Tag archive for "keynote speaker"

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.

*******

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, Think About It...

Business as Sport: Chris Paul Could be Coming to Your Team

No Comments 08 July 2013

Oscar Wilde told us that “life imitates art.” In a similar vein, I would suggest that business imitates sport, especially professional and major college level athletics. Think about it… Our vernacular is chock-full of sports-related terms and analogies. Sports stars are frequent keynoters at business conferences. My partner and I have shared the dais with plenty of them. A lot of business incentive programs and contests are oriented around sports themes. Professional sports invented player free-agentry. Business is perfecting it.

A recent event in the NBA foreshadows a developing theme in the business world. Los Angeles Clippers star point guard, Chris Paul, an unrestricted free agent in NBA parlance, is widely credited with putting his thumb on the scale that caused the firing of Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, and the subsequent hiring of Boston Celtics coach, Doc Rivers, who was still under contract to the Celtics. Mr. Paul made it pretty well known that he would be inclined to stay with the Clippers if the team somehow managed to recruit Rivers away from the Celtics. They did, and he did.

Buckle up, sports fans, because we’re about to see this playing out on a much larger, though less public scale in our own corner of the world. With the release of the June jobs report, evidence is accumulating that the U.S. job market is beginning to gather steam (okay, hot water). As interest in making career moves begins to stir in earnest, one of the biggest influencers on the stay vs. go decisions will be the reputation of individual leaders and the relationship people have, or want to have with them, much more so than the quality of the institution and its employment brand.

Subprime leaders will be the first to experience exodus, and in some cases star employees will, like Chris Paul, demand better leadership as a condition of staying put. Conversely, leaders of choice will become even bigger talent magnets if they stay, and higher priced players should they declare themselves free agents.

What should you be doing about it?

  1. Keep your finger on the pulse of the organization, at all levels. Stay current with employee survey data and use it, together with ‘stay interviews’ as a means of identifying at-risk leaders, and issues that might drive your talent to a competitor.
  2. Get serious about de-selecting those leaders who have lost the benefit of the doubt with their team, and coaching those who remain.
  3. Actively involve some of your stronger leaders in the recruitment process.
  4. Tighten up your recruitment and selection processes to make them more effective, efficient AND candidate-friendly.

Get moving with the four above-mentioned steps now. The Clippers can call a time out. You can’t.

*******

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.

*******

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 Richard, Character, Leadership

Chikin, Spice, and Authenticity

No Comments 17 December 2012

Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based quick service restaurant chain, became the unwitting object of a firestorm following President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy’s direct answer to an interviewer’s question about his views on marriage. The interview was in the context of the ongoing national debate on same-sex marriage, spurred perhaps by contributions reportedly made by the Cathy family foundation, Winshape (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinShape_Foundation) to some not especially LGBT-friendly entities.

The refreshing part of Mr. Cathy’s answer, regardless of content, or anyone’s position on the matter, is that it was direct, and without obfuscation. And, in view of Mr. Cathy’s straight-laced image, it was about as surprising as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pick for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, outrage ensued with some fresh meat, ‘er chikin (as the company’s bovine advertising mascots spell the word) thrown into the fire. While many accepted Cathy’s right to express views different from their own, others were not as tolerant. The mayors of Boston and Chicago even threatened to block the company’s development in their respective cities (apparently they had all the jobs they needed), until the ACLU, hardly a bastion of conservatism, reminded Their Honors that they really couldn’t do that. It seems that issuing government sanctions in response to protected speech kind of tramples on that First Amendment thing, and so they dialed back the rhetoric.

Since neither Mr. Cathy’s views on marriage, nor ours, are especially relevant to our work, or the reason you subscribe to this newsletter, we’ll spare you the discussion. But we’d like to highlight a few lessons that we can all walk away with.

