Tag archive for "coach"

by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things That Will Improve Employee Engagement

No Comments 03 July 2014

Recently I read a piece in the e-version of a major business publication which, by title and implication suggested that seventy percent of Americans hate their work. The piece used as its factual anchor the oft-quoted “State of the American Workplace Report” by Gallup, which suggests that only about 30% of American workers are truly “engaged” in their jobs, leaving 70% or so in one level or another of disengagement.

Without doing too much ballet on the head of a pin, let’s make a distinction, an important one. My strong belief, after a couple decades of effort in this arena, is that by and large, people don’t hate their work at all. In fact, most of us rather like our work. Some of us even love it. What we dislike, and what we have difficulty ‘engaging’ with is our jobs, that broader context within which our work resides, and does or does not get done. The “job” encompasses a lot more than the task(s) that we get paid to do. It includes the terms of the deal, the people we interact with and answer to, the support that we get (or lack), the culture that permeates and defines the workspace, et. al.

Indeed, satisfaction and engagement surveys, which our firm has done for longer than I care to admit, suggest that quite often the greatest source of disengagement stems from people and processes that keep us from doing our very best work. In other words, that utterly stupid purchasing policy, or clueless manager who frustrate, rather than enable our best effort are among the primary culprits causing us to disengage. If we didn’t like our work, or want to go home at the end of each day feeling that we made progress, that stuff wouldn’t bother us. But we do, and people and things that block our work progress do more than cause disengagement – they make us crazy! Following are three things that most leaders can do (or refrain from doing) to improve employee engagement levels:

1. Become More Intentional and Selective in Hiring: By most measures, the burner underneath hiring in this country has been turned from “Off” to “Low”, and recently to “Medium” heat. In parts of the energy and tech landscape, it remains on “High.” Ergo, it’s more important than ever that, beginning right now, we use methods and processes that yield more talented, more compatible people. Put plainly but crudely, our staffers (particularly the better ones) don’t want to work with turkeys. Few things are more disengaging than working alongside people who can’t do the work, choose not to, or just plain don’t fit in.

So, as we go about the process of adding staff, it is imperative that we find people who have a penchant for doing terrific work, and whom others want to work with. If they don’t fit the culture, do NOT hire them, regardless of how talented they may be. And, it is also important that we move more quickly to identify and de-select those folks, including managers, who fail to measure up. Doing otherwise is unkind and a disservice to all involved.

2. Get Serious About Learning and Development: Every dentist office is equipped with a sign that says something to the effect of: “Do I have to brush and floss my teeth? Only the ones you want to keep.” The same thing could be said for training and developing our workforce. Engagement surveys consistently tell us that one of THE most important engagement drivers is the opportunity to learn, grow, and yes, build your resume. Yet, owing perhaps to a formerly soft job market, the response from most quarters has been a big, collective yawn.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the realm of so called “soft skills” training, especially leadership development, which for too long now has been a DIY proposition. And it shows. We are now seeing people move into every level of management, including the C-suite, without the benefit of even a shred of training. Consistent with the recent shared ownership of the healthcare equation in the U.S., we would do well to engage our staff members in earnest discussion about their professional development, and work with them toward a more jointly owned development process that is uniquely tailored to them. Beyond getting a more engaged workforce, we’ll also benefit from much better execution.

3. Don’t Fool* With the Gravy: Legend has it that not long after he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain to Heublein Inc., Col. Harland Sanders began taking issue with some of the changes imposed by the firm’s new owners. Upon reaching a point of exasperation, the Colonel invited himself to a Heublein management meeting. When asked the purpose of his visit, he allowed that, for the $285 million purchase price, the new owners probably had the right to exercise bad judgment in changing store layouts and the menu, but, he nonetheless had five words of advice for them… “Don’t fool* with the gravy.” (*Legend also has it that the Colonel’s choice of verbiage was, like his chicken, a little spicier than mine.)

