Monday, November 9th, 2015
This post first appeared in 2012, but I believe both its premise and its point deserve another airing.
As companies grow and managers build their organizations they frequently talk about “weeding out” low performing employees—Jack Welch was a ninja weeder.
If that thought has crossed your mind you might take a moment to think about James Russell Lowell’s comment, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.”
As with weeds, there are better ways to look at under-performing employees.
Seeing a weed as food changes everything, just as seeing people’s potential does.
95% of the time it’s management failures that create weeds and those failures run the gamut from benign neglect to malicious abuse and everything in-between.
Weeds can come from outside your company, inter-departmental transfers and even from peers in your own backyard.
What is amazing is how quickly a weed will change with a little TLC.
“Weeds can grow quickly and flower early, producing vast numbers of genetically diverse seed.”
People grow quickly, too, and often produce innovative ideas — just because someone listened instead of shutting them down.
And while trust that your attitude won’t change takes longer to build, the productivity benefits happen fairly rapidly.
So before you even think about weeding look in the mirror and be sure that the person looking back is a gardener and not a weed producer.
Flickr image credit: Clare Bell
Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
This great leadership information from Lars Dalgaard, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is applicable to every boss, whether startup or Fortune 50.
The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.
The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.
Dalgaard’s approach is the opposite of so many of today’s bosses, who act as if every day is a tough mudder experience.
To them, being vulnerable is the same as being weak — and weak loses.
Worse, by acting on that belief they, in turn, force the attitude on their people.
The end result often turns a workplace into a warplace, with X% of your people trying to out-tough each other and the rest running for cover.
So give them, and yourself, a break by recognizing that you’ll go further, and have more fun getting there, by being, and showing, that you are human.
Flickr image credit: BK
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Want to integrate almost real-time employee action analytics to give your people better feedback and potential career boost?
There’s an app for that.
Imagine a tiny microphone embedded in the ID badge dangling from the lanyard around your neck.
The mic is gauging the tone of your voice and how frequently you are contributing in meetings. Hidden accelerometers measure your body language and track how often you push away from your desk.
The app is from Humanyze, the test subjects work for Deloitte, participation was voluntary and the anonymous results positive.
“The minute that you get the report that you’re not speaking enough and that you don’t show leadership, immediately, the next day, you change your behavior,” says Silvia Gonzalez-Zamora, an analytics leader at Deloitte, who steered the Newfoundland pilot.
“It’s powerful to see how people want to display better behaviors or the behaviors that you’re moving them towards.”
But only when there is choice and trust.
Then there’s the truly evil app that records everything employees do 24/7, with no anonymity .
The U.K.-based company The Outside View, a predictive analytics company, also recently gave staff wearables and apps to measure their happiness, sleep patterns, nutrition and exercise around the clock in an experimental project.
So your boss knows when you decide to watch your favorite TV show, instead of taking a work-related course, or sing karaoke, instead of going to bed early.
“It’s bad enough that we lose control of our identities with threats of identity theft. I think it’s even worse if we lose the privacy of our actions, our movements, our physiological and emotional states. I think that’s the risk.” –Kenneth Goh, professor of organizational behavior at Western University’s Ivey Business School
They actually think that employees will be motivated by coming to work and having their boss ask why they didn’t work-out, but were up until 2 am.
I don’t think so.
As with so many inventions through the centuries, no matter how pure the motives of creators, anything can be corrupted and its use perverted by other humans.
Hat tip to KG Charles-Harris for pointing me to these stories.
Flickr image credit: Hans Splinter
Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
It’s been proven that the happier the workers the higher the productivity and creativeness.
So what really makes people happy?
Lawyers provide a good example, in spite of all the jokes.
Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.
I wrote What People Want one week short of nine years ago and after rereading it see no reason to update it.
As research continually proves, the basic human operating system doesn’t really change.
Flickr image credit: tico_24
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
Last Thursday we looked at the importance of using your culture as a screening tool to be sure the people hired are, at the least, synergistic with it.
Note that being culturally synergistic has nothing to do with either age or gender.
Friday warned against confusing perks with culture.
But with culture, what you see may not be what you get.
More important than the company’s overall culture is the culture that develops under any given manager, based on individual MAP, and the individual’s management approach.
To ensure a successful hire the culture and management style described must actually exist as opposed to an idealized or misleading version created for interviews.
Strange as it sounds, managers often describe their style more as it ought to be, i.e., what they think it is or what they think the candidate wants to hear.
Obviously, managers aren’t about to tell candidates that they micromanage or don’t believe in helping their people grow, because they might leave.
But today’s workforce is the savviest in history.
Mix that savvy with the uncontrolled and unfiltered information provided by social media and you have a situation that demands authenticity and honesty.
At the least, it requires sins of omission.
Lies, AKA, sins of commission, such as describing the opposite — a boss who encourages growth, provides complete information, then gets out of the way, etc. — as reality pretty much guarantees a turned-down offer or fast turnover — in other words, an unsuccessful hire.
And in case you’ve forgotten exactly what a successful hire is, it’s hiring the right person into the right position at the right time and for the right reasons.
Flickr image credit: Susanne Nilsson
Monday, December 1st, 2014
Over the holiday weekend “Eric” canceled his email subscription and the reason given made me smile.
He said my post about the potential for hacking the “Internet of Things” was more fear-mongering than fact, so he was, as I always recommend, “voting with his feet” and unsubscribing.
Granted, I should have referenced my proof, but it’s hard to remember every article I read and this one dates back 15 months.
It’s an article about a search engine called Shodan — the Internet of Things’ worst nightmare.
