BLOG: Extraordinary Leadership and High Functioning Teams

6 Steps to Clarity of Vision for Visionary Leadership

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Mon, May 23, 2016

St._Exupery_Quote.jpg

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine De Saint Exupery
 

Clarity of Vision for Visionary Leadership

At Clearwater Consulting Group, we work with many clients who are trying to calibrate goals, starting with the corporate set and drilling down through to the individual list. Inevitably, we see a pattern where the initiative fizzles out or gets bogged down. Why? There are myriad reasons, but let’s focus on a couple of the most common, both practical and emotional.

To answer the question "Where are we going?", it requires clarity of vision. Definition. A clear picture. Whether we answer that question for ourselves as individual leaders, for a team, a division, or an organization, we need to envision an outcome as a future reality.

Emotionally, it depends on whether we can see ourselves in that picture and whether we buy into the vision and the philosophy behind it. Yes, that sounds like a logical (practical) act, but in reality it is more an emotional one of commitment, of finding meaning. When my work supports the future vision, it is meaningful work for the company. When that vision and my values align, it is meaningful to me. When leaders create the environment in which that bridge occurs, it is potent. Incredibly.

“A leader has a vision and a conviction that a dream can be achieved. S/he inspires the power and the energy to get it done.” - Ralph Lauren

So first, how to translate vision into strategy with teeth? Consider the following:

1. How clear and concise is your vision? (Ask others for their evaluation)


2. Can your vision be translated into 3 to 7 key strategies? And then each of those interpreted for each level within your organization?


3. Does each leader in the organization understand how they practically contribute to each of those items? Can they literally see this future and themselves in it?


4. How do you keep the conversation and the work alive to help the team stay focused and energized?

5. What level of commitment exists? How does each leader as well as their staff find personal or professional meaning in the initiatives that support achieving those strategies?

6. Do the strategies and the process to get there create the opportunity for a triple win: good for the customer, good for the company, good for the employee?

We find that many organizations stumble at step #3.

At one organization, a relatively new president cascaded his vision throughout the organization in a very simple way. No big posters in the hallway, no glitzy PowerPoint presentations, no catchy slogans. After he honed and shared the lanes they would pursue, he periodically walked the halls popping in to ask, “Which of the strategies are you supporting today?” (Note - this was in the spirit of being curious and encouraging. Staff found it liberating, not controlling or micromanaging.)

A year prior as the organization grappled with priorities, resources and identity in the midst of growing competition, the president established a few key strategies. The short list included three items: 

  • delivering what matters most to the membership (know the evolving customer)

  • accelerating relevant product development (content, process, materials)

  • implementing future oriented technology (integrated enterprise, customer facing, etc.).

The simplicity was refreshing to an organization with endless to-do lists and countless ideas of what was possible, but previously had no meaningful clarity. In addition, he held the focus with great integrity, encouraging his staff to track what specific endeavors were underway, milestones achieved, and encouraging the team to think big but practically. 

Yet, the most telling moment was when he'd pop in to an executive's office or visit one of the conference rooms where a team was bringing to life a recently brainstormed concept and ask, "Which of the strategies are you supporting today?" As simplistic as it sounds, that query, repeated over time, held the focus and inspired the commitment and creativity of the senior team and their troops.

Clarity is all. What are we doing? Who are we? Where are we heading? What's the most important thing we can be working on right now? How can I personally contribute? 

Meetings have purpose and a sense of urgency -  to bring to life these broad directives. It's less about the classic definition of time management - getting things done in a particular amount of time - but more to the point of doing things that matter, because that fuels our energy and our creativity and our pursuit of the vision. And when we personally get jazzed by the process of bringing those strategies to life, then we are engaged.

What keeps work meaningful for each of us is subjective. In general terms, ask yourself the following:

Do my values fit with those of my company? 

Can I see a positive impact of my work on something or someone? 

Specifically, what can I contribute to these strategies at hand? 

What excites me about the work? Does it require me to brainstorm, explore, prototype, test, collaborate, discern, defend, persuade, influence, fail, stretch, produce? 

Where do I fit in this?

