WordFood

WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

August 9, 2012

Meat & Potatoes WordFood Diet

I work with several very large Fortune 500 companies that are going through major cultural changes. In some cases, this involves a shift in how people need to lead, to accommodate the younger generations. Sometimes the shift involves adapting to new technology or a new CEO’s vision. In other cases, such as with a Kraft or Tyco, it’s a huge split, and the companies are reforming themselves, people are moving to new jobs, and some are being let go.

Along the way, people are being asked to adapt. For some, this can be pretty challenging. In my book WordFood, this kind of person is called a Meat & Potatoes type, who is attached to a way of being and isn’t willing to make the shift. They’re often either afraid, or they can just be stuck in the past, or just plain stubborn. For those of us who work with such people, it can be frustrating because we need their input and skills to be focused on the new tasks at hand. When they are complaining or resisting, the rest of the world is moving forward. It can seem they are roadblocks, and causing problems with the rest of the team as well.

Many times the problem is that they feel that they are no longer useful in the company’s new iteration. They may feel left behind, forgotten. It helps to coach them on how their skills and knowledge have a viable place in the new “world order.” Help them see how their experience is useful, but perhaps in a slightly new way. For older workers in particular, you need their coaching, mentoring and expertise with younger workers. So often, it’s the feeling of not being needed any more that is driving the negative behavior.

For others, they may be actively undermining the company’s new direction and need intervention. If you have a team member who is constantly causing an uproar you need to address this head-on. It’s challenging enough that people are going through a transition- they don’t need a rabble rouser. Find out what is really going on. There’s usually a very good reason for someone’s anger or resistance. Be compassionate enough to recognize that change is rough on everyone, but when someone is taking out their issues on the team, it’s unacceptable. You may need to help them get connected with a new network of employees that supports them in their new role. They may feel isolated and lonely. A major change causes many of us to go into a cave and stop communicating, so a key strategy is to make sure your people are collaborating and connected.

Above all, create a safe environment for them to vent. They need to express their fears and their losses. Once they’ve had a chance to do this, often they can begin the healing process and move on. If not, then another level of intervention is necessary. Find roles that engage them to coach other employees, teach new skills. Keep them active and productive. The more busy they are and the more positive WordFood they get from you that they are making a difference, the less they can complain.

Finally, during any major change, educate yourself and your people about the transition process. A great source is the series of short books by Dr. William Bridges on organizational transition. They can make sense of what you are seeing on your teams, when you come face to face with a Meat & Potatoes Diet type.

August 6, 2012

WordFood for Mondays

When you come in to work on a Monday morning, how do you greet your people? Maybe you’re like me, and my Monday morning office greeting is in my bathroom mirror since I work at home. I’m facing my boss. So often we greet Mondays with a collective UGH and hunker down to work. Yet here is an opportunity, like every other day, to grow, to develop, to expand ourselves, and to become better people. It’s life, and life is our teacher.

When you walk into the office, there’s a chance to create an environment around you that is hugely positive. What kinds of words do you use to engage people? If you’re in a managerial position you have considerable influence on people’s states of mind. What you say and how you say it sets the stage for the day and the week. Considering how most people meet Mondays, try beginning your week with some heartfelt acknowledgements. It doesn’t have to be overboard. Something small, but meaningful, goes a long way.

Whether you’re a cubicle dweller or the big cheese, your words have power. Kind words and recognition change people’s feelings, and they have a huge impact on the office environment. They most certainly make you feel better. When you take the time to express a cheery good morning and compliment someone on a report they’ve done, the sales job they did, how they look today- whatever is appropriate for your office- this shifts the atmosphere. It can be catching. Mondays don’t have to be, well, Mondays.

Nutritious WordFood is all about spreading positive comments around, recognizing people for their worth. People want to be acknowledged and noticed. They want to know that the work they do has value to the larger organization. When they genuinely feel this  then coming to work gives them purpose and joy.

If you work at home like I do, then your job is to take the time to acknowledge yourself for the hard work you do. Give yourself credit.¬† Speak to yourself with respect and regard, whether it’s out loud or silently. We can be our worst critics. Every day, life gives us the opportunity to become something bigger and better. We don’t know what will happen today. But what we can do when we interact with others is feed them positive WordFood, which will kickstart the week, make Mondays matter, and get us all off to a great start.

July 14, 2012

Soothing WordFood in an Emergency

Last night I was at my local Wells Fargo Bank making a deposit when I asked the teller for an updated balance. The balance showed only what had been deposited that day in my business account. I asked what had happened to the rest of the funds, and she said, you took it all out. I said that I hadn’t, and she turned the monitor to show me. “See? Here are your withdrawals.” My eyes nearly popped out of my cranium as I saw that some stranger had wiped out every red cent in my business account through cyber theft, leaving me with absolutely nothing. And vulnerable to more attacks.

I nearly went through the roof. Quickly the teller called a personal banker who brought me to her office and said precisely what I needed to hear. “We’re going to take care of you,” she said. “Let me handle this.” She was on the phone with the Fraud team in seconds and we closed the account. As it was late in the day on a Friday there wasn’t much else we could do except open a new business account which their business banker did right away.

I was given several numbers to call and that night I contacted the fraud lines. One of the young men I spoke with said, “Ma’am, I’ve been with Wells Fargo for four years. We’re going to get you through this, I guarantee it. You’re going to be taken care of.”

My business banker explained that Wells Fargo would take the loss in making me whole for the amount that I had lost. They aren’t insured for cyber crime like this. However I am working diligently with every law enforcement agency possible to help track down who did this, as I hardly think I’m the only victim. Likely this is a larger operation and I’m one of many.

That terribly vulnerable feeling that you have when the “house” you’ve built has been violated needs immediate attention. Whether you’ve had a theft, experienced a personal attack, like me had a cyber theft- you feel naked indeed. In that moment the most important thing is that those around you understand your need to feel secure and safe. You must hear the right words.

Wells Fargo has sometimes frustrated me in the past, and we don’t always see eye to eye. But every single banker who touched me yesterday went out of their way to ensure that I knew I would have my funds back and that I would be whole. That’s WordFood of the highest order and that is how you earn customer loyalty.

In your businesses, when you have a customer who is unhappy or in a jam, do your employees have the same authority and commitment to make sure they are kept whole? That they can feed your valued customers the WordFood they need to hear so that they will not only come back again and again, but tell all their friends how great you are as a company? No advertising is more powerful than this kind of word of mouth.

I never thought I’d say this but Wells Fargo has made me feel safe, and for that, they have earned my loyalty. Have you earned your customers’ loyalty? What have you taught your employees to say in an emergency?

This is one of the characteristics that make a good company great.

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