Thursday, 27 August 2015

What Your Reaction to Amazon's Culture Says About You

The New York Times' exposé on Amazon's company culture has sparked many responses including Chief Executive, Jeff Bezos', who sent a rebuttal email to all Amazon employees. 

There are three types of responses to the article: supporter, critic and neutral.

The supporters say that extraordinary results require extraordinary efforts. Amazon's excellent results are admirable and a product of hard work driven by its culture. As one writer said, you step back from the stock and say, "Boy. Whatever these folks are doing is working." This is a minority view.

The critics condemn the cultural norms described by ex-employees in the NYT article. For example, a blog post by Michael Hyatt outlines how these practices lead to poor team relations, sub-optimal performance and compromised lives. A burnout culture is bad for business and bad for employees. This is the majority view.

The neutral commentators state that people who chose to work for Amazon are fully aware of its challenging culture. They do so because the rewards are worth the 'survival of the fittest' work environment: working on groundbreaking projects, associating with smart people, building skills, increasing personal market value and benefiting from lucrative stock options. Working at Amazon is a 'fair warning' contract between two parties aware of what they are getting and giving.

The position you agree with says more about your work preferences than about Amazon's culture. Since your view is shaped by your past work experiences, it provides a window to how you view employment environments.

If you are a supporter, high performance ('results orientation' in HR speak) is what work is aboutthe "what" of work is the focus. Cultural behaviours, the "how," are followed because they aid efficient and effective interactions across the company.

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes to get back on track. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, taking on new ones is justified as long as they improve performancethe end justifies the means.

If you are a critic, high performance is only half of what work is about, the "what". The "how" of work is equally important. Cultural behaviours are followed because they are based on company values and beliefs, which are mandatory. High performance gained by contrary behaviours is seen as a partial success. 

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes within the cultural parametres to get back on track. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, better alignment of people to them is required.   

If you are neutral, achieving goals is what work is aboutthe "what" of work, like the supporter, is the focus. Cultural behaviours aren't necessarily followed; they are inputs for consideration that may lead to achieving your goals.

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, taking on new ones is a given.

Company culture is important to most people. Your views on Amazon's culture might help you better understand what type of culture is important for you.


Friday, 21 August 2015

What does magic have to do with change management?

Last Monday, I went on a five-hour hike with my brother-in-law, three of his high school teacher colleagues, and my son, Sam. Our goal was to retrace a path that Samuel de Champlain (a founding father of Canada) had walked 400 years ago to the day.

As you might expect, my teacher comrades were passionate about learning and eager to exchange ideas on how to become better educators. Throughout the day, there were many exchanges about curriculum being taught in the fall, resources being used and learning techniques being employed.

Tim shared his interest in using magic as a learning aid. He told a story of going to a magic shop to learn how he could integrate magic into his lesson plans. An anticipated 15-minute visit turned into a 5-hour conversation with magicians about the parallels between their professions.

The similarities between learning and magic are compelling: they require engagement and attention to work; demonstration creates interest in how to do something; and mystery promotes debate and learning. Teachers and magicians have similar roles with one focusing on learning and the other on entertainment.

As we continued down our 400 year old path, I thought about extending the learning/magic comparison to change management. Since learning new mindsets, actions and behaviours is how people adopt change, there must also be connections between change management and magic. 

Here are the ones I identified:

Magicians and Change Leaders create wonder
Magicians create wonder about the illusions they create. Change leaders create wonder about the better future they describe. Both may seem impossible without the belief and skill of the creators. Wonder is created through showmanship, the ability to capture attention and create the desire to hear more.

Magicians and Change Leaders know their audiences
Magicians are highly observant of where people focus their attention. Change leaders know what people care about and the concerns they may have with a change. Magicians use their knowledge to guide their audience to experience the benefits of their illusion. Change Leaders use their knowledge to guide their audience to experience the benefits of the change.

Magicians and Change Leaders use a step-by-step approach
Magicians follow a sequenced set of steps that sets up and executes their trick. Change Leaders use a stepped approach to plan and implement their change. Both consistently follow appropriate steps to be successful.

