Alexa took her current post in 2010. That year she led her group to earn Best Retail Operation for the region, going from worst-to-first in a single year. Along with a public award, Alexa received a “Far Exceeds” rating on her annual performance appraisal.
Unfortunately, at the time of her next review, Alexa’s group was slightly below its Key Performance Indicators (KPI) targets and so her boss rated her performance as only “Meets Expectations.” It turned out to be a case of poor timing as the group rebounded and by year’s end had once again won Best Retail Operation.
An important and tangible difference
For Alexa, the difference between “Meets Expectations” and “Far Exceeds” was important—and tangible. In her company, a rating of Far Exceeds meant the employee had a greater chance of a promotion in the next 12 months, a greater opportunity to participate in juicy cross-functional projects that C-level executives track, and a larger base salary and bonus package for the coming year.
Alexa’s boss apologized for the 2011 rating and said he would make it up to her in the 2013 review. Unfortunately, the damage was done; Alexa interpreted her boss’s decision as unfair given her history of taking a last place group to first place in less than a year, and then repeating that high performance. Her boss said nothing could be done.
The impact of that interpretation was that Alexa went from being highly interested and innovative in her role to being more or less disinterested—just going through the motions. She said, “You rate me as Meets Expectations, and I will meet expectations. Nothing more.”
Leading with Optimal Motivation
When talked with about this, Alexa was immovable, so deep was the sense of betrayal. In considering ways to help her, a purely rational, left brain, traditional business analysis of this situation would have us evoking some version of the Nike slogan—Just Do It. In other words, “Alexa, change your attitude, accept your boss’s apology, and get back to it.”
But, that’s probably a fantasy at this point. Alexa now perceives the performance management system as unfair, so she feels hurt by it and wary of it.
Our Optimal Motivation process suggests a different approach. Instead of suggesting that she just get over it, we would recommend that Alexa’s leader’s work would be to address how Alexa feels, and to help her reconnect with her passion for delighting customers, her passion for making the workplace amazing for her employees, and the important financial and competitive contribution her group makes to the welfare of the entire organization. Her manager, then, would be engaging with Alexa in a series of Motivational Outlook Conversations.
What Would You Do?
That’s our approach (and we would be happy to talk with you more about that) but for now, let’s make this interactive.
- What would you do to help Alexa return to the proverbial sunny side of the street?
- How would you engage her manager?
- What changes do you think her manager would want to make so that she or he is successful with Alexa?
Use the comments feature. It would be great to hear your thoughts and how you would address this situation.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.
On his first day back after his training, the plant manager noticed a Technical Service Executive in the lab having a discussion with an external contractor. While she was wearing safety glasses, the contractor was not. The manager has a no tolerance policy as far as safety is concerned and his normal response would be to call the technician to his office and in his words, “read her the riot act.”
According to the manager’s self-assessment: “I am known to blow a fuse (or two) when safety rules are flouted, however, I managed to keep my cool and decided to test my training.”
He asked the technician to his office and could see that she was worried about his reaction. But instead of leading with his dismay and disappointment, he started by explaining that he had just received some training on motivation. He shared key concepts with her. He then asked her if she thought that the rule to wear safety glasses, even when there was no experiment on, was “stupid” as there is no danger to the eyes. Did she feel imposed upon to wear safety glasses as she had no choice?
Since the technician was invited to have a discussion rather than “dressing down,” she was open and candid. She explained that she had a two-year old child and she was extremely concerned about lab safety as she wanted to reach home safe every evening. To the manager’s great surprise, she also shared that in certain areas, she would prefer even more, not less, stringent safety measures. For example, she suggested that safety shoes should be required for lab experiments that are conducted at elevated temperatures.
But when it came to wearing safety glasses when no experiments were being conducted, she just could not understand the rationale and did, indeed, resent the imposed rule. As a result, she didn’t feel compelled to enforce it, especially with an external contractor. The manager said he understood her feelings and went on to provide the rationale that the intention was that wearing glasses would become a force of habit, just like wearing a safety belt in the car.
The manager said he saw the light dawn in her eyes.
