Success Stories...

Challenge: Too busy to listen to good ideas

· A mid-market company was growing rapidly by acquiring smaller competitors.
· The management team was overloaded with the details of plant expansion plans, new customers, increased workloads, etc.
· Employees avoided "bothering" leaders with new ideas because they were rarely available for chats.
· Waste, delays and frustration were increasing sharply throughout the company.

A successful mid-market manufacturing company was growing rapidly.  They had recently acquired several smaller but strategically-aligned companies and were underway with a massive expansion of their facility.  The integration efforts seemed to be on-track.  However, production staff was stressed, overtime costs were rising rapidly and “emergency handling” situations in production and delivery were becoming more frequent.

John was brought in to find ways to reduce the frequency of “emergency handling” situations. John gathered feedback from key production staff and discovered that nearly everyone had good ideas about how to improve how things were done – but they hadn’t mentioned their ideas to the leaders because they were already “too busy to be bothered…” and were rarely available for a casual chat.

Within 2 weeks, John had uncovered ten ways to improve customer service, lower employee stress, reduce overtime and cut production waste. John and Lidia then guided the leadership team in creative ways to implement these ideas and acknowledge the employees who came up with them.

Challenge: Four brothers can't agree

· A small family-owned business was struggling because the four brothers owning it could not agree.
· Lidia coached each brother individually and as a group to learn new ways to communicate and resolve conflicts.
· The brothers not only discovered that they could agree on business decisions, but also started enjoying each other as people.

Four brothers ran a medium sized design-build business and were having difficulty reaching agreements when making decisions. Personal resentments and misunderstandings between them were blocking the development of a good culture for their employees.

Lidia was brought in to help resolve their management conflicts and to help them understand their personal communication styles.

Within 12 months, Lidia’s guidance had increased each brother’s appreciation and understanding for one another.  Each brother was able to take responsibility for his own “filters” and communication improved radically.  They learned to make business decisions easily and family holidays became joyful occasions.

Challenge: Bad morale and poor performance

· A large call center on the East coast was experiencing bad morale. Disgruntled Managers lost faith in their leader and performance was plummeting.
· Plunging metrics led to large losses in revenue.
· Lidia was brought in to coach the leader and to discover the issues driving the morale and performance issues. She also worked with the 5 managers and others on the management team to uncover the core problems and find solutions.
· Within 3 months the leader – with the help of Lidia’s expertise- had rebuilt significant trust with his staff. Through team-building meetings, morale improved appreciably and metrics rose dramatically – saving the company $3.5 Million per month.

A highly metrics driven call center was tumbling in performance. Headquarters received anonymous complaints about the call center Director and the poor morale among the managers and staff. The VP of this functional unit was notified by human resources about these issues.

Lidia was called in by the VP who interviewed the Managers who were horribly dissatisfied. They felt that they were not being treated with respect. Even long-term Managers that had much experience, felt they were being treated with palpable disrespect. Key staff was threatening to quit.

At the core of the conflict was the Director who did not understand or see how his words and actions were directly related to people’s job satisfaction and ability to perform. “The floggings will continue until the morale improves” codifies how this Director led, unintentionally, those around him. Upper management was completely unaware of the damage caused by his actions and words until the anonymous tips came to light. People were exhausted, feeling hopeless and weren’t confronting the Director about how they were experiencing him because they did not feel it was safe to provide their feedback. As result, the communication was going one way (top-down).

Lidia worked with the Director one-on-one, the Manager team as a group and then with the managers one-on-one to discover what issues they were experiencing. After these meetings, she carefully designed a way to address all the concerns. In a series of sessions consisting of a group discussions, and two-on-ones (Lidia plus the Director and a Manager) - each issue was tackled.

The Director was shocked with what he learned in terms of how people were experiencing him. With the help of coaching, he took significant action that ultimately indicated to the Managers and supervisors that he was open to them and their feedback. He spent at least 1 hour a day being visible, interested, available to people by walking the floor and interacting with them. He went out of his way to pop-in on managers in their offices, to communicate with them and find out how things were going. Rather than being a passive recipient of their input, he was an active recipient and proved to them that he took their concerns seriously.

In team-building meetings, the Managers were encouraged to look at how their attitudes and actions were feeding the negative culture. Eventually they took responsibility for upgrading their style of communicating with their boss and their staff which impacted the culture appreciably in very positive ways.

