Learnings: When employees praise each other in public, good stuff happens!

How do you know, if your leadership activities actually pay off?
You measure who your employees have as role models – and why.

During the last eight months we’ve been encouraging employees to use the ‘praise’ function on Yammer (an internal social media tool) to give a thumbs-up or a pat-on-the-back to colleagues who deserved it.

The purpose was to get the positive feedback out in the open; to shed light on who (and what) the role models are on peer level, and hence to strengthen personal leadership. Also, to establish something that was NOT controlled by top management but a very transparent and involving mechanism for giving credit.

It was a successful move.

The setup

The company in this case is a Danish IT consultancy with 120 employees in four locations, which has Personal Leadership as a key strategic area. I was privileged to have the responsibility for the activities in this track. We’ve been educating each other in leadership, in motivation theory, and in taking responsibility – for yourself, your colleagues, your projects/services/products, and your customers. Also, in when to say yes and no. Question is: Does it matter?

We launched the praise activity with this design:

  • Give praise on Yammer, using the ‘praise’ functionality
  • State a reason why she or he is praised
  • Each month, the most praised employee will be appointed.
    Honorable nominations are also high-lighted.
  • With the appointment follows a prize of 1,000 DKK, which the winner must use on the colleagues, not for personal benefit


Success! The illustration below shows a typical network of praises. Each arrow points towards the one being praised. (The names of the employees are masked for privacy reasons.)

Quantitatively: Clearly, praise spawns praise, in two ways. First of all, over the months we got more and more praises, and the praises came from all locations and departments/teams. Secondly, if you receive a praise, you will very likely pass it on.

Qualitatively: People are being praised for three things: (1) For being a leader and taking on some tough battles e.g. with customers. (2) For being professionally strong or innovative. (3) For a great effort and hard work in peak periods.

By doing this, we have – in a transparent way and across locations – identified both informal leaders as well as what behavior that is appreciated on peer level. A great learning experience, for managers and for employees.

In the situation here (below), the employee Frtz was praised for stepping up and addressing some unpleasant dialogue with a customer. The employee Anen was praised for leading the group into a new way of working. Finally, the employee Mard praised a bunch of people for some hard work during a tough period.

employee to employee-praises 1

Does the money matter?

No. The 1,000 DKK that follows the appointment has no effect, the employees say. Instead, the effect and pride comes from the pat-on-the-back, and from being recognized amongst peers. (Serotonin kicks in here.)

So, do employees give praise for the behavior that management wants?

To great lengths, yes. And yes this is the test of your leadership activities and the actual pay-off.

We have three strategic pillars: Personal Leadership, Customer Satisfaction, and Financial Performance (rather classical). We want employees who are role models in supporting this, and yes, I believe that this is what we see.

The great task is still to nurture a culture and provide leadership, that makes the employees thrive, commit, and be enthusiastic – and to become the role models that are needed for themselves and for the organization.

The real test of the success of your leadership investment is, if the employees agree with you and follow you. This can be directly measured by monitoring the praises and looking at the characteristics of the employee-appointed role models.






7 learnings from 8 global intranet/collaboration projects in 10 years

I’ve been so fortunate to be involved in a lot of collaboration projects in my career.

For this post I’ll focus on 8 specific/selected projects that I’ve been part of in the last 10 years, which all have the same characteristics:

  • intranet or collaboration project
  • global reach, with Nordic headquarter
  • thousands of users (largest one with 27,000 users)
  • business critical processes (collaboration, project portal and/or communication)
  • large renowned company in the pharmaceutical, engineering, energy, or manufactoring business

For the record: I’ve been on “both sides of the desk”, ie. both as company employee (working as project manager or programme manager), and as vendor (working as project manager, service delivery manager and consultant). The learnings cover both sides of the experience.

2014-04-18 10.16.49

1. Clear purpose and well-anchored support in top management

Your project must have a clear purpose (a WHY), that fits with the business strategy. We need (a) to be able to explain every action, decision and feature in the light of the purpose and (b) to engage stakeholders, content providers, and end users in light of the purpose. Keep challenging the project owner and/or sponsor until this (the purpose) is in place. If not, then consider putting the project aside for some months.

Be sure to establish a business case (e.g. run/grow/transform the business; ROI; KPI’s and when to follow-up), and get someone to own it.

