Monday, May 23, 2022

The Alignment Between #EmployeeExperience and #CustomerExperience

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Dennis Geelen from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Dennis Geelen is a customer-centricity and innovation author, speaker, and consultant. He is the founder of Zero In, a consulting company that helps businesses build a more customer-centric and innovative culture and author of the book The Zero In Formula: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Disruptive and Sustainable Business through Customer-Centric Innovation. Connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dennis-geelen-5a95703) and on Twitter @dennis_geelen.

QUESTION: In a post you wrote on Entrepreneur entitled, "How to Get Customers and Employees Excited About Your Business," you provided some key take-aways. Can you briefly share them?
DENNIS GEELEN: The main theme of the article is that all businesses need to be focused on solving indifference in BOTH their customers and their employees. They should be focusing on building a brand that customers crave and a company that people are passionate to work for. This is the key to long-term success.

In the article, I shared seven different strategies to help you get there:
(1) Exclusivity: Start by targeting a specific group or people or a specific need (Think Amazon and how they started with selling ONLY books online)
(2) Company Message/Purpose: Having a message or purpose that your customers and employees resonate with (Think Tom’s Shoes)
(3) Business Model: Perhaps the way that you provide your product or service is what separates you from your competitors (think Dollar Shave Club or AirBnB)
(4) Product/Service: Delivering a very unique or high quality product or service (think Dyson)
(5) Customer Experience: Building an experience that is meant to resonate with and WOW your ideal customer (think Starbucks or Disney)
(6) Practices and Processes: The way that you operate is unique and better in a way that benefits both your customers and employees (think Amazon or Google)
(7) Employee Culture: Having the right incentives and rewards in place that motivate the specific behaviors that you want to build your culture around (think Zappos)

(Here's the article's link: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/403617)

QUESTION: Dennis Snow (@DennisSnow on Twitter) wrote, "A customer-focused culture is one in which everything is designed with the “lens of the customer” in mind." What does this quote mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: I love this quote and completely agree. Centuries ago, humans believed that Earth was the center of the universe with the sun, moon, and all the other planets revolving around it. Only to discover this was not the case at all. The sun is at the center, and all the other planets (including Earth) revolve around it.

I believe the many business have similar incorrect thinking. They place their company, their products, and their services at the center, and all of their customer strategies (marketing, sales, CX, etc.) revolve around this inner focus. Whether you want to call it product focused, or inner focused, they have it wrong.

The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. Understanding your customer, what their needs are, and why they do what they do (or don’t!) needs to be what drives your business.

TWEET THIS: The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: It is so easy to “forget” about putting your customer and their needs first when you are in internal company strategy meetings. I love how Amazon created a physical reminder that the customer and their needs should always have a seat at the table in every decision they make.

Another way that I have seen this done effectively is to start a meeting with a story or two about some real life recent customer experiences with your brand (good or bad). Starting from a point of empathy with your customers is a powerful way to start a meeting and get everyone in the customer-first mindset. Maybe that is why Design Thinking is such a popular and effective approach to innovation, it starts with empathy.

(To read more about the Jeff Bezos empty chair, check out this article: https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/why-every-amazon-meeting-has-at-least-one-empty-chair.html)

(To read more about Design Thinking, check out this article: https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/the-5-phases-of-design-thinking/)

QUESTION: Since the covid pandemic began to impact everyone's lives in March 2020, which brands have stood out to you by providing excellent customer service?
DENNIS GEELEN: Again, I will go back to the point of empathy here. The pandemic has been a traumatic time impacting so many different people in so many different ways. Some companies get this, and some don’t (or don’t show it, at least).

Zappos is a great example of a company that gets it. They understood the need that people were having for human connection and opened a hotline to chat with customers. Zappos gets it.

Then there are stories of companies that have gone over and above to do something for their customers during these trying times. Restaurants delivered home cooked meals, grocery stores had special times set aside for the elderly to shop exclusively in a less busy environment, etc.

But I would like to highlight a business in my local area here in Ontario: Fresh Fuell. Owned by Louis and Leanna Segura, they have gone out of their way to build relationships, goodwill, and an amazing customer experience. They actually expanded their business during the pandemic. They have loads of loyal customers due to their empathetic and community-first mindset that, when times got tough, they still had the full support of their patrons.

QUESTION: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." How can all brands apply this timeless advice?
DENNIS GEELEN: Too many times, we seek to discredit or make excuses for critical or negative feedback from customers. I think it is human nature. We get defensive or want to deny or lay the blame elsewhere. But to Gates' point, we need to learn to get past this and seek to understand the situation more clearly. What caused frustration or anger with this unhappy customer? How could we have handled the situation differently or better? What improvements can we implement to prevent another situation like this in the future? Until we get to the point of being open and looking inside our businesses and ourselves with the objective to learn, grow, and improve, we will be sitting on a goldmine of information that is left untapped if we continue to ignore it.

The best way to handle unhappy customers is with a mindset that what they have to tell you is going to help your business provide a better experience for other customers in some shape or form.

