You walk into a bank. There are 50 customers inside. Suddenly a robber runs in and fires off one shot. The bullet hits you in the right arm. Quick: What will you tell your friends later about this? Were you lucky or unlucky?
Harvard’s Shawn Achor poses this dilemma in his book The Happiness Advantage. Your interpretation of this experience could go in several directions. There are understandable reasons why you might explain this in a negative way, as the majority of people do—the research shows that the approximate distribution of responses to this incident is 70 percent negative, 30 percent positive.
The problem is that your interpretation of this experience will directly shape how you deal with it and what the future looks like for you and the people around you. In short, you have every right to be depressed, discouraged, and down for an extended time. But why do you do this to yourself? Snap out of it, Eeyore!
I define resilience as the capacity to carry on—to withstand, persevere, or recover from challenging circumstances. Here’s a model I offer clients who are struggling through interesting times. It applies to individuals, teams, and organizations.
- Get a Grip. When you’ve had to deal with significant issues, it’s important to keep your head on straight. People often obsess over why things aren’t perfect. Don’t allow yourself to do that. The sun will rise tomorrow.
- Stay in the Game. Life goes on. No matter where you are, be there. It’s easy to lose your focus on what you’re working on right now. Don’t let yourself get emotional and scattered. We know that when people are under stress they tend to be somewhat distant or even downright aloof. Be cue-sensitive to what’s going on. Staying connected is therapeutic.
- Deal With It. Get in there. Mix it up. Throw yourself at what you’re working on. Don’t use the situation as an excuse to procrastinate making decisions in the here and now. The world has no time for mere thinkers; it wants action.
- Get Over It. All right, something happened. Don’t dwell on what could have been or what should have been. Don’t go there. Move on to the next challenge. It’s all about getting things done, not second-guessing yourself after the fact.
Resilience involves acting as though it is impossible for you to fail. This may sound counter-intuitive, but dealing with challenge may be the best opportunity to tilt the game in your favor. Don’t look at crisis as something to survive. It’s actually an opportunity to thrive.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read his posts here on LeaderChat the fourth Saturday of each month.
I just arrived back from beautiful Fujairah—one of the northernmost emirates in the UAE—where we held the final module of six in a 15-month leadership development curriculum for a global technology company.
The total program included modules around personality, values, organization vision and alignment, leadership style, high performing teams, change management, and motivation—the gamut.
This final module consisted of five one-hour-long group presentations about various aspects of their learning journey and its impact on people, process, and results. We asked about personal insights, how they applied their learning to real work, and what the human and economic impacts were of such application. And finally, in terms of their development, we asked them what they wanted to do next.
In terms of roles, the “what’s next” question revealed an array of ambitions. One wants to be CEO within 10 years. Another wants to lead the expansion of engineering capabilities in the African subsidiaries. And a third sees a future in corporate strategy with the aim of improving how global change initiatives are conceived and executed.
What was most beautiful was not the ambitions themselves, although I often feel their gravitational pull compelling me to double-check my own goals and velocity toward them. Instead, the most heartening aspect of their ambitions was how they promised to approach them.
Reduce Pressure to Go Fast
Whereas in the past, on their way to greater roles and responsibilities, these executives would have passed the pressure they received from their bosses to others in direct proportion—or even amplify it—now they realize that pressure often does more harm than good. The motivation research shows that pressure is easily internalized as a form of control, which then undermines a person’s eagerness to perform an act voluntarily and with an optimistic sense of purpose. In other words, pressure creates a negative Motivational Outlook, which slows the pace and quality of work in the moment and in the long run.
These executives also described how they helped even very senior employees build additional competence faster than before, and how those employees then displayed increased confidence that they could handle even more-complex projects. It was nice to hear, too, how the quality of their relationships improved as a result.
Executives take a lot of heat—much of it deserved—for leading as if people do not matter much. So, I decided to share this with you because I wonder what you think when you read about executives who have dedicated themselves to leading in challenging times with boldness, grace, warmth, ever-increasing skill, and maturity. How does it inspire you or catalyze new thinking about how you lead?
