McRae: Hi, everybody. We’re just gonna … People are logging in here. I see more and more people, so I’m just gonna give it another minute and then we’re gonna get going here. Just one more minute.
Okay. Welcome to the webinar, How to 10x Your Business Results Through People. This is the first in a series of impactful and powerful 20 minute webinars where we’ll talk about changing culture. During this session, Cathy Glass, Axialent’s Chief Culture Officer, will engage us in a conversation about the importance of having one conversation at a time to change the culture of an organization.
We know you’re incredibly busy. We’re really happy that you’re here and we respect your time. If you’d like to hear some more, just tell us. We’re here, and Cathy can make herself available to answer your questions after this presentation. At the end of the presentation, she’ll share with you her contact details and we’ll share an invitation link where we will host a space for an open dialogue next week for individuals and groups. If you have any questions during the presentation, you’ll notice on your right hand side, there’s a dialogue box marked questions and you can add anything in there, and we’ll collect them to answer after the presentation.
Now, onto the important stuff. Cathy?
Cathy Glass: Thank you McRae, and welcome everybody. Thank you for coming today. I’m gonna go through a few ideas that I’ve collected over my years of experience working in organizational culture and behavioral change. It comes, primarily, from … we get questions about what is it that leaders really want? The questions they ask us is, “Can you help us solve our business problem?” “How do I do that?” “How do I get more productive?” “How do I get more effective?” “How do I get speed to market?” Those questions, they have.
Now, many of the leaders I’ve worked with immediately connect that to culture and, at the same time, many of them don’t. If they link it to culture and they’re concerned about how do I increase the sense of ownership my people have, the sense of engagement they have in the vision for our business? How do I empower people or increase innovation. As I say, others don’t.
Now, on the other side, we have what people want in an organization, in their work. So what is it that people really dream of? What brings them alive? As we know, I think, from our own experiences, people don’t go to work not wanting to go do a good job. They want to do a good job. They want to feel satisfied that they’re able to make a difference and make a contribution. They want to feel free to make that contribution. They want to feel that the conversations around culture or behavior or productivity or whatever is relevant to them and doable, and it will enable them to make the contribution they want.
How do we put those two things together? How is it possible to achieve both the it or the organizational goals while also having people feel more themselves at work, more able to make that contribution?
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot of technical stuff that we can help organizations with, and that organizations and companies spend a lot of time on. The journey, the technicalities of changing culture and making the tools available, but I say, really, forget that in the first instance and think about the power of increasing the quality of the interactions between the human needs that make up the work. So what is it you can do to really spice up that sense of realness, that the interactions in the company are about the customers, are about the work, are about what really matters? How do we do that?
I kind of invite you to imagine, imagine success in your team and your company. Imagine what happens when people actually feel free and more than free, but driven, if you like, to talk about the very things that matter to the business, that really, actually, will make a difference. The conversations that people say, “I wish I could say this to my boss. I wish I could tell him that I think there’s a better way,” but, for some reason, we don’t. Take a moment to notice the difference that you might be able to create in your own team through one or two conversations that happen differently. It’s a bit wow, isn’t it?
I think the captivating of hearts and mind is part of this empowerment, the feeling that builds ownership, that builds engagement, lies in the conversations that captivate the people. One of the things that always amazes me is the amount of time we’re all willing to spend on the stuff, on the technical pieces, compared to the time that we spend on something that can actually happen in a moment, which is a quality conversation. Taking the time, moving the time from some of the stuff to the quality conversation. Not even the quality conversation first up, just any conversation. I think one of the reasons that it doesn’t happen is it’s like a seed. When you plant a little seed, it’s hard to believe that a flower could grow, a plant could grow, like this image, on stony ground. If you feel like you’re working in a stony place, it’s very hard to believe the miracle that can happen from planting the seed of a human conversation.
One of the things that often are leaders ask us is we want people to be empowered, we want them to feel free, and, at the same time, we want them to do the right thing. So, how do you lead the wild horses, if you like? If you let this energy go, how do you lead it. The proposition you have is that you don’t lead it, you tend it. You allow those horses to be attracted to the very place that has them feel like the food is right, the air is right, and they can grow and thrive.
One of the places that that looks like is a place where they feel humanly recognized and able to bring their best, be heard, be recognized. In a sense, the magic lies in one conversation at a time because I think there’s, like me, probably many of you, there’s a few conversations in your working life that stay with you for a long time. The few conversations that will actually make a difference are the ones that you really had a heart to heart about something that mattered, amongst all the many. The difference between the conversations that we routinely and automatically have and the one that is authentic, where we start to make some choices about how to have that conversation, who to have that conversation with, those are the ones that make the difference.
They make a kind of difference that if you imagine, a 1% lift can change the destination. We had a conversation the other … a 1% lift in Europe. If you change the direction of a plane by 10 degrees, you end up in Berlin, not Paris. That’s the kind of shift that culture can make without a massive drive, but with a small, incremental change in the quality and the content of the conversations, you can lift the performance. You can shift the experience of a customer. You can change the decision in a meeting that maybe one that hears a different perspective. You can make that shift.
