I’ve been working on a Good to Great parallel case-study, focused on Bay Area modern day companies. Of the many the many lessons to highlight, none of them shockingly new by the way, diversity & the implementation process was a critical one that surfaced often.
This shouldn’t surprise us, we see it in so many aspects of our own day-to-day lives. It’s not only the element of diversity itself that’s important for nurturing boundless growth & opportunity, but rather how it’s implemented that’s going to be the key driver for success.
Simply pushing diversity as a topic of agenda without a well thought through integration process will actually do more harm than good. Companies, just like all societies, in order to be highly productive need the right yin & yang.
The full definition from Merriam Webster states (1) the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization <programs intended to promote diversity in schools> & (2) an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities : an instance of being diverse <a diversity of opinion>
From the HBR article Diversity Is Useless Without Inclusivity, “while many organizations are better about creating diversity, many have not yet figured out how to make the environment inclusive—that is, create an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities” is the key phrase in regards to integration. While the article addresses diversity in the context of race & sex, I’d like to address it in the context of personalities & skill sets.
When you begin a program of expanding diversity, how are you integrating new and or different skill sets & personality types into the existing fabric in your company? If you’re a tech startup you most likely have a high number of introverted (in the traditional sense) personalities as compared to extraverted. The fact that everyone has a similar personality has up until now diminished their natural introverted state when compared to a more diverse group.
Now your company has grown & you need to bring in more extroverted personalities, such as sales & marketing roles. If not integrated properly, like oil & water, the two will naturally resist each other & become antagonistic (toxic company culture). The practical end result are the company silos we tend to find between engineering, product, marketing, sales, finance and customer success, just to name a few. This is one of the biggest contributors that keeps company from reaching the high level of performance it’s capable of.
As with any change process, early, frequent & transparent communication is critical to success. Start with the end-game in-mind. What does success look like? Why do we need to diverse? Focus as much on the emotional conversation as you do on the logical one. This is going to start breaking down the barriers of resistance, and with this you will identify your champions of change. Those anchors that you can rely on to create a multiplying influencer effect that will accelerate change.
As a company grows, the ratio of Doers vs. Thinkers needs to diminish appropriately. While this is a general rule of thumb, the same ratio does not apply across the board. And again, early, frequent & transparent communication will accelerate this integration. Each skillset & personality type will find their own place for contribution, increasing their feeling of self worth and inclusion.
While I’ve laid out some very basic fundamentals in this post, it’s alarming how many organizations don’t put enough thought into this process. It’s always more important to favor on the side of caution than speed when integrating diversity. The line is both fine and huge between creating & integrating diversity in the workforce, as it is in society in general.
We all want more motivated, engaged & productive employees. My friends at BesslingWhite recently published 4 Requirements for Solving the Development Puzzle, and in it they list Motivation as their 4th point. “Motivation; Organizations can provide development resources and managers can coach, but without personal commitment, employees’ development efforts may amount to “going through the motions.” All employees come to work each day with a unique blend of personal values and goals (although they are not always cognizant of these drivers). Employees who are clear on what matters most to them are better able to manage their professional growth and maintain momentum when new skills aren’t easy to apply or obstacles arise. This is often the forgotten ingredient in development initiatives.”
In order to get people to be motivated to do anything, especially employees in a professional context, you’ve got to inspire them to want to achieve something of more significance than their current state. Ideally, to borrow from the phrase above, you’re working with employees who “are clear on what matters most to them”, because only then are they better able to manage their professional growth and maintain momentum when new skills aren’t easy to apply or obstacles arise. Unless someone is clear on what matters most to them, it will be impossible to inspire them to motivate themselves. Yes, you read right, it is NOT an external forces’ responsibility to motivate someone, but rather to inspire someone. Motivation is an internal attribute that is present when someone is inspired, and it’s extremely powerful when that inspiration is relevant to where that person wants to get to, and or is directly linked to what matters most to them.
All 4 requirements listing in the article are indeed important, and in my work I’ve found that the most difficult is always that last one. Training, feedback & coaching are all a process that you (an external resource to the employee) can control. However, while you are a catalyst in an employee’s motivation, you are definitely NOT in control of it. I felt this needed to be highlighted as too often it is overlooked.
To compliment the 4 requirements of development, and if you want to super accelerate employee development, than once you’ve nailed the 4 basic requirements, instill a practice whereby employees teach others & you will see motivation exponentially increase, as well as development, engagement and commitment across the board.
Thanks to “How quickly does your organization react to challenges?” from thoughtLEADERS, we now know that 35% of companies are blindsided by the challenges that send them into emergency mode.
– We see challenges as they get close, then we act reasonably quickly: 46%
- We don’t see challenges until they become crises, then we react in emergency mode: 27%
– We see challenges coming way in the future and plan for them long in advance: 19%
- We don’t see challenges until it’s too late, then we go into damage control and recovery mode: 8%
That’s an incredible number! More than 1/3 of companies are expending costly resources to deal with challenges they could have addressed, had they implemented a rhythmic process of retrospect & planning. While I trust the source of the poll, practical experience tells me that number is actually underestimating the real story.
What kind of strategic thinking & execution planning are you doing in your business? If you’re doing it less than quarterly, I’ll bet you’re one of the 35%’ers! Ideally, you should be doing some form of retrospect on your execution performance weekly. A simple 15-30 minute team reflection of the following 3 questions will give you all you need.
It’s important to understand the “why” of things working as well as not.
I see many companies doing some form of the first 2, but very few doing the 3rd. Projects being continued & even improved upon that 3 weeks in will never delivered the promised value benefit because something in our environment has changed. Instead of retooling, adapting, or even completely killing something off in order to reallocate resources to something that’s going to deliver significant value, we continue to move forward with a project because it’s still on time & on budget. We’re walking zombies!
I use a One Page Plan system to keep an entire organization focused on what’s important, and in our weekly retrospects, in addition to tracking our progress toward achieving our quarterly goals, we always take a quick glance at
That simple sense check to make sure that we’re not blindsided by something that could have been avoided is vital to an organizations success. In fact, +90% of the organizations I know of, had they had a rhythmic process to periodically sense check their initial assumptions vs. ever changing reality, could have avoided or at least minimized challenges that impacted their performance. Not to mentioned, missed opportunities that could have accelerated their performance.
As always, the hardest problems are typically the easiest to fix as well. You just need the right mindset & a plan that works for all. After reading HBR’s Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along, I thought I’d highlight the key learnings that will immediately transform your own challenges in the HR space.
There are actually four roles played by HR people, and in most cases an HR person only specializes in just one of these roles:
I often find myself working with clients / HR departments in nailing #3 & 4, bring HR to the E-suite roundtable as a critical contributor to business performance & success.
Storytelling & process planning; not enough HR people are empathetic enough, nor take the time to get into the head of those whom they rely on for success. An old buddhist quote “seek to understand before expecting to be understood” is the first mindset shift that needs to happen in order for there to be success. As HR, one needs to understand the BIG PICTURE instead of just looking at the situation as an isolated process they need to implement. It’s an ecosystem issue & all of the action / reaction, cause & effect issues of standard problem solving & decision making need to be understood.
Solution – Instead of simply forcing a process, tell a story, one that’s relevant to the audience, and then partner with that audience conscious that you’re about to affect an ecosystem.
Manager / Leader Beware & Take Responsibility; (directly quoted from article) many managers don’t fully accept their own accountability for managing human capital, and instead want HR people to “take care of it” for them. They avoid or delay activities such as candidate interviews, performance assessments, employee feedback discussions, compensation reviews, responses to engagement surveys, and a host of others. Often this avoidance is based on a lack of time, skills, or interest – or anxiety about getting into tough interpersonal territory. No matter the reason, it leaves HR people acting like the process police and chasing after recalcitrant line managers, which does very little to enhance the relationship.
Solution – Be the change you want to see & take responsibility for the people for whom you’re accountable to.
Business Acumen; all too many HR people don’t take the time to truly understand their company’s business and the pressures facing its managers. Learn THE BUSINESS, instead of just your job description.
Solution – Understand how your role is expected to help others deliver high performance & do the right things that produce results. Business results, not just employee engagement results. HR is responsible for ensuring the development of the most precious & expensive resources of an organization. Be the business facilitator you need to be.
How does your own HR organization stack up in their performance of the Four Roles of HR? On a scale of 1-5, a 3 being we’re OK at it, how would you rate your HR in each role?
Unless you’re striving to be +4 & above, you’ve got the wrong expectations for a high performance & engaged organization.