It was a privilege to watch these leaders commit to a truly human—and humane—approach to leading others, and to see that by actually doing it things are already improving for them and everyone around them. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and simply enjoy watching people flower and shine right in front of our very eyes. I thought you might enjoy that, too.
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. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
Accountability, accountability, accountability. It’s an issue that comes up time and again as leaders and HR professionals think about the one underlying challenge in their organizations that holds performance back. It’s a silent killer that operates below the surface in organizations and it’s tough to address.
A best-selling business book (and one that I had never heard of until earlier this month) addresses a key piece of the accountability issue. Leadership and Self-Deception was first published in 2000 and then re-issued as a second edition in 2010. The book has sold over 1,000,000 copies since it was published and sales have grown every year since it was first “discovered” by HR, OD, and change practitioners.
What makes the book so different (and hard to describe) is that it looks at work behavior as fundamentally an inside-out proposition. We basically act out externally what we are feeling inside. Bad behavior externally—doing just enough to get by, compliance instead of commitment, and putting self-interest ahead of team or department goals—are justified because of the way that that colleagues, managers, and senior leaders are acting in return.
The folks at The Arbinger Institute, the corporate authors of the book, call this “in the box thinking” and they believe it is the root cause of many of the problems being experienced at work today.
Is your organization stuck “in the box?”
Wondering if negative attitudes inside might be causing poor accountability on the outside in your organization? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself.
- Where are the trouble spots in your organization? Where are people getting the job done but it seems to always be at minimum level of performance—and with a low sense of enthusiasm and morale?
- What are the possible attitudes and beliefs among members of that team or department that make them feel justified in their behaviors? Why do they feel it is okay to narrow the scope of their job, focus on their own agenda, and do only what’s required to stay out of trouble—but not much more?
- What can you do to break the cycle of negative thinking that keeps people “in the box?”
Climbing out of the box
Surprisingly, the answer to breaking out of the box starts with expecting more of yourself and others. People climb into the box when they decide to do less than their best. The folks at Arbinger describe this as “self-betrayal” and it sets in motion all sorts of coping strategies that end up with self-focused behaviors. Don’t let that happen in your organization. Here are two ways that you can help people see beyond their self interests.
- Constantly remind people of the bigger picture and their role in it. Set high standards and hold people accountable to them.
- Second, and just as important, provide high levels of support and encouragement for people to do the right thing. Make it easy for people to put the needs of the team, department, and organization ahead of their own. Look at reward, recognition, and compensation strategies. Look at growth and career planning. What can you do to free people up to focus on the needs of others instead of themselves?
Change behavior by changing beliefs
Accountability is a tough issue to address because most people feel justified in their actions and opinions. Don’t let your people self-justify their way into lower performance. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for your organization. Lead people to higher levels of performance. Help people find the best in themselves.
“Change is hard,” explains Madeleine Homan-Blanchard in a new article for Chief Learning Officer. And being asked to help someone change is a tough assignment—especially when that someone is a senior leader in your organization—just ask anyone responsible for learning and development and they’ll tell you.
Have you been asked to help someone change?
Here are five suggestions from Homan-Blanchard that will give you your best chance for success.
1. Begin with data and dialogue. Business leaders live and die by the numbers. One of the only ways a leader will agree that change is needed is by being presented with unequivocal data and feedback.
2. Make it relevant. Leaders need to understand how their efforts to make and sustain any change will pay off. For instance, the investment is worth it because it will increase their business results or make their work days easier.
3. Mix it up and customize. Because each leader is growing and learning at a different pace across a spectrum of skill sets, learning leaders need to be prepared with a blended approach that uses all available resources, including online learning, classroom experiences, cohort or peer coaching, professional coaching and mentoring.
4. Consequences matter. Culture also plays a substantial role in effective leader development. Be clear that certain leadership behaviors are non-negotiable and even cause for dismissal.
5. Respect must be earned. Learning leaders who seek to support leaders’ change efforts need to be role models for growth and change, too.
Helping another person change requires clear direction, support, and accountability over time. It also requires a proven process. In an upcoming virtual workshop for leaders looking to identify and change unwanted leadership behaviors Homan-Blanchard outlines three key strategies individual leaders can use to manage their own change.
