Back in 2005, one of our clients, American Express, wanted to measure the impact of Situational Leadership II training that they had rolled out in their organization. The program was delivered via three venues—traditional classroom with people attending in person; completely virtual with people working through self-paced modules; and a third ‘blended approach’ that combined aspects of both.
After the training was completed, Dr. Paul Leone, an OD expert within the American Express organization, measured the impact of the three delivery methods. He found that the self-paced virtual model produced a 5% boost in productivity which was good, the traditional classroom produced a 10% boost in productivity which was better, and the blended approach produced a 12% boost in productivity which was best.
The one difference that made all the difference
In looking at why the blended approach produced the greatest impact, Leone discovered that it was because the blended approach built the training into the student’s work life by including the immediate manager in the process, tying the learning to real work, and providing a way for feedback along the way. Leone’s conclusion was that it was these design factors that made all the difference.
Want greater ROI from your leadership training?
For years, instructional designers have known that adults learn best when they see how the learning impacts their work priorities and is in alignment with their work goals. Without this, it can be difficult to find the time for training. Learning—especially in the context of a work setting—has to be relevant, impactful, and produce results. If you don’t have that, people won’t find time in their schedules, and senior leaders won’t push for people to attend. People have multiple priorities these days. They have to focus on the things that help them get their work done.
Here are three ways to make sure that any new training you’re considering generates the bottom-line results you’re looking for.
Alignment—use impact maps to connect training to a student’s existing work goals. Have the manager and student identify the student’s key areas and then map how the training will help the learner meet those goals.
Modularize content delivery—deliver the content in small, bite-sized chunks over time. This allows students to receive the information in manageable segments that are much more conducive to learning. It also provides an opportunity for ongoing feedback.
Follow-up—involve immediate managers to check in on progress. Make sure immediate managers are on-board with the new behaviors and that they schedule time to interact and have discussions with learners as they begin to use their new skills. Nothing demonstrates the importance of a new skill learned in class than a manager checking up on its adoption.
People learn best when the information they are learning is relevant to what they are working on, when they see how it will help them improve, and when someone is checking on their progress and encouraging them to adopt new behaviors. Make sure that you are following these three steps to get the most out of your next training initiative!
Three years of a dismal economy has worn down a lot of people. While some people (about 20% according to most engagement surveys) have maintained their passion, a large majority have lost their mojo. Tired of a flat attitude and just going through the motions? Here’s a three-step process for jump-starting your work environment.
Rediscover your passion
Just about everyone has had a motivating work experience sometime in their lives. (If you haven’t, give me a call and we’ll talk.) For many of us though, that experience may have occurred long ago in the past. Your first task to jump start your work environment is to rediscover that passion. When was the last time you truly loved a job? Make sure it’s a real example.
The reason I’m asking for a specific example is because I want to find a time when you actually experienced the environment you’d like to recreate. Your past behavior is the best predictor of your future behavior. If you want to know what would create an engaging environment now, identify a time when you were engaged in the past.
Now, here’s the second part. What was it about that job that made it so great? Be a good detective. Don’t overlook any clue. (Here are a couple of possibilities I’ve heard from others if you’re having trouble identifying your personal motivators off of the top of your head.)
- My boss cared about me as a person
- My colleagues cared about me.
- The work was very meaningful
- It was a fun, collaborative environment.
- I had a lot of freedom and authority in how I did my work.
- The work was varied and interesting.
- I had a clear sense of what I was trying to do.
- I was growing and learning a lot.
- I felt involved and in the know.
Develop a plan
Now that you’ve got some data, it’s time to take some action. What can you do to build those components into your current job? Two cautions; don’t look outside yourself and don’t focus on what you don’t have. You are looking to re-engage yourself—not discover what is wrong with your present environment or what others should do.
Instead, think of ways that you can build more connectedness, growth, meaning, and involvement into your present job.
Work the plan
Your last step is to take some action this week. What can you do to reconnect with your boss or colleagues? How can you rediscover the meaning in your work? What steps can you take to provide some growth and variety in your work environment?
Happiness is a discipline
Taking action is one of the great antidotes for worry—and taking action in a positive direction is especially beneficial. (Don’t you feel a little boost already—just thinking about it?)
Shake the rust off of your positive attitude. Send yourself in the direction you want to go.
