Monthly Archives: August 2012

Five Steps for Telling Better Stories with Employee Surveys

Organizations spend millions of dollars each year measuring things like employee engagement, job satisfaction, perceptions of safety, managerial effectiveness, and likelihood to recommend.

Data of this nature provide leaders with useful information about their employee population. However, if that knowledge isn’t acted upon or put into practice, then what’s the use in collecting it? Part of the problem is that leaders don’t know how to turn data into useful information or meaningful stories. In fact, many leaders lack the basic statistical competence to confidently and competently tell compelling stories about the data they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars collecting.

Here are some helpful strategies for telling better stories with your employee survey data:
Step 1: Get Your Survey Learn On.

  • Telling better stories with data begins with basic attitudinal survey competence. What does a mean tell us? Why should we use means instead of percent favorable (i.e., the proportion of respondents who answered “strongly agree” and “agree” on a five point scale) when interpreting the findings from an employee survey? Knowledge is power. Get some.

Step 2: Transform Data and Information into Knowledge.

  • Put current findings into context for key stakeholders such as managers and front line staff. What is the substantive meaning of the employee survey? What’s the headline? Why should we care?

Step 3: Craft Different Stories for Different Audiences.

  • Not all stories are created equal. Executives want and need to hear different stories than front line managers. They need you to share the meaning of the survey in the context of the “Big Picture.” Are we trending up or down? How do we compare to other organizations in our industry? How are these results related to our bottom line? What are we doing to maintain or improve our results?

Step 4: Motivate the Elephant and Shape the Path.

  • Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch offers a useful framework for behavioral change. Use simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional stories to motivate behavior change (motivate the elephant). Use metaphors, pictures, and visual aids to support your story. Equip and enable leaders with the tools for getting better results, and a clear path to follow (shape the path) so that adopting the change is easier. Finally, reinforce positive changes.

Step 5: Messages Don’t “Cascade,” Stories Do.

  • “Rolling out” results by sharing them at the top of the organization and then hoping that they “cascade” is an ineffective strategy for leveraging employee survey data. However, telling compelling stories about what makes your organization great can spread like wildfire to potential customers and top talent. Use video, intranet, youtube, corporate blogs, and social media to amplify the powerful stories about your organization.

If organizations are to become more strategic about evidence-based change, then their leaders have to get better at making employee survey data meaningful and telling better stories.


5 Steps to Simplifying Complexity at Work

People have not learned to deal with complexity. Complexity and fast-paced change are new. We’re all learning together.

Paradoxically, to manage complexity well, you must learn to simplify it.

Step 1. Slow down your pace. Simplifying complexity involves being intentional about learning and doing. Stop doing if you don’t know what, why, or how to do something.

Step 2. Invite the right people into a room to talk. Smart, connected, honest, creative people who are closest to the work are great resources.

Step 3. Ask how others are thinking about complexity. What do they know? What are they doing?

What do we know individually? What could we know if we shared information more effectively? What don’t we know so that we can go out and discover?

Step 4. Plan and do. Take on the problem. Take notes. Gather data. Build a prototype. Talk to a customer. Interview an employee.

Step 5. Debrief. Get “the band” back together to determine what worked well. Why did it work well? How can we do more of this and not that? How can we scale up our positive work? How will more positive work impact other parts of the community or the business?

The Moral of the “Data-Driven” Story…

Once upon a time there was a village of Data Points who were taken control of by the Evil Analyst.
The Evil Analyst kept the Data Points locked away in a dungeon called, Excel. The data were locked away for many years, and only the Evil Analyst knew of their whereabouts.

All the Data Points wanted was to be free, and to be made meaningful and useful to others. Alas, one day, a handsome team of leaders freed the Data Points from the tyranny of the Evil Analyst, turning them into meaningful information and powerful stories. And from that day forward, everyone benefited from the wisdom, possibilities, and meaning that the Data Points had to offer the world.

The moral of the story is this: Leaders have to get better at turning data into meaningful stories. It’s no longer acceptable to rely on the technical expertise of the “Evil Analysts” to do the work for you. There’s too much data, and there are too many stories to tell. This will require increased competence, confidence, and creativity.

Over the next few days, I’ll be exploring strategies that leaders can use for telling more powerful stories with data.

Behaviors that Transform Interpersonal Resistance




Meeting someone where they are at,


Staying calm,

Owning your own emotion,


Instilling hope,





Is Your Busyness Adding Value to Your Business?

Is your business more than the some of your employees’ busyness?

Tim Kreider wrote in his NY Times article, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.” In fact, many people wear their “busyness” as a badge of honor. You ask, “How are you?” She replies, “Super busy. Just so much going on. Really, really busy.”
So is the “busyness” that we hear so much about really about engaging in value-added business or is it some kind of a twisted way of validating our professional “worth,” individually and/or collectively?

Here are BIG questions to discuss with your team or to reflect on about your “busyness” (or should I say your business):

1. How busy are we? Why do some people seem busier than others? What choices are we making that contribute to our busyness?

2. Are we busy doing the right things? If not, why not? What do we need to stop doing?

3. What activities generate value for our business? What generates value for our customers? Why aren’t we busy doing more of those things?

4. What would need to exist for us to engage in less busyness and more business?

Bottom line: Busyness is a choice. Draw boundaries. Engage in value-add business activities. Don’t waste your time, and please don’t waste my time…I’m far too busy.

Image source:

Perfection, Good Enough, and Failure

Clearly, Seth Godin enjoyed my last post on Getting to Good Enough, as he’s using it in his seminars on becoming an impresario. Read his student’s description of the seminar here.

Whatever your idea is, try using these BIG questions (in bold below) that  Motivated Mastery shared to help you get to good enough.
1. What does perfection look like?

  • If I had all the resources, time, and motivation, what would an ideal product, service, experience look, feel, sound, and/or smell like? What would it make people feel or think? What of that “perfection” can’t I live without? What’s most essential for success?

2. What does good enough look like?

  • Good enough is about acceptance and getting your idea out there. So what does good enough look like for you, considering your available resources, knowledge, skill, and passion? What or who might you change if you got your good enough to “market” sooner rather than later? What would a beta version of your idea look like? What would it allow you to test and improve?

3. What does failure look like?

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if you shoot for perfection and miss? What if you don’t sell a million copies of your first album on itunes, but you convert 5 people into truly dedicated fans/advocates of your music? What learning, growth, lessons learned, and/or wisdom might come of that “failure”? Identify what you fear most about failure and then push-on. Strive for the essential elements of perfection and get your good enough to market.

There are few examples of perfection out there, but lots of examples of good enough…(think iphone, Firefox, Gallup’s Q12). Perfection is the hobgoblin of good enough.

Top 10 Strategies for Getting to “Good Enough”

Neither you nor your customers have time for perfect. But contrary to popular belief, “perfection” is not the only thing that gets in the way of “good.”

Here’s a few strategies to help you get to “good enough”:

1. Being proactive,

2. Belief in yourself,

3. Confidence,

4. Using your  strengths,

5. Courage and boldness,

6. Trust,

7. Focus,

8. Healthy relationships,

9. Laughter,

10. Openness.

If you integrate these 10 strategies for getting to good enough into your work, how might your results change? How might your relationships with co-workers, customers, or friends change? I bet they wouldn’t be perfect…but they’d be good enough!

Three Questions that Changed My Life

Question 1: What do I really want?

Question 2: Why don’t I have it already?

Question 3: What am I willing to do in order to get it?

These questions were posed to me by a stranger during a chance encounter more than 10 years ago. They were transformative for me then. They’re transformative for my coaching clients today. And I hope that you find them useful in getting what you really want.