operations

What do you do when the answer is no? 5 steps to a global win.

So Scotland voted. Or at least the registered Scottish voters got their chance to weigh in on their future. Happily, well over 80% of them did. Unhappily for 45% of those who voted, they lost.

The country they wanted to establish as an independent, self-determining entity will stay part of the United Kingdom.

Now what? What are the leaders across the UK doing to make this into a win for everyone? Even the ones who lost?

Nothing. Frankly, as was to be expected, they're doing a different version of making the same mistakes they made that led up to what was, to all intents and purposes, a Scottish Revolution.

As a result, even though for the moment they're going through various motions, the long term effect will be an even greater distrust, disconnect and undermining of Government than before. All thanks to the country's 'leaders.'

It's sad but true that in most cases leaders lose the opportunities they've just gained through mismanagement of what comes after a win. They underestimate the damage they're doing by taking their 'win' and leaving the losers behind...because they can.

That's a very big, very costly, always-to-be-remembered mistake...which makes the supposedly winning leaders the real losers.

Interestingly, while not on a world-map-changing level, this is a not uncommon occurrence in organizations every day. For example:
An employee brings forward an idea in a team meeting to solve a problem while their colleagues are nodding in agreement. You listen with, you hope, an interested expression on your face, while you think of all the reasons why not...
or
You have an open-door policy that one of your people takes advantage of to bring you new thinking. Even as you listen, you're thinking of the reports you have to finish or the emails you need to respond to from your colleagues or your customers or your spouse...
or
Your organization has adopted a lean/six sigma/quality improvement initiative that has teams forming and storming and norming all over the place, generating ideas, implementing pilot projects, presenting results to you in an approved format. As you give them the t-shirts, coffee cups and certificates in reward for work well done, you've decided to kill their suggested plans to expand upon their successes for time, cost or productivity reasons you're convinced will apply.
In every case, you had a win. You had ideas, innovation and participation. You had exactly what the business books - as well as business owners, executive teams, Boards and shareholders - want and expect you to create.

Yet, too many managers, executives and business owners mishandle what happens next after any number of forms of a win. As a result, they miss out on the opportunity to create success on a far greater scale than they otherwise imagined.

For you, that stops now.

Here are the 5 steps - in order - that you take when you're presented with the opportunity to create a global win:

1. Don't just listen. Hear.

One of the most valuable commodities you have - and compliments you can give - is the ability to really hear what your people are saying. To give them your full attention. Your focus. To let them know that you're fully present both with them and for them.

By doing so, you not only gain far more information than you previously had access to - now and in the future - but, without saying a word, you build a collegiality that takes the pretty-words concept of 'team' and turns it into an action.

2. Ask penetrating questions. Find out What and Why.

Your people have reasons for the information they're sharing. Whether it's a problem or a solution - or both - they have a logic to which they're operating that, most likely, is outside of or goes beyond your understanding of what they do. You want to know that reasoning. You want to ask questions about their logic. Instead of defaulting to "How?" you want to spend time and attention on the key, more penetrating questions: "What?" and "Why?"

By asking about the specifics that led to identification of the problem and/or solution, you're getting insight into exactly what they're dealing with on a regular basis. You go even further by asking them why those things are happening. Not with blame or finger-pointing - but, purely, as information gathering.

Think of it as a mystery that needs to be solved - with you and your people the ones who will solve it.

3. Make it a conversation. Create a shared outcome.

By truly hearing what your people have to say and getting at the more penetrating information, you've created a conversation. Now it's time to create a shared outcome.

That's where your position of power comes into play. You know things and have access to people and information that go far beyond what your team members have available. At the same time, they know things about how your organization really works - including the obstacles they confront and end-run every day - that you need.

Now's the time to take all the information and figure out - together - how to use it to its best advantage...for you and for them.

4. Determine how to generate as big a win for everyone as possible.

It's time to kick in your value chain thinking.

The biggest and best wins - no matter the size of the problem or solution or, for that matter, from how deep in the organization it comes - create a veritable tidal wave of success. But only when you consciously work your solutions as part of your value chain.

Internal and external to the organization, every action and decision has a ripple effect. From your choice of suppliers to your hiring/on-boarding/training processes to the IT systems you adopt, everyone who touches your organization from within or outside is impacted.

As you look at not only the problem and/or solution that's been brought forward - but, particularly, the what's and why's - begin to figure out what you can do to create a positive tsunami of impact for and with your senior-level counterparts within the enterprise. Don't forget to include your team members. They can positively work things cross-organizationally in ways that you can only dream.

5. Generate a plan with timelines, metrics and responsible parties - including you. Execute it.

You've got the right thinking. Now you take the right actions.

It's all well and good to talk pretty and make promises. The problem is, whether you know it or not, no one believes you when you do. That's because, whether from you or others, they've been taught that unless there's action - and your skin in the game, too - it's just a bunch of pretty words.

To make sure that that doesn't happen, figure out - together - how to create the win you've identified for everyone. Just as with any other project plan you put together, start asking questions like:
  • What are the steps? 
  • In what order? 
  • Who needs to be involved - within and outside our team? 
  • At what point?
  • How do we bring them in?
  • How will we know how we're doing at every stage?
  • What are the metrics we'll be using? 
  • Are they in place...or do we need new metrics and measurement systems?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring that the data are up-to-date? 
  • What's the reporting structure?
  • When/How often do we meet to discuss how we're doing and next steps?
...and those are just the starter questions.

