David Bugea manages leadership development and diversity training programs for Arvest Bank, a full-service financial institution that operates over 230 locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. In this One Minute Interview, Bugea discusses the importance of trust and collaboration during uncertain economic times.
Q. What are the top issues you are looking at in 2010?
A. Obviously, what lies ahead in our economy is on everyone’s mind. Beyond that, as a financial services organization we wouldn’t be surprised to see more frequent and more significant changes to our industry’s regulations in the coming years. While it’s something we’re accustomed to, the magnitude of these regulations may require more careful communication to our customers, as well as internally.
From the viewpoint of one who develops organizational talent, it doesn’t matter which industry you’re in – issues such as labor law changes, generational differences and the ever-changing rate of unemployment require new competencies from both leaders and the individuals they serve.
The lessons of Situational Leadership® II teach us that individuals often experience regression and performance issues when faced with personal and professional distractions. Our associates (employees) are no different than other people who work in our economy. As much as we may reassure them of their job security at Arvest, their thoughts may be focused on what will happen if their spouse loses a job, or if their home decreases in value.
That’s why it’s vital that open communication continues to be a part of our corporate culture and environment here at Arvest. While it may sound unusual for business leaders to be aware of personal issues in associates’ lives, it’s often an important part of understanding why regression is occurring.
Q. From your perspective, what are some of the barriers that get in the way of trust and collaboration in organizations?
A. As some businesses – and entire industries – have endured losses in recent years, there is a natural tendency for business and government leaders to try preventing or limiting losses in the future by building checks and balances into the system. If we define this action with terms used in SLII®, we’d realize that any sort of checks and balances, limits or regulations – whatever you want to call them – are simply a form of increased direction on the part of a leader.
Now take a second look at SLII®; in particular, the Needs Model. When people perform satisfactorily and suddenly their performance comes up short, they need more than just direction. They need direction and support. In other words, people need leaders who listen, not just someone to tell them what to do. Most importantly, this is a time when people need to know why.
Leaders don’t always do this, and there is a risk of weakened trust any time you take away an individual’s autonomy and introduce limits. It sends a message of, “Hold on, you’re doing something that requires me to make sure you’re not messing up.” But if leaders simply take the time to explain that certain limits protect the individual and the organization’s long-term ability to provide them with a livelihood, such limits may be met with less resistance. Bottom line: Never underestimate an individual’s ability to see the big picture!
Q. If you were going to offer some words of advice to your peers as possible ways to stay ahead of the curve for 2010, what personal suggestions would you have?
A. Professionalism is important, but don’t let that make you blind to the fact that, like you, the individuals you serve have passion and emotion. That’s a double-edged sword; the passion and emotion you value in an individual’s approach to a task can also stand in the way of performance when personal issues affect commitment. So my advice is to be aware that economic and employment trends affecting your business will often have a similar impact on your team members and their families. You can’t always change that, but you can be supportive.
Finally, it’s natural for leaders to provide more direction – more handholding, more rulemaking – both during and immediately after challenging times. Such behavior may actually be expected. But don’t forget that a return to directive behavior makes individuals feel more scrutinized. When this happens it can put the individual on the defensive; if a leader fails to be supportive and listen, trust will inevitably suffer. And when trust suffers, the resulting barrier of communication results in an environment where things get done not because of collaboration, but in spite of it.
That’s why it’s essential for leaders to pause, step back and focus on the use of supportive behaviors to build trust and collaboration. Yes, we’ve got to keep an eye on the bottom line to ensure our organization’s long-term success. But don’t put aside the importance of engaging with associates in two-way conversations. Now more than ever, it’s time to let those you serve know that you listen to their concerns, and most importantly, that you care!
The One Minute Interview is LeaderChat’s new monthly series featuring interviews with some of today’s most intriguing HR-focused thought leaders and practitioners. David Bugea is a featured speaker at this year’s Blanchard Summit 2010.
Gordon Pitman is the Manager of Global Management Development Programs at AkzoNobel, a global leader in coatings and specialty chemicals with more than 57,000 employees in over 70 countries. In this One Minute Interview, Pitman talks about drawing out learning from the recent economic crisis.
Q. What is the top business, or people management issue, you’re looking at?
A. I think one of our main challenges for 2010 is helping leaders make sense of what happened in 2009 in a way that helps then take those skills into 2010. Just as we saw a country by country entry into the economic crisis in 2009, so are we seeing a similar, country by country, emergence. I think that enabling leaders to reflect on their 2009 experiences will be a continuing challenge for global organizations like AkzoNobel and others.
The impact for those of us working in an HR, OD, or training function is to facilitate this self reflection process with our business leaders. Over the past six months a lot of our people managers and executives have had to learn, or relearn, some skills that perhaps they may not have had to use in a while. This includes how to lead change, how to handle difficult conversations, and how to drive business performance in a climate where no matter what they do, the results don’t seem to come.
