In honor of the holiday spirit, I got to thinking about what employees or even future employees want from employers. And, I started thinking about it in terms of a gift. What gifts do your employees want from you as an employer? Certainly, we know that people want to feel empowered, trusted and valued. But, when they first start working for a company, what do they really want on day one?
Research tells us that almost 40% of new hires fail and those statistics seem to bear out whether the employee was promoted from within or hired from the outside. Couple this dismal news with the latest "engagement" scores of 70% or more employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged, and the stage for new ways of looking at the employee-employer relationship bears merit.
I can still remember my first day of work. I was hired out of college some thirty years ago and started out as a retail executive. I was asked to report to a training program and on my first day I met with my fellow trainees. About 25 of us to began to learn about the company and what we could do to grow in our careers. This was no one-day training session. I was to be in this program for over 2 months and then be placed in a store for my first department manager role.
During the two month program, I met several of the leaders of the company. They came in throughout the two month training, giving us their stories of what it took to be successful and sharing valuable lessons of their insights into the world of retailing. I was mesmerized. We rotated into different store assignments for on-the-job training. And, on that final day, we learned what store we were assigned to for our first managment role. While an elaborate training like this one seems to be a thing of the past, it is still possible and I would argue that this type of training is necessary to make people feel special and appreciated today.
So over the next 12 blogposts, we will share what we believe people want from their employers. To keep things fresh, we will create a 12 Days of Work Wish List.
On the first day of work, employees want to know they are valued!
As an employer, consider what signals you give your new hires or those you promote to a new role. Making someone feel valued and appreciated takes thoughtfulness. Create a checklist that includes:
- A smooth onboarding. Are the necessary forms easy to complete or even already part of a pre-boarding plan? Do they have access to a computer and a password that works? Do they have a security pass to get in and out of the building easily?
- A formal introduction of the employee to the organization. Have they been formally introduced to the organization? Has someone greeted them? Does their team know?
- A schedule of their first few weeks. Do they have a schedule of their first week or even their first day?
- A list of who they need to connect with in order of priority. Do they know who they should connect with and get to know in the first few weeks/month?
- A company organizational chart. Do they have an organizational chart so they can gain understanding of who people are and how they are connected?
- A training plan. Have they been informed about what training they will need? Is the training already scheduled?
All too often, in our work with leaders inside organizations, we hear how so few companies understand the need to make their people feel valued. So is it any wonder that engagement scores are lagging and leaders are failing in new roles?
Share with us what your company does or did to make you feel welcome on day one. And, if you have been with the company for awhile, share with us what they do to make you feel valued in your role today.
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
― John F. Kennedy
As we turn our attention to the time of year when we celebrate family and eat a lot of turkey, let us take time to truly appreciate those we love. Stop and think about the people who have truly made a difference in your life--could be a family member, a partner, a husband, wife or child, a neighbor, a teacher, a policeman, a forgotten high school friend, a co-worker, your first boss, or the tough boss that pushed you too hard!
If you haven't seen this person in a while, think about what you might want to say to them. If you have seen them, think about what you've meaning to say but have never got around to saying. You may want to write your words down and send a note to them.
My note long over due would be to mother. The Mother-Daughter relationship can be a tough one and ours suffered greatly through my turbulent teen years. Couple the stress of those times, with the difference in the way my mother and I approach things and you have a situation rife with judgment and disdain. My mom is thoughtful and sweet, while I can be impatient and action-oriented. I am not proud of those times, but what I do know is that my mother never stopped being kind to me (almost to a fault). She role modeled for me-- wisdom, humility, kindness, grace, and a keen understanding of what was really happening between us. And, the older I get, the more I realize I would love to be more like her.
Who do you need to be thankful for this holiday season? Take the time to write them about your feelings of gratitude. You'll be glad you did.
