By: Daniel Stewart
Making decisions is tough sometimes, even under the best of circumstances. And when people look to you to make the final call, it’s easy to feel like the future of your career, your team, or even the company is at stake. History is full of stories about bad business decisions, and no one wants to be the person who passed up a profitable acquisition or missed a major market shift.
But someone must be the “go-to” decision-maker. After all, no decision IS a decision, and businesses cannot afford to sit still. So how can you improve your ability to make effective decisions?
Start by assessing your own decision-making style. There are generally three approaches to making decisions:
Consultative decision-making involves soliciting input from others before making a decision.
Directive decision-making means making the decision on your own.
Consensus decision-making is all about involving others and making a decision together.
Of course, different decisions may require different methods, but every leader will naturally gravitate toward one or two of these styles more often. Identify how you make decisions, and then learn when to alter your decision-making strategy to boost the quality of the outcome.
Once you have a general idea of how you make decisions, follow these four steps to make the most effective decision possible:
Calvin Coolidge once said, “If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” It’s easy to see a cascade of problems and turn them all into something that needs a decision, or to turn a decision into a bigger issue than it really is. To avoid making decisions for problems or needs you don’t have right now, take some time to clearly define the current issue. Make sure you know exactly what the problem or need is so that you don’t spend time on problems or needs that can wait—or that may never become problems at all.
This step is probably the one that causes the most “analysis paralysis.” It’s easy to overanalyze a problem or need. Try to confine your analysis to one issue. What is the importance of this issue? Who is impacted? If you can look at potential downstream impacts without getting stalled, that’s fine, but don’t let “what ifs” delay the decision too long. Ask others for input, if necessary.
Once you’ve made a decision, implement and communicate. Don’t let the time lag between decision and implementation any longer than necessary. A lack of action and transparency can lead to distrust and instability on your team or in the organization. Rather, share information as soon as possible, and implement your decisions at the earliest possible time. Be methodical about the communication, and invite questions or feedback as much as possible.
It’s tempting to crow about good decisions and sweep bad decisions under the rug. However, both can offer good learning opportunities about what decision style is best, what level of tolerance your team or company has for ambiguity, and so on. In addition, if the outcome of a decision is negative, assess it honestly and look for ways to redirect. Admitting and learning from mistakes can help grow trust among colleagues.
Making decisions can be risky, and when other futures are on the line, it’s tempting to avoid them. But identifying your preferred process and then taking a step-by-step approach can make the process less risky and more likely to produce good outcomes.
To learn more about effective decision-making and how to implement this into your everyday executive management, read through our LEAD NOW model or connect with us to find a consultant near you.
By: Jim Davis, Instructional Design Consultant
Companies are committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion as they develop and design their learning and documentation. I have learned a great deal about accessibility in learning and documentation since my journey began a couple of years ago and it has been exciting for me. I have learned so much and wanted to share with you what I have learned. I also want to be clear that I do not know everything (not even close!), but I found these 10 tips most helpful and hope you do, too.
Working on my first client accessibility project presented a daunting challenge.
The web is rich with guidelines, tools, and tips, but it is inundating without a roadmap and I could not find one. For example, there are dozens of features to resolve several types of issues related to disabilities in MSFT Office. I was truly overwhelmed. Fortunately, I worked with a knowledgeable and very patient client team that pointed me in the right direction.
First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. You will find Accessibility Checker in any MSFT Office Product. “Check Accessibility” is in the Review toolbar and will provide you with a list of issues and recommendations on how to fix them. To make the checking process easier, you can set Accessibility Checker to run in the background while you work on your files. You can learn more about Accessibility Checker by clicking here.
“First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. … [and] I found that starting at the task level worked best for me.”
I found that starting at the task level worked best for me. Here are what I consider to be ten tips for those who do not know how to start when developing for accessibility in learning, documents, worksheets, and even email.
I’m learning more each day and will leave you with your first assignment: open any Microsoft 365 app and familiarize yourself with Accessibility Checker. In my opinion, it is truly the best place to start!
By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant
As leaders continue to balance DE&I initiatives with other business demands, it can be helpful to examine the successes of other organizations for lessons on how to achieve DE&I goals. The Forbes fifth annual America's Best Employers for Diversity list can give leaders some essential tips and inspiration for achieving their own goals—and what to do if they don't meet them.
