Usually when I go to a company I give a keynote, participate in a panel, give a workshop or coach one or more people. Yes, I learn from them, but usually I am the one doing the teaching and trying to energize them for the changes that are happening (or they want to happen) in their company.
Last week I spent two days at the Lowe’s HQ in North Carolina (the campus is beautiful, BTW!) and did all the same things. This time I came away more energized by being with them. It was a wonderful experience!
They brought in everyone on the “social” team, plus people from around the company – people who worked on the floor of a store, cashiers, people from HQ, those with managerial or regional responsibilities around the US – those who they felt were at the front of using collaborative technologies. They also brought a few of us in to give them more ideas. It was also a “Thanks!” to all those people as well.
I gained some great insights that couldn’t sit dormant. THEY MUST BE SHARED!
1. Don’t Forget to Energize & Recognize
Whether it is full time or just part of your job, trying to work in a more open way using collaborative technologies is exhausting. You WILL get beat up. You often feel as if you are not making that much progress. Much of that is because you see all that can be done and how far away you are!
But, you don’t give up. You fight the fight, wishing that it wasn’t a fight.
This group was brought together and learned that they were not alone! They were validated and learn that they share the same struggles as others. Then, they learned of ways to overcome those stuggles. What a breath of fresh air!
Just to know you are not crazy is one thing, but there was almost a sense of relief. In addition, there was a bit of Rocky motivation – you can do this!
2. Play is Good
At work? Yes, at work.
I see that it does two things. It helps everyone remember that they are humans with creativity, originality and feelings, not just cogs in the corporate machine. THAT, in and of itself, is liberating!
But does that help the business? Absolutely! In this case, Lowe’s allowed a Zombie community. If I remember correctly, it is one of the most popular communities.
Many would scoff and say, “No way! That type of discussion wastes so much time!” That is one way to look at it.
Another way would be to look at the discussion itself. If you did you would find that it discussed ways to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse! More waste of time? No, not when it focused on preparations using materials you can find at Lowe’s.
Suddenly, you have side conversations saying, “Wait, I didn’t know we carried that! How do I get that in my store?” or “You can do that with XXXX? Really?!” They were sharing and learning product knowledge from each other – information they would never have never learned through basic training.
I gave a workshop on the Adoption Index I created from the book Diffusion of Innovation by Everett Rogers. We were talking about forcing adoption and Bryan Burleson mentioned “unadoption,” how we not only try to get them to do the new, but stop them from doing the old.
It is difficult to get groups to do something new, but getting them to quit the old, out dated habit might even be harder. Thus, “unadoption” becomes important as well. Thanks, Bryan!
4. Botox Your Personality
When Victoria Labalme mentioned this, I thought about how this is something I do. I want to fit the part, instead of being me.
Really, we need do both, but I err on the side of what others expect.
In fact, when packing for this trip I forgot to put in my belt. I was all set to go on after Victoria and button up my jacket so no one noticed my faux pax.
But when I heard that, I thought, “Who cares!” I went down on stage and left the jacket unbuttoned. And do you know what it did? It helped me be me – more comfortable on stage, rather than worrying about my belt (which wasn’t a big deal in the long run). Thanks, Victoria!
5. Invite Royalty
As I mentioned, they invited those most active in the community – and they treated them (and us) like royalty. I kept hearing, “We never get this treatment! This is nice!”
What it did was show appreciation for something these employees didn’t NEED to do. For most of them it is not in their job description, but they are putting the in effort. How nice it was to be recognized!
I know it went a LONG way to energizing the group. It also showed how much Lowe’s is dedicated to social business.
6. A Caring CEO
They had their CEO, Robert Niblock, come speak to them. As busy as he is with a 200K+ employee company, he took the time to formally welcome them and tell the group how important this is to him and the company as a whole.
Then, although most did not know this, he was following up to see how the symposium was going. He really cared about it and he showed it.
By the way, Robert is very active in their internal community. He regularly blogs and comments.
One story I heard was that they had to close 20 stores. Instead of hiding behind PR releases & an internal memo, he went on the internal community with the COO and talked about what was happening. Not only a post, but commenting to the comments that were being made and interacting with the employees.
Instead of an internal nightmare, the response was overwhelmingly positive. It shows what a caring CEO and true communication (not just informing) can do.
7. Guilty over Lack of Email
Kim Loeun, on the social business team, told me that as she used their internal tool, fewer emails came through. Then a curious thing happened.
She felt GUILTY!
Why? In our corporate cultures, too many times the number of emails one receives is directly linked to how successful we feel! She felt as if she was not being as productive because there were not as many emails coming through. Then she realized that – hey – that’s a good thing!
Productivity is redefined!
She is right. Too often we feel our sense of worth is based on our email – because that’s how we get work done, right?
Just because that is right, doesn’t mean it is right (catch my drift)?
8. Radical Ideas Scare People
OK, they are not all my original idea by any means. But they are ideas that, surprisingly, few know about. And they do scare many people.
In my keynote I challenged them to “think outside the bun.” Ask questions about topics we take for granted.
For example, I asked the question, “Why do we have vacation and sick leave? What would happen if we got rid of it and focused more on the actual work that needs to get done?” That seemed to create a little stir immediately.
One person went back and asked other managers what they thought of the idea. In her words…
“…it was…unsettling, to say the least. The first reaction is concern about people “abusing” the system…taking a month of vacation or something along those lines. My response was “who cares?” because the focus should be on the work that’s produced, not how much time someone’s taking. If they aren’t doing their work, address it. They couldn’t grasp the concept and towards the end of the conversation there was something very close to panic in their voices. I mean, they PANICKED just thinking about someone taking more vacation time then what they thought was appropriate. I almost felt bad for them. Almost.”
Since then, she has been asking similar questions and watching the reaction – and it has been very enlightening (as well as fun to watch)!
What IF we didn’t work the way we are working now? What if there was a better way?
Well, there is. But that will have to wait until another post (actually, it is many future posts).
9. It’s About the People
Not that I didn’t know this, but the Lowe’s symposium once again drove it home.
Business is about people.
We get lost thinking it is about products, processes, competition, vendors, and the list goes on. Sure, but what is at the base? People.
And Lowe’s gets it.
Well done, Lowe’s. If nothing else, you just created another loyal customer.