The frequency at which the word "engagement" appears in any discussion about employee communication has begun to make me wonder whether we clearly understand what the term means. More importantly, do we understand what it means to our clients, particularly CEOs, when they talk about engagement? We have engagement tools, but can we really say that these tools actually engage employees in the process of change? Or are employees merely engaged with the tool itself?
There is only one question that you need ask yourself to find out whether your employee communication strategies are going to engage employees, rather than simply inform. That question is: Can you establish whether the tools and methods you are using to communicate with employees are changing attitudes and behavior or providing information?
Employee engagement is a shared understanding of the issues that affect the business, and that understanding leads to changes in employees' attitudes and behaviors. Unless employees truly understand the issues and make a meaningful connection between their jobs and those issues, their attitudes and behaviors will not change. To achieve engagement, three things have to happen: The business issue has to mean something to the employee personally, the employee has to understand the issue (and I mean truly understand it, not just read about why it is an issue), and most important, each employee must be made to feel a part of the change process.
As communicators we have the opportunity to become creative in how we communicate and engage employees. The ultimate aim in employee communication has to be to create the "Aha!" moment. This is the moment when employees have the necessary information and can say, "Now it makes sense," "Now I understand, " "Now I can do something about it."
Tools are important in this process but generally they just communicate information. What we need to strive for are creative communication methods to engage employees in the process of change.
There are five steps for identifying what the "Aha" moment is and they include the following:
1. Focus group research. Ask employees about their thoughts on the organization and its competitors.
2. Identify the largest gap between what customers think and what employees think customers think.
3. What would create a paradigm shift in employee's thinking?
4. Can you measure the impact of the change in thinking?
5. How significant is it to achieving the business objectives?
So let's look at an example that would be familiar to communicators: the annual report announcement. Typically an online annual report would be made available to employees via the intranet. Some employees read it, but most tend to scroll down to the last pages to check the annual salaries of the senior executive staff and then close the document.
Let's imagine that the results in this annual report are very poor and the CEO is determined that employees understand the issues surrounding the poor results and become fully engaged to help turn the company around. Here's how one organization accomplished this.
The company held four brown bag lunch meetings over four weeks where employees could attend for free for one hour and hear from an outside professional about how to invest in the share market. Importantly, there was no obvious link between the meeting topic and the organization the employees worked for. At week three, they were analyzing annual reports and generally deciding whether they would invest in a particular company based on the information contained in the report. By the fourth week they were given another annual report and asked the same question, "would you invest in this company?" The answer was overwhelmingly no. And of course this last company was the one they all worked for, which brought them to the "Aha!" moment. Now the organization's employees understood and were engaged and ready to become involved in turning the company around through teamwork and new initiatives.
Here are some steps you can follow to ensure that you can come up with creative ways to communicate with employees and engage them in the process of change.
To challenge beliefs that your employees have about your organization, you need to have facts. The marketing department is an excellent source of facts about the business, with research on brand image, customer satisfaction, customer and non- customer views on competitors and information about market segments. Each of these areas provide valuable information on opportunities to link employees with business issues that can be measured. For example, the organization should have facts about how customers feel about the service provided by the organization's call centre. Employees will also have an opinion about how the believe customers perceive their service. By taking the results of the customer feedback and presenting it to staff this often creates an "Aha moment" because customer feedback is typically better than what employees anticipate. Once you have shared this information, the objective is to then explore ways that employees can become engaged in further improving that customer feedback. Focus groups are another excellent way to find out what employees think about different aspects of these areas and how their beliefs can be challenged as you need to help them better understand the issues that affect the business.
Key sources of business data are customer experience data, business results by product or service stream, competitor customer feedback, and measures of the attributes of your brand. These are sources of data that you can use as a measure of improvement as a result of your employee engagement strategy.
When selecting business outcomes as a measure for your employee communication strategy, you need to be quite certain that the strategy you implement can actually affect the business outcomes you have decided to focus on.
Finally, when it comes to any employee engagement strategy, whether it be total transformation of a business or improvement in one aspect, you can rarely go it alone. Partnering with other areas of your organization including marketing and human resources will ensure that the optimum outcome is achieved for your organization.
