Thursday, September 6, 2018

Achieving the Vision: Understanding the Emotionally Connected Coach

By Louis Carter

With its origins as far back as 1830 when Oxford used the term coaching as slang for, “A tutor who carries a student through an exam,” coaching has been used in various forms in business. Through the 1950s and 80s, business coaching began to catch on and CEOs and managers began to understand the importance of having an outside view from a professional who is not constantly in the day-to-day weeds of the leader’s business. Over the past 30-plus years, executive coaching has rapidly evolved into a must-have for business leaders desiring to have greater insight, professional guidance, and more clarity for successfully fulfilling their leadership roles.
The Emotionally Connected (EC) Coach
One of the most requested tasks asked of executive coaches is, “How can I get my employees more engaged in their work?” Though not a simple task to undertake, consultants and coaches alike have tinkered with and devised various processes and systems to offer solutions to the engagement challenge. These efforts have provided good, temporary solutions at best that, although beneficial to the organization, most of them offered only a morsel of hope.
But it turns out achieving employee engagement is really not as complicated as we make it out to be. In all my years of coaching, consulting, writing, inventing, leading, advising and teaching, I have found that a cohesive work environment where people are engaged in their work, is the result of people experiencing a true sense of respect. This sense of respect is the result of a feeling of emotional connectedness. Without a connection emotionally, employees don’t, and can’t, feel respected. This is truly what that often elusive target of employee engagement boils down to. All of the other tips, tricks, and training seem somewhat peripheral once leaders grasp this concept.
Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) for Emotionally Connected Leadership
Stakeholder Centered Coaching is a transformational executive coaching process that is extremely effective because it is based on co-creation with stakeholders and the active practice of change.  The process has proven to have a 95% success rate with leaders. The process of SCC involves five steps:
  1. Defining focused leadership growth areas important to the leader and the organization
  2. Soliciting buy-in from all stakeholders to be part of the process
  3. Stakeholder-based planning
  4. Leading change involving monthly stakeholder input
  5. Measuring leadership growth as perceived by stakeholders using the mini-survey process
Overall the SCC model brings more accountability and results to the coaching. It also creates a culture where growing others is the responsibility of the organization and not just the management team. Any good executive coach worth his salt could make a difference in the performance of the leader by focusing on leadership assessments and action planning. This is a good strategy and does provide some positive change in the short term. The problem is that it doesn’t change the environment’s perception where others see that change has occurred.
SCC takes the leadership change process further, outside the leader’s office, and into their work environment with the stakeholders. Because of their outside-looking-in view, stakeholders can provide important and insightful suggestions for behavioral change that would be beneficial for the leader. An added benefit is that the stakeholders’ begin focusing more on the desired change and then their perception changes as their focus grows stronger. Utilizing SCC creates change that is sustained and that is recognized by stakeholders in the workplace, creating true value for the stakeholders, the leader, and the organization.
Know Thyself
None of us plan on disrespecting our team members. It’s just that our focus is on other things like providing direction for the company and improving shareholder value. This is why taking a time-out to tune-up is so essential. You need to know how others perceive you and if you are showing respect for others and developing the needed emotional connectedness. In other words, you need to be more self-aware.
Successful CEOs and other leaders are those who can see themselves more clearly regarding their balance of trust and respect as seen by their employees. Research has shown that self-awareness was highest among the most successful CEOs and lowest for CEOs of the worst performing companies. The overarching goal of self-awareness and knowing yourself is to understand your strengths and to determine any of your development needs.
There is a process of co-creation and transformation that happens with SCC that doesn’t happen with other executive coaching methods. Involving stakeholders is critical to the change process because it creates shared accountability for change. Additionally, SCC creates more interdependent and trusting relationships with supportive stakeholders. Because stakeholders are specifically asked about behavioral shifts, they become more involved in your growth, which is extremely beneficial because they now become a part of the shift in perception you’re creating by actively assisting you through the process.
To ensure you are doing your part as a change agent, I have devised a tool for measurement that consists of a dashboard to mark progress along the five elements of EC that is explained in my upcoming book, In Great Company: How to Spark Peak Performance by Creating an Emotionally Connected Workplace.” But regardless of the system you use, some form of measurement needs to be assessed regularly that will provide reliable data.
Implementing In Great Company: Emotional Connectedness (EC)
To understand the concept of emotional connectedness is one thing, but to adopt it, embrace it, and live it is another. A good coach will help bring to light any weaknesses and areas where improvement is recommended. This person will offer tools that will help the leader improve on particular skills. However, as mentioned earlier, Stakeholder Centered Coaching provides the leader with a panoramic view of their status as a leader. It allows the leader to see the things that are unknown because no one has had the outlet to share them before.
In my years of conducting research for my various books and consulting with many businesses in various industries, I’ve found that the number one thing that motivates people to high performance is a feeling of respect. Remember, it is that emotional connectedness that everyone craves. But how do you as a leader provide EC? What can you do now to begin the EC process and instill it in others?
Here are five pointers that are necessary for implementing EC:
  1. Open Communication
To begin, the leader of the organization needs to immediately open lines of communication between teams, department heads, and everyone who contributes to a project so that information and advice is shared freely. The point is that you are trying to create connections, a sense of belonging to the bigger picture.
2. Generate a Positive Future
Employees love to work in an environment where every day there is a sense of possibility and positivity in the air. From the CEO down, people are making positive, forward-thinking statements about what is possible now and in the future. Employees are sure of their strengths and receive regular feedback on their performance. Everyone knows the direction the company is heading and all oars are paddling in the same direction. This sense of positive attitudes is foundational for generating emotional connectedness. 
  1. Walk the Talk
Many business leaders have values that they hold dear and communicate with their department heads and employees on a regular basis. But how do these stakeholders perceive the leader? Do they see the CEO walking the talk? Have they witnessed the leader living these written or spoken values? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions for many organizations would be in the negative.
To ensure the leader is not only communicating their values but living them, I combine SCC with my Sparking Peak Performance through emotional connectedness model (as outlined in “In Great Company”), to create a platform whereby guaranteed and measurable leadership growth is attained. 
  1. Establish Respect Early
Successful companies that win awards for best places to work have interwoven throughout the organization a sense of respect at every level. There is respect for the leadership team, respect for the customers, respect for vendors, respect for the community, and respect for one another. Leaders in companies like Zappos, American Express, and Mayo Clinic make it a priority to lead the way in creating a respectful environment by being the first to show respect. Respect is the result of emotional connectedness and emotional connectedness is the result of respect. 
  1. Set Up People for Success
When projects are completed on schedule, when sales quotas are met, when quality goods and services are provided to the customer, the company and the employees win. Allow team members to succeed by giving them the necessary tools and time and empower them to make critical decisions. Some of the best work is accomplished when employees are given permission to fail. This empowerment is fuel for EC.
Beginning the Process
Executive coaching has been around for a number of years producing excellent results for leaders in nearly every industry and nation. As with so many developments resulting from new data collected from the study of leadership processes and management strategies, the use of Stakeholder Centered Coaching is true “the next best thing.” As a top advisor to C-level executives of major companies, I’ve seen SCC produce amazing results and I know that it works.
But taking SCC to another, even more, results-producing level, I combine SCC with EC to help leaders connect the dots of not only self-awareness and self-improvement based on assessments from other stakeholders, but also to understand how to get employees more engaged in their work and the company through creating EC.
Based on the information above, you already have the necessary tools to make this happen, but studies have found that having a coach increases your likelihood of success because the coach provides a structure for continuous follow-up and the practice of change. Because of my background, expertise, and experience, I can guide you toward lasting behavioral change to have the greatest impact of success in your organization. Quoting Oxford, I can be your “tutor carrying you through the exam.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

