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Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

Many business experts champion trust in the workplace. They include the likes of Stephen Covey and my dear friend, David Horsager. (His 8 Pillars of Trust and his many excellent books should be required reading.) However, what is perhaps less well known is the neuroscience of trust. As a species, we’ve developed an array of neurochemical survival mechanisms. Employers often ignore these mechanisms, and as a result, miss the opportunity to build trust and transparency in the workplace. 

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

Let’s start with the opposite of trust. It is the “fight or flight” response we experience when faced with a perceived threat. These “threats” elevate the hormone cortisol, which narrows our focus to deal only with the immediate. The threat could be actual, imminent, physical, or merely a harsh interruption in our day. The problem is, our bodies can’t easily tell the difference.

Of course, cortisol has other important functions. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, memory formation, and blood pressure. At normal levels, it keeps us engaged with the day’s activities. When elevated, cortisol puts us on “alert status” and makes trust a low priority.

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

In my book, The Velocity Mindset, I discussed how cortisol can prevent leadership teams from identifying and achieving objectives. Additionally, I highlighted the role another hormone, oxytocin, plays in velocity (speed with direction and alignment).

Trust in the workplace—and its neurochemical roots—are key drivers for business success. Compelling research by Dr. Paul Zak and others champions the well-established science around oxytocin and trust. According to one study, oxytocin “affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” Additionally, researchers have found that oxytocin “enhances an individual’s propensity to trust a stranger when that person exhibits non-threatening signals.”

Obviously, creating artificial trust in the workplace via oxytocin injections would be a short-sighted and ethical nightmare. Nevertheless, there must be practical ways to promote trust knowing that our biology.

Fortunately, trust in the workplace can be accomplished with common-sense approaches, as Horsager and others have shown. An Oxford study summarizes the key drivers and human resource practices that develop trust. These include mutual respect, open communication, and fairness, especially in appraisals of work. The study also identifies factors which decrease trust, such as a lack of transparency in decision-making.

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

Trust is the gold standard. It is the glue that makes alignment and velocity possible. The benefits of increased trust in the workplace are enormous. Over the long term, it increases individual employee productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Zak, it improves collaboration and cultivates a happier, more productive workforce. On the other hand, the consequences of breaking that trust are far worse than not having it in the first place.

Studies have shown that a betrayal of trust, whether familial, cultural, or institutional, creates high levels of long-term stress, including the release of cortisol. If such responses become ingrained in an employee’s experience and memory, the chances of returning to a state of unqualified trust are slim. Consequently, employees might resist a manager or HR professional’s efforts to right a wrong or be transparent after a breach of trust. 

Though a proactive HR team may be capable of rebuilding this trust, the effort is complicated by the very neurochemicals that make us human.

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

It is not easy to win trust and transparency in the workplace. As a result, people are taking a risk when asked to make decisions that may not benefit them. The deciding factor is often how comfortable they are with those asking the question. Transparency, trustworthiness, empathy, and understanding are not just words. They are requirements for every HR professional and executive who aspires to true leadership. 

Today, it is impossible to take a “my way or the highway” approach to business. We need everyone’s buy-in to remain focused on tasks that support a purpose. Trust and transparency in the workplace, like everything else that enables leadership, begins with an understanding of what makes us human. And most importantly, it requires a willingness to work hard to gain that trust. 

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

It’s been a hard year and a half, and as the pandemic continues to fluctuate, illness and lockdowns have taken their toll. The effects extend into the workplace, too, as companies struggle to find a happy medium between employee needs and business needs.

During this time, employees reevaluated what a workplace means to them and how job satisfaction plays into their overall happiness. Many employees found that they’re happier when they don’t have to commute, dress up, or stick to prescribed business hours. Others are ready to get back to the workplace where there are fewer distractions and more in-person collaboration.

Many businesses, on the other hand, are eager to get back to an in-office model without Zoom meetings. Managers want to communicate quickly with employees at their desks, instead of via chat. It’s understandable but short-sighted for employers to try to get back to a pre-pandemic way of operating. As the health implications of COVID-19 can’t be undone, neither can the effects it’s having on the workplace, which is why the need to find a happy medium is important.

These changes create a need for HR teams to adapt to the realities of these changes. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to adapt their return-to-office plans to ensure that they are employee-centered. Now more than ever, balancing employee needs against the needs of the business is imperative.

Listening to Employees

Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.

Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.

What is the best way to find out what employees need to be happy in their current positions? Ask them. Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss what they like about working remotely, what can be improved, their thoughts on returning to full-time office work, and any questions they may have.

HR teams should leverage anonymous channels like digital surveys to make sure every voice is heard. These tools are perfect for individuals who are not comfortable speaking up in a large group, or for those who worry that their opinions will reflect poorly on them. 

Company leaders should also trust employees. They know how they work best, as well as the ways working from home affects their work-life balance. HR teams know happy employees are more engaged, produce better work, and stay in their positions longer, creating positive business outcomes.

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.

Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear what job functions need to be performed in person versus remote. Some team members can complete all of their job functions from home, while others have duties that require in-person work.

Companies should try to strike a balance and meet their employees in the middle. Offer a schedule that accommodates working from home alongside in-person work. For example, some organizations can easily let employees work from home three days a week, while requesting in-person attendance for meetings.

Companies can also strike a balance by easing the dress code to make going into the office feel more comfortable. Additionally, they can find cost savings by allowing employees to work from home. Businesses should evaluate whether they can stagger when different staff members come in. By doing so, they can use a smaller office space, saving on rental costs and utilities, among other expenses. At the same time, employees will appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose to work from home on a regular basis.

Looking to the Future

Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

impact awardWhat is a great “place” to work today? With many abandoning the office tower or business park cubicle office, we’re increasingly emerging from an era of great workplaces to the new territory of worker-centricity. While some thought the great place to work was about amenities (commuter buses, reduced or free food, and onsite everything), we’ve known something else all along–supportive leadership in the work environment is key. 

Executives in great organizations believe that every employee benefits from outstanding leadership. Engagement is dependent on leadership, as Gallup’s research consistently reports that nearly 70% of employee engagement is within a manager’s control. Managers who prosper in today’s hybrid work environment will boost engagement with the five core leadership practices.

1. Building and sustaining trust.

The core of the coming modern enterprise is an authentic leader’s ability to gain and establish trust. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed declining confidence in social institutions and organizational leaders worldwide. The world’s two largest economies, China and the U.S., showed significant decreases in the trust of both politicians and corporate executives. Employees who trust their leaders demonstrate greater satisfaction, loyalty, and involvement, all antidotes to undesirable talent drain and loss.

Trust fuels the teamwork and progress that leads to innovation, a key determinant of long-term growth and survival. Managers erode trust when they are not honest and truthful, and trust is difficult to regain. Trust erosions lead to decreases in integrity, and we don’t fully engage with those we don’t trust. Successful leaders engage and enroll people in goal-driven missions that spark collaboration leading to improved teamwork and productivity. 

2. Leading from values.

When was the last time you considered what your team or company holds in high regard? Typically, we keep our values in the highest regard and build reward and consequence systems that reflect leaders’ values. Engineers and scientists, for example, are recognized for their accomplishments with honorific titles or other expressions of acknowledgment. At the same time, sales and marketing professionals might reap great expense-paid prizes. The more selective the set of values, the more they shape performance.

Values help people connect to organizations and the world in ways more significant than individual accomplishment and effort. For example, if a startup values frugality, people will likely be encouraged to monitor capital and resource consumption. When a manager recognizes effort routinely, the manager demonstrates care and will actively bolster employee satisfaction and engagement. Values guide the decisions we make and the actions we take. Leaders gain faster results and build better relationships by consistently articulating and aligning colleagues to shared values.

3. Creating communities.

While there is truth in the observation that culture eats strategy, growth businesses are now shifting to community thinking within the work environment. A community invites deeper levels of belonging and commitment, while culture implies one-way approaches. While leaders will never underestimate the influence of culture on work processes — or how things get done — they will invest in creating communities where the practices of improvement and resilience thrive. 

Communities, not cultures, pay attention to wellbeing, commitment, innovation, and revenue. As they do, expenses and problems decrease along with skepticism and stress.

Managers and leaders who succeed facilitate employee involvement in decision-making and product and service delivery. Managers expand their capacities for including and involving others and encourage broad knowledge and skill sharing. When managers lead the way in strengthening the bonds, performance vitality and output increase. Employees improve their connections among their colleagues and partnerships between leaders and their teams thrive. 

4. Growing transition readiness.

Most people can let go of the past and successfully embrace a new order or a different future. However, the time between a specific history and an unpredictable future creates and powers uncertainty. In the face of not knowing, we fill in the gaps to reduce the psychological tension that arises with an unknown future. The remedy to not-knowing is to equip a generation of leaders with the knowledge and skill to navigate uncertainty successfully.

A manager successful at helping others through transitions possesses self-awareness and openness to change and growth through learning and development. These managers refuse to see opportunities and people as problems but rather as contributors. When work is perceived more like an invitation than a requirement, an organization’s esprit de corps positively changes.  Improvements measured by meaningful metrics rise.

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

When employees can connect their experience and employment to a paying customer or stakeholder, the commitment to excellence thrives. People want to do their best to deliver a quality product or service to those they feel connected to. Customers and new markets are eternal sources of inspiration when we successfully recruit and involve employees in a customer-first mission. A team’s connection to a customer contributes to the motivation for peak performance. When we care, we act in a customer-first way.

Managers and leaders improve organizational energy by harnessing a customer-first spirit across the enterprise with both customers and employees. When colleagues treat each other as customers, it translates to appealing work environments. A standard of care and excellence replaces indifference created by the isolation many experience in today’s hybrid workplace.

To reawaken work and succeed in the new world of work, we must put these five practices into place to boost engagement. Leadership growth in these action areas contains the kernel of power to transform careers, lives, organizations, and the communities we serve. Begin the journey to building teams and communities on the path to personal and organizational prosperity.

