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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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Posted in Management and Leadership

Employees Must Have a Vested Interest in the Success of the Business

Robert Frost once said, “Isn’t it a shame that when we get up in the morning our minds work furiously—until we come to work.”

In the new economy, we need to equip people to think and act like owners. Everyone must come to work fully engaged and ready to make difference. A global revolution is under way, and it calls for gutsy leaders—people who can inspire knowledge workers idea merchants, and business innovator to exercise their own brand of leadership. The future belongs to those who use the power of culture to feed the entrepreneurial spirit.

Here are eight ways you can create a culture where people have a stake in the success of your business.

  • Employees Must Have a Vested Interest in the Success of the Business Recognize that ownership is more than a stock certificate. Ownership is a state of mind, a way of looking at the world and approaching work. Owners are people who step out from behind titles and job descriptions to act on behalf of the customer and the company. Non-owners hide behind position descriptions (“It’s not my job.”) and throw problems over functional walls (“Let me transfer you to…”) as an excuse for inaction. Owners cater to the purpose of the organization—its mission, vision, values, and strategy. Non-owners cater to the boss. Owners focus on the business results of their actions regardless of who is watching. Non-owners focus on the chain of command Owners ask the tough question: “How can we make it better?” Preoccupied with safety, non-owners gravitate toward the comfort of the status quo where things are more predictable and less disruptive.
  • Develop leaders who know how to liberate talent. Ownership is about giving people the freedom to act and removing the fears that cause lack of initiative. Unforgiving, zero-defect cultures foster cautious inactivity that kills the ownership mentality. People who don’t feel safe live under an umbrella of fear that makes them reluctant to make decisions, own problems, admit mistakes, take on projects, and act in ways that grow the business. When people cling to safety, they have no commitment to ownership; accountability vanishes, and self-preservation arises. Ownership is trusting that employees will operate with the company’s best interests in mind. Putting our trust in these people tells them that we think they are trustworthy. It suggests that we have faith in their character and competence. It boosts their self-confidence. Strengthen a person’s self-confidence and you strengthen his or her ability to think and act like an owner of the business. Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s chairman, says, “You build self-confidence when you give people the room to take risks and fail. You don’t condemn them when they fail. You just say, “We’ve just spent a good bit on your education; we hope to see you apply it in the future.”
  • Build a corporate culture of employee ownership Lay out the guiding principles. As a leader, you have to be confident that when the decisive moment comes, those who have assumed ownership will exercise common sense and good judgment. As the one assuming ownership, you have to be confident that what you are doing is the right thing because, after all, with ownership comes responsibility and accountability. Exercising good judgment and doing the right thing result from a clear understanding of the company’s guiding principles. Your firm’s business purpose and strategies, its mission, vision, values, and philosophy all define those principles. In essence, they create a set of helpful boundaries. When the boundaries are clear, employees have more freedom to step up, take action, and assume ownership for getting things done. When the boundaries are fuzzy, people get nervous and cautious. The result is a culture characterized by compliance instead of commitment.
  • Help people become business literate. When people understand how revenues and costs translate into profits, they become business literate. How many people on the front lines of your organization understand how the company makes money? How many of them are capable of reading a financial statement? If you asked them how much it costs to run their part of the business, could they tell you? How can we expect them to cut costs if they don’t know what those costs are to begin with? When people start asking cost questions, they are starting to think and act like owners of the business. The true experts are people at the point of action. Smart leaders open the books and equip these people with the financial information they need. When employees become business literate, they look for ways to drive costs down.
  • Make information relevant, fun, and interesting. The key to creating business literacy is getting people to internalize the information. If busy people do not see the information you put out as relevant, fun, and interesting, they are less likely to use it or be impacted by it. Information is relevant only when it is useful. If the salespeople at Sears knew that only three cents out of every dollar shows up as profit at the end of the day, they might be more passionate about watching costs and serving customers. Southwest Airlines’ annual profit-and-loss statement is written simply and illustrated with icons and cartoons, making it compelling to read and easy to understand.
  • 'The Truth About Employee Engagement' by Patrick Lencioni (ISBN 111923798X) Eliminate the “class” mentality. Leaders who are serious about leveraging the knowledge of every person must also eliminate the “class” mentality-socially prescribed or stereotypic boxes. This mentality undermines work in three ways. First, it strips the individual worker of his or her dignity and lowers morale. It essentially says, “We don’t believe in you enough to trust you with this information. It ensures that power resides at the top and widens the gap of inequality. Second, it doesn’t capitalize on people’s knowledge. The company pays for insight it never receives. Third, it crushes the entrepreneurial spirit. People stop caring, learning, and growing. When a financial statement is written so that only a CFO can understand it, forget about getting the frontline involved in a dialogue about cost containment. You breed compliance versus commitment. If your frontline people aren’t interested in reading a profit-and-loss statement, assess whether your information is too complicated or too mundane to capture their interest.
  • Show people how the business affects them personally. Most of the 18-year-old ramp agents at Southwest are business literate. They know that when they push a plane just 30 seconds late, that delay could translate into one hour and 45 minutes at the end of 11 flights in a day. Southwest would have to add 35 more planes at $30 million each to maintain its schedule. That could mean wage concessions, profit sharing, and lowered job security. They know how their job performance creates results, and how those results affect their lives. Southwest has made information relevant and interesting to its employees.
  • Give people a stake. Stock options and profit sharing can be powerful incentives to think and act like owners. However, just because people have stock options, they won’t necessarily think and act like owners. When you offer stock options and profit sharing without the culture to support these motivational tools it’s like putting new tires on a car that needs an alignment. When you add stock options and profit sharing to the rest of this list, you reward and reinforce people for behaving in ways that are consistent with an established culture. In doing so, you leverage the power of the incentive!

