Books We Love: The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert GalfordWhat makes a successful consultant? Read this book.
In an earlier post, we introduced you to a book that helps us improve both behavior change programs and our personal workdays. Today, we’re talking about The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford. We love this book because it’s right in line with our values.
Emerson exists to help organizations get business results using the power of their people. We know a lot about how to do that – we have methodology, tools and company best practices. But, as Maister and his co-authors preach, technical mastery is only one part of the solution. We can’t help our clients until we earn their trust.
We do that by following three principles: shift the possible, share the experience, and connect to what matters. Shift the possible means helping clients imagine a future built on solutions they didn’t even think were doable. Share the experience means rolling up our sleeves and working on those solutions, side by side with the client. Connect to what matters means figuring out what our client wants and needs, and making that our focus.
Our third principle reminds us of our favorite quotes from the book, “If you’re going to succeed as a consultant, you have to move from being perceived as a ‘hired gun’ to being viewed as a trusted advisor. In short, that means the client has absolute confidence that you are looking out for their best interest – not yours.”
Here’s why some of our consultants love and recommend this book:
Rory McKenna, Director of Change Management, says, “The Trusted Advisor is an entertaining, quick read with powerful advice on building strong business relationships. I first read the book years ago, but refer back to it as a reminder to stay intentional.”
Client Director Kenny Simon says, “I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of the traits described in The Trusted Advisor come naturally to me. For example: ‘Give before looking to get.’ ‘Give clients options and let them choose.’ ‘Don’t patronize the client – speak to them as if you were speaking to your parents.’ Some of this is fundamental, golden rule stuff that we’ve forgotten over the years, but much of it will enlighten you to things you do well and things you don’t do so well; things to continue, and things you should probably stop. Great book for anyone looking to move into deeper relationships with their clients.”
As we discover more inspiring reads, we’ll share them with you so you can add to your professional library.
Book Review: When by Daniel PinkWe’re using Pink’s methods to work smarter.
From the first few pages of When, Daniel Pink seized my attention and refused to let it go. He opens his book with the suspenseful story of the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner sunk by a German torpedo on its route from New York to Liverpool, England, in the midst of World War One. Pink poses a provocative question: did Captain William Thomas Turner make bad decisions that ultimately contributed to the vessel’s demise because he made those decisions in the afternoon?
And so the book introduces its central theme: timing is everything. Pink and his researchers spent two years analyzing over seven hundred studies to demonstrate the value of when. At Emerson, we’re constantly thinking about behavior change; Pink’s book gives us a new way to approach behavior, backed by scientific evidence.
Pink divides his book into three parts: The Day; Beginnings, Endings, and In Between; and Syncing and Thinking. Each chapter gives readers research-based advice on “how to best live, work, and succeed.” Each chapter has a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” with actionable steps to improve your life, from work to home.
For me, some of the most impactful advice came in the first chapter, “The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life.” Pink introduced me to my “chronotype.” Most of us have heard about circadian rhythm, but Pink explains that every individual has his or her own pattern. In other words, the circadian rhythm is not one-size-fits-all. There are quizzes in the book to help you figure out your personal pattern. Once you determine your chronotype, you can optimize your day. If you’re like me, a “third bird,” you should schedule analytic tasks in the morning and insightful ones in the late afternoon. And, because most of us don’t control our schedules all the time, Pink tells us how to prepare for events that don’t fit our natural circadian rhythms.
I work remotely from home, but I used to work in an office setting. Every afternoon, sometime between two and three, my energy would wane. My eyes would droop and I’d lose motivation. Around that time, a coworker would send me an IM, “CVS?” I’d readily agree. A ten-minute trip to the convenience store was all it took to revive my energy. That’s probably why the second chapter of When resonated. “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons” describes the scientifically proven value of a break. What is a “vigilance break” and how can it enhance team performance? What is the most effective way to take a nap? (During work? Absolutely!) Believe it or not, a pause from work or studying will help you focus. While Pink encourages leaving your work space, there are other ways to give your brain a rest to reenergize.
