Happy employees, happy customers, engage and grow

I haven’t been by in a while, sorry, lots of blog gardens to tend.

Thinking about connecting engagement to chance and good service, I met Kate Davies recently. Kate is the CEO of Notting Hill Housing Trust and she is in the middle of leading a lot of change. Change designed to improve customer service through employee engagement.

The change was spearheaded by some consultation. Customers said:

1.    We (the trust) did not communicate effectively with them
2.    We often failed to complete the job properly
3.    Our repairs service was not good enough

Employees said they wanted:

1.    A personal relationship with the tenant, so trust can grow
2.    The power and the budget to deliver the service that the tenant wants
3.    Managers to manage around what matters to the customer

I did a short write up of the meeting which HR Zone has published. Here’s the link, I think some of you will find it an interesting and useful story.

Have a good day.

How do You Turn “No I Can’t” to “Yes I Can”?

I recently published a short article titled “What’s Missing?” which identified some strong links between high levels of engagement and improved financial and business performance. These connections looked rare, looked like a win-win and so I was prompted to ask why organisations don’t get these connections, and more importantly, do something meangingful about them? You can read the piece and check out the data here.

We got loads of feedback and ideas and will highlight some of these over the next few weeks. First up is a note from John Coleman, Head of Change Delivery at Co-Operative Financial Services. He said:

I have worked for a company that has seen its business genuinely transform in the last 5 years whilst simultaneously recording engagement scores from seriously disengaged through to “world class”. The key for me is simple – if people believe they can make a difference, however small, they will. If they don’t, they won’t!

What do you think, is John right? Have you any examples of this in action? Have you ever helped someone to make the fundamental shift from “no I can’t” to “yes I can”.

I think John is onto something here. Certainly when I was time trialling I knew even before the start of a race whether or not I could do well. Sure there would be things beyond my control, maybe strong winds or a punctured tyre, but if I had chosen the right training, prepared well, and most importantly, picked the right attitude, then I believed I could do well.

John used this story to illustrate belief:

A mighty storm battered the coastline relentlessly for several days. When it ended, there were a million starfish left stranded, high and dry up the coastline. A young boy wandered across the beach, picking up the starfish and returning them to the sea. A man watched for several minutes before saying to the boy “you haven’t a hope of making any difference to this, there’s a million of them”. The boy looked at him, picked up another one and threw it into the sea before replying “I made a difference to that one didn’t I”.

Looking forward to reading your feedback and ideas, have a good day.

The Top Ten Signs Your Employee Attitude Survey Needs to Change

This is a useful short video interview with Curt Coffman (co-author of First Break All The Rules) in which he gives ten thoughts and ideas about why your employee survey needs some attention. I particularly like tip #1 where Coffman talks about surveying the same things the same way over and over and yet expecting something different. I’m also a fan of tip #9, which makes the point that if you need to ask your employees 50 questions about how they are feeling, just how far removed, disengaged have you, the surveyer become? It’s a bit too brief in parts, but had I known about this sooner, I would have shown it to a few board directors before the ensuing battles about attitude and engagement surveys.

Click the link, enjoy the vid, and pop back and tell us what you think. Are these tips any good? Got any better ones?

Doug Shaw

The Science of Motivation

So the recession is over eh? Well according to some indicators we are entering a new phase. And I wonder, what are businesses going to do with the workforce that remains? Leaders should be asked:

How are you going to motivate your people?

How are you going to get them to give the discretionary effort that’s so vital in delivering a great customer experience?

How are you going to get your people to trust you, and each other?

This feels like a rare opportunity to do something different, to apply some science to motivation. How? Well for a start, instead of returning to the tired old method of incentives (and let’s face it if we’ve learned only one thing from the banking crisis it’s that incentives drive value destroying behaviour), why don’t we try some new approaches? How about some autonomy, mastery and purpose? Here’s a link to a great talk given by Dan Pink on the science of motivation. I suggest you go get a cup of tea, and take 18 minutes to watch, listen, and then do.