 

Photo: Danielle MacInnes

10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.

Good Management Skills: Nature or Nurture?

 Earlier this year, Gallup issued a fascinating study that looked at why great managers are so rare. It concluded that while one of the most important decisions a company can make is whom they select to manage, companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82 percent of the time. It turns out managers drive 70% of employees’ engagement and experience of work , which makes their role crucial in retaining talent as well as achieving organization goals.

The Gallup report goes on to state that about one in ten people possess the talent to manage. Though many people are endowed with some of the necessary traits, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity.

While it is an interesting theory, I’m convinced that while raw talent plays a part in great management, the secret to a pipeline of better managers is better preparation. Managing is a distinct job but according to McKinsey, new managers get the least training and tools for the job to succeed. The ones who thrive with responsibility and pressure but without these basics are the naturally gifted 10% (counter-intuitively, they’re often chosen to get the limited leadership coaching companies do provide).

Few jobs can be done well without tools fit for purpose and training to develop skills. Everyone knows half of the old Vince Lombardi quote that starts, “Leaders aren’t born they are made.” While that can also be said of managers, the rest of his quote is even more telling: “And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

Management skill and leadership pipeline are the top talent concern of CEOs yet 5% believe their pipeline is sufficient, so it is time to invest in the hard work of growing great managers.

These four steps can help your organization cultivate, grow and instill management skills:

1. Recognize “Managing” As Real Work.
Like the domain processes for things like sales, development, and customer service, managing is also a distinct function that follows a consistent, teachable framework. To be effective, managers must communicate goals, triage execution priorities, drive actions and accountability, report progress and give feedback to their teams. This universal framework for managing is not obvious to new managers and middle managers’ domain workloads may not allow them sufficient time to do these well. Managers can easily sink into a recursive cycle of triage and reporting with little time to communicate goals and feedback – which leads to more triage and worse results. Establishing and reinforcing the simple management framework can help them break the cycle.

2. Start At The Beginning
At first promotion to manager, make sure people receive training on what management means and they understand the framework for managing. Their domain skills may qualify them for managing a function, but rarely prepare them to do so. Course material should cover the management framework, the importance and impact of engaging their teams, bridging skill and perspective differences, and accountability techniques. At each subsequent promotion, deepen the training on the framework, self-awareness and strategic thinking to deepen their skills.

3. Foster Desire To Be A Skillful Manager
Create and reinforce natural desire, curiosity and self-interest in improving management skills by messaging and modeling its distinct importance. Line of business executives can incorporate it as a regular topic in their 1on1 discussions with managers to validate its relevance and importance. Identify coaches within business units that can help managers enhance their people management and leadership skills individually or in informal meet ups (much as you would domain mentorships). If managing well is a visible company value, more people will manage well.

4. Give Managers Tools To Manage With
Most performance tools were designed to help HR centrally track goal setting and review completion rather than to help line managers. To create management capacity and competency, provide performance and management tools that directly help managers manage at their best. Workboard, for example, is a Web and mobile app that automates the management framework for managers (and provides HR and executives with greater transparency and confidence). It’s a performance and productivity app designed for line of business managers to continuously communicate goals, manage shifting priorities, assign and track actions, automate status reporting, maximize 1on1s and give more regular feedback.

There’s never been a more important time to build managerial skills. CEO’s value it, competitive advantage in a recovering economy depends on it, complex businesses need it at all levels, employee engagement and talent retention hinges on it yet very few people are born with these skills. Management skill and capacity building is strategic to HR’s partnership with the business and any performance, talent and employee engagement initiative.

 

5 Essentials of Strategic Renewal

Every organizational strategy needs regular updating regardless of how successful you’ve been. It’s simply not good enough to develop your strategy and put it on the shelf, expecting that it will work indefinitely.

Always be looking for and recording the factors that have changed since you crafted the last version of your plan. The business environmental involves dynamics that are relentless and unpredictable and it’s better to be prepared for them by proactively renewing your strategy every year.

Here are 5 basics of the renewal process:

1. Revisit Your Strategy. If you don’t have a strategic game plan for your organization, create one. Ensure that your growth objective, target customer groups and competitive claim are all still valid given your current circumstances. Markets and competitors change rapidly and it is vital that what you claim to be your uniqueness is still relevant and true.

2. FOCUS. FOCUS. FOCUS.
Concentrate on as few objectives and action plans as you can. Avoid the pitfall of many organizations that think this is a brainstorming exercise where the more objectives you can define the better off you will be.

The reality is that if you have too many things to do, you won’t achieve any one of them particularly well.

Define the minimum number of objectives that will allow you to achieve 80% of your strategy. Apply your scarce resource only to the issues that will yield renewal success so figure out a handful of things to do and get on with it. Attack the critical few not the possible many.

3. Modify Your Business Processes.
Renewal requires that you analyze your business processes and modify them to be compatible with your revised direction.

Don’t assume your existing processes will work; they were created to execute your old plan not the renewed version.

And if you decide that cost reductions are required, do the process change FIRST; cutting costs without changing the WAY you do business could impair how you serve your customers.

4. CUT The CRAP.
Strategy is just as much about NOT doing things as it is about choosing a new direction. Once you have determined your renewal path, eliminate the projects and activities that are no longer a priority but simply drain the organization of time and energy.

Most organizations have difficulty doing this; they relentlessly hang on to the comfortable activities of the past and wonder why they can’t make headway on their new course.

The fact is, you don’t have the bandwidth to continue with the past and adopt a new set of priorities for the future. Assign a CUT the CRAP Champion for your team and charge them with the task of cleansing your internal environment of things that are not consistent with your renewal plan.

5. Plan On The Run.
Don’t get fooled into believing that your renewal strategy will go as planned. It won’t. There are always unforeseen events that happen and execution elements that fall short of expectations and you will have to make adjustments to your plan “on the run”.

Avoid sticking to your original course when the evidence proves its a lost cause. Develop a handful of key performance metrics and examine your progress at least monthly (in times of turbulent change, weekly monitoring may be in order).

Learn from your ongoing results and adjust your plan accordingly. The plan on the run formula: plan – execute – learn – adjust – execute – learn – adjust…

Build constant strategic renewal into your culture.

BE DIFFERENT than the herd.

Make the renewal competency your competitive advantage.

Bright Shiny Objects And Their Effect on Innovation and Technology

Innovation and technology have become cornerstones of our society. Whether we are the innovators of the creation or the end-users, we thrive and demand more of what we want and keep pursuing it to an attained end result. So how do we understand the difference between valuable and enduring innovations versus what appears to be the next best thing, but really isn’t?

As humans, we gravitate toward the innovations that are believed to move humankind forward. However, as evidenced by history, we often believed in a new and shiny object that appeared to have potential, but fell woefully short on delivering the expected results.

Objects du jour are a fact of life. Introduction to new, and what we all must have, is a constant in our society, but how do we distinguish and evaluate what is really valuable and what’s a fad? For the consumer, what’s important is knowing that their time and money are being used wisely. Likewise, the innovators are interested in the profitability of their creation and appeal it holds for the consumer. The irony here is that the innovations which don’t fade into oblivion can be difficult to identify as having merit to many consumers.

Putting A Price On Value

Many people believe the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” In some instances this is true, but it’s not a blanket statement we should use to explain the differences between reality and perception. Reality is when technology is tried and true by a number of people and there is a consistency to the outcome. Perception is like folklore. We want to believe it. We try to believe it, but regardless of what we want, the fact-of-the-matter is, we can’t wish something into being what it is not. In the face of perception, myth and reality become one. This juncture is where logical cognition withdraws, and belief in what we so desperately want, takes control.

In a society driven to deliver the “next best thing since sliced bread,” endurance, testing, user feedback and real-life use can be overlooked. The laws of supply and demand can supersede what is a realistic invention and what is simply the perception of what people believe they want and need. Even companies that are known as being innovators of desirable technology can slip up from time-to-time and launch a consumer lemon.

The Cost Of Perception

In the early 1990’s, Apple created a device called Newton. Newton was introduced to the public as the answer for having a mobile, personal desk assistant (PDA.) Newton was not inexpensive. At its launch in 1993, Newton cost $800 for a device and was so well-received at the time of its introduction at a MacWorld convention, it reportedly sold out within minutes. Expectations were high. End-users were eager to believe Newton would be an answer to their needs. Within the span of the next 12 months, consumers found that Newton was not what it was perceived to be. Users reported that Newton was functionally a disaster along with sporting a host of other technological failures, such as lacking sufficient handwriting recognition and poor systems memory. Newton was a flash in the pan. Albeit, some hardware and software developers, today, believe Newton paved the way for future mobile technology by introducing the modern-day smart phone.

For all the faults and failures of Newton, it did trigger interest in future opportunities, suspected possibilities and potential uses. It wasn’t a useful device in its time, but through present-day ingenuity and creative thinking, Newton may have laid the foundation to innovative thinking about the technology that spawned its functionality.

Lessons Learned

The saying, “What goes around, comes around,” is commonly heard. Look around your office, home, and car. Consider each item in those spaces. Chances are you’ll see the off-spring to a lesser known, now defunct predecessor that outlived its usefulness. This is the cycle of innovation… taking what once was and giving it a more useful modern-day purpose. When considering the cycle of innovation and the effect it has on business, there are two paths to choose.

The brands with a long history of innovation understand the options when selecting a path. These organizations keep striving to create the next generation of their brain child and learn better ways to appeal to consumer demand. One big take-away is that these enduring companies listen to their customers. They take end-user feedback and investigate ways in which they can retool their creation to keep it relevant and useful. A common marketing tactic, some organizations employ, is simply making what’s old seem new again. They do this by repackaging their goods to appease the current-day consumer. This action addresses the power and significance of public perception in the innovation cycle.

Brands that attempt to pursue business, without regard for current demands and user feedback, have a long, hard road to travel. Often, these companies are phased out for a better, easier-to-use and more cost-effective product or service, as in the case of Apple’s Newton. The cycle of innovation still applies here as nature’s way of eliminating the irrelevant with more useful advancements.

