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How to Create a Culture of Appreciation

How to Create a Culture of Appreciation

Through Appreciation, Your Human Resources Will Increase in Value and Worth

Most of us think we appreciate our employees. We say “good job” for work well done, we give out Employee of the Month awards, and we honor our top producers. Yet, two out of three workers say they didn’t receive a single word of praise or simple recognition in the past year. Well, you think, “That’s the other guy—I appreciate, I’m grateful.” Yet, the number one reason people leave jobs is lack of appreciation—not low pay, not too many hours, or too few benefits. People quit first because they don’t feel appreciated!

'Making Feedback Work' by Elaine Holland (ISBN 1496103041) How much does turnover cost you? How much do you spend in recruiting, hiring, and training new hires? How much time-productivity is lost in the process? In addition, what about absenteeism and lack of motivation and enthusiasm? Because those who aren’t quitting, but who feel unappreciated, are coming to work less often, with less zeal and less commitment. And who incurs the cost? You. Your business. Your company.

And the cost is considerable. Appreciation has a real and measurable impact on your bottom line. Studies reveal that the degree to which people feel their company recognizes employee excellence results in dramatic differences to the company’s bottom line. Businesses effectively valuing their employees enjoy triple the returns on equity, returns on assets, and higher operating margins.

And that’s just when employee excellence is appreciated. What do you think can happen—what does happen—when you have an entire culture of appreciation? When an obsession with value, with the worth of people and situations, becomes your way of doing business?

Companies such as Southwest Airlines and See’s Candies have embraced the appreciation approach. The result? Southwest Airlines is making money while its competitors are filing for bankruptcy. See’s Candies has tremendous customer loyalty, longevity, and profitability in an industry fraught with competition. When I interviewed the leaders of these companies, I discovered that they have a culture of appreciation.

Value Your Employees and Attract Value from Them

Value Your Employees and Attract Value from Them

Appreciation is not just another word for gratitude. Appreciation is about recognizing and caring about the value of things. This is the way the word appreciation is used in the marketplace: we say that land appreciates, gold appreciates, art appreciates,—and they all increase in value and in worth. When you are genuinely concerned with the value and worth of your people, and decide to make valuing your number-one priority, the value of your business skyrockets.

'1501 Ways to Reward Employees' by Bob Nelson (ISBN 0761168788) The reason appreciation works so spectacularly is scientific: Appreciation is an energy that attracts like energy. Therefore, by valuing your employees, you attract value from them. Like attracts like. It’s not just a catchy phrase—it’s a scientific reality you can use to your direct benefit.

How? It all starts with you—whether you’re the owner, department head, manager, or supervisor—what you think and what you feel affects every person involved with your company. You set the tone, you set the pace, and you determine what is going to matter and what isn’t. You have enormous impact.

If you see your products and services as having tremendous value, those you manage will appreciate them in the same way. If you see the people who work for you as having tremendous value, those people will want to step up to the plate for you. Your business cannot help but prosper. It’s scientific. Like attracts like.

Five Ways to Appreciate Your Employees

Five Ways to Appreciate Your Employees … Your Human Resources

Here are five ways you can appreciate beyond Employee of the Month:

  • Adopt an appreciative focus. Appreciation is an active, purposeful search for the value or worth of whatever or whomever you meets. Many times, your focus is on everything that’s going wrong as you come to work: all the problems that you must somehow solve or delegate to be solved. In the process, you ignore, and most emphatically fail to value, everything that’s going right. Look at your business with new eyes. Search for what you can appreciate and find of value in every person, every moment of the day. Ask your managers to report what’s working right, where the greatest progress is being made, who’s going the extra mile. Take time to acknowledge the positive reports from your managers, ask for more details, and be enthusiastic about what they have to say.
  • Problem-solve with appreciation. When problems inevitably arise, ask employees what they think might resolve the issue. When valued this way, most workers will try to produce good solutions, especially since they often know the workings of their particular job or department better than anyone does. By using this approach, you are acknowledging your employees’ value before usurping it with yours. Of course, others will not always solve problems for you, but by valuing your workers’ ability to do so, you increase the chances that they will. In addition, by acknowledging their value, you increase the possibility that employees will become proactive and eagerly seek solutions to future problems. When you see value in people, you free them to be more creative, more innovative, and more valuable to your business. In addition, when employees are part of the solution-making process, they own the solution and are therefore more willing to do what it takes to see it through.
  • 'The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace' by Gary Chapman and Paul White (ISBN 080246176X) Catch employees in the act of doing something right. So often, we focus on only catching employees doing something wrong. In truth, catching people doing something right, something of value, is far more beneficial to your business. Make a habit of walking around the business spontaneously. Using the appreciation reports gleaned from your department heads, let workers know that you appreciate a specific aspect of their effort. Tell them how their “good act” was noticed and what it means to you and to the company. Know enough about what workers are doing in different departments so you can make meaningful comments about their contributions. Specific comments are much more appreciated. Saying “You’re doing a great job” isn’t as meaningful as saying, “The specs you wrote up on Project X really made a difference to our customer.”Ask employees what they’re working on now. Engage them in conversation about their work. Wanting to know their thoughts lets employees know that what they think and say is valuable. Look workers in the eye, use their name, and be genuinely interested in their comments.
  • Create a culture of appreciation. Collect stories of work done well. Make heroes of the men and women who work for and with you. We are all starved for recognition, for genuine applauding of our talents and skills. The success of TV reality shows is predicated on our need to be valued and to be seen as valuable. We want to be appreciated for who we are and want the opportunity to be winners. Celebrate the value of those who deserve, regardless of position or department. Celebrate workers’ good acts outside of work as well. By fostering a culture that acknowledges good acts within your community, your company will reap the benefits. Discourage negative talk and gossip about anyone or anything. Don’t indulge in “the economy is terrible,” “stockholders are a nuisance,” or “meetings are a waste of time” conversations. Don’t trash or bash others.
  • Lead by example. Appreciation is not a fad or technique. It is a paradigm shift, a new approach. It is even more critical today when employees often have a variety of career choices and move on when they feel unappreciated. If you want to see the tremendous advantage an appreciative approach can make, infuse your business with appreciative thoughts and practices.

