Creative Talents, But What Kind?

Innovation and Creativity permeate the pages of business books and internet storytelling.

Unlike Project Management skills or Financial Analysis, Creative Talents aren't a homogeneous lump of artistic, business-oriented goo. (I haven't the slightest idea where that line came from. It just flowed at the end of the sentence. Must have something to do with my own hidden, artistic goo).

I know from my work with client companies that the cry for "Innovation!" and "Creative Solutions!" is a loud one. I'm not sure that everyone has the same definition or really understands the distinct subsets of Creativity that individuals can offer.

Here is a way to begin to distinguish among Three Unique Creative Talents:

Creativity_2

Creating. The inclination to form new associations among previously unrelated concepts, objects, or systems. These folks are continually experimenting with new ideas. You can observe this in any endeavor: office work, administration, sports, teaching, management...and, it doesn't necessarily require much knowledge of previously developed methods.

The gift here: creating something new out of what appeared to be unrelated, existing entities.

Imagining. Very different from creating and truly in the realm of the mind. Those of you with this innate talent will form new associations in your mind as a result of theorizing, philosophizing, daydreaming, and hypothesizing. This can extend to the development of story characters  and other entities that do not yet exist. In other words, the generation of something brand new.

I believe this is what many organizations claim they are looking for but then stop people from  "doing" it because it doesn't look like "work."

Inventing. This is a way to distinguish those whose tend to produce physical creativity from those who live in the world of ideas and concepts. Inventors--for classification purposes-- have a natural talent for developing new technical equipment and physical systems. One way to identify this kind of creative talent is to observe people who "act out" there ideas in tactile ways using substances such as wood, concrete, plastic, glass, etc.

Real-life story About "Creative" Differences

While doing consulting and coaching some years ago with executives at an energy company in Pennsylvania, I received a fascinating request: Would I meet with some of their almost-college-age children and do some "testing" to help the young people better understand their talents?

So, I asked: "Why do you really think that's important?" (Effective consultants, like effective counselors, never roll with the 'presenting' issue:-)

The real pain was not with the off-to-college crowd; it was with the parents. These adults were all highly educated, highly trained engineers who saw the "real world" as a very physical place. They were unbelievably creative in their problem-solving as well. However, the youngsters involved were making noise about majoring in Theater Arts, Fine Arts, and Music. To the executives involved, even if their kid sculpted the next "David," it wouldn't actually do anything.

From this brief description you could no doubt sit down with the parents and explain what was going on. However: these were engineer parents. So, I spent time doing talent assessments and interviews with the young people (thoroughly enjoyable) and then sat down with them and their folks. When the data were presented along with a list of actual talents and related careers--life at home became good again.

These were terrific parents who cared enough to do something about:

a. Changing some of the thinking of their children as a result of good information

b. Changing some of their own thinking as a result of good information

Thought for today: Begin to engineer your thinking about what it means to be creative. Take time to discern your own inclinations and those of your colleagues. When you begin to see that Creativity comes in different, useful forms, you'll start using more of it.Create, Imagine, Invent. . .

Create, Imagine, Invent. . .

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Strengths, Weaknesses and Engagement

What engages you most, building on your talent or overcoming what you see as some "gap" in your inherent abilities?

Where do you get the bigger payoff?

I read through a Gallup Management Journal article that reflected these findings:

   1. If your manager primarily ignores you your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%

   2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%

   3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%

Barbell-StrengthI think these factoids are powerful in their simplicity. They point the way to what managers and their people should be paying attention to if they're really concerned with being engaged.

First: Managers would be wise to initiate conversation and discussion with all of their people. Otherwise, the numbers show that they'll lose the active commitment of nearly half.

Note to employees: I know that you know that your manager is supposed to know this. Well, clearly they may not. If you aren't getting attention, initiate a conversation with your boss about how important it is to you. Some people, by nature, don't initiate those things. Then, if you find out that this isn't a department or organization where you can flourish, you have some  solid information for making career decisions. And if you do make a difference by initiating the discussion and see it continue, you've helped at least two people.

Second: Here is a way to start thinking about where to invest energy: Building Strengths or Overcoming Weaknesses.

I'll use a sales example:

Let's say you are a sales rep who has a track record of getting appointments and a presentation with 60% of the people on whom you call.  But  your  ability to close the sale is  25%.  You have been a sales rep at different companies for 18 years.(Stick with me, I've been a sales manager).

What you now know is that you're strength lies in building the initial relationship and being able to get in front of the client. No matter how hard you've worked at closing the sale, you've never gotten above 25%.

As your sales manager, I'd start thinking:

If I help you focus on getting appointments and presentations--and you improve just 10%--then I have someone who can get us in front of a prospective client 66% of the time. If I start focusing on your closing deficit and you manage to improve 10%, you still only get to a 27.5% success rate.

So I decide that I --or another "closer" with a high percentage of success--will come along to the presentations. You become the "star" door opener and we find another "star" closer.

I'd be crazy to spend my time and energy focusing on your weakness. It would be the same as telling Yo Yo Ma "You're a phenomenal musician. I know you are a cellist, but we're going to put all of our energy into making you a pianist."

Let's talk with people about about their "star power"--those talents we caught a glimpse of and that prompted us to hire them in the first place!

 

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Target The Right Audience For Your Talents

Hide not your talents, they for use were made. 
What's a sun-dial in the shade?
     --Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Everyone is talented at something. Everyone.

Where you decide to perform can build you up or whittle you down. That's what "best fit" is all about.

Audience-opening

So pick the venue that's a showcase, not a coffin.

1. If you want corporate life, find a corporation that's already doing the kinds of things you like to do the way you like to do them. Don't expect them to change for you, no matter how right you may be about something.

2. If you love being independent, then research the kinds of clients who will appreciate you and your approach. Seek them out and leave the rest alone, no matter how alluring the money. Bad client relationships leave you emotionally drained and without a testimonial for your marketing package.

3. If longevity and stability mean a lot, then pay attention to opportunities in government and education. Consistency and integrity are two talents that those of us who are served would greatly value.

4. You're an entertainer? Then entertain. At least try it out to see if you can earn a living. If you need a backup, fine. But don't leave this earth wondering whether you might have "made it" in some way. We're all looking for a good laugh or a song that we can destroy in the shower. Maybe you're just the one to help us.

Most of all, know that you've got talent. When you uncover it, put it where it will be most appreciated and most used.

Could life get much better than that?

photo source: i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/ multimedia/archives

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Telling The Truth About Talent


6a00d8341c500653ef0133f46c4950970b-800wiIf you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.
Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Preparing for my keynote at a Halogen Software User Conference I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make your HR person a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment."

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for HR folks (and the rest of us): Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

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Developing Talent: Strengths + Weaknesses

Have you noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Lets have a close look at this:

Research (and common sense) confirm that focusing on peoples' strengths has a positive affect on morale, engagement and the bottom line. 

But as with any approach (or new idea), focusing on strengths can go overboard in organizations, causing many negative side-effects. Some I've seen: 

Weight_Lifting_Hamster

1. Using the "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat.")

2.  Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

3.  Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.") 

All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength. All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in focusing on strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive. 

What's Happening?

There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. It's this:

What is actually a principle is adopted as a rule. 

These are two actual representations of the 80/20 "concept":

8020 final.001 
Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, the human condition tends to run with a catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that gets tossed around in meetings as a mantra. It becomes problematic when that word isn't represented accurately or in context.  And that happens a lot. 

So it is with Strengths. It's a lot easier to say "It's all about strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, explore ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior we're really saying, "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness. 

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine. 

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Halos, Horns, and Expectations

What do your company's talent  conversations sound like?

If you've spent more than a few minutes managing, succession planning, or doing a performance review, you know that total talent conversations can morph into a bias founded upon a single experience. Here's what I mean.

HalosHornsThe Halo Effect

The Halo Effect surfaces when someone has an outstanding characteristic and we allow our positive reaction to that singe characteristic to influence our total judgment of the individual. What follows is a high assessment on many traits because we believe the person is a star in one trait. We ascribe a range of related talents that simply may not now, nor ever will, exist.

We see this in the realms of celebrity and politics when a physically attractive person is presumed to have a host of other positive traits. We also see it in companies where "the smartest guy in the room" moves up the hierarchy until it's discovered that his "smartness" not only doesn't extend to other fundamental traits e.g., cooperation, teamwork, initiating communication--but the individual may actually get in the way of the flow of work.

The Horn Effect

This one, often called the "Devil Effect," is the flip side of the Halo Effect and doesn't get quite as much attention. I don't know why that is. Its organizational impact is equally profound. 

In this scenario, if a person seems particularly lacking in one key trait, then that person will often be assumed to be deficient in many other traits. A manager who is constantly overdue on  project delivery (possibly due to unreasonable work demands and a boss who won't renegotiate what makes realistic sense) is assumed to be uncommitted, perhaps a little lazy, and even negligent in their overall work life.

Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We live up to our expectations. People who expect to be successful are more likely to succeed. People who expect failure are more likely to fail.

A manager's or supervisor's expectations about employees' performance will effect that performance. Period. Remember that performance evaluations and performance feedback will influence and mold future performance based upon the implicit and explicit expectations that managers convey. 
(The same is true in families regarding the messages conveyed between spouses those between parents and children).

Today's thought: Be aware of how you might be contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies in your workplace and in your life. It's important, because you very often get what you expect. 


 

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A Helpful Way To Think About Talent

You don't pay much attention to what seems to come easily to you. And you should.

I just finished a mid-career assessment with Mike. He has a grouping of talents that would make any major construction or engineering firm drool with anticipation of hiring him as a project manager.

So when I pointed out his natural strengths, what was his response?

Talent

"Oh, of course, but that's just stuff that I've always liked to do."

Well, yeah! It just so happens that what he's always like to do--and is really, really good at--fits perfectly with outstanding project management. But he never saw himself as gifted in that area because it seemed easy. As a result, he spent years not promoting his career because he thought that if it was easy it must not be worth anything.