Shodan crawls the Internet looking for devices, many of which are programmed to answer. It has found cars, fetal heart monitors, office building heating-control systems, water treatment facilities, power plant controls, traffic lights and glucose meters. (…) “Google crawls for websites. I crawl for devices,” says John Matherly, the tall, goateed 29-year-old who released Shodan in 2009.
Shodan wasn’t built for nefarious purposes, but intent has very little to do with actual usage.
Currently, Shodan is the only device search engine with public search results, which is, obviously, a boon to hackers.
However, I agree with Matherly, because if he hadn’t built it someone else would have.
“I don’t consider my search engine scary. It’s scary that there are power plants connected to the Internet.”
And, in case you are wondering, yes, I sent the article URL to Eric.
Flickr image credit: centralasian
Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Does your company have soul?
Or is it so focused on profit that there is no room for anything else?
What does it mean for a company to have soul?
That question is addressed by a Belgium, Frederic Laloux, who quit McKinsey when he found himself miserable and out of touch with his clients.
“The work I had loved so much was work I simply couldn’t do any longer. I came to the realization that I was in a very different place than the executive teams of the large corporations with whom I had been working. I just couldn’t work with these big organizations anymore. They felt too soulless and unhealthy to me, too trapped in a rat race of just trying to eke out more profits.”
Wondering what gave a company soul fueled two years of research that resulted in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness.
Not surprisingly, Laloux found that trust ranked at the top of managerial attitudes that create soul.
Trust, Mr. Laloux found, is perhaps the most powerful common denominator in the companies he studied. “If you view people with mistrust and subject them to all sorts of controls, rules and punishments,” he writes, “they will try to game the system, and you will feel your thinking is validated. Meet people with practices based on trust, and they will return your trust with responsible behavior. Again, you will feel your assumptions were validated.”
In other words, bosses (like most others) get what they expect.
While trust can’t be faked, it is trust a function of individual bosses, from the most junior all the way up to the CEO.
That means that even if you are working in a soulless situation you can run your own organization with trust, integrity and soul.
Flickr image credit: Lars Plougmann
Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Bosses are enamored with culture and rightly so.
However, for culture to work its wonders it must sink deeply into the organization in the same way that stain is absorbed by wood.
Cultural stain is the direct result of walking the talk and making sure that everybody else walks it, too.
It’s intentional action and it requires paying attention.
It must be applied carefully or every imperfection and flaw in the organization will be on display.
Stain is never the output of an underling; when ideas do bubble up from other parts of the organization they won’t take root without the support of the boss, whether publicly or not.
The problem is that many bosses find it faster to treat culture like paint.
Cultural paint is easier to apply and, like real paint, it can hide everything from minor blemishes to dry rot.
It’s paid lip-service, with effects that are grounded in convenience and often included only to make the employees feel good.
What paint-loving bosses forget is that the more coats of paint are applied the more likely is it to peel.
People aren’t stupid and will vote their displeasure with their feet.
Flickr image credit: maurice.heuts
Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Ask people what they do in private and you’ll probably hear far more detail than you want, but ask what they earn and they’ll either freak out at the question or be very insulted.
What they probably won’t do is tell you.
Sex used to be personal, but these days it is often broadcast to anyone who will listen, but not finances—although older workers are less likely to discuss either of them.
Companies are even more paranoid about keeping salaries confidential—sharing compensation information is a firing offense in many of them.
Usually, the more a company insists that the numbers are private the more likely people are to assume that something is rotten—or unfair.
After all, gossip tends to exaggerate things. Professor Lawler says studies show that when pay is confidential, workers often believe the salary distributions are more unfair than they really are.
That’s why Dane Atkinson, chief executive of SumAll, a data analytics company, does things differently.
When he helped found the company about three years ago, a decision was made to disclose all salaries and equity shares. (…) “In this way, more money goes not to those who negotiate better, but those who work the hardest,” he said. The people who resist making salaries more transparent, he said, “are usually those who think they’re making too much.”
The other people who resist are the bosses who are playing games with compensation.
You know, the ones who make the lowest offers possible and/or play favorites.
Compensation, whether salary or stock, should make sense to everyone; it should be plausible and accurately reflect the person’s contribution to the company’s success—not their charm, personality, looks or threats to leave.
Flickr image credit: Derek Keats
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
There are two types of managers, those who believe that productivity improves through constant oversight and those who don’t.
And for those who do there is an abundance of new technology that fosters increased worker surveillance.
Until now it’s been more of a philosophical argument, but new research is working to quantify it and so far it seems that less is more.
Trusting workers to help each other, be creative, solve problems and find better ways of doing things has typically been the province of knowledge workers.
But Ethan S. Bernstein, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, did his initial research with workers at a giant factory in China and the results were surprising.
The small amount of privacy the experiment created yielded a 10-15% percent productivity hike against other workers in the same factory.
“Creating zones of privacy may, under certain conditions, increase performance.” The right degree of privacy, he added, can foster “productive deviance, localized experimentation, distraction avoidance and continuous improvement.”
Bernstein’s research will only get more interesting and relevant to higher-level employees.
Since the factory project, Mr. Bernstein has conducted research studying the privacy-transparency trade-off in other settings, including biotechnology labs and service businesses. That research is not yet published, but Mr. Bernstein said the results so far point to “larger effects” than in manufacturing.
This isn’t rocket science to good managers, but it’s always nice to have your methods validated by Harvard research.
What it boils down to is that you should give your people all the information, authority and support necessary to do their job well and then get the hell out of the way and let them do it—often more efficiently and with better results than expected.
Flickr image credit: laurawashere95
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