"Teams share the burden, and divide the grief." - Doug Smith
We do a lot of work with teams and most of the time we are called in when a senior team is demonstrating some kind of dysfunction: conflict, poor business performance, a new change is not working, or a new leader is struggling. And, we do get asked to support teams who are highly functioning to help them build stronger bonds and align their purpose and business goals.
"None of us is as smart as all of us." - Ken Blanchard
As we head into the budget planning for next year, keep in mind how beneficial an annual team retreat can be for any team--those who are struggling or those who are thriving. In our opinion, it doesn't have to include outside facilitation. It can have some elements of team-building included such as a dinner shared afterwards, or a service oriented approach like helping in a soup kitchen or painting a school. So let's examine the 4 best reasons for a team to get together annually to improve team performance:
- Replay the team's best wins and biggest opportunities from the past year. Reviewing the track record of wins helps the team get credit for what worked and taking stock of mistakes helps the team learn what to do differently in the future. This exercise works best when teams are willling to truly assess the team's performance with accountability and a learning mindset.
- Re-energize for focus to build excitement and camraderie for the team. Today's teams are so focused on results and execution (both very important) that they can miss the value in simply getting everyone together to share the priorities for next year in a team setting.
- Re-commit to the team's vision/business goals/alignment. Teams have to know their purpose and vision, and today's dynamic corporate environments create the need to revisit these in order to make sure team members are aligned and the vision is still right for the anticipated year ahead.
- Re-connect with each other. Teams need time to build better relationships which helps repair conflicts and improve team unity. It's no secret that 60-80% of all conflict in an organization is not from absence of skill set, but rather from a lack of relationship with team members. (Daniel Dana, “Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home”)
Investing in your team is a smart thing to do. It doesn't have to be long, a half day is perfect. Including a team profile or assessment is also a good idea (we like DiSC, Strength Finders or MBTI) and most people love learning something new about how they prefer to work or engage with others. Feel free to share your best annual retreat story and the impact it had on your team.
"Good teams incorporate teamwork in their culture creating the building blocks for success." - Ted Sunduist
According to Bersin's 2012 Leadership Development Factbook, a combination of online surveys and qualitative interviews with over 379 companies, leadership development investments for 2013 are projected to increase by 14%. While this remains to be seen, Bersin's long-standing research around the best practices that deliver the strongest return on investment focuses on the companies with the most mature leadership development programs (Level 4). These companies produce the strongest results despite spending 30-60% more per participant than the least mature companies (level 1) in the study. Bersin's powerful research uncovers that the Level 4 companies with the most strategic view of developing leaders reap the following rewards when compared to their least mature counterparts:
- 20 times better overall employee retention
- 12 times more effective at accelerating business growth
- 8 times better at implementing a performance based culture
- 8 times better at creating a strong bench
- 8 times better at leadership-driven business results
- 6 times better at engaging and retaining leaders
So what is one of the major factors that separate Level 4 companies from Level 1? They apply a consistent targeted set of solutions, aligned with the business strategy and supported by strong executive leaders and offered for all levels of leaders in the company—first time, midlevel, senior-level and high potential.
Making the case for training managers
We recently began working with a company in high growth mode to improve the performance of their managers. To the company's credit, they took to heart the disappointing results of a recent employee survey and committed to improving outcomes by developing two things at once:
- A 360 feedback program with coaching for the top levels of senior leadership
- A manager training program for their first line manager's
5 Clear Reasons to Develop Your Managers
- Talent at this level is most often grown from within—the skills of an individual contributor are different from the skills needed to manage people. Individual success is rarely a pre-determiner of future leadership success. For first time managers, training is crucial to long term success because they lack the skills, experience and knowledge of what to do to make the transition to manager.
- Managers touch more people than any other level in the company— they are closest to the employee and set the tone for the morale in the company. More people leave a manager than they leave a company, so investment in giving managers the necessary skills to develop others is paramount.
- Managers are very hungry for programs that offer them a chance to develop. Often times, the level of appreciation for training is at its highest for this first time leader.
