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Leadership Done Right: Yes Elon, Empathy Works

Some conversations stay with me. It could be something about the subject, the wisdom of the person I’m talking to, or the timeliness of the discussion. And sometimes, a random event triggers my recall. Case in point: The world recently watched a sad spectacle, as half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees lost their jobs when new owner Elon Musk stepped into his CEO role and promptly went on a firing spree. Apparently, he hadn’t received the memo from other successful executives that empathy works as a leadership style.

Twitter is obviously grappling with numerous business issues. But it’s stunning to think this company’s future depends on a singular person in a position of great power who simply decided to slice the workforce in half. And that was only his first week on the job.

Why Empathy Works

This behavior reminds me of a #WorkTrends podcast discussion I had with Gary DePaul, a brilliant leadership consultant, researcher, and author. We spoke in June 2021 — more than a year into the pandemic — when everyone was grappling with workplace challenges. The Great Resignation was gaining steam, and leaders were scrambling to redefine work life and organizational culture in ways that would keep talent onboard.

Over the course of our conversation, Gary explained what makes leaders effective in the long run. Among the qualities that give leaders staying power is (you guessed it) empathy. Seems like the opposite of Elon Musk’s approach, doesn’t it?

Whatever you think of his business acumen, Elon has never been an empathetic leader. It doesn’t seem to be one of his goals, to put it mildly.

This posture is already damaging his relationships with employees. And it doesn’t seem to be garnering trust among Twitter’s business partners, either.

Days into this acquisition, major advertisers like GM decided to put their Twitter budgets on hold and marketing strategists began advising clients to spend elsewhere. It seems Elon’s lack of empathy is already costing him dearly.

Empathy Works Because it Builds Common Ground

Will an empathy void ultimately matter to the success of this $44 billion deal? It probably depends on your view of the people/profits equation.

In our podcast interview, Gary made it clear where he stands, and I’m inclined to agree. Empathy is absolutely crucial for leadership. It’s also a necessary through-line for every organizational tier. Whatever your title, you won’t win the hearts, minds, or cooperation of your team members unless you make a genuine effort to connect with them on a human level.

Gary said that openly acknowledging your weaknesses as well as your strengths is a powerful way to break the ice. It doesn’t need to be complicated. For instance, at your next Zoom meeting, when you ask everyone to introduce themselves by sharing a bit of personal information, don’t skip yourself.

Empathy Also Builds Alignment

Self-awareness leads to humility, which in turn, leads to empathy. When you honor others’ right to be at the table, you can expect a better response from them. That’s the reason why empathy works.

Think about it. When you make an effort to connect with others, pay attention to them, and factor their input into your decisions, others will be drawn toward you.

But when your actions make it clear that your business revolves around you, why would your team sign-up for that? When you send a message that says you make decisions in a unilateral, top-down way, you inhibit the free exchange of ideas where engagement and innovation thrive.

No wonder we see phenomena like “quiet quitting” eroding modern work cultures. When people feel like it’s not worth the effort to work hard or go the extra mile, why should employers expect that kind of commitment?

The Elon Musk Twitter story still needs to unfold. But I think we’re already learning some valuable lessons. I believe Gary DePaul would agree.

Authority is best served with warmth. In other words, leaders should be willing to admit they’re going to make mistakes. They should also be willing to admit they’re on a learning curve — particularly when they’ve just taken over a company.

Anyone in charge of a team can and should work on their leadership style and recognize the importance of communicating with different types of people on their terms. (Hint: Maybe email isn’t the best way to deliver life-altering news.)

A Key Takeaway from Gary DePaul

Studying leadership is Gary DePaul’s career passion. When we spoke, his latest book was What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?  It speaks to these core questions:

  • What does it really mean to lead?
  • What does this job really require?

Gary’s bottom line:  Leadership is a continuous, ongoing vocation. So if you’re heading into the corner office (metaphorically or not), don’t assume you’ve arrived. You’re just getting started.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE:

For more insights on leadership and other work-related topics, explore our #WorkTrends podcast archives. You’ll find a treasure trove of great guests and ideas.

Also, be sure to subscribe to Meghan M. Biro’s LinkedIn newsletter,  The Buzz On Work, her personal take on what’s happening at the intersection of people, tech, HR, and work culture.

What Helps Women Leaders Move Up, Not Out?

Currently, women account for nearly 48% of the global workforce. This seems like progress for gender equality and inclusion, right? But the picture isn’t as rosy as you might think—especially for women leaders.

In fact, recent research reveals that as women move up the management ranks, they’re actually less likely to be promoted to each successive rung on the corporate ladder. No wonder women executives are quitting their jobs at a record pace!

What will it take to remove these obstacles so more women can reach top management positions?

With stellar talent in short supply these days, this topic has never been more important for employers to address. So I invite you to dig deeper with me on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Todd Mitchem

Today, I’m speaking with author, consultant, and leadership development expert, Todd Mitchem, EVP at AMP Learning and Development. Todd is a future-of-work visionary who helps individuals understand and embrace the process of professional disruption and reinvention. And today we’re tapping into his expertise on key trends involving women leaders.

Work, Women, and Power

Welcome, Todd! Tell us, how can women leaders step into their power?

I teach presentation, communication, and executive presence skills for employees, often at large companies like Microsoft. And I would say about 98% of the participants are women.

Often, when I tell these women to step into their own their power, they’ll ask, “Well, how do I do that? I don’t want to seem too aggressive, or too bossy, or…”

My response is, “When you are in a room presenting, you’re there because someone believed you deserved to be there. You just need to own that. You need to step into that power.”

And the next piece is to lean on what you know, lean on what you’re good at, and step into that strength.

Executive Presence is a Skill

How are women leaders applying these lessons to engage their power?

Well, executive presence is a skill. People aren’t born an executive leader. It’s a skill.

So, if you teach them this skill, it’s amazing to watch what emerges from the process.  Because it frees them to bring out all the things they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

It’s powerful. But it’s skill-based. Once you learn the skill, your intelligence, your wisdom, your knowledge all emerge, almost naturally.

Women Can Lead With Their Strengths

You say women leaders need to realize they deserve to be in the position they’re in and should claim it. But what do you really mean by this?

I think society tends to make women think they’re supposed to act like their male counterparts who are successful but may be aggressive or overly dominating.

But in truth, if women just lead with their knowledge, instead of trying to outmatch the egos of their male colleagues, they’ll find they’re in a better place. That’s because they have much more confidence.

How Men Can Help

Todd, you’ve helped thousands of women claim their power and step into their roles more fully. As a man, how can you do this?

It’s not as if the corporate world is now magically wonderful for women. It isn’t. That’s an illusion. But women are evolving at an incredible pace, and men need to help step that up.

As women step into their power, men need to step up and check our egos at the door.

Resistance, or fear, or an unconscious belief structure will destroy you. The ego’s fight to win is about wanting to be right, instead of getting it right.

But the best thing to do for the future of work is to embrace the power we have as a unified group—men and women working together.

 


For more great advice from Todd, listen to this full episode. Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Key Design Decisions for 360 Feedback Success

Many managers and HR practitioners are familiar with 360 feedback as a leadership development practice. However, no two 360 feedback experiences look alike.

That is actually a good thing. Most successful 360 feedback drives behavior change both for individual leaders and their employers because the process is tailored to the organization’s unique culture as well as the intended purpose of the exercise.

On the other hand, this need for customization means practitioners face an overwhelming number of decisions when designing a new 360 feedback assessment. For example:

  • Who should participate?
  • How many survey questions should we include?
  • Who should receive the report?
  • What kind of follow-up support should we offer?
  • Who should choose the raters?
  • What role should HR play in the process?

Fortunately, some 360 feedback implementation practices have become ubiquitous. That means some guesswork, research and debate aren’t necessary. For example, below are five must-haves for strong engagement and outcomes.

Five Design Factors for 360 Feedback:

1) Which groups should participate in ratings?

Anyone who has observed a leader’s on-the-job behavior can provide useful rating input. This could include the leader who is being assessed, as well as a combination of direct supervisors, secondary managers, peers, direct reports, customers, board of directors representatives, donors and even skip reports.

