Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. Albert Einstein

Why is productivity in some organizations so disappointing? Despite all the innovations in technology and all the investment in training and developing employees and managers to adapt to more and more complex organizations, why does it appear (and statistics would seem to bear this out) that a significant number of workers are disengaged from their jobs and feel unhappy at work?

In his insightful presentation, Yves Morieux gives his views on the main drivers of employee disengagement. More than that, he offers 6 simple rules for driving employee engagement and higher productivity.

For Morieux, traditional approaches on how to engage employees to be more productive have up to now focused on two main management pillars:

  • the “Hard” pillar which seeks to improve productivity by working on structures, processes, systems, statistics, KPIs,…
  • the “Soft” pillar which seeks to work on the interpersonal communication and personal relationships, the traits and personalities of the individuals in order to help them adapt their personalities to the constraints of the organization

Many companies spend large amounts of money on reengineering their structures, processes and systems in order try to drive higher productivity and engagement and/or on training their managers and employees to adapt to these new structures, processes, systems.

But for Morieux, these two pillars of management are obsolete and are even counterproductive. Why?

All organizations are becoming more and more complex and by trying to improve engagement using one or both of these two traditional management pillars (work the structure and train the people to adapt), they in fact only add on more complexity.  Rather, they add on layers of “complicatedness” to an already complex environment.

For example, in the car industry, a drive to reduce repair time led to the creation of a specific “repairability” requirement which in turn led to the creation of a specific “repairability” function, the role of which was to align design engineers to repairability objectives. This inevitably led to the creation of a specific “repairability process“, a “repairability scorecard” and “repairability KPIs “to measure engineering  alignment to process objectives. But when one considers that there were 25 other competing functions each with its own process, scorecard and KPIs, very quickly one realizes how complicated it was for the engineers concerned to comply meaningfully with so many competing constraints and requirements and for “Mr Reliability” to impact positively on the “repairability” issue in a meaningful way.

The inevitable result is that rather than improving productivity, such a traditional approach only complicates things by adding extra layers of administration, back office work and non added value tasks. Costs are higher for zero results.

The secret for Morieux lies in not drawing additional boxes with complicated reporting lines or adding on extra organizational layers. It lies, as he says, in understanding the “interplay“, the connections and cooperation required between functions to deliver the required result. In simple terms, what is key is how the parts “cooperate” or should “cooperate“. As Morieux points out, “every time people cooperate, they use less resources and not more“.

Conversely, when functions don’t cooperate, they always need “more time, more systems, more processes, more teams….which means higher costs. 

But who pays for this?

Not the shareholders. Not the customers. Individual employees must eventually pay by overcompensating for the lack of functional cooperation  through higher effort and this inevitably leads to burn out, stress, disenchantment and disengagement.

Faced with such productivity problems, the “Hard” management pillar seeks to add on extra boxes to the “organizational skeleton”. The “Soft” pillar believes that if functions  like one another and fit better together, this will solve the problem. But in fact, the result is often the opposite because to maintain the relationship, functions will seek to add on extra organizational layers expecting these extra layers to resolve the conflicts or deliver the tough trade offs required which they don’t want to address themselves  for fear of endangering relationships.

These two approaches are therefore obsolete in a complex organization because they only generate unnecessary complicatedness and Morieux offers instead 6 key rules for smart simplicity :

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

We need to go beyond the job descriptions and the organization charts and understand what others really do operationally so that we know how different functions depend on and interact with one another. The designer should understand the consequences of his design for the customer services team and for the repair teams before he commits a design and generates costs further down the line.

Rule 2: we need to reinforce the role and powers of the  integrators.

Integrators are not middle offices but managers who must  “have an interest in and be empowered to make others cooperate“. How do you empower managers? Firstly, by removing unnecessary organizational layers. When you have too many management layers, you have more and more managers who are  “too far removed from the action” and who need “KPIs and score cards” to see reality.  What they see is not reality but a proxy of reality. Secondly,  you also need to simplify the management rules because the bigger and more complex an organization becomes, the more you must give discretionary power to managers to solve their problems at their level. Quite often, we do the contrary and we end up by creating huge systems of rules which freezes initiative and drains local managers of responsibility. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules but it is vital to ensure that the rule book is lean and that managers can act effectively and quickly.

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

If you want more employees to take initiatives and “engage” more with the organization, you must give more power to everyone so that they feel they can use their initiative and intelligence to good effect and that they have all the cards in their hands to make a difference. Only then will they be ready to take risks and really seek to cooperate meaningfully with others.

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

You must expose employees to the consequences of their actions by constantly creating feedback loops, thereby creating a shadow of the future.  This is what the car industry did when they told  design engineers that they would move to the after sales service three years on so that they would have to live with the consequences of their own designs. If you empower more people, you must also ensure that these empowered people get effective feedback on their actions so that they are constantly  adapting their behaviors to organizational expectations and can clearly link their actions and organizational results.

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

This means “removing the buffers that make functions self-sufficient”. There is too much dysfunctional self sufficiency in organizations, largely fed by increased organizational layers and sub layers. Remove these unnecessary layers and interfaces which interfere with meaningful cooperation and we will encourage greater productivity. Above all, seek to design your organization in a way that creates interdependencies between functions so that only cooperation can deliver the required result.

Rule 6: Reward those who cooperate, blame those who don’t cooperate

Rather than promoting a culture that blames failure, we should promote a culture that rewards cooperation and blames non-cooperation. Morieux cites the CEO of Lego who believes  that “blame is not for failure, blame is for not helping or not asking for help“. This indeed changes everything because it encourages us to be transparent and to cooperate.

These 6 rules have profound consequences for organizational design, for finance policies, for human resource management in complex organizations. Above all, if we implement these 6 simple rules, we will manage complexity without being paralyzed by complicatedness. We will create more value at lower cost. We will simultaneously improve performance and job satisfaction because we will have removed the root cause that hinders both : “complicatedness“. This is the real challenge facing all leaders of complex organizations.

