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Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Here are seven root causes-factors that cause employees to disengage and leave:

  1. They found the job or workplace to be different than what they had expected when hired.
  2. They were not well matched or challenged in the jobs for which they had been hired, or to which had been assigned or promoted.
  3. They received too little coaching and feedback from their supervisor.
  4. They perceived few prospects for professional growth and advancement.
  5. They felt undervalued or underrecognized, either through lack of informal acknowledgement of their contributions, feeling underpaid, not feeling “in the loop,” not having their input sought, not having the right tools.
  6. Feeling stressed or burned-out due to overwork or life-work imbalance.
  7. Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.

These seven causes are not the reasons most employees give in exit interviews. Departing employees typically respond with the answers their leaders prefer to hear-better pay or opportunity. Through such denial, managers never learn what they need to avoid or correct the real causes of disengagement and turnover.

Most managers believe employees leave mainly because of “pull factors”-pay and opportunity. However, Saratoga’s research concludes that 80 percent are motivated to leave because of these seven “push factors.”

Managers and leaders may not want to acknowledge the real reasons employees leave-since all seven are factors they can influence directly.

The good news is first that some turnover is desirable. Second, between the time employees become disengaged and the point when they leave, there is time and opportunity to re-engage them. Third, if we know why employees disengage and leave, then we also know why they stay and engage. Fourth, since only about 12 percent of employees leave mainly because of their pay, the things we need to do to re-engage most employees are relatively inexpensive, requiring mostly the time and attention of direct managers, the support of HR, and the commitment of senior leaders.

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How to Increase Employee Commitment and Engagement

How to Increase Employee Commitment and Engagement If employee allegiance no longer has a metaphysical basis in a culture, people are left with only two values—personal peace and personal affluence—and these values diminish loyalty with their self-absorbed focus. Employees who long only to be left alone to follow better possessions and better experiences have no room for loyal relationships.

To increase commitment, managers focus on employee ownership and retention, either by giving employees equity in the company in hopes that if they own it, they will give more commitment so that their equity will increase in value; or by giving project control in hopes that if the employees own the project, they will give the commitment that is needed for the project’s success. Employee ownership, however, is a deficient substitute for employee loyalty.

Employee Engagement Strategy Examples

Managers who try to encourage loyalty through employee retention soon realize that this too is inadequate to build loyalty. These programs tend to focus on employee self-fulfillment rather than earning and retaining loyalty to the values, purposes and people of the organization.

Our survey indicates that the top five drivers of employee commitment are:

  1. management’s recognition of the importance of personal and family life;
  2. opportunities for personal growth;
  3. satisfying customer needs;
  4. communications about benefits; and
  5. skills keeping pace with job requirements.

These drivers deepen employees’ commitments, but only on condition that some other prospective employer is not providing them more fully or with better pay. Gaining employee commitment by nourishing the need for self-fulfillment is another example of loyalty for personal gain rather than loyalty to the values, purpose and people of the organization.

The problem with trying to win loyalty through ownership and retention plans is that these are attempts to buy what must be warranted. Loyalty means to be steadfast in one’s allegiance to a person, cause, or company and to beliefs, practices, and relationships that benefit all involved. A culture that wins loyalty is built by exemplifying high values and right purposes, by assuming constituents to live these high values and right purposes, and by rewarding them when they do and challenging them when they do not.

Four Implications for Employee Loyalty

Managers and employees who take sincerely the need to build loyalty must see four consequences.

  1. Building loyalty to the values, purposes and people of an organization is swimming against the tide of current trends. It will entail time and energy.
  2. Managers need to either commit to building employee loyalty or quit criticizing about the lack of it.
  3. Employees will likely reap what they sow in terms of loyalty. If they do not learn the lessons of loyalty now, they will not know how to earn and build loyalty when they become managers.
  4. Managers need to vet potential employees as to their prior commitment to organizational values, purposes and people rather than just personal gain.

In terms of employee loyalty, managers can choose to either curse the darkness or light a candle.

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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!

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.

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.
  • 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.

Dells

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.

Dells

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.