- Investment now, pays dividends later! Managers who are taught strong skills early, develop and become invaluable later in their career. Establishing good habits early goes a long way to future success.
- A little money goes a long way. Bersin's research shows us that the average amount spent on a manager in a Level 4 company is $1734 compared to a high potential with an average of $7911
We recently returned to a long standing client to deliver a training program and were approached by a manager we had trained a few years ago. Right before we were to deliver the program she had taken part in she said, "Can I tell you something? This training changed my life for the better. You see, I used to manage everyone the same, but since I went through the training with your company, I realized I needed to do things differently—adapt my style to the people on my team. So not only am I grateful, but so are my direct reports." Inspiring words, from a manger still using the training tools from 2 years ago, to lead and manage her team.
Does your company have a comprehensive leadership development strategy and does it include your managers?
Whatever your politics may be, it seems like these days all we see are people (and parties) having a difficult time with timely conversations that remove barriers to success or show the ability to co-exist. It has me thinking that it really is true, most of us would rather delay, deny or avoid the painful conversation we need to have to get things back on track.
That thinking—called passive aggressiveness or conflict avoident—tricks us into believing things are better because we did not have the dreaded difficult conversation. But as leaders, we need to have the communication skills necessary in order to have those difficult conversations now in order to avoid more problems later.
So what's the price we pay for avoiding the painful conversation?
I can still remember the day I had to talk to one of my direct reports about his drinking problem. I agonized over the need to speak with this guy because I cared so much about him and I was worried he would think I was being nosy. I even started to rationalize his behavior thinking he just needed to let off steam and that his ten beers at the baseball game was reasonable—after all it did go extra innings! But things got worse, and I noticed many of our vendors and suppliers knew about the problem and were also concerned and wondering what the heck I was doing about it. It was hurting our company reputation and it sure wasn't helping the gentleman I was supposed to be leading and managing.
So many of us delay the dreaded conversation...
According to Vital Smarts 2008 study on difficult conversations, 34% put off a difficult conversation for a month, 25% put it off for a year.
My conversation finally did take place. I grabbed a late lunch one day at a pub across from my office and there in the middle of the day he sat bellied up to the bar nursing a beer. I left the pub realizing I had to do something for him amd myself. I could no longer hide the fact that this was serious and needed fast action. I still dreaded what was to come, but I sat down with HR and we worked out the details and crossed our fingers hoping that he would agree to get help. And despite my desire to see this individual step up and own his behavior, that did not happen and he eventually left the company. But, I played a big part in this leader's failure: by not speaking up sooner, I left this guy to wonder about boundaries, rules and what is and was acceptable.
As a leader, having difficult conversations with a team member or peer may be one of the hardest responsibilities of your position. Do you put off conversations that you fear will hurt someone's feelings? If so, what did it cost you? Did you feel relief when you finally had the conversation?
Recently, we heard about a series of books and articles that find ways to accumulate "50" ways to do something. And, since we passionately believe that one of the most awesome responsibilities leaders have to accomplish is to motivate and inspire their people, we thought we would see if we could salute and acknowledge some of the ways we currently see our clients inspiring and motivating others.
50 ways a leader inspires others:
- They remember an anniversary, a date a person started with the organization or got promoted. They call the person and tell them why they matter.
- They send a birthday card and thank them for being part of the team.
- They send an article of something the person might find interesting.
- They blog about the person, sharing with others the things they appreciate about them.
- They develop a promotional road map for their people that shows they believe they can and will do more.
- They ask their people for feedback on how their performance can improve, not just telling others how to get better. They seek how their own performance can improve.
- They take a risk and sponsor someone who needs support, and they go out of their way to champion for the person.
- They mentor others.
- They take their team to a shelter to volunteer, knowing there is more to work than just work. They want to role model doing good for others.
- They let them go early when a child is sick or an aging parent needs help.
- They make their people take vacation.
- They take a vacation and truly take a vacation, so their people can miss them and discover their own ability to solve problems on their own. They do not email and call when they are on their vacation.
