Tag archive for "discretionary effort"

by Bill, Management

Discretionary Effort Beats an Inversion Strategy Any Day

No Comments 27 July 2014

iStock_000008353283MediumBusiness news has been rife of late with coverage of U.S.-based corporations (e.g., Medtronic, Walgreen, AbbVie, Pfizer, Aon, Eaton, Omnicon) either attempting or completing an effort to re-flag the business as a non-U.S. entity. By and large, companies are using such “inversion” strategies in an effort to reduce corporate income taxes (e.g., Ireland’s headline rate is only 12.5%) and giving them tax-favorable access to the gobs of cash they have stashed offshore.

As an American businessman, it pisses me off (sorry, Mom) that some (repeat, some) American corporations are willing to partake in, but not pay for the fruits of the freest, fairest and safest nation on earth, AND that the U.S. Congress seems more interested in mindless political dithering than providing common sense solutions. Here are some thoughts for those on both sides of this matter:

While the top U.S. headline corporate tax rate (including the average state rate) is about 40%, normal business deductions coupled with offsets (e.g., accelerated depreciation) reduce the effective rate for many large American businesses to zero (or less). You read that right.

Hence, I’m not sure that a cut in rates per se is all that significant or justified. What does make sense though is to provide a tax holiday that would give corporations the opportunity to repatriate offshore cash on a tax-free or reduced tax basis. Coupled with a requirement that a substantial portion of those funds be deployed over, say a five year period, in R&D, cap X, or new hiring, it would seem a win-win proposition. Private industry could certainly deploy that cash more productively for both selfish and beneficial interests than the government ever could.

Further, as espoused recently on CNBC by Mark Cuban, a reduction in the amount of government-induced bureaucratic hassle would be far better for business (and the American economy) than putting a couple dents in the headline corporate tax rate.

Finally, for businesses that are really interested in maximizing outcomes, tapping into the discretionary effort of their workforce via a more focused, fired up, capably led (read engaged) team presents serious opportunity for competitive advantage. Respected published studies on the bottom line benefits of an engaged workforce, including our own 2012 book on the subject suggest three things:

1. There is a lot of low hanging fruit. The economic loss due to having an American workforce that is about 70% DISengaged amounts to about $500 billion annually, or roughly 3% of the U.S. GDP. Capturing only a third of that discretionary effort that currently goes home each day unspent could mean the difference between an economy that is growing at 3% rather than 2%, which is a big deal.

2. Companies that distinguish themselves as employers of choice consistently outgrow and outearn their competitors by a factor of up to 10x. No tax cut is going to yield that kind of benefit.

3. Perhaps the greatest factor is that, unlike tax incentives which apply to businesses across the board, capturing the discretionary energy that is resident within your workforce creates a true competitive differential, one that your competitors don’t get unless they do the work.

Here are three things you might consider doing:

1. Tell your elected representatives that you expect them to take the necessary action to allow U.S. businesses to repatriate some of their offshore cash, but also to thwart efforts to game the system by reflagging. Further, encourage them to identify (and act on) ways that government can reduce the bureaucracy that stifles innovation and growth. Sooner is better.

2. Take a cue from Mark Cuban, and avoid investing in or doing business with companies whose American pride is overcome by greed. Moreover, tell them you’re doing it.

3. Take an honest look at your own workforce. Is it firing on all cylinders? Is it getting harder to recruit? What things are keeping your people from doing their very best work every day, and what are you doing about it? Are your people sufficiently focused, challenged, and appreciated? Find out, and then take action. It’s well worth doing, and you don’t need an act of congress.

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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, Management

Discretionary Effort Is a Big, Dot Deal

1 Comment 29 August 2013

Since commencing research on what ultimately became our first book, I have taken a rather steely-eyed approach to the subject of employee relations. A data-driven sort, I suspect that, had that research not produced clear linkage between worker attitudes and corporate performance, I would have found something very different to do for a living. But it did, and thus work at the intersection of people and profit has been the main event around here for better than fifteen years.

With each passing month, set of quarterly earnings reports, and new worker engagement survey, there is further evidence that the nexus between people and profit is a big, dot deal. Witness Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report which suggests that lost productivity due to worker disengagement now costs U.S. employers in the neighborhood of $500 billion annually, or roughly 3.3% of our $15 trillion national economy.

