Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’

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.

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?

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

Higher performance: it’s all about co-ownership of objectives

March 21, 2010

There is an old joke to explain the difference between being “committed” and being  “concerned” that goes like this. One day a chicken invited a pig to breakfast by saying “you bring the bacon, I’ll bring the eggs”. At this particular breakfast, the pig is committed and the chicken merely concerned!

When we work in an organization, we are all in a value chain and we all sit before a boss at some stage to discuss how we performed according to the objectives set. We are all therefore like the little pig (no insult intended) in the joke above. The individual contributor has his backside on the bacon slicer as he is the one who is committed and the manager is more or less concerned (accepting that the employee has of course real responsibility and is recognized for that responsibility).

And yet, in many organizations the world over, some managers seem sometimes to behave as if it’s the other way round and consider that they are the only ones who are committed and their team members are only concerned. Of course, their team member’s objectives contribute to their own team objectives and so, of course, they have a commitment to ensure these objectives are delivered. However, this overall commitment should not lead the manager to forget that his team member is also a stakeholder. After all, most employees come to work wanting to do achieve and they themselves don’t want to fail.

This implicit “role reversal” quite often reveals itself in the way managers approach the annual appraisal process. Too often, managers simply dictate objectives without taking any time to get their team members’ opinion or input on what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. There may be many good reasons for not always doing so: some team members may not be mature enough to contribute to defining their own objectives or objectives may be simple and recurrent for some teams depending on the work organization or type of tasks. However, in organizations with more and more highly educated knowledge workers tasked with achieving objectives in complex, matrix, virtual teams, it would seem dangerous not to discuss with team members beforehand what they should be doing and how they should go about it.

 

Today, knowledge workers have more expectations in terms of being allowed to contribute to their own career path and this means giving them the possibility not only to give their inputs to their own objectives but also at year end give their own inputs on how they see their performance.

 

Objective setting and performance appraisal is therefore a question of co-ownership and co-commitment: the employee is a necessary stakeholder in his own objectives and the manager is a stakeholder because individual objectives contribute to team performance.

 

Is there really any viable alternative?

If you as a manager don’t begin the performance appraisal discussion by asking the employee what he believes he has achieved and how he sees things, you don’t recognize his commitment and you acknowledge tacitly that he is merely there to execute without exercising and assuming his own share of responsibility. You tell him implicitly that he is only concerned, just like the chicken in the joke. You also tell him implicitly that the objectives are yours and yours alone and not his because you again send an implicit message that his opinion doesn’t count.

The real issue is empowerment and empowerment is a two-way street. Empowerment begins by recognizing that performance is a win-win relationship between manager and employee and that both manager and team member have a commitment to producing positive results. Employees will perform better if they can give their input into what they are supposed to do and give their views on how they have performed rather than just receive their objectives at year start and then, at year-end, receive judgement on their performance.

All engagement studies today (discover Towers Perrin for example) show that employees lose commitment when they feel disempowered and disempowerment begins when they feel they are not listened to by their managers and when they feel they don’t have a sense of co-ownership for their objectives.

 

Co-Ownership is a necessary prerequisite for commitment and performance. If a team member doesn’t have some form of ownership for his objectives and results, he can’t be committed, will feel disempowered,  will lose motivation, will subsequently underperform, etc and the vicious circle continues.

It is this vicious circle that organizations must break if they want to drive performance and all begins by recognizing that employees are also stakeholders in objective setting and performance appraisal.

 

 

To instil this sense of ownership in employees, one must first put first things first as Stephen J Covey said and give each employee first shot at saying what he needs to do according to his understanding of team and company strategy and according to the role he has in the organization.

