Engagement Training & Development

Considering Major Organizational Change? Listen Up!

“Executives who initiate strategic change without engaging managers in the process disrespect them by dismissing their work and institutional knowledge.

While organizational change isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be made more painful by those in charge.” Sybil F. Stershic

Those in middle and front-line management who are most affected by change are more than willing to share their ideas on how to best to minimize disruptions and help employees adapt.

Ignore them at your peril, unless you’re looking for an expedited path to disengagement and turnover.

[Image source unknown.]


Remember When? Help Now from Then

Then. When the world as we knew it came to an alarming stop in March 2020, there were so many unknowns. In lockdown limbo, we learned how much we took for granted: meeting with friends; exchanging handshakes and hugs; going to an office or workplace; in-person grocery shopping; attending family, school, sports, and other social activities; etc.

We managed to get through it as medical and mental health providers helped us cope with our all-consuming stress back then. For example, here’s a set of “quarantine questions” I found online when we were struggling with anxiety at the pandemic’s outset.

Now. The same questions are worth sharing today because they’re timeless, regardless of what individual and collective difficulties we face.

I’d add a 7th question to this list, however:
What lightness in the form of good-natured humor am I sharing to generate smiles and laughter today?

[Original source of quarantine questions unknown]

Engagement Training & Development

Time for a Reality Check

Now that the hectic holidays are behind us, we have quality time to reflect on 2023 and consider what we’ll do better in 2024. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to harp on making hard-core resolutions.)

My recommended reality check is in the form of three thought-provoking considerations:

  • Question why we do what we do, and if it’s valuable for us.
  • Better assess our influences by being thoughtful about the people and media we follow.
  • Take time to reflect and think about what we want to do that is meaningful.

Invest in yourself by exploring these considerations and figuring out what to do, what not to do, and what to change (if anything).

This valuable process will enable you to discover and choose what to no longer waste time on, what to avoid that may cause you regret, and what engages you more fully.

Special thanks to Yoshi Garnica, CEO of Agile Mind Lab, whose post inspired these considerations.

[Photo by Cyrielle on Unsplash]


More than just-for-fun: how playing leads to better understanding

It’s true:
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation.”  [attributed to Plato]

This was confirmed in feedback from a group of professionals for whom I recently had the privilege of providing a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop.

This special session was designed to bring a small group of department managers and supervisors together, who work in the office and/or remotely, to connect and better understand each other in a safe, engaging way.

Verbatim comments included:

“It got me to think internally about my role and growth but also add an extra value and appreciation for my team, their roles, and talents.”

“It helped to connect with co-workers and see how they thought. To see them interact with one another and think alike was very positive.”

“Today’s session helped me experience the team’s unity. We all had different ideas, thoughts, but we were all joined in a single purpose and this is to serve our community.”

As a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator, I find it gratifying to witness the group’s progress from their initial reactions about playing with LEGO® bricks at work -ranging from skepticism to amusement – to their full immersion in the process of shared understanding and unexpected joy in the process.

[Photos by Sybil F. Stershic]

Customer service Engagement

A Wasted Opportunity

I was seated next to a new executive in the parent company of an organization where I was a decades-long customer.

We introduced ourselves at this network function, and I shared how wonderful the receptionist is at one of their locations. In fact, it’s the only location I chose to frequent because this frontline professional was most welcoming, courteous, engaging, and a delight to interact with – a true brand ambassador.

Because I believe in recognizing and reinforcing great service, I told the receptionist I’d spoken highly of her to this executive and mentioned how lucky the company was to have her on staff.

Fast forward months later: I saw the receptionist and thanked her (again) for how well she took care of me and other customers. That’s when I was disappointed to learn that neither the executive – nor anyone else from management – reached out to acknowledge the positive feedback given about her.

How much effort would it have taken for the executive to have shared this unsolicited praise with the receptionist? Or even just passed it along to the employee’s supervisor to follow up?

A meaningful opportunity to recognize a valuable employee was wasted.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 75% of employees cited a lack of appreciation as one of the top reasons they leave their job.