In some situations, it is helpful to include other groups to meet specific requirements. For example, if a leader is actively involved with strategic partners or other third-party groups, their voices could add useful context. 

While there is flexibility to customize the participant mix, 360 feedback assessments typically include these four core rater groups as a baseline:  self, peers, direct reports, and direct managers. In fact, according to soon-to-be-released research from our firm, 88% of organizations include these four core groups.

2) Who will select and approve raters?

Among 360 feedback experts, there is some debate about the best way to choose raters. Should assessment recipients choose their participants? Those who favor this approach say it ensures a sense of ownership and buy-in. Others say a third party (a manager or HR representative) should choose raters. This ensures that feedback is well-balanced and avoids a “friends and family” bias.

Most 360 feedback process owners agree leaders should choose their own raters to build trust and establish assessment process buy-in. On the other hand, 70% of organizations tell us they review and approve final rater lists.

We agree that manager involvement is a wise practice, and a leader’s direct manager should approve the final list. Over the last 20 years, we’ve found that this is the most common approach. And according to our new benchmarking analysis, 48% of companies continue to use this method.

3) How will we score surveys and generate reports?

As with many HR processes, technology has also transformed 360 feedback implementation practices. Now, most HR practitioners rely heavily on online tools so they can collect, organize, analyze and share useful feedback faster and easier.

In 2009, spreadsheets and even paper surveys were still popular ways to collect and report 360 feedback data. Today, those methods are all but obsolete. In fact, 91% of organizations now use a web-based reporting tool to manage surveys and generate reports.

Many practitioners are also choosing to outsource this task to specialized service providers. In fact, our recent research shows that 80% of employers rely on an external vendor or consultant to handle this aspect of the process. 

4) How can we assure rater anonymity? 

To encourage honest responses, employers must ensure that feedback sources remain anonymous. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 81% of employers tell us rater anonymity is essential to the success of their 360 feedback endeavors.

A common way to ensure anonymity is by requiring a minimum number of survey responses for any group specified in the report. For example, peer scores are displayed separately only if at least 3 peers respond. If fewer peers respond, then that data is included only in overall average ratings.

Most often, organizations require a minimum of three raters in a category. In fact, 83% of companies use this three-rater threshold rule. Very few skip this requirement altogether (3% require no minimum responses). And on the other end of the spectrum, very few require more than three responses.

5) How will we help leaders translate the report into action?

For best results, talent management experts agree that personal follow-up is essential. To optimize ROI, employers should avoid the “desk drop” follow-up, where leaders receive a 360 feedback report, but no direct support to discuss results, implications, or next steps.

Follow-up can include any number of supportive actions, such as:  Adding development suggestions to the report, offering action planning guidance, providing individualized 1-on-1 coaching, assigning in-person or online workshops, referring leaders to specialized resource libraries, and more.

The most common step is also what talent management professionals feel is most critical for 360 assessment success:  Provide a one-on-one meeting with a trained 360 feedback coach who can facilitate action planning based on the results.

Historically, these sessions were conducted in person. However, in recent years, video meetings have become the dominant format. Also, reliance upon external coaches (rather than in-house staff) has become more popular.

Fortunately, 88% of organizations say they provide debrief sessions and one-on-one coaching, so feedback recipients can interpret insights and chart a relevant path forward.

Final Thoughts

Good leaders thrive on feedback. But for 360 feedback assessments to be effective, it’s important for leaders to understand the results and commit to improvement.

This means employers must take care to design and implement a valid, well-informed process from end to end. By addressing key design elements at the outset and by investing in ongoing leadership guidance, organizations can dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE:
Want to learn more about the decisions talent managers make when designing and implementing 360 feedback assessments? Replay this recorded webinar, where the 3D Group unveils findings from its latest benchmarking study,
Current Practices in 360 Feedback, 7th Edition. This analysis includes 20 years of data from more than 600 companies.

Top Five Leadership Challenges: How to Overcome Them

There are many challenges that all managers face. Whilst these challenges can arise at any point in a manager’s career, they can be particularly prevalent for newer or first-time managers. We’ve compiled a handy list of these challenges with tips on how to combat them, become the best manager possible, and support your team on their way to success.

Adjusting to the role

First time managers often find it difficult to adapt to taking ownership of their role. It can be particularly difficult managing those who you’re used to working closely with and perhaps have personal relationships with. It’s important to keep these personal relationships separate from workplace practices. You can do this by positioning yourself as an approachable and supportive manager and ensuring that the tough conversations still take place. Remember that giving constructive feedback shouldn’t be seen negatively, but  instead be seen as a way that you can help your team perform at their full potential.

Over managing

Whilst it’s undeniably important to be there for your team, and coach them to make sure you’re getting the best out of them: there’s a fine line between managing a team well and not letting people take on their own work. Your role is to support, so make sure your team has the space to complete their assignments and have some autonomy, whilst helping them make progress as individuals and take ownership of their development. Whether the people you’re mentoring are older, younger, or no matter how long they’ve been in the field, if you are able to guide them through hardships, lead them in the right direction and help them progress in their role or career, then you are succeeding as a mentor and as a manager.

Not giving enough guidance

Whilst over managing people and not providing the space to work can be an issue, the other end of the spectrum is not giving people enough input or guidance. Much as your team likely know what they are working on, as manager it’s up to you to ensure everyone is fully aware of what’s expected of them and how their work aligns and contributes to the wider company goals. If managers are unable to communicate clear guidelines and expectations for their team members, they will of course be unable to take ownership of their work and ultimately less productive. They will also have less motivation and drive to work towards their goals if they are unaware of the impact their work has on the company.

Keep the conversation open

No matter how things are going, it’s key to keep communication frequent and open. Providing constructive feedback is not always the easiest task, but it’s an essential way to ensure your team can develop and really progress within their role. It’s equally important, however, that you also celebrate people’s successes, however big or small. Giving positive feedback to your team when things have gone well or particular team members have shined is key to letting people know they’re valued. It will increase engagement; people will know that their work is recognized and that they’re appreciated. Introducing or optimizing the use of 360-feedback is also a great practice to really keep communication open and useful for everyone.

Embrace upward feedback

Giving feedback aside, it can be difficult, particularly as a newer manager, to receive constructive feedback: it’s not always the easiest to handle, particularly when still adjusting to managerial responsibilities. But it’s important to see such feedback as positive; something which will help you develop in your career and become the best, most supportive and  efficient manager possible. It’s not only key to receive this upward feedback with an open mind, but also to ensure you act upon it appropriately. Following up feedback either by discussing with your team what the next steps are and how they feel things could improve, or by taking the next steps based on people’s feedback really shows your team that you value their input. This will build trust and respect for you and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

What to share?

Transparency is something greatly appreciated by modern workforces. An employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review actually found that 70% of those asked said they were most engaged when managers shared continuous updates and insights into company strategy. With many organizations adopting a flatter, less hierarchical approach, and employees taking more ownership of their roles, it’s not so much a case of management being the only ones in the know. Many employees now value transparency and candidness over more traditional practices. And, with an increasing amount of companies taking transparency even further, with salaries made public knowledge, and other less traditional information being disclosed to employees, it’s clear people like to be aware of what’s happening in the company. To be a manager that people trust and feel comfortable with, don’t close yourself off- keep your employees in the loop.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog

Photo Credit: cheever.zachary Flickr via Compfight cc

Listen Up, Leaders: We Are All Millennials

A lot of digital ink has been spilled regarding Millennials and how they are reshaping and reordering the workplace. I’m happy to report that ink has not been wasted.  The influx of Millennials into the workforce tops virtually any short list of today’s business trends.  No doubt, Generation Y is poised to make a big impact on the world of work.  But are the supposed differences of the most tech-savvy generation in history all they are cracked up to be? Even more importantly, how will generational differences play out when it comes to leadership development, workplace culture and recruiting?  Here are a few points worth considering:

  1. Millennials And Non-Millennials Are More Alike Than Not: Sure, Millennials have a language all their own, which is not easy for outsiders to decipher.  But studies of Generation Y show that they value many of the things other generations value: like hard work, fair compensation, and establishing the right blend between career and family.  On yeah, there’s another trait they share with the rest of humanity: they thrive on leadership and team feedback. Yes, today’s twenty-somethings are a new breed of human, but they are not necessarily a breed apart.
  1. Employee Engagement: Just like everyone else, millennial employees seek and appreciate basic acknowledgement.  However, they do differ in the way they expect feedback to be communicated.  This is the generation that grew up with Instant Messages and texting.  They assume that communication works at the speed of light.  And they are right.  Taking a week to recognize a job well-done makes about as much sense to them as sending an offer letter by pony express.
  1. Embracing The Winds Of Change:  Millennials are fearless when it comes to digital and technology.  Let’s wrap our minds around the Cloud, Big Data, and the globally inter-connected workplace.  They can run social media circles around the rest of us.  Right? Well, Sort of….On second thought, these aren’t just traits of a single generation, so much as skills necessary to succeed in the future that is unfolding before our eyes.  We are all Millennials now, like it or not.
  1. Generational Communication: We live in an era of virtually unprecedented generational diversity.  Every generation has strengths and weaknesses, but differences in communication styles can breed misunderstanding and conflict.  Organizations need strategies that will help them mentor younger generations and encourage all age brackets to work cohesively.  Communication styles need to be tailored to each person’s needs.  Similarly, dissimilar age groups respond to different incentives.  For example, members of Generation Y may value flextime more than financial compensation.  Of course, grooming today’s talent for leadership positions of the future is part of how tribal wisdom is transmitted.  Here, more seasoned workers can share their valuable experience while younger employees share their knowledge of technology.

Generation Us is entering the workplace in a big way.  We have the power to change the way we work, for the better.  Our tech and digital skills will help us deal with a world that is more global, diverse, and fast-changing than ever before.  We must embrace change, technology, and more disruption because that’s where the future is going, in a hurry.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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5 Truths: Insourced Leaders Promote From Within

Insourced focused leaders should be tuning into ways to recruit and retain talent from within for strong results and increased employee satisfaction.

When my parents started in the world of work, there was an unwritten rule: put in two to five years on the job with a set job description and title before making your next move. Impress people, work 50+ hours a week, learn everything, and become essential to the organization. It was a recipe for success pulled straight out of 50s movies, and it was the way to move up the corporate ladder.

With every promotion, the interval between new titles might have gotten a little longer, but the company offered security and a sense of belonging. People might have been restless, but they knew where they stood. Companies retained talent, for the most part, because talent wanted to stay. There was a gold watch at the end, remember.

The path of career people who came up in the 80s, 90s, and now has been much different. Our perception of ‘meaningful work’ is different. Companies have a different attitude, too – I seldom meet anyone who’s been at the same company for more than five years. Perhaps this is par for the course for technical recruiters, or maybe it’s a sign of something different: companies have pulled the corporate ladder out of reach.

For some of my clients, in fact, there’s a belief that hiring from the outside is preferable to promoting from within – the ‘fresh blood builds a stronger company’ idea. While that trend may be good for recruiters, it isn’t cheery news for workers looking for promotions. I hear from people every day looking for work. Some are unemployed, but more feel trapped in a meaningless job or fear their skills have timed out. Many feel there’s no place to grow in their organizations. At the same time, companies bemoan the lack of employee loyalty and engagement.

HR Technology exists to help leaders solve at least a portion of these talent management issues. Maybe it’s time to make internal (upward) mobility a priority again.

What can leaders do to create a culture of loyalty while making growth and innovation a priority?

Here are five ideas to make the next rung of the corporate ladder easier to reach:

  1. Reinstate employee referral bonuses. A staple of fast-growth startups, referral bonuses give employees an incentive to stay – and to bring their talented friends onboard. It might seem risky or profligate in a time of slow job growth, but your top talent wants to work with other talented people, and their networks may be better than yours.
  1. Create an internal talent scouting network. Many managers fear losing their best people. Recognize managers who push talented employees to the next step in the organization. You might not be able to promote them right now, but they are demonstrating their commitment to the company, so find a way to acknowledge and reward them. Why not a 10 or 20 percent finders’ fee for bosses who nurture great employees?
  1. Cultivate fast-start work groups. You know who your best managers are. Choose the best from each department or business unit – especially in traditionally rapid-turnover areas, e.g. sales – and give them a management task: identifying and fast-tracking talent. Make it an MBO goal.
  1. Invest as much in management training next year as you spent on job ads last year. Fortune 500 companies appear to be headed in this direction but smaller companies may not have the leeway to send star performers to Harvard or Wharton for executive training. So look to other sources for courseware and build your own programs. Start with Harvard – MIT edX online offerings and work up and in.
  1. Institute a management and executive book club. Not all business-themed books are a bore; talk to the manager who’s most effective, or consult with someone from your Board. Find out what they’re reading and distribute copies to your managers. Pop quiz in 15 minutes.

Research shows it takes two years for external hires to perform as well as internal candidates promoted on the job. Ensure your organization has a promote-from-within strategy – every company needs a farm team.

A version of this post was first published on forbes.com on July 24, 2012

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HR Isn’t The Needy, The Nerdy Or The Girlie

Cool spring morning. Grade-school recess. A group of boys and girls gather on a damp field. Captains are called out. The usual suspects. The strongest players. Each picks his own number two. The second-strongest players. The ones they’ve done battle with before. Sometimes a girl but usually a boy.

The number twos call out names and point successively. Advise their captains who else to pick. One by one by one. Strongest to weakest. Until the last few remain. The skinny asthmatics. The uncoordinated. The needy, the nerdy and the girlie. The perennial last picked. Or the never picked.

Sometimes a teacher or a playground monitor would intervene. To encourage the kids to include the never picked. But mostly they didn’t. Mostly they just wanted to play with the best. If new kids came to school, they’d have to prove themselves worthy before becoming sought-after talent.

Those were the rules. And they always played to win. Always. Played. To. Win. You may not be old enough to remember these playgrounds of mythic Gen X and Boomer lore, before the “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Before the not keeping score and non-discriminatory team picks. Before the nearly forced inclusion and everyone getting a trophy.

I remember. I was a captain and a number two. Even early on when I was a skinny asthmatic, I broke the childhood glass ceiling with decent coordination, people skills, strategy, flexibility, energy and empathy.

Then, as with every generation since, growing up means more of the “winning” same in academia, sports and the workplace. Regulatory complexity may mandate some leveling of playing fields, especially around equal opportunity and giving everyone a fair shake, but in business we play to win. And make money. And be better. And have a lot fun doing it.

When you know the players and how well you’ve play together, as in the playground example, you can replicate your winning teams with consistency, because the players rarely change. Unless you grow up and live and work in a world where tenure is less than five years and people can be as fluid as the very air they breathe, especially when it’s stale or poison, it makes amplifying talent engagement a business imperative.

Enter the people person, the second-strongest player, the key advisor to the captain. The one who gets the game, the players, the competition and who knows what to invest when and where and how much.

Get this: The enterprise executive whose traits are most similar to those of the CEO is the CHRO.

Did you get that? The CHRO (42 percent of which are high-performing females, by the way, for those keeping score at home). Not the CFO, CMO, or CIO. The only other exception is the COO because these roles and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s, this all according to “counterintuitive” and groundbreaking research based on data from executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry and the work of Dave Ulrich, a University of Michigan professor and a leading consultant on organization and talent issues.

You can read all about it in the HBR article “Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs.” This research also clearly revealed that a CEO’s people skills, strategy, flexibility, energy and empathy (and many other business-centric attributes) closely align to the CHRO.

Forward-thinking companies understand that these skills are critical to the top roles to engage and retain top performers – and attract the best candidates to join the team in today’s highly competitive market. This is why amplifying talent engagement can and should be treated as a business investment strategy – which is what the C-suite wants, and their respective boards, investors, high performers and prospective employees and customers.

Now it’s true that the majority of HR professionals tend to be nurturers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those who come from other parts of the business have learned those other parts. They’ve also had P&L responsibility, and have also done an HR stint (or two). These are ultimately the potential leaders, the CHROs, the bright CEO-shadows aglow with talent engagement outcomes that come from their cultural investment, business investment and revenue growth strategy.