Build a corporate culture of employee ownership.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Uncategorized

Bill Gates on Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule

Malcoln Gladwell It’s a tempting proposal: if you practice anything for 10,000 hours, then you will become world class. In 1993, scientist Anders Ericsson learned of a group of psychologists in Berlin who were researching violin players found that, by age 20, the leading performers had averaged in excess of 10,000 hours of practice each. Less able performers, in the meantime, clocked up just 4,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion further in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.

In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Gladwell applied the concept to Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and the Beatles, who sharpened their musical know-how in performance at Hamburg’s strip clubs. Gladwell says:

The Beatles ended up travelling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, of five or more hours a night. Their second trip they played 92 times. Their third trip they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg stints, in November and December 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don’t perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.

'Outliers' by Malcoln Gladwell (ISBN 0316017922) Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the belief that becoming a superlative athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. As stated by Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule, genuine success only comes to people who are willing to put in a great many hours to become first-class at something they value. Whether it involves learning a new piece of equipment, a new language, or developing a craft, being able to cope with setbacks and stay focused on goals regardless of how far-flung they seem. And so the importance of resolve and steadiness in success.

Bill Gates did not only have an propensity for creating software, he also had just about exceptional access as a schoolboy to a mainframe computer that the parents’ association of his local school invested in, in 1968. He got to it in eighth grade before just about anyone else in the world. Correspondingly the Beatles’ genius for melody did not come ready made. They developed it while singing in Hamburg in the early Sixties, at all-night strip clubs. In those years they dedicated more time to pop music than any of their peers. The same could be said for Mozart, or Tiger Woods. They had capability, sure enough, but they also had extraordinary family circumstances that allowed them a reasonable advantage at a very early age. They put the hours in first.

Extraordinary success depends on talent, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, among other things. In Outliers, Gladwell contends that, to truly master any skill, leaning on various pieces of research, requires about 10,000 concentrated hours. If you can get those hours in early, and be in a position to exploit them, then you are an outlier.