The lesson for us is that, as we continue to innovate, streamline, and economize, we must be mindful not to callously ignore the hard earned knowledge and opinions of those who are, and have been doing the work and who might, just might be able to prevent us from making big, expensive mistakes. Doing a better job on the listening front isn’t just a tool for avoiding mistakes though. Anyone with as few as five gray hairs in their head can affirm that one of the quickest ways to disenfranchise a workforce is to ignore (disrespect) them.

Better listening is a product of hard work as well as technique. A tip given to me not long ago is to try to “read” the words as they come off of someone’s lips. It’s akin perhaps to the advantage that great baseball hitters get by seeing the ball come out of the  pitcher’s hand and then tracking it all the way to the plate. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

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by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Team Perform Like a Champion

No Comments 24 March 2014

climbing-mountainAs an executive coach, part of my job is to help clients learn from and avoid getting their own version of some of the scars on my back. One of those scars came at an early age. As a young, 20-something leader I did my best to ensure that my team had its share of talent, a firm grasp of our mission and priorities, and as much preparation as we could arrange. We performed at a consistently good, but not great level.

 

In retrospect, I was unknowingly limiting our progress by playing too tight, playing not to lose, specifically, not to lose my job. As a result, I wasn’t having much fun at work, and the people around me weren’t either. And then a day came when my boss took me out to lunch, and when we finished, we were really finished, with only one of us still having his job.

 

After some reflection and getting a new job (a better one), I realized that getting fired wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and resolved to double up on my self-awareness, and loosen the necktie just a bit going forward. As a result, some things changed in my approach to being a leader, and our results got better, a lot better.

 

I really hadn’t thought much about that episode in my life until recently when I read an article written by Michael David Smith about Seattle Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll. In the interview, Coach Carroll said, “It really took me getting fired a couple times, getting kicked in the butt, to get to where I am now.” In case you missed Super Bowl 2014, where Coach Carroll is right now is a pretty good spot.

 

It would have been hard for anyone watching Super Bowl 2014 not to notice that, though the players on both sides of the field were immensely talented and well coached, Carroll’s players, from the very start, were playing the game a little looser, and visibly having more fun.

 

Indeed, the Bronco’s jitters showed early when the Seahawks scored on the very first play from scrimmage after Denver’s center prematurely snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head. Before they knew it, the Broncos were down heavy, and the game was out of hand.

 

Okay, so how does this translate for the average, non-NFL manager who is simply trying to get the wash out every day? Here are three things to keep in mind:

 

1.     You’ve got to manage you before you can hope to lead others.  And that starts with you being an optimist, keeping some fun in the game, and making sure that your players aren’t slowed down by fear (yours or their own). A Chinese proverb suggests that, “A man without a smile must not open a shop.” That applies just as much to the role of a leader as it does a shopkeeper. People will not follow a sour, grumpy pessimist for long. After being told by a client many years ago that I needed to smile a little more, I’ve made it a habit, particularly on days that I know are likely to be stressful, to wear a rubber band on my wrist as a private reminder to smile. It works. (I guess it’s not private any more, though.)

 

2.     Be “the iron.” It has been said that it’s not the mountains we have to climb, but the grains of sand in our shoes that keep us from doing our best. That axiom is certainly true in the workplace. Our jobs as leaders involve spending time removing the impediments from the path of our team, making sure they have the tools, the processes, the wherewithal to do their very best work each day, every day. My co-author and business partner, Richard Hadden likens that to the effect that a hot iron has on a wrinkled shirt, as he advises leaders to, “be the iron.”

 

3.     Let people know that you care about them, not just as players or cogs in the wheel, but as real, pulsating human beings. You don’t have to become buddies, in fact, it’s better that you don’t, but you can still demonstrate in lots of ways, some large, but mostly small, that you care about them. Start by taking an interest in them, what’s important to them, what their goals, aspirations, and fears are. In order to do this, it is vital to listen, really listen. One tip that works for me is, when talking with someone, to make careful note of their eye color, and then, in real time, “read” the words coming off their lips. If I’m doing that, it’s much harder to engage in what I call the opposite of listening, which is waiting to talk, while formatting what I’m going to say next.

