Donna Rae Smith

In the report “Pipeline’s Broken Promise,” Brenda C. Barnes, then the chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corp. says: “As hard as companies work to obtain top talent, they should work equally as hard to retain top talent. As corporate leaders, we must listen to the growing needs of our greatest assets, our employees. This means creating a nurturing environment that continuously develops diverse talent at all levels of the organization.”

Barnes’ comments were made in light of a recent Catalyst report on how the corporate pipeline has failed women. I believe her comments hold true not only for women but for minorities and organizations as a whole.

Not long ago, it was commonplace to proudly work for one company for a lifetime. But unlike our parents’ generation, employees now expect more than a paycheck in order to stay in their jobs. They want to know that their contributions are valued. They want work environments that accommodate their lives and give them opportunities to learn and advance. If you don’t offer these things, they’ll find an employer who will. We’re on the verge of a talent war, and complacency will be the hallmark of those companies on the losing side. In other words, recruiting top talent isn’t enough. You need to give them reasons to stay.

Yet retaining diverse, qualified employees and promoting them up the company ranks doesn’t happen overnight. Here are some tips to get you started.

Take a long, hard look in the mirror

Begin by asking yourself whether you’re contributing to the problem. How are decisions being made about promotions or new assignments in your organization? Chances are there are organizational barriers and roadblocks in place that are inhibiting diversity in senior management positions. Though they may not be openly stated, these barriers often come from leadership in the form of beliefs about family roles, child care, capability perceptions, other gender or race biases and negative attitudes based on past experiences. If you’ve ever had a thought such as, “That job would involve too much travel for a working mother,” then this applies to you.

Reward those who sponsor strong leaders

Not to be confused with mentoring, sponsoring means actively helping talented staff rise through the ranks — going to bat for them when needed, shepherding them, lobbying on their behalf to ensure that they receive deserved opportunities. Sponsorship is a key factor in ensuring that bright leaders ascend the ranks. Send the message that you’re serious about sponsorship by rewarding senior leaders who effectively act as sponsors.

Stay ahead of the talent curve

Don’t rely on employees to nominate themselves for leadership opportunities. While some employees will more than gladly engage in self-promotion, they won’t necessarily be the ones who are most qualified. Women and minorities may be less inclined to put themselves forward, not because they don’t want the opportunities but because they haven’t developed mentors or sponsors at the executive level. To ensure that you’re cultivating the most talented group of leaders, develop a system to identify the key competencies required of executive-level positions and fairly evaluate staff.

Cross train

Winning athletes do it, and you should, too. Build your strengths across the spectrum. Make sure that talented staff rotates through the organization, developing an understanding of key functions. It’s particularly crucial to ensure that women have profit and loss responsibilities if they’re to advance to executive positions.

Be flexible

We’ve witnessed these past few years an increasingly overburdened work force, with people routinely assuming the responsibilities of multiple positions and technology enabling (and demanding) that people work at any hour from anywhere. The risk of burnout is higher than ever. Environments that promote a work-life balance are essential to keeping employees engaged. Flexible environments that allow employees to determine how and where they best perform are going to outpace more rigid workplaces.

Increasingly, competitive, prospering organizations will be marked by their diversity, their flexibility and the awareness that thriving employees lead to greater innovation and achievement. If you think you can’t afford to invest the time in creating a diverse working environment, think again. You can’t afford not to.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy company that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, she and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. Donna Rae is a guest leadership blogger for Smart Business and the author of two leadership books, Building Your Bright Side and The Power of Building your Bright Side. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae at donnarae@bright-side.com.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

James White's keys to innovation

It takes a true innovative leader — a master innovator — to recognize when change is needed and embrace it when others in his or her shoes might just turn and run.

When James White assumed the helm at Jamba Inc. on Dec. 1, 2008, nothing was certain except the need to recover from a sales slump, which White understood would require a significant change in direction.

Most leaders in his position would have focused exclusively on implementing a financial turnaround, tightening the purse strings and flattening the organization. But White knew better. He realized too much focus on traditional cost-cutting strategies risked overlooking Jamba’s formula for success — the aspects of the company that had previously won fans and generated sales.

White knew he needed a strategy that balanced the company’s need for streamlined operations with a plan that leveraged its core strengths and preserved its distinctive company personality.