So where does your brand fall in the consumer spectrum of value innovation? The answer to this question is something every company and organization should continually assess. To not critique your brand value is otherwise inviting obsolescence and impending failure into your business model.

3 Steps To Build A "DAZZLE" Culture

Satisfying your customers isn’t good enough in today’s competitive markets. Meeting their needs falls short of earning their loyalty. You need to dazzle them; leave them “breathless” whenever they touch your organization.

The challenge is to build an organizational culture that serves the customer in every way. Not one that pushes products and services at them. Not one that forces them to engage with the organization in an unfriendly way. Here are three steps leaders can take:

1. Hire “Human-Being Lovers”

People who are born with an innate desire to serve their fellow human beings. People who get absolute joy from serving and do whatever it takes to see someone’s eyes light up.

Customers can’t be delighted if an employee would rather be taking inventory than taking care of them.

You can’t train people to “love humans.” You can train them to “grin” with a smile in their voice, but that’s the extent of it.

To select the right candidate, the recruitment interview should always include the the question “Do you love humans?” with the follow up “Tell me a personal story that proves it”. If you get goosebumps from the answer, hire the person. If not, show them the door.

2. Trash Dumb Rules

Rules have a legitimate management control purpose but if they drive business away because customers are unwilling to play by them, what’s the point?

Have fun with the idea. I struck a number of “dumb rules committees” to seek out and destroy senselessness; I made it matter by holding my leadership team accountable for implementing the changes.

Rules that serve the customer requires their engagement. Ask them for their input in rule design; they will be impressed that you are open to asking for their help.

Empower your front line to bend rules in special circumstances when they don’t make sense to a particular customer and their loyalty is in jeopardy. Not every policy will be acceptable to every customer, so allowing some flexibility is required.

Don’t worry, your employees won’t give away the farm. Provide them with the skills to balance the needs of both the company and the customer.

3. Turn OOPS! Into WOW!

Sure you do your best to avoid making mistakes, but they will happen. That’s life in any organization.

The good news is that if your service recovery is remarkable when you disappoint one of your customers they are more loyal than if the mistake never happened.

The issue is that most organizations don’t have a service recovery strategy; they don’t like to admit they make mistakes and as a result don’t take the time to plan for when it happens (and it always does).

So how to recover? Fix the mistake fast and then blow the customer away by surprising them with something they don’t expect.

Surprise Is Magic

People expect the screw-up to be remedied but they don’t expect the extra personal attention you give them to atone for the mistake.

Speed is critical. A recovery succeeds only if it is delivered within 24 hours of the OOPS! After that, save your energy for the next one coming your way.

Leaving people breathless is not rocket science; it’s about delivering basic human needs. We want to feel special, treated as individuals and delighted by surprise.

Stand-out leaders understand this and create organizations to deliver.

 

Image: bigstock

3 Reasons Your Manager Isn’t Doing a Good Job

A huge 75% percent of people that quit their jobs, do so because of their bosses. At the same time, employers cite high staff turnover as one of the biggest challenges that companies face. It seems like there may be a solution right there, but actually improving management isn’t as straightforward as many employees think it is.

Three Pertinent Reasons Why Managers Struggle

While there are different kinds of managers, there are three pertinent reasons why managers struggle in their role.

  1. They Had A Rocky Transition.

It’s often the case that managers are team members who are unexpectedly promoted into the positions but don’t actually have a background in management, or that they were hired from outside of the workplace with very little knowledge or training as to what’s going on inside it. Sudden changes and little time for forward planning tend to be the reasons that the necessary training doesn’t happen before the manager takes on the new role.

  1. Their Approach Isn’t Smooth.

A management role is about giving direction but often managers lack a consistent approach to how the manage the team and the developments that they want to happen. Some managers will be brimming with so many new ideas that they change direction too often and forget to implement other ideas fully before starting on new ones. Other managers might be constantly unsure of whether they’ve made the right decisions and chop and change their mind because of that.

  1. Communication Isn’t Their Priority.

Never has a successful workplace existed that wasn’t built on a strong foundation of good communication. Giving orders and relaying messages is an entirely different kind of communication to collaborating on projects and creating a feedback loop. Going beyond the barriers of management and workers and communicating on the same level with everyone, irrespective of their job title, is the number one rule to cultivating a happy and successful workplace.

How Employees Can Help Improve Management

If your manager has hit the ground running, don’t be too quick to criticise. Being a good manager takes time and practise – it’s a work in progress position. Rather than gossip behind their back about their performance, be open with your comments, though remember to keep them constructive.

Speak with them frequently, especially if they’re new to the office. Offer feedback on how they could better help you and fellow employees, and be honest during feedback reviews. Praise your manager when something is working well, just as you would want them to praise you in recognition of good work.

Ron Stewart is CEO of Jobs4Medical, part of the Jobs4Group. He has 30 years experience in the recruitment industry and has headed companies in the IT, construction and medical sectors.

 

Image: bigstock

 

6 Ways to Help Employees Ease the Crush of Student Debt

Millennials are feeling the crush of student debt—but they aren’t the only ones. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are also struggling to pay off their student loans or the loans they incurred to fund their children’s education.

As a result, a growing number of employers are adding student loan refinancing programs to their voluntary benefits packages and total rewards strategies. Student loan refinancing programs (such as SoFi) enable workers to pay off their student loans faster, often saving borrowers thousands of dollars over the lives of their loans—money that can be put toward living expenses or the funding of other employer-sponsored benefits such as 401(k) and retirement savings programs.

In addition to providing access to a student loan refinancing program, employers can help workers by offering them sound financial guidance like these six practical (yet often-overlooked) strategies for repaying student loans more effectively:

  1. Getting organized is step one. Employees with multiple loans often have trouble keeping track of everything—especially those with multiple lenders. These individuals should load all of their loan information into a spreadsheet or use online tools such as those provided by tuition.io to get better organized.
  2. Sign up for automatic payments. Setting up auto payments with lenders minimizes the chances of missing a payment (which hurts borrowers’ credit scores). And many lenders offer a .25% interest rate discount for setting up auto payments.
  3. Consider bi-weekly payments. Paying every other week (as opposed to monthly) results in an extra month’s worth of payments every year, which can save borrowers a significant amount of money on interest. It also helps them pay off loans faster. In addition, paying more than the minimum amount is a wise strategy for those who can afford it. Even an extra $20 speeds up the repayment timetable and saves on interest.
  4. Review your options and think about refinancing. Prepaying, changing repayment plans, and refinancing are three options employees should consider if they want to reduce the money they’re spending on interest. Refinancing at a lower rate is often worth exploring soon after borrowers leave school, increase their income or improve their credit.
  5. Look into federal loans. Although there are only a handful of lenders who refinance federal loans, it can be an attractive, cost-saving option for many borrowers with high-interest-rate Direct unsubsidized and PLUS loans. But, as with any refinancing, borrowers should do their homework before refinancing federal loans with a private lender.
  6. Seek forgiveness. Federal loans might be eligible for forgiveness; however, these benefits don’t transfer to private lenders through the refinance process. The most common federal loan forgiveness programs are for borrowers in the military, those who work in public service or education, and those who utilize one of the government’s income-driven repayment plans such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE).

While they’re simple enough, these six strategies can make a world of difference to the financial well-being of your workforce.

Giving employees the programs and guidance they need to ease the crushing effects of student debt helps them take greater control of their current finances as well as secure their financial future. What’s more, it positions your organization as a true employer of choice—not only to current generations of workers but for those to come.

About the Author:

Dan Macklin is co-founder and vice president of SoFi, the nation’s second largest marketplace lender. SoFi offers mortgages, personal loans, student loan refinancing and more to high achieving professionals.  Previously, Dan spent 12 years at Standard Chartered Bank leading enterprise sales and product development across London, Singapore and Shanghai.

Rewarding Diversity Instead Of Productivity

According to a study by Forbes, workplace diversity is a key driver of innovation and a critical component to success. But, what does diversity in the workplace mean? Employees can be diverse because of their race or gender, but they can also differ in what characteristics they bring to your team. Celebrate those differences and you’ll avoid groupthink catastrophes, and your workplace will thrive.

All businesses are made up of diverse personalities that constitute a larger, corporate identity. In order to create and maintain a healthy workplace atmosphere, employees should be recognized for their positive influence on your company’s culture. Yes, even the weird guy showing you pictures of his Persian cat is bringing something to the table.

Here are some team member archetypes who might be shaping your company’s culture:

Top Communicators

Find the people who are known for clarity, consistency, and thoroughness. Maybe they send the most in-depth and thoughtful responses to emails. Maybe they’re the people who are always called upon to be team spokesperson. Whatever the metric, let these employees know their value.

Top Listeners

Equally as important as communication, every company needs people who actively listen. These are the collaborators we rely on to show genuine interest in new ideas, to absorb workplace tension and to remember what was last said in a meeting.

Problem Solvers

No system is one-size-fits-all. People who drive the company forward are those who see an opportunity for improvement and run with it. Whether editing a co-worker’s report or overhauling information systems, these employees are up for the challenge.

Early Adopters

Early adopters champion progress and their enthusiasm makes others want to get in on the ground floor. Early adopters know the latest tool that can help your team succeed, or the next social network your company should be marketing on. They are essential to widespread forward momentum. Their passion for all that’s new quickly snowballs throughout your organization so that everyone wants to be on board.

Mentors

These employees are the patron saints of workplace wisdom. Not only do they have explanatory superpowers, they are your most patient and knowledgeable assets. They are sought out by employees on their first day of the job, those on their thousandth day, and those who just need a moment’s guidance.

Creative Thinkers

If you want to drive innovation, inspiration, and entertainment, these are the people to seek out. Your creative thinkers, more than anyone, need affirmation from superiors to let them know that their awesome ideas aren’t just awesome in their own heads. Keep in mind that, aside from recognition, these people require a certain level of freedom to do what they do best. You made the box, now let them think outside of it.

