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Better Communication Environments

There will always be challenges around communications, be it giving or receiving information. But often it is the project environment we operate in that is the toughest challenge of all. Here are ideas for overcoming organizational barriers to effective communication. Consistency and context are keys.

What Makes Successful Salespeople

What do sales coaches need to know in order to help their salespeople succeed? More importantly, what does a complete, well-rounded, super-star sales professional do anyway? Surely, if you cornered one of these high-performing sales professionals at a social event and asked them what they actually did as a sales professional, there would be more to it than “I help people.” What exactly is it that salespeople DO anyway? I’m talking about what they actually do, not what their company does or what their value proposition is, but what THEY DO day in and day out as a sales professional? To be a complete sales professional, their daily activities should be in support of creating customer satisfaction and loyalty. What are these daily activities? I have analyzed the outputs and deliverables of thousands of sales professionals. I found that these tasks can be grouped into eight key areas. The idea is to help them become highly competent (i.e. superstar) sales professional through helping them: 1. Manage Themselves – highly competent salespeople keep their personal life in check. They stay healthy. They set goals, they make plans for your future. They keep their finances in order. They find stress-reducers. 2. Manage the Sales Cycle — The highly competent sales professionals seek out continuous comprehensive training and education to support their sales process. You should also be able to initiate, plan, and execute a sales process in order for your product or service to be assimilated into the buying organization. There are many systems out there to choose from. 3. Manage Opportunities – Highly competent sales professionals understand how to identify, manage, develop, and close the right sales opportunities. To do this, they’re experts at opportunity planning, territory management, opportunity development, and closing. 4. Manage Relationships- Highly competent salespeople become a trusted advisor to the buyer only happens when the sales professional is successful at building relationships, communicating, distributing information, and influencing others ethically through collaborative dialogue. Building relationships within your own organization is just as critical. Make sure that you take the time to forge relationships with your support teams, delivery teams, management or any other party that is involved in your sales process. 5. Manage Expectations – Highly competent salespeople continue their relationship after the sale. Providing top-notch service to buyers ensures repeat business and a solid sales reputation. 6. Manage Priorities – Highly competent salespeople understand the crucial elements of managing personal time to achieve ones goals and objectives. Great sales professionals understand that they must define the right tasks for the day or month, prioritize them, schedule them and execute. 7. Manage Technology – Highly competent sales professionals utilize technology in order to maximize personal and organizational effectiveness. 8. Manage Communications – highly competent sales professionals understand their choices in selecting, delivering, and leveraging communications strategies and mediums in order to effectively get their message across. There are many people that wonder why sales professionals are “harried,” have short attention spans, are always too busy, or seem a “little flustered”. Perhaps by identifying and understanding these eight areas, you have a new found appreciation and an understanding of why? So the question is, does you sales coaching program help salespeople become better in each area? How can you help them understand which area they are the strongest in? Or which area they are the weakest? A well designed sales coaching program provided by a reputable organization can help sales managers and sales coaches build action steps and coaching programs that help salespeople improve in each area every single day.

Leaders as Teachers: Six Strategic Benefits

Organizations that effectively utilize a leaders as teachers approach can realize six key strategic benefits. The first reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that it drives business and organizational results by ensuring strategic business alignment between senior business leaders and the programs and services provided by the learning function. A leaders-as-teachers program that is aligned with strategic business and organizational goals serves as a type of organizational insurance policy for leaders who teach. The second reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that it serves as a catalyst for the learning and development of the leaders and associates who participate as students in leader-led programs. This dynamic occurs in three ways: role modeling, creating a safe environment for feedback, and building networks. The third reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that it has inherent development qualities for those who teach. Many leader-teachers say that they are not sure who learns more when they teach.the participants or themselves. They move out of their comfort zone. Job challenges of different types, sizes, shapes, and intensities are the “genetic material” that enables leaders to learn, grow, change, and develop. Teaching, for many leaders, is a very significant job challenge and one that also helps them to see new viewpoints. The fourth reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that leader-teachers have the opportunity to strengthen their organization’s culture and communications. Culture transmission and communications through leader-teachers occurs in numerous ways including role modeling, social networks, communities of practice, continuous learning and communication flow across geographies, businesses and functions. The fifth reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that it enables them to serve as catalysts for business and organizational change through their direct access to a wide range of learners. The sixth and final reason to implement a leaders-as-teachers approach is that it drives numerous cost efficiencies by leveraging top talent. The leaders-as-teachers approach affords opportunities to deliver programs for “pennies on the dollar” compared with many other forms of delivery.