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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How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

At the dawn of the new millennium, two powerful factions are arrayed against each other. Each faction advocates an extensive list of reforms.

  1. those influenced to support the principle of equality of condition and to extend their progressive program of reforms
  2. those equally determined to reinstate equality of opportunity as the reigning principle.

Now, we need to tackle such concerns as the struggle for self-realization, the desire to find a deep-seated meaning in life than the endless accumulation of consumer durables and the pursuit of pleasure, education not only for careers but for spiritual values, methods of bankrolling an early and rewarding retirement, and increasing the quality time available for family activities.

The changing nature and distribution of work and leisure and changes in the structure of consumer demand are creating overabundance in some areas (such as the excessive consumption of calories and fat) and severe shortages in others (such as health services at all ages).

How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

To accomplish self-realization, we need to understand life’s opportunities and sense which ones are most attractive to us at each stage, and the requisite educational, material, and spiritual resources to pursue these opportunities. Currently fair access to spiritual resources is as much a benchmark as access to material resources was in the past.

  • Spiritual resources include a sense of purpose, a sense of opportunity, a sense of community, a strong family ethic, a strong work ethic, and high self-esteem.
  • Developments in physiology have contributed to the growth of the elderly population, giving rise to the problem of in, intergenerational equity—the assurance that one generation will not suffer a lop-sided share of the burden of financing a lifetime of self-realization.
  • Also pressing is the need to develop arrangements that permit prime-aged workers greater flexibility so that they can attend to their own and their family’s spiritual needs.
  • Lifelong learning is another new equity issue. It involves offering opportunities not only to upgrade skills to earn a living but also to extend knowledge in the arts and humanities.

For women, self-realization requires an end to glass ceilings and the creation of conditions that make careers and families fully compatible.

The new agenda is shaped by changes in structure that have reversed the trend toward economic concentration and the separation of work and home.

Today, 60 percent of our discretionary time is spent doing what we like (volwork). The abundance of leisure time promotes the search for a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.

Why this deep desire for volwork? Why do so many people want to forgo earnwork, which would allow them to buy more food, clothing, housing, and other goods? The answer turns partly on the extraordinary technological changes.

Food, housing, clothing, and other consumer durables have become so inexpensive in real terms that the totality of material consumption requires far fewer hours of labor today.

Indeed, we are approaching saturation in the consumption not only of necessities but also of goods that were in the recent past thought to be luxuries. The era of the household accumulation of consumer durables, which sparked the growth of manufacturing industries, is largely over. Most future purchases of consumer durables will be by those replacing items or establishing new households.

Quality of Life and Self-Realization

Today, ordinary people wish to use their liberated time to buy those amenities of life that only the rich could afford in abundance a century ago. These amenities broaden the mind, enrich the soul, and relieve the monotony of earnwork. They include travel, athletics, the performing arts, education, and shared time with family. The principal cost of these activities is often measured, not by cash outlays, but outlays of time.

Soon, the issue of life’s meaning, and other matters of self-realization, will take up the bulk of discretionary time.

New flexible work modes—such as a regular part-time work, blocks of work interrupted by blocks of released time, job sharing, flextime, telecommuting, hoteling, compressed work, early retirement, and postretirement earnwork arrangements—are desired by men and women who want a life that is not overwhelmed by earnwork. They do not measure success by income or position. They are content with a simpler lifestyle that places greater emphasis on family life, shared relationships, spiritual growth, religious faith, and good health.

Today, many corporations view alternative working arrangements as part of an inventory of personnel policies that increase corporate productivity and reduce absenteeism, labor turnover, and the cost of office space.

Today ordinary people must decide: What it the nature of the good life? Our world may be materially richer and contain fewer environmental risks, but its spiritual struggles are more complex.

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Organizational Subcultures

It is important to recognize that even an organization’s unified culture is not entirely homogenous; subcultures subsist and each division or unit in the organization sees things from a somewhat diverse standpoint.

