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Lessons from “The Lego Movie”

You just never know when and where you’re going to run into business insight and inspiration.  If you’re lucky – or maybe just tuned in to signs from the universe – it can be anywhere and anyplace.  Even at a film for kids like The Lego Movie.

lordbusinessIt wasn’t that big of a leap, actually.  The film’s antagonist is Lord Business, and he’s definitely not the kind of enlightened leader that employee engagement proponents look to as a role model – at least not at the beginning.  He’s basically your kick-butt drill sergeant with a mean streak a mile wide.  His singular obsession is world domination where everyone follows instructions and does exactly what they’re told to do.

The film’s hero is a construction worker named Emmet.  He is mistakenly identified by the downtrodden as “The Special” – the person destined to save the world from the evil Lord Business and his wicked weapon, the dreaded “Kragle,” which immobilizes any effort at divergence.  The “prophecy” proclaimed at the beginning of the movie sets up the adventure like this:

One day a talented lass or fellow,
A Special one with face of yellow,
Will make the Piece of Resistance found,
From its hiding refuge underground.
With a noble army at the helm,
This Master Builder will thwart the Kragle and save the realm,
And be the greatest, most interesting,
Most important person of all times.
All this is true, because it rhymes.

emmett-legoWell, as such movies go, the hero faces countless hurdles and comical misadventures along the way (it is, after all, a cartoon).  In the end, of course, he prevails. But not how you’d expect.  At the climactic confrontation between Emmet and Lord Business, Emmet melts the villain’s cold, hard heart and turns him into a pussy cat with the following verse:

You don’t have to be the bad guy.
You are the most talented, most interesting
and most extraordinary person in the universe.
And you are capable of amazing things.
Because YOU are The Special. And so am I.
And so is everyone.
The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true.
It’s about all of us.  Right now, it’s about you.
And you … still … can change everything.

And he does – beginning with himself.  Suddenly the Kragle-fied characters are released from their bondage, and imagination and free will reign supreme.  If you’ve read my book, “Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement,” you know why that’s so important.  Those special qualities that exist in ALL of us are what differentiate humans most from all other living creatures on the planet – and they give us the power and the purpose to do truly amazing things.

Want to learn more about the importance of those wondrous qualities?
Then …

Read my book, and you shall see
Why human beings must be free
To let imagination thrive
If they want to feel alive!

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ImaginAction Workshop

If you are looking for a level of employee engagement that can produce a quantum leap in quality, productivity, customer loyalty, sales, and profitability – our ImaginAction Workshop can be the driver to transform your organization.

Watch this 3-minute video about the ImaginAction Workshop:

Download more info about the ImaginAction Workshop

 

Real-Life, Real-Time Communication

Did you know that poor communication typically falls in the top three complaints in most employee surveys? If communication is a lightning rod of discontent in your organization, Landes & Associates can help. Using our Real-Life, Real-Time Communication model, we will show you how to create a best-in-class communication system that …

  • Keeps employees connected with essential information when and where they need it
  • Aligns employees continuously with the key goals, priorities and strategies of your organization

Primary communication services:

  • Communication Assessment
  • Communication Planning and Implementation
  • Communication Training

Downloadable documents on Real-Life, Real-Time Communication:Real-Life Real-Time Communication Guide

Read the article by Les Landes published in IABC’s Communication World: Real-Life, Real-Time Communication: More than a function it’s the central nervous system of your organization

Communication System Assessment

We use the following 7 key criteria for “Real-Life, Real-Time Communication” to evaluate how effectively your current approach to communication is meeting the needs of your employees and your organization.

  • Interaction
  • Speed
  • Availability
  • Access
  • Relevance
  • Inclusion
  • Authenticity

Then we offer recommended improvements, as well as support in designing and implementing optimally effective systems, tools and processes.

Communication Planning and Implementation

A comprehensive communication plan is an essential foundation for ensuring that your communication efforts are on target with company priorities. We can help you develop a plan from strategy to implementation, from measurement to evaluation that will enable you to deliver on the expectations that management has for communication support. Then we can help you with all or any part of putting the plan into action.

Communication Training

Professional communicators cannot be solely responsible for effective communication in any organization. We can help your managers and leaders understand how each of them can play a pivotal role in making sure that communication is designed and conducted in way that keeps everyone aligned and aware of the information they need to do their jobs successfully.

Mission Control

Most people are familiar with the old bromide – “What gets measured is what gets done.” That’s only partly true. How people communicate about those measurements also determines not only what gets done, but how efficiently and effectively people do it.

