Thursday, October 29, 2015

Five Degrees of Workplace Culture

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
How healthy is your workplace culture? Is yours a safe, inspiring, productive culture or far from it?
I recently spoke to leaders in two different organizations about the difficult dynamics in their work environment. Both organizations are experiencing “senior leaders behaving badly."

The behavior is disruptive, aggressive, and exhausting for anyone that interacts with these leaders. Tantrums happen frequently. These leaders’ teams demonstrate inconsistent performance and poor service (to internal and external customers). When challenged to improve results or service, these leaders pop a cork, even cussing up a storm, which diverts attention from the core performance and service issues.
These dynamics cause stress, frustration, and heartache. Worse, the bad behavior by these leaders has been tolerated by the top leaders of their organizations - so it continues, unabated.

If leaders want a high performing, values-aligned culture, they must be intentional about the quality of their workplace culture. They must design their desired culture through an organizational constitution, which specifies their team or department or company’s present day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. Once defined, leaders must align all plans, decisions, and actions to that constitution.
Crafting an organizational constitution then aligning practices to that constitution takes time, energy, and attention on the part of leaders, every day. Leaders must demonstrate their values and behaviors in every interaction - and coach everyone else in their organization to do the same.

The problem is that leaders spend greater time and energy on their organization’s products and services than they do on it’s culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organization, for better or worse.
Leaders have never been asked to manage their team’s culture. They don’t know how. Yet the benefits of aligning practices to an organizational constitution are impressive: 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of applying this framework.

To reap these gains, leaders must assess the health of their current team or department or company culture. My book, The Culture Engine, presents five levels or degrees of workplace culture health. They include:

  • Dysfunction - This is the lowest quality level, indicating a culture of low trust, inconsistent performance, and consistent frustration when trying to get things done.
  • Tension - This level indicates that trust is slightly better but below standard. Performance is slightly better but remains inconsistent. Disagreements occur regularly, but overt conflict is not as common.
  • Civility - This is the middle ground and represents the minimum standard of culture quality. At this level, leaders and team members are treated with respect. Interactions are formal and professional. Performance is consistently good. Disagreements about ideas are conducted calmly without denigrating the leader or team member's commitment, skills, or role.
  • Acknowledgement - This quality level is reflected in the active recognition and expression of thanks and gratitude for effort, accomplishment, service, and citizenship. Team members do not wait for acknowledgement from leaders - they proactively thank each other. Customers are treated respectfully. The phrase "thank you” is heard a lot.
  • Validation - This quality level demands the active valuing of team members' skills, ideas, enthusiasm, and talents. Leaders frequently delegate authority and responsibility to talented, engaged team members. Productivity is consistently high. Cooperative problem solving and team work is the norm.
The research proves that teams that implement and align to an organizational constitution enjoy a validating culture. That quality level is reflected in consistent team member engagement, customers being WOW'ed daily, and exceeding performance expectations over time.

To what degree is yours a validating culture? Add your comments below.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

7 Signs that it May be Time to Step Down as a Manager

How do you know when it’s time to step aside, or down from being a manager? Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out more:


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stop Criticizing and Start Leading Your Youngest Workers

Guest post from Claudia St. John:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”  -- Socrates circa 400 B.C.
Some things never change.  It sounds like Socrates is talking about our current millennial generation – those currently between the ages of 18 and 34.

We’ve all heard the rap against them.  They’re entitled, self-absorbed, disloyal, tech-crazy and don’t know how to communicate.  They are a generation we love to complain about.  But they’re also creative, smart, compassionate, tolerant, enthusiastic and giving – especially to those jobs or bosses that understand what makes them tick.  
Millennials, also known as Generation Y , are often maligned and quite misunderstood. And figuring out how to harness the energy and enthusiasm is clearly a worthwhile endeavor, as they are the fastest growing, most diverse group in our population and just this year they surpassed all other generations in the workforce – one in three U.S. workers are millennials.  They value family, community, creativity and the environment.  They are entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and are fiscally conservative.  They are also notorious job-hoppers and

