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Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Personal Leadership Should Focus On Team Success First

Everyone has the responsibility to demonstrate personal leadership. When interacting with others, every communication tells a story of what you value, and it’s critical to model the right behaviors

Here are a few characteristics of an engaging team environment. Ask yourself how you can personally role model these characteristics with your colleagues:

1. Clear goals and commitment to team goals. How will I demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to solving challenges as a team?

2. Accountability to the team. How will I demonstrate that I am personally invested and responsible to the team?

3. Supportive climate and behaviors. How will I acknowledge and complement other team members for their creativity and achievements?

4. Mutual trust and respect. How will I openly share my own strengths, opportunities, and best practices?  Volunteer for more peer to peer sessions.

5. Results focus. How will I reward and celebrate the achievement of specific personal and team goals?

6. Good communication and constructive conflict. How will I engage in open and passionate debate of ideas and opinions, respecting others POV and embracing diversity of viewpoints?

I am privileged to work on the Macmillan Higher Education Inside Sales team where all of these behaviors are already evident.  It’s incumbent on me to increase and enhance my level of contribution as I gain competency and trust with the team.

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A Persuasion Technique that is Simple and Successful

PersausionThe most important value I bring to every interaction is respect for the individual. With that as a guide, I suggest this technique, supported by multiple studies on thousands of people, and it’s the easiest, most practical persuasion technique available. Try the ‘But You Are Free’ (BYAF) technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose. By reaffirming their freedom you are indirectly saying to them that they have an easy out to say no. They have free choice.

A recent review of the 42 psychology studies carried out on this technique has shown that it is highly effective. (Carpenter, 2013). Over 22,000 people have been tested by researchers and the studies found it doubled the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to the request. People have been shown to donate more too good causes, agree more readily to a survey and give more to someone asking for a bus fare home.
The exact words used are not especially important. What is important is that the request is made face-to-face: the power of the technique drops off otherwise. Even over email, though, it does still have an effect, although it is somewhat reduced.

The BYAF technique is so simple and amenable that it can easily be used in conjunction with other approaches. It also underlines the fact that people hate to be hemmed in or have their choices reduced. We seem to react against this attempt to limit us by becoming more closed-minded. The BYAF technique, as with any good method of persuasion, is about helping other people come to the decision you want through their own free will. If they have other options, like simply walking away, and start to feel corralled, then you can wave them goodbye.
On the other hand, respecting people’s autonomy has the happy side-effect of making them more open to persuasion. You can look good and be more likely to get what you want. It’s all about respect for the individual with the intent of team centric collaboration.

 

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Virtual Work Place of the Now

Virtual Work Place of the Now

Social media provides instant feedback.  If you struggle with that thought, toss something controversial on Twitter and see how quickly it gets re-tweeted.  The virtual workforce is more aligned with Social Media behaviors and requires and demands immediate feedback to advance the goals of the organization.  Performance appraisals that are now performed on a semi-annual or annual cycle are outdated.  You should be getting performance feedback every day in our ultra-connected virtual world.

When working virtually, most communication is work centric transactional without the emotional investment of social and non-verbal feedback.  The imperative of feedback is critical to keep progress towards objectives aligned.  It is equally critical to allow more prudent risk taking.  Consider the role of the waiter in a restaurant.  The server receives instantaneous feedback on their “performance” through customer interactions and the compensation feedback through the tip at the end of the meal.  Presentation style, fluency of the menu, and checking for feedback during the meal together provide a table by table appraisal for the server.  How does this fit into our virtual meeting and conference call process of today? Do you get regular and immediate feedback from virtual meetings or conference calls?  If not, what might not happen that can propel the team forward to meeting and exceeding their goals?

Virtual work can attenuate risk since the physical feedback of facial expression and body language can’t be assessed to determine whether the risk is additive or aggravating to the process.  For the majority of the less courageous and politically insecure workforce, risk will be averted in the virtual workplace.  Consider how much quicker and more creative a result can be achieved when risk inviting processes are part of the decision process.