1. Identify behaviors that need to change. Articulate the gap. Put words to where you are now, and where you want to be. This helps you to understand the nature of the shift you need to make and keeps it real.
2. Practice your new behavior. Start in a safe environment with people you trust. Tell people that you are trying something new. Ask for help in tweaking your new behavior. Ask for support in identifying triggers, and in holding yourself accountable. Remember that you will not be good at your new behavior. Try on new things one at a time. You can make a lot of changes, just not all at once. Give yourself a chance to master one thing first—then you can move on to the next thing.
3. Try on your new behavior in a real-life setting. Promise yourself to do it ONCE, either once a day, once per opportunity, etc. Define a minimum for yourself and reward yourself every time you do it. Be kind to yourself throughout the process. Real change is hard, but worth the effort.
Coaching is an act of service
Helping someone change requires a service mindset. The process can be challenging, but also very rewarding when you can help people identify and modify behaviors that may be holding them back in their careers. To learn more about Homan-Blanchard’s advice for facilitating change, be sure to check out her article, How Do You Get Leaders to Change? Also, be sure to check out her upcoming online workshop, Taking the “Un” Out of Your Un-Leaderlike Moments.
Join best-selling business author Susan Fowler for a complimentary webinar and online chat beginning today at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (12:00 noon Eastern).
In a special presentation on A Closer Look at the New Science of Motivation Fowler will be sharing some of the research underlying Blanchard’s new Optimal Motivation program and workshops. Participants will explore three basic psychological needs—Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence—and the skills needed to reach a high quality of self-regulation. The webinar is free and seats are still available if you would like to join over 700 people expected to participate.
Immediately after the webinar, Susan will be answering follow-up questions here at LeaderChat for about 30 minutes. To participate in the follow-up discussion, use these simple instructions.
Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat
- Click on the LEAVE A COMMENT link above
- Type in your question
- Push SUBMIT COMMENT
It’s as easy as that! Susan will answer as many questions as possible in the order they are received. Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.
We hope you can join us later today for this special complimentary event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies. Click here for more information on participating.
Want to motivate others? Start by learning how to motivate yourself. That’s the message that best-selling author Susan Fowler highlights in a recent article for Ignite!
In Fowler’s experience, you have to understand your own reasons for performing at a high level before you can help others do the same. Without that understanding, most managers attempting to “motivate” others will resort to imposed or extrinsic techniques that may only make the matter worse—for example, a “carrot” approach which dangles incentives in front of people in exchange for desired behaviors—or a “stick” approach which applies sanctions and negative consequences for undesired behaviors.
A new understanding on what motivates people
Fowler maintains that the reason for our dependence on external rewards to motivate people, especially in the workplace, is not just because they were easy and the “fast food” of motivation, but because we didn’t have alternatives—we didn’t know what truly motivates people.
That’s been changing rapidly the past couple of years as research about intrinsic motivators have begun to make their way into the work environment.
Building on the pioneering work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, researchers and practitioners have begun exploring the powerful impact that intrinsic motivators such as Autonomy (being in control of one’s own life), Relatedness (to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others) and Competence (experience mastery) can have.
For example, researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies have established that employee perceptions of increased Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence are positively correlated to intentions to stay with an organization, endorse the organization as a good place to work, and apply discretionary effort in service of the organization’s goals.
As Fowler explains, “The latest science of motivation gives us an entire spectrum of options beyond the carrot and stick. People want or need money and rewards, but when they believe that is what motivates them, they are missing out on much more effective and satisfying motivational experiences.”
How are you motivated?
Wondering how you can apply this latest research into your own work life? Here are three area to explore:
- What’s your motivation? What’s driving your performance on key work goals and tasks—is it in pursuit of rewards, avoidance of punishment, or something more meaningful and personal to you?
- How are your needs for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence currently being met? Are you growing and developing skills? Do you get a chance to work together in community with others toward a shared goal?
- What can you do to create a more satisfying work environment for yourself and others? What small step can you take this week to start moving things in the right direction?
Work can—and should be—a motivating experience. Sometimes we forget, or become resigned to, a transactional relationship. It doesn’t have to be that way. Re-examine your beliefs, reframe your experience and rediscover your passion. Break out of carrot and stick thinking. Consider the impact that increased Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competency can have on your life.
