Do You Have A Leadership Lifeline?

Leadership Lifelines

It’s 10:25 a.m. on a Thursday.  Your calendar indicates that you have a meeting with your boss at 10:30 in her office to update her on an important company project.  You grab a pen, your notepad, and a printout outlining the status of each open item.

Walking into her office, you immediately realize that the meeting agenda will be different.  Sitting next to your boss is the Human Resources Director.  Your boss says, “Sit down. There’s no easy way to say this, but your position has been eliminated.”

You’re not sure whether they see you gasp for air.  The sharp breath you take is to try to slow yourself down.  You feel heat rushing up into your face like lava erupting from a volcano.  Your heartbeat feels like you are running as it begins to pound faster.

You don’t even hear the rest of the dialogue. You stare blankly as your boss exits the room, and you are left with HR and a stack of paper.

 

“Facing your fears robs them of their power.” -Mark Burnett

 

What are you going to do?

 

The Stress of Losing a Job

Losing your job rates as one of life’s biggest stressors.  That stress ratchets up dramatically if you have little or no savings.  But it’s not just about money.  For many, it’s also about identity.  Losing friends and colleagues, and feeling ostracized, are also contributing factors.

And in most cases it is a blow to self-esteem.  Often your higher-level thinking will lose out to emotions. Change is hard, especially when you don’t control it.

 

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius

 

After you lose your employment, experts quickly tell you that you need to network.  Because, they will say, the way to a new job is through your network.

  • “Who do you know?”
  • “Who is in a position to help you?”
  • “Who are the most influential people in your network?”
  • “Who will you ask to be references?”

I have been both the recipient and the originator of networking calls. If you are looking for a job, you are inevitably going to call everyone you can.

Because I have a large network, most months I receive several calls or emails from people looking for work.  I truly feel for these people. I understand the challenge.  It’s stressful. Earlier on, I tried to help everyone.  Now, though I try, I just don’t have the time or bandwidth to help most people. That’s difficult for me because I want to help every person that I possibly can in these difficult situations.

 

“It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.” -Hans Seyle

 

Common and Uncommon Advice

Advice you will often hear: Network. Build your connections. Meet people at industry events. Become an expert in your field.

Here’s the advice you don’t often hear:

Is a Talent Assessment Missing From Your Strategy?

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

 

Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?

 

Strategic Planning Is Not Enough

Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.

 

“One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy:  a strategic talent assessment.

If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.

 

“A strategic talent assessment examines the skills needed to execute.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

What is a Talent Assessment?

Simply stated, a strategic talent assessment examines the organizational skills needed to execute the strategy. It should include:

  • Necessary skills to assess the market needs, attractiveness, competition and size
  • The know-how to define, plan and price the product
  • Type of talent to actually develop the product
  • Competence needed to market, sell and deliver the product
  • Skills to provide customer readiness and adoption
  • Expertise needed to provide service to customers for products
  • Leadership talent to actually execute and deliver the strategic initiative
  • Certain cultural elements of the organization: decisiveness, accountability, delegation, results, etc.

 

“If the necessary talent is not present, the strategy is flawed.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Performing a Talent Assessment

Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.

The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.

One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.

 

“Even if the necessary talent is present, execution fails without leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.

One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.

Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.

 

“Execution before the proper skills are in place can waste resources and damage credibility.” –Bruce Rhoades 

 

How to Remedy the Strategic Talent Gap

The 4 Players in the Game of Employee Engagement

This is a guest post by Paul Keijzer, CEO and Managing Partner of Engage Consulting. His focus is on transforming top teams across Asia’s emerging markets. Paul provides an excellent summary of the roles of the critical players to create effective employee engagement.

 

Employee Engagement is Not Just for HR

There’s no questioning the fact that everyone’s involvement is crucial for employee engagement to be successful. Much of the past has been targeted at getting the HR department to successfully drive employee engagement and the subsequent results to the company’s bottom line. Now that the business world has more or less agreed that employee engagement across all levels triggers the greatest business results, let’s take a look at the roles that everyone has to play to make employee engagement a success – and I guarantee you, it’s not just the HR department.