About the author:
Marcia Xenitelis is a recognized authority on the subject on change management and has spoken at conferences around the world. For access to case studies and more information on the types of strategies you can implement to engage employees visit http://www.communicationatwork.com for a wealth of free informative articles and resources.
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The frequency at which the word "engagement" appears in any discussion about employee communication has begun to make me wonder whether we clearly understand what the term means. More importantly, do we understand what it means to our clients, particularly CEOs, when they talk about engagement? We have engagement tools, but can we really say that these tools actually engage employees in the proMarcia Xenitelis Articles
If the organization provides safety and security for employees, then employees will provide the organization with their brawn. But what about the brain? That is a different issue.
Money buys employees’ brawn: at least you can see them at their desk by 8:00 a.m. and see them leave at 5:00 p.m. You observe them walking the halls with papers in hand, working at their computers, talking on the telephone, and in other ways physically doing their jobs. They appear to be working hard and the employer pays for the fundamental tasks the employee was hired to do. But, is the employee’s brain engaged? Is he satisfied with his current level of production and on autopilot? Is she just going through the motions to get a paycheck?
In production jobs where people are hired for their brawn, brain engagement is not a major issue. However, it is a different story for people with information jobs. People who are paid to think need reasons to keep their brain engaged and keep it from wandering into La-La Land: thinking about the weekend, plotting how to get even with the person in the next cubicle, or surfing the Internet for wakeboards. Brain engagement of employees is a clear leadership challenge.
The brain has many levels of intellectual and emotional involvement and employees decide on an hourly basis how much of their brain they will share at work, how much creativity they will give to solving problems, and how much they will flex to get along with co-workers. The amount of brain effort they choose to give is called discretionary effort.
Some employees only engage their brains to do their jobs just to the level so they won’t get fired. Little if any discretionary effort comes from these employees and they may never choose to change their engagement preference. However, if an organization increases the invitation to be engaged, most employees will respond in a positive way.
To better engage employees, organizations can employ a variety of methods such as offering monetary rewards, giving opportunities for personal development and education, recognizing employees for outstanding accomplishments and achievements, extending the leadership of a team assigned to a plumb project, etc. The ideas for engagement are numerous and once the organization has matched their method with the employee, the level of an employee's intellectual engagement and the amount of discretionary effort they choose to give will increase.
Discretionary effort equates with energy at work. There is a difference in the level of effort and energy one is capable of bringing to an activity or a task, and the effort required only to get by or make do, which requires little discretionary effort. It is the difference between the minimum acceptable versus the maximum level of energy and discretionary effort an individual is capable of giving and is related to the integrity and trust between an employee and the organization.
This places the level of employee engagement and discretionary effort squarely on the shoulders of leadership. To engage your employees and earn discretionary effort, use this checklist:
Give your employees stimulating tasks. This gives them positive expectation and a sense of excitement to come to work. It engages their creativity, improves their brain activity and increases the pleasure of working.
Assign employees to find answers to tough problems. This honors them by showing you believe in them and their abilities. Human nature will make them knuckle-down and bring you solutions.
Make employees accountable with deadlines and midpoints. Just like a teenager secretly appreciates the enforcement of rules, deep inside people feel good when they meet deadlines with integrity.
Explain the organizational vision and mission and ask them if they can align personally with the objectives and goals. Just like in a sales process, you can uncover and overcome their objections to business strategy and in the process and discussions, make them a more loyal employee.
Take note of their completed tasks in their performance review and see if their completed responsibilities support the goals and objectives of the department. This audit will help you determine if they have inadvertently veered off target.
Provide team building activities and relationship training so employees can intelligently solve problems, resolve minor conflicts and understand how to collaborate.
Reward them and recognize them for their contributions. Rewards and recognition give employees a sense of self-esteem and individual pride increases when they are thanked for their contributions in front of their peers.
Teach managers how to be relevant to the employees. Relevance means you matter. Because some managers underperform, they do not matter to the employee and worse yet, get in the way of employees performing at high levels.
The fundamental building block to effective work production and customer satisfaction is employees who are engaged and excited about their jobs. Their brains are fully engaged and they willingly give discretionary effort. Their energy is directed toward task completion, solving complex problems in innovative ways, and ensuring happy customers.