What I found the most engaging were the real-life examples that transcend culture and nation. For example, Pink connects the experiences of a Washington, DC-based choir to the dabbawala deliverymen in India and explains how their experiences can improve your life. There are also insights from successful individuals like Jerry Seinfeld to Warren Buffett.
My biggest takeaway? Small changes in behavior and timing can make big positive impacts on my everyday life.
Our 2019 ResolutionsThese are a few of our 2019 resolutions.
A few weeks ago I gave you some scientific tips to help you achieve your New Year’s resolution. Consider using those five social science tricks and stay out of the 40 percent of Americans who don’t fulfill their goals.
Typically we use this space to share our favorite lessons learned in behavior change, learning and development, and digital transformation. But this time we’re sharing our 2019 resolutions. This is how we’re trying to change things; maybe it will inspire you.
Randi: Schedule and commit daily time with dogs and books. (I find I’m missing them.)
Kenny: My “resolution” is to embrace more of what is going well instead of what I don’t have or what isn’t going well. Focus is a choice…and I plan to be intentional with it next year!
Garrett: Become more of a minimalist.
Lisa: Read more. And walk my dogs more because nothing makes me happier than seeing their excitement to go on a walk.
Ryan: My NY resolution centers around reducing my carbon footprint. I call it my “2019 Less List” – using the dishwasher less, using less electricity in my home, less vehicle dependency (more biking or public transportation), buying less plastic, and reusing/repurposing plastic packaging (like takeout cartons and produce bags). Let’s save the Earth while we still can! 🙂
Samantha: I’m planning on two resolutions next year. First, I’m going to eat less dairy. My second goal is to participate in at least one community service event per month.
The Science Behind Your New Year’s ResolutionFive ways to make your new year’s resolution stick
It’s that magical time of year. Holiday decorations illuminate yards. Businesses, television shows, and radio stations play seasonal music on repeat. A new year looms, and we’re starting to think about ways to better ourselves. Well, I’ve decided 2019 is my chance for a successful New Year’s resolution.
I know what you’re thinking. About 40 percent of Americans make resolutions and don’t fulfill them. In the past, I’ve been one of those people who promise to hit the gym or save a little more each month. But it doesn’t work out. Research on human behavior finds that the allure of self-improvement entices us to pursue these resolutions. But we all know, it’s not easy to keep them.
How do we maintain our New Year’s resolutions? There are social science tricks to keep us on track.
Make the beginning meaningful.
The name suggests that a resolution should begin on the first day of the new year. Well, you may not be ready to launch a plan to exercise more often or eat less sugar on January 1st. Research suggests you should start on a day that holds significance to you. If the beginning of January is out of reach, pick a notable date or another holiday, like Presidents’ Day, to get things going.
Speaking of the beginning, start strong.
Don’t let your resolution start with a whimper. Some research shows that intensity matters. Plan concrete ways to keep that resolution from the jump. For example, if I want to eat less dairy, I’ll make a grocery list that doesn’t include milk and yogurt. I’ll plan an entire month of homemade dinners and lunches that avoid cheese. When I’m ready to start my resolution, I’ve got a map to guide me.
Set the timer for one month.
Habits don’t form overnight. It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change behavior. Give yourself a full 31 days to test the new routine. No cheat days. No hiccups. At the end of the month, it’s time for reflection. How do you feel about the change? Is it sustainable? Is this bettering your life? You’ll need that full month to decide whether you want to continue pursuing the change.
Replace the old with the new.
Back to the dairy example. One way to eat less dairy is to find a replacement for it. Instead of buying cow’s milk for cereal, I might try almond or soy milk. Once you’ve decided on a resolution, find a substitute for the old behavior. Let’s say you want to get rid of nail biting. Research suggests you should find something to put in place of the old habit as you try to break it.
Set little wins.
Plan small, obtainable goals during that first month of resolution-ing. For example, if I make it through the first week of the month without milk, I’ll treat myself to a new book. Think about how to encourage yourself one day or one week at a time. Often, resolutions are large, lofty goals that seem like too far a stretch. If you plan small victories along the way, you’ll have some instant gratification to push you along.
