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

Finding your leadership compass – 5 key principles to help you become an authentic leader

November 1, 2010

In 2008, former CEO of Medtronic and current Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George presented his thoughts on leadership and what makes a good leader to Google employees as part of the Google leadership series. Delivered 2 years ago in the early days of the most dramatic economic crisis since the great depression of 1929, the arguments Bill George presented in his speech then are even more relevant today, now that we are even clearer on the human, economic, industrial and financial consequences of a crisis brought about the reckless behavior of a few financial institutions “too big to fail”.

Bill George indeed begins by stating the obvious : the financial crisis is also a leadership crisis because it was brought about by individuals who preferred short-term, personal, gains to long-term organizational goals. For Bill George, organizations have been choosing the wrong people for positions of responsibility for too long and charisma has taken precedence over personal integrity and the desire to put collective before personal goals.

Basically, organizations have been choosing takers and not givers and examples abound of individuals who succeeded in the short-term but who put their organizations in dire circumstances in the long-term (only they weren’t there to take the blame). Given the consequences of the crisis we are now enduring, it is easy to understand why so many people may have lost all confidence in the whole idea of leadership and this crisis of confidence makes Bill George’s ideas even more relevant for anyone seeking to develop effective performance in organizations today.

For Bill George, leadership cannot be equated with the simple wielding of power or being able to command others to do one’s bidding. Leadership is about responsibility to others and to the organization and being conscious of the impact of one’s decisions on the well-being of the organization and of its members.

 

For Bill George, as for Peter Drucker, the old hierarchical, leader-follower, top-down, command-and-control, management model has failed and cannot work in today’s global, flexible, high tech organizations staffed by highly educated, white collar workers.  Knowledge workers do not respond to command and control management techniques and as they often know more than their bosses, refuse to be dictated to in the way blue-collar workers once were. Hungry to maintain their expertise, knowledge workers expect more opportunities and won’t wait in line patiently for promotion or new roles, preferring to move on if necessary to develop their careers and expertise.  Finally, money is no longer a key motivator and as we all spend most of our time at work, we need to find purpose and meaning in what we do at work.  If we can’t find that purpose or if leaders can’t help us find that purpose and meaning, we will become disengaged and demotivated.

So leaders today need to be attentive to 4 key drivers of performance and engagement:

1)   Alignment: as people need to find meaning and purpose in what they do, leaders need to be able to align employees in their organization around a common mission and set of values.  Team members will be more engaged if they adhere to the organization’s mission and if they can identify with the values espoused by the organization they belong to.  A clear mission is a magnet that attracts employees and allows them to work together as a team effectively. Neglect your mission statement and you run the risk of disengaging many of your employees.

2)   Empowerment: leaders are not defined by the power they wield but by how they  empower others to act effectively. In many organizations today, the people with most influence are not those with the most power. Leaders need to be able to recognize this and ensure that those with most influence and expertise are empowered to use that expertise and influence effectively. Empowerment is key to the sustainable development of all high tech organizations today because as Bill George points out, the key to sustainable development is innovation and creativity, which in turn depends on a corporate culture that frees up talent and allows employees to take measured risks to develop new and innovative products. The larger the organization however, the greater the risk of a command-and-control organization taking over as the organization struggles to maintain coherence through the application of rigid rules and procedures. The best way to counteract such a counter-productive culture is to try to segment the organization into small, flexible units that allows for more creativity and innovation.

3)   Customer service: for too long, the message from the financial sector has been that creating share-holder value is the ultimate goal of any corporation but as Bill George points out, any organization which has this as a goal is doomed to fail because the only way to provide share-holder value is by providing customer service and by providing the products and services the customer wants.  Organizations will only be ultimately successful if they meet their customers’ needs.

4)   Collaboration: the challenges facing all organizations today are complex and require unique collaborative skills within and outside the organization. No organization today is strong enough to stand alone and must be able to foster effective cross-functional team work with and effective collaboration with different organizations in the community at large.

So with these four key requirements in mind, Bill George looks at the leadership question and asserts that leadership concerns us all because each of use in our own way can make a difference, not in a history making way like Nelson Mandela, but in a very simple way at our own personal level by the way we interact with our own environment.

Bill George delivers a very personal message because when he says that we can all make a difference, he challenges us all to discover what makes us passionate and once we have made that discovery, to plot our lives aligned to that passion. Bill George urges us all to use our life to make a difference and this is what real leadership is about: making a difference. Personal values are therefore at the centre of Bill George’s views on leadership.