Dan Pink – The Science of Motivation

Have a great day

Doug Shaw

Positive Mental Attitude

In my last blog I briefly discussed authentic leadership based upon ‘example’ rather personality ‘techniques’. I am a great believer that people intuitively see through the hot air and bluster of managers and CEO’s that get by on rhetoric rather than substance. They can enjoy the respect and privilege that the position commands for a while, then as time moves on, staff  begin to see if they can back up their position with leadership that deals with the challenges that todays business environment demands.
On the 20th of August England will take on Australia in the final Ashes test of this series, for those of you not particuarly interested in cricket, bear with me, this isn’t really about cricket, cricket is our metaphor. Its actually about a multi million pound business that is going to have to lean on its new fledgling leadership in a time of ‘perceptual’ crisis. Englands leadership duo of Captain Andrew Strauss and Coach Andy Flower are both new to their roles at this level. I say perceptual ‘crisis’ because England got beaten into submission in the last match, in real terms though, England are level pegging with Australia, they are tied on one test each in the series, so with the last test looming there is everything to play for.

Captain Strauss is pleading for calm and for the public, and perhaps his own players, not to panic. Now Andrew is a strong character, principled and intelligent, this will be the biggest test of his leadership so far. In my own experience of these ‘perceptual’ crises, both at first class and international level, it is paramount  to make sure that your focus, your actions and your speech are creating a positive reality for your team. If you communicate with absolute faith your belief that you will perform well and that the team have the capacity to excel in these challenging circumstances, then the positive focus, energy and commitment will bring you through. You stayed focused in the present and allow your game plan and skills to look after your performance. If the leadership doubts, then the team sense this and they play accordingly, defeat has already been created before the act has begun.
Hold your nerve Andrew.

 Richard Pybus

The new CO2 emissions trading scheme – are you aware..?


Having been getting involved recently in Green IT I was amazed to discover how little awareness there is of the Government’s new Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) which is a mandatory emissions trading scheme being introduced from April 2010 under which companies will have to purchase ‘allowances’ from the Government to offset their CO2 emissions.

The more CO2 an organisation emits, the more ‘allowances’ it has to purchase.  Making a direct incentive for organisations to reduce emissions by increasing energy efficiency.  In addition, organisations will appear on a league table showing their comparative performance and will receive revenue back from the Government from the that raised by selling ‘allowances’ in proportion to their position on the table.  If this league table is made public then I envisage many image concious high-street brands will be competing vigorously for position.

Government estimates indicate that around 20,000 public and private sector organisations will be required to participate in CRC in some way.  Around 5,000 organisations will be required to record and monitor their CO2 emissions and purchase allowances equivalent to their emissions each year. The rest will be required to tell the administrator about their electricity usage.

Qualification for CRC is based on half hourly electricity consumption during the qualification period. For the introductory phase, this is the 2008 calendar year.  An organisation qualifies as a full participant in CRC if, during the qualification period, it had at least one half hourly meter (HHM) settled on the half hourly market, and its annual electricity consumption through all HHMs was at least 6,000 MWh.

Looking forward to some potential changes and affects that may arise:


  1. New initiatives no longer being judged on ROI but having an added criteria of “Impact on CO2 footprint”
  2. A secondary trading market arising around the ‘allowances’
  3. As over 10% of a typical electrcity bill results from ICT - a raft of specific CO2 based ICT initiatives
  4. Smart(er) buildings – more insulation and recycling to reduce energy consumption
  5. Smart(er) working practices – switch-off policies, minimal printing


    What’s in a sentence?

    I really liked the advice “pokemon” cards that Execellence gave away at their recent event. One or two sentences of advice and inspiration can sometimes be much more effective than long, detailed reports.

    In the Spring of 2009 I contacted a whole bunch of people and asked them what employee engagement means to them, and to advise us how to improve employee engagement. The advice had to be personal, real. And it had to be just one sentence. The replies came in from all over the globe. From the shop floor to the board room. Here are a few tasters for you:

    “When you can get an answer to a question without it being riddled with propaganda.”

