Unconventional Support

Support can increase the probability that an individual will contribute to the success of a group at her/his full potential. Webster’s Dictionary defines support as, “the act of showing that you approve by doing something; or to give help or assistance to.” Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work for and observe companies that took their role of supporting employees very seriously, and others that seemingly ignored all but basic support. It was no surprise that the results produced by these organizations seemed to be directly tied to their approach to support—the better the support the stronger the results. The key question now is whether those companies that offer traditional support are doing enough to meet today’s challenges? I believe the answer is no.

Traditionally, companies would offer employees a wide range of support beyond simple compensation. These included health insurance, retirement programs, savings programs, life insurance, vacation, and many forms of family support. In addition, many companies would provide support for employees to expand their skill sets both with company-sponsored training and tuition assistance for outside education.

In light of today’s dynamic business pressures, many companies are cutting back on support in the belief that belt tightening is in the organization’s best interest. Beyond questioning the failed logic of this assumption, I suggest four best practices of unconventional support that have been proven to help organizations succeed.

Meet the market – Companies that will succeed in the future are those that maintain a focus on market-based pay information as seriously as they focus on market shifts with customers—and pay at market rates. Your business success will be linked to the quality of your people. You can’t hide talent. With increased market transparency, you can bet that if you aren’t paying at market, your best employees will know about it.

Set people up – Encourage managers to take a more aggressive position in setting people up for success. In larger organizations, recognize managers who consistently enable members of their team to get promoted. Encourage co-creation of development plans that will ensure your employees have the skills they need to succeed. Remove obstacles that inhibit performance. Listen to your workforce—you’ll learn valuable information.

Supersize recognition – You can’t do enough, formally and informally, to recognize those people who excel. People feed off recognition. Both formal programs that publicly recognize performance (and, likewise, programs that recognize lack of performance) and informal efforts to recognize the day-to-day efforts of your team members will go a long way to building a cohesive and responsive team.

Create a retention problem – Announce that you co-own the challenge of increasing the value of each employee in your company. Tell people that your goal is to work with them to increase their marketability, and that you are willing to step up to create such a great environment that it will be undesirable for them to leave.

Unlocking employee potential is the biggest challenge facing companies today. Proper support is the key enabler. I’ve given you a starter set of nonconventional ideas to implement support, but there are many more practices that can help move this ball forward. Please share any ideas you have about support success strategies.

Thanks!

This is the second of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Insight
Unconventional Values

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Unconventional Discipline

Discipline can increase the probability of a desired outcome. Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline as, “the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior.” In the past, many organizations divided discipline into two elements—planning the work and working the plan. And while few topics have received more attention as critical components to effective business management, the key question now is whether traditional discipline is sufficient to match today’s challenges. I believe the answer is no.

Traditionally, senior leaders would start to plan the work for a coming year with a structured and disciplined approach. These leaders would envision the next phase of an organization’s growth and strategize how best to deploy their assets to reach their goals. Depending on the organization, others might develop detailed action planning steps in support of the strategy along with dashboards of leading and lagging metrics to gauge and control. Typically, groups would spend considerable energy teaching everyone in an organization about the plan via clear, consistent, compelling, and one-way communication. Leaders on the front line would be charged with working the plan, focused on implementing and measuring to enforce compliance.

In light of today’s dynamic business conditions, I suggest three unconventional best practices that have been proven to help disciplined organizations succeed.

First, increase the diversity of input when building your plans. Successful companies today are disciplined at engaging a far greater number of people in the strategizing and planning phases than ever before.  Organizations benefit from including a far greater diversity of views and experience from all workers, particularly from the talented group of millennials, whose perspective is vastly different from that of previous generations. Receiving such varied input allows for a more complete view of the plan, often accounting for circumstances and factors that might have been missed had the planning phase merely maintained the status quo. Business as we know it is changing, but we can be ready for it by asking for input from the right people.

Second, shorten the time between your planning cycles. Nimble organizations are moving away in a disciplined way from traditional annual planning cycles and substituting a much more streamlined, semi-annual or quarterly process to adjust plans and or resources to take advantage of changing markets and customer dynamics. Month-to-month is the new year-to-year. While change has always been a constant, the rate of change is steadily increasing. To keep up in an ever-evolving business environment, how we plan must also change.