When asked, “What do you think of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that the years 1953 to 1955 were the perfect ones in which to be born for the computer revolution?” by his father William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates reponds:

His book makes a lot of great points … that is that in all success stories there are significant elements of luck and tiny … I wasn’t the only kid born between 1953 and 1955, but absolutely to be young and open-minded at a time when the microprocessor was invented … in my case have a friend Paul Allen who was more open-minded about hardware type things and literally brought me the obscure article to talk about that first microprocessor and said you know this is going to improve exponentially … what does that mean and I said well at that means it we can do anything we want and then he was … you know … bugging me the rest of the time every time there’d be a new microprocessor he said can we do something yet and when we were in high school that can happen … so he came back to possible good job there and actually the microprocessor that was finally good enough came out in early 1975 and that’s why I i dropped out … so the timing was pretty important you know why didn’t older people see it … they weren’t this open open minded … they didn’t think about software is the key ingredient … now a lot of kids started doing software and … it’s not if somebody reads the book to say that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something you’ll be super good at it I don’t think that’quite as simple as that what you do is you do about 50 hours and ninety percent drop out because they don’t like it or they’re not good … you do another 50 hours and ninety percent drop out … so there’s these constant cycles and you do have to be lucky enough but also fanatical enough to keep going and so the person makes it to 10,000 hours is not just somebody has done it for 10,000 hours there’s somebody who chosen and been chosen in many different times and so all these magical things came together including who I know and that time … and i think you know that’s very important … when you look at somebody who’s good and say could I do it like them … they’ve gone through so many cycles that it may fool you that you know yes yes you could with the with the right luck, imagination, and and some some talent.

Bill Gates responds to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Apart from acknowledging luck, timing and an open mind, Gates suggests that a successful person survives many cycles of attrition to make it to 10,000 hours of experience. “You do have to be lucky enough, but also fanatical enough to keep going,” explains Gates.

Unfortunately, a Princeton study, which analyzed 88 studies, established that practice accounted for just a 12% variation in performance.

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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Guide to Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers. These are: power from relationships, passion, challenges, focus, balance, and intention.

New hires often come fully charged, excited about their new adventure, and filled with energy and potential. By tapping into that energy, knowledge and wisdom right from the start, you can maximize the new hire’s potential, extend the handshake, and fuel that energy well past the beginning of the employment cycle.

While recruitment continues to be one of the most costly human resource processes, its longer-term effectiveness is being eroded by high attrition. Hiring doesn’t stop with the job offer. Today re-recruiting your best people is as critical as hiring them in the first place.

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. And if they stay, are they productive, engaged, loyal, and committed? Have they simply “checked in” or are they “tuned in” and “turned on” as well?

The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. To increase retention and build loyalty during that critical first year, start by building the relationship between new hires and their managers.

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding Improving first-year retention, decreasing time-to-productivity, and building loyalty and commitment are directly related to how quickly managers develop quality relationships with new hires.

Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers.

  • Power from Relationship. There is no greater predictor of retention and engagement than the quality of the relationship between new hires and their managers and colleagues. The closer these bonds, the more new hires trust management, the more they feel cared for and valued, and the greater their focus, productivity, and satisfaction.
  • Power from Passion. People are more passionate about their work when they use their talents and skills to work on tasks and projects that interest them in environments that are consistent with the ways they prefer to work. Managers need to recognize their new hires’ skills, honor their interests, and leverage their strengths.
  • Power from Challenge. People get excited about their jobs (and stay excited) when they learn and grow in ways that have meaning for them. Managers need to become better talent scouts, and recognize potential when they see it. They need to provide for continued development and challenge.
  • Power from Focus. People are more committed when they know what the organization is trying to achieve, and how they can contribute to those outcomes. Managers must help new hires learn to navigate; understand the purpose, mission, and objectives; and appreciate how their efforts serve those goals.
  • Power from Balance. People’s lives extend well beyond the workplace. They have families, friends, lovers, and children to care for. They have finances to manage and households to maintain. They want to stay vibrant and healthy. They want to play and have time for themselves. Managers must make room for new hires and their whole lives.
  • Power from Intention. Managers and their new hires must follow through to earn the commitment and loyalty they both want: What new skills will they develop the first year, and how? What new areas will they explore, and how? What relationships are important to establish? How will the manager or new hire flex to make the relationship work best? What results will new hires be responsible for? How will they be rewarded? What support will the manager provide? It takes more than talk-new hires need to see tangible progress.

