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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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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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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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We Are Doing It Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s fix this….

 

 

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Time to Update Your Brand!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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An Opportunity to Lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem is two- fold.

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

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

1.            DENIAL- Emotional intelligence doesn't exist.

2.            Emotional intelligence is just common sense.

3.            You can control your feelings.

4.            More emotional people are naturally more emotionally intelligent

5.            Sharpening your EQ is easy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goleman calls this the crucial competence-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Walter

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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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My Personal Litmus Test

Are You Providing Value?
I am a pretty big fan of James Altucher. If you haven’t read any of his stuff you might want to check him out on LinkedIn or Fortune Magazine or any of the other places that he publishes or his podcasts.
He is sometimes irreverent and always self- deprecating. He talks about his successes, but mostly about his failures.
He says things that a lot of people might find alarming like how owning “stuff” like houses and expensive cars is not advisable because ultimately it owns you.
His latest blog post, The Difference Between Making Millions and Failure I found especially interesting. He sums it up quite simply- add value.
You hear a lot these days how advising people to follow their passion, find their purpose, etc. is all bullshit. I don’t know that I agree with that in the entirety, but I think there is value in asking how what you do and how you do it is going to add value to others or the world in general.
My last blog post explored why I do what I do. I think most organizations, public and private do a pretty shitty job of bridging people, specifically employees, customers, and shareholder/stakeholders. We see them as inherently competing interests.
I have shared before that a significant survey on management and leadership concluded that the single biggest reason most people pursue leadership or management roles is because they want to make more money.
Not make the organization better or grow their people. That is not adding value.
I have occasion to come into contact with a number of not for profit organizations on a regular basis ranging from very large organizations like education and health care providers to local service providers with a much narrower focus.
I use the term not for profit as opposed to non- profit very deliberately. The point that I try to make with these organizations is that profit at its most basic is the amount of revenue that exceeds expenses and there is nothing fundamentally immoral or amoral about how that excess is distributed.
I find that the idea that an organization should goal for and achieve solvency on a regular basis doesn’t always make me very popular. The idea that the organization should be held accountable to have a clear and compelling reason that it exists and perform its services in an efficient manner is seen by many as an elitist or purely capitalistic viewpoint. I disagree.
I think my viewpoint is consistent with Altucher’ s proposition that the absence of that clear value proposition is a fail.
I am a social entrepreneur. I don’t think all profit is equal. I think profit that increases social equality and opportunity is better. The broader the stakeholder base you impact the more value you are creating.
Just so I am clear that I am not singling out not for profits I want to share that I find Seth Godin to be one of my favorite business authors. I don’t put him up on a pedestal or see everything that he writes as either brilliant or that I agree with, but he provided some simple points for would be entrepreneurs that I think have application for every organization-
• If you have never been paid for your product or service it is a hobby, not a business.
• If the only people who have ever utilized your product or service are friends and family it is a hobby, not a business.
I have encountered a number of not for profits who believe that their first and most compelling objective is to raise funds and invite donations to their cause.
On the other hand, I see organizations that do provide meaningful services and a clear and compelling value proposition who are severely criticized because they do things like a successful business-
• Create and execute a business strategy
• Create a strategy to attract and retain the talent necessary to drive the organization and pay that talent competitively.
Those NPO’s get Godin’s point, if nobody is buying your product, you failed the test.
On a simplistic level I have incorporated some of Altucher’ s advice into some of the things I teach.
A great example is feedback. I am a big fan of constructive feedback. People ask how they know their feedback is constructive and I use these guidelines-
•    Constructive feedback is based on observations and facts not reactions and speculation.
•    It focuses on performance not on a person.
•    It can be tied directly to the performance of the person or the team or both.
•    It is timely and specific.
•    Progress is both measurable and obtainable.
•    It is part of a process, not an event.
I believe that feedback that meets these criteria adds value, if it doesn’t meet these criteria it doesn’t and you should keep it to yourself.
I think this should be the litmus test for everyone we hire in our organizations. 
How will they add value and can they articulate that? Candidates that recite their resume and experience leave me bored. That is the minimum standard, the easy part.
I use a nautical analogy when I talk about the hiring and talent acquisition process for most of my clients. 
I tell them in terms of boats you are a canoe rather than a battleship. Every person on your boat needs to be a rower. The only other value add in a small boat like a canoe is being food, and I don’t think consuming people is good.
Our human resource models have been based for years on consumable/disposable employees. Frederik Taylor said people are stupid and lazy. Our employment models have been based on compliance and obedience for generations. We provided security in return for obedience.
And then we discovered outsourcing, downsizing, and automation.
I don’t let individuals off the hook either.
Businesses do not exist to provide jobs and security for their employees. That is hopefully one objective and part of their value proposition, but not that premise exclusively.
That is why I agree with those that say that employees are an equal shareholder (read responsible party) for employee engagement. They also need to add value.
So every day I come to work and ask myself if I am adding value to my clients and my community. That is my aspiration and I think I get it right the majority of days.
What would happen if everyone and every organization adopted that perspective? I wonder…….

