Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Your Job is to Motivate: Fact or Fiction?

As a manager, I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t motivate anyone except me because motivation is internal and personal. I did learn, though, that the work environment can influence an employee’s motivation to achieve her own goals and that motivation positively affects performance and business results. Unfortunately, the wrong environment results in an equal and negative impact on motivation.

I just finished reading Dan Pink’s new book, Drive as well as a white paper published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on motivation. These are good resources and I recommend them. Both sources agree that there are a number of things at work that can influence motivation including engagement, commitment and job satisfaction.

As a manager, what does all of this research and thought leadership mean to me? How am I going to apply it? Here is the “how” of influencing motivation from my perspective:

It Starts With Selection. Hiring people with the internal orientation, not just the skills, has to be Job #1. Asking interview questions that help you assess the level of motivation present in a candidate is invaluable. Examples:
  • “What is it about XYZ Company that makes you think this is the right place for you?”
  • “What kind of work makes you excited to be at your job every day?”
  • “What do you want to know from me?” (I think this one is key. If the candidate doesn’t have a clue, that’s a clue for you).

It’s Not Always About the Money (or the t-shirt or mug). As Dan Pink pointed out in Drive, extrinsic motivators work in very limited circumstances but intrinsic motivators work in a high percentage of scenarios. This isn’t an issue of pay; if that is out of line, morale and engagement will suffer.

What kind of intrinsic motivators could work with your staff? You’ll have to ask them because motivation, like fingerprints, is unique to the individual. This is where asking relevant questions specific to your company on an employee survey can provide great insights, especially when linked to other employee data and financial results.

Sometimes It’s About You. People don’t often leave their jobs but they do leave their managers. Here are some of the issues I’ve read when analyzing clients' employee engagement studies:
  • Showing favoritism
  • Not communicating often enough – or at all
  • Pointing out failures but not successes
  • Managing every detail of my job
  • Not listening to my ideas
  • Not allowing the flow of information to trickle down from senior management and percolate up from me.
Thinking about your own performance as a manager, here are questions you can ask of yourself:
  • Am I managing someone’s job or managing results?
  • Do I play favorites or let my personal likes and dislikes influence how work is done?
  • Is information my personal power base, accessible by only a chosen few in my team?
  • Do I insist on making all of the decisions or do I share that with all team members?
  • Am I onboarding my new team members or do I leave that strictly to the HR department?

That Vision Thing. This is a tune I will continue to sing. Talking about the company’s vision, strategy and plans for the future often and with a consistent message is critical for commitment and therefore motivation. What if your company doesn’t have a concrete vision or strategy? Ask yourself:
  • What results am I accountable for?
  • What is the mission of my department/team/unit? What does it exist to do?
  • How does my team contribute to the company’s results?
  • How do I communicate our mission and our team goals?

Measure Progress Toward Results. Spread the News. End of story.

As Gary Hamel, a leading thinker on strategy, often says, leaders are needed at every level of a company. Providing a working environment that positively influences employee motivation can start right in your office, no matter what your title.

I’d love to hear what you are doing to influence employee motivation at your organization.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making Tough News Inspiring

I had dinner with a client/friend last week; she is the COO of a small company that has had a lot of ups and downs given its revenue reliance on the construction industry. She has been studying trends in her business and it’s clear to her that things are going paperless; that more online/cloud computing is on its way and that things will change radically in the way business is transacted. To be competitive, the company will have to drive down the cost of doing business and still provide excellent service in a complex industry.

Instead of hiding her ideas behind a wall of silence until the inevitable day when she has to deliver bad news about restructuring and lay-offs, she called a town hall meeting. Here are some of the ideas she shared with the employees:

This is How Things Are Changing: She spelled out clearly how technology especially online computing would be game changing.

This is How the Changes Will Affect Our Business: She outlined the financial benefits of new technology and the consequences in terms of an uncompetitive position in the marketplace if it doesn’t change.

This is How the Changes Will Affect Job Roles: She drew two columns on a whiteboard: ‘This is How It Is Done’ and ‘This Is How It Will be Done’. Tasks currently done by paper or in disparate systems will be automated online.

This is How You Can Prepare and Benefit From the Changes: Clerical positions can’t stay as they are BUT there are opportunities to move up to more complex positions that are only done by people with knowledge, experience and judgment. Preparing for new roles requires training from us (company) and a determination from you (employee) to 1) ask for new projects and work; 2) be willing to step up and do more; 3) take a proactive approach to learning and building skills.

In Case You Think This Means a Pay Increase: The COO showed data from two outside sources that showed how salaries internally were out of line with the prevailing market.

These are tough messages for any leader to give but what is better: the shock of a lay-off with little or no notice or a clear message of how things will change and the offer of a partnership to develop new capabilities and skills?

The feedback from the staff has been very positive. They got it. This is change management at its best: BEFORE the fact, not AFTER. The senior employees are working diligently with the more clerical staff to design an on-the-job training curriculum and there are daily meetings to talk about progress. This is the tipping point in terms of culture change: it starts here.

Is everyone going to get on board? Probably not, but all employees have a clear vision, the business case, and a roadmap to develop new skills that lead to interesting work and a more rewarding career path. They have a choice: to stay and learn or to find work in a company that still needs their skills. That’s what most of us want when change is all around us: the ability to make an informed decision.