 

1. The Employee

No matter where you work, the fact is that unless you, as an employee, want to be engaged, no amount of engagement programs and tools are going to increase your engagement levels. Employee engagement is a two-way street and employees must play their part. The key responsibilities of any employee for employee engagement are:

Make Yourself “Engageable”

Being engageable is a mindset which involves positivity, a can do attitude, avoiding office politics and a few more key characteristics. Put yourself in this mindset to get you the opportunities you want.

Understand What Drives and Frustrates You

If you know what drives and frustrates you, the company will be able to help engage you – provided that you share this information.

Pro-Actively Resolve Issues

Nobody is perfect and neither is any organization. If and when your boss makes a mistake regarding your engagement, inform them quickly and provide a solution.

“Unless you want to be engaged, no programs and tools will work.” -@Paul_Keijzer

 

2. The Line Manager

People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Take it one step further and it becomes, “People aren’t engaged by companies, it’s their line managers who do the engaging.” Some steps that line managers can take are:

Removing Barriers

Managers must remove barriers which can stop an employee from reaching their desired goal. Meeting weekly to discuss hurdles and accomplishments is a great way to do this.

Encourage Efforts and Reward Results

Rewards set standards for colleagues and promote healthy competition. Of course, every effort and result shouldn’t be rewarded equally; that would defy the purpose.

Identify What Drives Your Team

If employees are expected to share their drives and frustrations, line managers better be providing a listening channel.

“Companies do not engage people, line managers do.” -@Paul_Keijzer

3. The CEO

You may wonder how someone who’s supposed to be looking at the overall success of the organization can affect how people work on a daily basis. This is how any CEO can positively impact employee engagement:

12 Rules for Managing Your Employees As Real People

 

Think your people are your greatest asset?

Do you survey your employees but ask the wrong questions?

Is corporate engagement one of your goals?

 

Widgets, FTE’s and Assets

What I think I love most about Rodd Wagner’s new book WIDGETS: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People is his clear, unambiguous writing that calls it like he sees it. He upends common practices and wisdom, throwing out what you know and replacing it with what just makes sense. Our conversation is likely to change your position on a few subjects and have you rethink your practices. It did for me.

Why did you call the book “Widgets”?

If you spend enough time at enough companies, the bad terms used to refer to people start to accumulate. “Human capital.” “Full-time equivalents” or “FTEs.” “Headcount.” “Aprons” at a home improvement store. “Blue shirts” at Best Buy. I could barely contain my shock when leaders for one temporary staffing firm referred to the people they place as “inventory.” And the department responsible for people? In most companies, it’s called “Human Resources.” At one company, a mass layoff is called a “resource action.”

These are euphemisms, and euphemisms are most dangerous when used to refer to people, because they make it easier to disregard that we are talking about someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, and they deserve the respect and dignity of being referred to as people. I used the title “Widgets” to take a hard whack at these bad habits and all the dehumanizing practices that flow from that perspective.

 

“Your people are not your greatest asset. They’re not yours, and they’re not assets.” –Rodd Wagner

 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

What is wrong with many employee engagement efforts today?

Employee engagement is in a rut. It’s become hackneyed. It’s routinized.

Commission a survey. Beg people to participate. Get the results back. Distribute scorecards. Train some trainers; unleash them on the company. Cajole the CEO into using the word “engagement” in his next speech. Ask managers to do some team sessions, which maybe half will do before tucking the forms in a desk drawer. Leave the way managers are selected, coached, supported, and held accountable untouched. Let the executives feel good that they checked the employee engagement box. Go quiet for 9 or 10 months until it’s time to start the Sisyphean cycle all over again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

JacketBut the most pernicious problem with engagement initiatives today is the way some consultancies and companies talk about the people who are neglected and, when the survey comes around, tell the truth. So-called “disengaged” employees are vilified, their motivations and character questioned. They’re said to be “more or less out to damage their company” or trying to undo what the more “engaged” accomplish. Our research contradicts these assertions that those who are most frustrated are some kind of “cancer” inside the organization.