Third, build a culture that anticipates changes and excels at mid-course adjustments. Successful companies today use discipline and process to make sure all employees feel empowered to question plans any time they believe market conditions or assumptions used to form the plans have changed. These groups also build a capacity and skill sets needed for constant change. Each element of my All-In Roadmap—discipline being one element—is interconnected with the others. In this case, discipline requires support, another All-In Roadmap element. A team that masters the art of adjustment will require support from above to feel comfortable voicing concerns with the current plan.

Despite being a loaded word, discipline is a good thing. A company is stronger when discipline contains the assumption that opportunities to teach come at any time and from anyone in the organization (acting as a Chief). When discipline comes with the assumption that a company can enforce a plan with appropriate flexibility, that company is far more likely to prosper.

This is the first of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Support
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Insight
Unconventional Values

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Find Your Future Chief (But Why Wait?)

“Find Your Future Chief” was the headline in an ad by Dow Jones currently being used to attract companies to advertise in the Wall Street Journal’s Career Opportunities pages. I like the headline, but I think it is directed at the wrong audience. Instead of prompting potential interviewers to find their future Chief, I’d much rather encourage the interviewees to find their own ability to be Chief. Being Chief right now is more important than waiting for someone else to decide it’s time for a title.

I believe being Chief has nothing to do with level or title, and everything to do with your choices. In fact, here are five things you can do to be Chief now, whether or not you have a job and independent of your level or title if you do:

Develop discipline. By establishing your own sense of discipline and being accountable for planning the work and working the plan, you will be more effective at how you go about your day, how you plan the weeks and months ahead, and how you strategize your overall goals. Like a muscle, discipline is developed and honed over time, but it can also be part of every day. Begin to notice the areas of your life that could use more discipline. Then figure out what you need to do and how you need to do it. Next, implement your plan and measure your progress. Finally, you will need to make adjustments depending on the success of your strategy.

Be a supporter. While it might seem a role reversal, a great Chief must be a supporter for others. When you behave in ways that are consistently supportive of others, you will be better able to connect to people. When you align how you talk with how you feel, think, write, and act, your authenticity will be apparent. When you inspire others by doing the right things, the right way, they will see a great leader. When you enable those around you to grow, and when you encourage even the most basic positive attributes in people, you will develop stronger relationships, both personal and professional.

Discover your creativity. I define creativity as the ability to manifest, or create, the future. You have the ability to create your future every time you feel, think, speak, write, and act. When you connect each of these, one to the other, you are at your creative best. When you are having trouble creating the future you want, you can choose to simply “act the part” and feelings, thoughts, and words will follow. Do you know people who seem to have “tailwinds” that help them in everything they do? When you act in a fashion synchronized with who you truly are, you will find that things seem to happen more easily for you, too.

Cultivate insight. Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. And confidence comes from the insight of understanding who you truly are. This powerful insight can be challenging to discover in a world that appears to move faster and faster each day and is filled with challenges, opportunities, and seemingly endless to-do lists. Your ability to be present—totally attentive and in the moment—energizes any activity you focus on and any reality you choose to create. Perhaps your most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes when you are still. In addition, by cultivating acceptance, generosity, and gratitude, you will develop the insight required to be Chief.

Define your values. Finally, a strong set of values will be the foundation of your relationships. I don’t assume to know what values are most important to you, but I encourage you to find them for yourself. I can offer a set of values—the four universal value principles—that I learned from my wife to guide your choices in life: truth, service, equality, and connection. Please take some time to discern what values are most essential to your well-being, and bring them to the forefront of your interactions.

Each of these elements can be implemented today. Being Chief now, no matter your level or title, will increase your productivity, make you happier, and help potential interviewees. The choice is yours.

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Being Chief When You are Not (Always) In Charge

Being Chief is not about level or title—instead, it’s about choices. But the simple truth is, we live and work in a world with people of many different levels and titles, and where everyone has a boss. From the entry-level trainee, who seemingly reports to everyone, all the way up to the CEO (who reports to the board), everyone answers to someone. We don’t always have the ability to unilaterally choose what we want in the workplace. So, how can you succeed at being Chief when you are not in charge?

We’ve all been faced with situations that, despite our best efforts, involved decisions made against what we, ourselves, would have chosen. During these times, the best we can do is to remember the prayer first offered by American theologian Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. For the truly enlightened few, this may be enough.