Why some succeed where others fail. Start with “Why” and not “What” or “How”!

November 5, 2013

Why do some succeed where others fail?
Why are some organizations so successful where other organizations fail ? Why for example is Apple so innovative year after year after year whereas other computer manufacturers such as Dell or Gateway have failed in various initiatives to diversify?

Why should customers buy your products or services in a market place where your competitors have the same access to talent, the same agencies, the same marketing tools, the same market conditions, the same resources, the same technical expertise? What makes you different?

Start with “Why” and not with “What” or “How”
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action” answers these questions in a very clear and simple way. The reason why some organizations succeed where others fail is for one simple reason: those who succeed are those who think, act and communicate in a totally different way and follow what Sinek calls the principles of the Golden Circle. Successful and inspirational leaders start by defining “why” they do what they do before explaining what or how they do it.  In other words, they define their purpose clearly and act and communicate aligned to that purpose. They communicate from the “Inside out”.

The Golden Circle

Communicate from the “Inside-Out”
Most organizations communicate from the “Outside-In”: they describe what they do, how they do it and then expect or hope customers to make a decision based on the facts presented. In fact, many organizations proceed this way because they don’t know “Why” they are doing what they are doing.

But this “Outside-In” approach as Sinek point out is very uninspiring and doesn’t capture the minds and hearts of the largest audience and certain doesn’t set us apart from the rest. Indeed, if you don’t know “Why” you are doing what you are doing, how can you hope to inspire others to buy your products or follow your lead?

Rather provocatively and counter-intuitively, the goal of business, Sinek reminds us, is not to do business with people who need what we have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what we believe.

When we communicate from the Inside Out and get others to buy in to our Purpose, we speak to the fundamental drivers of human decision making, the “emotions” and we inspire those who think the same way as we do, feel the same as we do, see the world as we do, who are ready to trust us because we share something in common more than simply a basic business need.

Apple is so innovative because it succeeds in inspiring those of us who share the same purpose and see the world as Apple sees it. Apple doesn’t first try to sell us technology or extra functionalities. Indeed, their products as a whole are perhaps no better than those of its competitors. But what they do best is sell a vision and a purpose which many customers buy in to perhaps even despite the short comings of the products themselves.

Indeed, the Golden Circle principle can be applied to all areas of human endeavor.

Hire people who share the same goals and values
From a Human Resource point of view, when seeking to build a great team, we shouldn’t simply seek to hire people who can simply do the job. As Sinek says, attracting people who want to work for the paycheck is not enough. We must seek to attract people who believe what we believe, who share and identify with the goals and values of the organization because only those who share the same goals and values will go beyond the simple actions required to earn the paycheck and will engage fully with the organization, especially when the going gets rough. How do we find those people? By talking about who we are and by communicating from the “Inside-out”, we will attract more people who share the same values as us.

The perhaps apocryphal advertisement supposedly placed by the Irish Arctic explorer, Sir Edward Shackleton in the Times newspaper illustrates how building a strong and effective team depends on much more than simply knowing how to perform the tasks required. The ad is supposed to have been published as below:

“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”

Perhaps this ad was never indeed placed but it captures what all high achieving teams really need. Going the extra mile, making the extra effort depends on much more than simple technical competencies and in Shackleton’s case, his team survived because they shared the vision, the same goal and values.

Leadership by authority versus Leadership by inspiration
From a leadership point of view, Sinek makes the difference between those who are in leadership positions because they have power and those who are leaders because they manage to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Power is not enough to inspire others and all the great leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, JFK, Churchill (to name but a few), were effective leaders because they managed to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences through a shared vision and purpose rather than through any exercise of pure power. As Sinek so provocatively suggests, leaders inspire us to follow them for ourselves and not for them, because they personify what we believe.

Check out Simon Sinek on TedTalks for a fascinating and charismatic presentation of his views on how answering the question “Why” makes such a big, big difference.

The science of ethical persuasion: 6 key principles

November 2, 2013

Whatever our role in the workplace, be it a sales person, product development manager, marketer, customer support manager, accountant, HR, even CEO, much of our success at work will depend on our ability to influence and persuade others to say yes to our requests.

Whether we are seeking to sell more products and/or services, bring new products or services to the market place, influence company strategy, introduce new tools, change behaviors in the workforce, develop new techniques and ways of working, explore new markets, much of our success will depend on our ability to get others to say yes to what we are proposing.

How to persuade others and get to yes has often been considered as an art only accessible to a few who are gifted with a special ability to influence others.

This may indeed be the case that some people have special gifts and can intuitively influence and persuade others to say yes.

However, the good news according to Robert Cialdini, Professor in Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, is that persuading others is, in fact, a science based on 6 simple principles and these principles can be studied, learned and put to good use in a an ethical and honest way.

We no longer have to rely on gut feeling, hunches, intuition when we want to persuade others to say yes. We can learn and adopt effective persuasion strategies based on 6 clear principles.

Even more surprisingly, successful persuasion techniques based on these 6 principles allow us to make small and quite often costless changes to our persuasion strategies which can deliver quite significant results, allowing us to build positive, productive and long-term relationships with those around us, be they customers, colleagues, employees, friends, spouses, children, etc.

So what are these 6 principles?

Robert Cialdini defines them as follows:

1) Reciprocity: we are always more willing to say yes to someone who has already said yes to us. If someone invites us to a party or has done us a favor in the past, we feel obligated to reciprocate. Robert Cialdini gives the example of a restaurant where a small gift (a mint or a sweet) by the waiter increases the amount of the tip left by a customer. If we want to use this principle to influence others, we should be the first to give, we should personalize the gift and the gift should be unexpected. Simply put, we should give before we expect to receive.

