Tag: Employee Engagement

Measurement & Insight

“You must get involved to have an impact. No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.” John H. Holcomb

To have an impact means to have a marked influence – a strong effect on someone or something. Impact is often associated with measurement and reward in organizations, and the phrase “What gets measured gets done” has been attributed to Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, W. Edwards Deming, Lord Kelvin and others. It is true – impact is only seen historically, after the fact.

We define Measurement & Insight as the efficient and effective use of data to inform future development of the organization at all levels, including collection, interpretation, communication and decision-making. The purpose of Measurement & Insight is to understand what impact the organization has delivered in different areas and to enable decisions that will create the most value in the future.

Be careful what you ask for

In the decades to come, when organizational management from the 1970s to the 2010s is looked back on, it is likely that ‘metrics’ will be a key topic. We think that the use of measurement-based approaches such as KPIs (key performance indicators), SLAs (service level agreements), incentivized pay schemes and others might be viewed as, at best, misguided and clumsy and, at worst, crude and ineffective.
We are strong supporters of measurement and insight as an aid to decision-making and accountability. Measurement and insight in themselves are not the issue.

The digital revolution has made it much easier and cheaper to measure multiple dimensions of an organization’s activities and this has led to what has seemed like an almost obsessive, simplistic application on the basis that it is ‘the answer.’ But metrics are a support to, rather than a substitute for, thinking. It is the simplistic way in which they are applied by organizations’ leaders that can cause issues, and sometimes catastrophic damage. Measurement is immensely powerful – either for good or ill – and the outcome is dependent on the level and quality of leadership involvement, just like in the quote above.

“Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.” Barack Obama

The American Nobel Prize winner for economics Joseph Stiglitz observes that “What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong metrics, we will strive for the wrong things” – or, in other words, if you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing. The notion that you can’t manage what you don’t measure is a trap. Deciding what to measure is so much more important than the measuring itself.

We are in favour of a broader approach to measurement and insight, and we admire the way that, if used as intended, the balanced scorecard has stood the test of time since it was proposed in 1992. The triple bottom line (otherwise called the TBL or 3BL) is a more recent accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. Some organizations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value.

Measuring and sustaining behaviour

An over-reliance on simplistic measurement by numbers is dangerous. Impact also needs to be assessed at a less quantitative, more qualitative level. A combination of carefully considered metrics or quantitative measures (to provide direction) and a collection of qualitative data (e.g. narrative, story and open comments) clarifying the impact on individuals and groups of stakeholders provides a much richer picture of impact and the context within which this happens.

While stories might not seem ‘measurable’ by numbers, management educator Henry Mintzberg proposed starting “from the premise that we can’t measure what matters.” Mintzberg suggested that this gives leaders the best chance of realistically facing up to their challenges. Stories are a particularly fruitful way of communicating.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in the Measurement & Insight is the fifth (and final) Element of the SERVICEBRAND approach and is applied equally to the previous four Elements: Brand Identity, Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Systems & Processes.

The SERVICEBRAND approach helps to capture and present your data and the insight generated from it as ‘intelligence’ to make decisions. If you are not making decisions based on your measurement and insight, why are you collecting the data? If this is an area you would like to improve, please give us a call, and see how we can help you.

Customer Journey Mapping

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” Steve Jobs

One of the most helpful tools for Customer Experience Management is customer journey mapping, used to understand and define the customer experience. There are many variations of this technique, and our aim is to highlight some points for you to bear in mind if you think this might be a useful initiative. Your customer’s journey is each of the interactions they have with your organization through your various touch points. This could be instore, via email or social media, the in-person service they receive or the online interactions they have with your employees.

65% of customers are more influenced by great experience than by advertising. If you get your customer journey right, you are more likely to create happy and loyal customers. Many of these will go on to be excellent word of mouth ambassadors for your brand, as well as repeat customers.

How to map your map

Start by considering the end-to-end journey of the customer, even if this includes areas over which you have little or no control. If you are a train company, the local car park is part of your customers’ experience. It will affect customers’ perception of your offer (even if it is provided by a third party) and might have an impact on your business (e.g., the car park is always full, is badly maintained or is prone to vandalism and there is another train station close by).

Common sense

At each stage of the customer journey, all the senses need to be considered to design and implement the optimum customer experience. In a banking client’s office, we discovered that mail room employees wheeled a trolley through the reception area, where important visitors were awaiting their host. The trolley had the loudest squeaky wheels you can imagine and clearly this did not support and reinforce the smooth, sophisticated image the bank wished to portray.