    “I feel that even where I don’t have control over what needs to change, I have ownership of how we change it.”

    “Engagement means I am committed to the companies’ goals, and the company is committed to helping me achieve mine.”

    I’ve put them together in a four page report. Click the link, download the report. Have a read at your leisure and if you want to, feel free to add your own contribution. Why not cope the Execellence team and try your own one sentence experiment?

    Doug Shaw


    A couple of days ago I posted about how Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Chris Boardman encouraged us to think differently, and I left you with a question. How many ‘f’s are there in the following sentence?


    I got a few replies. Some people saw four, others six.

    FF2I thought there were six too, how clever I felt….for a few seconds.


    As you can see, there are in fact 20 ‘f’s. 14 of them are hidden behind the ‘e’s. It wasn’t Boardman who spotted this, it was a colleague of his. Someone who up to that point had featured very little in Boardman’s thinking. At a stroke, this example of seeing and thinking differently changed Boardman’s perpective. He was beginning the journey from solo selfish focussed sporting superstar, to a visionary, exciting team leader. And we all know the powerful effect that team had at the Beijing Olympics.

    Ok so this was a fun look at a serious business. Next time I’ll get stuck into some more different thinking and some essentials for high performing teams. Have a great weekend and thanks for playing.

    Doug Shaw

    The “Home Delivery Trap”

    I was watching TV this week – the Money Programme – looking at supermarket spending habits during the recession.  Interestingly, Fairtrade purchases have increased over the last 12 months, ‘Organics’ have fallen off a cliff.

    During the programme, one family was asked to stop its weekly Tesco shop, and instead try in turn: shopping on the urban high street (butcher, greengrocer…), Iceland, and purchasing only ‘Value’ items.  All three turned out to be cheaper (in 2 cases, up to 25% less) – however, at the end of the trial, the shopper stated that she was going to carry on using Tesco for her weekly shop.  When asked why, she said that she liked the flexibility and convenience of shopping on line and having it delivered.

    Clearly, shopping on line is here to stay, which is a mixed blessing for the retailers.  As a process, it is one of the most inefficient going – supermarkets now have legions of staff walking round their own stores, picking up items that their colleagues have put out a few hours before, bagging them, putting them in plastic boxes, and then passing them to other colleagues to drive them up to customers’ houses.  The economics are nutty.  But the supermarkets are caught in a tight spot – what they would love is for you to pick it up yourself whenever possible, and pay a hefty premium for the convenience of home delivery.  The premium being charged is too low, but is now a ‘market rate’, and scope for increasing appears limited.

    How can the supermarkets create a change in customer behaviour that will address these issues?  Slots could be reserved by geographic area – larger vehicles carrying out more drops in a smaller area may help a bit.  Or maybe setting up a dedicated delivery network – Waitrose, via Ocado, have a parallel sales channel, which may have slightly better economics, but it’s not  a breakthrough.

    I am not sure the current ways of working can last forever – the supermarkets will look for ways to change customer behaviours, either through rewarding store visits, or limiting home deliveries, to get more of us back into the stores.

    But if the Money Programme is to be believed, if we have to go to the stores, we may go elsewhere…

    Gold Medal High Performance

    I was recently invited to meet Chris Boardman. He was in London to talk with a few of us about how he made the transition from a totally focused individual gold medal winner at the Barcelona Olympics, to the role of R&D team leader for the GB cycling team that swept the board at the Beijing Olympics last year.

    It was a fascinating morning. I had gone along to meet a sporting hero of mine and left with a head buzzing full of new ideas. I met up with Nish a few days later and offered to share some of the learning. So here’s the first thing I learned that made me buzz that day: Think Differently.

    Chris flashed the following words up on the screen and asked us to count the number of ‘f’s in the sentence.


    Now I confess I’d seen this before, a long time ago. I also like to think that I’m a careful reader. So, I read the sentence carefully and thought I’d clocked them all. I was wrong. So how many ‘f’s are there? I’ll be back soon when you’ve worked it out. Enjoy.