The good news is that according to a recent PeopleFluent survey, HR leaders are focused on the following top three talent engagement strategies in 2015:

  • Leadership Development
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Performance Management

And Brandon Hall Group research showed that today high-performance organizations “optimize and maximize their business performance by investing in their talent management as a true business function that powers the business strategy.”

Sound familiar? It should, because every reputable analyst firm in the HR industry validates this over and over again.

However, it’s also counterintuitive today that one of the hottest topics still being discussed is whether or not HR should be split in two – one branch that handles administration and the other to manage leadership and organization.

Research by Bersin by Deloitte underscores this because HR is swamped with administrative tasks. Nearly 50 percent of business and HR leaders surveyed said their companies are “weak” on preparing HR to deliver programs aligned with business needs.

What to do? Get the proper technology in place. Using the playground-team analogy again, growing companies just can’t scale beyond a few hundred employees without the right technology enabling HR to scale certain tasks in a way that humans never can. This means bringing efficiencies to a complex administrative process that could never be achieved otherwise.

This is exactly what we recently discussed on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, with the consensus being the right technology partner not only takes care of the repetitive administration tasks from recruiting to onboarding to learning and development to performance management and more, they become the business partner that excels in culture empowerment, talent engagement, business strategy and actionable and sustainable growth, ensuring the technology investment is sound with continuous return.

CHROs demand this partnership; and Mark Stelzner, Founder and Managing Principal of IA, a consulting service firm that has supported many of the most complex human resource decisions in the world, has told me this time and again over the years. But like me and thankfully many others, these CHROs leading the charge of change and amplified talent engagement are quite sick and tired of being treated like the needy, the nerdy and the girlie.

Because Brothers and Sisters, this winning HR team is the one you need to be on today and tomorrow.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: Finish via photopin (license)

There Are No “Almost Great” Leaders

Once upon a time, I had the extraordinary privilege of playing for some of the greatest conductors in history.

But before you tsk-tsk me for self-aggrandizement, let me also say that I once had the not-so-extraordinary experience of playing . . . for some of the worst conductors in history too.

Many were just dull or mildly annoying, but there were also quite a few that were, well, what can I say . . . they were a genuine check-the-clock-every-45-seconds-wondering-if-life-is-really-worth-living-and-should-I-quit-the-bass-and-take-up-animal-husbandry experience.

But here is the odd thing: there was no middle. I never once encountered an “almost great” conductor. They were either magical, making everything flow with virtually no effort, or they were misery.

When I stepped out of my cultural silo to share this phenomenon with the broader world of people who earn money for a living, I discovered that it was not at all unique to the music business. I had merely seen one iteration of an emotional fractal. People in many different walks of life have told me similar stories. There are no “almost great” leaders or managers anywhere; they either got it or they ain’t. It’s positive or negative, with no gray shades. Their polarity is simply magnified by their power, for good or for ill.

Note, their numbers are not evenly distributed between the two. Gallup’s statistics of workplace emotional disengagement support my theory that the ratio of great to miserable leaders is something like 1:4, or perhaps even 1:5. And so, since most of us are managed by somebody somewhere, and these Gallup numbers indicate that the chance of getting a good manager is perhaps less than 20%, we are all eager to improve our odds via leadership development.

But when we talk about “leadership development,” perhaps that is neither the right term nor the right approach, as it is clearly not a linear process; it’s a bit of a quantum either-or experience. You can always tell in any situation if the leader has embraced one polarity or the other. You can immediately see which of these mutually exclusive forces are in play: hubris or humility, command or communication, narcissism or empathy, fear or faith, blind obedience to systems and tradition or spontaneity, mistrust or trust.

You would think that, if the Earth’s magnetic field is capable of changing polarities, perhaps some of these folks stuck in the negative side can make the shift too. At least, it gives us hope.

But if we assume that there is science in it, and manifesting the positive polarity of leadership is not just a random genetic propensity, can those on the other side be brought round with mere textbook learning?  Or perhaps, are these folks in Group B caught in the grip of Alice Miller’s re-enactment syndrome, and they need, not just “training,” but new-age psychiatric healing help?

In any case, mere corrections on the temporal level miss the point. The fix lies in a leap to greater, or perhaps one might say deeper, consciousness. Once that happens, everything else becomes effortless, as people in that positive state become so open to energy flowing to them.

How to achieve it? Stay tuned . . .

About the Author: Justin Locke is a former bass player turned author, speaker, and consultant on “soft skills,” “emotional literacy,” and the “touchy feely” side of management and leadership. Visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.

photo credit: Rob Swystun via photopin cc

The Bravery Of Being Fearlessly Authentic

“We play the game
With the bravery of being out of range
We zap and maim
With the bravery of being out of range…”

—Roger Waters (musician and writer)

Small craters pocked the desk around her laptop dock. Tiny tendrils of sulfurous smoke rose from each one, like poisonous snakes entranced by music only they could hear. Pens lay strewn like bodies left behind on a war-ravaged beach.

Jodi rubbed her eyes with shrapnel scarred hands and gazed again into her laptop screen. She thought, Where did it go?

The email — it was right there with all the others earlier that morning. Her boss, a small, overly verbose man who still wore knit ties from the 1980s, had sent yet another loaded negative critique of her work to her, even accusing her of throwing team members under the proverbial world-of-work bus for her own benefit so she could get in the new leadership development program.

She sat on the message all morning, not knowing how to respond at all this time; she hadn’t done anything to her colleagues to better herself, and yet again, he had convinced her that maybe, just maybe, she had. She wanted to get into the program badly, but had followed the rules and submitted the application just like everyone else, only having a brief conversation with the head of HR because of their relationship.

But when she returned to her desk to respond to him, to attempt to again defend her honor, the email was gone. Vanished. A fresh crater smoked near the framed quote on the back of her cubicle, one that her father had shared with her a long time ago.

Be fearlessly authentic.

She trembled. I am, Dad. I am. But he’s not and now he’s deleting emails from the server. And I don’t know what to do about it, except to get the fuck out of here.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, or maybe you know someone who has. Sadly, there are a million related stories out there.

Because this isn’t the war for talent we’re dealing with; this is a war on talent. Relentless. Unforgiving. Destructive. Ineffectual leaders not leading the way with the bravery of being out of range, which doesn’t mean literally mean virtual workers dealing with crappy managers “out of range.” It means employees dealing with crappy managers who are inflexible and inaccessible, who attack out of range because they can, because of their authority and the highly misused communications medium known as email, sent from the comfort of a closed-door office less than 10 feet away.

You’ve heard it before — those who can leave, will. And they leave crappy leaders and managers every day (if again they truly can). Billions and billions of dollars each year are spent on learning, leadership development and employee engagement programs, and yet, Deloitte just released new research that shows a huge gap between what business executives say and what they do, and one of the biggest issues highlighted is a lack of focus on leadership development.

And so the war on talent continues, and the authenticity of knowing who we are, what our values are, and being clear on our purpose as leader of self and others continue to float like barrage balloons on D-Day.

According to a new global study of more than 5,500 executives and employees across 27 countries, conducted by Oxford Economics, barely half of the executives surveyed said their companies possess the skills to effectively manage talent, and only 44% have faith that their leaders are capable of driving and effectively managing change.

Plus, only about one-third of the respondents said their firms are prepared to lead a diverse workforce and have the ability to drive global growth.

None of this bodes well for the world of work’s future. This is why it’s imperative that companies devote the required resources to address the leadership gaps that threaten to derail their businesses today and tomorrow.

The good news is that some companies are doing something about developing future leaders, working hard to make them multi-faceted, multi-functional and multi-conversational by giving them cross-functional training and experience. By developing the talent and skills they need, while emphasizing mindful presence and authenticity, companies doing this can position themselves to thrive in the near- and long-term futures.

After attending Elliot Masie’s 2014 Learning Conference for the second consecutive year, where again I spoke (and PeopleFluent has sponsored), I find there’s hope.

For example, listening to the leadership development team from the Universal Orlando Resort talk about the great success of the progressive program they launched in 2010 to develop a pipeline of competent and confident leaders elevated me.

So far, at least 82% of the participants have made it to leadership roles each year, and the participants are promoted six months sooner than non-participants. They also saw an 11% increase in promoting internally, which in turn is giving the program more and more credibility.