The senses can be used to emphasize the uniqueness of a branded customer experience. Abercrombie & Fitch was one of the first businesses to use scents in their stores and in their marketing. In Ritz Carlton hotels you will hear employees say, “It’s my pleasure” and never “That’s Ok” or “No problem”. Tiffany’s iconic shade of ‘robin’s egg’ blue, trademarked as Tiffany Blue is ubiquitous on everything from jewellery boxes to shopping bags to advertising.

Know, do, feel

It is also important to think about what you want the customer to know, do and feel at each stage of the journey or at key touchpoints. Using the example of a hotel registration, welcoming a guest back to the hotel and providing them with a registration card for their signature lets them know that you have remembered their previous visit, prompts them to provide their signature and makes them feel valued as a returning guest. The key card can then be issued in a small card ‘wallet’ displaying their room number and signature so they can present it to charge any services to their room account during their stay. This wallet can also include other information about the hotel’s facilities, and the receptionist can offer to make a dinner reservation before directing the guest to their room.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we help organizations to develop their customer journey maps as a foundational tool in their Customer Experience strategy. If you think this is an area that could help improve customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales, why not see how the SERVICEBRAND approach could help you?

Customer Experience and Growth

Research into the value of understanding the customer experience is consistently returning findings that show a huge percentage of customers are willing to pay more to have a better, easier, and more comfortable experience with the brands and organizations they interact with.

It is not just the customers benefiting from more care and attention being placed into the customer experience. Studies also show a huge increase in revenue in the three years after organizations have implemented a successful customer experience strategy.

Despite the positive research results, it seems many organizations are still reluctant to embrace the idea of investing in a quality customer experience strategy.

What is CX?

Despite customer experience (CX) being spoken of as the next frontier in business growth, many leaders and organizations don’t fully understand just how many elements feed into the experience customers have when they interact with a business.

CX can be considered as the journey your customer takes from the moment they become aware of your brand, to the moment they decide they want no other service but yours. It used to be that advertising companies would convince the customer of their need for your offering. But with such a competitive market in the present day, the onus is now on the organization to offer the best experience possible to customer, to keep them loyal.

When organizations are offering slightly different versions of the same thing, the experience becomes the key and defining factor in purchase decisions. If you don’t have a CX strategy, you are leaving it to chance and randomization as to whether your customers are all having the same positive experience.

Service or experience?

It is easy to think that the terms customer experience and customer service are the same or interchangeable. But they aren’t.

While it is true that most customers will engage with an employee as their first port of call, perhaps making a telephone call, or speaking to a service agent or sales assistant, this service is not the whole experience. These interactions just allow time in the customer experience journey to offer great service and hopefully leave the customer feeling like they had a great experience of the brand.

Customer service is what happens ‘in the moment’. Customer experience is what happens throughout: the comments and suggestions from friends or family to try a place they have really loved; a built understanding in the head of the customer that this is the brand for them before they’ve even had their first physical interaction; a strong preconception that is then reinforced by the excellent service they receive.

Anton, an attendee at a workshop I delivered summed it up so well “A service you receive, an experience you take away.”

If the service doesn’t align with their desired experience, then you’ll lose a customer. It really is that simple. What you say you’ll do, matters.

But it is crucial to avoid the mistake of developing a CX strategy at the heart of your business, that is never supported nor trained into employee behaviour. In the Values Economy, customers believe their felt experience and the experiences of other customers than they believe the official corporate messaging. If what you say is not reinforced by the experience you deliver ‘on the ground’, at best, customers will be confused, and, at worst, they will feel intentionally misled.

Should I stay or should I go?

Building customer loyalty is one of the biggest challenges for any organization. It is often organic in nature and will only be successful in a sustained way with sound underpinning intention. Designing a CX strategy around cheap tricks or financial incentives to achieve customer loyalty might deliver results in the short term but this will only last for so long.

It is much better to design and create a strategy that studies and understands the needs of the customer, and then creates a pathway to bring them true joy.

When you think of businesses you have loyalty towards, is it really because of the product, or is it because of the service? There is a great deal of power in knowing that, whenever you interact with a brand, you are going to get the same experience. It is why people only stay in one hotel chain, have a favourite fast-food restaurant, go to the same brand of coffee shop in every place they visit.

Customers ask for very little in the way of experience, and give their loyalty in return. If your business hasn’t been honouring that loyalty, are your surprised that your customers are happy to leave?

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe that customer experience provides the life blood for any organization. Without customers, organizations do not exist. We help progressive leaders to create and implement CX strategies to understand where they are now and help them get to where they want to be… in practice. If you would benefit from help to put an effective CX strategy in place, why not see how the SERVICEBRAND approach can help your business.

Organizational Systems & Processes

“Systems and processes are essential to keep the crusade going, but they should not replace the crusade.” Simon Sinek

Organizations are complex adaptive systems. They consist of interconnected, interwoven components or sets of things that work together as part of a mechanism or interconnecting and dynamic network to achieve an overall goal.