Learning from success

Jamba, which does business under the name Jamba Juice at its locations nationwide, built a history as a high-engagement company that involved employees at all levels in carrying out Jamba’s mission and strategies.

White recognized that Jamba’s high rate of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty was a direct result of the commitment of the front-line work force. But he also understood that some of this engagement had been lost during a period of uncertainty and financial crisis. It was this cultural shift that created a direct, negative impact on the performance of the individual stores, which is why White decided that any successful turnaround strategy would need to include involvement.

He assigned Senior Vice President Steve Adkins to lead the initiative to recapture the company’s strength.

“We needed to demonstrate engagement, energizing others to go beyond our past,” Adkins says. “In order to execute the changes being made to our operational structure and marketing strategies, we needed to equip the employees, namely the store and shift managers, with the leadership behaviors to lead their stores through the changes.”

White also knew time was his enemy. And that’s when he hired our firm, Bright Side, to help transform him and his organization into masters of innovative change.

Increasing awareness; identifying gaps

At White’s direction, we started working with Adkins and the operations leadership team. Together, we defined the company’s current state, envisioned a future state and identified the gaps that kept Jamba from achieving its aspirational targets. White tasked his leadership team with looking for the personal behaviors that kept them from achieving the future state.

It was here that many on the leadership team became aware of their uninspiring leadership style and realized the need to re-establish their level of engagement with the work force. How could store employees be expected to live the vibrancy of the Jamba brand if their leaders lacked energy?

Although unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable, White’s management team embraced this new behavioral imperative. They let their enthusiasm for the possibilities cascade through the business.

“The energy I was displaying was contagious,” Adkins says.

Simplify the message

With White’s innovation mandate as the guide, the management team let this new vitality permeate not only the informal communications within the company but also the “Excellence Program: Recipe for Inclusion,” in-store operating manual.

Using bold images, the operations team communicated tactical aspects of the turnaround strategy, which included new product launches, refined marketing messages and a reduction in store expenses. Visually, the company communicated their new action-oriented philosophy.

Enable accountability through ownership

To build sales, store managers were shifted from being order-takers to active participants in the customer’s experience. Instead of telling the managers precisely how to carry out this initiative, managers were empowered with the creative freedom to execute.

Store managers responded with energy and enthusiasm. Managers initiated suggestive selling. They began educating customers on new menu items and recommending complementary products. More significantly, they modeled these behaviors for their store employees. Employees were encouraged to develop their own approach to engaging the customer and coached on opportunities they may have missed, such as preparing a loyal customer’s order before they reached the front door.

By communicating confidence, the managers responded by owning the strategies they developed and taking personal accountability for the results.

The results of innovation

White’s innovation paid off. Jamba Juice leveraged its core strength — a highly engaged work force — and used it to build a companywide culture that was invested in the development and successful execution of the new company strategies.

Since 2009, Jamba has experienced a true turnaround, enjoying positive results across the business:

• Store ratings have increased by double-digit percentages in service, quality and overall customer experience

• Brand awareness has increased significantly

• Product launch times have been cut by 50 percent

How to reach:  Jamba Inc., (510) 596-0100 or www.jamba.com

Donna Rae Smith is founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc. Reach her at (440) 543-1800, donnarae@bright-side.com or www.bright-side.com.

Sunday, 31 July 2011 20:49

Donna Rae Smith: Just for today

Sharon, the COO of a national consumer products company, has built a tremendously successful career by questioning the status quo and changing long-standing processes. Yet while she may seem a fearless maverick, the reality is much of Sharon’s success is the result of making safe decisions after exhaustive analysis.

Today, the quickened pace of business and changing industry dynamics are restricting the amount of time she can spend on new ideas, and Sharon’s CEO is increasingly pressuring her to make quick decisions, even at the risk of failure. Though she understands the need to take risks from a business perspective, Sharon is afraid of taking risks because she doesn’t want to fail. Therefore, she resists and avoids it.

Fear is a limiter. It cements us where we are and keeps us from trying. In fact, researchers studying fear and the impact of fearful stimuli on our bodies and minds have concluded that our stress systems are so powerful that when stimulated, they can override every other system in the brain. Furthermore, our fear receptors can be triggered by any kind of fear — rational or irrational.

Sharon tells me about a situation where fear is paralyzing her. She’s developed a new logistical process that could save her company and suppliers significant resources if implemented. However, she needs the approval of all suppliers to execute the change, and one supplier has already said no.