He states that “successful people not only understand success is a mindset and use their time wisely they also have the following characteristics in common”
If this were a checklist, how many of these characteristics would you tick? And the ones you’re not able to tick, how many of them would give you a better life? These are not just leadership traits reserved for the workplace, these are powerful traits for a happier & more fulfilling life in general!
Remember that “success is different for every person, do not try to find success in other peoples dreams, but instead determine what success means to you and set your mind on the right success path for you. You only get one shot at your life, and the time you have to do it is short in relative terms. Make a commitment today to doing something that will change your life and put you on the path to success.”
Time boxing is a planning tool that’s a cross between a calendar and a to-do list. It lets you divide your schedule into increments (half-hour or hour-long chunks) that you can slot tasks into and monitor. To set it up:
*Credit HBR Tip of the Day
After reading Why Corporations Fail to Do the Right Thing, I’ve decided to reproduce the article’s main points (below) to highlight the real 2 reasons Corporations Fail to Do the Right Thing, and suffer the consequences.
The subtitle “Six reasons why international business remains dangerous to workers and the environment, even when its leaders genuinely want to do better” is straightforward, but I’d like to add that it really comes down to 2 points, AND that it affects many more organizations than you think.
☛ Corporate Responsibility; and any interpretation of the same, is a consequence of a company’s culture, primarily their core values in action (see practical example below).
☛ People lie; comes back to core values being lived! You must have a process that audits the fact that company values are indeed being lived & practiced on a regular basis by ALL employees, especially senior leadership modeling the way.
☛ Safety and responsibility cost money—and no one gets rewarded for disasters averted; is a culture issue! What’s the message sent from senior leadership? It’s their responsibility to create a culture where doing the right thing & averting disasters are rewarded. It’s one thing to encourage pushing the boundaries to innovate & reward “mistakes” in the pursuit of innovation, but the limits of that boundary has to be established by a hard RED line established by core values.
☛ Few people bear witness; All of the above. It’s Company Culture & Core Values, including Leadership Modeling the Way!
☛ Consumers won’t pay more; YES they will, but you might have to think long-tail. The problem we have today is that everyone wants everything short-term & they don’t properly evaluate long-term risk. One of the key steps in effective Problem Solving & Decision making is a process called “potential problem analysis”. Specifically, follow the rule of physics “for every action there is a proportional reaction”. By taking action to prevent or resolve a problem, what possible problems could you be creating (now & in the future) and what do the guidelines from your company culture guide you at accept as acceptable liability & risk? Where is that hard RED line established by core values (company culture)?
Practical Example; I worked with a major pharmaceutical a few years back that had to face a significant decision. In an impoverished African country, where the government had subsidized a life saving drug, that subsidy was about to be greatly reduced due to the dramatic economical situation of the country. The pharmaceutical was contemplating pulling the drug out of that African nation due to the certainty of loosing significant revenue. They then did a potential problem analysis benchmarked against their core values (a.k.a. corporate responsibility), and upon determining the thousands of lives that would be lost without the required drug, they decided to remain & offset the losses from profits had in other countries & divisions. Core Values in action & Modeling the Way all wrapped into one “isolated” profit loss, which by the way, resonated with their customer based & drove an increase in long-term customer revenue and profit. When their customers found out about their decisions, they actually bought more & reffered more friends as new customers!
☛ People don’t talk to each other (silos); is a communication issue, in itself a by product of the company culture & core values that have been established.
So at the end of the day, you can say that you really only have ONE reason why Corporations Fail, they fail to do an effective job of creating & then living a strong company culture.
1. People lie. More than one person I interviewed told me a story of touring a factory, doubling back on the pretense of forgetting something, and catching workers turning in their goggles or other protective gear. Factory owners will hide bad news if failing an audit means losing business.
2. People don’t talk to each other. Big organizations often operate in distinct, siloed divisions, and multi-disciplinary issues like human rights and sustainability often fall through the cracks. As director of corporate citizenship at Microsoft, Dan Bross oversees assessments that cut across multiple functions like legal and product development to identify potential risks to users. He told me, “I have a horizontal job in a vertical world.”
3. Safety and responsibility cost money—and no one gets rewarded for disasters averted. Even those companies not living explicitly by Ford’s 1970s model have to perform some sort of cost-benefit analysis. Since the work that I did for BP and that my peers do for their companies is preventative and complex, it can be hard to justify the expense of any one intervention.
4. Few people bear witness. Sadly, if an executive doesn’t see problems firsthand, he or she is much less likely to commit resources to addressing them. Even the most numbers-driven executive can only be brought so far with a spreadsheet.
5. No one knows what corporate responsibility is. Right now we’re in a free-for-all in which “CSR” means whatever a company wants it to mean: From sending employees out in matching t-shirts to paint a wall for five hours a year, to recycling, to improving supply-chain conditions, to diversity and inclusion. This makes it difficult to have a proper conversation about what corporate responsibilities are and should be. In some respects, that’s okay: The breadth of the concept brings companies to the table to discuss their role in society. Then, as Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR told me, “The trick is to get them to the table, then move the table.”
6. Consumers won’t pay more. One report showed that ensuring good working conditions would add less than one dollar to the price of a pair of blue jeans. But despite responding to surveys that they care about ethics, shoppers refuse to pay more. In one study, only half of customers chose a pair of socks marked “Good Working Conditions” even when they were the same price as an unmarked pair; only one quarter of customers paid for the socks when they cost 50 percent more.
This blog post is inspired by “Don’t Fuck Up the Culture” written by Airbnb Co-founder & CEO Brian Chesky. “Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurial.
And if we have a company that is entrepreneurial in spirit, we will be able to take our next “(wo)man on the moon” leap. Ever notice how families or tribes don’t require much process? That is because there is such a strong trust and culture that it supersedes any process. In organizations (or even in a society) where culture is weak, you need an abundance of heavy, precise rules and processes.” This type of culture is healthy & brings with it an amazing capacity to scale.
During a recent interview with a highly respected & successful business leader, and now CEO coach, I heard how it was hard for him to accept that culture is “everything”. After all, he’d seen toxic cultures become very big & successful companies. You don’t need to look any further than Apple, and the infamous stories that have come to the surface about their culture at times.
Reflecting on personal experience, and the reference made by Peter Theil in the original “Don’t Fuck Up the Culture” post, indeed culture may not be the end-all to be-all IF your company is the exception to the rule & you have the strongest command & control process driven company on the planet. Which by the way, is a culture in itself, just not a healthy one!
My good & respected friend Rod Beckstrom co-authored The Starfish and the Spider, and in it he describes the Starfish vs Spider model of leadership in business & society. The most simple analogy is that the spider has a head and eight legs. Cut off one and then two legs, the spider survives, but moves wobbly and not as fast. Cut off a few more legs & the spider becomes motionless. Cut off it’s head & it dies. Command & control culture is a spider, and the CEO is typically the head. The starfish on the other hand has no head, but rather a decentralized neural structure permitting regeneration. Cut off a limb and the spider grows that limb back. Better yet, the cut-off limb eventually regenerates a whole new starfish. The only way to kill the starfish is to cut it’s central ring, it’s core ideology that feeds & nurtures it’s extremities. Extremities which are independent and autonomous, just like healthy families and tribes that don’t require much process to scale & succeed.
Starfish = healthy decentralized culture where it’s extremities feed off of & buy into a core ideology.
Spider = slow, vulnerable wait for one person to make a decision & then “force” it’s will upon it’s extremities.
Yes, a company can survive without a healthy & vibrant company culture. But it will be the 1-in-a-million, whereas a healthy company culture will have a far greater likelihood of succeeding, attracting & retaining top talent while moving with greater speed and agility toward success.
What type of culture do you have? Is it being lived? Is it alive or still aspirational? What can you do this week to nail your company culture & start the process of getting everyone to buy-in & on the same page?
The evidence is overwhelming that there continues to be a Leadership Crisis. As exemplified by the table below, it’s worse in some geographical areas than others, but it’s still an unacceptable fact that less than 30% of employees are engaged in the workplace.
“The buck stops here“, popularized by US president Harry Truman, must be the guiding principle for anyone in a leadership role. As a leader, you hire, develop, performance plan & fire employees. You have a voice at the leadership table to influence changes in an organization that will either increase or decrease employee engagement. If you have unengaged employees in your workforce, ultimately, who’s fault is it but your own. What are you waiting for?
