Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10 Ways to Sabotage a 360 Assessment

There’s been a lot written about how organizations can design and implement bullet proof 360 assessment programs. However, very little guidance has been provided to the hapless manager who ends up on the receiving end of one of these things.

For those new to management or leadership development, a 360 assessment is a questionnaire designed to solicit feedback on leadership and management capabilities from a manager’s employees, peers, and manager, and includes a self-assessment as well.

360 assessments are usually used for “development”, and sometimes used as input to performance appraisals or to identify high potential talent. They are a powerful tool for leadership development and I highly recommend them. After all, feedback is the breakfast of champions, the gift that keep son giving, yada, yada, yada.

Now, if you are one of the people responsible for administering 360 assessments, please stop reading. This post is not for you. This is for managers only….now go away, OK?

For managers only:

If you happen to hear that your company is going to start use 360 assessments, follow these guidelines and you can be assured no harm will come to you and your fellow managers:

1. If you can, avoid them! HR can’t make you do anything, right? Sure, we all know we’re supposed to go to the dentist twice a year and floss, but if we would rather drink our food through a straw, that’s our own damn business.

Same goes for management – the key to success is to cover up your flaws and bury your head in the sand like an ostrich. No good will come from a 360 or any kind of real feedback.

2. However….if they track you down and force you to take one, try to pick your own raters. Use the “friends and family plan” system. If you can’t pick your own raters, then use threats or bribes to get raters to inflate their scores and say nice things about you.

3. Make sure your raters are notified by one of those impersonal, system generated emails. “Dear rater” is a nice touch. That way, they will know you’re not really serious and may just delete it. Better yet if it ends up in their spam folder.

4. Give your raters an unreasonable amount of time to do their assessments. If enough raters don’t complete it, then viola, no report! Or, we all know raters, when rushed, will give all high scores and won’t have time for damaging comments. An alternative is to give no deadline with no reminders.

5. Remember that self-assessment? “Forget” to do it. Hope that a missing questionnaire will hold up the report and someone will forget to run it. Besides, self-reflection is for losers.

However, if you tracked down and forced to do your own, give yourself all high scores and write nice things about yourself in the comment sections.

6. If all else fails and a report is generated, spend all of your time trying to figure out where the low scores came from and who gave you the critical comments. It’s fun to play detective! Compare comments to past emails, try to crack the software security, or try to trick people into revealing their scores and comments.

7. If someone offers to “help you interpret the report and create a development plan”, refuse the offer. These do-gooders only want to make you uncomfortable and will make fun of you behind your back. Do not return their calls and emails and they will go away.

8. Have a follow-up meeting with your raters to try to convince them your low score are just “a perception issue”. These meetings are also helpful in finding out who gave you the low scores. When you ask for clarification around a low score, and some idiot raises their hand, bingo, there’s the culprit!

9. When the dust settles and all is said and done, spend your energy clearing up those nasty perception issues and proving how good you are. DO NOT waste time trying to actually improve. After all, we all know people can’t change, and there’s no use trying to teach a pig to fly. It’s all about marketing. Social media tools can be very helpful - employees love those daily tweets from the boss. With persistence, you’ll turn those faults into strengths in no time!

10. Finally, whatever you do, don’t follow-up on any commitments you may have made in a moment of weakness while you were trying to defend yourself. That would be like admitting guilt. Like a bad dream, it will all fade away with time. However, hang on to your report. That way, if you are ever asked to do another 360 assessment, you can say “naw, I’ve already done one of those and it was a waste of time”.

OK, all kidding aside: I did not make up a single one of these! Each and every one is based on actual experience with real managers (even the one about writing your own comments). Sure, some of them may have been intentionally trying to sabotage the process to cover up their incompetence, but in most cases, they just may not have been given the proper instructions and support. I’ve also heard of organizations doing some pretty shady and dumb things with their 360 assessments systems, so who can blame them for pushing back?

What are some of the dumbest things you’ve seen managers and organizations to when it comes to 360 assessments?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting Leaders to Change

Guest post by John Mattone, Business Author, Senior Faculty Member of Talent Management Alliance and President of Executive Development Associates (EDA), a global leadership consulting firm that specializes in executive assessment, development, and coaching.