Are you doing the same thing?

Start paying attention to what you do really well and the underlying communication, relational, and functional talents that go with it. I use a proprietary assessment to zero in on the specifics with my clients. You can start by asking those around you to tell you how they see you in these three areas:

Communication                                                                    

    Interpersonal
    Presenting
    Facilitating group discussion

Relational
    Are you a large group, small group, or one-at-a time relator?

When you determine which fits you best, look at your career. Does your current job match your relational talent? If so, great. If not, find a situation that matches. This is a huge determiner of job success.

Functional

    Helping/Service orientation
    Managerial/Sole contributor orientation
    Good with lots of action or lots of thinking time?
    Do you excel in dealing with people or things?

That's a start. Then do this:

Recognize that what you do well--and what comes naturally--has great value.

Decide today to find the career match that brings out the best in you.

 

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Strengths, Weaknesses, and Engagement

What engages you most: building on your talent or overcoming what you see as some "gap" in your inherent abilities?

Where do you get the bigger payoff?

My friend and employee engagement guru David Zinger cited a Gallup Management Journal article in one of his posts that reflected these findings:

1. If your manager primarily ignores you your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%

2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%

3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%.

Hot Cold Commitment

I think these factoids are powerful in their simplicity. They point the way to what managers and their people should be paying attention to if they're really concerned with being engaged.

First: Managers would be wise to initiate conversation and discussion with all of their people. Otherwise, the numbers show that they'll lose the active commitment of nearly half. Note to employees: I know that you know that your manager is supposed to know this. Well, clearly they may not. If you aren't getting attention, initiate a conversation with your boss about how important it is to you. Some people, by nature, don't initiate those things. Then, if you find out that this isn't a department or organization where you can flourish, you have some solid information for making career decisions. And if you do make a difference by initiating the discussion and see it continue, you've helped at least two people.

Second: Here is a way to start thinking about where to invest energy: Building Strengths or Overcoming Weaknesses. I'll use a sales example.

Let's say you are a sales rep who has a track record of getting appointments and a presentation with 60% of the people on whom you call. But your ability to close the sale is 25%. You have been a sales rep at different companies for 18 years.(Stick with me, I've been a sales manager). What you now know is that you're strength lies in building the initial relationship and being able to get in front of the client. No matter how hard you've worked at closing the sale, you've never gotten above 25%. As your sales manager, I'd start thinking: If I help you focus on getting appointments and presentations--and you improve just 10%--then I have someone who can get us in front of a prospective client 66% of the time. If I start focusing on your closing deficit and you manage to improve 10%, you still only get to a 27.5% success rate. So I decide that I --or another "closer" with a high percentage of success--will come along to the presentations. You become the "star" door opener and we find another "star" closer.

I'd be crazy to spend my time and energy focusing on your weakness. It would be the same as telling Yo Yo Ma "You're a phenomenal musician. I know you are a cellist, but we're going to put all of our energy into making you a great tuba player."

Thought for Today: Let's talk with people about "What They Can't Not Do."

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Manage Talent: Build Managers

Here's a lead from a Management-Issues article that caught my attention: 

 "The focus of many American businesses on nurturing and grooming their top-level talent is masking a growing crisis further down the management scale – with more than half admitting they are suffering from a "critical" shortage of middle managers."

Because quite a bit of our client work relates to developing talent, it really jumped off the page. I'm not surprised at the implied shock value because headlines are supposed to grab attention. And, the survey quoted was conducted by a reputable talent management firm whose purpose is to drill down and find out what is happening in their specialty area: talent management.

High_productivity_yield_inside_sign_humor_tshirt-p235810590138866587trlf_400

Some immediate thoughts

  • Part of the answer lies within the opening sentence itself. Corporations have ignored the training and development of supervisors and managers for a number of years now.
     
  • Leadership is more glamorous. Leadership is also more strategic and less results-focused day to day.
  • Engagement is about employees and their immediate bosses. Performance? The same. Customer service? There's no one in the executive suite helping customers fall in love with product.
  • Flat organizations give the illusion that there aren't as many managers. Not quite true. Someone is responsible for the results of some group of people, regardless of what their new title happens to be. Check your own organization and you'll see that this is true.
  • Colleges and universities are graduating thousands upon thousands every year, in all disciplines. They come out of school as raw talent.

What to do?

  • If your company has a supervisory/middle-management talent problem, check out whether or not you're enabling them to learn what they're supposed to do and how to do it.
  • Shift your focus from what's glamorous to what builds performance.
  • If your company is reading and ranting about "Execution," look at where the employees are who have to get it done day in and day out.
  • Oh--and when people start learning more and executing successfully as a result of good training and development, they'll most likely be more loyal, more engaged, and more likely to think twice before leaving.

What do you think?

 

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Talent: Where You Decide to Perform Matters

Hide not your talents, they for use were made. 
What's a sun-dial in the shade?
     --Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Everyone is talented at something. Everyone.

Where you decide to perform can build you up or whittle you down. 

So pick the venue that's a showcase, not a coffin.

Talentwanted_21. If you want corporate life, find a corporation that's already doing the kinds of things you like to do the way you like to do them. Don't expect them to change for you, no matter how right you may be about something.

2. If you love being independent, then research the kinds of clients who will appreciate you and your approach. Seek them out and leave the rest alone, no matter how alluring the money. Bad client relationships leave you emotionally drained and without a testimonial for your marketing package.

3. If longevity and stability mean a lot, then pay attention to opportunities in government and education. Consistency and integrity are two talents that those of us who are served would greatly value.

4. You're an entertainer? Then entertain. At least try it out to see if you can earn a living. If you need a backup, fine. But don't leave this earth wondering whether you might have "made it" in some way. We're all looking for a good laugh or a song that we can destroy in the shower. Maybe you're just the one to help us.

Most of all, know that you've got talent. When you uncover it, put it where it will be most appreciated and most used.

Could life get much better than that?

 

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Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow

Every so often I check the keyword searches that land people here at All Things Workplace. A lot of them have to do with "find my strengths" or "how do I manage talented people?"

People at work appear deeply invested in clarifying their own strengths and understanding the inherent talent in others. If that's so, I was wondering why there is so much angst about "growing talent." It seems that people are already interested and committed for the long term if their strengths and talents are being valued.

"Your Lips Say 'Yes-Yes' But There's 'No-No' In Your Eyes"

There is at least one reason why some people--including managers--shop their resumes even in bad times.In part, it has to do with verbally advocating development and then doing the opposite.

A real life example:

Jason (not his real name) is an operations manager in one of my client companies. He's quite experienced and has been in the manufacturing industry for 20+ years. He is also the most well-read client ever. Whenever I see him, he waxes poetically about the wonderful "new" managerial ideas he's picked up from the most recent leadership books he's read. And he's read all of them.

One of those ideas had to do with recognizing someone's small successes and following through with verbal encouragement or even a small reward (lunch, movie tickets, a $25 gift certificate. . .) Or better yet, acknowledge the person's accomplishment during a regular departmental meeting. He even made it a point to talk about the importance of those ideas during a meeting with his supervisors.

So what's the problem?

He wouldn't do any of those. So, I asked him why not.

His reply: "I'm not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work."

What's baffling is this: He doesn't have the same approach with his kids. I've seen him at home, in action. He acknowledges them when they've succeeded at something. Anything. And he does it spontaneously.

Good grief:

Blog Insert.001

Every day we're all trying to learn or do something new. Let's be honest: part of our day is spent being a kid again when it comes to struggling with a new problem that needs a solution. And we could use a few encouraging words of recognition when we demonstrate a talent that helps the organization.

("Gee, that felt good. I think I'll do it again!)

What would a well-known, successful business person say about the importance of encouragement?

"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."
~ Henry Ford

A Final Thought to Encourage Encouragement
The human mind abhors a vacuum. In the absence of accurate information we'll create our own story to fill the space. Unfortunately, we humans usually create a more negative reality than actually exists. Therefore, the absence of acknowledgment and encouragement can very easily turn into the perception of a "critique." (If my boss isn't telling me I'm doing well then I must be doing poorly).
Find someone who is doing something well today and tell them so. You'll be growing talent.

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Who Do You Want To Become? It Matters

"Who do I want to become?" or "What do I want to be?"

Which question are you asking yourself? Your choice may determine the depth of your life, the wisdom in it, and the success of your career.

Growing.001 After watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company I noticed his ease while listening, talking, giving direction, and saying, "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What we’re really seeing here is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was measured and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or, do you want to play a role?

Think about the difference. It will change your life.

 

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How To Build Your People

Steve suggests: Start by seeing clearly who they really are

Magnify

Ponder this for a moment:

  • How many people at work know who you really are?
  • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it probably isn't in the traditional sense of "business-like."

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures.Then they  sign on with high hopes.

What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't they talented when they were hired?

Here's what I see.

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving direction to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
 can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue--or help the individual see that another role--maybe even in another organization--would be a better match. It's the coach's job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught--in the context of the organization's strategies and culture.

Manager As Coach

Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

And that brings us back to the opening:

If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally "seeing clearly." And if it's tough, then get some help.

You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

As always: weigh in. Share your thoughts on clarity, talent, and building people by seeing them clearly. Let the community learn from what you've learned. Click on Comments and join the discussion.

 

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Telling The Truth About Talent

If you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.

Seek_truth Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Preparing for my keynote at the Halogen Software User Conference last week I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make your HR person a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment."

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for HR folks (and the rest of us): Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

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Your Talents, Your Career, and Change

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change it's tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Talent_show  What Happened to the Talent?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

Mysteriously, people may not feel as talented and capable as before. At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Talent: Smart Heart Or A Well-Bred Head?

We are enamored of intellect and expertise. Yet, when we look at those who are asked to leave organizations, it's often the people who are "brilliant."

The problem? 

That "light of brilliance" shines down on the individual but isn't reflected in a way that adds warmth to the system as a whole. When that happens, it's not life-sustaining.