When you have uncertainty in your head, is your tendency to think about the most positive outcomes or the worse? Most of us will think of the worse initially, and then spiral down a rabbit hole unless we or someone stops ourselves. It’s a human characteristic, part of negative bias, the psychological phenomenon by which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared with positive memories. Humans are much more likely to recall and be influenced by the negative experiences.
As outlined in Scaling Up Excellence, this in part also explains why bad behavior can be stronger than good, longer lasting, more contagious & more difficult to stop. As the solid red lines above show, with inactivity, there is a higher likelihood that the disengaged will move toward Actively Disengaged before they will leave your organization. Worse, the wrong leadership activity will accelerate the migration toward Actively Disengaged, and once out of your organization, these people will remain vocal toxins toward your organization’s’ reputation.
I share in the BlessingWhite descriptive that aligning employees’ values, goals, and aspirations with those of the organization is the best method for achieving the sustainable employee engagement required for an organization to thrive. Full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) with maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of my organization”).
Engaged Employee; one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. Performs 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization. Organizations with engaged employees are up to 43% more productive. And remember, you can get Accountability without having Engagement first!
Disengaged Employee; aren’t necessarily bad employees, but they just do what’s necessary to get their jobs done. They typically don’t take part in offering suggestions for improving the workplace, usually don’t stay at work late if it’s not required, and they don’t give their jobs much thought after they finish a workday.
Actively Disengaged Employee; the workers who undermine their jobs and employers. Actively disengaged employees can sink employee morale and performance. They drag themselves through their day, contributing the bare minimum and often detracting from the work of their peers with negative comments or an overwhelming pessimism that is energy draining. This pessimism is so toxic that it affects not only co-workers, but customers as well, driving away potential business and harming previously solid customer relationships. Research has shown that employee disengagement in the United States adds up to approximately $350 billion dollars per year of lost productivity.
Starting with the attributes of Exemplary Leadership® that dotted green line above will grow solid, bold, augmented & super accelerated. It will also increase the speed of voluntary (healthy) turnover in your organization. There’s already so much written about “exemplary leadership” that I’ll just leave you with the following challenge of honest & transparent introspection & self evaluation.
How are you, and or the leaders in your organization..
And what do these phrases mean to you & your organization in particular? Send me an email inquiry and I’ll be more than happy to get on the phone with you for a quick 30m evaluation of your conclusions, as well as what you can do next to immediately improve your situation.
Effective is doing the right thing, whereas Efficient is doing thing right, therefore “Effectificient” would be doing the right things right.Unless someone has already done so, I’ll claim the new term that describes the combination of Effective & Efficient (“Effectificient”) for myself.
Personally, I think this argument is overrated. Having hierarchy doesn’t have to result in ineffective decision making, just like the lack of hierarchy doesn’t guarantee you’re making the right decisions faster. Both can work, as long as you have effectificient conversations in your organization. In my previous post Accountability Requires Engagement; And They Both Require Communication I focused on the importance of effective conversation. In How to Use Your Culture For Improved Decision Making I focused on an effective tool for Decision Making, which comes as a by-product of an effective conversation (communication of Company Culture). Personal experience tells me that when you have an effectificient hierarchy, one that has effectificient conversation flow, you’ll tend to make the best decisions faster. For me it’s not about the chain of command, as much as it is about the quality of the conversation that needs to take place. Flat organizations may look like fun on the outside, but unless there’s a Decision Making matrix & tool (process), it’s a crapshoot as to whether the right things will get done the right way any faster.
This post was inspired after reading the respective post by thoughtLeaders LLC, which stated their poll results of:
The thoughtLeaders LLC post goes on to state; “Consolidating decision-making power at the top cuts both ways. It can reduce risk for your organization by vesting that power with more senior and experienced people. It can also frustrate junior members of the team and slow down your decision-making process because everyone has to wait for a few people to make decisions. To achieve a better balance, evaluate decisions based on their size and risk. Push that decision-making authority as low in the organization as you can without increasing risk too much. You’ll be nimbler with less frustration and not as much risk as you might initially think.”
Practical experience of +30 years across 5 continents in every stage company & industry imaginable tells me that effectificient decision-making is more about quality of the conversation an organization is having than the consolidation of decision-making power. Hierarchy vs Flat is more about Company Culture, and if you’ve done your homework at that fundamental level, quality of conversation will take care of the rest. Take your focus off of the hierarchy & invest it in the quality of conversation, and you’ll get the Workforce Agility you’ve been looking for.
But don’t just take my word for it, in Scaling Up Excellence, Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao also address effective hierarchies.
Workforce Agility is often defined as the ability of employees to respond strategically to uncertainty. But what does that really mean? Considering that Harvard Business Press states that 90% of effective strategies fail do to poor execution, than responding strategically might not be the right answer if you’ve misinterpreted what the right strategy is. Where does speed come into play? And what does it take to get Workforce Agility?
The power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness, and or the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity. So it’s both physical & mental. But what about Emotional Agility? It’s basic biology, but also the hardest to master.
All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear. That’s just our minds doing the job they were designed to do: trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls. Ample research shows that attempting to minimize or ignore thoughts and emotions serves only to amplify them, therefore Emotional Agility is being able to embrace those negative thoughts, understand where they’re coming from, frame them into the context of the situation you’re in and then respond in a noon emotional state, but from a logical state.In neuroscience that’s called listening to your Reptilian & Mammalian (Limbic System) brain, but then processing & acting based on having it filtered through your Neo-Cortex & Pre-Frontal Cortex (Frontal Lobe) brain.
Therefore Workforce Agility starts with physical, mental / intellectual & emotional nimbleness. But it doesn’t stop there, for that will only mainly address the speed vs. uncertainty aspect. How about the strategic aspect?
Understanding that all healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings, including criticism, doubt, and fear, it can be said that based on our past experiences we create our own unique & individual bias. This bias will affect how we interpret what we hear, “interpret” being the key word in this phrase. Making the right interpretation of what we’re hearing is called effective communication.
In simple terms, effective is doing the right things, whereas efficient is doing things right. Ideally we want to match the two & do the right things right, therefore attaining effectiveness efficiently. But if I had to choose, I’d rather do the right thing and compromise doing it right vs doing the wrong thing right. Make sense? In order to get the best results from any strategy, we have to execute both effectively & efficiently.
If you have effective communication, and agility in your workforce, then you will have physical, mental / intellectual & emotional agile effectiveness efficiently. Doing the right things right for the right reasons in a right way.
When you add Accountability (Engagement) to the mix of doing the right things right for the right reasons in a right way, then you have the perfect storm. In a previous post, I wrote about the equation of Communication + Engagement = Accountability. When you have people holding themselves accountable to doing the right things right for the right reasons in a right way because they’re engaged due to your communication, this is my definition of Workforce Agility.
Last week, while listening to Mixergy’s interview of Gary Swart , best known for being the CEO of oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace, I became inspired to write about the biggest issue holding most M&A’s from declaring sustainable success. Gary is currently transitioning from his CEO role at oDesk, into an advisory role after the company finishes its merger with Elance.
Having witnessed first hand a series of M&A’s over the past 30 years, before, during & cleaning-up afterward, if there’s anyone that can nail the most complicated reason for failure, it’s Gary. I haven’t known Gary for long, but having recently interviewed him for my upcoming book entitled Practical Leadership, I’m confident he can nail the #1 culprit for lack of long term success because of his passion for Culture & Modeling Leadership.
In 2011 HBR stated that companies spend more than $2 trillion on acquisitions every year. Yet study after study puts the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions somewhere between 70% and 90%. A lot of researchers have tried to explain those abysmal statistics, usually by analyzing the attributes of deals that worked and those that didn’t. What’s lacking, they believe, is a robust theory that identifies the causes of those successes and failures. In a nutshell, HBR concludes that many acquisitions fall short of expectations because executives incorrectly match candidates to the strategic purpose of the deal, failing to distinguish between deals that might improve current operations and those that could dramatically transform the company’s growth prospects. As a result, companies too often pay the wrong price and integrate the acquisition in the wrong way.
Depending on who you listen to, the following are the main reasons for failure of many M&A’s.
With due respect, while HBR’s perspective is part of it, there is a greater challenge that very few companies get right during an M&A.
Culture is the cornerstone, that when gotten wrong will collapse like a house of cards. The simple and effective leadership approach, and care for culture, that Gary modeled in our now 3 interactions to-date (including the Mixergy interview) has me confident he’ll nail the culture mystery of the newly merged entity.