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success What does the organization get in return? Here are a few bottom-line results:

  • Improved first-year retention rates. Engaging new employees early in shaping their jobs, designing their development, and building relationships can decrease first-year attrition.
  • Decreased time-to-productivity. Encouraging managers to be clear about what exactly is expected, and discuss how well new employees are learning their responsibilities can decrease the time required for new hires to get “up to speed.” They will contribute more, and do so more rapidly.
  • Reduced recruiting costs. Convincing new hires that they made the right choice can result in an increase in recruits referred by recent hires. Some organizations attract 70 percent of their new hires from recent hire referrals, reducing recruiting costs significantly.
  • Increased productivity. Making it possible for people to do what they do best, allowing them to pursue their interests, and building meaningful relationships can lead to higher productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced profitability.
  • Brand development. The more your become known as a great place to work, as an organization that cares about its employees, the more easily you attract the best and the brightest.
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Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

Knowledge is Never Really Acquired

A portrait statue of Socrates The famous statement, “All I know is that I do not know,” is attributed-questionably, according to some scholars-to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE), based on two dialogues written by his disciple Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE).

In The Republic (c. 360 BCE), Socrates concludes a discussion with Thrasymachus on “justice” by saying, “the result of the discussion, as far as I’m concerned, is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

In The Apology (399 BCE), Socrates says of a well-respected politician that “he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” The resulting slogan was adopted by later thinkers and incorporated into the tradition that became known as “Academic Skepticism.” Rather than believing that it is impossible to know anything, Academic Skeptics actually claim only that we can know very little about reality—namely, truths of logic and mathematics. This contrasts with Pyrrhonian skepticism, which involves an attitude of doubting every positive judgment, including logic and mathematics.

A serious problem with Socrates’s statements is that he seems committed to an incoherent position. If he truly does not know anything, then it is false that he knows that; but if he does know he does not know anything, then it is false that he does not know anything. Thus, the claim “I know that I do not know” is self-defeating (resulting in the statement also being known as the Socratic paradox). In response, many scholars argue that this is an uncharitable reading of Plato. They contend that Socrates’s claims are expressed in a particular context, referring only to specific concepts and not to knowledge generally (“Justice” in The Republic, and “beauty” and “goodness” in The Apology).

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

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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The E-Learning Revolution

10 Advantages of e-Learning

Executives face the challenge of recognizing when and where change is coming and how it will affect their business. The knowledge of employees represents a competitive edge that most companies neglect. Only those who have not succeeded know the secret of success in life.

'Guide to e-Learning' by Michael Allen (ISBN 1119046327) Today, the emerging juggernaut of corporate training and learning is e-learning. E-learning represents a wide range of activities and technologies, including distance education, computer-based training, and web-based training. E-Learning represents the integration of multimedia, instructor-led, and real-time training—all in a collaborative environment.

Today, corporations have three basic concerns: hiring, training, and retention of intellectual capital. It’s difficult to train and retain knowledge workers who are now “free agents” and job hoppers. What they offer is portable knowledge. E-learning offers a simple, long-term solution.

10 Advantages of e-Learning

E-learning is the fastest-growing segment of the training market. Web-based training revenue is projected to reach $32 billion by 2025. I believe e-Learning offers 10 major advantages.

