Posts Tagged ‘Performance management’

Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who pays for this?

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

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

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

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

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

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

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

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

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

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

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

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

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

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

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

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

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.


The Pygmalion effect: expect the worst and we most likely will get it!

November 11, 2009

We have all heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy“. One way to look at this idea is to say that “we get what we expect” and if we expect something to happen, our expectation will tend to make it so.

Our expectations often drive the events which occur, rather than the other way round. A leading researcher on this issue, Robert Rosenthal, labelled this expectancy effect the “Pygmalion effect” and if we are not all familiar with the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor, who fell in love with his own statue of a woman, many of us have seen the movie My fair lady, inspired by the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, where Professor Higgins sets out to transform a girl of modest origins, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady.

Rosenthal has researched this issue for many years and has come up with some interesting findings. In particular, he performed a study at an elementary school in a lower middle-class neighbourhood of a large US town. This experiment has been called the Oak School experiment. Simply put, with the agreement of the school administration, all the children in grades 1 to 6 were given a standard IQ TEST at the beginning of the school year. The teachers were told the test was the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition and that the test was designed to predict academic blooming. In other words, teachers were told that students scoring high on the test were ready to bloom academically and would progress in the coming year. If the test was a valid one, all the rest was not true and the test had no predictive nature whatsoever.

All the teachers subsequently received a list with the names of their students who had scored in the top 20% on the “Harvard Test”. Of course, the names provided were at random and the children in question had done no better than the other pupils forming part of the control population.

Near  the end of the year, all the children at the school took the test again and the degree of change in IQ was calculated for each child.  To summarize, the results showed that the children for whom the teachers had expected greater intellectual growth averaged significantly greater improvement than did the control children.

Rosenthal explains the differences in terms of teachers expectations. When teachers expect greater intellectual development from certain children, these children did show greater intellectual development.

Rosenthal defines 4 key factors which drive this Pygmalion effect:

1) Climate factor: teachers who expect more of certain students tend to create a warmer climate for those children, both verbally and non verbally (for example, they will smile moe often at them).

2) Input factor: teachers will tend to teach more material to children they think are smarter

3) Response opportunity factor: children who are expected to bloom academicallly get more chance to respond.

4) Feedback factor: if more is expected of a child, he/she gets praised more when he/she is right but gets more differentiated feedback when he/she makes a mistake. Children who are not expected to perform get less feedback when they are wrong because teachers would seem to think that the children in question would not understand the correction and so the teachers spend less time trying to correct them.

If you transpose these findings to the world of work, what conclusions can be drawn for high and low performers?

Obviously, managers have to question their role in generating performance through the expectations they develop in relation to different employees. If they expect more from certain employees (for example, those who have gone to certain universities or grad schools), their expectations will tend to drive the results they expect because they will create the climate, give more input, be available to listen more and above all give more differentiated feedback to help the employee for whom they hold high expectations.

On the other hand, they will tend to spend less time maintaining a favourable climate with workers for whom they have less expectations, give less feedback, make themselves less available to listen and finally, give less differentiated feedback to employees they deem to be struggling or not able to understand the feedback that is required to hep them progress.

In other words, some managers get the performance they expect and either consciously or unconsciously, adopt behaviours which may drive success for some but also drive failure in others.

The manager’s role is to drive better performance in all and so everyone in a management role should be alert to the Pygmalion effect and how preconceived notions and bias can perhaps deliver high performance in some (the so-called stars or A-players) while driving poor performance in others.

Simply put, if you are in a management role,seriously question your preconceived notions about team members. Be alert to how you behave towards all team members in terms of the climate you establish, the input you give to each team member, the response you give to each person in terms of support and coaching and how you give differentiated feedback to all. If you truly believe in team work and how 1+1+3, then you need to focus on how you can get more from all employees through higher and more positive expectations focused on all.

To conclude, the bad news is that our expectations as managers toward employees can drive both good and bad performance.

The good news is that we can drive good performance in all team members if we adopt the correct behaviours and if we have positive expectations for all team workers.

