Stefan and Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach discuss how engagement is an incredible multiplier of business performance.
The first episode of the Engaged Organization Podcast series uncovers what it means to be engaged, the key elements that make up an Engaged Organization™, and the game-changing capability that enables you to score how engaged your organization is in less than 10 minutes.
Dan: Hi. This is Dan Sullivan and I’m here with Stefan Wissenbach and this is a new podcast series that we call The Engaged Organization. This is really your brainchild, Stefan, the whole notion of using the one single focus of engagement as an incredible multiplier of business performance. We have a long history together as part of the Strategic Coach Program and me being able to actually take a look at how you’ve created our entrepreneurial career, how you built it, and then you took a breakthrough where you jumped to an entirely different level of thinking what your future entrepreneurial career could be.Could you give a little background on where you started? We’re talking to each other across the Atlantic Ocean. I’m on Toronto, Canada and, Stefan, you can tell everybody where you are and then just give everybody a background into one, how you established yourself as an entrepreneur and then how you got this idea of The Engaged Organization.
Stefan: Thank you, Dan, and hello there. It’s Stefan Wissenbach here, founder of Engagement Multiplier. I’ve known Dan for over ten years now and been a participant in the Strategic Coach Program, which has been a game changing experience for me. I’ve spent my entire working life helping individuals to become more engaged with their futures and helping organizations to help their teams become more engaged. One of the things that energizes me is the tremendous impact that engagement has both on individuals and on businesses.
It was through my journey of creating a unique business model working with Strategic Coach that I hit upon the concept that engagement is the electricity that drives businesses, yet I was astonished the more work I did and the more research I did into it how in my view everyone seemed to be making it unnecessarily complicated.
Over a period of several years we’ve developed a unique process and a way of actually enabling anyone in any business anywhere in the world to actually grade how engaged their business is, get a score, and provide a permanent structure and framework that enables teams to become more engaged and make businesses happier places to be, more successful, more profitable, and just better businesses. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m having a great time right now.
Dan: Stefan, just for everybody, because a lot of people who are listening to this, they’re hearing the word engagement and I think everybody has an immediate sense of what engagement is, but from your standpoint as you’ve studied this what’s the difference let’s say between a person who’s really engaged and a person who hasn’t engaged at all, just so we can give a picture to everybody who’s listening to our entire series here that we know what we’re talking about right from the beginning.
Stefan: I talk about this in my book, The Engaged Organization. The best analogy I can give you really is a sporting analogy. You just image for one moment that your favorite team is playing a really big game and you’re there in your house, you’re watching the television, you’re sat on the edge of your seat. When they score you cheer, you’re jumping up and down and you’re really, really there in the moment. Alternatively, there’s something on the telly that you don’t like too much, you’re not really that bothered about it. You’re sat back in the sofa, you’re perhaps nodding off, you’re stroking the dog. You’re not really aware of what’s going on on the television.
I think that in a lot of businesses it’s exactly the same. You may even be napping. In a lot of businesses some of the staff are even napping. Engagement is about sort of being there, being in the moment, and being present and really caring about where you are right then and applying yourself to the task in hand. It’s a bit like on school reports. They never say, “Should take more action.” They say, “Could apply themselves a bit more.” An engaged person really applies themselves, a disengaged person doesn’t.
Dan: One of the things that I take is going to be kind of amazing to everyone who’s listening to this, Stefan, is the fact that just the power of the tool that has been created. We’ve described what engagement is. That’s a great analogy that you’ve given. Could you talk about what the capability is that is immediately available for any business owner in the world and for any private business organization that is now available to them in an incredibly short period of time?
It’s one thing to talk about engagement as a concept, but the real power of what you’re doing is that you’ve actually created an entire organizational capability, you and your team in Chicago, and we had a part in it at Strategic Coach in the early testing period of it. I think this is one of the most remarkable organizational tools in the world and I should say this, that I’m a customer. I was the very first customer for this, so I’m not profiting from this except for the enormous good that we’re actually getting out of the new capability that you’ve created.
Stefan: Thank you, Dan. The power of this approach is that … I remember you saying many years ago what gets measured gets done, and what gets measured in reports it improves exponentially. We spend a lot of time in Coach talking about exponential growth and exponential technologies. The Engagement Multiplier Program is exactly that.
What it does is it enables a business to get a score and get it down to a number, a score as to how engaged that business is. We measure engagement across the five dimensions. Four are the most important. The fifth one I’ll talk about in just a moment, which is engaged customers. That’s the one that most of the time in my experience of engagement programs, that’s where the expensive consultants spend a lot of time trying to help you create more engaged customers and they often overlook the first four key areas.