Every employee wants affirmation. Hot dog vendors, janitors, python programmers, content strategists — all want to be heard, understood, and reassured of their actions while at work. In business, we tend to recognize employees and co-workers for what they do, but the best companies recognize employees for who they are.  Managers who are savvy make it personal with a handwritten note. Hell, even give the creepy cat guy a custom paperweight etched with your favorite thing about him. (Hint…. it’s not his cat.)

Set time aside every week to acknowledge your key players. A workplace is like an ecosystem in that each employee contributes differently to the office — recognizing their diverse personalities will help reinforce a positive balance and facilitate employee happiness.

 

Image: bigstock

 

Employee Engagement: Three Ways to Manage by Motivating

Motivation is what drives us to set and attain goals, it is our desire to do things.

Motivation is fundamental to employee engagement. The goal of employee engagement is to get employees to expend discretionary effort and the best way to do that is with proper motivation. When you know how to motivate, you have the keys to being a manager with a team of engaged employees.

Motivation comes in two flavors: Intrinsic and Extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is derived from internal desires. The drive to do things that make you happy, that create meaning — that produce internal rewards that are mentally satisfying. By contrast, extrinsic motivation is what drives the desire to gain external rewards or avoid punishment. Oftentimes, the two motivations are intertwined, for instance the desire to win can be motivated by both the desire for the cash prize, (extrinsic), and the desire to feel a sense of accomplishment, (intrinsic).

Be A Super Hero Manager: Three Ways To to Motivate Employees

1. Competition

Devising a friendly competition among employees is a great way to encourage task performance and behavior. It also serves to motivate both intrinsically and extrinsically; employees are driven to win to receive the reward and for the feeling of triumph. For instance, you might assign points to the completion of certain tasks or behaviors, (submitting reports on time, filling out survey questions etc.), at the end of the designated time period, the person with the most points wins.

2.  Awards And Recognition

The problem with Employee of the Month awards is that they single out one person and disregard the contributions of others. Instead of a singular employee award, consider creating multiple awards to recognize employee efforts. The award categories and criteria should be clearly displayed so that employees understand what they are working towards and how to achieve the goal. These awards are a great way to give employees company-wide recognition which endows them with a sense of achievement and the physical reward of a certificate.

3.  Negative Reinforcement

A common misconception of negative reinforcement is that it means doing something adverse. In actuality, negative reinforcement is where you take something away, stop something or avoid an adverse outcome or stimulus (as opposed to giving something as in positive reinforcement). Negative reinforcement is intrinsically motivating because a person is compelled to perform or behave in a certain way in order to avoid or stop something from happening or because the action will result in something being removed. For instance, if an employee knows that if they complete something without mistake, they won’t have to do it again, then they are being driven by the desire to avoid the unfavorable consequence.

These are just some of the ways that managers can motivate their employees by taking advantage of their intrinsic and extrinsic drivers. Motivation is central to employee engagement and when you know how to employ the right motivation you can get the best performance out of your employees.

Image: bigstockphoto.com

Why Benchmarking Sucks

Benchmarking has its roots in the Total Quality Management philosophy. It’s a technique aimed at taking advantage of what other organizations have learned and successfully implemented and improve their own performance.

The Benchmarking Process Is Simple: Determine Who Is Best In Class At Something And Copy Them

Benchmarking is usually aimed at a business process or operations. Go-to-market processes for products, order fulfillment and human resource practices are among the many organizational functions that get benchmarked.

Disguise it any way you want, but benchmarking is nothing more than following who is believed to be the leader of the herd. And if you’re behind, the view never changes.

Benchmarking is a “tool of sameness”; it adds nothing to the success and survival capabilities that organizations must develop in today’s world of fickle customers, volatile economies and fierce competition.

Copying sucks the life out of businesses; it is non-strategic and yet consumes a disproportionate amount of resource in most organizations given the value it creates. In fact I have seen the copying process given such high priority it stultifies creativity and innovation.

It lowers the bar and reduces everyone in the herd to the lowest common denominator. If herd members are all replicating and offering essentially the same product or service, for example, any uniqueness a particular member had soon fades and commonality with the herd takes over.

Copying Perpetuates Invisibility For Herd Members

The copiers remain unremarkable and continue to blend in with everyone else. Copying doesn’t make you stand-out, it makes you fit-in.

The real challenge in business today is to be able to clearly answer the question “Why should I do business with you and not the many others who are competing for my attention?”

Benchmarking shows you are a follower (by the way, even a FAST follower is still a copycat) and gives people ZERO reason why they should buy from you as opposed to someone else.

We need to get our thinking straight. Uniqueness comes from looking to be different, not copying what others do, even if they do it well.

It is time to change the best in class frame from “How can we be the same as the best?” to “How can we be different from the best?” In the best of circumstances, organizations have difficulty dealing with answering this question and if a copy mentality clouds everyone’s thinking the task becomes virtually impossible.

And let’s all agree that the question ” How are we different?” should be the filter for determining what strategies are pursued and what strategies are deemed successful.

A new lexicon in organizations is required to drive strategic thinking. Words and phrases like “contrary”, “off-the-wall”, “weird”, “kinky”, “crazy”, and “are you kidding me?” should guide us in determining our future direction and what we want to be when we grow up.

Put benchmarking where it belongs: a tool that might improve your operational performance from where it is today, but will NEVER make you special and remarkable in a market dominated by hungry competitors.

Image: bigstock

#TChat Recap: Email Productivity A #NewWayToWork

“Email is the oil that runs the enterprise” – Carolyn Pampino

This week’s guest Carolyn Pampino, Design Director for IBM Social Business, focuses on designing better ways for business people to receive, act on, and share information – something that is vital in today’s virtual, social and hyper-connected society.

Let’s be honest, email can be overwhelming and painful at times. When Carolyn’s team researched email end-users, they found that there were a number of people walking around feeling guilty that they would miss that one extremely important message, buried somewhere in their inbox.

Email is unpleasant simply because it’s a method of communication that was invented in 1971, and has not changed or evolved to deal with an increased flood of communication. Messages that are not created as equals are treated as such, categorized by name, date, and subject.

To add fuel to the fire, we can access the overload of messages at all times through any of our devices.

Yet, traditional email it’s one of our most indispensable methods of communication, used across generations. So what can we salvage?

The goal is to make the end-user more productive and increase happiness. Instead of creating a new mail client, the amount of email that we have to deal with needs to be reduced, showing us what to focus on. Basically, make it relevant or make it go away.

So, can technology ease the burden that technology itself has created for us?  Will email be able to act like our personal assistant, streamlining our life? If it transforms to be more collaborative and intuitive, maybe, but it’s unclear how good.

https://twitter.com/cpampino/status/575805860900962304

See What #TChat-ters Said About Email Productivity A #NewWayToWork

What’s Up Next? #TChat Returns Wednesday March 18th!

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well. The topic: How To Manage The #NewWayToWork.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!

Passive-Recruiting Photo credit: Startup Stock Photo

10 Ways To Escape From The Crowd

One of the more serious problems in society today is spacial separation; we are way too close to one another.

We find ourselves almost in the living room of our neighbor. Students sit shoulder-to-shoulder in classrooms and lecture halls. Sidewalks are jammed with a stream of people heading in the same direction to the same destination.

People’s brains are cluttered with the same traditional academic teachings with little room for an original thought.

We live in a crowded world with plurality forcing us to conform. The crowd is a blend of commonality. People move in a blur with no individual identity.

Crowds are imprinting agents. The mass creates pressure for anyone to get on the “average train” and be influenced by those around them.

It’s a serious situation in an economy that begs for remarkability, creativity and uniqueness to survive and succeed.

We MUST find ways for people to create space between each other both physically and mentally.

Physical separation exposes people to different environments with different agents of influence. Mental separation opens the mind to new thoughts with the capability of achieving remarkable things.

Here are 10 ways we can give the separation movement some help:

1. Change the conversation. Stop talking about how we can copy and be like others and start asking the question, “How can we walk away from the crowd?” Space is created by differences not similarities.

2. Reward people who screw up constantly. These are individuals who are on the edge, far from the herd. They live in space and should be encouraged to stay there.

3. Loosen up on the conformity thing. Recognize individuals who don’t follow the rules. Encourage students to color outside the lines to create something new. The education system requires a major overhaul.

4. Honor weirdness. Creativity is NOT a linear concept; it is expressed by ideologies and points of views unlike most others.

5. Hold teachers accountable for creating “new-idea meisters” in addition to how well students learn traditional concepts. Let’s do the unthinkable: pay teachers on the number of unique and creative students that leave their classroom!

6. Add emphasis to “the debate.” Sure. spelling bees have some value but why not provide more focus on the forum for thoughtful argument and disagreement? You can’t be creative and think out of the box in a spelling bee!

7. Get rid of uniforms. They are the signature of a crowd having similar minds and purpose; exactly what is NOT needed.

8. Avoid labels. Labels put individuals into buckets with the expectation that they are like everyone else in that bucket. It’s a disservice to the individual. Millennials? I see individuals with some similar values but many more with amazing differences if only we would pay attention to them. Stop classifying people; it sucks space.

9. Stay off public transportation especially in rush hour. Too any people; too much crowd snuggling; chance they could rub off on you.

10. Dump the “learning from others” notion. I get that there are some benefits from it, but after a point it becomes habitual and represents a barrier to thinking for yourself and coming up with creative ideas that have escaped fellow herd members.

Even if space is not a renewable resource we must find ways to not squander it and have confinement rob us of our originality and personal DNA.

Creating space is critical to a winning soccer strategy; it’s also a vital element of any personal and organizational growth strategy.

About the Author: Roy Osing is a former executive vice president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

photo credit: beije via photopin cc

8 Actions You Can Take To Survive A Shift

When do you know a shift is occurring that will significantly alter the competitive landscape and terms of play?