If poor expectations drives poor performance, positive expectations can and will drive good performance. Positive expectations are the key and this means trusting your employees more to deliver to your higher expectations. People will deliver more if you expect them to do so. Higher performance is a case of Greater expectations aimed at all employees be they Harvard graduates or employees of more humble background.

Check out the video which features Robert Rosenthal discussing the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect

Less Procrastination, more Performance: 3 simple steps

September 26, 2009

Have you ever found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again or waiting until the very last minute to  deliver on a commitment or requirement of a colleague? Or have you often had to contact time and time again a colleague to get him or her to deliver on a commitment or requirement?

Quite often, it’s not your fault nor the fault of your colleague and the more complicated and fuzzy the organization is, the more difficult it becomes to deliver on time to all stake holders when you are involved in multiple projects.

But setting aside all the organizational issues, sometimes it is down to our own behaviour and attitudes and we all are guilty at some stage of what is commonly called procrastination or putting off until tomorrow what we could do today.

Of course, most of us seek to be effective and don’t put off too many important issues until the very last moment. However, some people are seriously affected by procrastination and to such an extent that it seriously impacts on their performance and on their careers.

Meeting commitments and deadlines is a key indicator of performance and so it’s important to be able to evaluate if and when we are letting ourselves fall into the trap and take the actions to ensure that we don’t develop a chronic tendency to postpone the urgent and important issues which are the issues that count.

Why do we sometimes procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we may procrastinate:

  • we prefer to do a task that is more enjoyable than tackle a task which is complicated or disagreeable
  • We don’t know how to prioritize and tackle the first task that comes our way
  • We may listen to the person who shouts the loudest or simply do what our boss asks and forget about our other customers
  • We may be overwhelmed by the task, not knowing where or how to begin
  • We may doubt if we know how to do the job
  • We may doubt if we have the resources to do the job and so we do the tasks we’re comfortable with and let the big tasks slip
  • We want to wait for the “right time” to do the job rather than do it now
  • We’re afraid of not succeeding and so we avoid confronting the risk
  • We don’t organize our work and just “do it”
  • We’re too perfectionist and spend too much time seeking perfection

These are some of the reasons why we procrastinate but how do we deal with it?

Here are 3 simple steps to getting important tasks done effectively :

step 1: recognize it’s happening

Being honest with oneself is the first step and we all know more or less when we’re guilty of putting off urgent and important tasks. Self knowledge is the first step to dealing with the issue and so learn to track the times when we adopt behaviours or attitudes which don’t contribut to getting thing done on time: going for a coffee, going out to smoke a cigarette, reading our emails, navigating on the internet, etc.

Step 2: Understand why it’s happening

Once we realize we are not dealing with important and urgent tasks on time, it’s important to analyze why. Here are some common causes:

  • We find the task unpleasant
  • We find the task too big
  • We have too much to do
  • We’re afraid of failing
  • We’re afraid of the consequences
  • -…

Understanding why we are not doing what we should be doing will helps define a strategy to help us decide what needs to be done when.

Step 3: Some tips to sort out the important things that need to be done from the unimportant things

  • Prioritize. List your tasks on a daily basis and prioritize them using the “Urgent versus Important” task matrix.