And when it came to learning, leadership development and employee engagement, I kept hearing success stories from the likes of Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and many other companies. They all seem to understand the business impact of driving deeper levels of learning and employee engagement is dramatic. Deeper engagement from continuous learning drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. For companies that have high engagement scores, the results on the business are dramatic.

What’s clear is that when it comes to developing employees and future leaders, too many organizations are simply going through the motions, or worse yet, doing nothing at all. The bravest of companies are reaping a host of benefits, including:

  1. Better business planning—Learning and leadership development leads to better succession planning, which then leads to developing and then putting the right people in the right leadership roles at the right times. When organizations know they have the right people in the queue for key positions, they can proactively plan for the future of the business far more effectively.
  2. Improved retention and lower turnover—Sound learning and leadership development helps to ensure that employees know they’re being groomed for a particular position, which gives them a strong sense of having a clearly defined future within the company. This is a strong retention tool and keeps people from leaving their companies for greener pastures. The resulting cost savings can be substantial but it takes a long-term investment.
  3. Improved employee engagement—Obviously, showing employees a learning plan and defined future with an upward career trajectory is a powerful booster of employee engagement and emotional commitment. And, as employee engagement analysis after analysis has showed the past few years, companies with highly engaged employees experience financial growth rates nearly four times higher than those of companies with lower engagement.
  4. More accurate recruiting—Sound learning and leadership development also helps improve recruiting as well: when employers have a clear understanding of their organizations’ gaps in skills and leadership qualities, they can sharpen their focus on recruiting for specific future roles (even those not yet defined by succession plans), shortening the recruiting process and increasing sourcing accuracy.

Nobody wants a world of work wasteland. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, so let’s stop waging war on one other and invest in the bravery of being fearlessly authentic and making a learning and leadership development difference.

photo credit: BombDog via photopin cc

#TChat Recap: Leadership Development: Not Pushing It Off a Cliff

Leadership Development: Not Pushing It Off A Cliff

Being a leader is a constant reminder that you are a manager of people. Leadership development has never before been more recognized in the World of Work than it is today. Leaders have to be able to drive and manage change effectively. The truth is there a doubt that lingers in the World of Work that believes leaders are not capable of effectively driving and managing change, and it comes from at least 44% of executives that expressed their doubt, during a global study conducted by Oxford Economics and was commissioned by Sap SuccessFactors. This week our #TChat Community was joined by Mary Haskins, Vice President of Leadership Experience at SAP, who shared with us how to avoid any steep cliff falls with leadership development and reminded us of the importance in developing future leaders.

If there’s anything to be said about today’s leadership expectations, it’s that leaders have to be able to change and adjust to their working environments. People affect these working environments and have to be accounted for. That’s why leaders have to view change as a wheel that never stops spinning. Still, organizations are struggling to develop leaders:

Are we destined to fail at developing leaders? Or are we simply failing to connect the business development dots? Leadership development is about harnessing the power of people and their growth potential. Building effective leaders means understanding they are existing components of any business plan. How an organization performs depends on how leaders perform and how it trickles down to affect employees. Developing leaders also means understanding the most effective means for them to harness their leadership. We have to remember that:

Yes, every generation does want to lead in their own way. Is it wrong to want to do so? No, but if we do not connect how we lead with how we meet organizational goals then how can we expect to develop future leaders? We often view great leaders as individuals who are wise, respected, and experienced. So it’s easy to forget that:

Part of leadership development means having the courage to recognize generational differences and learning how to bridge them together. Being a leader is about managing people, but it also extends to understanding what makes people different and unique. This involves being progressive enough to actively drive and manage the change that happens naturally over the course of an organization’s lifespan, because its employees change and they also grow. Smart and trendy companies that are:

Developing effective leaders comes from constantly looking for developmental opportunities. Not letting your business fall over a cliff happens when you look for opportunities to stay current. Organizations, employees, and technology are constantly evolving around us. Standing still is the last thing we should ever be thinking about. Actively engaging employees, keeping up with industry trends, and not being afraid to experiment with developmental opportunities is how we can work to develop future leaders. We also mustn’t ignore generational differences that affect leadership, but instead educate ourselves to bridge generational differences together so we can grow together. Developing leaders means managing the change necessary to be effective and drive the business results that we all seek.

What Our Community Had To Say About Leadership Development On #TChat!

What’s Up Next? #TChat Events Kicks Off On Wednesday, Nov. 5th!

TChatRadio_logo_020813

We’ll be discussing The Excellence Of Email Productivity At Work during our Social Hour on #TChat with our guest host: Marsha Egan, CEO of The Egan Group, and a leading authority on email productivity.

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our community on Twitter during this time. Checkout this week’s BlogTalkRadio show preview here: The Excellence Of Email Productivity At Work.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute Twitter discussion. During this time, we’ll take a deep social dive about our weekly topic by asking 3 thought adrenalizing questions. So join in on the fun during #TChat and share some of your brain power with us (or tweet us @TalentCulture).

Become A Part Of Our Social Community & Checkout Our Updates! 

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: Nicki Varkevisser via Magdeleine cc

#TChat Preview: How To Avoid The Business Leadership Cliff

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about employee engagement and the culture control panel, and this week we’re going to talk about the business leadership cliff and how to avoid it.

Even with a continued annual investment in leadership development, leadership overall is falling short in business today. Even worse, enterprises are doing a poor job developing leadership talent and aren’t investing in succession planning, so these issues are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

According to a new global study of more than 5,500 executives and employees across 27 countries, conducted by Oxford Economics and commissioned by SAP SuccessFactors, barely half of the executives surveyed said their companies possess the skills to effectively manage talent, and only 44% have faith that their leaders are capable of driving and effectively managing change.

The good news is that some companies are doing something about developing future leaders, working hard to make them multi-faceted, multi-functional and multi-conversational by giving them the cross-functional training and experience. By developing the talent and skills they need, companies doing this can position themselves to thrive around the 2020 workforce.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-creator and host Meghan M. Biro as we learn about how steep the leadership cliff is and how we can avoid it with this week’s guest: Mary Haskins, Vice President of Leadership Experience at SAP.

To learn more about the Oxford Economics research for SAP, click here

Related Reading:

Mitchell Levy: The Thought Leadership Funnel

Meghan M. Biro: Listen Up Leaders: We Are All Millennials

Graham Winfrey: 7 Keys To Creating The Best Work Environment (Infographic)

Anita Bruzzese: How Leaders Can Keep A Team Engaged After Telling Them “No”

Lydia Dishman: 7 Inspiring Women On How They’ve Become Better Leaders With Age

Lolly Daskal: Take A Hard Look In The Mirror

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guest and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: How To Avoid The Business Leadership Cliff

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, October 29th — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune in to the #TChat Radio show with our host, Meghan M. Biro, as she talks with our guest: Mary Haskins.

Tune in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, October 29th — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan and Mary will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why do so many companies struggle with leadership development? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: How do generational differences impact delivery and adoption of leadership development? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What are progressive companies doing to avoid the leadership cliff? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: Bods via photopincc

Leadership Means Being Definitive And Living Levity

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” – George S. Patton Jr.

That’s when I realized someone lurked right outside our bedroom doors.

I sat up still glued to the sheets, soaked with sweat. It still must’ve been over 85 degrees outside, my meek fan swirling nothing but hot air around my room. My heart hammered in my ears. I forced my eyes on my digital clock – it read 2:30 am.

Our dog growled and barked from outside my door. Mom and Dad shouted. Feet pounded back down our hallway and out the front door.

Mom burst in my room and held out a handgun to me, handle first.

“Take your father his gun! Now! Someone was in the house and Dad’s chasing him!”

I remember thinking, you’ve got to be kidding, Mom, but I complied slowly, rose from my bed, and carried the gun outside by the handle as if I held a rat by the tail.

Moments later out on the street, Dad appeared under the corner streetlamp, completely out of breath and sweaty, wearing nothing but his white underwear.

“Watcha got there…a rat?” he panted through a smile, bent over with hands on his knees.

I handed him the gun. My hand shook. “No, it’s your gun. Did you get him?”

“Yes…I…figured it…was…my gun…thanks…son…no…I didn’t…get him,” he panted. He held the gun like a cop, which he was, and pushed the safety off.