If you take away or change a component it affects the whole system. Ralph Stacey, an eminent figure in the field of complexity, points out that all human systems are ‘self-organizing’ and not open to control. Interactions between humans are co-created and emergent, with multiple possible outcomes at each point of engagement. A complex environment consists of any number of competing factors, combinations of agents and potential outcomes.

The Ralph Stacey Complexity model

Supporting the right functions

The components of the organization system can be viewed in different ways. One perspective is a collection of different functions where the Human Resources (HR) team could be one component, the service delivery team another, the outsourced supply chain another and so on.

These functions are interdependent, so if there is a high performing service delivery team, but the HR processes and procedures are not working well, then the performance of the whole organization is lessened.

“Systems are not sexy – but they really DO drive everything we do!” Carrie Wilkerson

Systems & Processes is the fourth ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach. We think of this as the organization’s infrastructure: a collection of ‘assets’ assisting the strategic alignment and co-ordinated execution of the Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience Elements.

We define the Systems & Processes ‘Element’ as the arrangement of resources, communication framework, technology infrastructure and governance to enable and support delivery of a brand aligned Customer Experience. Resources refers to people, functions, information, finance, property, and equipment.

Systems in support

The focus on an alignment and support role is critical because, otherwise, there is a risk that areas within your systems and processes can achieve a disproportionate level of importance to the detriment of the brand identity, employee engagement or customer experience. Can you relate to these quotes?

– “Your details cannot be located because the system needs a case number.”
– “I cannot serve you with a cup of hot water because it is against the company health & safety policy.”
– “Do you have a reservation?” in an empty restaurant.
– “Unless you have your booking reference, you will not be admitted to the event.”
– “The delivery day cannot be changed so if nobody is at the address it will be delivered the following day.”
– “I can only issue you with a uniform when the approval form is received from your department manager.”
– “To collect your train ticket, you must have the credit card you used to pay for it.”
– “Your query will be dealt with by the foreign exchange team. I am unable to transfer you and they do not make outgoing calls so please call this number…”
– “I do not know why you were able to make a reservation for those dates because our arrival date is always a Saturday.”

In all these examples, for whatever reason, the organization’s systems are not helping to achieve the best outcomes and, in some cases, present an active obstacle. Many organizations have issues like this and others: people are swamped by systems that require a lot of maintenance, and meta-work (work about work e.g., meetings, project planning, progress reviews) can take more time and effort than the work that needs to be done.

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

Using the SERVICEBRAND approach helps to maintain a focus on what is important (aligned brand identity, employee engagement and customer experience) and to keep in check the component parts within the Systems & Processes ‘Element’. In Simon Sinek’s words above, they do not replace the crusade.

Experience-led workplace design

Building customer experience (CX) can be a real challenge, it requires a great deal of data, understanding and the right application of insights about your customers’ desired outcomes. Not only this, but also how to create the kind of experience that leads customers to a better perception of your offering that they may not have had before.

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology” Steve Jobs

Experience-led design is not new, and most people will have experienced and benefitted from this approach using any Apple product, hence the Steve Jobs quote above. However, in commercial real estate, the ‘customer experience’ is often designed and delivered subsequently within the confines of the physical design.

There are clear and obvious disadvantages with this: imagine a new office with a beautifully designed reception desk but where there is a desire to reinforce personal service and a hosting style reception service with no barriers. The best results and least waste can only be achieved by designing the workplace customer experience first and then using this to inform the design of the built environment.

In practical terms, the first step is to create a strategic vision brief, articulating the purpose of the project, the values and brand concept and a high-level customer journey experience, covering all senses and the aspiration for how ‘customers’ will feel, what they will know and do. The built design and service delivery model can then flow from this starting point.

Well-being

Another dimension of customer experience in a workplace environment is the topic of well-being which has gained traction in the last 5 years or so – organizations are increasingly investing time and energy in this area. The well-being topic is wide ranging and covers a spectrum of topics from physical wellbeing (diet, hydration, exercise, sleep), an array of mental health issues, spiritual well-being (prayer facilities), employment factors (adequate pay and working hours), environmental factors (office design, ergonomics, biophilia, air quality, temperature, light and sound), social wellbeing (interaction and collaboration with colleagues), and even the benefit of an adrenalin rush.

Facilities management plays a key role because the function delivers so many of these wellbeing related services and facilities. The BCO’s 2018 research report, Wellness Matters, states that employee wellbeing is intricately linked to employee productivity and is boosted by spacious, naturally lit offices with good air quality and amenities.

Built environment

The scope of the physical design can also be extended to how different styles of workspaces can support different types of work (e.g. confidential calls, deep concentration, collaboration, creative thinking etc) and the importance of areas to take a break.

