Sandy Asch is a TEDx Speaker, best-selling author, global consultant, and a woman of influence award winner. Her book, ROAR, was named by INC magazine as one of the best business books written by a woman entrepreneur. Over 40,000 leaders worldwide have implemented Asch’s ideas to embrace change, manage work-life balance, and become more resilient. Through her keynote presentations and workshops, she has provided support and wisdom to industry leaders and career professionals in 50 countries. In an interview with CIO Applications, Asch speaks about her experiences in the industry and how she helps organizations transform and position themselves for exponential growth.
Tell us more about your company.
My purpose is to transform workplaces and create a fulfilling work experience while improving business results. Keeping this in mind, I founded Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC about 20 years ago. I have always been passionate about leadership and creating great places to work. I honestly believe that it is possible to create a work environment of kindness, respect and unity where people thrive. I assist organizations in building a workplace where employees are passionate and on purpose. When employees rally around a clear and compelling purpose, they are more innovative, focused and engaged, and naturally produce better results.
Please give us an overview of your leadership program.
My ROAR leadership program is based on the bestselling book that I co-wrote with Tim Mulligan, the Chief HR Officer at the San Diego Zoo. The book deals with leadership strategies and cultural transformation programs I have implemented in many different organizations including the world famous San Diego Zoo. The ROAR leadership program continues to produces remarkable results for audiences at any level in any organization. The principles and ideas are universal and give people the tools they need to deal with the stresses, demands and uncertainty in our world and stay “whole.”
The ROAR program acts as a springboard for transformation. It gives leaders greater capacity to respond effectively to change, challenge and crisis. Leaders at every level from all corners of the world tell me – often years after they complete the program – that they are more effective and fulfilled at work and in life. They see themselves and their world differently and take meaningful action to create a more connected, fulfilled team. The ideas and concepts are “sticky” and create a foundation for sustainable success.
What are some of the challenges your clients face?
We are living in highly complex and uncertain times. Most leaders are feeling incredible pressure to get their team back on track fast to beat the demands of the unstable economy. The workplace is changing rapidly—much faster than we have ever been taught to deal with. We need a new set of skills and behaviors to deal with enormous pressures and demands we are facing - to be resilient and thrive.
Being resilient means much more than our ability to manage stress and bounce back from setbacks. Those are valuable skills but bouncing back and forth can be exhausting. We need a set of core skills that enable us to face any change, challenge or crisis and stay calm, focused, balanced, positive, and healthy—to stay “whole.”
The point is to strengthen employees mental, physical, relational and emotional resilience so they can weather any storm and stay true to themselves. That’s big. Can you be pushed, pulled, stretched and bent and not compromise on your values and principles? When your workforce is truly resilient, they make better business decisions, develop stronger relationships and produce better results.
How is your approach to organizational development and resilience different from your competitors?
Firstly, every project that I commit to is customized, because every organization has unique needs. In any delivery model or a service offering, tailor-fit and customized services deliver better results. I believe that real change occurs when people get involved at an emotional level. It’s one thing to convince people intellectually that change is valuable, but it’s quite different to get them invested emotionally. My programs are designed to rally people around a compelling purpose and create possibilities that inspire and energize them. When you add a sense of joy to the equation – that’s when employees get on board and proactively initiate change. My secret formula in any change or transformation initiative is to begin with mindset. Just like you must “grease the pan” before you bake a cake, you must prepare the mindset and create the right consciousness before you introduce a new idea or strategy. This is the one thing that organizations often trip over. Without the right mindset, change initiatives are difficult to sustain or even fail. It’s like a failed cake – you’re left with disappointing crumbles.
My leadership program is based on the bestselling book that I co-wrote with Tim Mulligan, the Chief HR Officer at the San Diego Zoo
Could you elaborate more on the San Diego Zoo Project?
I partnered with Tim Mulligan, the Chief HR Officer at the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo is considered one of the best (if not the best) zoos in the world. They employ more than 3000 employees globally. When I began consulting with Tim and his fantastic HR team, the zoo was facing many challenges including low employee morale, union issues and outdated leadership styles. Like many organizations the Zoo has experienced financial crisis and has to continually innovate to stay relevant. The big challenge we faced was how to reenergize employees and improve the guest experience while generating increased revenue.
We started with the transformation of the leadership to establish a new perspective about how to manage and lead. We worked with them to create a more inclusive and caring workplace. We placed more emphasis on employee well-being and developed strategies to engage employees and energize them to provide a GRRRREAT guest experience – very time!
The Rules of Engagement was a code of conduct and set of ground rules that every employee bought into and held each other accountable for. These rules were the foundation for building resilience and established a new set of expectations for employees to: use their words wisely; be accountable; make the best use of their time and energy; bring out the best in each other; strive for balance and remember to have fun.
The outcome of our efforts was remarkable. Tim won the CHRO of the year. That was definitely validation of the transformation. We saw a significant increase in employee engagement. But our efforts truly paid off when we recorded the highest guest satisfaction ratings in the hundred-year history of the zoo. More importantly, the revenue of the organization increased by 23 percent. This was a clear indicator that our work had a bottom-line business impact. Of course, every HR professional is always cognizant of demonstrating ROI, and in this case, we were able to exceed these expectations.
We came up with creative ways to get employees excited about the zoo's purpose - to end animal extinction. Every employee crafted his or her own story about how their job helps end extinction and they inspired guests to get involved in the cause too. It became clear that once your employees are rallied around a compelling purpose - head and heart, they are more energized and engaged. It creates a sense of unity, commitment, and accountability. A strong purpose makes an organization more resilient.
This project was an eye-opener for us. We understood that resilience is crucial for any organization to thrive, and the catalyst to achieve it are daily habits that drive the massive, transformative power of purpose.
Every organization can be resilient by establishing simple, daily habits and a clear set of expectations. Get your free copy of the Resilience Daily Planner to upgrade your and youre team’s resilience at sandyasch.com/planner.