How to Sell Change
When you have determined that change is needed at your organization, you have taken only the first step on the journey.  If you are committed to succeeding at change, it helps to understand how a bit of salesmanship can support and bolster your plan.  Successful change leaders know the effective ways to sell change to their stakeholders.

4 Effective Ways to Sell Change
We have learned that what works in sales can work with change initiatives.  And just like any sales situation, there are effective ways to sell change and there are ineffective ways to sell change.  Here are some steps, borrowed from a typical sales cycle, that can be translated into effective ways to sell change:

1. Know Your Clients
The best salespeople understand how important it is to know their clients – their business, their priorities, their challenges, their personal and professional ambitions. They learn all they can about those that they need to influence so they can empathize with their situation and more effectively present their case to help them be successful.

It behooves change leaders also to know their stakeholders, including employees, influencers, customers, and even naysayers.  When you know what your various stakeholders care most about and why, you can more easily understand how to best work with them.  This allows you to enroll friends as supporters and to identify how to overcome obstacles with those who are not yet on board.

2. Paint a Clear and Compelling Picture
Smart sellers know how to paint a clear and compelling picture of what it would look like when the client’s problem is solved. They understand that if they create a vision for the client of the desired future, the client is much more likely to buy into the solution.

Change leaders can use the same approach to help employees envision how the proposed change will make things better personally and professionally.  The more clearly they can define that future, the more persuaded their stakeholders will be.  The message should be easy to understand and it should include why the change is necessary as well as how it will affect the business and individual employees.

3. Build the Relationship
Just as trust is the basis for winning long-term sales partnerships, it is also the foundation of successful change. Every interaction should emphasize the message and its importance.  Your constituents need to believe that you are being straightforward and honest in your dealings with them, that you are actually capable of pulling this change plan off, that you have the backing of those that matter (executives and influencers), and that you are in it for the long haul.

4. Follow Through
The best sellers don’t walk away once the deal is sealed. Their focus is on building customer loyalty, satisfaction and success.  They do this by staying connected and monitoring the solution’s effectiveness.

So, too, must change leaders continue to track the results of the change initiative and stay in touch with their employees to make sure all is going as planned.  If not, they should be prepared to explore what is going wrong and figure out what needs to be adjusted.

The Bottom Line
The process of change has much in common with the sales process.  Both require an intimate knowledge of the players, an ability to inspire with a vision of the future, a relationship built on integrity, and consistent follow through.

To learn more about how to look at change from different perspectives, download The 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

Employee Behaviors and Your Workplace Environment Are Linked
Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  To answer this question, some argue that workplace cultures are created by the specific actions people take.  Others argue that people change when their environmental circumstances change.

We believe that both are true and that people’s behavior and the environment in which they live and work are inextricably linked.  In fact, employees tell us that behaviors and their work environment affect each other so profoundly that they cannot easily be separated.

Think of behavior as the “way” we conduct ourselves and think of the environment as the “context” in which the behavior occurs.  For example, most people behave differently at a party with close friends than when on a job interview.  This is a simple example of the environment shaping our behavior.

An Interesting Experiment on Work Environment
Our country’s distress at the opioid epidemic has fostered all kinds of innovative ways of trying to deal with this tragic situation.  But here’s one that was new and interesting to us.  Retailers in some of the hardest hit areas were at a loss as to how to prevent users from shooting up in their rest rooms, endangering themselves and others.

Turkey Hill Minit Markets, a 260-store chain based in Pennsylvania, changed the environment.  They installed blue lights in their bathrooms.  How does it work?  The blue lights make it difficult for users to find their veins.  They are forced to go elsewhere to shoot up.

And, like most environmental changes, it seems to be changing behaviors.  In blue light stores, there are far fewer needles or overdoses.  How can you learn from this experiment?

How We Define the Work Environment
Let’s start with how we define the work environment.  We believe it is a leader’s job to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their people in a way that fits with the organization’s core values, behaviors and strategies. Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  Based upon this assumption, we have found that high performance environments have three attributes in common:

1. Clarity
High performance environments provide crystal clear direction as to where people should focus. Everyone knows the actions that must be taken, the expected outcomes of those actions, and how success will be measured.

2. Transparency
High performance environments use clear, credible and fair methods to consistently let teams and individuals know where they stand compared to performance standards in terms of Doing (generating desired results) and Being (achieving them in the right way).

3. Meaning
High performance environments create motivation by providing compelling reasons for people to stay, strive to perform and commit to continuously improve.

The Bottom Line
While blue lights in the bathrooms may not be your ticket to improved performance, your work environment has a direct impact on employee behavior.  Consider your work environment as not only the physical surroundings but the levels of clarity, transparency and meaning that help shape your culture.  Then tweak and adjust so that the context in which your employees work supports the desired behaviors.

Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  To learn more, download The 3 Hidden Levels of a High Performance Culture

A Misaligned Workplace Culture Creates Problems
Once you accept the fact that workplace culture matters (and matters a lot) when you are trying to build a high performing organization, then you can focus your attention on what culture gaps might exist.  And you should care about a misaligned workplace culture because it increases the chances that your top employees may become disengaged and quit.

The Definition of Workplace Culture
Workplace culture is how things truly get done in an organization. It is the way people think, behave and work. It includes the behaviors, systems, and practices that drive key business decisions – especially in leaders and in who they hire, fire and promote.  Your business and people strategies must go through your workplace culture to be successfully implemented.

Why Culture Matters
Peter Drucker famously said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Research agrees with him:

  • Watson Wyatt found that culturally aligned organizations return 286% more value to stakeholders
  • Harvard Business Review reported as much as 50% of the competitive difference between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture
  • Our own organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue, profits, customer satisfaction and retention, leadership effectiveness and employee engagement

The Definition of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
We define a misaligned workplace culture as a work environment in which “how things get done” is in not in complete harmony with “what needs to get done” to execute the business and people strategies. A misaligned workplace culture makes it more difficult to get the right things accomplished in the right way.  In a misaligned workplace culture there is a lot of friction, resistance and dysfunction.

Conversely, our research found that a well aligned workplace culture can improve productivity by as much as 25%.  What impact would this have on your organization?

Why Workplace Culture is Often Misaligned
The creation of a strategic plan consists of a straightforward set of tasks than can typically be described, documented, and completed. When executing these goals, however, the relative simplicity of creating the plan quickly morphs into something significantly more complex, most notably because of culture.

Goals rarely fail because defined structural obstacles were not overcome (although many plans fail to recognize these obstacles). Plans too often fail because organizations haven’t adequately defined or aligned their cultural business journey to executing their vision. Culture is hard to change because many organizations have a highly fragmented set of underlying belief systems which determine how to interpret and accomplish these goals.

The critical beliefs required to size up and execute the goals (what we call the secret sauce) are rarely articulated, measured, or purposeful.

Warning Signs of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
The first warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is when the basic building blocks of leadership – trust and accountability – are lacking.  Misaligned workplace cultures lack confidence in their leaders to follow through, make necessary changes and to act in alignment with the company’s core values.   A misaligned workplace culture also lacks the necessary levels of pride, confidence, transparency, openness and focus to engender the trust required to create high levels of engagement and performance.

The second warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is a lack of clarity regarding what each individual and team is expected to accomplish and how they are expected to think and behave in achieving those accomplishments.  When beliefs are in misalignment and disconnected to the strategy, it is difficult to hold individuals accountable for results or behaviors.

How to Create Culture and Strategy Alignment
If you are afraid that you may have a misaligned workplace culture, here are four steps to get you started in the right direction:

1. Uncover the Current Culture
Your first step is to assess your current corporate culture to get a clear and accurate picture of the way things are getting done and why. This is very different than your aspired culture and desired corporate values.  You want the unvarnished truth of what it is like to work at your company on a day-to-day basis.

2. Identify the Necessary Culture
Your next step is to agree upon the workplace culture that is required to best execute your strategy.  We have identified 10 dimensions of an aligned workplace culture which provide a framework to define and align the appropriate continuum of beliefs needed to best execute your strategic goals and make it easier to get things done.  Using the unaligned-to-aligned continuum approach allows everyone to be right, thus breaking down a critical resistance faced with most change efforts.

3. Agree Upon the Critical Few Culture Gaps and Next Steps
Not all cultural dimensions are of equal importance in terms of strategy execution. Leaders must agree on the one or two cultural shifts that will have the greatest positive impact on moving the strategy forward for your unique situation in a way that makes sense.

4. Deploy an Aligned Culture
Once you identify the one or two areas to create strategy and culture alignment, it is time to identify and prepare culture champions, to create short- and long-term action plans to create alignment, and to establish and track accountability for culture and strategy alignment targets.

The Bottom Line
If you want your company to perform at its peak, you need to create a culture that aligns with your strategy. That’s the way to accelerate strategy execution and outperform your peers.  Creating alignment between strategy and culture empowers everyone to become more interdependent and act with a more unified mindset.

To learn more about how to align your culture with your strategy, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

What, Really, Does Customer Focus Mean?
While most savvy sales leaders advocate for customer focused selling skills, customer centricity is an oft-used term.  In general customer focused selling skills are about putting the customer at the center of your business where the customer’s needs come first.  Sounds pretty smart right?

True Customer Focus
Seeing the world through the lens of the customer takes the point of view even further.  It implies that you interpret the world as if you were the customer and your customers’ customer.  You must look through your customer’s eyes to understand their wants, needs, priorities and aspirations.

You’ll be far more successful if you approach their world in terms of how they define success – not what a sale would mean to you.

