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July 2012

Beyond Motivation: The 3 key elements of 21st century management & how to embed them

For several weeks I have been involved in and following conversations on LinkedIn about motivating employees and accountability. Judging from the number of contributions these are hot topics and cause serious concern.

They also seem to be subjects that cause some confusion.

Fill the VoidPersonally, I find it very disturbing that there are people who continue to think that it is a manager’s responsibility to motivate his employees and so are looking for a magic formula to deliver this. I would have thought there was more than enough evidence that motivation is innate and therefore requires intrinsic rather extrinsic stimulation. Of course, this means a manager’s role is to inspire and enable rather than to motivate. Unfortunately the vestiges of old school management with its command and control style seem very hard to shake off.

It was therefore a great pleasure this morning to once again listen to Dan Pink. Man, he does talk sense!

Of course it is always easier to think someone yet is talking sense when what they say mirrors much of your own thinking. But Pink supports what he says with empirical evidence.

Thus when he says, “there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does” you have to listen. It is a real rallying call.

When he cites the 2009 London School of Economics study that “we find financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance” he demolishes the entire case for incentivising people and the performance related pay ethos that has done so much to destroy the economy. However, he does not leave it there: he also gives you the new scientific framework, which is built on three elements:-
•    Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives;
•    Mastery – the desire to get better and better; and
•    Purpose – the desire to do what you do in the service of something bigger than yourself.

You shouldn’t find this at all surprising. After all, if you think about it, this is simply embracing more of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

And you don’t have to look very far to find out how to go about creating this. The framework that I have developed for employee ownership fills the gap identified in the illustration above from my book, "Lean Organisations Need FAT People." It offers all three in so far as:-
•    Employee ownership creates a greater link between your personal and organisational life and so encourages greater autonomy.
•    The goal of optimising your asset value to increase your stake in the business inspires you to better yourself and thus aligns the desire for personal mastery with the organisational equivalent – continuous improvement.
•    The stake in the organisation engenders a greater sense of what the business is all about and so creates the sense of purpose for the business and hence builds the shared values that embed the sense of purpose that delivers an enhanced customer experience.   

Can you not just imagine how this would transform your business and its performance and results? There is no magic formula but this could be the closest thing. So what are you waiting for?

Breaking the vicious cycle of distrust

How important is trust to you? 

Trust 3No relationship where trust is undermined, destroyed or non-existent is a healthy relationship. Distrust is a vicious circle that ultimately destroys any relationship. Consequently I would imagine that you consider it very important.

So what about at work? Is there an environment of trust in your workplace?

It would appear that this is unlikely. A recent survey has found that only 36% of employees trust their senior managers. In light of the spate of recent corporate scandals perhaps the only surprising thing about this conclusion is that the number is so high. But joking aside, this is a serious indictment of the workplace. How can you expect people to give of their best: to be engaged enough to be enthusiastic, enterprising and energetic in their work if they do not trust the people they are working for?

And the irony of trust is that it is easier to create than repair. Once trust is broken, it takes a monumental effort to rebuild. Clearly then it is better not to lose it in the first place.

So how do you stack up against this statistic? How sure are you that you have your people’s trust? And what makes you so sure that you do have it? The fact is that even if you think you do, the odds are 2:1 against you that you don’t! Consequently, like it or not, you need to make sure, and be prepared to put in that effort if either you don’t know, or you know that you don’t. It is a daunting prospect, and you can hardly be blamed if you don’t know where to begin.

Well, let me try to help you.

One of the key characteristics of trust is that it is inherently reciprocal. Thus, while there are no guarantees, you have to give it in the first place. And that might just help you get to the root of the problem. How much do you trust your people?

If you think about it, from the time you first put on your management hat, you have been taught that you are responsible for safeguarding shareholders' interests. In order to meet this objective, you have learned that you are responsible for ensuring that there are proper, adequate controls in place. And thus you have been measured on the effectiveness of your controls and how effectively you enforce them. In turn that has translated into ensuring that people do what you tell them, following the processes you lay down and then being assessed for their performance in doing so.

