Ursula Burns has been much in the news lately, it seems. One article on her that particularly caught my eye appeared in Fortune magazine a couple of months ago. The article opened with this:
“Being bold has never been a challenge for Burns, 52, a mechanical engineer who got noticed at Xerox (XRX, Fortune 500) because she often spoke up bluntly in a famously — and overly — genteel culture. She becomes the first African-American woman to run a Fortune 500 company and succeeds Mulcahy as chairman in May.”
She got noticed for speaking bluntly in a genteel culture. Yet that’s something she wants to change in the Xerox culture under her tenure. Later in the article, Burns says:
“Some of those things can become a hindrance, especially when you need to move quickly, which is just about every day. This niceness sometimes leads to lack of motion, lack of decision. We have great operators in our company all around the globe, and we haven't quite given them comfort in operating independently. They can do it. So I want them to actually start doing it. Walk in here and use your brain, take chances. Not being reckless. But they know what to do. They don't have to call me to do it.”
So how do you do that? How help them get comfortable in operating independently when you know this is something they can do? You can’t just tell them to “operate independently.” You have to directly, consistently and frequently recognise and reward employees when they do just that. Call them out specifically – “Jane, thank you for operating independently when you made the decision to do XYZ. You clearly understood our challenges in Project X and took the necessary steps to alleviate those challenges and please the customer extraordinarily. Well done.”
But this isn’t something that Burns or anyone on her team should have to figure out how to do operationally. Just as she explains Xerox takes that burden of detail off of their clients:
“What we do is manage document-intensive business processes for our clients around the world so that they can focus on what they really do.
“We do that by applying technology. We do it in a global way, so that if you have locations around the world and you want to communicate with your people in a fairly consistent way, I can do that for you. It will look the same, feel the same, be delivered in the same time and the same format. All the information you want present will be there; anything you want redacted will be gone. You shouldn't have to worry about that.”
Globoforce does the same. Too many companies spend too many hours and too much budget trying to manage disparate recognition programmes, some home grown, some outsourced, all around the world. Similar to Xerox, we manage recognition business process for our clients around the world so they can focus on the business. We do this by applying strategic recognition technology and solutions to make recognition fun and easy. We are the only truly global provider to make sure all employees can participate equally and experience the same opportunity for recognition. We give everyone the same access to uniquely personal, culturally appropriate and meaningful rewards. Our clients don’t worry about this. We make it happen for them.