Here are some simple tips if you are responsible for rolling out an annual appraisal process in an organization or indeed in charge of developing employee performance and engagement:

  • Remember that the manager-team member discussion is the most important thing
  • The better the preparation on both sides, the better the discussion
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of all team members at year start before setting objectives and then review objectives according to the role and responsibilities agreed upon.
  • Give continuous feedback throughout the year. Poor performance evaluation should never come as a surprise to the person concerned.
  • Recognize your team member as a stakeholder in the process by allowing him to make his own assessment first (because in all events, he will have a pretty good idea in his own mind). Either his assessment corresponds to yours and everything is ok or it doesn’t and the job of the manager is to listen to the employee and note the points where there is disagreement. If the employee’s arguments are sound, the manager may change his mind but again this should be rare because the dialogue should be year round and not simply one shot. However, if your view differs to that of your employee, your job is to understand why the employee has a different view and then to explain why you have come to your conclusion. Your job is to give the feedback frankly and propose an action plan to improve the situation and not simply dump the result on the employee.
  • Always finish on as positive a note as possible and give the employee a chance to project positively into the future. If there is poor performance, set an action plan to improve the situation and tell your team member how you will help him to improve. Failure is in nobody’s interest.
  • Share the objectives set for team members with all the team so that everyone knows how each team member contributes to team goals.
  • Set shared objectives across your team so that all can contribute together as a team.
  • Remember that the annual performance appraisal is not only about evaluation but also about motivation. Many factors contribute to motivating a team member and one key factor is of course ownership. I am more motivated when I have a feeling I own my objectives that if I feel they belong to someone else.

In a top-down approach, the manager does all the work and the employee simply takes the feedback. If you really want to empower your employees because you know you can’t have a manager behind every employee 100% of the time and you know that organizations need employees to take initiative and behave responsibly, then the way you manage people has to be aligned to that vision. Modern global, matrix, multi-cultural, flexible organizations can’t work effectively based on a command and control logic, especially if you want them to go beyond expectations and deliver more.

Consider some of the risks of not acknowledging your team member’s co-ownership of objectives:

  • The team member doesn’t take responsibility for results
  • He becomes disengaged and loses commitment
  • Dialogue between manager and team member is poor or even absent and objectives are not adapted in accordance with changes in the business environment
  • The manager does the evaluation without even consulting the employee
  • Stress levels are increased impacting potentially on performance because lack of ownership leads to a feeling of lack of control
  • The manager doesn’t get buy-in from the employee
  • the manager does all the work and alone decides slowing down decision-making in the organization
  • the team member loses all creativity and initiative and problems remain unsolved or get bigger
  • the team member dedicates himself to other things or less important things
  • High turnover of the best talents
  • Inertia in the organization
  • …..

Getting an employee to self assess his performance doesn’t mean that the manager relinquishes his role as a manager. He still keeps the final say and must decide and validate the performance of the employee. However, what a self assessment does guarantee (and the necessary corollary of getting the employee to propose his own objectives) is that the employee must commit to the objectives and the results because he is involved in their setting and their evaluation.

 

Every time a manager performs an evaluation without first discussing with the employee, he may impose his view in the short term but he is leading the team member down the road of resignation and passivity, disempowerment and demotivation.

 

Here are some leadership maxims that reinforce this idea of co-ownership

 

  • A leader is someone who believes in you and gets you to believe in yourself
  • Honour people and they will honour you. Fail to honour people and they will fail to honour you.
  • Never tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their creativity
  • Leaders don’t force people to follow them. They invite them on a journey
  • Authority is a poor substitute for leadership
  • If the highest aim of the captain is to preserve his ship, he would never leave port
  • Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination
  • Many people would rather you heard their story than grant their request
  • ….

Give your opinion by answering the poll below.


Why geese fly in V formation: some lessons for developing effective team work

January 30, 2010

We all know how powerfully effective team work can be in delivering higher levels of performance and all managers need to focus constantly on developing the capacity of their team members to work cohesively together. Developing team work is a key skill requirement for every manager, especially in highly competitive environments which tend to encourage more individualistic behaviours. Indeed and paradoxically, the standard performance management model used by most organizations today based on Management by Objectives can drive the very behaviours contrary to good performance (individualism, the temptation to go-it alone, silo mentality, every man for himself, dog eat dog, etc.). The sum of the parts does not always necessarily add up to the whole and quite often, the successful completion by individuals of their personal objectives as formalized in the annual appraisal process does not mean that the company is globally  better off at the end of the day.

