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Let's Do This!

What Really Matters

So now that the eclipse is over we can focus again. Just kidding, the eclipse was very cool and generated a lot of attention and interest.

There has been a convergence of events lately that have really caused me to be even more pensive that usual.

·         The Charlottesville attacks. This disturbed me on many levels. I know there are angry people out there, but I have always thought of Charlottesville as part of the “new” South. It is especially disturbing that people used Robert E. Lee as kind of a flashpoint. He was a noble man. Yes, he fought for the Confederacy, but he did that because of his commitment to the state of Virginia, not some passionate commitment to the institution of slavery.

He recommended against any monuments to any of the symbols of the Confederacy, calling divisive and slowing the healing process.

·         The response to Charlottesville. This was an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership and the response from our President was an epic fail. His refusal to accept that, step back and own that failure demonstrates deep character flaws in his leadership ability and capacity to understand viewpoints different from his own and build trust.

·         A recent publication from Gallup that indicates that for yet another year we have been unable to move the needle on engagement beyond the 30% level.

As I can only do so much on the first two, I have decided to get back on my pulpit about the last one.

I have had an opportunity to read the results of a recent study in the UK that concluded that age 35 is the point where employees begin to feel disappointed and potentially disengaged from their work. They gave a number of reasons such as the competing stresses of work and personal life, unfulfilled expectations, perceived shrinking career opportunities and other reasons. Misguidance?

That date makes me sad on many levels. The first is that the average person at 35 can expect to spend double the time in the workplace that they have to date. Dragging that bag of pooh for another 30 years is pretty daunting. For employers, these are your “seasoned” workers. At this stage people have likely hit their productive stride and mastered their jobs. Not a good combination.

Since all these people are not likely to be able to find refuge in some entrepreneurial endeavor. They will remain in the workplace. The statistics of what disengagement costs the economy every year are both daunting and irrefutable. Think trillions, not millions or billions.

So why aren’t we moving the needle?

A recent article from Gallup concludes that in large part we are measuring and trying to address the wrong things and points to one critical area, the quality of leadership.

They suggest that employee engagement efforts would be better served to focus on recruitment and selection of those we promote into management and then follow up with appropriate management education and development.

Can I get an amen!

As I have published before multiple studies and surveys have concluded that better than 60% of people seeking leadership roles are primarily interested in making more money, period. No surprise they don’t make great leaders.

I recommend to my client organizations that we recruit and place only leadership candidates that possess the following capabilities:

·         Technical competence

·         Understanding trust and congruency

·         Emotional and social intelligence

·         Emotional awareness

·         Emotional balance

Apart from “technical competence” I defy you to find these skills or attributes being taught in MBA programs!

Discussing things like trust and congruency are still considered pretty woo woo in most organizations.

Trust occurs on three levels:

·         Deterrence (Power or authority)

·         Knowledge Based (Education and “qualifications”)

·         Identity (shared experiences and mutual investment)

For close to a thousand years we loved the deterrence model. The divine right of kings or religious institutions. Calvinism and scientific management have this concept embedded in their foundations.

We have become very enamored of late with knowledge based trust. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an organization offering credentialing in something. Add that to chasing education and other pseudo solutions that build over confidence in the holder and you understand some of where we are.

Identity based trust is what Simon Sinek and Patrick Lencioni write about. I have also heard it described as thick versus thin relationships.

A thick relationship is where we share values and purpose and a common “why”. Thin relationships are where we refer to employees as human capital look at the employment relationship as transactional. Employment at Will is a thin relationship; “either party can terminate the employment relationship with or without notice for any legal reason”. Doesn’t exactly reek of mutual trust and investment, does it?

Congruency is about alignment between the organization and the individual. It occurs at multiple levels:

·         My view of the activity. (positive or negative)

·         My view of my ability to perform the activity. (perceived ability or competence)

·         The alignment between my personal values and the values of the organization.

·         My commitment to do the work. (perform and improve my capabilities)

·         My belief in the product, service, or mission.

A few things I have learned in my three decades plus as an HR executive, C level executive, and consultant.

·         I can fix some of these things with training and reinforcement, but trying to change someone’s values isn’t just hard, it is wrong.

·         People who aren’t congruent on all five of these levels aren’t engaged.

·         Less than ten percent of the organizations out there are even having conversations about congruency and trust.

In a perfect world, I tell my clients we should recruit for congruency in every position we hire for at any level. At a minimum, I tell them that in addition to the five skill sets and attributes I mentioned above you better damn sure have congruency in your leadership cohort.

My experience is that when you embrace this model you are building a foundation for engagement. Your employees aren’t likely to become disengaged at 35 because you are recruiting and reinforcing thick rather than transactional relationships.

In short you are hiring and managing whole people.

With the savings, we can recapture from employee disengagement we can fund universal health care, better education systems, and increase organizational productivity and profitability, or we can just keep doing it the same way.

If you can’t embrace congruency as a foundational screen for all your employees, then at least embed it in the hiring, selection, and development of your leadership team. Your organization is only as strong as your weakest leader…….

 

 

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In Search of ....Loyalty

The Illusive Nature of Loyalty

As anyone who has ever read anything I have written or had to sit through one of my trainings or presentations knows I am an advocate of employee engagement or commitment over compliance.

The concept of loyalty is one of my personal pillars of an engaged relationship, but I think I might just define it differently from the traditional sense.

Under the old compliance model; the relationship between employer and employed had elements of what many would call loyalty.

We used to see employees work for a single employer for years, perhaps even decades. The idea was that if an employee did a good job they could expect a degree of job security that would take them through retirement.

Maybe it is just me, but that good seemed to include a healthy dose of obedience. It was also amusing or perhaps more ironic that most employers who did not have unionized workforces saw employment at will as almost a sacred principle. When I say ironic it is because while employers valued this construct they struggled with the idea that the concept of employment at will is entirely based on equal balance.

Yes, the employer can terminate any employee for any legal reason without notice or reason, but the employee retains the right to terminate the relationship without notice or punishment as well.

Over my multiple decades as an HR practitioner I spent countless hours explaining and arguing with employers that they couldn’t preserve their at will rights and then punish employees who correctly interpreted the concept and acted on it.

As we globalized the concept of mutual loyalty got significantly diluted. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties you saw right-sizing, outsourcing, and a number of other approaches to reduce costs by decreasing the workforce. I personally believe this is when the concept of human capital really took root. We de-personalized people and started looking at them as an item on the balance sheet.

The Millennial and Gen X generations grew up during this period. That is part why they view the employment relationship with such cynicism.

I grew up essentially in the Southwest, so I saw a different construct of loyalty. The Southwest is the birthplace of the cowboy. Being a cowboy was just a job, it was a philosophy. It was not uncommon for cowboys to travel from ranch to ranch offering their services as required.

We have an expression called riding for the brand. Very loosely interpreted it meant that while I lived in your bunkhouse, ate your food and rode your horses you had my loyalty and could reasonably expect me to give you my best efforts. It was a temporary and transitional relationship that had a degree of independence for both parties. There was mutual trust and respect on the part of both parties.

I smile when I hear employers lament the loss of loyalty. These are often the same organizations that during the recent recession adjusted wages, reduced workforces and told remaining employees they should expect or request salary increases, but rather should be grateful to be employed.

And then the economy began improving….

The most current discussion of loyalty is with our current President. It seems he expects, or rather demands personal loyalty above all else. We heard that when his tumultuous relationship with Director Comey was disclosed and even more recently with his chief of staff.

It seems Mr. Trump doesn’t define loyalty in the traditional sense, but rather more in the old definition of absolute personal fealty.

It is also interesting to me that he is as transactional in his own personal loyalty as the CEO’s I hear complain about disloyal employees.

I have personally chosen to define loyalty more in line with my cowboy roots…

First, loyalty is based on the mutual trust explained by Stephen MR Covey in his book, The Speed of Trust, at that illusive third level; identity based trust based on shared values and experiences. That is the kind of trust that you hear described by members of a military unit that has served together or even an athletic team. It is earned and it is reciprocated.

Second, that reciprocity is foundational. Both parties see inherent value. We don’t measure loyalty in terms of tenure, we measure it in terms of contribution.

Just because someone has been with my organization for a long time doesn’t mean they are loyal. Recent studies indicated that close to twenty percent of the U.S. workforce is actively disengaged, that means they come to work every day and do as little as possible and in fact actively disrupt or sabotage the workplace. The scary thing is these employees or no more likely to leave than employees who are neutral. They quit and stay.

Third, loyalty can be transitional. You never arrive. Like engagement it is something you actively work at every day and you never take it for granted.

So, I would suggest that before we require or expect loyalty we do the work of earning our stakeholders trust and respect and that we cultivate and nurture it.

I think that Mr. Trump like many CEOs I have known is living in a fantasy world. You don’t demand loyalty or respect you earn them and part of that process is that it is reciprocal and based on shared values.

We also gave up the monarchy in the 18th century, loyalty should be to the values and principle embodied in the Constitution not to a person, but rather to the office.

Maybe I am too literal, but it works for me…

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The Road He Traveled

A Truly Special “Whole Person”

On Friday I had an opportunity to attend an event that was poignant, funny, somber, and compelling in different stages.

It was a tribute to a friend and colleague, Dave Hauser, who guided our local Chamber of Commerce for a quarter century.

I had the chance to know Dave both professionally and personally. We collaborated on a number of projects including the WorkTrends Conference, the ACE Awards, and others.

I had the chance to serve on the Economic Development Committee, Business Assistance, as a charter member of the Local Government Affairs Council, and finally as a member of his Board of Directors

He was a great foil for me. I like big ideas and I can be impatient and impetuous. Dave was thoughtful and deliberate. I don’t think in the almost 25 years I knew him I ever saw him get angry or respond with anger no matter the provocation.

My favorite times with Dave were typically one on one, discussing one of my “big” ideas over coffee or a beer or his patience with my horrible golf game, which he suffered on more than one occasion.

I titled this a “whole person” both because of the correlation to my first book, Managing Whole People, and because of the glimpse into the wholeness of Dave that his family graciously shared with us.

We got to see Dave as a father and a friend beyond the leader and colleague that most knew him as.

The relationship he maintained with his children and his wife was one that I think would make many wistful if not downright envious.

Dave led in a way that was consistent with the Bible verse, “to whom much is given, much is required”.

He never shirked and he never gave up.

Leading a business association in Eugene is not a role for the faint hearted. On more than one occasion the relationship between business and our elected officials was tense not if actually acrimonious, but Dave never angered or disparaged anyone.

His legacy was illuminated in the many people who passed through employment at the Chamber, developing skills there that they would take on to bigger and more significant roles and the programs that will continue to move forward in his absence and that I for one believe would have been stillborn without his leadership and support.

I think that one of his colleagues described the essence of Dave best when she called out his most significant attribute; not his patience, sense of humor, Midwestern values or even niceness.

Dave was kind in a time and place that we could use more kindness from our leaders.

Those who spoke gently prompted us that remain to remember Dave’s legacy in the most proactive way, keep on and be kind…

I will miss you my friend. You were truly the epitome of a whole person and my life is better for having known you…

 

 

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A Better Model

 

Would You Stand Under the Arch?

The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.”

Michael Armstrong

When I used to teach a unit on leadership for our local Chamber of Commerce I would challenge those emerging leaders to “come to work every day willing to be fired for doing the right thing”.

 I used to tell the people on my HR teams the same thing.

Over the last few weeks that has been a lot out there in the blogosphere that talks about what I might call legitimacy.

I believe that to a large extent leadership, as opposed to management, is founded in legitimacy.

Leadership is entirely relational versus hierarchical.

A transitioning special operator from the US army described it to me this way-

On our teams we have a shared leadership model. It was only when our new officers recognized and embraced that they really needed to earn our trust that we would truly follow them. We could learn from them, but they could also learn from us.”