It all starts with you. From you, appreciation can spread to the great benefit of your performance, productivity, and profitability.

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How Dell Created a Great Place to Work

How Dell Created a Great Place to Work

Dell has been known for its productivity; however, behind productivity are people, and Dell is learning what it means to be a great company and a great place to work.

Dell has been a results-driven company for a long time—almost to the exclusion of everything else! In many ways, that has accounted for Dell’s success. One thing I discovered is that when your stock is going up 300 percent a year, no one pays much attention to issues like “effective management” or “creating career tracks for your people.” People willingly work very hard for long periods because the payoff is so huge.

Dell’s crisis of conscience came in 2001 when, for the first time, Dell had to lay people off. In late 2001, Dell went through a self-discovery process where Dell started to ask, “If we aren’t going to be a company where you can come in and be rich by noon tomorrow, what are we? What do we aspire to? What kind of company do we want to be?” Dell’s president, Kevin Rollins, and CEO Michael Dell began a dialogue about what it really means to be a great company and a great place to work.

Creating a Winning Culture at Dell

In the end, Dell came up with what probably looks to outsiders like a beliefs-and-values statement. Dell called it “The Soul of Dell.” It is a statement of Dell’s aspirations as a company. There are five aspects: the Dell team, customers, direct relationships, global citizenship, and winning. Dell shared early drafts of the documents with all of Dell’s vice presidents, and had some great dialogue about what Dell leaders and employees together aspired to become.

The biggest gap was between where Dell were and where Dell wanted to be with the Dell team. So leaders and employees started to talk about what it would mean to be a winning culture. Leaders soon realized that they would have to broaden the definition of what they cared about, beyond financial results. They continue to care very much about what they accomplish, but also how they accomplish it. After focusing more on performance for 15 years, when they came out with a beliefs-and-values statement Dell’s employees were a bit skeptical. In the first year, Dell had a series of programs, town-hall meetings, brown-bag sessions, and other discussions to talk about what Dell aspired to do—all of which were met with great enthusiasm and great skepticism at the same time. The enthusiasm was driven by the view that Dell needed to do more to become a great place to work over time. The skepticism was driven by a concern about whether or not Dell believed and were committed to what it’s leaders were saying.

Dell's Improvements to Management Quality and Organizational Culture

Dell’s Improvements to Management Quality and Organizational Culture

Last year, Dell’s leaders put some teeth in Dell’s effort to improve the quality of management and improve the culture. We decided to administer Dell’s employee opinion survey, “Tell Dell,” twice a year, and they asked every vice president, director, and manager to get 20 percent better results than the year before. We wanted to send a signal: The results are important, but how you get results is also important. At first people said, “That’s nice, but will they really pay attention?” The major change they made was to identify metrics, based on responses by employees, that measured how well Dell’s managers managed and how well leaders led. In short, they decided employees would vote on whether or not they had made any progress.

The results were interesting. First, they got 90 percent participation worldwide, which is amazing itself, and over 90 percent the second time they did it. When they first did the survey, they didn’t show much progress from earlier years, which was to be expected. But Michael and Kevin talk about it every time they get together as a senior management team. They direct the senior team to share the results, in front of their peers. And they discuss their own scores. That’s what caught people’s attention. Slowly but surely, we’re getting better—as are Dell’s managers throughout the company.

There are about 30 statements on the survey, and they use five of them as core metrics for measurements: My manager is effective at managing people. My manager gives effective feedback. If you had an opportunity to work some place other than Dell, would you take it? I feel like I can be successful and retain my individuality at Dell. My manager helps me manage my work/life balance.

When they did the second survey, it was fun. We did get 20 percent better! I think they were all surprised at how much progress they had made. What was even more amazing is mat this happened across the board—they got better everywhere.

This has been a very positive experience for everyone. Dell’s leaders are reminded that if they put Dell’s minds to it, they can get better at a lot of things—even things that seem intangible. For Dell’s employees, it has been positive because it has driven far more conversations about issues between managers and their people. We’re using simple metrics to measure change, but are broadening Dell’s definition of what it means to be a great company.

Dell's Leadership Development

Dell’s Leadership Development

For three years they have had a company-wide leadership program. It’s one-day long, and all leader-led (they never use consultants). Each year, they focus on a different facet of leadership at Dell. Each year, they advance what it means to be an effective leader at Dell. And every year it starts with Michael and Kevin. They devote one day to teach Dell’s strategy committee—Dell’s senior-most decision-making group—about what it means to be a good leader. Then each of us repeats that leadership training with Dell’s direct reports, and on down the company. We all share Dell’s expectations with Dell’s teams about leadership. It is a powerful change mechanism—to stand in front of your team and discuss what you expect them to do differently, and then have them tell you what you need to do to improve.

