Posts Tagged ‘delivery’

Excerpted from winning with accountability: the secret language of high-performing organizations (cornerstone leadership institute, 2008)

Excerpted from Winning with Accountability: The Secret Language of High-Performing Organizations (Cornerstone Leadership Institute, 2008).

Nine-tenths of life’s serious controversies come from misunderstanding. – Louis Brandeis

Traditionally, language is perceived to be the structure of how messages are sent and received. However, language actually achieves more by stimulating opinions and creating emotional responses.

For example, there’s a new restaurant in town … and the people you work with are raving about the food. Even before you set foot in that restaurant or have lifted that first forkful of food, you now have an opinion. You have positive emotions about that restaurant, simply because you’ve heard language like “great food,” “ambience” and “the best I’ve ever had.”

We use language all of the time, either as a transmitter of our thoughts and information or as a receiver of others’ thoughts and information. Since you use language anyway, why not use it in an intentional way to get or achieve what you want in creating a high-accountability culture, the appropriate language will elevate performance and improve your communication efficiency. Your dialogue will be fast, powerful and complete.

The Four Stages of Language Development
Accountability language is real. It is visible and palpable, and there is a process to learning and using it to help you achieve positive results.

Learning the Language of Accountability is similar to how human beings learn their native language. Toddlers, for example, hear their parents using language. At some point in their development, toddlers may even mimic the sounds their parents are using, even though they don’t know the words or understand the meaning.

Eventually, these little ones begin to connect meanings to words, learn to string them together into sentences and then begin using language to convey their needs or get what they want. That’s one way we learned our native language.

Now, suppose your native language is English and you’re sitting in an airport. The couple next to you is speaking Portuguese, a language you’ve never heard before.

Several weeks later, you’re watching a Portuguese movie with English subtitles and you immediately recognize this as the language the couple had been speaking at the airport.

Because you’re a lifelong learner and you are interested in foreign languages, you decide to sign up for a Portuguese course at the local college. By the end of the semester, you have a basic understanding of close to 100 vocabulary words. As you continue to read, study and listen to Portuguese, before long, not only can you understand spoken Portuguese, but you are also beginning to speak it yourself.

The learning process of developing organizational accountability language is very similar to learning a new language. The same four phases of language learning – hearing, recognizing, understanding and speaking – apply.

As you apply the Language of Accountability, model it for your team and others you work with. Eventually, it will be a natural process. Your accountability culture begins … not with the organization changing as a whole but, instead, with the language that you as an individual choose to use. It is through individual change that organizational change occurs and the change begins with you!

The Glossary of Failure
To understand the Language of Accountability, we’ll first look at the type of language that leads to miscommunications. Language used to forecast relationship or project failure is called the “Glossary of Failure.” It’s ambiguous, lacks specificity and will assuredly lead to disappointment, failure and bad feelings. Ambiguity and generalizations lead to disappointment.

Here’s a good example. If you ask three people what “ASAP” means to them, you’ll probably get three different answers as to the specific timeframe in which “ASAP” is carried out.

Now, let’s say I’m promising an external customer a new copier and I’m relying on you to complete the service contract. You tell me you’ll get it to the customer ASAP – an ambiguous answer. How can I make a real delivery commitment to that customer?

Or, what about the ambiguous “I’ll get right on it”? Do you mean you’ll do the task immediately … or as soon as you finish reading your e-mails … or after you’ve had lunch? When is “right on it”?

Don’t confuse the Glossary of Failure with lack of intention. Sometimes, “I’ll get right on it,” means that they have great intention and, in fact, really intend to complete the project. You don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm but you do wish to clarify the commitment.

Intentions can’t be measured. The employee who promised to “get right on it” may have had no intention of getting to your project this afternoon, the next day or even this week. That’s not lack of accountability. That’s grounds for termination due to lack of interest.

Suppose someone says they are going to have a report “by the end of the day.” So, what’s “the end of the day” for you? Is it 5 p.m.? Is it your bedtime? Or, does the end of the day come when the clock strikes midnight? Who knows and how can the person be held accountable for an ambiguous answer?