Let’s get down to specifics. The date is 2004 & I’m walking into HP Portugal to Interim Executive Manage it’s Education & Partner Division toward +40% profitability in the next 12 months. At my first meeting with the management team I was to work with, I was puzzled at the suggestions coming from the table stating “at Compaq we used to.. at Digital we used to.. at Tandem we used to.. when we were only HP we used to..”. Considering HP acquired Compaq in 2002, I was puzzled as to why there were 4 companies seated around the table, instead of one, +2 years post-merger. In short, ultimately, the success I had with that assignment was tied to being able to quickly foster a one company attitude where everyone felt heard & valued. It was a localized solution, but at least it got all of the relevant parties on the same page.
Opinions on the success of this merger are naturally divided, and even if you are in the camp that argues that this was a successful merger, I will still challenge that in order for it to be considered successful, the cultural issues should have been more seriously addressed & prioritized. As a consequence, the expected benefits would have come much sooner & would have been far less painful.
In late 2011 I was brought into Banco Santander Brasil to facilitate Workforce Agility through a series of leadership touchpoints that would give them better tools to align, motivate, engage & get accountability for execution excellence from their teams. Starting in 1997, by 2007 with the acquisition of Banco Real, Banco Santander Brasil was now a compilation of more than 8-10 entities (cultures). Walk into their cafeteria in 2012 and you will have witnessed the ironic site every single table’s apparent harmony. As I looked around, I saw people from a mix of departments sitting at the same table. Sounds like the culture integration when right? At closer inspection each table was a composition of the former banks that now comprise the group.
The goal has always been to become the #1 bank in Brazil, yet in 2014 it sits at #5. For the shareholders, I’m sure there will be a split between success & failure depending on the expected outcome. From a culture integration perspective, I can tell you that sitting around most conference tables were unintegrated entities still defending their previous company cultures & way of doing business. In order to succeed, I had to work Culture, and specifically Purpose, before I could get the rest flowing.
In early 2011, eDreams engaged me as Director of their newly formed Portfolio Office to support the technology ecommerce platform merger of 4 companies. It was a fast paced 14 months of an assignment, cutting it short due to my eventual relocation to the Bay Area (San Francisco, CA) in mid to late 2012. The Odigeo Group, as they are known post-merger, was a more entrepreneurially minded organization simply required more execution focus. In parallel to the operational & strategic merger, there was indeed great care given to the “we are one company & culture” approach. Everyone was heard, not everyone was satisfied and some left the organization in the process, but at the end of the day, this we were better as a culture of the newly formed organization. It’s still a work-in-progress, but from what I’ve witnessed with their IPO today at a market valuation of $1.51 billion, I’d say they’re still on-track to succeed.
Whether it’s Reuters, which I left 8 years before it’s acquisition by The Thompson Corporation, or any of the others I’ve encountered, across 5 continents what I’ve most often seen hold-back the expected success of M&A’s has more to do with company culture as a root cause. I’m convinced that when you set ego’s aside, Strategic Fit, Deal Structure & Price, Customer / Sales vs. Cost Synergies & allocation of integration resources are easier elements to get right. Culture, including Communication Clarity & Frequency, are what most often get compromised, and always comes back to bite you hard.
I’m also of the mindset that a company’s culture can trump strategy on its own any time. To that end, during most of my corporate executive life I intuitively led with purpose (Company Mission), but until I met Simon Sinek I didn’t realize the neuroscience behind a powerful WHY.
A few years back I walked into a new client to affect change. More specifically, to enable Workforce Agility, improve engagement and improve leadership in general by giving them practical & immediately applicable tools. I walked into their offices & looked for a WHY, a Mission statement that I could leverage and anchor my message, tools & approach to. Sadly I couldn’t find it. I found plenty of WHAT, but not WHY. Fortunately I came in at the right time, as they were in the process of addressing this need. We coupled my work to that already being done by their HR & Marketing Communications team to finalize a powerful WHY that more easily engaged their workforce to a higher purpose. Their WHY became “preference of our customers”.
For context, allow me to digress for one paragraph. My LinkedIn profile categorizes me as a Management Consultant, but to this day, for lack of a better definition, I still cringe at the verbalization of the word consultant. This discomfort is from the personal experience of being subjected to far too many consultants, in my corporate life, that didn’t add any significant practical value, or worse, those that many have witnessed come into an organization and call their own making ideas that were extracted from their clients staff interviews (standard discovery process). For example, I always credit that what I bring to the table is a set of neutral & unbiased ears, the capability to hear the wisdom & expertise that already exists in an organization. To this, I add structure & voice to that knowledge & experience. I add 30 years of proven experience, what I’ve seen work & fail, best practices, and how all this is relevant to their unique company culture & present day situation.
Back on-topic. On this particular day, a few weeks & workshops deep into this organizations’ chain of command, I came across a dilemma responsible for successive previous failures in execution. A team pushed back & said “how can we focus on 3-5 priorities when we have +700 budgeted projects and more than enough business-as-usual (routine daily activity) that more than takes up +8h of our day?” Apart from highly practical tips & tricks I gave them on time management & productivity secrets, I led them to their newly written Company Mission (WHY Statement) and showed them how to use it as a decision making tool. In that statement, after extracting the WHY itself, we identified 6 attributes (what makes a WHY unique to 1 particular organization) that we would use as decision making filters.
In addition to their daily routine, they identified 768 projects that had been approved & budgeted for the coming fiscal year. They had laid down the gauntlet, now I had to get myself, and them out of this predicament. I asked them to create a table (decision matrix) using an excel spreadsheet. Down the left column they were to place the names of the 768 projects (initiatives), across the top they were to list one attribute per column from their Mission Statement. The next step was to “tick” each project / initiative that addressed or fulfilled all of the six attributes. With one pass we had reduced the list by 50%.
Next, recognizing that 4 of the 6 attributes were long-range intentions (brand building), whereas 2 were short-range (results focused), we would score which of the remaining 384 projects most fulfilled the 2 short term (results based) criteria. Based on the priorities previously agreed & communicated by senior management, this years’ priorities were all about results (short-term). On the second pass of our improvised Decision Matrix. We were now down to 18 projects, something everyone agreed was manageable. Later they would go on to identify daily activities which would contribute to these projects, as well as other activities (that didn’t tick the Mission attributes) that would be dropped, delegated or outsourced..
In the example above I facilitated an experience, a servant to the true needs of my client. When I finish an engagement, I always remind them that the tools & knowledge transfer I’ve left behind will die a quick death if they don’t live & breath everything they’ve learned. Leadership that delivers scale & greatness is not a process, it’s a habit and a consistent behavior.
How are you using your Company Culture & established priorities as filters for your decision making?
A common complaint I hear when starting a new assignment is that everyone wants to be empowered, but very few seem to want the accountability that should come with empowerment. The solution, we find, tends to be simpler than expected. You can’t get to accountability without first addressing engagement. In far too many situations, I see companies addressing this in the wrong order. And in order to maintain the two, to make both engagement & accountability organic & scalable, you need to open the flow of communication & transparency.
The business definition for accountability is “the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.” Personally, I like to think of accountability as ownership, and more specifically owner ownership. That’s Founder Ownership if you’re in a start-up or entrepreneurial venture, and or Investor / Shareholder Ownership in later stage companies. In short, it’s the answer to the question “what would you do if you owned the company”?
Wikipedia defines employee engagement as “a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An engaged employee is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.” Seen many of these lately? How are you measuring that? Considering that only 37-17% of today’s global workforce (33% in US) is actively engaged, I’ll adventure to say you haven’t seen many of your team “fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so taking positive action to further your organization’s reputation and interests”. Considering that an organization with “high” employee engagement is expected to outperform those with “low” employee engagement, all else being equal, what can you do to change your current situation? Think about your own situation for a second. be it in a situation in your personal or professional life, when was the last time that you felt accountable, or took accountability, for anything that you didn’t feel engaged with? Accountability is too often pushed onto people, and that just doesn’t work. At best, it’s a short term fix, not a scalable solution. In fact, it usually makes the employee resentful & changes pushes them from unengaged (neutral) to actively unengaged (likely to purposefully cause damage). On the other hand, if you first address engagement, than accountability will be a natural / organic consequence. But don’t take my word for it, so some research & behavioral science will prove this point time & time again.
“Communication” is defined as the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior. The same study that showed only 37-17% of today’s global workforce (33% in US) is actively engaged, identified as the top driver for engagement being “clarity on the organization’s priorities”.
That said, knowing from experience how frequently we lack effective communication skills, then it must be stated that engagement can therefore only come about when organizations effectively communicate to employees, who in turn identify and believe in these priorities (creating organic accountability).