The supplier’s “no” triggered Sharon’s fear of failure response. She freely admits that she’s afraid of calling this supplier and having him say no again, even though she’s confident that if she explained the new process to him, there would be no reason for him to. Yet because Sharon continues to harbor an irrational fear that he will, the phone call is pushed from one week’s to-do list to the next.

When we objectively question our fear, we often find our perception of the risk is distorted. The fear has been amplified out of proportion to reality, or even possibility, so we believe the risk of failure is higher than it is. It’s this distorted perception that feeds our fear, further distorts our perception and keeps us from taking action. This cycle can only be broken by courageously putting our fear aside and taking action today.

So I ask Sharon if just for today she can put her fear aside and recognize that the risk of calling the supplier is low. He’s already said no, after all. If she doesn’t change his mind, she can at least feel confident in her attempt and start working on an alternative strategy.

A few days later, Sharon called to tell me she had put her fear aside and made the phone call to her supplier. Though he was rude and difficult, she was persistent. He eventually agreed that the new system made sense and gave her his approval to implement the change.

Sharon was able to approach her inner resistance and put her fear aside, just for today. Here’s how you can let go of the fears or barriers you are holding on to.

Confront your fear: Ask yourself what you’re really afraid of and write down every reason for your fear.

Capture the positive consequences: Write down the logical, rational reasons for taking action as well as the benefits of accomplishing the task, action or behavior.

Commit to time: Pledge to taking action, just for today.

Share with others: Tell someone what you plan to do and ask for support.

Then, do it.

It is empowering, less intimidating and less risky to make plans for only one day. You can always choose to shoulder the fear and resistance again tomorrow; but by choosing to do this just for today, we give ourselves permission to release the barriers of resistance.

Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:56

Donna Rae Smith

What makes an exceptional leader? Great leaders do more than direct the collective action of their employees — they inspire and create conditions for them to excel. They are attuned to the needs and wants of others and continuously commit themselves to helping others excel. Even more, a great leader accepts that their effectiveness requires continuous learning. They challenge themselves to intentionally change and personally manage that change through a self-directed process of staying open to learning. Great leaders are great learners.

“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing,” reads the sign above Steven’s office door. Steven, a longtime Bright Side client and the CEO of a global software development business, is an ideal example of a lifetime learner and, as a result, a great leader. He posted Socrates’ words above his door as both a personal reminder of the importance of continuous learning but also to inspire those who enter his office to do so with a genuine openness to learning. And it works. Steven has built one impressive company after another, and he’s done it by modeling an authentic desire to learn and continually develop himself as a leader.

We work with leaders around the world, teaching them a model of personal leadership development. The leaders that use the model most effectively are those that believe in continuous learning and accept that their effectiveness as a leader and their satisfaction as a person require regular review. They are open to change and accept that true change is only sustainable if they intentionally focus on it and work at it, practicing the release of cherished leadership habits and replacing them with new, more impactful ones. This is hard work, which is made harder because behavior change is not a linear, consistently forward-moving process. Rather it is a repetitive process of trial and error, progress coupled with setbacks. So, how do these leaders stay committed to learning and embrace the behavior changes they need to make?

  • They look for and anticipate barriers within themselves and others. Learners recognize that their openness will be regularly challenged so they prepare themselves and transcend the resistance by staying committed to unlimited thinking and possibility exploration.

  • They genuinely listen instead of prejudging ideas. Learners don’t feel the need to jump to conclusions. They pause before responding, giving themselves time to fully process what they’ve heard and even seek additional information. This ensures good decision-making.

  • They seek solutions from diverse sources. Learners look for solutions in nontraditional places. With genuine curiosity, they look for ways to apply lessons from other disciplines, industries, organizations and cultures.

  • They view experience as life’s best teacher. Great learners approach their personal and professional experiences as goldmine opportunities for learning. No experience is insignificant or meaningless. They build in reflection time and, with vigor and energy, review their role in each experience, boldly questioning how they can behave differently for a better result next time.

  • They create a learning environment for those around them. Great leaders encourage experimentation followed by thorough reflection. They embrace failure and create a culture where employees feel safe admitting and reporting mistakes. They believe the best results will come from informed trial and error.

