Tag Archives | Sher Kyweriga

Listen to the Music Inside of You

Wishing you a relaxing Labor Day weekend to reconnect with your own form of music

I once worked with a wonderful human resources leader who talked about how important it was for leaders to take care of their own needs as well as the needs of their teams. The example she gave was that if we were on an airplane in distress and that handy little oxygen gizmo dropped down, it would be imperative to ensure our own supply first so that we would be able to help others.

I hope you will take some well-deserved time off over this long weekend to take care of your needs to rest and play and do some of what really makes your soul sing.

One of my favorite quotes is by Benjamin Disraeli:

Most people die with their music still locked up inside of them.

I made a vow to myself years ago that I would not die with my music all locked inside. How about you? What form does your music take? Have a wonderful long weekend off.

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Creative Communication: Every Leader Needs a TYSK

A TYSK is a short, easy-to-produce communication that’s fun, reinforces strategy, and motivates employees to respond.

When I worked at GE, every one of us knew that if Jack Welch came to visit and happened to stop one of us in the hallway and ask, “What’s your bottom line,” we’d better know the answer. As leaders, we knew that it was our job to be sure that Leadership Communication Toolsevery employee knew the facts about our competition, our strategy and goals, and our progress against those strategies and goals. We communicated these things in a number of ways, but employees told us that one of the most effective, simplest, and engaging communications was our TYSK. Now you might wonder, TYSK, what’s a TYSK? The acronym stands for Things You Should Know. We produced this brief eNewsletter once a week. The writing was concise and fun, and our TYSK consisted of just three parts:

  • 3-5 updates about our progress against key goals, always highlighting and giving credit to the people who were responsible.
  • A contest consisting of one question related to our strategy, a goal, or the competition. The first person who responded with the right answer was the winner. And yes, as corny as it may seem, there was a prize. A small prize, but people loved to go for it. Prizes ranged from a set of golf balls to a shirt or a coffee mug with our logo. The prize wasn’t the issue–competing to get the right answer in first was the point. By asking these questions, we reinforced key strategic messages every week.
  • The answer to the previous week’s question with the name of the winner, which also reinforced key messages about an element of our strategy, a goal, or the competition.

The reason our TYSK was successful in keeping everyone up to date was because it was short, it was fun, it involved people, and it reinforced important elements relating to our success. One of the biggest challenges leaders face these days is gaining employee mind share. In this digital world, people are deluged with thousands of messages every day. In order to gain some of that mindshare, leaders have to be creative. It has nothing to do with how smart people are or how committed they are. Gaining mindshare has to do with our ability as leaders to create compelling, memorable, and easy to digest communications. What creative communications have worked in your organization?

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Five Easy-to-Access Change Management Resources

How to manage organizational changeOrganizational change is like wiring the house with the power still on. You need to get light into every room, but you don’t want anyone to get zapped in the process.

It’s easy to underestimate the level of disruption that occurs when we launch a new strategy, are asked to lead a new team, or when we ask our current teams to do things differently.

Even when a change is positive, initially most people can only think, what will happen to me? Will I still have a job? What if I can’t take care of my family?

In addition to all the disruption, fear, and uncertainty, leaders often make three classic mistakes by:

  • Underestimating the power of the existing culture. Even with the best of good intentions, employees are used to doing their work in a certain way. And, until they understand and have time to process the need for change, they will just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • Moving too fast to implement changes while communicating too little or too late. The result? Some employees shut down and let fear take over, others stand around and kvetch at the copy machine, and the rest keep charging ahead doing what they have always done—or worse, trying out new things that may not be beneficial. A lack of clarity around new roles and responsibilities is one of the biggest reasons change initiatives fail.
  • Forgetting the importance of connecting on all three levels of communication:

─ Intellectual:  Employees understand the rationale behind the need for change.

─ Emotional:  Employees buy in and want to support the need for change.

─ Practical:  Employees know how to make a personal contribution.