If you’re working with branch offices around the country or around the globe, the “end of the day” occurs at many different times. Let’s say you’re working on the East Coast and someone on the West Coast promises a completed task by the end of the day. Is that Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Time? Is it at 5 p.m. on your coast or 5 p.m. on their coast?

Even things that seem obvious can be a part of the Glossary of Failure. What about a promise to complete a project by the end of the year? If your corporation works on a fiscal year, that could be August or September or October. If it works on a calendar year, it’s December – but is it the first of December or the last day of December?

As you are probably observing, these types of ambiguities are all part of the Glossary of Failure … and every one of these vague phrases increases the chances of relationship or project failure. Here are some of the biggest offenders from the Glossary of Failure:

  • Soon
  • ASAP
  • Right away
  • I’ll get right on it!
  • The end of the day/week/month/year
  • Later
  • Try
  • Should
  • Best
  • Might
  • By the “next time” we meet
  • We

So what can you do to neutralize this ambiguity? Begin using the language of specificity.

High-Accountability Language
Instead of saying, “I’ll have this report on your desk ASAP,” you say, “I’ll have that report on your desk by 1 p.m. this afternoon.” Rather than saying, “We’ll have the project completed by the end of the day,” tell your counterpart, “I’ll have it wrapped up by Tuesday, June 13th at 10 a.m., your time.”

Like the three most important rules of real estate are “location, location, location,” the three most important rules in creating an accountability culture are “specificity, specificity, specificity.” Practice making commitments, using the Language of Accountability by saying, “I will do it on ‘X’ date at ‘X’ time.”

The Language of Specificity includes:

  • What date and time should I follow up with you to make sure the loop is closed?
  • Who owns it?
  • I own it!
  • Will (e.g., “I will’ in lieu of “try,” “should,” or “might.”)
  • Here’s what it will look like when it is completed.

Using the Language of Specificity will increase accountability and strengthen the accountability culture within your organization.

As you practice avoiding the Glossary of Failure and increase your mastery of the Language of Specificity, you’ll see your performance increase. High-performing leaders are skilled at listening for ambiguity in language and replacing it with specificity.

Remember the four steps of acquiring new language – hearing, recognizing, understanding and speaking? You will experience this same sequence as you become highly skilled at listening for specificity.

You’ll also move through these same four phases as you begin using the Language of Specificity when asking for – and making – commitments and building a Culture of Accountability within your organization.

To find out how well you and your organization are using the Language of Accountability, take the free Accountability Assessment at 

Excerpted from Henry Evans’ book, Winning with Accountability: The Secret Language of High-Performing Organizations (Cornerstone Leadership Institute, 2008).

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All organizations use projects as the way to translate strategies into actions and objectives into realities

All organizations use projects as the way to translate strategies into actions and objectives into realities. Many companies are project-intensive – they live and breathe project management because they are in that kind of business, such as construction, aerospace, engineering design, engineer-procure-construct (EPC), general contractors, consulting, software, and so on. For them, organizing around projects is a natural way of life as almost all senior staff have “come up through the ranks”, and top management understands what it takes to be successful in project work. On the other hand are less project-intensive organizations such as food, retailing and textiles. But even such companies have projects, e.g., setting up a new distribution depot or a new plant. Even in public sector, it is effective project management that translates politicians’ visions of new roads, schools and hospitals into gleaming new constructions that improve everyday life.

Realization of objectives is not easy, though; especially in today’s increasingly complex and high-stake world – richer technology, distributed / global / outsourced workgroups, culture differences due to inorganic growth, cost pressures, new services and products, mass customization needs for demanding customers, compressed time-to-market, increasing market volumes and stricter regulatory requirements. Numerous studies and observations have shown that strong business growth or other ambitious endeavors frequently bring the following risks in deployment of strategies to manage the endeavors:
– Delays due to ineffective project planning, monitoring, coordination, risk-management and follow-through
– Poor realization of financial goals due to ineffective scope management and staff utilization / accountability
– Customer dissatisfaction due to lack of responsiveness, communications and stakeholder management

Thus, the key for most organizations to remain competitive in a high-growth and fast-changing environment is strong delivery capability made possible by uniform and effective processes, structure, and discipline of planning and monitoring initiatives that translate strategy into reality.