Here’s the case study. We worked with a farmer for some five years and, actually, the culture change program was called Changing Culture One Conversation at a Time. As part of that, the company themselves commissioned a review of the efficacy and impact of the workshops that were ran in the second year of the program. Many, many of the participants who were primarily middle and senior managers were interviewed as to what had happened. In the end, the report, based on only 15 managers, concluded that multimillion dollars had been either made or saved as a result of a series of different conversations. This one, there was a change of a decision by a governance body as a result of a courageous conversation that the project team had. They presented something as two options that they previously wouldn’t have done and their estimation was a benefit to the company at 35 million. So when we say shift the productivity or the results in your company by 10x, we’re not making it up. It happens.
Here’s another example of an agreement that was very difficult, actually, and required a step up of conversation between different parties to change the decision about the clinical study that was done. The estimation, in this case, of saving, somewhere in the region of 50 million.
These are companies with big money and big stakes and, at the same time, we’ve worked with other companies where the estimation … We worked with a company in India, I remember, they were customer care. The difference in the quality of conversations with customers, they estimated, reduced the turnaround time for the call center by some 40%. I mean, big numbers for them, also. A different kind of dollar outcome, but, in terms of their metrics, a similar kind of result.
So the end results. Why one conversation at a time is so empowering is because everybody can do it. So many big company culture programs kind of raise the skeptic in people because people go, “Well, that’s all very well, but that’s nothing to do with me.” This is everything to do with everybody. Whether you’re a very senior leader, a decision maker in one of those big studies we talked about, or whether you’re in a call center talking to customers, it doesn’t matter. This conversation quality and authentic conversation is doable by me. It’s in my power.
The other thing is it’s a learning thing because you can get it really wrong the first time. It doesn’t matter. You can still make another conversation, but the point is, it’s in my control and, therefore, it’s something I can do and is, therefore, part of the kind of culture exactly that many leaders tell us they want.
I’d invite you to think about, in a very practical way, what difference could you make in a conversation in the coming week? If you were to say, is there someone that you would like to get something out on the table with, for example? Something you would like to say to somebody that you haven’t? Somebody that you have been feeling is neglected? Somewhere that you feel some energy? My invitation is if you were to simply set aside 30 minutes for a conversation with them amongst your busy week, what difference could that make? That’s an experiment you can try today.
Because the quality of the conversation is one thing, having it is the big shift. Having the courage to open that door and put the right things on the table with the right people is the step that many organizations, within many organizations, people free frozen around. I think you would identify with that.
There’s something in conversations that leadership makes the biggest difference, and it’s in the listening. Most leaders are very good already at letting people know what’s needed, transmitting the organizational principles, transmitting the targets and the goals. Maybe, sometimes, where they find it harder is to actually put their big ears on, if you like, and really listen to what it is their people feel and need and want to say about where they’re at, what’s needed, where their problems lie, what their dilemmas are at work. Actually facilitating good conversation is a magnificent leadership skill and attribute. Because it’s a human one, everybody can do this, it’s just that there’s something in our learning and organizations that kind of gets in the way.
It’s also leadership at every level because we tend to learn to wear these masks at work. It’s like, well, I need to be professional. Well, it wouldn’t be my place. Well, I know what the answer will be. You know, these sorts of … Many reasons we can find not to have the conversations, but we could all think of people in our lives that are experienced who are the ones who are willing to make that extra effort, to take that risk, to use their courage to actually have the right conversations, to voice their concerns. Without forcing anything, without being angry, just willing to open their own hearts is, as we all know, if I open my heart, then others around me will find it easier too. So there’s something about the authentic leadership that works at every level.
I had a conversation recently with somebody who worked in one of our clients, and we had a program, this is two years ago, called Managing in Difficult Times. The company, at the time, was going through downsizing. People were leaving. We were talking about the validity and the shift that it makes when managers and supervisors are trying to help their people through the difficult times where maybe some members of the team won’t be there anymore, and some members of the team will be left with more work to do. The extraordinary power that those programs put people in touch with, put the supervisors in touch with, that was people feel cared for, people feel empowered, people feel more powerful when they are heard. A lot of the supervisors were like, “Oh, I don’t really want to have that conversation because I won’t be able to do anything.” But, the reality was, by simply having the conversation, they were doing something. They were doing something that made a difference and really mattered.
There tends to be a business a little bit of this, well, having conversations is not doing the work, and our proposition is if you want to change the culture, change the quality and the authenticity of the conversations and you change the way work is done because 95% of work is done through decisions, through conversations, and, certainly, the encouragement of the people and the captivation of hearts and minds happens through conversation.
As I said before, it’s scalable. Everybody can craft their own conversation, so they’re in control, it’s empowering, they have a sense of ownership, and it grows those free spirits. If you want a company where you want to grow people’s spirit, have them bring their whole selves to work, and you want that for yourself, then the conversation quality and authenticity is, I say, your answer.
With that, I’m going to finish. Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to talking with all of you one on one, in small groups, in the coming weeks to explore a little bit more about changing culture one conversation at a time.
Thank you very much and back over to you, McRae.
McRae: Thank you, Cathy. If you’d like to go deeper into this, you can do one or a combination of the following. On the right hand side, in the chat box, is a link connect directly to a calendar with some time blocks where small groups of you can connect with Cathy to discuss any of this content further. Or you can also send Cathy an email, it’s up on the screen, you’re at Cathy.Glass@Axialent.com. You’ll also receive a follow-up email from us with a recording of this presentation and all of this information I just discussed, in case you are mobile or unable to document the information or click on the link.
I want to thank you all for joining us. We look forward to seeing you during these post-conversations in the remaining parts of this series.