PS: You can learn more about Susan Fowler’s approach to motivation in the article Motivation As a Skill. Also be sure to check out a free webinar that Susan is conducting on October 3, A Closer Look at the New Science of Motivation. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Scott Blanchard, principal and executive vice president at The Ken Blanchard Companies calls it the new “F” word—feelings. And it is something that managers and organizations struggle with on a regular basis. Should you ask people to repress feelings and “check them at the door” or should you encourage people to bring their entire selves when they come to work?
Current research points to the benefit of employing people’s hearts as well as their hands. But to do that skillfully, managers and team leaders have to be prepared for all of the situations that occur when you truly engage people. If you want everything that people can offer, you have to deal with everything that people will bring.
Eryn Kalish, a professional mediator and relationship expert believes that there are two keys to successfully negotiating the emotional workplace. In an article for Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter, Kalish identifies staying centered and open as the key skills. But what she has been seeing more commonly is an unbalanced approach where managers and organizations go to extremes.
As she explains, “Organizations are either taking a ‘confront everything, address it, and do it now’ overly intense approach, where there is no time or space to reflect, or they are taking a ‘let’s wait and see’ tactic, in hopes that the situation resolves itself, but in reality not dealing with difficult issues until it’s way too late.”
The wait and see strategy works occasionally, according to Kalish, although most of the time things get worse. “Plus, when something is left unaddressed, there is a cumulative organizational effect where everyone starts shutting down, living in a place of fear and contraction.”
That is a huge loss, from Kalish’s perspective, because most issues in companies are resolvable.
“If issues are handled directly, clearly, and in a timely manner, something new can emerge. That’s what I see that is so exciting,” she shares. “When people normalize these types of conversations, it is amazing to see the transformations that can occur.”
Next steps for leaders
For leaders looking to get started in improving their abilities, Kalish recommends assessing where you are currently at.
“It all depends on whether you have the skills to conduct a sensitive conversation. If you have the skills, take a cue from Nike and ‘Just do it!’ See what happens. If you do not have the skills, then it is important to get additional coaching or training.
“In any case, openness and transparency is the key. Many times it helps to just be candid with staff and saying, ‘I think that we have been avoiding this and I’d like that to change’ will help.
To learn more about Kalish’s thoughts on dealing effectively with emotion in the workplace, check out Dealing effectively with emotion-filled work environments in the August issue of Ignite. Also be sure to check out a free webinar Kalish is conducting on August 22, A Manager’s Guide to the Emotional Workplace: How to stay focused and balanced when dealing with sensitive issues. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
A new Towers Watson research paper is shedding some light on what attracts employees to an organization (and what keeps them there after they’ve joined.) The 2012 Global Workforce Study includes responses from 32,000 employees in 29 markets around the world.
Here’s what people said attracts them to an organization and what would cause them to leave.
|1||Base pay / Salary||Base pay / Salary|
|2||Job security||Career advancement opportunities|
|3||Career advancement opportunities||Relationship with supervisor / manager|
|4||Convenient work location||Trust / confidence in senior leadership|
|5||Learning and development opportunities||Manage / limit work-related stress|
Adapted from Top Five Global Drivers of Attraction, Retention and Sustainable Engagement Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study At A Glance
The study also looks at the factors that create an engaging work environment. It’s interesting to note that Towers Watson has expanded their definition of employee engagement—which they are calling “sustainable engagement”—to include enablement (having the tools, resources and support to do their job effectively), as well as energy (which means a work environment that actively supports employees’ well-being.)
Overall, the study showed that:
- Only 35% of workers rate high in all three areas and are engaged, energized and enabled.
- 22% are classified as unsupported, meaning they display traditional engagement, but lack the enablement and/or energy required for sustainable engagement.
- 17% are detached, meaning they feel enabled and/or energized, but are not willing to go the extra mile.
- 26% are completely disengaged, with less favorable scores for all three aspects of sustainable engagement.
Wondering where to get started in addressing some of these factors in your organization?
Abhishek Mittal, a senior consultant with Towers Watson in Singapore shares some possibilities for specifically addressing the enablement aspect of sustainable engagement in a separate, but related article, Building a Sustainable Engagement Strategy.