2) Scarcity: People are more motivated by the idea of loosing something rather than the idea of gaining that same thing. Robert Cialdini mentions the case of the work he did with US Hi-Fi equipment manufacturer BOSE where by changing the marketing message from one which emphasized newness of the product to one which emphasized what the customer risked loosing if he/she didn’t opt for the new product, Bose increased the sales by 45%.

3) Authority: we are always more ready to follow the advice and say yes to people recognized as experts in their field. Doctors and dentists have long known this and usually post their diplomas in their consultancies to remind patients of the legitimacy of their expertise. Cialdini gives the example of how a real estate agency applied this principle to its business by instructing its receptionists to mention to callers the length of experience of its real estate agents before putting them through. This simple technique reinforced the confidence of callers and future customers and led to significant increases in business.

4) Consistency: a basic fundamental trait of human psychology is that we constantly seek to be consistent and congruent with our own personal values when we make decisions. This means that we seek to ensure that future decisions are congruent with previous commitments. So the challenge is to get people to make small commitments in writing if possible which will then lead them to make further commitments later on down the line on bigger issues.

5) Liking: we are more likely to say yes to people we like and Cialdini points out that there are three factors which lead us to like other people:
- We like people who are similar to us
- We tend to like people who pay us compliments
- We like people to seek to cooperate with us to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes

So when we are seeking to influence someone and get to yes, establishing a sincere and positive bond with the other person by bringing to the surface shared values, behaviors, experience, interests will help us build confidence and trust with the other person.

6) Consensus: when trying to persuade others, we don’t always have to rely on our own powers of persuasion but we can seek to demonstrate what similar others are doing. We are all indeed influenced by what our peer group are doing and how they are deciding. Especially in situations where there is uncertainty as to what to decide (how to vote, what product to choose, etc.), if we can show to someone that people similar to him/her have already said yes to our proposal, we increase our chances of getting to Yes. Cialdini gives the example of how Barack Obama’s team went about presenting the audience of their candidate’s supporters as being made up of all the spectrum of society (rich and poor, young and old, ethnically diverse, well-dressed, poorly dressed, etc.) and this strongly influenced indecisive voters to row in with their peer group and vote yes for Obama.

So how or why are these principles “ethical”?

As Robert Cialdini points out, when needing to persuade others, the difference between influencing others and manipulating others lies in genuinely looking at the situation for one or more of these principles that truly exist in that situation.

- Do we genuinely have expertise on such a matter? If so, it is legitimate for us to want to bring this to the surface.
- Is there genuine consensus on a given option? If so, it is legitimate to want to bring such consensus to the surface.
- Is there genuine similarity? Do we really share something in common with the other person? If so, then it is legitimate to build on this similarity to build trust.

Cialdini calls this approach the detective’s approach as it involves investigating thoroughly the situation and bringing to the surface the principles that are real and appropriate to the situation or problem to be solved.

However, if you are not a legitimate expert and you mislead the other person by pretending to be something you are not, then this becomes manipulation. You may succeed the first time in fooling your customer but you won’t get away with it a second time. Robert Cialdini calls this the smuggler approach. Just like a smuggler, you import into the relationship illegitimate and false values and behaviors and such an approach is bound to fail as no long-term relationship can be based on deceit.

As Robert Cialdini points out, the most surprising thing about his research into the science of persuasion is that the most successful persuaders spend more time preparing how they will make their value proposition based on some or all of these 6 principles rather than on structuring what they will offer. The most effective persuaders act as gardeners and prepare the ground thoroughly using these 6 principles before they try to plant the seed!

Listen to Robert Cialdini to understand how you can put these principles to good use, be more persuasive and build more positive, rewarding and long-term relationships in an ethical way with customers, colleagues, employees, friends, family members and all those with whom you need to get to Yes!

U are alive! Avail of this “once in a lifetime opportunity” – Discover Maser, Dublin’s leading street artist

October 27, 2013

http://maserart.com/video/

Maser is a Dublin street artist whose work not only celebrates the city and the people of Dublin but ordinary citizens everywhere.

Maser’s message is simple and his objective is to use street art to raise people’s spirits.

He reminds us all to be positive and encourages us to remain resilient when faced with difficult times.

Maser teamed up with the singer Damien Dempsey to launch the “They are Us” project in support of the Simon Community which supports the Homeless in Dublin. His retro type faces and bright, bold colors combined with Damien Dempsey’s words splashed on the walls of Dublin city streets highlighting simple but thought provoking maxims and proverbs challenge us to rise above the gloom and look optimistically to the future.

Maser’s work is fun, very simple, very effective, reaches out to all and helps to remind us about what really matters.

Check out more at Maserart.com

Maser - tough to be a nice guy

Maser - Inside our minds we hold the key

Maser- Dare to be different

Maser_Belfast_Mar11_1000

How to change the world: the art of enchanting others

August 21, 2011

Driving change: enchanting others
We all seek to change or contribute to changing positively if not the whole world then at least that small part of it we inhabit. At work, after all, that is what we are paid to do.

Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist at Apple and influential business author, has a lot of challenging ideas on how to set about bringing change and in his latest book, “Enchantment, the art of changing hearts, minds and actions“, he presents some very simple and provocatives ideas on how to influence others at a personal level so as to make change possible.

The key for Guy Kawasaki is simple: to lead change, you need to enchant others.

He defines enchantment as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea. The result of enchantment is voluntary long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.

Simply put, if we enchant those we need to influence (customers, partners, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, share holders, etc), we will get their voluntary buy-in and engagement, which is always much better than resorting to command-and-control techniques or other forms of coercion or constraint which may deliver short-term results but never generates success long-term.

The first step: build your likability
For Guy Kawasaki, the first step on the road to enchantment is building your likability. On a subsequent post, we’ll look at how we can apply Guy’s principles to customer-focused business organizations but for he moment, let’s focus on how Guy feels we as people can build our own likability at a personal level.