An Exclusive Excerpt from John Mattone’s New Book, Stealth Leadership: Using Assessment & Coaching to Propel Your Leaders & Organization to Greatness (to be released December 2011)

As I work with executives and high potentials, my primary focus is in identifying those unique strengths that each leader has that must continue to be nurtured, strengthened and leveraged in order for them to become the best leaders they can be while at the same time helping their organization achieve its’ goals. I am also passionately focused on identifying in partnership with each coachee those unique development needs that need to be addressed. The most effective way to change a leader’s view of themselves and what they are capable of becoming is by changing their reference reservoir. This means that they must learn to succeed. The more success they can create—the more chances they will have to interpret their success as permanent, pervasive, and personal. The key lies in getting leaders to create more positively charged references where they have no choice but to interpret both the causes and consequences of those references in permanent, pervasive and personal terms. Your goal as a coach is to get your coachee to a point where they interpret whatever setbacks they experience in less permanent, pervasive and personalterms. Your ability to help your coachee create a “more vs. less” dichotomy is based on getting your coachee to take reasonable risks—to take positive, constructive action, accept the consequences of their behavior, course correct, course correct again, and never give up in their pursuit of positive constructive change.

Achieving this is certainly easier said than done. However, a great place to start is with a positive, self-affirming value system. The self-concept consists of many elements including what we just discussed—the reference reservoir and belief system. But it also includes a leader’s value system, in which we always see their elements of character played out. As a coach, if I can isolate a leader’s value system, I will have also isolated their character—they are intertwined and cannot be separated. Great leaders—truly great leaders possess character. The word, “character” is from a Latin root that means “engraved”. A life, like a block of granite carved upon with care or hacked at with reckless disregard, will at the end, be either a masterpiece or marred rubble. Character, the composite of values and virtues etched in that living stone, will define its true worth. No cosmetic enhancement, no decorative drapery can make useless stone into enduring art. Only character can do that.
6 Elements of Character
·         Courage
·         Loyalty
·         Diligence
·         Modesty
·         Honesty
·         Gratitude

Courage
True courage—noble courage, the authentic, spontaneous act of self-sacrificial concern for the defenseless—is not fanaticism but character. Courage is not the feeling of fearlessness. It is rather the willingness of mind necessary to act out of conviction rather than feeling. I have coached many leaders who feel quite fearless but act in sometimes a cowardly manner. Conversely, I have worked with many executives who are fearful yet behave with incredible courage. Great leaders are courageous. It is beyond valor—in fact, heroism and courage are not synonymous, since there are acts of heroism every day that are acts of impulse rather than true character. The measure of true character is consistency—as we all know business heroes, public heroes, sports heroes who were bold enough to make a heroic mark but could not sustain it over time—as they misstep, fall prey to controversy, financial ruin and criminal activity. These people were never truly courageous—only brave at a point in time.  Courage is the greatest character element any leader must possess—as it is the catalytic agent that mobilizes every other virtue in the face of crisis. Knowing right from wrong is one thing; taking the right action based on this knowledge is yet another. Courageous leaders inspire their people and teams to achieve incredible new heights—it is the foundation for creating the “will do” and “must do” in people.

Loyalty

Where is the loyalty? Where has all the loyalty gone? Loyalty is the very fabric of community. Relationships cannot be developed, nurtured or prospered when there is no trust to glue mutuality of commitment. When loyalty is lost, the fabric of relationship unravels. Loyalty is the willingness—because of relationship commitments—to deflect praise, admiration and success onto others. Loyalty is a two-way street—it must function both upwardly and downwardly. Upward loyalty is shown to your boss. Are you willing to allow your boss to take credit while sometimes taking the blame? If a mid-level executive shows any disloyalty—either upward or downward—the fabric of community in that organization will begin to erode.