Steven realizes his success as a leader is directly related to his effectiveness as a learner. No matter that his impressive business career has spanned decades and he’s at the helm of one of the most admired companies in the world, Steven is still learning.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy company that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to over 250 of the world’s most influential companies. Smith is a guest leadership blogger for Smart Business and the author of two leadership books, “Building Your Bright Side” and “The Power of Building your Bright Side.”  For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com.

IBM recently polled 1,500 CEOs across 60 countries. Eighty percent of the respondents said the business environment is growing so complex that it literally demands new ways of thinking.

Roger is keenly aware of the need to think differently. He heads his company’s internal product incubator — a team of world-renowned researchers and technicians under significant pressure to identify new opportunities and develop innovative products that will ensure continued success for the company.

Although the team has been successful in developing new ideas when triggered by specific business needs, Roger wished the team would take the initiative to develop ideas without these prompts. He longed for a pipeline full to the brim of revolutionary ideas beyond those requested. Roger researched innovation and brainstorming. He read every best-seller on the topic. He scheduled meetings — he titled them things like, “Let’s get creative.” He modeled his meeting space after places like design and innovation consultancy IDEO, thinking there was no way his team couldn’t be creative surrounded by mountains of Post-it notes and Play-Doh.

But, it didn’t work.

In Roger’s quest for really new ideas, he didn’t give his employees much direction. He didn’t want to limit or direct their thinking. He wanted them to take the initiative and not wait for a specific need to surface. The problem is that in his attempt to remove all boundaries, he unintentionally created barriers. People have a hard time when given an ambiguous challenge without any direction. They have no reference point and the scope is too broad. We often see talented, qualified people give up without really trying because they believe they can’t do it, which was the case with Roger’s team.

The good news is that with just a little direction and some useful boundaries, you can give people a place to start and inspire them to take the initiative to go from there. We recommended Roger try the five-minute burst exercise.

At the start of their weekly meetings, Roger posed a specific question to his team, “What if we could … ?” and together, they generated as many ideas as possible in five minutes. The objective was to come up with an extreme number of new ideas. They didn’t need to be fully baked ideas — just nuggets to be researched, analyzed and tested later. At the end of the five minutes, Roger said, “Again.” For the next five minutes, they came up with a whole set of new ideas.

The outcome was dramatic. The team members not only replicated these bursts throughout many of their scheduled meetings, but they also began taking the initiative to generate and consider ideas on their own. They loaded the pipeline with viable, breakthrough ideas in a very short time.

Do you need your team to start thinking differently? Inspire them to take the initiative by giving them some necessary guardrails and tools:

Give them a field to play in.

Create useful boundaries to stimulate their thinking. The five-minute burst tool works well because the time constraint and volume expectations sharpen their focus and energy.

Ask a question.

A question helps direct their thinking to a specific topic. The question format is especially useful because it naturally stimulates a response.

Celebrate.

Celebrate ideas for quantity, not quality at this stage. The objective is to generate enough ideas that a few make it through all the hurdles of viability. Not all the ideas have to be good ones; this takes the pressure off and lets the creative juices flow.

Practice.

Use the five-minute burst tool often for not only the results you’re sure to get but also as a way to practice the behaviors you want your team to master, like taking initiative for unconventional thinking.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy company that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, Donna Rae Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com.

Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

Leading with quiet confidence

Next door to me, two very large dogs — with questionable origins — spend their days traveling the perimeter of the 2-plus acres of their owner’s property, making it clear to passers-by the borders of their domain. They strut, heads high, chests out. Alert and agile, they often dart toward the street when I’m out walking in the morning, stopping before the electric fence to stare at me, daring me to come into their yard. This is when I usually cross the street and risk my safety walking with traffic versus against.

If I didn’t know their owner, I would imagine him to be a man of equal intensity and superior in size and strength. But instead, their owner is a she, a relatively small and somewhat elderly woman. And yet, she commands attention and obedience from her dogs. When the dogs tear through the yard in hot pursuit of a squirrel, she whistles. Without hesitation, they turn and run back toward her, stopping to sit at her feet. They then wait for the next command. With a subtle cue and quiet confidence, she effectively communicates her status to the dogs. She is the alpha, and they submit.

When asked by a client recently how to regain control of a meeting that had gotten heated, I thought of my neighbor. The client’s company was in the midst of a major reorganization and the change was triggering anxiety and fear in the employees. As a result, they were reacting emotionally, and their weekly meetings were dominated with concern over the future, exchanged in emotional outbursts and shouting. We were engaged to help the team develop the behavioral strategies to lead them through the transition.