Employee Learning Week

Employee Learning Week is scheduled December 7-11, 2009, highlighting the important connection between learning and achieving organizational results. You can help demonstrate the importance of learning by engaging community groups, government officials, local media, and educational institutions. If you or your organization are participating in a local initiative, please email the ASTD Communications department to get recognized by ASTD: elw@astd.org. More information and examples of participation can be found at: http://www.employeelearningweek.org/.

Digital Tools / Paper Mindsets

Someone, perhaps unwisely, gave me keys to this blog and asked me to write. We’ll see how long it lasts… For this first post are some long held observations on the use of communications technology. We know and see people spending a majority of their workday, or just walking around town, plus what they do at home, in front of the computer, the cell phone, the blackberry– immersed in digital tools. However, it sure seems we still think in a paper mindset. Think about our terminology. We read web pages. We insert bookmarks to remember pages. Heck, I am surprised we do not refer to web sites as web books. Mainly I am thinking of email, both boon and bane of our workday. Sharing information by email in our organization is the expected norm– and the scourge of spam is bad enough in terms of time and productivity wasters, but also when it is used be well intended people in an inefficient way. The ones that make me scratch my head are messages that arrive with subject lines like “Tuesday Planning Meeting Agenda” and upon opening the message is no agenda, no message, just an attached Word document. This makes the agenda, essentially text only content, yet one more click, and one more application launch away. And what does one really do with a nicely formatted list of basic bullet points? Print it? When I send agendas, they are right there in the body of the email, readily scanned, right there ins the message. One of our groups, actually a technology group, has done this for years. But they’ve recently stepped up the level. They’ve created a portal for online community building. Oi! So the meeting notice is like, this, “Upcoming meeting. Click here for agenda.” I click there. It’s certainly a portal like pile of boxes and links. I find the one labeled meetings. I click the link for this month. It’s another web page. I click a link that is labeled “agenda”. What do I get? It’s the same old Word document. So now the agenda is about 3 clicks and an application launch away. It’s what happens when we are stuck in document – paper – print mindsets. It is all about the “page” and not the content. This was a puny example of a syndrome I have elsewhere labeled email attachment disorder. Beyond Google’s gmail, general e-mail is about the worst and most inefficient system for organizing information. Much of the information shared in our system has no permanence beyond what is stuffed into an email. But there is no long term organizational memory or archiving of email, it is rarely widely searchable, and for large media files, it is sent to many more people than will actually view it. It is a paper mindset, stick a copy in everyone’s mailbox. For as long as I’ve been responsible for our office’s online content, I’ve had to urge, remind, nag to always plan up front that everything we do have some sort of electronic presence, record, etc, especially for those that are unable to participate in our activities. Groups I am responsible for put their agenda up as a URL and filled in later by meeting notes. Our Ocotillo Online Learning Group has held monthly meetings back to 2000, which I know because all meeting notes have been archived, making them potentially searchable and internally linked to relevant content. This is what happens when you think about information in a web mindset, freed from the constraints of single throw away documents. How about the N-factorial e-mail messages needed for N number of people to plan a meeting? For a different tactic, see Lee LeFever’s Common Craft article on Wiki and the Perfect Camping Trip. Now that is using digital tools in a non-paper frame of mind. And it’s been done in real life. This web thinking is playing into our new plans to cease the print publication of a long running journal, which costs our unit thousands of dollars per year plus intense time spent in editing (getting the one off print version perfect), in lieu of a web publication that will, we hope, expand the range and types of content we can publish, plus add features not available in print. We are trying to break of the proverbial box, which is after all… a paper product. So what’s it like in your organization? How does it organization and archive its processes? e.g. is there organizational memory? Are digital communication tools used to push around electronic bits of paper? Or does it really leverage the power of the digital terrain? Are they thinking digitally?

