Our previous post focused on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the role it plays in leadership, Continuous Improvement, and developing a high-performance culture.
Most of us are able to identify people who posses a high EQ, and some of the prevalent traits were listed in our previous post. But what about those who don’t exhibit a very high EQ?
Fortunately, according to data compiled by Richard E. Boyatzis, a pioneering researcher into leadership and emotional intelligence, Emotional Intelligence can be taught and improved.
Drawing on Intentional Change Theory (ICT), he describes five steps to the type of personal change required in order to increase emotional intelligence, which are listed below. However, it is important to recognize that the pursuit of improving EQ, like the pursuit of any sustainable change, must be intentional. The requirement is a desire for change; without that, no sustainable improvement is possible. People with no interest in developing EQ will not do so, but if they are motivated to change, the following steps will help them:
Identify the ideal self. In a way, this is analogous to imagining the future state of an organization — what it would look like if everything were right — but the ideal self is much more personal. One person’s ideal self, building on his or her core identity and aspirations, will be different from another’s ideal self. Personal change starts with envisioning the ideal self — the way one would like to be, to work, and to be perceived. This has three elements: awareness of one’s strengths, an image of the desired future, and a sense of hope that the desired future is attainable.
Identify the real self. Where is one, relative to one’s goals today. This step is not as easy as it sounds. The greatest challenge is to see oneself as others do. Using multiple sources of feedback, such as 360-degree evaluations can be useful.
Develop a learning agenda. In contrast to a list of to-dos and complying with agendas of others, the learning agenda is development focused. It provides structure for exploration and learning.
Experimentation and Practice. Practice, look for feedback, and practice again.
Form helping relationships. Coaches, mentors, or guides are very helpful to someone aiming to transition to the ideal self through practicing greater EQ.
Our previous post shared insights and steps for developing a high performance culture. However, an important prerequisite to launching such an initiative is to conduct an organizational assessment, which most often helps leaders think differently about options and opportunities.
A good first step in this assessment is to develop an opportunity matrix. As you may know, this type of matrix is used for numerous purposes, ranging from evaluating an organizations strengths and opportunities for growth or improvement, to identifying the best markets to pursue or products to launch.
In this case, the matrix can help you evaluate your organization’s strengths and best opportunities for achieving a high performance culture. Specific steps will include:
Gather input (facts and data) from people at all levels of the organization
Assess skill levels
Observe work flow to identify the bottlenecks and eddies
Search expansively for opportunities and focus analytically on metrics and methods
Create a comprehensive summary of your findings and, based on the data, identify the best opportunities for achieving the desired cultural shifts
Over the years we have consistently found that the highest achieving organizations are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.
The first step of this process involves identifying the underlying assumptions, beliefs and values that cause people to behave the way they do (the practices), and then identifying a clear link between organizational goals and individual/team/department performance.
People at all levels must also develop a clear sense of purpose, and management at all levels must devote the necessary time and attention to a proactive and consistent performance management regimen in which they promote and recognize practices that are aligned with organizational values and objectives.
The infographic below depicts one approach to this type of performance management system.
Our previous post focused on building a high performing culture, and it noted that doing so is nearly impossible without significant contributions of time and energy from senior leaders. It was noted that a well-defined performance management process is a pre-requisite as well.
Performance Management is all about how leaders orient their organizations around working on the right things in the right way.
When we asked our Partners In Improvement to define Performance Management and to discuss how it impacts an organization’s culture, we heard a range of perspectives. Generally, everyone agreed that performance management a key driver of organizational culture because a well-defined and executed performance management process promotes effective prioritization, accountability, and engagement. However, definitions were more varied, and included:
the strategic orientation of the organization
process performance management
setting of goals and objectives
individual performance appraisals
daily direction and feedback to reinforce desired behaviors
providing tools and coaching to help people be successful
rewards and recognition
From the strategic perspective, performance management begins with the identification of what’s vital to the organization, the Partners said. If these priorities are not clear and it is not clear what role everyone plays in the priorities, the rest is unlikely to mean much.
