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engagement

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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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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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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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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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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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Trust, Leadership, and the Election

I think lot of folks I am over this election cycle. I have not participated in an election in my adult life where things were so polarized and nasty and from seat a lot of the issues people have with both major candidates is the issue that many employees have with their boss- an absence of trust.
As a recovering human resources and operating executive I candidly see this as the prevailing reason we are high centered on where we sit on the number of employees that see themselves as highly engaged in their relationship with their current employer.
They don’t believe that the organizational values that the organization talks about are the ones they practice or that they are personally aligned with those values.
We have seen a lot of cacophony about things like livable wages and access to health care that depending upon your vantage point you see progress or a creep towards socialism.
I hear from a lot of folks complaining that they have employee populations who are focused on the next fifty cents or dollar per hour rather than the “big picture” and what the organization is trying to achieve or the cost of an imposed wage standard on business expenses.
They are missing the point on two levels-
• 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. We saw an epic drama unfold on social media earlier this year with the young woman from Yelp writing an open letter to the CEO that she couldn’t survive in the Bay area on what she was making.
• Line of Sight, I tell my clients that line of sight may be the most important part of their compensation strategy. The importance 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.
A colleague of mine, Bruce Kasanoff, wrote a post a while back that really captured my attention and spoke to this issue. He argued that the old adage of “teach people to fish, don’t give them a fish” doesn’t really work when people are hungry and scared and I think he is right.
Ron Willingham, author of Integrity Selling, as well as several other excellent books on sales and customer service explores this same theme in his Congruency model. He talks about how people typically operate on three levels; the intellectual, the emotional, and the visceral level. He points out that studies show when your emotions or visceral self is in conflict with your intellect logic loses the vast majority of the time.
Everything I have learned about compensation validates this as well. Once people feel essentially economically secure about their fundamental living expenses compensation is not a motivator for most people. What is very important is a sense of fairness and rationality. How does my employer make decisions about pay?
That is the fundamental issue that many women and other protected classes have with the pay gap between themselves and white males. In many cases it isn’t about survival, but rather equity.
The other issue I see mirrored daily in our society is our struggle with trust.
Stephen MR Covey in his brilliant book, The Speed of Trust, describes trust as operating at three levels; Deterrence or rule based, Knowledge or competency based, and finally and most importantly Identity- based.
I advise clients and colleagues that if you are only going to read one book on leadership read that one!
Our societal models are based on outdated thinking. Institutions have long wrapped themselves up in the virtual robes of being entitled to trust based on position. Monarchies were validated by the churches, who validated themselves as speaking with divine authority.
Frederick W. Taylor and his scientific management theory gave validation to the knowledge and competency leadership hierarchy. He argued most people were dumb, lazy, and fundamentally untrustworthy! They needed to be aggressively managed by white collar leaders.
You will look a long time to find competencies like emotional or social intelligence in Taylor’s model. The sad thing is that while we give lip service to soft skills if you look at most MBA curriculums they are still very knowledge or technically biased and many graduates feel entitled to a leadership role based exclusively on their academics.
As those of you who are familiar with me and my work know I am deeply committed to a few key concepts. Among them I include building your organization on a foundation of commitment rather than compliance and the concept of personal competency. This is validating and accepting that identity based trust is the real foundation of engaged employees.
There are a lot of other things that inherently embedded in those ideas, but they really represent the foundational pieces.
In the first is the idea that when people come together with a shared set of values and clarity about our purpose proactively and willingly the amount of energy they will bring to that effort increases exponentially.
The second is the idea that people are whole. They perform best when we give them both an opportunity and an expectation of being present.
You can’t create identity based trust without social and emotional intelligence, period!
Social gravity is the emerging concept of describing your value proposition in such a clear way and operating with such consistency that your stakeholders including customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, and communities are drawn to you. There is a community of interests that is clear and compelling.
Social gravity doesn’t look the same in every organization. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution we have really developed an infatuation with best practices to the point we want to use them almost like recipes.
When I see surveys that conclude that most leadership failures occur because of organizational fit, interpersonal dynamics and related human factors I have to say I find the perplexity of failure of technology to guarantee sustained success ironically amusing. 
The answer is right there. It isn’t about processes it is about relationships. Processes can facilitate communications and tasks, but they can’t create relationships. That is a uniquely human dimension.
The two major candidates in this election are both caught up in the old model.
HRC is saying “trust me” I am really smart and well qualified. DJT is saying no trust me, I am a highly successful business man who is going to punish the establishment and take back what all those immigrants have taken from you. To an extent he especially is also playing the emotional and visceral card, fear and ignorance. She in turn points out his character flaws.
Both of them want us to base our decision on the first two levels of trust, legitimacy and competency. 
For me the issue is one of identity based trust, do I find either to have the personal and professional integrity to be my President?
In this day an age of consumerism and social media the accountability to earn and sustain trust rests with leadership 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.
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 reinforcable.
Emotional and social intelligence like identity based trust are foundational to cohesive and sustained organizational performance and high functioning cultures. It is time to buckle down and do the work…..