I would submit that these special operators, the elite of our military which include groups like the Navy Seals and Green Berets epitomize high performing teams and engagement.

 As a manager you have the authority of your position and the benefit of what Covey calls deterrence, authority that comes from rules or position. We would like to believe that management also incorporates Covey’s second level competence, but I am not sure that is true.

At least not competence at the right things.

 In many cases the competence we rely on in elevating someone to a management role is based on application of their technical skills, their competence in emotional and social intelligence are still considered “soft skills”.

In my over 30 years as a human resources professional, C level executive, and management consultant it has been interesting to see emerging and current “leaders” bridle at the idea that they have to earn trust.

For many it is an expectation that trust is embedded in their role.

It is very chic today to dismiss collective bargaining and unions as passé, but any student of the relationship between employer and employed realizes that up until the 1940’s the concept that employers needed legitimacy through the input of their employees was considered ludicrous.

I suspect our new President isn’t big on the legitimacy model….

Many of our current models still have their roots in scientific management-managers manage and people do. If you see people as human capital, what is the likelihood that you are seeking the endorsement of those you “lead”?

Michelle Berg wrote a great post a few weeks back telling us about a conversation she had with a group of marketing professionals about why she “hates” HR. If you read the article what Michelle is really describing is a leadership fail- we ask HR to make up for what she calls shitty leadership.

I agree with her, I have seen a lot of this in my three decades plus career, and the reality is that this really is a leadership fail, not an HR fail.

I remember many years ago when our CEO couldn’t figure out what key metrics to assign me as the Human Resources manager for my management incentive plan, (That’s a topic for a whole separate post).

He proposed that my entire incentive be based on executing a meaningful improvement (ten percent or more), on our employee climate survey.

I would be the only manager who had this goal….

I countered with the idea that I would put the same percentage of my incentive on the line for that single metric as he was…

As you might suspect he wasn’t amused. He also declined to accept my challenge. He wouldn’t stand under the arch.

I think one of the fundamental differences between management and leadership is that commitment to personal accountability and being willing and able to create alignment with the vision.

There are some excellent models out there to accomplish this kind of alignment. Three of my favorites are offered by Stephen MR Covey, Patrick Lencioni, and Malcolm Gladwell.

Covey talks about the three levels of trust and the trust tax that the majority of organizations are paying.

Lencioni lays out a roadmap for what he calls the journey to organizational health, with the two most critical factors being building a cohesive leadership team and creating and reinforcing clarity.

Gladwell talks about legitimacy.

According to Gladwell legitimacy occurs when three elements are present-

• Those who are governed have a voice in the process; their input is sought and heard.

• There is a dimension of predictability and consistency in the application of the law or standards.

• The application of the law or standard has to be administered fairly and objectively, you can’t have disparate treatment without a clear and compelling reason.

There are interesting connect points between these three (at least to me).

Covey describes his three levels of trust and how it is the third level, identity based trust, that is the most critical.

He uses scary words like intimacy, transparency, and shared experiences. It gets even scarier when he describes the idea that credibility is a function of both competence and behavior.

You have to do both.

Lencioni describes trust as the critical foundational element of a cohesive leadership team and organizational health. I am pretty sure he means identity based trust versus deterrence or just knowledge.

I see these elements in Gladwell’s description of legitimacy. Words meet actions, consistently.

There is and has been a lot of discussion about employee engagement these days. There are detractors who say it is all bullshit and then supporters like me who think if you aren’t seeing results it’s because you are doing it wrong.

Lencioni describes three biases that can get in the way of meaningful cultural change and I see them in the way many organizations approach engagement-

·         Sophistication- it is just too simple. I hear from organizations a lot when we introduce fundamental skills training for emerging leaders that there is no “rocket science” to things like setting expectations, giving feedback, taking corrective action, and coaching.

I agree the concepts aren’t rocket science you just have to do them consistently and hold people accountable if they aren’t doing them!

·         Adrenaline- creating organizational health and identity based trust doesn’t happen over a long weekend or a management retreat. It doesn’t happen by conducting an engagement survey either. Engagement is a culture, not a program. It doesn’t belong to HR.

·         Quantification- although we have gotten a lot better at being able to quantify the benefits of engagement it is still a little bit nebulous. I here from people “we did a survey and engagement and/or productivity didn’t improve.”  I ask them if they addressed the issues from the survey and I get the thousand- yard stare. Or they tell me that “gave it to HR to fix”.

Changing a culture is hard and the work never stops. It is also a systemic process. You can’t just approach one part like hiring or compensation and expect to see widespread results.

For the last three decades I have been promoting and teaching the merits of an employment relationship based on Commitment rather than compliance.

My particular model is based on five elements-

·         Respect- everyone has an absolute entitlement to be treated with respect for their personhood.

·         Responsibility- I am a big fan of what our Founding Fathers called personal competency. People should be treated like adults and expected given clear expectations and feedback to meet those expectations.

·         Information- I am a huge believer in context and a link to the big picture. Simon Sinek calls this the Why.

·         Equitable compensation- people perform better when they believe they are being paid fairly for their effort and they understand how those decisions are made. Paying someone fairly is a threshold, not a breakthrough.

·         Mutual Loyalty- when I hear employers lament the lack of loyalty I want to laugh. Employees didn’t invent the term human capital or come up with strategies like outsourcing or offshoring to increase profitability. Loyalty should be measured by contribution, not tenure.

 

These elements are anchored on a foundation of trust. I would go so far as to say you have to have trust at all three levels to experience true engagement.

When the employment environment is optimized in a commitment based model it results in employee engagement.

Surveys still come out every year that reinforce that the most important role played by human resources professionals is compliance. This is consistent from both operational executives and human resources professionals themselves. This is what Michelle was referring to when she called it shitty leadership!

Alternatively, a recent survey of all four generations in the workforce identified the following on employee’s wish list-

• Open and transparent communication

• Respect for them and other employees

• A supervisor/boss that coaches and supports their growth and advancement

• A supervisor/boss that recognizes them and their performance

I don’t think you need to negotiate your culture with employees, but I do think they are entitled to clear expectations, constructive feedback, and fair treatment.

When you provide that kind of context you are allowing employees to join up with you.

On that foundation when change is introduced you do it with rather than to people.

Engagement and legitimacy don’t “belong” to HR, they belong to leadership at every level.

At the individual manager level, I would encourage you to consider the following

·         Ask your internal and external customers how you can help them and make them more successful. If you don’t think you have any internal customers give me a call. We have work to do.

·         Ask your staff what obstacles you can remove to make their job more efficient or easier.

·         Ask the people on the front line how your products and services can be enhanced or modified to make them easier to address their needs.

·         Ask your peers how they think you and your group are doing. You are an internal service provider.

·          Ask your boss how you can help them. This may seem a little obvious, but you will be surprised from how you communicate to taking a task off their list can make a difference.

 At the organizational level, I think we need to address these things with a level of urgency.

While the number of employees who rate themselves as highly engaged had remained constant for a few years (around 30%), those numbers are starting to decline and disengagement and voluntary attrition in an already competitive market are on the rise.

For those of you unfamiliar with disengagement, it is the phenomenon where employees are extremely unhappy, but they stay and “poison the well” rather than look for other opportunities. What is truly scary is they are no more likely to leave on their own power than employees who are neutral.

The data is in and it is conclusive - there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and customer engagement. In fact, the data shows a direct relationship between disengagement and presenteeism and turnover to the tune of $5 trillion annually.

We can’t run away from it anymore….

 

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Play To Win!

Getting the Performance You Want!

At the end of the day I believe this is the objective that every manager in every organization is most interested in meeting and exceeding.

It is also one that even after a couple hundred years in the continuing dynamics between employer and employed we still do badly.

If you choose to disagree with me just take a look at the latest numbers on employee engagement and turnover.

You can’t pick up a business journal without encountering something on this topic. The latest thinking is that traditional performance assessment is useless and should be thrown out.

I don’t disagree, but it leaves us with a gap-

·         How do we continue to improve the capacity of our talent?

·         How do we appropriately distribute compensation since most of our talent won’t work for free?

I believe that the first step in building a great organization is selecting your talent pool, but that is a topic for another day so I want to focus on managing the performance of the talent you have.

I have a strong personal bias that says that effective managers and leaders have to be at least minimally competent at several key skill sets. They are in priority order-

·         Setting clear performance expectations

·         Giving and receiving constructive feedback

·         Taking appropriate corrective action

·         Delegating appropriately and effectively

·         Utilizing positive reinforcement to motivate future performance

·         Coaching to optimize performance

I also happen to believe that hiring or selecting leadership candidates with the following attributes increases success:

• Technical competence (mastery of the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job).

• An understanding and mastery of all three levels of trust (Deterrence, Competence, and Identity)

• Emotional Intelligence (this allows you to know which level of trust or leadership style to employ in a given situation)

• Emotional Balance – how do you show up every day? How do you react under stress?

• Self-Awareness- do you see yourself even close to the way others see you?

For me personally, the technical competence is kind of the threshold, you need it to gain admission, but it is the minimum standard not the measuring stick.

The bad news is that these skills sets are neither inherent, nor are they taught in most business schools or degree programs.

We don’t do much better internally either.

A recent study of participants in formal high talent development programs drew some rather unfortunate conclusions.

The study evaluated these individuals in leadership capabilities using a 360-degree assessment including their manager, several peers, direct reports and other colleagues.

Their prior research had indicated that collecting data from this kind of cross sample could be statistically correlated to desired outcomes like employee engagement, lower turnover and higher unit productivity.

Here is more bad news;

·         12% of these HIPO participants were in the bottom quartile on leadership effectiveness and

·         Overall 42% were below the median.

 I would call that an epic fail.

The good news is that these skills are eminently teachable and most manager/leader candidates can master them to at least some degree of competency.

The literature is replete these days with the benefits of engaged employees as opposed to marginally or unengaged employees.

Much of that engagement is accomplished in your hiring and selection, but continuing to see engagement is best accomplished when employees feel that they are playing to their strengths and their highest skills.

A recent survey of 13,000 employees, including representation from all four (4) generations currently represented in the workplace, cited four characteristics they seek in a boss and organization they trust.

If you don’t understand how trust plays into it, you have wasted the time you spent reading to this point!

• Open and transparent communication

• Respect for them and other employees

A supervisor/boss that coaches and supports their growth and advancement

A supervisor/boss that recognizes them and their performance

The interesting thing about that as it relates to how we evaluate performance is how poorly we do it.

In most cases we try to evaluate skills. It turns out our personal biases effect those ratings significantly.

A study quoted in HBR showed that in evaluating the ratings of almost 4500 managers including their direct reports, peers, and subordinates varied substantially, and that over 60% of the variance could be attributed to the rater’s bias- only 20% was actual performance variance.

The point is that performance information we gather is not horribly valuable because it is so potentially biased.

Deloitte decided to tackle this issue with what I think is a fascinating experimental approach to managing performance.

They found as the Gallup organizations research has demonstrated previously, that teams and individuals that are allowed to play to their strengths consistently outperform others.

 In their own internal research, they found that the variance between high performing teams and lower performing teams could be accounted for by team members responded to three items-

·         My coworkers are committed to do quality work

·         The mission of the company inspires me

·         I have the chance to use my strengths every day

The first two items speak clearly to the concept of an employment brand. The third is the critical link of clear expectations and focusing employee efforts on playing to their strengths in support of the organizational mission.

I like to think the ties to the critical skill sets I outlined above become pretty clear at this point!

Deloitte decided that their objectives for performance management are in three key areas:

·         Recognizing performance and appropriately rewarding it

·         Capturing meaningful and accurate performance data efficiently

·         To fuel appropriate future performance

To accomplish their objectives, they created a snap shot approach that asks team leaders to communicate their future actions about each employee and the end of every project; or at minimum each quarter for long term projects.