Here are four important lessons we can learn from some of the companies on the list:
ChristianaCare, a 13,000-person healthcare provider in Delaware, set a goal to increase its percentage of non-white employees at the director level and above by 15% in three years. However, despite other improvements, the company fell short of that goal and actually decreased the number of non-white employees in leadership in that time. The organization still has managed to move up the Forbes list to number 40, though, and the chief diversity officer says she is "encouraged" by the system's progress.
Companies setting DE&I metrics would do well to remember that despite the best efforts and intentions, progress may still be slower than hoped or even one of "two steps forward, one step back." Looking at metrics from year to year is helpful, but it may not tell the entire story or reveal all of the improvements made. Look at the big picture, celebrate wins, and reset to make more improvements.
Progressive, the number one company on the list, has a robust collection of Employee Resource Groups and promotes a variety of workshops and speakers bureaus that encourage and facilitate conversation between different groups of people. Employees do not have to be members of the demographic to participate in ERGs, and in a video on the company's website, several employees talk about how much they've learned by participating in these groups.
As important as it is to set hiring goals, it may be even more important to encourage connection and conversation within existing employee groups to create a culture where people can learn and even safely disagree with each other. These conversations support inclusion efforts across the organization by creating an organic human connection that allows everyone to look beyond stereotypes.
At VMware, the number two company on the Forbes list, DE&I includes a significant commitment to disability, wellness, and neurodiversity inclusion. As a software company, this commitment isn't just about ensuring accessibility in the workplace; it also means driving innovation that guarantees accessibility for end-users. The company recently joined the Valuable 500, an organization on a mission to "drive lasting change for the 1.3 billion people worldwide" who live with some disability.
While all aspects of DE&I are important, VMware offers a powerful reminder that inclusion not only involves people with different physical, intellectual, or learning functionality within the organization. It also affects those outside the company who consume the products and services of an organization. By bringing those with disabilities into the conversation inside the firm, VMware is also improving the lives of those with disabilities outside the firm.
IT consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, number three on the Forbes list, has prioritized diversity for some time. Under the leadership of CEO Horacio Rozanski, who took the company public in 2010, the company shifted its focus from counterterrorism to cyber threats, executed a strategic growth plan, and increased its emphasis on DEI initiatives and charitable endeavors. As of 2020, 31% of employees identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. At the same time, the company was setting record-high stock prices and reporting earnings that outpaced the competition.
While there are many factors behind growth and earnings, Booz Allen Hamilton proves that companies don't have to sacrifice DEI to hit financial goals. Rozanski's own experience fuels his passion for diversity; as an immigrant from Argentina, he joined the company in 1991 as an intern and rose to the position of CEO. In a 2020 interview with Forbes, he said, "When I first joined my knowledge of English, this country or politics wasn't as good as it is now, but what mattered was 'Can you do the work?', 'Are you willing to work hard?'" The company values hard work and diverse voices, and it shows in the bottom line.
While all of the organizations on the Forbes list are to be commended for their efforts, these lessons offer compelling arguments for the importance of DE&I efforts going forward. Steady progress is still progress, and organizations that pursue DE&I will reap countless benefits to company culture and the bottom line.
By: Focus Training
Managing stress is a skill set that all professionals need but one that very few have a firm grasp on. This week on the blog, Latrell Armstrong sits down with Andrew Goltra, Director of Merchandising at Uline, to talk about some of the strategies he uses to manage stress for himself and his team.
In April, members of the Milwaukee Tech Hub coalition shared with our chapter why their businesses see reskilling as a critical need.
On June 28th, we continued that conversation. SEWI members Celeste Cuffie, Colin J. Hahn, and Camille Parham presented to the Reskilling Commitee of the Milwaukee Tech Hub on "Closing the Skills Gap": how their businesses can best leverage their talent professionals to address this pressing challenge.
If you missed the conversation, we hope that these highlights can help you collaborate within your organization to close your skills gaps.
Thank you to Milwaukee Tech Hub and Laura Schmidt for leading this collaborative series of conversations with the SEWI-ATD chapter, and to Celeste Cuffie and Camille Parham for sharing their experience with the Tech Hub coalition.
This is a critical challenge for our organizations, so please reach out if you have suggestions for how to advance these discussions or resources to share!