DeWitt Dearborn and his colleague, the Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon, had executives from a single company read a case study that was to be discussed as part of a training program. Before the discussion began, they asked the executives to write down what they each saw as the primary problem facing the organization described in the case. As you may expect, the head of marketing saw the problem as a marketing problem, the head of finance saw it as a finance problem, and the head of production saw it as a production problem, and so on.

That is, the different heads of the different divisions in the company tended to perceive the world in a way that was congruent with their own division’s function, and in terms of the culture that their division had developed. This is not to say that they did not share parts of each other’s culture, but they did have views exclusive to their own parts of the organization.

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How to Value the Roles of Leader and Manager

I find it valuable to cut through complexity and distill core insights that are generalizable—they apply to all across a range of situations; transformative—they elevate performance from good to great; and actionable—they guide action.

By identifying the core insights of the roles of manager and leader, you can find the one thing that will leverage everything. We often try to define a role in so much detail that we end up with 15 or 20 competencies. The inference is “you need all of these to be a great salesperson or manager.” People are overwhelmed by the expectation.

You will get more out of yourself if you discover your strengths and capitalize on them. And yet most people still believe that the secret to success lies in fixing flaws. Only 17 percent of people spend most of their time on tasks that play to their strengths.

Managers often get short shrift: Leaders are strategic; managers are just tactical. Leaders transform people; managers just administer things. The perception of the manager is just this low-life waiting for an opportunity to lead. This isn’t true. The roles of manager and leader are different, but both are important.

Role of Manager

The role of a manager is to turn one person’s talents into performance. If you hire great talent and let them run, they will be productive because that’s what talented people do. The manager’s role is to speed up the reaction between the talent of a person and the goals of the company. The manager is the catalyst for performance. The one thing that great managers do is to discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it—to identify the unique talents in each person and then leverage those talents, treating each person differently based on personality and motivations. They pick up on the differences in people and then put those differences to work.

Rather than try to remedy people’s shortcomings, they focus on maximizing their talents. Their chief responsibility is to turn a person’s talent into performance. Managers influence how long the person stays and how effectively the person performs. Knowing that each person has unique talents and motivations, they seek to understand and leverage this uniqueness. They build their teams to maximize the unique talents and contributions of each person on the team. They treat each person differently based on that person’s talents and motivations. Great managers may standardize the outcomes, but individualize how each person goes about achieving those outcomes. Average managers play checkers; great managers play chess. In checkers all pieces move in the same way; in chess, each piece moves differently. Great managers know the differences in each piece and coordinate the team to take advantage of the individual strengths.

Most managers focus on a person’s weaknesses and address shortcomings. In contrast, great managers grow the person’s greatest strengths. Developing a person’s greatest talent is how to achieve breakthrough performance. Great managers don’t ignore shortcomings, but they work around the shortcomings by changing people’s jobs, allowing them to spend more time where their talent fits best, or pairing one employee with another who has complementary talents.

Great management is not about changing people. Great managers take people as they are and then release their talents. They don’t see people merely as a means to an end; they see people as the end. They are motivated by identifying people’s talents and then developing them. They spend most of their time with individuals, trying to pick out their strengths and then leveraging those strengths. They get the best return from their investment in people by challenging them around their strengths. A strength is something that strengthens you, something that resonates with you, something that you enjoy doing. A weakness is any activity that weakens you. When you are doing it, time seems to go slowly. And when you are done, you feel drained and frustrated. A good manager always looks for what strengthens a person.

Managers also need to know what triggers those strengths in people and their style of learning. How do you trip those strengths? Bill Parcells, former coach of the New York Giants, was asked after winning the Superbowl in 1991 how he had such a great season even though he played two quarterbacks. He said, “You have to know how to trip each one’s triggers.” One quarterback liked to be shouted at. He loved the emotional intensity. The other quarterback would shut down in the same situation. Some people like praise in public and other people want a quiet word in the office, where you tell them how much they mean to you. Some people want you to check-in with them daily other people don’t. Figure out what switch needs to be flipped to get the most out of a person.

People learn in their own style. Good managers notice how each person learns and helps the person learn and adapt. Some people learn by analyzing and they like time to prepare. They like the role-playing, they read the books, they go to classes and they love it. The doers learn by jumping into it. Different people learn different ways.