Heart&Head  My experience is that such folks do get a lot of feedback from their bosses and others about being "more collaborative." No one really wants to see these people fail and lose their expertise as a result. However, some combination of unwillingness and inability to adapt to the needs of others ultimately becomes organizationally untenable. The person has to go. 

Talent Implications

Few would dispute the importance of learning in organizations, and that's what this is all about. So, here is a question:

Is your organization deliberate about identifying--up front--people who have the heart to learn about themselves and the humility to make changes accordingly?

There are plenty of college grads out there who have managed to absorb a particular body of knowledge. You want to land the ones who want to learn how to use that knowledge in the service of those around them. You want people with a "smart heart."

A well-bred head lights up a single office. A smart heart lights up the organization. 

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How Do You Define "Talent?"

We do a lot of executive assessment and coaching. 

As a result, I see people who are at mid-life and realizing that their inherent talents and interests don't match what they are doing. Most would like to stay with their current employer but need some helping getting a good hearing when it comes to using their giftedness elsewhere in the organization.

According to my friend, Dr. Ellen Weber:

"It's common knowledge that people use far less of their talent than they possess. It's also increasingly recognized that wasted, unused, or hidden talents can literally shrink a person's brain. But how can a person develop more talent given the complexity of the brain to recognize such hidden or unused talent, and the rigidity of some workplaces to value unique capabilities of its workers?"

Catpiano  Here Is The Question

How is your company addressing "talent management?"

I will confess that I sometimes struggle with what I see as an emphasis on a shopping list of competencies to define talent. It sounds rational and understandable to look at jobs, define behavioral competencies, and then try to ascertain who has those competencies. 

How it sometimes gets played out:

1. Frequently there are numerous--I've seen as many as thirty --competencies attached to a position. If God decided to offer up only ten commandments to successfully live a lifetime, thirty seems a bit much for a supply chain manager. 

2. Assessment centers, 360 feedback, and other tools are used to find out who has what competencies and to what degree. That's fine and they can be very accurate. Just tell me when you find someone who is competent at thirty of anything. 

3. The actual ideas of genuine "talent" and related passion and excitement often don't show up on the radar screen in discussions. It takes relationships, discernment, and deep conversation to get at the heart of a person's real talents and how best to use them organizationally. 

What's going on in your company?



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Leadership Coaching: Success Is In The Agreement

There is often an equal amount of fuzziness when it comes to Leadership Development and Leadership Coaching. As a result, the coaching issue can get blurred. So here are some suggestions after a lot of years wrestling with the issue.

Pay Attention to These


When it comes to coaching--or any kind of consulting activity--90% of the success or failure lies in the contracting phase. So:

1. Get clear about who initiated the coaching request. If it was a boss, be sure to understand what that person is looking for and why. Which means also asking, "Who really set this process in motion?" (Your boss may be the messenger).  Measure  

2. What are the specific results desired from the coaching engagement? While Leadership is a sexy, catch-all phrase, maybe the real issue is managing team performance, running better meetings, or initiating conversations with colleagues in other corporate locations. (All three have emerged after probing underneath the Leadership umbrella during contracting).

3. Is coaching the best way to get at the desired growth? The fact of the matter is that some things are skills than can be learned in other ways. And if you ask yourself how you best learned Leadership, the thoughtful answer will probably be "from leading." Be prepared to suggest expanded responsibility. People grow by being lifted up, then stepping up.

(Effective coaches know when it's time to simply hold the ladder).

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Manage Yourself, Manage Your Own Talent

Do you want your special talents to be noticed at work?

Of course you do. Me, too.

Then you'll probably have to identify what they are and use them to get recognized. By the "right people." (I know that you know who they are).

A Towers Perrin survey of CEO's and HR Execs that said:

  • Groups now considered to be "talent" included senior leadership, employees at mid-level with leadership potential, key contributors or technical experts and entry-level employees with leadership potential.
  • Together, these defined talent pools made up, on average, no more than 15 per cent of the total workforce, said Towers Perrin.

Thinking3  Become Part of the 15%

Does focusing on 15% make sense? 

Forget whether or not it makes sense, is fair, or is actually in the company's best interest. If someone in power thinks it is, then it is.

Three things you can do:

1. Self-assess. Use a combination of tools such as the StrengthsFinder, MBTI (Step II), and informal 360 feedback from trusted associates. Find those few areas where you are number one.

2. Ask yourself what you "can't not do." Pay attention to those things that you gravitate toward and that don't feel like work. That's where you are the Big Kareer Kahuna.

3. Ask your boss for a meeting. Share what you've found and ask for the opportunity to demonstrate those talents. Head up a project, a committee, an event. Something that will get you recognized and have your strengths acknowledged.

Here is a recent thought on self-management from a savvy All Things Workplace reader (who I follow on Twitter as well):

Greg Stroz says: Having just done this myself as an employee (having a discussion with my manager to discuss not only performance but how to align my development needs with the company's objectives), I can certainly say that taking more control of your destiny in this manner certainly helps to reduce stress. In the worst case, it reduces the uncertainty that can make your future path unclear, which in turn makes it harder to make career decisions."

You have to take charge of managing your personal talents in a way that will contribute to your employer and clearly show that you've got what it takes. (Whatever that may mean).

Talent Management is a program.Your talent is your life.

View it as the gift that it is and view yourself as the caretaker of that gift. No one is more qualified than you.

Don't ya think?

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Don't Let Halos and Horns Blur Your Expectations

What do your company's talent  conversations sound like?

If you've spent more than a few minutes managing, succession planning, or doing a performance review, you know that total talent conversations can morph into a bias founded upon a single experience. Here's what I mean.

The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect surfaces when someone has an outstanding characteristic and we allow our positive reaction to that singe characteristic to influence our total judgment of the individual. What follows is a high assessment on many traits because we believe the person is a star in one trait. We ascribe a range of related talents that simply may not now, nor ever will, exist.

AngelAndDevilAtWork We see this in the realms of celebrity and politics when a physically attractive person is presumed to have a host of other positive traits. We also see it in companies where "the smartest guy in the room" moves up the hierarchy until it's discovered that his "smartness" not only doesn't extend to other fundamental traits e.g., cooperation, teamwork, initiating communication--but the individual may actually get in the way of the flow of work.

The Horn Effect

This one, often called the "Devil Effect," is the flip side of the Halo Effect and doesn't get quite as much attention. I don't know why that is. Its organizational impact is equally profound. 

In this scenario, if a person seems particularly lacking in one key trait, then that person will often be assumed to be deficient in many other traits. A manager who is constantly overdue on  project delivery (possibly due to unreasonable work demands and a boss who won't renegotiate what makes realistic sense) is assumed to be uncommitted, perhaps a little lazy, and even negligent in their overall work life.

Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We live up to our expectations. People who expect to be successful are more likely to succeed. People who expect failure are more likely to fail.

A manager's or supervisor's expectations about employees' performance will effect that performance. Period. Remember that performance evaluations and performance feedback will influence and mold future performance based upon the implicit and explicit expectations that managers convey.
(The same is true in families regarding the messages conveyed between spouses those between parents and children).

Today's thought: Be aware of how you might be contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies in your workplace and in your life. It's important, because you very often get what you expect. 

_______________________________

But that's not all! As we were hitting the "publish" key, The Leadership Carnival--Oscar Edition went online with more than top-notch articles on leadership by top-notch leadership writers. Be sure to add to your knowledge and check them out.

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Want Better Results? Look For "Plays Well With Others"

"Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence).

As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It’s just that simple.”

That's a pretty powerful claim. It comes from a research study I read a few years ago that was conducted through a collaborative effort of Frost & Sullivan, Microsoft, and Verizon. 

Collaboration The researchers created a collaboration index to measure a company’s relative “collaborativeness” based on two main factors:

 

An organization’s orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audioconferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging

 

The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork

Do You Play Well With Others?

This may seem like an abrupt switch from the serious tone, depth, and breadth of the study. But I needed that kind of data to help lead into an important career trait: playing well with others.

The study is right on target by highlighting the need for the right tools, systems, and culture. Yet it ultimately comes down to the individual. If you work in a global organization, you've got some extra challenges: time zone differences, language differences, cultural differences in what constitutes teamwork...(add your own experience by sending a comment!)

I recently spent three hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent, high-performing manager who isn't viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening over a matter of more than a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him and no one dislikes him personally.)

His side of the story

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn't see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it's necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information--even if it didn't make sense to him--and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He  listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn't make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

What happened?

His management career is finished with the current employer. He'll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.

Some people burn bridges. He never built them. We should take seriously the lessons we can learn from this real-life situation:

1. Organizations thrive because of collaboration. If you want to be seen as a player, then be one.

2. A high IQ doesn't compensate for low EQ. Your Emotional Quotient--your willingness and ability to relate and connect--is important to your company and your career.

3. Task results don't always matter if your behavior disrupts the rest of the system.

4. The study I cited noted the importance of processes, systems, and culture. This company's culture valued teamwork. That was one of their systems. Roesler's rule: Unless you have 51% of the vote, don't fight the system. The system always wins.

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What Happened to the Talent?

Changes and Changing Talents

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change its tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Scratching_head Where Did The Talent Go?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

  • Mysteriously, you don't feel as talented and capable as before.
  • At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Talent, Succession, & Understanding

Whenever I see something appear to be moving more slowly than it has to, it's fairly certain that something simple is being overlooked.

I was listening to an executive team talking about their impending Talent Management initiative in anticipation of a presentation that was to be delivered to them on the topic.  Here are some snippets of the informal chat:

  • "It's good that we're finally going to do succession planning in earnest."
  • "That's right. Our Board is nervous about what would happen in the case of a sudden death or serious illness."
  • "I need to know who my up-and-coming people are."
  • "We'll be able to look at a chart and see 'who's who' when it's time for an important move. "

Hmm. . .

