July 27, 2010
The Towers Watson 2010 Global Workforce Survey provides some interesting insights that should be taken into account by all Leaders when planning for the future of their organisations. Based on 20,00 workers in 22 countries, some of the key points in the survey include:
- Employees see security as a fast disappearing part of the employment relationship although 76% want a secure position above all else
- Only 38% of employees think that their leaders have a sincere interest in their well-being while less than half think that their leaders inspire and engage them
- Almost 40% of employees are either disenchanted or fully disengaged
- 42% of staff think they have to go elsewhere to advance
As many organisations are finding out, it is one thing to keep employees when they have no other options but, when the upturn does come around – and for some companies, it already has – these employees will start to question how they have been treated during the downturn. The best of these employees will have the earliest options to move to what they consider to be a better job.
Now is the time for Leaders to begin reengaging with employees through, for example, challenging work design, growth opportunities and, putting in place recognition programmes.
June 15, 2010
A very interesting article in Fast Company by Dan Heath (author of Made to Stick) looks at the impact that the Fundamental Attribution Error can have on how we assess behaviours. Fundamental Attribution Error occurs when we attribute the behaviour of an individual in a specific context to being part of their core character.
A typical example is how we all can sometimes behave when in rush hour traffic. Most of us have committed acts when driving that, while not life threatening, are not always nice! Do these acts reflect our real personality? Do we react in a similar fashion in other contexts when under stress – probably not.
Sometimes we need to take a step back when assessing an unusual behaviour, especially one that is out of character, and ask the question: is this behaviour a result of the situation or is it the person?
April 25, 2010
Recent research from marketing company Maritz Research paints a poor picture of employee’s attitudes towards their work, organisation and Leaders. Some of the key findings include:
i. Only eleven percent of employees strongly agree that their managers show consistency between their words and actions,
ii. Worst still, only seven percent of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest,
iii. Surprisingly, the same percentage (seven) strongly agree they trust their co-workers to do so,
iv. Twenty percent of those surveyed disagree that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical,
v. Finally, one-quarter of respondents disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty.
While the results are based on a poll of American workplaces, these findings should resonate in every organisation. In times of significant change and uncertainty, it is not surprising that trust is low. The question that is applicable for most Leaders is what to do with these results? I have blogged previously about Leadership in a time of crisis based on a McKinsey survey. The top two organisational qualities needed during a crisis were Leadership and Direction. Too often, organisations spend their time, effort and resources looking externally in a crisis forgetting the importance of spending the same time effort and resources internally engaging with the workforce.
The survey results are the outcome of the failure to look internally. What are you going to do ensure that these are not replicated in your organisation?
April 16, 2010
I was recently approached by a manager for help with an employee who ‘refused’ to change. A twenty year veteran with the organisation, the employee had ‘seen off’ several managers. A high performer when it was the way she wanted to work, the employee had successfully avoided all attempts to introduce new methods of working. Managers, after a few forlorn attempts to introduce new ideas, gave up and she was left to her own devices.
Who is at fault for this failure to change – the employee or the organisation? In conversation with the manager, it became clear that previous manager’s had abdicated responsibility for the employee taking the line of least resistance. While the employee does bear some responsibility for the pattern of behaviour, her resistant patterns have been rewarded by her various managers. This way of working is what she knows best – ‘I like doing my job my way’. Any new manager will be a brief nuisance and will soon see the light!
What is the answer? As I have blogged previously, behaviour change requires consequences. The current consequence for the employee of their refusal to change is to be allowed to continue as per usual. For the manager to bring about change, there must be consequences – and these must outweigh the desire to continue the behaviour. The most immediate consequence should be that the manager makes it clear that they will not be going away.
April 9, 2010
All of us suffer from anxiety; it happens when we face into a new, difficult or challenging situation. Anxiety in itself should never be an issue but it can be a problem if it is not recognised and managed. Organisations that are undergoing upheavals are likely have increased levels of anxiety. Leaders need to learn to recognise and manage the anxiety in their top teams to ensure that it does not affect performance at a time when the they need to rely on the tope team more than ever.
People Management list some of the steps that can be taken to manage anxiety. Aimed at L&D specialists, the article is equally valid for Leaders. Some of the steps for managing anxiety include:
Get your top team to talk about how they experience the pressures they face. As we often feel weak if we acknowledge being less than confident, this normalising of emotions can be helpful. A leader can start the process by admitting that they have anxieties.
Empathy is important but honesty is vital. Leaders need to understand the negative impact on their team – and the wider organisation – of the failure to manage anxiety. Direct criticism may evoke defensiveness; simply describe how the organisation experience the practical consequences of this behaviour.
Having helped your team understand the impact of their behaviour, work to identify key situations, people or events that trigger anxiety. The more we are aware of our default position(s), the better we can resist them.
In the pressure cooker of modern organisations, it can be seen as weak to acknowledge the existence of anxiety. It is the Leader’s responsibility to address this issue – failure to do so can increase the likelihood of a failure of performance.