Their research found that four items provided the basis of that snapshot:

Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money I would award this person the highest possible pay increase and bonus. This measures overall performance and unique contribution to the organization.

Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team. This measures the employee’s ability to “play well with others”

This person is at risk for low performance. This identifies areas for intervention ranging from coaching to other more drastic action and minimizes risk long term.

This person is ready for promotion today. This measures perceived potential.

Each of these items is rated on a five -point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Any rating of less than 5 on questions 1, 2, and 4 are a platform for discussion and mutual investment by the employee and the organization.

By focusing on these snapshots you have a roadmap for both discussion and managerial action

In addition to these quarterly snapshots each team leader is expected to check in with each team member weekly. The purpose of these “check ins” is to clarify expectations, monitor short term progress, and provide course correction, coaching, or other valuable input.

The interesting thing at Deloitte is they don’t consider these “check ins” ancillary or in addition to the team leader’s role, they consider them to be inherent to it. The other interesting dynamic is that responsibility for scheduling the check ins is with the individual team member!

As you might suspect, I am a fan of this new approach.

 If we are really honest the point of performance assessment is to encourage desirable performance and discourage performance that is not contributing to the organizational mission.

The purpose of employee engagement is alignment with organizational objectives.

We can’t make employees happy! Anyone that has ever been in a relationship knows that is not a project you want to take on.

Happiness is deeply personal and means something different to each of us. Studies have also shown that things that have nothing to do with organizational performance may drive “happiness” and that happy doesn’t mean better performance.

Increased morale is great, if it contributes to increased performance and reduced turnover. It is not an organizational goal on its own.

To go full circle, I think you can see the critical correlation between the skills I mentioned previously and the ability to execute on this kind of a model.

If managers are not skilled at setting expectations, giving constructive feedback, coaching and developing employee’s strengths then you only have a two dimensional model that doesn’t address the three objectives that Deloitte identified.

In the final assessment the team with the best players who play well together are going to win the most consistently.

This model won’t make up for poor hiring and selection or manager/team leaders who don’t have the skills to diagnose and coach performance issues, but it is far superior to what most of us are using today taking a huge step towards “managing whole people”.

So tell me; are you playing to win or are you just playing?

 

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Which Bus Are You Riding?

Umm, The Bus is Moving!

I am going to go out on a limb and state that if you ask most people to name the ten best books on leadership that every emerging and current leader should read, Jim Collin’s Good to Great is going to be on that list.

One of the great lines that everybody can quote from that book is “getting the right people on the bus”.

Great thought, my issue with it is the bus is moving, not parked!

As I have mentioned previously both CEO’s and human resources executives have indicated that attracting, retaining, and optimizing the deployment of talent is a key priority for them.

There is a lot of discussion on hiring and selection these days as there should be.

Here is a news flash, really cool computerized recruiting platforms, employee engagement surveys, and compliance isn’t going to address these issues.

Neither are six sigma, lean, or any of the other process oriented systems that we want to believe are a panacea.

We still largely hire and recruit based on technical competencies, especially at the managerial levels. It isn’t working.

Hiring people who not only possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform tasks; but also whose values and goals are congruent with those of your organization is one of the most important things you can do to ensure success.

But it doesn’t stop there. If you hire great people and manage them poorly you waste the energy you spent in hiring and selection!

A great article I read a few years back pointed out some things that have really stuck with me about three critical factors that you have to consider when you are hiring and managing those right people; the team, the time, and the game.

The author made this point about the “team - the play of individual players is affected significantly by the team they are playing on. They can play up or down based on the synergy of the team.

I like to think of this as “fit” If they don’t fit their ability to excel is compromised or affected negatively. Conversely you see people’s contributions increase substantially when the fit is there. We see this in professional sports all the time and we see it in organizations if we are being truthful.

The “time” is also critical. He used the historical analogy of Winston Churchill during WWII. Churchill both prior to and after the war didn’t represent the right fit. Organizations evolve as well and the skills and how we deploy them need to evolve with what is happening in a particular time.

Last, but not least examining the game is also critical. We have a love affair especially in this country with the concept of “best practices”. We don’t always look at the applicability of best practices from one industry to another. In fact, we have well respected firms who enjoy a very lucrative business installing their “templates” in organizations across the world. If it doesn’t work, you aren’t doing it right.

My analogy for this is creating organizational culture. There is no one right culture; there is a right culture for a particular organization.

Most of our employment models are and have been based on an acquisition model. We create sets of rules or protocols for everyone; applicants, hiring managers, and human resources to follow. The model isn’t an invitation to join up, it is a transaction.

I think most corporate employers look at Employment at Will the same way Charlton Heston looked at the right to bear arms; you will pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

I think sometimes that makes us sloppy and indifferent. Sloppy and indifferent to the tune of $5 trillion dollars in turnover costs annually in the U.S. alone. Add in another $200 billion for “presenteeism” and you are talking about real money, aren’t you?

When I discuss poor practices and the costs and efforts associated with poor hiring I get the typical “Shit happens, people come and go. If someone doesn’t work out, we can always terminate them or lay them off.”

What if you couldn’t? What if you were “stuck” with the employees you have, what would you do then?

I think one of the things you would do is to have a way better process. You would be much more careful about who you hired and who was involved in the process. You might ask questions about things like “fit”, “potential”, alignment with “values”. I’ll bet the people involved with the process would be more senior and better trained. You wouldn’t rely on your “gut” or a computer program to make the decisions for you. Because these people will be with you forever, and forever is a very long time isn’t it?

What I suggest you do differently:

Hire Differently

There is simply no substitute for hiring appropriately.

Technology will not overcome bad hiring and frankly neither will training. If you start with an inferior “resource” either by poor selection techniques or poor orientation you will never end up with a superior result. The $5 trillion we lose to turnover annually isn’t an anomaly, it is a consequence.

I had an opportunity to complete a two- part radio interview a while back on a related topic. One of the panelists, a former C level executive asked me a series of questions on this very topic –

“What do you do if you have the wrong people who refuse to change?

My reply will probably make a lot of folks unhappy. I said two things:

• First, you need to fire your HR and/or staffing team for being incapable or unwilling to identify and fix the process that is allowing you to continue to make bad hires.

• Second, you need to fire the management team that doesn’t address the issue.

I sincerely believe that most employees at least start their jobs with the intention of doing a great job every day. When I say most I am talking in the high 90th percentile. When they don’t do what we want or excel it is typically a case of where we hired or placed the wrong person or we are doing a poor job of managing them!

• Choose carefully at the start. I call this Hire Hard- Manage Easy. If this is a relationship not a “date” you should think it through.

I am also a fan of profiling.

• I think you should recruit and hire people who share your values as an organization.

• I think you should talk about your values and build your brand in rather than bolt it on.

• I am a big fan of concepts like congruency, where employee’s view of key activities and practices is consistent with that of the organization; not only what we say, but what we actually do.

I think you can have organizational congruency and not illegally discriminate against anyone because of their color, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected arenas. I think when we commit rather than comply we perform better because we see our role as partners rather than master and servant.

Manage Differently

A recent study by HR consulting firm Ranstad reports that 8 out of 10 respondents indicating that having a good working relationship with their boss is very important to them. As a corollary the single most frequent reason cited by employees leaving organizations is a poor relationship with their supervisor.

When you see trouble, intervene early. Don’t watch someone struggle or fail to address an issue because you didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

• Stop waiting for them to quit. Studies show that actively disengaged employees are no more likely to quit than employees who are neutral or passively disengaged. They “quit” all right, they qui contributing!

 Worse yet, they stick around and poison the well!

• Right person, wrong fit? Is it the employee or did we put them in the wrong job? How many times have we taken a good “technician” and turned them into an awful manager?  

• Are they being managed properly? My experience has taught me a lot of “performance” issues stem from mismanagement. You can’t manage everybody the same way. Poor skills or application of skills at the front line manager level is one of the biggest contributors to turnover, litigation, unionization, etc. It doesn’t matter if you are a “servant leader” if your front line supervisors are tyrants.

If you have a poor performer who is still in your organization six months after you identify the problem the issue isn’t with them, the union, or HR, it is a management problem.

My experience is that most unions don’t protect poor performers; they just keep us honest and make us apply a consistent process.

I don’t believe that management is a genetically programmed capability. You can in fact train people to be competent at management. They might never be charismatic leaders, but charismatic leadership isn’t necessary in every managerial role.

Choose Leaders Carefully

There are some things that are essential-

• The ability and willingness to earn and give trust

• The ability to set clear expectations

• The ability to give and receive constructive feedback in a timely way

• The ability to diagnose performance issues and apply appropriate corrective action

If you have members of your management cadre who can’t or won’t deploy those skills you need to either train them, move to a different job, or make them available to your competition.

I have written, spoken, and even publically pleaded with organizations about the importance of employment branding and its direct and indirect connections to employee engagement, so I am not going to focus on it a great deal here, but instead discuss leadership brand.

Develop A Leadership Brand

A great post I read talked about a father’s conversation with his son who had just completed a summer internship. When his Dad asked him about the experience he replied that he enjoyed the work and his colleagues, but the “big boss” was a real jerk. The father was somewhat surprised that his son had an opportunity to meet the most senior executive of a large corporation as an intern, turns out he hadn’t.

The son’s perspective was framed entirely from correspondence and the perspectives shared with him by colleagues and coworkers. I think we can say this leader has a leadership brand issue…

I also read a series of books written about the evolution of King Arthur and Camelot. I found it more interesting than most series because it actually started two generations before Arthur was conceived and outlined a leadership development strategy and succession planning that modern organization could take a page from.

Leadership as described in the Camulod context included some concepts that Malcom Gladwell and Stephen MR Covey have discussed and I find intriguing.

They covered concepts, like trust, legitimacy, and engagement that given that engagement remains at around 30% and trust hovers at 50% says they are still very relevant today.

There are a zillion different leadership styles in the literature, I happen to be a big fan of Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® model which recognizes one size doesn’t fit all either with people or organizations.

I read the articles and posts that have taken the position that women are inherently more dispositioned to be leaders and genetically coded to have higher emotional and social intelligence and my reaction is bullshit.

Our issues aren’t gender based, but I believe more a matter of aptitude and training. Our leadership models were based on competency and deterrence for generations and ignored identity so we practiced a flawed model.

So my recommendations in cultivating your leadership brand include-

• Build on a base of identity based trust. You have to master the first two levels to achieve that.

• Ensure that your actions incorporate legitimacy both implicitly and explicitly

• Manage people, not human capital. People are individuals, respect that and treat them accordingly.

So in conclusion I leave you with the following thoughts:

• Hire hard, manage easy!

• Hire for attribute, train for skill!

• Hire smart people. You can teach smart people to do almost anything, but you can’t teach people to be smart!

• Hire whole people whose values are congruent with those of your organization and don’t rely exclusively on interviewing to test that congruence!

At the end of the day the team with the best players playing together wins! Just like my colleague said- the team, the time, and the game.

Because remember- the bus is always moving!

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We Can Do Better!

Hiring, Employee Engagement, and Other Epic Failures

Some days you just wonder. I will soon be “celebrating” almost my fourth decade as a human resources practitioner, executive and management consultant and when I watch what is happening I continue to be a bit frustrated and disappointed.

Employers still whine about candidates and employees. The current target seems to be the Millennial generation. They are selfish, lazy, demanding, blah, blah, blah.

Truth is I haven’t found that to be any truer of them than any other generation.

 They are more distrusting based on what they observed and are more willing to be explicit about their expectations, but I find that when their purpose is aligned with your purpose they will work their asses off.

Edward Deming back in the Forties as part of the Total Quality Movement suggested treating employees more like partners and less like human capital (we just called them labor back then) and we are still at a place where around 30% of the workforce rates themselves as highly engaged. It has been 70 years!