The Director went from leading the organization with metrics, to leading the organization with communication, while still getting to the end-result of metrics.
All Managers and extended support teams gained confidence and trust in their Director’s leadership because of how he significantly improved his interactions, availability, support and communication. The Managers followed suit and the culture of the entire call center improved dramatically.

The call center, within 3 months, appreciably improved their metrics, which represented a savings of $3.5M per month for the company.

Challenge: The boss was the bottleneck

· A mid-market company was having cash-flow problems because of slow customer payments.
· The CEO suspected that the accounting department was at the heart of the problem because they kept asking for more staff.
· John discovered that the CEO was in fact the cause of the invoicing (and thus the payment) delays.
· John found ways to improve efficiencies that brought the delays under control and avoided the need for more staff.

A very successful mid-market construction company was having cash flow problems because customers were delaying their payments. Invoicing errors and "special case" situations were the primary problem. The accounting department manager had requested additional staff to help with the additional work required to fix the invoicing errors. The CEO suspected that the staff of the accounting department did not clearly understand their job descriptions and these uncertainties were the cause of the invoicing errors.

John was brought in to gather feedback from the accounting department, document their processes and create updated job descriptions. He gathered feedback from the accounting department, both individually and as a group. He also got input from other departments that provided the accounting department with invoicing data.

John discovered that the accounting staff was not the cause of the company’s cash flow problems.  Rather, the CEO was the main bottleneck when invoices waited for the CEO’s authorization.

John also found that inefficient inter-departmental communications and hand-offs were requiring one full-time accounting person to fix them.  Improving hand-offs and communications avoided the need to hire more people.

Challenge: Merger of two incompaitable cultures

· Two technical testing laboratories were slated to merge to synergize equipment and personnel and also to reduce costs by eliminating one location.
· Business analysts claimed the merger should have taken 6 months. At eleven months talks were still stalled.
· The cultures of the 2 labs were vastly different. Each lab felt their excellence would be compromised by the merger and strongly resisted the move.
· Lidia was engaged to find a solution.
· Within 3 months the labs merged successfully and staff were genuinely collaborating – sharing information and processes – and a new effective culture was created.

A Fortune 100 company planned to merge 2 business units with vastly differently corporate cultures and possibly mandates. The reason for the merger was as result of changing and converging market technologies, demographics changes driving the want/need for different technology. It was decided that it was necessary to combine 2 testing laboratories. The basis of their decision was the competitive ‘knowledge’ synergy as result of the future of convergence, the combining of assets to reduce operating and infrastructure costs. The goal was to cut the amount of equipment and space needed in half.

The cultures clashed. The former entity, Technology Service Area #1, had a long history and tradition of doing things a certain way. The competition in that domain moved more slowly and methodically. Many of their systems and methodologies were predicated on tradition serving an infrastructure that was older. The average length of person in their job was 22 years. Their customer base was firmly established. The latter, newer entity, Technology Service Area #2, had little history. Their systems were new and methodologies were being created in near ‘real-time’. The employees were younger, very ambitious, and anxious to please. Their culture included as much innovation and speed as possible without arduous and seemingly unnecessary process. People in their jobs averaged 5 years. Their market environment was extremely competitive and technology is changing quickly.

The physical move, required by the Technology Service Area #1, was extremely painful and disruptive for them. “We feel like we’re being assimilated”. They saw the latter entity as a group of cowboys in the Wild West who would do anything to compete and win. The former entity felt that important values, those values which made them successful, were being disregarded.

As result, there was an increasing lack of cooperation and coordination due to a lack of trust and respect. Processes, which otherwise might have worked though not ideal, were rendered useless. They were unwilling to share equipment or synergize processes. The staff was demoralized and disintegrated. The initial time estimated to move the lab was 6 months, and it had extended to 11 months with no end in sight.

The Vice President was at the end of his rope in terms of possibilities and attempts at constructive dialogue and change. Internal meetings were simply ‘stonewalled’ with members sitting arms folded, not willing to talk about the situation or solutions any longer. The decision to abort the initial integration plan was close to the only option he could see due to a profound lack of cooperation. Through a referral, Lidia Young was called in to assess, create a plan and execute it towards improving productivity of the teams and integration if possible.

Lidia conducted an assessment through discovery and excavation through interviews, regarding the concerns and problems. She explored and identified belief systems of key individuals, the group, and focused on personal goals as well as the various groups’ aspirations. What did they aspire to do? What do they want to be known for? After the initial assessment, through a series of carefully facilitated meetings, both teams realized they wanted many of the same things and that their current stance was preventing their personal success as well as the success of their projects.

