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Golden Oldies: Vested Self-interest In Action

Monday, December 12th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

To truly understand this post, you need to click the link and read the original explanation of VSI. VSI isn’t particularly original, but it is rarely called that — people prefer nicer or more professional sounding euphemisms. And that’s OK; I just prefer to opt for clarity and simplicity — which is why I’m considered too blunt.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

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

Golden Oldies: The Secret of Improving

Monday, December 5th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

The year is nearly over, so I thought I’d focus the next few weeks on personal growth.

The principle of I/O as applied to ourselves is frequently overlooked as we search role models, gurus and pundits in efforts to grow and  improve.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/findyoursearch/5034002771/Personal and professional growth is a major focus for most people—that’s one of the reasons you’re reading this blog.

We research, dissect, write, discuss, preach, teach, and study, all with the goal of improving ourselves.

No matter what you seek to learn/improve think of yourself as a computer.

Huh?

In computing, the term I/O refers to input, whatever is received by the system, and output, that which results from the processing.

Programmers know that the results coming out of the computer won’t be any better than the information given it and this phenomenon is known as “garbage in/garbage out.”

And there you have the secret.

No matter if it’s career-related, relationship-focused, personal-internal or something else, I/O applies to everything in life.

What comes out is a function of what you put in.

Blindly accepting everything offered by even the most brilliant source will result in garbage out at some point.

Learning/improving requires critical thinking on your part—no one person, past, present or future, has all the answers.

You need to evaluate the available information, take a bit from here and a bit from there, apply it to your situation and, like a computer, process it.

The result will be at least slightly different from what you started with, because you’ve added the flavor of your own life experiences, knowledge and MAP to the mix—and that’s good, it shouldn’t be an exact copy.

Because, as Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Flickr image credit: FindYourSearch

Golden Oldies: Mr. Welch, I respectfully disagree…

Monday, November 28th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve changed a lot since I wrote this in 2006, as has the world. For one thing, if I was writing it today I wouldn’t say “respectfully.” I don’t respect Welch or consider him a sterling example of either management or leadership. Under his watch, GE profits soared — generated by the financial engineering employed by GE Financial.

Welch instigated a review system based on forced rankings resulting in a culture of fear and mistrust, which spread through major corporations like the flu, damaging moral and trashing talent. And he believes that careers take precedence over family, marriage and life in general. If you are a boss in the 21st Century he is definitely not a role model.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Today I take my (professional) life in my hands and disagree with an icon. Jack and Suzy Welch write a column in Business Week called, “Ideas The Welch Way” that I’ve been ambivalent about since its inception. Jack Welch is one of the gods of the business Parthenon and for a “nobody” to publicly disagree with him—well, fools rush in and all that.

The July 17 column is about what HR is and should be. My disagreement is that they seem to feel that HR should orchestrate, and even do, line management’s job. In the second paragraph they say, “Look, HR should be every company’s killer app. What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out the door?”

Agreed, nothing is more important; those four actions are critical, but there is no way that the most brilliant HR person can make the call on any of them. They are neither close enough to the day-to-day actions of each department or knowledgeable enough of the work and its technical requirements to determine

  • what skills should be strengthened or what skills-hole needs to be plugged most urgently based on upcoming projects;
  • the subtle competence, latent leadership or intuitive flashes of brilliance that would bloom with effort—or what efforts would produce the best growth;
  • the level and quality of leadership and interpersonal skills in action;
  • whether/when to terminate (unless the company uses some variety of forced ranking, a practice I really detest!)

These are not only the responsibility and decisions of line managers—it’s what they’re paid for!

I’m not saying that top flight HR can’t play a real role in a company’s success. I am saying that it can’t substitute for excellent managers and that the smaller the company the less need for HR talent or, in many cases, any HR beyond benefits administration.

Look, without people there is no such entity as a company (Welch and I agree on that). In my headhunting years I saw stars at all levels change companies and dim under different management; by the same token, I’ve seen people who were terminated for poor performance become internally (and externally) recognized stars under different management.

It’s great line managers at all levels that attract and retain talent.

Managers are the reason that

  • within the same company (or division) one department has high turnover while another doesn’t;
  • within a department one manager promotes from within and fills her openings while another doesn’t.

It’s managers that raise productivity, promote innovation, and set the company on the road to success.

And it’s the CEO, supported by his senior staff, which, as Welch says, should include HR, that is the font of the culture that allows and encourages all this to happen.

Golden Oldies: All Week Long

Monday, November 21st, 2016

That’s right; all week. I’m taking the week off to get stuff done — some of which should have been done months ago.

Rather than leaving you with nothing to do (that’s a joke), I thought I’d provide a week of past Thanksgiving posts. Some are for fun, but, hopefully, others will prove thought-provoking.

Today’s is called Getting through an F Day.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

forkDid you know Thanksgiving is an F day?

There are five Fs that come immediately to mind, they are fun, family, friends, food and football.