No doubt about it, organizational change is complex. Here are five easy-to-access, and digest, resources to help spark some ideas about managing change in your organization:

  1. Author Dan Heath describes an interesting psychology study in this four-minute video: Why Change is So Hard .
  2. Gavin Wedell, a business educator in London, offers leaders 4 tips to manage change in his three-minute video, What Is Change Management.
  3. Management Consultancy International describes the four typical responses to change in Change Management in 30 Seconds.
  4. Chip Heath and Dan Heath discuss their philosophy: “When it’s time to change, we must look for bright spots . . .What’s working and how can we do more of it?” in a Fast Company excerpt about their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.
  5. Learn about a leader who dared to try innovative techniques to transform his team. Download your free eBook (see side bar):  Launching Organizational Change: 5 Tips to transform employee disinterest, doubt, and fear into buy-in, engagement, and action.
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Leadership Resilience: On Starting Over

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. It’s never too late to start over with your team if you remember these Starting over with your teamfour things:

  • It’s more important to listen first and speak second.
  • Use everyone’s expertise to plan and get results.
  • When you are wrong, apologize.
  • Honor your team. and they will honor you.

When I was promoted to my first leadership job at Honeywell’s Systems and Research Center, I was committed to being the best leader I could be. One of the first things I learned from my team was that they felt like second-class citizens. I had lots of ideas about how we could become strategic partners to support our business, and I shared them all. I was passionate. I was animated. I talked a lot. I listened a little.

Then, shortly after I started, my mother died, my father-in-law died, my own father had a stroke, and my grandmother died—all within a sixteen-week period. The pain was devastating, but I ignored it, and charged on. I was the leader after all, right?  My job was to set an example, not be an example.

I was exhausted, not particularly coherent, and I was abrupt as I tried to hide my feelings. Finally, Mike, the senior member of our team asked if I would meet with everyone the next morning. When I walked into the conference room, all ten of my direct reports sat waiting for me around a long table. Mike sat at the foot, and the chair at the head of the table was empty, waiting for me.

Before I could say a word, Mike broke in. “First of all, we want you to know that we really care about you. But lately, Sher, you seem really curt, and we feel that you don’t have any faith in us.”

“Are you speaking for everyone when you say “we feel”?  My voice was clipped and short, and then my face started to burn. I’d just proven his point.

Rita spoke up. “You seem to want to know every detail about all of our projects. It feels like you don’t trust us. And, you have all these ideas about how to change things.”

Linda added in her soft voice, “You just seem so defensive, lately. What’s wrong?” Linda was one of the kindest, most honest women, I’d ever met, and if she said I was being defensive, then I had to believe her.

Something shifted inside of me. I could feel it as I slumped in my chair and forgot about being the perfect leader for the first time since I’d joined the team.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I’d like to listen, really. I do want to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.”

Around the table, people visibly relaxed, and I realized for the first time they’d been as nervous as I was. For the next hour, I listened for a change, and they spoke. Looking back, I realize that they had no big complaints. They were sincere when they said they wanted to work with me. They just needed me to listen.

“Thank you for having the guts to speak up,” I said after everyone had gone around the table. “I have been curt and preoccupied, but it had nothing to do with you.” And, I finally shared why I’d been out of the office. They’d had no idea about all the deaths in my family. “I’m really sorry it seemed as though I was finding fault. I didn’t mean to come off that way. I’ve been talking a lot about my vision. Can we start over and instead talk about our vision?”

I got an enthusiastic “yes” from everyone around that table.

Over a three-year period, we worked hard, becoming serious business partners with all the science areas at the Systems and Research Center, and we moved well beyond our previous role of support staff. We doubled our productivity, we maintained a flat-line budget, and we had fun.

It’s been more than 20 years, and I still remember that team with love and honor them for the lessons they were so willing to help me learn. I went on and studied everything I could learn about leadership communication. Since then, I’ve led global and strategic change management communication teams at GE, American Express, Honeywell, and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders all over the world from the front line to the C-Suite, from high tech to financial services to manufacturing. And to this day, the four most important leadership lessons I’ve learned are:

  • It’s more important to listen first, speak second.
  • Use everyone’s expertise to plan and get results.
  • When you’re wrong, apologize.
  • Honor your team. and they will honor you.

It’s never too late to start over as a leader when things go awry. Have you ever started over? How did it go?

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Executive Approval in 60 Seconds

Apply the Three Levels of Leadership Communication™ when you want results—fast.