I know that there are those who say employee engagement isn’t real, but those are the people who approach it as a program or event rather than as a culture. I remember when quality was treated the same way- we inspected it in at the end of the process rather than building it in.

When I look at a lot of hiring and selection processes I give us a D-. We have lots of automated tracking systems and other technologies that have dumbed down our candidate sourcing process, but we still focus very much on two dimensional hiring. Look at the average job description.

In 1935 Congress passed the Wagner Act, better known as the National Labor Relations Act, legalizing employees right to join a union and collectively bargain with their employer because employees and employers don’t trust each other or perceive they share a common purpose and interests.

A very recent survey concluded that almost 50% of employees across the board generationally don’t trust leadership, their supervisor, or their team mates.

The NLRA and Civil Rights Act of 1964 were the most important things to happen to human resources professionals in the history of employer-employee relations because they imposed laws and sanctions for not doing it right. They also made HR relevant to management for the first time.

If you ask human resources practitioners today what the most important role they play in their organization, a significant majority will tell you it is ensuring compliance with State and Federal laws and regulations.

The others spend their time addressing what Michelle Berg refers to as “shitty leadership”.

No surprise there. Sixty percent of leadership candidates seek those roles to make more money, not better the organization or help develop staff.

Just as disappointing is when I hear that the attributes that make someone a good leader like emotional intelligence, emotional balance, and self- awareness are inherently feminine, that women are genetically programmed to be better leaders.

I find that as offensive as suggesting that African Americans genetically have more rhythm than white people or people of Latin-Hispanic descent are genetically more volatile and emotional.

I have not given up hope, there are just some things we need to do differently.

·         We need to acknowledge that trust is the foundation of every solid relationship.

·         We need to acknowledge that Commitment is far superior to compliance. People want to buy into your purpose.

·         We need better leaders and we need to recognize technical competence is the minimum not the standard and that effective leadership can be taught and must be reinforced.

·         We need to recognize that the best way to create highly engaged organizations is to build it in rather than try to bolt it on. That true engagement is about alignment. It is a culture not a program.

There is a great opportunity for Human Resources professionals to lead this charge. Compliance is a baseline.

I propose a new role for HR-

• HR helps the organization answer the Why question posed in Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.

• HR helps identify the values and attributes that are fundamental to and congruent with the Why. As I have said before creating alignment for people who already share your values is much easier than trying to “fix” people.

• HR helps identify and deploy the competencies that reinforce the performance that we desire and ensures that those are practiced consistently across the organization. Those include setting expectations, giving feedback, course correcting, and coaching among others. Those competencies belong to managers, not HR.

I would like to see human resources professional demonstrate the following:

Technical Skills- The proliferation of rules and regulations has indeed made the profession more complex as has the application of technology, phenomenon like social media, outsourcing and global workforces, and related challenges. I needed to be technically proficient, not only in our craft, but to understand the businesses and organizations I served.

 • Project Management Skills- Similar to the Total Quality Management movement I believe human   resource competency in core areas needs to be deployed broadly and deeply rather than be seen as a departmental competency. It is fundamental to the management/leadership role, not just human resources departments!

   • Facilitation Skills-  We need to help our client organizations recognize that by building relationships with individuals as people first and resources second we can create enormous gains in sustainability, productivity, and profitability through alignment of organizational and individual goals.

Based on my experience I would also challenge leaders to take some additional steps:

• Ask your internal and external customers how you can help them and make them more successful. If you don’t think you have any internal customers give me a call. We have work to do.

• Ask your staff what obstacles you can remove to make their job more efficient or easier.

• Ask the people on the front line how your products and services can be enhanced or modified to make them easier to address their needs.

• Ask your peers how they think you and your group are doing. You are an internal service provider.

• Ask your boss how you can help them. This may seem a little obvious, but you will be surprised from how you communicate to taking a task off their list can make a difference.

I would also challenge you to become a champion of commitment over compliance and helping create an environment that encourages true engagement.

How do you do that?

• Hire the right people

• Incorporate the elements of commitment rather than compliance.

• Be flexible about process and ruthless about principle.

• Build on a foundation of trust.

• Remember it is all about relationships.

My experience has taught me that overcoming inertia is one of the most difficult things to overcome in creating meaningful change in an organization is inertia or complacency. If you go back and look at some of the opportunity costs I identified there really is a role to play for human resources to become a catalyst and change agent.

Most HR practitioners want respect and opportunity. This is the path I followed from HR to the C suite and to a role as a successful management consulting career. I am not a rocket scientist. If I could manage it, you can as well.

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That Leadership Thing...

Another Wake Up Call

As everybody knows I am really invested in this whole leadership thing. I don’t personally believe that leaders are born rather than taught. Some may have attributes that lend themselves to becoming effective leaders, but I think that real leadership is taught, practiced, and reinforced.

It is interesting for all the money we spend annually how much we still miss the mark.

I read a blog post this week that indicated that a survey of new MBA graduates indicated they felt the most important attribute they had to offer their current or potential employer is their leadership capabilities. My immediate thought was WTF. Luckily it turned out I wasn’t deluded those same current and potential employers said umm no to these shiny new MBA’s. First you must learn to do, then maybe you can learn to lead.

 A classic leadership fail plastered all over the internet this week was the behavior (antics) of the Uber CEO. That was a great demonstration of what happens when you have poor leadership and don’t take time to create and reinforce the culture you desire. He wasn’t alone, looks like Jared’s, Kay Jewelers, and some others have some work to do as well.

I had a chance to read a couple of blog posts as well about one of my other pet rants- the ineffectiveness of HR in most organizations. Both were incredibly well written by women I respect. Maybe the fact that today is International Women’s Day is a cosmic intervention.

The first was why the author, Michelle Berg, “hates” HR. To cut to the chase it is because in her opinion in most organizations HR is the attempt to put a band aid on a hemorrhage, to create handbooks and policies to make up for what she poetically calls shitty leadership.

The other post from Laurie Ruettimann, talks about the messes at Uber, Tesla, Google, and others and asks where HR was in the organization. Especially given that people indicated they went to HR and discussed their concerns and got ignored. I love her quote “But if you work in HR and someone complains to you about a legitimate problem, it’s your job to be the Jordan Horowitz of your organization and fix what’s wrong”.

I agree with both of them. Culture and leadership belong to the C suite, not just HR, but I used to tell aspiring leaders and HR professionals that if they weren’t willing to come to work every day prepared to be fired for doing the right thing they should do something different.

Our leadership models are broken. In many cases our high talent selection processes use the wrong criteria for admission and as I pointed out in a previous blog the results show it with almost 50% of “graduates” of those programs being rated in the bottom 50% of leadership by a 360 review of their capabilities by peers, subordinates, and direct reports.

60% of candidates seeking leadership roles do so to increase earning potential, they don’t give a rat’s ass about developing people of bettering the organization. I think we have a congruence and alignment problem!

Although particularly today it might be an unpopular viewpoint I also grind my teeth when I see articles on some version of the feminine mystique that says that women are genetically better leaders than men. My experience has indicated that is as much bullshit as the genetically programed leader.

I really like this quote from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg-

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will be just leaders.”

What a great thought. Maybe we can even expand it to include no special comments about race, national origin, sexual orientation, and a bunch of other factors that aren’t relevant.

Don’t mistake me. I have had the privilege of working with some incredibly capable women leaders and aspiring leaders. I have also had that same opportunity to work with people of color and other cultures who made that same commitment to excel.

So I am going to bore you with my recipe for what I look for in potential leadership candidates-

·         The KSA’s or technical competence to do the work

·         Understanding and committing to mastering all three levels of trust

·         Emotional intelligence

·         Emotional balance

·         Self-Awareness

The trust issue is huge. We have an international trust crisis in leadership in all our major institutions and we need to own it and fix it.

The data is in and it is ugly with representatives of all four generations recording that 50% of them don’t trust leadership. Until we address that the shitty leadership phenomenon that Michelle Berg describes is here to stay and HR isn’t going to fix it.

A recent survey of HR and training professionals indicated the biggest barriers to effective training and development were budget and employees taking the time to participate.

Please. The biggest issues with training are relevance and reinforcement.

Training doesn’t fix trust issues or create alignment and engagement. It is a tactic.

So if you are a current or aspiring leader here is what I recommend you do-

·         Get 360 feedback on where you are in your journey.

·         Pick the most important behaviors to work on and change.

·         Ask your colleagues for feedback and suggestions on how to keep improving.

·         Listen and embrace the changes that provide the most impact.

·         Follow up, measure, and repeat.

Shitty leadership is epidemic, stand out from the crowd…….

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Got Trust?

First Things First

As I enter almost my fourth decade of hiring, managing, and deploying talent I like to look back at what I have learned; and perhaps more importantly what I haven’t.

I have long been an advocate for what we now call employee engagement, when I look at the data that is available about the difference between organizations that are highly engaged as opposed to their less engaged competitors I remain astounded about the opportunity we leave on the table every year not just in North America, but worldwide.

Although engagement is something that we have been hearing and talking about for the last 15 years we still aren’t moving the needle much in terms of concerting employees and organizations from neutral to engaged. The latest studies still show that around 30% of employees surveyed rate themselves as highly engaged.

So it makes me curious as to what the issue is, and why we haven’t made more progress of late I have encountered quite a bit of literature that validates my thinking and makes me frankly sad.

We have a trust crisis.

When I had the opportunity to read Stephen MR Covey’s brilliant book, The Speed of Trust, a couple of years ago one particular quote really stood out to me-

Every organization earns a trust dividend or pays a trust tax

I thought the book in total, discussing the basis and levels of trust and the elements involved should be required reading in every business school and leadership program internationally, but that statement really stood out for me.

It turns out that Covey’s assertion applies not just to individual organizations, but to whole societies.

The Edelman Trust Barometer which has surveyed tens of thousands of people in over 28 countries reported that for the first time in its 17- year history the average trust level in all four of the institutions measured (Government Officials, Business/CEO’s, NGO’s and Media) was below 50%.

Government came in last, closely followed by media, but 48% of respondents did not trust business leaders to do the right thing.

So let’s take a look at business specifically.

A recent survey on trust by Ernst and Young involving 10,000 adults and another 3000 Gen Z’rs reported that less than 50% of those surveyed trusted their employer, their immediate supervisor, or their team in descending order.

The survey included representation from four (4) generations in the workforce; Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z and the results were remarkably consistent. Although the younger generations were less trusting it wasn’t a significant generational delta.

Also remarkably consistent were the environmental factors that lead to distrust-

·         Perceived unfair compensation

·         Unequal opportunities for pay and career advancement

·         Poor leadership

·         High turnover

·         Lack of collaboration

Similarly, all four generations cited four characteristics they seek in a boss and organization they trust-

·         Open and transparent communication

·         Respect for them and other employees

·         A supervisor/boss that coaches and supports their growth and advancement

·         A supervisor/boss that recognizes them and their performance

Another recent post I read identified three (3) fundamental characteristics that create and sustain high trust environments. Leaders who-

·         Listen

·         Demonstrate self- awareness and self- control

·         Demonstrate humility

Let’s juxtapose that with the way most organizations identify high talent potential leaders in their organization. The selection criteria are typically –

•                     Professional and technical expertise

•                     Taking initiative and delivering results

•                     Honoring commitments

•                     Fitting into the culture

If we are really honest with ourselves we can agree that the first and last criteria are the two biggest factors. When we add the fact that 60% of leadership candidates seek those opportunities to increase their earning potential and upward career trajectory are we surprised by where we are?

In many cases we are still immersed in the precepts of Frederik Taylor’s scientific management model. Some were born to do, others born to manage or lead.

Identity based trust, Covey’s highest and most critical level of trust, is nowhere to be seen in our leadership develop models or development initiatives.