Having a BA in computer science & robotics, I particularly like this diagram which incorporates the basic steps of effective communication. More than verbalization, which is where most people stop, there’s a concern for taking into account interpretation by the receptor, including a feedback cycle (process) to ensure what was communicated was quantifiably & qualifiably understood.
If your company is using a Performance Management Dashboard, I’ll bet that it’s more accountability focused & lacks effective communication concern. 15Five is one of the few, if not the only, system I’ve seen that focused on effective communication (conversation) first, fostering organic engagement, and accountability as a consequence of the conversation.
Or as I like to say, if engagement is a prerequisite for true accountability, then communication (conversation) is the super-glue that holds it all together.
Leadership is not about your business card, it’s about taking someone or something (i.e. a team or organization) to a place they couldn’t get to on their own. Much more than motivation, it’s all about inspiration. Finally, like spirituality, it’s about “taking responsibility for what you create (how you behave) from moment to moment on a consistent basis.” (rational borrowed from Paul Chek).
First, typical Leadership Development fails because you can’t effectively teach it in the classroom (classroom = theory).
Second, it fails because traditionally there’s no effective “native” follow-up process incorporated in day-to-day activity.
Third, in over 30 years of professional experience across 5 continents & every stage company you can imagine, holistic (ho·lis·tic) Leadership Development programs are few & far between. In this context, holistic is characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole, as in the whole person, taking into account psychological, social factors / behaviors.
Let’s start with the basics; we’re only 2.8 – 3% removed from our nearest ancestors, the chimpanzee. The old saying goes “monkey see monkey do”.. so it’s no wonder that +/- 40% of us are predominantly visually dominant learners. That said, the vast majority (some sources say as much as 90%) of effective learning and development takes place not in formal training programs, but rather on the job—through new challenges and developmental assignments, developmental feedback, conversations and mentoring (Monique Valcour).
Need convincing? Just this past weekend, while at a friends house in the Napa Valley, I noticed a GE Refrigerator replacement Water Filter sitting on the countertop of my friends kitchen. She told me how she had read the instructions for the 5th time a week previously before deciding to stop trying. I grabbed my phone & performed a YouTube search for ” replacing a GE refrigerator water filter”. After looking at the first 2 minute clip, I showed it to her, and within 2 minutes she had opened her refrigerator & replaced the water filter. Sound familiar? I can share with you thousands of similar examples, in any context, that I have experienced in professional & personal situations over the past +30 years.
In order for effective Leadership to take root, one has to first witness attempted leadership on-the-job. This is a real world perspective that can’t be done in a classroom, and it most definitely can’t come about from a teacher or facilitator that doesn’t integrate your immediate set of circumstances and reality. In order for effective Leadership to take root & flourish, it needs regular & rhythmic follow-up in practice. It’s needs regular, rhythmic & constant feedback & adjustment. You have to regularly witness first-hand what’s changing month to month, quarter to quarter. How has the teams expected behavior, performance and results improved? How has the teams ownership of accountability & commitment to getting the right results played out? What is the real world day-to-day dynamics between the team and its leader? You can’t witness this in an authentic & transparent way unless you’re in a day-to-day work environment and have the practical experience onboard.
More than talk about leadership, you have to show leadership in the way you live, move, think, breath, rest & eat. The most effective education, and you need only remember how a 2-3 year old infant learns, is a holistic & experience based education practice. An education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community of its’ natural (and relevant) world.. i.e. experience. I call this Native Leadership, and it creates an immediate and inspirational sense of “belonging”.. one of the most significant elements of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.
If anything short of a holistic approach works effectively in any other aspect of your life, why would you expect it to work here? You need to take Leadership Development out of the classroom & into the workplace. I’ll go even further, you need to extend Leadership Development all the way to the home. Your Leadership Development program can start with basic understanding and communication of the principles in the classroom, but unless you get immediately practical & relevant to an individual’s workplace (& life in general), at best you will have only completed a great theoretical exercise, but never an effective & practical one. Leadership needs to become 2nd nature, it needs to be a 24×7 practice.
What does your Leadership Development program look like? How does it go beyond a theoretical practice? How does it incorporate translation of strategy into operations? How have you integrated the most effective, and right for your unique DNA, continual development practices? How does it incorporate emotional intelligence & fundamental accountability principles that get teams committed to doing the right things that bring about the right performance & results?
“Study after study has shown that listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. So, why are so few leaders good at it?
Too often, leaders seek to take command, direct conversations, talk too much, or worry about what they will say next in defense or rebuttal. Additionally, leaders can react quickly, get distracted during a conversation, or fail to make the time to listen to others. Finally, leaders can be ineffective at listening if they are competitive, if they multitask such as reading emails or text messages, or if they let their egos get in the way of listening to what others have to say.”
This HBR post had me think to recommend the best book I’ve ever read on becoming a better listener. The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols is an easy & practical read that will give you the fundamentals to best affect your personal & professional life.
“It’s time for companies to focus less on maximizing shareholder value and more on becoming human again. Embracing your organization’s humanity will move your company from the mindless management of numbers to the creation of customer and employee value, which ultimately will make your shareholders — the real ones who care about long-term performance — happy, as well.” This is the HBR update that first caught my attention.
After 30 years of experience, I can confidently summarize that in order for any organization to succeed, it need to excel at the four pillars of People, Strategy, Execution & Cash. And if I had to prioritize anyone of those 4, I’d start with People.
90% of effective strategies on paper fail to deliver the expected results (Harvard Business Press). I’ve found that the majority of these failures were related to people not executing properly, but it was more of a people buy-in, alignment & motivation issue (leadership based) which was reflected through poor execution. Without people executing an agreed strategy to its full potential, I can guarantee you’ll either ineffectively burn through, or never secure, the cash your company desperately needs to survive, scale & thrive.
The HBR update went on to summarize; “First, they should spend more time, energy, and resources to find out what their customers really want. Second, they need to do a better job of treating their employees as people who need to be nurtured, not costs that need to be kept in check. Third, they need a motivating purpose besides the achievement of financial goals.”
How are you performing in these 3 key areas?
1. Your employees are the most effective & efficient way to discovering what your customers really want. How are you inspiring & capturing that?
2. How are you nurturing your team, developing their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses? How are you adjusting their “nature” that’s counter productive to themselves as well as the results you want your organization to achieve?
3. Finally, how have you developed, communicated & lived a powerful purpose (company culture) that motivates your staff to take on “owner-accountability”?
After coming across 7 Reasons Employees Don’t Trust Their Leaders, I wanted to highlight the following key take-aways..
Personally, I believe the increased lack of trust in one another within any society is directly correlated to a fear based discourse adopted by (for example) politicians, media & then society (in general) itself. As human beings, it’s in our nature (inborn self defense mechanism) to doubt before giving the benefit of the doubt.
We’re intrinsically more inclined to look for differences in each other versus focusing on similarities. The science behind that is too long to go into here, but as we grow older and “work on ourselves” we start to identify the origins of where this automated first-contact reaction comes from, and find the necessary tools to reprogram ourselves.
Employees have grown tired of unexpected outcomes resulting from the lack of preparation. They want to be informed of any change management efforts before – not after the fact.
Employees desire to know what is expected of them and be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves, rather than be told they are not qualified for new roles and responsibilities and can no longer execute their functions successfully.
1. Lack Courage
2. Hidden Agendas
4. Reputation Issues
5. Inconsistent Behavior
6. Don’t Get Their Hands Dirty
7. Lack a Generous Purpose
If I were going to put these in order, I’d move “Lack a Generous Purpose” to #1.
In his following article 5 Ways Leaders Win People Over, Glenn Llopis give us 5 great ways to authentically win people over.
1. Search for Shared Experiences
2. Understand One’s Values and Intentions
3. The Head and the Heart
4. Get Your Hands Dirty
5. Increase Your Engagement
What are the key take-aways that you most identified with? What are the changes you can start to apply immediately that will have you turnaround some of the challenges you’re already facing today?
Reading 5 Steps for Quickly Reaching Inbox Zero I was reminded of 2 simple tools that took my “Inbox Zero’ing” & productivity to a whole new level.
1. Unsubscribe from all the crap
3. Reply Immediately
4. Reply as You’re Able
5. Set Team Rules
1. Boomerang; Use Boomerang to remind you of expected replies that haven’t come in within an expected timeframe. Instead of leaving emails cluttering your inbox, Boomerang them to come back at a specific later time & date when you’re best equipped to deal with them. Block out chunks of time in your calendar to deal with the messages you’ve just “boomeranged”.