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  A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

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by Bill, Leadership, Management

A Leadership (and Life) Lesson from Frank Lautenberg

No Comments 04 June 2013

With the passing of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D–NJ) this week, some very large shoes have opened up in our national government. I will leave it to others to speculate on how NJ Governor Chris Christie might temporarily fill those shoes, preferring instead to recall a powerful lesson I learned from Mr. Lautenberg early in my career, when we both worked at ADP. It’s a lesson worth passing on, so here goes.

Approximately six months after graduating the University of Miami school of business, I took an HR manager job with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) in Miami, and enjoyed a five year run that also included assignments in Chicago and at the company’s New Jersey headquarters. Shortly after appointment to the NJ position, I went to New Jersey for an orientation of sorts.

On the evening after my first day in NJ, my wife and I made our maiden voyage into New York City.  Driving into the city, we got stuck in an accident-induced monster traffic jam at the bottom of the Lincoln Tunnel. We sat there for about 90 minutes, breathing noxious fumes being spewed from the buses and trucks around us. After a short visit to the city, we made it back to our hotel in Clifton, NJ where we both spent a very unpleasant night being sick to our stomachs from having ingested so much foul air.

The next morning, I probably should have stayed put in the hotel, but I wasn’t about to make a bad first impression with my new bosses and co-workers, or so I thought. At the beginning of each meeting in the morning, I told my host about my little problem and asked the location of the nearest restroom. In one case, in a meeting on the executive wing (I’ll never forget the purple carpet), my host pointed to an unmarked door about twenty yards away, and said, “There’s the closest one, but since it’s Mr. Lautenberg’s private facility, you probably should use the regular men’s room unless you just can’t get there.”

My worst fears were realized about twenty minutes into our discussion when I was startled by a loud noise and suddenly the urge to hurl was immediate. I bolted down the purple covered hall, through the door, and nearly flattened the President and CEO of ADP as I made my way to the porcelain facility. As I was slinking out of the bathroom, Mr. Lautenberg’s assistant, Ellie Popeck looked up from her desk and said, “Mr. Lautenberg wants to see you for a minute.” That was about the last thing in the world that I wanted to hear right then.

She ushered me into his office, and I’ll never forget that he stopped what he was doing, got up, smiled (yes), shook my hand and said, “Well, we’ve already met, why don’t we get introduced?” As I resumed breathing, we probably spent fifteen to twenty minutes in which he wanted to know all about me, what I had done in my earlier ADP assignments and what I hoped to do in my new one. We also discovered that we shared a common birthday and heritages that involved lots of work but little money. This guy was listening, really listening, and he didn’t have to. After all, we were separated by two very large rungs on the org chart. But listen he did.

Later on, as I got the chance to observe him in action, it was clear that Frank leveraged his listening skill in lots of ways. He had been ADP’s first salesman, and remained quite active in selling our payroll and accounting services – a process that starts not with talking, but listening. In 1982 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and quickly earned a reputation as a legislator who could get things done, again from a willingness to listen and consider the views of others. Indeed, he was able to work across the aisle to sponsor and help pass a great deal of legislation having to do with public safety and national security. As but one example, when you travel on commercial aircraft today you can thank Senator Lautenberg for the fact that you are not seated in a cabin filled with cigarette smoke.

Let’s all take a lesson from Mr. Lautenberg and realize that no matter how big and important we get (or think we are), none of us is too big to listen to and be informed by others.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership, Management

Whether in Healthcare or Elsewhere, It’s the Culture, Stupid!

2 Comments 06 December 2012

Earlier this week, alongside 199 of the brightest, most talented people in the healthcare space, I attended the 2012 Forbes Healthcare Summit. Held at the The Allen Room at Jazz @ Lincoln Center in New York, the conversation and content were as spectacular as the venue. Hats off to Steve Forbes for hosting an event that lived up to its billing, and for allowing me to attend. Given that we frequently coach and train managers and executives from hospitals, big pharma, device manufacturers, and eldercare, I attended the event in an effort to stay current on the trends, opportunities and challenges in their world.