Effective team work is even more critical today because in most organizations now organized in a matrix format, nobody can achieve anything alone and everyone depends on the inputs of many contributors at different levels to succeed. This is even more the case in international organizations where teams are spread out geographically, speak different languages, work in different time zones and have different cultural mindsets. In such environments, success can’t be imposed by command and control through top down management techniques. Leadership has to be more inclusive and focused on leveraging the strengths and capacities of all team members, wherever they may be and whatever their cultural background or organizational roles.

Developing team work is key and mother nature can teach us humans many lessons in the art of effective team working. Take the example of a flock of geese which you may observe flying across the sky in a V formation? Here are some simple reasons why geese fly collectively in V formation and the lessons we can  learn from their example to develop effective team work.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So as a manager seeking to drive performance through effective team work, apply the following five leadership principles (V principles):

  1. build a shared sense of community around a shared vision, set of values, common direction and shared objectives
  2. build, encourage, reward and recognize the sharing of resources and skills, knowledge and best practices throughout your team
  3. share your leadership by empowering team members to take responsibility at their levels
  4. Always encourage, never blame
  5. Always Stand by and defend your team members and promote solidarity and collective responsibility at all times.

Apply these V principles with your team and it will mean V for Victory!

Check out the video by clicking on the link below

Leadership and teamwork lessons geese teach us

Generation Y: are we preparing leaders to deal with new workers’ expectations?

May 17, 2009

Things are not how they used to be. Employee expectations have definitely changed with regard to work. Leaders can no longer ignore these new expectations nor refuse to adapt their leadership style and methods to deal with these new expectations.

For the baby-boomer generation (1945-late 60s), optimism was the key mood. The ethos was hard work and focus was on serving your time and proving your loyalty to your organization. Baby-boomers were happy to stay in the same company doing the same job and were not particularly demanding in terms of careers, mobility, promotion, etc.

For generation X (70s-80s), the approaching end of the cold war brought uncertainty, counterbalanced by strong political leadership. Workers continued to demonstrate commitment to work and demonstrate strong work ethos.

With generation Y, the nineties generation, this has all changed. This generation no longer demonstrates blind faith in authority and is ready to challenge and be outspoken. This generation is used to being praised and encouraged every day. They expect to be recognized and rewarded more frequently than their predecessors (Generation Y is called by some the Trophy Generation). Furthermore, they’re now probably better equipped with the same or even better tools than work can provide them. So providing them with the basic tools such as a laptop and a mobile phone is not a bonus but merely basic. Generation Y are more autonomous, seek greater control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line. They’re loyal to their skill and not to their company. They no longer believe in hard work nor in working long hours.

According to research, generation Y workers have 4 key expectations:

1) Global collaboration : they expect to collaborate with colleagues globally and not be confined to a small network of contacts within their specific area;
2) Direct and instant access to management: They expect more direct and more frequent communication with managers. The hierarchical distance the baby boomer generation accepted is not acceptable to Generation Y.
3) Co-creation: They expect to co-create and work transversally to solve real business issues. Executing tasks or parts of a system or process will frustrate them greatly.
4) Control/personalized work: they expect to have more control over their work and be able to personalize their work to suit their personal routine.

What does this mean for leaders today who probably belong to the baby boomer or X generations?

Some suggestions for leaders managing in a generation Y environment:

1) Be available and accessible : practice an open door policy. People work for people so leaders need to get out from behind their desks
2) Focus more on empowering workers rather than adopting directive management styles
3) Develop innovative and diversified reward and recognition policies to recognize employee contributions more frequently
4) Include workers in the decision making process more often
5) Communicate constantly to workers not only what to do but why they should do it
6) Build collaborative teams which encourage team work and co-construction of solutions. Work in project management mode and allow team members to extend their network of connections
7) Be flexible in how work is organized and delegate real responsabilities and not simply tasks
8) Focus not only on the short term but also the long term: develop employees by offering them more structured career paths and internal mobility

Leaders today are facing a critical challenge: how to adapt their leadership practices and style to get the best out of Generation Y employees. They can’t do so alone. Organizations have a responsability to help managers understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions. More importantly, organizations needs to provide leaders with the tools and processes which allow leaders to reward and recognize, train and develop, empower generation Y employees more effectively.

View this video which presents the issues in a very concise way.

How are leaders dealing with the new work paradigm?