Some workspaces are designed deliberately to create specific traffic flows or impromptu ‘meetings’. I remember an office I visited in Johannesburg where the CEO had escalators installed as a central feature – wanting to avoid the silence he had witnessed between groups of employees when they used the elevators. There has been an increasing interest in biophilic office design: bringing the outdoors into the workplace and results in improved productivity, increased concentration levels, greater creativity, enhanced wellbeing, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved employee retention.

The cost versus investment perspective is well demonstrated by looking at the decision about whether to provide catering and/or kitchen space in an office. From a pure cost perspective, this is often a large area of expensive real estate, especially if the space is only fully used at lunch time. On the other hand, the space can be a highly effective vehicle for organizational communications, a potential area for collaboration and informal networking, a way to provide healthy food for employees and is convenient, avoiding any need for people to leave the building. As we are now learning, employees that have time to make and build friendships at work are far more productive than those that don’t.

We also know companies who do not have catering space because they have made a strategic decision to support the local business community. You can see that what might seem to be a simple decision at face value can involve a complex set of considerations and COVID-19 has added a whole new dimension with the office versus work from home (or elsewhere) dynamic.

Style

The final layer is the style of service delivery. The combination of the style of service, range of services and built environment are a strong message to employees and visitors about what is important to the organization, and we recommend to clients that the area of corporate real estate services is given sufficient focus and attention.

Research shows that workplaces that have been designed in tune with employee sentiment deliver a significant upswing in pride. There is a commonly held belief that people who experience a certain level of admiration derived from the efforts and achievements of their employer are more likely to become brand ambassadors for the company in question, and this can only go on to have a positive impact on a customer’s experience.

The new ‘workplace’

This area has taken on a whole new dimension now that the scope of ‘workplace’ has been extended by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two fundamental developments:
1) For many office workers, the office is no longer the de facto place of work. The organization leaders in workplace need to consider how employees can be equipped to be as productive and fulfilled as possible, individually and collectively.
2) Because there is a viable, and often desirable alternative to the office, the organization leaders in workplace have a challenge to make the office a place that employees want to come to work … with experience-led workplace design.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in experience-led workplace design. Twenty years ago, I moved from the commercial hospitality sector (five-star hotels, conference centres and restaurants) and used this experience to implement experience-led workplace design with an award-winning One Team supply chain approach. If you are looking to improve the design and service delivery in your organization’s workplace to attract and retain talent and maximise productivity and fulfilment, let’s explore how SERVICEBRAND Global can help.
This blog is based on Chapter 19, Workplace from The Values Economy

What is SERVICEBRAND Global?

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Arthur Ashe

This month marks the 17th anniversary of the creation of my company, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Ltd. The SERVICEBRAND journey started with a classic, corporate, defining moment or series of moments. By way of background and context, in 2002, a major global facilities management company were looking for a senior leader to develop the account for a Big Four bank and their UK office portfolio.

A key criterion for the appointment was a five-star hotel industry background. And since I had successfully turned around a five-star hotel and country club, uniquely delivering three consecutive all-green balanced scorecards and receiving recognition within the company and industry wide. I was excited to be offered the opportunity to transfer my skills across sectors from hotels to the workplace environment.

The assignment was an all-round success, founded on implementing a hotel style service delivery model for the collection of service partner companies involved and their combined total of 5,000 employees.

Commercially, the account grew from an £8m turnover catering contract to a £150m turnover multi-services contract. Industry recognition was received by way of a CoreNet Global Innovation Award and a service partner Customer Experience award from the bank.

Both the facilities management company and the bank were keen to explore a co-owned joint venture arrangement to scale the business proposition and take it to the open market, targeting major global contracts. The small management team were set to become shareholders and the business plan revenue numbers were in the billions of pounds.

Defining moments

First, there was a change of the facilities management company UK CEO. The incoming CEO, who had arrived from the international division of the organization sent a lengthy introduction open email to all employees explaining how he was going to create a successful future for the company. Within a week, he had left the business over an alleged historic scandal and the company chose to ‘batten down the hatches’ to focus on the core catering business. The embryonic new business concept was shut down before its first breath and my role was made redundant.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus

The beginning

It was August 2005, and the above experience was the encouragement to set up, for want of a better term, a management consultancy business. The decision was based more on intuition than on a considered business plan and was informed by the following:

• a personal passion for customer service, the importance of front-line people and creation of admired brands.
• success in several senior leadership roles, both with large corporate organizations and smaller entrepreneurial companies.
• experience at Managing Director/General Manager level with a deep understanding of operational delivery and several specialist support functions, particularly Marketing and HR as well as Sales, Finance, Health & Safety, Property Management, Revenue Management, and others.
• a wide network of business connections.
• a realization that frustration with the way in which decisions were made in large corporate organizations kept being repeated.
• a desire to work with progressive service organizations who wanted to be leaders in their market or sector.