When it comes to your leadership and the motivation of those you lead, consider:
1. Self-regulation is a requirement if you want to lead differently—and better. Challenging your natural tendencies and patterns of behavior provides you with more options on how to lead. The new choices you make can be rewarding and productive for you, but especially for those you lead. As the plant manager reported: “I am sure if I had just followed my normal instincts and given her a piece of my mind, I would have been met with a hangdog look, profuse apologies, and a promise not to ever do this again. And it probably would have happened again. She would have gone away from my office with feelings of resentment and being imposed upon and I would also have had a disturbed day due to all the negative energy.”
2. Admit when you are trying something new. Be honest about expanding your leadership skills. People will appreciate your sincere and authentic efforts. Says the plant manager: “Suffice it to say that in my view, my little experiment was a success. I have since shared what I learned with many of my team members and plan to have more Motivational Outlook Conversations with them in the coming weeks.”
3. Remember that as a manager you cannot motivate anyone. What you can do is create an environment where an individual is more likely to be optimally motivated. Ask (and genuinely care about) how a person is feeling, help them recognize their own sense of well-being regarding a particular issue, and provide them with rationale without trying to “sell” it.
Other take-aways? Please share!
About the author:
Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
What’s worth as much as a 25% increase in your labor force, or a 65% increase in the amount of your invested capital? A one-point improvement in your company’s management practices! That’s the shocking conclusion of in-depth study conducted by researchers at McKinsey, Stanford, and the London School of Economics that looked at more than 4,000 companies in the US, Asia, and Europe. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1: Output increases associated with improved management practices. From Management Practice & Productivity—Exhibit 4.
The results are detailed in the white paper, Management Practice & Productivity: Why they matter. The research team scored companies on 18 topics in three broad areas: performance management; talent management, and shop floor operations.
Surprising disconnect in most companies
The researchers were surprised to find that even though good management practices are well known and the correlation is clear, the reality is that many firms are still poorly managed.
To examine possible causes of this disconnect, respondents were asked to assess the overall management performance of their firm on a scale of one to five. The researchers found that part of the problem was an inflated opinion of current management practices. In most cases, respondents over-estimated how they scored on the objective management measures. This situation applied in all regions and across all firms.
The researchers found this lack of self-awareness striking. It suggested that, “…the majority of firms are making no attempt to compare their own management behaviour with accepted practices or even with that of other firms in their sector. As a consequence, many organizations are probably missing out on an opportunity for significant improvement because they simply do not recognize that their own management practices are so poor.”
How would you score the management practices in your company?
Here are three well-known manager behaviors essential to good performance. Consider the degree to which these practices are used in your own company. Remember that the key is not knowing about these practices, but actually using them. How would you score your organization when it comes to actually implementing these performance management basics?
- Performance Planning: Employees have written goals that clearly identify their key responsibilities, goals, and tasks.
- Performance Coaching: Employees meet with their supervisors on at least a twice per month basis to discuss progress, identify roadblocks, and get the direction and support they need to succeed.
- Performance Evaluation: There are no surprises when it comes to annual reviews. Managers and direct reports are “in-synch” because performance against goals is being measured on a regular basis instead of once a year.
Don’t let an indifferent attitude toward implementing good management practices keep you and your organization from performing at a high level. Take action today. Good management matters!
To read the entire report, check out Management Practice & Productivity: Why they matter
Leadership development training is a smart, prudent investment that drives economic value and bottom line results. But if senior executives don’t care about development then—guess what—development will not be a priority in the company.
That’s what Scott Blanchard, principal and EVP with The Ken Blanchard Companies, found out the hard way when his company lost a critical long-term account. An ongoing contract was terminated overnight when a new senior leader removed the entire learning and development department.
In a new article for Ignite! on Making the Business Case for Developing Your People Blanchard shares how that experience drove him to explore why some organizations see and believe the tangible value of investments in training while others don’t. He also shares how it provided the impetus to build a business case that would satisfy even the most hard-nosed of executives.
Understanding employee development
Blanchard discusses how the key was showing the correlation between leadership practices and employee development. He combines research that shows how strategic and operational leadership impacts organizational vitality together with some personal experience he’s had in making presentations to senior executives. In those presentations, Blanchard asks senior leaders to consider a typical employee in their organization and the key goals or critical tasks they are asked to perform as a part of their jobs.