Building your likability: 4 key factors
To build “likability”, Guy puts first things first and reminds us of that age-old rule that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Making a first impression depends on 4 factors:

1) Smile at people.
Nobody ever managed to enchant anyone by being grumpy and smiling at someone sends a very clear message about your state of mind. The key to a pleasant smile is to think pleasant, positive thoughts and as Guy says, when you meet people, “fire up the orbicularis oculi muscle that surrounds your eyes and make crow’s feet so that you light up the room. In other words, do your best to imitate George Clooney.
2) Dress appropriately. How you dress shouldn’t conflict with what you stand for. Don’t overdress (which may be interpreted as saying I am more rich and powerful than you) or be too informal(which could be interpreted as saying I don’t care and I’ll do as I please). If you’re in a supervision role in an informal organization, you may need to wear that tie because it is expected of you. Above all, dress in a manner that makes you feel comfortable. As Guy Kawasaki says, it’s hard to enchant people when you’re uncomfortable and besides, there is something enchanting about a person who is who he/she is and lets it rip.
3) Perfect your handshake. Humourously, Guy refers to a mathematical formula invented by Geoffrey Beattie of Manchester University to evaluate the quality of a good handshake which goes as follows:

Where e is eye contact(1=none, 5=direct), optimum value 5; ve is verbal greeting (1 =totally inappropriate, 5= totally appropriate), 5; d is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1 = totally non-Duchenne smile or false smile, 5 = totally Duchenne), 5; cg completeness of grip (1 =very incomplete, 5 = full), 5; dr is dryness of hand (1=damp, 5 = dry), 4; s is strength (1 = weak, 5 = strong), 3; p is position of hand (1 = back toward one’s own body, 5 = in other person’s body zone), 3; vi is vigour (1 = too low/too high, 5 = mid), 3; t is temperature of hands (1 = too cold/too hot; 5 = mid), 3; c is control (1= low 5= high), 3; and du is duration(1 = brief; 5=long), 3.

However, if we take a common sense approach, this formula translates pragmatically as follows. When you meet someone, Guy Kawasaki reminds us that we should:

Make Eye contact throughout
Make an appropriate verbal greeting
Make a Duchenne smile à la George Clooney
Grip the person’s hand a give a firm squeeze
Stand a moderate distance from the other person not so close as to make him feel uncomfortable and not so far away as to make him fel detached.
Use a medium level of vigor
Hold the handshake two or three seconds

This may seem over complicated and mechanical but in the high-tempo, fuzzy, distended organizations we all work in where a lot of communication is by electronic means, it is very important to remember that you can only enchant someone if you establish personal contact and emails can’t replace a simple handshake backed up by a positive smile.

Enchantment - Increase Likability

4) Use the right words. Words communicate your attitude, personality and perspective. Wrong words give the wrong impression. So Guy Kawasaki offers the following recommendations:
- use simple words. If you use complicated words people need to look up in the dictionary, you know you’ve failed. Keep it simple.
- use the active voice because it expresses action and determination.
- Keep it short. The shorter you make your speeches, the better. People lose interest quickly.
- Use common, unambiguous analogies. Especially in international environments, where different cultures need to work together, always try to find a common denominator in terms of words and analogies.

Increase your likability by defaulting to yes
Once you get the fundamentals right, Guy Kawasaki offers lots of other advice on how to develop relationships with stakeholders around you. For example, he reminds us that enchanting others depends most of all on proximity. As he puts it, the “single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person is neither personality nor mutual interests – it is simple proximity”. So wherever you are, get up and EBWA: enchant by walking around. Or again, don’t impose your values, pursue and project your passions, find shared passions, create win-win situations. Above all, the final way to become likable is to default to yes by adopting a yes attitude. As Guy Kawasaki says, to make a default to yes work, you must assume people are reasonable, honest and grateful for indeed, most people are and one can live one’s life in one of two ways, either think people are bad until proven good or think they are good until proven bad. You will enchant more people if you believe they are good until proven bad. Or as common sense teaches us, expect the best from people and you have more chance of getting the best. Expect the worst and you increase your chances of getting just that!

Read Guy Kawasaki for more insights on how to change the world by enchanting those around you.

In the video below, check out Guy Kawasaki discussing further his ideas on the art of enchantment.

Click on the link below to discover Guy Kawasaki’s trip to Ireland and his discovery of the ancient hill of Tara, Newgrange burial chamber (older than the pyramids), Guinness brewery and the Long Room in Trinity College Dublin.

Guy Kawasaki visiting Ireland

Grow your top performers in house – don’t buy them from the outside

February 19, 2011

Talent management is a very hot topic for many businesses today. A lot of time, effort and investment is being dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing key talent for key organizational roles. Quite a lot of companies are tempted to fill key roles by recruiting “stars” with proven track records from other firms, the logic being that success is guaranteed and results will come more quickly by bringing in someone from the outside with the specific skills required to do the job.

Such a policy can have a strong impact on workforce morale. Many employees may often feel they are neglected or passed over as the company seems to give a clear signal that it doesn’t have the skills internally to deliver the desired results and this in turn can lead to disengagement of good performers.

However, research recently performed by Professor Boris Groysberg from Harvard Business School indicates that it is not always such a good idea to “buy in” talent from the outside. Indeed, quite often, “stars” who have performed successfully in one environment do not necessarily succeed in their new environment and their “talent” does not necessarily transfer over into the new organisation. Why?

Boris Groysberg points out some very simple but fundamental reasons why talent is not automatically “transferable” from one environment to another.  Talent is not simply a question of “individual qualities” or “expertise” held by the person but depends also on the system which surrounds and supports that individual: the company culture, the team, the “talented” person’s  direct manager, the IT systems, etc. Talent is therefore also a product of the organization and the individual loses this when he/she moves elsewhere.

Above all, High Performance is a question of trust and depends on relationships with others. Even highly talented individuals need to build trusting relationships with the world around them and building such trust takes time.

When a “talented” individual leaves one organization for another one, building the trust network takes a lot of time and therefore the individual’s performance is likely to dip significantly in the short to medium term in the new organization while he/she is busy building such relationships.

