Rather than trying to unite conflicting values and philosophies, merging companies are better off starting fresh by building an entirely new culture from the ground up. Consider the following when creating a new culture:

  • Behavioral norms – what behaviors are accepted and unaccepted?
  • Organizational structure – who is accountable for what, and how do things get done?
  • Organizational strategy – where should we compete and what is our strategy?

A new culture will likely make employees feel as though they are starting a new job. Because of this, consider hosting orientation programs so employees can easily transition their behaviors and attitudes to accommodate the new culture. The orientation program should define the items above – behavioral norms, organizational structure, and organizational strategy. You should ensure that the new culture is clearly defined by inviting questions and providing clear answers throughout the orientation.

Celebrate & Embrace Change

Rather than allowing a merger or acquisition to make employees feel uncomfortable or displaced, you should celebrate this change with employees. An M&A is exciting, and employees should be excited too. Team building events such as volunteering, happy hours, or catered lunches will help employees feel connected throughout the transition, leading to stronger cultural integration efforts.

In order for a merger or acquisition to be successful, businesses must dedicate time and effort to cultural integration. Should you need additional guidance prior to, or throughout your M&A deal, The Clearing’s professionals are here to help. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you reach your business goals.

The post Four Strategies for Overcoming Culture Clash After a Merger appeared first on The Clearing.

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According to The Washington Post, nearly 70% of US office workers are working in an open office environment. Open work spaces have several benefits – employee progress is easier to track, overhead costs are reduced, team collaboration becomes easier, and employees feel a shared sense of responsibility. Despite these benefits, there is a great deal of criticism surrounding the idea of open office floorplans. Critics say that productivity actually decreases due to lack of privacy and noise distractions, and they’re not wrong.

In 2011, organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He concluded that, despite open work spaces creating a symbolic sense of organizational mission, they were actually damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.

What kind of work space layout works best?

If cubicles limit engagement and open work spaces are distracting, what’s the best work environment for employees? Rather than choosing between a completely open space or an office of cubicles and conference rooms, organizations should create an environment with different spaces for different types of work. Work spaces should be designed to help employees complete their work regardless of recent design trends- unless you and your employees believe the trend will support your work. We have found that the most effective office space includes the following design elements:

  1. Bee Hive – Space for individual concentration yet close enough for passive awareness.
  2. Secrets & Solitude – Private space that is quiet in order to allow employees the opportunity to think deeply and to be alone.
  3. Collisions – Areas where people from different departments or groups can congregate and communicate. This space should be conducive for social interaction.
  4. Pow-wow Rooms – Although large conference rooms are perfect for large group gatherings, they aren’t used as often as small meeting rooms where formal and informal meetings can happen. Include a healthy mix of small or medium team rooms to your floorplan design.
  5. Shared Display – Each meeting room should have a display or whiteboard area where employees can whiteboard ideas. This increases team member engagement and retention of the discussion.
  6. One Touch ‘On’ – Any technology that employees use to connect to each other or customers should be easy to use. The more steps required, the less likely people are to use the technology.
  7. Align Culture – Create your space to fit your existing culture or simultaneously align intended culture to intended design.

Employees are most productive and most engaged when they’re able to choose an environment that works best for them. Additional research in the Steelcase Global Report “Engagement and the Global Workplace” indicates that the most engaged employees can choose where to work within the office based on the task they are doing.

Personal Space In Open Work Spaces

While it’s important to maintain a dynamic workspace with different spaces, research also shows that people still want a personal space at work. Employees who have a personal workspace are 1.4 times more likely to be engaged at work. Personal space doesn’t necessarily mean a cubicle or private office, it can be as simple as a locker or chair – any space that feels like a “home base” to employees.

If you want productive and engaged employees, look beyond a cubicle-filled office or a completely open workspace. Don’t automatically seek out the latest trend in the marketplace. Instead, think about what your employees need to complete their work efficiently and to the best of their ability. Create an environment that contains a variety of workspaces, and let employees choose where they want to work. Just make sure they have a “home base” they can call their own.

Want to learn more about creating an office space that works for your employees? Contact one of our workplace experts.

The post Make an Open Office Environment Work for Your Employees appeared first on The Clearing.

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Leaders and employees who are ready to move up in the ranks see opportunities to get involved and make significant contributions all around them. To be successful, it’s critical to focus on the right activities with the right people in order to maximize your influence and knowledge.

There are four primary groups you likely interact with in the workplace, and I like to visualize these groups in terms of a compass. You are in the center; to the north are your superiors or perhaps board members; to the south are your direct reports; to the west are your peers; and finally to the east are your customers.

Where do you currently focus most of your efforts?

My guess would be that you spend 95% of your time focusing on the north, south, or west.

Maximize time with your boss or board.

You should devote a considerable portion of your time working on the strategic direction of your organization. This includes allocating resources to meet all the current and future business and market needs.

Maximize time with your staff.

You should engage with your staff and employees. Focus on inspiring and enrolling them in the organization’s vision and strategy. You should ensure that the needs of the organization and your customers are being met, accounts are developing, and new markets are being penetrated.

Maximize time with your peers.

You should collaborate with your peers to optimize enterprise performance, develop and implement cross-organization systems and solutions, and leverage all assets to bring the desired innovations to the market.

Maximize influence.

Most of us are so busy managing others or routine tasks that, sadly, our customers often take a back seat.

To be successful and to maximize your influence in the north, south, and west, you must focus on the east — your customers and your market. The more you know more about your customers and the market, the more prepared you will be to recognize emerging needs, opportunities, and threats. If you aren’t already spending consistent, dedicated time with your customers, stop what you are doing right now and schedule some face-to-face time with your customers. Learn what matters to them. Ask them what is working, what is keeping them up at night…or better yet, figure out what should be keeping them up at night.

Approach the east with intense curiosity and pack probing questions like:

  1. Why do you buy from us?
  2. How do you use our products and services in generating value for your customers?
  3. What would happen to your business if we suddenly stopped providing you with our products and services?
  4. Would you have even the slightest hesitation in recommending us to one of your most trusted friends? If so, what is the source of that hesitation?
  5. If you could change one thing about our products and services, or anything at all about our company, what would it be?
  6. Do you trust us to do what we say?
  7. Can you share a recent example where we let you down, even a little?
  8. Can you share a recent example where we exceeded your expectations?
  9. Where is your organization going strategically, and what is making it hard to get there?
  10. What do you wish we offered you beyond our current products and services?
  11. What question do you wish I asked you?
What to do with this information.

Armed with the answers to these questions, return to your organization powered up with knowledge and influence. In the north, ensure the vision and strategy of your organization is aligned with the vision and strategy of your customers. In the south, provide your staff with clear feedback from the marketplace and drive adjustments that enhance the delivery of your products and services. In the west, work creatively with your peers to innovate, develop, and deliver new and valuable products and services. This is invaluable information because it is the voice of your customer, and the customer should be at the heart of anything and everything your organization does.

Take a look at where you spent your time during the past week. Where are you planning on spending your time over the next few weeks? Ask yourself if you are spending enough quality time in the east learning deeply about the unmet needs of your customers. Are you the authoritative voice of the customer for all those around you? If not, it’s time to run as fast as you can towards the east and power up your knowledge.

This article first appeared on Inc.com.

The post Where to Spend Your Time If You Want to Increase Your Power and Influence at Work appeared first on The Clearing.

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