 

 

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Leadership Comes With Responsibility

Thinking and Speaking

Words are like weapons; they can hurt you sometimes

Cher

My colleague Marty Lucas from ROCeteer published something recently that really struck me profoundly in light of a lot of events going on in our world right now.

His post – Opinion without the responsibility is an act of ignorance struck a chord with me. I started to ask the question of whether opinion without the responsibility is even more than just ignorance, maybe it is a disservice against society?

I have had a number of roles so far in my life where my opinion had the opportunity to have profound impact in either a positive or negative way.

I spent a number of years as a human resources practitioner and executive. I hold HR people to a very high standard. I have more than once referred to them as the conscience of the organization. The reason I do that is that one of the unfortunate decisions that gets made in organizations is who stays and who goes. Who gets hired and in the event of a “violation” or downsizing who leaves the organization on an involuntary basis?

Although decision is not made (or shouldn’t be made in a vacuum) management and leadership often looks to the human resources department to determine both whether or not the decision is correct or within the law, and more importantly is it right. To me the second part is more important than the first.

Rightness involves not just policy, precedent, and law, but the concept of fairness and application that is objective relative to things like a person’s age, gender, sexual orientation and a bunch of other factors.

I advise my clients to only hire managers and leaders who possess emotional intelligence and social intelligence as well as the typical IQ. I recommend they double down on this with their HR team. We don’t hire human capital, we hire and manage whole people. Leaders without empathy have no place in my organization no matter how smart.

I have evolved from my role as an HR practitioner and even a C level executive to practice giving my advice to clients as a management consultant and executive coach. In this role they are literally paying me for my opinion and I take that responsibility. I have tried to build two primary gates into any advice or opinion I give clients-

·         Do no harm. If my opinion or intervention has no potential positive outcome I simply withhold it.

·         Is it in this client’s best interest?  I am not a big fan of templates. There are some core ideas, beliefs and values that are embedded in the work I do, but I try to work with clients that share them rather than try to impose them on an organization. I also strive to create a unique solution for each client that works for them, not necessarily for me.

The last and perhaps most important role where I give my opinions is in my role as parent and mentor. I have participated in the development of two adult children and mentored a number of other people and have had to realize that my opinion matters a lot to these people. While it would never be my intent to impose my opinions on either group I undoubtedly help shape their opinions.

A number of years ago I ran for public office. It was twelve years ago and some social issues were more contested than what we see today.

A litmus test for candidates aspiring to the office I sought was their position on same sex marriage. My advisors suggested I follow the lead of the other candidates and not comment, but I was too stubborn to take their advice.

I told the interviewer that although I didn’t think my position on that issue was relevant to my candidacy I would answer it.

I told them as a former HR practitioner who wrote and enforced policies that prohibited discrimination about a whole number of things I couldn’t see my way clear to discriminating against someone because of who they love.

I also told them that I wasn’t smart enough to tell my children that same sex partners weren’t entitled to share their lives in the same way others are and that it wasn’t my right to say they care for their loved ones any less. I am not that smart.

As we know the Federal legislation that was passed demonstrates that the world hasn’t ended or other dire consequences we were concerned about haven’t emerged yet either.

I am not trying to impose my opinion on anyone else or suggest I am right and they are wrong if we choose to disagree, it is simply my opinion and I take responsibility for it.

A young woman I respect a great deal and I were chatting about the controversy surrounding one of our Presidential candidates and comments that were made and how members of their own party are distancing themselves and the passion and intensity of her response caught me off guard and frankly embarrassed me.

She essentially said “fuck them”. Her point that was when that candidate attacked people because of their ethnicity, beliefs, or sexuality the “party” looked the other way. The line wasn’t crossed until those comments could be perceived as repugnant to their daughters and wives.