WorkFusion’s Free Automation Training: Catapults Users Ahead of the Competition

Keeping pace with ever-changing technology, business leaders look for better, more convenient ways to learn about new technologies and how to implement them. A Harvard Business Review article revealed that American companies spend a lot of money on training and educating employees at all levels. In fact, in 2015 over $160 billion was spent in the United States and close to $356 billion went out globally with disappointing returns on their investment. With more and more businesses adopting robotic process automation (RPA), and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the efficiency of some business functions, business leaders are looking for an edge to jumpstart their entry into this new world of business. Thankfully, WorkFusion, the company that offers solutions for digital operations, has put together a free online training program that brings leaders up to speed in a short about of time, giving those businesses an edge over the competition.

Back to School
Online training isn’t new and has been used by major universities worldwide for over 20 years. Not only does online training offer convenience, saving travel time, tuition fees, and more, it’s been proven that online training also offers a better style of learning over many subjects. In an MIT study supported by Google, it was discovered that the amount of information learned using online training was somewhat greater than what was learned in traditional, lecture-based courses. In addition, those students who were least prepared, as revealed on their pretest scores, showed the same level of increased improvement as the prepared students or those already processing particular skills.

In a nutshell, RPA is the application of technology that allows employees to configure computer software (the robotic phase), to interpret already existing applications, manipulate data, and communicate with other digital systems. Although it may sound too futuristic to get one’s head around, it is a very simplistic way to automate many routine, mundane tasks so they are accomplished with fewer mistakes. It is painless to learn. Last summer, WorkFusion launched an education portal called ‘Automation Academy’ to assist IT and Operations teams worldwide to learn more about RPA and how businesses can improve efficiency, therefore streamlining labor costs. The training materials are available for free and there are other classes and exams offered to help grow and fine-tune new automation skills. 