They seldom visit La La Land.
About the author:
Karla Brandau is CEO of Workplace Power Institute. She offers keynotes, workshops, and retreats to move your organization forward in the chaotic environment of the 21st Century. You can contact Karla at firstname.lastname@example.org visit her blog at www.FromTheDeskofKarlaBrandau.com
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This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
If the organization provides safety and security for employees, then employees will provide the organization with their brawn. But what about the brain? That is a different issue. Money buys employees’ brawn: at least you can see them at their desk by 8:00 a.m. and see them leave at 5:00 p.m. You observe them walking the halls with papers in hand, working atKarla Brandau Articles
If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there's a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.
A number of traits contributed to Abraham Lincoln's greatness. He possessed a brilliant intellect. He had an uncommon amount of common sense. He was a thinker, someone who philosophically examined the world and crafted a rationalized set of personal beliefs by which he steadfastly lived.
While he was blessed with many talents, Lincoln's greatest attribute may have been his ability to communicate. He was a skilled orator who eloquently wrote many of his own speeches. He listened sincerely when others spoke. He empathized. He mastered the art of interpersonal communications several decades before the term "interpersonal communications" was coined.
It wouldn't be a stretch to credit Lincoln as one of history's greatest communicators. But of all the communications techniques he so successfully employed, there was one where he especially shone.
Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable storyteller.
Lincoln succeeded under some of the most difficult leadership conditions any U.S. president has had to face. To communicate is such times, he often resorted to stories. Instead of berating the incompetent generals who blundered in the Civil War's early battles, Lincoln educated and motivated them by using stories. To smooth over ruffled political feathers with members of Congress, Lincoln would pull out a story and use it to establish common ground.
Among history's eminent leaders, however, Lincoln was not unique in his reliance upon stories. Political leaders throughout the ages have moved the masses by using stories to communicate their political platforms. In modern days, big-time CEOs use storytelling to mobilize international staffs in the quest for billions of dollars of profit. Jesus Christ himself used parables and story-based lessons to enlighten his disciples.
Indeed, stories pack a punch. They're powerful. They paint pictures. They work, because our human brains are conditioned to listen to and be receptive to stories. Long before the written word, and long before Gutenberg invented the printing press, people used stories to communicate histories and traditions as well as norms and expectations. In other words, our ancestors sat around the fire every night and told stories. The propensity to tell and listen to stories is essentially a part of our DNA.
So, if people are so receptive to storytelling, you and I would be foolish not to use stories in our work. Good storytellers tend to be effective leaders and successful salespersons. If you manage people, teach them and motivate them by conveying important information through stories. If you sell products and services, use a story to paint a picture in your prospect's mind. By making the product or service part of a story, prospective clients mentally project themselves into the story. Once someone makes that kind of psychological commitment, they're much more likely to buy.
Let's say we asked the same prospective client to sit through two sales presentations for competing products. Both salespersons touched on features and benefits. Salesperson One was very straightforward and focused on delivering factual content. Salesperson Two was accurate but explained the features and benefits using stories. A couple of the stories were about previous clients who enjoyed positive results from using the product. I guarantee the second salesperson has a higher likelihood of landing the client.
One of the most important skills in sales is the ability to overcome objections. Well, if you get an objection, tell a story to keep the deal alive. Are you ready to deliver your close? Make it more desirable by couching it inside a story. Has the process become mired? Advance it by telling a story.
Whether you are managing a staff, selling a service, delivering a speech, trying to persuade voters to elect you or attempting to resolve a conflict between two of your colleagues, make it easier by spinning a yarn. Stories reassure people and disarm them.
As you make a commitment to including more stories in your daily work, keep a couple things in mind:
1. Stories must be relative to the situation at hand.
2. Know when to shut up. If a story goes on too long, it loses its effectiveness
3. Think about the work you do and determine what kinds of stories could be effective in certain situations.
4. Catalog stories in your mind. Look back on your own experiences as well as the experiences of your colleagues. Make a list of stories to have at your disposal, so you can use them whenever it's expedient.
Every product, service, business and person has a story, probably multiple stories. The trick is to pull out these stories and use them to your benefit at the appropriate times. After all, if President Lincoln used stories to save a country, we would be wise to use them to save our businesses and careers.
