Re:solution: Embrace,schedule and delegate

Why do we roll our eyes when we contemplate New Year’s resolutions? They are a moment when we’re honest with ourselves about a particular aspect of our lives that could use some improvement – be it fitness, punctuaity or an underwear drawer that could use an overhaul. Resolutions are an acknowledgment of a need to improve and grow and are often the root of establishing a personal vision. Honesty, personal growth and vision are all positive attributes so… why the long faces? A friend who is studying guided meditation suggests that the term ‘resolution’ puts a lot of pressure on us and we are disappointed when we ‘fail’.

 If we reframe the concept from an imposition to an intention, then we relieve some of that pressure and turn a negative connotation into a positive one.

Another way to reframe is to focus on the “solution” part of the word. The re:solution  is an opportunity to fix something that’s off and, since we can’t always find solutions ourselves, why not delegate part of the solution to maximize your chances of accomplishing your objectives? When you have a sore tooth, you call a dentist. So if your issue is fitness, call a trainer. Want to tackle pesky perfectionism? Book an appointment with a counselor. If you keep meaning to freshen up your home, call a painter. If learning a new language is languishing on your bucket list, sign up for a class. It doesn’t have to cost any money. If you want to clean out the garage, pick a date and ask a friend to help you out. You’ll have fun, spend time with someone you love and accomplish your objective. The act of delegating all or part of your resolution commits you to act on it. Do it now and you can be one of “those people” who love New Year’s Resolutions.

Tips for Successful Re:Solutions

  1. Congratulate yourself for your vision and commitment to personal growth
  2. Acknowledge that you are worth it
  3. Frame your resolution as a positive action and break it down into manageable steps. For example, if you have a health and fitness goal: walk daily; try a new vegetable every month; book time with a trainer; etc… (Studies show it’s more difficult to stop doing something than do add something new.)
  4. Enlist professional help: trainer, nutritionist, painter, counselor, teacher,…
  5. Keep it clear and simple and get it done early.

Just do it! You’re worth it! Happy New Year!

I’d like to know, what’s been your most successful New Year’s resolution? What do you think helped you accomplish your goal?


How Star Wars helped me appreciate planning: from the archives

“Patience you must have my young padawan” - Yoda
“Patience you must have my young padawan” – Yoda

I admit it. I don’t like planning. I find it tedious and I am always itching to do something. I love problems, projects, challenges that can be solved and then you can move on. It’s why I’ve done lots of issues management and crisis communications. When “it” hits the fan, I’m your girl.

But, I realize that the more complex the issue or the organization, flying by the seat of your pants is not always desirable. I get that you have to think strategically about how all aspects of your plan play out with various audiences, across the organization and over time. I get that, as a leader, you need a clear game plan and it helps your team if you’re just a tad more “buttoned down” (was the term in one of my early executive assessments). I just lament that it takes sooooo long. It seems that the more time there is, the more objections people raise. The more details people want included and, in the end, the ruminations don’t always produce a better mousetrap.

Then, a few years ago, I visited the Star Wars Identities Exhibit at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. The exhibit explores howAccolade Communications photo of Star Wars movie model identities are formed through our families, society and our experiences through the Star Wars characters. While that’s the crux of the exhibit, I was struck with the detail in the movie models, the costume sketches and the signage that explained the painstaking character development and costume design. I hadn’t given any thought to the years of planning that go into movies although it makes abundant sense. You can’t exactly show up on a multi-million dollar movie set without having thought of every detail in advance. And when your movie is a sequel – as many complex organizational projects like replacing legacy systems are – you need the full back-story, the full picture of how your decision will play out in the future and its impacts across the organization today.

So, thank you George Lucas. I believe Yoda has taught me to be more patient, more planful, more detailed because sound planning is the beginning of a lasting legacy.

What has Star Wars taught you?

9 critical questions to help you build trust

At a Giving Tuesday panel a few weeks ago, I was asked to talk about trends in trust and how to build it… in three minutes. Since the timeline was a little tight, I thought I’d round out the conversation here 🙂

First: Trust in institutions is declining globally and in Canada

It’s well established that trust in media, government, business and NGOs is hitting record lows globally. In a “post-truth” and “fake news” era, how could it be otherwise? In Canada, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows we’ve shifted from neutral to distrusting of our major institutions for the first time in the survey’s 17 year history.

Second: Declining trust is an important individual, community and business issue

So what if we’re distrustful? Think of any organization that has to work harder to reach and to convince a particular audience. There’s a cost to that. I’m not just talking about persuading someone to buy a certain product. I’m talking about needing people to respond to important public policy, to donate to your cause or to to convey important health information.

Think of a stock that crashes because of a scandal or an organization’s inability to attract good candidates because of poor ethics. There’s a cost to that.

Think of a community that is less resilient because people can’t or won’t help each other through a crisis. There are major human and financial costs implications.

People tend to think that measuring, building and nurturing trust is “soft.” In fact, it’s a tangible bottom line issue. Trusted public companies tend to have better performance. Higher levels of trust reduce transaction costs and improve the likelihood of productive interactions.

How much money can an organization save when it negotiates a contract on a handshake? Millions. Ask Warren Buffett.