That incident took place nearly 32 years ago, but Dad always just did when it came to taking action. Fast forward to only six years ago, during my niece’s high school graduation. The school had honored those family and friends who have served in the military. My father had been in the Air Force, so we smiled proudly as he stood while the song played on:

“Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…”

Then, at the end of the graduation, Dad said, “Well, now we’ve got another graduation in two years.” That was be my nephew’s high school graduation, which we did all attend.

“And another one in 18,” I said, referring to my oldest daughter, Beatrice, then unborn, who will now be six years old this year.

He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know about that one, son. Don’t know if I’ll make it that far.”

I squeezed his shoulder. “You never know, Pop. You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn’t called you home yet.”

But he did get “called home” four years later, in 2012. My mother followed him there four months after that.

It was all so bittersweet as we sat watching my nephew graduate from UC Berkeley recently, sitting among a class of newly minted scholars and leaders just beginning their adult lives and careers. Then I thought of my own two little girls, now nearly four and six, with their whole lives ahead, graduations lifetimes away, all the while their leadership skills budding and growing over time with a little help from me and their loving mother.

And for me, well, I thank my dad.

LeadershipSpecial Agent “Papa” Grossman (the grandkids called him that, but I called him “Pop” in his later years) was the nurturing father my sister and I never had, and a good and devoted husband to my mother. He came into our lives in the late 1970s, divorced like my mom, and his bachelor pad showed it – scantily clad women on black velvet paintings and a faux leopard skin bean bag chair – are what I remember the most. Hard-working and the strong, silent type, Dad was direct when needed to be and one of the warmest, funniest and nuttiest men you could ever meet.

It was always a sunny smile, my dad’s. A master of levity, Pop injected humor and silliness into most everything he did. His infectious laughter brought smiles to anyone in its radius, the scar above his lip always glinting under light like polished glass. For the life of me, I can’t remember how he got the scar. All I know is that it added a richness to his character, like biscuits soaked in honey and butter – you could never get enough of his presence.

This all from a law enforcement veteran of over 30 years. Anyone who ever worked with him shared the same sentiment – from the most hardened cops and criminals (who he called his customers), to literal strangers he’d meet on the street, in the store, in campgrounds, in the post office, in the doctor’s office – everyone experienced his sunny disposition, his goofy humor and his viral smile.

He had been stabbed, shot at and beat up more than once by bad guys and girls, yet he inspired me to keep a light head, to be silly, to embrace life and all the people in it, to give life and all the people in it a second and third chance, to laugh in the face of adversity – while at the same time tackling it and pinning it to the ground. Which is why Thom Narofsky’s Inspire to Retire Leadership Theorem resonated so much with me recently as well.

That’s why a leadership legacy for me means:

  • Being Definitive. That’s the one thing Pop brow-beat into my head so many years ago and then long into adulthood. It’s okay to question, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, but like Patton said, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” The world always was that simple to my dad, and he had the self-awareness, emotional intelligence and personal leadership skills to know when to follow and when to lead – and when to get sh%t done. Taking ownership of self first is always the key to leading well.
  • And Living Levity. Laughter is truly a healer, and that’s the one thing Pop didn’t have to brow-beat into my head. It was difficult in my early adulthood to understand, but became easier as I grew older, getting more comfortable in my own skin while making others feel the same way as much as I could. This leadership legacy of laughter that Pop taught me, regardless of the ugly he saw everyday on the streets, was that life was more fun with levity, more beautiful and vibrantly alive with the wondrous mess it all is, like crayons melting together beyond the lines and creating pictures we never thought possible.

I want more pictures of rainbows and silly faces and sunny smiles and birthday hats. So do our girls. There’s enough darkness out there as it is. I’d prefer to stay in the lightness of Pop.

And that’s what we’ll give our girls, and then they’ll give to their children.

A special thank you to all who have served in the military and the police force, in memoriam and those who are still with us, whether still working as such or retired.

God bless you, Pop.

“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald 

On Finding the Leader’s Way

“You got up, and you did something. And if trying to find a way when you don’t even know you can get there isn’t a small miracle; then I don’t know what is.”

—From The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

At first, it was simply the gathering of everyday natural things that pleased her: leaves, flowers, sticks and rocks.

These pleasing things, found in her front yard and back, as well as other parks around town, down by the sea, up in the mountains, and other realms of her ever-expanding world, were gathered with awe and handled with care. They were then stored in small plastic buckets outside on the front porch, on the back porch, in and around the house, and inside the cup holders of her car seats.

She studied them endlessly, held up high and down low, then up close and far away, smelled and rubbed, sometimes even licked and tasted. All the while, reverent questions arose of origin and type, of utility and relationships, her mind revolving around magnificent worlds within worlds, a gravity grounded yet flinging her into orbit to watch the universe birth anew, over and over and over again.

Patterns emerged on paper and across the kitchen table, the living room floor, the sofa, her bedroom floor and elsewhere. Some are more abstract than others, mazes and puzzles that only she knows the solutions to, ready to share with her parents, her sister, her teachers and classmates.

Regardless of what career may come for my eldest daughter, she’ll hopefully be college educated and working for a company where her colleagues share knowledge, collaborate with one another and spark innovative ideas, products and solutions. A company that invests in her continuous development, strengthening her skills and competencies.

Maybe she will be a scientist, or an engineer, or a captain of industry, looking for patterns and puzzles to solve in “pleasing things” and more, for those fleeting moments making the world a better place, searching for the magical visions within that will help transcend the unlikely.

And if the statistics hold steady, the pool of qualified women leaders is growing. That according to Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. That’s good news for both my daughters.

But whether you’re a woman or a man, the ability to “finding the leader’s way” in the world of work (and life) against all odds, or less dramatically, one little learning step at a time, is no easy task. Authentic leadership comes from continuous learning that embraces trust without judgment and the belief in everyday small miracles.

Unfortunately the world of work today continues to struggle for leadership. According to Bersin by Deloitte:

Leadership will be a big challenge in 2014. Executives are struggling with leadership gaps at all levels—from first-line supervision through top leadership (more than 60 percent of all companies cite “leadership gaps” as their top business challenge). This year, baby boomers will begin to retire in large volumes; one oil company told me that they expect to lose 30 percent of their workforce in the next three years.

So what to do? Finding the leader’s way today includes these two things:

  1. Encourage Learning. We are all lifelong learners and potential leaders, and from the earliest memories of awe and exploration to everyday “finding our ways” in the world of work (and again life), learning and leadership development should be part of every company’s talent strategy. This ensures that employees are given the learning opportunities they need to develop their leadership skills, and that the organization itself will have the leaders it needs for the future.
  2. Encourage Authenticity. Authentic leadership is all about developing yourself first in a manner that helps others see the complete you, exclusive of any organization’s help. This includes all your strengths, imperfections and accomplishments. We all crave authenticity and you have to be real in order to be heard. The most effective leaders today create dialogue and skillfully use indicators of their humanity. Great leadership is all about partnering and relationships, and the key to building productive teams is to be a little more unfiltered, personal and authentic.

Learning and being authentic are what it’s all about. This includes being willing to spread out our everyday “pleasing things,” looking for patterns and puzzles to solve, for those fleeting moments making the world a better place, searching for the magical visions within that will help transcend the unlikely while finding the leader’s way.

We can get there, girls. You are the small miracles.

Photo courtesy of Kevin W. Grossman.

Hiring? Promoting? How to Pick an A Player

(Editor’s Note: Last week at #TChat Events, the TalentCulture community explored best practices in candidate screening with Chris Mursau, Vice President at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Afterward, some of our participants expressed interest in learning more about how the Topgrading method works. In response, Chris shared this post.)

Do you have difficulty determining if a job candidate (or existing employee) is an A, B, or C Player? If so, you’re not alone — only companies with highly sophisticated HR methods have perfected that process. However, this article helps by providing an explanation of how Topgrading experts evaluate current and prospective employees. These distinctions offer a measurable way to assess talent and build a winning team.