Somewhere late-morning as I furiously scribbled notes, I realized that, despite not being mentioned on the meeting agenda, one word had come up… a lot, almost as much as words I was expecting to hear, like gene, physician, science, payor, and the like . The word – culture. “Its about the culture you need to create.” Mikael Dolston (Pfizer); “The problem is trust.” Peter Tippett (Verizon); “It’s all about culture.” Andy Slavitt (Optum); “The biggest challenges are culture, culture, culture.” Dr. Richard Rothman (The Rothman Institute). “The culture is critical.” Sandra Fenwick (Boston Children’s Hospital). The clear implication from each and every mention was that if you want to innovate, optimize, execute, and get better outcomes, you had better pay attention to getting and keeping the culture thing right. Indeed, sparks flew for a moment or two when one of the presenters suggested that his business might never have gotten off the ground if he had been forced to recruit workers with a public servant mindset from the government sector. Yikes!

Whether in healthcare or elsewhere, I don’t think it’s too big a reach to suggest that the primary burden of responsibility for getting the culture right rests with those of us who occupy a leadership role – generally anyone with a trailing “R” in their job title, like officer, director, manager, supervisor, or leader. So what does that entail? Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:

In my little pea brain, culture, at least as far as the workspace is concerned, is about expectations, customs, norms, and languages. It lends definition to the tribe. It means we have given serious thought to what it takes to be happy, productive, and successful here, gene mapping the organization if you will. It means that we have set, and abide by certain behavioral boundaries and expectations. It also means that we eject, like a virus, those who prefer to behave outside those lines. It means that, when recruiting, we are as careful about organizational fit as we are talent. Because of these expectations, things like respect and trust are usually in greater supply than elsewhere. As a result, people are more free to perform because they don’t have to waste precious time and energy looking over their shoulder. My questions to you are, how much time and attention are you giving to getting and keeping the culture right in your organization? How stridently do you, as a leader, explain and defend your culture?

These are my thoughts. You are invited to join the discussion.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Management

It’s Time to Revisit Absenteeism and Presenteeism

2 Comments 04 December 2012

Having recently spent two hours on a plane seated next to a fellow who was clearly too ill to be in confined space with others, I was reminded that the time of year when germ transmission and attendant illness ramps up is again upon us. For many of us, between sneezes, our attention turns to discussion of worker attendance, absenteeism, and presenteeism.

Our view is that organizations should be working on both ends of the job attendance equation. While the average worker experiences a relatively modest 3 days per year of unscheduled health-attributed absence, there is a growing number of chronic malingerers whose absenteeism rate is 5 to 10 times greater. Owing to a managerial workforce that is less well trained than ever, many managers quite simply don’t know how to deal with it.

And yes, on the other side of the coin, “presenteeism” is very much an issue, both with those who come to work when they shouldn’t, and those who are sick of work because it follows them home (and wherever else they go).

Worker attendance is at once both a human and a business issue that profoundly impacts the bottom line. Hence, it deserves fresh thought. A few starters…

  1. Give workers more choice and flexibility with work scheduling. As but one example, older workers usually find that they perform better when afforded fairly constant schedules and consecutive days of rest.
  2. Explore ways to afford your workers (all of them) better, more affordable access to health care (as opposed to health insurance).
  3. Crack down on abusers. One of the things that most infuriates high performers is the allowance made for turkeys.
  4. Stop making people lie to you about time off. Respected studies have repeatedly suggested that roughly two-thirds of last minute sick calls are for non-medical reasons.
  5. Treat staff members like the responsible adults you thought they were when you hired them, and let them know that you expect them to behave accordingly. Tell them that you will respect their judgment if they elect to stay home due to illness, and that if they have a communicable disease or malady, you most certainly don’t want them sharing it with co-workers.
  6. Take a hard look at the economic side of presenteeism, and the fact that in an increasing number of cases (health care and hospitality industries in particular), people are bringing their germs to work because they can’t afford not to. Achoo!