Quote graphic above by David L. Laufer, Brandbook, LLC


 Help your leadership gain clarity of vision with our free eBook,

"3 Steps to Launch Your Extraordinary Leadership"

develop extraordinary leaders

Tags: leaders, action planning, high functioning teams, clarity of vision

Leadership Secrets: Disarm Negativity to Build Team Trust

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, May 05, 2016

According to neurological research referenced by the Neuroleadership Institute (NLI), here are two conclusions to consider in disarming negativity and building trust on a team:

  • The brain craves certainty
  • AND the brain is wired to be alert to threat

How challenging! We’re in a dynamic state of wanting one thing—assurance that all is well—and driven by the hardwiring in our brains to be on the lookout for what’s wrong, so it’s no wonder we’re stressed!

"Fruitful collaboration depends on healthy relationships, which require trust and empathy. But in the brain, the ability to feel trust and empathy about others is shaped by whether they are perceived to be part of the same social group." David Rock, "Managing with the Brain in Mind"

What can you, as the leader, do to ease these tension points?

1. Create a sense of Certainty

Given that change is constant—new team leader, new team member, new product, new competition, new owner, new problems and new opportunities—how do you as a team leader create a safe environment so that your team members can experience enough certainty that they stay focused, productive and engaged?

A key component of creating team certainty is helping your team see the horizon. Knowing what your vision is (that you have a vision!) creates a sense of direction so we know where we are going. It enables team members to prioritize and creates a sense of certainty. We want to know what to expect, what’s next, what’s in store, who we can count on—answers to these questions help relax the brain from its OMG attention to perceived danger.

  • How clear is your team about the direction you see for it, for them?

  • What information can you share with your team today that can contribute to their sense of certainty?

  • What have you been keeping from them that could disarm their unspoken worry?

  • Even if the situation has not yet been resolved, can you share the status of the situation and what is being looked into or explored?

Certainty isn’t always about having a definitive answer. It can be about feeling assured that you’re part of the solution, know as much as is reasonable at this stage, and you aren’t being completely left out and at the mercy of someone else’s decision.

2. Recognclearwater_stress_001ize and Release the Negativity Bias

There are 5x more negative networks in the brain than positive according to NLI. We are constantly scanning the surroundings for cues of what is amiss and needs to be addressed. The switch from always searching for what’s wrong or who’s wrong to what’s working and who’s contributing is actually quite significant.

Without self-reflection of our natural biases (positive, negative, open to change, resistant to change), we remain caught up in ancient habits. Yes, when the fire alarm actually detects smoke and it’s time to run out the door, we’re very happy we have these ancient wirings. But when we remain in the mode of high alert throughout the work day, we not only exhaust our minds and bodies, but we miss the cues for what’s working well!

How often do you catch yourself complaining? Is it about you, others, or the situation? Think about these as lanes in the brain that have been rutted with use over time. Choose to create a fork in the road.

3. Name the Perceived Threats

One of the tactical ways to turn down the volume on negativity, team anxiety and the collective anticipation of everything that could possibly go wrong is so simple, most people dismiss it. It's the simple act of naming what is. Labeling or naming a perceived threat or acknowledging a situation can diminish the chemical response in the brain that heightens the sense that something is amiss. And it happens very quickly.

You are actually calming yourself and the collective perception when you can guide your team to identify the elephant in the room or the perceived threat. Then it’s a shorter stretch to reach toward antidotes and solutions.

When we stay in a threat response mode all day long we are exhausted by end of day because it uses an enormous amount of brain energy to run at that high alert state (David Rock, "Managing with the Brain in Mind")

4. Identify the Dynamics on Your Team - is it one Tribe or a multitude of Warring Factions?

What's the current state and nature of your team in the workplace?

Is it a senior level team, essentially cross functional in construction? Or a project team focused on a very specific initiative?

How many of the members are new to the company, to the team, or to their roles?

Think about what happens when a new team member joins your group. First and foremost, we evaluate the individual on all levels—mentally, emotionally, physically.

  • Do they have the expertise we need and value? Are they trustworthy?
  • Do they do what they say they will do?
  • Do they share our sense of humor and social respect for others?
  • Do they look, sound, and act like me?
  • Do they “fit” with the workplace team?

Every change in personnel creates a rift in the equanimity of a team, raising into question each person's degree of power, influence, status and responsibilities.

