Here’s What Really Motivates Your Employees (It’s Not What You Think)

Dangling a carrot

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, the underlying message is that a leader can provide a motivating environment but can’t motivate his or her employees; motivation comes from within each individual.

This goes entirely against the common belief that given more carrots, an employee will be motivated to behave in ways that will increase the success of a company. Yet, time and again, leaders have found that providing more money and better benefits, extrinsic motivators, only provides a short-term effect on behavior. Extrinsic motivators are not sustainable.

In yesterday’s article Top 5 Leadership Mistakes, one of them was misunderstanding motivation.

I outlined the three attributes that, when implemented effectively within the organization, can increase the long-term behavioral changes the leader is looking to instill in the organization.

And what can a company expect from its employees when they provide an environment that provides for autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

An academic study by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in 2000 issue of American Psychologist showed that focusing on internal motivators can lead to higher self-esteem and self-actualization, while a focus on external motivators, on average, leads to lower self-esteem and self-actualization.

In turn, employees driven by internal motivators demonstrated a greater level of persistence, creativity, energy, and well being, which increased the performance level of those employees.

So if, in fact, employee performance increases with intrinsic motivators, why aren’t more companies creating and implementing a plan to transition to a culture of autonomy, mastery and purpose? Because it is not easy! It is a massive shift in long-term beliefs and requires both employer and employees to change their mindset as well as the way they work.

What are the critical success factors to transitioning your workplace to an intrinsically motivated organization? They are the three C’s:

  1. Creativity: Be able to devise innovative ways of working outside the traditional mode. Bring in outside assistance if you don’t find you are making the progress you desire.
  2. Communication: Changes to the work process need to be communicated to all employees via multiple methods. Communication should be ongoing and frequent and provide employees with the opportunity to have their questions answered.
  3. Change Management: Demonstrate how the changes will positively affect employees, create methods to identify employees who may be struggling with the changes, and have resources available to help them adjust.

Beth Armknecht Miller, CMC

Author: Are You Talent Obsessed?, Leadership Development Advisor, Vistage Chair, Speaker, Executive Coach

10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent

If there’s one word that’s almost certain to appear somewhere on every business’s website, that word is talent. Companies of every size love to talk about talent! They can talk about talent all day long.

It’s easy to talk about talent on a website or in a recruiting brochure. It’s easy to say “We value talent more than anything!”

Talk is cheap. Attracting talented people into an organization and hanging onto them — now that’s another story.

Most employers, sad to say, do a better job of driving talented people away than reeling them in, both during the selection process and after the talented person comes on board as a new employee. They don’t do it intentionally, of course. They can’t see how their systems, policies and attitudes frustrate and repel great people. It starts with the ugly and tedious, Black Hole processes by which new employees get hired.

black-holes-belong-in-space-not-recruiting

Those Applicant Tracking Systems are horrible talent repellents, but most of their owners don’t know they serve the same function as massive, barking, teeth-bared attack dogs at the gate.

Fearful people who believe they don’t have any power in their job search will submit to those awful systems. Switched-on people with alternatives will quickly say “Yikes, I’m not sticking around here” and apply for a job somewhere else.

Bring-Yourself-to-Work-Poster-from-Human-Workplace-poster-size

Once a newcomer starts the job, there are more talent repellents waiting. Some of them are cultural. Some of them are operational.

Here are our Top Ten favorite Talent Repellents — ten ways employers drive brilliant people away from their doors.

ZOMBIE-FIED JOB ADS

If your firm likes to talk about talent, first take a look at your company’s job ads. Most job ads do a better job of explaining what the candidate must have than of selling the job to a possible applicant! If your job ads don’t use a human voice and spend as much time selling the job as tossing around Essential Requirements, all the talent-talk is merely lip service.

BLACK HOLE RECRUITING PORTALS

If it takes a job-seeker an hour to complete all the mind-numbing fields in your Applicant Tracking System, the best people have already fled for greener pastures. If you’re a Recruiting Director or a curious CEO, ask your ATS vendor what the abandonment rate is on your recruiting site. How many people, in other words, start the process and then drop out of it? There’s your talent on the hoof, off to a friendlier welcome mat than you were able to lay out.