'Direct from Dell' by Michael Dell (ISBN 0060845724) First, it’s powerful that Dell’s chairman and president are willing to spend a day to talk about this because it is a very revealing process. They talk about things that they did well and poorly. It’s powerful to stand in front of your own team and lead a discussion about leadership. Personally, I feel very exposed during those conversations. I know that they know what the leadership issues are with me, and so I have to fess up and say, “Well, here’s what I think I need to work on.”

We have also used 360 assessments more with Dell’s VPs and directors. We have put together a consistent worldwide management-development curriculum that defines expectations as well as builds skills. We also have short tutorial workshops for anyone who scores below 50 percent on any of the five items.

So, where do they go from here? We will do the survey again this year, and this time everyone will be expected to get at least 50 percent favorable responses on each question. If you’ve got an approval rate of higher than 75 percent, we’ll ask you to stay at that level; it’s hard to ask those people to get a 20 percent improvement when they are already doing so well.

Dell’s European team, in addition to doing what we’ve done, asked their entire management team, “If you were going to teach one lesson in leadership to the people on the Dell Europe team, what would that be?” Then they were asked to develop a 45-minute approach to teach that lesson. Every time they meet with a new group or visit a new country, they take an hour and teach their lesson in leadership. It puts Dell’s leaders up in front of Dell’s employees more consistently.

Almost every culture change has a back-to-basics emphasis because people tend to lose their focus on the business. We came at this from an opposite position. Dell’s business continues to do very well. Two years ago, they set a goal to double the size of the company in five years—and we’re already ahead of pace to do that. So, I’m proud to say that for a company on top of its game, they still want to be better—not just on Dell’s business results, but also in the way they manage Dell’s people.

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Four Mistakes That Cause Most Failures in Organizational Change

Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

No organization is invulnerable to change. To cope with new technological, competitive, and demographic forces, leaders often try to adjust the way they do business—evaluate few of these efforts meet the goals. Few companies successfully transform themselves.

Here are four mistakes that cause most failures in organizational change:

  1. Mistake #1: Writing a memo instead of lighting a fire. Most leaders mismanage the first step—establishing a sense of urgency. Too often leaders launch their initiatives by calling a meeting or circulating a report, then expect people to rally to the cause. It doesn’t happen that way. To increase urgency, gather a key group of people for a day. Identify 25 factors that contribute to complacency and then devise ways to counter each factor. Develop an action plan to implement your ideas. Your chances of creating a sense of urgency and building impetus improve inestimably.
  2. Mistake #2: Talking too much and saying too little. Most leaders under-communicate their change vision by a factor of 10. Moreover, the efforts they make to convey their message in speeches and memos are not convincing. An effective change vision must embrace not just new strategies and structures but also new, aligned behaviors. Leading by example means spending more time with customers, cutting wasteful spending at the top, or pulling the plug on a pet project that don’t match up. People watch their bosses meticulously. It doesn’t take much inconsistent behavior to fuel cynicism and frustration.
  3. 'Change Leader Learning to Do What Matters Most' by Michael Fullan (ISBN 0470582138)Mistake #3: Declaring victory before the war is over. When a project is completed or an initial goal met, it is tempting to pat on the back all involved and proclaim the advent of a new era. While it is important to celebrate results, kidding yourself or others about the difficulty and duration of transformation can be catastrophic. Once you see encouraging results in a difficult scheme, you still have a long way to go. Talking about “wrapping this thing up in a few months” is nonsense. If you settle for too little too soon, you will probably lose it all. Celebrating incremental improvements is a great way to mark progress and maintain commitment—but note how much work is still to come.
  4. Mistake #4: Looking for villains in all the wrong places. The opinion that large organizations are filled with recalcitrant middle managers who resist all change is unfair and untrue. Often it’s the middle level that brings issues to the attention of senior executives. In fact, the biggest obstacles to change are often those who work just below the CEO—vice presidents, directors, and general managers, who have the most to lose in a change. You need to build a guiding coalition that represents all employees. People often hear the CEO cheerleading a change and promising exciting new opportunities. Most people want to believe that; too often their managers give them reasons not to.
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Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

Organizational Change Management Strategies

Planning and Execution of Change

Most organizations have a leadership deficit because they ignore leadership potential and do not offer training or relevant role models.

When time is restrained and rewards are high, the most effective leaders count on their ranks to do what they do best. These leaders galvanize people to use their proficiency to solve problems and achieve goals.

Great leaders get others to move in a direction that is sensible for themselves, the business, and community. Today, we need more leaders who can help groups come up with visions that are not self-serving—visions that serve the entire enterprise.

Historically, great leaders are self-confident people who have extraordinary capacity to make decisions when others crumble. They are confident, but not arrogant. In fact, great leaders are often described as having humility and vulnerability. I am often struck by the extraordinary arrogance of some leaders—an arrogance that says, “I’m above the game. I am smart and accomplished. Therefore, I know what is best, yet I have to put up with stupid rules set by small-minded people. It’s only natural that I maneuver around those rules.” You do not find that same arrogance in great leaders.

For change to be good, it has to be in a positive direction. Initial stages of transformation are usually positive, but the change effort is perverted as it becomes successful and as executives become more arrogant. Change is not the issue; arrogance is. As some leaders start running into problems, in their arrogance they say, “No problem. We can handle all this. We can cut corners and make our own rules.”