Corporate pandemics of 2006

Inspired by a batch of recent frustrating consulting gigs, a battery of medical check-ups and the current buzz about pandemic preparedness, here are my predictions for six emerging corporate pandemics that trainers will have to deal with in 2006: 1) Ulteriorsclerosis – the clogging of an important initiative by personnel or policies, for spurious reasons that mask more pernicious ulterior motives. Widespread ulteriorsclerosis will lead to the demise of several organizations in 2006. The disease, once it takes hold and starts to spread, can only be cured by surgical OD interventions. It manifests itself in the right projects not being approved, or not moving forward, for apparently good reasons which, with persistent investigation, turn out to be fatuous. Ulteriorsclerosis is typically artificially induced by the idle, the desperate, or the power hungry, and can be career threatening to diagnose. 2) Nearly Ubiquitous Wireless Mobile Informal Learning Syndrome (NUWMILS) – the propensity to instantly learn only what one needs to learn in order to perform, when and where the performance is required. Also referred to as Schizogooglia, it will evolve in cultures where networked knowledge links of known quality and reliability become so intuitively accessible that it will be like having multiple brains in your head. Sporadic outbreaks have been occurring with increasing frequency, and now seem set to attain pandemic status in 2006. Once it loses its stigma and is accepted as a blessing rather than a curse, NUWMILS will be renamed “ambient learning” and at least three gurus will claim to have invented the term. 3) Mailanoma – the unrestrained metastasizing of productivity-sapping email, texting, and instant messaging, leading to complete breakdown of one’s ability to communicate. While much of this has been from externally inflicted spam, as 2006 progresses there will be increasing volumes of malignant messaging that are internally generated through quite unnecessary cc-ing, bcc-ing, and e-messaging of people sitting whispering distance apart. As communication is the life blood of organizations, malfunctioning of the system can cause a serious breakdown in performance – and in the ability of training to have an impact. 4) Infobesity – the deleterious effect of excessive data consumption on the fitness and agility of individual and corporate minds. With the volume of new data being produced doubling every three days (vs. every three decades a few generations ago), Infobesity will become dramatically debilitating, though it will stimulate the growth of technology filtering tools. Those who master infofiltering will jog confidently through the fog, while those who don’t will keep staggering into lampposts. Employees and teams with calcified knowledge filtering modes will become alienated and resentful, unable to compete, and decreasingly productive. Fortunately for them, they make up most of upper and middle management, and still dominate the shareholders of most large companies. So they will hold onto legacy processes and implement new glass ceilings to keep info-savvy juniors from gaining power (often by inducing ulteriorsclerosis in the relevant area). Unfortunately for their companies, the info-savvy are subversive, mutate rapidly, are well networked, and will job hop into smaller, more fluid entities that will collaboratively run competitive rings around the big corporations. 5) Organizational Incontinence – the involuntary leaking of things you’d rather not have others see. As the networked world brings on premature aging in organizations, they will start to leak at increasingly alarming rates. They will leak knowledge (IP Incontinence) as their walls become porous and their employees network outside of the company to gain the insights they need to get things done. They will leak processes, as much that used to be done in-house becomes outsourced. They will leak secrets, as staff start to blog and podcast without the censoring filter of Corporate Communications. And they will suffer from increasing motivational incontinence as employees finally lose all sense of belonging to a cohesive caring organizational family. This in turn will lead to the leaking of valuable employees. Organizational Incontinence, in all its forms, may require a significant rethink of the role of learning services, and its repositioning as an aid to the enhancement of an individual’s market value. 6) Learning Impact Myopia – the failure to expect or demand that learning initiatives have lasting effects. Like most other things in corporate life, training activities will be evaluated more and more on what effect they have on each quarter’s financial results, rendering longer term impacts irrelevant, and in turn making the development of long-term programs pointless. When trainers struggle to develop interventions that have lasting impact, they will be told that such esoteric stuff simply does not matter, and will be pressured into providing instant gratification to the bean counters. Learning Impact Myopia and Schizogooglia both seek faster short-term solutions to the expertise problems, but for different reasons. Trainers may have to selectively succumb, while still fighting for some strategic surgical impact. [Paradoxically, Surgical Learning Impact Myopia (SLIM) — the deliberate implanting or nurturing of e-learning 2.0 where appropriate — may give SLIM organizations added vigor and longevity]. Be prepared! The future will be a dangerous place if you relinquish control of your integrity to the organizational pandemics. Compliments of the season to all, and may your 2006 be filled with health, wealth, and happiness! Godfrey Parkin