 

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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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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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Dunbar's Number, Bad Process and Results

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Dunbar's Number, Bad Process and Results

Dunbar’s Number, Surveys and Engagement

Bad processes yield bad results.

I make that statement as I look at the shouts across the blogosphere that performance appraisal has failed, employee engagement is bullshit, and a number of other sweeping generalizations.

When I examine those things I come up with a pretty consistent conclusion; if your process is designed and executed poorly you are likely to yield poor results.

Let’s look at hiring and selection. It is generally a mess. Most organizations still rely heavily on the interview as their primary selection tool, even though results have said that unstructured interviews by themselves are basically a crap shoot.

Then we add technology to it through automated systems to sift applications and determine the most qualified candidates. That way we can dumb the process down and turn recruitment into an entry level role in HR, because the system does the work. That is typically an epic fail.

If your performance management system consists of an annual trip to the woodshed between manager and employee to communicate why you won’t be getting the raise you anticipated, it is an epic fail.

Employees representing every generation have been clear from the start of the Industrial Revolution that they desire clear performance expectations, appropriate and constructive feedback, and equitable compensation. And for the most part we still suck at it. That doesn't mean we should abandon it, it means we need to do it better!

Most compensation delivery and performance management systems are designed by HR people for HR people. We want to streamline and increase efficiency and consistency. Those are code words for routinizing it. Creating alignment (the appropriate goal of engagement) is not routine, it is personal. It takes work and commitment and it lives at the front line where employees live and work.

A recent Gallup study indicates that employees are much less engaged than senior management thinks they are as a rule. No surprise. How often do senior managers interact with line employees?

Dunbar’s number is the concept  that most of us mere mortals can’t maintain meaningful connected relationships with more than 150 people. As organizations get larger those relationships get strained.

We live in a fantasy world today where people have thousands of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. Do you really want to go out on a limb and say those are meaningful relationships? I can’t and I will admit to being in four figures for LinkedIn connections.

Stephen MR Covey tells us that the most important level of trust is identity based, which is based on shared values and experiences and the recent literature indicates every generation, especially the Millennials see this as a baseline element of healthy relationships with their employer.

That requires investment and personalization, you know that soft skill stuff.

Today I read a post that says doing surveys is dumb because good companies already know how their people feel about key issues and how aligned they are with their work and the company.

Really? So is the definition of a good company one that is led by one of those prodigies that can maintain those identity based relationships with hundreds of employees rather than those of us who can only maintain 150?

I will concede that if the only way you are creating and maintaining alignment is with an annual or semiannual survey you are likely falling short of your objective. It’s a tool not a solution.

If you are only having performance management and feedback conversations annually you are failing epically.

If your hiring process consists of hitting the panic button and pushing a bunch of people though an interview process without looking at the totality of the role and multiple tough points like congruency and fit you probably have both hiring and retention issues, not to mention shitty engagement.

I saw a great quote the other day that said if a plant isn’t growing properly you change its environment, not the plant. If your processes aren't working then refine them, don’t throw them out.

Get rid of language like human capital and hire whole people.

Don’t promote anyone into a management or leadership position that doesn’t have decent emotional and social intelligence skills and who has demonstrated competencies in things including: setting clear expectations, giving and receiving constructive feedback, taking corrective action, and coaching. I consider these a baseline.

If you have to retrofit your leadership team through training and/or reassignment, then bite the bullet and do it. Hold everyone accountable to walk the talk.

Remember that your leadership culture is defined by the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate from either management or employees!

It is okay to manage performance, communicate your compensation delivery strategy and align it to organizational goals and performance.

It is also okay to occasionally survey your employees and ask them how we are doing as an organization since you might not have an intimate, identity based relationship with all of them. If you do that listen to what they tell you and act on that feedback.