Companies need to be able to exercise sound leadership when responding to a crisis. But what if you didn’t need to be eager to execute this style of strategic leadership?

'Organization Change Theory and Practice' by Warner Burke (ISBN 1506357997) In organizations with a strong brand, if you do not have senior leaders who are humble and vigilant, you develop an arrogant culture. The single biggest challenge in managing change is not strategy, structure, or culture, but just getting people to change their behavior. One reason why that is so challenging is that we rely on giving logical reasons for change but fail to present people an emotionally compelling case. People change their behavior only when they are motivated to do so, and that happens when you speak to their feelings.

You need something visual that produces the emotions that motivate people to move toward the vision. Great leaders tell stories that create pictures in our minds and have emotional impact. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, not a strategy or goal, and he shoved us his dream, his picture of the future. People change when they see something visual (the vision) that touches their feelings, challenges their thinking, and incites actions. People may realize the need for change, but not do anything differently because they lack the passion to break out of routines or habit patterns. The momentum of “how we’ve done things” tends to make our future look like our past.

Principles and Theories of Organizational Change

Overcoming complacency—so vital at the start of change initiatives—often requires a bit of surprise, something that grabs attention at an emotional and intellectual level. You need to surprise people and disrupt their view that everything is perfect. Successful change leaders show people what the problems are and how to resolve the problems. They use images that people can see, hear, or touch. This may mean showing a video of an angry customer rather than a report of a customer survey. Change leaders make their points in ways that are emotionally engaging and compelling. They tell and retell vivid stories. You do not have to spend a million dollars and six months to prepare for a change effort. You do have to touch people emotionally.

The ability to move people emotionally is a special gift. Few of us are born with it, but we can learn it. In writing The Heart of Change, we found many people who had learned this skill. Some did not look like leaders, but somewhere along the way, they learned to speak to people’s feelings. One story involves people who realized that they had to start changing their own behavior. Many managers skip this part and start with, “Here’s how you need to change” because it is easier to tell other people that they are acting incorrectly than to admit that you are not perfect. Executives, as they become more successful, get less feedback or information showing how they are a part of the problem. Many of them have never learned the principle, always start with yourself first—and then go from there. It is a great rule of thumb.

Personal example is a powerful method of influence that can affect feelings and facilitate change. However, when leaders do not examine their own actions, they might give the wrong example, something that is inconsistent with what they are saying to people. People pay attention to deeds more than words.

All of us, deep in our hearts, want to be heroes, at least to our children or team members. Today we need heroes at every level. More people need to step up and provide change leadership. Most of this leadership will be modest. It might be a young sales rep who sees a new business opportunity or puts together a vivid demonstration of a problem. The sum of all these heroic actions—large and small—enables organizations to change in big ways.

Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

Organizational Change Management Strategies

People need more positive examples of what works. In stories of what works, I never find a theme of self-preservation. Change leaders are not self-centered people. When focused only on yourself, you will not stick your neck out, lead the team to new glory, or create a shared win. You need a larger vision beyond saving your own skin. Several change proposals seem to presume that people will begin to shift their behaviors once formal elements like commands and encouragements get underway. People who work together on cross-functional teams will commence cooperating because the lines on the chart show they are intended to do so. Managers will become clear communicators because they have a mandate to deliver a message about the new strategy.

If you are frustrated and powerful, you tend to fall back on fear to motivate people. You say, “I know the right thing to do here, and you’ll either do it or be fired.” While using fear may be natural, it is usually ineffective. The only lesson your people learn is that you have power, and they need to fear being fired. They learn nothing about the enterprise, its challenges, and the need to do things differently. Fearful people do not listen carefully to customers. They hide or come up with schemes to protect themselves. Fear cannot drive transformation. However, fear may be used effectively as a surprise element. It is the “hit them upside the head with a board” approach to get attention. Then you have to quickly convert it into something positive or you get the drawbacks of fear.

Even if people are motivated to change, they are often blocked by a feeling or belief that they cannot change. Pessimism creates an emotional block to change. Effective change leaders use inspirational stories to bring out the natural optimism in everybody. They know how to inspire confidence, even in tough circumstances where people are depressed. They paint a hopeful picture in such a credible way that it soothes people and lead them to get out of the trenches to do something.

Managing Organizational Change

The change has to seep into the culture. The new behavior must maintain itself for a few weeks and show that it works. Then, the culture must support the change. For the new way of doing things to take hold, one change agent or leader cannot support it all. People need to see the right behavior producing the right results. Too often leaders assume that once they start the change effort, they are done. They must make it part of the culture; otherwise, when they leave, the old way creeps back in.

'Change Leader Learning to Do What Matters Most' by Michael Fullan (ISBN 0470582138) How can people stay focused long enough to create short-term wins and change the culture? This is where vision helps. If you have clarity in your mind and heartfelt commitment to a vision, you stay focused. Again, the vision has to be something you can see clearly—not some blur or list of unrelated items. So many strategies and statements of values, visions, and goals boil down to lists of unrelated items, making it hard to stay focused. Your focus bounces from one item to another because you lack a framework to guide you. You might let something else that is not on the list blow over you and push you in another direction.

You might carefully select two areas where you can achieve short-term successes and have one team focus on one item and another team focus on the other. People need to see that the changes are not oddball ideas being pushed by the boss. They need to see short-term wins that validate the change vision. If the win is clear, visible, and valuable to people, then they will likely make change happen.

To use this emotive energy, leaders must look for the constituents of the culture that are affiliated to the change, bring them to the foreground, and fascinate the attention of the people who will be affected by the change.