What this means for business leaders is that, more than any other generation, our youngest employees need to be actively engaged at work or they will leave for another job that offers them growth, opportunity or, more often than not, a meaningful, value-based work experience.  So, as you as you welcome these workers into your company, here are five things you might consider:
  1. Treat them like the adults that they are…even if they show up for work in hoodies and sporting tattoos.  Relationships, respect and purpose matter more to this group than money.  Connect the dots for them. Explain how their jobs matter in the big picture.  And they are a generation that celebrates self-expression and diversity – get past the superficial and look for the value and purpose that they can provide.
  2. Let them use their personal technology at work.  Get over it.  If it doesn't cause a safety problem, let them have access to their phones during breaks at work.  They see 24x7 connectivity as essential to their own sense of purpose (and face it, so do many of us older folks) and they will be more productive if you don’t restrict their natural form of communication.  And they may see opportunities for using technology in unique ways to build your brand or engage your customers.  Incorporate their technology into their jobs – use them as your organization’s social media ambassadors.  No one knows that space better than they do.  Heck, they created it! 
  3. Over-indulge their need for feedback.  Their parents gave it to them, their teachers give it to them.  It’s about time their bosses gave it to them too.  They, more than any other generation of employee, need feedback on their performance.  If you see them doing something well, don’t just walk by, stop and tell them what you observed and why it is important.  Unfortunately, all too often we restrict our feedback to constructive criticism – if that’s all they get from you then you will lose them.
  4. They’re not looking for just a job…they’re looking for a meaningful experience.   Be infectiously enthusiastic about the mission and purpose of your organization.  Find ways for them to give back to the community and the world.  These are truly global citizens who want to do good as much as they want to do well.  Find opportunities to engage them in the world and create a work environment (with flex-schedules or condensed workweeks) so that they can engage in activities outside of work that are important to them.  If you respect their interests, they will respect and appreciate you in return.
  5. They are not entitled – they are survivors.  These amazing young workers have endured a start to their professional lives that none of their older colleagues could imagine.  They carry crippling student loan debt, entered the workforce just after the Great Recession when jobs in their field of interest were few and far between.  Lesser jobs that would pay the bills are now occupied by Baby Boomers who are failing to exit the workforce to make room for their younger counterparts.  The political landscape is full of poison.  Global warming is all that they know.  Yet they remain optimistic, engaged and in search of solutions to all the world’s ailments.  Recognize the challenges that they face and consider offering them benefits that provide financial protections and savings opportunities.  Study after study show that this cohort is more financially cautious than all other generations in the current workplace.  Use that to your advantage to help them create financial stability and security.
Are the millennials challenging to manage?  Yes, they are.  But we must also remember that we, ourselves, created these young people.  As parents, and as a society, we nurtured them and protected them and we told them to make their own way because no one (including their employer) would look out for them.  Yes, we created these creative, independent, confident generation.  And now it’s our turn to lead them.

Claudia St. John is the author of Transforming Teams: Tips for Improving Collaboration and Building Trust. She is also founder and president of Affinity HR Group, LLC, a national human resources and management consulting firm specializing in talent selection, workforce management, and human resources compliance. As a consultant and frequent speaker, she has given hundreds of presentations and workshops on topics such as employee engagement, common management mistakes, challenges in managing a multigenerational workforce, and building trust and collaboration. Her weekly HR Minute e-bulletin and columns are followed by thousands of business leaders nationwide. Claudia earned an undergraduate degree in employee benefits and labor relations from American University and a master’s degree in business and public administration from The George Washington University. She also holds an SPHR, an SHRM-SCP, and numerous other HR and management certifications. Claudia lives in Cazenovia, New York, with her husband, David, and her sons Charles and Henry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Five Questions Every CEO Should Ask

According to John Manning, “there are Five Vital Questions you can ask to get razor-sharp clarity around your organization’s productivity. Answer these questions to get the facts and you can improve goal-setting, make more empowered decisions about your company’s strategic direction, and discover how to more effectively lead and inspire performance.”

Read John’s guest post Five Questions Every CEO Should Ask over at Leadership and Management.


Monday, October 19, 2015

7 Common Myths about Leadership

According to Karen Kimsey-House, “until we move beyond some of our long cherished myths about what it means to be a leader, it will be difficult to truly generate change. Here are seven of the most common myths about leadership that keep us stuck.”

Read Karen’s guest post 7 Common Myths about Leadership over at Management and Leadership.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Laughing and Business: Don’t Be a Buzz Kill

Guest post from William Goodspeed:

To understand the challenges of humor in business organizations, it may help to look at the Ivy League. Dartmouth College, the League’s historically most fun school, is suffering from a serious lack of humor. Recently, a fraternity advertised a Cinco de Mayo party featuring margaritas and other typical features of the Americanized holiday. But one female student of Hispanic heritage complained that the event was offensive to Hispanics. The fraternity immediately cancelled the event, lest it offend anyone. The losers were the students who would have enjoyed the fun, as well as the local charity that benefitted from the event—because one woman was offended.

Are we becoming a society where any minority group can veto anything it deems offensive?

Political correctness, often embodied in ‘legal correctness,’ is choking America, especially businesses. While companies seek to create jobs, customer benefits, wealth and community prosperity, forces within have become the “thought police,” particularly human resources and legal.

