I am someone who has long appreciated the art and impact of the 360-Degree assessment. For those of you unfamiliar, a 360-Degree is a process used to allow employees to receive confidential, anonymous feedback about themselves from everyone with whom they work—from their bosses to their direct reports to their peers.

Don’t get me wrong… being on the receiving end of such honest, vulnerable feedback (especially when it is harsh) can be hard! But at its core, I love what the 360° represents—a commitment to solicit organic feedback, even when it hurts, to move the organization towards a better place. It creates a safe space for otherwise challenging conversations.

In business, we often fail to have the tough conversations or to get the feedback we need to move forward. We can get comfy in complacency, reluctant to hold up the mirror to see where we are succeeding and straying. But as business leaders, we need to get comfortable in an uncomfortable space. We need to uncover how we are disempowering our employees, negatively impacting customer loyalty and reaching a point of stagnation.

So, with a New Year fast approaching, here are three conversations I encourage you to start having:

Manual Processes Are Killing Our Teams

The reality is that 51 percent of American employees are not engaged and haven’t been for some time, according to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace report. There are many reasons for this, from our employees feeling disempowered to experiencing burnout. But some of the chief culprits also come in the form of broken processes, system workarounds and a LOT of manual work that exhaust and defeat our employees.

Think of your company or department for a moment. Do you have one person whose sole job is “Create Excel Reports.” Are they perhaps affectionately referred to as the “Excel Guy/Gal?” This is a problem. Manual, redundant, inefficient processes—repeated day-after-day, month-after-month—eat away at our employees’ ingenuity and strategic thinking. They don’t allow us to play to our employees’ strengths or foster the development of new capabilities

Tip: All poor processes can be improved. To begin, ask your employees to share just one thing about their job that feels inane and inefficient that if fixed would increase their productivity. You may be surprised at the answers.

We Aren’t Changing Fast Enough

It’s been well-documented that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail, but this statistic reveals a powerful message, other than the fact that we fail. It evidences that we do inherently want to usher in change, but we sometimes struggle with doing so. We may say we want to implement a more sophisticated customer relationship management platform and then spend 36 months preparing for its rollout. We may fundamentally understand that a custom application would provide competitive differentiation, yet we get stuck in the hamster wheel of analysis-by-paralysis, endlessly debating how we would build the app versus just getting started.

This is all because change is hard. Change forces us to look inward and identify something that needs altering and then elicit buy-in for that movement.

Tip: Write down one thing you know needs to be changed in your department or business. Then, fill in the blank:

  • My number one obstacle is: [blank]
  • As a result, my organization or department is experiencing: [blank]
  • If I could help address this challenge, it would mean realizing the following gains: [blank]
  • If I could personally solve this problem, it would help me: [blank]
  • To fix this problem, my first step needs to be: [blank]

No One is Talking About Workplace Excellence

I’ve long felt that in business we tend to favor one over the other: sound operations or vibrant culture. And that’s because the two are inherently at odds with another. The former calls for process, planning, methodology and systematic approach; the other calls for dreaming, vision, exploration and rapid change. But to be successful business owners, executives, departmental leaders or a high-potential individual contributors, we have to recognize the power that comes in melding the two together—of operating in a visionary way.

A few weeks ago, we launched a blog series to bring greater awareness to what we are calling workplace excellence or the powerful point at which sound operations and intentional leadership intersect. Our Principal of Business Development Garry Foisy has been sitting down with exemplary business leaders who purposefully invest in both operations and leadership to reach a more utopic place. He recently sat down with Bill Wray, Chief Risk Officer from the Washington Trust Company, and one of my favorite things Bill said was this:

“I always say that to create a ‘capability cocktail,’ you need three parts people, two parts process, and one part technology—in that order. Instead, people use software like a fad diet (and having tried fad diets I know they don’t work!) instead of doing the patient work of organizational and process analysis from which most improvement will be generated.”

Tip: Focus just as much on fixing broken processes and systems as you do on strengthening your leadership principles, and vice-versa. They are both equally crucial to your success, and if one suffers, the overall change movement suffers.

Looking Forward

With a New Year approaching, now is the perfect time to tee up fresh conversations with your peers. In so doing, you set yourself up to reach heightened levels of excellence, within your department and for yourself. Starting in 2018, Trilix will offer several workshops centered upon the conversations above. To find out more about these workshops, be sure to join our mailing list (click here!). You can also reach out to us there if you would like to us to bring our workshops straight to your business.

We look forward to tackling these important concepts together!

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