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Got Trust?

First Things First

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

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

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

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

We have a trust crisis.

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

Every organization earns a trust dividend or pays a trust tax

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

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

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

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

So let’s take a look at business specifically.

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

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

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

·         Perceived unfair compensation

·         Unequal opportunities for pay and career advancement

·         Poor leadership

·         High turnover

·         Lack of collaboration

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

·         Open and transparent communication

·         Respect for them and other employees

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

·         A supervisor/boss that recognizes them and their performance

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

·         Listen

·         Demonstrate self- awareness and self- control

·         Demonstrate humility

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

•                     Professional and technical expertise

•                     Taking initiative and delivering results

•                     Honoring commitments

•                     Fitting into the culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I would like to leave you with two thoughts-

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

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

 

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We Need A New Model!

Doing It Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

·         Professional and technical expertise

·         Taking initiative and delivering results

·         Honoring commitments

·         Fitting into the culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         Emotional Balance

·         Self-Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is It Just Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         A Recent survey from Clutch reported-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Trust Crisis

The Trust Tax

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

Every organization earns a trust dividend or pays a trust tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•             Would I let them run the business without me?

•             Would I let my children work for them?

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

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

 Trust isn’t an entitlement!

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

How long can we pay this kind of tax?

 

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Let's Do This!

 

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

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

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

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

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

His three levels of trust are both simple and profound.

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

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

I suspect Simon Sinek would call it your Why.

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

Here is another interesting pattern.

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

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

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

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

·         My view of the activity

·         My belief in my ability

·         My willingness to do the work

·         My belief in the product/service/organization

·         The relationship to my values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Given that

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

·         They will soon make up the majority of the workforce

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

Why would we give up this kind of competitive advantage?

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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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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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In Search of Leadership

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In Search of Leadership

People that know me know that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem is we are doing it wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Managing Whole People- Revisted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Criticality of Feedback

The “Gift” of Constructive Criticism

A couple of recent articles reminded me of something that I both learned painfully and continue to struggle with after several decades in the workplace- “Constructive criticism aka feedback is a gift and should be recognized as such”.

No one really likes to get feedback that is not positive, at least initially, but a couple of articles recently talked about the connection between emotional intelligence and the ability to mine that feedback for value by keeping a few things in mind.

Diane Gottsman in her article How to Accept and Give Criticism with Grace, provides some great ground rules that while not earth shattering or rocket science can be very helpful.

·        Be aware of your body language

·        Be prepared mentally and emotionally

·        Remain calm and don’t respond with angry excuses

·        Rethink the word/concept of criticism. I personally try to avoid that language and use constructive feedback in its place.

·        Be appreciative- of the effort if not the content.

From my own experience I have learned a couple of other suggestions I would add:

·        Focus on the feedback not the person. It is easy to reject the right feedback from the wrong person.

·        Recognize that everyone is not equally skilled in their language or their technique. Listen for the message carefully. This is especially true when there is an unequal power relationship like subordinate to boss or provider to customer.

·        Try to adopt the standard of most positive interpretation, this means giving the person the benefit of positive intent even if their delivery is less than perfect.

Most people would rather get a sharp poke in the eye rather than give feedback whether it is to a colleague, a subordinate, and especially a superior, but constructive feedback is both critical to teamwork and improved performance it is a fundamental expectation of the Millennial generation. Their intraprenurial mindset looks at careers and opportunities to increase their skills and value. They expect timely, balanced, and meaningful feedback as a fundamental right.

Even with all the hoo hah about blowing up traditional performance evaluation the root cause there is that the process is typically done so poorly, not that recipients don’t want feedback. The typical annual review system is an epic fail. It isn’t timely, it isn’t balanced, and many find it marginally meaningful.

As a recovering HR executive I find that many performance evaluation systems are designed by HR professionals to impress other HR professionals and to deliver limited pay increases. They aren’t user friendly to the actual manager and recipient.

Gottsman also mentions some guidelines for giving feedback to make it more meaningful and useful.

·        Be private. No one wants a critique in public

·        Focus on issues or behaviors not on people. People own their behavior they aren’t their behavior.

·        Be specific, especially about the impact on the work, work group, etc.

·        Provide suggestions.

·        Be available and follow up. It is a process not an event.

In my perspective if you can’t tie your feedback to the work and work performance and provide a suggestion as to how to improve it isn’t feedback. It is just petty criticism.

Justin Bariso in his article How Emotionally Intelligent People Handle Criticism, adds some additional great suggestions, ask yourself these two questions:

·        Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?

·        Instead of focusing on the delivery, how can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?

He uses the illustration of a scathing review a top chef received from a New York Times food critic as a great example of how to own the issue and use it as a vehicle to improve future performance.

I firmly believe that the ability to constructively provide and receive feedback is essential to building trust and trust is the foundation for high functioning relationships both personal and professional.

You will never make the transition from manager to leader if you don’t master this skill.

Covey’s third and highest level of trust, identity based trust, simply can’t be achieved without honest dialogue and mutual investment.

Employee engagement worldwide still remains at what I believe to be unacceptably low levels and it is things like trust, congruency, and alignment that are going to address the causes of low engagement and get us the performance we want, not technology, six sigma or other process interventions and feedback is an essential building block….

 

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