The first four are, first of all does the business have an engaged purpose and what does an engaged purpose look like? Secondly, how engaged are the owners? Thirdly, how engaged are the leaders? Fourth, how engaged are the employees and team members/
When you can get those four component parts working together harmoniously as an engaged corps, then engagement ripples out to the outside world. It impacts customers. It impacts media. It impacts anyone that you would come into contact with, and that’s where you have an engaged organization.
What we’ve created is a straightforward structure. Human beings I think are wonderful things when you provide them with structure. We all need a bit of structure to function. If that structure is too rigid and inflexible and it’s difficult, if it’s too broad, we wallow about a bit. We’ve created a structure which enables anyone at any level in an organization to score how engaged the organization is as regards its engaged purpose, as regards the engaged owners, as regards the leaders, the employees and the customers.
The minute you do that, the minute you actually find your position on that structure and framework, it’s really clear on what needs to happen next. You can automatically see because of where you position the business right then against the context we provide what action you can take next. Simple, simple system that takes less than ten minutes a quarter. What we then do is package all of the results and insight into a format that business owners and leaders can use. The important thing is that there’s the score, the score that’s generated, because in the really engaged organizations that we work with the score becomes a game. Everyone wants to improve the score.
Dan: Just from our own experience, we were the first organization that actually jumped in the pool, so we got a really high participation rate. We were up around eight-five to ninety of our team members, but we had a real big buy in right off the bat. We got our first score back and then, as you mentioned, there’s the capability for them to make comments on each of the categories so you have engaged vision, engaged owners, engaged leaders and then the team members, and of course the customers.
They would make very, very insightful comments. One of the things that makes this whole thing work, Stefan, and I think you should put some emphasis on this, that all the scoring and all the commenting is anonymous.
Dan: There’s an enormous freedom that comes along with that.
Stefan: Absolutely. I mean a lot of organizations run sort of programs where they survey their teams and at the end of the day what you really want is you want the truth. The way you get the truth is by making the whole system absolutely confidential and anonymous. One of the most energizing things for me … I’ve just been going through today before coming into the recording studio, I was going through eight reports for eight of our founding fifty customers and the thing that I love the most is looking at the comments.
I remember one of my early mentors in life saying, “No matter whether someone gives you good feedback or constructive feedback, it’s feedback, and the fact that they’re providing feedback means they care.” He said, “You want to worry when people don’t provide feedback because it means they’ve totally given up.” Sure, when we get the feedback and organizations get the feedback sometimes there’s constructive feedback and sometimes there’s a lot of positive feedback. The point is that people rarely in my experience go out of their way to just be awkward and moan. Whilst we talk about the score being important because that anchors us around a number, I think the score is really important but I think it’s less important than the feedback. The feedback is golden nuggets.
I was talking to one of our other founding fifty members who’s also in Strategic Coach, a chap called Brett Bigelow, just the other day at a Coach workshop. He had had his second Engagement Multiplier report and his score had jumped by nine percent in ninety days. That’s a big jump. I know that big organizations get excited about moving it one-tenth of a percent every year and this guy had done about nine percent in ninety days.
I said to him, I said, “Brett, what was it you did? This is incredible. I’ve just seen the two reports and I really want to know what action you took in between.” He says to me in a lovely southern drawl, he says, “I just read the comments in the back.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I just read everything that all my team members had said and I could see really quickly that they just came into three categories.” He said, “So I put them into three categories and then I did what they asked.”
We talk about engagement being … I think it is simple. It’s not always easy and it does take courage to create an engaged organization. It takes a business owner who is prepared to actually tackle this and embrace it, and that’s what he did. No surprise, took onboard all the feedback, took action, and everyone thought wow, this is great, what an engaged organization, and the score goes up.
Dan: In all areas of life, if you get a closed loop feedback system you get improvement. What I mean by that is that every organization … Let’s use an example. Every organization goes through ninety days of experience and just by the nature of reality and the nature of living in the modern world, some of the experience during those ninety days is going to be incredibly positive because you’re winning with turnover or revenue, you’re winning with profits, you’re doing great work for your customers, there’s great teamwork inside the company.
At the other hand, no system is perfect and business systems, of course, are continually having to address to external circumstances, so there’s tension points, there’s conflict points inside of an organization. Certain people are succeeding among the team members and among the management in the company more than others and this brings up issues that for the most part there’s no way of voicing. One way that people voice their displeasure is that they quit. Some people just stop working.
What you said is very, very true regarding the comments. I look actually at the score and the comments as two equally valid feedbacks, but they’re for different purposes. The one gives you your baseline for measuring improvement immediately. You get your first score and now you’ve got a baseline. In our first quarter we went up six percent. Now you’ve got me a little bit envious because now I’m looking for nine percent. I already am feeling kind of anxious from this interview.