I met Janice, a copy center manager for a large corporation, a few years ago when I taught presentation skills at a local college. She was extremely nervous about an upcoming presentation she planned to deliver to request new equipment.

Her challenge was how to make her request urgent and real to a group of executives who:When you need to get leadership results--fast.

  • Scrutinized every request before approving a penny.
  • Took the services her team provided for granted.

As Janet planned her presentation, she applied the Three Levels of Leadership Communication™. She knew that she needed these leaders to understand that the main copy machine they relied upon for all of their copy needs was on its last legs. She knew that she wanted them to feel the same pain her staff was feeling as they tried to do their jobs in spite of the faulty machine. And, she knew exactly what she wanted them to do–approve her request on the spot–something that rarely, if ever happened.

On the day of her presentation, she walked to the front of the room and placed a small tape recorder on the table. She turned, faced the executives, and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak with them. Without saying another word, she pushed play. A loud, clanking, cajunking noise filled the room.

Janet stood there and waited. After about 5 seconds, the leaders started looking around the room at each other. The noise was unpleasant. Janet didn’t move. After another 10 seconds, the leaders started shifting in their seats. The noise was becoming unbearable. Janet reached over and punched the off button.

“This is what my team listens to eight hours every day, five days a week. It’s just a matter of time before our main copy machine is completely inoperable, and we are unable to meet your needs. I’m here today to ask you for the funds to replace the machine as soon as possible.”

The CEO asked her how much she needed. She told him. He turned to the group and asked if anyone disagreed that replacing this machine was a priority. No one did, and Janet got her capital request filled more quickly than anyone else in the history of the company.

The Three Levels of Leadership Communication™ model will help you get the results you want too. Contact me for your personal copy of the model. The process works on a micro level to get results with clients, senior leaders, peers, or direct reports and on a macro level to create organizational change.

What creative communication techniques have you used to get results? I’d love to hear about them!

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When You Speak, Do Employees Listen and Take Action?

Employees who don't listen

Part 1:  Take 3 steps to gain employee buy-in, engagement, and action

The company was bleeding out of every orifice. If they were to survive, it was imperative that every employee understood they could no longer do business as they’d been doing it for so many years. Customers were not happy with the products they manufactured or the services they provided.

Things had to change. Fast.

This is the story of Sarah, Joe, Greg, and Elizabeth. Only one of these department leaders captured attention, gained buy-in, and motivated employees to listen and take action. Only one leader got results.

Too many facts and figures. Sara met with the leaders in her department. She went over dozens of charts and graphs. She talked through every bullet point, describing what wasn’t working and why. She knew her data was compelling. And, her leaders faithfully presented every chart to their direct reports. The results? A growing fear among some employees that they may be laid off and a belief among others that management was over-reacting. Productivity slowed down.

All jazzed up and nowhere to go. Steve held a special meeting that included every employee in his department. He was a charismatic, inspiring speaker, and to a person every employee committed to go back and figure out how to make things better. But when they returned to their jobs, employees were frustrated because they didn’t know what to do. So some just did what they’d always done, while others tried new things. Chaos, confusion, and frustration multiplied.

Process in a vacuum is not enough. Greg called a meeting with his Six Sigma Black Belt, and together they decided to define, implement, and measure new processes that would improve a host of current issues. They held meetings, lots of meetings, with department leaders and employees. Processes changed, and although a few employees resisted, some improvement occurred. But it wasn’t enough.

Communicate on three levels for consistent results. Elizabeth met with her department leaders, and they worked to create an integrated plan, involving three steps. They knew they needed to communicate on the:

  1. Intellectual level to ensure that employees understood the rationale behind the need to change.
  2. Emotional level to create buy-in and inspire employees to take action.
  3. Practical level so that all employees knew how they could make a difference to the organization’s success.

Elizabeth understood the importance of connecting on all three levels to make lasting, measurable behavior and process changes. Find out what she said and did on June 19 in the next Communicate with Moxie blog:  Effective Leaders Ask 3 Questions to Get Results.

Don’t forget to download your free eBook (see side bar):  Accelerate Organizational Change:  5 tips to transform employee disinterest, doubt, and fear into buy-in, engagement, and action.

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