TWEET THIS: What unhappy customers tell you will help your business provide a better experience for other customers. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: What three customer experience books should everyone read, and why?
DENNIS GEELEN: Great question. To answer this effectively, I think we need to categorize this first. To truly understand why customer experience is so important, you need to first understand the experience economy. For this, the book ‘The Experience Economy’ by Joe Pine and James Gilmour is the gold standard. For me, they are the godfathers of CX, and their book is where all business leaders need to start in order to get a solid foundation.

Next, you need to have a principle for understanding your customers better. You can’t design and deliver a great CX without understanding your customers. For me, that principle is Customer Jobs Theory, or Jobs to be Done (JTBD) as it is known. There are many terrific books on this subject, but my favourite has to be ‘The Secret Lives of Customers’ by David Scott Duncan. I love this book because Duncan takes the original JTBD thinking from the book ‘Competing Against Luck’ that he helped to co-author with the late Clay Christensen and expands through a wonderfully told parable full of interesting characters and lots of insights for better understanding your customers and why they choose your product or service.

Lastly, once you understand the experience economy, and you have a good grasp on your customers and why they purchase your product or service, you then need some strategies for how to deliver a great customer experience. Again, there are many great books to help you with this. Shep Hyken has written many, with ‘I’ll be Back’ being his latest. Dan Gingiss recently published ‘The Experience Maker’ as well, another great book. But my favorite book as a guide for delivering great CX would be ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’ by Matt Watkinson. Maybe I am biased because Matt and I have chatted a few different times about CX and writing, but I love this book because of Matt’s insightful yet concise writing style. He does a terrific job of bringing the reader in with captivating info and stories that keep you turning the page until, before you know it, you have finished the book and you have an MBA in CX!

My thanks to Dennis for sharing his inspiring employee and customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Leadership, Silos and Onboarding


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Bruce Rosenstein and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Since 2011, Bruce Rosenstein has been Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, the award-winning quarterly journal co-published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley and the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. For 21 years, he worked for USA TODAY as a librarian/researcher and writer about business and management books for the newspaper’s Money section. Based in Maryland, he is the author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way, and Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. His digital footprint includes the following links: www.brucerosenstein.com; https://brucerosenstein.com/blog; https://www.linkedin.com/in/bruce-rosenstein; and Twitter at @brucerosenstein.

QUESTION: How do you recommend that employees who are forced to work in silos by their leadership teams overcome the silos and work together?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Depending on how literally people are being forced, there should always be a degree of personal/individual choice on the part of people who are working in silos. I’d recommend that they continually think of ways to work around the silos and outsmart the situation, including figuring out whether the company/organization is one big silo or a series of silos.

This would also mean finding like-minded people internally and developing ways to work together and share information, and learning more about informal norms and ways of getting things done. It also means that you stay connected, via social media and otherwise, to people outside your organization, within or related to your area of specialty or expertise, especially in case you ultimately decide to work elsewhere.

A great book to read on this subject is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett, an editor and columnist at one of my favorite publications, the Financial Times, who has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any leader from history, who would it be and why?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: I would choose Socrates, as sort of the original/eternal thought leader. I’d like to fill him in on the whole thought leader construct, and how his ideas have lasted and remained relevant for more than 2500 years. I’d then ask how he thinks he reached that status, and probably brace myself for a Socratic dialogue with the originator of the concept, ideally over coffee.

I think he’d be intrigued by the concept of the Socrates Cafés that have sprung up around the world in recent years. I would bring him a copy of the book by Christopher Phillips, the founder of the movement: Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy.

He might  be interested to learn that questioning, one of the main components of the Socratic Method, has become influential in the business/organizational world. If he could time travel to today and become a consultant, he could name his price!

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: You may not have to be the smartest person in the room, but you DO have to apply your mind, and think clearly and creatively in the moment so you can be effective. That would mean the supposedly “small things” and “unglamorous things” that can nevertheless be difficult to do well.

It can mean a leader protecting and looking out for people, clearing obstacles that can prevent them from doing their best work, and helping them work through problems. It reminds me of the important concept of servant leadership, which is less than 50 years old, and was originated by the late Robert K. Greenleaf. He was an HR executive at AT&T (and also a New Jersey neighbor and friend of Peter Drucker’s), whose work has been carried on and extended at the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

QUESTION: How can all members of the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: This would have to be part of the corporate/organizational culture itself; how involved upper management is in the process, what components of the process they take seriously and how that plays out internally.

If people really are your greatest asset (which so many organizations say is the case), shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process, and be adequately supported by as many members of the C-Suite as possible? At the same time, it would be a serious commitment of time and energy, and should not be taken lightly. Done properly, it could even have positive effects related to your earlier question about silos, as it would be a way for people to learn about different departments and components of an organization, and to make contacts and develop lines of communication.

However, if some people, especially in the C-Suite, aren’t taking this seriously, it could be related to exactly what each organization means by the term onboarding, and what the process exactly entails. Is it seen as more bureaucratic and form-filling, rather than an area directly related to results? It could point to the fact that the term onboarding, if not the process, has become a buzzword with a nebulous meaning, and therefore possibly in need of new terminology or different branding. For more background on this, see Patti Waldmeir's "The Perils of Onboarding in a World of Hybrid Work," in the Financial Times, February 7, 2022; and "The Case Against Onboarding," February 27, 2017, by Merrill Perlman in the Columbia Journalism Review.