For those interested a little more guidance, however, here are some tips that have worked for me as I learned to increase the impact I could have beyond the scope of a particular assignment:

Envision broadly – See the opportunity from beyond just your part of the organization.
Plan inclusively – Incorporate support groups in any strategy session.
Measure outside the lines – Keep track of support-group key measures and performance.
Shamelessly adopt – Find the best practices from peer groups. Adopt them, and recognize the originators.
Communicate consistently and consciously – Use words to connect.
Own it – See yourself as a Chief with responsibility across organization lines.
Live it – Make your values visible, in particular with regard to teamwork.
Assume the position – Always put yourself in your boss’s seat before

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you bring an issue or decision “up.” Bring the person in charge multiple options with pros and cons before you offer your recommendation.
Be empathic – Remember that you may be working for someone who is also not in charge, in that their word is not final. Have some empathy for your boss, too.

The good news is, more and more organizations realize that to stay competitive they need to decentralize decision making so those with the most first-hand knowledge are in charge on a particular issue.

Now I’d like to hear from you: How much would your team say they are in charge of?

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Greed on Wall Street—Time for Chiefs to Step Up!

An excellent article recently published in the New York Times outlined alarming news. Specifically, the law firm of Labaton Sucharow sent a questionnaire to 250 Wall Street industry insiders from dozens of financial companies. Respondents included traders, portfolio managers, investment bankers, hedge fund professionals, financial analysts, and investment advisers among others. While not claiming scientific survey status, the questionnaire results are telling. Highlights include:

  • 24% of respondents would engage in insider trading to make $10 million if they could get away with it.
  • 38% of those with less than 10 years’ experience would commit insider trading for $10 million if they wouldn’t be caught.
  • 15% doubted that their leadership, upon learning of a top performer’s crime, would report it to the authorities.

The article also references several studies to offer a potential explanation as to what led to these sobering results. According to one controversial study titled “Economics Education and Greed” published in 2011 by professors at Harvard and Northwestern, an education in economics surprisingly may be making the problem worse. “The results show that economics education is consistently associated with positive attitudes towards greed,” the authors wrote.

In order to reverse this trend of Wall Street community members seemingly more willing to engage in unethical behavior, Chiefs at all levels must be ready, willing, and able to step up! While the New York Times article references the whistleblower fund of taxpayer money set up to encourage reporting of known violations, I propose another way.

I believe Chiefs inside Wall Street institutions can wield sledgehammers, so to speak, and solve a lot of these issues from the inside. The large majority of Wall Street Chiefs are hard-working, ethical, and trustworthy individuals who need to increase their focus on eliminating this blemish on their collective reputation. They must demonstrate consistent actions to ensure that a culture of ethical behavior is the most visible attribute in an organization.

In addition to good hiring and strong internal audit practices, robust training programs and constant reinforcement can help companies of all sizes support good choices. From a cost/benefit perspective, focusing on ethical behavior may be the only area where it makes sense to “kill a flea with a sledgehammer.”

I believe regulation is necessary because with the amount of money involved, human beings are open to human frailties, but it’s time for Wall Street Chiefs at all levels to step up to self-policing. Bring out the sledgehammers.

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BEING CHIEF Beyond Business—per Reverend Taylor

The following is a review of my upcoming book, BEING CHIEF, by Reverend Dr. Donald F. Taylor, Sr.:

START_QUOTE_30t_smIt has been my pleasure to read the book, BEING CHIEF, by Rick Miller. In my estimation, it is one of the very best that I have read. The theme of the book includes several very important points that will keep the reader involved and interested in the development of the concept being put forth.

Miller shares his All-In Leadership approach to deal with a very challenging topic—how can we be our best and help others do the same? He has come upon a very unique way of integrating sound principles of leadership with a thorough review of our own personality, motives, and desired outcomes. Among other recommendations, he proposes integration, rather than separation, of our personal and professional lives based upon a “common set of values.”

Miller states that his successful All-In Leadership and All-In Living concepts require that leaders make “… good choices involving families, communities, governments, social agencies, and educational institutions, as well as business.” I could not help but reflect on how pertinent his advice is to those leaders who also have responsibility in the religious realm. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this book might be on the required reading list for those who anticipate a life of service connected very directly with the cleric.