The impact of their leaving is more than a matter of employee turnover:

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” Sybil F. Stershic

[Image credit: Thomas Park on Unsplash]


Why Your Company Needs a Holiday+ Celebration

Let’s start with the “what” before I explain the “why” you need to hold a special event this time of year.

Your options to recognize employees during the November/December holidays, OR wrap-up the year’s results, OR kick-off goals for the new year will depend:

  • on what you’ve done in the past and whether you want to continue it or try something new & different. If you’ve never held an holiday, year-end wrap, or new business year launch event, maybe it’s time.
  • on what employees might want to do. (Have you ever asked them?)
  • on what makes sense based on your workplace culture, leadership (in alignment with or in spite of the prevailing culture), and available resources (budget, scheduling, venue, etc.).

Once you decide to acknowledge your employees for whatever purpose fits best, it’s time to decide on what, when, and where. (With hospitality staffing issues, don’t wait too long to book your on-site catering or off-site venue this November through January.)

Here’s why celebrating your employees now – or any time – matters.

According to one of the best leaders I had the privilege of working with:

“Everyone wants to be part of something … everyone wants to feel that they are valued, that they made a difference. To the degree we can celebrate our people, that’s our greatest weapon, our greatest tool.” Bob Wood

Employees feeling valued … isn’t that what you want as an outcome of your holiday or year-end event?

If you’re looking to make it truly special, consider a session of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® that engages your employees in a uniquely fun, memorable, and stress-free way.

Some may scoff at the idea of playing with LEGO® bricks in a work-related situation, yet research has found play is important to mental health, regardless of age.

“Play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being.”[Jennifer Wallace, “Why It’s Good for Grown-Ups to Go Play,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2017

That’s why I recommend a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® experience for your employees as part of your holiday or year-end event. As a certified facilitator, I’ve seen the power of LSP in enabling teams to strengthen their connection to each other. They appreciate – and enjoy – the opportunity to engage in play at work in way that’s fun but not frivolous. (Email me to explore how you can build a meaningful and memorable event for your employees with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.)

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate the season with your employees, make it a worthwhile event where people enjoy themselves and feel valued.

[Image: Baustin Curtis from Pixabay]


In Memory of a Class Act

It was the late 1960’s when I got to see David McCallum (be still my teenaged heart) in person in Minneapolis, MN – close enough to get this photo of him.

Fresh off his success as Illya Kuryakin in the popular TV series, The Man from Uncle, McCallum was the featured guest speaker at a national conference for volunteers (like myself) who worked with children with Down Syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The conference was hosted by the organization now known as The Arc, and McCallum was their national spokesperson then.

I was one of several members representing YOUTH PARC: Youth Organized and United To Help the Pennsylvania Arc at this conference. Besides networking with other youth Arc volunteers throughout the U.S., the main draw was hearing this celebrity share his passion for helping the children we served.

Sadly, David McCallum passed away a few days ago. Well known for his roles in The Man from Uncle and in NCIS (as pathologist “Ducky” Mallard), among other roles in movies and TV shows, I don’t know how many others knew this side of him.

His online obituaries acknowledge this man as a talented actor, musician, renaissance man, family man, and gentleman. These tributes reinforce the wonderful man that I first met at that youth conference decades ago.

I didn’t see an actor who was full of himself. Instead, I saw a kind-hearted man who sincerely advocated for children with developmental disabilities. He was also most genuine and approachable. While you can’t see it from the cropped photo above, McCallum didn’t speak from the podium. Instead, he sat at the end of the stage with Kenny Robinson, president of the YOUTH Arc, to address the audience. I’ve treasured this beautiful memory ever since.

Thank you, David McCallum. You were a class act.

Rest in peace.

[Photo by Sybil F. Stershic]

Engagement Training & Development

Where to go when you need emotional first aid

How do we cope when we’re bombarded with crisis after crisis? Weather-related disasters, hate crimes, political and economic struggles, rampant mistrust and distrust, etc.

If you’re looking to understand how we can help ourselves and each other get through difficult times, I recommend the free online library of Global Facilitators Serving Communities (GFSC), a volunteer facilitator network providing materials, methods, and mentoring to help communities in crisis.

