Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category
I received an email invitation in my In Box recently for a webinar titled, “Recognition as the Foundation for a More Human Workforce.” I deleted it but then went back to read it in more detail.
One of the reasons I deleted it is that it struck as sending the wrong message. In fact, it does say “THE” foundation, not just “A” foundation. All my experience, intuition, and even personal research tells me that this proposition is just plain wrong.
As relating to a “human” workforce, I recalled the piece by Emma Seppal in HBR (“Managers create more wellness than wellness plans do”) that speaks to the power of organizations and leaders characterized by trust, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, generosity, and respect. Is recognition lurking in there? Perhaps, but there is a big difference between recognition that is a daily spontaneous habit and what is viewed as a program.
When I was working with Dana Costar to design an upward feedback instrument for managers, we did a lot of background reading on possible drivers of perceptions of manager effectiveness. It seemed to us that recognition was fairly far down the list, but recognition did keep popping up. So we somewhat grudgingly did include it as a dimension in our instrument to see how it stacked up when the data came in.
Our results (Costar & Bracken, 2014) on an international sample of 82 leaders showed that Trust is the leading driver of ratings of manager effectiveness, while Recognition fell far down the list. (As an aside, Trust was behind Facilitating Development in ratings of effectiveness as a Coach, but still far ahead of Recognition.)
Lolly Daskal’s blog in Inc. has a list of leadership “beliefs” (characteristics/behaviors) where says “Honoring Trust” is the “first job of a leader.” But her list includes many other trust builders as well:
- Leading by Example
- Accepting Accountability
- Leading with Integrity
- Encompassing Humility
- Manifesting Loyalty
- Showing Respect
- Leading with Character
(I see that recognition, “Exhibiting Appreciation” does make the list but is, in my opinion, overwhelmed by these other factors and a cousin to recognition.)
Gallup’s list of critical manager capabilities includes these:
- They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
- They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
- They create a culture of clear accountability.
- They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
- They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.
We don’t see recognition on this list either, but we do see trust.
Vendors are pushing recognition apps. I believe they fall in the category of activities that are relatively harmless but of little value. If there is harm (besides wasted expense) it is that they, by nature, are targeted only at positive feedback. Then there is a lost opportunity to create awareness of other important behavioral/skill deficits.
I have proposed that “Trust” comes in two forms: Trusts and Trusted. Turned into behaviors that can be defined, developed and measured, they look like this:
Trust is one of those constructs that may be elusive to pin down definitionally, but we all know it and, more importantly, feel it when we experience it. Unfortunately (tongue deeply embedded in cheek) there will never be a “trust” app. But trust can be “deleted” just as fast as an app with no opportunity to reinstall.
Trust is the real foundation of a human workforce. Define it, develop it and measure it. Then your organization has a chance of really being “human.”
Costar, D.M., & Bracken, D.W. (2014). The impact of trust and coaching relationship on manager effectiveness ratings. In D.W. Bracken (Chair) Manager As Coach: Defining, Developing and Measuring Effectiveness. Symposium at the 29th Annual Conference of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Honolulu, HI, May, 2014.
©David W. Bracken 2016
This column in Forbes by Rob Asghar literally paralyzed me for a few moments.
Forbes is known for taking provocative positions at times but this one challenges some of my core values as to what it means to be a successful leader, let alone good person. In a nutshell, he argues that the only important factor in evaluating leader success is bottom line results, regardless of the process. In other words, any means to an end (thank you, Machiavelli). Rob has no data to support his position, but he protects himself by saying that successful leaders (and he, himself) do not care to hear from the “experts,” i.e., social scientists like many of us, about process. So what follows is probably an exercise in futility if I think it will ever be read by people like him. But it gives me the opportunity to bring to you a few nuggets that I’ve seen relating to this topic in the last few weeks. And a couple that go way back.
First, this discussion gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Blake and Mouton’s seminal book, The Managerial Grid. (As an aside, dozens of people entered into a recent LinkedIn discussion I began in the I/O Practitioners space regarding what are some core knowledge areas an I/O Psychologist should be expected to possess, though the discussion went off in other directions. At one point I offered up the Hawthorne Studies, and I would add The Managerial Grid to that list. I will also add Douglas McGregor’s Theory X/Theory Y, discussed below.)
