Build bridges through personalization

by | Jul 15, 2013 | Blog | 0 comments

file8391287955340The Asiana Airlines plane crash. The BART strike. The Bay Bridge’s broken bolts.

Traveling in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer has not been easy.

The new span of the Bay Bridge was supposed to open this Labor Day weekend, 11 years after construction began. Now the opening has been delayed to a yet to-be-determined date due to retrofitting broken bolts.

Crews have found 96 defective bolts in their analysis of 2,210 similar bolts (emphasis added).

What’s wrong with this picture?

“One size fits all” seems an obsolete way to operate, whether you’re working with bolts, vegetables or people.

Let’s transition to people, since I’m on more solid ground there than with the engineering of bridges.

In the work world, leaders often want to treat everyone is a similar way. It’s easier for them. And it’s a fairer practice. (Not really. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. What’s important is the perception of fair exchanges between people, based on the brain-based SCARF model. See Making SCARF a daily habit.)

However, with “one size fits all” you’re working in troubled waters.

People are different. No two brains are alike. Knowledge workers especially differ in their preferences around job design, recognition and communication.

So to build stronger bridges and motivate individuals to take action, it’s better to personalize.

Even if you can’t reach out directly to thousands of individuals, you can provide options for them from which to select. You also can enroll others to help you.

If you doubt the value of this approach, do the math.

For example, when training people in how to make effective requests of others, I walk them through these scenarios. Note that these hourly rates are round numbers for illustrative purposes.

Assume it takes you 3 hours @$150/hour for you to create a clear request, such as to volunteer to participate in a special task force. That’s $450 of your time.

Yet, if you rushed and made a confusing request, you would waste many more peoples’ time, which adds up quickly.

Let’s assume 20 people waste 30 minutes each trying to figure out what you want them to do and then doing rework. At $75/hour, that adds up to $750, which is a horrible return on your time.

If 2,000 people waste 15 minutes each trying to comply with a bad ask on your part, that could add up to $25,000, assuming their hourly rate is $50/hour. That’s an unbelievable level of waste.

As you can see from this example, taking the easy way out for you results in decreased productivity and poorer performance for others.

By investing more time, energy and resources to personalize, you can improve the overall outcome.

Personalize is the “P” in the FLIP habits to help leaders keep their balance in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. (FLIP stands for Focus, Listening, Involvement and Personalization. For more information, check out FLIP to thrive in our VUCA world.)

What are you doing to personalize others’ experiences so you can build better bridges and reach your milestones on time?


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