As an alternative I like to recommend that business leaders remember three things-

•                     Maslow’s Hierarchy, is as relevant today as it ever was. When you are in safety and survival mode you aren’t focusing on the big picture and how to become engaged. You are focused on basic issues like food and shelter.

•                     Line of Sight, I tell my clients that line of sight may be the most important part of their compensation/performance management strategy. The critical function of compensation strategy and performance management is to align efforts with outcomes. Employees need to see clearly how positive outcomes for the organization translate to positive outcomes for them and vice versa.

•                     Be clear with management at every level it is their responsibility to earn and sustain trust and give them the tools to do that. They are entirely learnable and reinenforcable. People rarely trust what they don’t understand.

So I would like to leave you with two thoughts-

•                     You will never have sustained customer engagement without employee engagement.

•                     The foundation of employee engagement is trust. You have to do the work.

 

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We Need A New Model!

Doing It Wrong

Sometimes being right is disappointing. I just read an article from the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman that concluded the same thing as I did in a blog post a few weeks back titled We Are Doing It Wrong.

The article talked about a study they did on almost 2000 participants in formal high potential programs. Usually participation in these programs is limited to what management defines as the top 5% of performers in their organization.

The study evaluated these individuals in leadership capabilities using a 360-degree assessment including their manager, several peers, direct reports and other colleagues. Their prior research had indicated that collecting data from this kind of cross sample could be statistically correlated to desired outcomes like employee engagement, lower turnover and higher unit productivity.

Here is the bad news; 12% of these HIPO participants were in the bottom quartile on leadership effectiveness and overall 42% were below the median. I would call that an epic fail.

The characteristics for selection may be part of the problem. Candidates were selected based primarily on four (4) criteria:

·         Professional and technical expertise

·         Taking initiative and delivering results

·         Honoring commitments

·         Fitting into the culture

That last characteristic is important because the research indicated that underperformers tended to emphasize (or overemphasize) a specific trait valued by their organization. This caused a kind of HALO effect or bias that caused their total profile to be overlooked.

Interestingly underperformers shared two primary deficiencies; strategic vision and the ability to motivate others. Good individual contributors don’t always translate into strong leaders.

I have been a practicing manager for over three decades. I remember the model I was originally exposed to as the fundamental skill sets of effective management- planning, directing, controlling, and budgeting.

We were still immersed in the precepts of Frederik Taylor’s scientific management model. Some were born to do, others born to manage or lead.

As a young human resources professional we were tasked with administrative activities and relieving managers of less valuable activities like setting expectations, providing feedback, coaching for optimal performance, and taking appropriate corrective action when performance didn’t meet expectations.

The models were still very much about compliance, if employees would be loyal (defined obedient) they would be rewarded with a degree of security upon retirement. Then we discovered outsourcing, down- sizing, and offshoring to optimize financial performance and the contract was broken.

According to a recent survey over fifty percent of people seeking additional managerial responsibilities do so to increase their earning potential.

Is it just me or do the results of this new study tend to reinforce that we haven’t entirely let go of this old thinking?

I happen to be a big fan of Paul Hersey’s definition of leadership – working through and with others to achieve organizational objectives.

We still have major issues with trust in leadership and capitalizing on the opportunities represented by true employee engagement, but to address them we need a different criterion for selecting and developing leaders.

Over the past three and a half decades my experience and research have led me to look for five (5) characteristics in selecting and developing leaders:

·         Technical competence (mastery of the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job).

·         An understanding and mastery of all three levels of trust (Deterrence, Competence, and Identity)

·         Emotional Intelligence (this allows you to know which level of trust or leadership style to employ in a given situation)

·         Emotional Balance

·         Self-Awareness

For me personally the technical competence is kind of the threshold, you need it to gain admission, but it is the minimum standard not the measuring stick.

My experience has also led me to believe that in the absence of emotional balance and self-awareness you will never really master the third level of trust on a sustained basis, and these represent the Achilles Heel of most leaders.

My experience has been if you have these attributes we can teach you the skills associated with successful management and leadership, but if you are missing one or more you will never be a highly effective leader.

I also personally believe that automation will make these leadership skills more important not less important.

The ship has sailed on whether or not employee engagement is real and it can affect the performance of an organization. Organizations where employees consider themselves highly engaged outperform their competitors in every key performance indicator and engagement is a universal rather than a North American phenomenon.

We still don’t like to talk about soft skills and we aren’t very good about teaching them. I saw something recently that said that the concepts of emotional and social intelligence don’t really exist because we can’t scientifically validate them, we should rely on IQ.

I would submit the results of the study reported in the HBR article give you a good idea of how that model works out.

Perhaps because of my professional development as a human resources practitioner the idea that leadership is based on behavior not words and that at the end of the day it is a relationship rather than a position these things resonate with me.

 Thomas Jefferson described two camps relative to their view of people-

•             Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of higher classes (Frederick W. Taylor and Scientific management).

•             Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish them and consider them as the most honest and safe.

I would submit that if the term human capital is part of your vernacular and you see culture and employee engagement as the province of your human resources department and you haven’t adapted a new leadership model you have picked your camp.

The choice is yours to make, but given the competitive environment for talent, the demographic shift to Millennials being the single biggest group in the workplace, and the economic and social bleed from lack of trust and engagement you may want to rethink your models.

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Understanding Real Legitimacy

Understanding Real Legitimacy

I just finished re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath.

Like the books that preceded it I enjoyed it a great deal.

I see Gladwell as kind of a social facilitator and observer. He doesn’t try to present himself as a behavioral scientist with countless reams of data to support his conclusions, he makes comments and observations. The reader has the choice to accept or reject them.

Given the outcome and the divides both during and now following our election cycle I found some of his insights particularly worth revisiting.

While I enjoyed the entire book the part that most spoke to me was Gladwell’s discussion of legitimacy.

According to Gladwell legitimacy occurs when three elements are present-

·         Those who are governed have a voice in the process; their input is sought and heard.

·         There is a dimension of predictability and consistency in the application of the law or standards.

·         The application of the law or standard has to be administered fairly and objectively, you can’t have disparate treatment without a clear and compelling reason.

From what I have seen demonstrated to date our new President doesn’t share Gladwell’s description of legitimacy.

Specifically, his interest in viewpoints that don’t coincide with his own appears non- existent and his application of laws and standards don’t in my opinion pass the fair and objective test.

I personally believe that any meaningful change in our leadership philosophy and application is going to need to come from the private sector. The current administration is interested in a rigid application of the compliance model; people should do as he instructs them.

It will be interesting to see the repercussions of the DeVos nomination, never before with a majority in the Senate has the Vice President had to cast their vote to confirm a cabinet nominee.  

The President has never been in an environment previously where he is accountable to anyone and he seems to be struggling with that transition.

The reason I find this discussion about legitimacy so interesting is in its application to the work environment.

For the last three decades I have been promoting and teaching the merits of an employment relationship based on Commitment rather than compliance. When the employment environment is optimized in a commitment based model it results in employee engagement.

I also believe that to a large extent leadership as opposed to management is founded in legitimacy. Leadership is entirely relational versus hierarchical. As a manager you have the authority of your position and the benefit of what Stephen MR Covey calls deterrence, authority that comes from rules or position. We would like to believe that management also incorporates Covey’s second level competence, but I am not sure that is true.

 In many cases the competence we rely on in elevating someone to a management role is based on application of their technical skills, their competence is emotional and social intelligence are still considered “soft skills”.

The highest level of trust in Covey’s hierarchy is identity based trust which incorporates both your competency and you character as demonstrated by your applied values and behavior to create credibility.

In my over 30 years as a human resources professional, C level executive, and management consultant it has been interesting to see emerging and current “leaders” bridle at the idea that they have to earn trust. For many it is an expectation that trust is embedded in their role, they shouldn’t have to earn it.

It is very chic today to dismiss collective bargaining and unions as passé, but any student of the relationship between employer and employed realizes that up until the 1940’s the concept of employers need legitimacy through the input of their employees was considered ludicrous.

Unions fought very hard to legitimize their right to bargain with employers over hours, wages, and working conditions. I am not going to say that I believe collective bargaining is the preferred methodology or relationship structure between organizations and employees, but the concept of participating as equals didn’t come from management enlightenment. Many of our current models still have their roots in scientific management-managers manage and people do. If you see people as human capital, what is the likelihood that you are seeking the endorsement of those you “lead”?

Surveys come out every year that reinforce that the most important role played by human resources professionals is compliance by both operational executives and human resources professionals themselves.

Under the old social contract organizations provided a degree of social and economic security in return for loyalty (spelled compliance in my opinion). As the economy became more international we still wanted the loyalty, we just didn’t want to provide the security.

It is interesting in most jurisdictions outside of the U.S. the subjects of bargaining include the introduction of technology into a work setting. In our U.S. model we must negotiate the effects of the technology, but not its introduction.

In creating my own foundation for employee engagement I feel that there are critical elements you have to include.

The first is a foundation of trust. I would go so far as to say you have to have trust at all three levels to experience true engagement.

I also think you need to add the elements of respect, responsibility, information, equitable rewards, and mutual investment.

I don’t think you need to negotiate your culture with employees, but I do think they are entitled to clear expectations, constructive feedback, and fair treatment.

When you provide that kind of context you are allowing employees to join up with you. On that foundation when change is introduced you do it with rather than to people.

Gladwell’s examples of authority without legitimacy are pretty fascinating; the outcomes aren’t pretty.

There is a lot of discussion about the next generations. They are pretty intolerant of assumed legitimacy. They also represent both the future employee base and future leadership.

Perhaps taking a moment and asking ourselves if we are incorporating legitimacy and trust into our leadership models and recognizing and teaching the skills of leadership beyond technical competency is a worthwhile endeavor.

I hope it at least provides food for thought…..

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Moving Forward

Inclusion versus Exclusion

I admit it, I read a lot. I find myself very curious about many things not the least of which is the viewpoints of other people. Since I wrote my last post things have been pretty crazy.

I have been working with a client to help build a bridge between philanthropy and businesses as one part of a new model to address some of our issues around the management of health and the delivery of health care.

To many it may be just a matter of semantics; but I see philanthropy as different than charity. Philanthropy to me has a connotation of investing in a larger cause or purpose. I am not saying charity is bad, but I rather like the idea of making investments in societal infrastructure to achieve a better quality of life for everyone and more comfortable for me. I don’t really like codependency between adults in any form very much.

I also see the management of health and delivering health care as being related, but different. I think that managing health is a collaborative effort that involves patients/people, providers, payers, educators, etc. in investigating and creating solutions; hopefully on a proactive rather than reactive basis.

My clients organization is mission driven, they are a not for profit. We have had interesting discussions about how their role in delivering health care is really the how of what they do rather than the what. It is really a delivery mechanism rather than the goal itself. We have been discussing of late whether the role of his team is actually an important bridge to that larger mission because it allows people from the community to get involved in a lot of ways that is not direct care giving.

I saw a statistic recently that said over 75% of people are not feeling fulfilled in their jobs. I know from my work in employee engagement that less than 30% of American workers consider themselves highly engaged and in many cases they feel they don’t trust the senior management of their organization or the leadership of the country. I find that very sad, but also a significant opportunity. In fact a very recent study stated that this lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy alone $350 billion annually.

When we have those kinds of numbers we are losing enormous opportunity every day. The research says we lose trillions annually to turnover, health related expenses, poor productivity and a number of related areas because of that sense of disengagement. We have tried for the last nine or ten decades to replace engagement or alignment with a larger purpose with technology with pretty mediocre results, but still we persist. Technology won’t ever replace relationships and relationships are God forbid built on peopley stuff like trust and communications and mutual respect. Technology can’t replace that.