If you need the survey to identify your poorest performers and most disgruntled employees, you have severe weaknesses in your management infrastructure. Identify those and fix them.

The tough news is you have to all of this not just some of it because half assed solutions or incomplete systems don’t yield complete outcomes ever……

 

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Wrong Solution

Sigh, I Don’t Think He Got This One Right
I just read where the President has signed a bill proposing that all companies with more than 100 employees will be required as part of their equal employment opportunity filing to report compensation by gender, ethnicity, and other factors.
My concern is that while this may lead to “transparency” it will not necessarily lead to pay equity.
I am old enough to remember when affirmative action planning actually had teeth to it. The idea was to identify inequities in employment and address them. Not surprisingly white men tended to have much higher representation in the higher level ranks than women or people of color. I will take heat for saying this, but some of it was deliberate some of it was a function of unintended consequences of less than optimal practices.
Promotion to higher level positions in part is a function of experience and training and hiring and selection. Most of us have heard of the “halo effect”, this is our tendency to hire and promote people we are comfortable with, i.e. people like us. Although we have been aware of it for over fifty years I still see it happen frequently. Most organizations quite bluntly do a generally poor job of hiring across the board.
What we found with EEO reporting that in many cases women and minorities weren’t “qualified” for senior roles because they didn’t have the experience necessary to move up. That is where the Affirmative Action part comes in. Every level has “feeder” groups from which the next generation candidates come from. The idea is by changing the composition of the feeder group you can change the candidate pool. Although this playing the long game several organizations I worked with embraced it recognizing that the demographics of the workforce was changing and it was not just a legal requirement it is good business. These days we refer to it as encouraging diversity. While we are certainly in no position to declare victory I think that organizations who sincerely embrace this process see much better representation of the workforce.
I also call it good business. Succession planning at every level is a fundamental component of good business planning. Scrambling to find talent when someone dies, retires or quits is a sucker bet. High performing organizations don’t operate that way.
So now let’s talk about how this applies to pay.
Properly executed good compensation planning takes into account the qualifications, experience, and performance of employees including the context of market conditions. Compensation planning is art as much as science.
Looking at job titles and compensation by themselves without consideration for factors like experience, qualifications, training and performance leaves out some critical data.
While I recognize that some people might be surprised by this I consider myself almost a feminist and a huge advocate of equal opportunity. When experience, qualifications, and performance are equal there should be no disparity in compensation.
As I said before however, compensation is not an exact science. I have shared the lament of many an executive who paid a premium for an outside superstar based on market conditions and performance somewhere else who feels disappointed with what they got. Just look at the musical chairs being played at the C level in organizations every day.
I a perfect world we pay for performance and I am going to go out on a limb and say that government at every level rarely provides a great example of that concept.
Mandating equity rarely works.
I am probably one of the few people I know who doesn’t think Obamacare is an abject failure. It is flawed as I pointed out in my eBook Plan B- An Alternative to Obamacare, (I will even be smug and point out I published it before it became law.
Access to care is appropriate and necessary for the long term. The problem is that the model is strictly compliance based and doesn’t address some of the underlying issues like the lack of personal responsibility and education to encourage individuals to participate in managing their own health. It also doesn’t provide navigation through a very complex health care delivery system that is byzantine to the average person.
Compensation inequity purely based on gender, national origin, or other factors unrelated to performance and market isn’t just wrong it’s dumb!
Less than 30% of the American workforce consider themselves to be engaged or highly engaged at work. As many as 17% are actively disengaged.
We don’t just have a pay equity issue, our whole approach to managing people is screwed up.
There are ways to fix it. Comprehensive and systemic approaches that look at whole people and integrated solutions, not patches.
So Mr. President while I applaud and support your intent this one isn’t a solution I can get behind…
As always I would be very interested in hearing opposing viewpoints…

 

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Who Is Rowing Your Canoe?

I just had a chance to read a post on LinkedIn mentioning that Executive Search firms have lengthened the time they are willing to commit to in identifying candidates and that gasp, the search process in general is taking longer.

My reaction is Thank you God, maybe we will get better at it!

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Where Have All The Flowers Gone....

I am probably dating myself a bit by borrowing that line from the classic Peter Seeger tune, but I find myself asking that question over and over again, and what I read almost daily from top executives about their search for talent the metaphor seems appropriate.


The they I am referring to are the leaders and managers who still don’t seem to get it. As most anyone who has read any of my stuff knows I have committed my career to building and reinforcing new models of how organizations and people work together.