The key to this step is to make sure you're prominently involved - as first line of defense, creator of new relationships and possibilities, sounding board and more. The more they see you taking the right actions on your own and their behalf - so that they see you have skin in the game, too - the more and better they'll do for you. Now and in the future.

5 key solutions for business leaders from #indyref

In less than 48 hours, an expected 90+% of Scotland's population will decide whether 24 hours later, they will be part of the United Kingdom or have independence for the first time in a few centuries.

And, just as with the celebrity culture, there's nothing like a good breakup to get lots of media attention...at least when the fights go public.

Even though the date for the Scottish Referendum was scheduled two years ago, it's only been within the last few months that the powers that be in London (specifically, the United Kingdom government and political leaders) have paid real attention to what could happen. Specifically, they could lose.

What took them so long? It never really occurred to them that that was a possibility.

Worse, once they realized that they should probably pay attention to those folks north of the border (that's England's border), they made an amazing set of mistakes that have created more problems for them, increased the possibility of loss and, frankly, play out in organizations every day.

Ever wonder why things don't quite work the way you expect? Why you're not getting the results you should be getting? Or why key people are leaving?

The answers to all of that and more are what make #indyref an excellent learning opportunity for business owners, executives and managers. Think of it as getting insider information on the cheap and without the risks...except, of course, if you keep making the mistakes.

Here's what you need to know in the order you need to know it:

1. Whatever is happening didn't start when you first saw it.

The situation: The Scots have been moving toward secession for about forty (yes, 40) years. So, while the revolving leaders in Westminster have periodically acknowledged that there's been some discontent, they never took the problem seriously enough. That's why, during the last week before the Referendum, they were caught off-guard by poll numbers that showed that they might lose.

The takeaway: Find out what's really going on in your organization on an ongoing basis. Do surveys. Take soundings. Have all-hands meetings. Use different metrics. Recognize and accept that there is discontent fomenting in your organization that needs to be identified - then be ready to take action (see No. 5).

2. Don't focus on individuals. Focus on the problems.

The situation: As the Referendum got closer, David Cameron and his government targeted Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. Rather than identifying and addressing the problems that opened the door for Mr. Salmond to make his case to his people, the London-based Government and its representatives focused on making Mr. Salmond seem a buffoon.

The takeaway: It's much easier to think that if you just remove one person from the situation, the situation will go away. It won't. In fact, if you target a person or people, it will simultaneously increase the sympathy for the 'cause' (yes, you've now got a 'cause' to deal with) and it will drive it further underground. Instead, focus on the basis of the discontent, specifically, how it began and what's going on now that helps it perpetuate and grow.

3. Fear has a short shelf-life and works against you. 

The situation: When British officials began a more comprehensive campaign, they started and continued by fear-mongering. First it was the currency. Then it was trade. Then it was membership in the EU. Even worse, they got others to join in and add their voices to how scared the Scots should be if independence occurs. Rather than making the case for why it was in the best interests for the Scottish people to remain part of the United Kingdom, they spent all their ammunition on fear. That worked - until it didn't. That's when the poll numbers shifted.

The takeaway: "A little bit of fear is a good thing" is one of those snide executive expressions that make their way around conference tables and venues far too often. It's wrong. In most cases, fear doesn't last. That's because as soon as the ones who've been frightened learn that there's either far less or even nothing to be frightened of, the tactic loses its power and some of the best people start wondering if they want to stay in the organization. Even if they do, the fear-mongering executives have lost the respect of the people on whom they depend for success - and that kills your productivity and results.

4. Don't tantalize with 'carrots.' Make and keep promises.

The situation: Once the British Government realized that the way they were campaigning wasn't working, they decided to shift the argument to what they would do for the Scots if they stay part of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, it was too late. The same 'solutions' had been offered up in diluted forms in the past - and, worse, the solutions being promised weren't either timely or promises that any current or future Government could ensure it could keep.

The takeaway: Managers, executives and business owners too often talk a good game about what they want to do, are going to do, may do...you get the drift. That's dangerous - not least because those promises have been made before...either by you or at different organizations where your people previously worked...and weren't kept. Or perceived to be kept. Don't set unrealistic expectations. If you make a promise, keep it. If you're taking something under advisement and it comes up for discussion, tell your people exactly that as well as when you'll be able to tell them the outcome.

5. Be clear and consistent in your actions. 

The situation: To a great extent, the British Government brought their Scottish problems on themselves. Sure there was discontent among some of the Scots who wanted greater self-determination, but that was fixable. Unfortunately, through a combination of benign neglect, bad tactics and a patronizing attitude over the decades, what would have remained a small but manageable problem was allowed to escalate into what is now, literally, a world map changing event.

The takeaway: Be very clear and consistent about what you're trying to do and where you're going with your organization. Your people will help...but first they have to know why and what you need from them. Then, when they know they can trust you (see Nos. 2-4), they'll tell you what will keep you from getting there and how to fix it. Make sure you listen and act accordingly.