Thanks a lot, Stefan, for that. I was hoping to get through this in a very enjoyable manner, but that kind of shows you the impact of scoring. That’s what scoring does. It really grabs your attention. Then the comments are the raw material of how you’re actually going to get a higher score, so I see them as two components of a single process.
Stefan: Absolutely. It sort of brings me back to this feedback, these comments … One of the things that we’ve discussed is how one of the wonderful things about the way that we manage this is that everybody in the organization gets a vote and every vote is equal, so the vote of the founder is the same value as the vote of the most junior member of staff. I passionately believe that the secrets to an engaged organization do not lay in the minds of an expense sort of external consultant, but absolutely already exists within the very organization you’ve built and they come in the main from the team members that are in the organization doing the work.
Maybe when the founder started the business and there was just two or three people they were very connected to everything that was going on and all the systems and processes, but as organizations grow they become more disconnected. The people that really know what’s going on and how things are functioning and what’s working and what’s not are the people doing the jobs themselves. If you can provide them with a structure and a framework that enables them to vocalize any issues and highlight successes and provide feedback, then what you immediately do is you give that energy and it provides a structure in which it can be improved.
Dan: The other aspect about that that I think is often missing in the understanding of the owners of the company is that probably ninety-five percent of the contact between their company and their organization actually takes through the engagement or non-engagement of their actually team members, because that’s where the communication is happening back and forth between your organization and the organizations of your customers or clients or just the individuals.
I always tell my receptionist in both Toronto and in Chicago, and then we’re in the UK and we’re also in Los Angeles, and I always tell them the first person to pick up the phone is the number one public relations person in any organization. You form your opinion of the organization by the quality or the lack of quality of engagement that’s present in the first person that you hear on the phone.
Stefan: Absolutely, and you want them engaged.
Dan: We’re fast approaching the end point of this first episode. We’re going to be doing this continually and I’m going to ask you this question about your growth plans because I’ve made some predictions about the process that you’ve put together here, Stefan, and also I think its growth possibilities in the twenty-first century business marketplace.
I just want you to walk through over a five minute period how an owner … Let’s say someone is listening to this episode of The Engaged Organization and the person phones somebody or emails somebody at your end and says, “Look, I’m ready to go. I’m totally sold with this.” Can you just walk through the fastest, easiest process for someone to get going with this?
Stefan: Absolutely. Go to engagementmultiplier.com and register. Then it all gets taken care of from there. We have a team of onboarding specialist. The process of actually getting this up and running is very, very straightforward. We’ve effectively packaged the whole thing and delivered a turnkey process that enables any business owner to communicate clearly with their team about the benefits of the program, give clear instruction on how to participate. The whole thing then is automated.
Once every ninety days the team is surveyed and then all of the results and feedback are then packaged into a very elegant living dashboard that both the business owner has access to at a very high level and sees all the data, and then importantly each of the team members has access to their own private dashboard. One of the reasons that’s really important is that it’s one thing to score, but just scoring doesn’t transfer ownership. Engagement programs that succeed are where the team members take ownership.
One of the things that we do at Engagement Multiplier, there’s two questions at the end of the survey. The first one says, “What two actions could you take personally that would improve engagement at company name that are not dependent on leadership involvement?” The second question is, “What one action could leadership take that would improve engagement?”
The interesting thing there, it’s a bit of a two-for-one deal. There is psychology in this. We get the most fabulous suggestions coming forward from the team members. Under the digital program what happens is when they go into their own private dashboard to see the results, and it’s very important that you share the survey results … Once the business owner authorizes them for release everyone can access their own dashboard and they can see not only how the organization has scored overall, how their scoring compares to the organization’s score, and also they can see very clearly what the two actions were that they said that they would take or could take that weren’t dependent on leadership, therefore don’t take money, don’t take time, so let them have at it is our view. That’s a wonderful way to help facilitate them become engaged.
Dan: Stefan, I’m just going to ask you two questions here. This is someone listening to our first podcast. I’ve got fifty employees. For me the cost really isn’t an issue. If I can get a big jump in engagement I know that it’s going to pay off immediately in terms of increased income revenues, however you call it, revenue or turnover, and also in profits. How fast from the moment that I actually contact engagedmultiplier.com can I be up and running with the first survey if we give you all the information from our side? How fast can that actually happen?
Stefan: We can get the business established straightaway. It’s a question of how you then communicate with your team. If you’ve got the ability to communicate really quickly with your team, we can have you up and running literally within a matter of days.
