Any business book or business expert will tell you that to thrive and survive in a competitive market your organization must have a strategy. To refine it even more, you must have a ‘clear and concise’ strategy. This must be something everyone in the organization can understand and align to as the basis for what they do every day. But clear and concise is not so easy.

This is at the core of LIFT, where we focus on People Powered Growth. Dr. Jeff Kaplan has spent over 20 years studying successful companies from around the world. After a while, he started to see patterns – some good, some bad. The one thing that stood out was that organizations needed a formula for how to align and accelerate your strategy to reach your goals faster, which is how he developed the ICE principle. The acronym stands for:

  • Innovate – How can we think differently today than we did yesterday? How do you challenge yourself and the organization to grow and stretch? How do you reach beyond the status quo and continually improve? In reality, innovation is not just new solution or a redesigned package. As Clay Jones, former CEO of Rockwell-Collins, states, “Innovation is making it so the company is free to think differently”. Innovation doesn’t have to be radical; it has to be an openness to new ways of thinking.
  • Collaborate – How can we work differently today than we did yesterday? Most companies that have been around for a decade or more eventually fall into silos. Neat, comfortable areas where we often become – without saying it aloud – a closed system whose goal is to hang on to the way we’ve always done things. Collaboration challenges that by helping break down the silos and facilitating teams and individuals to join forces. New ways of working help us reach the strategy faster and senior executives are often surprised how much latent potential is unlocked with some of the brightest ideas and new, streamlined processes from all ranks of the organization.
  • Engage – How do we act differently today than we did yesterday? How do we include more people, internally and externally to achieve our goals? How do we engage with more customers, more markets, and more areas of business that we’ve ever connected with before? It is about building meaningful conversations and relationships where everyone succeeds.

AT LIFT, we have found that the companies who deploy an ICE strategy for success, consciously and unconsciously, rise higher in their industry and climb higher in the Fortune 500 list. Are you willing to accelerate your vision, your core strategies, and continue to thrive in the new business world of today? That is the calling of willing2win.org. We are sharing our experiences and highlighting your successes every week. Are you Willing to Win? Join the conversation and take the challenge to look at your strategies in a fresh new way? Email us at info@liftinnovate.com and together we can Leverage ICE to transform work!

Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer at LIFT

CX is not just a department or a service, over time, it should be core to your organization’s DNA. The challenge is that most companies still view it as a cost center and put it in the same bucket as customer support. To ensure the long-term viability of your program, make sure you are always highlighting how your CX practice is driving revenue, retention, and increased wallet share. Here are some tips on how you can gain executive support for your CX program:

  1. Create Your Strategy – Develop a plan that includes the vision for your CX Team. Outline your ideal customer profile and engagement process. Create 2 to 3 repeatable service offerings based upon vertical markets (healthcare) and/or horizontal markets (HR). It is just as important to outline what is out of scope as it is to determine what is initially in scope.
  2. Build Your Case – Develop the measurements and metrics you will use to track the progress of your CX practice. Remember that a great customer experience is all about benefit realization. List out the resources and costs required to get the program started and include a plan for ongoing expansion to show confidence in the program. The stronger you can make the connection between a strong CX program and business outcome realization, the stronger your case will be.
  3. Build your Team – Customer Experience should be core to your organization’s DNA. This means that everyone in the company has a role to play in CX. This will take time, so recruit your internal champions and sales leaders who want to partner together for success. The great thing is that outsiders will see your success and ask for your help. Develop a customer selection criterion so customers that are not a match will be excluded automatically. This will create scarcity and scarcity creates demand. Once you gain momentum, sales reps will ask for help rather than you having to sell them on why they should work with you.
  4. Present Your Plan – Start with the problem statement highlighting the downside of not having a CX program. Next, discuss the impact to your organization including, increased revenue, customer retention, customer loyalty, and the ability to expand your wallet share over time. Review how you select and engage customers and be specific as to why some customers may not qualify. This is key so you can focus on quality initially rather than quantity. Finally, outline the milestones and metrics that you will provide to your leadership team to validate CX outcomes.
  5. Be Assertive – if you Nobody likes to hear about more problems, especially executives who already feel under the gun. Instead, give them solutions. Remember that you are backed by best practice research and methodologies that can help your organization achieve higher levels of success. They need to hear and know this. You may be a pioneer in your organization with knowledge others don’t have. Don’t wait for someone to ask you for help. Assert yourself!

Remember, when you’re sitting across from a C-level exec, you only get one shot to pique their interest. If you don’t come to the table armed with enough knowledge and insight, they’ll shut you down without a second thought, and you won’t get another opportunity. The key thing is to be prepared.

By Steve Reasner

Three years ago, Cisco launched the first Partner Innovation Challenge to expand the use of their DevNet program with the goal of discovering new solutions based on Cisco technologies. The challenge has grown and evolved and this year they had over 200 submissions, which is a five-fold increase in submissions. For 2020, fourteen North America finalists were selected with LIFT taking the top honor for the region and placing third amongst the global field behind Logicalis LATAM and first place winner, Outcomex ANZ. 