After the meetings with Lidia, the groups were able to synergize and get the appropriate processes into place. Both groups were able to then identify equipment sharing possibilities, leverage each other’s knowledge, and co-locate.

Within 3 months of Lidia’s involvement, the groups were successfully integrated, willing and wanting to work together and leverage each other’s knowledge, eliminated of one of the labs, consolidated office and infrastructure space, resulting in millions of dollars in savings and competitive knowledge benefits to the organization.

Challenge: Inventory disappearance was out of control

· A mid-market construction company was losing equipment and tools at an increasing rate.
· The CEO had decided to implement an inventory control system to manage the losses.
· John discovered that the preferred control system would not have worked because it did not address the underlying causes of the losses.

A mid-market services company knew that they were spending too much on tools and equipment.  Vendors of inventory and asset tracking systems had provided conflicting advice about what to do.  The proposed solutions had widely different organizational, technical and financial requirements. The owner was uncomfortable making such a complex technical decision upon the basis of vendor-provided information.

John was brought in to review the information presented by the various vendors and to also survey other solutions to the tools and equipment problem. John first gathered feedback from those with first-hand experience with the problem.  While doing this, John discovered the underlying cause of the troublesome disappearance and inventory control problems.

John presented three possible solutions to the problems. He helped the owners understand the hidden causes and select a solution appropriate to the scale of the company’s operations.

John found that the inexpensive solution which seemed most attractive would not have worked for the company because it would aggravate the underlying causes of the problem.  The company avoided an expensive waste of time, effort and money.

Challenge: Conflicting leadership styles

· Communication broke down between two teams within a large company who supported the same customer.
· The leaders of the teams were extremely frustrated with the lack of performance.
· Lidia discovered the root cause of the teams’ inability to collaborate.
· The differing styles and mandates of the leaders made it impossible for their teams to truly work together. After coaching the leaders, they were able to model the behavior they expected from their teams. Performance improved significantly.

Two different services divisions of a large corporation were required, for cost benefit reasons, to dovetail the way they support a largely common customer base. In order to accomplish this new way of service delivery and customer care, the Directors were asked to work together to establish a common set of practices.

In the process of creating this common set of practices, they entered into a seemingly endless series of meetings, with nothing being resolved. They brought their issues to their VPs, who in examining the situation, didn’t understand where the problem was or why this was such a big deal. The VPs’ frustrations with their Directors were growing.

Lidia was invited by the senior VP to provide a facilitated dialog between the Director teams. In the course of an initial meeting, this particular conflict became evident and was brought to the surface through her facilitation and questions. In facilitating the dialogue, differences were brought up in the direction that was being provided to the Directors from their VPs- one was prescriptive and the other very aloof. The series of breakdowns in collaboration that occurred were a result of these incompatible directions.

The root cause was shared with the VPs resulting in the leaders recognizing that they needed to collaborate. VP #1 recognized that the direction being provided was impacting Directors #1 ability to collaborate, and by modifying her style, she could develop a better relationship with VP #2. That would then free-up Directors #1 to be more productive in their meetings with VP #2. VP #2 also recognized the pressures that Directors #1 and #2 were under, which enabled more sensitivity and understanding to the situation the VPs had placed their Directors in.

The discussion gave Directors #2 a different perspective of the situation, and they were less judgmental and reactionary as they gained an appreciation for the pressures and direction that Directors #1 were under. As result of the facilitation, there were changes in effectiveness of processes and the impact was reflected in customer impacting metrics shortly after Lidia’s engagement and the Directors’ resulting successful collaboration.

Challenge: Soaring accident claims

· The owner of a small construction company was concerned with safety and escalating accidents.
· Workman’s compensation claims were climbing at alarming rates.
· Lidia was brought in to discover the root cause of the problem.
· After one day of team-building exercises and discussion with the staff, a solution was discovered and put in place which virtually eliminated accidents.

A small construction company specialized in large scale commercial landscape and excavation, requiring knowledgeable heavy equipment operators and an impeccable safety record. Their operations were growing yearly. Workman’s compensation claims were increasing, resulting in lost productivity, increased operations costs and diverting the attention of the owner from managing revenue generating aspects of the business.