Diligence

In my coaching work, I sometimes encounter an executive who is looking for the quickest, shortest way….the easiest way….the way that will produce the greatest returns for them….and on and on. I tell them directly there are none that exist. There are no short-cuts to achieving anything worthwhile and there are countless stories of CEO’s, senior executives, and entrepreneurs who are quick to reinforce this undeniable notion that there is no substitute for hard work. When I encounter these executives, I get them connected with leaders who can share their experiences in vivid detail so they begin to vicariously experience both the positive and negatively charged references that give them a dose of reality and perspective. Diligence is a necessary—but not sufficient—condition for achieving leadership excellence but it does provide the leader with a solid foundation that will serve to minimize the depth of their setbacks. The diligent leader is a steady performer, and the steady performer is a finisher. Great leaders want accountability and are serious about their obligations—unfortunately there are many managers who are spiraling to lower maturity because of their unwillingness to finish—to be held accountable and follow-through on their obligations.

Modesty

Modesty means living within limits. It is the opposite of being “bold”—putting oneself forward in the sense of aggressiveness or presumptuous. It is the opposite of arrogance. The greatest leaders are confident but they recognize that they are also not too good, too big, too rich, too powerful to be open to the views and perspective of others all aimed at self-improvement and organizational improvement.  Modest leaders see fiscal and operational constraints as safeguards—not hindrances. Modest leaders are able to invoke their own limits as they begin to realize again through positively charged references that greater individual and team results will be realized. Modesty is also a key counter-balancing mechanism that keeps a leader’s emotions in balance. I have coached countless executives in how to acceptand adopta more immodest, prudent view of themselves and the operations they run and the absolute key in getting them to transform is helping them see that it is their own need for attention that drives their arrogance and the results they are achieving are less than if they had adopted a more calm self-acceptance approach in handling challenges.

Honesty

There is a line between shrewd business and dishonesty. However, it is not nearly as fine as we think. Great leaders work hard to bend over backward for honesty as they realize truth and honesty are the pillars upon which relationships, teamwork, and positive energy are built. Great leaders are comfortable missing out on deals rather than to use deception to win. Great leaders would rather make a minor profit with honesty than a major one without it. Exaggerations, padded expense accounts, deliberately shaved tax forms submitted without hesitation, showing up for work late, leaving early, and theft of company property (which now reaches into the billions annually) are all acts of dishonesty. Mature leaders create an environment in which they themselves live and promote a truthful, above-board, honest existence.

Gratitude

Great leaders demonstrate enormous respect and appreciation for the sum of all their references (both positive and negative) as they know in their mind and heart that the very essence of who they are is inextricably tied to the sum of their experiences. They know and respect that they have learned to grow and mature as leaders through the highs and lows and they appreciate their reference reservoirs as nothing more than a ratio of positively charged references divided by all of their experiences. It’s a batting average. Just like a batting average, the higher the better but much can be learned by striking out every now and then. In fact, it keeps us in balance and we appreciate the hits all that much more with a healthy dose of setback. This is one of the great challenges I see with younger executives who desire way too much, too fast—as many are just unwilling to see the value in experiencing setbacks—it slows them down but the setback teaches contrast, it teaches gratitude for all experiences and special gratitude when the “hit” actually occurs. Gratitude as an element of character is also at the root of providing praise and recognition to others (more on this later when we discuss Demarcation). Saying “thank you,” “I appreciate you hard work,” originates from this element—it requires selflessness but showing honest gratitude to your people and your team will propel them to new heights.

John Mattone has over 30 years’ experience in the human capital, talent management and leadership development industries, as an entrepreneur who has built two successful human capital consulting firms, an as executive of a multi-million dollar human resources consulting firm, and as a leading industrial psychologist and respected worldwide authority in executive assessment, coaching, succession management and HR predictive analytics.  Join John at TMA’s upcoming People in Financial Services Summit, October 26-27th, 2011 in Las Vegas and People in Energy Summit, November 29-December 2nd, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  See all of TMA’s upcoming events here, or view all of TMA’s Senior Faculty bios here.


Friday, August 19, 2011

“Fun” at Work

With all due respect to Google, Zappos, and these guys, here are 11 real-life examples I’ve seen managers try to force their employees to lighten up and have some “fun” at work:

1. Creation of a “fun committee”. There are a few committees that I would recommend avoiding if you can: safety, quality, employee satisfaction, social, and the dreaded fun committee. I’ve seen plenty of these, and no one EVER seems to be having any fun. If you are a manager, and you’ve chartered one of these things, you’ve taken the lazy way out of doing what you’re supposed to do as a leader, that is, create an energizing environment. In fact, you’ve made it worse for those poor “volunteers” that are forced to serve their sentence, errr, term on the fun squad. BTW, I’ve seen managers pick these committees….it’s usually payback for something bad they’ve done. Betcha didn’t know that.