I described to the client, Joe, the quiet confidence of my neighbor and suggested he approach his unproductive meetings with the same calm and self-assurance. Whether intentional or not, my neighbor masterfully exhibits the behavioral strategy of quiet confidence. Each time she whistles, she sends a clear message that is wholly reflected in and supported by her tone, tempo and intensity. Her quiet confidence is the consequence of quiet competence. And it is powerful.

“When the fur is flying, what gets people’s attention is quiet confidence,” writes John Baldoni in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “How to Lead Without Saying a Word.”

Nothing radiates power like emotions kept in check when everyone else is shouting.

THE EXPERIMENT: Next time you’re confronted with a tense situation where the other person’s emotional response is elevated, try staying composed and use subtle cues to communicate your point. Here are some suggestions.

Resist the temptation. Resist the urge to raise your voice. A raised voice puts people on the defensive and interferes with their ability to listen.

Be aware of the total message. Be conscious of all of the messages you’re sending. Without thought, we search the speaker’s face and body for clues to help us better interpret what is being said or, more often, what is not being said. Be aware of the messages that your entire self is sending. Pay attention to your tone, pitch and tempo, as well as your posture and the expression on your face. If any of these are not in sync with what you’re saying, you distract the listener and reduce the likelihood that he or she will truly hear and understand you.

Speak with conviction. Now you have the person’s attention so be direct, clear and concise.

Lead with quiet confidence. Lastly, use this behavior of quiet confidence regularly to remind others of your quiet competence.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy company that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, Donna Rae Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae at donnarae@bright-side.com.

Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

Embracing errors

It probably goes without saying that I spend a good portion of my time looking on the bright side. I named my company Bright Side Inc. nearly 30 years ago after a professional awakening.

It was the late ’80s, and I was working in the machine tool industry, a business that is now remembered as another example of the vulnerability of big, seemingly untouchable industries. I looked on as it careened off course as a result of myopic thinking and a refusal to change and adapt. I witnessed the evaporation of the industry, company and, as a result, my job. At the time, this shook me to the core. I was excelling in my job, on the fast track to being one of the high-powered executives whom I admired. And then it was gone.

This experience triggered the realization that a company is a living community of people whose personal behaviors and attitudes direct its collective action. So, if personal behaviors have the power to crush entire industries, do they also have the power to transform, elevate and accelerate? Yes, they do.

I started with myself. I began the hard work of changing my own thinking and behaviors, shifting from the trap of negativity and narrow thinking to increased awareness. I started working with business leaders to increase their personal awareness, embrace their errors in thinking and become masters of change. And Bright Side was born.

The bright side of wrong

Despite my continuous pursuit of self-awareness, it can be hard, even for me, to always accept and embrace my errors. Like most, my natural reaction is the belief that the mistake is a reflection of my personal failings.

Being wrong does not indicate laziness, stupidity or evil intent. This perception of wrongness has no use, nor does the shame that accompanies being wrong. We cannot guilt ourselves into performing better, nor can we shame an employee into better results. Rather, embracing mistakes as not only an inevitable part of life but as part of the learning that gets us closer to more informed decision-making frees us from loathing ourselves and shaming others for their mistakes.

Recently, we worked with a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company who was so concerned with always being right, showing up with answers in hand, that he not only crumbled when he was not right, denying his mistake and pushing blame to others, but he missed the learning that came from not always knowing the answer. We worked to help him shift his thinking and start embracing his inevitable mistakes. Once he changed his view of making mistakes, he freed himself from the pressure of always being right and opened himself to the knowledge and experience of his colleagues.

The next time you realize you have made a mistake, whether it is trivial, like you’ve mispronounced a word, or it is one with more significant consequences, try embracing the error.

Work to resist the urge to immediately defend yourself externally and berate yourself internally. Instead, try admitting and accepting the error.

Put it in perspective. This is especially difficult because of the feelings that immediately surface (embarrassment, shame) and the thoughts that instantly flood our minds (“I’m an idiot. How could I be so careless?”) Acknowledge those thoughts and feelings as they come up and then let them go. Remind yourself that mistakes will happen and assure yourself that even if you feel like a royal idiot, you’re not.