    Doug Shaw

    Connecting people & ideas

    If you haven’t yet discovered, it’s worth a look.  One presentation that caught my attention is Seth Godin - an inspiring storyteller with great use of humour & imagery.  Here’s a link to his TED talk on ‘Tribes‘ about making change happen through creating movements – leading & connecting people & ideas.  Enjoy!

    The Tribes we lead

    Wisdom of change

    The slideshow (above) shows just some of the ‘top tips’ we received from members of our Change Directors Forum.  We used 10 quotes to create giveaway cards for our event on 25 June (Emily Landis Walker speaking on “Engaging People in Change: leading through uncertainty“).  I used to print the cards – a really great site for creative, value for money printing…

    We asked event attendees:“If you could give one piece of advice to fellow Change Directors on managing organisational change, what would it be?”


    To start a culture change all we need to do is…

    “To start a culture change all we need to do is two simple things:

    1.  Do dramatic story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then let other people tell stories about it.

    2.  Find other people who do story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then tell stories about them” (Bregman, HBR 25 June 09).

    I love the concept of storytelling to change behaviour & have seen first-hand how peer pressure can change pea haters into pea lovers… But to me, it makes more sense to time the implementation of the tangible elements that would re-inforce the desired culture (e.g. reward systems) to co-incide with the communication of the stories?    Whereas the article suggests not to change anything else (at first) & harness the tension created?  How so?  Can you use “the disconnect between the new stories and the entrenched systems promoting the old culture” to drive employee ownership of the new systems?  Read Bregman’s “A Good Way to Change a Corporate Culture” and let me know what you think…

    Buy-in: what gets yours?

    For our latest Change Directors event I asked attendees to contribute their top tips for managing organisational change.  I was excited to receive 35 ‘pearls of wisdom’ from a diverse set of individuals – ranging from FTSE 50 Directors & Public Sector Leaders to Interim Consultants and Not-for-Profit Managers.  The one common thread was ‘get senior level buy-in to the Change’.  Just reading it, ‘getting buy-in’ seems like a simple task to be performed at the beginning of the programme – just an action to cross off the to-do list…

    I am not a Change Expert, but I have worked for Consultants leading complex change programmes for over 10 years and have delivered many marketing projects requiring senior level sponsorship, so I know it’s a little more complicated than that…

    It got me thinking, what are the actual steps you take to secure ‘buy-in’ and how do you know when you’ve got it?  We’ve all been in those meetings where your colleague, Rob, is explaining their latest idea & asking you for your support.  You nod & say “Sure, sounds great, I can do that” & make a note on your action list.  Then you return to your desk & dive back into the other 3 projects you’re managing.  Now, if Rob is Senior Management, you may comply with his wishes fairly quickly.  But if he’s a peer-level colleague, a few things run through your mind: do I care about Rob’s project? do I respect Rob? do I like Rob? what would happen if I didn’t do anything?

    Realistically, it’s going to take more than one meeting with Rob for me to make it a priority – I have to care about his project, I have to respect him and it has to be more important/urgent than all my other work tasks for me to make time to do something.  That’s how Rob will know when he’s got my real buy-in – not only have I done what he’s asked me to do, but my actions go beyond his request & I’ve committed to making the project a success.  If Rob has really enthused me, I’ve motivated a colleague to contribute too.  I care.

    I googled ‘buy-in’ & found a simple paragraph in a HBR article that sums it up for me:  “As Harvard author and psychologist, Daniel Goleman, has taught us, leaders must be able to get along with others. The ability to relate to others as a fellow human being is essential to gaining buy-in for a leadership objective. Sure you can tell people what to do, but if you do not earn their trust you will get compliance, not commitment. Being everyone’s pal is not necessary, but treating others with respect is essential gaining trust, an attribute that is essential to holding teams together in trying times“.  (“Crisis Raises New Issues for Executive Coaches“, John Baldoni, HBR, May 2009)

    So, are the Change Agents that consciously build trust & respect the only ones to get real buy-in?  What do you think?

    the resource for Change Directors