Urgent versus important matrix

  • Tackle your important and urgent issues first and put off or cancel the unimportant and not urgent issues
  • Don’t let your important and urgent issues dictate your agenda. Focus on the important but not urgent issues because these issues are the real added value and help you reduce the urgent/important; urgent/not important and not urgent/not important issues which take up your time.
  • Tackle each priority 1 issue systematically and avoid being interrupted or distracted when you’re working the issue. Avoid stalling or stop-go. Common behaviours to be avoided are beginning a task and then going off to have a coffee or smoke a cigarette, begin reading your emails (disconnect your email alert), etc.
  • Set yourself a deadline to clear the priority 1 issue off your to-do list. Don’t allow priority 1 issues to accumulate on your to-do list.
  • Learn to say “no” to unimportant requests from others, including your boss. Do your important tasks first.
  • Delegate if possible some priority 1 tasks to others and seek to delegate all the unimportant but urgent tasks to others or again if possible, cancel them.
  • Delegate, don’t dump. Be mindful not to dump things on subordinates if and when you delegate. Delegate in relation to the roles and responsibilities in the team and remember to check if your team members themselves don’t have too much on their plates. Delegate responsibility for completing the task and the results. Don’t delegate the method. Delegate the whole task and not just a part and specify the expected results.
  • Reward yourself when you do a priority 1 task which was unpleasant (a good lunch for example)
  • Ask a peer to remind you that you need to get the task completed. Peer pressure is very effective.
  • Work out the consequence of not doing what you are supposed to do. If you don’t pay the telephone bill, your line is cut off!
  • Break the task down into smaller, more manageable tasks and build an action plan to complete each task according to deadlines.
  • Start with some quick wins and do some small tasks which are easy to do. This gives you sense of achievement and builds momentum
  • Always set a deadline for each priority 1 task and hold yourself to the deadline.
  • Plan time in your agenda to deal with the priority 1 tasks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted when you sit down to do these tasks. Don’t answer the phone, don’t read your emails, don’t go for a coffee, etc. until the task is completed or successfully launched.
  • Remember to check off on your list the tasks completed. You reassure yourself that you are getting things done successfully.
  • Make firm commitments to others and stick to them. Quite often, procrastinators don’t like to make firm commitments as this allows them more freedom not to act. If someone asks you to commit to a task that is a priority 1 task for both of you, make a firm commitment in terms of a deadline and hold yourself to it. Get the person to remind you of your commitment.
  • Define the outcomes you expect for each priority 1 task and define deadlines when these outcomes should be in place. Visualize in your mind the situation with the outcome in place. This will help you overcome fear of failure.
  • Set yourself deadlines for decision making on each task. Learn to decide. A poor decision is better than no decision and an outcome implemented on time can always be corrected. Postponing a decision because the solution is not perfect means discovering later possible issues which only serve to delay even further a successful completion. You can’t correct a solution which hasn’t been implemented.

Even if we have to spend significant time in Quandrant 1 ” important and urgent” activities, our main goal should be to spend more and more time in Quandrant 2  “important but not urgent” activities because that is where we will proactively take control of our agendas and prepare the future.

As Stephen J Covey says, we should be spending as little time as possible in quandrant 3 “Urgent but not important” and quadrant 4 “Not Urgent and not important” activities because these activities are time wasters and distract us from the real value added activities. Dealing more and more with the not urgent and important issues will help you move from the P in Procrastinate to the P in Performance.

To conclude, I’ll stop procrastinating for now and finish this article.

I suggest you  stop procrastinating  too and check out a  funny video from Daily Motion on the phenomenon.

 

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile!

July 5, 2009

To survive the downturn, many companies have taken the obvious route: downsize, outsource, cut costs, etc. and despite all these actions are still facing huge challenges to survive. And yet what if they spent more time addressing the most obvious source of higher performance: improving their employee engagement?

A recent global study by Towers Perrin of employee engagement showed that only 20% of employees declared themselves to be fully engaged, i.e. they are willing to go the extra mile to help their company succeed. What does it mean to go the extra mile? Quite simply, stay a little later in the office to finish that report, arrive a little bit earlier to make that call, persist in making that connection with a potential customer despite obstacles, etc.

If only 20% of employees are fully engaged, the Towers Perrin report showed that 40% were merely enrolled, i.e. ready to do their job but not ready to put in discretionary effort and go that extra mile for their employer. A further 30% were disenchanted with their current job i.e. thinking of going elsewhere and a final 10% were totally disengaged.

Obviously, no company can be satisfied with an engagement level of 20% and moving that figure to 30% and above would bring obvious gains. So how should a company go about driving employee engagement?