TWEET THIS: If people really are your greatest asset, shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process? ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other pubs: “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” What does that quote mean to you?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Realistic leaders know that a certain part of their success is due to luck, as well as due to the work and knowledge of other people, circumstances beyond their control, and so on. So it would also play out in reverse, knowing that “failures” are subject to the same invisible laws regarding luck, circumstance, fate, and the work and roles of colleagues, competitors, and so on.

In a broader sense, it means less of a show of ego, more humility, more realization that you will develop a better reputation internally and externally if you strive for this type of balance. It could also directly relate to servant leadership, in one of your earlier questions. Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace.

Two recent books come to mind, that I believe amplify this quote: Marilyn Gist’s The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations - Great Results; and John Baldoni’s Grace Notes: Leading in an Upside-Down World. I’ve edited articles by both Marilyn and John for Leader to Leader.

TWEET THIS: Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace. ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog


My thanks to Bruce for sharing his inspiring leadership and employee experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash.


Note: John Baldoni (@JohnBaldoni on Twitter) has appeared on this blog numerous times (I'm honored to have also met him via Twitter), and I shared a review of his book GRACE NOTES on Business 2 Community.

Check it out here: https://www.business2community.com/books/leadership-tips-for-the-covid-era-02433516

Monday, May 9, 2022

Tips to Become “Change-Capable”

If you’re not familiar with the name Erika Andersen, get ready to be inspired by some valuable leadership take-aways. She stands out wherever she appears in the digital landscape, whether as a guest writer on Forbes, her own website, or on Twitter – or here on my Blog, where she has appeared six times since 2011.

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness; and over the past 30 years, she has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are tailored to the challenges, goals, and cultures of her clients. Erika and her colleagues at Proteus focus on helping leaders at all levels GET ready and STAY ready to meet whatever the future might bring. In addition, Erika is the author of many books as well as the author and host of the Proteus Leader Show, a regular podcast that offers quick, practical support for leaders and managers. Follow on Twitter @erikaandersen and @ProteusLeader – and also on the web at www.proteus-international.com. Erika and I recently discussed her newest book, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: In your new book, Change from the Inside Out, you talk about why change is hard for most people – and that our difficult relationship with change is rooted in our history as humans. Can you explain that?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: I started writing this book, as with all my books, because I was curious about some things. We’ve been working with clients on change for well over a decade, but there were some core things about change that were still puzzling to me.

The first one was: Why is change so hard for most people? As I explored this question, I began to realize that the answer lies in our history as a species. Until the past few generations, most people’s lives stayed very much the same from beginning to end; people grew up where their parents had grown up, did the work their parents had done, believed and thought the things previous generations had believed and thought. Even the less common events were generally expected: people died, babies were born, crops did better some years and poorly in others.

Real change was fairly rare, and it was generally a threat and a danger. War, famine, plague, flood: change usually meant that a person’s stability and survival were being threatened. Getting back to the known as quickly as possible was almost always the safest bet. As a result, this urge toward homeostasis – returning to a stable condition – is deeply wired into us, and until recently, has mostly served us well. It has been a good survival mechanism for thousands of years.

But these days, the world is different than it’s ever been. Just over the past fifty or sixty years, the pace of change has increased tremendously. For example, Americans started buying TVs in the 1950s. Color TVs began to be widely available in the 1960s. That degree of innovation, from black-and-white to color TV, took a decade just sixty years ago – and it now happens in months or even weeks. Especially now, with all the change spurred by the pandemic, major change happens moment to moment: economically, environmentally, sociologically, politically – and organizationally. Today, our organizations need to change on an almost daily basis to stay competitive and to take advantage of the best and most effective new ways to communicate, to operate, and to meet their stakeholders’ changing needs and wants.

Given all this, our old, anti-change wiring that served us so well for centuries no longer works. We need to re-wire ourselves to be more comfortable with and open to change; we need to become more change-capable.

TWEET THIS: Today, our organizations need to change on an almost daily basis to stay competitive. ~@erikaandersen #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog


TWEET THIS: We need to re-wire ourselves to be more comfortable with and open to change; we need to become more change-capable. ~@erikaandersen #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: You use the term “change-capable” throughout your book – it’s even in the book’s subtitle.  What do you mean by that?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Change-capable has become the “term of art” for us in our change practice. We use it to describe a person, a team, or an organization that is supportive of necessary change. For a leader and their team to be change-capable means they understand how change works, and have the skills, both mental and practical, to make needed change as quickly and smoothly as is feasible. Change-capable people can accelerate the process of change and make it less painful for themselves and those around them.

A change-capable organization is one that has systems, processes, structures, and a culture that enable and support change. We often say that a change-capable organization is like a solid, well-constructed bridge that allows people to move from the current state to a changed future state without undue difficulty.

TWEET THIS: A change-capable organization is like a solid, well-constructed bridge that allows people to move from the current state to a changed future state without undue difficulty. ~@erikaandersen #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: What is the Change Arc, and why is it important?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: That’s the other thing I got curious about when I start writing this book: What actually happens inside us, as individual human beings, when we go through a specific change? I figured if I could understand that, it would be hugely helpful to people in their journey to becoming more change-capable. And the answer to that question is the Change Arc. We discovered that there’s a simple, predictable, and powerful pattern that occurs when a person embraces and moves through a change. My colleagues at Proteus and I have come to call this pattern the Change Arc.