How can one develop such value-centered leadership and make a personal difference at our own individual  level?

Bill George defines 5 principles of value-centered leadership:

1) Know yourself and this means developing your self-awareness. Leadership does not come from the outside but from the inside, is about the person and we can all be leaders in our own way providing we know who we are, what we stand for, where we want to go, what our strengths are, what our motivations are, what positive forces driving us are. To develop our self-awareness, getting good feedback is vital: from peers, subordinates, bosses,etc…

2) Know your values and base your actions on your values. As you progress your career, you will be more and more confronted by difficult and ambiguous situations and your ability to decide effectively will depend on how clear you are on what you can and cannot do as per your set of personal values.

3) Know what your sweet spot is and strive to find a role in the organization which centres on this sweet spot. Bill George defines your sweet spot as the coming together of your intrinsic motivations with your capabilities. Our intrinsic motivations are those fundamental motivations that satisfy us and drive us on and are different from the official motivations such as earning more money or being promoted. If we can manage to  match our intrinsic motivations and our capabilities in an organizational role, we will increase our chances of being more effective. Traditional management approaches look on individuals in terms of strengths and weaknesses and try to match these strengths and weaknesses of an individual with particular organizational roles. Bill George, however, believes that it is much more effective for an individual to undestand what his/her intrinsic motivations are, what his/her capabilities are and then seek out an organizational role which allows the individual to optimize those intrinsic motivations and capabilities. Find a role that allows you to play to your strengths so that your weaknesses are irrelevant.

4) Build a team around you that will give you good and unbiased feedback.  Others can help us improve and it’s important to put in place different ways of sharing ideas with others. Bill George mentions having a mentor or creating a support group as two ways of getting such feedback and providing mutual help. Professional life has many ups and downs and others can help us adopt the strategies to survive the storms of professional life.

5) Lead an integrated life: rather than trying to develop specific behaviors for work and other specific behaviors more suited to your private life, try to live an integrated life and be the same person wherever you are, whatever environment you are in.  If the gap is too wide between the persona you adopt in an organization and your private life, this quite often can have a negative impact on your sense of integrity. This of course means knowing what your values are, living by those values and taking decisions according to those values.

For Bill George, if you follow these 5 principles, you will be an integrated leader. These 5 principles act as a leadership compass and will help you to go in the direction you want to go and help you be true to your personal direction. If you do so, you will be true to yourself and have a better chance of being true to others. More than 2000 years ago, the Roman statesman, Seneca, stated that “no wind is favorable to he who knows not where he is going” and in those tumultuous times, Seneca was delivering the same message as Bill George today: you cannot perform effectively if you don’t have a clear personal sense of direction. You must know where you want to go in life, what your values are, what motivates you to get up in the morning, what makes you passionate, what you will do and what you won’t do if you want to be able to lead and work effectively with others.

Develop your own personal leadership compass-without it, you wil get lost as many individuals seem to have done when we consider the events which have led us to where we are today in the midst of the worst financial crisis since 1929. View Bill George speaking at Google University by clicking on the link below.

Bill George: finding your True North

You can also discover Bill George discussing what it takes to build sustainable growth and performance by viewing the video


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

July 14, 2010

The carrot and stick approach is a tried and trusted classical way of rewarding performance in business organizations. Paying someone more for reaching specific objectives is generally considered as a simple way of driving the behaviours an organization needs to get the results it requires to satisfy customers and share holders. Money is considered to be the key driver of employee motivation and most organizations have some form of carrot and stick policy whereby they reward good performers and ignore poor performers (or worse). This carrot and stick approach is indeed so classical that most organizations take it as self-evident and as “the only way” to recognize performance and motivate employees.

But what if this very simple and fairly universal way of driving performance is not as effective as it is generally thought to be? Not only that, what if the good old “carrot and stick” approach not only doesn’t deliver the good performance it is supposed to but delivers poor performance, the very opposite?

This is what Dan Pink asserts in a very thought-provoking presentation on the subject of Employee motivation and what drives good behaviour.

For Dan Pink, the basic and supposedly “self-evident” notion that you inevitably get the “behaviors you reward” needs to be challenged. He draws upon different studies made by experts at MIT on the link between monetary reward and increased performance which seem to demonstrate that increased monetary reward, rather than driving higer performance, produces poorer performance. Briefly stated, MIT performed a series of tests with students where they rewarded the participants according to their performance in a series of academic and cognitive tests. The best performers were to receive most financial reward, the worst performers would receive nothing. Surprisingly, these tests reveal two startling results:

1) As long as the test involves purely mechanical skills, the higher the reward, the better the performance. In other words, the “carrot and stick” approach seems to work perfectly for mechanical, unimaginative tasks.