Engagement depends on how employees connect with their organization at three key levels:

– at a rational level: how well employees understand their roles and responsibilities
– at an emotional level: how much passion they bring to their job
– at a motivational level: how well perform their jobs

Towers Perrin identify 10 key drivers which build connections with employees on these three levels, thereby reinforcing engagement:

1) Senior management demonstrate a sincere interest in employee well-being
2) Employees believe their organization offers them an opportunity to develop their skills and capabilities
3) The organization has a reputation for social responsibility
4) Employees feel they can contribute to decision making
5) The organization demonstrates an ability to solve customer concerns
6) Senior management set high personal standards
7) The organization offers excellent career advancement opportunities
8) Employees benefit from challenging work assignments
9) Employees enjoy god relationships with their managers
10) The organization encourages innovative thinking

What can companies do to work on these drivers of employee engagement.

Towers Perrin identify 5 key areas leaders can work to develop employee engagement:

1) Know your employees. Leaders need to know their employees : who they are, what their background is, what their personal objectives and goals are. Many managers working with the same people over time will often claim they know their employees but they must never take anything for granted and constantly work their relationship with their team members through the different processes (annual appraisal, mid-year review, talent management review, etc.)
2) Grow your employees: Leaders need to develop their employees skills and competencies through training and development, job stretching, enlarged roles and responsiblities, etc. so that employees feel they are able to meet the challenges in a constantly evolving workplace
3) Inspire your employees: employees will only go the extra mile for leaders who inspire them. This means that leaders have to be exemplary, walk the talk and constantly engage with their team members by setting a clear direction, explaining constantly why the chosen direction is the best one and supporting employees to embark the chosen course with confidence.
4) Involve employees: Employees will feel more engaged if they feel they can contribute to the decision making process and their opinion counts. Effective leaders need to empower employees so that they feel they are not merely performing tasks but able to contribute added value by giving their input into decision making.
5) Reward employees: Employees will be more engaged if they perceive the reward and recognition process as a fair and equitable one and that their perception of their performance matches that of their leaders. This means that the reward and recognition process has to be robust and evaluation of performance factual and objective and not based on subjective personalized assessments. This of course means optimizing the reward and recognition process and working with leaders to ensure the inputs into the process are as factual and objective as possible.

To conclude, to get that extra mile from more employees, organizations need to understand that this can only happen if they encourage leaders to go the extra mile and lead as “engaged and engaging leaders”.

Know your people, Grow your people, Inspire your people, Involve your people and Reward your people are the 5 key actions of an “engaging and engaged” leader. Having engaged leaders may not promise you engaged employees but without engaged leaders, you have little chance of getting an engaged work force.

However, you get the behaviours you reward and if organizations don’t reward the leaders who dedicate time and effort to these 5 key areas, we know that leaders won’t invest in developing employee engagement. Which is why it is so important for organizations to put employee engagement at the centre of their human capital strategy and insist that leaders set at least one employee engagement objective in their key objectives. Otherwise, short-term operational goals will take precedence and the vicious circle will continue.

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile as an organization!

Visit the Towers Perrin website to learn more.

engagement gap

The martial art of getting things done

February 9, 2009

We’re all confronted with the daily challenge of getting things done, not only in our professional lives but also in our private lives. Getting things done is not always so easy but throw in a constantly changing environment and this becomes very challenging indeed. Quite often, our environment seems to conspire against us and countless “unforeseen events”, interruptions, sudden requirements spring upon us to dislocate our plans and throw our system into a spin.

Our managers change, our teams change, company strategy changes, objectives change, business partners change, the environment changes, customers change, technology changes, everything around us seems to be in a constant state of change. We’re constantly being interrupted by some sudden cause or problem which requires our attention and disrupts our schedule and/or plans. The only thing that seems permanent is change itself and we may often feel we spend our day firefighting and dealing with only current and immediate tasks, short-term tasks.

It’s easy to understand why so many people may experience anxiety when they look around and see how fast their world is constantly evolving and/or how often they are interrupted. This constant and increasingly rapid change and rate of interruption conspires against action because it’s difficult to act if the world around you changes quicker than your ability to implement and embed your actions to deal with that change. Why fight to follow up on objectives if the changes to the business environment make those objectives redundant? But failing to act increases anxiety because it creates a sense of lack of control, organization and preparation to act.