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership

The Ding Dongs Wore Suits – How Hostess Lost Its Buns

No Comments 02 December 2012

A couple weeks ago, a good friend asked my opinion on the expected failure of Hostess Brands Inc., the 85 year-old maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Hostess CupCakes, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs. His question prompted a flashback to regular visits my college buddies and I made decades ago to the 24-hour lunch counter at the Hostess bakery in South Miami after some, ah-hem… late night studies.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I suggested to my friend that the company was probably doomed on at least two basis:

  1. They found themselves trapped in an ultra-competitive industry, making products that fewer and fewer people were willing to buy and eat.
  2. It is clear that, for quite some time, Hostess customers, employees, and owners had been failed by an under-performing management.

Many have suggested that the straw that broke Hostess’s back came in the form of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union’s  refusal to accept the pay cuts contained in the company’s final contract offer. The union’s recalcitrance didn’t help matters, but as much as we might like to put the lion’s share of blame on them, this unfortunate saga didn’t begin, or end, with the unions.

Hostess was like a cow that was being milked every day, with no thought whatsoever given by dairymen to the condition of the pasture or feed lot, the need for veterinary treatment, milk production technology, or even the market for their products. Whenever management got in a pinch, they sold the cow, renamed her, or filed bankruptcy. The end result in this case, after three changes of ownership since the 1980’s and two bankruptcies, is that some 18,000 people got the ultimate pay cut, the “turn-around” managers get court approved bonuses, and the bakery will be liquidated, one slice at a time.

Are there lessons in this sad affair for the rest of us? Sure. Here are but two of them:

  1. Stay away from any organization that is bereft of a cogent, convincing long term strategy, and is being run instead purely for near term financial gain. If management can’t credibly explain with something as simple as a crayon, what their business stands for and where it’s going for the long pull, run.
  2. Have the courage to say no, when it matters, not after the fact… to employees, to unions, and bankers. Otherwise, you end up like GM and Chrysler, circa 2008, and yes, Hostess.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership, Management

How You Treat Dinged Up Workers is a Big, Dot Deal

No Comments 28 November 2012

Once again, the sports world is abuzz over the treatment of an injured player who, at least so far, has been kept on the bench despite being cleared to play. The player in this case is Alex Smith, quarterback of the San Francisco 49’ers. Since being cleared to return to play following a concussion injury, Smith has been kept on the bench by 49’ers coach, Jim Harbaugh, in favor of Colin Kaepernick, a rising star who has performed well in game situations. Nevertheless, tensions are rising.

Over the years, the default position of most coaches has been that injured players ought not lose their position due to injury. When medically cleared to return to play, they are returned to the lineup, and then it is up to their level of play to keep them on the field. If a better player emerges, all bets are off.

Good managers, like good coaches take this view also, because they know that one of the chief reasons their team-members suffer corporate “injuries” (i.e., failed projects, missed deadlines, etc.) is because they have extended themselves a bit too far for the team. They get going a little too fast, take on a bit too much (or both), and hit the proverbial wall.

Good leaders realize that the absolute last thing they want to do is to suggest that those who go all out for the team are taking that risk all on their own. They also know that it’s not just a personal decision, because as with the Alex Smith case, everybody else is watching. If people see a teammate treated in an inconsiderate manner after giving it up for the team or the coach, they will think long and hard before putting themselves in that position. They throttle back because they are afraid of what might happen to them.

Not unlike the job of a parent whose kid falls off their bike, our job as leaders is to help our teammates get up, keep them from getting run over, dust them off, and get them back in the game. Hut, hut.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership

When the “Right Stuff” Gets Snuffed by the “Vision Thing”

No Comments 09 July 2011

Quick… What is the mission of space shuttle Atlantis that launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center yesterday? What has been the program goal of the prior 134 space shuttle missions (launched at about $1.5 billion/copy) over the last 30 years? What has been the goal of America’s space program since 1969, when, standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, the Apollo 11 crew fulfilled President Kennedy’s 1961 promise that we would put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade?

If the answers aren’t coming to you quickly or clearly, don’t feel bad. I suspect you’re like most people, including many in Congress who vote to fund NASA, and even some at the agency itself. To wit, is it really any wonder that America’s space program as we have known it seems to be riding off into the sunset?