Even if you’re not negotiating multi-million dollar deals, the erosion of trust can have an impact on your organization.

Third: There are easy ways to build trust in your organization

Build trust by showing ability, integrity and benevolence

While there are more than 90 academic definitions of trust ranging from trust as a feeling, a behaviour or an operating framework and many shifting dimensions from shallow transactional trust to deep identification trust, a good place to start is understanding that Trust= Ability+Integrity+Benevolence

People don’t have time to verify all your credentials, so how do you show them you know what you’re doing?

  • What does your physical or digital location say about you? 

What does your environment say about you? Is it fun, welcoming, easy to navigate? While your physical or digital presence needs to align with your brand, it can also be used to build trust. Is your restaurant clean? Is your office organized? Are your tools in good condition? Is your online presence user-friendly? Do your online platforms work? Are your communications clear and compelling? What does your “real estate” tell me about your ability to do the job? These are all clues about your ability to deliver on your promise.

  • Do you have third party designations or awards? Are they showcased?

People use third party validation as a shortcut to trust. So include  professional designations on your business cards, put up certificates and awards in your space – modestly – and list accomplishments on your website. There’s a reason Best Employers, JD Power, Green 30 and Most Respected Company competitions are so popular. They serve as a proxy. (Did you know the Oscars and the Super Bowl are both PR strategies to sell more movie tickets and extend the football season, respectively?)

  • Who vouches for you?

Few things are more persuasive than a great testimonial – especially when the person giving it has nothing to gain from an endorsement- so forget paid influencers. But who should speak on behalf of your organization? Of course, that depends. In a crisis, you have to go with top leadership because they are accountable; but in a range of other communications, take the time to think about who is more likely to be trusted.

Tough employee conversation? Face-to-face with the immediate manager is the best option. Online product reviews? Honest, objective assessments from total strangers take the day. Direct mail campaign for charitable giving? “A person like me” who has been helped by your cause.

If you look at the Edelman Trust Barometer slide, you can see that trust across the range of spokespeople dropped last year. Still, academic and technical experts continue to lead the pack in credibility, followed by “A person like yourself.” There’s a reason people read Consumer Reports and The Lemonade Guide. We need an expert we can trust as a shortcut to doing all the due diligence ourselves.

This does not mean your CEO is not competent or credible. It means that because they have a vested interest in the outcome – their job, stock prices, etc – they are not always the best spokesperson. Organizationally, people trust regular employees. That’s why Ford uses them in their commercials.

Trust in Canada

 Show integrity 

No moral compas app

When world leaders can change their tune on a daily basis and people care more about “personal brand” than authenticity, it feels like integrity is in short supply. But let’s not despair, there are many ways an organization can show integrity.

  • Do you act with integrity?

Leaders need to act with integrity. Period. Simple. Remember when “my word is my bond”? Let’s go back to that.

Be the moral compass.

  • Are you transparent? 

For the organization to show integrity you can do anything from mandatory audits (but you can do better than that) to third party validations to transparent communications. At Rhino Foods, they use Open Book management to ensure employees understand the state of the company’s finances, the impact of what’s happening in the market or in the organization and their role. And, of course, the employees share in the profits. They also help problem-solve when there are issues. But don’t take my word for it…

Open Book Management

In the absence of transparency and openness, employees and “the market” feed on rumours and speculation. That’s just bad for business.

  • Do you set common goals and share decision making?

In my grad school research on inter-organizational trust, joint goal setting and joint decision-making were important elements of building trust, especially in new ventures. Why? They force transparency, they equalize power and they align vision, priorities and resources. Without them, a staggering number of joint ventures fail.

The value of joint goal-setting and joint decision-making applies to partnerships of all sizes. For example, in large-scale humanitarian mobilizations, the parties don’t have time to get to know each other personally or to assess one another’s capability or integrity. They assume they are capable based on their brand, their equipment, their experience, their credentials and other signals. Joint goal-setting and decision-making is a mechanism that signals equality, transparency and shared outcomes.

  • How do you respond in a crisis?

Organizations show integrity and build trust in a crisis by taking responsibility, providing information, showing empathy and outlining a clear course of action to address the issue. Of course, they have to mean it.

JFK said “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” That’s true for building trust too. Make sure people feel comfortable flagging issues for you early.

  • Do you punish the bad apples?

Norms.pngShowing integrity is not just channeling trustworthy behaviours.  It also has to establish norms and values and challenge behaviours that are not aligned. Are your corporate values relevant to people? If you quizzed your employees, would they know what the corporate values are or are they a list on a poster somewhere? Are values reflected in compensation and promotions? Do you value how results are achieved as much as the results themselves? What happens when people don’t exemplify your norms and values?

Do you use your code of ethics for decision-making and value creation or is a document to be dusted off and signed once a year? Are your corporate policies aligned with consequences? Are bad behaviours overlooked for star performers? Are some issues swept under the rug? Do employees see leaders taking responsibility?

  • Do you invest in your partners and in your people?