Several of the Partners pointed out that performance management refers to both process management as well as people management. While there are clearly a wide range of views about how to manage the performance of both people and processes, several excellent best practices were generated during our discussions:
For example, everyone agreed that frequent observation and feedback is more helpful to people than formal annual reviews. Frequent communication about what an organization needs and wants greatly increases the odds that the organization will get what they need and want.
In addition, most reported that group rewards encourage teamwork, while individual rewards encourage an individual to optimize his or her own goals even if it may sub-optimize the organization as a whole.
Everyone agreed that tying money directly to performance appraisals can be a two-edged sword – raising stress and reducing the intrinsic rewards and personal satisfaction from doing a good job for the team.
Everyone also agreed it was important to avoid what was described as “managing through rear view mirror.” In other words, avoid “Monday morning quarterbacking.” Instead, leaders should be involved in a systematic performance management process that is ongoing and timely so that outcomes can be influenced rather than discussed after-the-fact.
Here is a simple infographic that depicts one approach:
Continuing with our culture-related theme, we’ve found that the highest achieving organizations are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.
When helping clients build such cultures, our approach begins by identifying the underlying assumptions, beliefs and values that cause people to behave the way they do (the practices).
Key steps in developing a high performing/high achieving culture include:
Identifying a clear link between individual/team/department performance and organizational goals.
Helping people develop a clear sense of purpose.
Management devotes the necessary time and attention to a proactive and consistent performance management regimen.
A work environment that supports high quality and productivity.
People at all levels understand the core values and beliefs which drive behavior.
Leaders promote practices that are in sync with organizational values and beliefs.
Roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities are clearly defined.
Managers are skilled to coach for improved performance.
While these steps might appear simple, they are not easy to implement; and nearly impossible to achieve without significant contributions of time and energy from senior leaders. A well-defined performance management process is also a pre-requisite, which will be the subject of our next post.
A key focus of Conway Management‘s Continuous Improvement (CI) work has always been to help clients improve the way their businesses run; and, as noted in numerous posts, senior level management must provide support, exemplify desired behaviors and proactively lead the way in order to achieve a culture of CI.
Conversations about this reality often lead to questions about what constitutes a well-run company. While there are different ways to evaluate an organization, last year we shared a post about the Drucker Institute’s definition and listing of the “Most Well-Managed Companies” in the United States.
A most interesting aspect of this list was the holistic approach taken to rate the contenders. Data came from numerous sources, including employee ratings on Glassdoor to five-year shareholder returns and trademark filings, and the five criteria for placement were:
Employee engagement and development
According to articles in the Wall Street Journal, these benchmarks represent Drucker’s core, as has always believed companies should exist for purposes beyond profits, stressing that they should care for workers and benefit society.
These factors are well-aligned with our way of thinking, as a clear vision to external customers along with innovation, workforce engagement and workforce development have always been components of our programming.
It is, therefore, reassuring to see these items on a list such as Druckers’.
If you’re curious, below are the “top 10” finishers on this year’s list which, incidentally, includes all of last year’s “top 5.”
Among the highest achieving organizations we’ve worked with are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures of continuous improvement. A vitally-important tool for bringing about a culture of continuous improvement and engagement within a workforce is communication, which many people agree is the most frequently-used skill in today’s workplace.
Aside from standard
team or project meetings, there are a number of ways leaders might go about
accomplishing this. For example, employee forums are an ideal way to
engage people around their work and contribute to the building of a high-performance
culture of continuous improvement.
Consider that one of
the most obvious yet often overlooked requirements for high performance is a
setting for employees to share and discuss problems and ideas for improvement.
But too often,
managers and leaders tend to believe that if someone has a really great idea
for improvement, they will raise it. Yet when we talk to people
close to the work, we more often hear ideas they have carried around for months
or even years but never found the right time or place to share; or felt their
idea would not be welcomed.
Even worse, when no
forum for sharing improvement ideas is provided, people adapt to the way things
are and stop noticing the waste—the elephant in the room—and
stop trying to think of better ways.
But it is important
for business leaders to recognize that some forms of communication are better
than others. In fact, as reported in a recent Society for Human Resource
Management (SHRM) article, a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees
each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate
communication to and between employees. The article also referenced another
study showing that miscommunication in smaller companies of 100 employees cost
an average of $420,000 per year.
