Posts

The importance of culture

The other week I was in a meeting with a few partners from a mid-sized accounting firm. One of the themes of the discussion was how they could effect change in the culture of the firm. It seems to be a common challenge to firms I meet.

Recently I read a fabulous article by Arshad Chowdhury who blogs for Fast Company Magazine. See http://www.fastcompany.com/1801014/culture-isnt-costly to read the full article.

Here is an excerpt from the article which, I dare say, will help you an dyour firm think about culture and how to effect change. Enjoy!

Successful company culture can make the difference between a workplace people dread and one they brag about. You don’t have to have a Google-sized budget to offer great culture. Many culture-changing initiatives have no direct costs to the company. In fact, when properly executed, culture-improving initiatives can lower company costs in both the short and long term.

I’ve spent the past 10 years learning about and implementing solutions to make work better for employers and managers alike. I’ve touched hundreds of companies large and small and have seen many distinct cultures. Based on this experience I offer these simple initiatives to encourage a peaceful, productive workplace that people love.

Make Rules for the 95%, Not the 5% 

Most of your employees are hard working, motivated, and professional. Workplace rules should be designed to give maximum autonomy to the vast majority of your workers. Don’t burden people with rules designed to control the 5% of employees who are constitutionally unmotivated or undisciplined. From dress code to work hours to meeting attendance, fewer rules in the workplace are better.

For one, fewer rules can start saving you money right away. Get rid of expensive firewalls blocking Facebook and YouTube. At the same time, access to these tools can help your employees research and network faster.

Celebrate Going Home Early

It’s not true that the longer you work, the more work you will get done. According to a 2010 study, flexible work hours can lead to increased retention and productivity. You can quickly improve culture by focusing on work output instead of hours of input. If you’re going to leave the office early, go ahead and announce to your coworkers that you just closed a mega account, sent out that TPS report, and are now heading for the golf course. There’s no shame in going home after hitting a home run.

Stop Swearing

Not all rules are bad. Implement a “no swearing” rule today: no swearing about or at your coworkers or customers. By cutting out swearing, you will elevate discourse to expression of thoughtful ideas instead of base emotions. An environment where people swear at one another can quickly turn toxic. The no swearing rule can save you millions by avoiding costly lawsuits where disgruntled employees–with good reason–strike back.

Cultivate Experts

Imagine if every one of your employees was an expert in what they did; if, no matter how mundane their subject, they could teach it with passion. The benefits to you, your company, and your employees would be profound. Encourage people to become experts by having them research best practices in their field and share those with their colleagues on a regular basis. At my companies, we encourage book clubs for every level of employee. We incur cost here by buying every book club member an e-book. The $79 e-book, however, pays for itself twice: once when employees brag about their incredible work environment with their coworkers, and again when employees learn to do their jobs better through ongoing learning.

Talk About the Future

Start taking people out for coffee, one at a time, to ask them where they want to be in five and 10 years. Armed with this information, help them achieve those goals, even if the goals aren’t related to your company. If an employee tells you he or she wants to be an actor, support them when they want to take acting classes. This way, in the time that they are with you, they’ll be loyal, committed, and thankful for the support.

Let Employees Manage Their Own Energy

Our metabolism is guided by our bodies’ circadian rhythms. We all experience peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day, and the highs and lows differ for each person. One-third of your employees experience a dip in energy so steep that between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day they need to nap.  So let them nap. According to a NASA study, a nap of just 26 minutes can boost productivity by 34%.

Recognize Your Team Every Day

People don’t work for just money. They work for recognition, too, so don’t deprive your employees of this vital form of compensation. They are working to build your company every day. As such, give them specific words of thank-you the moment the occasion calls for it. You should be thanking each person you directly work with at least two times a week. As my mentor Chester Elton (coauthor of The Carrot Principle) says, reward behavior you want to see repeated.

See you next time,

James E

 

I am not an animal … I’m a human being (1 of 2)

As the URL for the site suggests this blog is all about the sharing of ideas and insights into what clients really want – specifically professional services clients – accounting, law, management consulting, engineering and the like.

I came across a wonderful article written by Keith Ferrazzi that was originally published in Fast Company back in June 2006. Despite being 5 years old the lessons contained within are as fresh and relevant today as they were back in the pre GFC world of 2006.  I love the idea of sharing with you knowledge available on web sites, journals or magazines that professional advisers like those listed above  may not have on their radar. By the way … the reason for the photo of the Elephant Man made famous by John Hurt in the 1980 movie of the same name is his famous haunting statement during a particularly cruel scene – “I’m not an animal I’m a Human Being!” It will make more sense as you read the piece below. I’ve also included the video clip link to give it more context.