- They ask how the weekend was and truly wait to hear the answer.
- They speak to and acknowledge everyone from the newly hired assistant to the president of the company.
- They are kind when they ask someone to do something, knowing honey goes down smother than vinegar.
- They admit when they are wrong.
- They apologize when they have hurt someone.
- They take responsibility for the bad and the good.
- They dole out praise in public and counseling in private.
- They nip gossip on the bud by asking, "have you shared this with the person?"
- They coach more than they direct.
- They show people trust by delegating responsibility.
- People feel empowered working for them.
- They are always looking for talented people.
- They believe in learning and training--not just for their people but for themselves.
- They remain curious.
- They are calm in a crisis, offering wisdom and clarity and direction for others.
- They do not have all the answers, remaining open to better ideas.
- They have a strong vision that others clearly embrace and support.
- They set clear direction.
- They are compassionate.
- They remain hopeful in the face of adversity.
- They are trustworthy.
- They are innovative and creative problem solvers.
- They are teachers and learn from those they teach.
- They hire talent that complements not those who look just like them.
- They think team first and individual glory secondly.
- They are known for integrity and honesty and doing the right thing.
- They spend more time listening than telling.
- They tell stories that people can relate to.
- They are humble.
- They let vulnerabilties show, comfortable enough in their own skin.
- They defend those they lead, not to a fault, but to good reason.
- They are not afraid to hire someone smarter.
- They brag about those they promote.
- They find the resources their teams need to perform at their best.
- They do not hide from the truth.
- They can tell a great joke.
- They have a great sense of humor.
- They let you know they love you even if they never say the words.
What would you add to this list? How do you inspire those that work for you?
“To be an enduring, great company, you have to build a mechanism for preventing or solving problems that will long outlast any one individual leader.” ― Howard Schultz
We recently began work with a new client who asked for our help in assimilating a new senior team with 70% of the new leaders being in their jobs less than 6 months. While some of the departures of past leaders were due to health issues or retirements, a lot of the changes could be assigned to the common problem with this organization: they have a very tough culture and few leaders survive long term. Supporting this fact was the HR leader's plea for help due to massive team dysfunction and suffering morale issues.
So what is a corporate culture and why do some companies struggle to define it?
Jeffrey Fox and Robert Reiss in "The Transformative CEO: Impact Lessons from Industry Game Changers", describe it this way, "corporate culture is a company's personality." While some leaders may find culture difficult to describe, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton make the case in "All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results" that the illusive description is "rubbish. If it's so excruciatingly hard to describe your culture, then you don't have a great one. Culture isn't invisible, indefinable. When you walk into a great culture, it smacks you in the face with its concreteness." And the opposite is also true, a difficult culture can also be very easy to describe.
Certainly our new client found it easy to describe her company's culture. She used words like:
- Turf wars
- Dysfunctional back stabbing
- Hierarchical and dictatorial in nature
What does a winning culture look like?
We have been fortunate to work inside many positive cultures and the overarching feeling is one of purpose and inclusion. People genuinely like coming to work, they feel empowered to create solutions that move the business forward. Winning cultures tend to:
"Your brand is your culture." - Tony Hsieh
- Attract talent that strategically aligns with their values. They are meticulous about hiring for just the right fit.
- Focus on the overarching mission, vision and purpose of the company. This passionate focus on the vision creates a platform whereby employees feel connected to the mission and proud to work for the company.
- Encourage new and innovative thinking. These cultures solve problems by asking all levels in the organization for solutions.
- Set consistent priorities and goals. These goals exist across the entire culture creating clarity for the direction and intention of the company.
- Hold each other accountable. This serves as an indicator of how invested the culture is in getting better results and building leadership capacity rather than being about proving someone wrong.
- Address derailing behavior swiftly. Address behavioral issues and work to understand the reasons behind why the behavior began to seep into the culture in the first place.