Magicians and Change Leaders are confident in their ability to deliver outcomes
I have never seen an effective Magician or Change Leader who is self-conscious and uncertain about his or her ability to deliver on desired outcomes. If they don't have confidence in themselves then people won't either. Lack of confidence directs people to their weaknesses instead of their strengths.

Magic has a lot to do with change management. I asked Tim about his biggest insight from his conversation in the magic shop. One magician said, "Whether you are a teacher or a magician, you are the magic." The performance of the role delivers the outcome. I think the same is true about Change Leaders.


Friday, 14 August 2015

How to Change Something You Like: Lessons from Updating My Website

A common change management challenge is people's dislike of trying new things. Even though the new ways of working could lead to benefits, they hold onto the familiar and comfortable ways that have led to past success. Sydney J. Harris wisely observed, "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better."

I knew it was time to update my website after I reviewed a free video assessment of it called Peak by a company called User Testing. A reviewer navigates your site and provides real-time comments on what he or she experience.  

My feedback was painful (video here). One comment was, "I would like to see something that tells me what this is. What type of change is it--is it corporate change, is it individual personality change? What type of change are we talking about?" Ouch. 

It was clear that my website needed to change. Even though the reviewer wasn't someone looking for my services, he was someone having difficulty navigating my information. 

My personal challenge was that I really liked my site. Each section was a collection of decisions I had made with the best intentions; they were my best solutions. To realize the benefits of change I had to change what I liked.

Here's how I approached my website redesign that allowed me to move past my "I love this site" bias.

Be clear on purpose
My site objectives are to:
  • Create awareness of what we do and how we do it
  • Build relationships with people who may need our help in the future
All content had to support one of these objects. The new site has 40 percent fewer pages and the remaining ones have been rewritten based on my objectives.

I was surprised to see that a lot of the content was out of date: our client list was missing three new clients, biographies needed updating and our approach to change did not reflect our latest learnings. We will also be updating the "Our Story" video to reflect latest developments.

Begin with the customer in mind
Information on the site needs to answer questions that potential customers would have. The three main questions are:
  • What do they offer?
  • Why should I hire them?
  • How do I contact them?
Now all content answers one of these questions.

Partner with experts in the field
I worked with Krishan Jayatunge who is an excellent webmaster and media professional. He is creative, collaborative and comfortable with giving me honest feedback. I knew that my enthusiasm for a particular idea would not bias his expert perspective. 

Strive for simplicity
The reviewer also commented that the site was confusing. This is understandable, since it had four layers of navigation. My desire to cram as much information onto the site as possible led to complexity and difficult navigation. I was expecting someone to click or scroll up to four times to find what you they looking for. Although the three-click rule of web navigation has been around for years, there is evidence that suggests people want to click only two times to find what they are looking for. Reducing content was the easiest way to reduce complexity.

Adopt a continuous improvement mindset
To avoid similar change challenges in the future, I have taken on a mindset of continuous improvement. Continuous testing and feedback will help me avoid holding onto my preferences. I am committed to and am scheduling regular 'test, learn and update' reviews. 

Today, was relaunched. I think the changes have addressed the feedback I received. It felt good to click through the new pages. My site can always be better though, so please send me a note if you have any feedback. I would appreciate hearing about your preferences.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

How to Inspire People to Achieve Your Goals

The title of a YouTube video caught my eye: "Dave Grohl's Response to the 1,000-Person Cover of Learn to Fly". 

Dave Grohl is the founder, songwriter, rhythm guitarist and singer of the long-standing band Foo Fighters. He is also the former drummer of the famed early 90's 'grunge' band Nirvana.

A 1,000-person rendition of a song seemed interesting, but even more so was this famous musician's response to his fans.

Dave's thank-you video was short and sweet, thanking people for their awesome show of appreciation. He spoke in broken Italian, which was a nice touch given that the song was recorded in Cesena, Italy. The simple message, recorded on a smart phone had an impromptu and sincere feel to it, befitting of a personal thank-you.  

I became curious about the music video that prompted Dave's warm response. How did 1,000 people perform a song at the same time, and why?

