March 31st, 2010
Would you prefer to have someone talk to you or with you? Do people work for you or with you? Have a look at your emails, IMs or text messages…talk to you later, TTYL…or looking forward to talking with you soon? Likewise when I introduce or speak about people who work with me, though, yes they often report to me. Catch yourself at the end of a phone conversation, even correct yourself when caught. Note the reactions. It’s subtle but I’ve found repeatedly in management as well as personal relationships, it goes a long way.
It’s short and simple, but try it for a while. Goes along with my great aunt’s saying, “you get more bees with honey.” I never quite figured out why I wanted the bees, though the honey was nice, but I came to understand her meaning.
Try with instead of to. It’s part of our KISS principle, Keep It Short and Simple, and of course, an orange peel.
March 16th, 2010
Have you ever been in a presentation given by a consultant and that infamous Change Management slide comes up? It kills me, truly it does. When will people learn?
Human beings by nature are mostly adverse to change. For those who aren’t, but thrive on change, the other human factor gets them…people in general don’t like being told what to do, how to be or act, etc. So these change management slides are really quite interesting. They outline for people right up front, here’s our approach to change management. First, we’re going to tell you how we’re going to modify your behavior to make you in-adverse to change, just so you can watch for it, so when we actually do it, you’ll see it coming, and run the other way just as fast as you can…oh, and be sure to have your guard up since you know when and how it’s coming.
And what about the organizations who continually ask for it? Here I actually can’t be quite as harsh. As a CEO, I would want to know too…in private. “So tell me about your approach to change management.” However, I would listen very carefully because anything blatant is out of the question. And the first time any consultant puts up such a slide in front of my team, they’re out of there. I also caution my clients to watch for this when interviewing prospective consultants, always to ask this question, it is a telltale sign.
Change management is most effective when no one knows it’s happening. There’s an orange peel. There’s that psychology/philosophy coming out as well. And that marketing and selling technique…SHOW don’t tell, yes that includes even the people who don’t hold the checkbook. The 360 degree sphere, all inter-related, all supporting each other so the structure can’t fall in.
So what is my approach to change management? First is education and training—show don’t tell. The stakeholders need to understand what’s happening (that will be another blog topic, organizations often need help identifying all the stakeholders, they get some of them, but there are a few they miss nearly every time, and I would argue, the most important ones), whether it’s a new technology project, business process, product to market, whatever the case may be. They need to understand what it is, why it’s important, and how it pertains to them. They need to understand they are one of the elements to success (if they aren’t, they are not a stakeholder). They need to be engaged in the process of bringing this new project into fruition, in the form that is appropriate for their stake.
Next is visible short-term results. People can only use their imagination for so long on a new concept. At some point they need to touch and see. The bigger the change or the further away from each person’s expertise, the bigger this need becomes. Human development theory states you can challenge most people one level beyond their comfort zone, and you can challenge maybe half that many two levels beyond, but there are very few you can challenge three levels beyond all at once or you lose them. They can’t understand or they give up trying. So you need to take things one step at a time. Give them something tangible in manageable chunks so they are ready for the next level. This builds their understanding, their confidence, gains their buyin, and gets them excited for the next round. Further, it gets them spreading the word for you, and that is a great gain. People being brought into the fold by their colleagues is always more effective and faster than outsiders trying to achieve the same task.
And one final orange peel for the day, most people like to try before they buy. Any time a person can sit with a new process (technology, concept, etc.) at their desk while they’re active in the current process…run it through its paces, see if it stands up, identify areas for improvement or that plain don’t work, discover missing elements…they are engaged in the process and see their value, as well as the value the new process will bring. They are also building their level of comfort, their education, their training, and their buyin. They will talk with their colleagues and spread the word, get their input, ask questions, and assist you in a far better developed solution. And most of all, they build the whole group’s readiness to accept the new concept when it is rolled out.
There you have it, some examples of change management in action. Watch for those slides, ask the question, but most important to remember: change management is most effective when no one knows it’s happening.
March 15th, 2010
Orange peels. Interesting topic, so why orange peels you ask? It’s really quite simple. Everyone always talks about peeling back the onion. That’s all well and good, yes they’re layered and we understand that analogy, but onions make you cry. So why not oranges? We can talk orange peels instead. They are much sweeter and smell great. They still have layers, even if not quite as many. They even freshen up the garbage. Sure, every once in a while, they might squirt you in the eye, and *almost* make you cry…but doesn’t everything sweet make you cry once in a while? And crying is not bad, but most people don’t want to do it all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love onions, I’m just thinking, oranges are sweeter and have a more all around appeal. So here at Influency Group, we’ll talk orange peels.
Welcome to the Influency Group blog. Here we will take up various topics related to developing a valuable business from 360 degrees (oranges are spherical after all). I like 360 degrees. It’s something I try to apply to all aspects of my life, but most especially in business—it makes it sustainable (spheres don’t fall in). Where does that come from? I’m not sure really, but I’ve always been that way and I firmly believe in that approach. You see, I’m a mutt, really, or as my Dad always said, “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.”
