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

September 11, 2012

WordFood for our Competitors

It’s football season again, and for those of us who love gridiron the preseason games have been on for weeks already. Those of us here in Denver have been particularly excited because we were able to secure Peyton Manning in the off season, and he’s been a source of excitement for us as we’ve approached opening day. While Tebow supporters, and I was among them, were sad to see the exciting young man go to the Jets, we were very enthusiastic to see the experienced four-time MVP Manning come to the Broncos and give our franchise hope for the playoffs.

What characterizes both of these players, however, is how they treat their teammates. Both of them are great leaders on and off the field. Tebow is unabashed about his faith, and supportive of everyone around him. He is loved by his teammates. He has nothing but good things to say about his competitors, helps them up off the ground and gives them encouraging words.

A little known fact about Manning is that he writes a warm letter to retiring players when they leave the NFL, thanking them for being a competitor. His courtesy and respect for those he plays against make him the consummate sportsman.

On Sunday, the Broncos won the game against the Steelers in the opening salvo. Manning immediately sought out Ben Rothlisberger, the opposing quarterback. As they hugged and shook hands, Manning said, “You were amazing on third downs tonight.”
In a game where trash talk and gang posturing has become the norm, men like Manning and Tebow continue to keep the standard high. They like and respect their opponents, and speak to them with regard. Their example is a lesson to us all.

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 3, 2012

WordFood for Customers

Over the last several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to interact on multiple occasions with Verizon and an organization that shall stay unnamed but that you can say they have a lady sports car driver to promote it. I have a lot of products with them and I depend on them for my business. Motorola uploaded a piece of software euphemistically called “ice cream sundae” last week, and one of the results was I lost access to my email accounts. I spent two and a half hours on the phone with Verizon and part of that time was with this organization, whose customer service rep repeatedly said, “it’s not our problem.” Verizon couldn’t solve it, the other folks wouldn’t help, and I was left with a $500 phone that wasn’t working. I finally went to the Verizon store and was sent home with an app. The next day the app wouldn’t work and I spent another hour on the phone with this organization and they again said, “it’s not our problem.” I finally landed at the Verizon store again where Jeremiah, bless him, said he would fix it, and fix it he did. That earned him a heartfelt and detailed recommendation from me to his boss which got forwarded to his district manager.

This week something else went geeky with my email, and once again I lost six hours on the phone, calling repeatedly and getting different reps with this same company, all of whom said the same thing: “it’s not our problem.” By the end of the day I had called the Microsoft help line they gave me (six times, it hung up on me after eight rings), tore out and installed a new modem, set up a brand new computer which had the same issue, and finally landed at the Geek Squad. In ten seconds the guy at Geek Squad pointed at a spot on my computer and said- “there’s your problem.” I nearly kissed him, and I told his manager as much.

I had written an unhappy customer feedback form to this organization and one of their managers called me today. He was apologetic, and I explained that while the problem turned out to be something very simple that no one could have anticipated, it was the toxic WordFood that had been so frustrating. When you aren’t an expert and your technology simply defeats you, being told “it’s not our problem” repeatedly truly is toxic. So often it’s how things are handled, not that the problem can’t be solved. When we make the customer wrong, it can be costly, in the days of blogs and twitter.

Life happens. Technology is frustrating. Customers get defeated by their devices. And in a world where the Baby Boomers’ eyes are going to get dimmer and their hearing is going to get weaker, more and more phone calls like this are going to land in the laps of those giving guidance to those of us struggling to work with recalcitrant devices. It doesn’t help to make the customer wrong. When the Jeremiahs of the world will grab the device and work the problem until it’s fixed, he earns my loyalty to Verizon forever.

What WordFood are you serving your customer? Do you have Jeremiahs working for you?

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