2. Funny hat day, fake nose and glasses day, ugly tie day, or any other stupid costume day. Yes, while it may look like everyone’s having fun in that picture on the company website, I’ll wager that for every employee that enjoys playing dress-up, there’s another one that’s trying not to vomit. I, for one, will not wear a hat.

3. Silly ice-breakers at meetings or training sessions. Are there still trainers out there that are doing these ridiculous pre-school birthday party games in the name of “loosening up” a group? It’s always amazed me how willing grown adults are usually willing to do anything they are told in a work setting.

4. Ping pong, foosball, pool, or air hockey tables. Nice try, but who’s got the time? Don’t you feel like slacker playing games while everyone else is working?

5. This one hits close to home…..having your management team dress up like cheerleaders and perform a cheerleader routine in front of the whole department. Seriously, I’m not making this up. Turnover went up 30% that year, and I’m still emotionally scared.

6. Picking on others. It’s not funny if the “fun” is at someone else’s expense. This kind of fun runs rampant in “good old boy” executive meetings. When the boss does it, everyone has a good laugh of course.

7. Inappropriate, sexual, racial, or crude humor. Although I feel like I’m losing the battle to Jersey Shore on this one.

8. Rampant cynicism or sarcasm. OK, so there’s a wee bit of both sprinkled thought-out this post. But at work, too much of it is a buzz kill, especially if it’s coming from the manager.

9. Bring your dogs to work day. Hey, I love dogs – but not everyone does. How about being inclusive and opening up the office to all pets? Farm animals?

10. Hiring a masseuse. I’m sorry, but this trend is just plain weird. Watching your co-workers get a rub-down? Yuk. But then again, I admit, I’m not really into the whole spa thing.

11. Hiring a fun consultant. The outsourced, more expensive version of the fun committee.

So what’s a leader to do to create an energizing, motivating work environment, where people can come to work, have a few laughs, and feel good about themselves and their work?

In addition to these ideas from a previous post, a leader can:

1. Lighten up

2. Smile

3. Be energetic

4. Maintain a consistent, positive attitude

5. Keep calm under stress and a crisis

6. Poke fun at yourself

7. Bring goodies to work. Food is always fun.

8. Be happy

9. Enjoy your work

10. Be a team player (don’t throw your peers under the bus)

In other words, take care of yourself first. Be a role model – if you’re enjoying yourself at work so will others – it’s contagious. And if you’re miserable, the best fun committee in the world won’t be able to lift the dark cloud following you around.

A word of caution: just don’t overdo it, or you can come across as flip, unconcerned, or clueless. As with everything, it’s all about moderation.

You can’t force “fun” on someone – it’s phony and intrusive. However, you can create an environment where a natural sense of fun is allowed to emerge on its own.

What do you think? What are some of the “fun at work” horror stories? What does it mean to you to have fun at work? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The August 2011 Leadership Development Roundtable Challenge: A Coaching Dilemma

The August Leadership Development Roundtable Challenge is being hosted by leadership coach extraordinaire Mary Jo Asmus.

Mary Jo wrote the challenge (based on a real case), selected the guest expert (Gwyn Teatro, from You're Not the Boss of Me), herded up the Roundtable responses, and is hosting a voting poll for readers to select their favorite answers and/or add their own comments. Voting results will be published next week.

Roundtable members are forced to keep their answers to 200 words or less, so we have to be direct and to the point - no looking at the situation from all angles. After last month's challenge, we decided to allow the Roundtable members to join the debate and add comments if they choose.

Roundtable members include myself, Mary Jo, Art Petty, from Management Excellence, Jennifer Miller, from The People Equation, Scott Eblin, from The Next Level, and new Roundtable member Sharlyn Lauby, from HRBartender.

BTW, you can use this handy gadget if you would like to subscribe to all of the Roundtable member blogs with one click:


Here's the challenge:

Linda, a department head has contacted you. She would like you to consider coaching one of her direct reports; a long-time manager who for some reason, is not getting the results expected of his team. Linda “likes and respects” this manager but believes he needs to step up his game to be more effective.