Of course, recognizing that they will be suspect if they give low marks to their company, many employees have realized it’s career suicide to tell the truth. So they don’t. Who would under those circumstances? “Just mark five to survive,” one admin advised her colleagues. In many places, it’s now difficult if not impossible to even get a true measure of engagement. That’s the mark of a fundamentally flawed and broken system.

 

If an employee does not give high marks on a survey, look first at the manager, not the employee.

 

Inside the Head

Getting inside their heads is your first rule. It’s individual; it’s unique; it takes up significant time. And yet, it’s the most important of all. Would you share why this rule is the first?

I’ve been fielding and analyzing employee surveys and other data from more than a decade-and-a-half. Every time I plot the numbers on a new study, the first thing that strikes me is the massive range in individual responses. You simply cannot predict how a person will feel about his or her job based on generation, age, gender, race, tenure, industry, company, or any of the other group statistics that are used so often to stereotype employees.

Engagement is an individual phenomenon. Everything – how much money people want, what they consider a cool place to work, how they like to be recognized, what they envision for their future – is unique to that person. Therefore, applying all of the other New Rules depends on first understanding that one person and responding to his or her personality and ambitions. This is the reason that every good piece of research on employee engagement finds that a person’s direct supervisor is one of the key players. That manager is in a unique position to know the employee well and match him or her with the resources and opportunities inside the company.

 

“When recognition is common, employees develop resilience against adversity.” –Rodd Wagner

 

Best Friends at Work

Having a best friend at work appears in most surveys, and we repeatedly hear that it is critically important. You argue otherwise. Help us understand.

First, asking about friendships – particularly sticking your nose in an employee’s “best” friendships – is quite intrusive when the relationship between company and worker is increasingly transactional. One week you’re asking about their best friends, the next week you’re sending a few thousand of them home with severance packages. So if they either had best friends at work or were the best friends of someone still there, you’ve opened yourself to some well-founded criticism that you abused their trust.

More important, in the studies my teams and I have conducted, the “best friend” concept does not hold up well in driving results compared with more

business-related questions such as trust in leadership, perceived future of the company, and collaboration. Asking about those is your business and is better connected to your results than asking what The Washington Post once called a “high school” popularity question.

 

“Transparency tells people you trust them and you can be trusted.” –Rodd Wagner

 

What can a professor teaching more on the left side of the classroom teach us about motivating teams?

Leading The Internal Talent Wars

The War for Talent

Every day there is a war for talent.  When the economy is roaring, the war gets a lot of attention.  Human Resource departments will circulate reports about the hot market.  Reporters jump into the fray with articles warning executives about the market.  Managers quickly realize that the market is hot, not only because of the articles, but also because recruiters start calling more often.

“A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.” Johann Wolfgan von Goethe

 

No company wants to see the best people leave for other opportunities no matter what the economy is like.

Winning the talent war is a complex goal combining leadership, culture, opportunity and other intangibles.

The war for talent happens every day, in every economy, and inside of every organization.  It doesn’t just happen when the economy is expanding, nor in the hot sectors like technology.  It rages on everywhere, in every organization, continuously.

Instead of looking at companies battling for talent, look at it from a different perspective.  Consider the talent wars raging INSIDE the organization.

Step back from it all, and be on the alert inside of your company:

 

Watch the leaders who attract talent.

 

Yes, leaders who attract outside candidates are worthwhile to watch.  More interesting is to see if a leader attracts talent from within the company.  That means that the manager has created a unique environment, a culture that is worth watching.

 

Watch the leaders who send the talent.

 

Some managers are especially good at sending leaders.  This means the person or group may be especially good at developing next generation leaders.  As a result, the manager ends up with raving fans throughout the organization.  Study this person’s methods and replicate the success.  Leadership is not about direct control but about influence.  This manager’s influence is likely growing faster than others.