Enjoy the article!

 

Build real personal relationships with your clients–so they’ll reveal to you what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can’t be written in an RFP.

You may remember the 1990 movie Crazy People in which Dudley Moore plays an advertising executive whose idea to write “honest” advertising copy like the following lands him in an insane asylum:

Volvo… they’re boxy, but they’re safe.
Porsche…you can’t get laid in one, but you will once you get out.

As outrageous as those taglines were, they were successful in the movie (and probably would have been in real life, too) because they spoke to what people really wanted–far beyond what car companies learn from customers in rank-the-features surveys. In these cases, customers didn’t just want cars that got them from point A to point B. They bought a Volvo for the peace of mind and the Porsche for a new hope of finding romance.

Our organizations face the same problem automakers do. I certainly don’t think my firm’s marketing and sales consulting services or training offerings are anywhere close to commodities. I believe we have deeper insight, more experience, a watertight methodology…a laundry list of reasons why we can provide value no one else can. I bet you feel the same way about your core products and services. But the truth is that many other organizations claim to have the same things we have. And if you delude yourself thinking that what’s on your website and printed marketing collateral is significantly different from what others have written down, then you’re full of it.

That’s why we have to build real personal relationships with our clients–so they’ll reveal to us what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can’t be written in an RFP. Then, and only then, do we get opportunities to offer generous solutions to their problems that convince them to purchase our core products and services.

You have to approach them as people as well as professionals. Show them you’re human by letting your guard down. Share your passions and learn about theirs. See yourself as a combination of consultant, life coach, therapist, and friend. Ask insightful questions, actively listening for what really motivates or frustrates them personally. Then, when you have a deep understanding of what they really want, try to bundle a solution that, first and foremost, solves one of their problems and, ideally, includes your product or service.

Watch the Elephant Man YouTube Clip to get the full impacthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2KEN8XBL0

See you next post for part 2.

All my best,

James

Is social media a waste of time for accountants? (3 of 3)

Here are the remaining 4 big things the Fast Company article referred to.

4. You don’t need to eat the whole social business elephant in one bite

When asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” the sage pygmy replied, “One bite at a time.” And so it is with social business initiatives. IBM itself tried a number of different approaches internally: First by using a wiki to draft its social computing guidelines, and more recently by offering a “Social Computing Demystified” course to help more IBMers become digital citizens. These smaller building blocks helped pave the way for bigger initiatives like the expertise locator that now taps into nearly 3,000 IBMers from around the world.

5. A social business can be a good business, too

The same tools and processes that go into creating a social business can also be put to use for social good. To test this notion and in honor of its 100th anniversary, IBM asked every employee “to take a full day and dedicate it to skills-based service.” Calling it the Centennial Celebration of Service, thousands of IBMers shared their expertise and then their experiences on IBM100.com. “Now you have in this social business program the permissioning and guidance matched with content so IBMers can get started and experiment [with social business],” said McCarty.

6. Enough already with the useless email chains

Most companies rely on email as the primary means to share information among employees, despite the havoc it often creates. “Email is a very limited tool and does a lot of things to silo work efforts,” McCarty noted. Calling it “completely antisocial,” McCarty believes that a social business needs to employ more collaborative digital work tools (well beyond email) that are asynchronous, enabling a geographically disperse team to do great work together.

7. It’s okay to fail as long as you do it quickly

Since not every social business initiative will take hold, it is important to try lots of approaches and move on when one doesn’t work. IBM describes this as “agile development.” “You can’t spend 10 months planning it and then launching it–the idea is to learn quickly and if we need to, fail quickly,” McCarty said. As case in point, McCarty claims the first iteration of their expertise locator went from concept to a test on IBM.com in four weeks with new iterations following in monthly succession sprints as short as two weeks. McCarty firmly believes this particular social business program, although still in its infancy, has infinite possibilities.

The objective of the last 3 posts were simply to say this … – social media is NOT  a waste of time for accountants. In the same way as the internet, mobile phones, web sites & fax machines are not a waste of time!

Keep well,

James E

Is social media a waste of time for accountants? (2 of 3)

The Accounting profession, naturally, is a part of and of course serves the business community. So it is expected that the profession considers and reflects on the thinking, attitudes, trends & practices of the business community.