Creating safety and building trust on a team includes helping your team develop the skills to craft certainty for themselves. It will help them build their self-awareness, practice naming what is possible and what is not, including the team dysfunction that reigns at any moment.

As the team leader, how adept are you at addressing tensions before they escalate?

How committed are you to developing your team members with the leadership skills and other crucial traits necessary to build team trust through respectful and productive interaction?

Of this, I am certain, the more of us who practice the art of creating certainty and safety for our teams, the more inspired, productive, and collaborative your team will become.

Solve team conflict with the GROW Model for Teams

 

Tags: building trust, high functioning teams, high performing teams, team building and accountability, leadership secrets

4 Ways to Eliminate Difficult Conversations About Performance Reviews

Posted by Karla Sinclair on Fri, Apr 29, 2016

clearwater_office_team_006-resized-600.jpgPerformance reviews remain one of the most difficult conversations that most leaders dread having with others. So what can one do to have a positive experience during a performance review? What can a person do to take the difficult conversation around performance, money or expectations and change it into a more engaging one where both parties--the manager and the direct report--walk out feeling good about things?


4 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews

  • Break annual goals into quarterly milestones and meet quarterly to review them. Whether you are the manager calling the meeting or the direct report, be sure this step happens so there are no year-end surprises. Make sure the quarterly goals align with annual performance numbers. Also, make sure your results deliver more than just the numbers. If you are a sales manager, you will be looking at the numbers consistently. But what about the specific behaviors that led up to those results? Did you establish and meet your quota on cold calls, or set and get the number of appointments you wanted to? Did you convert at a higher rate than last year? The more specifically you can tie behaviors to your numerical goals the better the conversation will go on both sides with an appreciation for the work it takes to achieve success.

  • Ask for feedback on a regular consistent basis. As the employee, take responsibility for seeking feedback. Not just from your manager but from your peers, clients, direct reports. Learn to stand out in the crowd, by asking your manager for feedback before he gives it to you. After an important board meeting or sales call, circle back and invite him/her: "tell me a few things you think I did well and a few things I can do better next time". Thank your manger for the feedback!

  • Be bold and request a 360 degree feedback assessment. As the employee, show your commitment to professional development by requesting a 360 degree feedback assessment. This is a great way to get some feedback in a more formal way and it is a great developmental tool that can improve your performance going forward. Make sure you build a plan to constructively leverage the 2-3 things you want to work on for the year after receiving your report. And, go back and thank your raters. Sharing with them what you are working to improve is a great way to create support for your development. 

  • Be prepared for the annual review by doing your homework. Both manager and employee should heed this key. From the direct report perspective, this means really bringing to the review what worked well for the year, what could have gone better and what you will focus on in the future. From the manager perspective, this means doing your homework upfront as well. Going the extra mile in sharing all the data with the review committee and challenging assumptions around the ranking system will really pay off for both your people and yourself. DiSC Circle no desc

Being mindful of what it takes to motivate each member of your team requires understanding who they are as individuals. If you are using the same approach with all your people, you are missing out on the ways to motivate their performance. Consider requesting each team member complete a DiSC profile to help you learn how to approach each person according to their style, create more trust, and communicate in a more positive manner.

So what's your experience been like with performance reviews? Have you had one you'd rather forget? And, if so what did you do to turn it around the next year? 

Prepare for Difficult Conversations Worksheet

Tags: difficult conversations, tough talk, performance review, Career Development

Leaders: Will your team still be engaged after summer vacations?

Posted by Karla Sinclair on Mon, Apr 25, 2016


clearwater_time_001-resized-600.jpgYes, it's still springtime, but not to early for leaders to prepare for employee summer vacations. As we have 
previously covered, vacations give employees a much needed break and time to contemplate their work situation, job satisfaction and their next career move. Some return from vacation with a renewed commitment, but not to your organization. Instead, they are committed to looking for a new job.
 
How can leaders ensure employees return from vacation this summer with an attitude of engagement and commitment to their team and organization? Start now in making sure they are engaged and committed before they leave for vacation!
 
The field of positivity supplies vast amounts of research on the connection between trust, positivity and results and the impact they produce on engagement levels and culture. Company culture and trust in leadership are key to this. 
 