It kind of reminded me of the famous quote attributed to the minister in Nazi Germany who pointed out that as “special” groups were systematically targeted no one said anything because they weren’t affected. And then no one was left to speak for us….

I want to be clear I am not condoning the behavior of one candidate over another or encouraging anyone else to do so.

I am just looking at the context of my friend Marty’s assertion that opinion without the responsibility is an act of ignorance applying it as my personal litmus test for leadership, both my own and those I support.

If you aspire to leadership, public or private you are responsible for your opinions, it comes with the territory. It has also been said that organizations, and I expand this to countries, get the leadership we deserve. Maybe this should be our wake up call…..

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What Trumpet Do You Hear?

The Pillars of Effective Leadership

Leadership is one of those interesting topics that everybody, me included, writes and talks and preaches about.

Whether great leaders are born or taught, whether women are inherently better leaders than men, and whether or not there is a meaningful difference between leadership and management.

My answers to those questions are yes, not necessarily, and yes.

On a more serious note I had a chance to read some excellent contributions from four different people that I greatly respect that kind of distilled leadership into some key elements for me so I thought I would figuratively take pen to paper and share my take away’s.

My first contributor is my friend and colleague Geoff Hudson Searle who in his upcoming book, Meaningful Conversations, He 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 today 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 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!

That is why Simon Sinek tells that creating a safe environment is the leaders number one role.

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!

That is a great intro to the next pillar, 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.

Is there anybody out there that has not experienced this phenomenon?

Steve Jobs and others are famous for being brilliant, but also for having these kinds of outbursts. In my own experience this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome shows up in a bunch of ways, none of them positive including-

·         High turnover, great talent won’t put up with it.

·         Difficulty recruiting. Your “brand” gets out and people don’t want to work with you.

·         Active or passive disengagement. Some quit and stay, others actually actively try to sabotage the organization.

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.”

Once again feeling like you don’t know whether Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde is going to show up from day to day doesn’t contribute to Sinek’s circle of safety or Lencioni’s organizational health.

The last pillar I want to cover 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!

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.

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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A New Roadmap

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…….