For the uninitiated, the Managerial Grid is a 9×9 matrix that plots leader behaviors on an X-axis (Task orientation) and a Y-axis (Relationship orientation). Not by coincidence, McGregor’s Theory X behavior is very task oriented while Theory Y describes a much more participative style (with McGregor being first, around 1960). In the Grid, ideal leader is 9-9, an equally strong emphasis on task and relationship. (I recall once when a colleague was trying to force me to do something and accusing him of trying to “9-1” me, that is to do something regardless of how I felt about it, which, by the way, is basically what Asghar is promoting.)
Leaders who demonstrate no respect for others occasionally do succeed. Of course, Steve Jobs is the most cited example. This past week I watch a PBS biography on Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, and I (and others) would add him to this list. He was universally labeled an “SOB.” No one could remember him ever saying “thank you.” But he was an obsessive believer in accountability, for both others and himself. And he was consistent. And, ultimately, he was successful in achieving his vision. Mr. Asghar also uses Nick Saban, very successful coach at Alabama, as another example. But these are extraordinary people and exceptions in many ways.
Here’s another article, this time from HBR, which not only has data, it is titled “The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss.” https://hbr.org/2014/11/the-hard-data-on-being-a-nice-boss
Using various studies, the author (Emma Seppala) asserts the following:
- Putting pressure on subordinates that increases stress that leads to high health care and turnover costs.
- Acts of altruism increase status in the organization.
- Fair treatment leads to higher productivity and citizenship behaviors
- Leaders who project warmth are more effective.
- Employees that feel greater trust for a leader that is kind.
So there is a cost to being a Theory X (9-1) manager, i.e., the health and well-being of your employees. And the cost is getting bigger everyday unfortunately with the state of our healthcare system.
In my last blog (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/trust-again/), I revisited the concept of “trust” and labeled it the “sine qua non” (without which there is nothing) of effective leadership. Trust is a complex behavioral construct, but I totally agree that kindness is an important component. Kindness doesn’t have to mean being soft; it is more akin to empathy, having sensitivity to the feelings of others, particularly when the message is difficult. We are seeing “kindness” being mentioned in a growing number of organizations. Part of that comes from respecting the whole person and his/her point of view and emotions without having to abdicate the responsibility for delivering on individual, team and organization performance commitments.
This piece by Stephanie Vozza from Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/3038919/mentor-or-best-friend-which-management-style-is-best) starts right off with this statement: “For decades, managers led with a heavy hand from corner offices.” She goes on to contrast that with how managers will be most effective in today’s workplace, building upon some work by the Addison Group. She (and they) maintains that the answer isn’t to be the “best friend” of subordinates, but instead to be a mentor who provides guidance and advice, both on daily performance and careers.
(I do disagree with 2 of her points. First, she maintains that this situation is being caused by the arrival of millennials that have different expectations of management. Au contraire! ALL workers have a need to be respected with all the leadership behaviors that that implies, including honoring the value and needs of each person.
Secondly, I take issue with the use of the word “mentor” in this context. We should clearly differentiate between “mentor” and “coach,” specifically manager as coach. But these points get us off track from our theme here.)
Having done employee surveys for over 35 years and 360’s almost as long, recurring themes in drivers of engagement and evaluations of leader effectiveness continue to be trust and support in helping employees develop and plan for careers.
Let me add one other point to the value of believing that the “means” is as important as the end. An I/O colleague told me of a piece of research that has stuck with him that indicated that a strongest predictor of employee ethical behavior was immediate manager ethical (or not) behavior. There are many potential explanations for why that is, but those are not as important as saying if we believe ethical behavior is important in our organization, we can observe and measure it, and, if it leads to more of that desired behavior, the organization and its customers will benefit. This, of course, applies to other important leadership behaviors, often captured in Values statements that hang on walls and too infrequently actually measured.
Allan Church and I bring the “how” versus “what” of performance into the Performance Management discussion in our article from last year (http://www.orgvitality.com/articles/HRPSBrackenChurch OV.pdf). One of the points we make is that organizations are very good at measuring the “what” side of performance (i.e., tangible, objective achievements) and much less adept at measuring the “how” (i.e., the means to the end, the behaviors demonstrated). A parallel argument can be made that leaders/managers/supervisors find it much easier to manage the “what” side, and, because it is more difficult, give much less (if any) attention to the relationship part of leading, including coaching.