Let’s just say for grins and giggles that Gallup’s math is somehow off by one-third on the high side (I doubt it), and that only half of the remaining productivity loss could effectively be captured through better management performance. That still leaves better than a 1% potential improvement in GDP on the table, and very much within our grasp. In relative terms, that would cover the entire defense-related portion of the recent eight year budget sequester, with enough left over to buy the U.S. Navy a couple of new Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The same principle holds true on an organizational level. For fifteen years we’ve documented, most recently in our 2012 book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk,  the outsized performance of employers of choice relative to their peers and market averages. As a case in point, the average annual total stock return for the twelve newly named “Contented Cow companies” during the period 2002 – 2011 was 10.7%, besting the broader market average by a whopping 9.7% annually, creating a wealth premium of approximately $70 billion annually. Nuff said?

In a recent presentation for University of Memphis School of Business students, I ventured that, over the next 20 years, discretionary effort, that extra morsel of effort that is applied exclusively at the will of the individual, will have greater effect on productivity and profits than the continued exploitation of technology. We’re not anti-technology mind you. In fact we tend to be fairly early adopters, but it seems unlikely that we’ll have another equivalent of the Internet invented every decade. Moreover, given that worker engagement levels are presently at sub-surface (whale poo) levels, let’s just say that there is a lot of low hanging fruit.

Here are a few steps wise managers and organizations are taking to improve worker engagement, and thus unlocking discretionary effort and better business performance:

1. Getting serious about personal development plans - For years (no, decades) most of us have paid lip service to creating and executing personal development plans with our staff. A funny thing happened as we began the climb out from the Great Recession. Workers at all levels began making it known in no uncertain terms that as long as they were going to have to provide their own job security, they expected more and better help in the learning and development department. Indeed, analysis of any legitimate engagement study reveals that learning and self-development are always among the top 3 engagement drivers. Aside from better developmental assignments, workers are looking for help with securing professional accreditation and KSA’s to make them more competitive for their next job (hint). As but one manifestation, overtaxed L&D organizations are turning with greater regularity to external coaches to  partner with high potential employees to help execute those plans. That is particularly the case with newly promoted organizational leaders (at all levels).

2. Reacting quicker to misfits and poor performers – Fans and even casual observers of Major League Baseball were witness to an unusual social drama this summer wherein two dozen or so players suspected of cheating via performance enhancing drugs were left twisting in the breeze for months as the league figured out what to do with them. In the interim, not just the involved players, but their teammates and fans grew highly agitated over the agonizingly slow pace of justice (about as slow as a Yankees vs. Red Sox game).

Taking a lesson from Major League Baseball perhaps, smart leaders recognize that being slow to move on people who either don’t fit or can’t / won’t perform is unkind to the person involved, and it poses a terrible drag on the morale and productivity of those around them. To be sure, really good leaders, the ones we call Leaders of Choice, are neither reckless nor callous about dealing with these matters, but once it is apparent that the situation is untenable, they act.

3. Getting better seed corn – Any good baker will tell you that great cakes start with great ingredients. That is as axiomatic in the workplace as the kitchen. If you want contented (read engaged), high yielding workers, it’s important to start with folks who have sufficient bandwidth, desire, and the capacity to be contented on your team. Over the course of the Great Recession and our climb out from its depths, many of us have not taken time to sharpen our sourcing and selection processes, to wit we could quickly be disadvantaged as hiring resumes (and it is).

Moreover, it has been so long since some of us were in a serious recruiting mode that we have missed much of a generational shift in the workspace. Consider, for example:

  • How mobile-friendly is your recruiting process (end to end)? For that matter, how candidate-friendly is it? (Remember, 138 characters + an RT can make a big difference.)
  • What have you done lately to establish, burnish, and take advantage of your employer brand? Are you regularly doing employee surveys to get feedback from the people who define that brand?
  • Do you have serious Millenial involvement in your recruitment process? Never mind involvement, let them run it.

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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, Motivation

Optimism is an Essential Requirement for Leadership

No Comments 09 May 2013

Earlier this week, in the first game of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series, the Chicago Bulls, absent three of their star players, traveled to Miami and beat the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own building. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of basketball fans were stunned by the outcome. They may wind up being stunned by the series outcome, too. Who knows?

What we do know is that the Bulls are being led by a coach, Tom Thibodeau, who is an optimist. With three star players out of action due to injury or illness (effectively 20% of the roster), it would be easy for Thibodeau to say, “Ain’t it awful?”  and effectively foreclose on their slim chances of winning. Au contraire! On more than one recent occasion, Thibodeau, when asked about his short-handed team’s chances, has responded to the effect that, ‘we have more than we need to win.’