Business strategy research shows that Transaction Specific Investments and a long-term orientation are very important in building trust. These investments can be information sharing, investing in infrastructure or a joint platform. They can be as simple as relationship building. With your employees, it can be investing in their education and training. You can’t be sure your employees will stay and that you will benefit from their new knowledge and skills, but you are willing to signal that their development is important to the organization.

A psychological approach to trust will tell you that trusting relationships are built slowly over time; but between organizations, research consistently finds that  anticipated future longevity of a relationship – or the long-term vision of what lies ahead –  is positively correlated to trust (Currall & Judge, 1995; Doney & Cannon, 1997; Ganesan, 1994; Sako & Helper,1998).

Competence and integrity can create institutional or relational trust. To  move from trust based on a calculation to deeper trust, you must show benevolence.

 Show benevolence

Research shows that waiters who suggest a lower-priced menu item when you ask for advice receive higher tips. Why? Because they appear to show benevolence. By removing the waiter’s perceived self-interest, he appears to be putting your needs before his and gains your trust, you reciprocate with a bigger tip. I’m not suggesting you fake this… I am just pointing out that it works.

Benevolence is the magic ingredient to trust. You could apply all the strategies we’ve discussed here but without benevolence, you’re just building confidence or reliability. Benevolence is going the extra mile for your partner. Guess what? It’s good for you too. It builds employee engagement, customer loyalty and can create value.

Are you flexible with your employees? How do you respond to their needs?

Do you partner in your community or have programs that positively impact your community? If you are partnering with an NFP, do they have equal power in the relationship? Are you helping to resolve social issues or are you exacerbating them?

Do you put customers’ needs ahead of profits? Is your organization sustainable? Basically, are you part of the problem or part of the solution… even when you don’t have to be?

Fortunately, we can easily think of many organizations that are exemplary in this regard. Consistently, they top the charts of best employers and most admired companies. You can be among them too!

Looking for more information on types of trust?

In the end, it’s good that the Giving Tuesday panel only had three minutes to talk about trust. Otherwise we could have been there until lunch time – possibly dinner! That’s why I’m working on a trust-building workshop that will be ready in the Spring. Interested? I’d love to chat or read your comments.

Thank you for visiting Accolade!

Celebrate values, effort AND outcomes

Thoughtful, strategic – and often wildly successful – organizations carefully craft their  culture. They think about the values, norms and behaviours they want to see and encourage them. They communicate values… often. They offer coaching. They incentivize and reward people who exemplify these behaviours.

So imagine how pleased I was when I attended my son’s school awards ceremony last IMG_0776week and saw how they are promoting values and behaviours. The night kicked off with awards related to how students approach their studies like curiosity and teamwork. There were awards for students who show awareness and interest in the global context and certificates for students who promote their faith, language and culture. (It’s a French catholic school in a predominantly English community).

My won the an award for “orientation in space and time.” This involves exploring personal histories; homes and journeys; turning points in humankind; discoveries; explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between, and the interconnectedness of, individuals and civilizations, from personal, local and global perspectives. WOW! Who knew the kid who’s a bear in the morning is a master of time and space? (He is enjoying a bit of ribbing on that front.)

Before the awards for highest grades in each subject, there were awards for students who exemplify the International Baccalaureate student profile:

  • Inquiring mindsAltruism
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective


Picture a gymnasium full of junior-high and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity!

It was amazing to hear the students cheer for one another. Picture a gym full of junior and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity. Imagine if society valued teamwork, curiosity, reflexion, perseverance as much as we do wealth and celebrity. Think about how easy it would be to do something like this in your workplace.

Critics will argue that this is the equivalent of a participation ribbon for every kid, but these kids are nominated by their teachers for consistently modelling a specific aptitude or behaviour. Many kids are nominated but only a few receive the certificate. It’s a prime example of appreciative inquiry – identifying a positive behaviour to get more of it. (And, so what if we recognize something of value in every kid?)

In the workplace, you can think of it as inexpensive and effective risk-management. Not only do you encourage positive, productive behaviour, you reduce destructive behaviour. Wouldn’t Volkswagen be better off if they had shown more integrity? Wouldn’t the global financial crisis been averted – or at least mitigated- if Wall Street wasn’t obsessed with short term results or if it had thought broadly of the human and financial impacts of their deceit?  What does scandal cost? The ethics are as old as Aristotle but the integrated thinking and the systems approach is fairly new to business, and we need more of it.

It’s not an “either-or” proposition. In this model both positive behaviour AND achievement are recognized. The approach tells the kids early on that it’s not just the outcome that matters, but how you get there. It reminds me of Chris Hadfield’s book, An astronaut’s guide to life on earth. In it, Cmdr. Hadfield points out that temperament, teamwork and preparation matter. Many people are fit enough, smart enough, talented enough to be astronauts but do you want to live six months in space with a bunch of jerks? Do you think people behave optimally without reflexion, open-mindedness, empathy and communication?

In life, no one will ever ask you about your marks in grade Grade 11 chemistry. They will want to see how you applied that knowledge. They will notice your work ethic. They will want you to think broadly. Many people don’t have the best grades but are more adept at applying what they know or their approach brings out the best performance in a team. We need to recognize and celebrate those attributes.

Bravo les Chevaliers!