Project Management is a competency that leaders can use in their organizations to handle increasing complexity with higher success rates and acceptance, and lower uncertainty and costs. Following are just a few examples of the organizational inefficiencies that pose the above-mentioned risks, but can be effectively handled through use of the Project Management competency:
– Schedules managed in silos and dependencies are not integrated.
– Delays in one area not communicated to a dependent area, so resources not allocated efficiently.
– Schedules having short-term forecast range. Long-term planning at the activity-level non-existent.
– Schedules not identifying true critical paths and not including non-working time and defect estimates.
– Many communication channels informal, and therefore information not documented and communicated to all appropriate stakeholders in a timely manner.
– Responsibility for decision-making not clearly defined (decisions affecting shifting priorities or resources, changing dates, etc.).
– Lack of proactive risk identification and management.
– Inadequate reporting – lack of visibility / insight into the true status of the projects.
– Frequently forgotten or delayed activities and decisions

The art of managing projects is about having consistency in achieving stated objectives within limits of time, budget, and stakeholders’ satisfaction, by directing and coordinating human and material resources. Project Management is a way of life for enhanced collaboration, governance, execution-discipline, responsiveness, and alignment of organizational elements and procedures with features of products and operations. Project Management skills are quite different from technical design, engineering or construction skills usually associated with most projects, and cover aspects outside of the scope of these technical areas that have to be well managed, if the project objectives are to be met. Project Management also differs from traditional management in that it brings in cross-functional collaboration, governance, execution-discipline, responsiveness, and alignment of organizational elements and procedures with features of end-products of projects. It can help leaders bring in agility in innovation, growth and response to changes in the external environment.

Applying effective Project Management for deployment of strategy and goals can thus provide organizations the following advantages:
– Business advantage through timely achievement of goals, optimal resource utilization and information based decision making
– Competitive advantage through workforce energized by culture of execution and collaboration and customer satisfied by getting the “right” results reliably

Project Management can also bring in some tangible benefits for individuals at various levels in organizations. For example, through project management:
– Executives get accurate and timely information so that they can make sound business decisions and make course corrections quickly so they can maintain a competitive edge.
– People who execute understand their roles and responsibilities and how their work relates to the bigger picture. Minimization of conflicts and confusions through effective communications increases productivity and enthusiasm.

It can be concluded that project management as a management discipline, individual competency and organizational culture underpins much economic activity and is a critical source of multiple advantages. The specialized role of project management in bringing agility to organizations that want to innovate, whether it is for new products or new initiatives, cannot be ignored.

There is one skill that every employee needs to develop, and that is communication

There is one skill that every employee needs to develop, and that is communication. If you are an employer, any investment you make in training your employees as well as managers in effective communication will repay you many times over in terms of improved customer service, presentations, speech delivery and persuasive writing that your employees will be able to perform. Although there are several types of delivery methods for communication training, many companies have discovered the advantages that come through the use of webinars. Webinars can be used in a variety of ways to increase your employee’s communication skills.

A webinar is a seminar that is presented live on the Internet. The many benefits of using a webinar format for a training class include the flexibility it offers. If your company’s organization is spread out across the nation, or spans several areas around the world, everyone can participate in a webinar without leaving their offices, because of the Internet access. Some class offerings are also prerecorded, so that employees whom you wish to participate in the training may do so at their convenience, alleviating wasted work time. The Internet also makes it easy for you to procure nationally recognized speakers located anywhere in the country for a more cost-effective training with no reduction in quality.

In terms of how to best build effective leadership skills there are communication skills training to meet every business need. Webinar presentations are available to increase your employee and manager’s presentation skills. Tactics for overcoming nerves, delivery strategies, using visual aides as well as dealing with the question and answer session at the end are available through webinar training.

Perhaps you would like to provide exceptional training to help managers communicate more effectively in business meetings and ordinary business conversations. Webinars can provide the tools your employees need to master this important skill.

People who work in customer relations or customer service benefit from communications training. Webinars that cover such topics as dealing with difficult customers will enable your workers to resolve complaints more quickly while satisfying more customers.