  1. Real-time learning and application of critical knowledge. E-learning is immediate and up-to-date. No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless state.
  2. Learner-centric training. E-learning changes the focus of training from instructor to learner. It is tailored to the learner’s responsibilities and capabilities, creating relevant applications.
  3. Attract, train and retain. The number one reason for loss of key employees is that they feel their company has not invested sufficient resources for their professional development.
  4. Personalized training. An effective e-learning system learns about its users and tailors its offerings to their learning style, job requirements, career goals, current knowledge, and preferences.
  5. The E-Learning Revolution Ownership. E-learning empowers people to manage their own learning and development plans. Ownership of learning is crucial for individual growth and retention of employees. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty.
  6. Simulation. We learn by doing. E-learning is an innovative way of simulating each learning experience with content provided by top professionals.
  7. Collaboration. This is done through either joint problem-solving or the sharing of ideas and experience among study groups and chat rooms. Collaboration is the path to effective learning and innovative processes.
  8. Anytime and anywhere. Training in a virtual information classroom is now possible anytime, anywhere. And those people are rough people.
  9. Cost effective. Costs can be applied to each learner, and results measured against costs. And, e-learning is less intrusive to daily work duties, saving time and money through less interruption of employees regularly scheduled duties.
  10. Quantifiable. E-learning can be effectively measured in terms of knowledge gain and retention. With e-learning, corporations can track progress, report results, and specify additional subject matter. This is where ROI will be recognized by the employer and employee.

'There is Always Something to Do' by Peter Cundill (ISBN 0773535373) E-learning enables corporations to manage the tasks of hiring, training, and retaining new knowledge workers. This year over 70 million people will receive training and education on the Internet. Soon, training for virtually every job will be available over the Internet. Speed, connectivity, and intangible value have made e-Learning the choice for creating a competitive advantage.

People who can learn from other people’s experiences have a leg up. Most people just learn from their own experiences. As the Canadian value-investor Peter Cundill is quoted in There’s Always Something to Do, “Curiosity is the engine of civilization. If I were to elaborate it would be to say read, read, read, and don’t forget to talk to people, really talk, listening with attention and having conversations, on whatever topic, that are an exchange of thoughts. Keep the reading broad, beyond just the professional. This helps to develop one’s sense of perspective in all matters.”

Success in today’s dynamic world is based less on how much you know than on how quickly you can learn. Be open-minded about e-learning. People often muddle up being open-minded with not having a unyielding position. If truth be told, having firm convictions, anchored in criteria we have decided are important to us, is virtually a prerequisite of being open-minded. Being open-minded means listening carefully and deferentially to the position of another.

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Select Leaders by Assessing the Style and Personality Traits of Your Hires

The Personality Traits of Leaders

CEO tenure is becoming shorter and less secure. Half of today’s CEOs have been in the post less than three years.

Why the rise of revolving-door executives? Some reasons have to do with economic uncertainty, but companies also need to look at their recruiting, selection, and development practices. Those in leadership roles often come from the same universities and graduate schools with qualities similar to those of incumbent leaders. High-potential recruits are placed on a fast track to management positions where they tend to perpetuate perspectives of existing leaders. They move through positions at a fast pace, which inhibits them from learning their jobs well and reaping the harvest of seeds they sow.

'The Complete Book of Intelligence Tests' by Philip Carter (ISBN 0470017732) When hiring or promoting managers, many organizations rely on requisite knowledge, experience, and a track record. However, if they fail to investigate the behavioral characteristics of candidates, they may make a costly mistake. Many executives who have a string of early successes because of their technical genius or problem-solving skills later derail because of poor interpersonal relationships. The failure to build and maintain an effective team proves disastrous.

To pick the right managers, you need to assess the softer qualities of leadership. Those responsible for making people decisions need to know, for example, if the candidate inspires trust, listens well, delegates tasks, and shares praise and credit. These competencies are a function of personality.

Traits Common of Successful Corporate Leaders

While leadership styles vary from person-to-person, in my experience, great executives share a number of common, observable behaviors that support their success. Leadership styles are not something to be tried on like so many suits, to see which fits.