You meet with the manager, Rob, who expresses enthusiasm for working with you as his coach. You ask Rob about his challenges at work. He indicates that he has a difficult time getting his team to move ahead on initiatives in the department. He’s anxious but willing to have you interview his team to hear their perspectives on his management and leadership styles.

The interviews with Rob’s team indicate that he is confident and knowledgeable with the credentials to understand problems and provide appropriate solutions quickly. However the feedback also indicates Rob doesn’t respect the ideas of his team or engage them in decisions. His impatience with the team is obvious to them, and they rarely hear a good word from Rob about the work they do.

You and Rob set about to design a development plan for Rob including some goals to increase his listening skills, decrease his impatience, engage the team in problem solving, and be more outwardly appreciative of their efforts. It takes an inordinate amount of time for him to draft his plan because, as he says, “he’s just very busy”. Once the plan is in semi-final form, you both meet with Linda, who feels the development plan is definitely on the right track. She agrees to support Rob with monthly 1:1 meetings throughout the coaching engagement to check in on his progress.

You begin coaching Rob. After a month, nothing much happens. He isn’t meeting his milestones and indicates that he isn’t meeting with his manager. You encourage his engagement, remind him that the behavioral changes will change the level of motivation his team has to complete initiatives on time, and make his life easier. He seems agreeable.

Another month goes by. Rob is still not progressing. He’s obviously not doing between-meeting assignments that he committed to, and hasn’t had a meeting with Linda yet. Your level of discomfort is increasing because as Rob’s coach, you are sworn to protect the confidentiality of your client, preventing you from speaking with Linda about his lack of progress.

As Rob’s coach, what would you do at this point?

Go here to see our answers, vote, and comment!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Seasoned Leaders Have Balance


Here's a guest post by Paul Thornton, a Great Leadership regular:


To produce healthy plants it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little sunlight may hurt your plants. The best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what flowers need to grow and develop. In a similar way, seasoned leaders know what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. They provide the right amount of direction, discussion, coaching and feedback to help people succeed. They have a balanced approach in areas like the following:

1. Task and People
The seasoned leader focuses on both the task and the people. Some leaders are too task-focused. For example, Ralph led a group of seven people. With him it was all business. No small talk or reaching out to people as people. For him the only thing that mattered was results. On the other hand some leaders are too focused on pleasing people at the expense of solving problems and getting the work done.

2. Talk and Listen
What’s your ratio? We have all met leaders who are ineffective because they don’t listen. Remember the God given ratio—two ears, one mouth. On the other side of the equation I met one leader who was a great listener but his employees didn’t know where he stood on key issues. The seasoned leader engages in the appropriate amount of both talking—stating their views and listening to ideas of others.

3. Plan and Do
Planning is important, but so is execution. Some leaders over plan and under execute. Of course some leaders do just the opposite. They’re busy having meetings, doing power point presentations but making no improvements in the operation. Is there a “right” balance? It depends. In some situations an hour spent planning makes the implementation go more smoothly. In a crisis situation you may have only 60 seconds to plan—quick action is required.

4. Results and Process
Some leaders only focus on results. In meeting after meeting they ask, “What’s the bottom line?” Results are important but so is process—how things are done. However, putting all your attention on process is also wrong. Results count! The seasoned leader focuses on both what is being accomplished and how it’s being accomplished.

5. Firm and Flexible
There are times to be firm and there are times to be flexible. The overly flexible leader is unwilling to take a firm stand. They are wishy-washy and often flip flop on their position. On the other hand, the overly firm leader is rigid and sees every issue as black and white. Seasoned leaders have the wisdom to know when to hold the line and when to be flexible.

6. Coaching and Letting Go
An important part of a leader’s job is to coach people on how to be more effective and efficient. However, there is an important difference between too little and too much coaching. Too much can frustrate initiative. On the other hand, too little coaching and guidance can cause failure. Sometimes failure can be the best thing, life lessons often come out of failure. Other times it can be catastrophic – in the case of accident, injury, or other severe loss. Seasoned leaders know the difference between providing too much and too little coaching.