With the above in mind, here are some thoughts I picked up from an article that appeared in Fast Company last month (see http://www.fastcompany.com/1779375/move-over-social-media-here-comes-social-business) where the autho interviewed Ethan McCarty, Senior Manager of Digital and Social Strategy at IBM, spent the better part of an hour with me explaining the ins and outs while providing specific examples of how IBM is testing various social business approaches both internally and externally.

There are 7 big things that business need to keep in mind regarding social media.

1. Social media will be dwarfed by social business

While social media has helped many companies become more customer-centric, it is treated primarily as a modestly effective marketing tool. McCarty explained, “Social media is about media and people, which is one dimension of the overall world of business. With social business you start to look at the way people are interacting in digital experiences and apply the insights derived to a wide variety of different business processes.”

2. People do business with people, not companies

One of the notions behind becoming a social business is that your employees should be front and center in your digital activities. “Since IBM no longer sells consumer products, the brand experience for IBM is an experience with an IBMer,” an experience that is increasingly happening online, McCarty said. To support this idea, IBM recently started adding IBM “experts” to various web pages–an action that in A/B testing dramatically improved page performance and revealed increased confidence and trust in IBM in focus groups.

3. Your employees need to be digital citizens, too

Becoming a social business means recognizing the need for your employees to become “digital citizens” and providing the training for them to manage their digital reputations. Accordingly, IBM not only trains its experts extensively, it is now building out “personal dashboards” to help them see the impact of their various interactions. “Good conversation creates good outcomes and that brings value to the organization and to the individual,” McCarty said.

Tune into the next post to read the remaining 4 big things.

All my best,

James E

I’m a Human Being! (1 of 2)

As the URL for the site suggests this blog is all about the sharing of ideas and insights into what clients really want – specifically professional services clients – accounting, law, management consulting, engineering and the like.

I came across a wonderful article written by Keith Ferrazzi that was originally published in Fast Company back in June 2006. Despite being 5 years old the lessons contained within are as fresh and relevant today as they were back in the pre GFC world of 2006.  I love the idea of sharing with you knowledge available on web sites, journals or magazines that professional advisers like those listed above  may not have on their radar. By the way … the reason for the photo of the Elephant Man made famous by John Hurt in the 1980 movie of the same name is his famous haunting statement during a particularly cruel scene – “I’m not an animal I’m a  Human Being!” It will make more sense as you read the piece below. I’ve also included the video clip link to give it more context.

Enjoy the article!

Build real personal relationships with your clients–so they’ll reveal to you what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can’t be written in an RFP.

You may remember the 1990 movie Crazy People in which Dudley Moore plays an advertising executive whose idea to write “honest” advertising copy like the following lands him in an insane asylum:

Volvo… they’re boxy, but they’re safe.
Porsche…you can’t get laid in one, but you will once you get out.

As outrageous as those taglines were, they were successful in the movie (and probably would have been in real life, too) because they spoke to what people really wanted–far beyond what car companies learn from customers in rank-the-features surveys. In these cases, customers didn’t just want cars that got them from point A to point B. They bought a Volvo for the peace of mind and the Porsche for a new hope of finding romance.

Our organizations face the same problem automakers do. I certainly don’t think my firm’s marketing and sales consulting services or training offerings are anywhere close to commodities. I believe we have deeper insight, more experience, a watertight methodology…a laundry list of reasons why we can provide value no one else can. I bet you feel the same way about your core products and services. But the truth is that many other organizations claim to have the same things we have. And if you delude yourself thinking that what’s on your website and printed marketing collateral is significantly different from what others have written down, then you’re full of it.

That’s why we have to build real personal relationships with our clients–so they’ll reveal to us what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can’t be written in an RFP. Then, and only then, do we get opportunities to offer generous solutions to their problems that convince them to purchase our core products and services.

You have to approach them as people as well as professionals. Show them you’re human by letting your guard down. Share your passions and learn about theirs. See yourself as a combination of consultant, life coach, therapist, and friend. Ask insightful questions, actively listening for what really motivates or frustrates them personally. Then, when you have a deep understanding of what they really want, try to bundle a solution that, first and foremost, solves one of their problems and, ideally, includes your product or service.

Watch the Elephant Man YouTube Clip to get the full impacthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2KEN8XBL0

See you next post for part 2.

All my best,

James