You can call it an employment relationship, a social contract, or whatever you choose; but what I am referring to is the relationship between employers and employed.
Employee engagement, the level of alignment between individual employee efforts and goals and organizational goals and objectives remains without question one of the most powerful and significant opportunities to improve organizational performance across every key performance indicator.
I am not speaking speculatively; the correlation between those things has been well established by the Society for Human Resources Management, the Gallup organization, and numerous other academic research organizations and professional consulting firms. We still do it as a society fairly poorly, with the number of employees describing themselves as highly engaged ranging around thirty percent in the U.S.
Organizations in large part took a hiatus from focusing on improving employee engagement during the recentrecession because with relatively high unemployment they didn’t feel they needed to attend to it to attract or keep the talent they sought. Now that the economy is starting to pick up you hear employers whining again about the difficulty of finding and keeping the talent they seek.


Here is a tip – highly engaged organizations don’t have that issue. That is one of the myriad of reasons they outperform their competition.
I had a chance to re-read Joel Peterson’s blog posts with two installments on building a high trust culture and it still really resonated with me. Step two for Joel is investing in respect.
Joel is the Board Chair of JetBlue Airlines, a graduate of Harvard B school and a guest instructor at the Stanford B School so he has some street cred…
As he describes it - Respect is, in some sense, the currency of trust – the way it’s exchanged and circulated among people.


That idea particularly resonates with me.
A number of years ago I created my own model of creating and sustaining employee engagement; I call it moving from compliance to Commitment, or little c to Big C.


My model has five elements: Respect, Responsibility, Information, Rewards, and Loyalty
 
Somewhat self servingly you can see why Joel’s pillars speak to me. Respect is the most foundational of the elements to me. Without respect all of the others fail.


Every person that we interact with has an absolute entitlement for our respect for their personhood. It doesn’t mean we have to accept at face value their talents, abilities, or authority; but we owe them respect for their personhood.
I often tell both employees and new managers that you need to respect each person and in hierarchical organizations you need to at least initially respect the position or office.
In this way this is similar to the first level of trust, deterrence, the trust that comes with formal authority.

The second level of trust or respect is knowledge based, this is the trust we receive (or more importantly earn) based on things like education, qualifications, perceived competency.
The third and in my opinion highest level of trust is identity based. This trust comes from intimacy, credibility, and mutual investment. This trust and respect is highly personal and can only be earned and given. It doesn’t come from credentials or position.
We don’t talk much about trust and respect in this kind of language. I have met many managers and leaders who inappropriately assume an entitlement to the highest level of trust based on the first two.


I differentiate leaders because again in my opinion an organization can appoint you a manager, but leadership comes from others who voluntarily accept your guidance and agree to follow your direction.
I also believe passionately in the concept of personal competence as it relates to respect. Personal competence means that we each own the responsibility to engage, to provide our best efforts, and to contribute fully to the best of our ability.
In return our employers and colleagues have a responsibility to set clear expectations, give constructive feedback, and a clear line of sight between our own objectives and goals and that of the organization.


With respect comes personal accountability and responsibility. If you are given the right tools, the right direction, and the right feedback it is incumbent upon you to do the work.
If someone can’t or won’t do the work and meet expectations I find it disrespectful to continue to leave them in a role they are not performing.
The reason I ask whether we will ever learn is that the majority of human resource professionals and their internal clients would tell you that the most important role they perform is compliance.


That sounds a lot like deterrence to me. It is about the rules. It is about systems and procedures and policies, not about relationships and character and credibility and trust.
As a former human resources executive I remain a proponent of the concept of employment at will, which at its most simplistic form is the legal standard that says that either party to the employment relationship can choose to end it without jumping through a number of hoops.
I temper that with a sense of fairness, that says it is important to me that we balance that transactional concept with the relational guidelines of respect, fairness, clear expectations, constructive feedback, and corrective action.


If you read almost anything about leadership or organizational relationships you are very likely to encounter discussion about loyalty. Employers especially like to talk about their expectation of loyalty from their employees. To me loyalty is relational and mutual, not transactional.
Rigidly embracing the concept of employment at will is not a relational employment model, it is purely transactional. Not a basis for engagement.


I am a much bigger fan of an employment relationship based on Congruency which looks for alignment between employees and organizations on these levels:
•    View of the activity
•    View of my ability to do the activity
•    The relationship between values and the activity
•    Commitment to do the “work”
•    Belief in the product or service
When you build things into your model you have a relationship, not a series of transactions.
I write this at this particular time because two very fine young people I know and care about both ended their relationship with their employers.