ROBOTIC COMMUNICATION

Once you start to communicate with applicants in the selection pipeline, what kinds of messages do you use? The evil Passive Voice type (“Your application has been received”) is a surefire talent barrier. Why not say “Wow! Thanks for applying for a job with us. Give us a few days to look at our openings and your background. We’ll be back in touch, either way!” Then, actually close the loop. None of this mealy-mouthed “If we want to call you, we will” stuff meets the Human Workplace test. You can do better than that.

INFLEXIBLE TIME OFF POLICIES

Once a new hire comes on board, he or she can only dive into the job whole-heartedly if the rest of his or life is attended to. A client of ours took a job and quit on the first day, during orientation, when she asked the orientation leader “How would it work if I have a court case three weeks from today, a half hour away in the city? I only need to leave an hour early.”

The orientation chickadee said “There’s no provision for that. You have to come in. You don’t get time off benefits for sixty days.”

The new employee, sensing danger, said “No problem, I’ll talk to my manager about it” and the orientation gal said “I’ve already noted your name and the date. You must change your personal schedule that day.”

The newbie bailed, her hiring manager called her to say “But I would have figured it out for you!” and the ex-employee said “Culture is everything. I’m not taking a job with a manager whose response to Godzilla process is to sneak around it.” If you don’t find your voice in a case like that, when will you ever do it?

HEAR NO EVIL FEEDBACK SYSTEMS

My science friends tell me that entropy is a feature of closed systems. When no new information comes in, things break down. So it is in corporations where there’s no upward feedback, such that executive leaders are spared the inconvenience of reacting to messy reality and permitted to bask in the awesomeness of their delusional plans undisturbed. If your employer doesn’t have robust, active, constant feedback mechanisms in place and an appetite for hearing about life on the street, you’re pushing away talent as we speak.

SCROOGETASTIC COMPENSATION PLANS

I was a corporate HR leader for decades. If you want to gauge an organization’s ability to snag and keep talent, look at its pay policies. When you knock the ball out of the park and your manager says “I’m really sorry, but I can only give you a two percent raise, because, you know, it’s our policy,” you’ve learned all you need to know about the importance of talent in your shop.

HEY, YOU STOLE MY IDEA

They say information is power. If people use information like a club to beat one another with, nothing good will happen for your clients or shareholders. If your organization is the kind where people keep quiet about their ideas to prevent them from being stolen, the universe wants you to hightail it out of there. If you’re in charge of a joint like that, you’ve got some trust-building work to do.

GODZILLA PROCESSES

Some processes are good, but lots of them are cumbersome, slow and stupid. Check out our Nine Signs of a Bad Process wheel below to see what I’m talking about. If people who come to work ready to rock it are prevented from doing their work because some fear-based process is gumming up the works, I guarantee you’re losing talent. People might be sitting at their desks when you walk by, but their hearts and brains are elsewhere.

nine-signs-bad-process

CONSTRUCTIVE SNIPING

Leaders who can coach and inspire employees are one in a million, and thank God for them! Leaders who pick and quibble and snipe are people who fear that a Mojofied team might threaten their own petty power. If your environment is a snipe-fest, good people won’t stay. How can you get anything important done in a place like that?

TRIUMPH OF THE BEST AND BROWN-NOSIEST

The last Talent Repellent on our list is a culture that rewards brown-nosing and punishes honest dissent. Most of us have seen organizations like this, where Yes Men and Women are exalted and passionate people asking tough questions are silenced. Life is too short to work in a place like that. The world is too big, there are too many meaty problems to solve, and too many brilliant people for you to collaborate with in trust-based, forward-looking organizations for you to waste another femtosecond among Godzilla’s handlers.

In your job search and on the job, only the people who get you deserve you. Your gut knows the difference. Can you listen to it? -Liz Ryan

Why Providing Critical Feedback Can Be A Gift

Feedback

 

 

Rarely are managers, in any field, well prepared to deal with employees who need corrective input. In fact, we’ve heard all too often how the whole idea of being critical strikes a note of “being mean,” “acting arrogant,” or “hurting someone’s feelings.”