A year ago, Fabio Zaffagnini, the founder of a virtual guided tour startup, had a dream of the Foo Fighters playing his hometown of Cesena, a Northern Italian town of 112,000 people.

He came up with the idea of creating a tribute video to help bring attention to his request. Fabio took action by enlisting his friends and building a crowdsourced budget of $50,000. 

A year later, at sunset on July 26 2015, 1,000 musicians (traveling at their own expense), 100 volunteers and a 30-camera crew created the video (take a look). Within days of being posted, it had been watched 18.6 million times including members of the band.

Zaffagnini said that his project worked "because he had a huge amount of people working for free, helping us for nothing." How did he convince so many people to support his goal in a world where only 13 percent of employees are engaged with their employer's businesses? What was it that spoke to so many hearts and minds to accomplish something so big?

Here are some possible reasons why people signed up for Fabio's dream:
  • He (the leader) was clear on what he wanted to achieve (Foo Fighters concert in Cesena) 
  • The goal meant a lot to him personally
  • People (musicians) could relate to the goal (hold a concert)
  • It had never been done before
  • He created a solid plan
  • The plan was well-financed
  • Everyone had a clear role 
  • Skilled people were enlisted to manage the logistics (e.g. a conductor coached the musician on how to synchronize their performances)
  • It felt like it would be fun
  • The project was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with bragging rights ("I was there.")
  • Everyone could see how their part contributed to the project's success
  • People were recognized for their efforts (check out the end credits)

Fabio's project holds many lessons for other leaders. Business leaders can definitely gain insights on how to inspire and motivate their teams. All they need to do is watch the video and be inspired by the looks on everyone's faces.


Friday, 31 July 2015

Abundance Versus Scarcity? Your Choice will Shape Your Opportunities

One of my favourite management concepts is the 'abundance versus scarcity' mindset dichotomy popularized by Stephen Covey.

Someone with an abundance mindset believes there are many opportunities in the world and win-win options secure the greatest rewards; someone with a scarcity mindset believes there are limited opportunities and win-lose options secure the greatest rewards (before others take them).

I experienced an abundance mindset a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from someone I had worked with 10 years ago. He was interested in partnering his consulting firm with mine on a technological change project. 
We set up a call for the following week with someone from his firm and a partner I thought might also be interested in this type of work. 

It was a good call. After introducing ourselves, we discussed the high-level parameters of the assignment. It felt like an abundance mentality moment, one that was inspiring, productive and fun. Everyone was looking for ways to win the contract for our mutual benefit. 

That evening, my friend and I reviewed the detailed 'request for proposal' provided by the company and initial timelines our new partners had made.

The next day we sent our analysis and recommendations back for review. Although the project was not a good fit for my technical qualifications, my partner was an excellent match. It felt good to develop and share my analysis even though I wouldn't be on the team.

Today, I shared this story with another friend. She said she has decided to only take on assignments involving people who are positive, collaborative and interested in everyone's success. Anything else would be a waste of time. A light went on in my head.

Stephen Covey said "I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger." I know my next opportunity isn't far off when working with this type of mindset. It won't be hard to identify.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

10 Must-do's When Ending a Project

Last Friday, I completed an assignment I have been working on for a year. 

It felt strange to leave an initiative that has monopolized my waking and sleeping hours for so long. One minute I'm attending meetings and completing tasks and the next I'm not.  

The ending of an assignment is my least favourite phase of a project because:
  • Any end date seems premature; there is always more to do to embed a change
  • The pace moves from fast and dynamic to slow and methodical 
  • There's a sense of loss just before saying goodbye to a team and goal you care about

Transition planning is important for success. As someone once advised me, "people only remember beginnings and endings; everything else is grey". Unless something has gone very wrong in the middle, the beginning and end define the perceived success of an initiative. 

Not everyone follows this advice. I have observed leaders who have quickly exited a project, motivated by the prospects of a new role. Invariably, this impacts people's views on the level of success and how the project was managed. 

