I attended a Gallup presentation the other day that explored data on who are the happiest people in the world? There were some really interesting things that came out of that discussion. For example it is Latin American countries that are leading this index occupying the majority of the top spots. What was really interesting as they drilled down into the data for most first world nations was that happiness seemed to be tied to median income and their take on this was that this was not tied so much to money as to purpose. In looking closer at this they concluded most of us see our purpose as connected to our work hence the strong tie to income.
Do We Find Purpose In Our Work?
This got me thinking; is this a true statement? Do we find our purpose in work? Do we get to the end of our life and say "I wish I had worked more?" I don't think so but I do think that there are clues found in this research that point to some things that may reveal a bit more about the work/purpose connection.
Building Personal Life Around Work Is Not The Answer
When we first start out, work carries a different meaning for us because that is where we forge our first professional friendships and those are important and certainly become part of our social life as well as professional life. As you progress though, you discover that friends and work colleagues move on to other companies and often those relationships fall by the wayside. You realize that building a personal life around work can be frustrating and at times unrewarding.
However A Happy Work Life = Happy Home Life
A good example is the recent research revealing that millennials a far more willing to move to companies where they feel part of a team, a social network and where they feel appreciated and are doing something vital. They often will give preference to those issues over salary considerations. It is not that they are building their life around work but that in finding purpose in their work they enhance their home life. In fact, new studies have turned on its head the idea that work/life balance which at one point suggested happy homes (life) created happier workers. In fact research shows it is the opposite where happy workers tend to be happier at home and enjoy life much more as a result. The question becomes then, how do we make happy workers?
This challenge really has always been with us. If you work in the "patch" or any other industry sector you know that when people move, often they will have a cohort of friends or colleagues move with them. Success was the purpose and some refined this to an art; buying start ups, bringing in their teams, building the company and selling for profit and then doing it all over again. Succeeding at this sort of challenge for a group of friends can be a powerful purpose.
That sort of purpose still happens but in today's labor market those circle of friends may have other causes or issues that they rally around and work becomes a place that enables them to pursue these interests either through salary earned or in some cases through giving staff the freedom to support these causes through company sponsored programs or purpose projects. It may not be the work itself that provides purpose but simply is a means to an end. Either way these are powerful elements of a persons life.
We Need To Be Part Of Something Bigger Than Us
Here is the core of the issue; no one wants to work for someone who does not acknowledge them as people first. People of all stripes want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Maybe it is the work and the challenge of creating success or maybe you work for a company that shares your passion for the homeless or the environment. The purpose can be intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) but giving someone a chance to express that purpose is really about acknowledging them as people.
Help Your Team Forge Their Own Purpose
If you own a company, or are leading a team of people this is a crucial truth for you to understand; people won't care about your credentials or your leadership until they know you care about them as people and are committed to their growth (discovering and achieving their purpose). When you stop and think about it doesn't that give you some added purpose as a leader? Yes, challenge your team to hit the targets you have set for them, after-all that is why you are all there, but never do it at the cost of their humanity or rob them of the chance forge their own purpose. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Do We Really Understand What This Means?
I was reading a news article this weekend regarding an Oil & Gas company's earnings report. In the article the company leadership indicated that they were done cutting jobs and were now going to be consolidating and looking at getting more done with less. As I pondered that statement I wondered if anyone really understands what doing more with less really means?
An Admission of Failure
I have talked about this many times in the past and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I will say it again; we go through this boom-bust cycle where when prices are high companies bloat to fulfill all of their staffing wish lists and things they have been hoping and dreaming for. When prices drop they jettison those things and consolidate and start doing more with less. In this case what that means is that there is an understanding that they really didn't "need" all of those things to begin with and are now back to making due with what worked for them from the start. To me it is like a corporate weight loss program - we were overweight but now we are in trim and fighting condition. It may look like a declaration of intent but it is also an admission of failure.
How Do You Spot Those Who "Get It?"
Show me the company that has not had to drastically cut staff and operations in those down times and I will show you a company that was already "doing more with less" and who are positioned both culturally and operationally to weather these types of storms. In short, a successful company.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama underwent a company transformation when they moved to an Operational Excellence/Continuous Improvement model. They were struggling the same way many companies were in that industry and they knew they were in trouble. Out of desperation they adopted a new approach that focused on their people and teaching their leadership at all levels how to drive performance with their teams. It took a while but they built an operational excellence and continuous improvement culture that created high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction and a mentality that "everyone" owned the company bottom line. Within a year or two they became "the" company to work for and were recognized as being leaders in their industry. What’s more is that they have steadfastly maintained their operational excellence approach and have been one of those companies that has weathered countless up/down cycles with hardly a ripple.
They are an example of doing more with less because everyone is involved in keeping the company competitive and in the black. While others were cutting staff, their staff were coming up with cost savings and improvement of the customer experience; ideas that allowed them to hold onto their most valuable asset, their employees. They didn't bloat in the "up times" and they didn't cut in the down and they are still one of the companies of choice for folks in that region.
So my question for my colleagues in any industry is this; will this down turn produce more of the same old same old or are you seriously going to explore what doing more with less really means? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
The Curse of The Performance Review
Every year people across the globe go through the process of creating and giving performance reviews. These are meant to be tools to drive performance and measure progress. Regardless of the name we give them leaders and managers hunker down with staff to discuss Personal Growth Indicators, Key Performance Indicators, Stretch Goals - you get the picture. Everyone does this in one form or another, regardless of the pain and awkwardness of it all. What’s more is that we all know that the process is significantly flawed and that rather than driving performance in many cases it inhibits it.
Performance Reviews Inhibit Performance
Don't believe me? Well let’s look at just one simple example and see if it resonates with you. The majority of personnel performance evaluations involve a scale typically between 1 and 4. (There are many scales out there but this will serve well for our example) One is the danger zone and is bad news. Two is usually needs improvement in a number of areas. Three is meets expectations and usually involves a healthy discussion around just exactly what those expectations were and four is the “no go” zone that only those rare (and I mean rare) individuals get. It is understood by all that “4” never happens. Sound familiar?
The Law Of Unintended Consequences
Here is the problem, approaching performance from this perspective does two things; it frustrates the high performers who know that they will never break that ceiling past a “3” and it comforts the under achievers who know that unless they are truly catastrophic in their work they will always get between a two and a three. Additionally, depending upon the company, these get done once or twice a year and those are the only times performance gets examined in any detail. In all cases performance is inhibited.
The Question Is; What Are You Looking For?
A big reason this happens is that we typically like to evaluate people based on the actions or activities that make up a role. Often the KPI’s are simply a breakout of the job description. Sometimes these describe behavior most often they simply describe a role.
What Behaviors Predict High Performance/Engagement?
This is where the distinction between role and behavior become paramount. Behavior is something you can observe and can count. An example of a behavior related to engagement would be arriving to work on time and leaving on time. Or as a case in point only just yesterday a major health provider was in hot water around the issue of paid sick leave. This concern focused on the idea that managers and above seemed to max out their sick days every year. It is a “behavior” that points either to high levels of engagement or high levels of disengagement. (I will let you decide which it is in this case.)
Another example of a behavior related to engagement would be tracking contributions to the advancement of the department through input of ideas and suggestions for process or client experience improvement. You can count the number of times someone submits an idea or makes a suggestion for positive change. Not only can you count it but if you have identified that as something you want your staff to do you can recognize it when you see it happening and reinforce that behavior. The key to success then is that you have to identify the behaviors you want (or don’t want), track them and reinforce or extinguish them as the case may be.
You Need To Know What You Want
Performance Leadership is rooted in understanding what behaviors you want from your staff. The other part of that process is being there to recognize and acknowledge that behavior when it is happening. This is a deliberate and methodical process and is a habit that needs to be developed. Once it is though you will find yourself marveling at why you never did it sooner. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Our Progress Has Not Solved This Challenge
For all of our advances in technology the one area that still lags behind all the rest is the issue of developing leadership that can deliver high performance. Recent Gallup research highlights the very issue that brought Performance Leadership into being. Germany has an 84% disengagement rate among workers and of that group 49% considered quitting because of their boss. Don’t feel too smug because engagement rates are not much better in Canada and North America.
Performance Leadership - A Competitive Edge?
Why is employee engagement and effective leadership important? To quote the Gallup article by Marc Nink, "work units in the top quartile of employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%) and absenteeism (37%). These work units also saw fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%) and quality defects (41%)." Marc Nink, Gallup, April 15, 2016. When you stop and consider the impact of these numbers it is not hard to see that leadership needs to change in order to drive employee engagement and for a whole number of reasons.
Employees Don't Leave Companies, They Leave Bad Bosses
When this data was examined in more detail they found that almost one quarter of all employees had at some point left a job to get away from a bad manager in order to improve their overall life. When employees feel miserable at work that comes home in the form or stress and burnout.
Most Bosses Think They Are Doing A Good Job
Yet most mangers (95%) said they believe they are doing a good job, most did not see a need for change and over half had never participated in any training to improve their work with their employees. Many managers receive no formal training about employee engagement and how to drive employee engagement.
The Numbers Are Not In Your Favour
In our neck of the woods this is now being compounded by the fact that the Baby Boomer demographic is now leaving the work place in high numbers (perhaps aided by the recent events in the oil and gas industry). New people are having to move into those leadership roles with a.) fewer role models to emulate and b.) a loss of a huge amount of "tribal knowledge" around company functions and nuances. Add to this the reality that these leaders are going to have to "do more with less" than their predecessors and we have a recipe for some real hardship in leadership in the coming months and years.
But it does not have to be that way. Performance Leadership is designed to equip new and current leadership with the skills and approaches that specifically address employee engagement and performance. Using the science of behavior and performance metrics managers can approach individual and group performance with a renewed sense of confidence and certainty. It will also give them the means to collect and disseminate the vast array of "tribal knowledge" that exists within their groups and use that to drive improvement as well.
As we move into that new era to having to "do more with less" cogent, effective leadership is going to be crucial. What are you doing to ensure your enterprise, company or team benefit from great leadership? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I am in the process of loosing my "oil patch" weight. This is the weight I accumulated after spending time consulting on performance improvement at all the various locations around Alberta, B.C. and Texas. I started this process a year ago and for one year I lost no weight at all and in fact gained weight. The problem was that for that first year I thought I could just "eyeball" it and gauge my intake and weight without measuring anything. Boy was I wrong!
You Can't Change What You Don't Measure
I should have known better, after all it is exactly what I teach my colleagues regarding performance improvement; if you don't measure it you can't change it. I didn't bother to measure and as such I did not change anything, at least in terms of the direction I wanted to go.
So I got an app and started using it rigorously. And guess what? Yup, I went down 5 pounds in just one week, and within a few months I had dropped 40 pounds! The only difference from before is that I started measuring intake, exercise and weight and the results tell the rest of that story.
I did some research and found a paper done by "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." In it they did a study on long term weight loss and maintenance and the study found that those who "self monitored” (that means measured) their intake and weight were far more successful than those who did not.
Decide What Is Important And Measure It!
The lesson here should be familiar to all of us in leadership; if it is important to your business or your role, measure it! There is literally no role that does not have performance components in it that cannot be measured. And those measures should point to behaviors that need to be modified to increase performance.
You Never Know What You Will Find.
In one instance I can recall a company started measuring motor vehicle incidents (MVI’s) and after a couple of months they realized that most of their MVI’s were happening right in their own yard! The measure did not provide them with the answer but it pointed them in the direction in which to look. When they studied the issue further it was concluded that these MVI’s were taking place when crews were coming back from a job and were typically fatigued or eager to get home and as such were not as careful to monitor their driving in the yard. On a go forward basis the Supervisors had to develop the habit of alerting everyone to this danger when returning to the yard and the crews had to develop the habit of watching out more carefully for themselves and others. It wasn't a tough fix but it would not have happened without the measures to point them in the right direction.
Ask yourself the question; what is important to your company, division, group or area? Are you measuring it? If not why not? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is really not an article about Change Management although it touches on change management themes. It is an exploration of employee engagement and what is required for leadership in industry to come to terms with the need to do things differently, to step out of the box and set out in a different direction.
It's the "Patch" Sh*t Happens
As an example the Oil and Gas industry currently find themselves in the midst of yet another boom-bust cycle (bust being the operative word here) and one after another industry leaders throw up their hands and cry that there is nothing that can be done! Jobs are cut budgets are slashed and everyone scrambles to stay ahead of the call on their debt payment. Batten down the hatches and hang on for dear life to preserve whatever is left.
Time to Own Our Failure Try Something Different
That we have seen this cycle and this response more than once quite frankly is a discredit to the industry. It speaks to the lack of vision on the part of many (not all) with regard to truly transforming the industry away from this horribly counter productive ebb and flow. The question it begs is what will it take for them to change? Oil and Gas is a good current example to explore but the lessons are valid across all industry sectors.
In an article published in the Gallup Business Journal, authors Jesus Rios and Julie Ray set a compelling argument for how Chile can weather the current economic downturn and not only weather it but thrive. I share here the last three paragraphs of the article.
As Chile grapples with external economic forces that hinder its short-term prosperity, it is fitting that the country has untapped competitive advantages that leaders can control -- in both the public and private sectors. Chile approaches this new cycle of economic downturn armed with a relatively sizeable reservoir of engaged workers -- a scarce commodity in the world, but one capable of turning economies around, one workplace at a time.
For a country that needs to elevate its game through higher productivity, having a workforce that is more engaged than its competitors' means its workers are not only more willing to put in discretionary effort to get things done, but are more emotionally invested in their jobs, bringing excitement and creativity to the workplace. Not only are they more willing to adapt to change when needed, but they also have more energy to bring about change itself. But this energy needs to be unleashed through great talent management at work, and cultivated through quality education in society at large if it is to become that engine of productivity that the country so greatly needs.
Chile has long had a favourable macroeconomic environment that has brought along foreign investment, governance and prosperity. Its openness to the global economy has also allowed it to forge partnerships with other countries, with which it has thriving trade relations and bilateral cooperation in several key areas for its development. But Chile has long over-relied on natural resources whose market dynamics it doesn't control. So, it is time for the country to leverage -- and further invest in -- a natural resource that its leadership can control, that is extremely hard for others to replicate, and that no external economic force can take away: its human capital, the emotional engagement that Chileans bring to work every day. (Underline is mine) Rios & Ray - Gallup Business Journal , January 28, 2016
Engaging Your Workforce To Beat The Boom Bust Cycle
Several things stand out; first that much like Western Canada, Chile has a resource based economy that makes it vulnerable to external economic pressures. Second, they have a highly engaged workforce (almost 40% compared with 32% in Canada). The focus of the article is on how to use that engaged workforce to gain higher productivity to counteract those external pressures. In short how to beat the boom-bust cycle.
Employee engagement is a cornerstone of Operational Excellence and the key that leadership in the Oil and Gas industry (again with some exceptions) have yet to leverage to their advantage. In addition, with regard to education, we have an advantage in North America in that the educational systems are still pretty robust so the focus for training really only needs to be within each company.
Learn How To Ramp Up Engagement
And still many companies have been resistant to move to an Operational Excellence approach or they have adopted an approach that is heavily metrics based (which is okay) but with no investment in driving employee engagement at the same time (not so good). Metrics should drive engagement which should drive innovation and cost savings. Once that is achieved and sustained a company has gained a significant advantage over its competition and indeed over market conditions in general. A company with a robust Operational Excellence culture sees a market downturn as an opportunity not a problem.
So here we are in the middle of another market cycle of boom and bust. If you are a leader, I leave you with this question; what will it take for you to change?
Performance Leadership - Think About It!
There has been an increasing amount of discussion in the last few years around leadership. This should not surprise anyone because as the "boomers" move into retirement the generational demographic (Xer's, Nexter's, Millennials) slated to move into those vacant leadership places face significant gaps related to lower numbers and less experience. This presents at once, both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge certainly because there are fewer bodies to fill those positions and an opportunity in that we are required now, perhaps more than ever, to examine the entire issue of leadership. This presents us with an opportunity to re-frame our understanding of what good leadership looks like.
Active vs Passive
Current discussion around this includes a healthy exploration of Active and Passive Leadership. Terms such as Transactional Leadership vs Transformational Leadership are all topics along the same line as Passive vs Active leadership. Let's explore briefly the difference between these two approaches.
Passive leadership is the firefighter and it is characterized by a lot of MBE (Management By Exception). I call it passive because like a "lagging indicator" in analytics, it happens after the fact. The Passive leader can be found trolling for flaws in worker process or production and they spring into action offering up a swift reprimand when flaws are detected. It can be deceiving as often it looks "active" but the reality is that leadership that happens after the fact is most often passive. Employees get reprimanded for poor performance or the leader has to step in to put out fires due to poor performance and they "look" active and busy but is it really effective leadership?
Getting In Front of The Curve
Active leadership on the other hand can often look passive but is in reality quite the opposite. Active leadership seeks to involve staff in the challenges facing the group and gives them a role in solving those challenges. An active leader sets the goals, mentors their staff and sets them loose to tackle the issues and allows them to "own" the bottom line. It can often look passive because there is far less of the reprimanding or fighting of fires because it sets the bar "in front of the curve" not after it. Together with their team, active leaders anticipate issues before they become issues and get out in front of them before they become a problem - fire prevention not fire fighting. Lets look at an example.
He Took A Chance
An oil and gas company I was working with around performance leadership had a group of young leaders. All had been in those roles for less than two years and in some cases only a few months. Traditionally O&G leadership and particularly front line leadership tend to take a passive leadership approach with a lot of MBE. "Tearing someone a new one" and putting out lots of fires are the hallmark of these leaders. In this scenario the most experienced of this young group had adopted this traditional approach and was regarded as someone to look up to. The least experienced leader was keen to learn about performance leadership and what active leadership looked like. In spite of lack of experience this leader applied those principles and set goals for the team, invited them into the task of dealing with challenges, set them loose to find solutions and kept them accountable.
Only You Can Prevent A Fire!
You guessed it, within a very short period of time that new leader had a team that was performing at unheard of levels. They were coming up with time and cost saving innovations, were preventing fires instead of fighting them and that was the crew that everyone wanted to be on. The firefighting stories of the first leader were legendary but the performance of the second leader placed him on a fast track with regard to promotions.
This is why I see this current generational transition as an opportunity. I have worked with excellent young leaders who want to do well, want their teams to do well and have the willingness to work at active leadership and make it happen. These are the leaders who are going to transform leadership as we move further into this century. Active or Passive, what kind of leader are you?
Performance Leadership - Think About It!