Posts Tagged ‘Team work’

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.

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

May 8, 2010

I came across the following fable recently and  I found it an interesting way of challenging the roles of the manager and HR alike in many organizations.

“Every day, a small Ant arrived at work early and starting work immediately, she produced a lot and she was happy. The boss, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce more if she had a supervisor!

So the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports. He recruited a spider who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.

The Lion was delighted with the cockroach’s report and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and analyze trends so that he could use them for presentations at board meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and recruit a fly to manage the IT department. The Ant , who had been once so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time.

The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the Cicada whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant, whom he had brought from his previous department to help him prepare a work and budget control strategic optimization plan.

The department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset. It was at that time the cicada convinced the boss, the Lion, to start a climatic study of the office environment. Having reviewed the charges of running the ant’s department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before so he recruited the Owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The Owl spent 3 months in the department and came out with an enormous report, in several volumes, that concluded that ” The Department is overstaffed..”

Guess who the lion fired first ?

The Ant of course “Because she showed lack of motivation and had a negative attitude.”

If we transpose this fable to the world of work, one is tempted to offer this fable as a good illustration of why it’s necessary to promote and implement empowerment in every organization and how the role of a manager should be to empower the team member to that he/she can do the job effectively and not be burdened by excessive layers of red tape and administrative tasks which only serve to justify and prove that actions are being taken rather than that results have been achieved.

Indeed, as we all know, the amount of reporting and administrative tasks required by an organization is inversely proportional to the effectiveness of the organization in question. The more reporting you have in an organization, the more tempting it is to conclude that performance is low.

Results speak for themselves whereas failure always seems to have to justify itself!

However, in the above fable, one has to question the motivation of the Lion. Rather than trying to improve the productivity of the ant by adding more ants (which would seem the logical step) or by simply asking the ant what needed to be done to make things better (even more logical as the ant is best placed to know what needs to be done to improve productivity at least initially), without consulting the ant, the Lion adds backroom staff because one suspects that the Lion doesn’t understand what makes the ant effective in the first place nor does the lion understand how to go about improving things, because if he did, he would have begun by asking the ant first!

All the measures the Lion takes seek to control rather than encourage and reward the ant. Why?

Perhaps it is because the Lion may be confused as to what his role is and he  seems to think that if he doesn’t implement a whole arsenal of checks and controls which allow him to monitor the ant, he isn’t playing his role as a Lion.

The Lion seems indeed to think his role as a Lion is to control and monitor the activity of the ant rather than freeing him up to be more effective. Of course,  as the working day is not endless (even for ants), the time needed to produce more and more reports means there is less time for operational issues and this impacts inevitably on the ant’s productivity and in the long run on his engagement and motivation. And so the ant becomes trapped in a vicious circle of more controls, more reports, more reports less productivity, less productivity more checks, more checks more reports, more reports less productivity and so on.

Perhaps one is reading too much into the Lion’s behaviour and perhaps his motives are more well-intentioned. However, whatever  the Lion’s motives, one cannot blame the ant for perceiving this behaviour as a demonstration of a lack of trust in his abilities to perform. Rather than consulting him and asking him what needs to be done to improve productivity, the lion deems it necessary to impose on him all sorts of checks and controls.

Is it any surprise the ant may become frustrated? As the lion is confused as to his role, is it any surprise he fails to understand why the ant is frustrated and that he concludes in error that it is because the ant is disengaged and negative?

Indeed, this is an example of the Pygmalion effect in reverse. The “lion” seeks to assert his authority rather than guide performance and imposes a command and control mode of management which generates frustration in his “ants” and this in turn in the “lion’s mind legitimates the command and control management mode generating the frustration in the first place. What a paradox!

Lessons for managers

So there is a lesson for managers here. One clear sign of a poor manager is that he/she is guilty of playing the wrong role and will spend more time checking and monitoring his/her “ant” rather than supporting them and ensuring that they have the means and resources to perform effectively .

Good managers, on the other hand, dedicate themselves to supporting, coaching, developing and rewarding their “ants”, building the environment which helps their “ants” perform better and supporting them when necessary to clear any obstacles which impede performance. Good managers either add more ants(they understand the profile and recruit similar complimentary profiles) or they work with the ant to build an action plan to optimize performance. Above all, good managers sit down with their team members at year start, set SMART objectives their “ants” can achieve and then work with them  throughout the year to ensure they remain on course. In other words, they empower their people to act and then get out of the way and let them perform but check regularly to ensure they keep on track.

So some tips for managers who want to be “good lions”:

  1. Understand your role and play it effectively: avoid the  “command and control” mode. Act as a leader. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  2. Listen to your “ants” and ask first before acting in their place. Respect your team members and demonstrate that respect. Always be fair and treat all objectively and equally.
  3. Set clear objectives and empower your competent “ants” to act on these objectives.
  4. Get out of the way and let your “ants” perform. Don’t step in when things go wrong but support your “ants” to solve the problem themselves.
  5. Monitor progress regularly but not excessively.
  6. Demonstrate trust and respect your “ants”. Admit your mistakes. You will gain your followers respect.
  7. Support and defend your “ants” in the event of turbulence. Don’t hide behind your team. If you delegate a task, you remain responsible.
  8. Keep reporting to a minimum. Remember it is more important to talk to your team members on how they are doing than hide behind statistics.
  9. Be lean and don’t create multiple layers of management as this will only slow down decision making and frustrate good “ants”
  10. Reward and recognize good performance. Praise good performance in public. If you have to give negative feedback, do it in private.