Use the questions in Does Your Organization Have the Summertime Blues? to assess where your team and organization stand.
 
There are several situations leading to lack of employee satisfaction or engagement where TRUST is the underlying issue. Address them now.
 
Lack of trust in leadership or within teams can simmer away on its own until it reaches a full boil of distrust, lack of communication and commitment from both leaders and team members. Dysfunctional teams then spawn poor results, disengaged employees and a damaged company culture. 
 
Do you see yourself as a trustworthy team leader? Are you perceived as a trustworthy leader? How would you know? 
 
Start with learning how leaders impact trust in a team or organization. Check our post 3 Ways Leaders Erode Trust in an Organization  and use the free self-assessment there to rate your team leadership.
 
team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace
 
Clearwater Consulting Group is a nationally recognized company dedicated to developing leaders and managers in organizations committed to creating cultures of engagement. Principals Andrea Hopke and Becky Dannenfelser lead the Clearwater Consulting Group team of experts with headquarters in Atlanta, GA and a regional office in Pittsburgh, PA. www.clearwater-consulting.com 

Tags: building trust, corporate culture, employee engagement

Work-Life Balance: A relationship-centric life doesn't require balance

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Mar 08, 2016

Our many thanks to Steve Wittry, Director, Human Resources, Carter’s | OshKosh B’gosh, for this very insightful guest blog post.

stones_balanced_on_wood_cropped_.jpgTypically, I don’t give a lot of thought to the concept of work-life balance. Until presented with the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the topic, I don’t know that I ever even took the time to define or articulate what ‘work-life balance’ means to me.

As one of the panelists, I was presented in advance with a list of questions that might be asked.  The first question, the one I spent the most time reflecting on, was ‘What does work-life balance mean to you?’ Great question, it intrigued me and became the catalyst for a lot of much needed personal reflection on the topic.

I find ‘work-life balance’ to be an odd term or phrase – as though work isn’t a part of life. Taken literally, in order to balance two things they generally must be separate, two different things with opposing purpose – slow & fast, hard & easy, rest & activity, far & near, etc. I can’t say how many people actually look at it this literally, but my sense is that many do. 

A holistic work-centric view of life

Over time I’ve developed a holistic view of my life - my life is work-centric. I’ve stopped making any effort to separate work life and personal life. It would be like trying to not use my arms if I’m using my legs or vice versa.

That’s not to say that my life is all about my work, but my work life and my personal life are inextricably connected, they feed off of and are related to each other.

There was a period of my life when work started where personal ended and personal started where work ended. Looking back, there wasn’t much rhythm in my life then and I don’t remember feeling very fulfilled – seemed I was always searching for something I hadn’t defined and which, of course, made it very elusive. 

With all the starting and stopping, the separating one from the other, my life in my workplace and outside my workplace both lacked momentum. Without that momentum, I was working so much harder to be impactful in whatever I was doing.

So as I prepared for the upcoming discussion, I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s changed.  I’m very much at ease with myself and with my life – the direction, the velocity and the momentum.

Shifting to relationship-centric

My focus has shifted, and to a large degree, intentionally – and I’m a much more fulfilled person for it. The last 10 years have brought a significant growth spurt – spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.

I spent a lot of time earlier in my life focused on being ‘successful’, although I never took the time to really define what that meant either. My focus has shifted to being significant - adding value to others. Consequently, I’m finding that my life has changed for the better, has a great deal more value – because my work life, just like my personal life, is relationship-centric.

The focus in my work has shifted (intentionally) to relationships – developing them, growing them, restoring them, to learning to do the things well that support relationships. This is ‘why’ in my work – it’s what makes my work sacred. The focus isn’t on results first, but relationships first – the driver of results.

This spills over into my time away from my workplace – but my work continues because the ‘why’ that makes my work sacred never changes. It’s a thread that runs through my play, my community involvement, my solitude, my exercise time. The skills I’m developing and wisdom I’m gaining by being more intentional in my relationships are most frequently experienced in my work environment.   The only thing that really changes apart from the activity I might be engaged in is who I’m engaged with.