When I look at the impact of technology on communications on relationships; especially things like social media I wonder whether it has helped us or set us back a couple of hundred years. It has certainly removed some restrictions to the flow of information, but it has also provided an unrestricted platform for a lot of people to say really nasty, hateful, things to and about other people.

I remember when I was growing up my mother would often say “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”.

As a leader and an aspiring manager I found that really doesn’t work. Sometimes you need to give people constructive feedback that may be difficult for them to hear. Withholding that feedback in my opinion does them a disservice and it may if taken too far be blatantly dishonest. That isn’t nice.

I have tried to modify my mother’s intent message slightly and focus on saying things that are productive and well intentioned. I like to think I get it right about 75% of the time, my goal is of course 100%, but I know I have a lot of work to do.

As a former executive and current coach and consultant I continue to be disappointed by how much of my role is encouraging people to listen to each other and seek common ground and how acceptable it has become to criticize someone else’s viewpoint or solution without feeling any obligation to present a solution of your own.

Our most recent election was won by a candidate who articulated that as part of his mandate; being elected to join others who shared his viewpoint to ensure that the viewpoints and solutions that don’t fit their worldview don’t move forward, or better yet don’t get heard. I am not sure which is more appalling-

·         That an educated person would embrace such a position

·         That others would vote for him or her

I don’t blame him entirely, as I have said before the other candidate failed the trust test miserably as well.

I find other viewpoints interesting and sometimes very instructional. I don’t always agree with them, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a society where you don’t within reason have a right to advance a viewpoint.

Before anyone gets too abhorred most people wouldn’t describe me as a liberal or do-gooder. I have strong opinions and convictions about many things, I just don’t feel a need to prevent others to have views that are not coincident with mine. Again I would encourage people on both sides of issues to consider that.

I think there are certain essential truths that aren’t negotiable, but they are much more limited that some would articulate.

 I think forcing another person to do something against their will or values is pretty consistently wrong. I think using superior physical, mental, or financial capability to force someone to do something against their will is wrong. Beyond that I think we should look at situations contextually and one at a time.

The current environment seems to becoming more and more polarized and excluding more and more people. I find most of the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle to be equally uninspiring.

Recent actions like Brexit, discussions about building a wall between countries, and excluding people from immigrating to or visiting the U.S. because of their country of origin are in my opinion moving in the wrong direction no matter how well intentioned.

I come partially from a family of immigrants. My maternal grandparents both emigrated here from Italy. Italy isn’t on the list currently, but things can change.

I understand a desire to keep America safe, but find it a bit ironic that there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a current or former citizen of the seven countries on the list.

On the other hand, countries who have harbored terrorists are excluded, but members of the current administration have business interests in those countries. I hate to be cynical, but I don’t think that is coincidental.

Our current President has strong viewpoints as do his supporters. Strong boundaries and discipline have merit sometimes, but I think that the people of Syria and others need compassion not discipline.

 To paraphrase the late novelist Morris L. West who used the Catholic Church extensively as a backdrop for his books, “People are crying out for bread and we are giving them stones”.

It would seem much of our leadership is driving in that direction.

I would say that is equally true for both sides of the aisle. We need leadership to bring people together, not widen the divide.

I guess I will continue to look for ways to include rather than exclude and find solutions that benefit many rather than few. I might only have limited success, but somehow it seems much more satisfying….

.

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Is It Just Me?

My colleague Laurie Ruettimann cracks me up some times. I don’t always agree with her posts, but they are always thought provoking, timely, and relevant.

In her latest post she was discussing the succession planning for the CEO for SHRM (The Society for Human Resources Management). For those of you not familiar with it, SHRM is the largest professional association for human resources professionals in the world.

Among other things SHRM provides a certification process to be acknowledged by your colleagues, has conferences and various and sundry other things like national associations do.

Laurie’s defining SHRM as the AARP of Human Resources was what cracked me up. She was imploring the search committee to recruit someone who isn’t an insider and who has a grasp on the issues that are relevant to organizations and employees today.

I guess her post hit both my relevance and amusement thresholds because of some other events I have experienced recently-

·         The Edelman Trust Barometer- which for the last 17 years has measured trust in the media, business leadership, elected officials, and non- government agencies recorded their lowest scores ever. Media and elected leaders were totally in the shitter and business leadership squeaked out a 52% confidence level.

·         The Presidential Election-  I am going to go out on a limb and say that there are a number of folks who have expressed their concerns about our newly elected president and some of his choices for Cabinet and other appointments. (Is that an alternative fact?) Um I don’t think so given a whole bunch them just participated in a big ass march a couple of days ago.

·         A Recent survey from Clutch reported-

- Thirty-two percent of Millennials are likely to leave their job within the next six months. Only 11-12 percent of older employees are likely to quit in that same timeframe.

- Forty percent of Millennials do not consider themselves fulfilled at work, which is nearly two times greater than Generation X employees and almost four times greater than Baby-Boomers.

- Forty-one percent of Millennials feel neutral to negative on their manager's ability to provide accurate and consistent feedback.

·         Employee Engagement- another survey reinforced the idea that if your approach to increasing employee engagement is to conduct and report on an annual survey you are hosed. Even though it decried the use of surveys as THE tool, it went on to discuss the monumental benefits of having and engaged workforce on retention and recruitment, productivity and quality, and even expenditures for employee health and wellness.

For those of you who have been asleep at the wheel, Millennials now make up the single biggest demographic in the workforce and time is on their side, it’s going to get bigger not smaller.

So as I understand it most employees don’t trust leadership, the population is in flux about the election (see my first point), Millennials are saying they want more meaningful feedback from their managers and are unfulfilled at work, and we haven’t made significant progress in addressing the root causes of employee disengagement and reaped the rewards of developing and implementing new models.

The part that draws it all together for me is that earlier this week I received an invitation to attend the local SHRM chapters monthly meeting and presentation. The topic – Creating a Transgender Friendly Workplace.

I want to be clear. I am not anti- transgender and I feel like every employee without regard to their gender, religious affiliation, age, national origin, race and any other non- relevant factor has an absolute entitlement to a work environment that is physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe. Period end of story.

That being said I think we have some significant issues to face as leaders and as a society and a great start would be remodeling our leadership training and selection models and we have a lot of work to do.

It is entirely possible that I am just insensitive, but I would be curious to hear other opinions……

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The Trust Crisis

The Trust Tax

When I had the opportunity to read Stephen MR Covey’s brilliant book, The Speed of Trust, a couple of years ago one particular quote really stood out to me-

Every organization earns a trust dividend or pays a trust tax

I thought the book in total, discussing the basis and levels of trust and the elements involved should be required reading in every business school and leadership program internationally, but that statement really stood out for me.

As an executive and management consultant for over 35 years I have been trying to instill that message in organizations where I was part of the management infrastructure and to my clients.

An article I had a chance to read from the Harvard Business Review shared some information that I found abhorrently fascinating- The Edelman Trust Barometer which has surveyed tens of thousands of people in over 28 countries reported that for the first time in its 17- year history the average trust level in all four of the institutions measured (Government Officials, Business/CEO’s, NGO’s and Media) was below 50%.

Government came in last, closely followed by media, but 48% of respondents did not trust business leaders to do the right thing.

A great quote from a book I read earlier this year, Barbarians to Bureaucrats, had a pretty compelling reason why this is such an issue.

-the decline in corporate culture precedes – and is the primary causal factor in the decline of a business, and that decline is the result of the behavior and spirit of its leaders.

In this day and age of consumerism and social media the accountability to earn and sustain trust rests with management at all levels and platitudes and generic mission and value statements isn’t going to get it done.

The advantages of employee and customer engagement are clear and compelling and two key points-

•             You will never have sustained customer engagement without employee engagement.

•             The foundation of engagement is trust. You have to do the work.

Angela Duckworth in her book Grit, talks about how cultures form-

Culture has the power to shape our identity. Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us. The way we do things around here and why become the way I do things and why!

Some of my favorite leadership authors including Patrick Lencioni, Simon Sinek, and others all talk about creating a healthy culture and its criticality to sustained organizational success. They also share that the foundation for every healthy culture is trust!

Research from Josh Bersin concluded that in descending order the most important things to Millennials are culture and values, career opportunities, and confidence in leadership!

Why is that important? Because Millennials are now the largest demographic in the workforce and that is only going to get larger over the next five to seven years!

The Edelman Trust Barometer just concluded we got an F in three out of four categories!

I haven’t talked to a lot of organizations lately that have declared victory in terms of organizational performance and employee engagement.

Well, you can’t build a tower with a faulty foundation and when employees don’t trust leadership that is faulty!

Jamie Dimon, CEO of Morgan Chase shared some tips on how he selects senior leaders for his organization-

The first are attributes, Capability, character, and how they treat people. The next are two simple, but compelling questions:

•             Would I let them run the business without me?

•             Would I let my children work for them?

How many of us ask those questions as part of our hiring process?

How many of us are building the concept that earning and sustaining identity based trust is a journey and an expectation for leadership candidates in our own organization?

 Trust isn’t an entitlement!

Leadership in this area is going to need to come from the business sector. Government came in dead last in the trust race and based on the last election and actions since then I wouldn’t count on our elected leaders for guidance or improvement.

How long can we pay this kind of tax?

 

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Let's Do This!

 

I had the opportunity yesterday to read a couple of things that I found quite validating and I will freely admit to being shallow enough to enjoy seeing things that agree with my perspective.

The first was an article about the Ritz Carlton’s secret recipe. It is pretty simple; your employees are the foundation of your brand.

·         Herbert’s rule number 1- employees that are not engaged with your brand and purpose will not engage your customers.

The second article talked about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook and the fact that the principal organizational value is trust. It goes on to say that you must trust in order to be trusted.

I have told everyone I know and a bunch of strangers that I think that Stephen MR Covey’s The Speed of Trust is one of the all- time best business and leadership books I have ever read.

His three levels of trust are both simple and profound.

·         Herbert’s rule number 2- I don’t give a rat’s ass where you graduated from, what your title is, or your position on the organizational chart, identity based trust is personal and earned it doesn’t come with your degree, your title or your position.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that in Patrick Lencioni’ s book, The Advantage, his first step in building a healthy organization is creating a healthy organization is a cohesive management team and the foundation of a cohesive management team is trust. Interesting steps two through four are all about clarity which sounds remarkably like brand and purpose to me.

I suspect Simon Sinek would call it your Why.

Are we seeing a pattern here or is it just me?

Here is another interesting pattern.

A 2014 study reported that some 41 percent of respondents said the most important factor in their decision to apply to an organization was a company’s values. Nearly half of all candidates said their first relationship with a company was as a candidate — which means that’s the juncture when employers have to get it right. More recent studies have remained consistent with this premise, especially Millennials and the Generation following them.

If you are asking yourself why that is relevant to you the reason is that the Millennials now make up the largest sector of the workforce and your future candidate and leadership pool.

·         Herbert’s rule number 3- It is much easier to hire and promote people who share your values than to fix them after the fact. They probably don’t think they are broken.

This concept of people who share your values is called Congruency© and as described by Dr. Ron Willingham it has five elements-

·         My view of the activity

·         My belief in my ability

·         My willingness to do the work

·         My belief in the product/service/organization

·         The relationship to my values

A couple of things I have found very interesting about congruency-

1.       Very few organizations build it into their hiring and selection process.

2.       Almost every performance issue I have ever encountered had one or more levels of congruency as a root cause.

So here is what we have learned from some of the most successful organizations in the world.

·         Treating your people like stakeholders not human capital is critical to employee engagement and sustained organizational performance.

·         You can’t have employee engagement without trust and congruency, which I have also referred to as organizational alignment.

·         It starts with your leadership team, if they don’t display these attributes you are hosed.

What trust and congruency look like in every organization may be different, but those foundational elements are present in every high performing organization.