There are ways to mitigate this challenge. One advantage of the virtual workplace is less time spent commuting.  In my case, my commute consists of descending a flight of stairs and crisscrossing a busy kitchen to get to my home office.  How best to spend this found time?  Set aside time each day to invest in the relationships with those you need to collaborate with.  Schedule time with someone you don’t know well or is new to the team and spend 10-15 minutes to get to know them as a person, not just a work colleague.  Learn about their backgrounds and experiences.  Ask them what they enjoy most about the work problem and what they find the most challenging or frustrating.  Share the same with them such that each of you understands better how to partner in the virtual work place.

Special attention should be directed to those that participate at a minimum level.  Are they not challenged in their role?  Are they bored?  Do they feel they are an outsider to the team?  Not knowing the answers puts their contribution at risk.  Spending 10-15 minutes understanding their concerns could provide many hours of positive ROI for that small time investment.

By now I hope you see my theme.  Virtual work places will become the norm.  If we do not invest in building the emotional cultural fabric that exists by default in the physical work place, the results will be pedestrian and the euphoria of celebrating as a team will be non-existent or disingenuous at best.  Virtual work is harder and challenging as it demands purposeful reaching out to build the pathways to relationships necessary for organizational success.

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EthiCorVigilance and Integriology Create an Ethical Culture and Employee Engagement

A Podcast of this blog post is available at http://bit.ly/nHlVzO

In a previous blog, Hello, I Must be Going – Employee Engagement in a Recovering Economy, I suggested some ways that management could enhance employee engagement. That discussion was focused on retention of employees that drive the success of the firm. The short list included communicating the company’s strategy and goals, developing a sense of community, recognition, and supported development plans. Click on the link above for a more detailed discussion of these topics.

EthiCorVigilance and Integriology (ECV&I) or Ethical Corporate Vigilance and Integriology (my term – study of integrity) is the practice and processes necessary to not just retain top performers; it is the defining set of ethics and values that gains the maximum benefit from these employees. Engaged employees recommend their company to friends and family and take pride in working there. They are willing to go the extra mile for their organization, making it possible for the company to do more with less. They can be counted on to make independent decisions and take action in ways that are consistent with the company’s culture, objectives, and values. They require less supervision and direction and adapt easily to changing roles and responsibilities. Employee engagement can be linked to observation of the company’s commitment to Ethical behaviors and demonstrated processes that support Ethical conduct.

In a 2009 National Business Ethics Survey from the Ethics Resource Center and the Hay Group, a key finding showed that “positive perceptions of an organization’s ethical culture are associated with higher levels of engagement. Furthermore, management’s commitment to ethics is particularly important for employee engagement”. Their key takeaway was “given the profound connection between a com¬pany’s ethical culture and employee engage¬ment, managers should work actively to demonstrate a commitment to ethics, foster open communication, promote ethical role modeling, and encourage accountability.”

Ethics are central to situations where “the right thing to do” is in question, and the outcome of the decision affects many people including employees and customers. Identifying the “right thing” is often a complex challenge that in¬volves identifying conflicting responsibilities to a wide range of stakeholders. Challenging every employee to act as ethicists and keep the company’s core values in sight provides an opportunity for each employee to see their contribution in the larger picture of the company’s public profile and brand in the marketplace. As each person experiences their unique contribution to building the company brand through ethical and value driven behaviors, employee engagement is amplified.

Some questions that every organization should grapple with are

1. Can every employee identify one or more key executives who have proven to uphold the company values?

2. Does the company have the right values in place to guide them in a difficult situation or crisis?

3. Will the company be proud of their core values if exposed to a critical public, government agency, or customer segment?

4. Which values will the extended stakeholders of the company expect in challenging or crisis situations?

It’s not enough to talk about “company culture” when a firm says that their culture is a defining competitive advantage. The company must come forth with their value statements, articulated by senior executives and board members. It must be instilled in every manager and employee through training and measurement of adherence to ethical and value driven behaviors. The growing power of social media, which provides a platform for employees to share their perspective with a wide audience, greatly amplifies employ¬ees’ impact in the marketplace, and creates both opportunity and risk. It is imperative that every employee experiences ethics and values through the consistent behaviors, decisions, and actions of every member of the leadership team.