This book truly transcends culture. Among the books of this nature to which I have been exposed, I consider BEING CHIEF a classic. The book is about more than how to reach a leadership position in an organization; rather, it shows how everyone profits when sound leadership practices are put into place. It follows so very closely the dictum, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” To follow the All-In Roadmap outlined in the book is a win-win situation for everyone.

I am also impressed with BEING CHIEF because of the subliminal implications for minorities, women, and the unconnected talent in our society. These groups often find that encouragement and “normal” pathways are muted or non-existent.

I read the book with the presumption that it probably didn’t refer too much to me or to folk like me. However, before I got too far into the document, I began to feel that the document was, indeed, speaking to me.

The All-In Roadmap is based on five important questions and choices designed to “… help you create an adaptive culture in your group or company, where people will excel and growth will be the result.” This approach presents five basic choices that include in-depth discussion on discipline, the development of insight, demonstration of support, the use of creativity, and a call to actually visibly live our values.

Miller does not presume to preach but instead believes that a “roadmap” can help you and your team get from wherever you are today to wherever you want to go. All along the way, you are given choices. Your driving preferences, he states, may change along the way and his roadmap will lay out alternative routes in response. Sometimes the most direct way may not be the best way for you to go. At times you may want to slow down, speed up, or travel in a different direction in order to reach your destination. There are times you may need to make certain stops along the way. Rick provides discussions on these alternatives.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the book that Miller so elegantly writes about and teaches is that he knows how to think humanely. During this time of great transition our nation is experiencing, when so many are searching for ways to be more meaningful professionally and to reap the benefits of advancement for themselves and others, such a book is sorely needed.

I unequivocally endorse BEING CHIEF by Rick Miller. It is a powerful book.

END_QUOTE_30t_sm

 

 

—Reverend Dr. Donald F. Taylor, Sr.

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Business Schools Implement a New Selection Criteria

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that many business schools nationwide are adding personality tests to the traditional application process. I applaud this move because it will require applicants to not only demonstrate intelligence and aptitude, but also what it takes to relate to others (and themselves) in the real world, a concept otherwise known as emotional intelligence (EQ).

Since 2010, the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business has required applicants to fill out a 206-question Personal Characteristics Inventory. “Companies select for top talent with assessments like this,” stated Andrew Sama, senior associate director of their MBA admissions. “If we are selecting for future business leaders, why shouldn’t we be [using] similar tools?”

Personally, I have had success using my own tool to evaluate people. Specifically, I have focused on i3K—intelligence, intensity, integrity, and kindness. I developed this tool early in my career at Sperry Corporation and have used it ever since. This tool looks at both IQ as well as EQ. I learned early on that EQ is critical to building high-performance teams.

When I later arrived at AT&T, I wanted to get an early read on my senior team. I found no shortage of data from the human resources department, but unfortunately it was of no value to me. According to the files, everyone was doing a terrific job and always had. That’s when I put i3K to work. I was able to get a much more complete picture of my team.

Notre Dame is not the only school to assess emotional intelligence. Yale School of Management has also begun testing volunteer applicants in order to gather data on what traits will predict future success. Even University of Ottawa’s medical school applicants are now assessed for EQ qualities. I expect many more schools, business or otherwise, to follow suit.

At the very core of being Chief we discover that a Chief must not only dictate orders, make decisions, and put plans into action, but must also be the example. In order to achieve this, emotional intelligence is required. Fortunately, EQ can be learned. Not only will business schools be testing for emotional intelligence, but I’m sure they will also be teaching it in the years to come. I look forward to the positive results of these changes.

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Millennials—How We Can Help Them Save Us

Working with Chiefs across many industries today, I am struck by the consistency of the number one issue facing companies: how to unlock the potential of a changing workforce (namely, the Millennial Generation.) In its May 20th issue, Time Magazine writer Joel Stein offers his view of what he calls “The New Greatest Generation.” Joel concludes that Millennials will save us all. In my view and experience, we can make choices today to help them do it sooner rather than later.

According to sources like Forbes, Millennials will make up 36% of the US employee base next year, 50% by 2020, and 75% globally by 2030. Stein’s characterization of this group includes terms like business friendly, innovative, sharing, confident, and nice. This group has huge expectations, feels entitled to choices, and they are “going after what they want.” In short, Millennials offer plenty of potential. In my personal experience, concrete steps can be taken to unleash this potential. Here’s an example.

