BUILDING TRUST DESPITE RESISTANCE
The client organization learned through surveys that people were afraid to share feedback or ideas. The trust level with some leaders was extremely low. Some people were afraid they might lose their jobs if they “spoke the truth.” Others were concerned that they or their ideas would simply be dismissed.
Not an uncommon problem. Often people don’t respond candidly to surveys or in focus groups when they fear retaliation. Some don’t even trust the process or the people trying to improve the situation.
Lack of trust hindered productive working relationships that were critical to the success of the department and the services they delivered. Even executives were at a loss about how to approach what had become a highly sensitive situation. The “trust issue” was also damaging to the department’s reputation, potentially making it more difficult to attract and retain the talent they really needed.
Bringing an outside perspective, we worked collaboratively with the client to structure a different kind of dialogue. Team members shared ideas that could help the organization move forward in new ways while constructively addressing the elephant in the room. Providing a safe environment where employees were truly heard was one of the success factors. The client’s openness to an innovative approach helped as well.
The client was able to leverage the talent within the organization to help create the solutions they needed. Strategically engaging the right people in the right way made the difference. Building and rebuilding trust takes time, but immediate improvement can be made when you approach the problem from a different angle.
Helping the Organization Select and Develop Talent More Strategically
The client, an electric coop and leader in its industry, wanted to become more strategic in their talent selection process—assuring they could find the best fit for the job. Tired of hiring “warm bodies” for the sake of filling a position, they turned to Gayle for help.
The client also wanted to create a culture where employees are more proactive in how they develop themselves and manage their career. Instead of relying on the organization to “tap” an employee when an opportunity appeared, they wanted employees to “step up and speak out” by identifying how they can leverage their strengths and help the business.
Gayle provided job benchmarking services to help the client gain more clarity about what’s most important to the position first. By engaging multiple stakeholders in the process, she helped decision makers focus on key outcomes and reduce bias in the process. Over time, the client created over 30 benchmarks for different positions in the organizations so they would be adequately prepared when time to hire for a given position. It made the selection process much smoother and reduced conflict among decision makers on the backend.
In addition, Gayle introduced an initiative called “Energizing Your Career,” which leveraged assessment tools used in the benchmarking process. The initiative engaged the entire organization with specific focus on identifying or reinforcing individual strengths and capabilities. It provided a unique opportunity for employees to consider their own career aspirations and ways in which they could create value for the organization.
Advancing Women Leaders
The client wanted to determine best ways to help advance local women in business in executive roles, knowing that doing so would help build better businesses.
There are few women in top senior executive roles. Companies are struggling to retain women executives. Women are under-represented on corporate boards. Many initiatives and programs designed to support women business leaders aren’t making the impact needed.
Among other factors that contribute to the challenge, women lack access to informal networks typically available to men. Some CEOs and executives acknowledge the issue, but admit they don’t know what to do about it. Others are unaware of the issue or have not made it a high priority.
Gayle provided consulting services, working collaboratively with the client, to identify and implement innovative approaches to help raise awareness about the issue and garner support—efforts that ultimately led to the establishment of a 501(c)(3) that provides executive education to business leaders.
After initially conducting over 40 interviews with a wide range of CEOs and senior executives in the city, Gayle delivered feedback and helped launch a city-wide project that, in the end, not only helps women, but also men in their leadership roles. The project has engaged key CEOs in the city, along with other executives, thought leaders and advocates–through public events, small group CEO dialogues and other special events. The new project has been well received and continues to grow.
Read more about the Alabama Leadership Project.
In addition, Gayle created “WorkMatters for Women” – a special online course for women who want to advance their leadership and career.
Refreshing Strategic Planning
The client, a CEO of an organization in the financial services industry, was concerned about the effectiveness of their annual strategic planning process. “It’s getting stale. We’re doing the same things year after year…and not really getting anywhere.”
The client expressed concern about consultants they had used in the past that portrayed themselves as “know-it-alls” and did not listen to participants. The board chair wanted to prompt needed innovative thinking without threatening long-term board members who were resistant to change.
Gayle led a strategic planning retreat that engaged board members, executives and other key stakeholders differently. Challenging their thinking without disrespecting their traditions, she helped them see new ways to achieve their goals. The client stated that the strategic planning process was the best they had ever experienced and they had been doing planning sessions over 25 years. One board member exclaimed, “It was actually enjoyable and productive!”