Communicating strategic intent empowers leaders to determine direction and noticeably defined goals. Leaders renounce from nit-picking the specific execution of the intent, but still hold their team members or subordinates answerable for change management.

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Marissa Mayer’s Office Hours at Google

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) For about 90 minutes a day, beginning at 4:00 pm, Mayer used to hold office hours at Google. She was a professor before she came to Google, and she kept office hours going. The much-vaunted “open office” for engineers, where bringing brownies increases a project’s chance of approval by 50%. Google’s Marissa Mayer cleared an hour and a half of her diary at the end of each day and staff could book an amount of that time by putting their name on a board in front of her office. This permitted her to supposedly fit a large number of very short meetings into a block of time where employees could come and talk to her about anything. Get-togethers which evidently emerged interesting product ideas counting Google News. A decent option perhaps than filling too much time up with the half hour/one hour blocks that managers tend to segment their calendars into, or to keeping an completely open door guidelines which might lead to excessively common interlude. Per this noteworthy anecdote from Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo by Nicholas Carlson:

Another Mayer habit that annoyed colleagues was one she picked up straight from academia. For many years at Google, Mayer insisted that if her colleagues wanted to meet with her, they had to do so during her “office hours.” Mayer would post a spreadsheet online and ask peopl~ to sign up for a five-minute window. When Mayer’s “office hours” rolled around in the afternoon, a line would start to form outside her office and spill over onto the nearby couches.

Office hours are socially-acceptable in an academic environment because the power dynamic is clear. The students are subordinate to the professor, who is usually their elder and mentor. But Mayer’s office hours were not just for her subordinates; they were also for her peers. So there, amid the associate product managers waiting to visit with Mayer to discuss their latest assignment or a class trip to Zurich, sat Google vice presidents—people who had been at the company as long as Mayer and in some cases held jobs as important as hers.

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When Leadership Styles Clash: Marissa Mayer at Google

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) Differences in leadership style can cause friction in a relationship. Two noteworthy anecdotes from Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo by Nicholas Carlson:

One peer Mayer’s style irked in particular was Salar Kamangar. Kamangar joined Google as its ninth employee. He drafted its original business plan and handled financing and legal early on. Younger than Mayer, he rose along with her at Google, though not as conspicuously. Mayer and Kamangar clashed often. The specific habit of Mayer’s that drove Kamangar nuts was her ability to speak incredibly fast, not allowing him to reenter the debate. The rivalry between Mayer and Kamangar was so intense that when Kamangar was made a vice president before her, she threatened to quit the company. She got her promotion months later. That kind of naked ambition was also hard for some people to take. Many early Google employees believed Mayer was too quick to take credit for successful products that were either first imagined by or built on the back end by others.

And:

Starting in 2001, Mayer and a deeply respected Google search scientist named Krishna Bharat teamed up to build Google News. Bharat was one of the engineers who had followed Jeff Dean from DEC to Google. Bharat was renowned for his work in information processing and information retrieval-the real, gritty technical stuff that makes a search engine work. Bharat had an interest in news-and in doing semantic analysis of documents. Those interests led him to develop the underpinnings of the technology that would eventually become central to Google News. With Mayer, he worked to turn that technology into a product for normal users. To the equation, she brought a sense of how users would actually interact with Google News. It was a healthy relationship for a long time. Then Google News began to get very popular. It was one of Google’s first noncore search products to achieve escape velocity. Rightly, both Bharat and Mayer felt pride of parenthood. The difference was that Bharat, like many engineers, was the quiet, cerebral type. Mayer was more of a self-promoter with outward-facing responsibilities. In the press, at conferences, even in lectures at Stanford, she would casually discuss Google News as a product she had led to launch. Over time, it began to sound to Bharat that Mayer was claiming the idea as her own and taking all the public credit for the success of Google News. Their relationship soured.

It’s difficult to change the leadership style and yet it’s easier to change the style than the system.

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Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement

Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement If you are witnessing unhappy customers, uninformed employees, and mounting chaos in your company, you are experiencing a performance gap—the difference between the outcomes you expect and what you are getting. With today’s pressure for results, you’ll need fast, simple tools to close your performance gap. By applying such tools, you can reap big paybacks in the form of steady gains.

By performance improvement, I mean more revenue, lower costs, and more done in less time with fewer resources. Flexibility is needed to adapt to changing demands and to devise innovative methods for improving productivity and service quality. Customers who get more than they expect then tell their friends, and keep coming back.

Key to performance improvement are people who produce more with better information, greater clarity, and less interference. A performance improvement project is a related group of tasks resulting in measurable improvement. Most successful changes “bubble up” from the bottom. Building one by one may be more effective than a large-scale, top-down strategy. Investing in employee education is an important signal that the organization is committed to the personal growth of everyone on the team.

Already energetic characters on any large scale are becoming merely traditional. Improvement in the means of communication promotes it, by bringing the inhabitants of distant places into personal contact, and keeping up a rapid flow of changes of residence between one place and another. Not only that, but the best answer often changes over time.

Five Tools to Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

So here are five tips for how to accelerate your performance and reach your own peak sooner. Five tools will lead to desirable results and help you get to the right place:

  1. Measurable outcomes. This involves reliable measures such as revenue, cost, time, quality, and customer satisfaction. By documenting measures before, during, and after the project, you can gauge success. Qualitative measures must translate into observable behavior. Develop clear statements of what that measure means and specific actions needed to attain the goal. Know who will be affected and how, as well as what will improve, and by how much.
  2. Your plan. Write an airtight description of your project’s boundaries, benefits, costs, and risks—then name those accountable for results. For each task, you’ll perform five actions: complete, approve, support, consult with, and inform. Specify the person associated with each action. The faster you produce your desired outcome, the easier you will build momentum.