The project needs well-anchored support in top management, with one or more of the CXO’s, preferably the CEO. We need it to ensure proper inertia in the project, ie. as ambassadors and role models, and for taking the lead in the discussions on top level.

2. Talk to the stakeholders, dammit

Sorry for the language, but dammit, you need to talk to your stakeholders very, very often.

You as project manager must make this your top priority. Often the PM falls into the habit of focusing on features and functions, but this is not as important as the stakeholders. So often I have seen that proper expectation management is not established. Either the top management is surprised and stops/changes the project midway or right before launch, or the middle managers is a huge challenge to get on board. If you don’t spend time on this, you’re going to have delays, lower quality, or a smaller scope than you promised.

Stakeholders are:

  • your top management, project owner/sponsor
  • your process owners
  • your ambassadors
  • your reference groups
  • your communication, IT, quality, and HR department (and more from case to case)
  • your project team

Observe the culture and adjust accordingly. Culture has three dimensions: Company culture, country culture, and age. Invest some time to map it. What is predominant, when it comes to making decisions, choosing features, planning the global roll-out, creating content? The company culture or the country culture? Does the age demography influence on how we engage the ambassadors?

Have a plan for engaging with them, often and intimately. And then do it. Dammit.

3. Mindset and change of behaviour

If we want people to collaborate, to take part in the intranet, to share information in the project portal, or to strengthen cooperation with our commercial partners: Focus on the *mindset*, not the tool. Yes, it’s a well-beaten drum, but still not taken seriously enough.

Too often we end up discussing features, details on the taxonomy, or the visual layout, rather than investing time on the mindset; missing focus on getting employees to take part, contribute to the solution, and changing behaviour. Even top managers will rather invest time in functionality than discussing mindset change. Everybody wants development, but are reluctant to change. We must change(!) that! Use the purpose and user engagement to address it.

4. Team is everything

A succes-factor is your core team, which should consist of 6-10 persons (“if you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large” –Jeff Bezos). The skills, experience and collaboration within the team is a make-or-break for the project.

AND: Your team culture, social capital, eagerness to help and support, communication and openness should be part of the design of the team, part of the daily vocabulary, and part of the regular evaluation during the project. You can really make an impact here.

5. Adapt to change

Your project is going to take 6-12-18 months. Expect change to happen. Address it with your CXO’s, your project owner/sponsor, the stakeholders – and with the legal and procurement department.

Your project might be cancelled or speeded up. Scope will evolve (a nice way of saying, that we cannot promise that we deliver exactly what is in the original specification or contract).

We will learn so much in the process, that the feature list IS going to change. As long as we support and fulfill the purpose (see no. 1), this should be ok … as long as the stakeholders are informed.

And, use an agile project model like SCRUM.

6. The project is not over when it is over

Finally, the 2nd part of your engagement starts when the project has delivered the product, and we’re at launch and go-live.

Now the purpose comes to life, and users start to use the product. Have governance in place. A support organisation. FAQ. Information sites and guides for usage. Go educate the users. Be open to feedback and change requests. System Management is an explicit part of delivering a global intranet/collaboration product.

Measure the impact. Is the purpose met? Does the project deliver the promised result? Plan, do, check, act.


On the personal side:

7. It’s motivating

It’s fun and a great journey. The purpose of bringing the organisation together in a shared cause is highly motivating, and I use the story-telling at every occasion for motivating the team and the stakeholders.

It’s my passion, and I’d do it again.

Ping me for questions or such!


UNBOSS in daily life, 7: From WHY to WHAT

How do you break down the WHY into activities that support the purpose? You establish The Strategic Architecture. See my explanation in the video below.

(If you are unfamiliar with the notion of WHY, HOW and WHAT, you should watch the TED video with Simon Sinek). It fits together in The Golden Circle, by Simon Sinek:

the-golden-circle The trick is to establish several HOW’s that support the WHY.

  • The HOW’s are capabilities in the organisation, e.g. customer intimacy, knowledge sharing, financial performance, operational excellence etc.
  • The HOW’s can be arranged in a list or a tree-structure, hence they can support each other or be further broken down.

The same goes with the WHAT’s that support the HOW’s

  • The WHAT’s are projects or actions that have concrete deliverables and a limited time-span. The WHAT’s are the things, that we do
  • The WHAT’s can be arranged in a list or a tree-structure, hence they can support each other or be further broken down.