I want the ability to engage – genuinely, passionately, honestly, consistently – to be at the heart of everything I do. I’m committed to growing that ability, to being better at relationships to drive better results. I heard John Maxwell state, “You weren’t born to be average, you were born to be significant. You have no right to be average.”

To the degree that I’m successful in adding value to others, the results in every endeavor we’re engaged in are improved and enhanced. There is nothing to balance.

_________________________

What are your thoughts or quandries on work-life balance? Is this something you seek or have attained? Please comment below. 

See other posts on work-life balance:
Work-Life Balance: Become More Mindful

Finding Meaning in a Complicated World

Tags: work life balance

Top 5 Reasons Why Dysfunctional Teams Lack Accountability

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Tue, Feb 23, 2016

Bad teams cause stress. They zap our energy. They hurt our ability to be engaged at work. They kill productivity and can do damage to our health. Toxic behaviors invade the dysfunctional team and blame/defensiveness, contempt, gossip, silo thinking and territorial in-fighting dominate the climate. 

In our work at Clearwater Consulting, we are often called in to these types of settings when things get this point. And we are usually asked to focus on the leader. Get him or her in line and all will be well. Prepare a 360° feedback report or coach the leader to get things back on track. After all, it has to be the leader’s fault, right?

Sometimes getting the leader back on track is part of the solution. But, in our experience that is just one part of the problem! The real issue that troubles most of the teams we see in a dysfunctional haze centers around the inability to hold one another accountable to the goals, commitments, and values that create purpose for the team. Patrick Lencioni’s research with over 12,000 team supports just how hard it is for teams to hold one another accountable—2/3 of the time it was the lowest score on his team assessment.

Accountability_Pyramid.jpg

Accountability is so hard to develop on a team because it doesn’t just fall to one person—like the leader! Instead, if a team is going to practice holding each other accountable, it has to overcome these 5 reasons they lack accountability:

  1. They don’t trust each other.
    Teams without accountability keep score, they hold grudges. They have never really taken the time to get to know one another. They haven’t shared their fears, their desire for help, they find it hard to admit there are wrong. When a team hasn’t done the real work around being vulnerable with each other, they engage in false bravado and it’s every man/woman for him/herself.

  2. They don’t know how to be candid or to have the difficult conversations.
    They practice turf wars with mean-spirited personal attacks vs. trying to leverage the intellectual horsepower of the team to solve common problems through spirited debate. When a team doesn't see the value in engaging in difficult conversations, it steps over issues, refusing to call out and discuss the real concerns that can strengthen the team and move them towards innovative problem solving together.

  3. They are not aligned around a core purpose or vision for the team.
    Team members care only about what they have to do, not how to best engage the power of the whole team. People are not helpful because they fail to understand the inter-connectivity of the team.

  4. Feedback is not shared peer to peer.
    Instead cliques within the team share gossip and spread stories about who is performing and who is not. If work doesn’t get done, it is not seen as anyone’s fault. Apathy rules because no one has the courage to care enough to confront a slacker or see if someone needs help to accomplish a task.

  5. The team leader avoids holding others accountable to the agreements they have created.
    His/her fear of conflict creates an environment where team members ask themselves "why should I care if my boss doesn’t?"

Sometimes the best thing a team can do is to acknowledge how hard it is to hold each accountable and ask team members what this lack of accountability costs the team. Then the real work begins.

  improve team accountability in the workplace

 

Tags: high functioning teams, high performing teams, team building and accountability

3 Tools to Stay Focused and Sane During Accelerated Pace and Creative Expansion

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Mon, Feb 15, 2016

You're wondering where Clearwater Consulting has been lately? Well, we've been tackling some wonderful client projects around engagement, team stress, and growth.
 
Here’s the funny part. It’s not just our clients grappling with these dynamics. Even as a boutique leadership development firm, those topics apply to us as well: engagement, team stress and growth!
 
Starting with growth, it’s the double-edged sword that drives the other two - engagement and stress. The reverberating challenge is how to maintain the healthy balance between landing new business, and maintaining focus and energy required to design, develop and deliver that business. For our clients, it’s the endless parade of new priorities to be reconfigured with existing priorities.
 
In our business, we live in a state of creative tension. It’s a choice we make every day to stay engaged and grow ourselves through new learnings, new experiences, tackling disagreements, committing to new practices, finding humor in every situation, and getting clear about the results we want to collectively achieve.
 