I am getting the sense that some of our business leaders have become much more flexible in their thinking and behavior in order to enable them to do things differently this past year. I don’t think that they have had time yet to reflect and assimilate what those experiences mean for them and their leadership style. So I think that will be one of the things that will be a focus in 2010—enabling and supporting our leaders to really make sense of what 2009 has been like, both personally and for their teams.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges leaders face as they attempt to make these changes?
A. I think the challenges are around making sense of these experiences. So the first challenge is a self-awareness and assimilation of these new behaviors.
A second challenge is how to make those skills a part of my ongoing leadership toolbox. How do I keep some of those new skills that perhaps I may not get to readily use again, and how do I continue to build and develop some of those skills which I was forced to learn, relearn, or reuse?
Q. What are some of the challenges from a human resource, or training perspective, that go along with helping managers build up skills again?
A. AkzoNobel is a global organization with 57,000 employees across 70 plus countries. Being able to find a way to facilitate those dialogues and self reflection moments with our leaders is the first challenge. For HR & OD people, enabling and supporting those conversations on a global scale is complicated, because most of those conversations happen one-to-one looking at the experiences that individuals have had within their department, or with the situation in their country. Consistency across the organization is a second interesting challenge.
The final challenge is then resourcing that global conversation, and effectively keeping your finger on the pulse, using all the different communication channels within the organization.
Q. Any advice for people looking to get ahead of the curve?
A. Ask great questions. Because great answers usually come from great questions. Make sure that there is a way to start to dialogue with your senior leaders and ask them the right questions.
For example, “What do we see as a top management, or strategy priority for the year? What have you learned through the economic crisis? What skills have you identified that you need to develop more of? What skills have you seen your managers are lacking?”
And some of those questions asked in the right way, at the right time, would be a very insightful way to start a conversation about what your organization needs to really look at, and what needs to happen next to really take advantage of the global economic recovery.
The One Minute Interview is LeaderChat’s new monthly series featuring interviews with some of today’s most intriguing HR-focused thought leaders and practitioners. Gordon Pitman is a featured speaker at this year’s Blanchard Summit 2010.
Laura Birk is the Director of HR at Barilla America, a part of Italy’s Barilla Group, the #1 provider of premium pasta products in the world. In this One Minute Interview, Birk talks about the challenges of innovation in a global company.
Q. What is your top business or management challenge as you look forward into the year ahead?
A. For us, the top challenge is managing a couple of questions that all center on innovation in a global world. Specifically—
- How can you influence innovation?
- Who has the technical competencies within the organization?
- Who owns the process?
- And finally, who knows the most about the consumer?
What we are finding–probably not surprisingly–is that different people have different parts of the puzzle—some have the competencies, others own the process, and still others are the ones who know the consumer best. Yet, when we are trying to push innovation globally, that creates some challenges that we are keeping our eye on.
For example, one of our goals is to create innovative and authentic Italian pasta products. Here in the US, our local marketing research and development group knows the US consumer best. Yet our people in Italy are the ones who have the competencies about what true authentic Italian is. The question then is who should own that innovation pipeline?
Q. What are some of the potential challenges associated with this?
A. The challenges on the business side are primarily the complexity of the manufacturing environment and the capacity and the technology needed to implement whatever the innovation is.
We have an innovation business team here for our local geography, but we are also playing on a bigger team in terms of global innovation. While we don’t necessarily need, or want, to be first to market, when we do lead we want to lead well, but that means coordinating locally and globally.
Another challenge from an HR or OD perspective is being able to know the business well enough as an HR OD person that you are invited to the strategic discussion. It doesn’t matter if you have HR-speak, what senior leadership wants to know is if you have business speak. The reality is that you have to be a business leader first, and an HR leader second.
Senior leadership is interested in how a new strategic direction is going to impact people, but they don’t really ask it from an HR perspective. Instead they ask, “What are the risks of us being able to execute this in our business from the people side?” As an HR professional, you need to be in on that conversation early. But if you don’t have the necessary business acumen, then you are not going to be at the table, or be able to chime in or ask the question.
Q. Any advice you might give to peers if they want to get a head start on this challenge in their organization?
A. For me, personally, I’d recommend volunteering to facilitate strategic planning meetings. I’ve found it helps me to anticipate and think about some of those risks we should consider. People always appreciate good facilitation and while you are serving as facilitator, you are also getting great insight about the direction and strategy the company is considering.
Second, I’d recommend spending more time with business people. Actually go and be with them in their work. If they are salespeople, go on sales calls, go to their meetings, be a fly on the wall.
Finally, ask people, “How are we doing?” Sincerely ask them. And I think that when you spend time with them, and sincerely ask them, they are going to be very open to giving you feedback about how you are doing on helping them solve their issues. And if they ask you to come to the table, it is a pretty good signal on how you are doing!
___________________________________________________________________________________________The One Minute Interview is LeaderChat’s new monthly series featuring interviews with some of today’s most intriguing HR-focused thought leaders and practitioners. Laura Birk is a featured speaker at this year’s Blanchard Summit 2010. To learn more about Birk and how Barilla successfully navigated change to win an ASTD BEST Award, be sure to read, Implementing SAP Change at Barilla America