Lessons for Human Resources who want to have “good lions” in their organization

There are also some simple lessons for Human Resource managers. Rather than promoting management practices which only serve to frustrate and block the effective ants in their organizations or which generate disengagement and lack of motivation, HR should be promoting policies and strategies which empower the ants to act effectively  and which develop them, recognize and reward them in level with their line of performance.

As importantly, HR should ensure that the Lions in the organization understand their role and how to play it, should train and develop each lion to play this role effectively and step in whenever one or more “lions” confuse their roles and switch to command and control mode too systematically. After all, every lion is also an ant to someone higher up the chain and a “command and control” management mindset only generates disengagement and demotivation and frustration throughout the organization.

Some tips for HR

  1. Clarify manager roles and responsibilities: banish “Command and control” mode and develop managers to lead.
  2. Train and empower managers to play that role
  3. Step in if some managers demonstrate role confusion or revert systematically to command and control mode.
  4. Promote corporate values which empower all employees to act at their level and show initiative.
  5. Promote a culture which listens to all employees
  6. Allow employees contribute to their own objectives
  7. Promote a lean management culture
  8. Keep reporting to a minimum
  9. Recognize and reward performance as a partnership between manager and employee
  10. Cherish not only your “lions” and but also your “ants” because performance depends on both.

Disclaimer:” The characters in the fable above are fictitious and resemblance to real people and facts and any coincidence with corporate world is purely coincidental”.

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

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 6Cs of managing a virtual team

February 2, 2009

In the old-style Taylorized work environment, managers were able to cut up the work and distributed the tasks efficiently to team members who were close at hand and whose performance could be measured scientifically to ensure targets were reached.

These teams very, very real as they were most of the time organized in shifts, which meant that they arrived in the same place at the same time, worked the same period throughout the day and finished together. This unity of time, place and action allowed team members to build a team identity and culture which contributed to producing results, by generating a common bond, work identity and sense of one for all, all for one.

In today’s virtual workplace, where teams are no longer “real” but “virtual”, spread across different regional, national and/or international geographies and where work is more and more “intellectual”, this shared team culture is more and more difficult to build and results are obviously harder to guarantee.

Leaders leading such virtual teams have therefore to meet a greater challenge than their colleagues managing “real” or “on-site” teams because they can’t rely on the day-to-day routine of office or workshop life to build up the team identity and shared values which enhances effectiveness.

So what can leaders of virtual teams do to build this virtual team culture? How can they replace what mother nature has omitted?

In his book, “Where in the world is my team“, Terry Brake identifies 3 key risks that leaders of virtual teams must confront and help team members to confront:

1) Isolation: team members are not very often together and so therefore are more isolated than team members working in the same location/office;
2) Fragmentation: teams that are spread geographically are more at risk of becoming even more fragmented in their efforts because the distance will tend to increase over time and managers are there to put team members back on track imediately;
3) Confusion: teams spread geographically will be more at risk of confusion and chaos because the magnet that draws real teams together, the team identity born from shared experience, does not have the same force of attraction in virtual teams.

Isolation, fragmentation and confusion are the three key centrifugal forces which risk dislocating virtual teams.

Brake defines 6 forces of attraction which a virtual team leader must develop for and with his team. He calls these forces the 6Cs.

1) Cooperation: virtual teams must develop even stronger levels of trust in one another and in their leader than “real” teams;
2) Convergence: leaders of virtual teams must be even more coherent and rigorous in setting individual and team objectives to ensure greater convergence;
3) Coordination: leaders must invest more time and energy in coordinating efforts to ensure that distance doesn’t impede workflow;
4) Capability: virtual team leaders need to know their team members in more depth so that they know what skills they have in their team and how they can use them most effectively;
5) Communication: effectiveness depends on shared understanding of goals and expected outcomes and this means communicating more and more to ensure the message crosses all frontiers;
6) Cultural intelligence: virtual leaders have to develop a skill of getting outside their own culture, helping team members get out of their cultures to build a common team culture. A journey has to be made from I to you to we as a team.

Each of these attractors can be developed in specific pragmatic ways according to the environment and the team member profiles.

However, applying the 6 Cs to counter the effects of the 3 centrifugal forces of Isolation, Fragmentation and Confusion which risk dislocating your virtual team seems to be a powerful remedy.

Having said all this, when you think about it, whether you are the leader of a team sitting in the next room to you or the leader of a team spread across the globe, it’s only a question of degree. The forces pulling your team apart are the same. So “real” team leaders should remember to focus also on the 6Cs to ensure that they also help their teams to be more effective.

Check out Terry Brake’s presentation of his book

Terry Brake discusses \”Where in the world is my team?\”

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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