The owner was looking for solutions to improving the culture of the organization. The workers were ‘strong silent’ types, tough, blue-collar guys who were challenging to communicate with in terms of ‘softer’ yet business impacting issues such as safety. Lidia was brought in to undertake ‘team-building’, and in the course of the 1 day discussion discovered cultural factors that were significantly impacting safety, such as the need for respect and self-esteem which unfortunately, resulted in a lack of communication in regards to competency levels on various large pieces of equipment. It was uncovered that it’s not ‘ok’ to say you don’t know how to operate a piece of equipment, so they preferred to put themselves and others at risk, rather than to express the perceived weakness of not knowing.

Because the owner couldn’t trust them to divulge what they were skilled at or experienced in managing, the only way to ensure a minimum competency level was to have everyone (approx. 17 men) trained on every piece of equipment. The organization stopped making assumptions in regards to specific equipment skills.
As result of Lidia’s facilitation, the owner quickly discerned the need to train all employees on all the equipment. In training everyone on the operations of each piece of equipment, workman’s compensation claims were virtually eliminated and productivity increased.

The families of the employees responded with a strong show of appreciation. His team felt better because their families received the recognition that was lacking, and provided increased emotional support for their spouses relieving some of the pressure that the employees were facing. The Director’s inclusiveness with other teams was successful and the organization at large recognized the cooperation that this group received, which exceeded that received by other divisions towards integrating the functions in a timely manner. Due to his leadership, this Director was then recognized as “high potential” within the larger organization.

Lidia’s coaching of this leader helped him to find productive strategies to encourage collaboration with other teams within the larger organization. His leadership abilities were recognized for this effort throughout the company. In addition, Lidia’s suggestion of how he could impact the morale of his staff and their families proved to be extremely successful.

Challenge: An acquisition was nearly derailed

· A large retailer was in the middle of merging with a smaller competitor. The transfer of financial data was not going well.
· John discovered the underlying causes of the conflicts that were blocking progress.
· John presented alternatives to the executives and attorneys managing the merger and got the project moving again.

A large retail company was being acquired by a larger competitor. The transition involved migrating financial and customer data to the data systems of the acquiring company. Progress on the data transfer efforts was bogged down and threatened to disrupt the entire sale/acquisition transaction. Costs were rising sharply but the reasons for the delays was not clear.

Before proposing a technical solution, John gathered feedback from each of the teams that were working on the data migration effort. John and his team discovered that the two teams were not communicating clearly with each other.  Tension was high between the teams because the legacy systems of the company being acquired contained data that were technically disruptive to the entire project.  The disruptive data had triggered defensive attitudes and finger-pointing in both teams.

John presented the findings to the executives, attorneys and bankers of both companies and recommended a solution.  These solutions allowed the acquisition to proceed when both of the teams understood that their leaders were not blaming them for the problems they had uncovered.

Challenge: Internal and external leadership conflicts

· A leader on a highly visible project was experiencing internal conflict between the need of the organization and what he felt was reasonable to humanly expect from his staff who were virtually working around the clock.
· Jealousy was rampant from other groups in the company who saw the initiative as very high profile.
· Lidia was brought in to help the leader reconcile the conflicts.
· Strategies were developed so the leader could respond to his staff in a way that felt humane without compromising the demands of the initiative. Also bridges were built with the other organizations in the company to include them in the initiative they coveted.

A Fortune 100 company was developing a first-to-market, leading edge technology service that had been incubated in an almost isolated portion of the organization. Massive resources were made available to this group, which caused jealousy in other parts of the company. The organization decided that it was time for the division undertaking the development of this service to be functionally integrated to the rest of the company.

In the process of integration, long hours were being logged by employees, with requests made to work holidays and vacation. This caused internal conflict for a Director who was centrally involved in the project. The work and corporate demands created a clash of viewpoints and values as to how employees should be treated and managed.

Lidia was asked by the Director to help him sort through these conflicts. She suggested that a way to relieve the perception that the company was uncaring was for him to personally reach out to the families of his employees to thank them for the sacrifice and contribution they were making to the success of the project and their spouses’ careers.

Lidia helped develop strategies that allowed the leader to respond to his staff in a humane way without compromising the demands of the initiative.  Lidia also helped build bridges with the other groups.

Lidia’s coaching helped the leader to find strategies to encourage collaboration with other teams. His leadership was recognized throughout the company. One result was that the morale of his staff and their families improved significantly.