According to a recent Deloitte article, business leaders considering implementing RPA should follow a five-step process to develop an automation strategy that looks beyond the initial deployment and defines how automation will grow within every aspect of the organization. These include:
  1. Assess for automation opportunities
  2. Build your business case
  3. Determine the optimal operating model
  4. Identify your automation partner(s)
  5. Plan the automation roadmap

But the first step is to get familiar with the overall process so that you can understand how RPA and AI can give your business a boost ahead of the competition. The Automation Academy lets you learn at your own pace and keeps track of your progress. The courses are divided into modules and once you complete one, you can either go onto the next one or go back at any time and review previous courses. There are quizzes at the end of the modules to test your knowledge and you get five attempts to pass them, giving you ample time to understand any missed questions before going forward.

In the fast-paced world of business, RPA is simply a wise business decision because it breaks down previous barriers to progress and provides greater efficiency and accuracy. Learning how RPA can benefit your business and how to implement it is easy and painless. You simply sign up at Automation Academy, and begin learning at your pace.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Making Small Businesses More Profitable Through Machine Learning and AI

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In today’s competitive business environment, small businesses are always looking for opportunities that will give them that certain “oomph,” that special something that gives them an edge over the competition. Developing a great product and providing over-the-top customer service is still foundational to success, but implementing tools and systems such as machine learning and artificial intelligence that streamline time-consuming tasks can help to increase that success. 

It doesn’t take a Stanford graduate to see the use of robotic process automation (RPA) in businesses like Amazon, or automation software being used by Facebook and Google, but it can be a little mind-blowing to consider that the same machine learning technologies can be used in your business. It’s not as large an endeavor or as big an expense as some imagine. If it can help your business to profit more, it is worth examining the realities of its implementation. 

What is Machine Learning?
For those of us who grew up watching the Jetsons, much of today’s business techno tools can seem a little out there. But like the operation our smart phones, iPads, air conditioners and cars, we don’t have to know how it works, just that it does. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence are technologies the can provide business solutions today without really understanding the ends and outs, but here is a quick, and extremely brief lowdown on ML and artificial intelligence.

In simple terms, machine learning is basically a class of algorithms allowing computers to perform pattern matching extremely efficiently. Even simpler, it is the machine’s ability to keep improving its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish what it accomplishes. Rather than being specifically programmed for a particular outcome, the machine learns from examples. These machines are built by humans, but the machines are learning from examples and using structured feedback to solve on their own problems. 

Around since the 1970s, with more being developed and refined over time, these machine algorithms have proven to be too costly for small businesses in the past. But now access to cloud computing resources, including vendors who make ML models available with a wealth of data generated by SaaS products, make it possible for small business to design their own machine learning models.

Machine learning improves business productivity because it allows you to automate different things. For example, if your business is one that has encountered various customer fraud issues, through machine learning, you can set parameters in your online checkout system that flags the finance department when a particular order is deemed to be medium to high risk. You can even set it to cancel high risk orders automatically before the order is processed.

Artificial Intelligence
Another futuristic term, artificial intelligence (AI), has finally gained some traction since Dartmouth math professor, John McCarthy coined the term in 1955. AI is providing advances in the areas of cognition and perception, currently creating breakthroughs in voice recognition. We see AI generating continuing improvements in products such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. In fact, Stanford computer scientist James Landay conducted a study last year and found that speech recognition is now about three times as fast as typing on a cell phone.

The speed of AI developments is snowballing. Landau’s study uncovered that the improvement in speed of voice recognition didn't occur over many years, but during the summer of 2016 and is expected to gain even greater momentum over the next few years. 

Making ML and AI Work For You
To begin integrating ML and AI into your business, begin with your most pressing pain points. Where are they?

  • Compliance control issues?
  • Improving operational speed and accuracy?
  • Reducing or eliminating fraud?
  • Improving salesforce success rate?
  • Increasing customer integration?
  • Reducing employee turnover?

Implementing ML and AI into your business doesn’t mean you have to be a data scientist and start from scratch developing your own systems. Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, Google and others sell or rent the necessary algorithms and hardware. And the competition heat is on with more and more companies offering products and services creating competition and lower prices. One good resource is WorkFusion. With WorkFusion’s Smart Process Automation (SPA), businesses can digitize operations with RPA bots, cognitive bots, intelligent automation, analytics and more.

You don’t have to go big with ML or AI or wait until you become a $60 billion business. You can start small and allow your systems to improve themselves as more data is gathered and built into the systems. The future is here and the smart business leaders are learning to embrace and experiment with the various ML and AI innovations available today.

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