What matters is not that Thibodeau is saying this stuff, but that he’s got everyone on the Bulls’ bench buying in, and contributing every last drop of their discretionary effort to the cause.  With effort like that, you can’t help but be impressed, and maybe even like their chances.

Ironically, it was another Chicago coach, an NFL football coach, who many years ago announced early in the season that his team was so lousy that they probably wouldn’t win another game all year. Guess what? They didn’t, not because the coach was clairvoyant, but because the team simply played up (or in that case, down) to the coach’s expectations.

Your team, is no different. If you truly believe that good things will happen, and you do the work to prepare to win, you, too have all you need to win. Like nearly every other aspect of leadership, being an optimist is rather simple. But it can be hard, especially when you’re sailing against a strong headwind. But we have to do it, because people won’t follow, let alone give it up for a leader who is a pessimist or doesn’t believe in them.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your odds:

Check Your Look

Check your look, ‘er attitude in the mirror. Just as you might check your look on the way back to work after lunch, check your attitude every day on the way to work.  In the late 80’s, I helped run FedEx’s wilderness-based leadership development program. Week after week we were engaged with two dozen of the company’s best and brightest leaders in a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting program in a remote, high altitude location in northern Utah. If the altitude, physical exertion, or the task of keeping 24 city-dwellers safe wasn’t kicking our butts, something else was. Accordingly, the preceptor group (program leaders) had a quick check-in every morning, first personally, and then with the group, just to make sure everyone was upbeat and in the game. If on a given day you couldn’t “spin your hat around” and really engage in a positive fashion, you stepped back and supported someone else who could.

Treasure Your Truth Tellers

Every good leader has one or more “truth tellers” around them – people who care enough about them to come in, close the door, and provide some unvarnished feedback.  It is to your advantage to cultivate those kinds of relationships. That way, if you’re getting a little cranky or narrow-minded, someone will let you know about it before it gets too far.

Have a Place to Go

We all need to have a “place to go to” when our outlook is suffering. Except for chemicals, it doesn’t matter too much what or where it is as long as you have confidence in it. Some people use a good, hard workout to clear the cobwebs and get re-oriented. Others who are musically inclined might spend time with their guitar, piano, or other instrument.   I use music (think aging rockers at high decibels pumped thru earbuds), travel (specifically looking out an aircraft window at 39,000’ at a whole lot of blue sky), and fly fishing to do the job.  The important thing is, in today’s always-on, high speed world, you can’t be afraid to unplug for a few hours or days to reorient. Your team is counting on you.

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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, Think About It...

Apologies Don’t Put the Worms Back in the Can, or the Words Back in Your Mouth

No Comments 04 March 2012

Ordinarily, we try to have a positive focus in this blog, encouraging leaders to adopt or maintain practices that will coax the very best effort from their teams. As opposed to the usual “start doing this” stance, this post is one of the “don’t do that” variety.

Earlier this week, a political shock jock who is as loved by some as he is loathed by others made completely uncalled for and by most measures, out of bounds comments about the morality of a young female college student. Days later, at the point of spears held by his show’s advertisers, he issued something of an apology.

Though it is entirely appropriate to personally and genuinely apologize when you’ve stepped in it, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that an apology doesn’t undo the wrong. Acts of contrition may serve as salve for a wound we’ve created, but make no mistake – there is still a wound there. Only in Hollywood does the wound get undone and those who created it or got themselves voted off the island get to come back at season’s end.

The lesson here for leaders is that we must be very mindful of the fact that once we open a can of worms, it’s open. We can no more put worms back in the can than we can put uttered words back in our mouth. There a number of faux pas that our teammates in the workplace simply aren’t going to forgive, let alone forget, apology or not. Chief among them are the following:

  1. Lying – as in knowingly and deliberately misleading people
  2. Taking credit for the accomplishments of others
  3. Publicly reprimanding or embarrassing someone

In each case, we lose the benefit of the doubt both with the individual(s) involved and bystanders, and a good bit of their discretionary effort as well. Quite often, those losses are permanent. Don’t go there, please.

*****

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 theirwebsite, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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Avoiding Burnout, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Instant gratification: the ultimate motivator

1 Comment 07 September 2011

Of all the reasons my wife may have had for marrying me nearly 25 years ago, being ultra handy around the house is not among them.

That fact notwithstanding, last weekend I decided to pressure wash our house. The all-white structure has a large expanse of siding at the back that faces due north, and is therefore hospitable territory to a gray-green coating of mold and algae. Although the heat index was in the triple digits, I was actually looking forward to the task. And I knew why.