Measurable outcomes Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

  • Effective problem analysis of the selected performance. Break the problem down into smaller, simpler pieces, looking for a pattern. Formulate and test theories. Observe and collect data until you figure out what is going on and why. Don’t throw resources at your problem in a vain attempt to solve it by sheer luck. Avoid wasteful spending on training, software, and experts—the three sinkholes. A problem well defined is 75 percent solved! In some cases you are not dealing with a problem, but an unrealized opportunity to impact the organization.
  1. A reliable feedback system. People want to know what and how well they are doing. You could set up simple charts, one for each success indicator. Depict progress and downplay minor setbacks. Cumulative measures, for instance, may be better than daily, weekly, or monthly ones. Exchange feedback during one-on-one conversations, informal chats, and small-group meetings. Inspire confidence early and adjust as you go along.
  2. A system for collecting and applying what you learn about performance improvement. Know-how (in-house talent) is far better than “show-how” (pricey experts). Conduct an after-action review to convert real-time learning into practical knowledge. Work through answers to questions about what should and did happen during an event.

Techniques Used to Improve Employee Performance

Tips for Employee Performance Improvement Quickly build and transfer skills, so participants can see benefits right away. The tasks that find their way to the bottom are the ones that you should eliminate altogether. But too often we say it with a sigh, like it’s a sentence—or we’re a victim. It can easily become pessimistic, and nothing will kill your creativity, job performance, or relationships like going negative.

If the diagnosis of performance anxiety is correct, it’s astonishing how often paradoxical intervention works. This, even knowing as most of us do that facts and figures about past performance are often flawed indicators of future performance. With that kind of visibility and transparency in performance, it’s easy to call it the way you see it. Again, the combination of competitive insight and cost understanding drives efforts to reduce costs.

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John Paul Kotter and Psychological Contract

The celebrated leadership authority and educator John Paul Kotter argued in opposition to the anthropomorphizing of the organization, insisting that it was not organizations which embraced perceptions but rather individuals within those organizations.

'Leading Change' by John Kotter (ISBN 1422186431) Kotter discussed the psychological contract as a coordinating of expectations, where matched expectations lead to higher employee contentment and less turnover. He explained misaligned expectations in terms of a “psychological contract.” He described this as “an implicit contract between an individual and the organization which specifies what each expects to give and receive from each other in a relationship.”

The notion of the psychological contract refers to the perceptions of reciprocal obligations to each other held by the two parties in the employment relationship—the organization and the employee. Such discernments may be the result of proper contracts, or they may be suggested by the hopes and beliefs which each holds of the other and which are communicated in a variety of subtle or not-so-subtle ways.

Allstate Insurance’s Written ‘Psychological Contract’

Allstate Insurance's Psychological Contract for Employment Relationship Some employers, such as Allstate Insurance have created official statements delineating what employee and employer can expect from each other. They believe employee loyalty develops when the company and employees unambiguously know what is expected.

Terms of from Allstate’s Psychological Contract to the Employee

  • Offer work that is meaningful and challenging.
  • Promote an environment that encourages open and constructive dialogue.
  • Advise the employee of performance through regular feedback.
  • Create learning opportunities through education and job assignments.

Terms of from the Employee’s Psychological Contract to Allstate

  • Perform at levels that significantly increase the company’s ability to outperform the competition.
  • Take on assignments critical to meeting business objectives.
  • Willingly listen to and act upon feedback.
  • Take personal responsibility for each transaction with customers and for fostering their trust.

Psychological Contract and Open Communication

The psychological contract changes over time as the expectations of the employee and the organization change. With each change in expectations, open communication assists to keep both parties in alignment, or may lead to a common concurrence to renegotiate or break the contract.

The concept of the psychological contract has lately achieved significant notoriety in popular managerial texts in human resources discourse. This is for the reason that it offers an narrative of the reasons for the difficulties in the employment relationship presently being experienced by many organizations.

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Six Attitudes of Change

To let an old identity die requires clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. To make the shift from actions to patterns, from actions to individuality, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes:

  1. Focus,
  2. Explore,
  3. Claim,
  4. Decide,
  5. Act, and
  6. Learn.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adjust and improve what they do and how they do it. These six leadership attitudes help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the absorption of a new identity.

Culture’s Critical Role in Change Management

Culture's Critical Role in Change Management In recent years, I have lost a lot of weight. People ask me how. Most assume that the weight loss, or change, is tied to a diet and that I will return to my former size. In addition, it means choosing to embark on an enormously costly venture, before a crisis makes it necessary.

Most changes, even those that we know are good and right, do not endure. Best intentions to change performance fall short when diets or programs that we depend on to cause change are not assimilated. Persistent change requires a new identity.

Leaders bow to an innumerable of short-term pressures: intense demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, discomfort with ambiguity, and resistance to change, linear extrapolation from experience, and leadership unwillingness to cannibalize established businesses.

We need to change the way we think about change. Sustained change may begin with actions, checklists, and tools, but must evolve to adopting a different identity and assimilating a new way of thinking and acting. Assimilation requires a shift in thoughts and behaving. It becomes a new identity where being and acting occur without thinking.