Even more ironically, the very tools we use to organize and track our work and commitments seem to conspire to add to the disorder through information overload and we risk getting bogged down with what seem to be sometimes very non-added value tasks: cleaning our email inbox, sorting our voice mails, sifting through the huge pile of brochures and booklets of all sorts that wash up on our desks on a daily basis, dealing with correspondence and admin tasks, etc.

So how can we deal with this constant change and overcome this feeling of anxiety which is an obstacle to effective action and getting things done?

How can we get above the clouds and plan long term? How can we improve our personal productivity and that of our teams so that we all feel we are not only getting things done but getting the right things done? Peter Drucker teaches us that efficiency means doing thing the right way and effectiveness means doing the right things. How can we spend more and more time doing the right things which add value and which give us more control over our changing environment?

This is the challenge that David Allen explores in his study on “Getting things done” and the very interesting thing about this book is that while it presents many tricks and tips that we all may use spontaneously and/or instinctively to organize our work more productively , its great merit in our view is that it is systematic in its approach and defines a comprehensive system for managing all the multiple inputs into our professional and private lives and structuring them into an operation system which allows us to sort out the essential from the secondary, prioritize all our actions and decide on the key next actions which will move us forward.

Indeed, one key message that can be taken from David Allen’s work is that the faster the change, the more we need to build a structured and comprehensive system to manage all the various inputs because if we don’t manage change, change will manage us!

Here are some key points summarizing David Allen’s approach to getting things done:

Collect all the “stuff” on your mind and write it down. Anxiety is caused by a feeling of lack of control due to a failure to meet commitments or a feeling that you need to do something but you don’t know what. The first step to alleviate this anxiety involves collecting everything on your mind and putting it into a clear system. You can only manage what you have identified so you need to write all your “stuff” down and classify all the different items in different actions lists. This of course requires discipline and method.

Process what all this stuff means and decide what to do with each item and how to organize all your decisions into one system. David Allen defines a basic system with the following components:

If you decide NO:
you have 3 possibilities:
* Trash: delete an item that has no value
* Incubate: put the item on hold in a “Someday/Maybe” box or “Tickler” bow
* Store for review at a later date in a Reference box

If you decide Yes:

Decide which actions can be taken and closed immediately and which need more planning:

You have 5 possibilities:
*list of long term projects: is the item a project you wish to undertake?
*list of project plans and materials. Is the item a plan or a change to a plan?
*calendar. I sit an event you need to put in your calendar?
*list of reminders for next actions. Is it a next action that needs to be implemented in the very short term?
*list of reminders of things you are waiting for from others. Is it something you need to receive from someone else?

– Do :Once you’ve decided on your immediate actions and sorted all other actions in the appropriate boxes, implement the actions.

– Discipline yourself to review all your “stuff” on a weekly basis and update your system and different lists.

We all perform these 8 phases of workflow management more or less: collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing but not perhaps so systematically as David Allen advocates.

Above all, we may not always apply systematically the question “what’s the next action?” to each open item in the yes category above.

It’s only when all open items have been identified, processed, organized, reviewed and a concrete next action has been defined for each item that the workflow management process is really operational.

Even if David Allen encourages the reader to classify actions in the short, medium and long term, his approach is nevertheless very pragmatic and urges the reader to adopt a bottom up approach which begins with immediate next actions.

His advice is clear: to get things done, seek to employ next action decision-making because next-action decision making rooted in the short term contributes to increased productivity, clarity, accountability and empowerment. Because if you ask the question “what’s the next action?”, you immediately decide what needs to be done, by whom, when, how, where and why. The longest march begins with one small step and one small next action decision.

To conclude, David Allen in turn quotes a certain Sidney J. Harris:

An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run“. Don’t allow things not done now undermine your long term.

Check out David Allen and “Getting things done“and read more about the “martial art” of getting things done and the power of the next-action decision.

View the video of David Allen giving a presentation on getting things done to Google team members.

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

Building Synchronicity: Some tips to help managers and team members build a One-Team mindset!

January 29, 2009

“No wind is favourable to he who knows not where he is going!”. We owe this maxim to Seneca, Roman politician, statesman and stoic philosopher and this maxim still applies today to all interested in the question of effectiveness, especially if you consider effectiveness through the lens of the annual appraisal process.