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Finding Your Purpose

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Finding Your Purpose

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words and I think the one shared above (thanks to Kathleen Schaefer and A.W. Tozer) may be worth millions, at least to me.
I spend a good deal of my consulting practice, and indeed my career, in coaching people and organizations towards what we call employee engagement. I know that engagement has its detractors, but I think that the data on organizations that are aligned relative to values, purpose, and goals makes a pretty compelling case for why it works.
In my experience where engagement has failed it is a function of definition and implementation. In my experience effective engagement is about culture and alignment. It isn’t a survey, a program, or a brochure. You have to do the work.
One of my favorite thought leaders, Simon Sinek, talks about starting with why on an organizational level is one the critical steps to achieving true leadership.
Patrick Lencioni captures much of the same conceptual framework in his book, The Advantage. When I look at his model I see a lot of time being spent on finding the why first as a leadership team and then building that into the fabric of your culture.
Culture, like engagement is one of those concepts that makes a lot of executives roll their eyes. I think that is because they either don’t understand it or they are too lazy to do the work.
I personally agree with Chatman and Cha-
“One thing is guaranteed: a culture will form in an organization, a department, and a work group. The question is whether the culture helps or hinders the organization’s ability to execute its strategic objectives.”
When it is done properly, like the way Angela Duckworth describes it in her bestselling book, Grit, the power of passion and perseverance, you get this-
“…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!”
I read an article recently that said that the worst advice that we can give our children and the emerging generations is to follow their passion. While I am not sure I entirely agree with that statement, I do believe that maybe figuring out your purpose is a better roadmap.
A recent conversation with a colleague about some concepts I wrote about years ago have some application here.
When the Founding Fathers wrote the original constitution, there were two primary ideas that formed the core of our new union. The first was the idea of personal property; the idea you have the right to acquire property and pass it along to your heirs. This is the heart of the capitalist system. 
The second principle that we hear much less about is the principle of personal competency. This is the idea that each of us has the right and the responsibility to craft our own future, to be what we want, and to reinvent ourselves without regard to our heritage or beginnings. 
When industrialism began to emerge we saw the personal competency principle begin to erode. We ran out of new territories to colonize and pioneer. The industrial age required labor to staff its factories and production. We offered security in return for compliance. 
Give up your personal competency and we will provide security in the form of employment, retirement, and health care benefits. I’m not going to say the great industrialists did this willingly or altruistically, but we can agree that by the 1950s, it was commonplace for employers to provide “fringe benefits” including paid time off, pensions, and employer-paid health care as part of the inducement to recruit and retain the labor we required. That was the “social contact” under which our parents and grandparents were employed. Then we broke the contract.
Maybe I am reaching, but what the Founding Fathers described sounds a lot like purpose to me.
So how do we build this into the current reality?
My roadmap would say that we begin by embracing Sinek’s premise that as organizations we start with Why? What is our organizational purpose?
Next engage your employees. Engaged employees see themselves as being in partnership with you. They care about your organization, your customers and your goals. They are committed not compliant.  One of the “ancillary” benefits of engagement and partnering is that employers with high engagement scores outperform their competitors in key metrics like productivity, profitability, and retention. They do things with people not to people. Engagement is consistently underrated by most organizations.  It requires trust, respect, responsibility, information, rewards, and mutual loyalty.
To assure that you will have engagement build congruency into your hiring processes.
There are multiple levels of congruency; 
• My view of the activity, 
• My view of my ability to do the activity, 
• My willingness to do the work to be proficient, 
• My belief in the product or service we offer, 
• Whether or not the activity is aligned with my personal values.
I would submit that if you hire people who are congruent with your organization on all five of these levels chances are you are also aligned at the purpose level. They get and share the why!
Hire and train good supervisors. I have been a human resource professional for thirty years; here’s an unavoidable truth: people join companies and leave managers. Poor supervisors and managers cost businesses millions of dollars every year in turnover and lost productivity. Make sure that when you hire or promote someone, they have the right skill set. This doesn’t have to be horribly expensive. You can hire these skills or in many cases there is excellent supervisory training available through your local Chamber of Commerce or community college. Executive coaching is great, but most of your employees don’t work for an “executive”. Poor frontline supervision is relatively cheap to fix.
Purpose plays a role here as well. 
Studies done by Development Dimensions International and the Workplace Institute respectively indicated that 60% of supervisory/leadership respondents indicated they pursued leadership roles for primarily economic motivations and that fifty percent of middle managers surveyed rejected responsibility for context, alignment, and attending to morale issues as being core competencies or responsibilities of their role!
See my comments on congruency!
There are workplaces out there were individual and organizational values and purpose are aligned. You can recognize them because they are kicking their competitor’s ass on every key performance indicator you choose to measure!
The nice thing about this model is that it is collaborative. Employees have a role just as important and accountable as the other stakeholders. There is no free ride just a model based on shared respect, clarity, and mutual accountability.
So as leaders let’s ask ourselves two key questions?
•    What’s our purpose?
•    What’s my purpose?
If we can’t answer them, we have work to do…….

 

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Why Engagement and Culture Are Failing!

After almost four decades as a human resources professional, c level executive, and management consultant I remain convinced that changing the way we attract, retain, and align people remains the most significant competitive advantage we have available to us, and we continue to squander that opportunity.

Employee Engagement isn’t a new concept anymore and although there are many detractors that say it is merely another “program” there is a lot of evidence to the contrary that suggest the problem isn’t the concept, it is about execution.

The percentage of engaged or highly engaged employees has pegged at about 30% with the number of actively engaged employees actually creeping up from 17% a few years back to over 20%. The costs of that lack of engagement are in the billions annually.

In my experience engagement must be approached as a culture rather than a program and there are some very bright people out there who agree with me.

One of those people is Josh Bersin, principal and CEO of Bersin by Deloitte who shared his research from 6000 companies and over 2 million employees that concluded that the most important element in high performing employment brands is culture and values, followed by career opportunities and confidence and leadership.

Their research concluded that in terms of a positive employment brand these factors were 4.9, 4.5, and 4 times more important than compensation and benefits. Interestingly the “work-life” balance we hear about so much was rated as less than half as important.

Millennials rate career opportunities in the first position, but other than that their responses are the same as preceding generations.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of employment brand, your employment brand is how both current and potential employees perceive you as a career choice. Organizations with strong employment brand have a huge competitive advantage in the war for talent because people seek them out.  Think organizations like Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and Zappo’s.

So how do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot? Well some recent data from the Workplace Institute gives us a clue, (thanks to Michael Stewart of WorkEffects for sharing).