- Work hard to develop a culture where trust is a valued currency worth protecting and cultivating through doing hard things together.
The need to call it as it is
While we tend to see far more dysfunctional cultures struggling to get on the same page and break the long-term habits that perpetually keep the culture mired in finger pointing and blame, the good news is companies can reinvent their culture.
How do you change organizational culture? It is our opinion that the only way to do that is get the CEO and the Senior Leadership Team to acknowledge the reality of the situation. That is the first step in changing the culture for the better.
What is the culture at your company like? Does your CEO and Senior Team Leadership have an accurate picture? If not, what impact does this have on your company personality?
"Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others." -- Danny Thomas
As a current leader in a company today, you know how hard it is to find talent who can grow into bigger roles, or take on more responsibility. You may have talent who needs to step up and help lead a new change in direction. It sounds simple, ask the talent you have to find a way to do more or to stretch and grow. Yet, the singlest biggest problem we get asked to help solve today? Help organizations develop leaders who believe in developing others.
I previously wrote a blog about the best boss I ever had, Allan Zwerner. Allan was an amazing leader who actually believed in the potential talent of everyone on his teams. So what do leaders like Allan do differently to develop talent in an organization?
It starts with the leader
- Believe in your people: Show you believe in them by taking time to talk about their potential, their dreams and how to help them start to live them.
- Give out some responsibility: Delegate something to someone on your team who can do it better than you.
- Establish a new task force: Put someone new in charge for a new key initiative.
- Describe a new key stretch assignment: Ask your team members for volunteers to fill the role.
- Become someone's sponsor: Make it your responsibility to get that person promoted this year.
- Role model the gift of receiving feedback: Ask for feedback from each of your direct reports. Just listen to what they say, do not rebut any of their feedback and then thank them for their time and comments.
- Let your people write their own reviews: You might be surprised to learn what they have to say about their own strengths, weaknesses, development potential and goals.
- Ask your yourself what you have done this week to encourage someone else: Once a week, dedicate yourself to accomplishing one encouraging act for each one of your team members.
- Sign up your talent for a leadership training course: Look for a class at a local college or a training session within your organization. Lobby hard to get the needed training your talent needs to step up and do more.
- Ask a team member to teach: Have them teach something they are good at to their peers such as speaking, planning or organizational skills.
- Ask questions of your talent and truly listen to the answers: Let them help solve your organizations biggest problems.
- Understand the obstacles your talent face: Take time to learn what barriers get in the way of your people growing to their full potential. Then, go out of your way to remove the impediments.
It has a lasting effect
While Allan hasn't been my boss for several years, his leadership legacy lives on for those in whom he believed. His confidence in me fostered my belief in countless other people who have crossed my path. It also fueled my desire of pursuing my passion to work with companies to help them develop their talent.
Allan passed away last October after living a legandary life filled with people he believed in. He is still greatly missed but the leadership lessons he passed on can still help leaders today develop their talent to their full potential!
I just picked up a fascinating book by Brene Brown titled, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead”. This book makes the case that we need to embrace our “ability to believe that we are enough.” Easier said than done. How does one do that in our current culture of competition, anxiety, perfectionism and comparison?
This book spoke personally to me. For years, I have felt the need to measure up to my own code filled with internal judgments manifested in shoulds and musts. Some of my favorites:
This book has opened my eyes to the fact that we all have our internal voices that scream we are not ever enough. Wanting to learn more about Brown’s work, I learned that she gave her first talk about shame and the power of vulnerability before the Ted Houston group of close to 400 people. Her talk was so well received that she went onto the national Ted stage with her powerful message about “wholeheartedness” and embracing vulnerability as a place where one finds joy.
- I should have anticipated that was going to happen then I could have done something about it (control)
- I did not do as well on my presentation as ________, therefore, I am not as smart as or good enough as she/he is
- I should have had that mammogram earlier, it’s my fault I have cancer
- I am not a good mother because I yell, make mistakes, didn't handle that well, etc.