And yes, being critical can be all of those things when misunderstood or delivered without support, care, and kindness.

But when you understand that life well lived is a journey of growth and expansion, then there have to be teachers along the way to provide helpful input. When left to only our own devices, our own perspectives, our own experiences, we can only replicate what we already know. And that’s what causes people to be stuck in a rut, unable to take their work life forward in a manner that is continually challenging and transformative.

So, if you are a manager, a supervisor, in any way someone who has the responsibility and opportunity to help other employees improve, please see your role as a gift.

Magic Words

When you can touch another person’s potential—beyond what they currently understand about themselves— you have the opportunity to provide the gift of a larger vision of who they are, of how they can conduct their work life, even perhaps a larger sense of their true identity.

While that may be beyond the scope of your work as a manager, it is not outside the scope of touching someone’s life and career.

Sometimes people have to have their hearts broken open in order to receive new value about who they are, what they are truly capable of, and how they are viewed by others. And while this can be painful, even very painful on occasion, it is an essential element for professional and personal growth.

That’s why your words of critical feedback and reality messages about the need to improve can be Magic Words, providing the inspiration for your recipient to look beyond what they already know and embrace and actualize what you are suggesting is needed for their improvement.

Steer In Another Direction

You may have someone on your team or in your company who needs a frank and honest wake-up call, explaining how they are not a good fit for the company. When you lay out the specifics with care and respect, hopefully the individual can understand that they would be better off if they moved on rather than feel frustrated and continue to receive less than sterling performance ratings.

Sometimes you can steer the individual in a new direction within the company, but be prepared for this to be met with hurt feelings, skepticism, or flat out refusal. In either case, remember that your honest attempt to help has still been a wake-up call about reality. And that, in the long run, will be a gift whether or not the recipient can accept it as such.

Support, Support, Support

Even if you have to use fairly extreme criticism, putting someone on probation or on a PIP (performance improvement program), as long as you do so from a position of support for that individual’s well being, you are still providing the gift of reality.

Too often, people who end up in trouble on the job do so because they are caught up in unrealistic ideas about their talent and ability, their role in the company, or on the other hand fears of putting forth their true expertise. Either way, when you can present them with reality, providing examples of their behavioral problems and limitations, you provide a mirror of reality.

The primary gift of critical feedback, when delivered with respect, including specific examples the recipient can relate to, and ideas for concrete improvement is the advancement of the recipient’s grounding in reality. Yes, there’s that “reality” word again. Because the delivery of critical feedback needs to always provide support for the individual being more fully grounded in reality. That is the most solid basis for their choices going forward.

Being a Good Manager: Overcoming 5 Common Myths

myth

 

Building healthy culture, promoting innovation and bringing people together are key indicators of a successful manager. While working as an organizational consultant with startups who aim to scale their business, I’ve noticed five recurring misconceptions related to managing people that produce opposite results: unhealthy workplaces, unmotivated employees and frustrated managers. Especially for individuals who have started a business and end up hiring employees and becoming managers, here are five simple myths of managing that will help you turn around the way that you supervise your employees.

Myth #1: “The paycheck is the reward. That should be enough.”
Try this instead: A paycheck will not motivate employees to move mountains. Their paycheck is expected when people show up for work. Most employees aren’t concerned with your business bottom line. They do however concern themselves with the people they work with. The relationship they have with their co-workers and management. Daniel, the CEO of a startup in Santa Monica I work with, often sends a delivery order of chicken soup to his sick employees. I’ve told him that this is the type of gesture that expresses louder than words that his care extends past the quality and/or quantity of their work. An employee vested in the relationship will be happier and as a result more productive, more innovative and stay loyal as the company grows and changes. Yes, people need pay check to eat, but an “A” performance generally requires more than just a paycheck.