Go into the upcoming year with a plan for your resolution. If you try to wing it, you’ll most likely join the millions of Americans who don’t meet their goals.
We Dig These Productivity TipsThese are the behavior change tips we’re sharing around the company.
We believe behavior change is the key to any important outcome, and we love sharing our favorite reads. Behavior changes some in all sizes – they can transform a company or simply help someone work a little smarter. Recently we’ve been talking about how to be more productive at work. We hope these three productivity tips will make you a little less distracted, a little more focused, and a bit more self-assured.
Step away from the cell phone. Literally.
Texting and driving is dangerous. Walking through a crosswalk while reading a phone can get you hurt. Hearing a cell phone ring in the middle of a task can cause anxiety. These consequences are well known, but there’s another risk to keeping your phone close.
Recent research found that participants who completed math problems while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were individuals whose phones were out on their desks. Give it a try right now. Put your phone away for the next 30 minutes and see what happens.
Consolidate your lists.
How many note-taking apps do you have on your phone? Desktop? I can count at least five in my workspace right now. It’s overwhelming! This Wall Street Journal list – ahem, article – asks us to consider merging all those lists onto one single piece of paper. This week I’m giving the one-list approach a shot.
Exude confidence by changing the way you talk.
I just wanted readers of this blog post to consider a new way of communicating. Could you maybe read The Ladders selection of four phrases that make you sound less confident?
Reading the two sentences above might have been a little painful, but I wrote that way to illustrate a point: the words and style you choose can undermine your authority. The Ladders identifies four phrases to eliminate from your business communications. Simple behavior changes like these can help you craft a professional identity. Whether you’re emailing a supervisor or speaking up during a meeting, this is one way to project confidence.
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Emerson’s favorite productivity tips! We’ll be back soon with freshly curated advice.
Three Thoughts on a MergerOur thoughts on how to have a successful merger.
Morgan Stanley and E*Trade. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgen. United Technologies and Raytheon. Regardless of investor reaction, mergers and acquisitions this big undoubtedly strike fear in the hearts of employees. And people have only so much focus and energy—when they’re in survival mode, they aren’t that great at their jobs. So what are responsible industry titans to do? We have some tips.
Start talking now.
It’s natural to want to delay messaging until there is perfect alignment and all facts are in order. But if you don’t communicate, you create a vacuum, and you know how nature feels about that. The space where your message should be will be overrun by rumors and falsehoods. So before the deal is done, start getting leadership aligned on a message. Start cascading it through both organizations as soon as possible. Research shows that during uncertain times, employees crave trust, stability, confidence, and empathy in their leaders. A consistent, compelling message is what they need.
Address the culture clash.
Too often leaders ignore company culture, both before the deal is signed and throughout the integration. We know that a single culture is difficult to shift. Combining the cultures of two organizations is double trouble.
The first step is to know you have a culture. We suggest using the PRIDE method. Assessments will create detailed pictures of both company cultures. Then, take a look at all plans through the culture goggles of each company’s employees. What works for one might not work for the other.
For example, let’s say the company you’re acquiring is has an “everyman” culture. Maybe they are used to all-hands meetings to socialize every change. So do that. Find out which big changes went well for the company, and liken the acquisition to that experience, creating a feeling of familiarity and safety. And pay attention to words and symbols; for this organization you might do well with high-touch images and talk of family and community.
The bigger the change, the more hecklers you’ll have, and a merger is as big as it gets. So how do you confront the critics? You don’t. Focus your energy on the “sweet spot”—those employees who are open to change and who can influence your outcomes. Enlist them as project advocates. These grass-roots change agents can create momentum toward a successful merger.
In the very best of Ms and As, there are rough seas to navigate. You can ride the waves more easily by mastering communication, culture, and resistance.
Meet The Change BookGet to know the first book in our series on lessons we’ve learned in change management.