Role of Leader

As a leader, you need innate optimism, a belief that things could get better, and the ego to believe that you can make that future come true. Many leaders struggle—not because their egos are too big, but because their ethics are too small. The best leaders all have a driving need to be at the helm and move people into the future.

Leadership is about rallying people to a better future. Great leaders get us to feel that the future is possible and better than where we are now. They rally people to help make dreams come true. They turn people’s legitimate anxiety about the future into confidence. They find what is universal or shared among members of a group and capitalize on it. Through their words, images, stories, and actions, they tap into things that all of us share and are unremittingly clear. You don’t need to be passionate, consistent, strategic, or creative, but you do need to be clear and precise.

Great leaders are optimists who rally people to a better future. They turn anxiety or fear of the future into confidence by providing clarity around who we serve, what our core strengths are, how we keep score, and what actions we can take immediately. Great leaders do not necessarily have the right answers to these questions—in many cases there are no “right answers”—but they provide answers that are clear, specific, and vivid. Their followers know exactly who they serve, how they will win, how to keep score to know if they are winning, and what they can go do today.

Great leaders are not unrealistic; in fact, they are grounded in reality. However, they believe that things can be better in the future than they are today. They create a vision of this future and rally others to support it. Leaders turn legitimate anxiety over the unknown future into confidence through clarity.

Clarity is the answer to anxiety. Effective leaders are clear. Great leaders think about excellence and reflect on what causes success. They pick their heroes with care. When they give awards and praise others in public, they send important signals about who should be viewed as heroes by others. Great leaders explain why these individuals were selected—who they served, how they scored, and what actions they took. In doing so, they embed these behaviors in the organization. They practice their words, phrases, and stories and communicate in ways that resonate with others. They practice the words that they use to help others see the better future that they imagine. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech used phrases and images that King had carefully honed over years of practice.

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What is Organizational Culture?

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the essence of what is important to the organization. For itself, it stipulates and proscribes undertakings, and it defines the “dos and don’ts” that oversee the behavior of its members.

An organization’s culture serves at least seven important functions:

  • Specifies what is of principal importance to the organization, the standards against which its successes and failures should be gaged.
  • Determines how the organization’s resources are to be used, and to what ends.
  • Establishes what the organization and its members can expect from each other.
  • Makes some methods of controlling behavior within the organization legitimate and makes others illegitimate—specifically, it defines where power lies within the organization and how it is to be used.
  • Selects the behaviors in which members should or should not engage and prescribes how these are to be rewarded and punished.
  • Sets the tone for how members should treat each other and how they should treat nonmembers: competitively, collaboratively, honestly, distantly, or hostilely.
  • Instructs organizational members about how to handle the external environment: aggressively, exploitatively, responsibly, or proactively.
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Learn How to Execute Effectively with Strategic Alignment

Learn How to Execute Effectively with Strategic Alignment

Aligning Strategies Throughout the Business

It is a familiar situation. Corporation A misses severely on its obligations several quarters in succession and the stock plummets. Consequently, the Board loses confidence, the CEO “resigns,” and a new CEO is chosen who declares a restructuring of the business.

In recent years, we have seen numerous such reports. Even where top-level executives display signs of “vision” and express what seems to be a sound business strategy on paper, results go amiss of expectations.

Strategy is often thought of as something that only top-tier executives can effect, and while it may be true that “top-down” strategy is most customary. We continue that individuals throughout the organization must both recognize the organization’s strategy and create an supplementary strategy for themselves—a supplemental strategy that directly impacts their respective areas of responsibility and braces the core of the business.

We have all been there. The leadership team spends long hours deciding on a strategy to improve performance. Management teams come up with supportive annual budgets. Bout teams settle long PowerPoint presentations and exhaustive spreadsheet files. Yet not much happens in terms of deliverables! Ambitious year-end targets are missed. Improvement curves keep being shifted to the right, and the reorganization begins.