So here are 10 ways to end a project well:
  • Ensure everything has a new hometasks without an owner won't get done
  • Create a list of future actions that will increase the project's successwhat would you do if you were still on the project?
  • Offer your availability for quick calls or emails to give advice or answer questionsit only takes a few minutes to share your knowledge and add value
  • Document lessons learnedwhat worked well and what didn't, what insights did you gain from the project, what will you do differently next time?
  • Create an archive of the projectinclude business case, outcomes, plan, implementation modifications, results and key documents
  • Say goodbye to your team memberssharing your appreciation of them and their support is a must
  • Say thank you to the leader who brought you onto the assignmentshowing appreciation for the opportunity is also a must.
  • Delete any future assignment meetings on your calendarif not, you will continue to be mentally engaged
  • Take a moment to celebrate the successes you contributed toit helps reinforce your learning and acknowledge your hard work
  • Plan to do something completely different the week after you exita vacation, different project work or personal or business commitments break your routine and focus your thoughts on other things

How you end a project has significant impact on its and your success. Doing so with the same commitment and rigour as you had at the beginning (and middle) phases ensures that you will transition well. It also prepares you for a new beginning.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Maximize Your Team’s Performance by “Leading Inside the Box”

Have you noticed that many leaders manage their teams on the fly, investing little thought to where and how they allocate their time among their team members? They do so without prioritization, either allocating time equally across each team member or giving as much time to each individual as they demand. Their leadership role in performance management is neither strategic nor well-planned.

Lead Inside the Box, How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results provides a simple and effective approach to assess and manage your team’s effectiveness. Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo have created an assessment framework called the Leadership Matrix. The matrix lays out four distinct employee profiles based on behavioral characteristics individuals demonstrate. Each profile is defined by the level of output the employee produces in relation to the input required from the leader to achieve productivity.

The Leadership Matrix gives you a picture of your team’s collective and individual strengths and opportunities for improvement. It also provides the foundation for a plan to realign how you spend your “leadership capacity” to maximize individual and team performance. 

After clearly explaining the assessment process, the authors provide advice on how to allocate your time across behavioral types to maximize performance. Strategies and tactics are outlined for each type that easily translate into a development plan.  

The book also offers guidance on leader scenarios including taking on a new team, leading a team you were a member of, a reorganization and a reduction in team size.

What I find fascinating is that shortly after learning the four employee types, I have been compelled to begin assessing the teams of leaders I work with. I first identified a High Cost Producer, Squeaky Wheel mid-manager who produces results, but monopolizes the leader’s time. Most of this time would have been better spent with another team member, an Exemplar, Rising Star, who is an effective, self-starter destined for senior roles in the company. And then there is the Passenger, Stowaway, a low producer who lacks drive and only appears to do the bare minimum in his role. The leader needs to “Lead Inside the Box.”

The team assessment is easy to complete based on the behaviors displayed either in one-on-one or team meetings. Each Leadership Matrix reveals the pattern of where people are concentrated across the four profile types. This picture is helpful to see where your team is skewed.  Opportunities for performance improvement are also easy to spot based on the guidance provided throughout the book.

Lead Inside the Box is a great read for any leader (or developer of leaders) who wants a simple and effective way of maximizing their team’s performance. It provides a framework, assessment process and development advice that are relevant, practical and effective. It is the perfect guidance to elevate a leader and his or her team to the next level.


Friday, 10 July 2015

Where to Invest Your Change Resources: Building Awareness, Capability or Sustainability?

One of the key decisions in planning a big change initiative is where to place resources (people, time and money). Given limited resources, you need to decide where they are best placed. Knowing how people take on new ways of working that enable successful change will help you make the best choice.

People adopt changes through a three phased process: Awareness, Capability and Sustainability.

Awareness: Understanding what the change is and why it is needed, what will be different for them and how it will impact their roles 

Capability: Practicing new routines (either before or after the change), establishing new relationships and making adjustments to optimize their new ways of working

Sustainability: Having new ways of working integrated into regular operations through formal role changes, new goals, monitoring effectiveness and receiving feedback, and achieving rewards for taking on new mindsets, actions and behaviours.