In most healthy growing organizations, people are highly accomplished at some aspects of their job, decent in others, disillusioned with a few aspects, and just getting started with the new tasks.
Blanchard asks the group of leaders to self assess where their own people are at with the various tasks they are responsible for. Once that’s completed, Blanchard puts together a group composite. The senior executives are surprised to see that the distribution is generally stacked up at the Disillusioned Learner or Capable, But Cautious, Performer levels. (See Figure One: Typical Task Development Levels.)
Typical Task Development Levels (Blanchard Ignite! Newsletter June 2012)
Blanchard goes on to explain that, “If you operate with 75% of your people at a Disillusioned Learner or only a Capable, But Cautious, Performer level, you are going to have very anemic financial performance and low levels of passion and engagement.
“This is exactly what we are seeing in today’s work environment. The result is an organization operating at 65 to 70% of potential. In our research into The High Cost of Doing Nothing, the impact of this untapped potential is costing the average organization over $1 million per year.”
Leverage development levels effectively
For senior leaders looking to develop their people more effectively, Blanchard has some recommendations.
- “When people start off as Enthusiastic Beginners it’s important that you grab a hold of their momentum and enthusiasm and prepare them for the inevitable Disillusioned Learner stage. It will come, so it’s important to acknowledge it, make it OK, and help people push through it.”
- “When you get to the Capable, but Cautious, Performer stage remember that you can’t stop there—that will only get you lackluster financial performance. Instead, push through to a place where employees become Self-Reliant Achievers.”
What’s the development level of the people in your organization?
The best companies invest in their employees, supervisors, and managers. They know that people are the key to bringing plans to life and creating a sustainable advantage for your organization. Take time to develop your people. It’s one of the best investments you can make!
To learn more, check out Making the Business Case for Developing Your People
Leaders in today’s organizations need to continuously balance the expectations of three different groups of people—shareholders, customers, and employees. How these three groups are ranked within a company will largely determine the type of culture the organization has. A “shareholder first” organization is very different from a “customer first” or an “employee first” company.
In a recent article for Chief Learning Officer, best-selling author Ken Blanchard asks, “Who is customer number one in your organization? How is that impacting the return on investment, level of service, and levels of employee engagement in your company?”
Using examples from several well known companies such as Southwest Airlines and WD-40 Company, Blanchard shows how companies that adopt an “employee first” mindset perform best.
But that’s only half the story, says Blanchard. For best results, leaders need to combine a focus on people with a simultaneous focus on results. It’s this one-two combination that delivers the greatest impact.
Investing in People
As Blanchard explains, “Leaders in ‘employee first’ organizations turn the traditional pyramid upside down so that the customer contact people are essentially at the top of the organization. In other words, the leaders work for the people who report to them.” This is the high investment in people part of the equation.
To illustrate this, Blanchard points to the philosophy of Garry Ridge, CEO of household-products manufacturer WD-40, who even goes so far as to remind managers of their mutual accountability to employees at performance review meetings. If a manager recommends that a person be let go—or “shared with the competition” as WD-40 calls it—the first question asked of the manager is: “What have you done to help your direct report succeed?” If the manager can’t show that he or she has coached and supported the direct report, the manager—not the direct report—might be “shared with the competition.”
Holding People Accountable
One of the benefits of this serious approach to mutual accountability is that it gives leaders permission to step in when tough love is called for—for example, when people engage in inappropriate behavior.
As an example, Blanchard points to Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines. As Barrett explains, “We are very clear in telling our people what our expectations are. We hold them and ourselves accountable for meeting those expectations every day. Sometimes this means having a real heart-to-heart with people and reminding them what your values are. If you have been intentional and firm in explaining what your expectations are, that gives you the opportunity to point to specific examples where they haven’t exhibited the required behaviors.”
High Investment and High Expectations
As a leader, you need to be supportive and directive at the same time. It can seem like a lot of work, but it is necessary if you want to create the high-investment, high-expectations culture that makes all the difference. When people know that leadership not only expects the best from them, but is also backing them up, they feel safe, prepared and ready to step out to serve the customer in ways that unsupported employees just won’t risk.
What’s your organization’s approach to employee support and accountability?