Those beginnings and endings happen, but both were handled so poorly that it was a reminder of how far we have to go.


So I leave you with this:
•    Listen to Joel- respect really is the currency of trust.
•    Goal for identity based trust. Yes it is more work, but 30+ years of experience assures me you will never have true engagement without it.
•    Commitment is always better than compliance, period.
•    Add congruency to your must haves when you hire, it is much easier to build it in than bolt it on.
•    Never ever forget that respect for a person’s identity is an absolute entitlement. You may have to terminate the performance; you don’t have to take their dignity.

Hope you enjoy the clip
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LZ2R2zW2Yc

 

 

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When Technology Becomes A Barrier!

We love our technology. I will freely admit that my dependence on things like my smartphone, email, etc. only increase on a daily basis. They make capturing and disseminating information so much faster and more efficient. They inform, entertain and frankly sometimes just annoy me.

When does technology go wrong, when it gets in the way of having a meaningful interaction with people!

I am an HR dinosaur. Who am I bullshitting I am beyond that, when I started in the profession they called it Personnel. For those of you that don’t remember that meant we treated people even more impersonally than now when we call them human capital.

Then we evolved to employee relations, which was HR speak for union avoidance. In the eighties we began hearing about human resources, but I am not sure the attitude significantly changed; Frederick W Taylor’s theories about scientific management were alive and well.

 In fact the accountants got in the act in the eighties when it was discovered that activities like outsourcing and right sizing were discovered to be good for the corporate bottom line once you got past walking back all the promises about employment security and the concept of human capital was born.

In the nineties a few companies caught on that really good talent isn’t human capital and that identifying, attracting, and retaining top performers was really good for business. We just struggled and continue to struggle with how to identify these people and get them in the door and so applicant tracking systems came into being.

Applicant tracking systems are not without value, especially as there has evolved more and more regulation about how we hire, reward, and promote. There have been some downsides however:

·         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 considering 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.

 

Social media has added some interesting complexities to the employment relationship as well. Not the least of which is who is accountable for and controls your employment brand? I won’t go on one of my usual lengthy explanations about what your employment brand is and how you manage it, but I will make some key points:

·         Every organization has an employment brand. It is how employee/customers perceive you as a place to work and form a relationship with you.

 

·         Really smart employers are deliberate about their employment brand and manage it proactively. It is why some employers have lines out the door at job fairs or get swamped by applicants and your recruiters are treated like they have an infectious disease and your ads don’t yield qualified applicants. They have a great employment brand and yours sucks!

 

·         You can Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog your ass off and if you have a lousy employment brand it doesn’t matter, applicants will find out and avoid you. If you have never heard of Glassdoor or similar sites replace your HR department, now.

 

·         Your employment brand doesn’t live in HR or Marketing it is owned and distributed by your employees and customers. Can you manage it yes, but you have to do the work. Great share from David Zinger today on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/employee-engagement-david-zinger?trk=hp-feed-article-title-share.  His point is you have to do the work not pretend to do the work.

 

Technology has also aided and supported the hopelessly outdated idea that our leadership are ok, they aren’t they still suck.

I read posts everyday about how to manage Millennials, how women are genetically better leaders than men and lately how men have conquered the market on incompetent leaders who have been promoted. I personally think they are mostly bullshit.

Our current leadership models are largely based on entitlement emerging from either deterrence (I have power and authority) or competency (knowledge based, I am certified, bona -fied, or whatever). Every profession is running about garnering certifications of what type or another.

Real leadership requires we evolve to identity based trust (shared experiences and shared ideas) and there is no certification or technology which creates that. You have to do the work

In HR what has become increasingly alarming is that the profession seems increasingly invested in compliance rather than engagement and scrambling to increase their credibility through certification programs that validate competency rather than identity.

I want to go all the way back to my original point and that is technology is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is in our culture technology has usually been used or perceived to be used against people rather than with them. I don’t think I have ever been involved with a major technology initiative where the CFO didn’t lean over and ask “what efficiencies will we garner” which is code for how many positions can we reduce.

Technology offers us great opportunities to gather, analyze, and disseminate information to support our broader intentions and goals.  Let’s just take a page from Rosabeth Moss Kantor’s observation about change,   “Change is an opportunity when done with me, and a threat when done to me”, and look at how technology can facilitate trust….

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