For example, many
organizations use suggestion boxes as forums. But the results are often
disappointing. While a suggestion box requires little time or effort to
initiate, its success relies on the ideas being completely and clearly
expressed in writing. Unfortunately, many people with good ideas simply
cannot express them well.
Furthermore, if a
suggestion requires more explanation or development before
it can be turned into a really great idea, the suggestion box does
not offer an opportunity for clarification, debate, or refinement. Even
worse, when the initial ideas are not fully formed or expressed, and management
doesn’t have an opportunity for clarification, the ideas are harder to act
upon, and often management loses interest. When people notice nothing
comes of the suggestion box, they stop offering ideas.
Here are some
additional examples of costly miscommunication in business environments
identified by Helen Wilkie, a consultant and author specializing in profitable,
Long, boring, poorly planned unproductive meetings that reach no conclusion and serve no purpose
Sales presentations that show no concern for, or understanding of, the client’s needs
Wasted time due to miscommunication about time or scheduling
Badly written e-mail messages that cause misunderstandings, ill will and wasted time
The email habit of unnecessarily “replying to all”
Employee alienation caused by managers who don’t listen
Lack of understanding between people of different age groups
Lack of understanding between male and female employees
Ultimately, the best
forums are regularly scheduled gatherings in which people can surface and
discuss problems, waste, and opportunities for improvement.
Examples of effective
discussion forums were shared during one of our Partners in Improvement
sessions, which included:
Monthly safety talks
at the end of which the company president discusses pertinent issues with team
members and provides input as well as support
session between management and team members during which leaders not only offer
ideas and support, but also gather feedback on successes and challenges
Regular “town hall”
meetings where he shares information about what is going on and what to expect,
and also provides an opportunity for people to raise questions or concerns
Since our inception we have stressed the fact that an organization’s leadership must champion a Continuous Improvement (CI) effort if it is to become cultural and if it is to succeed in a sustainable fashion.
Along similar lines, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance has shared data as well as experiences indicating the same holds true for engaging employees and customers; and just like a culture of CI, a culture of engagement generates a measurable return on investment.
“A CEO-led strategic and systematic approach to human capital management can enhance performance and create a better experience for all,” an article on the Enterprise Engagement Media website states.
“Without the leadership of the CEO, it is impossible for an organization to fully engage all its stakeholders in its brand, mission and goals—customers, employees, distribution partners, vendors, communities, shareholders, etc.—or to achieve measurable ROI.”
The Enterprise Engagement Alliance was the first to give a name to this strategic and systematic process to connect and align all stakeholders toward a common brand, mission, values, and goals, naming it “Enterprise Engagement.”
Our previous post identified the role that trust plays in an organization’s success, and referenced it as “the soft concept producing results that are hard to beat.”
While trust may seem too soft a concept to produce a competitive edge, the facts indicate otherwise.
In fact, a high level of trust is essential to creating an agile, highly competitive organization and here are four reasons why.
1.)No Trust — No Speed In a world where new challenges arise very quickly, it is the failure to act, failure to improve, and failure to innovate that poses the biggest risk to a company — not the risk of making a mistake. However, to an individual in a low-trust environment, by far the biggest risk is making a mistake. For these individuals, trying something new is much riskier than doing what’s been always been done. Innovation or even simple improvement is not going to happen. The whole organization slows down.
Covey, in The Speed of Trust, puts it this way: “When trust is low … it places a hidden ‘tax’ on every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision.” People don’t fully hear what their leaders are saying, because they factor in guesses about the leader’s intentions. They wonder how transparent their leader is being. Employees don’t buy-in to decisions that they don’t trust.
Aron Ain, author of WorkInspired, How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work, and CEO of Kronos (a leading global provider of workforce management cloud solutions), points out that lack of trust places “a huge overhead burden on a relationship.” He insists that when you employ someone, you should go ahead and trust them! Will you get burned on occasion when trusting people?
“Absolutely!” Ain says, “But almost always my trust in team members has proven well-founded. And the benefits are numerous.”