By: Cheryl Lucas-DeBerry
Diversity is becoming one of the fastest growing focal points for companies. Each company is at a different stage of the journey and not every company has the same goals or desired outcomes. Regardless, all companies with a focus on DE&I need the support of leaders to make it successful. This includes leaders at all levels, from top executives to employees with strong personalities. Building that leadership does not happen through wishful thinking and takes time, effort, and stamina. Cheryl Lucas DeBerry, Learning and Development Instructor at MRA, offers tips on how companies can develop culturally competent leaders.
Q: Define what culturally competent leadership means.
A: This includes a lot of things, but primarily it is about leaders being lifelong learners. It requires being able to openly admit mistakes and wanting to engage in training and learning. It is also critical for culturally competent leaders to have the ability to understand people from different cultural, ethnic, and sexually oriented backgrounds and to be able to treat everyone the same. This may involve stepping out of comfort zones to figure out how and when to talk to people about topics while understanding how to be empathic to their needs. It means adjusting and communicating with people from their perspective and a having a willingness to be uncomfortable engaging in those courageous conversations.
Q: How can employers influence their employees’ understanding of what diversity means in the organization so everyone is on the same page?
A: It helps for companies to have an open line of communication with employees about the goals and initiatives that are in place. Start by making sure the company’s objectives are known and communicated. For example, include a company statement written into the DE&I policy or widely communicate a separate commitment statement. Make sure it is not just created, but that it is known and communicated. From there, make sure it is modeled at all levels within the organization. Make it part of the strategic plan and include accountability at all levels.
Q: Who should be the key players involved in the effort?
A: The senior team should be involved, but also include a cross-section of employees that are not afraid to say “this is what we need” and recognize what it means to be a culturally competent leader. The key players will, ideally, represent different departments and levels of the organization, from individual contributors to senior management, and provide another layer of diversity within the group.
Q: Do you have tips for how to create continuity for communication within an organization?
A: Again, this starts at the top. Work with leadership to create a statement related to DE&I and how it applies to the organization. It should include statements addressing what the company stands for and how leadership envisions DE&I will be exemplified within the organization. Make everyone responsible for communicating the message.
Q: Are there any tips for coaching leaders who express an understanding of diversity but struggle to emulate it?
A: The best thing is to find a way to communicate the disconnect to that leader. It is important for leaders to understand their own cultural biases and stereotypes. These situations provide HR and other leaders an opportunity to engage in those courageous conversations and practice becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Other tips include:
Q: Once you have developed a DE&I program, what is the best way to encourage continuous involvement?
A: Keep it at the forefront of each meeting or include some aspect of it in every meeting so it doesn’t begin to seem like a flavor-of-the-day conversation. Take steps toward making sure it becomes engrained in every aspect of the organization and isn’t going away. It is important for organizations to understand that change doesn’t happen overnight. Gradual incremental changes will help this effort be more successful. Be patient, have realistic goals, and don’t be afraid to have those uncomfortable conversations. Understand that it is not a quick training, but instead a long-term effort that provides long-term results.
By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant
When most companies start, leadership development probably isn’t a huge priority. As companies find customers and grow the business, allocating resources to development may not seem necessary.
But in every organization’s development, there may be a time when putting time and money into developing leaders starts to make sense. Perhaps the company is experiencing growing pains or a gap between lower-level managers and senior managers. You may find it’s time to define a strategy for long-term development, but where do you begin?
Here are six steps to take as you design a leadership development strategy:
Launching into a leadership development strategy without a clear sense of purpose is like setting out on a road trip without a destination in mind. It may be fun for a while, but eventually, you will want to know why you’re driving and where you will end up.
Why are you starting a leadership development strategy? Are you looking to improve your talent pool or improve alignment between leadership and company goals? By defining your purpose, you’ll be able to plan your approach.
Somewhat related to purpose, clarifying your goals will help you select the right programs and approaches to fulfilling the purpose of your leadership development strategy. If your goal is to prepare mid-level leaders for senior leadership positions, you will want a different approach than if your goal is to create more cohesion on the senior leadership team. By clarifying goals, you’ll avoid a scattershot approach that may develop leaders individually but may not result in the business outcomes you expect.
As you define your purpose and goals, keep in mind the business outcomes you’re looking for. Your organizational initiatives should always connect back to the business. For example, if your organization is struggling with employee engagement, how can your leadership development strategy tie back to that challenge?
For some development initiatives, the candidates may be obvious, but for others, it will make sense to select candidates for targeted learning and development. These candidates don’t necessarily have to be your “high potential” people; in fact, there is great value in expanding development opportunities to everyone.