They conducted a survey of a little over 1800 people broken down as a third human resources professionals, a third line managers and a third employees on who “owns” culture and to me the results were a little scary.

·         Over 30% of the HR respondents felt the HR leadership is responsible, however 90% of managers and 97% of employees surveyed disagreed.

·         26% of managers surveyed felt that it is the executive team, but 89% of HR professionals and 91% of employees disagreed with that assumption.

·         29% of employees surveyed say employees drive culture (and 40% of Millennial’s) with 91% of HR practitioners and 87% of line managers disagreeing.

It gets better, there was no overlap between what employees and either managers or HR considered the three most important drivers of culture either!

The three groups also disagreed on what either kills or impedes culture as well with employees citing employees felt that “not having enough staff to support goals,” “unhappy/disengaged workers who poison the well,” and “poor employee/manager relationships” were the major obstacles to maintaining a positive workplace culture.

So what does this tell us?

As Dustin McKissen pointed out Fred Taylor’s adage of telling employees what they need is still alive and well!

Here are a couple of other problems-

A multi-year study by international consulting firm Development Dimensions International yielded some interesting information (at least to me)-

• The highest quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform the competition

• Only 38% of those surveyed (12,000 line executives and 1900 HR executives) rated their leadership of leadership development as high or very high.

• 60% of those who applied for leadership roles indicated their primary motivation was economic- they wanted to make more money!

Our leadership models are based on compliance, not commitment or engagement!

Here are some other issues-

·         If you ask most HR executives what the most important contribution they make to the organization they support 7 out of 10 will tell you compliance with state and Federal regulations. That doesn’t sound like culture!

·         The art and science of recruiting has been dumbed down. I happen to believe that highly effective recruiters whether they are on your staff or hired specialists have enormous value in helping you identify the attributes and skills of top performers in both current employees and applicants. The new systems in many cases believe, I have an app for that! We just load a formula into the computer and it does that pesky work of screening. Therefore, the role of recruiting can be delegated to more junior people who manage the process.

·         Recruitment and selection has become much more impersonal. I have a client who is seriously walking away from an organization she feels could be a great fit and who has demonstrated an interest in her because a glitch in their system continues to demand she complete a supplemental questionnaire she has already completed…twice. You can’t pick up a publication without reading about an applicant’s experience with a hiring organization where they applied, were interviewed or both and never heard from the organization again. Current applicants are often potential future hires, customers, or know a great hire, but we turn them off.

As you might suspect this isn’t good for your employment brand!

As to the fact that employees are the only group that identified unhappy/disengaged employees and less than competent management as being major impediments to creating or sustaining culture as a change agent I don’t know whether to weep or cheer!

Employees get it, why don’t we?

So what do I propose?

• Be proactive in developing, implementing, and reinforcing your culture.

• Recognize that the foundation of your organization and success are based on understanding and embracing the three levels of trust, not just deterrence and competency.

• Ensure that you understand the implications of congruency and you either build it in or retrofit your organizational models to embrace it and reinforce it.

• Only hire and promote leadership candidates with both the appropriate attributes and the right skills.

I also see a clear meaningful role for the Human Resources function and I can assure you it isn’t owning culture!

When I look at the opportunity costs represented by more effective recruitment and retention, re-designing health care to include health management and address issues like social literacy and individual responsibility and the creating of meaningful employee engagement strategies on our society I have to admit I am puzzled about why more organizations don’t “get it”.

I understand that it is hard work. I understand that in some cases the ability and necessity to do things like create trust based relationships, establish clear performance expectations, provide meaningful feedback, and take appropriate corrective actions necessary to align performance with organizational goals is still in many organizations considered a soft skill, but the data is becoming more and more available and compelling.

I don’t believe that becoming certified as a HR professional, or gaining your black belt, or Six Sigma will necessarily make you a better leader or manager.

I believe the role fits into three distinct buckets.

•     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. We need to be technically proficient, not only in our craft, but to understand the businesses and organizations we serve.

•     Project Management- 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.

•     Facilitation - 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.

Some of the more recent studies on employee engagement criticize many organizations approach because they look at employees as a passive participant rather than an active stakeholder.

The good news is that employees are telling us in growing numbers (especially the group that makes up 25% of the workforce) that they see themselves as participants in defining organizational culture which is the foundation for engagement.

We have everything to gain here with nothing to lose except an artificial sense of control that we don’t have in the real world.