The problem with this command and control approach is that it implicitly broadcasts the message that you do not trust your people. Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing influencing others. It is the only thing.” So here you have a situation in which your example tells your people that you don’t trust them. Is it any wonder then that your employees don’t trust you either? Distrust is once again simply the reflection of your own thoughts, behaviours and expectations.

So how do you overcome this? And, more importantly, how do you overcome it without putting the overall organisation at risk? 

The answer is obvious: you have to give your employees a stake in the business! By making your employees co-owners of the business, you create a common purpose with one single stroke. You start to eradicate the historic sense of them versus us and you build an environment where everyone is working to the same end and trust becomes imperative. Of course you still have to demonstrate your trustworthiness, and so does everyone else working there. But at least you have a framework for it; a framework which allows you to create an organisational culture in which organisational purpose, readiness for change and continuous improvement are embedded in engaged employees and where results will transcend anything you currently achieve.

Even if you have a workplace where trust abounds, greater employee ownership will cement this vital ingredient for sustained business success. Can you really afford to be without it?        

Amazing snowflakes or high potentials

Don’t you just love it when you come across someone who is truly inspiring?

I was fortunate to meet someone like this recently. His open attitude was shaped by a philosophy that “People are amazing” and the conviction that this applies to each and every person he meets. After listening to several inspiring stories about how this attitude had shaped his life, I learned that it was sparked by his mother, who had always said that “People are like snowflakes – no two are alike!”

Snowfall_1Now I don’t know about you but that’s an image that resonates with me. It’s something I think about whenever I see snow – in life or in films. I find it mind-boggling to think that every single white blob is actually a beautiful, perfectly- formed, geometric miracle and totally unique. No two are alike. It seems so hard to believe and you start to think, “It’s impossible! How can that be true? Have they examined every single snowflake to prove it?”  Yet there are many more examples of this phenomenon. You only have to think of the fact that that there are 7 billion people on this earth and each and every one has a unique fingerprint and a unique retina, to get a glimpse of how remarkable life is.

And of course if our fingerprints and eyeballs are all totally unique doesn’t it follow quite naturally that our whole being has to be too?

It is amazing. And therefore it makes every single one of us amazing.  

Unfortunately we all too often lose sight of this. We try to lump people into homogenous categories in the same way that a snow-plough speeds along the road blowing the snow into mounds. That is the way of management.

There are, however, hints that things are changing. One sign of this is the growing attention being focused on talent management. Certainly you would think that the recognition of the fact that organisational success hangs on the way you manage your talent is indicative of a wider recognition of this uniqueness. But does it?

It would seem that the whole science/art of talent management is driven by the desire to identify the people who will make the biggest difference and help ensure organisational success. Of course the competitive nature of business suggests that there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Any organisation relies on its people and the better the people perform the better the organisation will do. Continuous improvement by its very nature implies the improvement of people and people performance.
Unfortunately the focus and effort inevitably shifts to the high-potential people or the ‘high-pots’ as they are called. These are defined as the people “with the ability to succeed in senior level positions.”

Unfortunately, this creates the risk of developing a two-tier employee structure or employee management system – high-pots and others. It overlooks the fact that success is a team effort and is equally dependent on the ‘others’ fulfilling their roles by optimising their talent. Just as Roger Federer could not have won his 7th Wimbledon title without the help of his physiotherapist when he suffered those back problems earlier in the tournament, so too your organisation depends on everyone pulling their weight to the best of their individual talent.

So the question your need to ask yourself is, “Am I recognising the talent of all my amazing people or am I in danger of focussing too much attention, effort and resource on my high-pots?” True talent management means focussing on everyone and all their talents. That way you will recognise how amazing all your people are and inevitably get the best from them. And at the same time, you will automatically look after your ‘high-pots’ in the manner you ought. Not only will they benefit, but they will also have an environment and culture of employee engagement in which they can be the leaders you expect them to be. On the other hand, if you don’t, you will risk losing them and your investment when they move on to an environment where they will be more likely to achieve more.