The business name came easily. It needed to indicate a focus on people delivering great customer service and the strength of an organization’s brand identity. It needed to have potential to scale internationally and, ideally, would be a name with a unique quality. SERVICE BRAND GLOBAL was born, and quickly became SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, and the invented word ‘SERVICEBRAND’ was registered as a trademark.

Initially, it seemed like a good idea to offer support and advice to senior leaders of service sector organizations in a wide range of areas to improve their businesses, but it soon became clear that this ‘jack of all trades’ approach was not compelling when people were usually seeking a solution to a specific challenge or problem.

A three-month contract to lead a cultural transformation for the corporate real estate division of an investment bank for their London office provided some thinking space to develop a more coherent, packaged, or productised service offering, rather than basing the proposition on personal expertise, knowledge, and service.

The creative thinking process to develop and articulate the offer was a replay of the approach used in various leadership roles over the previous twenty years. Significant business impact and success had been achieved repeatedly so the task was to draw out the common threads of how this had been achieved.

Core themes

One strong core theme was a combination of theory and practice: understanding the theory which helped to underpin successful practical outcomes, applying theory in practice and, finally, understanding the relationship between the two.

Personal experience of working with various business models or frameworks (e.g., EFQM Excellence model, Hospitality Assured, IiP, and the Service Profit chain) had also been beneficial. The key insight was the value of having an overarching organization framework to support general management of the business instead of allowing an approach more reliant on individual functions and the organization structure.

These frameworks helped to join up the functions of business horizontally and vertically i.e., actively involving all members of the team and keeping them focussed on the priorities for the business as a whole. Other areas which had helped to create improved business performance were putting in place various common operating systems and processes including communication channels and employing methods to capture measurement and insight.

Evolution

The concept development process helped to identify that the first time the SERVICEBRAND approach had been used in its (almost) full form was at the City of London’s leading conference venue in 1996 (yet without knowing it) and then at a five-star hotel and country club. There was more conscious application with the facilities management company operating one of the Big Four bank’s UK offices portfolio.

In the seventeen years since the ‘beginning’, the SERVICEBRAND approach has been refined and developed alongside the use of a set of associated tools, some proprietary and others in collaboration with partners. Various projects have been delivered at different levels across industry sectors.

At one end of the scale, the framework has been applied in its entirety in large corporate organizations on a global or regional basis with a variety of workstreams over a two to three-year period. At the other end of the scale, much smaller, sometimes single location organizations have chosen to focus on one ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach and perhaps even one specific tool e.g. 31Practices.

What all of the clients in these organizations have in common, is a progressive mindset and a recognition that a values-driven approach to a team of brand ambassadors delivering a memorable customer experience can be an immensely powerful way to achieve sustained performance. Both larger and smaller projects have received industry awards.

In 2018, the word SERVICEBRAND became trademarked in US and in EU.

It has been quite a journey so far, time flies when you are having fun. And there are still more adventures to be had with a retreat concept, a customer experience training program partnership and a global visual arts initiative all forming!

The Power of Affirmations

I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.
Muhammad Ali

An affirmation is defined as a statement or proposition that is declared to be true. Self-affirmations were first popularized by French psychologist Emile Coué back in the 1920s, so they have been around for some time.

Proponents of the “law of attraction” often credit self-affirmations as being capable of magnetically drawing positive things such as financial success, love, and renewed health to us. But it is our belief that more than positive mental visualization is required to be happy and successful.

Of course, as highlighted in our book (co-author @Steve Payne) My 31 Practices, affirmations play a crucial role in directing our attention and awareness to the areas of our lives that we would like to improve. But the important part of our process, is a recognition of the actions that must accompany these thoughts to bring them into reality.

Here is an explanation of why the affirmation approach is effective by Manprit Kaur – it is great to see such clear focus on practice:

“Remember, by making affirmations, you are consciously programming your mind to think in a certain way, so that hopeful and happy thinking becomes a part of your being. Affirmations are a way to train the mind; and training happens when you practice, practice, practice! Training requires conscious effort, discipline, belief, and consistency. That is exactly how you need to practice your affirmations.”

What do they look like?

Affirmations are simply statements that are designed to create self-change in the person using them or to reinforce current wanted behaviour. They can operate at a number of levels (a simple reminder, inspiration, focusing attention) with the potential to develop and embed positive and sustained change. Over time it becomes natural.