All companies have an annual appraisal process of one form or another and all HR managers in charge of managing this process constantly seek to improve the process and make it more effective.

To my mind, the key way of making the annual performance appraisal process effective is by applying Seneca’s maxim so that the appraisal process is considered not as a way of evaluating past performance but as a way of setting the direction towards future performance. Managers and team members should have a few simple rules in mind before they sit down to perform what some consider to be a chore.

However, even more important is the nature of the relationship between manager and team member. To produce effectiveness, managers and team members need to go beyond the process and synchronize their relationship so that both adopt effective winning behaviours and mindsets to form a winning team. Here are some rules and tips to help managers and team members synchronize in a one-team way.

Rule 1: Know where you’re going
Simply put, the first rule in performing the annual review effectively is knowing where you both want to go. This seems common sense but quite often, managers and team members don’t take the time to set a clear course of action together at year start and spend all the time reviewing what went wrong the previous year. This is because some managers see the process as an evaluation of past results and indeed, the name given to the process “annual appraisal process” or “annual performance review” reveals the spirit in which some companies and/or managers promote the process.

One of the consequences of promoting the process as an evaluation of past results and rear view mirror approach is that managers and team members wait and wait and wait until the end of year to review results. Given that they perceive the process as a type of exam, anyone who has ever sat an exam will always remember that you only correct the exam at the end of the examination period and not while the person is actually answering the questions. However, if the goal is to build a winning mindset between manager and team member, the purpose should be to ensure that all the questions are answered correctly and not to see who gets 100% of the questions right. That makes a big difference.

Rule 2: Focus on future results, not on past performance
Managing performance and especially performance effectiveness is not about looking in the rear-view mirror and telling someone where they went wrong in the hope that in the coming year, they will correct their behaviour. Such a view is like shutting the stable door when the horse has already bolted! Because at the end of the day, the team member will have underperformed and everyone loses: team member, manager, company. The goal is to set a course of action for the team member to follow and to ensure he/she has all that is required to chart a course to success. That’s another big difference.

Rule 3: Think Win-Win
If we consider that the goal is effectiveness and higher performance, results should always be positive and therefore, the annual review should be focused on future results and what course of action the team member should take to achieve those results, how the manager can support him to deliver to expectations, what means and resources he needs to deliver. This means that the manager should be constantly working throughout the year to build a win-win partnership to support and coach the team member so that he/she can implement the course of action effectively and reach the desired goal. This means that at the end of the year, the discussion on the previous year’s performance should be very short and there should be no surprises, given that manager and team member have worked throughout the year in a win-win partnership to deliver the results. That again is another big difference.

Rule 4: Think long-term performance!
To help team members deliver effective performance, managers need to focus not only on the short term but also on the long term. This means setting some objectives which will not deliver immediate results but which will take on board the team members own personal career development objectives. Focusing only on the short term may be good for the manager but not good for the business long term if the team member doesn’t have a perspective which extends beyond the immediate horizon. It won’t be good for the employee either who needs a long term view on where his career is going. Thinking long-term reinforces the link between manager and team member.

Rule 5: Seek to empower
Peter Drucker defined efficiency as doing things right and effectiveness as doing the right things. In an ever-evolving business environment, team members must be more and more proactive and adapt objectives according to changes so that they are not only doing things the right way but doing right things. It’s no good doing things right if those things no longer meet business needs. Effectiveness therefore involves making choices and prioritizing actions between different competing and/or conflicting goals. Managers must constantly empower team members to make these choices and be responsible for these choices because if not, the ship will lose its “manoeuvrability” and flexibility if everyone has to wait for the captain to decide. Again, if team members understand that they can decide for themselves nd their managers trust their decisions, this will reinforce synchronicity and shared sense of purpose.