Shortly before that, I was with line managers and HR people who were talking about the same initiative. Heres' what you would have heard:

  • "I think this is supposed to make it easier for me to have development discussions with my people."
  • "What software program are we going to use to track training and developmental assignments?"
  • "This is good. We're going to have more workshops and seminars."
  • "What are we going to include that will help with retention?"
  • "Does this mean that we'll have a defined career path?"

What's Going On?

The importance of self-interest comes into play here. Not selfish self-interest but the fact that when something new is introduced, we tend to define it from our personal perspective. That perspective emerges from a hope that something we need is going to be fulfilled.

The multiple conversations revealed an Aha!. While everyone across the organization was pretty excited about "Talent Management" as a way of life, they didn't have a simple, common understanding of what it meant. The top level folks were thinking, "Succession Planning." Everyone else had a variety of notions, depending upon one's role, needs, and hopes.

Sooo. . .trying to practice what I preach about Aha!. . .I put together a quick graphic for the person doing the executive presentation. The idea was to simplify what Talent Management is about while acknowledging the validity and distinction of Succession Planning as a part of it. The simplicity is also there to force the need to talk about the underlying elements and arrive at a common understanding:

TalentATW.001

If any of you are in the early stages of program development--or bumping into what appear to be honest misunderstandings--I hope this is helpful.

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Are We Educating for the Right Jobs?

We Don't Need As Many College Grads As People Think

You've suspected this for a long time. Me, too.

Look around at the growth of technical specialties, professional 'assistant' roles, and retail employees. Then look at the charts below:

Bartonchart1_2

It's important to differentiate between media headlines and sound bites that scream, "Ten fastest growing occupations!" at some given moment in time. The consequences could be far-reaching: Do we really need to be sending Brittany, Madison, Monroe (and maybe even John Quincy) into Saturday SAT tutoring to bump up those scores from 1218 to 1241?

Caveat: Just in case you think I'm dumping on the advantages of a good education, I'm not. I've been a public school teacher and college administrator in an earlier life. Which is also where I first began looking more carefully at the relationship between "what is taught" with "what is needed." Thus, the use of the term "good education."

If you look at the top chart of the 10 occupations with the highest rate of growth, you'll see that six require either an associate or bachelor's degree while the other four require short to moderate OJT.

Seventy percent of the the top 10 with the largest growth don't require college; 30 percent do.

Here is another graphic to tweak your career/talent/education synapses:

Edlevels_2

Add up the actual percentage of jobs requiring a Bachelor's Degree or more--now and in 2014--and you might be surprised at the results.

The Education/Job Implications?

Here are just a few that come to mind:

1. Is there a realistic connection, beginning early in public schools, with what is really going to be helpful to job candidates and employers?

2. Same question for colleges and universities.

3. The biggest piece of the pie (OK, Bar Chart) belongs to On-The-Job-Training. Yet the figures I've seen published in ASTD and other sources show that large companies are cutting back; (medium and smaller companies are actually increasing their T&D investment).

4. Is the intense competition--and unbelievable tense high school prep--an unhealthy response to an overstated and misunderstood need?

I want to be clear that what I've presented so far is designed to take interested readers to a more complete and fully contextual article in The Carnegie Mellon Change Magazine. The synopsis above is from the article. Kudos to Paul E. Barton on his clear and easy-to-digest explanations of the facts, the evidence and some of the implications in How Many Çollege Graduates Does the U.S. Really Need? He also does a nice job of clarifying the distinctions between fast-growing and largest growth; two terms that are often tossed around without a closer look at what they are really saying.

When it comes to Talent and thinking systemically about it, we can't ignore the institutions who educate and supply the workforce. We can and should question whether the current system is designed to effectively produce what, and who, is needed. Although these figures represent the U.S., the readers here at All Things Workplace are totally global. What are you seeing that may reflect a mismatch between your education system and real-life workplace needs?
 


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Talent: Develop Strengths or Weaknesses? Yes.

Have you noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Experienced training consultant, Phyllis Roteman, sent in a good take on this:

Research (and common sense) confirm that focusing on peoples' strengths has a positive affect on morale, engagement and the bottom line.

But as with any approach (or new idea), focusing on strengths can go overboard in organizations, causing many negative side-effects. Some I've seen: 

Weight_Lifting_Hamster 1. Using the "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat."

2.  Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

3.  Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.")

All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength. All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in focusing on strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive.

What's Happening?

First of all, what's happening is what Phyllis says is happening. There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. And it's this:

What is actually a principle is adopted as a rule. 

These are two actual representations of the 80/20 "concept":

8020 final.001

Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, the human condition tends to run with a catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that gets tossed around in meetings as a mantra. It becomes problematic when that word isn't represented accurately or in context.  And that happens a lot.

So it is with Strengths. It's a lot easier to say "It's all about Strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, explore ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior we're really saying, "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness.

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine.

What experiences  do you have with  the topic? Jump in with a comment below.


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Talent For The Long Run

If You Are In Business For the Long run. . .

. . .then you need the kind of people who will:

1. Take you there

2. Keep you there

Do you know who those "kinds" of people are?

I'm in the midst of working with a company who wants to genuinely hire and develop talent for the future. So I put together an activity (doesn't take long with the right cross-section of people) to pinpoint the talents needed by everyone in order to take this company where it wants to go.

Below is a graphic that shows the results of the session. These are now being used as an over-arching set of characteristics by which to hire and identify current talent.

I'll explain a little more following the graphic.

One important note: When we talk about "ability" in the examples, we are talking about an observable, consistent tendency to demonstrate the related behavior in a variety of situations. We are focused on people who will demonstrate these talents regardless of role, job description or business unit.

Have a look:

Core_talents_systemic001

The Benefits

1. A key group of people has to dig deep--mentally and emotionally--to agree on these fundamental talents.

2. We are talking about a systemic issue here. Instead of talking philosophically about building a culture, a critical mass of people with these talents will create and sustain it.

3.These are tied directly to the long-term strategy.

4. We can assess/identify who exhibits or possesses these, even if they haven't yet had the opportunity to display them in hugely noticeable ways. That is, the organization is committed to uncovering what may not have been obvious in the way it operated in the past. They are not willing to toss people by the wayside without a real good look at what they are all about.

What Will Be Tough

1. Have you thought about the biases that people build toward others after a period of time working together? (The expression "Familiarity breeds contempt" comes to mind). So we're setting up a methodology that won't allow any one ticked-off manager or colleague to have enough singular power to zap someone because of some historical, one-time incident.

2. It's not clear that some of the HR staff have many of these characteristics. As a result, there is concern that they wouldn't be able to genuinely recognize them in others. Not a good thing for hiring or development.

3. We don't know what we don't know. And we admit it.

This is a fairly bold step. I don't know all the answers, nor does my client. We're willing to go with what we believe is a well thought-out methodology and learn some things along the way.

One more really important note:

Have a look at Business Orientation. This is one of my favorite and most satisfying realizations of the past 30 years.

Companies naturally hire top-notch researchers, technology pros, and other specialists for their expertise. Then the company is disappointed when these folks don't pay attention to the P&L statement and other related business factors.

So, my urging is this: Start looking for people who  begin their day with a business mentality and use their specialty to contribute to results. That is, find  people who have the self-image of a business person who does great research, or who "practices" I.T. It's a different way to look at this whole talent thing-- give it a try. You will discover that by changing your thinking you'll change how you begin to filter candidates and "promotables" more accurately.

What are you doing in your organization?

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Influence: Help Competent People Grow Through Questions

Leaders do have to tell people exactly what to do when a person isn't yet competent--and confident--about the task or assignment. (The whole "leader" thing isn't just about high-concept and vision).

But how do you develop managers who are knowledgeable and committed?

You can build increased confidence and deeper understanding by asking questions designed to help them make their own discoveries and decisions. Here are seven questions to get you started as  a "coaching" leader:

Influence_7 Questions.001 

As you become more comfortable with probing questions, you'll develop your own. In fact, what are some of your favorites now?

_________________________________

Fistful of Talent names All Things Workplace in Top 25 Talent Management Power Rankings. We're buzzed! The FOT folks are all top-notch themselves and use some serious criteria vs. "popularity" to create the rankings. There are some new blogs at the top of the charts that are good additions to your RSS feed.

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Want To Be Real? Start Subtracting

Most career inventories and branding activities are additive. They ask you to identify success factors by adding up your talents, hopes, and goals. That's part of the process.

Real-dealOne of the desirable ingredients for personal and business success that we constantly hear shouted from the rooftops is "authenticity" (being real). Fine. But in order to "get real" we first have to "get honest" about all of the things we are not. Authenticity is nothing more than a buzzword until we acknowledge:

1. What we think we should be--but we are not.

2. What someone else told us we should be-- but  we are not.

3. What we think others want to hear that we are-- but  we are not.

4. What we think we can become--but we know we cannot.


Let's face it: self-knowledge is a never-ending journey. Accurate self-knowledge makes it a healthier one.Part of that journey is humility. (Humility is not false modesty--false modesty is unauthentic). Humility is  the element of self-knowledge that frees you from carrying the heavy burden of "What I want you to think I am" and allows you to relax and be "Who I am."

Before you continue adding, do some subtraction. The answer will be authentic.

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It's Not The Feedback, It's What Follows


Feedback_iconFinding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your organization using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, learning, and improved performance.


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5 Solid Tips for Leaders & Managers

One of the benefits of working with lots of leaders & managers in many different organizations is the chance to see what really works, regardless of the individual personality or industry. I'll use the term "Manager" to avoid extra words and acknowledge the truth that leaders manage.

So, here are:

Helpfultips 5 Tips That Make A Difference

1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused effort from increased understanding.

When things aren't clear, the day doesn't  go well. Minds and bodies gravitate toward something that does seem clear. The world abhors a vacuum. When one is created, people will fill in the blanks with their own content.That content seldom matches your fuzzy intent.

2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of  the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals. Your kids will tell you to "make it real." Your employees are thinking it.

3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value. Hands-on 'Doers,' Readers, Questioners, Ponderers. . .

4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this list.