Four Guidelines for Effective Affirmations

1. First person: begin your affirmations with “I”. This makes your statements personal to you, and easy for you to associate with and take responsibility for.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.
Watty Piper The Little Engine That Could

2. Present tense: write your affirmations as if they are already happening. This means saying, “I offer thoughtful gestures to people” rather than “I will offer thoughtful gestures to people”. The present tense is far more compelling than the future tense where you can find reasons that this is not what happens right now. For a similar reason, avoid using the phrase “try to” – this creates an opportunity for you to find an excuse or reason not to do something and weakens your commitment.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

3. Positive language: focus on what you want to do rather than what you do not want to do. For example, “I enjoy making healthy choices when eating” rather than “I no longer eat fast foods”.

4. Emotional, personal words: these positive emotions are powerful motivators. For a similar reason, use specific words or phrases that you use or relate to. For example, “I hang out with my pals to feel happy” rather than “I spend time with my friends,” which sounds impersonal and like a bit of a chore.

Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose yours well
Robin Sharma

How do you use them?

We believe that the daily discipline of my31Practices is an important factor in building affirmations that work to creative positive change in your life. But what is more important than what we believe or think, is what works best for you. Different people have different preferences.

Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.
Jim Rohn

This is why you can set your affirmation reminder at a time to suit you. In line with the myPractices approach we suggest that you take some quiet time to focus on your affirmations for the day. You might like to write it down, repeat it out loud, leave notes or associated quotes around the house. Then at the end of the day before you sleep, spend some time considering your experiences during the day. Just take five minutes to try these things for one or two days and see what differences you notice.

So what? Do they work?

There is a range of opinion in recent research. On the one hand, some researchers suggest the benefits of using affirmations include:

– protection against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance

– fostering better problem-solving

– helping deal with threats to our self-integrity

People can be affirmed by engaging in activities that remind them of “who they are” (and doing so reduces our need for defensive responses when faced with implications for self-integrity of threatening events).

There are other researchers who cite the lack of supporting scientific evidence and see possible advantages and disadvantages for different groups of people.

Another school of thought focuses on mindfulness and a commitment to an alignment of values and behaviour.

And?
So where do all of these seemingly contradictory points of view take us? Well, we believe it can all be distilled down into the following:

Affirmations by themselves may be of some value to some people, BUT, when used as part of a broader approach (alongside other techniques such as mindfulness, practice, recognition and reward, reinforcement, and others) can TOGETHER be a powerful approach to the way you think, behave, and feel. Perhaps we should invent a new word: Affirmactions.

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Epictetus

Awareness: Part 2

In the first blog on Awareness (here) we looked at NLP, calibrating changing and the link between intention and awareness. The second part focuses on feedback loops and the way perception affects our sense of awareness.

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” -Abraham Maslow

Feedback loops

In your day-to-day life you are experiencing feedback loops all the time and these feedback loops give you a clue about what to do next. When you talk with other people you are usually scanning for signs of connection, understanding, resonance and so on. When you watch two people speaking, notice how the listener will often nod their head or make sounds such as “uh huh”. This is valuable feedback for the speaker.

To demonstrate our need for feedback, find someone to talk to and when they are speaking, keep your head perfectly still, do not make any gestures or sounds, keep your face completely expressionless and just look at them neutrally. Notice how quickly the other person becomes uncomfortable. This demonstrates the importance of feedback; without it we do not know what to do.

The next time you meet someone, be aware of the tone in their voice, their gestures, their energy shifts. What is this non-verbal communication telling you about how they feel and how do you respond to it?

By bringing awareness to the way these cues affect you, you will be able to better control the way your cues affect other people. In this way, you will be able to build better and longer lasting relationships with people, as you will understand better the place where their feedback is generated. You’ll be able to see the emotional driver behind the mask. Allowing for deeper and more meaningful connection.

It is obvious that you can be aware of things that are tangible, such as objects, other people, the weather and so on. But you can also be aware of things that are less tangible, such as how you feel about something, including when something “just doesn’t feel right”.

This is very true when it comes to your values. Although we can be consciously aware of some our values, often they may be out of our conscious awareness; they may be sitting in the subconscious. You may become more aware of these values when they are being honoured or compromised.

By way of example, have you experience a situation where everything just seemed “right”, where relationships, actions, decisions, results were all so easy, enjoyable, and successful? It is likely that your value/s were being honoured.

On the other side of the coin, have you ever been asked to do something, and you had a funny feeling about it? It just didn’t feel right? Did you sense some form of discomfort internally, perhaps in your gut? This was likely to be a subconscious signal telling you that one of your values was being compromised.

Awareness of feedback loops trains us to better engage the world around us, to better understand ourselves and our own values, so we might be of more service to others. In a more understanding and compassionate way.