Do you use a high-investment, high-expectations approach to talent management? To read more of Ken Blanchard’s thoughts on this topic, check out The Upside-Down Pyramid here.
No, the coach didn’t actually die, but if you perform a “leadership autopsy” on the recent firing of Rich Rodriquez, the former University of Michigan head football coach, I think you’ll find that the ultimate cause of his demise was that he was killed by the culture because he didn’t build trust.
As a college football fan (and in the spirit of full disclosure, a rabid University of Michigan fan), and a student of leadership, I’ve found the Rich Rodriquez era at UM an interesting case study of how a recognized expert in his field, with a winning track record, could experience such turmoil and discord in 3 years that would lead to the loss of his job. His experience is a lesson for those of us in any type of leadership position. My conclusion: he was never a fit for the culture from the very beginning.
Some of that was by design. After 13 years of steady, yet mostly unspectacular success under Coach Lloyd Carr (save one shared national title in 1997), there was a move afoot by school leadership to shake things up and create a more dynamic and electrifying brand of football. Usher in Rich Rodriquez and his high-scoring spread offense, a system heretofore unseen in Michigan. So some of the blame of this failed venture falls directly on the shoulders of school leadership.
However, Rodriquez underestimated two factors (among many others!) that led to his downfall. The first was the power of the culture to kill his efforts to implement such a drastic change in philosophy. Stan Slap, an organizational consultant, calls this failure to recognize the power of the culture the “original sin” of a strategic implementation. Coach Rodriquez committed many cultural missteps when he joined Michigan. He said and did things that showed he didn’t understand or appreciate the longstanding traditions of the winningest program in college football history. When leaders implement a large organizational change, they have to remember that most people view change as a “loss.” People often lose perspective when change occurs so we have to remind them about what isn’t changing so they can have security in some form of consistency. Rapid organizational change rarely succeeds.
A second lesson that we can learn from the downfall of Rich Rodriquez is the importance of building trust. When it comes to building trust, there are four elements that need to be present: ability, believability, connectedness, and dependability. Rodriquez had ability in spades. Before coming to Michigan he was the head coach at West Virginia where he compiled a record of 60-26, four Big East titles, and six consecutive bowl game bids. But ability will only take you so far when it comes to building trust.
Rodriquez’s believability was damaged when NCAA infractions came to light during his second season. For a University who had never suffered any NCAA sanctions, this severely damaged the perceptions of his honesty and values. He also eroded trust through his lack of dependability. Dependability involves being organized and accountable in following through on commitments. Anyone who saw the repeated mistakes and disorganization of the Michigan defense this season can attest to this fact! But most of all, Rodriquez failed to build trust by connecting with folks. He didn’t show the aptitude for communicating well and building relationships. There were times he threw his players under the bus in press conferences and he seemed to be perpetually unhappy and angry over the state of affairs. Perhaps this is all a case of misjudgment, but when it comes to building trust, perception is reality.
By all accounts Coach Rodriquez was an earnest, hard working man who took pride in his efforts. We can learn from his experiences to help us in our own leadership journeys. We have to deftly manage organizational change and respect the power of the culture to work against our efforts, and we can leverage the power of the culture by building trust. Building trust in relationships is the key to success, whether we’re on the playing field or in the board room.
Once, while sharing her thoughts on leadership, Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines (stock symbol LUV), was asked if she was worried that competitors would now be able to steal her management ideas—like writing thousands of thank you notes to employees. She said “no” because the real magic wasn’t in knowing the concepts, it was in doing the work.
For Barrett, doing the work is a key ingredient to the success that Southwest has enjoyed in the tough airline industry over the past forty years. It’s also one of the reasons why best-selling business author Ken Blanchard wanted to work with Barrett on a new book that captures the real-life leadership examples that have made Southwest Airlines a model of good management. Titled Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, it’s just out in bookstores this month.
“She does the things I write about,” says Blanchard. “The stuff that I’ve learned and taught over the years, it’s all in there with a real person who did it.”
And one of the things that Blanchard writes about often is the importance of celebrating both people and results.
As Barrett explains, “What’s important is the fact that you’re honoring people and acknowledging that what they do makes a positive difference. In the process, you are making heroes out of them. You are letting them know that you love them for their efforts and you want everybody to celebrate their success.”