On our way to Titusville, Florida to view the Atlantis launch yesterday, friend and business partner, Richard Hadden asked for my thoughts, as something of an aerospace junkie, on the eminent conclusion of NASA’s shuttle program.  In the pre-dawn darkness some eight hours prior to the launch of STS 135, I hadn’t yet sorted out my emotional reaction to the program’s ending. What we talked about instead is just how similar NASA’s current situation is to other entities (e.g., governments, companies, et. al.) that lose their way, their funding, and their mojo.

The Bible’s book of Proverbs 29:18 suggests that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In this case, an agency that has long operated with a very cloudy, or at best misunderstood sense of purpose, direction, and priority is in real danger of going away, not because a nation has grown tired of space venture, but because of the persistent failure to clearly articulate a credible and compelling vision for the future.

Operating on a raison d’être tantamount to, “we do space”, or with a charge like that established by former President George W. Bush to revisit the Moon, something we accomplished nearly a half-century ago, isn’t going to get the job done. It’s almost as if we’ve fumbled the ball and are waiting for private ventures like SpaceX or Virgin Galactic to pick it up and see what they can do with it.

More germane to this post and our readership, the very same thing happens to companies, business units, departments, and teams that fail to credibly articulate and maintain a compelling sense of purpose and direction. As leaders, it is incumbent on each of us to determine, articulate, and then permanently illuminate, with one of those big 5-cell flashlights, the path ahead. What are we about? Why does this organization exist? As the French put it, what is our raison d’être? Where are we going? Why does it matter?

Fail to connect the dots on any one of these items and slowly (at first), but inexorably, the lights go out, and the party is over. President Obama desperately needs to do this for our nation at this time, and you and I need to do it with our own teams. A few suggestions:

  1. Having decided upon the “vision/mission thing”, it is not enough to announce it once or twice and then hang some relevant testimonial junk on the wall. Rather, to overcome the understandable cynicism that exists inside organizations, we need to practically “carpet-bomb’ the place with repeated signs that this is more, much more than some new program. Rather, it is to be our way of life. Words are important, but actions trump syllables.
  2. To operationalize and breathe life into those words, we should make it clear to the folks on our team that good faith efforts on their part to enact the vision will never get them in trouble. Similarly, if they are doing things that do not line up with that purpose, they should stop doing them as soon as practical. On an institutional level, we must take pains to be sure that budgets and reward mechanisms support our declared purpose and direction.
  3. To be sure, Level 1 and 2 managers (the folks closest to the front line, and the ones with the toughest jobs in any organization) should be charged with ensuring that their teammates get the big picture. But, because people don’t operate day to day in the big picture, they must see to it that those around them clearly grasp the top two or three priorities. You and I can spot-check this by periodically asking a few people to articulate the top three priorities for the organization. If they can do it, celebrate it, right then and there. If they can’t (more likely), we’ve got more work to do.

In the meantime, Godspeed to the crew of Atlantis sts 135, and the men and women here on the ground who have worked tirelessly in support of them and our nation’s space program.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the newly released book,Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership, Management

Make Employee “Stay Interviews” a Part of Your Engagement Strategy

2 Comments 17 February 2011

From time to time we are asked by the editors of Workforce Online to respond to reader questions. Recently, we were asked to respond to a question about using “stay interviews” as part of an employee engagement strategy. I thought the answer might be of interest to you.

Dear Workforce:
I’d like to start implementing “Stay Interviews”.  What kinds of questions should we be asking and how do I convince managers that this is important?

As opposed to exit interviews which are triggered by a staff member’s departure and yield nominal benefit, or “no interviews” which is akin to playing Russian roulette, “stay interviews” are conducted for the express purpose of strengthening the bond with your best people, and discovering what causes them to remain with the organization.

They can be one of the lowest cost, highest yielding activities by a management that is striving for greater levels of engagement and productivity. That’s exactly how it should be presented to your management team. (i.e., If we won’t make time to have a 40 minute chat with our best people, how and when will we make time to replace them?)