Given that

·         The emerging generations have told us that these concepts are critical to them

·         They will soon make up the majority of the workforce

·         Study after study has demonstrated that organizations that embed these values outperform their competitors on every KPI and in every sector of the economy

Why would we give up this kind of competitive advantage?

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What Did We Learn?

I am not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I find most of them have a shelf life of about thirty days max.

I am however a pretty big fan of reflection.

In honesty I found 2016 to be a disappointment. The year started with some promise, but then kind of petered out.

I think one of my biggest disappointments was that it seems like this leadership thing still seems to elude us. We still use expressions like human capital and continue to want to minimize the human interaction in our hiring and recruitment processes.

This year I became pretty much a raving fan of Simon Sinek. His advice about starting with Why, describing how leaders eat last, and some of the issues faced by Millennials in the workforce really captured my attention.

Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage and Angela Duckworth’s Grit were also among some of the best stuff I read.

I also read things that while they resonated with me caused disappointment like a great blog that shared the dirty little secret that the vast majority of our graduate business programs don’t include anything about foundational concepts like trust and emotional intelligence and still secretly reinforce a lot of Frederick W. Taylor’s scientific management theories.

Which is where I think the idea of people as disposable assets got their roots in modern society. Prior to that we just called them serfs. I guess human capital is nicer.

I read things that said that employee engagement and emotional and social intelligence are all bullshit and hocus pocus because they can’t be properly measured. I disagree. The fact that you do a shitty job of executing on a concept doesn’t invalidate it, it just speaks to your leadership skills.

The ship has sailed on whether or not engagement is real and it can affect the performance of an organization. Organizations where employees consider themselves highly engaged outperform their competitors in every key performance indicator and engagement is a universal rather than a North American phenomenon.

I had the opportunity to work with a recently retired member of an elite military unit about his transition. We explored things like Covey’s trust model and Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last.

His reaction is “duh”. These concepts have been embedded into the culture he spent his adult life to date in. The fact that these are an epiphany in the private sector stunned him a bit.

He shared with me that being a leader in these units is the easiest job in the world. Everyone is highly competent. Everybody is committed to the mission. The leader blocks and tackles.

Our elite military units have mastered something that in the private sector we call an employment brand.

My colleague Brad Federman very elegantly described an effective employment brand in a post a while back-

Don’t chase people. Be an example. Attract them.

Work hard and be yourself.

The people who belong in your life will come and stay.

Just do your thing.

I was pretty struck by the profound elegance of this statement both for individuals and for organizations. I wish I had of heard this before giving life and career advice to my millennial aged children.

I think organizations should have a leadership brand too, how we expect leaders to behave and what we hold them accountable to do.

Kind of like trust and respect your leadership brand should include legitimacy. I like the way Malcolm Gladwell described legitimacy in his book David and Goliath.

·         Those whom are governed have a voice in the process; their input is sought and heard.

·         There is a dimension of predictability and consistency in the application of the law or standards.

·         The application of the law or standard has to be administered fairly and objectively, you can’t   have disparate treatment without a clear and compelling reason.

When I read about what Millennials and the following generation is seeking them seem to want legitimacy from their leaders as well along with the purpose and identity based trust that Covey and Lencioni describe. I think they are right.

I enjoyed some success in 2016. We had a number of folks show up for the leadership training we do and more than a few folks read my ramblings on my blog and other posts so I guess there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

So I guess as we make the turn I will keep talking about managing whole people, relying on identity based trust as your foundational principle, and recognizing that your employment brand dictates your business brand and that your customers will never be more engaged than your employees.

We still have work to do on this leadership thing too…

See you next year.

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We Are Doing It Wrong!

A couple of things I have seen recently reinforced for me what we continue to do wrong in our efforts at leadership.

The first was a story about a teacher who almost took delight in grading the work of a child in her fourth grade class and giving him the failing grade that his unorganized, sloppy work deserved.

Because she was thorough she chose to read evaluations of his past work by his previous teachers and discovered that a very bright child was affected by his mother’s serious illness and eventual death and the absence of any meaningful attention from a grieving and distracted father.

The epiphany associated with that discovery caused her to make a fundamental shift in her approach to teaching. Instead of teaching subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic; she began teaching children- a profound distinction.

The poor performing child went from a distracted student to a practicing physician and shared with her along that journey how compelling her intervention was in his achievements.

In another story teachers were exposed to the question – what I wish my teacher knew about me.

The students wished that their teachers had a little more of an appreciation in what was going on in their lives outside of school and the classroom.

I have been a practicing manager for over three decades. I remember the model I was originally exposed to as the fundamental skill sets of effective management- planning, directing, controlling, and budgeting.

We were still immersed in the precepts of Frederik Taylor’s scientific management model. Some were born to do, others born to manage or lead.

As a young human resources professional we were tasked with administrative activities and relieving managers of less valuable activities like setting expectations, providing feedback, coaching for optimal performance, and taking appropriate corrective action when performance didn’t meet expectations.

The Civil Rights Act and its amendments and additional legislation that followed that made discrimination on a number of issues illegal and introduced affirmative action to try to right wrongs gave human resources some leverage because the requirements weren’t well understood and proliferated.

The models were still very much about compliance, if employees would be loyal (defined obedient) they would be rewarded with a degree of security upon retirement. Then we discovered outsourcing, down- sizing, and offshoring to optimize financial performance and the contract was broken.

According to a recent survey over fifty percent of people seeking additional managerial responsibilities do so to increase their earning potential.

Executives acknowledge that highly capable manager with well- developed leadership skills cause their organizations to outperform their competition by a significant degree, yet less than half feel their organization does a good job of developing leaders.

A few years ago I got very enamored with the concept of what we are now calling employee engagement. Even before the data was available something told me that there was a better way. It inspired me to publish my first book, Managing Whole People, in 2008.

In the intervening years the data has become much more prevalent and compelling. We have made some progress in changing the model, but the dark years between 2008 and 2010 brought back a lot of the predatory practices of the past inspired by high unemployment and employees feeling trapped.

We have four generations in the workplace now and the latest two entrants look at work and the employee-employer relationship very differently.

They expect employers to provide them with a compelling purpose for the work that they do, to invest in them and their personal and professional development and to earn the trust and respect if they want to see it reciprocated.

I think they are right. Terms like human assets and human capital make me grind my teeth. Human resources practitioners who believe the most important role they play in their organization is compliance piss me off, and executives who still refer to managing people as a soft skill annoy me to distraction.

Like that teacher discovered we have been doing it wrong. We need to recruit, manage, and retain whole people. We need to provide alignment and purpose and manage people and talent not assets.

You don’t need to be a therapist or a social worker. You do need to build and reinforce identity based trust and there is not a degree or a training program that can do that for you. You have to do the work and you have to do it every day.

The benefits are clear and compelling, so is the downside of doing what we have always done.

If you think that emotional and social intelligence don’t exist, you are screwed. You live in a bubble of your own construction. If you think that trust and respect are perquisites that come with a position or title you are going to fail.

Let’s fix this….

 

 

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Time to Update Your Brand!

 

A few years ago a client of mine shared a conversation he had with another CEO of a high technology firm who was lamenting that a particular large Midwestern city had a significant shortage of qualified engineering talent. He asked his friend how he had come to that conclusion and his colleague indicated they had been recruiting for talent for almost eight weeks with limited results. My client responded, “There isn’t a shortage of talent, your company has a lousy employment brand. Do you think if Apple or Google were recruiting in this same location they would have any difficulty recruiting the talent they need?”

My client is exactly right. Certain companies and I would include organizations like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Zappo’s among them, don’t have any issues recruiting the talent they require. They have managed to achieve a certain cachet not only about their products, but about their company. They have a clearly defined employment brand.

People join cultures not organizations and they leave managers not companies. Your product or service brand will never be better than your employment brand.

Here is another reality check- The workplace is about to span five generations for the first time ever in history; Silents, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

A 2014 study reported that some 41 percent of respondents said the most important factor in their decision to apply to an organization was a company’s values. Nearly half of all candidates said their first relationship with a company was as a candidate — which means that’s the juncture when employers have to get it right.

Another reality is that to a large extent leadership in developing new social models is going to have to come from the private sector.

In the business world we have a population of approaching twenty percent that are actively disengaged in their current employment environment. That means they come to work every day pissed and minimally productive. The costs of that have been well documented in terms of absenteeism, lost productivity, health care expenditures relating to mental health, obesity, and other factors.

Do we really think that meaningful leadership in addressing these issues is going to come from our elected officials? Especially considering that there is a large population that is refusing to acknowledge the outcome of the Presidential election. Added to that I would have to say that many of the selections the President elect has made for Cabinet appointments give me pause. These folks don’t seem to be interested in making the world a more collaborative place.

Our leadership models are in large part stuck in the past. We still focus very heavily on what my colleague Geoff Searle refers to as technical intelligence. Technical intelligence doesn’t build trust and trust is foundational to a solid employment brand.

Dustin McKissen, founder and CEO of McKissen and Company, talked about this in a blog post in Inc Magazine, The Rotten Core of Every MBA Program.

He specifically cites our ongoing infatuation with Frederick W. Taylor and his Scientific Management models-

While Taylor's theories are viewed as harsh and impractical today, his work was still cited in every class I attended that discussed the roots of modern management science. What's not often discussed is how little Taylor thought of the people who actually produced products in the factories he studied.

I mentioned that in a recent blog post. Traditional MBA programs train candidates to be what Lawrence Miller described as Bureaucrats and Administrators in a book he published almost 30 years ago. Given his observation and the fact that McKissen published his observations just a few months ago I am pretty bummed.

The competition for the best talent is on the upswing and my personal experience validates the conclusions of the 2014 study- the new employee is looking for a role where they feel challenged and congruent with the values of the organization.

The concept of human capital and maybe even human resources is dead. We hire whole people and rent their talent. They aren’t disposable assets and are going to require the same care and feeding as customers, maybe more and like customers their ability to cut through the bullshit are being honed and applied.

 

Step back and look at your approach to talent and people systemically or suffer the consequences…..

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History- Study or Repeat?

I had a chance over the holiday weekend to read a book a client shared with me, Barbarians to Bureaucrats, originally published in 1989. The book describes leadership styles and business life cycles and as I read it I was reminded of other great books that have tried to express the same message over the past three decades.

One of the great quotes from this particular book is “the decline in corporate culture precedes – and is the primary causal factor in the decline of a business, and that decline is the result of the behavior and spirit of its leaders.”

I have certainly found that to be true over my almost four decades as a human resources practitioner, executive, and management consultant. Culture eats strategy!

I have to say that as I read this I saw application not just to the “corporate” world, but society in general as I look at the vitriol and nastiness of our latest election for the Presidency. We have a national culture problem.

I have a passion for the concept of employee engagement, a concept that has been around for almost three decades in some form or another, but has not been universally embraced.

The ship has sailed on whether or not engagement is real and it can affect the performance of an organization. Organizations where employees consider themselves highly engaged outperform their competitors in every key performance indicator and engagement is a universal rather than a North American phenomenon.

The author also talks in his book about a couple of other concepts that explain our failure to launch.

He talks about the two sides of the coin as it relates to national involvement, public purpose and private interests.

I have embraced the thinking of people like Michael Porter and Nilofer Merchant that all profit isn’t equal. Social profit, profit that benefits society and total versus just a smaller shareholder group has more long term benefit. I prefer the stakeholder versus the shareholder mentality.

The other thing that he discusses is the myths of the perfect culture and the perfect management/leadership style. That simply isn’t the case.

How many times do we see organizations (and consultants) shlepping around a template[MH1]  of the perfect culture?

When Good to Great was published everybody ran out to copy it. It is interesting to me that although several of the organizations that Collins cited don’t exist anymore almost every executive I know has a copy on their bookshelf. Some of them have even read it.

I remember reading Situational Leadership back in the early nineties and incorporating it into my tool kit with the idea that you need to meet people where they live and flex your leadership style accordingly.