Of those five only one comes close to being guaranteed good and that’s food, but even food isn’t a given. There was the year that my host’s two Siamese cats stole the turkey—dragged it off the platter, dropped it to the floor, dragged it across an Aubusson carpet and were on the way out one door when I entered another.

Football often depends on whether your team wins, although a good game, as opposed to a romp, can make the difference.

Friends are often a better bet than family since you can pick and choose, but that only works if you’re the host. One friend always invited two people he knew would ignite—one year it was an Arab and an Israeli just after the Six Day War. Talk about fireworks, more like bombs.

Then, of course, there is family. Family is family and blood may be thicker than water, but that doesn’t mean putting the family together in one room will always generate sweetness and light—too often there is a large dose of vinegar and sour grapes. It’s said that leopards don’t change their spots and neither do family members. If they are difficult or you can’t stand them 364 days of the years, they won’t change for the 365th day.

Fun depends either on the first four or your ability to take a step back and laugh—at the food, the game, your friends, your family and, most of all, yourself.

Laughter is the balm that soothes a holiday rash; apply liberally and often.

Image credit: auntjojo on flickr

Golden Oldies: Management is Like Coffee

Monday, November 14th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

There’s not a lot to add to this post. The cited research is still accurate, as is the results comparison. That said, many managers are still providing too much, too little or, worse, none at all. But their complaints haven’t diminished, nor their solution to shift the responsibility to their people, instead of recognizing that they are the ones who need to change.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25187937@N05/5525163305How much management/coaching is too much?

I hear that question a lot.

Most managers want to do a good job and are looking for ways to improve.

But, as one commented recently, if you do everything recommended by the experts you would use so much of each person’s time that productivity would tumble and even the best coaching would have a negative impact.

Which is why I say that management and coffee are similar.

In the right amount coffee is good for your brain and may help you live longer.

The right amount of management/coaching is good for the brain in that it provides challenges that foster growth; it also lowers frustration and stress, which enhances mental and physical health.

According to the research, the “right” amount of coffee is around 20 ounces a day, i.e., one venti-size Starbucks.

That equates to the most effective management/coaching, which provides all the information needed to do the job at one time (not more nor less) and then gets out of the way while staying accessible if needed.

Many of the coffee-fueled are more likely to drink three to five ventis a day, which is detrimental to health and longevity.

A comparable amount of management/coaching is detrimental to health, productivity and retention.

Flickr image credit: Kurtis Garbutt

Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?

No!

Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

Golden Oldies: Customer Service Week 2016

Monday, October 10th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

In case you didn’t know, today is the start of Customer Service Week, focusing on “the importance of great customer experiences to the success of the organization and reinforce a customer-focused culture.” “Customer” typically refers to the people who buy your product, but they aren’t your only customers, especially if you’re a manager. That’s why today’s Golden Oldies includes two posts, with several links to additional, valuable information on the subject of customers and how to keep them. One new link seems worth including; it explains why, unlike other fields, the constant practice involved in active customer service can seriously reduce empathy — an absolute requirement of great customer service.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelaarcher/5166009978/Who is Your Customer?

Customer service is a major topic these days (more on that tomorrow); as is employee retention, but do they really have anything in common?

Absolutely.

Every manager, from team leader to CEO, is also a customer service manager, because your people are your customers.

That’s right, customers.

More accurately, that makes you an ESM—employee service manager.

Why do you service your people? To

  • help them achieve their full potential;
  • assure high productivity;
  • lower turnover; and
  • create an environment that’s a talent magnet.

How do you service your people? By

  • cultivating the kind of MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) that truly values people and understands how important it is to manifest that;
  • offering high-grade professional challenges to all your people and making sure that they have the resources and all the information necessary to achieve success;
  • fostering fairness so that people know they are evaluated on their merits and favoritism plays no part; and
  • always walking your talk and living up to your commitments.

What’s in it for you?

  • Better reviews, promotions and raises;
  • increased professional development;
  • less turnover and easier staffing; and
  • what goes around comes around—everything that you give your people will come back to you ten-fold!

Flickr image credit: Angela Archer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/6467405231Employee Retention: Not Rocket Science

Yesterday we looked at how a new IBM analytics tool that analyzes tweets found that customer loyalty was severely impacted by employee turnover.

A decade ago research by Frederick Reichheld found that a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

Deloitte recently released its annual survey, which seems to back up the need for improved retention.

2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere.

The first three are nothing new; the terms have changed over the years, although not the meaning behind them or their ranking as top concerns.

In a major employee retention push, companies are turning to algorithms and analytics to mine a raft of data, identify which employees are most likely to leave and then try to change their minds.

But some things never seem to change and until they do companies won’t make much headway.

At Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences (emphasis added –ed.), with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.

With decades of research saying the same thing, it makes one wonder why the finding was “surprising.”