When a change is first proposed, most people immediately want to know three things: What does this change mean to me? Why is it happening? And What will it look like when the change has been made? Based on our history of change-as-threat, these questions are the most efficient at helping us find out just how disruptive and difficult the change is likely to be.

As someone begins to ask these questions, their initial mindset (again, based on many thousands of years of change being a threat) is usually that the change will be difficult, costly, and weird. Difficult means “I don’t know how to do this, and/or other people are going to make it hard for me to do this.” Costly means “this will take away from me things I value.” We might assume that the change will take from us time or money, but we’re likely to assume the change will take away even more intrinsic valuables like identity, power, reputation, or relationships. Weird just means strange and unnatural: “this isn’t the way we do things around here.”

This initial mindset that a proposed change is likely to be difficult, costly, and weird acts as a kind of filter, so that even when we’re given genuinely positive and helpful information about the change – that it won’t be hard to implement or that we’ll be fully supported in doing it, for example – we tend to disbelieve that, and assume that either the person proposing the change isn’t being honest or that they don’t really know what’s involved.  

This all results in our negative reactions to a proposed change. When you share a proposed change with your team, they’re starting at the beginning of their change arc in responding to it and are starting out assuming that it will be difficult, costly, and weird.  

As we observed this pattern, in our clients and in ourselves, we then saw something exciting: the mindset shift that catalyzes change. We saw that people start to open up to and then embrace a change when their mindset begins to shift from “this change is going to be difficult, costly and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding and normal.”

This is the heart of the Change Arc. Once someone starts to believe that a change could be easy (or at least doable) to make; that the rewards of making it could outweigh the costs; and that the change could become normal – that is, that it could become “the way we do things,” then that person begins to be willing to operate in the new ways that the change requires, and they will be open to learning and doing those new behaviors so that the change can occur.

QUESTION: In Change from the Inside Out, you wrote, “The leaders of any group are the catalyst for successful change.” What makes a leader an effective catalyst for change?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: When we work with leaders around change, we almost always say to them the sentence you hear on airplanes about oxygen masks: “Put on your own mask before attempting to help others.” The most important thing you as a leader can do to be an effective catalyst for change is to first become personally more change-capable: to get better at moving yourself through the mindset shift around any change well and quickly. After that, the best ways for leaders to help catalyze change are to develop the skills of supporting their teams and their organizations through change – which is what the rest of Change from the Inside Out is all about.

TWEET THIS: The leaders of any group are the catalyst for successful change. ~@erikaandersen #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: Your new book outlines a five-step change model that you say, “integrates the human and practical side of change.” Why is this important?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Most well-known approaches to change either focus primarily on the mechanical, nuts-and-bolts side of making change – like Kotter or Accenture, or they focus primarily on the human side – like Bridges or Adkar. We’ve found that the most successful change efforts do both: make sure that the change itself is clearly thought through, planned, and executed – and at the same time, that the people affected by the change are supported to move through their change arc so that they can accept and respond to the change as it occurs. That’s what our five-step model is designed to do.

QUESTION: Is the five-step model only applicable to large-scale corporate change, or can it be used to move through individual or small group changes, as well?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: The best thing about our five-step model, from my point of view, if that it’s almost infinitely “scope-able.” As a frame, it’s as useful for planning a family move as for moving a 50,000-person organization through a global transformation.

That’s because the five steps are simple and universally applicable:
(1) Clarify the change and why it’s needed
(2) Envision the future state
(3) Build the change
(4) Lead the transition
(5) Keep the change going

Each of the five steps has a handful of practical goals (what needs to be accomplished in that step), which again, can be done simply in a personal situation, or cover a lot of territory in an organizational change. But all of them focus on the two core ideas of thoughtfully planning and executing the change while supporting people psychologically, emotionally, and practically through that change.

QUESTION: What are “change levers?”
ERIKA ANDERSEN: The change levers are four simple approaches you can take to support people through their Change Arc. Like physical levers, they are force multipliers – they can accelerate and ease people through their mindset shift around change:

(1) Increase understanding: Remember, the first thing your folks want is foundational information about the change. Too often, organizations communicate a change in a cheery, superficial way (“We’re going to be converting to a new invoicing system - and it’s great!”) that doesn’t provide what people need – and, in fact, can simply increase their sense of risk. It’s most helpful to create and communicate a simple summary of the change that outlines the three pieces of information that those affected will want to know: what the change will mean for them, why it’s happening, and a verbal “sketch” of the better future you’ll have post-change.

It’s important that the information you share be realistic – that it acknowledges the time and effort the change will require – and that it lets people know how you’ll support them (with information, training, etc.) to make the change. Once you’ve created this “case for change,” expect (and be prepared to answer) questions about it. Remember, people are wired to believe that most change is dangerous, and the only way they’ll be able to shift to a more neutral or positive view of a given change is by getting the necessary information, stories, and experience to help them frame it differently.

(2) Clarify and reinforce priorities: Because we fear change, we tend to over-estimate its impacts. When people hear about an organizational change, they often assume everything is changing and nothing will stay the same which reinforces their fear and hesitation. Letting people know what isn’t changing as well as what is changing can be very reassuring.

