Many companies I work with are in some kind of transition. They’ve trying to change how they work to deliver a better customer experience. Some find this very challenging, and with good reason.
Managers are generally well equipped to handle the status quo and carve out incremental improvement to things like commercial strategy or operational efficiency. It’s likely that this can be done without fundamental, cross-company change in day to day behaviour. Managing major transition, on the other hand, requires a different and very specific skill set that is often missing, particularly within the senior leadership team.
It’s said that people don’t like change but it’s been my experience that, when handled well, transition can be an exciting and inspiring experience for everyone involved – a time when new skills are developed, new relationships are formed and unprecedented levels of energy and achievement are produced. Hence the need for managers to develop and apply this transition tool kit.
Principal among these transition skills is winning the hearts, minds and commitment of people and leading them on a journey of change. Put crudely, the ability to get people to turn up on Monday and do their jobs differently – sometimes very differently – to how they did it on Friday. This is hard to achieve with a small group of people working in the same place, so imagine the complexity that comes with a larger, more dispersed organisation.
Each transition requires a solution that’s tailored to a unique business situation, organisational culture and operational capability. Such change MIGHT require reformulating the business model, restructuring the organisation or re-engineering operational procedures, but it ALWAYS involves inspiring and helping people to change how they behave.
Here are 6 MUST DOs that are essential for inspiring and enabling people to play their part in delivering a powerful brand experience. You may well have seen them before, but as we all know, the gulf between knowing something and doing it can be enormous.
If you’re involved in some form of transition, you might want to run a quick finger over this checklist and see if you can spot any gaps that could impede a successful outcome.
1 Organise and plan (to concentrate minds on what’s really important)
There’s an expression that the first sign of madness is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. When it comes to managing transition this starts at the top and business leaders must think through what will be required to get from A to B.
For example: What resources are needed over what period of time? Are the right skills & the right people available? Have clear deliverables and performance goals been set? Has the agenda of board and management meetings changed to focus on the right things? Have priorities for investment and delivery been set and less relevant projects side-lined? How will progress be evaluated?
Addressing these issues up-front, in a clear plan, is a critical first step towards staff embracing change and owning the brand experience.
2. Shared vision and common language (to get everyone talking)
This one may sound a bit simple, but I’ve found it to be profoundly true. If you can’t talk about what needs to be delivered in terms that are easy to understand, easy to remember and comfortable to use, chances are nothing will change.
Once the PowerPoint deck is put away, what will people say? How will they swap stories and reinforce the main messages conceived in the planning room? Will managers and supervisors feel comfortable and confident or embarrassed and exposed trying to explain your CX plans to their teams (if it’s the latter it ain’t going to happen!)?
Finding simple, memorable language that captures the spirit of the brand, builds an inspiring vision and gives strong, intuitive guidance about the kind of behaviour that ‘fits around here’ is vital. When it comes to communication, less is more but it has to hit the mark.
3. Explain, explain….and then explain again (to answer what? and why?)
Ever noticed what two questions spring to mind when you’re asked to do anything that requires a bit of effort? I’m prepared to bet it would be 1) what exactly do you want me to do? and 2) why is it important?
Surely it’s no different when asking a team to invest time and effort to deliver a better customer experience. They need to be convinced about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ consistently and over time. The ‘bells & whistles’ launch event may be a great start but sustained investment in coherent communication is even more important. Constant reinforcement and re-positioning in all key internal conversations, presentations, meetings and publications is the recipe for success.
The process of questioning, understanding and adoption requires visibility, repetition and time.
4. Involve and delegate (to build ownership and passion)
I’ve found that little breeds ownership, passion and commitment better than being valued, respected and trusted. In practice that means being given a seat at the table and asked for an opinion or ideas; seeing that idea adopted, refined and implemented; being asked to join a team or take responsibility for a project and trusted to deliver; and being recognised for having played as key part.
As managers it can be tough to 1) set a clear direction so that everyone ‘gets’ what success looks like, 2) find the time required to involve everyone meaningfully and 3) release the reins to allow people to do it their way (perhaps coaching from the wings!). But in my experience, it’s the only approach that builds unrivalled levels of engagement and momentum.
Learning to coach and support rather than instruct and direct is a critical breakthrough moment.
5. Equip and support (to build relevant skills and capability)
Explaining ‘what’ and ‘why’ only takes a team so far. Addressing the HOW question is equally vital.
There can be little more frustrating than being inspired by a vision but lacking the skills and tools to play your part. That’s why it’s so important to define the capabilities you’ll need to deliver your CX strategy, assess where the gaps are and plan how to fix them through bespoke training.
Often though, the need is even more basic. For example, making sure everyone has up to date, user-friendly brand standards, operating manuals and behavioural guides to explain what’s needed.
Success lies in obsessive attention to detail and relentlessly asking “which means that I need to…?”
6. Recognise and celebrate (to build momentum)
Finally, catch people doing positive things and celebrate their contribution publicly and consistently. Nothing breeds success like success. Nothing encourages ownership and enthusiasm like positive feedback. Nothing breeds confidence like being acknowledged, and nothing inspires others like seeing someone else take the plaudits!
To work well, positive recognition must become part of the culture not an occasional nice-to-do.
So there are my 6 secrets to successfully building ownership and engagement. Of course none are actually secret, we all know them. But success lies not in the knowing but in the doing.