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The Turnaround Sprint:

Engage in 45 - 90 days.

Our approach to turning around team engagement and performance can be summarized in one word:

Fast.

Not because we're reckless

Simply because:

 

  1. The causes of low engagement are more consistent across workplaces than they are different; and 

  2. Time is a factor.

We've crafted a 6-12 week sprint based on proven engagement principles—and three Leadership Steps—with a little help from the world of agile development.

 

(For reference, both timings for each are provided below.)

Feel free to run your own sprint, using these free tools.

If you need help, reach out for a chat.

Leadership Step 1:

Lay an accountability foundation.

(Weeks 1-3, or 1-6)

The Accountability Pyramid

Source: Framework

"Accountability" may sound like something employees would be scared of.

 

In practice, they love it.

Employees' basic needs include understanding their specific:

  • Accountabilities: what deliverables are expected of them and when.

  • Resources: what inputs/supports they're entitled to from others—especially their boss—so they can deliver.

  • Consequences: what they can expect as a result of performance that is great (career development) or wanting (training).

The most effective way to satisfy this lies in what we call ARC agreements: evergreen contracts between each manager and their reports which

  • Spell out the above

  • Form a standing agenda to review and update in monthly check-ins

 

Get a free template to start with on our Resources page. 

accountability pyramid white.png

The Leadership Circle (TM)

leadership circle.png

Leadership Step 2:
Support leadership skill development.

(Weeks 2-3, or 4-6)

Not only are managers largely responsible for supporting the employee experience, including execution of their accountabilities.

They are also far less confident in their ability to provide that support than senior leaders assume.

The solution? Treat leadership like the core driver of performance that it is.

Give every manager tools to candidly self-assess, such as the Leadership Circle (TM).

(To encourage candor and real development, don't make this part of their compensation scorecard—focus the latter on results.)

 

Follow up with targeted training and coaching to address development areas.

For extra credit: Consider measuring leadership skill instead of employee sentiment.  The former consistently correlates with the latter, and it's the one organizations can drive directly.

Leadership Step 3:

Foster consistency with a Culture Champion.

(Weeks 4-6, or 8-12)

A weak or inconsistent culture is fundamentally a governance problem: a failure to align leaders' and managers' walk with their talk, and to have strong processes to deal with their (literal) disintegration.

Culture starts at the top. Not the CEO (who can often be part of the problem), but at the board level.

The solution starts with making someone accountable to the board for the problem: a Culture Champion.

 

A Culture Champion must be a senior, high integrity individual empowered to do three things:

  1. To ensure the organization's stated values are really its values; 

  2. To track and point out behaviors that don't fit; and

  3. To speak truth to the boss.

The first act of a newly appointed Culture Champion is typically to kickstart re-alignment by creating (or refreshing) a Culture Deck that spells out exactly:

  1. What the company's real values are.

  2. How they should impact day-t0-day decision-making.

  3. What behaviors will get people hired, promoted, and fired. 

(The classic template for an effective Culture Deck is Netflix's, which may be found on our Resources page.

Thereafter their role is establish effective reporting mechanisms to gauge leaders' and managers' compliance, such as pulse surveys and meeting hygiene assessments.

See our Resources page for more.

Final note: ideally the Culture Champion should be a role, not a person, to avoid becoming a power trip, keep fresh ideas flow and convey that culture is a collective leadership responsibility.  

 

So rotate every 6-12 months.

Excerpt from Netflix's "Freedom & Responsiblity" Culture Deck

Source: SlideShare, Framework

culture deck enron.png

Then, iterate.

Deliberately.

(From then on)

The Engagement Flywheel

Source: Framework

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 12.13.23 PM.png

At the end of your sprint, two things are all but guaranteed:

  1. Engagement will be up, as the team will have witnessed leaders' care for their experience and commitment to improve.

  2. The project will be a bit of a mess.

 

Don't worry about the latter.

 

Building engagement in any environment is a learning process. Like all effective learning, it's all about mindful iteration, or what experts call deliberate practice.

What makes deliberate practice work is:

  1. A clear focus on the learning goal—in this case, increased engagement and productivity; and

  2. A structured pattern to follow in each repetition.

 

The pattern we recommend is what we call The Virtuous Flywheel (pictured).

A flywheel is a mechanism that uses a small amount of applied energy to create an all-but self-perpetuating motion.

Stanford's Jim Collins has famously applied the concept to business as the essence of all great strategy and business transformation.

Ours looks like this:

  1. Apply the first Three Steps described above with a view to boosting engagement. 

  2. Leverage higher engagement into stronger productivity.

  3. Re-invest the cash generated into further engagement-driving practices.

 

Repeat.

 

Of course, that's a deceptively simple description. 

For help with all the details, reach out for a quick consultation—or whatever you need.

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