In a new online article for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard identify one of the biggest barriers to people working together effectively.
The culprit? The human ego.
As they explain, “When people get caught up in their egos, it erodes their effectiveness. That’s because the combination of false pride and self-doubt created by an overactive ego gives people a distorted image of their own importance. When that happens, people see themselves as the center of the universe and they begin to put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those affected by their thoughts and actions.”
Fortunately, the two Blanchards share a four-step process that can help keep an overactive ego in place.
Name it and claim it—taking a page from popular 12-step programs, the Blanchards describe a well-known opening they use when they conduct “Egos Anonymous” meetings for senior executive groups. They have the executives, in turn, share the last time they let their egos get in the way of their leadership effectiveness. What they usually find is that the ego-driven episodes are a result of fear or false pride. By having the leaders “name and claim” the ways that their ego has derailed their behavior in the past, they give the leaders their first tool to begin to neutralize the ego’s power.
Practice humility—another way to recalibrate an overactive ego at work is to practice humility. For a leader, this means recognizing that it is not all about you; it’s about the people you serve and what they need. To illustrate their point, the Blanchards use a great story from fellow consultant Jim Collins on how to tell the difference between serving and self-serving leaders. As Collins describes it, “When things are going well for self-serving leaders, they will look in the mirror, beat their chests, and tell themselves how good they are. When things go wrong, they look out the window and blame everyone else. On the other hand, when things go well for great leaders, they look out the window and give everyone else the credit. When things go wrong, these serving leaders look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘What could I have done differently?’”
Find truth tellers in your life—these people are essential to a leader, “Especially as you climb into the higher ranks of an organization,” explain the authors, “where honest feedback becomes scarce and everyone treads lightly. These are the people who know you well, don’t have anything to gain from being less than honest with you, and who you can count on to give you the straight scoop.”
Be a learner—the final strategy the Blanchards recommend for rebalancing your ego is to become a continual learner. You need to be open to learning from other people and listening to them. For leaders who are used to being the smartest person in the room, they recommend starting a joint project with someone who has the skills and energy to do what the leader doesn’t know how to do yet. It’s a great way to discover what it’s like to be a learner again.
Don’t let your ego derail your career
Talent, competitive drive, and confidence are the skills that often ear-mark people for leadership positions. If balanced with a healthy dose of reality and humility, these skills can lead to a long and successful career that benefits the leader and the organizations they serve. Unchecked, they lead to self-centered behavior and a stunted career path. To accomplish great things, you are going to need the cooperation and talents of other individuals.
So name your ego lapses. Practice humility. Invite honest feedback. Learn from others. These practices will not only eliminate your blind spots, they’ll also open the way for you to accomplish more for yourself and others.
To read the complete article, check out Don’t Let Your Ego Hijack Your Leadership Effectiveness on Scott and Ken Blanchard’s page at Fast Company.
Most managers prefer to use a supportive leadership style that encourages direct reports to seek out their own solutions in accomplishing their tasks at work. But that style is only appropriate when the direct report has moderate to high levels of competence and mostly needs encouragement to develop the confidence to become self-sufficient. What about the other times when people are brand new to a task, disillusioned, or looking for new challenges? In these three cases, just being supportive will not provide people with the direction they need to succeed. In fact, just being supportive will often delay or frustrate performance.
The best managers learn how to tailor their management style to the needs of their employees. For example, if an employee is new to a task, a successful manager will use a highly directive style—clearly setting goals and deadlines. If an employee is struggling with a task, the manager will use equal measures of direction and support. If the employee is an expert at a task, a manager will use a delegating style on the current assignment and focus instead on coming up with new challenges and future growth projects.
Are your managers able to flex their style?
Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies shows that leadership flexibility is a rare skill. In looking at the percentage of managers who can successfully use a Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating style as needed, Blanchard has found that 54 percent of leaders typically use only one leadership style, 25 percent use two leadership styles, 20 percent use three leadership styles, and only 1 percent use all four leadership styles.
Recommendations for managers
For managers looking to add some flexibility into the way they lead, here are four ways to get started:
- Create a written list of goals, and tasks for each direct report.
- Schedule a one-on-one meeting to identify current development levels for each task. What is the employee’s current level of competence and commitment?