In other words, companies may buy in the “talent” but they can’t buy the trust and that’s why  many individuals who have been successful in one organization fail to replicate their success in their new organization. Indeed, some individuals may fall victim to the “talent paradox“. A company recruits a talented individual to deliver immediate, short term  results but his/her ability to perform depends on relationships of trust which take time to build and so he/she is caught between the short-term requirement to deliver results and the long-term need to generate trust within the organization.

That’s why Boris Groysberg recommends developing talent in-house as you will then be able to lever the trust network built up by those key individuals whom you gradually grow to become  your organizational “stars”. In other words, companies  need to “make their own stars”  and effective talent management therefore requires systematic long term planning and investment, training, coaching and mentoring of key individuals from beginning to end.

In this interview, Boris Groysberg addresses many other key talent management issues such as:

  • should you inform your key people that they are considered stars?
  • do you increase the risk of losing your key people if you inform them they are considered key talents
  • Why do key talents end up leaving your organization?

Check out Boris Groysberg discussing Talent Development by viewing the video below.

Imagine yourself leading: be the change you want to see in the world!

February 12, 2011

At the heart of all human performance and engagement  is a fundamental desire to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. The world is changing so fast and so many barriers are collapsing. And yet, so many people are still so much in need. Never before perhaps has the world required positive leadership, not just from politicans but from all walks of life and especialy from ordinary people who have extraordinary powers to change things for the greater good. Many political leaders have already led the way by challenging the established order of things for the better: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi to name but a few. Business leaders have also taken the lead: Warren Buffet and Bill Gates for example. One common value unites all: each leader walked the talk and led by example. What’s more important is that you can’t resolve problems with the logic that caused those problems in the first place and the world needs new, fresh, innovative ideas. And those new ideas can come from everywhere and from anyone.

As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Check out XPLANE for inspiration on leadership.

What are your thoughts on leadership and change?

Effective performance: it’s all about trust. 10 tips for managers to develop team trust

February 7, 2011

It is clear to many people today that we are experiencing a crisis of  trust. The recent global banking and financial crisis seems to have undermined radically the bedrock of all business success: TRUST.

All the traditional pillars of society are now more or less in question and all levels of society seem to be affected by this fundamental lack of trust. It’s not surprising that this crisis of trust has spilled over to the world of work and many internal employee surveys continue to show that employees the world over place seem to place less trust in their organizations and management to look after their best interests.

A lot of employees feel indeed they are now paying what Stephen M.R. Covey calls a hidden “trust tax”: the less trust they have in their organizations, the more they adopt counter productive behaviors to compensate, generating in turn further distrust. The excessive use of emails at work may be only one basic example of this “trust tax” because excessive email ties up unnecessary time for many people who don’t need to be necessarily on copy for everything.

And yet, never has trust been more necessary because as Stephen M.R. COVEY points out in his book  “The Speed of Trust“, nothing can be achieved long term without trust. Without trust, short-term gains may indeed  be acquired but at huge cost and after huge delays and in today’s fast evolving business environment, speed is key to business success.

Trust is therefore the fundamental driver of performance in the new global economy and indeed is “the key leadership competency” required to drive effectiveness. Especially in fast evolving, matrix, lean organizations, it’s not possible to monitor every employee and “compliance” can’t be the only management objective. Only a culture of trust delivers the behaviors businesses needed to get the results required at the cost and speed expected by customers.

For as Stephen M.R. Covey indeed points out, trust always impacts 2 key outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. In high trust environments, all the different ingredients which contribute to effective performance are encouraged: internal communication is smoother, collaboration is more effective, execution is faster thanks to quicker decision-making, innovation is greater, alignment is easier, employee engagement in increased, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders are more positive.

In low trust environments, of course, all of these ingredients are impacted and impaired. Communication becomes difficult at all levels as employees may hide information, collaboration within teams becomes more complicated, execution becomes cumbersome as decision making involves more and more people, the source of innovation dries up, there is misalignement between strategy and individual actions, employees become more disengaged and relationships with stakeholders inevitably suffer.

Trust is not some soft skill “nice to have but hard to measure“. Covey quotes a 2002 study by Watson Wyatt which shows that return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations. Trust or the lack of it impacts on the bottom line dramatically.

What’s more, managers can actually do something about it. Trust is something that can be developed and managers have a responsibility and an opportunity to build trust with their team members and with stakeholders  across the organization.

Here therefore are some tips for managers to help build trusting relationships within teams:

1) Recognize that trust is the key driver of performance and that building trust is a key management responsibility and objective. Too often, managers set themselves hard, quantifiable, task-oriented objectives but they rarely set themselves an objective of building a culture of trust. As trust is the bedrock on which everything else rests, this is very surprising, to say the least.

2) Walk the talk by setting example. Say what you do and do what you say. Meet your commitments small and big. You build credibility and trust by demonstrating that you keep your word and that you can be counted on to deliver. Team members lose faith and become demotivated when they notice a gap between the “talk” and the “walk“. Worse, they may even adopt the same behavior because as we all know, the manager’s behavior sets the tone with regard to what is/not acceptable behavior within a team. Pay attention to detail and to the small things because as we again all know, the “devil is in the detail“. Failing to meet commitments in apparently “small issues” can set the tone. Quite often, team members don’t see the big things but notice the “small details“.

3) Empower team members. Empowerment means giving each person a meaningful role aligned to his/her competencies where he/she feels he/she has “stewardship” for the job. In other words, each person feels responsible for getting the job done and for evaluating results. This doesn’t mean the manager exerts no control because there can be no delegation of responsibility without control. What it does however mean is that employees are given the chance to feel they have a form of “ownership” for their objectives and have accountability for results. As we all know, we all respond more favourably to being trusted and we are more motivated to get things done when it becomes a personal challenge and when we feel we are personally responsible for results.