Most organizations focus the majority of their resources on the first phase, building awareness of the change before it is made. This 'big bang' approach gets attention and builds excitement and support for the change.

This approach to change is easy to do because a mandate for the change has freshly been set, leaders are engaged and resources are available. Demonstrating importance and commitment makes sense and a quorum of leaders are on board.  

The problem with this front-loaded approach is that it doesn't build enough capability or integrate new ways of working into day-to-day practices. Like a fire built mostly of paper, it burns brightly for a few minutes and dies out quickly. 

Often, this approach becomes a progressively negative element of an organization's culture as every change is managed this way. It doesn't take long for people to become skeptical of change when it doesn't stick. They take on a "wait and see" approach to adopting new ways of working. Without a critical mass of support, the change doesn't take hold and it fails. A self-fulfilling prophecy is created as the skeptics say "I told you so." 

It only gets worse with time. Leaders begin to face credibility issues because people notice that early commitments and promises are not delivered. The employees who initially believed what leaders say in townhall meetings and email often  become the most cautious when the next change is announced. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" becomes their armour against future disappointments. 

A better approach is to divide resources more evenly across the three phases of adoption. There still is an initial drive to communicate the change, yet it is followed and supported by an equal drive to build skills and integrate new ways of working into regular operations.

Investing in capability building and assimilation will increase people's confidence in the change and encourage them to take on new activities, relationships and behaviours--when you do things well you tend to own and support them more

This approach also establish a winning foundation for future changes. It increases leaders' credibility and reputations for "walking the talk" and being change agents .Future changes are viewed with more optimism and confidence. Also, an expertise in change develops that becomes a positive part of an organization's culture--"We rock change." 

Most benefits are realized after change is made by well-skilled people who take on new ways of working that are supported by their organization. Investing resources across awareness, capability and sustainability activities greatly increases your probability of success. It makes sense and it feels good too.


Friday, 3 July 2015

How to Spend an 8-hour Layover at Tokyo Narita Airport

This week, I co-facilitated workshops in New Jersey and Singapore. There was just enough time to travel between the two locations through Tokyo.

I am back in Tokyo, 5 hours into an 8-hour layover. It's a luxury to have so much time to do what you please, even if you are jet lagged. Here is how I have spent my time:
  • Have a shower
  • Rehydrate (often)
  • Eat (three times)
  • Charge my phone and laptop
  • Get caught up on current affairs
  • Observe fellow traveler
  • Time how long it takes for the background music to loop (60 minutes)
  • Get caught up on email 
  • Look at local newspapers to see what is newsworthy
  • Work on a review of a management book (a future blog post)
  • Write down lessons learned from the two workshops
  • Create a to-do list
  • Long-term plan
  • Buy mementos for loved ones
  • Write this blog post
International travel still fascinates me (even when I am jet lagged). One more for the list: Be grateful for these experiences.


Friday, 26 June 2015

Never Pass Up the Chance to have Lunch with a Neuroscientist

Carlos Davidovich
I had lunch with Carlos Davidovich recently. Carlos is a 'neuromanagement' expert, medical doctor, university professor and leadership coach. We met at a networking event a couple of months ago and promised to get together soon.

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system and how the brain impacts behaviour and how we think. 

For a few years now, the change management community has been enamoured by neuroscience because it provides a new lens through which to understand why people do what they do. Influencing people to align with and support positive change is our business. 

The application of neuroscience discoveries has helped people adopt new ways of thinking and behaving to improve performance at work. For change leaders, it has added to their toolkit of practices and approaches used to communicate and enable change. Also, its research-based insights on how the brain works has provided credibility and a cool factor to change.

Carlos and I talked about the importance of a positive future vision when communicating change and how this form of storytelling needs to paint a picture in which people can see themselves doing meaningful work. This is a must for someone to consider supporting it over time.

We also discussed how understanding the workings of the brain can help people take on new mindsets and behaviours that lead to greater performance. Successful change has a lot to do with creating the right environment to support these changes.