It’s the same reason that I actually enjoy mowing the lawn, even though there’s a fully capable onsite teenager, who would do it more often if I’d let him. The reason I like these tasks so much, and eschew others, like laundry and disinfecting toilets? Instant gratification.

Every swipe of the pressure washing nozzle was like applying graffiti in reverse. Expend labor – see result. It was magnificent! And enough to keep me at it in less than ideal conditions until the job was done. At which point I stood at the back of the house gazing up and admiring my handiwork.

We all need at least a little instant gratification at work, too. A strong need to know that what we do makes a difference. Some jobs come with this feature onboard. With others, this feeling of accomplishment is more elusive.

If you lead others, and help manage and design their work, here’s an assignment:

  • Pick one job you manage and assess it for instant gratification potential. Does it happen often, occasionally, rarely, or never?
  • If the answer is rarely or never, change that. Build into the job at least the occasional opportunity to see the fruits of the labor that goes into it.
    • Give back office people some direct customer contact.
    • Balance sales professionals’ account portfolios of tough customers with a few easier sales.
    • If the task is an intermediate step in a process, let them at least see the finished product and have a clear understanding of the part they played in it.
    • Make sure no job is all frustration – no fulfillment.
  • Once you’ve had a little immediate gratification with this experiment, do the same with the other jobs under your direction.

We all need to see the needle move from time to time. It’s part of what keeps us going.

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Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results with a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership, written with Meredith Kimbell. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Bill, Leadership, Management, Motivation

Is This the Best You Can Do?

1 Comment 04 September 2011

In a webinar presentation this week entitled, “Building a Go-Fast Organization” sponsored by HCI and Globoforce, I recounted a story in which former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger had asked a staff member to do a report on something. When Dr. Kissinger got the report, he sent it back to the fellow with a note asking, “Is this the best you can do?” The staff member re-worked the report and returned it to Kissinger. The same thing happened again. The guy reworked the report another time and returned it to Kissinger, who again asked if this was his best work. The fellow replied that, yes, indeed, this was his very best work, at which point Kissinger reportedly said, “Good… now I’ll read it.” The clear implication was that Dr. Kissinger felt that he was entitled to nothing less than the best effort of those on his team.

This week, Steve Jobs took a step back from his role as CEO of Apple. Not unlike Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Jobs is known for a lot of things, but accepting mediocrity is not among them. The introduction of uber-successful products like the iPod, iPhone, IPad, and Macbook Air would never have come about without Jobs’ relentless focus on producing “insanely great” gear, to use his words.

(One can only wonder how the U.S. Congress would be behaving right now if Dr. Kissinger was the Speaker of the House and Mr. Jobs the Senate Majority Leader.)

Most of us understand deep down that high standards are a necessary requirement of winning. Sure, we whine about it at times, but nobody gets up in the morning and says, “I want to go lose today. I want to go to my job, hang out with some really mediocre people, and do crummy work for a supervisor who is a self-centered weasel.” We get it that high standards and winning performance go hand in hand.

Too often, as leaders, we handicap the performance of our team by setting the bar too low, by holding ourselves and others to a standard that is less, far less than our best effort. We do so for lots of reasons… because we’re tired, or we know our team is tired, they haven’t gotten raises in a while, they haven’t been fully trained or equipped, the list goes on. And all that is probably true.

Yet, when we do that, we step onto a very slippery slope by enunciating that there is a new operative standard called, “good enough.” In so doing, we absolutely incense those who really are giving it their very best. In effect, we are telling them that their expenditure of discretionary effort is foolish. No one likes to feel foolish, to wit a decline in their effort is almost certain, and mediocrity becomes the new norm.

Very frankly, I think sometimes we’re too quick to apologize for having high standards. There’s nothing wrong with asking people to do their very best work. And when we fail to ask for or expect it (starting with ourselves), our chances of getting it are greatly diminished.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on a team where I’m surrounded by mediocrity, or striving to do mediocre things. I’d much rather create a big smoking hole in the ground as the result of a failed effort at something fantastic.

As leaders, it is imperative for us to push through the rough patch that we find ourselves in right now. It is entirely possible to expect (and require) best effort while still being sensitive to the needs, feelings, fears, and aspirations of our teammates. Indeed, that is the only way to secure a better future for them and ourselves. Let’s get on with it.

*****

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 theirwebsite, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership, Management

A Manager’s Second Greatest Contribution

1 Comment 17 March 2011

I’ve long maintained (no original thought here) that the most important thing a manager, any manager does is make decisions about who does and does not wind up on the payroll. That is especially the case in an environment where there simply are no spare parts, ‘er humans, and each person’s contributions or lack thereof are vital.