For example, let’s say that you’re reorganizing your support services group by type of issue, and away from a geographic focus. By confirming that the roles and responsibilities of the client support staff will remain largely the same, and that their core priorities are still to build and maintain great relationships while resolving issues quickly and well, you can help your people be better prepared to focus on what needs to change, versus worrying about all the things that will be staying very much the same.

(3) Give control: One of the things that feels most dangerous to people about change is that it’s out of their control. Especially with large-scale organizational change, employees can feel almost victimized: at the effect of forces over which they have no say. By giving your people as many choices as possible during the change, you can reduce their fear and discomfort and increase the chances of engagement and buy-in.

A few years ago, we were working with a US-based multinational company that had just acquired another company, headquartered in Latin America. The Chief Human Resources Officer/CHRO of the acquired company was worried about the change. She assumed that the acquiring company would impose their systems and that she would have less influence. In other words, she assumed the change would be difficult, costly, and weird.

To her surprise (and delight), her new boss gave her control in a variety of ways. For instance, he worked with her to come up with the timing for the transition to the new systems, and he asked her to create a communication plan for how and when she wanted to communicate the changes to her team. By giving her as many elements of control as were feasible, her boss helped shift her mindset from negative to more supportive of the change; and she began to focus on how to make the change easier and more rewarding for her team and for the rest of the acquired company’s employees, so they could begin to experience it as the new – and accepted – normal.

(4) Give support. Finally, and most importantly, people need consistent support throughout any change that affects them directly. When things change, people go through a lot of mental and emotional adjustment. Too often, leaders try to talk people out of what they’re feeling or dismiss it all together. Remember, by the time we communicate a change to our people, we’ve generally had some time to go through our own change arc. Then we often expect our employees to be as accepting of the change from that first moment as we are after months of thought, questioning, and mindset shift. Give them a little time to be worried, to hesitate, to ask questions, to want to know the impact on them, even to be sad or anxious.

The single most effective way leaders can give support, especially at the beginning of a change, as those affected are starting to go through their Change Arc, is to listen. Listen deeply, and without trying to explain or reassure. Summarize people’s concerns and make sure that you’ve understood. Ask what you can do to address those concerns and take careful note of the answers.

Rather than labeling people’s initial discomfort and hesitation as resistance, recognize they’re going through the same process you probably went through when you first heard about the change: they need to understand and process the proposed change and then move through their mindset shift about the change. If you give people support in the early days of a change by listening deeply to their concerns and questions, without being dismissive or overly reassuring – they’ll feel heard and supported. Then they’ll be ready to hear about the more tangible support you can offer: training, tools, demos or simulations, mentors, or affinity groups.

QUESTION: What would you most like people to take away from reading your latest book?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: A hopeful message: that we can re-wire each ourselves to become more change-capable. First, we have control over our mindset, and we can learn to think in a more hopeful and neutral way about change. We can shift our thinking about any necessary change from “difficult, costly and weird” to “easy/doable, rewarding and normal.” Second, we can learn and use models for moving through personal and organizational change that address both the practical, tangible aspects of change and the human – more emotional and psychological – side of change. We can get good at this, so that we can enjoy and thrive through this era of non-stop change.

My thanks to Erika for sharing her always amazing and helpful leadership and workplace insights and for appearing here on my Blog again!

Image credits: Wordswag and Erika Andersen.


For more inspiration, check out Erika’s previous appearances on my Blog:

Three Leadership Secrets: Build Consensus, Be Open to Challengers, and Delegate (May 2021)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2021/05/3-leadership-secrets-build-consensus-be.html

Review of: Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen (October 2019)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2019/10/fall-back-to-reading-with-12-thought.html

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience (November 2018)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2018/11/leadership-strategy-amazing-employee.html

Review of: Be Bad First by Erika Andersen (October 2018)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2018/10/fall-reading-recap-leadership-branding.html

Are You the Type of Manager or Leader YOU Would Follow? (January 2014)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2014/01/are-you-type-of-manager-or-leader-you.html

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru? (July 2011)
https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2011/07/want-to-be-nicknamed-strategy-guru.html

Monday, May 2, 2022

Social Media Is a Great Tool for Personal Branding


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Jerry Jose and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jerry Jose is a passionate digital marketer specializing in LinkedIn and Twitter, and is based in India. He's a LinkedIn Specialist by profession and a traveler by heart. He enjoys working with teams and consulting leaders on how to utilize the power of digital marketing to reach out to their audience in the digital world. Jerry strives to help people build their personal brands on social media. As he sees it, "the power of personal branding is tremendous as it allows us to take control of the narrative and offers multiple opportunities to grow and build credibility in our niche." Connect and follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jrryjs and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jerry-jose/.

QUESTION: You created your own hashtag: #socialjj. (Incidentally, I have one for this blog: #DebbieLaskeysBlog.) Why do you recommend that individuals create and use their own hashtags?
JERRY JOSE: I believe if you are working on your personal brand, it's imperative to create a customized hashtag. I always recommend creating a unique personalized hashtag to help users identify your brand and improve brand recall.