Let’s fix this!

 

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The Criticality of Culture

One thing is guaranteed: a culture will form in an organization, a department, and a work group. The question is whether the culture helps or hinders the organization’s ability to execute its strategic objectives.”

Chatman and Cha

Like the social scientist I quote above there is no question in my mind that the development of a culture is inevitable and it is the task of those who aspire to lead and shape organizations to cultivate their culture deliberately rather than just letting it happen.

I think we see evidence of this in both a positive and negative example every day.

At perhaps it most negative we have this great quote from Dustin McKissen, founder and CEO of McKissen and company, in his article The Rotten Core of Every MBA Program,

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.

Taylor wasn’t a big fan of culture. He believed that people were “hard coded” and that the average employee isn’t very bright or motivated and that the role of leadership is to bludgeon them into compliance. A lot of “leaders” still have that belief today.

On the enlightenment side we have the recent article from Josh Bersin, principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, who shared his research from 6000 companies and over 2 million employees that concluded that the most important element in high performing employment brands is culture and values, followed by career opportunities and confidence and leadership.

Their research concluded that in terms of a positive employment brand these factors were 4.9, 4.5, and 4 times more important than compensation and benefits. Interestingly the “work-life” balance we hear about so much was rated as less than half as important.

Millennials rate career opportunities in the first position, but other than that their responses are the same as preceding generations.

I think recognition of the importance of culture as a driver is especially important when we read that critical influencers like Marshall Goldsmith recently posted about how and why employee engagement isn’t working.

Based on what he shares and my own experience a big reason that most initiatives are failing is because organizations are approaching it as a program rather than a culture change and treating employees as targets rather than stakeholders.

Courtesy of a colleague (thank you J. Ingrid Kessler), I just had the opportunity to read one of the best books I have experienced in quite a while, Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth.

Duckworth believes that grit on an individual level is built on four pillars, Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope. Her writing on those areas is fascinating at it evaluates tenacity and effort as opposed to more traditional factors like IQ and natural ability, but the really exciting part for me is when she makes the connection to culture-

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!

She shares a discussion with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Morgan Chase and building and sustaining culture as to how he selects senior leaders for his organization that are worth borrowing-

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?

She also shares an evaluation process for your core values to see if they emerge beyond banality-

·         Does this help me develop and reinforce the culture I want to sustain?

 I have long been a believer that HR Human Resources) practitioners most important work should focus on helping management and leadership with what I see as the three key elements of healthy, functioning relationships-

Clarity- what is the mission or value proposition of the organization. Why does it exist?

Context- how does the role of the individual employee fit into the larger mission and how do they know they are performing appropriately.

Alignment- creating systems so that line of sight is both very clear and reinforced by other organizational systems. I believe a big part of the role of “new” HR is to train and reinforce those elements as being essential to everyone in management not just leadership and human resources.

Is it just wishful thinking or do my elements have some continuity with Duckworth’s pillars of interest, purpose and hope?

I also think when we are talking about cohesive culture we are building what Lencioni describes as organizational health.

His first three critical behaviors are building trust, mastering conflict, and achieving commitment.

That sounds a lot like culture to me.

So I guess I agree and disagree with Goldsmith that engagement has failed. I don’t think it has failed at all. We just aren’t doing it right!

I don’t think 2 million employees are wrong. They are telling us how to create an environment that is compelling to them we just need to listen.

So if you are not enjoying the organizational productivity and performance you want start with an examination of what Duckworth and others would call culture and what Lencioni calls organizational health.

You can’t build a tower on a faulty foundation……

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In Search of Leadership

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In Search of Leadership

People that know me know that:

·         I am passionately committed to helping organizations create new models of working together.

·         That I have spent the last three plus decades reading the models of others as well as synthesizing and testing my own models to do things better.

Today I experienced an interesting juxtaposition of a couple of things that spoke to me.

The first is this quote from Aurelius Augustinus, who most of us know better as Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo and perhaps one of the most profound influences on the Catholic Church.

The concepts of employee engagement and employment branding are getting a certain amount of press these days with both supporters and detractors. I am firmly in the supporter camp based on both my research and my personal experience.

Much of the discussion around engagement is who owns it and how does the care and feeding of an engaged environment take place. I find that Augustine’s direction from 1700 years ago was pretty accurate then and now.