4) Don’t delegate “tasks”. There may be times when a task needs to be completed and someone has to do it. A manager needs to delegate that task to a team member. However, delegating tasks must remain the exception rather than the rule. Managers should seek to delegate a set of responsibilities that allows a person to take responsibility and accountability  for the expected results for a given role in the team.  Being responsible for a given role obviously allows the person to be proactive and develop strategies to manage work. Being constantly asked to work urgent tasks prevents employees from being more effective. The simple matrix below illustrates  some differences between delegating tasks  and empowering through clearly defined roles.

5) Get out of the way. Once you empower your team members in an appropriate way, get out of the way and let each team member play his/her role. If something goes wrong or if things don’t progress as quickly as desired, avoid the temptation to step in and decide or act in place of the team member who has “stewardship” for the action. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t take back a responsibility granted and don’t short-circuit team members or act in their place. This only contributes to demotivating the person concerned who will feel that he/she doesn’t really have responsibility for the task at hand and that when push comes to shove, someone else will decide.

6) Align “roles and responsibilities” within the team. There can be no “empowerment” without role alignment within the team. Ensure that all team members understand their role and how it fits into and interacts with the greater whole. Too often, even when a manager defines a role with a team member, this is not shared with other team members and role confusion and conflict ensues concerning “who does what“. As organizations are not static, roles and responsibilities will evolve and the key role of the manager is to work constantly with his/her team to adapt roles and responsibilities in an appropriate and systemic way and in a win-win relationship.

7) Establish win-win relationships with team members. Quite often, some managers may see team members as simple cogs in a wheel serving the sole interests of the manager. Managers need to recognize that employees have their own agenda and own personal goals and these goals have to be understood and nurtured in true win-win relationships. If managers only see employees as instruments to help the advancement of their own careers and manage them in a “directive, hands-on” way, this will only lead to demotivation and poor performance as team members inevitably come to the conclusion that their contribution is ignored. Team members are not mere puppets to be manipulated at will. So know your team members, understand their needs and work to help them progress towards their goals in a “win-win” spirit.

8) “Recognize good performance in public, criticize weak performance in private“. Employee engagement is nurtured by recognition. Recognition can take many forms. Obviously, monetary recognition such as a pay increase or a bonus is one obvious way of recognizing performance. However, there are many other more subtle ways of recognizing good performance. One effective way is to give recognition in public in front of the team or through appropriate internal communication tools. A simple thank you  can go a long way. A contrario, never criticize in public. It impacts not only the person concerned but all team members and leads to demotivation and disengagement. If a team member needs to improve, the feedback should be given in private.

9) Consider objective setting and performance evaluation as a collaborative task with each team member. Use the annual appraisal process to reinforce the “win-win” relationship between the manager and team member. Start by allowing each team member to evaluate his/her own performance. This reinforces the feeling of personal stewartship and demonstrates that the manager trusts the employee to evaluate his/her own performance in good faith. Always give the employee appropriate time to respond to feedback, especially when the feedback is written down and/or captured in the annual appraisal. Never confront the team member with a “fait accompli”. Avoid always jumping to conclusions and hear what the employee has to say first. If one accepts that the vast majority of employees want to perform well, one should also recognize that employees are the best placed to know how they are performing.

10) Be open and transparent as a manager. Explain your intentions clearly. In complicated, fuzzy logic organizations where responsibilities are shared, it is becoming more and more important for managers to communicate clearly their intentions so that team members can understand the “why” a course of action is being taken. Too often, some managers resort to “command and control” techniques which gets things done quickly but in the long run, are counter-productive and lead to employee disengagement. Employees can’t evaluate if a manager “walks the talk” if the manager doesn’t first “talk the talk” by explaining clearly what his/her intentions are. Furthermore, hiding information or sharing information sparingly can confuse team members and disempower them by putting them in situations where decision-making is high risk or impossible. Indeed, sharing information and involving team members in decision-making will build trust and reinforce confidence. Openness inspires openness. This doesn’t mean sharing all information with everyone but it does mean ensuring that all team members have access to the information they need, no only to do their jobs better but to avoid errors resulting from decisions taken without the relevant information.

Follow these 10 tips and you will transform you “trust tax” into a “trust dividend“. You will also go a long way to building trusting win-win relationships within your team and thereby drive better performance and higer engagement in the workplace.

View Stephen M.R. Covey for more insights on the importance of trust in driving higher performance.

The speed of trust by Stephen M.R. Covey

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 11 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 30 posts. There were 15 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was November 5th with 72 views. The most popular post that day was Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: the 3 pillars of higher performance (or why companies need to rethink the classical carrott and stick approach if they want to engage employees).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, google.com, mail.yahoo.com, en.wordpress.com, and search.conduit.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for email rage, our iceberg is melting 8 steps, rasic matrix, timely decision making, and making timely decisions.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: the 3 pillars of higher performance (or why companies need to rethink the classical carrott and stick approach if they want to engage employees) July 2010

2

The lion and the ant: some lessons for managers and HR May 2010

3

Making matrix organisations work: some tips January 2009
2 comments

4

Our iceberg is melting : Kotter’s 8 stage change management model January 2009

5

Making good and timely decisions: 4 key principles May 2010

Dealing with stress at work: how to manage your energy to be more effective

December 19, 2010

Stress in the workplace has become a burning issue for many organizations today. Employees everywhere are faced with greater demands brought about by many different factors: accelerating organizational change, introduction of new technologies and the associated need to train and retrain constantly, ever-increasing changes of customer expectations, realignment or redesign of corporate strategy to adapt to globalization, implementation of customer-focused matrix organizations with fuzzy reporting and decision-making processes, unclear roles and responsibilities, leaner organizations imposing greater individual workloads, etc.  The world of work has become much more complex and challenging at all levels and employees the world over find themselves having to deal with complex issues in less and less time with greater potential for failure and/or conflict. Factor in all the other many stressors linked to the outside environment facing employees: family issues, health issues,  the global economic and geo-political environment  and it is not surprising therefore that  stress has become a key issue impacting on productivity and effectiveness in the work place.