7. Facts and Feelings
Getting the facts is important. But tuning into your feelings is also important before making important decisions. Some executives fail to identify the danger signals because they repress their feelings as if feelings are something to be avoided. I like the way author and blogger Mary Jo Asmus stated it in a recent blog— “Connect with your heart when your head wants to rule. Connect with your head when your emotions are threatening to take over.”

8. Work Life and Family Life
Some leaders get totally consumed by their job and neglect their family. In his book, Better Under Pressure, Justin Menkes, interviewed Ralph Larsen, retired CEO of Johnson and Johnson. In the interview Larsen stated, “…you’ve got to make sure that you have the right balance between your work life and your family life, that you take care of your family and kids so you don’t have chaos at work and at home.”

What would you add to this list?

Summary
Seasoned leaders know the importance of balance. But finding the right balance doesn’t mean moderation in all things. Rather it means being versatile and flexible. It means using the appropriate mix of various ingredients to help people grow and blossom. Great leaders have the wisdom to know what actions are needed and necessary to achieve success.

Bibliography
Kaplan, R.E. and Kaiser, R.B. “Developing Versatile Leaders.” MIT Sloan Management Review
(Summer 2003).
Menkes,J. Better Under Pressure. Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.

About the Author
Paul B. Thornton is the author of numerous articles and 13 books on management and leadership. His latest book, Leadership - Off the Wall, highlights the guiding principles some well-known business and political leaders keep on their desks or post on their office walls.
In addition to being a speaker and management/leadership trainer, he is a business professor at Springfield Technical Community College. In the last 20 years, he has trained over 10,000 people to be more effective managers and leaders.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Simple High Performance Model


I just made this up. Comments?



PLEASE steal it, adapt it, (there's no copyright), use it to assess talent, and stop tolerating crappy behavior in exchange for results.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The August 2011 Leadership Development Carnival



The August 2011 Leadership Development Carnival is up! It's hosted this month by Jason Seiden, at his new profersonal blog.

Jason has done an awesome job of screening and organizing over 40 recent posts on leadership development, submitted by some of my favorite bloggers.

Good stuff - read all about it here.



Friday, August 5, 2011

5 Ways to Maintain the Status Quo During Times of Change


No, really, the title of this post isn’t meant to be sarcasm. The idea came from a recent email from a reader, titled “Maintaining the Momentum”:

Mr. McCarthy, I just read your post on Organizational Change and was very thankful for the tips. I have already spoken with my boss and we are going to use "Beckhard's Change Equation" on some upcoming projects.

I do have one question that has plagued us as we have attempted to lead organizational change and that is once we get buy-in and start to make progress, how do we sustain it?

Great question! It seems “Leading Change” (not managing change, because that would be too old school…. OK, now that was sarcasm) is all the rage these days. However, like all things in life, there are to sides to every coin. If you’re dehydrated, a few glasses of water could save your life. However, too much water could drown you.

Same thing with change. One of Edmund Deming’s 14 points was “Create Constancy of Purpose”. In other words, sticking to the plan, or staying the course.

The say the average life span of a senior manager is about three years. I’ve even read it’s as low as six months for CEOs. So, managers are conditioned to start fast, shake things up, drive change, and get quick results. Which is fine – unless you happen to work in one of these hamster wheels, where you’re in a constant state of chaos and nothing ever really gets done. Someone once told me “yeah, a new regime comes in every year and makes all kind of noise about change. You just have to hang the posters, fake it, lay low, and it’ll soon blow over.”

Actually, some of the change models I referenced do address the need to hold the gains. The last two steps of Kotter’s 8 step model are “Build on the Change” and “Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture”. Bridges calls it “reinforcing the new beginning”. A of lot the great books on strategy speak to “sticking to your knitting” and staying “ruthlessly focused”.

With that as a backdrop, here’s 5 ways a leader can “maintain the status” quo during times of change:

1. Grow and retain your own leaders.
In his book “How the Mighty Fall”, Jim Collins talks about how organizations that are in decline (but may not know it) are always looking for the latest hotshot visionary leader to come in and rescue them. It’s one of the signs that an organization is grasping for salvation, his 4th sign of decline. A continuous carousal of leaders is a damn lazy talent management strategy. It’s also expensive, ineffective, and creates constant change for the sake of change. Let’s face it, senior leaders all have big egos, and nothing that the other guy did could have possible been right. So of course it all needs to change.