On February 1, 2000 I joined the Internet start-up Opus360 as President and Chief Operating Officer. Just one month later, NASDAQ peaked and the market began a slide that would wipe out 70% of its value. While many will remember that period as the time the market bubble burst, others will mark it as the first year the Millennials entered the workforce.

At Opus, a majority of our employees were Millennials. Thank goodness! There is no question that this group made many important contributions at a critical period in our young life as a company. In addition, the game plan we used to support this group worked particularly well and offers a potential blueprint for others. I call my five-part plan the All-In Roadmap.

Millennials Apply All-In Roadmap Elements

The roadmap starts with discipline, and Millennials have no problem with it. Although their methods of carrying out discipline may look different than those of past generations, at the end of the day Millennials get the job done.

Millennials crave support. They appreciate recognition and expect fair compensation. They need to know they can pave a path within their organization that allows them to do their best work. And when they deliver, commending their work will ensure continued successful collaboration.

They are very creative. Millennials are well equipped to think outside the box, and willing to act on their instincts: both critical when an organization is faced with new challenges.

They are insightful. As a group, Millennials are amazingly self-aware. They know what they want and are aggressive at pursuing it. Organizations that want to attract and retain these talented individuals need to involve them deeply, seek their feedback and act on it.

They support values-based organizations. Millennials seek meaning. It’s not all about money anymore. Millennials want to connect with organizations that stand for the same things they do.

The bottom line: Many Millennials are now ready to lead and the All-In Roadmap is the right tool for the right time. Good luck!

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Startups and Multinationals: Swapping Lessons

Why are startups so attractive and why do so many of them fail? Why do multinationals continue to expand yet find it a challenge to attract and retain the best talent? The answers to these questions may be found in lessons each can learn from the other.

Let’s start with startups. The author of Drive, Daniel Pink, would argue these young companies offer three key elements of motivation that help them attract talent.

First, startups offer autonomy. With few resources everyone has a key role and a divide-and-conquer mentality. People enjoy the ability to set their own plan and work it. They are clear on their individual scope and they enjoy it.

Second, start-ups offer a great opportunity for mastery. People love to learn new things and experience increased confidence as they improve in new areas.

Third, start-ups often begin with a strong sense of mission. Early employees are attracted to the thought of being part of something bigger than them.

In my experience, too many large companies miss the opportunity to focus on these important attributes. However, larger companies could keep these elements if they remained committed to decentralization wherever possible, continual employee education and training, and a focus on objectives beyond an all-consuming attention to the bottom line.

So where do the lessons go the other way? In my experience there are at least three areas where well-run multinationals have something to offer start-ups.

First, strong multinationals can handle complexity. While change is a constant everywhere, the ability to stay responsive to massive change is a learned behavior and requires a healthy dose of discipline.

Next, strong multinationals are excellent at planning and adjusting. They develop detailed plans with associated dashboards of metrics and measures, including leading indicators to let them know when plans need to be adjusted.

Finally, strong multinationals utilize a well-understood set of values that are consistently communicated to unify their workforce.

In my experience, start-ups can learn from these practices even though it is common to eschew anything that looks too “corporate.” However, startups could benefit if they remained committed to regularly scheduled planning sessions, accountability reviews, dashboards (with leading indicators), and an agreed-to set of values available for everyone to see.

Both the best startups and multinationals excel when they share a practice of encouraging leadership at all levels. By swapping these best practices, each could be more successful.

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Being Chief—What Does It Mean to Be Chief?

A new advertising campaign from IBM asserts that a successful CFO should be viewed as a Chief Future Officer. I smiled when I saw the ad because I thought businesses had exhausted all possible Chief Officer titles. Today, it seems most companies have shifted from various combinations of Vice President titles (VP, SVP, EVP) to Chief titles as a way to identify who is in charge. As companies named endless vice presidents in times past, lately it seems Chief titles are taking over.

This practice has not been limited to business. The same seems to hold true in government where one finds Chief titles of all makes and models, including Chief, Senior Chief, Deputy Chief, Administrative Chief, and Assistant Chief. Recently, I also noticed a shift to Chief titles outside the workforce altogether.