It’s a funny thing, but people are inspired to be amazing when they feel others view them in that light. I know I did. Thank you, Tim! 

Change from within the system

Business will have at least as much potential as government to meet society’s challenges.

That is the opinion of 86% of the respondents in a worldwide survey of 1000 recent millennial recruits in consulting firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Surprising? Possibly not considering the extent to which recent scandals highlight the fact that big business and particularly the banks appear to run rings around government. (Personally I would be inclined to worry about the calibre of the other 14%!)

Employee Engagement iStock_000004933240SmallIn any event this is interpreted by Barry Salzberg, the firm’s global CEO, to mean that “tomorrow’s leaders are telling us that they believe they can actually change the world, fiscally and socially — operating within the system.”  Furthermore he claims, “They want to play a part personally, not just in pro bono work but through the work they do every day.”

Would you agree with this? Personally, I wouldn’t doubt it. However, this also shows to what extent employees want to be engaged in their work, and thus is an awful indictment of the fact employee engagement is such a concern for today’s business leaders.

Certainly, in order to ensure the kind of trust that Mr Salzberg identifies as being a pre-requisite for the workforce of the future, it is essential to change the operating model of the way organistaions work. That is why I am so persistent in promoting my employee ownership model. What better way is there for creating shared values? It certainly makes the workplace more democratic and, if you want a truly democratic society, you have to have a more democratic workplace.

A more democratic workplace, however, does not mean a workplace where chaos reigns supreme because everyone is equal. It simply means an environment where people are able to fulfil their talent, maximise their potential, do what they do best and feel that they are making a difference and where they are properly appreciated for what they do. Isn’t that what true talent management is? It certainly doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, does it?

Reversing the Moral Collapse

Reverse MB900432686They’re coming thick and fast, aren’t they? 

First we had the “Cash for questions” scandal. Then we had the parliamentary expenses scandal. Then we had the “News of the World” hacking scandal. And somewhere amongst them all we had the great banking crisis. The crises have followed so quickly on one another’s heels that they have caused time to merge and it is now almost impossible, without a rumble through past newspapers, to remember when they all took place. 

Now, notwithstanding that it is only 4 years since the near total collapse of the financial services industry, we seem to be witnessing a second great banking crisis. The £290 ($450) million fine imposed on Barclays Bank this past week appears to be only the first of a number of such fines being imposed on leading banks for manipulating the LIBOR inter-bank lending rate, and indicates that industry is still far from being soundly run.

Yet, while the fallout from this latest crisis has yet to become apparent, its place at the end of a whole sequence of scandals makes it clear that we face more than just a crisis of corporate governance in the banking industry. When juxtaposed with the 2010 riots and the anarchy of unadulterated looting that took place in conjunction with the riots, it is self-evident that we are faced with a society that is losing/has lost its moral compass. From top to bottom it seems that we no longer have the moral constraints that have hitherto shielded us from such widespread exploitation and its consequences.

No matter what you attribute this decline to – and I am sure there will be many different theories and explanations – I would suggest that it is indicative of too much power being concentrated in the hands of too few and a consequent sense of arrogance, immunity and impunity. Of course this is not historically unprecedented, but in order to create the necessary counter-balances we need to dilute this power.

How can you do this? You will not be surprised to learn that I believe it can be relatively easily done by creating greater employee ownership.

Of course there is no guarantee that a powerful leader could not still corrupt an organisation, but I would suggest that with greater empowerment and clearer organisational alignment around more democratic operations and clearly defined organisational values, with explicit ethical and moral guidelines and whistle-blowing safeguards, it would be more unlikely as there will always be someone who would be prepared to stand up for what is right.

As you probably know, this is a cause I have been championing for some time now. But it strikes me that my model of employee ownership does offer an ideal solution. And hopefully there will now be a few more people who agree with me, and who are prepared to give it a try.