We still don’t like to talk about soft skills and we aren’t very good about teaching them. I saw something as recently as today that said that the concepts of emotional and social intelligence don’t really exist because we can’t scientifically validate them, we should rely on IQ.

Sorry professor you are wrong. Everything can’t be validated. We have this thing called religion, which is based on faith which although it can’t be validated seems to have caught on…

Perhaps because of my professional development as a human resources practitioner the idea that leadership is based on behavior not words and that at the end of the day it is a relationship rather than a position these things resonate with me.

I see corollaries to this book in Gladwell’s David and Goliath, where he discusses legitimacy as part of the leadership infrastructure and Stephen MR Covey’s The Speed of Trust, where he identifies the three levels of trust and how the achievement of identity based trust is critical to sustained organizational performance. Perhaps I am reaching, but I also see a relationship to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle in terms of giving people something to believe in.

Scientific management created the foundation for what I believe this author describes as the Administrative and Bureaucratic stages of an organization, where processes become more important than people and definitely more important than the product.

The author talks about this being why we have lost a great amount of our manufacturing competitiveness to foreign locations, first Japan and Germany because of quality, and then to other outsourced markets because of cost. A situation that hasn’t improved drastically in the thirty years since the book was written.

He also talks about the importance of balancing financial, planning, and technical competence with creativity. I would add leadership competence, those soft skills like emotional and social intelligence and the ability to flex your leadership style to the situation and the constituent base.

I can’t say that there was a lot of new ideas in the book that I hadn’t been exposed to before, what is a little troubling is how little meaningful progress we have made in the almost three decades since it was published.

I am also watching to see with the outcome of our election whether we have chosen a Barbarian who can create change or more concerning a business aristocrat masquerading as a change agent.

Jefferson described two camps relative to their view of people-

·         Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of higher classes (Frederick W. Taylor and Scientific management).

·         Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish them and consider them as the most honest and safe.

I would submit that if the term human capital is part of your vernacular and you see culture and employee engagement as the province of your human resources department you have declared your colors…

 

 

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An Opportunity to Lead

At long last one of the most acrimonious campaign and election cycles I can remember is over and at least fifty percent of the population is unhappy.

I am hoping that over the next few weeks some of the heat of the anger and disappointment dissipates and we can move on with addressing the challenges confronting us and the world.

What we are seeing isn’t new, it has just become nastier. When our current President was elected both times I heard a lot of choruses of he’s not my President. The reality is that he was and is.

We have an election process where at the end of the day everybody doesn’t get what they want. That doesn’t entitle us to take our toys and go home.

Have you ever met a business executive that has prevailed in every decision at every stage of their career? I haven’t.

One of the reasons that our President-elect prevailed was that he tapped into the incredible dissatisfaction of many people with the status quo. A lot of people feel that their interests haven’t been represented and they haven’t benefited from the economic upturn since the 2008 recession.

I give our elected leadership collectively a D- over the last eight or ten years collectively. Instead of attending to real issues they have descended into partisan bickering. The majority party staked out positions of denying President Obama a second term (they failed) and defeating his agenda (they prevailed).

Even before the election votes were in they staked out a position indicating that had the outcome of the election gone the other way they were fully prepared to reject any nominations by the President-elect for a full four- year term. That isn’t leadership.

In my last blog post I discussed Stephen MR Covey’s three levels of trust and how bluntly Secretary Clinton failed to fully recognize and overcome her deficit of identity based trust.

I have heard some people disappointed with the election outcome indicate that Secretary Clinton didn’t prevail because of her gender. I personally think that is bullshit. I think in large part she didn’t prevail because people just fundamentally don’t feel like they know and trust her as a person and as a leader.

In my consulting practice I often assist my clients in selecting and developing leaders. I always recommend that way beyond the typical knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the tasks that there are critical attributes that leadership candidates should possess including: the capacity and commitment to develop others, emotional and social intelligence, and personal accountability among others.

The unfortunate truth is that President Elect Trump as a marketer and entertainer may have decoded the emotional intelligence threshold better than either major party, the media, or the experts.

My colleague Bruce Kasanoff discussed months ago the importance of meeting people where they live and again today in a post about what he calls a dangerous lack of empathy.

“This week's election results reminded me that you can't talk trade policy with a couple that is scared they won't be able to feed and clothe their kids.”

Being a policy wonk doesn’t reach people who are angry and scared.

I wrote a book a few years back about my opinion that one of the flaws in the Affordable Health Care Act is that it assumes a level of personal and professional competency about the very complicated health care process that the vast majority of Americans simply don’t have.

The costs of health care have risen significantly. I believe that in large part that is a function of demand and supply. People who had been denied access to care because of cost or pre-existing conditions suddenly had access.

The health care system in large part is also based on delivering health care rather than managing health and that model has been reinforced since WW2 with rich entitlement model systems provided by both the public and private sector. People didn’t and don’t accept personal responsibility for managing their own health through lifestyle and other choices.

In the business world we have a population of approaching twenty percent that are actively disengaged in their current employment environment. That means they come to work every day pissed and minimally productive. The costs of that have been well documented in terms of absenteeism, lost productivity, health care expenditures relating to mental health, obesity, and other factors.

The fact that I didn’t include turnover isn’t an accident. The studies say that the actively disengaged aren’t any more likely to leave than engaged employees! They are so angry and disenchanted they show up in your workplace and piss in the well every day. They lack the energy and drive to look elsewhere.

Why is that relevant? If people think their lives and jobs suck what kind of voter do you think they are?

Candidate Trump got that. He appealed to the anger and frustration. In truth his emotional intelligence may be higher than that of Secretary Clinton. Having high emotional intelligence doesn’t mean you are a nice person, it means you understand what motivates people.

I want to be clear that I am not endorsing Mr. Trump, neither did I find Secretary Clinton a truly compelling candidate. If I was managing the search neither of these candidates would have made it through the screen.

So where do we go from here?

I personally think that our political institutions are going to keep doing what they have been doing for the last decade- chasing their own asses about their own agendas. In other words, don’t look there for meaningful leadership.

I personally would like to see leadership emerge from the private sector. We need to redefine our leadership models and our leadership expectations

My friend and colleague Geoff Hudson Searle in his upcoming book, Meaningful Conversations, differentiates between technical intelligence; the ability to demonstrate competency at disciplines ranging from financial management to science and technology; and emotional intelligence, the ability to inspire trust and commitment by understanding the motivations and behaviors of others.

Unfortunately, most of our “leadership” development pipeline is based on the former rather than the latter. In fact, as I have shared before many candidates seeking “leadership” roles do so in order to continue to see career progression and increased earning potential. They are not drawn to leading people particularly at all.

Much of our leadership development and management modeling are based on Covey’s first two levels of trust, statutory based on power and position, and knowledge based with a foundation based in competency or what Geoff refers to as technical intelligence. The research shows competency is indeed a foundational element, but not enough to create or sustain alignment or engagement.

Emotional Intelligence, the ability to identify different emotions, to understand their effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior, is critically important.

In fact, I recommend to my clients we do not hire or promote individuals into management unless they display a reasonable capability in this area.

The problem is two- fold.

First, it still isn’t necessarily well understood and applied; and second, it isn’t enough.

Justin Bariso, Founder of Insight, had a great post previously on the seven myths of emotional intelligence or EQ. He identified these –

1.            DENIAL- Emotional intelligence doesn't exist.

2.            Emotional intelligence is just common sense.

3.            You can control your feelings.

4.            More emotional people are naturally more emotionally intelligent

5.            Sharpening your EQ is easy

6.            Once you've got it, you've got it

7.            Those with high emotional intelligence always make the best leaders

As somebody who has spent over three decades as a C level executive, HR executive, and consultant I have heard these and more.

 

Emotional intelligence is indeed real. If it was common sense, we wouldn’t see better than 60% of the working population not engaged or actively disengaged costing our economy billions annually!

We would all like to think we can control our emotions, in fact that is what distinguishes us from the “lower” species, but the lizard brain is alive and well. Research has shown that when our rational mind finds itself in conflict with our emotional/feeling mind the emotional mind wins 85% of the time!

Being emotional and emotionally intelligent are two different things and increasing your EQ is both hard and continuous.

People with high emotional intelligence and no conscience are called high functioning sociopaths!

The fact that you are clued into the emotions and motivations of people is no guarantee they will only use their power for good rather than evil, or that they are benevolent or nice. Just ask anybody that worked for Steve Jobs, or for me for that matter!

I mentioned earlier that I thought perhaps Candidate Trump possessed higher emotional intelligence than Candidate Clinton.

I want to be abundantly clear that I am not endorsing what I have seen thus far as his leadership skills or leadership model.

Another critical concept I would add to the mix is what the guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman calls Emotional Balance, the ability to keep disruptive emotions in check, to maintain effectiveness under stressful conditions.

His research indicates that this leadership competency is critical because emotions spread from group leaders to group members.

Research done at the Yale School of Management shows when the group leader is in an upbeat mood, people in the group catch that mood and the team does better. Similarly, a leader’s negative mood causes team members to become negative and their performance to plummet.

Does it matter if a boss blows up at an employee? You bet it does. Research shows that employees remember most vividly negative encounters they've had with a boss. They remember it much better than the positive encounters. After that encounter, they felt demoralized and didn't want anything more to do with that boss.

It is this particular dimension of leadership that has many concerned about President Elect Trump. His perceived volatility and downright nastiness when he feels threatened or thwarted.

Goleman calls this the crucial competence-

We did research with over 1,000 executives from around the world, CEOs, Board members, top leaders, about the characteristics of the best leaders. The number one response is the ability to stay calm and collected. In a crisis, being able to manage your own emotions and stay calm, be able to create this island of security and not spread your tension around.”

The last concept I want to suggest is from Andrea Thompson, a retired military officer and now Director of the McChrystal Group, a management consultancy.

I’ve been asked by soldiers around the world, What’s the one thing I should know to be a better leader?” My answer remains the same: Know who you are, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Self-awareness will be that “extra something” that boosts you up the corporate ladder.

As we move up the ranks in our careers, our technical skills are usually the primary reason we get promoted. We closed the most deals or sold the most product. But as we develop as leaders, functional excellence is no longer the main component required to be high-performing and succeed as a senior leader.

Those leaders who soon recognize that their own behaviors and emotions have a domino effect on their team—and adapt accordingly—build stronger teams. Self-awareness is that “combat multiplier” that not only makes you a better leader, but those on your team better leaders, too.

Colonel Thompson spent almost 30 years as a serving officer on the United States Army including roles as the national security advisor to the House Committee on Homeland Security and executive officer and chief of staff to the Undersecretary of the Army so she has some street cred with me at least.

You could say that self-awareness is embedded in emotional intelligence or emotional balance, but I don’t think so.

I have seen leaders who are highly balanced and emotionally intelligent that just flat can’t see themselves in the mirror or worse can only be comfortable selecting and promoting people who are their mirror!

When we look at the issues Secretary Clinton faced throughout her candidacy you wonder if this is a personal weakness for her? Her inability to win and sustain a trust based relationship with a large part of the electorate?

So for me when I look at developing my leadership pipeline technical intelligence or competency is the base threshold for entry into management, as people develop into leadership roles and especially C level roles I want to see them move through the gates of emotional intelligence or EQ, self- awareness, and emotional balance.

The truth is we don’t really get the opportunity to “screen” candidates for elective office for these competencies. The “selection committee” is the electorate.

We can however build them into our models in the private sector which is why I would like to return to my premise that social leadership needs to emerge from the private sector as our Founding Father’s intended before the advent of professional politicians.

Most of these things can be to a large extent taught so no gender of ethnic group has the market cornered.

You can say that these represent high hurdles, but I leave you with this thought –

Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.

Donald Walter

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