Ask yourself, “What can I learn?” Reframing the error as an opportunity to learn something new enables you to stop dwelling on the mistake and instead focus on how swiftly you turn an error into an opportunity.

Remember, mistakes are entirely normal. Forgive yourself, then recognize and reward yourself for all that you did right.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy firm that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, Donna Rae Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or e-mail Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:00

Creating teamwork

For most, teamwork is merely a business buzzword, a sports term turned corporate jargon. It conjures up images of ropes courses and trust falls, off-sites and team T-shirts. The concept of teamwork is well-known in business, yet the application rarely yields the promised results. Why? Because it’s usually missing something — the true essence of teamwork, which is the spirit that makes the members of the team want to succeed together.

Winning teams have a well-developed sense of camaraderie and respect — the result of each individual feeling a deep commitment to the team’s mission and to his or her teammates. The more people value and honor their relationships with one another and their shared commitment to productivity, the better they perform. Effective teamwork takes the best from a company — a well-crafted business strategy complete with clear objectives — coupled with the best from a family — strong, trusting relationships.

The CEO of a giant company in a commodity-based industry, was constantly revising his operating strategy, shaving pennies in an effort to boost margins. After exhausting all of the traditional cost-cutting strategies, the CEO turned his focus to the internal company culture, which was competitive versus collaborative among functional divisions. Recognizing that productivity could be improved with increased collaboration, he began “requiring” teamwork.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t work.

The CEO called us for assistance. He needed help developing the strategic behaviors in his team to stimulate commitment and connectedness among his employees. We started our work with a deep dive into the root cause of the disconnection. True teamwork depends on commitment and connectedness among the members, and that depends on trust. And trust depends on a sense of shared equity within the organization. The CEO’s organization was chock-full of disparities in power and knowledge. There was nothing that connected his employees except the signature on their paycheck. These discrepancies inhibited any real collaboration, and worse, they fostered a competitive, cutthroat work environment where everyone felt he or she had to watch his or her back.

The first step was to reduce the discrepancies in power and knowledge by openly sharing the company’s mission and high-level strategy with the employees. This transparency not only informed employees, but it also eased the feeling that they were just pawns in someone else’s grand plan. In addition to sharing the overall objectives, the CEO and the executives did something radical. They asked for input.

[Register for a webinar with Donna Rae Smith about mastering organizational change.]

Initially this openness was met with resistance and skepticism. The executives weren’t deterred. They continued, modeling this openness in every conversation. It was contagious. A renewed energy and enthusiasm that this company hadn’t felt in decades emerged.

The CEO’s company was able to transform its environment into one that is supportive and encouraging, where the diverse strengths and abilities of each individual are recognized and incorporated into a shared vision for the future. The employees struck a balance between valuing productivity and relationships — the best of a company combined with the best of a family.

All of us have experienced trusting relationships whether with our family members or friends. Ask each member of your group to identify the habits and behaviors that strengthens his or her relationship with his or her most trustworthy friends or family members. How can that habit be applied to the team? Perhaps you can create an environment where members feel comfortable surfacing issues that in the past were avoided. Ask everyone on the team to commit to the new behaviors, like allowing members to talk about hot topics without criticism. Apply this new behavior as you work to get things done as a team.

Donna Rae Smith is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a behavioral strategy company that teaches leaders to be masters of change. For more than two decades, Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in organizational and leadership development and the key partner to more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com. Donna Rae Smith also contributes a weekly blog to Smart Business, The Bright Side of Change.

James D. White, president and CEO, Jamba Inc. When James White assumed the helm at Jamba Juice Inc. on Dec. 1, 2008, nothing was certain except the need to recover from a sales slump that would require a significant change in direction during 2009. Most leaders in his position would have focused exclusively on implementing a financial turnaround, tightening the purse strings and flattening the organization, but White knew better.

He knew too much focus on traditional cost-cutting strategies risked overlooking the company’s formula for success — the aspects of the company that had won it fans and sales in the past. He required a strategy that balanced its need for streamlined operations with a plan that leveraged its core strengths and preserved its distinctive company personality.

Learning from success

Jamba Juice had a history as a high-engagement company, involving employees at all levels in carrying out the company’s mission and strategies. For certain, the company’s previously high rate of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty had been a direct result of the commitment of the front-line work force. But some of this engagement had been lost with the recent period of uncertainty and financial crisis. This cultural shift had a direct, negative impact on the performance of the individual stores. White knew a highly involved work force had once been a core competitive strength of the company, and it would be the key element in a successful turnaround strategy.