2) However, once the task calls for more than rudimentary cognitive skills, surprisingly, a larger financial reward led to poorer performance. The more the task requires conceptual and creative thinking, the less financial reward seems to drive performance.

This does not mean to say that money is not a motivator. However, money, as Maslow and Hertzberg amongst many other thinkers on human motivation have pointed out, helps rather to reduce the impact of  “dissatisfaction” rather than increasing causes of satisfaction.

Paying someone more is simply a way of getting money off the table as an issue and removing it as a distraction. However, paying someone more won’t get you better performance.

So if money in organisational terms doesn’t make the world go round, what does?

Pink points to 3 key factors leading to better performance:

1) Autonomy: back in the 80’s, Peter Drucker already pointed out that you can’t manage people the way they were managed in previous decades. The more educated the worker, the more he/she is driven by a desire to be self-directed. The old “command and control” management mindset cannot work with today’s generation of highly educated, internet focused, highly mobile, generation Y workforce. Today’s workforce needs to feel in command of its destiny and self-direction is key. Management is great if you want compliance but not so great if you want engagement and today, all organizations know that it’s no longer enough to enforce compliance to get good performance.

The key to performance today is employee engagement. Organizations need employees to engage and go the extra mile and you can’t force employees to engage and give discretionary effort. The less self-directed an employee is in his  job, the less motivated he will be and the size of the carrot won’t change this. So for Dan Pink, the first challenge facing all organizations seeking to drive higher performance is to drive autonomy down into the organizations so that employees can direct their own activity aligned to the organizations goals. People will no longer accept being told what to do. They can accept being told what goals need to be reached but they won’t accept being told how to achieve those goals. Empowerment is therefore critical to driving higher performance. Give people more autonomy, empower them to act and you increase the chances of them  delivering more.

Pink gives a very concrete example of how a company can seek to empower its workforce to be more productive through greater creativity and innovation. He mentions an Autralian software company, Atlassian, which seeks to encourage the creativity and innovation of its employees, not through an “innovation bonus” but by allowing their software engineers once every quarter to work on what they want for a whole day. There is only one precondition: the software engineers then have to produce the results to the company in special workshops. Just one way management can get out of the way (if only for a day) and allow emplyees the autonomy to do what they want to do aligned to corporate objectives.

2) Mastery: a second factor driving performance is mastery. The more we feel we master an area of expertise, the more satisfied we are. This is why people take up different hobbies and try to develop expertise in all sorts of exotic areas. We all like to progress and grow and become better at something. More money won’t give us a feeling of mastery if our role is more restricted, more specialised and if we feel we are not growing as individuals and learning more. So individuals will be motivated by tasks which help them acquire more mastery of their area of expertise and money won’t replace satisfaction felt when one has more mastery of a subject.

3) Purpose: finally, more and more organizations realize that we as individuals are not only profit maximizers but “purpose-maximizers”. We all need a purpose gretaer than ouselves to get us up in the morning and get us to engage fully in any activity. Sportsmen will give their all for their country during the world cup and the winners are not always the highest paid. Some people will give up everthing to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and the destitute. Why? Because a fundamental aspect of all employee motivation is transcendance and having a purpose which is greater than ourselves. More and more organizations are coming to realize this. This is why so many organizations spend so much time and effort  formulating mission statements with elaborate declarations of purpose in the hope of engaging emplyees to adhere to a common purpose. As Pink points out, more and more organizations realize thaty if you fail to link your profit motive to a “purpose”, you not only fail to deliver good performance but you drive bad performance and the result is poor products, poor customer service, poor working conditions, higher accident rates, etc. Many examples abound of corporations who lost the link between their profit motive and their purpose motive to dramatic effect (Enron, Maddoff, etc.).

So money can buy you a lot of things but it can’t always buy you higher performance because to get higher performance, you need to build an organization which gives employees more autonomy, allows them to develop their skills and mastery of their chosen areas and allows them to feel that their efforts and commitment feeds into a greater purpose.

So how does your organization seek to empower your employees? How does it seek to develop their “on the job” mastery? How does it link its financial purpose to a greater, more socially responsible purpose? How is your company moving away from the classical “carrot-and-stick approach” to capture the creativity and conceptual talents of your workforce?

Many thanks for your ideas.

Listen to Dan Pink by clicking on the following link:

Drive: the unsurprising truth about what motivates us


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