Human Capital

Turbo-Charging Transformation & Performance Improvement

Turbo-charger www.123rf.com_37618271_sIt is encouraging to know that employee ownership is becoming increasingly popular and more widespread. According to Chief Executive Magazine the number of worker-owned businesses in the US is growing around 6% per year and such businesses now account for 12% of the private sector workforce. Apparently, this is due to initiatives “to empower their workforce employees by selling their stock to an ESOP or similar worker-owned arrangement” and/or “from founders wishing to reward employees while cashing out of their business.”   

Yet, notwithstanding such developments, difficulties remain. The article identifies 2 major dilemmas:

  1. Private companies lack the public trading capability that listed companies use to motivate employees;
  2. Governance “challenges” if subsequent owners are unwilling to continue running the business.

Then, presumably as solutions to these dilemmas, the article offers two case studies. The first describes the transformation effected by a shared compensation system at Johnsonville Sausages; and the second reveals how, over 30 years,  Burns and McDonnell, grew from 600 to 5,500 employees (816%) and increased revenues from $40 million to $2.6 billion (6400%) as the result of an ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan.) Then, despite this example of extraordinary growth that most organisations can only dream about, the article simply concludes by identifying the upside and downside of ESOPs. So let me add to the subject.

Continue reading "Turbo-Charging Transformation & Performance Improvement" »


No Mas! It’s Time to Make a Stand!

No More 123rf.com_23101498_sYou could count all the words of Spanish I know on one hand, but “No Mas!” is a phrase I remember well (thanks to an historical boxing match last century.)  But it took on a new relevance this past week.

This stemmed from a TED talk, “How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings” in which David Grady coins the phrase “Mindless Acceptance Syndrome” or “MAS.” As you might expect from the talk title, he is referring here to an unthinking acceptance of attendance at meetings, something he definitely sees as needing to stop.  If, like most people, your life is plagued by meetings, you will find it worth the less than 7 minutes investment of your time.  For me, though, it had a deeper significance than just meetings.

There were two primary, ultimately inextricably linked, reasons for this.

Continue reading "No Mas! It’s Time to Make a Stand!" »


The Great Training Robbery

Robbery 123rf.com 53073401_sMuch as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!  

Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.  

Continue reading "The Great Training Robbery" »


Engendering & Embedding Engagement for a High-Performance Culture

Own worst enemy 123rf.com 60747082_s

It often seems that people stand in the way of their own success. They get so focused on whatever they are trying to achieve that their thinking becomes habit, they fail to see, let alone consider, other options and their thought patterns and consequent behaviours become shackles. This inevitably limits outcomes and inhibits their own success. That is why there is more than a little validity to the old cliché, “You are your own worst enemy.” It takes an outsider to identify their issues, and even then they may not always change.

So perhaps, rather than a cliché,  we should consider it as a statement of fact. Doing so immediately makes it universal and demands remedial action. Particularly if you recognise the implication that it also applies to any CEO or business leader! Then you are compelled to take a closer look at yourself and your role, and ask yourself, “How am I impeding my success and that of my organisation or team?”  

Opening yourself up to this possibility is only the beginning. It does not provide any answers in and of itself. Furthermore every situation is unique and different which makes it unlikely that there is a single solution. Yet, much of our rigid thinking is the result of inadvertent acceptance of collective thought, whether it is called ‘conventional wisdom’ or whether it is simply unconscious influence. Recognising that provides a good starting point in the quest for solutions, not least because it suggests that your issues might not be as unique as you think.

Let me illustrate what I am getting at.

Continue reading "Engendering & Embedding Engagement for a High-Performance Culture" »


Truth, Trust & True Leadership

Blame 123rf.com 56142883_s“At any level of management, you took the job knowing that the role put you in charge and on the hot seat for every success and failure on the team — no exceptions.” Those words from Liz Ryan pack a powerful punch and certainly grabbed my attention. I don’t know whether you will agree or not, and in any case you need to read the whole article “Stop Blaming Your Employees for Your Leadership Mistakes” to appreciate all the lady is saying. I do hope, however, that you will agree it is food for thought.

That is definitely the case with her later line that “If you blame people for your stumbles, you won’t see your own part in the incident.” This had me wondering whether a failure to understand this is perhaps the root cause of the science-practitioner gap in leadership that I described in my last blog.  With trust increasingly becoming a major topic in management and leadership circles this is definitely a question worth following up.  

Continue reading "Truth, Trust & True Leadership " »


How to Improve Real-World Leadership Practice

“The science of leadership is well established.” So says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London. This premise enables him to conclude, “There is no real need to advance it in order to improve real-world practices. We should focus instead on applying what we already know, and ignoring what we think we know that isn’t true.”  (“What Science Tells Us About Leadership Potential”, taken from HBR.)  

That makes it sound so simple. Would that it were so! Given the professor’s own statements that, “Its key studies are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders” and “This science-practitioner gap explains our disappointing state of affairs”, we appear to have a major problem.

Several questions spring instantly to mind.

Continue reading "How to Improve Real-World Leadership Practice" »


Avoid the Unfortunate Consequences of The People Paradox

Have you ever heard of The People Paradox? I hadn’t either, although I was well aware of Lord Acton’s famous quote that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Well, apparently that’s not just a bon mot: power does corrupt. Certainly according to research cited in the HBR.

Double standards_000019802064XSmall

Continue reading "Avoid the Unfortunate Consequences of The People Paradox" »


Human Governance: Golden Rule or Platinum?


Weighing things up 123rf.com_17770089_s
Last week I wrote about The Golden and Platinum Rules in the context of Customer Experience. Today I want to discuss them in the broader context of human relations before, once again, narrowing the perspective and looking specifically at their role in the workplace. But, first let’s ensure a common starting point.

Continue reading "Human Governance: Golden Rule or Platinum?" »


Customer Experience: Golden Rule or Platinum

For some time now, I have been aware of the Platinum Rule. I have, however, remained sceptical and largely ignored it. After all, the Golden Rule has worked for the human race for millennia and underpinned much of what has been good. I don’t see how it can suddenly become invalid. But that is not enough: it is simply resistance to change. Finding out whether my doubts are justified requires a closer look.

Continue reading "Customer Experience: Golden Rule or Platinum" »


A Better Way than Worker Cooperatives and ESOPs

I have recently noticed a spate of material on the subject of worker cooperatives. The most interesting was the Forbes article “For Some, Worker Cooperatives Emerge As An Alternative To ESOPs” which made me wonder if worker cooperatives were a new trend.  If so, it certainly provides food for thought.  

The article suggests that worker cooperatives are a result of changing demographics and a means of addressing the disruptive effects of generational change. Perhaps, but their providing a solution for only “some” implies that ESOPs (Employee Share Ownership Programmes) are the only other option. While history certainly entitles both to be options, being the only two suggests rather limited thinking. After all, both have their shortcomings, which – at the very least – warrants exploring other possibilities.  

Continue reading "A Better Way than Worker Cooperatives and ESOPs" »