This gives us the possibility for several things, in alignment with UNBOSS:

  • To ensure, that everything we do supports the purpose
  • To have a transparent execution of the strategy
  • To enable involvement and engagement – and that everybody can have influence on the tasks and the way we execute them

(Direct link to video).

The slide with the Strategic Archtecture: Skærmbillede 2014-06-09 kl. 18.06.55


Hurra! 2 år med Unboss! … Og hvad så?

Jeg har Unbosset i +2 år nu.

Altså, jeg har jo nok ubevidst prøvet at gøre det meget længere end det (ca. 12 år?), famlet og kæmpet, men med Unboss har jeg kunnet sætte ord på det, og ved hvad jeg skal gøre for at få tingene til at ske.

+2 år. Og hvad så?

woo hoo 1

Helt overordnet – I’m never gonna go back!

Idéen om at arbejde formålsdrevet vil altid være den bærende filosofi i alt hvad jeg gør. Unboss formulerer rammen præcist, og på en måde som rammer mig lige i hjertet.

Det skal give mening, ellers stop. Er man først blevet bidt af det og smittet med det, vil man have mere, og man vil aldrig gå tilbage til den gamle ledelsesform!

Det virker – gang på gang!

Jeg har efterhånden samlet så mange empiriske resultater, at jeg mener at kunne påstå, at effekten kan dokumenteres. Og genskabes.

Jeg har prøvet det i projekter, i afdelinger, i virksomheder, i advisory boards, som mentor, 1:1 med medarbejdere. Det virker. Det har ikke altid været let, men vi har lært en masse.

12 foredrag. 350 deltagere. 13 danske cases. Vi er kommet langt!

Hvad har jeg lært?

Jeg har fået tools og håndværket på plads.

Jeg har eftervist, at effekten kan skabes, igen og igen.

Jeg har lært, hvad der skal til organisatorisk, for at få det til at være vedvarende.

Jeg har lært, hvordan man bruger IT – specielt social media – til det.

Jeg har lært hvilke resultatmål, man kan sætte op, for personer, for teams, for organisationen.

Og hvilke fejl kan man begå?

At tro, at man kan Unbosse en tysk indkøbschef, bare-lige-sådan-vupti

At tro, at Unboss er et carte blanche til at lægge ansvaret fra sig

At tro, at man kan gøre det uden grundig forberedelse

At tro, at det sker lynhurtigt og uden problemer og fejltagelser

At tro, at man kan gøre det uden at starte forandringen indefra, i sig selv

Hvad så – nu?

Nu er vi på vej ud over landegrænsen – til Sverige, Tyskland, Kina, USA. Og igang med at gøre det i multinationale firmaer. Og både i det offentlige og i det private. Og Unboss Practitioners Copenhagen er blevet stiftet.

Flere tools og erfaringer skal samles. Flere foredrag og kurser. Flere implementeringer.

Og mest af alt: Stadigt mere fokus og fremdrift i troen og beviserne på, at organisationerne kan designes bedre og mere tidssvarende, i samklang med de mennesker vi er i dag. Det skal give mening, ellers stop.

Tak til alle der har været med, deltaget på foredrag og introkurser, alle sparringspartnere og alle, der er blevet påvirket af det og har givet feedback. Det er uvurderligt, og vi ville ikke være kommet så langt uden DIG!

Tak til Alexander Kjerulf, Allan Rennebo Jepsen, Anders Nielsen, Annette Fabild Omøe, Bjarne Tveskov, Brian Schildt, Charlotte Grøn-Jensen, Christina Merolli, Claus Bergh-Hansen, Daniel Baun, David Engle, Eva Zeuthen, Gorm Priem, Harald Tokeroed, Heidi Engkjær, Helena Roth, Jacob Bøtter, Jakob Boman, Jakob Brix, Jesper Outzen, Jesper Rønnow, Kasper Risbjerg, Lars Hejn Kristensen, Lars Sønderskov, Line Bloch, Lærke Ullerup, Mads Kildegaard, Marianne Thyrring, Martin Bengård, Maya Drøschler, Nigel Blacks, Ole Kassow, Peter Skjødt, Peter Østerballe, Ricky Sander, Sofus Midtgaard, Susanne Hoeck, Syddanske Studerendes ledere, Thomas Bigum, Thomas Bruun – og mange, mange flere, gode mennesker 🙂