There are some people who lead a shift and determine its direction. Steve Jobs engineered a series of discontinuities that not only changed the world of communication and social engagement, they also vaulted his company to another level.

But for most of us “mere mortals,” a shift is experienced after is has begun and marketplace changes are being felt.

Most retailers waited to see how online buying was going to evolve before morphing their brick-and-mortar business into virtual stores with cyber-selling.

The traditional media world is another example where the players are gradually incorporating digital and mobility capabilities into serving their customers and marketing their services.

It is rare that one is able to “see the forest for the trees” when discontinuity strikes; it is virtually impossible to see ahead and predict how it will all play out.

What is certain, however, is that those that decide to stand on the sidelines and observe the action forego any opportunity to influence the shift and have any control over the outcome.

Willing and active participants stand a chance of surviving; you either lean into a shift or be subsumed by it.

8 Actions You Can Take To Be a Shift Survivor

1. Be a learning organization, always listening for changes taking place in customer behavior. Study adoption rates of new technologies and customer solutions. Pay special attention to Millennials and women; they both wield the power to make you or break you.

2. Create a risk-taking culture. Shift survival = (doing) (lots of) (imperfect) (stuff) (fast). If you are not experimenting in the shift, you won’t survive it. Judge your survival competency on the number of failures you create.

3. Disrupt your current direction. Aggressively intervene on yourself and push for order of magnitude change. Modest change won’t satisfy the shift; monumental change might.

4. Apply “extension thinking” to overlay a trend in other industries on your business. Digital shift creates new value for people by connecting and controlling smart devices through cloud-based software platforms. What opportunities does this capability make possible for you? Study the trees and consider the broader implications.

5. Get your plan “just about right.” Reduce precision in the plan; increase precision in execution. Don’t try to create a perfect plan. It doesn’t exist, and while you are trying to discover it, you are not doing anything. Take an imperfect plan, execute it flawlessly, learn from the results you achieve and adjust it along the way.

6. Cut the crap that gets in the way of engaging in the shift. The projects and activities that may have been important in the old world may be grunge in the new, shifted version. How much stuff in the traditional print media business is crap in the digital world? How many resources are deployed in print vs digital? Preserving print robs you of the ability to engage the shift. Honor but expunge the old; you don’t have sufficient bandwidth to take on the new if you don’t.

7. Create VALUE that is relevant and unique for the customers you serve. Stop flogging products; start delivering experiences. Address the key wants and desires of the customers you choose to serve. Be the ONLY one that does what you do in order to stand out from the herd.

8. FOCUS. FOCUS. FOCUS. Do the few things critical to your shifted direction; avoid the possible many. Failure (and survival) is directly related to the amount of unproductive activity you have going on. Pick three (or four) projects and do them brilliantly.

Surviving shift requires different thinking and different action. if you presume that what got you here will get you to where you need to go, you’re fooling yourself.

About the Author: Roy Osing is a former executive vice president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

photo credit: andronicusmax via photopin cc

Nobody Does It Better, But You Still Need to Delegate

As a new manager, one of the critical skills that must be learned and embraced is delegation. Many new managers struggle with letting go of tasks and responsibilities that they are proficient in because they think these skills are what set them apart from their team members and got them their first management position.

When working with newly minted managers, Carly Simon’s famous song “Nobody Does it Better” often comes to my mind. Many new managers struggle with delegating because they have been performing the task so well for so long.  Letting go of comfortable tasks, though, is part of your role as a manager.

Learning To Let Go

Does this sound familiar to you? Are there tasks and responsibilities that you are currently doing that should be delegated?

I recently was working with a young and new manager who had recently been promoted to Operations Manager. Overnight he was given the responsibility to lead a team of seven. From the minute I started working with him, I would hear the phrase “I’m so busy” come out of his mouth often.

The question I always start with when coaching “reluctant delegators” is, “What do you want your role to be in 12 months?” And the obvious follow-up is, “What responsibilities will you need to change and additional knowledge gained to be successful in that new role?”

These two questions started him thinking into the future for the first time since he had taken on his new role. And as we got further into the conversation he started to identify tasks that he was currently doing that he should and could delegate. That was the easy part of the process.  The difficult part was identifying whom he could delegate to and what training was required before the task was delegated.

During the next coaching session he had identified whom each of the tasks was going to be given to, what training they were going to get, when he would know that they were ready to completely take on their new tasks, and when they were officially going to be responsible for the activity.

At the end of the process, he had identified enough responsibilities and tasks to delegate to free up an entire 12 hours a week. And what was he going to do with this “extra” time? Spend it leading and not doing. Now he had time to meet with his team members each month to review their progress and help with their development. He also had time to take on some significant projects that he had been reluctant to start because of his past time constraints. He was now truly leading and managing, and getting things done through others.

Five Steps to Effective Delegation

If you are in this position and want to be spending more time managing versus doing, I suggest you take these steps:
1.    Spend some time self-reflecting about those things you should stop doing, start doing, and doing more of in order to be a more effective and productive manager. If you’re unsure, ask your manager for feedback.
2.    Those stop items should then be prioritized.
3.    Determine whom you could delegate the responsibility to. Why do you think they are ready?
4.    Train those employees who aren’t ready before handing tasks over to them.
5.    Track and measure their progress, and provide them with the necessary feedback to make any necessary adjustments.

Remember, nobody does it better than you, but as a manager you need to delegate and start getting things done through others.

About the Author: Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is also a Vistage Chair. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. Beth is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA and is a Certified Managerial Coach. Her expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. Beth’s latest book on executive leadership, “Are You Talent Obsessed? Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high performers” was released in 2014. Read Beth’s blog at Executive-Velocity.com.

 
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Building Legendary Teams With Leadership

Leadership. A single word that carries many different beliefs. It’s intimidating for some and a journey for others. Another word that comes to mind is success. Next time you have a meeting, ask each person what success means to them. See how many different answers you receive.  It’s no wonder companies zig zag on issues. A strong leader will define success and share the vision with a common goal, define roles and responsibilities, and communicate with the teams.

In baseball it goes like this. The common goal is winning the World Series. Each player clearly understands their role on the team. Pitchers don’t practice hitting, they practice pitching.  Spring training is about getting the communication and chemistry right.

When we look at companies and sports teams that are remembered as Legendary Teams, you will find one common characteristic among them, performance.  The companies with the best people have the power to attract loyal customers and top employees. In some cases, people are your product. In the business of sports, people are why 50,000 people show up to watch a game of baseball. It’s the people, the players, the talent, their performance.

Results are outcomes, focus on performance

Great results are outcomes of great practice and preparation. Shareholder returns, a great customer experience, and the candidate experience are all outcomes.  If you want better outcomes, focus on the internal strategies that drive results, people and performance. You’ve heard leaders say “People are our most important asset.” So why do businesses spend billions of dollars each year advertising to drive shareholder returns, customer experiences? It’s because most will focus on the results and not the internal strategies that create them.

All businesses have 3 customers – Shareholders, Teams, and Consumers

The Inner Game of Business

I believe the employee customer (team) is the single most important customer to understand. This is why attracting the top people is so important to your business. When companies get this right, they get it all. In other words, if you have the right employees and they are reaching their potential; the consumers are getting the experience they desire. This leads consumers to enjoy your company and tell their friends about your wonderful company.

When companies get aligned from the inside out, the owners get the best possible returns. How well do you think leaders understand their people? I bet you would agree that leaders can get caught up in chasing results, shareholder returns. If people are the company’s most important asset, this should be a focus. Results are outcomes. Just like sports teams. It’s all about the teams, that’s how they win games. The employees should be your most important customer and if you invest in them, you will improve your consumer experience and drive financial results to your shareholders.  Everyone wins. The employee, shareholders and consumers.

Top talent is a result, not an acquisition

Getting top talent is not about acquisition or the pursuit of top people. It’s about becoming a great leader yourself and making your team better. Top talent is something you attract by the company you become. As a result, your company wins and people will want to be a part of that. The best people have choices. When they understand what you are about, how you lead and where you are going; you will have the best people available to you.

Get Clear

Get clear about the people you need. Think about what people like that would want in a company or leader, and become that. Simple as that. Top talent is an outcome of who you become as a business unit, team or company. When you become more, you are now attractive to the people you desire.

Focus on experience with team development

Baseball teams provide experience based learning in controlled environments. It’s okay to fail. In fact, it advances success when we do. We call it the minor leagues in pro baseball. And like the Yankees, we like 2,000 plate appearances before you reach the big leagues. If you ask Malcolm Gladwell, he says 10,000 hours. Either way, they take development very seriously. In the minor leagues, player development is important and winning comes second. Confidence comes after competence. We get competent by taking risk and learning through experience. As a result, we get confident.

Now that we understand that results are outcomes of great performance, shifting to a performance focus will allow us to create better results.  As Ken Blanchard said, “You can’t hit the ball with your eye on the scoreboard.” When our teams are reaching their potential, we become a better company and more attractive to outside talent.

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(About the Author: Patrick leverages a deep insight in leadership to inspire high-impact results. He is an Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur and Leadership Coach. He is the Founder and CEO of CareersinAuto, IncMultifamilyJobs.com. His leadership & coaching firm, LegendaryTeams.com is focused on winning in life and business. Together his companies offer a suite of tools to help people and companies reach their potential. You can learn more about Patrick’s new book The Inner Game of Business at legendaryteams.com)

photo credit: Werner Kunz via photopin cc

Redefine Culture By Leaving The Jerk Zone

Would you tell your other half, your housemate or your child not to tell you what they think? Or to rearrange their day for you without telling them why? Or order them out to buy you a sandwich?

Those might sound like stupid examples, but they’re real cases of ways people behave in the workplace, and they raise questions about the power of corporate culture.

A colleague of mine was once sent out to buy a sandwich by an executive in her organization. This colleague wasn’t his PA or an administrative assistant. It wasn’t her job to smooth out his day. She was a trained project leader, a change manager and responsible for training hundreds of colleagues in technical skills. But this executive expected that, because he was more senior, the needs of others should come second to his need to avoid a three-minute walk to the shops.