White assigned, Steve Adkins, senior vice president, to recapture this strength.

“We needed to demonstrate engagement, energizing others to go beyond our past,” Adkins says. “In order to execute the changes being made to our operational structure and marketing strategies, we needed to equip the employees, namely the store and shift managers, with the leadership behaviors to lead their stores through the changes.”

Because White did not have the luxury of time, he hired a group of change agents. He selected Bright Side Inc., a Cleveland-based behavioral strategy consultancy, a team with a legacy of guiding leaders and organizations to become masters of change.

Increasing awareness, identifying the gap

Bright Side started with Adkins and the operations leadership team. Together, they defined the company’s current state, envisioned a future state and identified the gaps that kept them from achieving their aspirational targets. Then, leaders were asked to boldly look for the personal behaviors that kept them from achieving the desired future state. It was here that many on the leadership team became aware of their uninspiring leadership style and realized the need to re-establish their level of engagement with the work force. How can the store employees be expected to live the vibrancy of the Jamba brand if their leaders lacked energy?

Although unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable, Adkins and his team fully embraced this new behavioral imperative. They let their enthusiasm for the possibilities cascade through the business. Adkins wrapped every message to his store managers with intentional and genuine passion.

“The energy I was displaying was contagious,” Adkins says.

Simplifying the message 

They let this new vitality permeate not only the informal communications within the company but also the ”Excellence Program: Recipe for Inclusion,” the in-store operating manual. If the company leaders wanted their managers and store employees to behave differently, then they required a new behavioral model for communicating the message.

Using bold images and the vibrant essence of the brand, the operations team communicated tactical aspects of the turnaround strategy, which included new product launches, refined marketing messages and a reduction in store expenses. Visually, the company communicated its new action-oriented philosophy.

Enabling accountability through ownership 

To build sales, Adkins asked his store managers to move from being order-takers to active participants in the customer’s experience. Instead of telling the managers precisely how to carry out this initiative, however, Adkins demonstrated the leadership behaviors that gave others the creative freedom to execute on this new strategy.

Store managers responded to Adkins’s request with energy and enthusiasm. Managers initiated suggestive selling. They began educating customers on new menu items and recommending complementary products. More significantly, they modeled these behaviors for their store employees. Employees were encouraged to develop their own approach to engaging the customer and coached on opportunities they may have missed, such as preparing a loyal customer’s order before they reached the front door.

By communicating his confidence in the store managers, Adkins provided a clear objective, thus unlocking the leadership potential in each of them. The managers responded by owning the strategies they developed and taking personal accountability for the results.

Mastering the world of accelerated change

Bright Side helped Jamba Juice leverage its core strength — a highly engaged work force. Together, they built a companywide culture that was invested in the development and successful execution of the new company strategies. Together, Bright Side and Jamba inspired the employees to reconnect with the essence of a brand born out of the pure pursuit of happiness. By introducing new habits and behaviors, Jamba became a culture of possibilities and growth.

Since Bright Side’s involvement with the company, Jamba Juice has experienced a true turnaround, enjoying positive results across the business:

  • Store ratings have increased by double-digit percentages in service, quality and overall customer experience
  • Brand awareness has increased significantly
  • Product launch times have been cut by 50 percent

The Bright Side difference 

“The big difference between Bright Side and other consultants is that they helped us build leadership behaviors, skills-based training and action learning as core competencies,” Adkins says. “We integrate that into everything we do now. That is Bright Side’s legacy at Jamba.”

While most change management resources address human behaviors on some level, none can isolate and translate leadership behaviors into so many far-reaching, business-relevant consequences. Bright Side specializes in building the entire behavioral system:

  • Introducing leadership behaviors
  • Linking these behaviors to business outcomes
  • Coaching behavior application to build habit strength
  • Providing execution support to ensure rapid business outcomes

“The Bright Side method brought us greater alignment,” White explains. “It brought the company a common language that allowed each individual to move more rapidly in the execution of their responsibilities.”

How to reach Bright Side Inc., (440) 543-1800 or http://www.bright-side.com/

How to reach Jamba Inc., (510) 596-0100 or http://www.jamba.com/ 

® Copyright 2010 Bright Side, Inc. All Rights Reserved 

Read more about White and Jamba Inc. 

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