Specifically, a new Lincoln Financial Group advertising campaign advocates that everyone view themselves as a Chief Life Officer®. Their award-winning promotion resonates with a segment of the population that connects a title with authority. But with so many Chief titles out there, do we really know what it means to be Chief?

Thinking back to when I was growing up, I don’t remember hearing or reading the term “Chief” all that often. Certainly there was Commander-in-Chief, and closer to home there was the Chief of Police. (I also recall watching the original television portrayal of Superman where Jimmy Olson invariably referred to Perry White, editor of the fictional Daily Planet newspaper, as Chief.) The term was reserved for those who were in charge at the very top level.

I also remember the stories my Dad told us when he came home from work about what it really took to be Chief.

It’s a Matter of Choice

My Dad was a mid-level personnel manager (human resources) working at the only non-union machine tool shop in central Massachusetts. Dad would tell me and my brothers about grievances, pay and benefit issues, and his challenge of connecting the managers at Heald Machine to the workers so the company could grow. In twenty-seven years at Heald, there was never even a single union vote. Why? Because my Dad treated everyone with respect and led without any positional authority.

Dad taught me that being Chief had more to do with choice than title or level. I have benefited greatly throughout my career from the foundational lessons my Dad taught me.

In the first phase of my career, I worked in one organization at a time. Over thirty years, I served in many roles in five organizations in five different industries. Early on I found myself consistently thrust into turnaround situations. Later, I sought them out. Success in each was due in large part to a specific roadmap that I used to enable Chiefs at all levels to unlock their potential.

Five years ago, I made a personal decision to change my life-work balance. The nature of my turnaround assignments in phase one had taken a toll on the time I was able to spend with my wife Diane and our two children. As my oldest was entering high school, I decided not to pursue another big job until both kids graduated. I founded my own company, Choices & Success LLC, as part of phase two. I began working as a Chief, supporting a limited number of Chiefs in different organizations. It was rewarding to serve others who could use my roadmap and guidance to help them grow as their organizations grew.

BEING CHIEF—Taking It to the Next Phase

I am excited to announce the beginning of phase three with the launch of BEING CHIEF LLC. I will expand my service as a confidant and advisor, supporting select clients’ business and personal growth. In addition, I will be expanding my speaking schedule and my advocacy for Chiefs at all levels. The lessons that started with my Dad are now research-based, broadly road-tested and simplified to help Chiefs and companies grow. In 2014, my new book BEING CHIEF…the CHOICE is YOURS will be published to serve a larger audience.

As we build a community, I am grateful for the opportunity to engage with so many others who believe it’s not about title or level, but choice.

Thank you. I look forward to our continuing conversation.

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Return on Engagement: A New Metric that Matters

Forbes guest bloggers John Hagel, Suketu Gandhi, and Giovanni Rodriguez posted a great article on February 9 titled “The Empowered Employee is Coming; Is the World Ready?” I think the answer to their question is yes, but the key will be the ability for companies themselves to measure the return on their required investment. The authors make a compelling case for the empowered employee in exerpts quoted below. Next, I offer a real-life example of a company that made the choice to invest in their employees AND measured the R.O.E.—Return on Engagement. The results are compelling.

“Return on assets for public companies in the U.S. has collapsed by 75 percent since 1965. Businesses have largely responded to this pressure by focusing on the denominator side of the productivity equation – by squeezing out costs wherever possible. … Employees are viewed as costs.

But here’s the problem: focusing on the denominator of the productivity equation – the cost side – is a game in diminishing returns. Each additional increment of cost reduction is harder and harder to deliver. And yet the pressure continues to mount. What to do?

The key answer that defines the post-digital enterprise is to shift attention from the cost side to the value side. Rather than treating employees as cost items that need to be managed wherever possible, why not view them as assets capable of delivering ever increasing value to the marketplace? This is a profound shift in focus. For one thing, it moves us from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.”

Understandably, much of the business world wants to “see the numbers” before they switch its employee strategy from “minimize costs” to “increase value.” The good news is that examples of companies that are leading in this area exist. I had the pleasure of working with a just such a leading company for more than two years. This organization found success investing in employee engagement. It also has the metrics to prove its strategy worked. Here is a summary of the organization’s story:

After seven consecutive quarters “in the red,” senior leaders at this major financial organization decided to build employee engagement through a multi-faceted plan. The plan included a multi-year investment to increase employee value, and in 2009, the company strategically hired an experienced learning leader to spearhead a three-year effort to improve employee value. The organization also increased its training budget by 15 percent each year, resulting in revamped attitudes and increased employment engagement.