LIFT’s vReady solution went beyond the traditional application approach and instead focused on our customer success and workflow design expertise, which is based on LIFT’s proprietary Value Realization Services. vReady is designed to automate the adoption of Cisco Webex with a customized interface that seamlessly integrates into a customer’s business workflow. This allows it to be used in vertical or horizontal scenarios like higher education, courts and HR. 

Over the next 6 months, LIFT will develop new capabilities, improve existing features, and integrate additional capabilities to continue to advance the vReady solution.

The Cisco Partner Innovation Challenge is validation of how LIFT integrates Cisco’s portfolio of software solutions with our adoption service capabilities to accomplish great things for our customers and partners. With an incredibly competitive partner landscape, this award is a testament to LIFT’s innovation, expertise, and customer-centric people.

5 Ways to Keep Your Virtual Team Connected and Happy

While the remote workforce has long been on the rise, recent events have rapidly accelerated the work-from-home movement. Successfully navigating the transition from physical workplace to virtual workspace requires that individuals and teams adopt new ways of thinking, working and interacting.

How can you foster a team that feels engaged and works cohesively when everyone is miles apart?

  1. Schedule regular check-ins. Normally, quick huddles and brief discussions happen spontaneously throughout the day. However, when the team is working in separate quarters, it takes intentional effort to keep everyone on the same page. Set up a time and a system to foster getting together. Schedule regular times but be sensitive to overload; too many meetings can be counterproductive. Finding the right balance will come… soon.
  2. Don’t be all work, all the time. For many, social distancing has made us realize how much interaction happens in an office. Sharing the latest binge-worthy series, our kids’ antics, the fabulous meal we had – these small interactions help build connections that make work-life more enjoyable. When you’re planning the agenda for any meeting, think about including a social component. Share stories. Talk about your kids, show a picture of your dog, or discuss a new hobby that isolation has kick-started – anything to just stay
  3. Offer a variety of communication channels. There are many options beyond email and phone. Platforms like WebEx Teams have functionality that makes tele-teamwork simpler and more robust. Instant messaging, file-sharing, screen-sharing, whiteboard sketches and more – plus they’re fun! (P.S. Remember these tools when things get back to normal; they work great in the office, too!)
  4. Picture Perfect! If you’ve spent years dressing up for the office, now’s your chance to be business casual. But please, stay professional; working in your PJs might feel good but it’s a distraction. Being more casual is nice – but don’t let it get in the way of maintaining some face-to-face interactions. Many experts feel that nonverbal communication cues are the most important indicators of whether you’re communicating effectively.
  5. Track projects and accountability. Not being able to monitor employees’ activities makes some managers nervous. Now’s the time to use technology to your advantage. There are many collaborative project management tools now available so it’s possible to keep track of tasks, responsibilities and deadlines that keep everyone accountable and give employees a big picture view of goals and team processes.

Consider adding video conferencing into your meetings to improve communication and ensure everyone’s messages are understood. Studies show that businesses that use video conferencing feel their workplace is more productive and connected.

The new normal is fast becoming just normal and the unprecedented is becoming commonplace. While we have no way to know what’s coming next, one thing is for sure, our relationship with work has changed. How we worked and where we worked, don’t seem to fit anymore. This blog series is dedicated to helping you thrive in uncertain times by creating new ways of working.

The spread of COVID-19 is forcing many companies to send employees home to work remotely. Some are loving it, some aren’t, but we all face an even bigger challenge of staying cyber-safe. Hackers are lurking in the shadows ready to steal both personal and business data. As you can imagine, it’s putting an incredible strain on both IT and security teams.

IT departments everywhere are using tried-and-true methods like setting employees up with cloud-based applications because the security is outsourced to vetted software programs. This allows IT to monitor it without needing access to an employee’s physical machine. Many departments have also set up BYOD and cybersecurity policies to include remote working, as well as multi-factor authentication and virtual private networks to ensure remote workers’ personal and business information is locked down and safer from attacks.

Technology aside, it’s the people element that’s really important. In addition to implementing IT measures, here are 3 simple tips that IT teams can easily put in place to keep employee and company data secure:

  1. Employee awareness and training
    Keep in mind that 24 percent of data breaches are the result of human error. If you haven’t already, now is the time to set up security training protocols so employees know what to do and what to expect if they experience a security incident. If they do, it’s a good best practice to have an outlined procedure for reporting so employees know to immediately share any security threats and concerns with the IT team.
  2. Regular check-ins
    Arrange for IT to have regular virtual check-ins with remote employees to keep them updated on the latest threats and best practices. Ensuring IT and remote workers stay in touch is a great way to keep people connected and aids in team building as well. Team accountability also helps keep people painfully aware that their home-based web and Wi-Fi systems are vulnerable.
  3. Human virus VS. tech virus
    With the rapid growth of COVID-19, more and more scams are showing up in emails. Make sure that no one in your organization is tempted to click on them because, as you know, malware and other nasty viruses are being passed around like, well, the Coronavirus. Frequent reminders around data privacy considerations are not just a good suggestion but should be a company mandate.