So pardon our recent silence as we transition from 2015 into 2016 - including the addition of 2 new consultants, moving to larger space, and creating 3 new programs our clients are asking for which include intercultural interactions, stress management, and cross functional communication.
 
In the meantime, let us share with you three tools that help us stay focused and sane during times of accelerated pace and creative expansion:
 
Tool #1: The Human Function Curve
Paying attention to where each of us lands on a daily basis on the Human Function Curve proactively manages stress.
 
CW_Human_Funtion_Curve_Graphic.jpg
 
In the graphic, the most creative and productive area is in a state of stress that promotes invention and problem solving, and may encourage team dynamics in which we don’t always agree initially on an approach or solution. Each of us lands there in a different way - one thing that might cause you stress may not have the same impact on me.  Most of us can operate for awhile in fatigue, but it’s not sustainable.  
 
Tool #2: Picture this
Our favorite creative tools is the white board - when life is challenging and or we’re trying to figure out the best options for a client request, we start to draw. These are options, ideas, alternatives. Get visual. Get everyone involved. It puts on the table the mental map each of us is working from and allows us to test for assumptions and alternatives.
 
Tool #3: GROW
We apply the GROW model as a tool for moving toward action and resolution.  
  • G stands for the Goal of the conversation or our ultimate outcome we want to achieve. What does success look like? What are we trying to solve for?
  • R stands for the Reality of the current situation - facts, experiences, emotions. What’s creating the current situation, what have we tried/not tried? 
  • O represents the Options available to us - any idea at this point is a good one.
  • W gets us focused on What’s Next - so of all those options, what are the next 2 or 3 actions we can collectively and individually commit to tackling.
 
So as you ponder 2016 and your ambitious goals for yourself, your  team, or your organization, stay in touch with what energizes you (the human function curve), how you might draw the possibilities with everyone’s input, and GROW an innovative solution.
 
We look forward to hearing about any tools you are using that help you stay creatively engaged and emotionally sane during dramatic change.
 
create an effective high-functioning team

 

Tags: action planning, organizational change, high functioning teams, clarity of vision, employee engagement

The Need for Effective Collaboration

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Thu, Nov 05, 2015

As companies become more complex and try to do more with fewer people, there is an increased need to collaborate with other teams, departments and cross-functionally. How well do your leaders and teams collaborate? Here are 3 steps to help your leaders develop effective collaboration skills.

  1. Hold a Feedback Session

Generate an open discussion among the people and teams that need to collaborate. Identify the areas the team needs to improve and talk about ways each person can collaborate better.

  1. Determine a Common Vision or Goal

If all people involved understand the vision or goal of the collaboration and buy in to the vision, then they are more likely to set aside their own goals focus on the groups’ goals instead.

  1. Change the Language

It’s not what is said, it’s HOW it’s said that can help build collaboration. Define the acceptable language and communication of the team and hold people to the same standard.

effective collaboration in the workplace

Tags: building trust, improve workplace relationships, employee engagement

What Makes a Great Leader?

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Wed, Oct 28, 2015

While there are many skills and traits that great leaders possess, here are three important ones to consider.

cc_what_makes_a_great_leader_01

Ask yourself the following: Are the leaders in your organization open to input, even from their team members or subordinates? Do your managers encourage their direct reports to try new assignments? And, how well do your leaders rally employees to achieve their personal and professional goals?

Depending on how you answered those questions, it might be time to acknowledge that your managers and leaders also need leadership coaching, training and development, not just the team members.

Develop extraordinary leaders

Tags: leadership development, leadership secrets, benefits of leadership coaching

4 Reasons Employee Engagement and Retention Should Have Your Attention

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Wed, Oct 21, 2015

cc_question_01You could have heard a pin drop. The SVP of HR was sitting with his CEO and reviewing the recent dismal turnover numbers. For the sixth month in a row, things were not getting any better. “I have an idea, let’s do that engagement survey you’ve been wanting to do the last few years and we will find out where our problem areas really are….” Is it any wonder the HR leader just shook his head in despair.