But it does require doing the work. And at Southwest, this means that officers hand-write notes to thousands of employees each year.
As Barrett explains, “Besides being loving, we know this is meaningful to our people, because we hear from them if we miss something significant in their lives, like the high school graduation of one of their kids. We just believe in accentuating the positive and celebrating people’s successes.”
You can learn more about the ways that Southwest Airlines takes the time to stop and recognize their people by accessing the first chapter of Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success here.
Also, don’t miss a complimentary webinar that Colleen Barrett and Ken Blanchard will be conducting on January 26. Hosted by Cisco WebEx, click here to find out more about this free Lead with LUV event.
Earlier this week, Fortune magazine announced this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, an annual listing of the companies that provide employees with the best combination of pay, perks, and culture.
It’s a great list that highlights some of the best employers, but sometimes the publicity that accompanies the list’s release gives people the wrong idea about what makes up an engaging work environment. While the consultancy that scores the companies, Great Place to Work Institute, goes to great lengths to measure each company on five serious organizational factors, the follow up stories tend to get reduced down to a series of unique perks and benefits that are fun to read and easy to describe.
That’s unfortunate because there are some very strong cultural concepts common to each of these organizations that can get lost in the shuffle. Here are the five items that each of these best employers has in common:
- Credibility—managers communicate the company’s direction and plans while involving others. Leaders “walk the talk” when it’s time for action.
- Respect–the organization provides employees with a professional work environment that includes the equipment, resources, and training they need to do their job well.
- Fairness—compensation, benefits and rewards are distributed fairly and equitably.
- Pride—the company maintains a good standing in the industry and in the community. The organization structures jobs so employees have individual work that they can be proud of.
- Camaraderie—the organization creates a hospitable work environment that is friendly, welcoming, and where people feel that they are part of a team connected by common values and purpose.
As we celebrate these great companies, it’s important to remember what makes them great. On-site saunas, concierge service, and a game room are all nice perks, but the real definition of a great place to work is an environment where employees experience trust, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with.
The research showing the connection between leadership and the bottom line continues to strengthen. Most recently, researchers Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman and Scott K. Edinger analyzed a database of 300,000 feedback reports on approximately 30,000 managers to answer six questions:
- How does leadership drive profit?
- How do organizations and leaders maximize, if not double, profit opportunity?
- How do we capitalize on leadership as a means to profit and growth?
- What issues can leaders impact that will most effectively drive profit?
- What data supports the claim that extraordinary leaders double profits?
- How do we identify and develop extraordinary leaders?
Publishing their results in an article entitled How Extraordinary Leaders Double Profits, the authors identified concrete performance metrics that allowed them to compare measurable business results with leadership effectiveness. Using the data they were able to show the performance difference between business units with good leaders versus those identified as having poor leaders and to also identify the leadership behaviors that separated the two groups.
Be sure to check out this article to learn more about the ways that leaders impact performance.
If you would like to explore some of the ways that leader behavior is impacting performance specifically in your own organization and what the costs or ignoring it are, take a look at a Cost of Doing Nothing Calculator on The Ken Blanchard Companies web site. It uses some of the same source material referenced by the authors of this article to help you calculate the impact of better leadership in your own organization.
Dr. Margie Blanchard, past President of The Ken Blanchard Companies who currently heads up the company’s Office of the Future, loves real work problems. That’s because when you work on real issues instead of hypothetical ones, it really sharpens the process.
You also solve a problem along the way.
That’s why we have included real work action learning projects into the leadership development programs we have been building for our clients looking to develop their high potential executives. By incorporating a real work issue into the process, we’ve found that it increases learning, promotes camaraderie and collaboration, and yields cost-effective results.
You can get a feel for how this might work in your organization by checking out a recent article in Chief Learning Officer magazine. The article describes how Dr. Bea Carson led three action learning teams and the results they achieved.
You can learn more about Blanchard’s approach to leadership development and how we build real work scenarios into the curriculum by checking out the work being done at Skanska, where action learning helped a group of high potential executives grow together while simultaneously solving real work issues that saved their company money and increased revenue along the way.