Myth #2: “They work for me.” 
Try this instead: It is your job to make your employees successful. A good manager strives to eliminate obstacles that impede their employees from reaching their goals. Try spending a day figuring out what you can do to make your employee’s life easier. When consulting with a local software company, their programmers mentioned that they would be happier if they could have one “flexible work day” where they could choose to work from home. The manager decided to implement this and soon found that his employees would only take advantage of the day when they truly needed it, and were happier and less concerned with balancing their work and life commitments. What obstacles can you remove to help your team meet their goals and achieve their deliverables? Yes, they may contractually work for you, but a good manager is also a servant of his people.

Myth #3: “I’ve told them this multiple times, they should be doing it already.”
Try this instead: Many employees have a difficult time keeping track of verbal suggestions. Verbal feedback is much more effective if paired with written feedback. The research suggests that therapists were more likely to provide higher quality services to their patients when their supervisor gave feedback orally, then followed up with written confirmation of the feedback. Are you frustrated that your employee isn’t responding to in-person feedback? The key word is accountability — and people feel much more accountable when documentation exists to make them easily accountable.

2013-12-02-WrittenFeedback.pngTry adding a followup email to your verbal suggestions. A quick email can serve as a good reference point if the problem persists, can create a paper trail of known issues to use for more formal feedback, and also allows the employee to go back and see a history of their progress. If the instruction already exists in an employee handbook, job description or email and you still notice compliance issues, feel free to cite the document and date to jog their memory and increase their accountability. Yes, your employees may forget your suggestions, but accountability is essential to good management and it is your job to hold yourself and them accountable.

Myth #4: “My employee’s mistakes cost me money.”
Try this instead: Mistakes employees make are typically unintentional and are an opportunity to improve existing systems. While some large mistakes can be very costly. The small day-to-day mistakes you deal with as a manager are perfect opportunities to understand flaws in your system. This upfront cost of identifying a hole in your system will save you money long-term if instead of blaming your employee, you use it as a way to give them feedback and improve your systems.

While working in a small health care company, we worked on a project to transition the responsibility of scheduling patients from the clinician to an in-house scheduling department. Although there were some instances where short-term utilization of billable hours wasn’t optimal, instead of blaming the scheduler, clinician or unreliable patient, we used these instances as a golden opportunity to revisit the scheduling protocols and identify gaps in the system. Yes, there is an instant cost of an error, but there are also hidden savings if you take the time to learn from this expensive lesson by providing feedback about the error and improving your systems.

Myth #5: “It’s faster for me to do it myself, than to train someone else to do it.”
Try this instead: Training takes time, but the time saved after your employee knows the ropes can give you more time to focus on more complicated tasks. Joe, a physician who decided to open a wellness center quickly found that running a boutique clinic was even more complicated than treating medical conditions. He often found himself filing patient charts, scheduling appointments, booking guest lecturers and creating daily activity schedules. When scaling his business, he resisted spending time training his employees on more important or complicated tasks, fearing that it wouldn’t be done correctly. In Joe’s case, by holding onto more complicated tasks, like finding his ideal guest lecturers to come visit his clinic, instead of integrating those into an employee’s workflow began causing later roadblocks when he was faced with more complicated medical-related demands. Once he realized that training his administrative assistant to research leads and give him options allowed him to focus on improving his clinic’s patient experience and he was able to make sure he was always operating at maximum capacity.

When faced with challenges, a manager should identify how these challenges fit within the context of growing their business and creating a stronger organizational structure. By trying these strategies, each obstacle sheds light on a learning opportunity to hone your managing skills, tighten your company protocols and learn about yourself and your team. Adopting these alternative views of the five common myths of management is a great place to start your journey to becoming a great manager. – Sara Gershfeld

How The Best Leaders Embrace Change

lead changeWe all know change is inevitable. Yet in the midst of transformation, too many leaders abdicate, says Rose Fass, CEO of the consulting company fassforward. After all, it can be hard to let go of a cherished initiative, or a product line that’s been successful for years.

But you have to be strong enough to take charge, says Fass: “The best kind of change comes when you envision, initiate and control it. That type of change creates opportunities, transforms companies and ignites growth.” Otherwise, you’re facing with the damaging prospect of “change that happens in spite of you, rather than because of you.”

Fass offers a list of 10 “transformation topics” that she believes all businesses should discuss. If you have a handle on these questions, you’re well on your way to leading change, rather than letting it control you.