In fact, nothing will change until companies, bosses and the media stop being surprised every time a survey shows that talent acquisition and retention is most influenced by

  • the culture in which they work;
  • the bosses for whom they work;
  • the work itself; and
  • the difference they can make.

Gee, maybe it really is rocket science.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

Golden Oldies: Advice About Advice

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

There’s not a lot of commentary to add to this oldie. About the only thing I see changed is that complexity has increased and simplification has fallen further out of favor.   

Read other Golden Oldies here

magic-castleI’m a coach, so I spend a lot of time discussing challenges and situations and then offering ideas, suggestions and, sometimes, specific advice.

I do my best to jar my clients’ thinking, not necessarily to have them follow my lead, but to nudge them out of their comfort zone and into a more creative space.

Basically, I’m a bit lazy in as much as I don’t do any more than is necessary and I avoid complexifying anything.

So when I do offer specific suggestions they’re based on what I consider common sense and are aimed at simplifying whatever is involved.

I often get a ‘wow!’ reaction and lots of excitement.

When asked, I explain the basis of my thinking and suddenly the reaction becomes ‘that’s simple, anyone could think of that’.

It’s a lot like magic tricks. They’re very impressive when you see the magician do them on stage, but when you know how they are done they often become drab and mundane—the magic is gone.

As a result, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut; I don’t add a lot of mystique, because it feels like a con, but I don’t have to say that my mind always goes for the simplest approach possible, because essentially I’m lazy.

So the next time you’re faced with a challenge try looking for the simplest way to solve it and wow those around you with your brilliance.

Image credit: brenbot

Golden Oldies: Staff R (not) Me

Monday, September 26th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Last Tuesday, We considered the bottom line value of gratitude, which reminded me of a post from 2009 when I wrote a leadership blog for B5 Media. Good morning. Thanks. I appreciate X. So few words, so little effort and such enormous returns.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

different_1Back when I wrote for B5 media, Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.” (Current links unavailable.)

Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.”

I worked for a guy like this. Oh, he said good morning and was a really nice guy, but he didn’t understand that our needs differed from his.

Most of us are like that to some extent. We see the world through our own MAP and unconsciously make the assumption that others see it the same way.

This is especially true with regards to people we’re close to, such as family, or with whom we’re friendly, such as team members, peers, colleagues, even bosses.

Think about it. How many times have you recommended a book or movie only to have the person ask you why in the world you suggested it; or introduced two people you really liked only to find that they can’t stand each other.

My old boss didn’t care about pats on the back, positive feedback or congratulations when he accomplished a critical piece of the sales process. It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, but he just didn’t think of it on his own.

I still remember one time that I closed a really big deal. He was out of the office, so I put the paperwork dead center on his desk where he couldn’t miss seeing it. He came back mid-morning, but it wasn’t until I went to his office, asked and he congratulated me—but when you have to ask, it has no value.

And even when he did say the right thing it was obvious that he didn’t know why he was saying it. It wasn’t that he didn’t mean it, he did, but he never really understood why it needed to be said.

So more important than saying the right thing; saying it at the right time; or honestly meaning it; is taking the time to learn and understand why you’re saying it.

Image credit: flickr

Golden Oldies: Your Energy Banks

Monday, September 19th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. I wrote the following way back on 2006 and believe it applies even more now.

 People spend great effort learning new skills and pushing themselves to grow. They are busier, with more claims on their time; social media and FOMO eat hours and all of them require energy — especially change. Even the people who successfully juggle all this feel no joy; the zest is gone and happiness is a dim memory. Listen to their voice and you can hear that their energy is almost non-existent. Now, as then, I hope this post is of use.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Do you have an energy budget? You should. Everything you do takes some kind of energy and your energy at any given time is finite.

As with any resource, it’s important to know where you’re spending it, how much you have left, and when you need to make a deposit.

It’s also important to recognize that you can spend energy moving forward or spinning your wheels—the first is an investment with discernible ROI, while the second is a waste.

There are three kinds of energy

  • physical,
  • mental, and
  • psychic (different from mental)

and you draw some of each for any given task. This is especially true when working to change something in your MAP because you need to

  • be awake and alert,
  • think, and
  • actuate, i.e., make the changes real.

Three kinds of energy, but only one bank for each type—not one set for professional use and one for personal.

Since an effort to change is ongoing, you’ll be drawing on your three energy banks at various times and in various amounts. These requirements need to be added to the energy needs for the rest of what you’re doing, both personally and professionally, and prioritized. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew.

As with any bank account you need to make more deposits than withdrawals or you’ll end up like Enron. It’s your responsibility to keep them filled, just as it is to keep money in your bank account if you plan to write checks and gas in your car if you’re driving somewhere—it doesn’t happen by accident.

Moreover, what replenishes your spouse/SO/kids/pets/whatever’s energy won’t necessarily replenish yours (and vice versa).

That means that you need to learn what actions/inactions replenishes each kind of energy for you and then do them.

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