Humor and fun are really important in business, much to the chagrin of human resources professionals and corporate lawyers. They are critical for two vital reasons:

1. Companies with happy employees perform far, far better than those with miserable staff; and

2. Culture is a powerful competitive weapon, and cultures of warmth and fun are really tough to replicate and beat.

On the first point, people need look no further than restaurants and airlines. It’s not hard to find the ones with happy employees. Southwest Airlines is a great example; flight attendants and pilots joke all the time. They enjoy their jobs and the customers. Delta has become more this way too. Contrast this with virtually all other American airlines, whose people sport grim looks and often act irritably with customers. Which airlines perform the best? Southwest and increasingly, Delta. In the restaurant world, who wants grumpy waiters? You can always tell which places have the happiest people, and they seem to thrive.

Maybe a little humor and fun would be a good investment?

On the other hand, culture is a critical competitive weapon for business. Products and services can usually be replicated easily, but culture not so. When I was running a successful business with a powerful, fun culture, I used to say, “Let our competitors see our strategy. They can’t reproduce our culture, no matter how hard they try, and our culture makes our success happen.” It was true. Fifteen years later, the business is far more profitable than its larger peers, and the team is still having fun.

Granted, fun and humor are not essential to every culture, but they usually go with high energy, attracting people and big aspirations.

Instead of having thought police, like human resource departments who act like cranky school marms, companies should embrace fun and humor.  They should realize that liability and lawsuits are a risk, sure, but they represent a miniscule amount of the value created by having an engaged workforce and a powerful, attractive culture. To destroy fun in the workplace to avoid liability is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say.

Sure, there should be limits: jokes that poke fun of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are generally not appropriate. But does humor need to be based on these type of jokes? There are many funny shows on TV, and much of the humor is not derogatory towards protected classes.

So laugh a little; don’t be a Buzz Kill. Your people, your customers and your business will love it.

About the author
William Goodspeed held several senior executive positions in various industries and companies. While working for large companies, he kept his passion of observing behavior. He launched his writing career with, “The Point,” a seasonal Northwestern Michigan parody newspaper with 125 unpaid subscribers. His latest book is “BuzzKill”, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Balboa Press online bookstores.
A former resident of Charlotte, N.C., he currently lives in Maine and Michigan with his wife, Jen.

Monday, October 12, 2015

4 Essential Business Acumen Questions Every Manager Needs to Answer

When you can answer these 4 essential business acumen questions, you’ll be able to provide direction, prioritize and make better decisions.
Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to test your own business acumen!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

If Your Business isn’t Agile, You Won’t Have a Future. It’s That Simple

Guest post from Linda Holbeche:
The rulebooks of business are being rewritten. So rapid is the pace of new developments, and so diverse the forms of competition, that many large corporations struggle to be agile enough to compete. Tiny niche players can emerge from nowhere to take the market or make expensively researched products obsolete overnight. Not surprisingly, the need for organizational agility sits high on executive agendas everywhere. 

To compete effectively, speed, innovation and intense customer focus are of essence. To a very large extent, these are the product of the discretionary effort of clever people. Yet conventional silos, management practices and mindsets act as brakes on all of these. In today’s interconnected world, and with today’s multi-generational and multi-cultural global workforce, what people want and expect from work is changing and the old-style corporate “givens” are being challenged as no longer fit for purpose. So how do agile organizations square the circle – obtaining the speed, innovation and flexibility they want – while employees get the fair deal, at least in terms of development, flexibility and empowerment, they want? Is it possible to get the best of both worlds?

To build an agile organization requires a revolution in conventional management thinking and practice. For over 30 years business schools have taught managers the centrality of shareholder value and the “science” of top-down, linear planning, short-term thinking and “slash and burn” employment practices. Such approaches typically result in large gaps between strategic intent and implementation, loss of trust and a disenfranchised, insecure workforce. When employees are treated like disposable chattels, they are less likely to want to release their discretionary effort to benefit the business – everything becomes a transaction, and the intangible extra, employee goodwill, evaporates.

For agility the “art” of strategizing is needed. This is the process of involving employees in data-gathering and decisions that affect them and their organizations. This more inclusive approach tends to close the strategic implementation gap since people understand why change is needed and can contribute to finding solutions to business challenges. This is shared leadership in action and works on the principle of “I own what I help to create”. When they are involved, people tend to be more engaged, innovative and productive. As a result, the organization benefits from multiple marginal gains as well as major breakthroughs.

Such collaborative effort highlights the need for a new employment relationship built on mutual trust and the principal of win-win for the business and its employees. And it also means that a new approach to leadership and management is needed.