LinkedIn allows users to follow the hashtag. The audience can view all your content on one page on LinkedIn instead of scrolling through multiple pages to read all content formats. Add these hashtags to your Twitter bio, and it'll help users identify your Tweets and content quickly.

QUESTION: What social media platform do you think is best for personal branding, and why?
JERRY JOSE: The best social media platform for Personal Branding totally depends on the goals and objectives of each individual's brand. I'll take my example here: I wanted to connect with marketing professionals and help people build their personal brands. As I was comfortable with text format, I chose LinkedIn and Twitter to start my personal branding journey.

In the beginning, identify the content format that you're most comfortable with, then choose the social channel. Focus on one track in the initial days and master the features before exploring new social channels.

TWEET THIS: The best social media platform for Personal Branding totally depends on the goals and objectives of each individual's brand. -@jrryjs #socialjj #DebbieLaskeysBlog #personalbranding


QUESTION: Other than social media, how else do you think individuals should implement personal branding initiatives?
JERRY JOSE: Building a Personal Brand is a consistent effort for everyone. We discover new aspects about ourselves each day and present them to our community through various mediums. Social media is the prominent one, but it doesn't mean that you need only social media to build your Personal Brand. You can create blogs and make followership or an email list for a newsletter series.

One of the best initiatives for me is community meetups. The credibility improves tenfold when you physically meet someone and interact with them. Offline meetups and events are the best ways to establish your Personal Brand, and for the audience, it's the best place to validate your brand.

TWEET THIS: Building a Personal Brand is a consistent effort for everyone. -@jrryjs #socialjj #DebbieLaskeysBlog #personalbranding


QUESTION: In a Forbes article entitled, "10 Golden Rules of Personal Branding," which rule stands out to you as the most important, and why?

(Read the article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/goldiechan/2018/11/08/10-golden-rules-personal-branding/)

JERRY JOSE: Goldie Chan is one of my favorite Personal Branding practitioners. One of my favorite points from this article is about "leaving a legacy." One can leave a legacy behind only when they are clear about their "why." The "why" acts as a motivation and helps us show up every day and improve our work for the community.

QUESTION: Which five people, who you've met through your social media activities, have developed admirable or inspirational personal brands? Please provide brief bios as well as the social platforms where you first met the people.

JERRY JOSE: I've provided some on both LinkedIn and Twitter below. All of them are an inspiration to me and help me every day build a solid personal brand on social channels. The content they share helped me overcome the fear of posting content on social channels. Check them out!

My favorite personal brands on LinkedIn:

Luke Matthews: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukematthws/
Luke, is an amazing marketer where he never talks about the usual marketing stuff. He creates unique content in form of videos, reels, carousels to engage the target audience of the brand. The unique type of content delivery is something that always inspires me and makes me follow his content and learn from him.

Claire Parsons: https://www.linkedin.com/in/claireparsons01/
Claire is one of the best copywriters I've seen. I love the way her content engages the community and provides quality content with a twist. Lately, she has authored a couple of books that help content creators on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Following her content has helped me experiment with my content and become a confident gif poster on LinkedIn.

Shreya Pattar: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shreya-pattar/
Shreya is one of the best inspirations for agency owners. She talks about her freelancing journey and always inspires the community to do well. Her IG Live, LinkedIn posts and now Twitter spaces have helped freelancers plan and communicate better with their clients.

My favorite personal brands on Twitter:

Mustafa Khundmiri: https://twitter.com/mkhundmiri
Mustafa is one of my inspirations on Twitter. He is one of the most humble people I've met on the internet. Even though he has a huge following, he interacts and communicates with small accounts and guides them with their journey on Twitter. It's rare to find such selfless people on the internet

Udit Goenka: https://twitter.com/iuditg
Udit has one of the fastest-growing accounts on Twitter. It really inspirational to see the way he provides value to his community and always focuses on giving. The Twitter spaces he hosts is always focused on giving back to the community and helping them in their journey. Udit shares content revolving around startups, marketing, personal branding and business.

My thanks to Jerry for sharing his amazing personal branding and social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: OI Global Partners.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Happy Employees = Happpy Customers!

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Julie Ann Sullivan and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Julie Ann Sullivan’s diverse background gives her a unique perspective as a business culture expert. She earned a BA in Psychology from Cal State Northridge and an MBA in Accounting from National University in San Diego, earning the designation of CPA. She is an international best-selling author, global podcaster, and designated top global Employee Engagement and Experience Influencer. She has been speaking, training, and coaching for the past 13 years as a catalyst of culture. In her book, Blueprint for Employee Engagement, 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate and Inspire, she created a roadmap for the complex journey to create a best place to work. Her second book, Catalysts of Culture – How Visionary Leaders Activate the Employee Experience, is based on her extensive research, experience and interviews on her podcast, Businesses that Care. Visit her website at https://julieannsullivan.com/ and connect on Twitter @JASatLNE.

QUESTION: You are the founder of Learning Never Ends (awesome branding, by the way!), whose mission is to change the world to better communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, one person at a time. How do you help leaders to tackle and succeed in accomplishing those three things?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: First and foremost, I cannot help any leader unless they recognize that improvement is possible. The 3 C’s, communicate, collaborate and cooperate are building blocks. The first step is communication. It is key on the path to successfully have a team work efficiently and effectively together. 80% of the work that I do overall includes some form of improved communication. Once known as a soft skill, it is essential for prosperous growth and success.