Perception

Perception is all about awareness. You can only respond to what you are aware of. The British anthropologist, Gregory Bateson, said that to really understand any situation fully, you need to examine it from at least three different perspectives. Take the example of a disagreement between you and someone else. There will be your opinion, the other person’s opinion and then what a neutral observer may see.

Take a look at the diagram below. From one perspective a person may be certain that they are looking at a circle, from a different perspective another person may be certain the object is a square and yet from another perspective, the truth becomes more apparent.

How often do you view something from just one perspective? What more might you discover when you take a different viewpoint?

The Truth perspective

Raising our awareness that the meaning in every situation depends on how we look at it will enable us to make more informed choices with potentially better outcomes.

To change unhelpful patterns of behaviour or habits you must be first become aware of them. If you are looking to change certain patterns of thought and/or behaviour, it is important to notice when you are doing and/or thinking or doing something that works against your higher positive intention and then take action to do something about it.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe awareness is a key factor in the healthy development of the self, both professionally and personally. By training in awareness, through better understanding of perception and feedback, we can all move closer to being fully aware human beings. People who act on their values in a positive and meaningful way, rather than a reactive and emotionally shallow way. Our 31Practices approach can help you build a sense of awareness and conscious practice at a personal or organizational level.

Awareness: Part 1

Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.
Stephen R. Covey

I had been ‘casually interested’ in the topic of NLP for several years and decided to attend an ‘Introduction to NLP’ session led by the wonderful Steve Payne. At the time, the co-authored book The 31 Practices had been published (to rave reviews 😊) and I had started to develop the my31Practices approach to help people translate their core values into day to day behaviour.

As I took my place at the beginning of Steve’s session, it crossed my mind that he might be interested to review the book through an NLP lens. By the lunch break, because everything that Steve had spoken about was so aligned to the my31Practices approach, I found myself suggesting the idea that we co-author the My 31 Practices book and this is what happened! This blog is based on Chapter 18 Awareness from the book.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a way of changing a person’s thoughts and behaviours by bringing attention to their perceptions of the world. NLP is the science behind practices like mindfulness.

In NLP, awareness and something called calibration often go hand-in-hand. Calibration is described by NLP co-creator, John Grinder, as noticing change.


The awareness, calibration, and feedback loop

You cannot calibrate change without first being aware of what is changing. Awareness can be static whereas calibration has a more dynamic element to it. The figure above shows that without awareness and calibration, feedback is not possible.

For example, if you meet someone and his or her expression is neutral, you may “sense” or be aware of this neutrality. If this person then asks you who you are and you explain that you know a good friend of theirs, they may then become more open and perhaps start to smile.

You are likely to notice this change in their physiology and expression from neutrality to smile. In NLP, this dynamic awareness is referred to as calibration. In this example, as you realize the person is more engaged with you, you may begin to feel more relaxed. This relaxation is the result of the feedback you have given yourself based on what you have noticed about the situation and how it changed.

Robert Dilts developed a model as “a simple means to identify the key behavioural cues used by NLP to summarize the internal processes of others”. This model can help you communicate more effectively by raising awareness of internal shifts or processing in others by noticing their external cues. Noticing these shifts enables you to adapt your behaviour in order to communicate more effectively.

The model is known as the B.A.G.E.L. Model and consists of paying attention to the following:

• Body Posture – how you sit, or stand can indicate the level of tension you are carrying. In addition, the position of the head can indicate if you are processing particular information: tilted upward – visual; cocked to one side – sounds; tilted down – feelings.

• Accessing Cues – NLP Eye Accessing Cues posit that your eye movements can indicate whether you are processing images, sounds or feelings

• Gestures – gestures made above eye-level can indicate visual processing, gestures to the mouth, ears or jaw can indicate auditory processing and gestures to the chest, stomach or below the neck can indicate the processing of feelings

• Eye movements – automatic and unconscious eye movements can indicate visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic processing

• Language Patterns – the words you use can indicate more visual (see), auditory (hear) or kinaesthetic (feel) processing

The link between intention and awareness

The cognitive psychologist, George A Miller, proposed that we can only be aware of between five and seven bits of information at any moment of time. If we overload the seven +/- two, if we add more information to what we are consciously processing, something has to drop out.

Take the example of a waiter or waitress in a restaurant. They may have a long list of special orders for the day. As they begin to go through their list, which they may have repeated numerous times earlier that day, notice what happens if you suddenly interrupt them with an unrelated question, such as commenting on what they are wearing.

Usually this throws them so that they forget what they were saying or where they were in their list because you have put a whole new set of thoughts into their conscious awareness. What about you? Has anyone ever distracted you by asking a question unrelated to what you were doing and then suddenly you forgot what you were doing? This is a product of our conscious mind’s limited ability to process multiple tasks.