Instead, organizations would be better off methodically assessing, grooming, developing, and promoting their own talent. Growing your own is always a better bet than buying talent, and with careful succession planning, there’s a better likelihood that change batons will be passed on from leader to leader.

2. Don’t disband the team and declare victory too soon.
Real change takes time to get used to. Remember those front line employees I referenced that have gotten really good at faking it? Don’t be fooled by superficial signs of compliance. A change task force or committee needs to commit to staying together until the change is deeply set in stone. When it’s at the point where you couldn’t get employees to go back to the old way if you tried, then you know it’s embedded in the culture.

Sure, nobody wants to make a lifetime commitment when they sign up for a change project. Membership on a team can change, but the team needs to stay in place. Idea generators and visionaries can gradually be replaced with project managers and doers. Lasting change needs oversight until the change is permanently embedded, and that usually takes years, not months.

3. Leverage your HR systems.
HR systems can be a managerial nuisance or a powerful set of levers to change behavior (I guess you could say the same about government). Take a look at your performance appraisal, hiring and promotion criteria, compensation system, and training programs and make sure they are all supporting and reinforcing the desired change.

4. Inspect what you expect.
Employees are busy, and they often prioritize based on who’s screaming the loudest. When a “mandate” goes out, and then no one takes the time to see if it’s actually implemented, it sends the message that it really doesn’t matter. It’s not a matter of trust; it’s about establishing the expectation that what you have asked for is important – that it matters to you. For those employees who have done what they were supposed to do, it’s an opportunity to praise and reward. Others will appreciate the reminders, and may even learn to manage their own priorities a little better. And what about those chronic offenders? Make sure there are negative consequences that matter to them. The rest of your team will appreciate it.

5. Practice Kiazen (continuous improvement).
Major software programs always have inherent bugs that need fixes, and users are always suggesting ways to make it better. Think of your change in the same way – the first wave is version 1.0. Then, there’s a continuous series of fixes and modifications to keep making it better and better. The “Plan Do Check Act” (PDCA) model for continuous improvement is a circle, not a straight line with and end point.

For high performing companies and leaders, there really is no such thing as a “status quo”. If something hasn’t been recently improved, it’s only because it’s not a high priority for now. But when they do take on a major change, they have the discipline and focus to stick with it and reap the real results. The changes take root and continue to grow, like the giant redwoods.

Any other ideas on how to sustain change?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Secret to Higher Retention and Performance

Here's a little advice for CEOs (and managers) from Beth Armknecht Miller. Beth is a Vistage Chair and executive coach. I'll bet you've never heard of Vistage - most of us have not. They're kind of of a Facebook for CEOs, with over 14,000 members, but they're been around for 50 years. For the right price, I'll show your their super secret handshake. (-:

A recent Employee Engagement Survey by HR Solutions of Chicago revealed that employees were more engaged with their work when they felt:

1. Supported by their manager when making suggestions to correct work place problems.

2. Valued and recognized as an important part of the team.

3. Their manager was helpful and friendly towards them.

So what can happen if your employees are disengaged?

According to the study, business leaders will experience a lower level of productivity from team members. And based on the research done by Marcus Buckingham in "First Break all the Rules", employees who don’t feel valued are more likely to leave in search of an employer who does value and recognize them for their accomplishments. Low employee engagement can also lead to lower profits and levels of customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, it is the employee’s manager who is the key driver in employee engagement. The CEO’s responsibility is to insure that managers are provided the development opportunities to increase their leadership capacity. Because managers are the ones who directly influence employee opinions and attitudes, their development is critical.

What is your company’s level of employee engagement and how do you measure it?

For most companies an employee satisfaction survey provides anonymity to employees, providing them with a platform to be open and honest with their feedback. However, for smaller, emerging growth companies a survey may be overkill. Personal interviews using an outside consultant can also provide honest feedback. The key to a good survey are obviously the questions. You need to understand how to create good survey questions or outsource this process to someone who has the expertise.

Once you’ve received feedback, then it is time to develop an action plan to increase employee engagement. Although you may find that your employees are highly engaged, even companies with high levels of engagement can improve their employee engagement level. Results of your survey or personal interviews may show a systemic problem across your organization or may show intermittent problems. The problems could be with a specific department which may mean managerial development is needed.