EthiCorVigilance and Integriology (ECV&I) must be the overarching and sustainable practice for enhancing brand awareness and creating proud and passionate employees wanting nothing short of amassing competitive market success creating strong career opportunities and growth. Done well, ECV&I will create an ethical culture that indeed creates a unique competitive advantage.

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A Death in the Giro d’Italia and Corporate Social Consciousness – Compassionate Competition?

 A podcast version of this blog is available at http://bit.ly/l3F3dd

Cyclist Wouter Weylandt died after a crash on a mountain decent in Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia.  I imagine that many reading this blog will wonder why this is the lead paragraph in an otherwise business blog.  What happened next in the Giro should be what we expect from our corporate behaviors.  Allow me to set the stage for our collective reflection with a few important facts about the event.

      • The Giro d’Italia is one of three Grand Tours of cycling. 
      • There are 21 stages over 23 days totaling 2189 miles.
      • This year is the 94th year of competition and coincides with the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. 
      • The event is contested by 23 professional teams each consisting of 9 members for a total peloton of 207 riders at the beginning of the race. 

Professional cycling is big business and the Giro is a major international event, so lots of revenue and operating expense are at stake. Given that, take a moment and recall how your company responded to the tragic death of one of their key employees.  Was it to mention the event at the beginning of a meeting, ask for thoughts for the family, and then move onto to the agenda for the day?

Weylandt’s death was tragic and had a profound impact on all of the cyclists.  It’s what happened on the next stage that sets a challenge for all of us in our highly competitive corporate world, where winning is everything, and damn those that would slow our pace towards that victory.  Weyland’s parents and finance flew in and met with his Leopard Trek team the evening of the crash.  The team then met with each of the 22 competing teams and collectively changed the following stage into a funeral cortege instead of the planned competitive race.  In effect, the race was neutralized for this stage with no team or rider gaining or losing any advantage.

The pageantry normally preceding the start of the stage was canceled.  Weylandt’s Leopard Trek team bus was brought to the starting line and each of the 9 members of the 22 competitor teams rode by single file to pay respect to Weylandt and his team. His team then lined up side by side at the starting line with black arm bands while taps was played and the procession started.  Each team took turns pacing the peloton for 10 kilometers, and then rotated to the back of the peloton to allow the next team it’s turn at the front, for the entire 200 kilometer stage. On a day when competition would have been intense, the peloton stayed together as one single body through the corridor of muted applause that greeted them along the way. 3km from the finish line, race leader David Millar finished his team’s pace-setting, and he waved Weylandt’s Leopard Trek teammates to the front and together they rode 10 meters ahead of the rest of the peloton. In a touching moment, Weylandt’s close friend Tyler Farrar was invited to join the Leopard Trek riders as they crossed the finish line arm in arm with tears in their eyes.

Where else could this happen?  I’m trying to think of a different sporting event suspending competition and working together in remembrance of one of their sport.  Now try to think about this happening in our corporate landscape. Imagine a bidder’s conference where all the competing firms agreed to suspend their pursuit efforts for one or more days, instead replacing it with a conference that all the firms attend.  Possible topics could be employee wellness or engagement.  Maybe because I’m writing this on Memorial Day with all the imagery of the day forefront in my mind is this creating such a challenge for me?  I know my CSC colleagues would stand arm in arm if such a tragic death happened to one of our corporate teammates, but I sense this behavior is becoming extinct in the recession induced management style that treats employees as transactional and fungible assets of the corporation.   

There are many examples where corporations compete in friendly events such as the Wall Street Walk/Run, Susan B Komen Run, and the MS Rides to name a few.  These are excellent examples of corporations competing for fun and charity.  But can that spirit move back inside the board room and create a compassionate corporate competition? Recall the scene from Miracle of 34thStreet when the Santa Claus at Macy’s sends a customer to Gimbels, their arch rival in NY.  As the press picks up on this, two arch rivals compete for which brand cares more about their customers than short-term seasonal profits, with the Macy’s customers telling Macy’s management of their future loyalty for such an unselfish act during the holiday season. Fairy tale Compassionate Competition? Maybe, but who reading this blog doesn’t recall that scene and wonder what if….? 