Here are my ‘take-aways’ from this story:

  • Frame a new strategic direction clearly and with conviction.
  • Be a leader. Don’t hide and don’t waffle.
  • Start the change process before the event, not after.
  • Explain in certain terms what most people want to know: What’s In It For Me?
  • Show how behaviors need to change as well as skills.
  • Invite a dialogue but be confident about what parts of the change in strategic direction are non-negotiable.

Are you facing a similar challenge as a leader? Will you share with us how you are delivering a tough message that inspires?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Segmentation: Not For Customers Only

These days, most of us know that if we aren’t segmenting customers in order to understand needs, retention patterns, expectations, profitability and so on, we can’t draw a straight line between our revenue generators and the results we want to achieve.

I’m reading an excellent book by Jac Fitz-Enz titled The New HR Analytics and, no, it’s not for HR practitioners only otherwise, I wouldn’t be reading it. The book is essential reading for those responsible for delivering results. Isn’t that all of us?

Dr. Fitz-Enz suggests that organizations are at the last gasp of the Industrial Age in terms of how we plan our workforces, improve our processes, use data and design our work. Trying to steer a new course using old thinking isn’t going to get us where we want to go. For example, he recommends capability planning, not workforce planning to support a business strategy. Workforce planning involves filling the same kind of jobs with broadly the same skill sets as we have now. Capability planning involves segmenting current and future skills into four categories:

Mission Critical: These skills are key to ongoing success and are necessary in any function; what Fitz-Enz calls a “make or break situation”. (Think David Petraeus)

Differentiating: Based on your current strategic direction or one that you want to execute on, what capabilities will give you a competitive advantage? These skills are similar to Mission Critical but not identical as their impact on the business is unique. (Think Steve Jobs)

Operational: What skills do you need or will you need to keep the company functioning? This is capability without which you would be less efficient, less productive and less effective.

Moveable: This is a critical segment. As the environment and a business’s response to it changes, the work changes but skills often don’t keep up with the change. The result usually is a build up of unnecessary costs and when they become a significant enough drain on results, leaders are faced with massive lay-offs and costly re-structuring.

Thinking "capability" and not "workforce" shifts the paradigm in terms of how your business acquires and builds necessary skills. You may hire Differentiating skills but bring in some Mission Critical skills on an as needed, project-by-project basis. You may outsource some of your Operational skills and will need to look long and hard at Moveable skills.

This is not a once-in-a-while event; it’s an ongoing process of scanning, evaluating and updating your game plan.

There is a growing body of opinion expressed by thought leaders like Jac Fitz-Enz and others who believe that what has worked in the glory days of the Industrial and Information Ages will not work in this Knowledge and Innovation Age. Tomorrow is already here; we should be asking the right questions about our capability and skills; otherwise, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Are you caught between the Industrial and Innovation Ages? Have you started building capability or are you filling jobs?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Makes a Good Business Strategy?

That question was asked by Veena Houston at one of our recent Leading Engaged Companies webinars; it’s a good one. I’ve been an internal practitioner and external consult of strategy for 25 years and it’s interesting how strategy formulation goes in and out of fashion, seemingly more in vogue when the economy is tough. For me, business strategy is one of the CEO’s KPI’s and there is the additional responsibility for communicating it and for ensuring it is executed.

First, my definition of business strategy, as I see so many references to “strategy” in the blogosphere but their message is really about tactics (marketing strategy, CRM strategy, HR strategy, etc.). The late Peter Drucker defined business strategy as “Analytical thinking & commitment of resources to action and innovation. Making decisions today about an uncertain future. Taking the right risks while exploring opportunities.”

Back to the original question: good business strategy components. Here are my must-haves:

Foundation of Vision, Values and Mission. Strategy can’t tell you what you stand for or why you’re in business but it should guide you in how you’re going to be different, competitive and successful.

Thorough Understanding of the External and Internal Environment. Knowing where you are now in terms of competition, customers, economic and regulatory issues and creating a report card of internal resources are imperatives; otherwise, strategy and direction are built on hope or dumb luck.

Evaluating Options in the Context of Your Reality. Strategy is about moving in a new direction which means building capability (human, structural, financial and relationship capital) that will support these decisions. Because strategy is a 3-5 year look ahead, not everything can be or needs to be accomplished Year One. That’s why we love annual action plans and budgets.

Scenario Planning. I came across this tool while working in England in the 80s through Royal Dutch Shell and the concept was so blindingly obvious that I’ve never thrown it out of my toolkit. We don’t have a crystal ball to predict our future so strategy development is, by its very nature, imperfect. We mitigate the risk by assessing our assumptions and using those to create scenarios of “What Ifs” and responses to those. Scenarios can lessen the impact of a flaw in the original strategy by allowing rapid course correction.

Measures and Monitoring. Failure to execute is the single greatest reason for strategy failure. These days, with financial and business modeling, strategy maps, scorecards and the like, there is no excuse not to design short- and long-term measures. Good strategy also demands that it cascades into departments, regions, and functions; and, ultimately to the individual level through a performance management system. If KPIs and compensation are not tied to business strategy, there is no skin in the game and therefore no incentive to change the status quo.

Communication, Involvement and Celebration. Communicating strategy is not a one-time event; it needs to drip continuously into the organizational consciousness until it is part of the fabric of all discussions, meetings and reviews. Keeping the message simple makes it easier to weave it into everyday activity.
Involving the workforce is critical, not just so that they are engaged but also because employees are in a perfect position to immediately discern a problem, which, if diagnosed quickly, can avoid strategy disaster.
Yes, celebrate. Every success; every mistake as a learning experience; every time a goal is achieved.

What do you think makes good business strategy? Can you add to my “must-have” list?