If you’re new around these parts, you might not know that we’ve written a series of books. They capture our favorite principles, tips and lessons learned gathered from our collective decades (centuries?) of experience in change management, learning and development, and technology change. We’ll give you a quick rundown of each book in this blog. First, we’re pleased to introduce you to The Change Book.
Sound boring? Well, we wrote this book because we believe learning to manage change doesn’t have to be boring. We used a twist on The Golden Rule: Write unto others as you’d have them write to you. We took pity on the reader and minimized the consultanty, businessy language. (Pro tip: It’s a lot more fun to write this way too.)
Fear of commitment? No problem — you don’t have to read the whole thing. Each chapter stands alone. Flip it open to any page and start reading from there. You’ll find powerful, concise and easy advice from battle-tested practitioners.
The Change Book covers topics like sponsorship, resistance, project branding and messaging, and employee impacts.
We love it, but we’re biased. Listen to some of our fans:
“The Change Book has been invaluable in helping us influence change within our leadership group and I would highly recommend it to all those who wish to progressively implement and successfully lead into the future.” — Thomas Klein, Regional Vice President — California, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
“The Change Book takes the daunting subject of change management and makes it accessible, understandable, and even fun.” — Rick Barsotti, Partner, Groove 11
Get to know our book – and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your review.
Simple Advice for Any ProblemBefore you kick off your change project, stop and ask, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?”
I have a 16-year-old male child. (I call him “The Boy.”) He is a great kid, but like many teens, he needs parental guidance so he doesn’t eat seven bowls of cereal every morning or ride his hoverboard into traffic. I often ask The Boy, after he has engaged in some goofball activity, why he did what he did. I get the blank teenage stare that says I had no idea at the time, and now that I’m reflecting on it – nope, I still don’t have a clue. I’ve sort of already forgotten your question. Where’s the cereal? Many of you parents know that look.
I use these interactions to nurture his ability to think proactively – to consider his options before he acts and to pay attention to what matters. It’s fair to say I still have a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that his frontal lobe – the rational part — won’t be fully developed until he is 25, but I digress. Without fail, a few times each week, I find myself asking The Boy, “Why did you do that?” He never knows.
Sounds ridiculous and kid-like, right? Maybe not! Even adults run into trouble with this. We don’t fully understand the situation before we act, and then we fail to solve the problem. Our work days are layered with examples of this hard truth. Every day, in the name of being agile (no shade), nimble, efficient, risk-taking, or entrepreneurial, we do a disservice to our teams and organization. We define a solution without responsibly considering the nature of the issue.
As a consultant who has worked with many organizations, I see it often. For example, when employees cannot execute, the solution must be training. A deeper look might tie the failure to things like incentives (I don’t get paid for that), culture (no one really does that), or lack of tools (I have to open seven windows to do that). Or how about an organization implementing great new technology? Suddenly, everything looks like a technical problem. Technology can solve it – let’s just add that new thing to our project.
So…do you know why you are doing what you are doing? I’ll list a few non-rocket-science tips to help you begin today.
Don’t start with the answer. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and no matter what you say – their response is hyper-focused on something that currently has their attention? “Suzie, my ankle is killing me. I think I hurt it playing softball last night.” Suzie’s response: “I have this new juicer, and it’s amazing. Juice has so many nutrients – I’m sure it will help your ankle heal faster. Because, you know…nutrition.” We do this often. We force tools, methodologies, and new ways of thinking down people’s throats because it’s the latest and greatest thing – or the company has invested in it — so it must be the answer.
Start with the problem. Before assuming you know what the solution is, ask yourself and your team a lot of questions. Where is your organization going? What does it need to get there? What obstacles are in your way? How do problems present themselves? Do they happen at a certain place or time? What is the magnitude of the problem to your business? Which employee behaviors seem to affect problems? How does your organizational culture influence those behaviors? Questions like these help you take those blinders off, assess the need holistically, and get to the root cause. Once you’re there, the right solution will be easier to find.
