Happy 6th Birthday to DX Learning
DX Learning is 6 years old! This is a birthday to celebrate like no other. We made it. And I never thought that “making it” would be a reason to celebrate.
When we turned 5 this time last year, I was staring at the barrel of an empty gun. We were going from our strongest ever Q1, about to sign our largest six figure contract to date with a well-known airline and was about to develop around 5000 managers. The future was as bright as it has ever been. Then 2 weeks of hell happened. We lost everything.
When you only deliver in-person leadership training, where no one can travel or be in-person, your business gets a shock of a lifetime.
Rather than wallow in self-pity, we rose to the challenge, and here we are today celebrating the start of a new chapter in DX’s short, yet never dull, lifespan!
While there were many lessons over the last year, here are the 3 highlights I hope we all can learn from:
The importance of keeping the core team intact and gaining a new understanding of what culture really is.
A solid lesson of business acumen which has resulted in a stronger, leaner, and a more well-rounded DX.
My leadership has been taken to a new high and I have a clearer understanding of what I value most.
The importance of keeping the core team intact and gaining a new understanding of what culture really is
You can’t run and grow a business successfully without people. I am blessed to have a core team who I aim to keep with me as long as I can. Throughout our journey, sacrifices had to be made, and there were some tough people decisions executed in order to keep the core together, but for those sacrifices I am forever thankful. As Jim Collins states in "Good to Great", "get the right people on the bus".
I have the right people on the bus, and very early on I made the decision that no matter what, I would do what I need to keep them. Not only did I keep the core team, due to the rapid pace of learning in turning a business around, they all learned more in a year than they would have in many years. We are stronger, more competent, and more of a family, due to the strife we had to endure. The most important aspect of all of this, is just how important culture really is. Two years ago, we spent roughly 6 months, developing our mission, values and behaviors using Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage”, and I can safely say, the north star of our culture kept us together.
We shape organizations worth working for by empowering them to be more human.
We quickly learned it doesn’t matter where you develop people (in-person or virtually), as long as the output is a more human approach to leadership within organizations. Our purpose is even more important now, given what we have all had to endure, and this has kept us going. We've just had to adapt how we did it.
We are pioneers – From March of last year, every week I reminded people that DX is an organization of pioneers. This is not a place for the light hearted, and people who like monotony.
We are a team of humans – We looked after each other throughout, and had a family-like approach to how we treat each other. Their safety and well-being came first.
We are customer centric – Not only were we feeling the pain of the pandemic, so were our customers. We never stopped listening and doing everything we can to help them through too. Our customers are part of the DX family.
We are passionate – You need to love what we do, and therefore love your work. Our passion for seeing human betterment was shown through heartfelt blogs and the design of new products. This also resulted in helping prevent burn-out and exhaustion.
We are smart-working – We leaned heavily into digital transformation. We never expected people to work 12 hours a day, but we ensured we used the technology right to make the hours we do work, count.
I also learned just how important culture is. Get the right people on the bus, who not only believe in your culture, but demonstrate through the right behaviors every day.
Questions for you to consider:
- Do you have a well-defined purpose for your organization or team?
- How seriously do you take your values?
- Have you defined how people need to behave (linked to your values), and how do you hold managers accountable to model those behaviors?
- Are there people in your business who do not act in accordance to your culture, and you let them stay anyway?
A solid lesson of business acumen. A stronger, leaner, more well-rounded DX
I thought I knew enough about “running” a business from a financial sense. Like having a baby, when you read all the books about preparing yourself, it means nothing in the first 48 hours of survival. While I have lived through two major recessions, it was nothing like this. To have your whole business wiped out in two weeks, there are no books for that one. This is where instinct has to take over.
Here are the valuable lessons in business acumen I acquired the hard way over the last year:
Cash is king. Period. You should always have enough cash for a rainy day. You might think that rainy day might never come, but it always does. While we didn’t have enough cash in the bank not to worry, we made immediate decisions that
preserved what cash we had, so we had time to make well thought out decisions versus acting on fumes.
Open book management is key. If you keep your team in the dark, how can they help? I have always been honest and open with our finances and numbers to the team. This way they can help, and they did. It also helps them understand the WHY behind decisions, versus being unsure.
Don’t let your emotions take over. We immediately agreed our old business, in-person leadership training was over for at least a year, very early on. We did a lot of research and analysis, and with data, we made a data-based decision. Pivot the
business, 180, and no going back. You should use data to make decisions and not emotions.
My leadership taken to a new high and a clearer understanding of what I value
During good times, it's very easy to hide behind high-performing team members, or behind great results that didn't involve you or your work. But, in times of distress, you can really see what people are made of, especially leaders. There is no hiding, and we really get to see what you are made of.
I had never led a remote team before, but what’s interesting is that not much had to change, I just had to make a few small adjustments.
Here are some leadership lessons for us all in leading a remote team:
- Be VERY clear of WHAT is expected on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. This provides clarity for your team so less assumptions are made. Assumptions tend to lead to messes, and we don’t have the time or the energy to clear it up later on.
- The clearer the WHAT, the more you can entrust the team to execute the HOW on their terms. I really stayed out of the team’s way, and while it was a little strange not “seeing” their work, I got to see the end result which is way more important.
- Remember you have humans that come to work for you. All humans have human stuff going on. I was deliberate and proactive in knowing what was going on in people’s lives and made time to speak about non-work stuff so I could demonstrate empathy.
- Knowing the emotional strain on your team, who is having a bad week etc, means I could distribute my time, energy and resources to those who needed it the most. Thus preventing any added stress or burnout.
In simplistic terms, I cared for my team. I also did a lot of self-care. I travelled over 50% of the time before the pandemic, and I didn’t know how much harm that was doing to my family. I now value my family, and my family time more than ever. I hope this has made us all re-evaluate what we value most, and to ensure we align our values to those of who we serve, and who we give most of our time and energy to.
Happy Birthday DX. Thank you to my dedicated team, who ensured we are still here to celebrate our 6th birthday and many many more birthdays’ to come. Raising a glass of champagne to you, our fans, and all those who have supported our journey so far.
To celebrate, we are offering a bottle of fizz to anyone who books a meeting with me, Alex Draper, DX CEO & Founder, to discuss any leadership challenges you may be facing, and we will see if we can get you to a moment of insight.
*valid until 05/01/2021
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