Three Underutilized Customer Focused Selling Skills
If you want to improve customer focused selling skills that will increase revenue and win rates, start by ensuring your sales team can consistently identify:

1. Your Clients Desired Outcomes
To truly help your clients, you must unearth exactly what the client wants to achieve from a business and personal standpoint. That includes uncovering the most pressing issues your target customers face, where these issues fit on their list of priorities, knowing what would happen if the issues are not resolved and articulating what a successful solution looks like in their words and from their perspective.

2. The Available Resources at Their Disposal
Once the desired personal and professional outcomes are clear, the next customer focused selling skill involves being able to identify the client’s people, time, and budget parameters so that you can determine if you have a solution to exactly meet their needs. This important consultative sales skill is not about trying to pin the client to an exact budget.  It is about gracefully making sure that there is some overlap between what they want to spend and what we think it will cost to help them.

3. The Decision Maker and Decision Making Process
Once the desired outcomes are clear and budget parameters have been established, one of the most underutilized of all customer focused selling skills is the ability to clearly identify the decision maker and understand the decision making process so that you and your sales team can determine if you should win. Too many sales professionals do not understand who makes various decisions, the exact sequence of steps that leads to a final decision, and the criteria that will be used to make the final decision.

The Bottom Line
To truly help your customers succeed, you must enter their world.  Invest in the customer focused selling skills and processes to shift focus from what you have to sell (products, benefits and features) to how you can support their success.  That shift requires selling solutions through the lens of the customer.

To learn more about taking your sales skills to the next level, download The Top Sales Skills to Challenge Customers

Putting Talent Front and Center
If you know how to create a talent-centric culture, does a talent-centric culture create higher performance?  Companies are being held to consistently higher performance standards and the risks of not measuring up are increasing.  Leaders tell us this means bigger goals, increased complexity and tighter budgets.  Employees tell us this means higher expectations, an increased pace of change and the need to do more with less.

Is knowing how to create a talent-centric culture the answer?

The Definition of a Talent-Centric Culture
We define talent as the workforce that leaders build and manage to create a unique advantage their competitors cannot replicate.  We define a talent-centric culture as the proactive and thoughtful attraction, development, engagement, and retention of the talent required to execute your strategic plan in a way that aligns with your corporate culture.

While the overall talent approaches are quite similar across companies at a high level, what makes talent perform at their peak is unique to each company’s strategy and culture.  In a nutshell, a talent-centric culture is all about leaders prioritizing that the right people are in the right place at the right time to create a competitive advantage.

Talent Management Research
Our organizational alignment research found that talent accounts for 29% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty and employee engagement.  No longer can talent management be kept on the back burner.  Your people strategies belong front and center along with your business strategies.  If your people strategies are not aligned with your business strategies, you will struggle to outperform your peers over time.

Smart Leaders Get the Importance of Talent
The top leaders of successful organizations are placing more and more emphasis on talent.  They recognize that talent must be viewed as a critical factor in planning for success now and into the future.  The knowledge of how to create a talent-centric culture matters.

How to Create a Talent-Centric Culture
There are no shortcuts.  The process of how to create a talent-centric culture is not complicated, but it takes commitment, focus and perseverance.  The rewards will be plenty.  Just remember that you’re doing this for the long-term health and performance of your company.

1. Create 100% Alignment at the Top
Your key executives need to be on board – and this includes your HR leader. Your entire executive team must commit to, pay attention to and care about talent as a top priority.  From an HR perspective, you need to take a holistic and strategic approach to talent.  For talent to make a difference, it cannot be viewed in isolation from the business.

How you attract, develop, engage and retain talent must be an integral part of how you make strategic decisions and how you allocate scarce resources.  HR needs to sit at the table with your other executives during the strategic planning process so they can weigh in with their expertise on the talent strategies needed for success.

2. Foster Continuous Learning for Top Talent
In most organizations, a small subset of jobs and roles produce a disproportionate amount of value for the company. If you truly want to create a high performing organization, you need to identify those critical positions and fill them with top performers in whom you explicitly invest  for their growth, engagement and retention.  Make sure your talent investments give your company the people firepower it needs for current and future success.

3. Build Flexibility
Be sure to bake some flexibility into your talent management plans. With increased competition and constant disruption, your talent must be as flexible as your strategy.  The key is to develop leaders with the skills to anticipate change and the agility to make and adjust to changes as they occur in order to meet new challenges.

The Bottom Line
If you believe that your competitive advantage lies in your workforce, you need to get your key executives to work together, continually develop your top talent and build in the ability to shift gears as needed.  To create a competitive advantage through your people, invest as much time and effort into your human capital as you do in your financial capital.  A people advantage is difficult for competitors to replicate.

To learn more about taking your HR function to the next level, download What HR Needs to Do to Earn a Seat at the Executive Table

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