As a practical matter, it’s challenging for most organizations to figure out how to share relevant information in a way that’s readily accessible to all employees. The solutions vary depending on the nature of the information, the business and people involved. For certain types of essential operating information, Landes & Associates offers a tool that has been remarkably effective for numerous organizations, including winners of the Baldrige National Quality Award.

Mission ControlWe call it “Mission Control” – and its design is based on several essential communication principles:

Purpose and Benefits

  • Prioritize, organize and visualize performance data
  • Display “big-picture” connection among key data indicators
  • Provide central alert system for sharing data on key indicators and taking corrective action on needed improvements

Aligning with Key Organizational Measurement Areas

  • Business goals
  • Employee engagement
  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Financial performance

Making Metrics Work

  • Organize and prioritize indicators
  • Provide frequent and timely reporting and review
  • Keep it simple
  • Make it visible and visual
  • Connect individual and department priorities to big picture
  • Make it quantitative wherever possible
  • Emphasize systematic continuous improvement
  • Set stretch targets
  • Establish predetermined actions in response to data variations that occur

Related ArticleLeading the Duck at Mission Control, Quality Progress

mission-control-scoreboard-illustration

Want to learn more?  Contact us to learn how Mission Control could make a difference at your organization.

Marketing and Public Relations

All businesses face the same basic marketing challenge – how to connect with the people who are willing and able to buy their products and services.  We help organizations meet that challenge successfully using a dynamic process based on four key design principles.

  • Planning that tests assumptions  and produces  action
  • Relationship Building that transforms marketing into something you do with customers and prospects instead of to them
  • Integration of multiple, well-coordinated tools with a keen sense of when to use each one
  • Sharing the Story  in a way that sets your organization apart from the crowd and engages customers

Drawing on those design principles, we create programs for clients using a variety of marketing communication strategies and tactics in the following areas:

Public & Media Relations – Leverage the power and reach of traditional and social media with a compelling approach to sharing “the story” by that resonates with your stakeholders and engages your customers.

Promotional Programs & Materials – Make the right impression with well-designed and precisely targeted messages and images.

Customer Satisfaction System – Get rapid, reliable data for making quick adjustments to customer needs.

Brand Development – Build and articulate your brand in a way that resonates with your customers and moves them to action.

Anniversaries & Milestones – Turn major celebrations into significant business- building opportunities.

Community Investment/Corporate Social Responsibility – Make sound strategic decisions that align your organization’s goals with your commitment to being a good corporate citizen.

Finally, it’s Out

A couple of weeks ago, I completed a lengthy journey to publish my first book when it finally went live on the major online bookstores. The title is Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement: The Power and Purpose of Imagination and Free Will in the Workplace.

The title probably would’ve been a lot shorter in the days before SEO, but key words are king these days. The length also reflects the extent of the process for completing the book. It took me six months to write it … and six years to refine it. That’s a long time even for an inveterate editor like me. But I felt a strong need to let it “stew” and to get input along the way on how to add distinctive value to the prolific body of literature that already exists on employee engagement.

At this point, the virtual fingerprints of so many professional colleagues are on the book that it feels a bit like a community project. I wrote it as a business fable to capture the emotion and the messiness that swirls around the engagement mystique. Whether or not it adds “distinctive value” on the subject will be determined ultimately by the people continuing to seek new insights on how to crack the code to extraordinary employee engagement. Here’s a preview from the book’s Preface that explains the value I believe it contributes to the engagement dialogue:

I’ve always felt a longing to get at the heart—the essential elemental truths—of what gets people tuned in, turned on, and eager to go the extra mile for the mutual benefit of themselves and the organizations they work for. I’m convinced that understanding those truths will help people get past the stumbling blocks that so often derail and discourage efforts to tap into the full-blown potential of employee engagement.

At the risk of sounding a bit lofty, I’ve compared my quest to Einstein’s pursuit of the elusive unified field theory, the Holy Grail of physics. He searched for it most of his life to explain the connection between all of the forces of the universe in a single equation.

When I started writing this book, I wasn’t sure what my single “equation” might turn out to be for employee engagement. It seemed to me that it might be rooted in the uniquely human qualities of imagination and free will, but by themselves, those qualities certainly were not new, and they weren’t sufficient to shed significant new light on the subject.

Then it hit me. The answer is rooted in the intrinsic relationship between imagination and free will that plays out in this fable. The secret to employee engagement lies not merely in our capacity to imagine and choose, but in understanding how those qualities are inseparably interrelated.

That was a breakthrough moment for me, and it sparked a flood of insight about why organizations struggle with employee engagement. It also opened the door to understanding how nurturing the combined power of imagination and free will in the workplace can allow employees to contribute the greatest and be the best that human beings are designed to be.

For those of you who share my passion for the power and potential of employee engagement that transcends the norm, I hope the ideas in this book will challenge and inspire you to explore new ways to create the kind of organization where employees love to work and customers love doing business.