ASTD 2011 Interview With The Change Book Authors

We spoke at the International Conference & Expo with Change Book authors Mary Stewart and Tricia Emerson. The two talked about culture, getting executives aligned with change initiatives, and why it’s all about the research. Q: Let’s first scratch the surface: Visually, The Change Book is a very unique business book. How do you feel this look and feel help to drive home your ideas and strategies? Mary: One of the big principles that we explore in the book is taking the learner’s point of view. One way to think about that is that we’re talking to people like ourselves, but we are also talking to people with a variety of learning styles. And we asked ourselves, what would we want to read if we were reading a business book about change. There are different kinds of people with different perspectives, different cultures and styles of learning. How do we incorporate both of those things: What do we want from a reader’s perspective? So we thought about that and we came up with a couple of different things: First of all, we are busy. So we don’t have a lot of time. If I start to read a book that’s very linear in fashion and it’s 300 pages long, I might not feel as though I’ve gotten what I should get until I’ve read the 300th page. So that might be an investment of time for me. So we wanted a book that delivered content in small packages – each chapter is something you can literally open up, read (each chapter is probably 3 pages long), and then you can close the book, and you’ve gotten something from it. Another thing is, we know a lot about some things and not others. What we thought about with our book is that maybe we want people to go directly to the topic they want to learn about. We want people to go directly to the table of contents and say, ‘For the questions I have, I want to look at this chapter or that chapter, and maybe that’s all I need for now.’ And they can skip the ones that they feel they have a handle on already. Tricia and I are both visual learners and so we didn’t want to rely too heavily on words. We wanted to layer the content. All people learn on different levels. Maybe some people are persuaded more by stories and metaphors. Some people (like us) are persuaded by visuals—if I can imagine the four quadrants of a model in my head, then I can remember it, and I can teach it. But if I have to read everything in a narrative form, sometimes it doesn’t stick as well. So we tried to layer these things: words plus visuals, plus stories, plus metaphors, plus tools you can use. So maybe one of those ways appeals to you, and that’s what resonates with you. We also need the ability to transfer knowledge to others so that we have something we can take away, and a lot of words on a page doesn’t really facilitate that. And finally, the last thing that we need at the end of a long day is something that’s grim and dry. So we try to make it kind of fun. If I’m reading a book about work, after work, I don’t want to feel like it’s more work! I want to feel engaged and have something that cheers me up. We wrote a book that we liked! Tricia: I think that if something is fun, the ideas will resonate. We wanted to be not only playful, but deep, and based in research. The challenge was that people already know a lot about this topic, so we said, let’s challenge them by capturing those ideas in a way that is playful and fun, but meaty. It would be easy to dismiss the book as a ‘puff’ piece because it is so visually pleasing. But because it is grounded in evidence, that was the fun part: Making the hard work seem fun. That’s what expertise is: Doing something really complicated and making it look easy. Q: You insert a bit of Jungian theory in the book in terms of “archetypes.” What inspired you to connect these ideas in writing about culture change? Tricia: As world-class ‘nerds,’ we’re always looking for research and seeing what comes out of the universities. There was work being done by a woman named Carol Pearson out of the University of Maryland. She latched onto her ideas as she was doing work with CAPT (formed by Isabel Myers who was administering her surveys from there). What I thought was compelling was that she was working with PR firms taking the research around stories and around Jungian archetypes and associating it with brand. The reason why archetypes are so important for change is that stories define who we are as people. I can define myself as a caregiver, or jester, or a hero, and you’re going to know exactly what I mean. So it goes primarily to who I am as a person. Carol was saying that organizations have similar story lines. If I tell you that I work for Google, you’re going to make some assumptions about me. If I say that I work at Apple, you’ll say I’m a creative anarchist, and wear black t-shirts to work [laughs]. There are assumptions based on that brand. That’s compelling because it attracts people whose personal stories resonate with the brand story. That’s how culture comes about. So whenever you start to implement a new change, you have to be aware of the aggregate of all those individual stories and how that plays out from an organizational standpoint. People often come to me and say ‘I want to change our culture.’ And I’ll say first of all, ‘Why?’ And secondly, I get them to understand that they are changing the course of a river. So there has been ‘water hitting those rocks’ for many years, and the truth is that that organization was created by a lot of people gravitating toward the story that it projects. So If I am going to go there and change the culture, I’d better know what that story is, and if I’m going to work within that culture, I need to understand the overriding culture and the substories. And if I want to implement change, I’d better bring some dynamite, and I’d better build some dams. It’s better to work with the course of the river than to try to reroute it! So I think it was a perfectly logical extension on the Jungiuan work into the culture arena. I think we in the profession need to be thinking very hard about that. Q: Harnessing the right kind of people power is a huge part of change undertakings, so how can change leaders combat the dreaded competing silos in shaping their initiatives? Mary: There’s a finding in sociology that people can be motivated by a superordinate goal. That means a goal that affects everyone, that is compelling and that is more important than the goal of one’s own group. One thing we talk about is not shying away from the pain of the current state of an organization. In thinking about moving from state A to state B, organizations don’t like to use negative messages that say, ‘things are going to be bad if we don’t change,’ and they say instead, ‘things will be a little better if we do change.’ We recommend that they do say those difficult things because that creates the difference between that terrible future we don’t want and the great future that we’re all moving toward. So that can create a really compelling sense of urgency in their organization so that they stop competing with each other and instead compete with ‘the world’ as a group. Tricia: It’s base-level. You see what people call “the common enemy” that’s an expression of the superordinate goal. Essentially, what we’re talking about is executive sponsorship. Leaders have to be aligned. Often, the first thing we do in embarking on a large change is to put the executives in the same room together and have them come up with the four words that define what this change is about. This is basd in political science and political commnication. We get them on message. Because if they are not in agreement, it’s not going to happen. It has to happen at the very beginning; at the very top. Often, what companies do in a change initiative is create communications (slides or memos) for their executives. But when you meet that executive in the hallway, they’re not on message. And it doesn’t come from the heart. People look to the senior executives during changes, and if they’re not talking about it, people are going to assume this is a flavor of the month, and they’re not going to pay attention. So the upfront conversation has to be about why the status quo is no longer acceptable. Systems theory tells us that we don’t change until the current system no longer works for us. We have to be clear that the current system is broken. People don’t want to say that, but we’ve got to get executives on point with that. Second, we need to say ‘this is what the vision looks like’—the ‘shining city on the hill.’ It has to be graphic. Then we show them the first steps. This is why we equip them with those four words. Also, groups self-correct. There are unspoken rules that are created when people come together. This is the concept of emergent norms. This is also true of cultures—unspoken rules. People eventually come to understand what’s correct and what’s not. And they behave accordingly. When you pull the executives together and have them come up with these messages, the norms come out. This is all grounded in research. It’s time for us to start employing these principles in trying to have an impact on our organizations. We tend to start with the learning solution, which is great because that’s how you sustain change. But it’s really about behavioral change first, and how you get the system to work to your benefit. Q: In a sentence, what is one pearl of wisdom you’d like your readers to go forth with after reading The Change Book? Tricia: HPI and change management is a field of discipline that requires study. People need to read more research! Mary: Change is hard, but don’t be afraid of the negatve stuff because you can make it work to your advantage.