- Come to agreement on the leadership style required of the manager. Does the direct report need direction, support, or a combination of the two?
- Check back at least every 90 days to see how things are going and if any changes are needed.
Don’t be a “one size fits all” manager
Leading people effectively requires adjusting your style to meet the needs of the situation. Learning to be flexible can be a challenge at first—especially if you have become accustomed to using a “one size fits all” approach. However, with a little training and some practice, you can learn how to accurately diagnose and flex your style to meet the needs of the people who report to you. And the best news is, even while you are learning, your people will notice the difference. Get started today!
Other recent articles you may be interested in:
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
Ask employers why people quit a company and 9 out of 10 will tell you it’s about the money. Ask employees the same question and you’ll get a whole different story. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) discovered this when they asked 19,000+ people their reasons for leaving as a part of exit interviews they conducted for clients. The top 10 reasons why employees quit? Check out the responses below.
As reported in (2005) The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham, page 21, Figure 3.1
Yes, compensation was a factor in 12% of the cases, but look at some of the other issues that drove people away—growth, meaningful work, supervisor skills, workload balance, fairness, and recognition—to name a few.
What type of environment are you providing for your people?
Author, speaker, and consultant Leigh Branham, who partnered with PwC to analyze the results of the study identifies that trust, hope, worth, and competence are at the core of most voluntary separations. When employees are not getting their needs met in these key areas, they begin to look elsewhere.
Wondering how your company would stack up in these areas? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. How would your people respond if they were asked to rate their work environment in each of the following areas?
- I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
- I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
- My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
- I receive the necessary training to perform my job capably.
- I can see the end results of my work.
- I receive regular feedback on my performance.
- I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
Don’t wait until it’s too late
Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organization. In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organization that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts. Don’t take your people for granted. While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.
People are stuck in place, not particularly happy with the way things are, but staying put because they don’t have any better options. It’s a “quit and stay” mentality that has been hard for leaders to address. The tools they’ve used in the past to motivate performance—pay raises, promotions, etc.—are no longer available. Instead of the usual extrinsic motivators, leaders and managers have been forced to try and find new ways of creating an engaging work environment.
But most leaders don’t know how to create that environment, explains Bob Glaser, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. “Many leaders would prefer to deal with what they know instead of taking a risk with what they don’t know. As a result, leaders don’t think outside the box to look at other options. They know things are not where they need to be, but they are not able or willing to deal with it, or move in a new direction.”
The result is sub-optimized performance, says Glaser. “If you don’t have engaged employees, then they are not really going to take care of customers….they just do what they need to do, day to day, and not much more.”
“It’s normal behavior during economic downturns,” shares Glaser. “But it causes people to focus more on protecting their turf as opposed to looking for innovative new ways to contribute to the organization. It’s a self-serving, ‘circle the wagons’ type of attitude that is counterproductive to the organization.”
Breaking the cycle
While you may not be able to influence the organization as a whole at first, most managers have a sphere of influence where they can make decisions and where they can impact results and outcomes. Inside of this team, group, or department, managers can change the environment that will allow employees to be more engaged. For leaders up to that challenge, Glaser recommends a three-step approach.
1. Create a micro-vision. Leaders need to have a vision of what they want their team, their department, or their group to look like when they are performing at a high level of excellence. Focus on both results and the behaviors that will drive the results.
2. Get everyone involved. Next, involve people in shaping that vision for the department, group, or team. When it’s done right, it’s not just the leader’s vision, but it is the collective vision of where the group wants to go. Work together to create solutions where everyone feels that they can contribute, that they can make a difference, and that they are owners of at least that part of the organization.
3. Reward and recognize desired behaviors. Everyone is operating under a huge scarcity mentality. That takes its toll. People are stressed, working hard, and they’re trying to do the right thing, but their efforts just seem to maintain the status quo. Without explicit rewards and recognition to move in a new direction, it’s not going to happen. Be sure that you explicitly define expected behaviors and then measure alignment with the expectations.
Are your people growing—or just trying to survive and get by?
Ready to start growing again? Begin by putting fear on the back burner and focus instead on moving in a positive direction encourages Glaser. ”Rally people around an organizational vision and show them how they contribute to the vital work the company is involved in.