5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

Consistently add these five to your repertoire and you'll bump up your game exponentially.

What would you add to the mix that's proven a "must do" for you?

__________________________________________________

If you're leading and wonder what people are really looking for at work, check out:

People Looking For Jobs Want. . .

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Top Talent Management Blogs Named: We Thank You!

The busy pros at Fistful of Talent + HR Capitalist published the results of their latest top Talent Management Blog Power Rankings, and we're buzzed to be in the #3 spot.

How'd they come up with the results? Pretty spiffy methodology this go around:

FOT ". . .we decided to use HubSpot Website Grader's tool to tell us who is the best of the best. According to HubSpot, their grading tool gives a score, with 100% the maximum possible score. They evaluate "marketing effectiveness" which is based on a proprietary algorithm that blends over 50 different variables including search engine data, traffic, backlinks, etc.  Now we realize, this takes out of the equation the human factor, the FOT factor."

 Great reading and learning in The Top 30 List:

1.    Personal Branding Blog  99.8 HubSpot score| 13th Place, (07/2009 Rankings)

2.    HR Capitalist 99.7  HubSpot score  |  ineligible

3.    All Things Workplace 99.5  HubSpot score  |  10th Place

4.    Punk Rock HR 99.3  HubSpot score  |  6th Place

5.    HR Bartender 99.2  HubSpot score  |  3rd Place

6.    Tom Peters! 99.0  HubSpot score  |  unranked

7.    Compensation Force 98.9  HubSpot score  |  4th Place

8.    Fistful of Talent 98.8  HubSpot score  |  ineligible

       Recruiter Guy 98.8  HubSpot score  |  9th Place

10.   Know HR 98.6  HubSpot score  |  15th Place

       Marketing Headhunter 98.6  HubSpot score  |  unranked

       Your HR Guy/Rehaul 98.6  HubSpot score  |  2nd Place

13.   Effortless HR 98.5  HubSpot score  |  unranked

14.   Jibber Jobber 98.2  HubSpot score  |  unranked

            Systematic HR 98.2  HubSpot score  |  unranked

16.  Simply Lisa (HR Thoughts) 98.1  HubSpot score  |  15th Place

17.  Workplace Prof Blog 98  HubSpot score  |  unranked

       Oracle Talented Apps 98  HubSpot score  |  unranked

19.  Taleo Talent Management 97.8  HubSpot score  |  unranked

       My Global Career 97.8  HubSpot score  |  unranked

21.  HR Lori 97.7  HubSpot score  |  unranked

22.  Sylvia Ann Hewlett 97.6  HubSpot score  |  unranked

23.  Renegade HR 97.6  HubSpot score  |  7th Place

24.  The Recruiters Lounge 97.5  HubSpot score  |  19th Place

        Sirona Says 97.5  HubSpot score  |  unranked

26.  Great Leadership 97.1  HubSpot score  |  22nd Place

27.  Compensation Cafe 97  HubSpot score  |  unranked

28.  Employee Factor 96.8 HubSpot score  |  unranked

29.  Michael Specht 96.6  HubSpot score  |  unranked

30.  Workers Comp Insider  96.5  HubSpot score  |  unranked

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What Is Your Managerial Talent?

We all have natural talents--those inherent capabilities that put us in "the zone" when it comes to performance. Those are the moments when everything seems easy and the results are first-class.

It's also possible and desirable to learn new skills. But unless they're directly related to our talents, we'll have the sense that we're out of our "zone" and the effort isn't very sustainable. 

Managerial Talent: The research

Research done by the IDAK Group shows that:

1. There are three distinct managerial talents.

2. No one in the studies has been found to possess more than one as a talent.

3. Thirty percent of respondents had a managerial talent. Yes, that Talentmanagementimage2_2means that 70% did not have a natural talent for management.

The 3 talents defined: which one is yours?

The following are from the CareerMatch™ diagnostic tool:

--Developing/Initiating. Successfully supervises others in starting up new programs, new systems, branch offices, etc. Think "start up" and getting things up and running. Then, likes to move on when the new thing becomes institutionalized. People like to follow because of the focused energy and enthusiasm this kind of manager brings.

--Planning. Successfully maps out long range details to reach organizational goals. People follow this kind of manager because of the sensibility and clarity of the plan.

--Managing. Successfully supervising others in an established organization, department, branch office, etc. This is the kind of person who enjoys managing performance, getting one-on-one with employees, and running an established system well. People follow the dependability and even-handedness of many of these managers.

Hmm. Every executive/management want ad I've ever seen reads something like this:

"Initiates new programs and implements related changes; responsible for strategic planning and industry-related trend analysis; develops and coaches employees and provides appropriate, ongoing performance feedback..."

Weighed against the research, these kinds of descriptions are setting unattainable expectations. If you have one of the talents you can develop skills in the others. But you need to know that they aren't going to shine through the way your talent will. And that means that the performance expectations have to be discussed according to reality and what's possible in each area.

We've used the CareerMatch™ assessment tool for the past ten years with managers and executives. Three things usually happen:

1. They are relieved to gain a reality-based understanding of the differences in their managerial performance by task. It delineates the various talents that are too often lumped together in job descriptions to try and describe one person--just like the typical ad.

2. Once organizations see a person's managerial talent strength, it becomes more productive for purposes of accurate evaluation and talent movement within the organization. For many it's the first time that actual talents have been identified. (Management is just one area. Communication, Relational, and Functional natural talents are also identified).

3. Managers whose talents really lean toward "individual contributor" are able to be matched with future positions that benefit both them and the organization.

The lesson? It's possible to make "best fit" decisions when it comes to management talent and organizational needs. That means increased performance and increased satisfaction for everyone involved. The healthiest part: Reality-based assignments and developmental plans without the guilt of "You ought to be a _____."

Everyone isn't a manager. But everyone is a performer when they're in the right role at the right time for the right reasons.

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What Happens When Managers Coach?

You may already have the right people to enable your company to "win"--however you define the word.

A couple of years ago I was involved in designing a leadership program to develop the top talent in a global company. We created a model that used the senior management team as coaches for the structured learning activities. First we coached the coaches on how to coach; then we turned them loose. It's been the most effective learning we've experienced in nearly 30 years of leadership development and design.

Coaching2

What's happening that works?

  • The top leadership learns a lot about their own abilities.
  • They learn about their people while developing closer relationships with them.
  • The high potential participants receive coaching and company insight from the leaders who know it best.
  • The participants also "step up" their game. How often do you see the top leadership in a company totally dedicate two full days to the talent beneath them?

You Can Do It, Too

Managers are the natural lighting rods for developing talent. Coaching isn't another job--it is their job.

Companies are always looking for ways to develop people economically but effectively. Every research study on the planet shows that employees are most influenced--pro or con--by their immediate boss. That's exactly why managers at every level have the ability to make the most difference when it comes to grooming people for the future.

The mission: Give them the capability.

Three things managers can start now:

Appreciate: Focus on identifying the very best in others.

Encounter:  Seek the truth, wherever that path will lead.

Improve: Insist upon personal responsibility for performance growth.

When managers coach, we get "two personal bests" for the price of one.

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Change And Delayed Gratification

"Aha. Time to Make a Change!"

I just met with what I thought was a former client. He called and said "I've got to talk with you about the assessment feedback you did with me (drum-roll) three years ago." He went on to say that he wants to explore some changes in his corporate career path and couldn't get our conversation out of his head since our original meeting. Fooled me.

Timeline If you're a manager, coach, or freelancer who gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing people develop, then delayed gratification is part of the game. You can change lots of "things" in an instant--but not people. When it comes to making professional changes (which are really personal when you get honest about it), we need to allow time for people to put new information into context, validate it, try it out in some private way, and then figure out what and how much to change. Then they decide the when question.

For Managers

If you are managing a performance issue, then it's your job to set the deadline for when. If you're working with high potential people whose development plans include four or five different areas, be prepared to delay gratification for a while. And if the organization really needs one of those areas to boost its performance, let the person know when and why. It can help speed up the learning process or enable the individual to realize "that's not for me."

Either way, you've laid the groundwork for an honest response that's going to benefit both the company and the person.


Photo attribution: Grolier 1999 Encyclopedia Multimedia Edition

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Changes and Changing Talents

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change it's tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Scratching_head What Happened to the Talent?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

  • Mysteriously, you don't feel as talented and capable as before.
  • At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Assessment Made Simple: Look For the Gold

At one time Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America.

Gold He came to America from  Scotland as a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time he had forty-three millionaires working for him. In those days being a millionaire was rare; conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day would be equivalent to at least twenty million dollars today.

When a newspaper reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired forty-three millionaires, Carnegie responded that those men weren't millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.

The reporter's next question was, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable that you've paid them this much money?"

Carnegie replied that people are developed the same way gold is mined. Tons of dirt needs to be moved to find a single ounce of gold. But you don't go into a mine looking for dirt--you go looking for the gold.

That's exactly the way we managers need to view our people. Don't look for the flaws, warts, and blemishes--they're too easy to find and they're abundant.

Look for the unique expression of talent that caused you to hire a person in the first place.

It's a fact: you'll find exactly what you decide look for.
_____________________________

( "All Things Workplace" has been selected as one of the 10 finalists for the 2009 Best of Leadership Blogs competition hosted by the Kevin Eikenberry Group. It's an honor to be selected. If you are interested in voting for your favorite, please vote at Best Leadership Blog 2009 by July 31st.)

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Employees: People or Roles?

Director of Sales. VP of HR. Research Associate. Customer Service Agent.

Orgsample1 Every time I receive a call to consult or coach, one of the first things I hear is the person's title and location on the organization chart. Invariably, the client turns out to be an actual person:

Laura. Luis. George. Dottie.

There's something about organizational roles that allow them to--at least initially--take precedence over the identity of the humans behind them.

I'm quite practical and get the need for org charts, functional titles, and visual relationships. I'm also aware of how the initial focus on titles and roles can subliminally influence the beginning of a working relationship. Here's what I mean:

1. Manager to direct report: "Set up a meeting with the Director of Sales, Europe to review the projections for next month."