So here’s a little about me…let’s start with education, a true mishmash that I am very happy to say, I use every aspect literally every day of my life. I grew up on a poultry farm (yes, this is education) in rural Northwest Vermont, surrounded by dairy farms, and we all supported each other. In other words, I’m not a stranger to hard work and have a work ethic to match (anything worth doing is worth doing well). I put myself through college (fighting the rationalization of why a girl needed to go to college. And, fighting the high school science teacher who told me business was a waste of time and I was wasting my brain). I majored in Psychology and Philosophy, with minors in Business and English. My Master’s is in Teaching. I have also completed several entrepreneurial programs, such as Middlebury College’s Digital Bridges, and CEO Bootcamp. Like I said, a mutt. On the psychology side, I focused equally on human development and business psychology, such as personnel psychology and I/O (industrial organizational). Specifically my Master’s is in Teaching English as a Second Language, which in and of itself, requires much of the psychology and philosophy background as you are working with people from all walks of life. Some of those experiences you truly don’t want to hear about and would break your heart, yet it is an honor to be a part of and make such a huge difference. Making a difference builds value, and that’s what Influency Group is all about.
I spent several years working in legal, higher ed, and government contracting. I took the MATESL and applied all the concepts in a variety of ways as an editor and writer, both technical and marketing related. First in submarine systems and similar interesting topics, then I spent eight years in data and telecom training (truly second languages and my skills were put to good use!). I was responsible for the publishing group (editing, art and production), which developed and delivered the company’s product—training materials of all kinds…printed, online learning (actually disks and CDs, then CBT…yeah that was a long time ago). Beginning in the early 1990s, I embarked on the vision of managing all this content more effectively, from a single source, with an organized (electronic) process and entered the world of Content Management and SGML (now more frequently XML but it was not standardized then) and I moved to IT, responsible for all corporate mission-critical applications.
I became very passionate about content management and what it could do for businesses. New revenue streams, much greater efficiencies, increased speed to market, and more. This led me to found my own company based on content management products and services, from the early days of imaging and document management through web content management, digital asset management, records management into collaboration, business process management, and all else under that ever-growing umbrella. Here I spent nearly eight years as founder, president and CEO, chief bottlewasher, cook, and janitor—building a valuable business delivering both enterprise systems implementations and building innovative enterprise software products used by companies from Fortune 500 to the SMB market. I worked with clients in nearly every vertical imaginable: high tech, government (fed, state, local), healthcare, pharma, manufacturing, higher ed, financial, telecom, retail…you get the point, a lot of them.
Through these experiences my passion grew around various areas of technology and how they could improve an organization, but the greatest experience was in the building of the business, and a lot of this is about WHO you are as a business. A lot of that is about effective management and marketing, provided all else is quality. In marketing you SHOW what you do as a business and why you make a difference—from the product, to the team, to how you conduct yourself, to quality in everything you do (from spelling, to colors, to product and delivery…remember if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, the little things mean a lot). And in management, you ensure you practice what you preach to execute effectively. You balance the short and long term, for the business and everyone, not just one individual. Too much short term, there’s no long term to get to; too much long term, you’ll never get there because you fail at the short term. Same thing with people…too much individual, the whole team fails; too much group focus, the individual needs aren’t met and there is no team. It’s that 360 degree thing… those individual orange peels that all come together to make the whole sphere, and the process of making the sphere mean something, of creating value, of making clients WANT to do business with you. People buy from people they like. Building the brand and what it stands for; constantly innovating with new ideas; building an amazing team, keeping them motivated, and developing careers and people; winning a client and delivering such high quality to have excellent results and ecstatic reviews (there is no greater honor than a client wanting to work for you…their words, I never say that, they work *with* me); establishing alliances and relationships that help make it happen; using technology to make a difference…these are some of those orange peels, some of my proudest moments, and the foundation of Influency Group.
Influency Group is comprised of executive experts in various areas of running a business (Cxx, Marketing, Sales, Product Development, Finance, Operations, etc.) who I have had the very proud privilege to have worked with in multiple roles. These individuals are truly the best of the best, and we have been through thick and thin (which you understand if you have ever bootstrapped, likewise in dealing with investors). We have celebrated successes and learned from failures. We are an effective team that works together to deliver results. We have now conceived of a new model, oranges instead of onions. We are a boutique for executive services, yet unafraid to turn up our sleeves to move clients to success. We teach to fish. We offer our team to our clients, providing both executive guidance and hands-on services, in a subscription-based model. Various subscription levels provide a bank of prepaid, flat rate hours, to deliver the expertise you need and help you build a valuable business. We are selective in our client process and encourage prospects to do the same. It is imperative to have a strong, synergistic fit among the Influency and client teams. It must be a two-way street, built with trust and integrity. This is our sphere, built with many peels. We look forward to sharing them with you.