QUESTION: You state on your LinkedIn bio: "Culture is a puzzle. Your missing piece is costing you top talent, fresh ideas, and MONEY$$$. Your culture defines your brand, your people, and your success. Create one that cares (because) #CultureMatters." What is the biggest challenge for organizations when it comes to corporate culture?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: The biggest challenge depends on whether a company recognizes the necessity and ability to create their own culture. If they are already doing that, the challenge is to continue to seek new ideas. That means including their workforce in the creative process. For those that have not begun this journey, the challenge is to know that a perspective outside their organization can see more about what they obviously have been missing. I begin working with a company by creating a unique survey to highlight their biggest challenges and build a plan from a survey’s results.

(Check out Julie Ann's LinkedIn bio here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julieannsullivan.)

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, “Blueprint for Employee Engagement: 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate & Inspire.” Which three of the 37 do you consider the most important, and why?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: This is a tough one. I will pick the three that I think are foundational to all the others:

(1) Communication is first. Without open and honest communication, it is difficult to progress in any area of your business.  
(2) Attitude is second. A person’s attitude determines their willingness to look at new possibilities. This perspective is necessary for change. The good news is that attitude, even optimism can be taught. It is all about changing thought patterns.
(3) Fun is third. There are so many ways to create fun in the workplace. I work with a company that does online employee engagement through gaming online, and it is an excellent way to connect humans to one another. People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures.

TWEET THIS: People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: How can employee engagement lead to effective brand ambassadors?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: Your best customer is your employee. If they are not happy, satisfied, and clear on their purpose, they cannot be the best brand ambassadors. Engagement is multi-faceted. An engaged workforce is your best referral service for new employees and new customers. It may be through someone they know or through discussions at a gathering. Happy employees = Happy customers!

TWEET THIS: Your best customer is your employee. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: Many years ago, I had a boss who told me "to lower (my) expectations" when it came to the employees who reported to me. How would you have responded in that situation?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: If someone you are managing never reaches your expectations, then the issue needs to be analyzed.

Here are two questions you might ask yourself:
(1) Is the person not trained or qualified to complete the task that was asked of them?
(2) Am I not being clear in what is expected?

In either case, a discussion is necessary. Many times, people do not feel comfortable asking for help or admitting that they don’t understand the goal. And sometimes, you might be trying to put a circle in a square. If they are a good employee, perhaps, another opportunity exists within the company.  

QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that orgs want employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Some orgs use different titles, such as, Chief Personnel Officer, Chief Talent Officer, etc. What are your thoughts?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: An employee's experience affects the customer experience. That is a given. If you are a large enough organization to have a Customer Experience Officer, then you might want that person to work in conjunction with an Employee Experience Officer. I have found that many companies aren’t large enough to have either one or both. That is when consultants, like myself, can create a pathway to ensure that the two experiences are connected well.

One final note from Julie Ann: If you are looking for a different way for your teams to engage with one another, learn more about the people they work with, and have a great time on a sophisticated gaming platform, Weve is the place to be. Check it out here: https://weve.grsm.io/8ofph5p1omes.

My thanks to Julie Ann for sharing her inspiring employee experience and workplace insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Count Chris via Unsplash.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Tale of Re-Branding Minus the Customer Experience Piece

Left: Old logo.                                         Right: New logo.

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that ice cream brand Baskin-Robbins changed its logo and overall branding. And while you may be a fan of Baskin-Robbins ice cream, are you a fan of the new logo? The question for the brand to answer is this: Does the new look successfully reflect a new direction for the brand? Only time will tell, but let’s not forget that customer experience remains a critical part of a brand’s identity.

According to Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp on Twitter), “Baskin-Robbins is a heritage brand at this point, so it’s important to keep it fresh especially in a category like ice cream which is not only so competitive, indulgent, and let’s say fun. [But] is the new logo fun enough?”

According to Virginia Bingol, “A heritage brand is a brand with a history going back decades, or even centuries, that manufactures trusted products and uses its respectable image to create an experience associated with its brand. These companies have been around for what feels like forever, and they produce items that are made to last, and also create an image that’s based on both traditional values and creative, innovative designs.”

The new logo will be seen on signage, employee uniforms, and packaging. Original advertising back in 1953 centered around circus iconography, which featured pink and brown colors that are being revived. This is the first major logo update since 2006, and the company will unveil new ice cream flavors as part of the brand refresh. According to the company, the logo went from a childish font using blue and pink colors to a more “grown-up logo featuring brown and pink.”

Jason Maceda, President of Baskin-Robbins, explained, “Our goal is to capture the next generation of ice-cream lovers through our new look and manifesto.” The new branding includes a tagline of “Seize the Yay,” and also includes a limited-edition collection of bikes and skateboards.

Baskin-Robbins has been around for 77 years. Therefore, how often have you visited a Baskin-Robbins store for chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, or your fave flavor? Do you have fond memories from your childhood that you have passed on to your kids and grandkids? What does this brand mean to you? What words or feelings do you associate with this brand? Does the logo fit into your brand associations?

