Current Affairs

Good versus Bad Bosses – Why Retention is the Wrong Measure

You might be surprised. I was. I had come to accept the idea that people quit their jobs primarily because of bad bosses. Yet, according to a recent report in Harvard Business Review, this appears questionable. As a result I found myself wondering why I had been lulled into such lazy conformity.  

We all intuitively know that there are any number of reasons why people switch jobs, varying from such things as more money or a promotion (better status), to a new location or simply an easier commute offering more family time. This is simply evidence of that. That is why I am not sure I agree with my friend Alex Kjerulf when he says it is too soon to draw the conclusion that “leadership does not get retention.”

That is not to say that leadership is not a factor in retention. Certainly the fact that you do not like or get on with your boss will make a decision to leave more likely, but whether it is a primary motivator or not is debatable. Let me explain.  

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Transforming Human Resources

You likely heard the news late last week that the Shell share price rose 7% in response to the news that the company was cutting 10,000 jobs. So, what was your reaction?

I wager it hardly made any impression on you. Yet that report encapsulates the pervasive attitude that people are simply a resource, and reinforces my case that the HR profession needs to change its approach. Let’s take a look how it could go about this.

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Why you, unwittingly, may be just going through the motions

Necessity 50123277_s

Have we got it wrong?  

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That is the old adage that we all grew up with. (The picture shows just how old!) And like me you have probably never challenged it. But is it valid? Recently I have been compelled to question this.

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Holiday wishes

It is that time of the year to take a break from business and the serious aspects of business and running a successful organisation and focus on things that are just as - and possibly even more - important. Accordingly, I take this opportunity to wish you and yours everything you wish yourself for the holidays and the coming New Year. May it see the fulfillment of them all.

Happy Holidays

I look forward to your company again in the New Year.


Legally right or morally right?

Cruise ship 41666596_sI don’t know why. It is not a column I normally read. But somehow my eye was drawn to the report of a man who booked a cruise 18 months ahead, paying a significant (+/-20%, four figure) deposit. Unfortunately he suddenly died a few weeks later. So his daughter asked for this money to be refunded. Her request was refused. The managing director of the cruise company, no less, wrote to her saying, “With our guest demographic, we are all too regularly presented with requests for refund payments due to illness or a sad loss, all of which should be claimed by travel insurance.”

I struggled with this. The whole scenario suggested that the company puts revenue before customer experience. With the MD’s own words indicating that the “guest demographic” makes this a regular occurrence, you have to ask how much of the company’s profits result from this dubious practice of deriving revenue without providing any correlative service. Such justification seems unethical or morally bankrupt. It seems to illustrate a fine line between legal and ‘legitimate’: the decision may have been legitimate but was it is legal? I needed to think more.  

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Emissions, Ethics and HR

As the world gets to grips with the fallout from “Dieselgate” I was amazed to learn that 74% of respondents to a CIPD poll agreed that, “HR should play an active role in building an ethical culture.” Even making allowances for an almost exclusive survey population of HR professionals this seems surprising. One can only assume that they failed to recognise the corollary which is, that in the event of a major ethical failure such as the one that has come to light at Volkswagen, HR would have to be held accountable.  I am sure they wouldn’t like that!

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‘People’s Companies’ would make a moral difference

“We made a mistake.” That was the Volkswagen dealer’s answer when I asked him about the emissions testing exposé. Would you buy that?

Volkswagen is a good example of how quickly a reputation that has taken years to build can be damaged or destroyed. Yet Volkswagen may be better equipped to recover than most organisations. After all the company’s origins lie in Adolf Hitler’s pet “people’s car” project. On top of that, despite the scale of the problem, right now reaction to the revelation appears to vary from outrage to nonchalance, with the latter suggesting that the cause is not lost. It will be interesting to see just how damaging the revelations ultimately prove.

The dealer’s response suggests that remedial efforts are well under way and that a clear and consistent message is being told. Yet I would question the term “mistake.” For me a mistake is something that is either inadvertent or the result of a wrong choice. How much of what happened was a choice?

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A simple solution for transforming a ‘dire workplace’

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.

From dire to engaged

So, if you truly want to be an effective leader, you should contact me now to find out more.  

Bay Jordan

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.”


A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.”  This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal.  But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.

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Kill the Performance Review

Death_000013987544XSmallPerformance 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?

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