We are certainly not advocating the abandonment of the “what” measures. We are suggesting that an overemphasis on the “how” side of leader behavior is needed until they balance out, both at the individual and organizational level, i.e., achieving more “9-9” management at all levels.
I suspect that the majority of the readers of this blog are the “experts” Asghar references and dismisses. And to you colleagues, I am hopefully preaching to the choir (as they say). If that is not the case, then please let us know what that position is.
For those of you not in the “choir,” I hope you read Asghar’s piece and see if you think he has a valid point. Reflect on both how it applies in your organization and for your own behavior as a leader/manager.
Everybody should sit back and reflect on where/when we see or don’t see Theory Y behavior at all levels of leadership and how to create more 9-9 leaders. We should demand accountability for both “what” and “how” measurement aligned with both strategy and organizational values.
©2014 David W. Bracken
“Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value the relationship more than your ego.”
I saw that anonymous quote on LinkedIn recently and it drew me back to a small note in Traning & Development magazine dated February 24 on this topic. (http://goo.gl/8X6yRe) The text follows:
A recent survey of 954 global professionals by the Forum Corporation found that although 87 percent of managers say that they either always or often apologize for their mistakes at work, only 19 percent of employees say that their managers apologize most or all of the time.
Naturally, managers not owning up to their errors has a direct impact on employee trust levels. Another interesting insight from the survey is that while 91 percent of employees say it’s “extremely important” to have a manager they can trust, only 48 percent of managers agree that it’s extremely important for employees to trust their managers.
So we can only assume that it’s those managers who do not place a premium on trust who are committing the following worst management sins, as identified by survey participants:
- taking credit for others’ ideas or blaming
- poor communication
- lack of clarity.
Managers may condone their mistakes because they are afraid of tarnishing their image. According to the survey, 51 percent of managers believe apologizing makes them appear incompetent, 18 percent believe it makes them look weak, and 18 percent shrug it off, saying that apologizing is unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the study also shows that a low regard for employees’ trust may result in low engagement levels.
This note caught my attention for a few reasons. First, this concept of trust is one that is central to the “manager as coach” work we have been doing in defining the foundation of a productive relationship that is required (in our opinion) if a manager is to be a successful coach for his/her team members.
Trust is also manifested in the perceptions of senior management, whether that group is perceived as individuals or in their aggregate actions. Either way, time after time we see that employee surveys indicate that “trust in senior leadership” is usually the primary driver of employee engagement, confirming the last sentence of the article.
Secondly, the basis for trust (or lack thereof), as listed in the bullets, is determined by behaviors. Behaviors are a choice; a person can choose to do them or not. That choice can be influenced by consequences. Evidently, a majority of managers see more value in behaving badly. We can change that behavior by making them aware that they are behaving badly, and then having negative consequences for doing so. From top to bottom.
Thirdly was the discrepancy between the importance of trust to employees versus their managers. It is hard to believe that organizations do not preach honesty, integrity and so on, whether through Values statements that hang on the walls, or by lip service. It does suggest that there is inadequate accountability.
This T+D blurb is another in a series of articles and blogs I have seen recently that bemoan bad leader behavior and the effect on an organization’s climate (see my recent blog https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/nimble-and-sustainable/), but with no specific recommendation as to a solution.
I really hate whining without a proposed solution. I have suggested that a 360 process with accountability (i.e., consequences, good or bad) is a viable solution. I recently heard of a major organization that has introduced a new leadership behavior (competency) model, and, when I asked how leaders are to be measured against the model, the response what to fall back on single-source supervisor evaluation because “360’s haven’t worked here.” I felt like I was in a backward time warp to 20 years when we started talking seriously about the shortcomings of single-source (manager) performance evaluations (see Edwards and Ewen’s first 360 degree feedback book).
Behaviors can be shaped, starting with creating awareness that change is needed, aligning to the desired behavior, and usually requiring consequences (i.e., accountability). A few leaders will change without the carrot & stick, but those are usually the ones who are not the ones who need fixing.
If you have leaders who are undermining trust, you have a problem. I think there is a solution.