Where do these attitudes come from, and how can we free ourselves of them?

Welcome to the Jerk Zone

Why are attitudes like this allowed to flourish in the workplace? Why is entitlement, selfishness and ego allowed, even encouraged, in some of the leading workplaces of the modern world?

Some slither of it probably comes from the dog-eat-dog capitalism that was idealized in the 1980s. Triumphal egoists were idolized as value makers and we were told that greed would build a better world. But anyone who’s worked in reality knows that this is not the case. Cooperation, collaboration, and humility – these are the ways to build lasting working relationships, to get the real work done. That ‘80s template of macho management should have died with the financial disasters that followed in its wake, taking traditional unthinking deference to seniority in its wake.

But much of that behavior remains, discredited as it has become, and for much the same reasons it was allowed to rise. Because the rest of us are too timid to say no.

Part of this comes from humility. Uncertain of our own value we accept the assumed value of others, even when it becomes over-inflated with their egos. We feel insecure in our own value, and so lack the confidence to challenge the more confident. We accede to this culture, which can turn a workplace into a Jerk Zone, a place where it is acceptable to behave with unchecked selfishness.

But worse than this, if we’re not careful we help build the Jerk Zone. We worry about being seen as perfect in our roles, even though perfection itself is an impossible dream. This feeds our anxieties and insecurities, leading us to put on an over-compensating front. We inflate our own egos, like birds puffing up their chest feathers in an act of display. We too start to act the role the Jerk Zone creates for us.

Would you act like that at home?

We’ve all heard it at some point in our lives, the eternal cry of teachers faced with unacceptable behavior – ‘would you do that at home?’

If we want to get rid of the Jerk Zone, to change the corporate culture that can drive us mad, then we should ask that question again – of ourselves and of the people around us.

Our work and our lives aren’t separate. The same set of values that we hold up at home and in the public sphere should hold in the workplace. After all, do honesty or consideration stop mattering when we step through the office doors? Of course not. If we act lie they do then we are building a toxic space that can do no good for anyone within it. That’s the Jerk Zone, that takes decent people and turns them into objectionable egoists.

Would that executive have got away with ordering someone at home to go out and buy his sandwich? At home we expect respect, consideration, explanations. We can expect the same at work. To do any less is to treat ourselves and those around us with less dignity than we deserve.

I want to break free

How can we liberate ourselves from this toxic culture? How can we leave the Jerk Zone far behind?

Part of it, as with any management challenge, is asking ‘why?’ It’s a question so simple and so powerful that it crops up again and again in leadership thinking, from the Toyota Production System to the work of Simon Sinek. Look at where selfish behavior is strongest in your organization, ask why it is happening there and then work to root out the causes, whether it’s unhealthy processes, inappropriate measures or simply unchecked bad behavior.

Empower your workers to speak their views, and stand up for them when they challenge the big egos, even when they challenge you. Believing you are too important to be wrong is a step deep into the Zone. Empowering everyone to constructively challenge each other is a way to battle it, to keep the egos in check and show everyone that they don’t need to over-assert their personalities to be heard.

Above all listen. If you listen to others’ views and treat them with as much weight as your own then they will learn to do the same. A culture of receptiveness, humility and cooperation will start to spread, banishing that Jerk Zone to the past where it belongs.

You can leave the Jerk Zone, and take your whole organization with you. All you have to lose is your ego.

(About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. He has 20 plus years of C-Level experience across multiple sectors including healthcare, education, government, and people and potential (aka HR). In addition, Mark currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Behavioral Health Service North, a large behavioral health services provider in New York. He also actively serves on the faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY) and teaches in the School of Business and Economics; Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and the Department of Management, International Business and Information Systems. Mark holds an MBA and is highly recognized in the technology and healthcare space with credentials including MCSE and Paramedic. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity. Mark resides in New York with his wife Lynn, two children, and two Labradors. The greatest pursuit; “To be more in the Service of Others.”)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

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Kudos To You: 10 Top To-Do’s To Keep Those Customers Coming

Every day we spend our precious time and hard-earned money out in the market searching for new customers.  We advertise, we network, we use social media strategies – all for the purpose of finding ever-elusive hot new prospects and turning them into profitable new customers.

With all this emphasis on attaining new customers, what we are doing to retain our current customers?  According to a study conducted by marketing guru, Dan Kennedy, here are the reasons that a customer leaves:

  • 1% die
  • 3% move away
  • 5% follow a friend or relative’s advice and switch to their recommended supplier
  • 9% switch due to a better price or better product
  • 14% switch due to product or service dissatisfaction.

While the first two reasons may be out of your control, you should be able to do something about the other three.  However, all of the reasons above still only account for a total of 32%. So, why do the other 68% of customers leave a business? Simply put, they leave because they feel unappreciated, unimportant and taken for granted.

Customer turnover is costing businesses billions of dollars each year.  Here are some startling statistics from Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy, in their report, “Leading on the Edge of Chaos:”

  • Obtaining new customers can cost as much as five times more than retaining current customers
  • Increasing customer retention by 2% has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10%
  • The average company loses 10% of its customers each year
  • Reducing customer defection by 5% can increase profits by 25-125%
  • The customer profitability rate tends to increase over the life of a retained customer

Wow – is that a wake-up call or what?  Let’s take a look at how you can stop spending so much money trying to attract new clients and instead, learn to take care of the customers you already have.

Here are 10 Strategies that you can begin to implement TODAY for massive results:

1.  Keep in touch regularly and systematically.

When your customer places an order, follow up with them to see how satisfied they are with your product and/or service. Invite feedback – both positive and negative. (Chances are you’ll learn more from the negative feedback) Let your customers know that you care about them for the long term and not just for a one-shot deal.  Take the time to learn as much as you can about your customers during your follow up calls. A little extra effort can lead to your clients inquiring about other products or services that you offer and you’ll gain new business.  Since it’s always easier to sell more to someone you’re already doing business with, think of the lifetime value of each and every one of your customers.

2.  Educate your customers with valuable, FREE information.

Sharing your knowledge via a newsletter, social media updates, special reports and blogs will prove your expertise.  Providing value will also set you part from all the others that are merely promoting their products and services in every communication.  In BNI (Business Networking International), the philosophy is “Givers Gain.”  Be a giver.  Pay attention to the issues that are important to your customer and make it a point to find answers for them.  You’ll become the go-to person for both information and their business.

3. Become a Resource.

Look for other ways that you can serve your customers, even if it doesn’t mean an immediate return on your efforts.  Look for occasions when you can refer business, help out with an event or offer suggestions to improve their business.  In your clients’ mind, you’ll be the expert and will thereby be “top of mind” for the next time they are looking for your product or service.  As you get to know your customers better, you’ll be able to offer them assistance in a variety of areas. Networking events can play a critical role in meeting the “right people” to refer to other “right people.”  Be a conduit and you could become your customer’s hero.

4. Write a note of appreciation.

When you send a personalized card or note through the mail (not an e-card), you are setting yourself apart, big time. Not only is a card a pleasant diversion from the junk mail and bills that your customers are used to getting on a daily basis, it adds a personal touch to the relationship, which is priceless.  Think about it, you are giving your customer tangible evidence that you value them and support them.  Chances are that that card is going to be hanging on their bulletin board or displayed on their desk.  When someone picks up the card or asks about it, YOUR name is going to get mentioned – in a good way.  Great opportunity for referrals!

5. Respond to customers promptly when they contact your business.

Take care of issues immediately.  Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, it just makes them bigger and harder to correct. Remember what your mother told you: If you make a mistake, say you’re sorry. Then make things right. Let your customers know that you are committed to a high level of service and that you will do whatever it takes to resolve their issues.  Chances are, it will take a lot less than you think it will to completely satisfy (and keep) your customer.  There is a study that showed that only 17% of customers would give a second chance to a company that makes a mistake.  However, you greatly improve the chances of repeat business when you go beyond their expectations to solve their problems.

6. Pay attention.

Listening to what your customer has to say will provide clues that will help you provide a more personal touch.  If your customer talks about their brand new grandchild, send a congratulatory card.  If he or she has a child heading off to college, jot a note on the calendar and make sure you ask about it next time you talk to them.  Find out birthdays and anniversary dates.  Send cards for nontraditional occasions.  Remember, you may be the only person that has taken the time to send them a card.  It may be a cliché, but people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  Ok, one more cliché – you have two ears and one mouth – they should be used in that proper proportion.

7.  Act with integrity.

In everything you do, you want your stakeholders and customers to trust you. Developing trust takes time, yet it can be lost in an instant.  When you say you are going to do something, do it.  When a mistake is made, admit it, and then make it right.  Do whatever you can to earn your customer’s unwavering belief in you and your business.  Remember, confidence must be earned continuously. People want to do business with and work for trustworthy companies.

8.  Maintain Quality.

No matter how good your customer service is, if you’re providing an inferior product or service, your customers are going to leave.  Make sure all of your employees are aware of the importance of maintaining quality.  Put systems into place to monitor it.  If you have any products that are outsourced, rigorously insure that your quality standards are met.

9.  Reward Customers.

Institute a customer loyalty program.  Give your customers coupons they can use for their next order.  Surprise them occasionally with a free gift.  Hold a “Customer Appreciation Event.”  Look for different and unique ways that you can delight your customers.

10. Do Good.

Establish a relationship with a nonprofit or charity and invite other local businesses to participate.  Share what you’re doing in your newsletter and in your social media campaigns.  Remind people when they patronize your business that they are contributing to a greater cause.

All of these strategies work, but don’t overwhelm yourself thinking that you have to perform them perfectly right now.  It’s important to get started moving your customer relationships forward. Choose one technique that you feel that you are already doing well, then brainstorm some creative ways you can do it even better.

You may want to rank these ideas in order of importance or impact to your bottom line. Implement systems, one key point at a time, until you see progress and then move to the next one. Paying consistent attention to the way you acknowledge your clients will pay off in way that may surprise you. Go for it!