Direct report doesn't know the Director. Conjures up images based on title, function, and location. Puts them through the "great mental filter of life." Starts to lose confidence about the ability to interact successfully.

2. VP of HR to external coach: "I'd like you to work with our CFO. She's a real detail person and needs to get the big picture regarding our business. The CEO has a time line for this. Could you get involved as soon as next week?"

Not unusual. If it were me I'd ask the clarifying questions needed to get a more complete picture. But all I can see at this point is the top of an organizational chart.

3. New Director of Customer Service, pointing to screen: "Here is the re-organization as I see it. Notice how the Call Center associates will have a dotted line relationship with Distribution as well as reporting directly to me."

OK. I know what it looks like in a presentation. But who are these people and how will we actually work together?

Humanize or Objectify: The Choice Matters

Humanize: The faster we can begin to relate to other people as people, the more of a chance we have of making a connection that matters. (You may find that you don't particularly care for someone, but at least it's based upon real data).Humanizeitsmallercovervlr

Objectify means that we assign meaning to things, people, places, activities, and the like. But they may not be correct and can be based upon preconceived notions, stereotypes, and the comments of others. The worst part: it makes the person an object. Once we do that, we no longer see them as someone with the same kinds of needs, wants, frailties, talents, and humanity as ourselves. And then begin to act accordingly.

What I hope you'll think about today:

1. When talking about your organization, talk about the people by name. Mention an interesting characteristic that you value about them. Then mention the title and role.

2. If you're calling a coach or consultant, talk about the person by name if you can (sometimes you can't at first). Offer some insights regarding their experience and background--their uniqueness. Then talk about their role and the developmental goals.

3.Talent Management. When you are discussing the movement of people up and around the organization, talk about characteristics as well as skills. Humanize the roles that need to be filled. How often have you seen really intelligent people cause distress because they simply didn't have the characteristics--or character--to relate to others.

4. It seems safe to keep a distance from others. It's dangerous if you want to have a fulfilling life on or off the job.

It would be useful to hear situations or comments around this phenomenon. It's tough for people to work with each other--or help each other--if they don't actual know each other.

What's your take?

Speaking of roles: We want to thank Kevin Eikenberry and Best Leadership Blogs of 2009 for nominating All Things Workplace. You can vote at the link and check out the lineup of terrific leadership blogs in the action this year.

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Is It Really Just About Strengths?

Have you ever noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Research (and common sense) show that focusing on peoples' strengths can have a positive affect on engagement and results.

But any approach or new , misunderstood, can actually cause negative side-affects.

 Have you seen any of these?

- Using  "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat.")

- Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

Tug-o-war- Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.") All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength.

 All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in understanding one's strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive.

What's Happening With The Strengths/Weaknesses Thing?

There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. And it's this:

What is actually a Principle is adopted as a Rule.

Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, people run with the catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that is then tossed around in meetings. It becomes problematic when the word doesn't have a shared meaning among the users. And that happens a lot. So it is with Strengths.

It's a lot easier to say "It's all about Strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, exploring ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior, we're really saying "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness.

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine.

Related bonus post: From Lynn Mattoon: Millenials In The Workforce

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How Wisdom, Discernment, and Integrity Matter

Owl Building leaders is on almost every organization's agenda.

Hiring good people can be a costly process.

Losing employees--regardless of cause--can be equally expensive.

Wisdom, Discernment, and Integrity in Business created a lot of buzz, especially on Twitter.

And whether the long-time, ongoing issues are How One Bad Apple Can Create a Toxic Team, Crazy Co-workers , Bad Bosses, or the rule of No Assholes, people in the workplace are apparently driving other people in the workplace crazy.

What's Happening In Organizations?

Corporations have HR professionals, behavioral interview training, search firms that screen and test, assessment centers, assessment tests. . .

I believe that what is missing--and what needs to be purposefully added to the organization effectiveness equation--are Wisdom and Discernment applied with Integrity.

The vast majority of screening/hiring/promoting practices focus on education, experience, and task-related performance.

But take a hard look at the reasons for dismissal and lack of promotability (not a real word according to the spellchecker!). I've seldom seen well-screened people leave a company because of their technical incompetence. The issue is almost always one of "fit." "How" the individual operates is, in some way, inconsistent with what the organization really thinks is best for itself. (And vice-versa).

Do any of these reasons for separation sound familiar to you?

  • He's not a team player
  • We need people who can work without a lot of supervision
  • We need people who can take supervision
  • She doesn't provide enough direction for her people
  • She provides too much direction for her people
  • He doesn't think about options and possibilities when making decisions
  • This company doesn't value my creative thinking
  • This company doesn't value the fact that I always follow the rules

(Please feel free to click on Comments and add your favorites. If I get enough, I'll post a Top__List).

How Can We Change This To Make A Difference?

When we're hiring and promoting, wouldn't it be worthwhile to know who we're getting--not just what we're getting?

It seems to me that we need to understand at least two things in order to make that happen:

1. What "kind of people" do we want? (What values do we hold that need to be evident in our people)?

2. What does it take to develop and use wisdom and discernment needed in business?

What Kind of People Do We Want?

This seems to be the part that is overlooked. Sure, interviewers might say "I liked her" or "He seemed serious enough about the business." Deep down inside, don't we really need to figure out some general characteristics that will help the individual and the work team hit it off over the long run? If it's the kind of job that has management responsibility or potential, then what kind of characteristics do we want to see in our leaders? I know we want them to be able to reach their goals. But what kind of people do we want them to be while they are doing that?

When the issue of "best fit" arises, it becomes foolish to ignore the reality that "how" we are is, in part, the manifestation of "who" we are. To hire and promote based on intellectual/behavior criteria ignores the social and relational nature of organizations. An entire generation of managers, interviewers, and job candidates have been sold on the idea that "past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior." It sounds good. It sells well because it is "scientific." One can create behavioral questions or assessment scenarios that can surface and confirm whether or not a person has, or is able to, perform specific functions. That kind of validation is certainly important. But will that person be able to perform those things well in your organization, given your unique mix of relational expectations, communication patterns, systems, and management?

What if we decided to be intentional about the use of wisdom, discernment, and integrity in the process?


 

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Wisdom, Discernment, Integrity and Business

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."
--King Solomon, Proverbs 22:1

How often do you hear the terms wisdom, discernment, and integrity used during the business day?

And just what are organizations looking for when they are hiring or promoting?

We hear words like intelligent, problem-solver, action-oriented, results-driven, and good decision-making ability.

But what good are any of those if they aren't carried out with wisdom, discernment, and integrity?

It's possible to be action-oriented and still take a lot of wrong actions.

Does intelligence guarantee sound leadership?  History reveals that many leaders with intelligence that was clearly "above average" have oppressed their people, ruined their economies, and even committed genocide.

Wisdomornament What Are We Dealing With Here?

First, some slightly paraphrased definitions from Merriam-Webster Online.

Wisdom: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : (insight) c : good sense : (judgment).

Discernment: the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.

Integrity: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : (incorruptibility); the quality or state of being complete or undivided : (completeness).

Why Do They Make a Difference?

Let's start with integrity. It's probably the easiest to deal with and something that we do talk about on the job, at least when it is violated.

Integrity makes a difference because it's an outward indication of our internal character. If we say we have a set of "corporate" values and then live by them--even if it means sacrificing extra revenue--then we are known as having integrity. When we live up to our word, we have integrity. Most of all, integrity is what allows a person or a company to be trusted.

When you possess wisdom, you are able to make judgments that go beneath the surface issue or decision being presented. My observation and experience show that those possessing wisdom have actually learned from their previous experiences and mistakes; have confronted their own part in them; and now are able to see more clearly what is happening within other people and other situations. Maturity--not age alone--is necessary for wisdom.

Discernment is probably the least-used word in business. It implies a well-honed wisdom that allows one to accurately "read between the lines" when dealing with people and situations and see what is true. You and I know lots of people who say "I know how to 'read' people. However, I don't really know lots of people who discern the truth very well at all.

What Happens in The Absence of Those Three ?

When we hire and promote based upon education, experience, and behavioral traits, we're still working on the surface. To get "keepers" we need to dig one level deeper.

At a business luncheon meeting a few years ago our well-educated, high-level executive speaker spent his entire block of time talking about his accomplishments, what he was going to achieve in the coming year, and the plan to get there. When he asked for questions, the guy next to me said something gutsy. He said:

"I'm sorry. Who you are spoke so loudly that I wasn't able to hear what you had to say."

My neighbor had discerned the self-centered character of the presenter. The speaker had not discerned the values, maturity and character of his audience. As a result, his accomplishments couldn't overcome the low regard in which his peers began to hold him as a result of his bravado. It was a defining moment that impacted his career mobility.

When we're hiring and promoting, wouldn't it be worthwhile to know who we're getting--not just what we're getting?

It seems to me that we need to understand at least three things in order to make that happen:

1. What "kind of people" do we want? (What values do we hold that need to be evident in our people)?

2. What does it take to develop the wisdom and discernment needed in business?

3. How are you acquiring your wisdom in a way that leads to discernment and integrity?

How much value does your organization openly place on these?

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Performance Tip: Recognize The Talent You've Got

When I check the keyword searches that land people here, a lot of them have to do with "find my strengths" or "how do I manage talented people?"

People at work appear invested in clarifying their own strengths and understanding the inherent talent in others. If that's so, I was wondering why there is so much angst about retention. It seems that people would be committed for the long term if their strengths and talents are being valued.

The Managerial Equivalent of "Your Lips Say 'Yes' But There's 'No-No' In Your Eyes"

There is at least one reason why some people--including managers-- are shopping their resumes. It has to do with the distinction between advocating development and then doing the opposite.