Leadership coaching, a passion for both of us, was the crescendo point of our conversation. We traded stories of how to best help leaders lead change based on what has worked and not worked in our careers.

Time flew and we felt our conversation was cut short by our afternoon commitments. We would have to continue our discussion about human nature another day. 

As I rode the subway back to my office, I wrote notes on our conversation. Most were insights on how and why people do what they do. A couple were opportunities to partner in the future. I underlined them knowing they would involve meaningful work in the future.


Saturday, 20 June 2015

You Would Be Better Off if You Knew What People Think

Last week, I received three gifts in my inbox: three critical book reports on Change with Confidence from master’s degree students.

I first met Dr. Len Karakowsky, Professor of Human Resource Management at York University, in the spring of 2013 just after my book was published. We were introduced by someone we both knew and had an excellent conversation about our passion for change management.

Soon after, I spoke at Len’s Organizational Change and Development course that is part of York’s Master of Human Resource Management program. I was delighted and honoured when Change with Confidence was added to the course reading list the next semester.

Len and I had discussed getting feedback on my book from his students. I was excited by the prospect of people commenting on what was useful (and not useful), based on their experience and needs.

The winter session included a critical book report on Change with Confidence:

For Change with Confidence: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest rating), how helpful is this book to you as an HR professional who will be involved in managing or leading change? What area(s) is/are this book’s biggest strength(s) and what is/are its biggest weakness(es) as a change management tool for YOU (or your organization)? Why?

StephanieTirelli, Emily Candy and Anne Gibbs kindly agreed to share their excellent reports. Reading them brought me back to the time when I was making decisions about what and how I would share my advice.

Here are most of the strengths and weaknesses and my reflections on them:

I am grateful for Stephanie’s, Emily’s and Anne’s reviews of my book. It is instructive to validate things that are useful and identify things that aren’t. Both have me thinking and both will make me better off for future projects.


Friday, 12 June 2015

If Learning is Social then Up your Sociability Now

"It takes two brains to learn," said a friend over coffee. He went on to say that people learn through their interactions with others.

I agreed and added that people learn best this way. You can learn on your own, but not as much and not as fast. We started discussing what is known as Social Learning Theory. Albert Bandura coined the term and believed that "people learn from one another via observation, imitation and modeling".

This simple but powerful concept has been used in advertising ("monkey see, monkey do") and leadership development ("walk the talk," "lead by example" and "fake it till you make it").

My professional learning curve has been shaped by social learning. Most of my growth has come from interactions, observations and practice. Learning from others has become second nature. 

My personal learning hasn't followed the same path. Development of interests have been mostly solo. When I was five years old I had a passion for chess. I played a lot, including tournaments, but didn't socialize with or learn much from my opponents.

More recently, my passion for running has also been an individual pursuit to increase my speed. I run alone and develop alone. Or at least that was my approach until three weeks ago when our son, Sam, started running. We began running together, first doing hill repeats (painful) and then long runs. 

I noticed that Sam ran at a faster pace than I did. I also noticed that his pace was consistent, something I had never been able to do. If I wanted to run with Sam, I had to change how I ran; I had to run like he did. I had to become a better runner through observation, imitation and practice.

The last 200 metres
Last Sunday, we ran our first charity run, the Bread and Honey 15K. Although challenging, we ran in Sam's style, fast and consistent.  

Our plan was to sprint once we saw the finish line as we had practiced on our long runs. It was amazing to see Sam bolt to the end and fly past the time clock. 

I crossed the finish line a minute faster than last year, five seconds per mile faster, where each second is a personal victory. I had grown as a runner.

I am now committed to changing how I learn in my personal passions. I will up my sociability, grow more, and enjoy the process.

Our next race is on Sunday called the Spring Fling 15K. We are planning to run even faster. Social learning is fun.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

How Music Affects What You Buy in a Grocery Store

I was at the local grocery store and I noticed my head nodding to the background music. Next, I realized I was singing the song (and nodding). I was close to dancing with my cart, oblivious to those around me, in my private happy zone. Okay, I might have do a couple of dance moves.

