The Road map
My colleague Brad Federman shared the following thought the other day-
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.
We hear a lot these days as to whether or not we should follow our passion, our purpose, or just the money.
For me after a lot of sleepless nights and mistakes along the way I have decided to accept purpose as my person lighthouse. I like the lighthouse metaphor because unlike GPS or a map it doesn’t show you the route, it just illustrates where the rocks are in your path.
I have a passion for the concept of employment brand which in my definition is how your culture translates into reality for your customers and employees.
Wells Fargo pretty much screwed the pooch the last few weeks with their brand. A group of employees stole a bunch of money from customers.
Management says it was a few bad apples. Former employees say it was and is an aggressive sales culture where you live and die by the numbers.
It makes me very nervous. This was the foundation of the Recession. I was in banking at the time. When you incentivize a bunch of people to write loans without meaningful consideration for whether or not they can ever be paid back you build a house of cards.
The CEO of Wells Fargo apologized. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said that isn’t enough. No senior manager was fired. No executive to date has been required to pay back the bonuses they were paid on those “earnings”, including that CEO. Their brand sucks.
Your organizations employment brand is the perception by current and future employees of what working in your organization is like.
Some organizations enjoy a very strong employment brand. I would include Google, Starbucks, Accenture, and Zappo’s in this arena. People have a pretty clear perspective about what these organizations value and the profile they seek.
In addition to an employment brand you have a leadership brand. I think Wells Fargo’s leadership brand sucks even more than their employment brand.
Leadership branding includes some concepts that Malcom Gladwell and Stephen MR Covey have discussed and I find intriguing.
In Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath, he discusses at some length the concept of legitimacy – which he defines like this:
• 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.
Legitimacy is a concept you don’t hear much about in organizations or B schools, but then I especially like to tweak it a bit further by adding a discussion of Covey’s three levels of trust.
In his hierarchy the first level of trust is deterrence, trust that comes from authority or position. This was a broadly accepted concept for hundreds of years provided first to rulers or religious leaders and embedded in Calvinism that God only allowed “good” people to create wealth and prosper so they were endowed with that trust.
The next level of trust Covey calls competency based. In many cases there is an assumption that anyone who achieves a management role has that competence, but we all know better. In most cases their competency is limited to technical proficiency; their emotional intelligence capacity and social intelligence are rarely considered.
I have encountered literally hundreds of recent MBA graduates who are supremely confident in their ability to lead based on their shiny new diploma demonstrating “mastery” of the concepts. You can have mastery without practice.
I just finished reading The Toyota Kata, which talks about among other things why almost no other organizations than Toyota have ever mastered their model and achieved the productivity increases they enjoy.
Most organization employ the steps, but don’t understand the underlying philosophy that is deeply embedded in the culture. It is systemic, not just systematic.
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.
I personally believe that to a large extent leadership as opposed to management is founded in legitimacy. Leadership is entirely relational versus hierarchical, it has to be earned rather than bestowed with a title or position.
I recently started working with a recently retired member of an elite military unit about his transition. We are exploring 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.
Sounds like identity based trust and legitimacy.
It also sounds like the foundation of employee engagement. In addition to trust and legitimacy, personal competency is expected and reinforced.
It starts in the selection process. If you don’t buy into the values and you aren’t congruent you don’t get in the boat.
You read studies every day how attracting and retaining talent is a critical priority for both human resources and C level executives. I don’t thing automated applicant management systems and better compliance is going to build an organization like Brad described.
Don’t chase people. Be an example. Attract them.
That is simple, but not easy. It requires a different leadership model and organizational paradigm, but all you have to do is look at the statistics between engaged and unengaged and the “Return on Investment” is pretty clear.
I don’t know about you, but I think I am going to heed Brad’s advice and maybe keep trying to share it with others…….