Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Be the Culture

I had a wonderful visit with a potential client recently and spent some time reflecting on what made it so good. The client, the COO of a mid-sized agency,  has a great personality and we engaged easily.  And he showed genuine interest in my client evaluation services. Yet, there was something more.

As he gave me a tour around the office it dawned on me why I was feeling so good about the the client and his business: there was a complete alignment between his style and the culture of the organization. I could tell this was a creative place not only by the interior design and what adorned the walls, but also by the way the client thought and spoke. He was very open and expressive.

What makes alignment between individual style and culture so powerful? How does that work? There are two models out there, both founded on psychological and organizational research over the past 50 years that explain this. One model focuses on social styles and the other explains cultural dimensions. And guess what, they're essentially the same. Here they are together.
Obviously there is a lot more behind these quadrants but it suffices to say when organizational cultural and individual style align, are truly in sync,  it's a beautiful thing. Not only that, it means that  an organization's effectiveness skyrockets.  

Now, you might say,  of course the COO represents the culture, he had better. And you'd be right,  but this was at another level. When I left the client's building, I looked back and saw the client's personality and the organizational culture as one. This doesn't happen every day.

Do you know your own style  and your firm's culture? Do you know your client's culture?  How you fit with the client's culture? Important stuff to learn because they impact your ability to deliver the right solutions, build productive  relationships  and retain clients for the long-term.

Monday, February 6, 2012

5 Steps for Receiving Negative Feedback

The other day I was talking on the phone to a colleague with whom I was planning a presentation and seemingly out of nowhere he said, "Rusty, I don' think this is going to work. I just don't like working with you. So let's not continue."

Bam! What a hit! An ugly bruise on my fat ego surfaced immediately. Staggering for a moment, I recovered and asked, "Can you tell me more about your decision? Honestly, I didn't see it coming." (Of course we never see it coming).

Turns out my colleague had interpreted the language in my recent emails as too abrupt and demanding. And, given a hectic schedule and other priorities, he didn't want to pursue working with me, thinking I would be too demanding. He may have been right.

This was not the first time I've received feedback about terse emails. And, upon reflection, I see how someone with a busy schedule might have thought, "what do I need this for?"

So, I learned something from this situation, in addition to a lesson in email etiquette. First, I  should always assess the readiness of my partner, client, whomever, to do the job set in front of them. In this case, I would have known to move more slowly and be more thoughtful about the language I use. Second, I discovered a model for receiving negative feedback that makes it it easier to absorb and more valuable. Here are the steps:

  1. Shock. It's okay to be shocked as long as you recover soon thereafter.
  2. Hurt. No way to avoid this so acknowledge it, "wow, that hurts."
  3. Separate. Remove your ego from the event. See the situation objectively. Do a flyover of the interaction. 
  4. Learn. Once your ego is out of the way, you'll see the light, something to be learned. 
  5. Apply. Find some relevance for the learning. Figure out how a past or upcoming interaction could have been or might be improved from what you just learned.
I know, easier said than done.

Yet, think how much happier you'll be in client and other  relationships knowing that when you hear negative feedback, it will be something you can work with to improve. Might not even hurt as much.