In many companies, “A Player” refers to someone highly promotable. Topgrading definitions of A, B, and C are different. “A, B, and C” grades refer to current ability, not promotability. However, Topgrading takes a deeper look within the A Player category to assess promotability. Here’s how:

A Player: The top 10% of talent available for a position. In other words, an A Player is among the best in class. “Available” means willing to accept a job offer:

At the given compensation level
With bonus and/or stock that corresponding to the position
In that specific company, with a particular organization culture (e.g. Family friendly? Highly political? Fast paced? Topgraded and growing?)
In that particular industry
In that location
With specific accountability levels and resources, and
Reports to a specific person (e.g. Positive A Player or negative C Player?)

In other words, if you’re a terrific leader, many more candidates will be “available” to you than a lousy leader.

A Player Potential: Someone who is predicted to achieve A Player status, usually within 6-12 months.

B Player: The next 25% of available talent below the A Player top 10%, given the same A Player criteria listed above. These employees are “okay” or “adequate,” but they’re marginal performers who lack the potential to be high performers and are not as good as others available for the same pay. B Players are unable, despite training and coaching, to rise to A Player status. If they can qualify for a job as an A Player, they should be considered for it.

C Player: The next 35%, below the A Player 10% and B Player 25%, of talent available for a job. C Players are chronic underperformers.

The only acceptable categories are A Player and A Potential. We further categorize A Players by promotability:

A1: Someone who is promotable two levels
A2: Someone who is promotable one level
A3: Someone who is a high performer, but not promotable

Example: The not-promotable store stocker, sales rep, or first-level supervisor who is an A3, is a high performer, an A Player — but just not promotable. These employees are high performers because they achieve their A-Player accountabilities, plus they’re terrific with customers, they’re totally reliable, they achieve excellent results, they’re highly motivated, super honest, and very resourceful at finding ways to be more effective in driving the company mission.

It’s important to value all of your A Players, including the many who are the heart and soul of your company — including the A3s who are terrific, but are just not promotable.

How Do A, B and C Players Differ On Key Competencies?
The following chart is a bit simplistic, because not all A Players are this great on all competencies, and not all C Players are this bad on all competencies. Also note: for management jobs, Topgraders look at 50 competencies — this chart features only 8. However, it provides some insight into the methodology:

Topgrading_Competencies Example

The Best Way to Identify As, Bs and Cs:
If you know the story of Topgrading, you know that this methodology has long been considered one the “secret weapons” Jack Welch used to improve General Electric’s success at picking A Players. In fact, the company’s success rate improved from 25% to well over 90%, using Topgrading to assess candidates for both hire and for promotion.

The methods are similar. Two trained interviewers conduct a tandem Topgrading Interview — and if there are internal candidates for promotion, rather than talking with outside references, the interviewers talk with bosses, peers and subordinates in the company.

It’s important to look for patterns of success. Bottom line, the “magic” of Topgrading comes from understanding how successful a person was in job 1, job 2, job 3, and so on, with the greatest weight given to the most recent jobs.

Summary: Extensive research shows that 75% of people hired or promoted turn out NOT to be A Players or A Potentials. Yet, Topgrading methods regularly achieve 80%+ success. For more real-world understanding of how this approach is applied, see case studies that demonstrate how companies improved from 26% to 85% on average, in hiring and promoting A Players.

Have you used Topgrading or other methods of assessing employee potential? What did you discover in your experience? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments area.

Mursau Bio Photo(About the AuthorChris Mursau is Vice President of Topgrading, Inc. He has been practicing, teaching and consulting with companies and individual managers on how to pack their teams with A Players since 2001. He has conducted over 2,500 in-depth assessments for internal and external candidates, helped hundreds of people achiever their A potential, and trained thousands of people in all things Topgrading.)

(Also Note: 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…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Managerial Magnets: Becoming A Leader Others Want To Follow

Written by Roberta Matuson

Are you a manager who’s ready for a professional breakthrough? Then it’s time to become the kind leader people will do anything to work for. The kind of leader who draws others to you. It’s time to become a magnetic leader.

Contrary to popular belief, great leaders aren’t born that way. Most are developed, coached and mentored throughout their careers. But why wait for someone else to guide you? Magnetic role models are all around us. So, no matter what your title or level of experience, you can observe more closely and strengthen your own skill set anytime.

Here are 5 best practices to help you get started:

1) Put Your Team First

When in doubt, put the interests of your employees ahead of your own. For example, it’s tempting to volunteer your department to organize this year’s charity event. After all, it would be great PR for you and the rest of your team. But everyone has been working on weekends to complete a critical project on time and within budget. They’re already burned out.

This is a good time to take a pass. Your team needs a break. Let them recharge. There will always be other volunteer opportunities.

2) Go to Bat for Your Employees

Let’s say you’ve been discussing a potential reorganization with your superiors. However, upon reflection, you believe the timing isn’t right for your organization to make that move. You feel uncomfortable asking your manager to reconsider the current plan.

Be bold. Let your boss know you’ve had a change of heart. Explain your rationale, and be prepared to offer alternative solutions. Regardless of the outcome, your employees will eventually figure out that you had the courage to push back when others would have retreated. Those who walk through the fire with you will stick by your side through thick or thin.

3) Learn to “Manage Up”

In my book, Suddenly in Charge, I explain that managing up isn’t about brown-nosing. It’s about developing strong relationships with those above you and throughout the organization, so you can get your people the resources they need to perform well.

In every company, there are people who are somehow able to get what they need while everyone else waits on the sidelines. These people have taken the time to build strong relationships up and down the organization. You can bet these resourceful leaders have no problem keeping top talent on their team. Observe how they work — and if an opportunity presents itself, ask for some tips.

4) Make Yourself Visible and Accessible

Magnetic leaders are visible both inside and outside their organization. Get involved in a professional association. Whenever possible, step up and volunteer to take a leadership position. You’ll be seen as a leader in your field, based on that affiliation. Don’t be surprised if others come to you seeking advice or a position on your team.

5) Treat People the Way You’d Like to be Treated

I bet you’ve heard this one before, right? It seems so obvious — but when is the last time you saw someone in a managerial role who consistently follows this creed?

In my book, Talent Magnetism, I tell the story of magnetic leader, Chris Patterson, CEO of Interchanges, who took it upon himself to help an employee who was in crisis. Patterson made it his personal mission to provide his employee with the best care possible during a life-threatening illness. He did so with compassion and conviction. This is a guy who is magnetic in every way.

Magnetic leaders are highly valued by their organizations — and are compensated accordingly. But it’s not just a reward for their effort and contributions to corporate objectives. Their employers know that leaders who display these characteristics are highly attractive to competitive organizations.

Do you know role models who demonstrate the value of magnetic leadership? What do they do that makes them so attractive to others in their professional sphere? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments area.

Roberta-Matuson-Photo(About the Author: Roberta Matuson, The Talent Maximizer®, is the President of Matuson Consulting, a firm that helps organizations achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. Her new book, Talent Magnetism, is available for download or purchase at Amazon.com. Connect with Roberta on Twitter or on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Rebecca Krebs via Flickr

Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for all the highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? You’re in luck — they’re right this way at the #TChat Recap: Gut Check: Emotions and Leadership.)

“It’s not personal — it’s strictly business.”
–Mario Puzo “The Godfather

Have you ever heard someone at work echo that classic line to dismiss their ruthless, destructive or self-serving behavior? In the past, that kind of cold-blooded Mafia mindset was all too prevalent in business. But these days it’s losing relevance, as emotional intelligence takes hold.

Although academics continue to debate various “EI” models, the core concept is simple. It’s based on the notion that the more mindful we are of the “human” side of business (in ourselves and others), the more effective our performance will be, and the more likely we’ll influence others’ performance.

While some people resist the term “emotional intelligence,” the concept is gaining traction. Some of the world’s most successful organizations — companies like Google and Microsoft — are actively developing emotional intelligence in their workforce. Why does it matter? And how can it “make” or “break” your professional reputation?

That’s the topic we’re discussing this week at #TChat Events, with EI expert, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest, a Seattle leadership consultancy, and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.”