Companies with obstructive cultures and meagre strategic alignment considerably underperform their competitors. Additionally, most executives recognize what’s at stake and what matters, even if their companies don’t always seem to get it right.

Questions arise as to why these events occur: What has gone wrong and why? Are the goals too assertive? Are the apparitions or strategies deficient? Are middle managers unable to execute? If the answer is yes to all these questions, then why is it so?

All are good questions; however, the key component is strategic alignment.

What is Strategic Alignment?

Strategic alignment is the connection between the goals of the business, which quantify the progress of the implementation of the strategy toward the vision, and the goals of each key contributor, including groups, divisions, business units, and departments.

Strategic alignment, then, is one and all rowing in the same direction. The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of faultless execution becomes stronger.

Once implemented properly, strategic alignment delivers four major advantages:

  1. it allows an well-organized use of frequently scarce resources;
  2. it results in improved speed of execution;
  3. it encourages team efforts toward common goals; and
  4. it increases motivation by giving people a keener sense of contribution to the results of their groups and the corporation in total.

These are great results, but few corporations realize them. Since many corporations and their leadership teams try to gain strategic alignment, what barriers must be overpowered?

Strategic Alignment and a Culture That Supports Innovation

Two Key Components of Successful Strategic Alignment

Culture plays a critical role in this strategy. According to Fred Palensky of 3M Company, “for over 100 years, 3M has had a culture of interdependence, collaboration, even codependence. Our businesses are all interdependent and collaboratively connected to each other, across geographies, across businesses, and across industries. The key is culture.”

  1. Communicate broadly to help people understand the elements of the vision and of the key strategic directions. Repetition by the leadership and management teams at every opportunity—including sales meetings, company meetings, and operational business reviews—empowers each employee to understand vividly how he or she can contribute.
  2. Link the results of each employee’s job to the progress of the entire corporation strategy, and do it clearly and simply. This is best done by using simple measures of key performances (KBMs = key business metrics, or KPMs = key performance metrics) that can be connected to the employee’s annual performance review.

Strategic Alignment and a Culture That Supports Innovation

At our company, we use a cascading set of goals that determine the progress of the strategic implementation. This “waterfall effect” or “goal tree” starts at the top and cascades down. The objectives are assimilated into our annual performance targets and support the key goals of our leaders. This safeguards focus and alignment as employees deliver on their objectives. Objectives are rolled back up the “goal tree” in reviews of goals.

Implementing strategic alignment requires a robust promise from the top leadership and a focus on frequent communication using simple management principles of focus, clarity, and fortification. In the end, effective execution of strategic alignment is a leader’s top priority and ensures that goals are met and success achieved.

Purpose is what the business is trying to accomplish. Strategy is how the business will accomplish it. Purpose is durable—it is the north star towards which the company should point. Strategy comprises choices about what products and services to offer, which markets to serve, and how the company should best set itself apart from entrants for competitive advantage.

Keep corporate strategy at the heart of your organization’s culture by standing up a process to keep it front-and-center.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently

How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently Will the induction of new technology present any menace to traditionalists? Of course it will. Innovation, by definition, is a undermining force. That is why we will need real leaders to champion the innovations. Leaders motivate people to think and act differently. We need to make sure that we are on the winning side of new technologies.

We must choose anything that will bring greater urgency and velocity to the search for new products, or advancements of existing ones, that are truly innovative. We can find some clues on how to act by studying the history of innovation. Here are some lessons learned.

  1. The instinct to create or innovate can be encouraged. We can systemize innovation by encouraging bright people with a real diversity of talent to work together in teams.
  2. Nothing stimulates innovation more than the rapid exchange of information, knowledge, and ideas. Faster transmission begets greater discovery. We see this in e-commerce. Amazon.com may constitute the greatest innovation in the distribution of the written word since the printing press.
  3. There must be obvious financial incentives for successful innovations. Undoubtedly, financial incentives add fuel to the fire for high-tech companies in the business-related world. But there is still a dearth of attractive financial incentives in defense procurement. Many leading companies have turned their backs on military R&D and defense contracting as a result of poor profit margins and red tape.
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Posted in Management and Leadership