Get Agreement To Move Your Agenda Forward


Last week I was in Michigan giving a presentation to a group of leaders about the importance of adopting universally understood leadership language. This notion of leadership language was preceded by commonly asked question of managers across industries: “How can you get the concept of engagement to show up in behavior and performance of associates and team members?”

The short answer I gave was practice.

Providing leaders of teams with a common language to talk about performance and behavior expectations is half the battle. It’s the “secret sauce” for getting team buy-in. And once you have a common language, everyone has to practice using it, in order for there to be a common measure of performance.

Some organizations use assessment tools to establish behavioral norms.

For example, using behavioral interviewing tools, pulse surveys, personality and/or problem-solving tests to begin establishing a set of expectations from potential employees. And once they are on the team, organizational norms are further reinforced by training modules.

Below is a partial list of tools that organizations can use to help develop a common language and shared values amongst team members:

Regardless of the tools selected, each of these assessments offer unique approaches to establish organizational language that, if adopted, can serve as foundational blocks for determining the types of behaviors that are expected in your organization. And if those blocks are set, they can then be used to inform the written and spoken materials that describe the culture your organization hopes to display.


For example, what do you mean when you things like: “I want my associates to be more engaged.” or “Our teams are operating in silos.” or “We lack good communication in our organization.”? It’s these types of assessment tools that can narrow the definitions of the terms you want to be a part of your organization’s lexicon.

Finally, when your organization’s “cultural artifacts” are on display, you will need “ambassadors” that exemplify the qualities needed to succeed in your culture. These are people that walk the walk, talk the talk and are able to translate the nuances that form your unique culture. And this is where finding support from outside your organization can be a competitive advantage.

While applying the tools noted above can be straightforward, getting an accurate interpretation of the results of the assessments is often done best by people outside the organization. The role of a change management consultant, for example, is to be able to help leadership see how well or poorly new language is taking hold with an organization. That same consultant must also be able to provide a set of measures that can track the team’s adherence to the new language being used to change culture.


All of this work is designed to help companies identify, validate, practice and improve ways of engaging employees, who in turn represent your organization’s values to your customers. Further, it provides managers & supervisors (often considered the most important roles within organizations) with actionable data to move the needle on engagement in your company.

The more employees understand, appreciate and internalize your company’s unique language, the better equipped they are to help others understand and appreciate your company.


Leader Language Creates Culture

In practice, the concept of lingua franca is familiar to most people.

It’s the commonly used language used by groups to communicate thoughts and ideas that can be shared by diverse groups of people. And in specialized worlds – like that of leadership - it is the common thread that binds the activities and approaches to decision-making that help frame the ideas of organizations.

Visionary leaders have always used language to express their grandest ideas that would change the world. They are masters at figuring out how to get the rest of us to adopt their language to express our own intentions.


The kind of leadership that relies on dictate has long passed most organizations by as antiquated, ineffective and unsustainable (despite what some public discourse may sound like today). Instead, the idea of influencing behavior by tapping into what affirmatively motivates people is how the most successful leaders of our day operate.

Whether it’s the language of finance, community organizing, healthcare or technology transfer, the people we revere as transformational in their fields use language to motivate, inspire and shape the cultures that they find themselves in.

I would venture to say 75 percent of a leader’s role is to communicate expectations, inspire people to perform to their abilities, course correct when work is off course and transmit the importance of everyone’s participation to the larger goal of a project or enterprise.


To successfully do those things, leaders must possess a number of technical skills that are essential to understanding what “perfect performance” looks like in a given field. But, once a leader is able to demonstrate her technical bona fides, much of the rest of her portfolio is really about inspiring, convincing, influencing and praising the golden triangle of stakeholders for any organization: the company, the customers and the collaborators.

Noah Zandan, CEO of Quantified Communications once noted in an article published by Inc. Magazine that there are several ways visionary leaders can best create an inspirational lingua franca for your organization:

·      Use more of the present tense versus future tense language when speaking about your organization

·      Talk more about your team more than you do about the institution or yourself

·      Use more sensory or feeling language to describe how things appear

This advice goes for the language you use in written materials, as well. Transmitting a “sense” of “who” your organization is can have equally motivating impacts on people that are (or want to be) associated with your team.