With increased competition for knowledge workers because of a growing talent shortage, this is not the time to shelve the survey or personal interview results until your next budget season. Now, not later, is the time to take action!

What should be the key steps in your action plan?

First, identify those areas that could have the biggest impact on improving future survey results. Concentrate on only one or two areas to improve and identify those leaders that need to be involved with implementing the improvements. For instance, your survey may show that recognition for a job well done is not done in a timely fashion. If this is the case, identify what processes can be implemented to improve the recognition process and then provide the necessary training for the managers who will be involved with implementing the changes. Next, determine ways of measuring the effectiveness of the changes because you don’t want to find out in your next survey that the changes made had no effect in solving the problem of untimely recognition.

Remember that results of the survey and your committed action steps for improvement also need to be communicated to employees in a timely fashion. This is critical to the ongoing process of honest employee feedback and for increasing employee engagement levels.

By implementing an employee engagement action plan, your employees will be more engaged with their work, will truly feel valued, and will know they will be recognized for their accomplishments. Company loyalty and employee retention will rise. Furthermore, engaged employees contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction and more importantly, increased profits.

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit http://www.executive-velocity.com or  http://executivevelocityblog.com or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Marcus Buckingham's First Annual Top 10 Management & Leadership Blogs



Is there room for another "Best Leadership Blog" list? Well, there is if it's from Marcus Buckingham, bestselling author ("First, Break All the Rules," "Now, Discover Your Strengths", "The One Thing You Need to Know", etc..) and sought after speaker.

And if Great Leadership is on the list. (-:

Here's how Marcus selected his top 10:

"Each of my Top 10 blogs excels in at least one (but usually more than one) of three criteria. You might call them the Three Rs:

1. Research
Opinions can be enlightening, but they’re also cheap. Everyone has one. Solid research and data will always get my attention and help a blog rise above the crowd.

2. Relevance
The bottom line is this: can you use what they give you? In order to be relevant, a blog has to be both practical and frequently updated.

3. Readability
Is the blog a pleasure to read? Is it something you look forward to diving into with each new post because the author has a way with words, images, analogies?"

I'm truly honored and humbled to have been named #4. Go here for the complete Top 10 list, with his ratings, why he likes it, a representative post, along with a list of 14 others that made his top 24.

There's a few I wasn't familiar with, so I've got some reading to do. Thanks, Marcus,  for taking the time to put this together!


Introducing the Leadership Caffeine Podcast Series


I'm honored to have been selected by Art Petty as his first guest for his new Leadership Caffeine Podcast series.

I had shared with you in an earlier post my reluctance in getting involved in podcasts - and Art's role in talking me into it. Although the HRIQ podcast I did was the first to "air", the interview I did with Art was actually my first.

You can go here to listen to the interview and learn more about the new series.

Upcoming guests include:

■Kevin Oakes, CEO of The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) on trends and best practices in integrated talent management.

■John Baldoni, leadership expert and author and blogger extraordinare, shares some thoughts on his work and the leadership challenges of the upcoming generation.

■Kevin Eikenberry, co-author of Bud to Boss, offers his expert perspectives and advice for professionals navigating that first-time leadership role.

■Author Linda Finkle shares her expertise from her book, Finding a Fork in the Road, concerning that delicate balancing act of building partnerships that succeed.

If it's your first visit to Art's Management Excellence blog, I'd recommend that you stay a while. It's chock full of all kinds of valuable leadership resources, including a library of posts, Leadership Sprints, a newsletter, an ebook, his book Practical Lessons in Leadership, and the Building Better Leaders program. It's like a shopping mall for leadership development!


Other miscellaneous updates and announcements:

1. I'm pleased to welcome Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender, as a permanent member of the new Leadership Development Roundtable. Sharlyn  will be adding her perspective to a series of monthly leadership development challenges. Other Roundtable memebers include Scott Eblin, Mary Jo Asmus, Art Petty, and Jennifer Miller.

2. I want to thank Chris Young, from Maximize Possibility, and Wally Bock, from Three Star Leadership, for recent "best of" honors on thier respective blogs. I really appreciate the consistant support you've given Great Leadership over the years.