This particular financial organization also wanted to “see” the return for its investment. Here are a few of the selected “returns” announced internally at the end of 2011:

  • Engaged Branch employees converted 30 percent more customers to primary relationships.
  • Engaged Mortgage employees generated 38 percent more mortgages.
  • Engaged Private Wealth employees generated 48 percent more in investment sales.
  • Engaged Commercial Banking employees opened 49 percent more new primary relationships.
  • Engaged Business Banking employees generated 59 percent more revenue.

As a result of the success of the program, the company’s senior leaders tightened their belts in other areas to fund an amazing 300 percent increase in training support for 2012. They were sold on the return for their investment.

Today, there are many companies that include employee engagement as part of their strategic plan. Unfortunately, fewer companies have not made the choice to find the necessary funds and realize the increased value and potential of their employee base. Many organizations operate under the axiom: if it is important, you measure it. In this case, R.O.E. stands for Return on Engagement. As one prominent financial institution determined, it is an important new metric that matters.

source

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Start Your Turnaround Before the Crisis Hits!

Answering simple but important questions could make the difference between choosing a quick fix or a truly broad turnaround strategy before a crisis strikes.

With a fresh year upon us, business leaders would be well-served to review key indicators and determine whether even short term success may be hiding significant long term problems. It may be time for a turnaround plan, depending how you answer the following 10 questions:

  • Are you continually improving your margins?
  • Are you meeting profit objectives primarily by cutting expenses?
  • Are you growing below the market rate?
  • Are you managing your business quarter-by-quarter?
  • Are you regularly measuring customer satisfaction/loyalty?
  • Are you in demand at industry conferences?
  • Are you attracting top talent to your business?
  • Are you retaining your best people?
  • Are you expanding your community of partners faster than your competitors?
  • Are you improving communication with key suppliers?

If your organization cannot answer these questions, you have a choice to improve your management system in the New Year by including them in a new dashboard. If your answers to these questions raise some concern, they should. The good news is you

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can choose to create a turnaround plan before these critical leading indicators point to a real crisis.

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Follow a 7L Path for True Success

There is a commonly used phrase in our culture that appears on coffee cups, bumper stickers, and wall posters that is offered as a recipe for happiness and success in life’s journey. Specifically, Live, Love and Laugh, or the 3L’s, can be seen in homes and offices across our country. With today’s economic, political, and social challenges, these words of wisdom may seem a bit simplistic and optimistic to some, when they are in fact more important than ever.

With all the devices that keep us connected to the office 24/7, perhaps we need a reminder that a healthy life-work balance doesn’t necessarily start with work. Success is not burnout and living must be more than working. At the same

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time, a changing workforce expects more out of the work environment, just as companies expect more out of their workers. When employees love what they do, engagement and productivity both rise. Leaders at all levels need to raise the bar to create cultures where people excel, where hard work and laughter exist together.

And while I wholeheartedly agree Live Love and Laugh are incredibly important ingredients, I also think there is more to the recipe if the objective is true success.

In light of the number of people currently struggling and the severity of the challenges we are collectively facing, we need more. Specifically, we need to consider adding another 4L’s to the mix to truly create success. To the point, it’s time to consider a “7L Path.” It is time to also Listen, Learn and Lead with Light. Here’s how…

With all the differing viewpoints in the world, one might ask why so many people indicate that nobody speaks for them. Perhaps we all need to develop more trust in ourselves and Listen to own internal voice before we look to others for answers.

With all the different advancements in the world, one might ask why we have not discovered how to solve a large and constantly growing list of problems. Perhaps we all need to Learn to be much more open to new ideas and opinions.

With all the different experts in the world, one might ask why we have so few who are able to show the way for others. Perhaps we all need to exercise our own ability to Lead rather than look exclusively to others.

With all the different religions and spiritual practices that guide us united in their recognition of both a higher order and our inadequacies as human beings, one might ask why so many are so sure that “we” are always right and “they” are always wrong. Perhaps we all need to stay focused on the common Light of truth, respect, service, equality, and connection that unite us.