March 15, 2010
Melissa Raffoni has a post on the HBR website that all Leaders should read. President of Raffoni CEO Consulting, she works with CEOs of major organisations. In this short but important post, she outlines in clear terms what employees want from their Leadership. None of this should surprise any good Leader; what is surprising is how often we don’t put it into practice.
1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules. Be clear, be direct and let me get on with my job.
2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line. Fairness and equity for everyone – for good and bad performance.
3. Get me excited. Give me a reason to get engaged in what I do. I don’t do boring!
4. Don’t forget to praise me. When I do something that deserves praise, not 12 months later at a review.
5. Don’t scare me. Tell me what I need to know but don’t dump all of your problems on me.
6. Impress me. Lead by example.
7. Give me some autonomy. Trust me – that’s why you hired me.
8. Set me up to win. Help me to win and you look good too.
All Leaders should print these out and ask themselves every day – am I following these rules? If not, why not?
March 11, 2010
I am spending an increasing amount of time coaching executives – reflective of the exciting business world. One challenge that I face is that the coachee wants a solution and, quite often, wants it now. This can be based on a misunderstanding of the nature of coaching and mixing it up with mentoring – an experienced person sharing wisdom – or a consultant – an experienced person brought into to provide a solution. Coaching is about allowing the coachee to find their own solution. Getting these distinctions across at the beginning of a coaching assignment is crucial.
I came across a great summary in Excellence in Coaching edited by Jonathon Passmore:
- A therapist will explore what is stopping you driving the car
- A counsellor will listen to your anxieties about the car
- A mentor will share tips from their own experience of driving cars
- A consultant will advise you on how to drive the car
- A coach will encourage and support you in driving the car
February 28, 2010
Management by Walking About (MBWA) is a management practice first proposed by Peters and Waterman in their seminal book In Search of Excellence. As a technique, it aims to allow management to bypass the bureaucracy of the organisation and stay in contact with those that do the actual work. It is communication at its best.
The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge discusses some research that shows that management visibility on its own is no guarantee of success. Unless managers understand that MBWA is more than just walking about, they can cause more harm than good. The research looked at a number of hospitals that engaged with front line workers on process improvements. The result showed that improvements were achieved in most instances, leading to not just improvements in processes but in the overall organisation climate.
However, it is also possible to damage that climate. The researchers found that it is not just important to engage with front line staff. It is how you engage that will make the difference. It is too easy for MBWA to be viewed as an audit that is trying to find errors or an attempt to catch employees making mistakes. If this is the perception of MBWA, trust will be quickly eroded, increasing hostility and suspicion – the exact opposite of what MBWA is attempting to achieve.
Some simple steps that managers can follow to ensure that MBWA is effective include:
o Do it solo – senior managers should MBWA alone and not hunt in packs
o Ask questions
o If you give a commitment to act on something, follow up
o Don’t undermine your supervisors – this is not an opportunity to whinge
o Do it often – it is not a fad and repetition will make it seem the norm
February 1, 2010
I blogged recently about the need for managers to provide employees with a direct line of sight to the organisation’s goals. Without an understanding of what the organisation wants them to do and how this links to where the organisation is going, managers can hardly expect employees to be interested in changing.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) recently released their Winter 2010 Employee Outlook survey. It provides interesting reading on how employees are coping given the current economic climate. In the section on Employee Attitudes to Management, 13 out of 14 items are rated lower than previous quarters. Just under half of employees (49%) feel fully/fairly well informed about what is happening in their organisation. That is, over half of the workforce surveyed do not have full line of sight to the organisation’s goals, strategy or change plan; without full information, these employees are less likely to be engaged in where the organisation wishes to go. This is backed up by a 28% decline in the belief that senior managers consult them about important issues.
What lessons can we learn from this? At the same time as a low level of information, there is a drop in the level of job satisfaction (down approximately 25% over the year). With 37% of employees stating that the would ideally like to change jobs within the next year, managers need to realise that – even in a recession – they can lose their best and brightest. The top performers will always get another job and are more likely to leave an organisation they do not trust than one that they do.
January 22, 2010
I was struck by a recent conversation with a client. She was reacting to an employee who, in her words, just did not get it. When I asked what the employee did not get, the conversation expanded into how, despite all that was going on in the economy, some staff were still reluctant to change. We talked about why such reluctance existed. The manager felt that some employees had their heads in the sand and needed a reality check.
I have a different take on the situation. On questioning the manager, it became clear that while the organisation was very direct on telling employees what needed to change, there was very little communication about why the change was necessary or even what difference it would make. If your employees cannot see a direct link between what the organisation wants them to do and how it will drive the organisation, managers can hardly expect them to be driven to change. Most employees will change; what they need is a valid reason. If organisations do not give their employee a clear line of sight between what is expected of them and what the organisation is doing, then while change may take place, it will be slower and less successful than it could have been.