So in the light of Seneca’s advice, here are some tips for participating in the annual performance review for managers and team members in a synchronized way:

Tips for managers seeking to synchronize with team members:

1) At year start, set a clear direction for your team member through some SMART objectives where:
S = specific
M = Measurable
A = attainable and ambitious
R = realistic
T = Time-focused

2) Think Win-Win. The purpose of the discussion is to plan ahead so that the team member understands:
– Where he/she is going
– Why he/she needs to go there (link to team objectives and business objectives)
– How he/she will go there (what resources he needs, what training & developmen will help)
– Who will help him/her get here (what objectives he shares with other team members, roles & responsibiliies)
– What obstacles he/she needs to avoid (the do’s and don’ts, the dangers and risks, etc.)
– What support you as manager will provide along the way
– Don’t forget that what counts is the quality of the relationship and the partnership with your team member and not blindly following the process.

3) Clarify roles & responsibilities: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
– To be effective, team members need to see the bigger picture. They need to know their own objectives and also those of team members

4) Give constant feedback throughout the year
– Constantly give clear feedback to the team member as the year progresses to align the behaviour to expectations
– Constantly update the team member on changes to company/team objectives so that the team member can adapt course of action accordingly
– If company strategy changes, don’t hesitate to change the objectives, even if this means starting again.

5) Be decisive
– Don’t wait until it’s too late to realign objectives. A quick “bad” decision is always better than no decision. A quick “bad” decision can be corrected as you go. A good decision taken too late cannot.

6) Explain the rules of the game: you build the road as you go
– Managers often take for granted that team members understand the rules of the game. In a future-focused approach, team members need to understand that they need to work continuously with managers as the year progresses and that the road is built as they go.

7) Empower team members to act within the scope of their responsibilities
– Encourage team members to act within their area of responsibility
– Promote a no blame culture
– Reward risk taking. It’s better to act and correct as you go than not act for fear of failure
– Remove obstacles to action
– Condemn openly all individual strategies which encourage risk avoidance or “sitting on the fence”.

Tips for team members seeking to synchronize with their manager

1) Be proactive:
– Seek to understand the company and team strategy
– Don’t wait for your manager to set your objectives. Propose your objectives and be ready to defend them.
– Be flexible. If your manager sets other objectives, accept them gladly while seeking to see the bigger picture.

2) Be SMART
– Seek to get SMART objectives from your manager with clear deliverables and deadlines. Know where you’re going.
– Don’t forget your day-to-day activities which need to be done and are the bedrock on which smart objectives are set.

3) See the bigger picture
– Clarify your role and responsibilities with your manager
– Seek to understand the team objectives and how you contribute to team objectives

4) Think short-term & long-term
– Balance short-term objectives with objectives which are more long-term. Producing short-term results are no good if it means sawing the branch on which you are sitting.

5) Seek to develop you skills aligned to business needs
– Seek to develop your skills through training, coaching, support from your manager, new projects, by doing
– Set personal training and deveopment goals which support short-term and long term business objectives

6) Think Win-Win
– Everybody wants to win and nobody sets out to fail. It’s in your manager’s interest for you to win. Seek to set up and maintain a win-win partnership throughout the year.
– Constantly update your manager on your progress, formally or informally.
– Be transparent and open. Don’t keep your manager in the dark.
– When in trouble, get support early. Don’t let a small problem become a big one.
– Remember that what counts is the quality of the partnership between you and your manager. Don’t execute the process blindly. Seek to maintain a positive relationship with your manager.

7) Seek to be empowered
– Seek and accept responsibility for results.
– Don’t be afraid to decide. A “poor” decision is always better than no decision.
– Don’t sit on the fence. Participate actively.
– Seek to help your team members achieve their objectives.
– Propose solutions, not problems.
– Update your manager continuously and seek out his support. There should never be any surprises.

So a piece of advice first offered more than 2000 years ago is still relevant today. Empires come and go, civilizations change, cultures change, technology changes but the need for adopting effective behaviours remains the same throughout the ages. Above all, effectiveness through the annual performance review process requires managers and team members to synchronize their behaviours and mindsets so that they adopt together a win-win relationship. The annual appraisal process is important in driving results. What is even more important is the quality of the manager-team member relationship and how both synchronize together to build a One-Team partnership.


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