(About the Author: As Founder of Grategy, Lisa Ryan works with organizations to create stronger employee and customer engagement, retention and satisfaction.  Her proven gratitude strategies (Grategies) lead to increased productivity, passion and profits. She is the author of seven books, and co-stars in two documentaries: the award-winning: “The Keeper of the Keys,” and “The Gratitude Experiment.”   To learn more, visit www.grategy.com.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Kill Them With Kindness: Ineffective Motivational Tactics

Office break rooms are often riddled with “you can do it!” style posters. You know, the ones that have a picture of Sequoia trees in California with something about how long they took to grow. These are great posters with great (and albeit cliché) sayings and quotes, but what do they really do for your employees? Honestly, absolutely nothing. While it’s interesting that Sequoia trees take 3,000 years of trying weather conditions and sustained effort to grow 300 feet, your employees don’t care. In fact, only 19% of employees are happy with their jobs. The other 81% would rather not see your motivational posters while they begrudgingly work for 8 hours to bring home the bacon.

Sometimes it is just another job.

“Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” –Confucius

Especially in rough economic times, your employees may feel stuck. This doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged. They might very well be engaged in fear of losing their job, however, this doesn’t imply they are happy. Stagnancy creates an atmosphere of disengagement. Even though it is easy to fall into the habits of stagnant behavior in the office, giving programs and advancement opportunities keep employees engaged while they are at work. Workplace giving programs, like donating to a charitable organization, motivate employees to make an impact, and that often will translate into their work. With the growing number of benevolent Millenials entering the workforce, 90% of companies offer a wide range of diverse charities to donate to in order to foster an atmosphere of community.  Opportunities for growth can increase engagement as well, so they begin to see it as more than just another avenue for a paycheck. The more employees value their place in your company, the more engaged they become.

An engaged employee isn’t necessarily a happy employee.

“It is the working man who is the happy man. The idle man is the man who is miserable.” –Benjamin Franklin

Engagement and happiness in a company are two completely different aspects of an employee’s attitude. Simply saying your employees are happy with their jobs, so they must be engaged, or even that your employees are unhappy so they must be disengaged, are false equivalencies that will only result in furthering their detachment. There are over 70 million employees who are disengaged from their jobs. This isn’t to say they aren’t happy, in fact they could be extremely content in the security your employment offers them. However that doesn’t mean they are fully dedicated to the projects you’ve left on their plate. It is expected of American employees to work until we can’t anymore. A lot of disengagement can be attributed to this. In a study of 21 developed countries, the United States was the only country that doesn’t consistently offer 10 to 30 days of paid vacation. Regardless if a U.S. employer gives their workforce vacation, they don’t use it because they are trained to work hard no matter the cost, even the costs to their health. In fact, middle-aged men at risk for heart disease who skipped vacations for 5 consecutive years are 30% more likely to have a heart attack.

Employees won’t always like their jobs.

“Do not hire a man who does work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” –Henry David Thoreau

Truth is, they don’t have to like their jobs to be engaged or motivated. Now, those 24% who are actively disengaged find reasons to not be at work while in the office because they honestly hate their jobs. The majority of the workforce does not fall into this category, however. The workforce is primarily disengaged, with 63% of employees sleepwalking through the workdays. Although they are disengaged, it’s not so drastic they can’t be “checked back into” their work. Effective motivation doesn’t come from overplayed sayings on pictures of nature. It just simply doesn’t work the way you hope; all you’re doing is evading the hard work. “Nothing worth it was ever easy,” or so they say. So, engaged employees may not be an easy goal to achieve, but when you take the time and the effort to find what motivates your workforce, it’s worth it.

(About the Author: Sean Pomeroy, CEO of Visibility Software, has worked in the Human Resources industry since he graduated from Radford University with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After working in HR as a generalist for a government contracting company, he moved to the HR Technology arena and began assisting companies in the selection and implementation of HR software.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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How To Actually Get Stuff Done

The employee engagement survey results are in. Now what? You can collect data until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t have a way to turn that information into actionable insights, it’s not going to make an ounce of difference in your company.

Raw Data Isn’t Enough 

Managers who gather data about employee satisfaction, performance, engagement, efficiency and the like can run into the same stumbling blocks as executives who are trying to harness big data analytics for business intelligence. According to a recent KPMG study, 85 percent of business leaders indicated that their biggest challenge with data analytics was accurately analyzing and interpreting information. Three-quarters of respondents said they had trouble actively making decisions based on data results.

“From CEOs to CFOs, CIOs and CMOs, the challenge for today’s executive is understanding how to draw actionable insights from data and turn them into tangible, genuine results,”  said Mark Toon, CEO of KPMG Capital.

In short, there are a lot of technological resources to collect, store and integrate data, but the information is only valuable when it can drive strategic change.

Surveys Must Be Followed By Action

If you go through the trouble of soliciting employee feedback, you need to have productive and effective ways to understand the information and act on your insights. Of course, analyzing is one thing – acting is another. You don’t want to get so caught up in the reporting and analysis phase that you miss the opportunity to actually bring about a difference with the project. To make it easier for managers to derive insights that they can then act on, some talent management software provides reports and resources for prescribing actions and measuring outcomes.

Swapnil Shah, CEO of FirstFuel, explained in Greentech Media that data analytics must be focused on tangible results. To bridge the gap between data collection and results, he suggested customizing and scaling insights. You might have a lot of information from across your organization – focus on a few key pieces for specific departments, offering leaders manageable suggestions with reasonable goals.

Shaping Employee Culture

In addition to optimizing business practices and bolstering productivity, acting on employee engagement surveys is an important strategy for forming a positive company culture. Workers who are disengaged often feel they lack a voice and their opinions aren’t valued. Responding to feedback creates open lines of communication and demonstrates that management is receptive to employee ideas and preferences. Sharing survey results with team members and focusing on ways to improve the group can also foster a closer working community.

“Engagement is really about what you do every day to make employees feel part of a team. They need to know how they make that team better every day,” Florida Power & Light’s vice president Michael Kiley told the Miami Herald. “They don’t want to let down their peers.”

The source added that employee engagement should be aimed at long-term, sustainable changes, not Band-Aid fixes or diverting perks. Overall, surveys can never be an end in themselves – they’re a powerful tool for measuring and analyzing workplace performance, but their true value lies in the action they inspire.

(About the Author: David Bator is passionate about programs that move people. As Vice President of Client Strategy at TemboStatus he works with growing companies everyday and helps them bridge the gap between assessing employee engagement and addressing it with action. For the last 15 years David has worked with the leadership of companies large and small to build programs that leverage strategy and technology to deliver extraordinary value for employees, customers and partners.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Power: The Dark Side of Leadership

I have a little confession to make. I find power to be delicious.

For most of my life I have worked as a kind of modern-day impresario. I produced events and media, everything from promotional videos to chamber music concerts to recording sessions with full size symphony orchestras. I was a one-man HR office; I had to hire videographers, graphic designers, actors, audio engineers, composers, musicians, editors, you name it. And I will be the first to admit, when you have power to hire and fire, and you have a budget to spend on vendors who are dying for your business, life takes on a patina of extraordinary pleasantness. When you have power, people who would normally ignore you suddenly become your new best friend. They hang on your every word and tell you what you want to hear. When this happened to me, I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Now before talking about this further, I have a question. As someone who philosophizes, speaks, and coaches on issues of management, I try to keep up with the latest, and I read various books and articles on the topic. There seems to be no end of management advice out there, so my question is, why is it that, other than a few books by Machiavelli, I never see any articles about the joys, temptations, and potential pitfalls of simply possessing power, which is the very essence of being in a leadership/management role?

I suspect that at some point I will get a very stringent lesson in why no one else talks about it in public, but until then, here goes.

The first time I had some real power, I was totally inexperienced in its use, and I was totally unprepared for its narcotic effect. I loved the way people who wanted my business would give me “strokes” of sycophantic attention. Being not totally stupid, I knew that this largesse of positive social interaction was conditional on my continuing to have power, and so I became very eager to consolidate my power. I took steps to make sure I would hold on to it as much as possible. I found myself wanting more and more of it. For a while, this goal, of having power purely for the sake of having power, eclipsed my memory of my original purpose, i.e., why other people had given me power in the first place.

It took me a little bit of time, reflection and hard lessons to get used to this aspect of power possession. Learning to handle it was like trying to go on a diet in a chocolate factory.

Once I recovered my wits, I found I actually had to be proactive in training people how to respond to my possession of power. Everyone has a set auto-pilot approach to dealing with people in power over them, and I found I had to endlessly counter that energy. For example, I had to repeatedly train my vendors that their primary purpose was not to meet my many infantile needs for attention. I had to endlessly remind them to focus on serving my customers, even if that meant ignoring me altogether. For most of them, this was a totally new idea, and many of them never truly believed that I meant it. They had seen how other people with power had behaved in the past, so they always hedged their bets by keeping my apples polished.  This drained energy from doing actual work.  I was always conflicted about this. It was inefficient, and yet I still liked it.

The many ways in which one person having power over another affects relationships and systems is an awfully large topic. Too large for a single article. So the point I want to make is this:

Power is seductive, it is addictive, it is delicious, and when you get power, remaining objective and keeping your wits about you is not easy. It requires restraint and discipline. Everywhere you look, you see evidence of people not knowing how to handle power. Most of us have a painful memory of someone who once had power over us abusing that power. Every day we see people with power using it in ways we disagree with. And even more vexing are people who have power but are afraid to use it, or just don’t know what to do with it. Need I even mention elected officials? It all gets very emotional in a hurry. And that is my point.

Management and leadership philosophy is, more or less, a guide to the use of power. We all have great ideas of how things ought to be, but there are reasons why people in power don’t always do things the way we want. Some are quite logical, some are selfish. Power also has limits to what it can do, no matter how much of it you have.