The next most important managerial contribution is getting the “system” off peoples’ backs so they can actually do the jobs they were hired to do to the very best of their ability. What do you mean by “system” some would ask? I’m talking about rules, procedures, methods, customs, policies and the like. Things that were probably once appropriate and well intended, but make absolutely no sense in that moment today when the rubber hits the road. I’m not railing at all procedures and policies mind you, just the clunkers, of which there are plenty.

I saw a perfect example yesterday in the Atlanta airport. Hustling through Concourse B, I decided to grab a sandwich before my flight, so I stopped at the Muffulettas’ vending station. Two staff members were there busily counting merchandise and cash. I stood for a moment, then interrupted the lady counting the food items and asked if I might purchase a sandwich. Before I even finished asking, and with her back still turned, she replied, “We’re on shift change. You’ll have to wait about ten minutes.” “But I just want to buy a sandwich” I countered, to which she replied, “I can’t sell you anything for about ten minutes. We’re on shift change.” Thud.

Flummoxed, I stood there for a couple of minutes with a $10 bill still in hand. In that time span, four more hungry travelers approached and got the exact same treatment. Two of them uttered some not so nice words at the women before walking off. As I, too ventured off for a sandwich place that might be more open for business, I thought, “what a crappy way to make a living.”

These two women get ten minutes at the beginning and end of each and every work shift ruined by a process that unintentionally but decidedly turns them into idiots in the eyes of customers. They didn’t invent the shift change process, but they have to live with it, and judging from personal experience, it improves neither worker performance nor earnings.

These are the kinds of things that, just like a pinch of sand in the shoe, wear people down, make them crazy, and cause them to unplug, whether they actually leave the job or not.  We’ve all got them in our workspace, and it is up to those of us who are in leadership roles, regardless of the number of stripes on our sleeve, to relentlessly find them, root them out, and make it a tiny bit more possible for our people to do their very best work.

And speaking of best work, I did see some of that yesterday, too. Shortly after arrival at Kimpton’s Ink48 Hotel in New York (and still hungry), I called room service and ordered some food, which was soon delivered by a server who is a recent immigrant from Tibet. In halting but perfectly serviceable English, he politely introduced himself, inquired about my stay, told me that he was proud to work for Kimpton, and explained that he looked forward to being of service both today and in the future.

When replying to his question about where I’m from, I told him that I’m from Tennessee, which drew something of a deer in the headlights look. After a little further explanation to no avail, I quickly popped up Google Maps on my open laptop and showed him, mentioning that the state was home to Elvis, and a couple more localisms. End of story, or so I thought.

A couple of hours later, after calling to secure permission, another room service server delivered a gracious, handwritten hospitality note from my new Tibetan friend, along with a bucket of ice and two miniature bottles of guess what? The world’s best sipping whiskey, which just happens to be made in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

From a socio-economic standpoint, this fellow’s job is very much on par with the two ladies I ran into earlier in the day in Atlanta. He delivers food to guest’s rooms, and they sell it out of a refrigerator in the airport. But that’s where the similarity ends.

They get worn down each day by at least one dumb process designed or approved by someone who I suspect hasn’t spent one hour watching what kind of aggravation it brings to others. The Kimpton guy, working for a management team that has obviously told him to do what it takes to be nice to guests, is free to do his very best work, and it shows.

Evidence abounds that workers who believe that they have an honest shot at doing their best work deliberately turn up the boost on their discretionary effort, because performing at that level is exhilirating. Those who don’t, mail it in. So the choice is there for each of us to make. Do we want to invest a little time every day making the path a bit clearer for our folks, or do we want potential customers putting their hard earned money back in their pockets and walking next door?

*****

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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Extra Milers, Favorite Folks, Motivation

Service – Above and Beyond

1 Comment 02 March 2011

Margaret AtterTitle: Receptionist/Member Services Specialist.

Job: Making Magic Moments.

Margaret Atter joined ClubCorp 29 years ago, and has been serving members at the company’s University Club, a private city club in Jacksonville, Florida for the last 27 of those years.

An Extra Miler, in the true sense, Margaret personifies Discretionary Effort, or “OOMPH!”, as we call it in our book, Contented Cows Moove Faster.