Our research, and others’ has consistently demonstrated that the top things which create stickiness between the individual and the organization, and the attendant discretionary effort include:

  • Having meaningful work and the freedom to pursue it
  • Working in a positive, challenging, high performance (read, elite) culture
  • Getting lots of opportunities to learn and grow (preparing to leave, if necessary)

Aside from not getting enough of one of the above, the chief cause of hitting the exit ramp is working for an unskilled, immature, or self-absorbed leader.

Conducted by a trained interviewer with position authority, stay interviews should focus on the above factors. Though some organizations find it convenient to conduct them coincident with the regular performance review cycle, we don’t recommend it, as performance reviews often carry too much baggage. Often times stay interviews are conducted on a skip-level basis as a means of adding credibility and objectivity to the process.

It is as important to realize what a stay interview is not as what it is. They are not a negotiating session, or a platform from which to rationalize or defend the status quo. Be plain about this from the start. Rather, the interview is an opportunity to listen (really listen) to the very people your annual report likely credits as being your most valuable asset. The interview should deal with questions like:

  • Why do you stay (with this organization, team, leader)?
  • What do you like best/least about you job?
  • If something has caused you to consider leaving in the last 6 months, what was it? Has it been resolved?
  • What would you like more/less of? What one thing would you like to see changed?
  • What’s your dream job, and are you making satisfactory progress to achieve it?
  • What can I/we do to support that effort?
  • Do you have any similarly talented friends or acquaintances who should be working here alongside you?
  • Is there one person in the organization who has really been helpful to you of late (so we can thank them appropriately)?

Not unlike the financial audits that every company does periodically, a combination of stay interviews with your best people, and engagement surveys of the entire workforce will inexpensively provide the organizational equivalent of color Doppler radar, with measures of actionable intelligence and goodwill. Good luck!

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the newly released book, Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their  website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Management

Why We Suck at Job Interviews

1 Comment 29 May 2009

In a recent Fast Company piece, Why It May Be Wiser To Hire People Without Meeting Them, authors Dan and Chip Heath (Made to Stick)  essentially suggest that, since work samples, employment tests, and references are a better barometer of future job success than a job interview carried out by an untrained/unskilled interviewer, we might as well dispense with the interview.

“When the economy finally turns around, you’ll start hiring people again. You’ll sift through dozens of impressive-sounding résumés — who knew there were so many VPs in the world? — and bring in the standouts for the critical final stage: the interview. You’ll size them up, test the “culture fit,” and peer into their souls. Then you’ll make your decision. This is the Official Hiring Process of America. And it ignores, almost completely, what decades of research tell us about how to pick good employees.

According to the pair, “Here’s the reality: Interviews are less predictive of job performance than work samples, job-knowledge tests, and peer ratings of past job performance. Even a simple intelligence test is dramatically more useful.” They go on to point out that one of the central flaws might be that we (hiring managers) persist with interviews, “because we all think we’re good at it.”

Whoaa! Full Stop! The major premise seems to be that interviews shouldn’t be used because most hiring managers lack interviewing skills (true). Most people, even most MD’s lack surgical skills, too, so…

Work samples, valid tests, and references should all be part of the mix, but let’s not kick interviews out of bed because absent training/practice they make us uncomfortable and we’re not very good at doing them.

I continue to be amazed that, while maintaining that hiring decisions are the most critical decision any manager makes, most organizations send those same managers out to conduct employment interviews without the benefit of any training, other than a few purely prophylactic EEO admonishments. It’s a little like turning a six year-old loose on a construction site with a D9 wheel loader!

Here are two not so humble suggestions from one who has been involved with the recruitment of tens of thousands of people over the course of his career:

1. For the very same reason that Tiger Woods employs a golf coach, get some training on how to conduct effective, behaviorally anchored job interviews. Come on folks, this isn’t hard!

2. Practice. The very best way to work on your interviewing skills AND recruit some great people is to continue doing it every day. Don’t wait for the economy to pick up, when your skills are even rustier and everyone is fishing in the same pond!

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.

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