Making change, an identity shift is simple but not easy. It is simple to say “we have to lose weight” and we need to eat less, eat right, and exercise more. However, it is not easy to do it. To assure sustained change, weight loss must come from a change in identity-letting go of an old identity, admitting personal ownership for the new identity, and turning the actions into patterns, routines, and habits.

To let an old identity die requires leadership clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. Identity shift means that we internalize new attitudes and associated practices so that actions come naturally. Back in 2009, Jim Collins warned in How the Mighty Fall that the greatest risk to companies was no longer complacency but overreach; frenetic, undisciplined change that goes beyond what leaders can manage effectively.

To make the shift from events to patterns, from actions to identity, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes. Each one aligns with a question you need to ask of yourself and your team:

Attitude #1: Focus—Question 1: What do I want?

Focus on Change Management Focus on the desired new identity. A focus sorts, prioritizes, and highlights what matters most. In change, not everything worth doing is worth doing well. Some things that are important to do may simply not be priorities. Some things are so important to do they are worth doing poorly. Having a focus requires that a leader may only have limited priorities that they personally champion; they can sponsor others, but can only own one or two. The key is training. The key understands how to think and look for solutions. It is better to do a few things well than try to do too many things and do them poorly. Good is the enemy of great. Leaders need to address conundrums; they will not always make hard decisions correctly. Moving up in leadership denotes moving on, trusting others to do the detail leadership work, culling the right priorities, and fixating on what distributes the most value.

To determine the focus or priority, ask the simple question, “What do I want?” Knowing what is wanted requires reflecting on what could be done, but then getting clear about what is wanted in the situation. You pass the focus test by reflecting on these questions: Do I know what matters most to: investors, customers, and employees? Can I define what matters most to me? Do I communicate the same priorities in leadership public presentations and my private conversations? Do the agendas I follow for meetings reflect those priorities? Am I clear about what I can do that no one else can do? Am I clear about what I want to be known for? What percent of my time do I spend on things that matter most? Am I easily distracted? Without focus, you try to be all things to all people. Then what matters most happens least.

Attitude #2: Explore—Question #2: What are my options?

Once you know what is wanted, you need to figure out options to get it done. Exploring options means looking for alternatives; seeking people who have counter-intuitive ideas; having forums for dialogue, innovation, and breakthrough thinking; not being locked into conventional ways; exploring what others have done; and investigating with new ideas and learning from those experiments.

Adopt the mantra: Cerebrate sizably voluminous, start minuscule, fail expeditious, learn always. Explore the options for engendering that incipient leadership identity and examining each option.

These questions will help you to explore options: Have I looked inside and outside my industry for best practices and new ideas? Have I tapped into the expertise to accomplish what I desire? Have I assigned creative and talented people to explore leadership options that might work and given them resources and support to generate ideas?

With focus and exploration, you know what you want and explore alternative paths to make it happen.

Attitude #3: Claim—Question #3: What do I think?

Some leaders get lost in the options game. They can see so many ways to do a project that they never get around to doing it. They do not claim a choice or decide on a solution. At some point, leaders need to claim the option that will achieve the focus. Leaders stake, claim, own, and are accountable for their culls. They agnize things that could be done, but claim the unique amalgamation that works best. They take a stand and become kenned for something. The way inhibiting credences kept sales clerks in one industry from engendering incipient leads. They talk publicly and privately about the direction they are headed and the path to get there; they put energy and passion into these paths; they monitor leadership progress; and they gain or lose credibility by the extent to which they accomplish their claim. With a focus, options, and ownership, leaders pass a calendar test of their time, an emotional test of their passion and energy, and a resource test of the investments required to deliver on the option.

To pass these tests, leaders should ensure that the option is congruent with personal values. They must explain not only why the company wants to do something, but also why they personally want to do it.

To claim an option requires personalizing the change and answering the question, “What do I think?” This leadership question internalizes an identity. It makes the identity something that the leader petitions and claims. Ponder these questions: Am I dear about the path I will take to reach my goals? Have I passed the calendar test? Have I dedicated 20 percent of my time in the next 90 days on the option I have chosen? Have I passed the rhetoric test? In every speech, do I find ways to talk about the option and imbue the message with new metaphors, symbols, and images? Have I passed the passion test? Do I put my energy into the path I have chosen? Is my leadership direction and path consistent with what I believe? Do I feel passion for it?

When leaders assert their desires with a focus, explore their options with insight, and claim their path with boldness, they lead. They set an agenda, define a path, and engage others. They forge a new identity for themselves and their organization.

Attitude #4: Decide—Question #4: What decisions do I need to make?

Clarity of Decisions The leader must now decide to make things happen. Clarity of decisions leads to lucent actions, while ambiguity leads to delayed or random acts.

In the absence of decision, clarity, and rigor, actions may be delayed or misguided. A pattern of decisions shapes an identity. A leader chooses how to spend time, who to spend time with, what information to process, what meetings to hold, and what issues to address. Through this pattern of decisions, she creates an identity.

Being clear about decisions and protocols enables leaders to shape an identity. Decisions protocols also turn a direction and path into a set of choices. Just as leadership is a choice, so is the identity that follows from what and how leaders make decisions.