Focus on the solution. Sounds simple enough right? Well, there’s seldom a straight line between a problem and solution. Successful solutions require focused attention. Contrary to common belief, humans are not good multi-taskers – this is a myth passed along with very little push-back or common-sense reflection. Many studies demonstrate our failure at multi-tasking (e.g., texting and driving, or trying to pay off multiple debts at once). Focus is important. It sends all your brain power and energy toward what’s most important. It sounds simple, but with all the things competing for our attention today (inside and outside of the workplace), it’s difficult to execute. If you want to solve the problem, clear the decks and focus.
Much like my interactions with The Boy, I wanted to keep this advice simple. Think before you act. Don’t ride your corporate hoverboard into traffic by rushing to a solution. And definitely don’t do it while texting. Problem – Solution – Focus. No new methodology or tool beats this common-sense approach.
Three Things You Need Before You Trust Your PeopleHow do you know you can trust your team?
When my client – let’s call him John – hired a new president to run his company he expected his stress level to go down. He thought he’d be free to focus on strategic issues and long-range planWhen my client – let’s call him John – hired a new president to run his company he expected his stress level to go down. He thought he’d be free to focus on strategic issues and long-range planning. He was wrong.ning. He was wrong.
Within a few months, the president – I’ll call him Paul – started holding meetings without including John. Paul unraveled John’s decision to move their customer service center to a new location. He invested in new products without considering the complexity and the impact on the rest of the business. He couldn’t provide data or detail to support his decisions. The rest of the executive team worked long hours to prepare for key meetings; Paul left at 5:00. This new guy didn’t reduce John’s stress – he was the source of it.
When John confronted Paul with these issues, Paul told him to “Get out of the detail,” and, “Trust me.” Paul understood correctly that John did not trust him. And, following this conversation, John trusted him even less.
How much do you trust the people who report to you? Does trusting them mean not getting into the details of their work? How do you balance trust and effective management?
Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores write in their book Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life that “…the key to trust is action, and, in particular, commitment: commitments made and commitments honored.” So how do you create a pattern of honored commitments with your team?
Before you trust, ask for these commitments.
There are three commitments that create trust, and one of them is not to demonstrate psychic powers. People can’t deliver on something that’s stored securely in your head. You must articulate the commitments you want. Tell your direct reports that is up to them to:
- Manage expectations. You expect a certain level of performance from the people who report to you. However, it is their responsibility to manage your expectations. They should tell you what to expect regarding their results, their timing, and their teams. They should keep you up to speed on the fundamentals of their work: what, where, when, how, why, how often, and to what extent.
- Keep promises. Executive coach Chalmers Brothers describes conversations as a series of promises that are essential to building trust. If you tell me you will meet me for coffee today at 3:00 and don’t show, that moment will inform what I think of you. A person’s word is a promise — a reflection of stewardship and character. You must be able to count on your people to do what they say.
- Eliminate surprises. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for surprises. The minute somebody on your team knows they are taking a new strategy, they’ll miss a deadline, that there’s problem with quality, someone is quitting…they have an obligation to inform you. You cannot manage without crucial information. You must never be caught off-guard by the very people who should help you be an effective leader.
When they fail, have this conversation.
Nobody’s perfect. Inevitably, even your most reliable team member will do something that challenges your trust. Where do you go from there? That depends on what happened.
Solomon and Flores tell us, “Breaches of trust do not mark the end of trust but are part of the process of trusting. (There are many kinds of breaches, from mistakes to betrayal and treachery. It is important not to confuse them or assume that all breaches are betrayals.)” How will you know which one it is? You have to talk it out.
A productive conversation requires preparation. Steve Giondomenica, CEO of technology strategy firm CMI, recommends you get a pen and paper. Here’s his process:
Before the meeting:
- Identify the headline. Distill the problem into one sentence. Don’t worry about others reading it – write down the essential issue. For example, John’s headline might have been, “I am out of the loop” or “You and I are making conflicting decisions.” This exercise forces you to be direct. It will create clarity and prevent misunderstandings.