By building a culture where employees know they are trusted and where they trust their managers and teammates, Kronos has created an organization where it is safe for people to be creative and to aim for the best possible outcomes, continuously getting better and better.
2.) No Trust — No “Exposing Reality” Exposing reality means trying very hard to look at things the way they really are, rather than the way we wish they were. As Ain points out, “the faster you see things as they really are, the faster you can get to work on improving them.”
But in a low-trust environment, people are especially motivated to gloss over uncomfortable truths and to declare victory and move on rather than checking to see if they did or didn’t get the results they expected. Trust enables us to admit what we don’t know, recognize and recover quickly from mistakes, and to put uncomfortable information, questions, and contrary opinions out in the open, where the team can work through them with honesty and passion to arrive together at the best strategies and decisions.
3.) No Trust — Poor Results In a low-trust environment, employees hold back information or ideas that seem risky to share, so leaders make decisions based on incomplete information and without knowing all the potential consequences. And when employees believe their managers are making decisions without all the relevant input and information, they often question or even slow-walk the decisions.
Covey cites polls showing that only 45% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management. Lencioni, in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, places lack of trust at the foundation of his pyramid of dysfunctions culminating in poor results. Without trust among a team, people keep their cards close to their chests. They are afraid to admit the limits of what they know, afraid to admit any vulnerabilities. Because they don’t trust one another, they fear conflict and withhold uncomfortable information and dissenting views. Without complete information, these teams make poor decisions, and the decisions they do make are poorly executed because they do not arrive at a shared commitment to the decision unless they have aired and resolved dissenting views. Thus, a lack of trust leads to both flawed strategies and poor execution.
4,) Trust Inspires and Engages Covey observes that “trust is one of the most powerful forms of motivation and inspiration. People want to be trusted. They respond to trust. They thrive on trust.”
This is exactly what Ain sees happening at Kronos. “Because we place so much faith in employees,” he explains in WorkInspired, “they return the favor, placing a remarkable degree of trust in us. Their trust in turn leads to far better performance — more innovation, quicker recovery from mistakes, more energy and enthusiasm at work.”
The next step, of course, is identifying the best way to build a “culture of trust,” which will be the subject of our next post.
You might call it a “secret weapon” but, to be honest, it is the exact opposite. Because unlike a weapon, it is constructive rather than destructive; the only harm it could do a competitor is to leave them behind.
And it is anything but secret!
In his recent book, WorkInspired, How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work, Aron Ain openly shares the pivotal role it has played in Kronos’s amazing growth story.
This “secret weapon” is trust — the soft concept producing results that are hard to beat.
The role that trust plays in an organization’s success has been written about before by keen observers of human and organizational dynamics.
Patrick Lencioni in The Five Disfunctions of a Team identifies the lack of trust among a management team as the root cause of most poor performance.
Stephen M. R. Covey in The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything passionately echoes this view, citing research indicating high-trust organizations out-perform their low-trust competitors by 300%, because a lack of trust increases costs while simultaneously reducing an organization’s speed and agility.
What’s different about Ain, CEO of Kronos, a leading global provider of workforce management cloud solutions, is that he can tell us how trust is working in action today and about the tools and methods in place to support the practice and enhance the effectiveness of trust.
At Kronos, everyone is expected to give trust both within and outside their functional areas and to practice behaviors that earn the trust of their employees, teammates, and managers. According to Ain, the culture of trust contributes to much more than high engagement and retention, as important as those are, but to amazing business results.
And the results Kronos has achieved are great! Revenue has tripled; Kronos has surpassed 35,000 customers worldwide, innovations are rolling out faster than ever, and employee engagement scores are through the roof. Kronos once again occupies the #1 spot in the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work list in Massachusetts. It received an award from Fortune Magazine for Best Workplace for Millennials – 2018. It is on both Glassdoor’s and Fortune Magazine’s lists of top 100 places to work and has received numerous other awards for workplace engagement.
Based on a recent newsletter by our associate Sheila Julien, our next post will share four specific reasons why “trust” works and why it is essential to creating an agile, highly competitive organization.
Challenges and best practices associated with continuous improvement