Once you have a clear idea of the purpose, desired outcomes, and candidates for your leadership development strategy, then it’s time to find the right program. Programs can vary widely in approach and learning journey, among other factors, and the right program for one goal may be entirely wrong for another.
Think of your leadership development strategy as something like building a house. There is a specific order and process to construction, and doing things out of order creates chaos. You would never erect walls before building a solid foundation, and no one would suggest doing plumbing or electrical work after drywall and paint were complete.
For your development plans, focus on long-term solutions. Create a solid foundation of good leaders, and expand your development plans across the organization. Once you’ve executed an initial program for one group, keep moving. Start looking at your upcoming priorities and select candidates who can meet those needs.
Engaging Leadership to Enable Change: Questions to Ask and Tools to Adopt
By Steve MacGill, Consultant Advisory Board Member, The CARA Group
“Leadership engagement is complex, has many moving parts, and involves more than just the current project.”
We talk a lot about how leadership must be engaged for change to occur, but such engagement happens less than we would like or need. Why is that you might ask?
it is because leadership’s value in the change process hasn’t been tied to measures of success
these measures don’t exist
they don’t understand their role and what they are accountable for in managing change
they don’t understand the impact / value of their role on the project
they don’t understand the value of the project to the organization
they don’t understand the impact of the change on their people
they don’t understand OCM
they don’t have the time (real or perceived) and they don’t see it as a priority
Wow! That’s a lot of “Maybes”.
How can we reduce this list a bit and target potential fixes to increase leadership’s engagement in the change process?
Answering the following questions can provide a good start.
INTRODUCTORY LEADERSHIP ENGAGEMENT ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS
Does leadership understand the timeline of the project and where the most significant human element risks are?
Does leadership understand where the points of user resistance are likely to occur? Do they understand what form these points of resistance are likely to take? How to spot these points of resistance?
Does leadership understand how their [leadership] behaviors need to change?
Does leadership understand their role in communications? Who pulls together messaging for their communications? Is it connected to the business case? The business strategy?
Does leadership understand the importance of their role in setting expectations during deployment?
Does leadership understand their role in driving key performance behaviors and how these behaviors will be tracked and managed?
Is leadership willing to adopt the business plans into their business plans for the next year and beyond?
So now what? While you may now better understand some of the underlying causes of leadership’s lack of engagement and the questions to ask to assess engagement, how do we increase engagement and ensure sustainable change among leadership? Let’s look at some of the more common solutions.
Ensure that any external consultant you hire is fully committed to educating and engaging leaders in every phase of the project.
Ensure that key documents are developed to serve multiple audiences and provide both project management and leadership with an early warning system that identifies points of resistance, go/no-go progress, and risks.
During the consultant selection process, ask the external consultants specifically how they engage and educate leadership.
Treat leadership as a partner rather than a customer.
Ensure the project team involves leadership in the development of the OCM measures of success.
Involve leadership in a transparent and active governance process that includes a multi-step go/no-go sign off process.
Ensure communication with leadership that includes a discussion of risk.
As part of the consultant selection process, ensure that external consultants have a track record of “straight talk” to leadership.
Ensure governance meetings are short, have repeatable agendas, and, most importantly, include transparent discussions and recommendations.
Define specific and measurable roles and responsibilities for leadership in managing change. Ensure these roles and responsibilities are updated as the project matures.
Understand the timing and ranking of leadership’s competing priorities.
Develop a leadership calendar to ensure the team understands the priorities and the availability of each leader.
Involve leadership in the process to ensure their initiatives are integrated at the “desk level”.
Resist the urge to provide leadership with mere talking points as the fulfillment of their communication responsibilities.
Prepare leadership with context to understand the impacts and timing of the changes to their teams.
I hope that this blog serves as a practical guide in how to ensure the active engagement of leadership throughout the change process.
Leadership engagement is complex, has many moving parts, and involves more than just the current project.
And while we can use tools (like the ones outlined here) to guide us, they are simply tools. They help us combine our experience with an understanding of the specifics of your organization’s changes. They define and focus our efforts. In addition, external consultants have limitations that require them to uniquely partner with internal resources e.g., Corporate Communications, HR, leadership, and internal change resources to name a few.
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By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant, Stewart Leadership
How can you make your merger, acquisition, or reorganization go smoothly? How can you optimize the value of the deal through an effective integration? A recent Deloitte survey found that 76% of executives think cultural alignment is important to effective integration, but 1 in 3 said that it was not done effectively.