2. Filters; Take the time & be smart about applying filters so that routine information goes directly into specific folders to be dealt with at a later time. Again, block out time in your calendar, no more than 30 minutes, to go into the respective folders to process and purge their contents.
Enjoy & happy ZERO Inbox!
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently came across an article that made me recognize I could do so much more toward living a productive life all around.
If you’re successful in navigating your ego, and can develop these steps (reflection) into a new life-long habit, than the distractions and false needs that cause procrastination & pain will no longer be a part of your life.
Now smile, breathe, and let go. “You can only lose what you cling to.” – Buddha
Can you commit to setting up a daily reminder that will have you practice these 4 steps for the next 30 days?
Speaking from experience, emotional intelligence & agility doesn’t come easy and isn’t an automatic. At a very minimum, in order to be successful, it requires
☛ an open mind
☛ a desire to improve
☛ a lot of patience, repetition and work
☛ and a lifetime of practice
Fortunately, “for every concerted effort one reaps multiple rewards”, thus the investment is highly rewarding!
☛ Getting Unhooked
☛ Recognizing your patterns
☛ Labeling your thoughts and emotions
☛ Accepting them
☛ And acting on your values
If you haven’t done so already, follow this link to the full article at the HBR (Harvard Business Review) website and test your Emotional Agility.
If you want to become an effective leader, at work, or in life in general, I urge you to start a journal / diary immediately and get to work. If you find that you need assistance with this growth process, in addition to a coach / mentor, you might try a powerful program such as Landmark Forum. It super accelerated my growth spurt a few years back!
In reading How CEOs Can Transform HR into a Revenue Driver by Mark V. Hurd (President of Oracle), I was inspired to focus on the aspect of how HR departments should be doing (allowed to do) a better job at influencing their company’s performance and results.
Of special note in this article, is a trend that I don’t understand many executives to be conscious of as I meet with them around the world. I’m talking about the rapidly shifting demographics leading to a surge in millennials among the workforce. While millennials will comprise 36 percent of the workforce in 2014, they’ll make up almost half of it (465) by 2020, according to a study conducted by the business school at the University of North Carolina.
The impact these young digital natives will have on your company isn’t limited to their sheer numbers. In fact, the biggest influence they’ll have is their demand, not their request, mind you, but their requirement that the technology they use at work provides them with the same degree of social immersion, accessibility, and collaboration as the technology they use in their personal lives. We are in life as we are in work, and this dynamic of millennials who have been raised in a different context than previous generations require new approaches beyond technology. Ironically, they require old school and basic emotional intelligence anchored leadership that will be conducive to their prefered behavioral DNA.
So the simple truth is that unless your company is offering these sorts of tools and approaches, indeed, these sorts of “workstyles”, then you’ll be sending a clear signal to recruits and new employees that you’re really not interested in hiring or keeping them.
Why is Leadership Development such an economical force in an organizations training budget theses days? At the end of the day, leadership boils down to more than just “moving people to action”. Effective leadership is about moving the right people to the right action at the right time. That combination is how you invert the scenario 60% of CEOs surveyed by PwC say they’re concerned about not having enough talent, and/or the right mix of talent. As a result, those CEOs say, that talent gap is presenting them with some significant challenges:
☛ 31 percent said they couldn’t innovate effectively;
☛ 29 percent couldn’t pursue attractive market opportunities; and
☛ 24 percent had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative.
But is it really just a talent gap? I would argue, from experience, that it’s an effective leadership gap.
Let’s go old-school in order to deal with the new school. As many of my colleagues know, at the core, a handful of successful & proven methodologies from the past is all you need to get the high performance performance & results we want. Here are a few of my recommendations to start out with:
☛ instead of measuring quantity of leadership or skills development training in the workplace as a metric, measure the business benefit extracted over the first 30, 60 & 90 days. What behaviors have changed as a consequence? How are these behaviors providing different performance & results from the past?
☛ instead of having PUSH communication, have engaging communication that fosters ownership, convergence, cross-functional and collaborative moving to action from every level of the organization. More importantly, get everyone literally on the same page through a simple One-Page Plan.
☛ make sure your strategic goals are driven by your desired company culture, and that jointly they feed into a simple & well articulated strategy map of a few business priorities that deliver the real results the organization needs.
☛ create rhythmic, agile & lean behaviors (mindset) that measure, modify & produce results more frequently. Be demanding and use both leading & lagging KPI’s, but most of all, make sure they are relevant to people up & down the org chart. Only through relevance will you get the engagement, commitment, ownership & performance you’re looking for.
Move the right people to the right action at the right time, it’s easier than you think!
Which of these 4 recommendations will you implement or improve upon immediately? How will you better drive, engage and leverage the HR transformation your company needs? You don’t need a strategy team if you already have the core competencies in HR. You just need to empower and help HR leaders become business-centric and data-driven enablers of revenue, innovation, and superb employee experiences.
How will you build these habits into your regular routine?
When reading “How to better deal with angry people“, I was reminded of the core competency that helps you more effectively build relationships while solving problems.
You have to look beyond the immediate situation in front of you in order to find, and then address, the root cause. This article provides great detailed tips about how to better deal with angry people, and as with everything in life, if you can better understand the core competency / practice that’s being applied, you’ll more effectively be able to get past so many other situations in life (personal & professional).
Remember, what you’re witnessing is your own perception / interpretation of a situation which has most likely been trigger way before you arrived on the scene. It’s a great buddhist quote and as well habit #5 in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People; seek to understand before being understood.
I encourage you to take 15 minutes, read this article in full, and then reflect how you’re going to better manage upcoming situations.
Would love to hear what you’ve come up with
“Meaning” seems to be all the rage these days, but is it really something new? Harvard Business Review writes about Making Your Work More Meaningful, but is it the revolution it’s been hyped up to be? Having been at this for the past 30 years, experience tells me it’s more of an evolution. Just like social media is the evolution from the previous means of communications and relationship building, so is “meaning”. Even in the Industrial age, people looked for meaning from their lives. They spent the first half surviving and climbing the corporate ladder, to then search for meaning in the second half after having reached their plateau. And if you weren’t careful, you likely searched in some of the wrong places, delving into conflict of interests and questionable moral grounds. But that’s a conversation for another day.
Possibly one of the most expensive words in any industry theses days, it’s actually all about relevance and contribution. Forbes highlights that a full three-quarters of employees are not fully engaged (aka productive), and this is costing american businesses over $450 Billion. There are studies that focus on specific age groups, like “boomers“, but this is just a sampling of the situation. The fact is that regardless of the industry, gender, age grouping, ethnicity & even geographical location, this is a global epidemic because it’s been ignored for too long and practical solutions haven’t been put into place. Do a team building exercise and 9 out of 10 times you’ll find it’s just a bandaid solution. Wouldn’t you rather that Friday night beers be a team driven event to celebrate success instead of a company sponsored attempt to increase engagement? 9 out of 10 times your employees are back at work on Monday morning bitching about everything that’s wrong in your organization instead of proactively pursuing practical solutions that are going to change the environment long-term, and thus giving you truly sustainable (length of time) & scalable (size of impact) engagement & productivity.
Across 5 continents, from the North to South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and all the way down-under in Australia & New Zealand.. the common denominator for sustainable & scalable engagement is employees finding meaning through relevance in their contribution to the overall success of the organization. That’s the simple & secret formula that many overlook because they under evaluate the situation and over complicate the solution.
Scholastic intelligence will loose out to emotional intelligence every single time when it comes down to creating engagement that drives productivity. There are other key components to increased engagement & productivity that drive company results, such as effective communication, focus, attainable goals, rhythm, agility, momentum, etc.., but none of that matters if an employee can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. If they can understand, align & agree with where your company is headed and why you’re in business in the first place. That’s called company culture, and it’s the first place employees look for relevance. It’s the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs! Company culture represents the physiological, safety & love/belonging needs of a productive human being.
How employees contribute to the overall success of the organization, tied to rhythmic conversations, small wins / momentum and transparent communication is the esteem layer. Get these right, and you’ll find people overcoming all obstacles to self actualize along with your organizations newly found high performance.
What are you going to do differently? Are you going to measure KPI’s like staff attending training or are you going to measure palpable behavioral changes & techniques applied back into the business as a consequence? Changes that drive results? Are you going to take broad and meaningless (in terms of company performance) employee surveys, or are you going to be focused to discover which underlying employee engagement issues can give you immediate rewards when turned-around? A targeted and agile approach or big-bang lengthy one?