Organizations are of course not responsible for all of the major stressors contributing to higher levels of stress in the workplace. Poor transport, traffic congestion, personal health issues or family issues, political instability, the global economic crisis, etc.  are of course dependent on factors external to any one organization. Having said that, it would seem obvious that organizations do have a lot of responsibility for those stressors which result from poor leadership and management, poor organizational design, poor job design, disregard for all the different elements which are within their realm but which are so often neglected due to poor HR strategy(ineffective training and development, absence of career development, lack of objective and factual performance appraisals, preference for command-and-control management techniques instead of effective empowerment of individuals,  poor leadership, etc.).  All such factors are detrimental to employee engagement and consequently feed the fires of stress, which in turn leads to lower productivity and employee effectiveness. And a vicious circle sets in

More and more organizations of course are conscious that the way they design and implement their HR strategy impacts on employee engagement and effectiveness and are deploying appropriate policies and actions plans to tackle the problem. One such element is of course corporate wellness programs which focus on alerting employees at an individual level to how each of us can at our own level adopt strategies to reduce the impact of those stressors which affect our performance not only at work but in our day-to-day lives. Quite often, and rightly so, employee organizations criticize such approaches because they fear they “individualize” approaches to the causes of stress and of course, such programs should not serve to deflect the responsibility of organizations to develop the HR strategy required to build engaging organizations.

Having said that, and with all the necessary precautions, there is obviously a lot to be gained for all employees in high-pressure environments (and that means practically everyone at all levels of the organization) to reflect on what actions we can take to make life easier for ourselves by more effective management of those stressors within our own control.

This is why Tony Schwartz’s presentation to Google employees on the subject of “managing your energy to optimize your performance” as part of the Leading@Google series is so interesting and valuable.

Tony Schwartz begins where many organizations don’t by stating the obvious: demands on employees will grow and grow and no matter how we scope the organization and our lifestyle, we will all be faced with the challenge of meeting higher and higher demand with a capacity to meet that demand which is inevitably limited.  For our time as a resource is finite. Tony states the obvious: there are only 168 hours in the week and when we factor in the time we need to do our work, the time we need to get to and from work, the time we need for our families and friends, the time we need for our different activities, we very quickly hit a ceiling and we have no more resource to meet the demand that is nevertheless continuing to increase on all fronts Faced with this increased demand, our reflex is to increase our capacity by working longer hours, by working at home or at the weekends, by not taking our holidays when we should, by having lunch at our desks or by even skipping lunch, by taking all sorts of shortcuts which lead to “burning the candle at both ends”. But as Tony says, this approach soon hits a brick wall because it comes at a high psychological and physiological cost to ourselves and our families and friends. Very often, our energy runs out and we enter the burn out zone. Trees don’t grow up to touch the sky and this is all the more true for people in terms of our limited resource of time. We often think we can continuously increase our capacity to meet increased demand but as Tony points out, we reach our peak in terms of capacity to meet demand at the age of thirty. After that milestone, the very natural ageing process means that gradually and inexorably, our body loses its physical capacity to accelerate constantly to meet increased demand.

So what can we do to deal with this situation? If we are going to make it possible to meet increased demand with the same time in a more complex and challenging world, this means as Tony points out getting more done in the same or even less time. This means going after a different resource than time. This means going after our energy because energy can be expanded and renewed, unlike time, which is finite.  As Tony points out, in a human being, there are fours types of energy:

1)     Physical (the quantity of energy we have): this is the bedrock of all the other energies because we need physical energy to be able to show up and perform. This physical energy is comprised of 4 different elements:

  • Nutrition: how well we sustain ourselves in a healthy way
  • Fitness: how well do we maintain our fitness levels so that we remain physically able to perform
  • Sleep: how we value sleep as a means of renewing our energy
  • Recovery/Renewal: how during the day we actively seek to renew our energy supplies by taking intermittent breaks and rest

2)     Emotional (quality of energy we have): how well do we manage our emotional states and focus on positive emotions while steering clear of negative attitudes

3)     Mental (Focus):  Contrary to many preconceptions, we are most effective when we focus on one thing at a time. We all multi-task and fall into the trap of trying to do several things at the same time (for example, write an email while speaking on the phone) but human beings are most effective when we focus on one thing at a time. However, as Tony points out, all the most modern means of communication (emails, blackberries, etc) mean that we are constantly being interrupted and these interruptions have an inevitable  impact on our productivity and on the quality of our work. Organizations have all forgotten this principle that doing something well means taking time to do it and if we want to manage our energy effectively from this point of view, we need to follow a discipline where we dedicate sufficient time to doing important things (and this may mean closing the door, not replying to the phone, not reading one’s emails, etc.);

4)   The Human Spirit (Purpose): this for Tony is the most fundamental of the 4 types of energy because it is derived from our experience of purpose and from our alignment between our own personal values and how we live and work. The energy we derive from our sense of purpose drives the behaviors at the three other levels. And indeed, how could it be otherwise so? We all need a sense of purpose and our effectiveness is fed by how we believe what we do serves a purpose. The more we feel what we do serves a purpose, the more our human spirit will be fed and our motivation will be increased.

So obviously, for Tony Schwartz, we need to be sensitive to and act on these 4 types of energy if we want “to fire on all cylinders”.   We may be good on one or more levels but how can be identify where we are weak and define and implement an effective action plan to help us optimize our energy at these four levels?