More recently I had occasion to read Ken Matejka’ s Why This Horse Won’t Drink, and I discovered an “updated” version of what Augustine was expressing-

Commitment is the act of being physically, psychologically, and emotionally impelled. It means that employees gladly give up other options.”

When I am conducting leadership sessions with senior executives I often pose the question to then “Can you imagine a time in your organization where employees arrive every day physically, psychologically, and emotionally impelled to fulfill the goals and objectives of the organization?”

Most of them are honest enough to admit that would be a stretch, but they then wistfully remark how that would be pretty awesome.

In my mind an engaged environment is when that occurs. It is about alignment, clarity, and trust; not about morale, happiness, or cool perks.

The problem is we are doing it wrong.

A multi-year study by international consulting firm Development Dimensions International yielded some interesting information (at least to me)-

·         The highest quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform the competition

·         Only 38% of those surveyed (12,000 line executives and 1900 HR executives) rated their leadership or leadership development capability as high or very high.

·         60% of those who applied for leadership roles indicated their primary motivation was economic- they wanted to make more money!

Our leadership models are based on compliance, not commitment or engagement!

Dustin McKissen, founder and CEO of McKissen and Company, talks about this in his recent blog post in Inc Magazine, http://on.inc.com/29U7O4r, 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.

 While there are people who say that Taylor isn’t relevant anymore when I hear academicians and business leaders refer to people as human capital I am not sure I am buying it.

When I watched what happened during the recession where many organizations retreated into their old behavior and told employees, don’t complain about your compensation, you are lucky to be employed, and downsizing once again became the primary management strategy to improve productivity I still feel Fred’s presence.

It is amusing to hear those same executives now complaining that they can’t recruit and retain the talent they need to run their business- go figure…

When 60% of the applicant pool for leadership roles cite more money as why they want to be leaders I am pretty sure creating an environment where people are impelled is not top of mind.

So what do we do?

My recommendation is we build a new model with the following elements:

·         Be proactive in developing, implementing, and reinforcing your culture.

·         Recognize that the foundation of your organization and success are based on understanding and embracing the three levels of trust, not just deterrence and competency.

·         Ensure that you understand the implications of congruency and you either build it in or retrofit your organizational models to embrace it and reinforce it.

·         Only hire and promote leadership candidates with both the appropriate attributes and the right skills.

As I have written at length on these areas previously I will save you from my rambling today. If the subject interests you check out my website at www.newparadigmsllc.com.

We are leaving billions on the cutting room floor every year, by hanging on to the old models.

We need change and if not now when and if not us than whom?

 

 

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Managing Whole People- Revisted

I remember being trained as a manager all those years ago and reflecting that much of what was provided as leadership were things we do to people rather than with people.

I explored this at some length in my first book, Managing Whole People, and since then it seems like our awareness if not our practices have changed as we have begun to recognize the billions in opportunity costs we are spending every year as the number of disengaged continues to grow.

In the almost eight years since I published my book the data continues to roll in and awareness seems to be growing. That gives me continued optimism, as does the unwillingness of the next generations to settle for compliance like many of my colleagues and I did.

It has been conversations with brilliant colleagues like Marty Lucas at 2020Thinkology and the Roceteers that continue to get me excited that there are others out there who share my vision of a different model, and it is way better and more exciting!

I have long believed that one of the fundamental problems we have in our society is our reluctance to embrace and implement the concept of working with and managing whole people. 

As I have mentioned on multiple prior occasions I think the Industrial Revolution did a lot of harm to the notion of whole people and Frederick W. Taylor and his theory of scientific management and the creation of the concept of white collar and blue collar didn’t do anything to enhance the relationship.

When I was trained as a manager in the seventies the model was planning, controlling, budgeting, etc. Those are all things you do to people and things – not with them. That model never “fit” for me.

Technology has its place, but like scientific management too often it has been imposed rather than integrated as part of a broader systemic solution.

A number of events have transpired over the intervening years  that causes me to revisit this topic again. One was a lively discussion I had with two colleagues about an upcoming round-table we are going to do about why the current models aren’t working and the importance of esoteric concepts like culture, change, and other relationship type behaviors have on enterprises of all kinds.

We are experiencing what I would call a relationship crisis. In the United States things like employee engagement, trust in management, and job satisfaction are at all time lows. We also have huge issues with productivity, turnover, and the cost of managing and delivering health and health care. Health care is devouring a huge part of our GDP with most of the solutions I see being proposed still over- looking the relationship dimension, disappointingly I would include Obamacare in that observation.