“Sneak Peek” Hangout

To kick-off this week’s discussion, Steve joined me for a G+ Hangout, where he briefly shared some fascinating insights about the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

This week’s #TChat Events promise to be helpful for anyone who wants to work more effectively with and through others. So bring your questions and ideas — and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Emotional Intelligence, Leadership and Influence

#TChat Radio — Wed, Dec 18 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Dec 18 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: Why is emotional intelligence so critical for today’s leaders?
Q2: How do emotional “soft skills” complement hard-edge business skills?
Q3: What is emotional hijacking vs. emotional self-management?
Q4: How can business leaders offer productive emotional influence?
Q5: What technologies can foster employee appreciation + emotional commitment?

We look forward to hearing your feedback, as talent-minded professionals, who care about the human side of business.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.
We’ll see you on the stream!

Developing Leaders with Innovative Mindset: #TChat Preview

Leadership received a lot of lip service in 2011, but if employee attitudes and job satisfaction are any measure, there’s been precious little leadership in action. We have more work to do. Perhaps, because so many businesses were in survival mode, people who were running organizations believed that simply keeping their office door open was leadership enough and sufficient to retain their best talent. In reality, though, this attitude is more about strong management and employee engagement and retention, and less about just leading and inspiring.

There is no one style of leadership that is most effective; people vary tremendously in their personality styles, passions and skill sets. There are as many styles of leadership as there are leadership attributes. Every workplace is as multi-dimenional as is every leader. Pretty complex stuff we are dealing with, so it’s important to keep talking about where we can improve and grow. I believe the most effective leaders are the ones with an innate ability to pivot and simply accept and drive transformation. Can we say Gumby?

While it’s vital to run a profitable, growing business, leaders always have much broader responsibilities: planning for the future, building an adaptable workplace, employee retention, recruiting and grooming the next generation of leaders, motivating employees at all levels of the organization and fostering a workplace culture of results and innovation. Let’s face it – the Social Workplace is here to stay – your employees are simply a Tweet or Facebook update away from you. 2012 could well be the year leadership moves back to center stage, so we’re taking the topic on for this week’s TChat World of Work topic. (We rotate our topics weekly so we keep ideas fresh and fun)

Please join us as we talk about leadership skills. Not what we’ve seen in recent years, but what we’re striving for – things like emotional intelligence, strategic and passionate vision, decisiveness, empathy, creativity and openness to something different. We’ll also talk about technology – talent management platforms, recruiting and HR technology and employee training. And we’ll dive a bit into the ways in which social media and on-line communities such as Twitter and LinkedIn can become leadership tools.

If you’re an aspiring/experienced leader, an HR executive charged with retention, an employee engagement devotee, a recruiting and workplace culture development professional, or simply a fan of adopting social media, we invite you to join us on Twitter – and challenge you to share your views on the most important leadership skills for 2012 and beyond. We’ll cover as much as we can in the hour on such a big topic – how to select and nurture new talent, where innovation fits into established organizations, the essential steps to building a competitive company, and more. Join us Wednesday night on #tchat The World of Work January 12, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT), when leadership topics are in the hot seat. Join me, Kevin Grossman, Maren Hogan, Sean Charles and Kyle Lagunas for a very special Leadership #TChat.

Here are the questions for this week’s chat: See you there!

Q1: Now that the economy is a bit better, what are the primary skills leaders need for business growth in 2012?

Q2: How should companies best screen for leadership potential at hire and during tenure?

Q3: What different types of leaders are there in the workplace today?

Q4: In a world where business efficiencies are king and queen, how do leaders best motivate doing more with less?

Q5: Does having an innovative and adaptable leadership style give business leaders a competitive edge?

Q6: When it comes to change management vs. today’s “now” world of personal tech, what should a conflicted leader do?

Collaborative Leadership Sparks Competitive Advantage: #TChat Preview

We weren’t supposed to win. And early on in the game it looked that way as we were down by 14 points. We were one of the best in our high school league, but our cross-town rivals were just a little bit better.

Right before halftime of our big rivalry football game, with 4th down and inches to go to the goal line on a rain-soaked, muddy field, we scored a touchdown.

It was risky. Our coaches wanted to just go for the field goal, but our quarterback and the entire offensive team wanted the touchdown (I played right guard) — we wanted to recapture the competitive advantage and turn the momentum around.

Any momentum we could get. Well, we got it and won the game 28-14.

I could wax poetic for hours about my high school football glory days, but of course I won’t. Thank goodness it is football season again, though.

My point is that you have to take chances to fail, fail, fail, then succeed. That takes stalwart personal and professional leadership, to be able to gain the trust of your team, to motivate them, to be empathic and emotionally intelligent and embed that same level-headed collaborative adaptability into each and every team member to have the foresight in taking strategic risks from the trenches.

Breathe, but then blink, and where are we now?

Right now the global economy is still an interwoven hot mess. In the U.S., about 46.2 million people were in poverty in 2010, the highest number since the government began tracking poverty in 1959. Profitable companies are sitting on billions in profits while the unemployed become more unemployable.

It’s also too easy to be an armchair manager and leader in any organization and blame politics, economics, financial institutions, weather, hang nails, etc., on why businesses are laying low, especially when they are the real managers and leaders in the same said organizations.

I can’t tell you how many countless surveys I’ve seen in the past three years that validate over and over again how many organizations (leaders across departments and roles including talent management and human resources — especially talent management and HR) agree that leadership development, succession planning, coaching and mentoring, employment engagement and retention, and training and development are of the highest priority.

But yet when it comes to making the business case for the bottom line, we’re not doing so well and everyone is still holding their collective business breath. I mean, the world of work hasn’t come to a complete standstill and there are companies engaged in proactive, collaborative leadership — but still.

Listen, I get it. Too many business leaders are still scared of the collaborative and competitive touchy-feely and so they sit paralyzed pushing their people to do a lot more with a lot less.

But leaders, you’ve got to connect the dots between effective collaborative leadership development and business growth. That’s what leads to long-term competitive advantage.

Join us for #TChat next week, September 21, at 4 pm PT, 7 pm ET, where we’ll talk about developing collaborative business leadership today.

It’s 4th and inches, folks. Let’s go for it.

2011 Workplace Culture Predictions and Commentary: #TChat Recap

It was almost like science fiction.

Almost.

The fact that last night’s #TChat was about 2011 workplace culture predictions and commentary, and we as pseudo-soothsayers and part-time prophets were locked in a post-economic-apocalyptic vault painting the walls with phosphorescent Twiffiti.

Some of which was right on the bottom line, and some of which was, well, not.  Smart, but not.

Here were the questions:

  • Q1: Given what you believe to be true – and factual – will 2011 bring more or less net hiring – and why?
  • Q2: In 2011 will there be a change in rate of A-player exodus? Why or why not? If yes, initiatives can be taken to improve retention?
  • Q3: Will innovation and R&D be taken off life support this year? If yes, what leadership initiatives can be taken to drive it?
  • Q4: Leadership development always on the lips of executives, analysts but will this be the year organizations invest? Why or not?
  • Q5: Managing greater mobile/contingent workforce appears significant business initiative; what are orgs doing to ensure its success?
  • Q6: Social networking will continue to be a critical marketing and recruiting tool, but will the ROI be there?

Some things that struck me were:

  • Hiring will pick up (and is), but there just won’t be enough jobs for all those unemployed, and more of the jobs are in emerging economies outside the U.S.  Read this and that.
  • The contingent workforce will be on the rise.
  • Virtual mobility will be on the rise.
  • Although no one likes to work for jerks, A-players will only jump if they have viable opportunities to jump to, or they get the entrepreneurial bug.
  • Barriers of entry into many markets are so few these days that the companies that want to stay in business never stopped innovating, and investing in R&D, and collaborative partnerships, and marketing, and business development…

I’m telling you — the vault was aglow with prime Twiffiti. You should view the transcript if you have a moment.  Over 300 contributors this week, the top 10 of which were:

  • @talentculture – 249
  • @meghanmbiro – 151
  • @KevinWGrossman – 73
  • @HRMargo – 67
  • @LevyRecruits – 60
  • @JeffWaldmanHR – 58
  • @IanMondrow – 58
  • @dawnrasmussen – 56
  • @CyndyTrivella – 55
  • @ValueIntoWords – 46

Next Tuesday, January 11, from 5-6 p.m. PT/8-9 p.m. ET, we’re tackling The New Old World of Job Hunting and Hiring.

Now, how do I get this glowing paint off my hands?