As the conscious mind is limited in its capacity to process information, there are some things that we simply cannot be aware of in any one moment. When we set an intention, we tend to focus on what is connected to the intention and we are not aware of other things. This certainly helps us focus and at the same time produces blind spots in our awareness.

When you are aligned with what is important to you (your values), your physiology, tonality and words are all saying the same thing. You walk the talk. You are congruent. When your physiology, tone and words are giving mixed messages, it could be that there is something that is not aligned, and you can explore what that is and act.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND we believe understanding awareness is critical to healthy and positive self-development. (More detailed information about this can found in chapter 18 of the My31Practices book.) Many of the complex issues effecting organizations, stem from a lack of awareness around our behavioural impacts on those we work with and serve. If you are struggling to set the right tone and intention for your business, SERVICEBRAND Global can help.

Building a Community at Work

We are social beings and find isolation challenging. This simple statement is well understood, yet the damaging nature of a lack of interaction and connection with others seems underrepresented and underestimated.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront issues of isolation and loneliness. It highlighted the stress we feel when our sense of community and connection is taken away. The impact can be immediate and is detrimental to varying degrees. Our mental health and sense of well-being is affected as well as our personal and professional relationships.

Hybrid work is now becoming a new reality for many organizations. So how can we build a sense of community among different people that aren’t necessarily inhabiting the same physical space?

Why stress matters

Stress comes in many forms and is a natural reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. The great philosophers suggest we need a certain amount of eustress to feel pushed and driven to overcome the challenges of life. However, too much stress seriously impacts our health, both physical and mental.

We might feel anxious, doubt our self-worth, feel irritable and be unpleasant to be around. All these things affect our ability to work well in teams and further push us towards greater isolation and loneliness. Loneliness and lack of connection are distressing, causing greater levels of stress that, in turn, create behaviours that result in further isolation. It is a vicious downward spiral.

Even before the Covid pandemic, stress related illnesses were a leading cause of hospital admissions in the UK, costing over £8bn in 2019.

Getting connected

In a pre-pandemic world, in countries like UK, we are likely to spend 9 and half years over the course of our lifetimes in the company of the people we work with. If workplaces no longer provide this connection, we will become distanced from one another. The part of us that desires a sense of community, that doesn’t want to be isolated, might start to feel stressed in this situation.

Good company culture isn’t just about employees doing a job. Its about connecting employees to an overarching sense of meaning and purpose, that makes them valued, involved, and fulfilled, while working with others to achieve a goal.

There is nothing wrong with having a strong individual work ethic. Some people are better equipped to work alone. But individualism has its limitations. No matter how frequently you might hear workplace rhetoric about being ‘the only person for the job’ or ‘doing it myself, because others won’t get it right’, ultimately, performance is delivered by people working with other people.

Building community

Building community within any organization is about more than an office pizza day or a zoom coffee morning check in session. Henry Mintzberg highlights the importance of ‘communityship’ Rebuilding Companies as Communities (hbr.org) and shares these lessons:

1. Community building in an organization may best begin with small groups of committed managers.

2. The sense of community takes root as the managers in these groups reflect on the experiences they have shared in the organization.

3. The insights generated by these reflections naturally trigger small initiatives that can grow into big strategies.

4. As these initial teams promote change, they become examples for other groups that spread communityship throughout the organization.

5. An organization knows that communityship is firmly established when its members reach out in socially active, responsible, and mutually beneficial ways to the broader community.

In summary, Minzberg refers to a healthy society balancing leadership, communityship, and citizenship.

I can relate this concept of communityship to several roles in corporate organizations and cultural transformation projects. In all these situations, the goal was to create a strong sense of community spirit, for every member of the team to feel a sense of belonging and value, and to be proud of what the team was achieving. There were several pillars that enabled this. They might have looked different for different situations but shared these common underpinnings:

1. A clear, well communicated statement of the team vision
2. The importance of every person’s contribution
3. Interdependence
4. Everybody had a voice even if not everyone could decide
5. Acknowledgement of the person (not just the role they performed)
6. Respect and support collective decisions (even if you do not agree personally)
7. Recognise and celebrate achievements
8. Share disappointments and learn for next time
9. Equity and no ‘seniority privilege’

These principles have been applied and been effective in a single business unit, multi-site organizations, a large global organization in different locations around the world and even in ‘extended team’ settings such as supply chain service partner groups.

This collection of research in the area will be an interesting follow on read for those who are curious to know more Workplace Communities: The Research (cultivateall.com)

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in creating a sense of community in organizations. The SERVICEBRAND approach and associated tools and techniques enable this. When your business runs in an interconnected way, your employees will be happier, more motivated, and far more efficient and productive. They will be loyal and proud ambassadors for your business. If you are struggling to build a strong company community, why not see what SERVICEBRAND Global can do for you?

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