It was getting harder and harder to retain key talent yet alone hire for the 100+ open jobs the company was creating. Three years ago, it was easier to get talent, mainly because the economy was so bad. Sure, he was happy the CEO was now recognizing the problem, but there was something more going on here. Their Glass Door reviews were atrocious and the younger employees were leaving in droves.

The 25-year old company had been built on the backs of a hard driving “get it done yesterday" set of marching orders with a group of baby-boomers who were soon set to retire. The new talent didn’t view things the same way—sure they were committed to growing the business and their careers, but they also wanted work-life-balance and a boss who cared about them. Things were going to have to change and fast if the company was going to survive and keep growing at the rate it had in the past.

A Company’s Biggest Issue: Lack of Engagement Makes People Vulnerable to Leaving Your Company

Reason #1: The Numbers Don’t Lie

In Deloitte’s recent 2015 research “Leading in the New World of Work” 87% of companies across the globe cite “culture and engagement” as the most important issue business leaders face with more than half the companies citing the matter as urgent. Couple this data with Gallup’s long-standing research that less than 15% of workers are truly engaged at work and you begin to see why so many companys are scrambling to figure the best way to capture the hearts and minds of their talent.

Sprinkle in Great Place to Work’s findings that companies with the highest engagement scores produce earnings 300% higher than those companies where talent is disengaged and you find a compelling case for understanding what it takes to create a culture of engagement in your company.

Reason # 2: Leadership is Still the Issuecc_leadership_avenue_003-resized-600

Retention remains elusive and engagement low because there is a lack of leadership quality. Why? For one thing, there just aren’t that many of them. The average organization has 15-20% of their organization listed as high-potential. For engagement surveys to really return their investment, an organization needs to stress the importance of all leaders seeking improvement.

Those that lead people must be made to understand that the engagement scores don’t just diagnose the “culture” of the organization, they diagnose the missing leadership needed to have people want to stay and engage at a higher level.

Until leaders and companies attack the data from a place of dual responsibility, change cannot happen. Note: Ratings and remarks posted on Glass Door can also tell an organization a lot about what employees think about their leaders! While the overall company culture still matters to employees, working for a bad boss will accelerate your departure and your disenchantment with work more quickly than anything else.

Reason #3: Your Talent is Already Looking for a New Job!cc_help_wanted_01

A 2015 Talent Trends Survey of 20,000 employed professionals across the globe says 1 in 3 people is now looking for a new job, up from 1 in 4 last year. Why are so many people open to a headhunter calling? Probably because the economy has recovered and because they're just not that in to you! Loyalty is reserved for only the most engaged at work. So what can you do to counterattack this openness to entertaining other jobs? Make work more meaningful for those you employ and make sure they know you value them by training and developing them.

Reason #4: Taking the Engagement Survey is Only Half the Battle!

cc_employees_01Every company we work with is doing some kind of workplace engagement survey, yet very few companies have a consistent action-oriented process for doing something with the data! If you consistently do surveys of your organization and do nothing with the data points, you are wasting your money. And, sharing the data with only the Executive Team is not doing something with the data. The action-planning process following an employee engagement surveyshould be a transparent practice to allow:

  • People to understand the results in a safe manner
  • People a way to discuss the meaning behind the scores
  • People a place to partner on creating change for the better

So what happened to our client from the example above? After the initial frustration, the SVP of HR rekindled his interest in putting an engagement survey plan in action. He created the following steps to getting his arms around employee engagement and retention at his growing company:

  • He gathered the Executive Team (with the CEO’s full support) together and laid out the vision for what needed to happen
  • He researched the best survey companies and landed on one
  • He rallied his HR team behind the strategy and the goals for the program by focusing the project around creating a culture of engagement and leadership
  • He rolled out the planning process with the company VP’s and Directors
  • The survey launched and 87% of the company participated
  • Results were shared transparently via town hall meetings
  • Action-planning was conducted for all VP and Director Teams
  • Company wide roll-up of committed changes was communicated to all employees.
  • Employee turnover improved the first year after the survey

While the work to create culture where people feel they can do their best work can be very hard to do, the rewards outweigh themselves. More engagement creates a place people want to stay and that creates an environment that is good for everyone!

Improve employee engagement and retention with action planning

Tags: action planning, improve workplace relationships, employee engagement