I’m also reminded of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why when considering how to use language to inspire. In it, he posits that people are inspired by “a sense of purpose”. It is that connection that must be made in order for a resonant lingua franca to begin to take hold and reflect your culture.

Below are a series of questions leaders should be asking themselves on a regular basis when seeking to figure out if he is using language that reflects inspiration:

·      How do you transmit vision?

·      How do you praise good performance?

·      How do you constructively criticize misses?

·      How often are you “walking the shop floor”?

·      At what point in a process do you offer praise for good performance?

·      At what point in a process do you offer criticism for poor performance?

·      Do you check to see if the language you use to lead is understood by your audience?

·      Does the language you use to talk about that vision support your vision?

·      Are new employees “taught” your organization’s lingua franca in a systematic way?  

All of these questions and many others ought to be considered when thinking about the development of a robust and inviting culture in your organization. Let us know if any of these concepts are helpful as you begin changing your own workplace cultures.


Problem-Solving in The New Year

The New Year is a chance to assess one's progress towards established goals. Whether in a large organization, a team of 10 people or an individual, reflection on previous work is critical to establishing new baselines for success. 

I recently came across a simple yet brilliant series of steps by marketer and founder of Arkay Marketing & PR Lucy Rendler-Kaplan that show how individuals can enhance their personal brands. Her 6 Tips to Strengthen Your Brand tells why its so important to know the building blocks of your brand before you can change it or improve it. At OVP Management Consulting Group Inc. we think those tips are an important part of being able to help our clients with strategic thinking and effective problem solving. 

If you've read our blog before, you've come across topics like Designing Your Leadership Vision, Establishing Trust and Borderless Leadership. In each of these, we've talked about why it is important for leaders to understand the strengths/weaknesses of themselves and their teams when trying to solve problems and set achievable goals. We believe that any successful marketing effort (team or individual) must be predicated on a clear understanding of one's goals and skills are.

Facilitating a discussion about workplace diversity for Leadership Detroit in Detroit, Michigan.

Facilitating a discussion about workplace diversity for Leadership Detroit in Detroit, Michigan.

At OVP Consulting, we encourage all of our clients to begin their journey with us by taking an individual assessment that begins the process of identifying talents (hidden and obvious). We think its a great way to help leaders of teams establish the baseline needed to set appropriate goals, as well as point out the skills needed to achieve success.

In 2018, we are looking forward to working with our clients to set new goals and uncover new ways to approach solving of problems. We've begun partnering with firms from around the country to help leaders of organizations think and manage more strategically. 

Here's a short list of things we recommend leaders consider when attempting to fix problems on teams:

- Get agreement on your problem-solving methodology: Using established methods such as Lean Six Sigma, Hypothesis Testing, Continuous Improvement Process Design or Route Cause Analysis are just some of the approaches used to understand problems. Having a common language to tackle problems is critical to your success.

- Consider changing up how you conduct team meetings: If you typically have a traditional "around the horn" sharing of information meeting as  your model, perhaps consider a more structured style. For example, developing the habit of distributing meeting agendas, requiring advanced preparation or alternating meeting roles on a team can help uncover hidden roadblocks to the successful leveraging of your meetings to address problems.

- Bring outside perspectives into the discussion: This can be a difficult (and often humbling) approach for leaders, when looking to address the fixing of entrenched problems. Many business consultants believe bring outside voices into these sessions is among the most important things a leader can do. An outsider's perspective can be "instrumental in rethinking a problem quickly and properly." 

- Conduct a Go-and-See to observe a problem first hand: To effectively dive into problem solving (whether financial, operational or cultural), leaders must have first-hand observations to begin dissecting a problem. We sometimes like to call it "Standing in the Circle" which refers to observing an issue from one particular location over a period of time to truly understand an issue. 

Ensure everyone on the team participates by writing their definition of the problem: This goes along with the idea that when seeking input from team members, it isn't just enough to take a "verbal poll" of their opinions on an issue. It is critical to have their perspectives in writing. Once opinions are shared in writing, it gives team members a stake in the eventual outcome of a problem solving journey. It also serves as a real-time check on whether there is consensus on what problem is being addressed. 

Looking for some supplementary reading that goes deeper into the area of problem solving? I would recommend picking up The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker. It's not just for manufacturing. 


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If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate some of these problem-solving techniques with your teams, we'd love to help. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (coming soon)!