1) New Actions: Which ones do we need to make happen?

2) Core Assets: Do we know how to leverage ours?

3) Barriers to Success: What are ours and how do we knock them down?

4) Competitive Positioning: Where do we stand?

5) Key Differentiators: Are ours still making a difference?

6) Resources & Relationships: Can we get more out of ours?

7) Operating Climate: Where are we hot, cold, lukewarm or frozen?

8) Strategic Imperatives: Have ours been clearly communicated?

9) Strategic Options: Are our best ones identified?

10) Strategic Shifts: Where are ours occurring?

Change, says Fass, is bittersweet. But that realization means “you’ll be more prepared to persevere when the pain points start popping up. The course you follow to change also needs to be consistent or else it will cause confusion and slow everyone down to a crawl.” -Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

How does your company master change?

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)

Happy Face

It doesn’t matter what you build, invent or sell; your organization can’t move forward without people. CEOs, company founders and managers the world over know that keeping the teams beneath them moving forward together in harmony means the difference between winning and dying.

Prof. Leonard J. Glick, Professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, teaches the art of motivating employees for a living. He let FORBES in on a few tips for entrepreneurs and managers looking to keep their people smiling and producing.

You’ve got to get employees to feel that they own the place, not just work there. “One of the principles of self-managed teams is to organize around a whole service or product,” Glick explained. In other words, make sure company personnel feel responsible for what the customer is buying.

One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time. “It all contributes to a feeling of ‘it’s mine,’ and most people, when it’s theirs, don’t want to fail, don’t want to build poor quality and don’t want to dissatisfy the customer,” said Glick.

Trust Employees To Leave Their Comfort Zones

Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die. Don’t be afraid to grant them new responsibilities—it will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization.

Though managers might feel allowing their people to try new things presents a risk to productivity or places workers outside of their established place, it heads off other issues. “To me the bigger risk is having people get burnt out or bored,” explained Glick.

Keep Your Team Informed

Business leaders have a clearer perspective on the bigger picture than their employees do. It pays to tell those under you what’s going on. “Things that managers take for common knowledge about how things are going or what challenges are down the road or what new products are coming… they often don’t take the time to share that with their employees,” Glick said. Spreading the intel lets everyone in on the lay of theland and at the same time strengthens the feeling among workers that they are an important part of the organization.

Your Employees Are Adults—Treat Them Like It

In any business there is going to be bad news. Whether it’s to do with the company as a whole or an individual within the organization, employees need to be dealt with in a straightforward and respectable manner. “They can handle it, usually,” said Glick. If you choose to keep your people in the dark about trying times or issues, the fallout could be a serious pain in the neck. “The rumors are typically worse than reality. In the absence of knowledge people make things up.”

You’re The Boss. You May Have To Act Like It Sometimes (but be consistent)

Though this issue is affected by an organization’s overall culture, there are going to be times when you have to make a decision as a leader, despite whatever efforts you may have made to put yourself on equal footing with your personnel. “Ideally they have an open relationship but not necessarily are peers,” Glick said of the manager-employee relationship. “I think the worst thing is to pretend you’re peer… it’s the inconsistency, I think, which is the bigger problem.”

Money Matters (But Not As Much As You Think)

Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. “The motivation comes from the things I’ve been talking about—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute,” Glick explained.

When it comes to finding a salary that will allow your employees to feel they’re being paid fairly, don’t bend over backwards to lowball them. If you do, they will eventually find out and not be happy. “If the salary were open, is it defensible?”

Perks Matter (But Not As Much As You Think)

Some companies (we’re looking at you Google GOOG +0.21%) have received attention for offering lavish perks to their personnel – massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables, childcare facilities – but, like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognize their contribution. A manager needs to understand that though those perks are great and release burdens from employees’ shoulders, they are not a substitute for prime sources of professional inspiration.

“I don’t think people work harder, work better because of those things,” said Glick. “It may make it easier for them to come to work, I understand that.”

– Karsten Strauss

Which of These 4 Types of Managers Are You?