Here's a real life example:

Luke (not his real name) is an operations manager at one of my client companies. He's experienced and has been in the manufacturing industry for 20+ years. He is the most well-read client ever. Whenever I see him, he waxes poetically about the wonderful "new" managerial ideas he's picked up from the most recent leadership books he's read.

One of those ideas had to do with recognizing someone's small successes and following through with verbal encouragement or even a small reward (lunch, movie tickets, a $25 gift certificate. . .) Better yet, acknowledge the person's fete during a regular departmental meeting. He also talked about the importance of those ideas during a meeting with his supervisors.

But he wouldn't do any of those.

I asked him why not.

His reply "I'm not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work."

He doesn't have the same approach with his kids. I've seen him. He acknowledges them when they've succeeded at something. Anything. And he does it spontaneously.

What the heck happens in life(?) between:

Encourage_4

and

Gap_2.

Every day we're all trying to learn or do something new. Let's be honest: part of our day is spent being a kid again when it comes to struggling with a new problem that needs a solution. And we could use a few encouraging words of recognition when we demonstrate a talent that helps the organization.

("Gee, that felt good. I think I'll do it again!)

What would a well-known, successful business person say about the importance of encouragement?

"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."
~ Henry Ford

What Do Our Brains Say About Encouragement?

According to the ATW resident neuro-gurette, Dr. Ellen Weber, brainpower is lost to common critiques. In this instance, the absence of acknowledgment can easily turn into the perception of a "critique." For those who can't seem to get their hearts in gear, maybe a look at how serotonin builds better businesses will offer an intellectual bridge to encouraging action.

What's going on at your workplace when it comes to recognizing and acknowledging people's strengths and talents?
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Build a Culture of "Thanks"

I've been hearing more and more (you no-doubt have, too) about retaining good employees at all levels. Sure, there is plenty of downsizing. But organizations still want to hold onto the best. It costs a lot to find, hire, and get a new person up to speed.

Here are some thought-provoking statistics from an article I recalled some time ago from the UK's Management-Issues:

"Research by UK performance improvement consultants Maritz has found that almost one in five of us (19 per cent) have never been thanked for our efforts at work while more than a third only hear those two little words once or twice a year.

Perhaps not-entirely coincidentally, that's about the same proportion as another recent survey found have no loyalty towards the organisation they work for and couldn't care less about their job.

Yet at the other end of the spectrum, around a third of us do receive regular recognition and are thanked several times a week, something that (as more than eight out of 10 of those surveyed acknowledged) has a positive impact on their desire to remain with their employer."

"Thank You" & the "War for Talent"

Check out the screen shot of my " war for talent"  Google search. 504,000 results.  Books, articles,  training programs, software systems, and academic research. Conferences are being held to ponder the meaning of talent acquisition and retention.

Warfortalent2.001  

Let's assume that the statistics noted in the article are a true reflection of the norm. The third who receive thanks regularly feel positive about their employer and are inclined to remain at the firm.

Easy action: Executives need to start thanking their managers regularly. Then they need to tell them to start thanking their people. Maybe we could get uppity and call it "Building a Culture of Thanks." Clearly, it would be more effective and less costly than conferences and software.

And it would make our mothers proud.

___________________________________

Note: My online friend and leadership guy Ed Brenegar takes this so seriously that he has a place where you can click and experience the transformational power of gratitude: Say Thanks Every Day

And you can help by...contributing to Norwegian friend and manager Frode Heiman's recognition survey at Never Mind The Manager.





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Are You Really Developing Leaders?

"Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, 'I'll get a bigger job, then I'll learn how to be a leader.' But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn't a position, it's a process."-- John C. Maxwell
Leadershipmanagement
Respected leaders talk about the experiences that have shaped their abilities over a period of time, not their classroom learning. While intellectual endeavors offer a starting point and models for thinking about leadership, hands-on experience is the consistent theme in the lives of leaders who have been tested and found approved.

We did a survey of participants (senior managers) in four consecutive leadership development programs. They were asked what contributed the most to their leadership learning, confidence, and skill. The results were job and project assignments with workshops, seminars, and other methods well behind in the rankings.

So my question is:

Why aren't we  putting people into increased positions of responsibility so they can gain experience and maturity?


What do we expect from "real" leaders?

There's an entire industry built around Leadership. Graduate programs, consulting businesses, workshops, seminars, books, DVD's...I sometimes wonder if it hasn't become a cult in search of an idealized organizational savior. If that's the case for some, then the search will continue indefinitely but the conversation will be wonderfully angst-filled.

For those seeking a realistic and practical approach to building leadership abilities, maybe we need to start by asking:

1. What do we really expect? This is based upon each organization's strategies, value system, and the ability to bring in "the right person at the right time for the right leadership role."

2. Are we willing to invest the time, money, and energy to build mature leadership capability by purposefully putting people in positions of leadership? Are we committed to making an investment in a process?

3. If "yes," how will we do that?

4. If "no," then are we willing to change our expectations and live with the results?

If it's about speed, it isn't about maturity

The business climate now is about speed, quarterly results, and change. With people changing jobs so readily, it is almost impossible to develop people's abilities for the long run in the context of a single organization's culture and needs. When there was longevity as a result of commitment to and from employees you could track, train, develop, and promote much more deliberately. Companies had a sense of confidence about an individual's real capabilities because they had been tested and observed in different situations over a long period of time. You could assess, first hand, both skill and maturity under pressure.

Leadership and the "Project Culture"

With so much job-hopping due to corporate change and personal goals, the notion of a traditional "career" seems to be all but dead. Maybe we should get real and start to look at worklife as a series of projects. If so, then perhaps we're looking to develop leaders whose strengths include the ability to move in and out of new relationships and situations but who are adept at gaining trust and unifying people under those conditions.

One thing I am sure of: You can't microwave leaders and expect a 5-Star Experience

If we're genuinely concerned with developing leaders, it may be time to examine the validity and assumptions of our expectations. How much is driven by the cult of "celebrity leadership" or consultants and vendors who have never worked for any length of time in a corporation?  Are the criteria driven by agendas more akin to a "social experiment" or the realities of leading an entity through good times and bad?

Question for Today:

How will we influence (if we can) our companies in ways that define realistic expectations, create a series of leadership experiences, and allow the time and feedback for individuals to synthesize those experiences in a way that breeds the maturity necessary to lead effectively?



Photo Source: www.bren.ucsb.edu

                   

                                                                                                             

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Caution: Your Self, Your Systems , and Quaker Parrots

You and I may have something in common (in addition to work).

Anytime I come across a parrot, I try to strike up a conversation to see if the bird will talk back. Don't you? For some reason, it's perfectly acceptable for humans to be seen in public attempting to talk with parrots. And if they talk back, it's a treat.

At least for a while.

The problem that arises is this: the darned bird has no idea what it's saying or why it's saying it. Parrots aren't into context. Which is why they, uh, "parrot" things.

Quakerparrot_train What does this have to do with you and systems?

Workplaces are all about systems, and rightfully so. Without systems we would waste time doing the same task differently at each attempt. Makes no sense.

So systems are good. Excellent, in fact. Learning what works and replicating it is a wise thing to do. All of you 5S, GTD, SAP, and PDQ Bach people know that.

So why is "Caution" up there in the headline?

There is a distinct difference between replicating successful systems and trying to mindlessly copy the behavior of managers or management "techniques" that have worked before. 

Take  inspiration from your mentors and models, but become a person who manages upon a foundation of guiding principles. Learn and understand why something worked in the past, taking into account the context in which it worked. That context will help you build a set of principles on which to base your management, your organizational life, and your career.

Use the best models out there to gain a better understanding of management and why you do what you do.

The caution?… None of your people really wants to speak with a managerial parrot.

Oh, why Quaker Parrots? According to this, they are "charming (with)comical personalities and a willingness to learn human speech; the Quaker Parrot is an excellent choice for those who want all the fun of a large parrot in a smaller package. They adapt well to living in a "human flock" setting, and enjoy spending time with their owners."

Could be better than having the teenagers around.

Bonus Alert: Dan McCarthy will get you TORC-ed up about what's most important to your career as well as a related hiring process. This is a primo post.

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But They're Sooo Intelligent...!

When you are discussing individual performance issues and the last phrase out of someone's mouth is always "Yeah, but (s)he's so intelligent," you have a problem.

For years I've watched clients try to figure out what to do with high potential, poor people-skills managers. Most of the companies I've worked with have invested huge amounts of time, money, coaching, and education in an effort to prompt behavioral change in some "exceedingly intelligent" people. Maybe you've seen the same things.

Do any of these look familiar?

Global Operations Director who hits all of the monetary goals but no one wants to work with him. They don't trust him because he withholds information and doesn't include other managers in decisions that impact how they do their work.

Brain  Brilliant Vice President of Finance who can't conduct meetings, doesn't like to plan, and knows more ways to help the company earn money on its money than its bankers do. Up for promotion for top job. Really doesn't want it. People love working with him because they learn from him. He wants to continue developing investment methods and models.

Director of Regulatory Compliance.
No one explains new (regulated) products to the government better than this guy. So what's the problem? To the company it means the difference between a commercial product or nothing new to sell. His direct reports described their feelings toward him as "hate" (never a real good sign). They say he is a "bully," "condescending," and "has no patience with anyone he thinks is less intelligent than him." When offered the possibility of being a high-level individual contributor, the director said "No. I want to be a manager."

What are we seeing here?

It's actually easy to explain: we simply cannot believe that someone we see as "smart" could actually be so "stupid." What we're doing is responding to a single, outstanding talent or skill and ascribing other attributes to it that we think must certainly be there. We then look at academic credentials and technical performance and believe that, somehow, we must be wrong. (Otherwise why would we have hired the person and promoted them to this point--here it begins to become a little self-defensive but we don't realize it).