Humanized Analytics How Healthcare Uses Real-Time Feedback to Drive Performance

Healthcare organizations are under increasing pressure to deliver effective care to patients, conduct financially viable operations, and report favorable outcomes to government and accrediting bodies. To combat these pressures, healthcare organizations are turning to technology and analytics to improve performance in complex, urgent environments. Join us in exploring how healthcare is adopting real-time feedback among its employees to improve communications and organizational performance. In this webcast, you will: – Discover how improved communication between physicians, nurses, residents, and staff translates to improved organizational performance. – Use competency-based, real-time feedback data to drive patient satisfaction, improve outcomes, and simplify and enhance government and accreditation reporting. – Accurately measure employee development, increasing your ability to effectively develop and coach employees into leaders.

Overview of Role of Chief Learning Officer

Chief Learning Officers are often found at larger organizations where the human resources department is broken out into various specialties. CLOs, who are sometimes called chief knowledge officers, usually report either to the top talent officer or the chief executive officer (CEO). A CLO’s responsibilities may include on boarding, training courses and materials, employee development initiatives, executive coaching, knowledge management and succession planning. CLOs may also supervise the selection and implementation of learning technology, such as learning management systems (LMS). CLO Job Responsibilities: Develops an organization’s educational process Promotes knowledge management Institutes effective training strategies Directs large scale change management...