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When it comes to management style, many think they can spot an introverted or extroverted manager a mile away. However, within those broad categories are more nuanced interaction styles that can have a direct impact on how an individual manages employees, says Kimberly Gerber, founder of Irvine, Calif. leadership coaching and communication firm Excelerate. Four common types include:

In Charge: This typically extroverted manager has a direct language preference. He or she is comfortable telling people what to do. Those around this manager tend to be responsive to that take-charge style. This person naturally gravitates toward the head of the table and is a little more formal in his or her relationships. Heavily focused on numbers and processes, these managers tend to want to set achievable goals — those that can clearly be accomplished.

Chart the Course: More likely to be introverted and less comfortable being put on the spot, this leader doesn’t like surprises, says Gerber. Unlike the In Charge type who is concerned with the big-picture of “where we’re going” vision, this type of manager is more concerned with how to get there. Chart the Course managers are planners and want to make sure that everyone is on-board and moving in the same direction.

They tend to be very friendly with a direct style and inclusive in gathering input and feedback. However, don’t mistake the Chart the Course manager as soft — he or she has little tolerance for those who are off-plan or not up to snuff performance-wise. Chart the Course managers set an achievable result with careful planning and anything less is failure.

Behind the Scenes: Another typically introverted type, the Behind the Scenes manager shuns the spotlight in favor of data. This type of manager makes consultative decisions and needs a great deal of input from different sources to be comfortable with those choices. Interaction is often small-scale and this manager motivates more individually than his or her more outspoken counterparts, eschewing confrontation. The downside of this collaborative approach is that it takes longer to make decisions and get things done. This manager wants the best possible result based on all of the information available.

Get Things Going: Another extrovert, this manager is the life of the party, Gerber says. Gregarious and well-liked, the Get Things Going manager wants everyone to be as enthusiastic about the plan and outcome as he or she is. This manager intuitively understands that work gets done through people and that harmony facilitates productivity. But don’t mistake them for emotion-ruled — they understand what needs to be done, even if they’re not the most goal-oriented managers. They look for a result that is embraced by the team.

Understanding these types can help you both recognize these qualities in yourself and better understand the managers you have working for you, Gerber says.

Seven Ways to Make Your Strategic Planning Relevant

strategy, planning, leadership, budgeting

One of the most important shifts in many companies today is the move toward a capabilities-driven strategy. Companies that define a “way to play,” lined up with a handful of key differentiating capabilities that deliver on that value proposition, have a definite competitive advantage. Your own company may have redesigned your strategy accordingly. Now it’s time to execute.

Undoubtedly, you already have a planning and performance management system—otherwise known as a strategic plan and corporate budget. This is a group of deeply ingrained methods for allocating costs and tracking. Even as the top executive team embraces a capabilities-driven strategy, the planning and performance management system tends to remain unchanged. That’s because traditional budgeting planning practices were designed with other priorities in mind. They tend to foster silo-based thinking and to spread investments across all activities. That makes them irrelevant to your strategy—at best. At worst, they will undermine the development of key capabilities. Yet they tend to be so entrenched, combining so many of the formal and informal drivers of behavior in a company, that you may find it difficult to change them.

A truly relevant planning and performance management system will help you instill the discipline and accountability to make hard choices. It will make it easier, not harder, to assign the lion’s share of investment to your differentiating capabilities. And it will keep things on track with clearly articulated objectives and performance metrics. Here are seven guiding principles that will help you put such a system into place:

1. Emphasize key capabilities in your strategic plan. Look beyond short-term marketplace opportunities and challenges. Articulate what you need to do, different from what any other company can do, to deliver on the company’s unique value proposition. Tie strategic objectives to those capabilities. For example, one bank recognized a major opportunity to build its business by selling across product lines. Developing a robust client analytics capability was a requirement. By naming this capability in their strategic plan, the bank’s leaders forced themselves to lay out the steps needed to achieve their long-term goal.

2. Spell out capability-building initiatives in the plan. Design roadmaps for developing and steadily upgrading specific capabilities over time. Then, in each annual plan thereafter, spell out how you can further advance these capability-building initiatives. The leaders of a mining conglomerate, for instance, realized that they could increase production output by rolling out new standards across their portfolio of subsidiaries. That required a series of initiatives: one each for measurement, reporting, IT, best-practice methodologies, and training. Developing the initiative roadmap provided an actionable plan for the management team to build the capability over time.