Trust: your leadership compass in the perfect storm!

February 5, 2009

Business is more global. Teams are more diverse. Organizations are more and more flexible. Technologies change more and more rapidly. Roles and responsibilities change almost daily at all levels. Objectives change. Strategies change. People change. The manager who sets the strategy moves on and someone else has to live with the consequences. Or a new manager arrives and doesn’t have the history which led to where you are today.

The only thing that seems permanent is the relentless change that we all face on a daily basis.

In such a storm, leaders and team members may be tempted to hold their hand up and say “how can we function effectively in such a storm? How on earth can we get things done? How can we decide on a course of action when everything is changing around us?”.

Paradoxically, in this storm of change, the biggest danger facing leaders and team members is….no change! Or rather, not deciding what to do for fear of making an error.

Work is basically a decision-making process. Leaders and team members are constantly confronted with having to make decisions. Decision making is difficult at the best of times but becomes more and more difficult in fast-changing environments. Decisions are of course based on data and as data is often incomplete, the temptation is to wait for perfect data before deciding. However, as change is always ahead of the organization, the information collected by the organization is always out of date and the temptation is always to wait for “better”, “fresher” data before deciding. And so the vicious circle goes on.

The biggest danger is therefore paralysis of decision-making & we suspect that there is a direct causal link between the amount of change in an organization and the speed at which an organization decides.

The speed at which an organization decides is inversely proportional to the speed of change and the ability of the organization to digest that change. and in fast-changing, matrix organizations, it is indeed not uncommon to hear leaders and team members complain on the one hand of the speed of change and on the other hand, complain that decisions are taking longer and longer and that more and more people need to be consulted, thereby slowing down the decision-making process.

So the faster the change, the slower the decision-making process and the slower the decision-making process, the faster the change imposed by external factors (global business, partners, suppliers, markets, technologies, etc…).

And yet, we all have to get things done and deliver results.

So how can leaders work with team members to set a direction and hold to it? What compass can be used to plot a course to safety? How can we all deliver the expected results when even it is not always clear what we are expected to deliver?

In our opinion, the key is TRUST. With trust, you still have a lot to do; without trust, you are sure to fail.

When everything else is uncertain and unclear, the key to setting direction and bonding the team around that direction is TRUST. Leaders have to build TRUST with team members so that all believe that they can rely on one another when times get tough or when the storm breaks. When all the basic inputs to the decision-making process are fuzzy: strategy, partners, budgets, objectives, resources, the environment, etc., and you still have to set a direction, then only TRUST will allow you to set out with your team and your team will only get on board and stay on board if you trust them and they trust you.

What is trust based on? Trust depends on consistency of behavior.

To gain trust, you have to say what you do & do what you say and be seen to do it. In other words, you have to walk the talk. If you don’t walk the talk but say one thing and do the opposite, your team will lose confidence in you as a leader and will be less inclined to stick with you, especially in such a stormy environment. Either they won’t get on board at the outset or they’ll jump ship at the first opportunity.

TRUST is therefore the compass that helps the leader set direction but also the glue that will keep the team together, whatever the conditions.

The world-renowned leadership expert, Ken Blanchard, makes a very interesting distinction between TRUST & RESPECT.

– If you respect someone, you face them to listen to what they have to say.
– If you trust them, you can turn your back on them because you know they will not harm you.

However,

– if you don’t respect someone, you show this by turning your back on them because you don’t want to listen to them.
– if you don’t trust someone, you must always face them because you’re afraid they will harm you otherwise.

Leaders must be able to establish TRUST with team members so that he/she doesn’t always have to be facing them as the ship moves along and must show respect by always facing them when things get difficult and they need support.

We said above that the speed of decision-making is inversely proportional to the speed of change. We can also consider that the speed of decision-making is inversely proportional to the level of trust within an organisation. The less trust, the longer it takes to decide, the more trust, the quicker it is to decide.

So build the TRUST by saying what you do and doing what you say and prove it day-in, day-out.

Build up the TRUST and you will speed up decision-making. Speed up decision-making and you will increase your ability to manage change.

View Ken Blanchard’s discussion of TRUST as a key to leadership performance.

Ken Blanchard on Trust


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