The organization focused on ways in which it could build on its success—ways it could carry out its mission while introducing new services in their market. It’s moved away from “this is how we’ve always done it” thinking to a stronger focus on those they serve. With clear vision and direction, the mission driven organization is making needed changes…one step at a time. They are moving forward in new and better ways to adapt to the changing needs of their market.
Creating Cultural Change
Gayle consults with a wide range of organizations that are intentionally working to develop or improve their culture. They understand that corporate culture is one of the most important factors for creating a great place to work and serving their market at the highest level.
Read this case study about Gayle’s work with NASA
Engaging and Retaining Top Performers
The client, a department executive of a large organization, wanted to get a pulse on what matters most to top performers so they could determine best ways to engage, leverage and retain them. They turned to Gayle as an outside consultant for support to help them achieve their objectives.
Gayle conducted “stay interviews” with a wide cross-section of employees to explore what they care about with regard to their roles and the organizational culture. Speaking directly with employees, Gayle was able to delve more deeply into issues to help the organization get the best feedback. Employees were candid in sharing their perspective on key issues—speaking up about what they value most as well as any specific concerns or obstacles they face. Gayle provided feedback to help the organization determine strategies and approaches that will work best to help them retain top talent.
The client, a senior executive of a department in a large insurance company, was concerned about a team that seemed to be on the brink of anarchy. Team members were complaining about the manager who was ignoring the issues, avoiding conflict and disengaging himself. The team was plagued by lack of trust, low morale, finger pointing and burn out.
Given the team’s dysfunction, the department was losing productivity and becoming known as “the problem department” within the organization. They sought Gayle’s help to get the team “under control” so they could work together effectively, achieve the business goals and re-establish the department’s reputation. They needed to get on a better track quickly before they completely derailed.
Gayle conducted 360 degree interviews to assess the situation and worked closely with the manager one-on-one and the team for 6 months. She led a special strategy meeting to engage the team in a way that helped them orient around a new vision and objectives for the department. Through her facilitated process, including assessment services, she drew out issues that were most important to address and worked through the challenges constructively.
Coaching the manager one-on-one helped him see new approaches that increased his leadership effectiveness. He identified strengths he could leverage and blind spots that he needed to address. The team and manager committed to new and better ways to work together. A year later they are continuing to show impressive results that impact their own work satisfaction and how they serve their customers. The manager’s improved level of engagement with his team was one critical factor that contributed to their success. See what Gayle offers for Team Development.
Solving Trouble at the Top
Four partners (two women and two men) in a professional services firm had gotten to the point where tensions were so high they were barely speaking to each other. Having worked together for many years, they knew each other well, yet could not resolve some conflicts that were now too big to ignore. Their business was as a turning point and no one could agree on the best new direction or path to take.
One partner admitted he had been extremely frustrated for years, but did not want to make waves. Another partner confessed she was on the verge of leaving. Another complained that one of the partners wasn’t pulling his weight. Resentment was strong. The stress was taking a toll on each of them mentally and some, even physically. Sensitivities were high. Some were losing sleep. The negative impact on the firm was evident to employees.
Gayle met with the partners individually and as a group to assess the situation and make recommendations. Knowing that change would not happen overnight, Gayle continued working with the partners for a year to help them build (or rebuild) better business relationships as partners. They developed new behaviors and ways of communicating that helped them keep their leadership team intact and focused on top priorities.
Now their vision is clear. They have a renewed commitment to the firm and are moving forward more effectively as true partners. See what Gayle offers for Executive Coaching.
Pursuing a Personal Vision (Stopping the Madness)
A successful experienced executive had been working for a large organization and achieving impressive results, but the corporate environment had taken a toll on her. She was tired of the bureaucracy and politics, the gossip, the endless stream of worthless meetings that zapped her time and energy. For years, she had tolerated incompetent leadership. She left work feeling drained every day and had no work-life balance.
A top performer, she was beginning to doubt herself. “What’s wrong with me?” Knowing something was missing, she turned to Gayle to help her determine how best to move forward and achieve what she really wanted.
Through coaching with Gayle, she was able to establish clarity around new possibilities for herself. Instead of focusing on the draining areas of her life and work, she began shifting attention to energizing sources. Although other clients in very similar situations had improved their situation and found greater success by staying with their own organizations, she took a different path–one that aligned better with her talents, interests and aspirations. She eventually left the corporation to start her own business. A courageous move.
Working with Gayle, she gained needed insight that enabled her to tap her creativity and strengths—and make a confident decision about moving in a new and more fulfilling direction. She’s now doing work that matters to her while running a successful small business. See what Gayle offers for Small Businesses.