3. Manage discretionary and non-discretionary spending separately. A successful strategy concentrates investment dollars where they are needed most: the company’s distinctive capabilities. Traditional budgeting can undermine this goal by allowing individual units to spend discretionary dollars as they see fit—often favoring pet projects, even if they have no strategic relevance. To prevent this, use zero-based budgeting to determine the amount of non-discretionary expenditures needed to “keep the lights on” throughout the company. The rest of your spending should go through a management process, connected directly to the strategic plan.

4. Use cross-functional governance to balance company priorities against the priorities of individual business areas. Governance forums should use a set of clearly defined decision rights on a regular basis to steer the business. A transportation company relied on a common information technology infrastructure across all of its business units. Every year, each business unit submitted IT investment requests to an investment committee panel composed of business unit and support function leaders. Its cross-functional organizational design enabled the panel to best decide how to allocate scarce resources for initiatives that would generate the best return for the enterprise. Some of the enterprise opportunities would not have been captured if business unit leaders were the only decision makers on IT.

5. Create guidelines for evaluating investment demands. Your company is subject to a range of investment demands with varying degrees of relevance to strategic priorities. Detailed investment guidelines will help assess these requests, especially when you’re balancing “apples and oranges” demands (such as regulatory compliance expenditures versus capital spending proposals). Each year, for example, the managers of a moderate-sized but much-used airport have to choose just a few of many investment requests—balancing safety, strategy, operations, and regulatory arguments. Establishing a clear set of communicated guidelines allows the airport leaders to focus on higher-return projects. Knowing the reasons for the choices encourages everyone, including those whose proposals didn’t get funded, to engage and execute with more focus on the winning initiatives.

6. Give leaders cross-functional authority to build capabilities and hold them accountable. Capability-building efforts fail when nobody has the authority to carry them out. Help individual leaders build capability systems across functional lines by making sure others can see that they have the requisite decision rights and position. For example, remember the bank building out its analytics capability. This required coordinating resources to develop a solution across product lines and IT. An empowered leader was authorized to manage resources, initiate investments, and manage delivery across the organization matrix to build the capability.

7. Measure and reward progress. Building a strategic capability can often take months or years. Explain clearly how each initiative bolsters a critical capability. Establish objectives and milestones for each initiative. Use these benchmarks to measure and reward progress toward the ultimate goal: a market-leading capability.

A more relevant planning and performance management system yields significant long-term benefits, because it continuously evaluates your company’s performance against strategic goals. The performance benchmarks tell you where and how external changes are affecting your progress. This provides a real-time snapshot of your capabilities at work in the marketplace. Strengths and weaknesses become clear, informing your investment decisions for the next strategic planning cycle. After a few years, this virtuous feedback loop can become second nature, paving the way for real collective mastery of the capabilities that distinguish your company.  – Matthew Siegel  s+b

How to design a road map toward an engaged workforce

Can you prove the ROI of employee engagement? According to a Gallup survey, companies with world-class engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their competitors with lower engagement. The challenge is planning a route to get employees engaged.Here are four basic tips companies can follow to motivate disengaged employees:

  • Pay according to market value. Many executives don’t like to hear it and would rather offer training or take similar steps. But paying accordingly is critical in moving disengaged employees up.
  • Limit organizational reductions in force. While hard to do, it’s impossible for employees to become engaged if they fear losing their jobs.
  • Manage organizational changes. Whether a market change or a leadership change, proactively communicate it to motivate disengaged workers.
  • Increase trust. Make sure all employees see the value in their company and believe in the brand. Executives must be visible and accountable.

While paying accordingly is important, it isn’t necessarily a motivating factor; it’s a baseline. Employee motivation is like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People need to be taken care of, have the supplies needed to do the job, know what their job is, and be paid accordingly. Once those baseline needs have been met, you can move employees to becoming engaged.