The song that grabbed my attention is called "Stomp" by the Brothers Johnson (of Strawberry Letter 23 fame). It is a memory song from my youth. As soon as I recognized the chorus I smiled and felt happy. Grocery shopping had become enjoyable.

As I progressed to the dairy section, I wondered what effect my new joyous mood was having on my purchases. Similar to how shopping with children can increase your bill, was the youth in my head doing the same? Was I buying more or different things? I felt I was being more carefree about my choices and buying multiple items on sale seemed like a good move.

When I got home I did some research on music's effects on buying behaviour. Most sources referenced the same studies and I thought this article captured the highlights really well:

  • There are 3 qualities of music impact buying behaviour: Tempo, Volume and Genre
  • Tempo: Slow paced music increases time in store by 38 percent and increases sales by 32 percent
  • Volume: Less time is spent in stores playing loud music versus background music yet the purchases are higher when louder music is played for those younger than 50 years old.
  • Genre: Purchases are higher for classical music over top-40 and the items bought are more expensive.

The research contrasts my perceptions. I think I stay longer in the store and spend more when I was hearing music that I liked, especially memory songs from the past. 

Another study may explain the difference between my perception and retail reality. High tempo music increases the level of arousal which increase the pace you go through a store. It also can cause you to lose focus and distract you from buying. I was definitely distracted.

I have noticed the effect of music on participants at training sessions and change launches. You can excite people or ease them into a reflective mood by the music you play. Perhaps these experiences are similar to those in a grocery store. Both are selling opportunities.


Friday, 29 May 2015

Best Made Plans Usually Change

Change agility seemed like a fitting topic for my presentation at ProjectWorld conference this week. 

A month ago, I received an email from a client stating that I was needed in Dubai the day I was scheduled to speak at the conference. I felt one of those 'oh no' moments when things don't go as planned.

My first action was to check flexibility on the Dubai date. Although it was part of a three-day conference, my session needed to come first.

My next step was to check flexibility with my flights. The earliest I could be back in Toronto was 11:35 am on Tuesday. It would require taking a 1:35 am flight from Dubai to Frankfurt and a connecting flight to Toronto three hours later. 

I called the conference event director to see if my session could be moved to Tuesday. Fortunately, I could change spots with someone presenting at 1:30 pm on Tuesday. I would have almost two hours after landing to get home, shower and travel to the conference centre. It would be tight, but I was feasible. We assessed the risk of travel delays and decided to go for it.

The first leg of my journey home went well. The plane took off and landed on time. I got four hours sleep on the six and a half hour flight, above average for me.

I showered in the lounge and finished final preparation for my presentation. Things were going as planned. 
At Scheduled Landing Time
The second flight also took off on time. I got another four hours of sleep on the eight and a half hour flight. I felt jet lagged and was dropping things, but mentally I was alert. An hour before landing, I asked a flight attendant if we were on time. She said landing had been delayed by 45 minutes. Things were not going as planned. 

My backup plan was to go directly to the conference centre from the airport. I had packed an extra dress shirt and would wear the jacket and pants I had worn in Dubai. If needed, I could be at the conference centre in 35 minutes. It was time to activate my plan.

I shaved in the washroom and emerged a wrinkled version of presentable. Traffic was good and I was in my presentation hall with 30 minutes to spare. I was ready to talk about change agility. 

My schedule was too tight for comfort and I will avoid reliving this experience. I jotted down these notes after my session:

  • Avoid over-scheduling your calendar--risk of poor performance and stress are high costs of doing more
  • Share risks with your partners--taking them is a joint decision
  • Options lead to solutions--always have a back up plan
  • Open presentations with a personal story about your topic--it demonstrates relevance and establishes a bond with your audience
My next session is in two weeks with no schedule conflicts in sight. I will pack an extra set of clothes. Anything could happen.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Don't know where your career is going? Join the club.

I sat beside a really great guy on my flight back to Toronto from Santiago, Chile. Raymond is law student who was returning from a one-week school exchange. 

We had brief conversations throughout the first 11 hours of our 12 hour flight--how was your meal, how was the movie, did you get any sleep? Pleasant, but not life altering.

