Are people skills and people management skills the same thing? The question arises from a recent DPG blog that identifies “people skills” as the number one requirement for HR professionals to be outstanding, and explains this by saying. “HR spends so much time dealing with people and people issues, so good people management skills are essential.” This suggests they are, but it is definitely a premise worth challenging. In fact there are several things that bear challenging in all this.
Do you work in a dire workplace? The odds are that you do. At least according to Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. In an article entitled "Why we don't get the leaders we say we want” he proclaims, “The state of workplaces, not just in the U.S. but all over the world, can only be described as dire.”
Pfeffer justifies his claim by citing that, whatever research data you choose to follow, “The picture that emerges is consistent: mostly disengaged, dissatisfied, disaffected employees. Moreover, there is no evidence that things are getting better over time.” I am sure you also find this discouraging, even depressing. After all, it is tough to get up and go to work each day when you feel your workplace is “dire.” It make no difference whether you are at the lowest level of the organisation or the leader trying desperately trying to change the culture: the feeling is the same.
If, however, you are the leader, you will find scant comfort in the blame that Pfeffer attributes to leaders, or his testimony that “about one half of all leaders are failures in their roles,” and that “there is not a scintilla of evidence that more people in leadership roles are adhering to the many prescriptions offered.” The only relief you might find could lie in his explanations for this.
Far be it for me to say that leaders need to be better qualified, but I think there is undeniable merit in his case about the other two causes. Indeed I have myself previously written about how our preoccupation with measures. This is so strong that it has virtually come to be an obsession. Thus while Pfeffer is not wrong in identifying “bad measures” as one of the causes, what I think he has missed, is the relationship between bad measures and the not getting the leadership we say we want. He fails to adequately identify the fact that is the obsession with the bad measures that govern behaviour and that therefore prevents leaders from manifesting the qualities we say we are expecting. The truth is, those qualities still come second to “meeting the numbers.”
This means that there is nothing compelling leaders to adopt or consistently demonstrate the qualities being called for. We are actually placing our leaders in an untenable position where they can never embrace and consistently manifest them because they “have two masters.” This all boils down to what I have called “The Great Management Paradox:” the convention of calling people assets but persisting in accounting for, managing them and treating them purely as costs.
As I have written before, “A leader is someone who inspires people to want the same thing that they want.” The only way you can consistently do this within an organisation, is to make the employees owners with a stake in in its results. And, in order to do this effectively, you have to stop treating people as an expendable resource and demonstrate that they have a value and that value rises and falls according to the contribution they make to the organisation. And I still have not encountered anything delivers both of these requirements, as my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model does.
So, if you truly want to be an effective leader, you should contact me now to find out more.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”
This week, in asking the question, "Do your leaders coach?" Steve Roesler wrote one of the best blogs I have read for a long time. It is a perfect example of effective coaching in itself; simple, thought-provoking and instructive without being prescriptive.
However, it begs the further question: “Who are your leaders?” For, before you can answer, you need to identify who your leaders are. If you agree with Steve that, “Regardless of the job title, if we're responsible for how other people perform then we're responsible for how they learn to perform even better,” you will immediately perceive two additional things:
Performance reviews remain in the news. Last week I wrote about Accenture’s abandoning them, but this week came the even more shattering news that GE – the bastion of the “rank and yank” – is also killing annual performance reviews. This seems to be good news for most managers and employees alike. You need, however, to ask, “What precisely is being killed?”
There are two possible interpretations here. One is that it is annual performance reviews that are being ditched and the other that it is performance reviews that are being discarded. You will readily appreciate that there is a significant difference. So let me ask you, if you had to decide this instant, which option would you choose?
A Google search on “people assets” yielded 664 million results! That is very nearly two thirds of a billion. Mind-boggling! (As is the fact that these results were yielded in 0.36 seconds, less than half a second!) Clearly it is a topic that a lot of people think about and even talk about: I would be a very wealthy man if I had received a pound every time I heard the expression “People are our greatest asset.”
Despite this, the very first page seems to challenge this. Three of the first five results are either questioning or denying the statement. The fifth result actually links to a December 2011 article in the august Harvard Business Review titled “People are not your greatest asset.” Hopefully your response to that is the same as mine: “Then try running your organisation without people!”
Moving beyond the headline (and a first paragraph that claims people can actually be liabilities,) the authors acknowledge the importance of people. They go on to claim that an organisation’s greatest asset is actually “how you empower people.” This makes the headline seem little more than an attention grabber. And while it may be a good one, and the article’s points sound, it can still be harmful.
The other day I had an epiphany! I was watching a Matthieu Ricard TED Talk on “The Habits of Happiness” and was struck by his equating happiness with well-being. I suddenly realised that happiness is not an elusive emotional sense but actually a situation of satisfaction. I liked that idea because it made happiness somehow less fleeting and transient.
Ricard claims “authentic happiness can only come from the long-term cultivation of wisdom, altruism and compassion.” (My emphasis) Reflecting on this brought back a childhood memory. As a young boy of about eight I heard my parents complain that the carpet was dirty. So I decided that I would surprise them and clean it. Thus the next day when they went off to work, I managed to roll it up, take it outside and wash it.
Flavour of the past week has undoubtedly be the question of ethics. Editorial comments have abounded and most, if not all, the newsletters I have received have been on the subject. Of course this follows all the news about FIFA and “Septic Blatter,” as one newspaper cleverly identified its infamous head.
These events seem to have evoked universal concern about a decline in moral standards and ethics, with many commentators evoking the fines being levied on the banks and financial services industry to support the argument. Yet you have to wonder how deep this concern really flows. After all, reports about corruption in FIFA have been circulating for years and been corroborated by journalistic investigations and exposés going back several years.
In my last blog, I made a strong case for the need to increase the Return on Training (ROT) and why it is important for your organisation that you do so. Now I want to give you a recipe that will deliver this and provide a framework for a significant, and sustainable, transformation of your performance.
“It is always the first thing to be cut.” How often have you heard that? HR professionals seem to universally agree that, whenever times are tough or things get difficult, training is the first casualty in a war to reduce costs. Yet management would not be so willing to eliminate training if they knew it provided a worthwhile return on investment.
So why don’t they know?
It is time for the HR profession to stop passively accepting this management mind set as “a fact of life”; consider the unthinkable and ask whether this might actually be their fault. If nothing else, moving beyond the “unfeeling management doesn’t understand” rationalisation for things should be a catalyst for progress. After all, if management holds the power and is focused exclusively on the bottom line, the way to prevent reflex training cuts is to convince them such cuts negatively impact their results.
“Leadership isn’t a popularity contest.” That was the headline of a newsletter I received this week. The opening paragraph went a little further. It stated, “Leadership isn’t a popularity contest … it’s about doing the RIGHT thing rather than the popular thing.”
What do you think – would you agree?
As I reflected on it, I came to the conclusion that the writer’s argument was contradictory and flawed.