The other events that I encountered were in the course of responding to some questions about the role of human resources in organizations and the importance of fit in hiring and selection.

The first question dealt with whether or not HR as a function should align themselves with management or employees in an enterprise. I indicated my response as neither, HR should focus on helping management and leadership with what I see as the three key elements of healthy, functioning relationships-

  • Clarity- what is the mission or value proposition of the organization. Why does it exist?
  • Context- how does the role of the individual employee fit into the larger mission and how do they know they are performing appropriately.
  • Alignment- creating systems so that line of sight is both very clear and reinforced by other organizational systems. I believe a big part of the role of “new” HR is to train and reinforce those elements as being essential to everyone in management not just leadership and human resources.

This approach requires some re-calibration and new skills. Alignment is about execution. Organizations don’t exist to “fulfill” individuals they exist to meet the expectations of their stakeholders; that is how I define effective execution. Everything else is secondary.

One colleague indicated that if we were to ask CEO’s they would tell us the primary value of human resources is compliance- I shared my belief that that is precisely why we have the engagement, productivity, and trust issues we are “enjoying”.

The other colleague took us to the proverbial woodshed over our obsession with fit. She even went so far as to indicate that focusing on fit was likely discriminatory and creating an environment of adverse impact. Fit in her mind is way too nebulous and subjective. Recruitment and selection is all about skills and tasks. When I indicated I had successfully hired for fit for years without ever having my methods or outcomes questioned relative to compliance or impact she indicated I represented an attorney’s wet dream- I simply had not  been sued yet. My reaction was a combination of being slightly annoyed by her condescension, but mostly amused.

I have in fact encountered the legal profession a number times ranging from government agencies to plaintiff’s attorneys. In addition, I have been retained as a plaintiff’s expert witness on best practices. To date my track record of prevailing without settling is in the high 90th percentile.

If your fit model leaves out people of color, ethnicity, differing sexual orientation, and all the other things that are discriminatory on their face you have a shitty profile and will likely struggle hiring the talent you need.

At the risk of generalizing I suspect that like my other colleague she has a compliance bias. When I commented that most new managers who fail (40% in their first 18 months), she indicated that she had never had to replace a candidate she placed.

That is a great track record. I rather suspect that somewhere on an intuitive level her process includes some consideration for fit.

Some months ago I had a chance to read an exceptionally good blog post from Thomas Stewart about the difference between brand and branding. He describes branding as the marketing, sales and other strategies we use to try to position ourselves in a certain way with our customers, communities, and shareholders. Brand on the other hand is how they see us. That is what I describe as alignment or true engagement.  I believe strongly that building that into the fabric of your organization is much better strategy than trying to bolt it on.

I think organizations like Starbucks, Zappo’s, Google, Virgin Airlines, and a few others have real definable brands. I also believe that fit is an important component of their hiring process and that their human resources professionals look beyond skills and attributes in their hiring and selection processes. I will go even further out on the limb and say that compliance is not their primary mandate or value proposition.

People aren’t assets per se.  Let's eliminate the concept of human capital from our vocabulary. Their efforts and contributions when they are aligned with the interests of the enterprise become powerful assets, but the ownership of that contribution always rests with them. I don’t think we can extract those efforts and contributions; we can only create an environment where they share them.

In his cult book Why This Horse Won’t Drink, Ken Matejka describes commitment as being when

“Employees feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally impelled. They voluntarily give up other options.”

Perhaps I don’t have a full appreciation for capital or technology, but I have yet to encounter a situation where I saw either become physically, psychologically, or emotionally impelled. Come to think of it I don’t think I ever saw a brand or an organization become impelled either- only people.

Contrast that definition to the current statistics showing less than 30% of employees defining themselves as engaged with the number at the other pole disengagement being at 17% and rising costing the U.S. economy alone an estimated $200 billion annually.

I know the recession is theoretically over, but are we really in the position of leaving $200 billion a year on the cutting room floor?

So I guess until I see a better model I will continue to try to work with whole people and to try to create environments and relationships where they feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally impelled toward the goals of the organization because as leaders we have provided them with clarity, context, and alignment and I can't tell you how excited I am to be in the company of others like Marty Lucas, Mark Rowland, Heather Wilde and others who are out there building lighthouses...

For me that defines effective execution, and that is what impels me. What do you find impelling….?

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