Imagine any new RFP containing a requirement that the bidding company would need to demonstrate and commit to Corporate Social Consciousness as a weighting factor in the selection criteria.  Imagine a company that requires Corporate Social Consciousness as a key measurement for their employee’s performance management process and backs this up with time away from normal job responsibilities.   

If you could make a difference in your company’s culture and enable your firm to compete on the hypothetical Corporate Social Consciousness requirement of a future RFP, how much more business could be won?  How would this create a market pull for the best of the best future employees?  What members of your business or social community would benefit? How proud would you be of being a member of a successful and compassionate company?  Commit to be a Compassionate Competitor and stand steadfast in that resolve to brand your company with the leadership that comes not only from industry success but also from proactive responses to tragic events and enabling Social Consciousness in the lives of those on your team and those with which you compete.   

Universal Sports was thoughtful enough to make a brief 3 minute YouTube available for you to experience this first hand. The power of this video clip comes at the end, please watch all the way through.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkJw1s0vvek.  

Please come back at me with comments on this blog since I fully recognize it suggests corporate behaviors and commitments that vary widely from the norm.

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Hello, I Must be Going – Employee Engagement in a Recovering Economy

I was surfing YouTube the other day and somehow came across a clip from one of my favorite Marx Brothers movies, Animal Crackers.  The scene is Groucho Marx as Captain Spaulding returning from a long “out of location assignment” carried into the “home office”.  Groucho’s character has been off in a foreign land with none of the comforts of his normal living arrangement. Upon his return to a lavish but transparent party to welcome him home he breaks out in song as only Groucho can do….  

“Hello, I must be going,
I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going.
I’m glad I came, but just the same I must be going.
I’ll stay a week or two,
I’ll stay the summer thru,
But I am telling you,
I must be going.”
 

That humorous scene from Animal Crackers (circa 1930) started me thinking this could soon be the outcome for some employers.  Employees will return from an arduous project or assignment, and because they have not felt engaged with their company, will quickly decide that they cannot stay and “must be going”, likely to a competitor.  For those too young to recall this scene (that ultimately become Groucho’s theme song), here’s a short YouTube version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6yLRmo7CjU

The past two plus years of economic troubles have created a perception that companies needn’t worry about employee turnover and retention. The current thinking in some companies suggests that because of layoffs and downsizing all around, employees have stepped up, absorbed additional duties, and are satisfied with just having a job.  Recent articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal suggest that within the general employed population, there exists a desire to find other employment. These reports are reinforced with a survey by the human resource consulting firm Hewitt, which reported 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will “consider” or “actively look for” other employment as soon as the economy improves.  I’ve been on other webinars that suggest the number is far north of 50%. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.  I believe that enlightened corporate leaders emerge in times of economic distress.  Any corporate manager (note that I didn’t use the term leader) that believes that their employees are fungible assets and neglects the chance to engage them as the fabric of client satisfaction and revenue realization in tough times is short-sighted and creates an opportunity for a competitor with better employee engagement practices to leap-frog them in their industry.  

There are many things that an enlightened corporate leader can do to continue to engage their staff that has little corporate investment and here is a short list of a few

  • Communicating the company’s strategy and goals and providing a monthly dashboard for general distribution is a good first step. 
  • A sense of community makes a difference. Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablunski, and Erez found that employees stay at jobs when they feel a sense of fit and connection with their coworkers, job, organization, and community.
  • Recognition for work and results well done is an opportunity to celebrate with the entire team and others not on the team for them to see what success looks like and create a yearning to be the next team recognized.
  • Development plans with teeth that support learning and development that can be leveraged for both greater client billings and individual career growth 

Employee engagement in times of economic uncertainty can demonstrate the company’s commitment to treat their employees as individuals and not simply fungible assets.  The marginal added cost of training and the no-cost communication from leadership teams can help to maintain the company’s most precious resource, their people.

Absent this behavior, some employers might be soon hearing…” Hello, I Must be Going” sometime soon. 

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