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Faking Sincerity

I’ve quoted my friend and mentor, David Berlo, numerous times in this column.  Here’s one of his more curious gems. “The key to being effective is sincerity,” he said, “and if you can learn how to fake that, you’ve really got it made.”   He was joking, of course.  But like the old saying goes, there’s a bit of truth in every joke.

Key to Leadership
I was reminded of David’s quip recently when I attended a presentation on a report entitled “The Authentic Enterprise.”  It was published two years ago by the Arthur W. Page Society from a study that examined the role of senior communicators in the 21st century.

Based on comments from numerous CEOs and chief communications officers, the report summed up the study’s pivotal finding like this – “In a word, authenticity will be the coin of the realm for successful corporations and for those who lead them.”  The report goes on to say, “Demands for transparency are at an all-time high, and give no sign of ebbing.”

Reality is Fabulous
Perhaps it’s not surprising that businesses have struggled with the elemental need to be straight shooters.  It’s certainly not new – just look at what Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden more than 150 years ago …

“Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous.  If men would observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, music and poetry would resound along the streets.  Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks, which we can call reality.”

Despite the apparent yearning for greater authenticity … or sincerity … or reality, some skeptics think it’s mostly a hoax.  They argue that when stakeholders – inside or out – say they want more authenticity, all they’re really looking for is consistency.  I guess they haven’t run into as many consistently inauthentic “spinners” as I have.

A Choice and a Voice
Still, the remark made me examine what I mean when I use the word authentic.  It was easier to grasp its significance by describing what I mean by IN-authentic.  Here are some words and phrases that come to mind – doubletalk … misdirection … sanitizing bad news … glamorizing good news … manipulating the truth … distorting the facts … empty jargon … phony platitudes.  It’s rarely an outright lie – just an artful shading of reality.  Sound familiar?  From where I stand, that’s a whole lot more sinister and unsavory than merely being inconsistent.

Professional communicators have a choice and a voice.  We can play along and help our organizations engage in “shams and delusions” that strain credibility – or we can be champions of authenticity.  Promoting the latter, the Page report says, “If we choose this path, we can transform our profession, open up new and meaningful responsibility and learning, and create exciting new career paths for communications professionals.”  Now that’s something to look forward to – sincerely.

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Let’s get real.

We all know how transparent euphemisms can crush credibility, and yet communication in many organizations – inside and out – still remains stuck in the seductive tendency to sanitize the bad news and glamorize the good news.  Take, for example, a recent occurrence on a St. Louis public playground when a young boy suffered blistering burns from going down a slide on a hot summer day.  Demonstrating a rare flare for sanitizing rhetoric, city officials wrote a letter to the parents calling it an “unpleasant incident.”  Yeah, I’d say.

Not to be outdone, President Bush recently responded to the growing chorus for withdrawal from Iraq with a realzinger.  We shouldn’t have a time line for getting out, he said.  It’s more of a time horizon.  The only question is who should have to wear the dunce cap for that kind of numbskull charade – the president or his spinners?

Talking Straight with Employees 
Of course, nobody really expects straight talk from politicians.  But what about the manipulative way organizations communicate with employees on dicey issues?  What’s more, how does that treatment getreflected in the misleading ways that companies communicate with customers?  Often, the failure to be open and honest with internal communication stems from the belief that the average employee can’t handle challenging or sensitive information.  Anyone who hasn’t gotten over that myth yet should stop and read no further.

If organizations genuinely want to build the trust and credibility it takes to get employees engaged above and beyond their job descriptions, management needs to get a lot more clear and candid.  So what does it take to have the “real deal” when it comes to organizational communication?

  1. Interaction – As I say every chance I get, if it isn’t two-way, it isn’t communication.  It’s message distribution.
  2. Speed – Important information needs to be available instantaneously, not after it’s been polished for periodic publication weeks or months later.
  3. Availability – Other than proprietary formulas and human resource files, consider the simple policy for what information should be available to employees that was adopted by one Baldrige Award winning company – no secrets!
  4. Access – It’s not enough to “open the books” to employees.  Making information available is useless if people have to jump through hoops to get it.
  5. Relevance – Dumping tons of information on people is almost as bad as hoarding it.  Find out what people find relevant and valuable, and make sure that’s where you focus your communication efforts.
  6. Inclusion – Beware of leaving some people out of the loop of information that might make a difference in their knowledge and performance.
  7. Authenticity – First, last and always, avoid the temptation to sanitize and glamorize.  Employees know the difference, and the way they respond to you and your customers will be a direct reflection – for better or for worse – of how sincere and authentic they think you are.
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