We all know there’s no such thing as a perfectly secure workforce, but it pays to take proactive measures daily. And with the mass influx of new remote workers, it just makes security that much more vulnerable. Fortunately, most data breaches are preventable so, educate, educate, educate. Using safeguards and good communication gives you and your remote workers a clear path to reducing risk so they can breathe easy, and get the job done.

The team at LIFT regularly works with IT departments on how to implement communication plans and strategies to share their security initiatives and best practices with end-users. Reach out to us at info@liftinnovate to discuss how we can help you put a plan in place.

While some still consider it a dirty word, selling is becoming a make-or-break skill.

The competition is too fierce. The opportunities are too few. And time is running out on personal brands that don’t include sales capability.

If you don’t consider yourself a salesperson. If the idea of selling doesn’t agree with you. It may be time to think again.

Recently, I facilitated a session that brought together a dozen public and private organizations to discuss the future of business education. Held on behalf of Iowa State University, the session explored the question: Has an operational and functional understanding of selling and the sales process become a business education requirement?

Iowa State is not the only institution of higher education exploring the question and educational providers are not alone in recognizing the rising importance of sales capabilities. As the author of “Everybody Sells”— a book that advances the thesis that organization-wide sales engagement is becoming increasingly important to organizational success — my opinion has long been registered.

The groundswell of interest in selling extends far beyond the logical advantages of possessing basic sales skills. The ability to articulate ideas, influence resource allocations and garner and maintain the support of other people is of undeniable practical and tactical value. However, one might reasonably associate similar outcomes to other areas of focus, including leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing.

No, it appears that the rising interest in sales skills represents some deeper movement, some more fundamental change. Moving from the one-on-one to team-on-team; rejecting form, function and price in favor of value realization—each incremental change has altered what sales excellence means and what sales performance requires.

The table stakes are rising.

Sales success now requires the highest levels of product and service fluency, a deep understanding of client operations and the ability to harness and coordinate support from a broad range of internal and external resources. What better proving ground of tomorrow’s top executives?

If you’ve distanced yourself from the sales function because you still associate sales with manipulation, trickery, fast-talking or sleight-of-hand, you’ve missed a generation of maturity and development. And it may be time to join the club.

Selling matters—no matter who you are.

If COVID-19 has relocated you from the office to your kitchen table for the time being, you’re not alone. Many employers are mandating that employees work remotely as the outbreak of Corona Virus spreads.  Before you resign yourself to elastic-wasted pants and Netflix binges for the foreseeable future, LIFT’s Executive Director of Client Services, Amber Moore has put together some tips to boost your productivity and your mental well-being during this challenging time.

You just got the call.

You’ll be working from home until further notice.

Don’t panic!

Here are 5 tips to make your virtual work experience, work for you:

  1. Find your space. Our homes are full of distractions.  There’s the pile of laundry, the news on TV, the dishes in the sink, the spouse who just wants to ask one little question, 12 times a day.  And of course, if you have kids, they’re famous for ignoring boundaries. Here’s what you do:
    • Create a space where you feel comfortable working
    • Somewhere other than a room with lots of foot traffic
    • Your space needs good lighting and solitude

WARNING:  Avoid trying to work from your bed or in front of the TV – you’ll think you can do it, but at the end of the day, you’ll wonder why you didn’t get anything done!

  1. Plan for the camera. Video conferences are a part of the virtual office experience and help people stay focused and connected. When it’s your time to shine on camera, wear clothes that resemble your office vibe (avoid the grungy, slept in tee shirt look) and make sure your background doesn’t steal the scene! If dirty laundry and cleaning supplies are part of your set, think more about production values.
  2. Follow a schedule. For most of us, getting and staying on a schedule virtually is tough. So, for your own sanity, and your family’s, share a schedule so that everyone knows when you’re on and when you are off the clock.  Have a family/roommate meeting, explain that you aren’t on vacation and share your plan. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if people stop by, ask for help or just chat. Your schedule should also include time for meals and breaks.  Go get some fresh air and take Fido for a walk.
  3. Don’t forget to collaborate! These are tough times, made harder by the very thing that’s supposed to save us – social isolation. Because you are working on your own when working on your own – don’t let this happen to you. Become a digital connector and be the one that gets people collaborating virtually.  Schedule daily or weekly check-in meetings to ensure everyone’s voices are heard and use collaboration to digitally bridge the social distance you’ve been asked to physically maintain.
  4. Get your family involved. Working from home is challenging for all involved, you and those around you. If you live with family members or roommate, they’ll be doing a lot of adjusting too and you’ll need their help to be successful. For example, during times you’ll be on a virtual meeting, discourage others in your home from doing high-bandwidth activities that may impact your audio and video quality.

As the only worker in your virtual office, you are a virtual lock for employee of the month (every month).

So, set an example by helping others whenever you can.

We’re all in this together and together we can get past this!

Oh, and put on some pants… seriously.