For the last hour we had a great conversation about his career options after law school. It wasn't clear what his career path should be or the criteria how should use to make this decision.

These are life altering decisions. I have found that most people don't have the self awareness or information required to make these decisions after school.

I shared with Raymond the following observations and insights I had gained when I held a Global HR role at Cadbury:

  • Many people don't know what they want to do professionally until they are in their forties (some never do)
  • Career paths are rarely linear
  • People's stories about their careers sound more planful than they were
  • Most people fall into career opportunities versus plan for them
  • Those who take these opportunities are the most successful and happy
  • Those who help others to be successful have the most career opportunities
  • Most people motivated by status don't get enough of it to be satisfied—the same goes for money
  • Some choose professions they are good at that they are not passionate about or enjoy
  • Many people build careers that are different from their education major or first job
  • People with the most diverse careers tend to have the broadest perspectives 
  • A career or role choice that didn't work out can provide the best lessons and compelling story that demonstrates self awareness and capability
  • Many people find meaning in their work—it's a good criterion for career and role selection
  • It's never too late to change your career (but most people don't think so)

I hope my views are helpful for Raymond. I gave him a copy of Change with Confidence as a parting gift. It felt like the right thing to do for someone I know will figure out the best path for him. 


Sunday, 17 May 2015

10 Things I Know About Training

I am writing this post as I change planes at the Santiago, Chile Airport. My trip home to Toronto from Buenos Aires is 20 percent complete.

The workshop I co-facilitated yesterday went well and I am feeling a post-training high. It's a mixture of fulfilment, satisfaction and exhaustion. 

People were engaged throughout the day, even after spending three 12-hour days at a conference (not including team dinners and evening activities). Also, my co-facilitators were superb. We achieved all of our objectives.

As I was typing the flip chart notes, I wrote down the following training 'truths' based on the comments I read:

  • People want to perform better regardless of how   successful they are
  • People intuitively know when new ways of working will help them be more effective
  • Respect for learners' perspectives is an important requirement for engagement
  • People learn best through dialogue with their peers
  • Retention of new information is increased when facilitators make mistakes that are corrected by their peers--I increased retention twice!
  • Real-life scenarios provide context for new ways of working
  • Game-like activities make learning interesting, which increases engagement and retention
  • People need time to ask questions as they process new concepts
  • Training is only the first step to adoption of new ways of working; people must apply new concepts during their day-to-day routines and tasks for them to stick
  • Asking people what they need to transition to new ways of working is the best way to create a plan to do so 
The next stop on our 'world tour' is Dubai. Applying these truths will help us achieve our objectives and give me similar feeling on my flight home.


Friday, 8 May 2015

What do you do when you run into someone from your past?

This week, I traveled to New York and Dubai. It was a whirlwind trip with most of my time spent in the air. 

As I was waiting for a taxi outside the Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, I saw someone I had worked with in England who I hadn't seen in six years. 

It was one of those times when you know a person's face but you don't instantly make the connection because he or she is out of context. Keith was standing in front of a massive marble entryway that was 5,500 kilometres away from where we had worked together. Definitely out of context.

Seconds later we both made the connection and said hello. We laughed at the coincidence of seeing each other in Dubai after so long. What were the chances? We caught up on work and family and agreed to catch up when we got back to our respective homes.

This isn't the first time I have seen a former colleague or friend in a different location. When I tried to recall other examples I realized it has happens more often than I would have thought. 

They have all been good experiences that have gone by too quickly. Invariably, memories of the time I knew the person flood my mind.  These scenes become distractions to our conversation and before I know it we have said good-bye. Typically, I think of a question I would have liked to ask if I had been prepared for the our meeting.

I have decided that I will be prepared for the next time this happens. I will:
  • Ask them how they are doing - both personally and professionally
  • Share how I am doing
  • Update them on mutual acquaintances
  • Ask if there is anything I can do to help them
  • Ensure we are connected through LinkedIn
  • Honour what I say I will do quickly
I have been thinking of my conversation with Keith since it happened. I am definitely sending him a note this weekend.