For this purpose, Tony Schwartz has defined an effective, simple but though-provoking “energy audit” which allows us to measure our levels of energy:

Question Yes No
1 I don’t regularly get 7 to 8 hours sleep and I often wake up feeling tired
2 I frequently skip breakfast or I settle for something that isn’t particularly healthy
3 I don’t work out enough, meaning cardio-vascular training at least 3 times a week and strength training at least once a week
4 I don’t take regular breaks during the day to renew and recharge and I often eat lunch at my desk
5 I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient or anxious at work, especially when demand is high
6 I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones and when I’m with them, I not always with them
7 I take too little time for the activities I most deeply enjoy
8 I rarely stop to express my appreciation to others or to savour and celebrate my accomplishments and blessings
9 I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and I am easily distracted during the day especially by email
10 I spend much of my time reacting to immediate demands, rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage
11 I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and thinking creatively
12 I work in the evening and/or weekends and I rarely take a vacation free of work
13 I spend too little time doing what I do best and enjoy most
14 There are significant gaps between what I say is important in life and how I actually live
15 My decisions at work are often more influenced by external demands rather than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose
16 I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or in the world
Total Yes

This very simple questionnaire allows each of us to highlight the areas we need to address if we want to have a more balanced life/work ratio and therefore manage our different energy sources better.

This in itself is a simple but powerful message to all of us: we can’t be effective if we don’t pay attention to our energy levels and that means keeping a balance between our physical requirements, our mental requirements, our emotional requirements and our sense of purpose.

Tony Schwartz goes further by explaining how we can position ourselves in terms of energy expenditure.  He identifies 4 energy zones  by crossing quantity of energy with quality of energy.

  • In the top right zone, we have the high performance zone, where we would all like to be as often as possible.  Most of us have experienced being in this zone both professionally and personally and we recognize being there because we experience feelings such as elation, satisfaction, happiness, contentment, euphoria, etc. when we achieve success.
  • In the top left corner, we have the survival zone and most of us will experience this zone as it is where we retreat to when we feel threatened or challenged. We know we are in this zone when we experience emotions such as anxiety, fear, tension, etc.
  • In the bottom left corner, we have the “Burn out” zone and this is a place we never want to be as it involves feelings of depression, extreme anxiety, apathy, etc.
  • The final quadrant bottom right is the “Recovery zone” and this is where we go when we relax, play, holiday, do recreation activities, etc.



(check out more at http://www.TheEnergyProject.com)

As Tony Schwartz explains, we all try to be and stay in the ”High Performance” zone. However, as the events of the day or week unfold, we inevitably oscillate between the High Performance zone and the Survival zone (as we fight to meet deadlines, solve problems,  work late, etc.). Staying too long in the Survival Zone is not good however for the individual and comes with a high cost health wise and from a productivity point of view. Staying too long or finding oneself too long in the “Survival” zone could eventually even lead to falling into the “Burn out” zone, a place nobody wants to go.

So what is the alternative?  To answer this question, Tony Schwartz offers a paradigm shift  and invites us to shift our focus from walking the tightrope between the “High Performance” zone and the “Survival” zone to moving intentionally and intermittently during the course of the day from the “High Performance” zone to the “Recovery” zone.  Tony takes as an example high performing athletes who have long ago learned the value of recovery and renewal and not only train to be more effective but also train to recover better because they know that high performance can only be sustained by balancing energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal. If our energy as a resource can be expanded, it stands to reason that this can only be achieved if we consciously take steps to renew that energy resource and this means respecting our bodily rhythms which are centered around a natural 90-120 minute performance cycle. Basically, we can only concentrate effectively for a period of between 90 and 120 minutes before we need to take a break and renew our energy.  Quite often, we try to override this natural cycle by resorting to artificial stimulants such as coffee and cigarettes but this artificial ploy is not sustainable in the long term.

Indeed, Tony Schwartz provocatively invites us to reinvent ourselves as “sprinters” and not as “marathon runners” even if this seems a counter-intuitive suggestion. Indeed, how often has work been referred to as a marathon and not as a sprint because we are still locked into the paradigm of work in terms of constantly trying to expand our own capacity to meet ever-increasing demand.

Sprinters however engage fully over a short distance and mobilize all their physical, mental, emotional and human energies to reach the end line. Sprinters therefore have kept what many of us at work have long lost: a sense of limits. Sprinters, as Tony Schwartz points out, give themselves boundaries and limits, mobilize their resources for a short period and then dedicate themselves to renewing those resources they have depleted during the race. They do not live in a perpetual state of constant movement but use their down time to recharge their batteries effectively.

At work today, we are constantly bombarded with demands from all quarters, one’s boss, colleagues, partners, emails, meetings, telephones, etc. and we have to learn not only to prioritize but also to disconnect so that we can focus on issues in an appropriate and productive way.  We have to discipline ourselves to closing the door when necessary so as to be able to focus on the task at hand. We need to disconnect our email alert so that we are not constantly being alerted to incoming emails which are all tagged “urgent”.

But how can we implement this new discipline of managing our energy more effectively through renewal?

As Tony Schwartz points out, human beings are creatures of habit and if we want to change from behaviours which are energy depleting to behaviours which are energy renewing while still maintaining high levels of performance, we must ritualize those behaviours which will give a “no” answer to the questions in the energy quiz above. One example would be to take time once a week to celebrate the successes of team members and/or show gratitude to team members for the work performed.  This gratitude will feed the mental and emotional  energy of the team members concerned.

Tony Schwartz presents a very thought provoking but at the same time simple and understandable approach to managing our energy if we want to be effective. He leaves us with 3 key principles:

1)   We all experience 4 different energy states at different moments (High performance, Survival, Burn out, Recovery) but only 1 is optimal for High performance.

2)   To sustain high performance, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy expenditure

3)   To manage energy optimally, we must build positive rituals-highly specific behaviours that become automatic over time.

Tony Schwartz’s approach does not replace the responsibility all organizations have for creating the environment which allows employees engage effectively in an “ecological” way but his approach does remind us all that we can do a lot to manage our energy and that of team members more effectively in a sustainable way so that everyone steers clear of the No-Sailing zone that is the “Burn Out” quadrant.

View Tony Schwartz on our 4 core needs by clicking on the link below

 

Tony Schwartz managing your energy to optimize your performance


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