The purpose of this article is not to offer any quick solutions or a list of tips and tricks– such an approach would fail to recognize the size and complexity of the issue. The purpose is to say we must recognize and discuss the many temptations and emotional distortions that the possession of power causes, and how we are going to deal with how possession of power affects the imperfect beings who we ask to wield it. (This is not a new idea– the United States Constitution is mostly about managing the temptations of power– and look at how endlessly difficult that has been.)

I am eager to teach the introductory class, although it might sound more like a 12 step program: “Hello, my name is Justin, and I am addicted to the thrill of having power.”

(About the Author: Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass in the Boston Pops, and his musical plays are performed all over the world.  As an author, speaker, and coach, he shares a pragmatic artistic approach to personal growth, “people skills,” and managing “top performers.” For more, visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Cultural Diversity: Not Just For Large Corporations

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often start with a good idea and then become successful when they learn to do it well.  This often involves tight synergies amongst their early employees, who may have very similar visions, attitudes and specific ways of doing things.  Sometimes, these come from a shared background.  Perhaps they started out as a family owned business.

SMEs must eventually turn to more innovative ideas as they continue to grow.  This is often an area where early success stories can turn quickly into failure, or as a minimum, failure to thrive.  Growth challenges can be complex, especially if the SME has saturated their original market.

Raising cultural awareness in an SME can occur in many ways.  Hiring employees from a different background to those responsible for the original core business can bring a different perspective to their initial success.  For example, employees from diverse backgrounds may be able to see what worked well in the core business but also see missed opportunities and what could have been done better.  Broader perspectives such as these may mean the original market isn’t saturated after all, but defined in a narrow way.  Diversity allowed the organization to see the true total market.

Additionally, employees from diverse backgrounds may also be in a position to understand how to open up entirely new markets, building on the core business that the original employees may not have considered or understood.  Addressing these markets may require new skills, which may range from language to understanding different purchasing motivations in various customer groups.  They may also be able to leverage markets empathetic to their own backgrounds, such as someone from an ethnic minority who has maintained family connections from their original country of origin.

Raising cultural awareness can be achieved in many ways.  Variation in employee background should not be considered purely as diversity of ethnicities or nationalities, although these can be part of the equation.  Gender, sexual orientation and disability should also be considered sources of additional cultural values, even in very small companies and can introduce innovation, both in the SME’s core business as well as spawning ideas for appealing to new demographics.

For example, ignoring gender could mean that you have just written off up to 50% of your total available market.  Sometimes, these mistakes can be made simply by implementing a poorly worded marketing campaign.  Other organizations make assumptions that their product or service would only appeal to a specific gender whereas the reality may be very different.  It is also important to keep in mind that gender roles and expectations may vary substantially from market to market and may be more pronounced in some markets abroad.

Nor should generational differences be ignored.  Many experienced employees may have accepted the tools of technology but may never have grown completely comfortable using an ever changing array of gadgets, software programmes and a reluctant acceptance of enforced office enhancements.

Younger, more flexible employees are much more likely to be comfortable with quickly evolving technology and, more importantly, can see and enable a fuller extent of their benefits to the SME and their employees.  Their value may be widespread, from streamlining processes to facilitating research across new markets.  Younger employees may also have much more experience in understanding how technology appeals and is used across various cultures, thus possibly opening entirely new gateways to doing business in more innovative ways.

For example, many older employees may dismiss the commercial value of social networking websites.  However, many younger employees use them for many reasons, including gaining information that can be used to decide on whether or not to use a product or service.  SMEs in particular can profit from utilizing social networking websites as they are also generally very cost effective – especially if you have enlisted the skills of a young employee who understands the wider impact of social media on your targeted market.

Different work experience can also bring in different knowledge on how to do things more efficiently and effectively.  Whether it’s an innovative idea for an enhanced product or a more effective control of financial practices that directly contribute to the bottom line, different corporate cultures and the benefits of hiring people from these different backgrounds are often overlooked.

Well run SMEs that prioritize cultural diversity may be positioning themselves favorably for the time when they may no longer be so small.  If and when the time comes to expand their marketplace across new cultural horizons, they will have their corporate mindset in place from which to continue to develop their employee talent.  Employees who are culturally aware in their small or medium organization have probably already developed many of the necessary best practices to take their business to the next steps, including to a wider, even more diverse global market.

Declan-Mulkeen(About the Author: Declan Mulkeen is Marketing Director at Communicaid a culture and business communication skills consultancy which provides cultural awareness training.)

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What Truly Motivates People? Is It Money, Or Something Else?

Dan Pink’s book “Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates us” has thrown a major monkey wrench into how we think about motivation. For years it was assumed– and it certainly seems logical to believe– that the best way to motivate desirable behaviors was to offer cash rewards. But it turns out that there is considerable science that refutes that notion; in fact, offering cash rewards, at least in the realm of creative work and problem solving, actually encourages worse results.

This topic has opened up a broader discussion, of what human beings are. At work we are doing fewer and fewer purely mechanical/ repetitive tasks.  “Value” is coming more and more from personal connections and imagination, so the tradition of seeing people in a simplistic mechanical way, in terms of their “skills” or “function,” no longer works. We are standing on the verge of major historical event, an entry into a new era, where the mechanical/industrial ways of viewing people, education, and work are falling apart. We are struggling to find new paradigms to guide our managerial thinking. For decades, we have suppressed our emotions to make ourselves more appealing in an industrial framework by being more uniform and efficient. We now have re-examine that previously suppressed internal dimension, and find ways to engage with it rather than suppress it.

To that end, Mr. Pink offers three things that motivate people.

These are:

  • Purpose
  • Mastery
  • Autonomy

Given the impact and influence that Mr. Pink’s book is having these days, I felt compelled to question his hypothesis. While it is not wrong, there is something missing. To explain, a story:

When I was a teenage bass player (sounds like a 50’s horror movie), I was tremendously motivated to become a professional player, to the point of obsessiveness. I was practicing eight hours every day, stopping each night only when I had reached a point of mental and physical exhaustion.

My motivation?

I certainly did not do this for the money, since I wasn’t getting any, and the pay for professional bass players is not that spectacular, given the work needed to get there. Mr. Pink was right about some elements of my motivation: Yes, I had purpose; yes, I sought mastery; and yes, practicing is a largely autonomous activity. But there was another element that motivated me, far more than money or any of these other factors:

It was a sense of belonging.

I wanted desperately to be a member of something, in this case, an oh so elegant and elite major symphony orchestra . I wanted to have a sense of belonging and connection. And I believe that a sense of belonging, far more than purpose, mastery, or autonomy, is the primary motivator of human beings.

I confess I don’t have many academic studies to support my thesis, but there is a fair amount of empirical data. Let’s consider just a few of the ways that a sense of belonging (including its synonyms, e.g., social status, acceptance, love, family, membership, and so on) motivates us to extreme effort:

There is all the money and effort many people put into “getting accepted” to an exclusive school, and thus belonging to the alumni network for life; there is the eagerness to spend massive amounts of time and money to “get certified,” and thus belong to a exclusive professional group; there are the fans (a word which is short for “fanatics”) of sports teams, who tout their sense of membership with all sorts of badges, uniforms, and rituals, not to mention paying exorbitant ticket prices; and then there is that warm glow of nationalist belonging you get when the jets fly over during the Star Spangled Banner. And do I even need to mention churches? Rotary Clubs? Street gangs? The plot of “Rudy”? Or the holy grail of social belonging, fame? The need to belong, whether to family, team, social group, or nation, drives people to extreme efforts and sacrifice. People sometimes sacrifice life itself to maintain the survival of a group to which they belong.

“Autonomy” as motivation only has meaning in the context of belonging. The only reason you don’t have autonomy is because you gave it up for something more important, i.e., a state of belonging, e.g., employment.

In my own managerial experience in the orchestra world, I found that the need to belong far outweighed any other motivation, money included. I often had difficulty finding musicians who were willing to act as leaders. Even though they were the best in their group, becoming a leader meant losing their sense of being “part of the gang.” The fun of ensemble playing was in being part of the team, not in bossing the team or otherwise being separated from it. I did not pay my leaders more money to motivate them, and I did not pay them more money because they were creating more value. It was to compensate them for their loss of rank-and-file group belonging.

For most people, not to mention wolves and other social species, belonging itself is key to mere survival. And once people become more successful, they don’t seek exclusion or autonomy; instead, the first thing they seek is ever more group social status and connection. They join the country club or the opera society board, or they run for public office.

There is also the flip side to be considered, which is the “de-motivation” caused by the loss of belonging. People who have had issues of disconnection, such as loss of a loved one, divorce, moving to a new town, or getting fired, experience massive ill effects on self confidence, focus, and every other emotion. At times they lose all motivation, period.

When we speak in terms of rewards as motivators, this typically refers to an inanimate reward, such as money or a cookie. When the “reward” is in the form of greater interpersonal connection, say, a pat on the back from an authority figure you truly admire, or the flip side, perhaps a look of disapproval from someone whose respect and acceptance mean everything to you, suddenly rewards and punishments– in the form of belonging or the lack thereof– come back into motivational fashion in a hurry.

One of the biggest reasons people resist change is the fear that it might threaten their tenuous grasp on belonging. The first thing that goes through the average employee’s mind when presented with a new idea is “belonging loss prevention.” They ask themselves, “Will doing this, or not doing this, get me fired, or result in loss of status in my professional pecking order?” All else is secondary. Consideration of one’s sense of belonging — as well as the fear of the loss of it, is therefore possibly THE most compelling motivational factor in managing people.

I am a big fan of Mr. Pink, and I think he is very much on the right track in challenging the common dogmas of industrial-era management philosophy. I just wanted to respectfully submit that as we enter into a more artistic era of management, “belonging,” as a primary emotional element of motivation, needs to be higher on the list.

(About the Author: Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass in the Boston Pops, and his musical plays are performed all over the world.  As an author, speaker, and coach, he shares a pragmatic artistic approach to personal growth, “people skills,” and managing “top performers.” For more, visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

 

 
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