- I should be a better wife, he deserves someone more like him
- Next time, I must do a better job of _______
- My team must think I’m an idiot because I just blew it in there
Moving towards vulnerability makes me feel like I am losing control. After all, we are never supposed to let others know about our vulnerability in case they find us weak, right? Well maybe, letting others in on the real us, the lovable us, is the only way to finally feel like we are worthy of love in the first place.
When do you feel most vulnerable? How do you handle those times?
“Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” –Scott Adams, “Dilbert Comics”
Our firm works with a variety of organizations—midsized companies to large Fortune 500 cultures—all seemingly wanting the same things these days:
- A way to figure out the employee engagement problem
- A way to encourage teams to work together (collaborate more) to accomplish more while eliminating dysfunction and silos
So what does team dysfunction and shrinking employee engagement levels have to do with kindness? To define kindness, “the quality of being warm-hearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic.”
Nice Guys Finish Last?
Humbling stuff, this characteristic called kindness. Take one of the leaders we have had the pleasure of working with these last few years—we’ll call him Larry* (not his real name). Larry was recruited to a new company almost 3 years ago. With his big contract and past track record of success, he was encouraged to make the changes necessary to “get the business unit back on track in a reasonable time.”
The thing that became most clear about Larry as we started to work with him around team alignment and cultural change was this—Larry was a kind leader with a set of values and high integrity. He wanted to go straight at disagreements and work through the issues. He assumed that because the CEO supported what he was doing, the rest of the senior leadership would support him as well. As he battled inside the culture that told him to make the changes necessary, he began to realize that others were not as direct and were not in support for the needed changes. He began to get cut out of meetings. His peers went out of their way to disagree with his approach. His budget was cut and he saw responsibility reduced. The CEO pulled away and began to question his decisions.
The Case for Kind Leaders
Larry has since moved on to a different company with a more engaged culture, a CEO who is transparent and straight forward, and a group of peers he really feels connected to. We recently caught up with him and asked him if he regretted his move to the other company. His answer surprised us, “no, I don’t, what I learned there is invaluable. I learned that I am more committed than ever to working in a culture where hard work, integrity and transparency are the norms. I learned there that I want to be the kind of leader who builds people up rather than tears them down.” Former CEO of Tesco, Terry Leahy makes the case for a converted dog-eat-dog approach to one of more generosity in the effort to build stronger relationships at work thus getting more things done.
So is recognition for kindness growing? Recently, celebrity Ashton Kutcher got in on the act with his incredibly inspiring acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards about the 3 most important things in life (video has gone viral with over 2.6 million views). One of them was about being generous.
What’s Engagement got to do with Kindness?
Not long ago, Gallup conducted a study with 10,000 employees to ask what they most wanted in a leader. The results were not as expected. Sure setting strategic direction and getting results still matter, but what followers really need is more trust, compassion, stability and hope from their leaders, http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/113542/what-followers-want-from-leaders.aspx
“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” – Maya Angelou
The High Cost of Treating People Poorly
Disengagement levels remain a dismal 70% at organizations today because we have lost the ability to see things as Larry does. Organizations continue to gauge their organizational health increased focus on employee engagement surveys. We are often hired to work with companies after the scores are disappointing or have slipped from prior year’s results. We typically come in and work with teams to action plan around the solutions they would like to see come out of the survey process. In working with close to 100 different teams in a variety of cultures, we see the biggest problems in employee engagement center around:
- Employees do not feel valued
- Employees are not recognized
- Employees do not know what others do versus what they do
- Employees do not trust senior leadership
- Employees are not trained for career development
- Employees are not aligned around the company goals
- Employees do not understand the changes expected of them
- Employees feel overworked
We certainly know that kindness won’t eliminate all the problems on the list above, but we do propose that it goes a long way towards creating an environment where people feel like they matter. And, feeling they matter leads to greater collaboration and stronger employee engagement levels.
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey