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Vested Self-interest In Action

November 5th, 2009 by Miki Saxon

vsi-successTuesday I shared my version of VSI, the main ingredient in motivational sauce, and today I want to tell you a story about how it works.

Earlier this year I was working with a client, Jim, on various management approaches, such as offering good feedback and open sharing of all information, i.e., not dribbling it out over multiple requests, that he wanted to integrate into the company culture. During the conversation he asked me “What can I do to open the minds of some of my managers?”

Unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do to force a person to change the way they think, but there is much you can do to encourage it. I honestly believe that the fastest, as well as the most potent, way to encourage change is good old VSI.

I used to believe that people had to perceive the need for change before they could change, but based on experience I’ve found that if they see benefits to themselves from doing things differently they will start moving in that direction and the results can be almost surreal.

Jim had a manager who was known for making his people come to him constantly to get the information necessary to do the work they were assigned. His attitude/actions resulted in higher-than-normal turnover in his group, but he insisted that he wasn’t doing anything and people could get the information at any time, so there was no correlation.

Using VSI, Jim and I worked out a two-prong approach to change his behavior.

  • 20% of his annual bonus was tied to reducing his group’s turnover by 30% (which would bring it in line with the company as a whole); and
  • Jim started doing to the manager as he did to his group by forcing him to come and ask and then dribbling out the information he needed to meet his targets.

Part of the manager’s reaction was straightforward—he grumbled a bit about the retention bonus. But the surreal part was in his reaction to the information plug—nothing, not a word or an action to acknowledge what was going on.

However, he must have noticed, because within days of it starting he was giving more complete information to his people.

Not all at once and not very graciously, but he loosened his hold on the information flow, so did Jim. If the manager backtracked Jim tightened up and the manager learned that to get he had to give.

At first, his people were cautious, not really trusting the new openness, but after about a month the results started and after six weeks they took off like a rocket—productivity and retention zoomed north, while grumbling and discontent headed south and on into oblivion.

But the surreal part is that, in spite of his people commenting publicly on how differently he was handling assignments, meetings, etc., to this day the manager claims that nothing changed and certainly not him.

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

Ducks in a Row: Same Questions/Same Answers

August 25th, 2015 by Miki Saxon


Different generations, but bosses are asking the same questions.

How do I implement cultural and other intangible changes and, more importantly, encourage (or, if necessary, coerce) their adoption?

I responded nine years ago and the answer hasn’t really changed.

The most successful method is as simple as one, two, three.

  1. Carefully define, in a quantifiable manner, what you want done (not “increase retention,” but “reduce turnover by X%”).
  2. Include these well quantified goals in the managers’ annual objectives.
  3. Make it clear to your managers that they will be evaluated on these goals and that the evaluation will impact their annual reviews and compensation.

Vested self-interest will do the rest.

Flickr image credit: Martin Cooper

Ducks in a Row: the Value of Interest

September 23rd, 2014 by Miki Saxon


When I’m writing for a client I lose track of time; I don’t even notice when someone walks into my office.

It’s called being “in the zone” and it happens when you are seriously interested and deeply engaged with what you are doing.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist at the Claremont Graduate University, has been studying this latter phenomenon for decades. He calls it flow: the experience we have when we’re “in the zone.” During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused; they lose themselves in the activity.

It’s a proven fact that self-control is mentally fatiguing, but new research shows that high interest results in lower mental fatigue.

Bosses who use contests and gamification to drive interest are missing a good understanding of today’s workforce—and it’s not about age or even self-interest.

People get interested because a project is meaningful and they can see how their work contributes to the larger picture.

Even on minor projects they can see how what they did helped achieve the outcome.

No busy work; no incomplete information and no doing [whatever] for the sake of doing it.

In short, if you want to generate interest in a task it must be meaningful and provide an opportunity for the worker to add value.

Flickr image credit: Beverley Goodwin

If the Shoe Fits: Entrepreneurship can Beget Arrogance

November 16th, 2012 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThis is not about politics, but when I read a description of Karl Rove in an Op-Ed column I found amusement as to how easily you could change the word “consultant” to “entrepreneur” and “buy advice” to “invest in/join the company.”

And yet another is that prophets are people too, blinded by their own self-interest, swayed by their own self-promotion, neither omniscient nor omnipotent. (…) Of course arrogance, or at least self-assurance, is a consultant’s stock in trade. That’s what we buy when we buy advice: not just the content of it but the authority, even the grandiloquence, with which it’s delivered.

Finding needs, taking risks, starting companies is the basis of what entrepreneurs do, but, when they do it has enormous impact on their potential for success.

The problem is that the best ‘when’ is a function of hindsight and history.

But as we all know, success breeds arrogance, not always, but too often.

Martha Stewart, who controls 90% of the voting rights of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and, as the old saying goes, spends her days cutting off her nose to spite her face, is a good example.

Her net worth is inextricably tied to the value of the shares. That would seem obvious to everyone except, perhaps, Ms. Stewart herself. She continues to collect lavish multimillion-dollar compensation and perks while her company teeters under the weight of huge losses, its shares trading for a fraction of their former value. The paradox is that if the stock had risen even $1 a share in recent years, Martha Stewart would be wealthier now than if she had taken only nominal compensation from the company.

And arrogance brings us back to the description above.

Option Sanity™ undermines arrogance.
Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Motivating Management Change

February 21st, 2011 by Miki Saxon


How do you get culture-blind managers to wake up to its importance?

How do you get them to understand that just as there is no “I” in team there is no “I” in leader and that if they insist on capitalizing the “I” in leadership it will change to leadershIt?

In other words is there a way to motivate managers to change their MAP if the “I” is a function of inexperience or ignorance as opposed to entitlement and willfulness?

A useful 2×4 to accomplish this is vested self-interest (VSI) as manifested in the MyCFF mantra so popular today—my compensation, my career path, my future.

It is amazing how much a person is willing to change when those changes further their own goals—even as far as changing “I” to “i.”

Click vested self-interest for how-to details.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3000885176/

Ducks in a Row: a Lack of Trust

April 20th, 2010 by Miki Saxon

ducks_in_a_rowI really enjoy Dan McCarthy over at Great Leadership; we may not always agree, but he has never wasted my time and I always learn something.

Saturday was no exception and I want to share the survey Dan posted, because I think it’s of major importance whether you are a manager or a worker.

Engagement is high on management’s list of preferred employee attitude, but management seems to have a disconnect when it comes to how to engender it.

Too many managers choose to ignore that the most basic, necessary ingredient in engagement is trust and, for good reason, trust is in short supply these days.

04.14.2010 – A new Maritz® Poll conducted by Maritz Research, a leader in employee satisfaction research, paints a dire outlook of American workforce attitudes toward employers. Employees’ trust toward their workplace has taken a severe hit, with employees across all industry segments citing a lack of trust in not only senior leaders, but direct managers and co-workers as well.
According to the poll, few (11 percent) employees strongly agree their managers show consistency between their words and actions. In addition, only seven percent of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest, and only seven percent strongly agree they trust their co-workers to do so. Approximately one-fifth of respondents disagree that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical, and one-quarter of respondents disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty. While workplace trust has been dwindling since the Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco scandals of the earlier part of the decade, threats of layoffs and downsizing have only exacerbated the problem.
“In times like these, trust is an especially critical issue. Companies need their best people more than ever to be engaged and productive. But, often, this process starts at the top,” says Rick Garlick, Ph.D., senior director of consulting and strategic implementation, Hospitality Research Group, Maritz Research. “You’ve got to maintain credibility with your workforce as a means of getting them to totally buy in to the mission and vision of your company. Anything less fosters a disengaged workforce that puts self-interest at the top of its list of priorities.”
In cases where management trust was strong, the study found that employees were significantly more committed to working for their companies. More than half of respondents (58 percent) with strong trust in their management were completely satisfied with their job, while only four percent of respondents with weak trust in management cited they were completely satisfied with their job.
The study also revealed:
• Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents with strong trust in management would be happy to spend the rest of their career with their present company. This compares to only seven percent of respondents who have weak trust in management.
• More than half of those surveyed (51 percent) with strong management trust would invest money in their company if they could versus only six percent of those surveyed with weak management trust.
• Only three percent of respondents with weak management trust look forward to coming to work everyday. For those with strong management trust, 50 percent responded they look forward to coming to work everyday.
Which Industry Fares Well? Hospitality Employees and Its Customers
While the survey suggests there is room for improvement across all sectors, the hospitality industry seems to have some advantages over others. For example, hospitality employees (14 percent) are more likely than other industry segments (9 percent) to rate their company as a “fun place to work.” Hospitality sector employees also tend to rate their companies better on customer service-related issues and the impact they make:
• More than one-third (34 percent) completely understand how their work impacts customers’ experiences, compared to only 23 percent in other industries.
• Twenty percent believe they have the authority they need to respond promptly to customer problems and requests, versus just 15 percent of respondents in other industries.
Approximately one-fifth (21 percent) of hospitality respondents believe their customers would rate the service they deliver as excellent, compared to only 14 percent of respondents in other segments.
However, there is room for improvement. Only 15 percent of employees agree that their company has the policies, systems and procedures in place to deliver outstanding customer service.
“With the hospitality industry taking one of the biggest hits due to poor economic conditions and negative perceptions, it is promising that employees feel positive about the connection of their daily work to customer service issues. But, it is still not a rosy picture when it comes to engagement. The results show that a lack of trust runs rampant in this sector as well, which impacts employees’ perceived long term career development opportunities, co-worker relationships, and productivity levels,” says Garlick.
Don’t slash that recognition program
The weak economy forced companies to cut costs across the organization. And, unfortunately, formal recognition programs were frequently sacrificed. More than one-third of respondents (33 percent) cited their company scaled back or eliminated their recognition program in the past year. There is some data, at least from the employees’ perspective, to suggest these cuts have had an impact on the quality of service they deliver to customers. Among employees whose companies kept recognition programs intact, 25 percent strongly agreed their customers would rate their service as excellent. Among those whose companies cut back on their recognition programs or never had one, only 14 percent strongly agreed customers would rate their service as excellent.
“Recognition programs are critical to demonstrating to employees that they are valued and appreciated for the work they perform. It’s an important engagement tool, as it helps to reinforce messages about how people are making an impact,” says Garlick. “This is a wake-up call for management teams that consider employee recognition programs as expendable. Not only do recognition programs positively impact employee engagement levels, they ultimately lead to positive customer service perceptions, which impact the bottom line.”
About Maritz® Poll
Maritz® Poll is a copyrighted poll conducted since 1988 by Maritz Research. Maritz Poll comprises regular surveys on topics related to the automotive, financial services, hospitality, retail, technology, and telecommunications sectors as well as workplace issues. This poll was conducted March 1-5, 2010. The 2,004 respondents were people who were employed full time and drawn from a national e-mail panel. Sampling error for the overall poll is +/-3 percent. Results of the poll may be used in print or broadcast media, provided credit is given to the Maritz Poll and/or Maritz Research.
About Maritz Research
As one of the world’s largest marketing research firms, Maritz Research, a unit of Maritz, helps many of today’s most successful companies improve performance through an actionable understanding of their customers, employees, and channel partners. Founded in 1973, Maritz Research offers a range of strategic and tactical solutions concentrating primarily in the automotive, financial services, hospitality, telecommunications and technology and retail industries. Maritz Research projects are carried out in compliance with the International Standard: ISO 20252:2006 Market, Opinion, and Social Research Standard. Maritz Research is a member of CASRO and official sponsor of the American Marketing Association.

If trust is lacking in your organization don’t go looking for a quick fix.

Trust is the opposite of weight; gaining weight is fast and easy, while losing it is slow and difficult. Trust can be lost in the blink of an eye, while regaining it may never happen.

In conjunction with this read Why Are Fewer and Fewer U.S. Employees Satisfied With Their Jobs? (don’t skip the comments), a current discussion from Dr. James Heskett, Harvard Business School.

Image credit: Svadilfari on flickr

Leadership's Future: The Work-Life Edge

December 10th, 2009 by Miki Saxon

balanceWhen the economy slows, it’s easy to ignore retention factors because management kids itself into believing that replacing people is no big deal.

But slow as it’s happening, the times they are a’chnging.

At least here and there, in companies that really understand the importance of attracting and retaining scarce talent.

“To reduce “female brain drain,” global companies such as Ernst & Young, Goldman Sachs, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy and dozens of others are increasingly offering a variety of flexible work options.”

Don’t get me wrong. These companies aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their corporate heart or caring social consciousness, they’re doing it because it makes financial sense, AKA, vested self-interest.

“Business analysts and executives say talent retention and the forces of demography are the chief reasons large, traditional companies accommodate the needs of female employees. Fifty-eight percent of college graduates are women, and nearly half of all professional and graduate degrees are earned by women…the number of women with graduate and professional degrees will grow by 16 percent over the next decade compared with an increase of only 1.3 percent among men.”

And the need is going to get worse.

“Whether you can hear it or not, a time bomb is ticking in C-suites worldwide. Its shock waves will resonate for decades. The explosive: indisputable demographics. Surveys…indicate that the number of managers in the right age bracket for leadership roles will drop by 30% in just six years. Factor in even modest growth rates, and the average corporation will be left with half the critical talent it needs by 2015.”

It’s not just large firms, SMB companies are active in the effort, although they often skip the language and the programs are more informal—which is why they’re often described as “being like a family.”

Although the work-life trend started with women, the guys want it, too, and Millennials assume it as a right.

The economy will turn around—it always does; more Boomers will retire; demographics will prevail; talent will be scarcer and the companies that already know how to offer balance will have an enormous recruiting edge.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: James Jordan on flickr

December Leadership Development Carnival

December 7th, 2009 by Miki Saxon

leadership-development-carnivalMark Stelzner at Inflexion Point is host for the December Leadership Development Carnival and he’s done it with such flair and good imagery that it’s silly for me to try and improve his snowstorm analogy.

Although the weather outside may be frightful, this Carnival’s writers are so delightful. So stoke the fire, grab a blanket and get ready to curl up with some of the best leadership writing from the past thirty days. Cozy yet? Good… let’s jump right in.

Leadership Whiteout

The good thing about a whiteout is that you have no choice but to stop and pay attention:

Surviving The Blizzard

2009 has been anything but easy:

Plowing Through

We often have no choice but to push forward:

Finding Snowflakes

Let’s face it, some employees/leaders may be more unique than others:

Brain Freeze

Sure it’s cold, but that’s really no excuse:

Good stuff. Mark asks, “What issues would you like this crowd to tackle in 2010?” Let me know and I’ll pass on your comments or post them at Mark’s site.

Image credit: Great Leadership

December Leadership Development Carnival

December 7th, 2009 by Miki Saxon

leadership-development-carnivalMark Stelzner at Inflexion Point is host for the December Leadership Development Carnival and he’s done it with such flair and good imagery that it’s silly for me to try and improve his snowstorm analogy.

Although the weather outside may be frightful, this Carnival’s writers are so delightful. So stoke the fire, grab a blanket and get ready to curl up with some of the best leadership writing from the past thirty days. Cozy yet? Good… let’s jump right in. Leadership Whiteout The good thing about a whiteout is that you have no choice but to stop and pay attention:

Surviving The Blizzard 2009 has been anything but easy:

Plowing Through We often have no choice but to push forward:

Finding Snowflakes Let’s face it, some employees/leaders may be more unique than others:

Brain Freeze Sure it’s cold, but that’s really no excuse:

Good stuff. Mark asks, “What issues would you like this crowd to tackle in 2010?” Let me know and I’ll pass on your comments or post them at Mark’s site.Your comments—priceless Don’t miss a post, subscribe via RSS or EMAILImage credit: Great Leadership

Management Messes: Pain and Threats

December 3rd, 2009 by Miki Saxon

vsi-in-action“Clint” used the ‘Chat with Miki” box in the right-hand frame to ask me this question.

Have you ever heard this?  “People usually won’t change until the pain of NOT changing exceeds the pain of changing.”

Since this is a pretty common idea I thought I’d share my ideas with everybody.

I’ve heard this and many variations of it over the years, especially when applied to the workplace where it becomes a form of management by threat

For example, if your company or boss decides on a change and people’s jobs hinge on that change, they will change.

The problem is that they will also disengage at some level, maybe a little, but sometimes a lot. Not always obviously, but over time it will show in lower productivity, less creativity and, eventually, higher turnover.

Clint then asked if I thought that vested self-interest could be used instead of increasing the pain.

The answer is absolutely.

VSI is the perfect opposite to increased pain.

By rethinking a desired action, such as change, and presenting it in terms of its value to employees you can trip the VSI switch—but not if it’s a con.

As I’ve said a million times, people are not stupid; if the desired action is not really in their best interests there is nothing you can do that will convince them. VSI will still kick in, but the result will be resume polishing, lots of LinkedIn action and conversations with recruiters.

Clint decided that by using vested self-interest he could reduce the pain of changing. He plans to connect his organization’s goals to his people’s goals, which will effectively reduce the pain and increase the likelihood that they will do what he needs them to do—painlessly.

Handy little item my chat box. Try it, I’m usually here.

Image credit: nkzs on sxc.hu

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