GFSC’s Library contains articles and guides that cover psychosocial crisis management or, more simply, “emotional first aid” topics for individuals, facilitators, and leaders, including:

  • managing grief, anxiety and stress

  • emotional recovery

  • building resilience

  • communicating, leading in crisis situations

  • caring for caregivers

GFSC’s Library materials includes insights and perspectives from different countries and cultures, with many articles available in English and Spanish.

I invite you to explore this online resource and check out one of its most popular articles: A Light in This Dark Valley Guide-A Guide for Emotional Recovery: “Fifty Things You Can Do When There is Nothing Else to Do” by Gilbert Brenson-Lazan and Maria Mercedes Sarmiento Diaz.

This is just one of many helpful articles available for individual and community development.

I also invite you to share GFSC’s Library with others you know who may be in need of emotional first aid.

[Image credit: Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay]

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

An Engaging Journey on the Impact Revolution Channel

It’s happened. I’ve reached the point when I’m invited to speak on podcasts whose hosts are much younger than I am.

Does this make me feel old?

Surprisingly, no. It makes me appreciative of how much business experience I have to share. Keeping a positive mindset, I prefer to think of it as “sharing my experience” rather than “providing a historical perspective.”

All kidding aside, I’m flattered that younger business professionals are interested in my career journey in internal marketing for employee-customer engagement.

I’m especially encouraged by this next generation of leaders that understand the value and need to foster a positive workplace culture.

Case in point: Yoshi Garnica, CEO of Agile Mind Lab, whose work is focused on helping leaders apply what’s needed to create and sustain a “human-centered culture” that promotes meaningful work for employee well-being, productivity and success. Yoshi hosts the “Impact Revolution” channel where experts and entrepreneurs share successful business practices.

As a recent guest on his show, we talked about how I found my passion for employee-customer engagement and how it resulted in my creating a marketing and facilitation business without a formal education in either field. (Hint: it takes committing to continuous learning, lots of practice, and seeking guidance from mentors; i.e., proactive professional development.) We also covered “lessons learned” that starting solopreneurs can learn from.

Listen to this engaging 30 minute conversation here:

Customer service Engagement Marketing

Why I’m More Hopeful

Throughout my career there were times I felt like a tiny voice in the management void.

As an early advocate of internal marketing – a strategic blend of Marketing and Human Resources that focused on taking care of employees to take care of customers – I found companies bought into the concept but not its practice. A typical response: “It says right here in our annual report that employees are our most valuable asset, so we don’t need your services.”

Despite encountering executives unwilling to invest in internal marketing, my passion for employee-customer care kept me going. Perseverance also led me to business leaders who recognized internal marketing’s value and wanted me to help them do more.

My new favorite equation

Now I’m more hopeful than ever about internal marketing for two reasons:

  1. Thanks to the focus on the employee experience as a key competitive differentiator, there is continuing interest in applying internal marketing (also referred to as employer branding).
  2. I’m especially happy to share I’m no longer a voice in the wilderness as building a brand from the inside out is being embraced by a new generation of marketers that include Ron Johnson, co-founder and managing Director of Blueprint Creative.

Ron has taken my internal marketing approach of blending Marketing and HR further: he advocates a stronger, more formal integration of the two functions in “The Bhranding Equation: Branding + HR = Bhranding” that is reflected in his quote:

“Customers will never love a business that is hated by its employees.” Ron Johnson

My new favorite business book

Ron is also the author of Tighten Your Shoelaces: How the World’s Leading Companies Defend and Grow Their Brands During a Crisis (and How You Can, Too!), a book I recommend.

Along with explaining his Bhranding Equation, Ron shares real-life examples of how companies protected and strengthened their brands when faced with the global pandemic and other business, social, economic, and environmental crises. This book is insightful and easy to read as Ron writes in a way that makes readers feel as if he is speaking directly with them. I see “Tighten Your Shoelaces” becoming a classic that will stand the test of time in both crises and non-crises situations.

As internal marketing has evolved into Bhranding, it’s gratifying to know a new generation is carrying employee-customer care forward.

[Photo credit: image by Silvia from Pixabay]