Culture misalignment is one of the primary reasons why most organizational integrations fail. Understanding the culture of each team or organization is a critical first step in your efforts to create a culture that will optimize deal value by identifying issues early and preventing culture and talent challenges down the road.
Use the Eight Dimensions of Culture to highlight similarities and differences from the start so you can develop effective strategies that bring everyone together. These Eight Dimensions of Culture, developed with our partners at Illumyx, provide you a behavioral snapshot of your culture using a series of continuums to describe how groups get work done.
Each continuum consists of polar opposite approaches. Your organization will fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes on each culture dimension. Except for the engagement dimension, there is no one right answer for each culture dimension. The point is to understand where your culture currently is along each dimension, ensure that your culture is aligned to accomplish your strategic focus, and reshape your culture as needed especially where there are possible friction points with a merging organization.
Together, these dimensions provide a picture of the workplace culture experienced by groups within your organization. The following is a general description of behaviors associated with each dimension. Score your team on each dimension in order to understand the culture you bring to the merger, and have the other team do the same.
Relationship oriented cultures prioritize and value strong relationships. As they work, they give priority to interpersonal issues and value people for their unique perspective. When assessing change, relationship-oriented cultures focus on the impact on others and the feelings associated with change.
Task-oriented cultures prioritize and value productivity and efficiency. These groups like to get right down to business and reward people for what they do, often on an individual basis. When assessing change, these cultures primarily focus on the impact on processes and business results
Team-focused cultures reward the entire team for hitting a goal. They emphasize skill-sharing and cross-training and approach problems through collaboration and peer-to-peer performance feedback.
Cultures oriented around individuals prefer clear divisions of labor and approach problems through individual research and reflection. Performance feedback is leader-driven and performance metrics are tracked individually.
In an empowered culture, decision making is delegated to those closest to the issue. Leaders coach employees to make better decisions and when faced with uncertainty, employees make a decision and discuss it with the leader later. Leaders facilitate discussions resulting in team decisions. In empowered cultures, decision making can be slower but tends to have greater buy-in.
In a directive culture, leaders make most decisions and override employees’ decisions when it is deemed necessary. Most leaders in directive cultures ask for input but make the final decision themselves. When faced with uncertainty, employees will not make a decision without approval from a leader. Decision making can be quick, but it is dependent on leaders having availability and bandwidth.
Responsive cultures quickly jump to action and value being able to adapt to anything while making adjustments as the need arises.
Planning cultures value being prepared for anything. They are methodical and detailed and make adjustments at planned intervals.
Cultures oriented to short-term horizons focus on tasks and meeting near-term objectives. Teams are motivated with a series of quick wins.
In long-term oriented cultures, each decision is weighed with the long-term consequences in mind, and the team is motivated by moving toward the larger vision.
End-Results cultures value scrappiness and flexibility, doing what it takes to get the job done. Autonomy is emphasized and employees have freedom in their approach. The focus is on the “what” rather than the “how.”
In a process-oriented culture, reliability is valued. Compliance is emphasized and teams follow set processes to deliver consistent outcomes.
Change oriented cultures rely on new innovations to achieve success. They value those who avoid stagnation and strive for transformational improvements. These cultures are comfortable with ambiguity.
Stability-oriented cultures rely on a strong foundation to achieve success. They value team members who avoid unnecessary risks and strive for incremental improvements. They prefer predictability.
This is the one cultural dimension that has a desired answer--committed. When organizations have an indifferent culture, there needs to be a strong effort to shift to a more engaged culture.
In committed cultures, employees strive to exceed expectations. Teams give discretionary effort and show high productivity. Employees display excitement for meeting company goals and actively engage in crucial conversations, personal developments, and refer others for employment.
In indifferent cultures, employees meet minimum expectations, arrive late, leave early, and miss work more often. They avoid openly and constructively addressing issues and engage in gossip, blame, and victimhood. Employees are indifferent or condescending toward company goals, and generally exhibit signs of unresolved tension.
Where people are involved in a merger or reorganization, the culture must be taken into account in order to achieve success. By scoring your cultures against the eight dimensions, you can start the process of combining cultures by highlighting and emphasizing what you have in common while approaching differences using a shared language.
Contact Usadmin@sewi-atd.orgPhone: 608-204-9815Association ManagersSeth TrickelHeather L. Dyer, CAE