Whether you want to increase innovation and or engagement in your organization, the art of balancing personalities in workgroups / teams and meetings is extremely critical. When you encounter a situation where a team just isn’t jelling, but you can’t afford to wait for a newly configured team to come up to speed, the best solution is to find an experienced facilitator to balance out the power.
A good facilitator, in addition to bringing in some new & neutral insight into the discussion, will flatten out the highs (moderate the extrovert) and boost the lows (give voice to the introverts). Ironically enough, my experience demonstrates that the most valuable contribution and productive disruption often comes more from the introverts than it does from extroverts.
By the end of this blog post I’m expecting you will understand the need to identify how to truly communicate, and thus engage (get buy-in & commitment) your audience.
I can’t imagine effective & practical solutions unless they can be applied and practiced in one’s 24×7 life. Repetitive practice, after all, makes for perfection & breathes champions.
That said, let’s discuss Love Languages , which are emotional receptors we all have that give us the truest sense of affectionate gratification. It’s where the term is typically applied; “I can’t even hear what you’re saying because your actions speak so loudly”. The Five Love Languages were something that so profoundly affected my own personal life, that I started to share it with anyone who was searching for greater fulfillment in their personal relationships. At the same time, I was able to apply these very same languages to improve engagement in the workplace by “schooling” leaders on one of the more finer sides of an emotional intelligence equation.
The key here is to discover what is the preferred (primary) love language. As emotional creatures we have all five, but one (at max two) are what really make us feel loved / appreciated. Thinking about all five, which one of them most makes you feel fulfilled when you receive it? That’s your preferred or primary love language.
*Note; when you are consistently stimulated by your prefered love, you tend to increase the importance of your secondary. So be attentive & be diverse
Relevance; note that what trues motivates, aligns & engages someone is when they perceive their work / effort is relevant by making a contribution to the overall success of the organization. How do you breakdown your goals & performance measurements so that your team proposes plans as to how they will individually contribute to the success of the team?
Common Sense; respect everyone’s individual life experience. There is no such thing as “common” sense. What we view as common sense is simply the accumulation of lived experiences. A baby doesn’t know that fire or heat will burn until they first burn themselves on the oven. As with love languages, try understanding what messages will resonate with the individual characteristics of your team.
Love Languages at work;
Again, the key insight here should be to never assume & respect that everyone is an individual with individual needs. Don’t assume that just because you’re Words of Affirmation, everyone else is the same. From their perspective, wether personal or professional, they’ll respect you more for having made the effort to get to know their authentic motivational triggers.
What are you going to do differently tomorrow? Both in your personal & professional life?
On a scale of 1-10, how would your organization meet these criteria?
For three years, London Business School professor Rob Goffee and the IE Business School professor Gareth Jones questioned hundreds of executives all over the world in publishing their May 2013 HBR article “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth”. As I reflect on their publication, I’m reinvigorated to see that all of the elements of strategic one-days, one-page plans and business coaching present here.
Over the next 6 weeks I will give you practical real-world examples of what these principles in action really look like. I will give you the relevant tools and highly practical next steps that will allow you to immediately put these into practice in your organization. I promise that by the end of the 6th weekly installment, you’ll be much more confident of how you will grade your organization, having put some of these solutions into place.
For now, review the 6 characteristics above and identify which are currently most adversely affecting your organization. What is already being done to address this? Stay tuned.. I’ll have more practical solutions for you soon.
Research shows that circular seating highlights the need to belong, whereas angular arrangements prime the desire to be unique.
Forget for a moment that this study is about consumer research, it’s underlying lesson is easily applied to human & organizational dynamics. Trade in your rectangular conference table for a round one if you want to increase the cohesiveness of your team, especially when finding solutions to deliver challenging results. Compared to the challenges you face today, the Knights of the Round Table had much more challenging circumstances in order more than survive, but thrive.
The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs: a need to belong or a need to be unique. What do you need? A group that works as a team, i.e. the group as a whole is greater the the individual sum? Or feeding the desire to be “unique” which has a team work as a series of individuals?
Consumers (your audience) will be most favorable toward persuasion material (advertising) that is consistent with the primed need. “Primed need” is the job of leadership and effective communication. Make objectives & results expected relevant to the individuals to have to deliver them through their individual & collective performance.
A recent real life example
Mickey Arison is the owner of the Miami Heat, who just claimed their 2nd straight NBA Championship title. In a post game interview, he said about his management style; “Hire the best people you can and then let them do their jobs. If they make mistakes, learn from these in order to become better performers as a team”. While the Miami Heat may have the best player in the NBA in Lebron James, so did the Cleveland Cavaliers at one stage. Yet Cleveland were never able to win a championship, and eventually lost Lebron as a consequence. What Miami did differently was put the best people around the table, and then let them learn from their mistakes (failed first championship) to then outperform everyone else with two consecutive NBA titles.
Replace the word “consumer” with “employee or team member”; “Circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique. The shape of a seating arrangement, a subtle environmental cue, can activate fundamental human needs, and these needs in turn affect consumer responses to persuasive messages.”
Effective leadership is all about persuasion and moving people to action. What’s within your control to affect your teams performance? What little things can you do to support a more cohesive unit that outperforms the competition?
You are already a great leader, or at least you have it inside of you, now you just need to tap into that source. As long as you can become passionate about something, and share that passion with someone, then you will find that you can always create an opportunity to find like-minded audiences who will follow your lead.
I have to be honest.. I often tire of reading leadership updates that profess to have found the next new revelation.
I’ve always found it easiest to do in business as you would do in personal life. This prevents conflict of interest, and stops you from having to think too hard about how to behave when a decision needs to be made. People will only consistently be inspired & follow if they believe and trust. It’s a matter of authenticity, and people are too smart to be fooled by anything less.
While recently reading The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model, I was again reminded about how each and everyone of us already has the traits to be a successful leader in our own right.
Can you not…
How do you lead at home? With friends & family? How do you inspire your children? More than stating facts, aren’t you more successful when you tell stories? Stories that are relevant to whichever audience you’re wanting to move to action & join you? At the core, it’s the same in business, you just need to carry over those traits and express them in a business format to obtain the same results.
Leadership is more about bringing out the leader already in you, and finding a way for those traits to resonate with your target audience, than it is about trying to become “a leader”. That’s where people typically have the challenge, tapping into their natural leadership state in order to become an authentic leader.
That’s why it’s called “leadership development” & not “leadership training”.
If you can’t do it on your own, find someone who can help you identify what’s not working? Maybe you’ve been trying to become a leadership style you’re not. How can you leverage the resources at your disposal to turn the situation around? Can you use your environment to help you share the leadership challenge? Do you simply need to tap into your authentic self (strengths)? Do you need to make some adjustments in your team because you’ve simply hired the wrong people?
You’re more in control of influencing the situation than you might have originally thought. So what’s your next move?
After reading “The Secret to Putting Together an Insanely Successful Team”, I wanted to highlight a best practice criteria for building great business teams.
The author Sallie Krawcheck goes on to state; “When I have built business teams in the past, I’ve tried to round out the group by including
– a visionary
– a doer
– a skeptic
– a client advocate
– and a “historian” as part of the team
I have also worked to include diverse backgrounds, whether acquired (time spent abroad, time spent at competitors) or innate (gender, ethnicity).”
What are some of the characteristics of the best teams you’ve ever worked with or created?
Too radical? How about each week or even month? I’m just looking for you to take one step, which I’m sure you’ll repeat and increase in intensity once you’ve reaped the rewards of your first “NO”.
What’s your first “NO” going to be?
– Commitments you can let go
– Appointments that aren’t absolutely essential
– Non-essential to-do items
– Moving quickly
– Doing smaller tasks instead of important tasks
This list was inspired by a post that came across my browser. It was just a simple reminder that you can’t make space for something new, potentially more rewarding, unless you get rid of something old (like a habit). Think back to last week.. and now reflect on the elements of the week that didn’t provide you any added value. What activities just took up space on your calendar, and didn’t provide any significant thrust toward your goals or objectives?
For several weeks, a client of mine kept resisting a “NO” challenge. Finally, he said “NO” to everything that he deemed “unimportant / non-priority” for one week. By the end of the week, his e-mail was overloaded and certain commitments his clients were expecting went unfulfilled. A failed experiment? Absolutely not. After a 15 minute debriefing, what he realized was that too many people within the organization hadn’t stepped up to the plate & assumed delivery responsibilities that were within their competency.
He went on to encourage others to go beyond the perceived limitations they blamed for not delivering more. With my help, he worked with these individuals to develop the solutions that were within their reach to satisfy their customers needs. At the same time, I worked with their leadership to instill more autonomy & empowerment across the board.