  • Tolerance for risk and uncertainty: experience with calculating and encouraging appropriate risk
  • High level of empathy: can walk in the shoes of the customer and convey the insights to others
  • Deep expertise in a least one field: the specific area is less important than the rigor and dedication any deep expertise demonstrates
  • Ability to work with varied and complex information
  • Collaborative interpersonal style: avoid big egos, aggressive personalities, and go-it-alone types
  • Passion: clear passion for your customer, your company, and innovation
  • Strong drive for results: desire to take ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace
  • Mature intelligence: ability to make connections and build ideas without needing to be the smartest person in the room

The more companies recognize about leaders— what they truly care about, how they make decisions, why they do what they do—the more effective they will be at organizing the support of others for what they anticipate to accomplish.

Attributes of Star Performers and Effective Managers

The attributes of star performers and effective managers are often personality characteristics–such as reliable, curious, even-tempered. Since people are perceived as leaders to the degree they are trustworthy, forward looking, inspiring, and decisive, the suitability of a candidate for a management job is more than simply a matter of the candidate’s function, experience, or position.

The most crucial factors are personality and behavioral style. Interpersonal skills can be measured cheaply, efficiently, and accurately; however, these skills are shaped early in life. By the time we reach adulthood, they are deeply ingrained. So, companies benefit by focusing their energies on selection rather than development of interpersonal competencies.

Personality Testing in the Workplace: Pros and Cons

'Management Level Psychometric and Assessment Tests' by Andrea Shavick (ISBN 1845280288) Assessing behavioral style is necessary to determine suitability but insufficient. People who interview well may also have less attractive interpersonal behaviors. These self-defeating be-haviors disrupt team performance and derail careers. Since these “dark side” characteristics are hard to detect by interviews and assessments, conduct interviews with former associates. The “what” required for a successful team could include education, time, and communication skills to be able to work effectively without barriers. The most important part of the team building process may actually be the “why” of the project.

Adopting behaviours associated with transformational leadership (such as stimulating followers to engage in complex decision-making and problem-solving) may in the short term lead to increases in the management quality of their followers. In addition, transformational leaders can also have a positive effect on the well-being, motivation and job satisfaction of those they supervise.

Interpersonal Style and Temperament of the Manager

Personality Tests for Hiring

Core values must also be assessed. No matter how talented you may be, if your values are at odds with the culture, you will not fare well. People are happiest working where their core values and goals are compatible with those of the organization.

'Ultimate Psychometric Tests' by Mike Bryon (ISBN 074946349X) Personality is pivotal in selecting managers. Compatibility is vital when considering the transfer or promotion of executive talent. The interpersonal style and temperament of the manager must be congruent with the character and needs of the firm. People can be taught certain skills and technologies, but not the traits that turn the use of those technologies into results. If personality and style are out of step with the new situation, nothing can prevent failure. Even the best leaders of the most capable teams promoting well-tested innovations may fail if the context in which the change is to be implemented is not considered. Capable leaders and well-balanced teams must personalize and adapt their approaches to create cultures and contexts where change will flourish.

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Customer Satisfaction Begins with Employee Engagement

The quickest ticket to customer satisfaction is through dependable, excellent service. As companies contend for competitive advantage, many find that refining service quality and customer satisfaction can be intangible. The first step to realizing both is to raise employee engagement.

'180 Ways To Build Employee Engagement' by Brian Gareau, Al Lucia (ISBN 193553792X) All organizations benefit from having an engaged workforce. But for those whose success pivots on delivering excellent customer service, a superior kind of employee engagement, customer-focused engagement, has an even tougher effect. Customer- focused engagement occurs when employee work groups are committed to (and passionate about) producing excellent service to their customers.

Employees won’t become engaged with service quality just because you demand them to. It takes time and effort to nurture an environment where engagement can set in and grow. With the right leadership, resources and information, you can shape the environment to engage employees and focus their efforts where it matters most—on customer satisfaction.