In the article, published late last year, he describes a Towers Watson study with a large Asian bank that identified:
“The analysis of over 300 branches found that the direct manager has a large impact on ‘enabling’ employees. When we look at branches where employees are more satisfied with their managers on a range of parameters, the employees tend to feel much more well-supported or enabled to deliver in their roles. Their perceptions about work resources, tools, condition and work organisation are much stronger than other branches. In turn, branches with more “enabled” employees clearly have a higher percentage of engaged customers. And, we saw clear links between engaged customers and higher target achievement on branch-level operating profits.”
Why don’t employees do what they are supposed to do? Former Columbia Graduate School professor and consultant Ferdinand Fournies knows. Over the course of two decades, Fournies interviewed nearly 25,000 managers asking them why, in their experience, direct reports did not accomplish their work as assigned.
Here are the top reasons Fournies heard most often and which he described in his book, Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To and What You Can Do About It. As you review the list, consider what you believe might be some of the root causes and solutions for each road block.
In Fournies’ experience, the root cause and solution in each case rests with the individual manager and employee. Fournies believes that managers can minimize the negative impact of each of these potential roadblocks by:
- Getting agreement that a problem exists
- Mutually discussing alternative solutions
- Mutually agreeing on action to be taken to solve the problem
- Following-up to ensure that agreed-upon action has been taken
- Reinforcing any achievement
Are your people doing what they are supposed to be doing?
What’s the level of purpose, alignment, and performance in your organization? Do people have a clear sense of where the organization is going and where their work fits in? Are they committed and passionate about the work? Are they performing at a high level? Take a look at the conversations and relationships happening at the manager-direct report level. If performance is not where it should be, chances are that one of these roadblocks in getting in the way.
PS: You can learn more about Ferdinand Fournies and his two books, Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To and What You Can Do About It, and Coaching for Improved Work Performance here at Amazon. Both books are highly recommended for your business bookshelf.
The topic of well-being in the workplace is getting a lot of attention right now. The January/February issue of The Harvard Business Review featured articles on “The Value of Happiness – How Employee Well-being Drives Profits.” Since people spend more time at work than in any other single environment, it behooves leaders to create organizations that foster the well-being of its members.
Yet few organizations see personal well-being as an important focus for their business, nor do they understand the powerful connections between personal well-being and organizational success. Study after study has shown that when individual employees experience well-being, they consistently apply their skills and hearts in service of company goals and customers, adapt more flexibly to change, and are more creative and proactive problem solvers.
My colleagues at The Ken Blanchard Companies, Lisa Zigarmi and Chris Edmonds, have published a new book titled #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, that presents 140 short, actionable quotes on how to create and manage well-being in the workplace. Zigarmi and Edmonds present five “pillars” of well-being that are essential for positive workplaces. The five pillars are positive:
- Emotion – people function best in workplaces that provide a sense of satisfaction, achievement, and safety
- Relationships – human beings were created to live and work in community and our bonds of relationship are the most significant source of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being
- Meaning and purpose – again and again research shows that a sense of meaning, purpose, and doing worthwhile work is more important to employees than pay, status, or title
- Accomplishment – achieving mastery over work and working in service to a goal, group, or purpose beyond one’s self is a key driver of personal well-being
- Health – more than the absence of sickness, health is the balanced approach of taking quality time for work, family, and self, including total body exercise
Tweet #45 is the one that stood out to me. Zigarmi and Edmonds say “When you maintain a safe, open, trusting work environment, people bring all their skills and all their heart to the work opportunity.”
The foundation of any healthy, positive work environment is a culture of trust. When trust is present, people are willing to take risks, go the extra mile, and offer the best they have to give. The sense of safety and security that comes with a high-trust culture allows people to focus on the goals at hand rather than spending time questioning decisions or doing just the minimum amount of work to collect their paycheck.
Well-being in the workplace begins with trust, and Lisa Zigarmi and Chris Edmonds provide leaders with actionable steps to create a healthy, affirmative work environment where every individual contributes, connects, succeeds, and thrives.
This is one in a series of LeaderChat articles on the topic of trust by Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit the Leading with Trust blog or follow Randy on Twitter @RandyConley.