To accomplish a company’s engagement goals, the process starts with an employee survey to determine what areas need work. The survey should be used as a starting point. To achieve the best results, develop the survey with experts from a third party who understand what motivates employees.
Based on responses, develop a plan for areas that require immediate attention. If there’s something that can be done, work on a plan to make a change. If a change cannot be made, explain why. It’s important for employees to know that action is being taken regarding a survey.
After changes are implemented, measure to see if there’s been an increase in revenue or productivity. Generally, a baseline is measured before the survey and six months to a year later to see if those factors increased.
Engagement takes a long time. But if you are genuinely trying to increase employee engagement, you will get a return on your investment.

What It Takes to Be a Boss Every Employee Loves

takes-boss-everyone-loves, leadership, relationships, behavior

Being a successful leader means being good at what you do and possessing integrity. But more than anything, it’s about your ability to build healthy relationships with others — particularly those who work for you.

As an entrepreneur, you’re viewed differently than you were when you were a manager or colleague in a traditional job. You stand to gain the most from the company’s success, and it is easier for your employees to think you’re more interested in the business than them and their lives. Your success is paramount, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of healthy relationships with those you depend on.

1. Don’t treat people as transactions.
Years ago in my first real job out of college, I was delighted to have my very own assistant. She was a very capable and competent woman who I really liked. One day while a client was visiting the office, I made the naïve mistake of introducing my assistant by saying, “This is Teri. She works for me.” Teri’s response would have served me better in private, but her point was valid none-the-less: “I work with you, Mark, not for you.”

I meant no ill respect with my choice of words, but it suggested to Teri that she was a means to an end, that I was “above” her. And while technically she did report to me, the difference between working for and with someone is critical. The former can make a person feel conquered, while the latter signals collaboration.

Think through how you title and refer to your employees. Focus on reciprocity: look for ways you can help them achieve their work-life goals while they help you achieve yours. And guard against letting tasks trump a true regard and appreciation for the relationship you have with those who have voluntarily chosen to work with you.

2. Invest in those you value.
The ultimate test of value in a relationship is how much time, interest and support you are willing to invest. Rather than ask, “What have you done for me lately?” turn the tables and ask yourself what you’ve done lately for those you truly value.

Here’s one way to invest for great dividends: identify the potential in an employee that he or she doesn’t recognize in him- or herself. Often people are blind to their own abilities or potential, and good leaders not only recognize these latent strengths, they help develop them.

Several years ago, my office manager was spending more time on our website and technology platforms. A colleague was presenting a multi-day event in Las Vegas that I knew would give my team member information and skills to help her in these areas. Going to Las Vegas for the event was an added perk, so I gladly paid for the seminar and trip. She came back better equipped for her work, knowing I was willing to invest in her success.

3. Be involved, but know your limits.

You can work in the same office space with people every day and still be absent because you are preoccupied with your own worries. An open door policy means nothing if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to give your attention to those who walk through it.

How can you do this? Make it a point to “check in” with every employee each day. That means a simple but sincere question: “How are things going?” Listen and if necessary, probe for information you can use to support your employees. Identify frustrations they are facing, opportunities they’ve recognized and gauge their emotional energy and commitment to their work.

You’ll know you’re micromanaging when you’re spending more time telling someone how to do something than you are in clarifying what needs to be done. A thorough explanation with a chance to ask questions is vastly different than a droning presentation about how you’d do it. Give people the freedom to achieve the best results in their own way.

4. Show your gratitude.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from employees who feel underappreciated by their manager, but I’ve never heard anyone complain they were recognized, rewarded or appreciated too much. I’m puzzled at why so many entrepreneurs and leaders are reticent to voice appreciation. Don’t be afraid of over-doing it. You connect with people more deeply when you recognize the best in them and let them know.

Here’s a powerful way to show appreciation: When you get feedback from a customer about someone on your team who has done a great job, get their permission to record it. Then play the recording at the next team meeting. There is even more power in a customer’s expression of a job well done than simply acknowledging it yourself.

Growing your business successfully means doing all that you can to make your team want to work their hardest for your cause. That means connecting with employees in a meaningful way.

By Mark Sanborn  an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo.

What do you do to deepen your connections with employees?