Live, Love, Laugh, Listen, Learn, Lead with Light. It may be too long for a bumper sticker or to fit on the side of a Grande coffee cup, but it is worth the time and effort. This path can guide all of us to true success in work and in life.

This blog is dedicated to my friend Louige.

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A Senior Leader’s Biggest Challenge

Senior leaders in organizations have never had easy jobs. Among lots other tasks, senior leaders are expected to envision, strategize, and plan tactics for their firms after they have thoroughly researched the market for their products/services. Assuming they have developed an appropriate financial plan for their enterprise and have continually updated their competitive profiles, they are also expected to flawlessly implement their plans and measure with quality and speed to produce predictable results. They are also accountable to align their teams by communicating direction throughout their organization where they need to be confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling (5 C’s). Taken together, these tasks can seem daunting. Yet, these may be the easiest parts of their job.

The toughest part of their job might be that while they are communicating with the 5 C’s, they also need to be truly open to input and opinions from virtually every stake owner in and around their organization. With today’s unprecedented pace and change, the most successful leaders may be those who can confidently set the direction for a group while intently listening to input from employees, customers, and partners for the changes they fully expect will come.

In Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf describes the approach required of the leader who truly understands that game-changing insight can come at anytime, from anyone. “One must make choices. Perhaps one chooses the same aim or hypothesis again and again. But is always with a fresh and open choice, and it is always under a shadow of doubt.” Leaders open to fresh perspectives are more likely make critical adjustments ahead of others.

Greenleaf also offers a perspective on how a leader can create true communication and engagement. He emphasizes both the exercise of authority and the inner quality of humility that characterize a true servant leader. With a commitment to serve first, a leader is more likely to truly listen. With an underlying belief in equality and respect for every individual, successful leaders appreciate the necessity to learn from anyone and everyone.

With the economic, political, social, and environmental challenges we are now facing, pressure to perform is higher than ever for leaders to perform. Senior leaders will always be looked to for future direction. Their due diligence and the quality of their strategies and plans will continue to be an important starting point for any enterprise. Senior leaders will continue to need to display confidence to their organizations. In light of today’s complexities and uncertainties, however, their long term success balance may hinge far more on the challenge of finding the right balance of confidence and the humility that comes with a healthy dose of doubt.

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All-In Leadership

No matter where you turn today, it seems that groups in both the public and private sector are facing tough tests. With the economic, political, social, and environmental challenges we are facing, blame games seem more common in government and business than ever before. More than ever, we need effective leadership to drive much needed change but it seems in short supply…or is it?

I contend we have plenty of leadership potential, but we are looking in the wrong direction. We need to stop looking “up” when we All should be looking In. All-In Leadership is a term I use to remind all of us about our individual choice to lead and how we can best approach this opportunity today.

My hope is that today’s events will serve as a wake-up call for us to choose to stop delegating leadership to others and step up to our opportunity to set a new direction, each in our own unique way. All-In Leadership also advocates we each make a complete commitment to this opportunity utilizing discipline, insight, support, and creativity.

Discipline starts with a vision we create for ourselves. Who are we and what do we stand for? It is followed by a strategy and plan to accomplish that vision. After we plan the work, we work the plan. Adjustments are anticipated along the way to deal with the unexpected turns in the road. While discipline doesn’t provide complete control, it improves the probability of reaching our vision.

Insight enables us to create a vision and a plan that “fits” us. With so many opinions and views constantly bombarding us “helping” us determine where and how to find success, we need to learn to hear our own voice among the noise. We can find that voice when we are focused, present, accepting, generous, and grateful.

The ability to support others effectively comes after we truly understand their needs. It starts by truly listening to understand and learn from everyone and every opportunity. It also includes questioning, inspiring, encouraging, enabling, and role modeling for others.

The power of our full creativity is unleashed when we connect what we do to who we are. Specifically, when we connect our internal creativity (feelings and thoughts) to our external creativity (our written and spoken words and our actions) we dramatically increase both our effectiveness and our positive influence over others.

All-In Leadership also requires courage. The serious challenges we face individually and collectively can feel daunting if they fall to only a few to solve. We need leadership from senior executives, group managers, and individual contributors. Together, our combined leadership capabilities and skills can make the difference. Why not start today?

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