Correlation Between Employee Satisfaction and Customer Satisfaction

Evidence for Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Will an investment in employee engagement pay for itself through increased customer satisfaction?

We gauged satisfaction levels of 50 firms using the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). To measure customer-focused engagement, we probed employees to rate elements like, “We help customers beyond what is required,” and “The norm here is to help customers.”

'The Employee Engagement Mindset' by Timothy R. Clark (ISBN 0071788298) When we charted the employee survey results for each company against ASCI score for that company, we discovered that the higher the level of customer-focused engagement, the better the score on customer satisfaction. Actually, we see an absolute correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. When you enhance customer-focused engagement, you will increase customer satisfaction.

Companies whose employees are highly engaged with customer service are rated the highest in customer satisfaction. Raising customer-focused employee engagement translates into dollars on the bottom line, possibly a lot of dollars. A mere one-point rise in your ASCI score can boost your ROI by an average of 11.4 percent!

What Gets Measured Gets Attention

Prior to you can increase engagement, you first must gage it. An precise measure of employee engagement requires a special survey—not the employee satisfaction survey. There is a distinction between employee satisfaction and engagement.

  • Satisfied employees feel enjoyable, satisfied, content, and comfortable. And they tend to have low absence, low turnover, and low substance abuse. But they may be neither engaged nor driven to expend extra effort in their work or for customers.
  • In contrast, engaged employees perform in ways that enhance the customer experience. They go the extra mile in the interest of service quality and customer satisfaction. When your customers receive superior service every day, it can have a spectacular impact on your financial health.

Engaged employees (focused on customers) feel fervent about providing excellent service, energized by helping customers, involved in their work, trusting of their manager. They feel safe to make decisions, take risks, or speak up with worries. They are committed to the goal of providing service excellence. They create relationships with customers, not just fill orders; anticipate customer needs; support coworkers so that they can provide service excellence; take initiative to ensure consistent service; and find answers to customer questions.

Creating Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Creating Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Engaging employees is not simply a matter of telling them what to do. The way to change someone’s work performance is to first change the way they feel about their jobs. Tailor your programs around six areas:

  1. Job design. When jobs are thought-provoking and allow employees to use all of their talents, they feel involved. Time passes quickly, and effort required to do the work is easy to give. Engagement is high when employees are working to achieve detailed difficult goals—goals they accept as judicious and attainable, but ones that also provide a “stretch.”
  2. Immediate managers. Managers play a big role in how employees feel about their jobs. Impartiality and trust shown to the employees by their managers will create a culture of engagement in the work group, ensuring a collective, organized effort in serving customers.
  3. Service message. Most of the service message employees receive comes from cues from their immediate manager as to what is important. Managers must recognize and strengthen service excellence, ensure that obstacles to excellence are removed, and set goals for service excellence. Without everything employees experience focuses their efforts on service quality and customer satisfaction, customer satisfaction likely won’t emerge.
  4. Resources. When employees feel they have the resources they need to do their jobs well, they are more involved in their customer service.
  5. HR policies. Organizations that ensure their HR management systems promote customer satisfaction—who gets hired, how they are trained, what is measured in performance management—produce customer-focused engagement.
  6. Benchmarking. You need baseline knowledge about employee engagement levels and customer satisfaction before you make changes. Use surveys and other assessment tools to measure employee engagement occasionally to evaluate progress.

Employee engagement has become such a hot theme that great groups of consultants and authors are undeniably banging on your door as we speak, armed with sufficient action plans and PowerPoint presentations to make your head spin. When employees are satisfied and engaged, the outcome is deeper customer connections and an raised customer experience.

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Create Partners, Not Employees or Followers

People want to succeed. The vast majority want to feel good about themselves and their work. Nevertheless, sometimes, it is tremendously difficult to balance day-to-day duties with the emotional needs of your employees.