Workers and managers who can get the job done will often rely on their writing skills to do so. Specialized training that delves into the area of writing so that the reader can understand your meaning quickly and easily will help your employees succeed at their jobs. A writing training class can also offer tips that make written communication go faster for the author, which will improve worker efficiency.

Communication also involves listening. All employees and managers must develop a high degree of skill in listening in order to understand not only those with whom they work but clients on whom your business success depends. Listening skills can be sharpened with appropriate webinar training.

When we run leadership or advanced communications workshops for our corporate clients we are repeatedly asked how to give effective performance feedback to staff

When we run leadership or advanced communications workshops for our corporate clients we are repeatedly asked how to give effective performance feedback to staff.

Our participants tell us that the majority of their difficulties seem to stem from not wanting to offend the receiver of the feedback, with a strong dose of political correctness thrown in to confuse them even more.

Honest sincere, well timed and well delivered feedback can be one of the most useful leadership tools in our kit bag – So what makes it so difficult to do?

In this article we look at feedback in terms of correcting behaviours. However the same steps apply when reinforcing great behaviours as well.

Effective leaders take time to get to know their staff so they know the language which will be most impactful for each individual. (If you don’t know what this means contact us separately). However a rule of thumb for new leaders is to give feedback as soon as possible after a significant event.

We use the Acronym PACE to remind us of the steps to effective feedback.

Prepare for the feedback – fools rush in; but wise leaders prepare.

What is your Intention in giving the feedback? To praise, to reinforce or to correct a behaviour? How do you want the receiver to FEEL afterwards – Devastated? Encouraged? Chastened? Proud? Hopeful? What is the best environment to give the feedback without other s overhearing? What facts do you have? What organisation values are you reinforcing? What are the precise circumstances? What is the behaviour in question? Are you coming from a position of personal opinion or evidence based behaviours? Can you describe what is appropriate vs. in-appropriate? Clearly identify primary and secondary issues, get as much information as possible and, if needed, canvas others to get clarity and a different perspective on what is going on.  

Advocate – Tell the receiver of the feedback what was observed, or what your data position is. Keep strictly to the issues at hand without personal bias or opinion. Be clear and careful to keep only to observed behaviours or data. Opinions have no place here.

Conclude – Give the receiver your preliminary conclusion based on the data and facts.

Enquire – Ask for clarification on your observations / conclusions and invite a response, keeping clearly and squarely to the issue.

At this point you will have let the staff member know where you (the organisations leadership representative) stand in respect to their behaviour and you have opened the door to invite their input to provide more data, and a different viewpoint.

Whilst many leaders get to this stage easily the focus is now to keep to the issues at hand and to keep the staff member in a receptive frame of mind. Defensiveness can creep (rush) in at this point.

Where the feedback is of the “behaviour correcting” type, then it is crucial to stay detached from the staff member’s emotions.

An example.
You ordered a piece of software from the internal IT Support person, John, and it has turned up late.

Your interview with John may go along the lines of:

Prepare – You invite John to your office. You turn off your mobile, close the door and take the internal phone off the hook – you won’t be disturbed. (John just got the message that you are about to have a serious conversation.)

Advocate – John I ordered an upgrade from you on Monday, you promised it to me on Wednesday, and we are now 7 days behind schedule without you letting me know what is going on”

Conclude –“This leads me to believe that you are not on top of what is happening in your area and that your feedback to internal clients is lacking”

Enquire –“John, Can you shed some light on what is going on with the software delivery and also your internal management and communication of this situation?”

In this example there are 2 issues, 1. The software is late and 2. John’s internal client service is below expectations.

The feedback covers both of these issues and John is aware that he is expected to keep his clients up to date with what is happening.

The response from John can take this conversation in many directions. The supplier may have delayed. There could be a postage strike etc etc. He may not be experienced in client service so he may not be aware he had to keep you up to date. He may be totally in ignorance of your expectations – in this case the mature leader will look at how he/she sets expectations with staff – this is valuable feedback from John!

This approach allows John to have a mature conversation with his manager around the performance expectations of his role.

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