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How to Embrace Change and Reap the Benefits

January 6, 2016

Change is the only constant. It’s also one of the most pressing management challenges out there, and one of the most ambiguous and headache-causing.

Navigating the course of change is something CSP knows all too well. In our nearly 30 years in business, we’ve guided banks, credit unions, and other businesses through the process of change as they adapt to evolutions within their industries and among their customers. Our Voice of the Customer programs reveal opportunities and needs that often mean something needs to change internally to provide a better customer experience. That might mean minor tweaks and adjustments, or major overhauls.

changeAlong the way, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to change management. While every business’s journey is unique and requires deliberate and careful attention, you can keep these tips in mind to smooth out the road as you proceed.

Getting Focused in a Time of Change

Decide whom to invite to the table. Nothing can shake workplace morale like poor communication – or worse, lack of communication — during a transition. Most often, this means a meeting, or a series of meetings, where your leadership team can gather and devote the necessary time and consideration to the challenge at hand. It’s important to do this before you involve employees in the process, to lay a stable foundation with defined issues, expectations, goals, and tactics.

Get prepared. Before the first meeting, assign each person to research a particular topic that will be relevant to the discussion. This is not a meeting where anyone can just “wing it.” Each person is expected to do the necessary pre-work and bring their findings to share with the group.

Topics for research could include: current industry trends and recommendations around those trends; what your marketplace will look like in the future and how your business compares; internal strengths and weaknesses (the “SW” of SWOT analysis); external opportunities and threats (the “OT” of SWOT analysis); and what is revealed by the data you’ve collected on your customers about their satisfaction and needs. If there are additional components that are relevant to your specific situation, make sure they get time on the agenda, too.

Facilitate the discussion. With so much at stake, a meeting like this needs to be run carefully, or else potentially devolve into unorganized chatter or arguments. A designated facilitator and/or scribe not only keep the group on task, they actively foster the discussion and guide the group’s priorities.

Beware the trap of groupthink that can spring up in situations like these. As new issues and ideas are brought to the table, the facilitator shouldn’t be afraid to ask provocative questions that open the floor for debate: “How many of you agree? Who disagrees? What might be the downsides we should consider?” Everyone at the meeting should feel free to contribute their opinions, even dissenting ones, without repercussion. In doing so, the issue at hand can be examined from every angle, not just the perspective of the person who was assigned to it.

Identify the external and internal benefits of change. In addition to the pre-assigned topics, you’ll want to draw special attention to how evolution benefits everyone. How will the changes, or proposed ideas, make your business more customer-friendly, or attract new customers? How are these initiatives likely to increase revenues, or control costs? What’s in it for the employees?

By deliberately devoting time to the benefits of change, you can prevent the meeting from becoming a venting session that actually discourages change instead of helping to manage it.

Narrow down the priorities. Once everything has been introduced, explained, and discussed thoroughly, don’t leave the meeting without agreeing to the priorities and next steps to implement. This might be done by a show of hands, an anonymous vote on slips of paper, or placing dots on a written chart by the top 3 ideas they support.

 

How well does your organization adapt to changes or integrate new policies and procedures? Have you ever worked somewhere that was change-averse? Do you have tips of your own to share? Tweet us at @CSProfiles with your stories.

And if you need direct help in navigating your evolving industry, we’re just a call or click away: contact us at 800.841.7954 ext. 101 or send us a message through our website.

This post is adapted from an article in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.

Leadership Skills: How to Tell if You’re Using Your Time Wisely

December 4, 2015

We start this lesson in leadership with a classic metaphor:

A professor stood before his class with some specific items in front of him. When class began, he wordlessly picked up a large empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about three inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a bag of pebbles, poured them into the jar and lightly shook it. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

csp_rocksandsandThe professor then picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, “Yes!”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The big rocks are the important things in your life —your family, your health, your friends, your favorite passions — anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. These things will make you the most proud at the end of your days.”

“The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent the secondary things in life like your job, your house, your car. They give your life meaning, but perhaps aren’t the focus of your life’s work.”

“The sand is everything else—the small stuff. The sand represents everything that fills our days, but doesn’t add much value overall.”

“Consider this! What would happen if you started filling the empty jar with the sand? If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for all the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. If you start with the big goals of life, the smaller things will shift and move around to fill in the remaining space. But the reverse is not true.”

It’s difficult to be an effective leader if you’re not available to give proper attention to the “big rocks” because you’re mired in the sand.

This might sound obvious, but many leaders don’t do it in practice. There are only so many hours in the day that can quickly get eaten up by having to put out fires or burn energy on lower priorities.

Determining the Most Effective Use of Your Time

While the anonymous professor above was talking about the scale of life, you can use the big rock, pebble, and sand categories to assign weight to each of your responsibilities as a leader.

Try keeping a log of your activity over a given week, noting how much time you devote to each item that needs your attention. Take a look at the overall pattern of where the highest percentage of your energy is going, and then ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are your most important leadership responsibilities? Leaders often let critical tasks that impact the future slide off their radar. Consider tasks like: forecasting the future of your team, planning staffing needs and development, continuous improvement to processes, determining strategic direction, etc. Have you gotten sidetracked by daily interruptions that take you away from these leadership “rocks?”
  2. What “fires” are monopolizing your time day-to-day, forcing you to operate in a reactive mode? Note that these are often the pebbles and sand that we respond to, hour after hour. How can you preventatively invest more time to solve (or diminish) these issues, and consequently, free up time to address your prioritized rocks?
  3. Which goals do you dream about completing?
  4. What legacy do you want to create as a leader?

By contrasting how you’re actually spending your time with how you would ideally like to in order to accomplish your goals, some opportunities to make constructive changes might emerge. This could mean a conversation with management to make the case for how your time could be better spent, to everyone’s benefit.

When you set about reprioritizing how you spend your time, choose wisely and be disciplined. It’s not much different than starting a new diet or exercise plan – it’d be easy to slip back into old habits and let your jar fill up with sand and pebbles instead of rocks. In fact, that’s bound to happen some days, and that’s okay. Learn from it and come back the next day with even more determination.

This article is adapted from an activity in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.