There are no quick fixes or simple formulas for generating a culture that unleashes the competency of people. It occasionally requires intervention into a number of dimensions of organizational life: challenging management philosophy and practices, communicating and aligning everyone to the business strategy, cultivating processes and systems, providing training in social and business skills, etc.

Whom would you rather have at your side in a tough spot? A partner who shares full responsibility for decisions and their outcomes? Alternatively, a subordinate who does just what you say and shuts up about ideas he has that may be better.

Rationally, you want the former; emotionally, you may choose the latter. Leaders bow to a multitude of short-term pressures: severe demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, distress with uncertainty, resistance to change, linear extrapolation from past experience, and reluctance to cannibalize established businesses.

'It's Okay to Be the Boss' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 0061121363) Reflect on your career. Have you ever kept quiet when superiors were creating problems? What caused you to withhold your counsel?

I guarantee you they were being “the boss.” Everything about their tone, body language, verbal language, and behavior was indicating you that they were the boss and you were the subordinate. Chances are you learned from them what a boss looks and sounds like. Whether you admired their style or not, some of it rubbed off on you.

When you act as a superior, you will have subordinates. Act as a partner, and you will have partners. Yes, you may be the senior partner, but they are still partners, not underlings, or subordinates.

One key dissimilarity between the behavior of a “boss” and a “partner” is the way you talk. You talk differently to partners. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. To a subordinate, you might say, “This client wants his order fulfilled now. Make it happen.”

What is the message? It is not just “Get the order done now,” but it is also “I’m the boss; this is what I want—and there could be outcomes if I don’t get it.” It does not require a dramatic act to make the point that the receiver is your subordinate. Are you aware of how often and in how many ways you send similar messages?

This is not how you would talk to a partner. You might be just as clear about what you want and when; however, your delivery would create partnership, not subservience. You might ask, “How can we do that?” Alternatively, “Can you make it happen?” You would seek the individual’s knowledge, responsibility, and mutual obligation. When employees are seen as partners, they will understand that their leaders do not simply see them as the means to achieve their own personal targets.

You talk differently to folks below you than to folks across from or above you. So what? The higher you go, the less direct experience you have of customers, stakeholders, and problems. It is harder to get a real feel for what is happening. You become more reliant on on good information and insight from those who are in touch. So, they need to feel invited to tell you the reality they see, especially when it differs from the one you believe is out there.

You likely think that you already extend this encouragement, but you may discourage people from giving you inconvenient information. Unless you make an effort to discover in what ways you do this, you will continue to do so.

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

To create partners and have your employees’ best interests in mind, try this exercise:

  • Start every meeting with a question: “Is there anything I’m not getting about this issue that you think I should?”
  • Whatever the answer, respond with interest and ask, “Can you tell me more about that or give an example to help me understand it better?”
  • Ask questions until you have clarity on the points. Do not argue. Do not cross-examine—just clarify.
  • Thank the individual or group making these points.
  • Incorporate what makes sense into the decisions.
  • If no one spoke up, after the meeting ask the individual who is likely to be forthright, “What am I doing that keeps everyone from talking?”
  • If this individual gives you insight into how you dissuade feedback, convey your gratefulness. Find a way to reward the honesty.
  • Invite this truth-teller to sit in on more meetings and after each one gives you feedback on anything you did that made others act as subordinates.

Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Employees

Build Trust with Your Employees

Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid employee feels important and part of the team. This begins with management not being reserved, as well as getting out and meeting the troops.

'The 27 Challenges Managers Face' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 111872559X) By doing this you will have the self-awareness to create partners. You will also have earned their trust. They will give you their best advice and devotedly support decisions that are based on reality.

By creating this environment where your employees are treated as partners working toward a shared purpose, you will foster in your employees a sense of ownership not simply to their job, but to the whole process. This will inspire not only partnership between the company’s divisions/teams, but it will also help nurture innovation as employees are stimulated to look beyond what they usually work on or how they approach their job.

Good partners invest time and energy in making cognizant judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action.

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