- Define the ideal outcome. What do you hope will happen as a result of this conversation? John’s ideal outcome might be “We discuss each major decision before you make it.” You are applying the Covey principle: “Begin with the end in mind.”
- List examples and the impact they had. Most of us know we should be prepared with examples, but Steve emphasizes the impact. Both elements — the example and the impact — are essential so that the person you speak to understands why the issue matters. For example, John’s decision not to move the call center cost the company money and made people wonder who was in charge.
I asked Steve, “What if you don’t have an example? What if you just sense that something is off?” In these situations, Steve advises that you set up the conversation by saying, “I don’t have enough data, but this caught my attention.”
During the meeting:
It’s at this point Steve advises you to draw on the power of your relationship. “Ideally, you create a win-win situation, to build the relationship and strengthen mutual trust. When I assume the best of you, the conversation changes entirely.” To this, he uses the following process:
- Confirm good will. This matters most for difficult conversations. In these situations, Steve will ask if the other person believes he has their best interest at heart. “If they answer with an authentic, ‘yes,’ I know they can hear this conversation as constructive rather than threatening. If they hesitate, I then focus on where our trust is broken. This creates a foundation for the rest of the conversation.”
- Frame the conversation. Admit that the conversation is not easy, but that you’re committed to a positive outcome. Steve emphasizes his commitment to strengthening the relationship moving forward. Steve often brings the notes he prepared to the meeting. When the conversation is difficult, he’ll say, “This is a tough conversation, and I want to get it right. This is why I brought notes.”
- Ask, “Were you aware you did this, and was this your intent?” There are two points to this question: awareness and intent. It’s possible the issue was inadvertent. This question allows the person to share their experience, and to address your perception.
- Conclude with agreements. Steve believes this is the most important part of your conversation because it creates commitment to action. He often follows up with a thank you note that summarizes the mutual agreements from the conversation. According to Steve, “This is incredibly powerful. If the person doesn’t honor the commitment, you can move straight to the agreement. You can say, ‘Hey, didn’t we agree to X?’ instead of dredging up the whole conversation.”
Trust is based on commitments made and commitments honored. When you create clarity about what those commitments are, and your people deliver what you expect, you become more comfortable letting go of the detail. You’ve effectively balanced trust and accountability.
Click here to download a tool to help you conduct your own trust-building conversations.
How to Handle Resistance to ChangeHow do you confront the hecklers disrupting your change initiative? You don’t.
You’ve probably watched a heckler interrupt a public speaker. Maybe you’ve watched – on video or in person – as a performer or politician has to deal with mocking or derisive comments, shouted from the crowd. Maybe the speaker answers back, or security escorts the heckler from the venue.
Change initiatives can have hecklers too. They usually don’t shout down a speaker; they use other ways to criticize and disrupt.
It’s to be expected. People are resistant to change. Hecklers might say negative things about your project or predict it will fail. They might even try to sabotage project activities or influence others to join in their negative campaign. You might secretly wish you had security to escort those hecklers from the building! But that’s not going to happen.
So how do you confront hecklers? You don’t.
Here’s what you do. Instead of seeking out and addressing every critic of your project, focus your energy where it counts. Figure out who has the ability to influence the success of the project. Are some of those influencers mildly resistant or mildly supportive of the change? Those people are your sweet spot. They matter, because they can affect the project. And they’re not so strongly against your project that they’re beyond persuasion. Your sweet spot is that group of hecklers that you could actually turn into advocates, with a little effort.
But how do you bring them over from the dark side? Communication and involvement are your tools.
Communication. Ask: What do they care about? What are the benefits of the change to them? What negative consequences will they feel if the project fails? What do they need to hear to make this change seem like a good idea?
Involvement. Ask: How can we help them own the change? Where can we leverage their expertise? What has resonated with them in the past to spur them to action? Based on that, what how can they participate? Focus groups? Governance? Serving as subject matter experts?
So don’t confront all of your hecklers. Instead, focus on those in your sweet spot. Continue to communicate, engage, train, and support them as you execute your change management plan. As the project bandwagon grows, the fans will drown out the hecklers.