Agility requires leaders who are capable of multi-faceted thinking and learning agility; who can cope with ambiguity and complexity; who are genuine and can bring people with them on the continuous journey of change. And while agile leaders still have the challenge of keeping shareholders happy in the short-term, they must look longer-term, anticipate the major issues that could affect their organization, challenge shareholder primacy, use their influence to win support for building a more resilient and innovative organization that can create and sustain a new set of competitive advantages. They may also have to act as shield to enable greater experimentation and to protect their organization from the critics during the transition to something potentially more dynamically successful. This also presents business schools with the challenge of developing leaders who “get” the need for something different, when business schools have themselves helped to create the current orthodoxy.

Developing such agile leadership and shifting rigid mindsets is not easy. Some organizations are providing senior managers and leaders with opportunities to come together in variations on action learning groups, often involving peers from other sectors to consider common challenges. Others are setting up reflective spaces where leaders can come to terms with not having all the answers to complex, “wicked” problems. Coaching and mentoring can help, as long as they do not reinforce the “one-size-fits-all” solution approach. Benchmarking visits by groups of peer leaders to companies in other markets, to share issues and developments, are on the increase. So too is the participation of groups of CEOs in management, economic or psychology conferences where they can exchange notes on emerging ideas sparked by conference sessions. Increasingly leadership development is happening outside the conventional work boundaries and disciplines – it may involve leaders individually or collectively participating in community projects in different parts of the world.

While truly agile organizations are still in short supply, I believe the emerging orthodoxy of agility offers a potentially more adaptable, sustainable, ethical, equitable and resilient approach to doing business in today’s fast-changing context. And leaders who can “square the circle” will help redefine what success looks like in the 21st century. A worthy aim!

Professor Linda Holbeche is a developer, consultant, researcher and coach in the fields of leadership, strategy, HR development, change management and organization design and development. She is Adjunct Professor at Imperial College London and a Visiting Professor at City University’s Cass Business School, and a Fellow at Roffey Park. She is the author of two books for Kogan Page in 2015:
The Agile Organization, and – with Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge – Organization Development: A Practitioner's Guide for OD and HR 2nd Edition. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Offensive Office Etiquette

Swearing, body odor, bad breath, talking too loud, excessive farting, and too much perfume or cologne.
These are all examples of workplace etiquette that managers need to address. Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Are You a Candid Leader? 4 Ways to Build Clarity, Trust, and Competitive Advantage

Guest post by Nancy K. Eberhardt:

Honest, purposeful, and respectful communication is one of the most effective leadership skills, yet CEOs who promote a culture of candor are still uncommon in business today. With an increased demand for transparency, building trust through authenticity is more critical than ever for individuals and organizations to keep their competitive edge. Here are four techniques that will help open the lines of communication with team members, and across your organization, to encourage valuable idea generation and information sharing:
1. Avoid the Feedback Sandwich - When giving a performance evaluation where development is needed, do you typically start with what your employee does well, followed by areas for improvement, and wrap up with what you like about their work? At best, this approach can be confusing, leaving your employee focused only on the positives and missing the areas to be developed altogether. For the best results, it’s always best to provide honest feedback with clear direction on expectations. Keep in mind, direct feedback should be respectful, without ridicule, demeaning, or humiliation.

2. Listen More – No Need to Get Defensive - As a leader, do you get defensive when someone disagrees with you, or are you open to other ideas and approaches? When communicating, listening is just as important as speaking, perhaps even more so. Information is king and by listening, you have the opportunity to gain valuable perspectives about what’s working and what’s not. It helps to have all of the facts to make the best decision possible.
3. Don’t Be a People Pleaser - We all want to be liked, but as the boss, we know that’s not always possible. Our job is to be respectful, yet also direct, clear, and purposeful. As a supervisor, if we try to “manage” other people’s feelings, we are not being effective. When you are honest with someone, you honor them. The key is to give honest feedback - both positive and negative - in a respectful manner. How it’s received is up to the recipient. Realize that we won’t please everyone all of the time, but being relied upon to be truthful with the company’s and your team’s best interest in mind will help to build trust and gain their respect.

4. Be Honest with Yourself - As a leader, we spend the majority of our time developing strategy and managing others. However, looking inward is just as important. Do you regularly consider your own performance? What can you do to be more effective? Do you ask for feedback on how to improve? Is everyone on board with a clear vision and specific objectives? By acknowledging your areas for growth, you encourage others to do the same.
To be an authentic leader, you must create a culture of candor—communicating with honesty, clarity, purpose, and respect—to heighten credibility, inspire, and engage.

Nancy K. Eberhardt, President and CEO, Pathwise Partners is a Gazelles™ certified Executive Coach and consultant for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and boards. She is an expert in fostering authentic conversation, mutual respect, and new possibilities for breakthrough results, and author of the recent book, Uncommon Candor: A Leader's Guide To Straight Talk. Uncommon Candor: A Leaders Guide to Straight Talk. To learn more about how communicating with candor can help you achieve greater results, visit Pathwise Partners or contact Nancy at