1. Authenticity Means Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Leaders who aren’t comfortable in their own skin tend to become petty tyrants. Frankly, we see too many leaders fall short of their peak because they spend precious time every day twisting in the wind, seeking polished, popular positions on the subject du jour – positions that don’t necessarily jibe with their inner beliefs, if they even have inner beliefs. The end result is messy, because none of us is a good enough actor to pull it off for very long. If nothing else, our people have become good consumers of content, and they recognize bad acting when they see it. For further reinforcement on this topic, just rewind some of the video from the recently completed U.S. election.

2. Say it Loud, Say it Clear

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a crystal clear sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks. They know that not everyone is going to like their products and services, or the way they do business. And they certainly understand that not everyone’s going to be happy, productive, or successful working there. Accordingly, they take considerable pains to recruit and retain people who are able to work comfortably within their value system.

This is not, repeat, not, a wink and a nod to employment discrimination. The leaders in these organizations know that discrimination on the basis of irrelevant factors is bad form, bad for business, and generally indefensible in legal terms, so they don’t do it.

If your company is a tough place to work, say so, and be very explicit in explaining why and how. The same advice applies to you as a leader. That said, if you can’t consistently find, retain, and engage enough truly great people to work for you, you might want to make some changes.

What Chick-fil-A does seems to work, and work well. The company is growing like a weed and has always enjoyed a stellar workplace reputation, and, not coincidentally, is perennially rated among the very best in customer service for Quick Service Restaurant chains. (Witness recent articles in Fast Company and The Los Angeles Times.) Their annual employee turnover rate has consistently been a fraction of the industry’s triple-digit figure. There’s no indication that this year’s controversy has made the slightest dent in that outstanding record.

As we point out in Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk (and in all of our books), a company’s decisions about how it treats its customers, and its employees matters, and matters a lot. Not so much for social or moral reasons, but because it drives business outcomes. The market is a wonderful thing. Our latest group of “Contented Cow” companies have 70 billion reasons (as in dollars) each year to remain committed to their people-oriented employment cultures.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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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 Richard, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Stephen Covey Got Us Talking About Leadership

No Comments 21 July 2012

A giant tree fell in the forest of leadership thinkers last week, with the death of Stephen Covey.

I happened to be attending the annual convention of the National Speakers Association when I heard the news. I was seated at lunch, with 7 other professional speakers, collectively representing a wide variety of topics, and each of us reflected on how much Stephen Covey had influenced the business in which we all make our respective livings, and to an even greater extent, the world of business itself.

Time Magazine named Covey to its 1996 list of 25 Most Influential Americans, and the same publication, along with Forbes, named his flagship book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People one of the most influential management books of the current era.

His son, Stephen M.R. Covey carried on his father’s legacy, with his 2008 book, The Speed of Trust. We were honored by the shout-out to our book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, on page 79.

Perhaps the elder Covey’s most important contribution was the voice he gave to the early conversations about leadership, in the late 1980′s. Along with others, like Tom Peters, Warren Bennis, and Peter Drucker, Covey got us talking about leadership. He raised its profile, and caused many to see the immeasurable value of learning not only to manage a business, but to lead people to powerful performance.

In the last few economically tumultuous years, leadership development has, in most organizations, taken a backseat to maximizing short-term profit (or minimizing losses), and businesses are already paying a price. But that price will be dwarfed by the cost of the leadership dearth to come in the next few years, if leaders don’t take steps now to reverse the trend and revitalize their commitment to leader development.

Perhaps our most lasting tribute to Stephen Covey would be to restart the leadership conversation in our own organizations.

Godspeed, Stephen Covey.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, was published by John Wiley & Sons earlier this month, and is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Character, Leadership

Leadership and the Queen

No Comments 05 June 2012

In the spirit of full disclosure, mine is a British-American family. My wife was born and raised in Scotland, and I’m the only member of our household who does not hold a British passport. We like the Royals around here and agree with most Britons that the monarchy is a positive force and should remain in place.

I know that many Americans, indeed many others around the world, don’t “get” the monarchy, and therefore don’t value the institution. That’s fine, but if the Brits are happy with the arrangement, then who are the rest of us to bring it down?

Over the years, the Windsors have weathered rough patches, many of their own making. Today, as the U.K. and the rest of the Commonwealth celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne – 80% of Brits polled express approval for the monarchy, Queen Elizabeth, and the royal family. No other head of state, including our own, even comes close.

The reason it works? The Queen herself. Here are a few Elizabethan traits that I think we as leaders could all do well to emulate:

  • The Queen knows when to keep her mouth shut. She’s well aware that she was endowed with one royal mouth and two royal ears, and she uses them in proper proportion. She’s met every week, since 1952, with one of her 12 Prime Ministers, and by all accounts, she’s the one who does most of the listening, and less of the talking.
  • She represents constancy and consistency of purpose. In an age when too many leaders change their “mission” more often than they do their socks, the Queen’s purpose has always been, as she said on her 21st birthday,  “service”.
  • While anchored in constancy of purpose, she’s not been afraid to change with the times. The monarchy has morphed. Rules and policies have been reviewed, and when deemed archaic and no longer useful, they’ve been abolished. Charles married Camilla. The Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned. And in October of 2011, a centuries-old rule was scrapped, giving royal males and females equal succession rights to the throne. When was the last time you asked what rules and policies of yours need to be scrutinized and possibly scrapped? And the monarchy hasn’t let social media pass it by. You can like the monarchy on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter.
  • The Queen is 100% devoted to service. At age 86, she still attends more than 400 functions a year and supports more than 600 charities. She’s one of the hardest working CEO’s I know of, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
  • She knows how to correct her mistakes. The Queen’s not perfect, and she knows it. When she famously misjudged the people’s reaction to the death of Princess Diana, she appeared on worldwide TV in an honest appeal for understanding. People will forgive a host of flaws in their leaders, especially when those leaders take time to explain and understand the needs of those they lead. The institution recovered, indeed rebounded from the misstep, if today’s popularity is any indication. The Queen never forgot the lessons associated with Diana’s death, and it shows in how the monarchy conducts itself today. The next time you get it wrong (if you’re like me, you won’t have to wait long), take quick action to get it right again.
  • She has a sense of humor. All those who know her talk about it. The Archbishop of Canterbury was quoted as saying, ” “I found in the Queen someone who can be friendly…informal… extremely funny in private – and not everybody appreciates just how funny she can be…I think we’ve been enormously fortunate in this country to have, as our head of state, a person who has a real personality.”
  • Finally, she knows what her job is – and what it is not. She said in her Christmas broadcast of 1957, “I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else – I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.” The best leaders know what to do – lead – and not to interfere where they can’t bring value.

What Queen Elizabeth II has done, and done so well, in her 60 years on the throne, is to hold a diverse group of people together, through good times and bad, people with a wide range of political views and perspectives, to imbue them with a sense of identity, of imperfect unity, that somehow works, with varying degrees of success. That, I think, is what a leader does.

She must be doing something right. On Sunday, more than a million people braved a cold London rain to stand outside for hours to honor Elizabeth and her 60 years of service. What other CEO’s might hope for a similar tribute?

Long live the Queen.

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, is due to be released by John Wiley & Sons on July 3, but is available for pre-sale now. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Bill, Management

Talent Acquisition is More Than Putting Butts in Seats

No Comments 21 May 2012

For some time I’ve resisted the urge to excoriate a term that has been taking more prominent space in the lexicon of HR professionals. I’ve done so largely on the basis that there didn’t seem to be much harm in the emergence of new-agey alternative vocabulary among knowing professionals. I’ve resisted until now, that is. The term – “talent acquisition.”

Oh, I understand perfectly why some might prefer putting some distance between what they do for a living and the functional title that has long been associated with it… recruiting. Recruiting, after all is about as sexy as dirt, or maybe something that is done with dirt, like farming, or agribusiness as it’s now known. Have you ever noticed that the replacement titles never get shorter?

Like farming and selling, recruiting is hard work, because whereas you can exercise some control over the process, the outcome is much less controllable. In this respect, it matters not whether you are operating from a grimy, dog-eared Rolodex or an iPad. As with farming and selling, recruiting is vital work, and still today is a profession where you do a lot of groundwork, unearth a few leads, experience regular headwinds (e.g., withdrawn reqs, failed drug screens), and at the end of the day are glad if you can hit a bunch of singles, a few doubles, an occasional home run, and bat 300 over the long haul. Yet, one can make a compelling argument that the decision whether or not to put someone on an organization’s payroll is one of the most important decisions that can be made. So, if we want to sex up the title a bit to give ourselves some psychic income (or perhaps a higher pay grade), I’m down with that, but let’s use a little caution.

In fairness, cautious branding doesn’t sound like something that would be advocated by someone who for fourteen years has serially referred to workers, in writing no less, as “contented cows.” Thankfully for us, the cow metaphor is simple and very tight; so much so that on July 3, John Wiley & Sons will release our third book in the Contented Cows leadership series (more on that later). But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t taken some serious guff over it. I will never forget an afternoon spent on Clark Howard’s WSB Radio Show when an otherwise wonderful experience was chilled by a caller who got pretty irate over my “comparing people to animals.”

My concern with the expression, talent acquisition is this: Both words miss the mark. Although talent is important, it is secondary to finding people who, by virtue of pace, preference, temperament, and values happen to fit your particular organization. In the vast majority of cases, there are more available people with the talent to perform a given job than those who “fit” the organization. Marriott International, one of our newly minted Contented Cows, learned long ago that mixing grumpy, self-absorbed employees (no matter how talented) with travel-weary guests is not a combination that yields good business outcomes. In similar fashion, talented or not, most people (repeat, most people) would not be happy, productive, or successful working at your place. So, if we myopically get too hung up on the talent side of the equation, we run a very real risk of overlooking some extremely important factors.

Second, I’m more than a little bothered by the term, “acquisition” when it comes to the employment process. You might be able to borrow talent for a while, but you certainly don’t acquire it. Indeed, acquisition is entirely the wrong term if our aim is to do more than merely complete a transaction. I don’t know about you, but when I ran the organization that was responsible for much of the initial high growth staffing of FedEx, starting a relationship with people who would be today’s couriers and tomorrow’s managers was a hell of a lot more than merely putting butts in seats. No, we were trying to capture hearts, minds, and yes, talents, in large numbers, but still one at a time, because eagles don’t flock. Our aim then, and now is to productively engage with people who want to join our team and do important work.

Our hope is that however you choose to brand your organization’s people functions, you will do so thoughtfully.

*****

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, the next edition of which will be released in July 2012 by John Wiley & Sons. 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 Tough Side of Being a Leader

No Comments 25 April 2012

A core part of every leader’s duty, regardless of rank, is having the wisdom and courage to sever the relationship with someone whose performance or behavior either persistently or grossly fails to meet expectations. It’s what we get paid to do. Failure on our part to either notice the condition or take decisive action represents a fraud against the person, their teammates, and the organization as a whole.

Such a fraud was committed yesterday when National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern opted to suspend rather than terminate the services of a player for a vicious, deliberate hit against an opponent. The player in this case is Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace), who leveled Oklahoma City Thunder player James Harden in Sunday’s nationally televised game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Thunder. No stranger to unacceptable, violent behavior (on court and off), Artest has reportedly been suspended twelve (yes, 12) previous times in his thirteen-year career as an NBA professional.

Two things are evident from this record: 1) Mr. Artest is an individual who no longer deserves to be called a professional, by virtue of his unwillingness to control his behavior, 2) Sending him to “time out” doesn’t do any good. Where are Donald Trump and his elevator when we need them?

The question, for us at least, isn’t what to do about the NBA’s latest thuggish behavior, but rather, what happens to the Ron Artests on your team? No, you probably don’t have anyone on the payroll who has committed multiple batteries, but what about those who can’t seem to control their bigotry or bully tendencies? How about those who are clearly incapable of playing nice with others, or perhaps those who Professor  Robert Sutton referred to so aptly in his book, The No Asshole Rule?.

If you’ve been in a leadership role for any reasonable length of time, you’ve likely faced at least one of these characters. But have you dealt, really dealt with them? Our experience suggests that in too many cases, managers duck the issue because it’s hard, because it can damage your popularity for a while, you don’t want the hassle of extra scrutiny and lengthy termination procedures imposed by the folks in HR, and besides, as short as job tenures are these days, you might get a hall pass and title of the problem will transfer to a new owner. When that happens, not unlike the current day NBA, both you and the organization will pay a high price in lost respect, credibility, and business outcomes.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Deal with these situations sooner, not later. The passage of time with no intervention almost always makes the matter worse. The minute you decide that an employee needs to be on someone else’s payroll (preferably a competitor’s), start that process.
  2. Not unlike any other surgical procedure, get a 2nd and 3rd opinion. Ask a fellow manager whose opinion and discretion you trust to dispassionately review the matter. Invite an HR professional to do the same. Trust us on this one. Most of them provide valuable advice, and they really do have your (and the organization’s) best interests at heart.
  3. Be mindful of your own culpability. If you have in some way failed to be clear with the person about your expectations, or giving them a fair chance to succeed, own it and rectify it. Otherwise, step up to your duty.

“Avoiding the solution of a tough, miserable, volatile problem is not discretion. It is cowardice. And it is robbery. … Any coach who doesn’t kick the complacent ass on his team will end up kicking his own before long.”–Pat Riley, The Winner Within

*****

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, the next edition of which will be released in July 2012 by John Wiley & Sons. 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...

Leaders and the “Little People”

1 Comment 10 March 2012

As election season rolls around and campaigning for public office ramps up (does it ever leave?) most of us dust off the decision matrix by which we choose the candidates we’ll vote for. For some, it’s simply a matter of whether there is a donkey or an elephant next to the candidate’s name. Some might resort to using a dart board. Others are only interested in finding someone they believe to be capable of beating the other guy. Those who want to think a little harder might use an issues or trait-based filter. My own process rests on an analysis of a candidate’s positions on a short list of key issues, coupled with an assessment of vital personal characteristics.

One of those vital personal characteristics, whether I’m helping choose the next president or a mid-level manager in the corporate world, is the person’s level of consideration and affinity for those who are south of them in the socio-economic order or org chart. I want some insight into how much or how little they care, really care about those whose interests they will be representing, or who they will be providing leadership and direction to.

Observing their interaction with a food server, retail clerk, or flight attendant provides a window into their world, but it’s just a start. I want to know, is the person naturally at ease with subordinates, and vice versa? At one company I worked for, a finance SVP had a habit of parking at the rear of his office building every morning and sneaking through a back door that no one else used, simply so he wouldn’t have to interact with the people who worked for him. The sad thing is he actually thought that no one noticed or cared.

Are they at ease interacting with those who may not dress as well as they do, or whose speech is not as polished? How quick are they to smile (really smile, not that plastic version) and greet a subordinate or service worker? Do they mumble “how are ya?” and keep right on moving, or do they stop and actually wait for an answer?

Some might argue that this is nothing but a touchy-feely academic exercise since once you are declared the leader, at any level, and have position power, people pretty well have to do your bidding and learn to live with it. Au contraire! As pointed out in our first book, upon entering a leadership role, you are immediately faced with a simple, ongoing high school physics problem – There are more of  “them” than there are of you. Failure to respect this iron law can have a drastic affect on one’s career. Remember that finance SVP who parked around back? It turned out that his people didn’t work very hard for him, because they had long since figured out that he really didn’t like them very much, or care about them. Ultimately, it cost him his job.

Conversely, we’ve seen any number of leaders with modest intelligence and skills race up the career ladder, propelled by the “little people” who were putting it all on the line for them every day.

*****

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, the next edition of which will be released in June 2012 by John Wiley & Sons. 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.

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