Consider this: there are over 7,700 Baskin-Robbins stores around the world. Since I live in Southern California, there are countless Baskin-Robbins locations nearby. The strange thing, though, is that they provide radically different customer experiences. One store has such a foul smell upon entering that I refuse to visit. Another has such a small space for a line of customers that, especially during the covid pandemic, a 6-foot safety distance was never a possibility, so I never returned. Another has such a friendly man who ALWAYS greets guests with a big smile and hello that I leave feeling happy.

If I were not a marketing pro, I would have no interest in the news about a brand refresh but would only care about the customer experience. These questions should have been addressed by the brand’s leadership team: How do I feel at the stores? How am I greeted? Is my business valued? Do I like the product? And lastly, do I feel happy?

But I AM a marketing pro, so I think a great idea that the Baskin-Robbins leadership team should have considered was this: Launch an electric vehicle (EV) with the colors of the limited-edition ice cream flavors on a rotating basis around the globe – and raffle them off to customers. Electric vehicles are increasing in popularity. Without a doubt, they would appeal to the “family” and next generation of ice cream fans demographic that Baskin-Robbins aspires to appeal to.

While the leadership team at Baskin-Robbins spent four years planning this brand refresh, it appears that no one spent any time analyzing the customer experience part of the refresh. That was a big mistake, don’t you agree?


Image Credit: Baskin-Robbins.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Social Media Is All About Connection, Trust and Strategy

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Deb Coman and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Deb Coman is a content conversion strategist who empowers service-based business owners to create trust-building content that generates sales, referrals, and collaborations. Deb hosts a weekly Twitter Chat called #SocialTrust Mondays at 3pm Eastern time on Twitter and was featured by BuzzSumo in its Top 100 Content Marketers to Follow Right Now. Deb’s Content Conversion Lab and private services help clients simplify their marketing with actionable steps that build trust and create alignment, consistency, and connection. Visit her website at http://www.DebComan.com, at www.LinkedIn.com/DebComan, and on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @DebComanWriting.

QUESTION: You begin your Twitter profile as follows, “Meaningful connection thru trust-building content strategy." Can you please explain?

DEB COMAN: Content is an outstanding way to connect with people. When we understand how it builds trust, we create content that brings value and meaning that establishes and nurtures relationships. It’s only through these relationships that we create opportunities for sales, referrals, and collaborations. Engaging with and creating meaningful conversations is step one in the process.

QUESTION: You talk about the “4C Method” for creating email content. Can you please elaborate?
DEB COMAN: My 4C Method for creating content has four trust-building steps:

(1) Clarity: Start with CLARITY about your message: who it’s for, what they need, and how you provide the solution.
(2) Connection: Create content with an intention of CONNECTION, not a sale. Be of service. Add value. Build trust.
(3) Consistency: CONSISTENCY builds trust and relationships. Be consistent with your content in frequency as to how often you post, blog, and send emails. Be consistent and aligned in your message.
(4) Conversion: Move conversations from social media feeds, blog comments, and email campaigns to a one-on-one conversation to explore what’s possible for CONVERSION in the way of collaborations, referrals, and sales.

QUESTION: What is your favorite social media platform for your personal branding, and why?
DEB COMAN: I love Twitter where you can find me at @DebComanWriting because it’s the easiest platform to create connection and build trust with content. I’ve been hired, referred, featured as an expert, and made long-term meaningful (and profitable!) business connections that started with a single tweet or reply. (Connect with me there to see how it’s done).

I host a weekly Twitter Chat called #SocialTrust Mondays at 3pm Eastern time featuring guest experts and topics to help service-based small business owners and brands stand out and build trust online. This Twitter Chat is designed to be an easy way (even for Twitter newbies) to participate and gain visibility and connections. It’s followed by an audio conversation on Twitter Spaces.

QUESTION: If a business brand were going to dedicate all of its attention and resources toward ONLY one social media platform, which would you recommend, and why?
DEB COMAN: With over 211 million active daily users, your ideal audience is likely on Twitter. If you have a presence there or are able to quickly get up to speed with the basics, you can create opportunities for your business on Twitter.

If you’re not comfortable learning how to use Twitter, it’s important to find the platform where your ideal audience not only hangs out but engages and where you are not only comfortable, but have a strategy.

Success on social media requires these 3 things:

(1) Your ideal audience is present and active.
(2) You’re comfortable creating high value content that suits the platform.
(3) You have a content strategy like the 4C Method that leads to conversion.

TWEET THIS: Find the platform where your ideal audience not only hangs out but engages. ~@DebComanWriting #SMTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: What three tips would you give to a business brand to conduct an effective and successful email marketing campaign?
DEB COMAN: For an email marketing campaign (and any other content) to be profitable, you need to:

(1) Define a specific intention or outcome for the content.
(2) Choose a topic that demonstrates you have the solution to a problem they’re ready to solve.
(3) Establish your credibility and trust by sharing stories, results, and client outcomes.

With all your content, strive to be yourself, share as much of your personal story as you’re comfortable with, and seek to connect and engage with your audience as you build trust and deepen relationships.

TWEET THIS: With all your content, strive to be yourself. ~@DebComanWriting #SMTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog


My thanks to Deb for sharing her social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Daniel Olah via Unsplash.