Last week, Margaret was recognized by the North Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, with its Rose Award, in the category of Guest Services – Private Clubs. The Rose Award is the top award for service excellence in the hospitality industry in this region. She was nominated by her club manager, Hank Carrico, based on her years of remarkably excellent service delivery – service that is evidenced by more than 1,300 positive comments made to management about Margaret over the course of just the last ten years or so.

Here’s just one example of the kind of Extra Miler service that Margaret coordinates, on a routine basis, for University Club members. Not long ago, a member hosted a birthday dinner for the daughter of friends. The honoree was born with Down Syndrome, and the occasion was her 40th birthday. Margaret said, “Let’s make this event really special.” She organized special decorations for the party’s table, had the club staff sign an oversized birthday card for the woman, and arranged for her favorite meal – chicken fingers and fries – which isn’t exactly on the University Club’s regular menu. At the end of the dinner, the birthday girl put her head on her mom’s shoulder, and through tears, said, “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

Magic Moments. It’s part of ClubCorp’s avowed mission – creating Magic Moments for their members and their guests. Margaret told me, “I love this job. Service is what I do. It’s all I’ve ever done. I get a kick out of taking care of our members. I love making memories.”

Have you got “Margarets” in your organization? If so, take a lesson from Hank, and the rest of the team at ClubCorp and the University Club. Hire people with a passion for service (like Margaret); give them a clear, compelling mission (like Making Magic Moments); give them the tools and latitude to do the job (like serving chicken fingers instead of filet mignon); support and reward them when they go above and beyond (like Hank did in nominating Margaret to be among the 250 people considered for the Rose Award); and then get out of their way. Because they’re comin’ through to knock the socks off your customers!

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by creating a great place to work. He and Bill are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Bill, Leadership, Management, Motivation

Discretionary Effort: Why Wisconsin’s Governor (and Yours) May be Playing a Losing Game

No Comments 27 February 2011

Having already wrung needed and significant concessions from them, the newly elected Governor of Wisconsin has been making a rather poorly disguised effort to nullify the collective bargaining agreements and rights of various groups of state workers, principally teachers. As with nearly every other issue of import these days, the whole world is suddenly watching, including like-minded governors in several other states who are licking their chops at the prospect of following the lead penguin into the drink. Whoa… Full Flaps, Brakes, Stop!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am no fan of labor unions. Indeed, a significant portion of my professional effort over the course of 3 decades has focused on helping organizations obviate unions by maintaining a positive employee relations culture, a culture in which both the individual and the organization can do their best work and gain the most from it.

That said, I respect every worker’s right to make a choice as to whether or not they are willing to enter into a direct, cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship with their management. That choice is most often based on whether or not management has earned the benefit of the doubt. If the answer is yes, workers feel no need to reach out and seek (let alone pay for) the protection of organized labor. Are you with me so far? Alright, hang on.

Demonstrations notwithstanding, I believe there is an even chance that Governor Scott Walker will pull off some kind of flash bang, middle of the night vote and get his way, even if it means reinventing the law right before our eyes. Even if that comes to pass, while winning the hand, he will lose the game. Correction, the people of Wisconsin will lose. How? Because there will still be a need for thousands of teachers, and every one of them will STILL make a quiet daily decision as to whether they want to give their full measure of effort that day, or mail it in. Given the backdrop, which choice do you think they will make?

For the last twelve years we have worked almost entirely within the field of Discretionary Effort, studying, writing, speaking, and teaching leaders about that extra layer of effort that every one of us can give to a situation if, but only if we want to. Eerily consistent with similar work by Towers Watson and Gallup, our own engagement surveys suggest that barely 50% of workers are, by their own admission doing their very best work, and that most of us routinely expend no more than 60 to 70% of our maximum effort in the workspace. In other words, a lot of unspent capacity goes home with us at day’s end.

So, if just half of the 50,000 or so teachers in a state, any state choose to ratchet the ‘ole effort meter back another 10-20%, what is that going to cost to compensate for the lost productivity? Perhaps more importantly, what will it do to the level of educational performance in the state? If you’re getting a mental image of a post office being superimposed over your local school district, you’re getting the picture.

Since the publication of our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk in 1998, we have maintained that giving workers (be they on an assembly line at GM, or a school in Racine) benefits they haven’t earned, the market doesn’t require, and you can’t afford is the antithesis of good employee relations, because some day you have to take all that stuff back. As the folks at GM did, and now a lot of teachers and other municipal workers face that same music, the last thing in the world we, through our elected representatives ought to be doing is rubbing their faces in it, just because we can. It’s not good business or good politics, and it’s certainly not good employee relations. Motivated people move faster.

As always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome

*****

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, 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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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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