Not all the transmutation that you estimated turned out to be great—meaning every vicissitude did not result in an ecstatic ending. Thoughtful bellwethers ask four questions:

  1. What decisions do I need to make? Leaders focus on the few key decisions they need to make.
  2. Who will make the decision—and who is accountable for the decision?
  3. When will the decision be made? Work expands to fill the time provided. Deadlines generate commitment to action.
  4. How will we make a good decision? This involves knowing the quality level the decision requires, accessing the right information, asking the right people for input, finding out what others have done, testing alternatives, and involving key people.

When people feel heard, they more likely accept the decision. When people know the why they accept the what. However, most other changes later in life had external dependencies. Discretion is an imperative.

As you follow this protocol, you pass the decisiveness and decision test. You not only know what you want, you know the options, which leadership option works best, and the key decisions that will move the change along and shape a new pattern or identity.

Attitude #5: Act—Question #5: What actions do I need to take?

An incipient identity requires incipient actions. We often judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge our identity by our actions. Make actions part of the new identity.

  • Start small. Seek small, first steps. Look for lead customers who might engage in a new project. Look for early adopters of a new idea. Seek many people making small changes.
  • Let go. New identity requires letting go of old actions consistent with an old identity. As old actions are replaced with new ones, others begin to expect the new identity and its actions. As actions accumulate, they become patterns, and a new identity is forged.
  • Involve others. Change requires a social support network. Leaders who act to sustain change will need to surround themselves with those who model the desired changes.

Sustained Change Takes Time

Sustained Change Takes Time Once new directions and opportunities make sense, have the team participate in creating or revising their vision, goals, and milestones, so everyone knows how they connect to the mission. Try this “four 3s” methodology:

  1. 3 hours: What can I do in the next three hours to make progress?
  2. 3 days: What can I do in the next three days to make progress?
  3. 3 weeks: What can I do in the next three weeks to sustain progress?
  4. 3 months: What can I do in the next three months to show progress?

In three months, old patterns may be replaced by new patterns.

Attitude #6: Learn—Question #6: How will I know and grow?

Sustained change requires follow-up, monitoring, and learning. Without indicators to track progress, learning cannot occur. You must weigh in and figure out what helps or hinders your goal. In change, you should probe for early denotements of prosperity by identifying lead designators of what is or is not working. The tracking indicators should lead to insights, improvements, and upgrades.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adapt and improve what they do and how they do it.

Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance.

Six Attitudes of Change

Six Attitudes of Change Management These six attitudes and questions help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the leadership assimilation of a new identity.

Trying to execute faster and struggling with the reality that change takes time. Our techniques are too often informed by what worked in the engineering age. We treat humans like machines and expect things to work properly if we just engineer the change properly. The problem, of course, is that people are not machines. More of what you have suggested is necessary for helping people move through the very human process of change.

A worthwhile challenge can be prodigiously incentivizing, as long as it is a veracious description of the leadership situation.

Make use of management techniques that have been shown to reduce threats during tough times, when boardroom conflicts are more likely to arise because of differing perspectives.

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Turn Conflict to Collaboration

Turn Conflict to Collaboration

I’m often asked to perform a quick fix on two or more people who are not getting along. Usually, I’m summoned to help them work out their differences. As a conflict mediator, I happy to help resolve disputes; however, I find that happy endings are rare. Often the conflicts that arise are symptomatic of bigger problems, system errors, things like poor leadership, dysfunctional work groups, inadequate performance management, and a lack of soft skills training and resources.

It is a mistake to limit the scope of conflict mediation to the immediate players in the dispute. You also need to look at the system. Without such an assessment, managers can easily get into the habit of treating the symptom while ignoring the problem.

Four Checkpoints

To assess the system factors that add to conflicts, I use four checkpoints:

  • Checkpoint 1: Is leadership being demonstrated? First check the leader to assess whether the conflict is a symptom of a bigger problem. Look for efforts made by the leader to address the conflict. Is the leader modeling effective conflict resolution skills? What has the leader done to create a supportive environment? Does the leader address conflicts? Is the leader held accountable for resolving conflicts? Are effective conflict resolution skills being practiced? If leaders are ineffective in handling conflict, are they are receiving any coaching or guidance?
  • Checkpoint 2: Do co-workers or team members foster a supportive environment for conflict resolution? Coworkers and team members (including those involved in the conflict) share responsibility for the interpersonal dynamics within their group. Look for group norms around conflict, who is impacted by the conflict, what isn’t happening that needs to happen to resolve conflict, how the group sees the role of the leader, what guidance and support does the group need from the leader.

Accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills

  • Checkpoint 3: Is there an accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills? Define appropriate behaviors. What gets reinforced is the behavior that gets exhibited. Are conflict resolution skills part of the criteria in performance reviews? Are core values reflected in the review process? Are team norms identified around conflict resolution and followed consistently? Is peer input part of the performance review process? Is the disciplinary process ever used for employees who exhibit poor communication or cooperation skills? The performance review process must reflect the desired skill sets required for effective conflict resolution. These include teaming skills, communication and problem-solving, collaborative and listening skills. Create accountability around these skills to foster effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Checkpoint 4: Is the organization providing skill training and resources to maintain effective working relationships? It takes a proactive philosophy when it comes to effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Proficiency in the soft skills area requires time, effort and practice. By helping their people to grow in these areas, managers can’t empower them to resolve their own conflicts.

If any one of these four “checkpoints” are suspect, the conflicts that arise will likely be of a system error. If two or more of the are lacking, the system is faulty.

So, the next time there is a conflict, investigate whether or not the conflict is an isolated event or a system error. You might be surprised by what you find.

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