Misunderstanding Intelligence

It's easy to make the mistake of believing that making great presentations, investments, operationalAdapting decisions, or engineering breakthroughs is a sign of superior intelligence. And they might, in fact, indicate an outstanding ability to think and reason within given circumstances and topics. However, take a look at just a few definitions from those involved in intelligence testing and research over the years:

"The capacity to learn or to profit by experience."
(Dearborn, 1921)

"A global concept that involves an individual's ability to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with the environment."
(Wechsler, 1958)

"A person possesses intelligence insofar as he had learned, or can learn, to adjust himself to his environment."
(Colvin, cited in Sternberg, 1982, p.30)

Learn, adapt, adjust. None of our managers is either willing, able, or both. So we need to stop praising their "intelligence" and start recognizing an inability or unwillingness to adapt.

What to look for and what to do

If you are trying to manage situations similar to those above, here are some tips from experience:

1. When "intelligence" becomes a mantra after you've coached and counseled a person, you are stuck. Stop looking at where you would like them to be going in the company and start defining what they do well and where they are not developing.

2. When you've defined what they do well, talk with them honestly about where they'll fit best over the long run. Yes, they may not see it that way and leave.

3. When you find that 90% of your energy is spent trying to figure out or explain 10% of your workforce, stop. Look at what you want from performance; compare it with what you are getting; and avoid explaining away the gap. We've all done it. We want people to succeed. And if they are likeable it's even harder. Fact: We aren't being helpful to them or the organization.

4. Bad managers are toxic. It's easy to believe we're dealing with a single performance issue. We're not. Toxic managers are impacting the performance of everyone around them.

5. If you think you can't live without someone, you can. What would you do if, God forbid, they dropped dead tomorrow? It could happen. And life will go on.

What about our friends in the examples?

The Global Operations guru will soon become an individual contributor and technical advisor. It will work well.

Brilliant Finance Whiz has become the Chief Economic Officer (newly created role) of a major global enterprise. His second-in-command, a good manager, got the top job. Everyone is satisfied with the outcome and performance is top-notch all around.

Regulatory Compliance bully: we don't know yet. The company is still willing to invest in professional development.

Do you have a "But they're so intelligent. . ." story? Help the workplace community and send in your story through a Comment or email.

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Knowledgeable Workforce Requires Knowledge-Filled Workers

Every company downsizing right now is factoring in the legal and financial benefits of some kind of "package" for employees nearing retirement age. While that approach offers some much-appreciated relief in the decision process, it may not turn out to be the best over the long run.

Older Workers More Engaged. Really.

It's easy to make assumptions based on any type of demographic. And it's certainly easy to figure that the longer someone has been working, the more likely they are to want out. However, a Hewitt Associates study showed that:

1. Older employees were more likely to be engaged in their work than younger ones, with 74% indicating their engagement on the job. That contradicts the belief that many older workers simply want to coast to retirement.

2. The least engaged group was generation X (26 to 40 years old) at 61 per cent.

I'm not suggesting that layoff/retention decisions be made on such statistics alone. I am suggesting that using  "age" or "years of service" as overarching drivers for these decisions might come back to haunt employers later.

These choices are difficult under any circumstances. Use the range of information available to make the best-balanced ones.

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"Happy Face" Performance Reviews Zap Everyone

Joane Bintliff-Ritchie, experienced HR and Talent pro, contributes this about "A" Players, Layoffs, and Missing Data:

 "I've actually lived this scenario with one exception. There were annual performance reviews for everyone but those employed <1year. However, the distinctions driving the 'who to cut' list were not matched in the reviews. Everyone had a performance rating of Acceptable or better, and the majority were better. So the legal eagles still stepped in and said our data was inconclusive and weak. We then had to fall back to data like time in position and years of service to identify the layoffs. We lost many strong performers and several new hires we had spent a great deal of $$ to recruit and onboard."

Now You Know, So. . .

Mediocre Managers: Start talking straight during performance reviews if you aren't already doing so. Everyone isn't "Acceptable" or better, unless your criteria for "Acceptable" are exceedingly low. If that seems to be the case, re-visit the level of your standards and look at the actual performance of your group. If everyone consistently has these ratings, you aren't looking closely enough at what "good" really is.

Then, document the reviews.

Employees: If you aren't getting a review, demand one. Those of you who know you are top-notch performers can help protect yourself in the kinds of situations we've addressed these two days. If your boss doesn't/won't document, then you write out the salient points of the discussion, send it as an email attachment noting the date of the meeting, and keep the file for later access.

This can help you in the event of a layoff scenario or, better yet, when an opportunity arises and you have the concrete information that reflects your outstanding performance.

Many of you are managers and HR professionals. What else can everyone be doing to avert problems down the road?

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"A" Players, Layoffs, and Missing Data

Here's a real-life situation that I'll bet is getting played out in more than one company:

1. Company X identifies a  legitimate need to reduce headcount

DFpencils_small_colour 2. Managers are asked to do an "A-B-C" performance ranking activity, with A being the stars and C being the lowest 10% (or whatever system is decided).

3. It is announced that retention decisions will be made based upon performance

4. It is then discovered that the "C" players (as well as others), many of whom have been with the organization since the first Reagan administration haven't received a written performance review since then, either.

5. All of those newly-identified low performers have also received regular pay raises over the years.

Ooops. I'm From Legal: Don't Do This.

  • No performance review means no supporting written documentation,
  • Regular pay raises imply satisfaction with performance.

The result? Your corporate legal eagles tell you that, absent defensible data, your downsizing will be done based on seniority--with the newest hires leaving first, regardless of performance.

If your organization hasn't demanded regular performance feedback and documentation, I hope this will cause all of that to change. In addition to the positive developmental aspect, having the data can protect your from what happened to the above organization:

1. Needing to manage lean in tough times.

2. Needing the very best people to do that.

3. Seeing some of the best people laid off while some of the lowest performers remain, hindering the ability to survive and hopefully thrive.

What's happening in your organization?

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How Age Impacts Your View of Life

We're living in a literal and figurative season where people are often waxing nostalgic over the "good old days." Holiday gatherings yield family stories that make one wish that somehow we could be back at Grandma's house again because it was, apparently, so wonderful. World financial markets prompt the same kinds of recollections of the past as well as--for some--grandly optimistic outlooks for a "new" kind future.

You may be either nodding or shaking your head in agreement or disagreement. Exactly.

"Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses" is a saying that we hear often. Many people look at things optimistically, regardless of the circumstances. However,  according to a psychological study our views on past and future happiness change according to where we are in our lives.

Dr. Margie Lachman and colleagues found that younger and middle-aged people tend to underestimate their past happiness and to overestimate their future happiness - probably because to do so helps motivate them to strive for a better life. This data came from a survey of over 3000 American adults conducted twice and spaced nine years apart.

Age Changes Outlook

Older people (aged over 65) were more accurate in recalling their past and future life satisfaction.  This probably reflected the need to accept their life as it had been lived, combined with their greater understanding of the human capacity to adjust emotionally to whatever life throws our way. Indeed, in line with the predictions of the older participants, most people's life satisfaction, in this study and others, actually changes very little through the years (in Western democracies, at least).

Old-and-young-spock Lachman's study team also looked at how adaptive it was for people to have either rose-tinted or darkly clouded views of their past and future. The results showed that at whatever age, it is beneficial to have a more realistic view of the past and future. Those participants who more accurately perceived their past and future happiness tended to suffer less depression and enjoy better health.

"The young have an illusion of continued improvement, seeing the past as worse than it really was and the future as better than it turns out to be," the researchers said. "This illusion is consistent with their motivational orientation toward continued growth and gains."

Workplace Application

While the future belongs to the young, the absence of older workers could be a recipe for unrealistic decision-making. Adding reality and experience to idealism and energy doesn't equal "resistance to change;"it adds a much-needed dimension to decisions and execution that may provide a real pathway to move ideas and products forward.

During the past few years we've seen the headlines for Talent Wars, Saving Institutional Knowledge and Learning, and Diversity. My experience so far with recent layoffs has been that workers nearing retirement are being offered packages to accelerate their decisions. I understand the legal and financial benefits of such a strategy to the corporations involved. However, when the corporate sun starts shining brightly again, I wonder if the decision-making maturity and collective knowledge of these newly "retired" workers will be irreplaceable and actually prompt a lengthening of the recovery process. 

Then, who ya gonna call: Ghostbusters?

______________________________________________

For more on the research cited here:

Margie E. Lachman, Christina Röcke, Christopher Rosnick, Carol D. Ryff (2008). Realism and Illusion in Americans' Temporal Views of Their Life Satisfaction: Age Differences in Reconstructing the Past and Anticipating the Future Psychological Science, 19 (9), 889-897 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02173.x

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Time, Priorities, and Ordering Your Space

5S The Mess? There's Talent Involved

Jim Stroup's Captain of Your Own Fate post actually prompted this one. He has a clear and simple take on how executives really decide to allocate their time.

How do you allocate yours? Do you ever find it difficult?

One of my client companies is very committed to the 5S approach to organizing and ordering every workplace area. The system is crystal clear and has discreet steps that would seem easy for anyone to follow.

Not everyone finds it easy. The reason:

Blocks There are actually two separate, discreet Organizing Talents that we can possess (or not). Rather than beat up on ourselves or others, it might be useful to see these more clearly.

1. Time and Priorities. This is an innate tendency toward ordering one's own schedule to reflect what is the most important task at any given time and how long it will take. It does not automatically include the ability to order time and priorities for other people.

2. Order of Your Space. We all pretty much know whether this is a strong suit or whether we need to wrestle with it throughout life. People with this talent almost effortlessly maintain things in their proper place and even sense the most efficient positioning of physical items for easy retrieval. (This is not a gift with which I have been blessed. I actually have a 5S booklet that I follow to keep my space as organized as possible).

What is fascinating is this: It's possible to have a lot of #1 and almost none of #2 and vice-versa.

Your ability or inclination to prioritize and order your life and your space is a big deal.  People (often incorrectly) make assumptions about your other abilities based on these. My online friend Dr. Peter Vajda often reminds me that focusing only on strengths can get in the way of truly growing.

These two areas of life are so visible and have so many related implications, I'd suggest: "If you ain't got 'em, work at 'em."

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