Dan: I’ve been in business for forty years. I just know what the consulting process looks like related to this subject of engagement, and it would take you a couple months just to get clear on the terms of what the consulting process is going to be, then it might be another six months before a survey is actually created, then another three months before a report is generated. At that point you probably don’t have the quality of information that would be present within a very short period of time after people have actually voted in your process.
We were the first ones in and the platform was just being created, but within thirty days after everybody voted we had a complete report back. We already had created a team that was just going to focus on utilizing the results from the survey. That team has grown and it has become more powerful over the period. We’re just approaching right now as we’re doing this first Engagement Organization episode, we’re just approaching our third survey. This is going to be the big one for us, is just to see … We took a jump in the first quarter but now can we take an equal or greater jump in the second quarter? That’s the amazing thing for me.
I just want you to give some idea on the cost here. I think this is going to be incredibly popular and like all things you’re going to pack more value into it as you go along. Right now if I have fifty employees basically what’s it going to cost if I just say I’m going to try this out for a year?
Stefan: The pricing is really simple. It’s very straightforward, just like the program. The investment is two hundred dollars per employee per annum, or if you choose to pay monthly it’s twenty dollars a month.
Dan: I always say that if they check the sofas they’ll find that amount of money in coins and loose change. It’s such a small investment for such a huge return. We’re so excited. The next time, Stefan, I’d like to talk to you about a concept that actually changed a major strategic concept that we have in the program that literally changed and transformed itself simply because we now have the capability of The Engaged Multiplier.
I’m so excited about this because I think in terms of where our company is going over the next twenty-five years and to know that we’ve got this platform every quarter that’s constantly reinforcing all the best attitudes, all the best approaches that our team has and that this is going to get better every quarter for the next twenty-five years, I mean this gives everybody, Babs and myself, you know we’re the owners of the company, our complete team, it gives all of us such an enormous amount of a sense of capability and a sense of confidence about what we’re going to be able to do with our company over the next twenty-five years.
Stefan: I agree, and thank you, Dan. As you were saying, I was thinking when you were talking about engagement and the importance of it, it’s not the cost of engagement that is expensive. It’s relatively straightforward if you do the right things and we provide the structure to enable that to happen. What’s expensive is disengagement. That’s the horrible cost.
Dan: You’re so confident about this and I’m always amazed at how you develop a capability around new things very, very, very quickly. If we go back two or three years to where you were now and you were the owner … You have enormous involvement with one of the major wealth coaching companies in the UK and where you were, but that was basically your business. Now you’ve created what is essentially a global business inside of three years. What are two or three things that have really changed in how you’re looking at yourself as you go forward?
Stefan: The impact that technology has on the ability to create a global organization and an exponential business. As you know, I’ve spent some time working with Peter Diamandis and I was also in a coach program and attending Abundance 360. That really opened my eyes to the power of technology and with the technology the way it is now how you can reach to such a broad audience and make such an impact. That’s been a big thing for me.
Then I love to travel. It’s great to have a business that’s impacting businesses all over the world. That gives me a fundamental reason to spend more time traveling, so there are two fabulous impacts.
Dan: I would say for myself, I got the chance to work with you on this and actually going through the basic thinking and the creation of the tool. I have to tell you this has been one of the greatest wins of my coaching career because it just showed me that if I can combine my coaching skills with someone else’s creative skills and their ambition to make a huge impact on the planet, but especially on the entrepreneurial world, which is where my heart really lies, with all the entrepreneurs and the organizations that they’ve created, I have to tell you I feel a hundred times rewarded already simply because of the creative involvement that I’ve had with you on this project.
Stefan: Thank you, Dan. Your involvement has been invaluable. It’s been a tremendous collaborative exercise. I think your point about entrepreneurs is a very good one. As an entrepreneur myself, I’m sort of passionate about entrepreneurism and I’m passionate about the game changes that are making difference to the world. It’s the entrepreneurs. Being able to provide a capability to entrepreneurs and business owners that helps them to build fabulous organizations that are more engaged and make even more of a difference is a very rewarding thing to be able to do.
Dan: Next time, Stefan, when we come back for our next episode of The Engaged Organization, I’d like to go over some of the learning that you mentioned, one of the founding organizations, but just five or six things that you’ve discovered now that you’re right into the full launch of the platform that were learned in the R&D part by working with fifty different companies. I think that would be fascinating to all the business owners, just what you learned about the kind of surprises that came up that you weren’t expecting and some of the key strategies that the entrepreneurs have come up with. I think everybody is going to be very, very excited about the next episode of The Engaged Organization.
Stefan: I’m excited to share those five, seven, eight … There’s so many insights. That’s going to be a great experience.