Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Singular, Yet Personal View of Reality

"Come together, right now!" - John Lennon

Alignment is more than just corporate speak. It is at the core of credibility and, therefore, a big part of workplace ensoulment.

Some years ago, the company I worked for at that time took our key customers to visit our manufacturing and logistics facilities in South America. During the visit our customers got the opportunity to do more than hear “dog-and-pony scripted presentations.” They got to meet people in our organization at all levels of the company and shoot from the hip in real conversations: equipment operators, customer service staff, logistics managers, our CEO, members of our Board of Directors and some of our key shareholders. We didn’t script any of the meetings, we simply told our employees to use the opportunity with customers to learn something for themselves and to candidly answer whatever questions our customers might have.

Cartegena de Indias, Colombia

On the last night of the trip during an informal gathering, our customers surrounded one of our board members and peppered him with questions. Anything went and the questions were direct and often tough; the kind that are meant to show cracks and rattle the best salespeople. He handled it with great aplomb.  And then when he had finished listening carefully to their questions and answering them in as much detail as they needed, he began to ask his own of questions; all of them incisive and all of them strangely similar to what they had heard from other team members that week.

At the end of the give and take one of our customers remarked to our director, “Wow, here’s the thing: YOU are saying exactly what our sales manager from your company tells us, which is the same thing we heard in your factory, which is the same thing we hear from the logistics and customer service teams, which is the same thing we heard from your CEO. You are ALL sending the same message.” All the other customers standing with him nodded in satisfied agreement.

When everyone in your organization shares just one view of reality, it does two wonderful things:  
· It creates astounding credibility with your customers. Customers can smell a “pat answer” or “corporate speak” from a mile away. They regard true alignment as credibility because it is authentic, personal (every person can tell it as part of their own story), and it’s not orchestrated. Something like this can’t be purchased for any amount of money. 
·  It builds confidence within your team. I watched another group of people that night as the final conversation went down.  I watched my sales and service managers stand a little taller and saw smiles break out across their faces as our board member engaged their customers.  These are the folks that are at the front of the battle lines every day and they take the biggest bruising in the execution of strategy. When they realize the alignment of the forces behind them, they’ll tackle their jobs with renewed vigor!

Do you want to start working to create a singular, personal reality in your organization? Try some small things first. Pay close attention to what is being said about your business in every single conversation. Be ready to ask penetrating questions and challenge inaccuracies. Quiz your top management every time you get the chance, to tell you in their own words what is going well and what needs repair. Embed some part of the company's goals into every individual's development plan. Be ruthlessly honest yourself about your organization's challenges.

Before long, everyone will possess a singular, but personal, view of reality.  Now THAT’s ensouling!

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