By the end of the exercise, without any additional investment, we had;
1) gained 25% of productivity for my client, who could now invest this new found time in more strategic priorities and thus adding greater value to his customers.
2) empowered a series of product managers to go beyond their perceived limitations, giving them greater recognition, satisfaction & motivation to deliver even more.
3) shortened the delivery cycle to final end-users, getting them much needed solutions they required to do their jobs better & faster.
These were only the 3 benefits immediately experienced. As in other cases, there are already additional knock-on affects of that first “NO”. Ironically, this is an example of how a “NO” is delivering multiple “YESes” across an entire organization.
What’s going to be your first “NO”?
– Commitments you can let go
– Appointments that aren’t absolutely essential
– Non-essential to-do items
– Moving quickly
– Doing smaller tasks instead of important tasks
I would love to hear back from you with the results you experience after this experiment. please come back & post your results so that others can continue to learn from your experiences.
Applying the Topgrading methodology could save the US economy $300 million!
As a decade long practitioner, I fully support their case-study.
– There were approximately 51 million people hired across all industries in the U.S. in 2011
– 10% of all hires in 2011 were managers, so let’s assume there were approximately 5.1 million managers hired in the U.S. in 2011
– The average salary of “managers” is approximately $59,000
– 25% of managers hired turn out to be serious mis-hires (a.k.a. “C Players”)
– The cost of mis-hiring a C Player is, very conservatively, five times their pay (5 x $59,000 = $295,000)
– 5 times salary for a sales rep
– 15 times salary for upper mid managers
– 27 times salary for highly paid presidents and CEOs
Just like any other proven process, there are 2 essential non-negotiables you’ll have to ensure in order to reap these rewards.
1) You will have to have a clear company culture (here’s an example) that is actively lived.
2) You’ll have to have an effective leadership that understands the story & will be the gardian of your values & principles.
Leadership is much more than “management”, and it’s awe-inspiring when effectively practiced. These statistics talk about certain key roles, but they are relevant to any role in your organization. Can you really afford to continue to have “C Players” that detract from your potential to scale?
Do you have all of the fundamentals necessary for the skill & will “bullseye”?
Do you have the practice to ladder / drilldown to get the real story and subsequent hidden impacts?
Do you sell sell sell your organization until the candidates can’t wait to come in & get on-boarded? Do you even have an effective on-boarding process?
What are you going to do (differently) next in order to improve your current situation?
If you don’t have some, or any of these, I suggest you contact me for a quick 30m chat that could save your company (and peace of mind).
You manage a crisis.. you manage a dip in sales or performance.. you manage someone who’s not performing.. etc.
If you find that everyone in your company is managing, then who the hell is leading it?
Leading, on the other hand, is an expansive exercise with the goal of getting you beyond a situation. You lead people into the promise land. You lead people to recognize & achieve their untapped potential. You lead an organization into a new market, opportunity and or greater results & performance.
When you’re leading effectively, you’ll find yourself doing a lot less management because people in your organization will be more invested & committed to stepping up to the plate and taking charge. Vested people keep things from having to be managed!
Management, traditionally, is hierarchical. You don’t hear of people “managing” unless they’ve been promoted. On the other hand, leadership is hierarchical-less and can come from anywhere within your organization. You don’t need to promote anyone into a leadership role, you just need to foster leadership as a desired opportunity that can make anyone shine.
A receptionist can lead an initiative that has everyone in the office become more enthusiastic about the workplace environment. Likewise, as a face to your public, they can contribute impact-filled insight based on what they’re hearing when your audience thinks no one is listening.
Anytime I’ve walked into an organization that was in trouble, I first had to managed (damage control) before I could lead (taking them to the next level). In my own life, when I’ve found myself in trouble, I’ve first had to manage my circumstances before I could lead myself into a better state.
Sound familiar? If you spend too much time managing, you’re most likely only acting upon the symptoms and not the root cause. That’s called going in circles! You’ll also find that management is a very lonely place. Leadership, on the other hand, is inspiring and naturally makes people want to join in on the fun & celebrate.
Over the last 3 decades, especially in the US & Europe, economical cycles have not affected some organizations as it did others. Wether colleagues or competitors, those that found themselves prioritizing a leadership culture not only made it easier to get through tough times, it made them better prepared to leverage the first signs of recovery. They always seem to find themselves 3 steps ahead of others who buried their heads in management roles.
All of the popular surveys today scream out that people don’t want to be managed. People work best when they’re inspired. People engage more when they believe in a cause, and therefore chose to be led. People will break their backs, astonishing you with their creativity and conviction to succeed when they have a vested interest.
Why are you still managing when you could be leading? The process is simple! You just need to break the pattern and make different choices. Initially it will take some management, but leadership is your end goal.
What one thing can you do today to get you on the road to leading vs managing? How can you align, motivate & empower your organization to truly scale by taking care of the day-to-day and allowing you to focus on leading them to the promised land?
Whilst reading Seth Godin’s recent recent mini article on the illusion of choice, I was transcended back to my own experiences of tail-spin vs. actively taking one significant step toward a solution that matters.
Making an educated “none of the above” choice far outweighs a multitude of decisions that run people in circles & provide no real different result as a consequence.
Making a choice often means admitting we don’t have the answer & seeking help where we haven’t before. Making a choice can be uncomfortable, but I can guarantee it’s an opportunity for growth. Making a choice brings along responsibility and mandates follow-through.
In order to make a rewarding choice we must recognize our existing circumstances and find the root cause of what’s gotten us here. Only then can we say “none of the above” and make a choice to head in a different direction. The saying goes “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”
What choices are you going to make today that are different from what you’ve done in the past? What hasn’t worked for you (to the degree that you wanted) so far? And how will the next different choice break a recognizable pattern, that instead delivers a different results moving you in the direction you need to be?
The right question is not, “is the path perfect?”.. but rather “is this somewhere I’d like to go?” Because it’s significantly easier to cross a gap when you have a direction and momentum. – Seth Godin’s “life is full of holes”
It’s not easy to leave your comfort zone, but the rewards that come with the learnings are priceless. That’s why I call that space just outside of your comfort zone.. the learning zone. That’s where you learn the most about yourself, what you truly stand for, and what you’re all about.
If you’re unwilling to look inward or backward in reflection to recognize what needs to be changed.. if you’re unwilling to look beyond the hurdle or chasm just ahead of you and find strength in the reason why you must make that leap of faith.. if you’re not ready to embrace the learning zone as a necessary tool to make you better & stronger.. then you’re not really willing to do what’s necessary to make your dreams & ambitions a reality.
Where is it that you want to go? What’s the purpose behind your climb? What’s the support network you’ve engaged to get you there? How have you made your journey relevant to theirs? What are the most important 3 to 5 things that you need to nail in order to be successful? These are only the first questions you should be asking yourself well before you find that next chasm.
And always remember.. it’s significantly easier to cross a gap when you have a direction and momentum.
What’s driving your direction and momentum these days? How are you providing the right direction and momentum to your support team?
Let that sink in for a few seconds…
“Because the sooner we know we’re not connecting, the sooner we can fix it.” That comes from Seth Godin’s most recent article on “communication”. It’s masterful in it’s simplicity!
The key to scaling an organization ends at relevance and starts with communication. The faster you can communicate to your audience how what you need done is relevant to them and their success, the faster you will get the buy-in, commitment, quality & results you require to achieve your goals.
It’s due this very same logic that makes the One Page Practice so effective in getting people literally on the same page, rowing in unisone in the the right direction, and getting the right results when you most need them.
How are you ensuring you’ve got the most effective and efficient communication protocols in your organization?
As Leigh Branham states in his book; The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, “employee turnover is not an event.. it is a process of disengagement that can take days, weeks, months or even years until the actual decision to leave occurs”. His four fundamental human needs of trust, hope, sense of worth and competence (when lacking) that drive employee disengage and thinking about leaving come straight from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Another latest substantiation that money is NOT an intrinsic motivator can be found on Dan Ariely’s TED Talk: What makes us feel good about our work.
Both of these examples can be immediately traced back to either poor leadership, and or leadership development, or the company was a wrong match to begin with. The latter is resolved when and if the company in question published, communicated & actively lived it’s core ideology.
Seeing as neither people nor organizations change their behaviors unless the pain becomes so great that there is no other choice, I’d love to hear what change you’re going to implement in your behavior as a leader, including influencing your organization’s current behavior. Please comment below..