“When everyone understands how they contribute and how their work makes the organization better, when leaders can put their own self-interest aside and focus on the needs of others, it can have great impact on morale, engagement, and results.”
You can read more of Glaser’s thoughts in this month’s main article of The Blanchard Companies’ Ignite newsletter. Also check out a free webinar that Glaser is conducting on May 23, Leading from Any Chair in the Organization, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies
Engaged employees = Engaged customers = Better financial performance. Right? Well, not exactly. It’s a little more complicated than that. While there is a definite statistical linkage between these three measures, it’s not linear.
The researchers at Gallup first identified this about seven years ago when they started to look more closely into the performance of a retail store chain where they had employee engagement scores, customer engagement scores, and financial performance measures for individual locations.
Conventional wisdom would have predicted that the stores with the highest employee engagement scores would also be the ones with the highest customer engagement scores and subsequently, the best financial performance, but that wasn’t the case.
Instead, what they found was that the stores that scored in the top half of both employee engagement and customer engagement were the ones that performed the best. It was the dual focus on meeting employee and customer needs at the same time that produced the best results. Scoring high on one aspect while neglecting the other didn’t generate nearly the results that an above average score on both measures did.
Where’s your focus?
Are you maintaining this double-focus on employees and customers in your organization? Or are you narrowly focusing on one group over the other?
The best organizations keep a sharp focus on both groups. They seek to create an engaging work environment for employees while simultaneously maintaining a clear focus on meeting customer needs. It is this high support environment for employees, together with high standards of customer service, which produces the best results.
Don’t be narrow-minded in your thinking. Look for ways to focus on both groups. It will create the multiplier effect that will generate the results you are looking for.
PS: Looking to learn more? Check out How Employee and Customer Engagement Interact in The Gallup Management Journal. It’s a great article with links to additional Gallup research and findings.
A number of studies throughout the recession indicate that staff members do not feel that their organizations treated employees entirely honorably during the downturn. Reductions in force that broke the employment covenant and reductions in merit increases or raises have left many employees indicating that they will actively be seeking employment elsewhere when the economy improves.
Chris Edmonds, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies, believes employers may start seeing a talent drain as early as the latter part of this year as staff begin seeking out positions with employers who will value them more highly. In the meantime, and perhaps even more damaging, these same workers are content to “quit and stay,” emotionally checking out on their current employers and just doing enough to remain below the radar and maintain their jobs.
Allowed to remain unchecked, this attitude can spread and soon an organization finds itself battling a general malaise and heaviness. Performance is sluggish, but improvement is hard to pinpoint. The organization is surviving, but it isn’t thriving. Worse yet, attitude and morale issues begin to surface as employees question the “fairness” of it all. This is often experienced as an entitlement mentality, something that many organizations are experiencing.
Breaking the negative cycle
A damaging negative cycle can ensue as managers bemoan the entitlement mentality of employees while employees point to a perceived injustice in the way work is assigned, managed, and rewarded. Once this cycle starts, it can be difficult to reverse. Organizations can hope that employees will rise above the situation, but a more likely scenario is that leaders will have to take the first step.
Looking to reverse a negative cycle in your organization? Edmonds has three suggestions for leaders:
- Refocus on strategy. Identify key organizational objectives and connect department, team, and individual goals to overall strategy.
- Engage staff and leverage skills. Take a positive approach. Trade in a defensive posture seeking to “avoid mistakes” and instead move in a positive direction that explores strengths and possibilities.
- Support and serve. See your role as “chief obstacle remover” instead of “inspector general.” Make it easier for staff to work the plan without interference.
This is especially true with instances where managers are leading staff who have specialized skills, or who may be much more experienced, smarter, and skilled in their function than the leader is. As Edmonds explains, “A leader who manages with an assumption that they must control decisions in this environment will create a disaster. The leader needs to coach from the sideline, get the strategy clear, and then let the talent drive the appropriate activity. The leader needs to be kept informed so they can coach and refine the plan ‘in the moment’, but for the most part, enable the subject matter experts to act upon their knowledge.”
Leaders who set a strong vision, develop an aligned strategy, and engage talented staff in pursuit of that vision by encouraging, removing hurdles, and marshalling resources will always outperform those who remain reactive and only hope for the best.
Leading is about going somewhere. Where are you going? Are you moving forward—or are you standing still? Take positive action today!