About the author:
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.You can learn more and follow his "Business Motivation Blog" at www.JeffBeals.com
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there's a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. A number of traJeff Beals Articles
As women progressively enter leadership roles and management positions in organizations that traditionally used to be held by men, many pose questions about leadership styles and gender.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly one of four chief executives and one out of twenty top-management positions in Fortune 500 corporations, are women. These statistics are only slightly higher than 20 years ago. (When the Boss is a Woman, 2008)
This statistic draws a question: what is the difference between a man and woman’s leadership style? A few of the most important and valuable leadership traits are: honesty, intelligence, work ethic, decisiveness, ambition, compassion, and creativeness. Is it possible that one could posses more of one trait depending solely on gender?
After history made its own mark on our present, women are no longer loved and valued for just being feminine. The modern-day female has to work as hard as males to deserve any type of respect or appreciation, but at the same time motherhood responsibilities stayed the same. Maybe those are the reasons why it is so difficult for women to make it all the way up political or corporate leadership ladders? Leaders must be tough enough to make difficult, bottom-line decisions that serve the overall needs of the organization.
Biologically females are more sensitive, emotional, and self-critical than men. Can the biological and psychological traits of women make a negative effect on their leadership style? Do women suffer from a lack of authority? Does a society have a cliché that women can’t be tough and fearless?
Women in Leadership and Communication Styles
The study of language and gender provides additional perspective on women’s leadership gaps. Robin Lakoff’s article titledWomen in Power from the New England Journal of Public Policy states: “Women have a different way of speaking from men. Women’s language is rife with such devices as mitigators (sort of, I think) and inessential qualities (really happy, so beautiful)”.
According to the American Psychological Association, a woman’s leadership style is more like mentoring and coaching, while a man’s style is centered around command and control. As a result, women are more likely to be transformational leaders, helping employees develop their skills and talents, motivating them, and coaching to be more creative. This approach can be very effective in today’s world, when costumer service becomes one of the most profitable types of business. At the same time, this kind of leadership style might not be very beneficial in traditional male settings such as military or organized sports.
Studies made by Alice Eagly in an article titled “The Leadership Styles of Women and Men” in Journal of Social Issues show that the difference between men and women leadership styles is small but significant. “Women exceeded men on three transformational scales: the attributes version of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration. These findings suggest that female managers, more than male managers, manifest attributes that motivate their followers to feel respect and pride because of their association with them, showed optimism and excitement about future goals, and attempted to develop and mentor followers and attend to their individual needs. Women also exceeded men on the transactional scale of contingent reward. This finding suggests that female managers, more than male managers, give their followers reward for good performance.”
In contrast men exceeded women in transactional scales of active management by expectations and passive management by expectations. “These findings suggest that male managers, more than female managers, paid attention to their followers’ problems and mistakes, waited before problems became severe before attempting to solve them, and were absent and uninvolved at critical times.”
According to the Pew Research Center Social and Demographic surveys, women are more honest, compassionate, outgoing, and creative; all important traits those are a few of the most of effective leaders. So why are most of the leaders in modern America men? In one survey, the public cites gender discrimination, resistance to change, and of course “old-boys club” as the main reasons why women have less opportunities and more challenges to make their way up in organizations. Some of the respondents also mention women’s family responsibilities and their shortage of experience as detriments to a successful career. In the mean time the same research shows that 69 percent of respondents say that men and women are equally good leaders.
Alice Eagly, a Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University and let devotee of gender studies states:
“Even though the research found some differences in management style…the sex differences are small because the leader role itself carries a lot of weight in determining people's behavior. Women are in some senses better leaders than men but suffer the disadvantage of leadership roles having a masculine image, especially in some settings and at higher levels. Stripping organizational leadership of its masculine aura would allow psychologists to get a clearer picture of any true differences between men and women.”
As an answer to my question whether there is a difference between men and women’s leadership style is yes. Women leadership styles can be more effective and productive in today’s less hierarchical organizations, but in the mean time can destroy the traditional male setting in companies. A women’s psychological frame of mind can make them look less powerful than men; but in the meantime dismissing any candidate on the basis of gender not only denies opportunity to talented individuals but also can decrease the amount of genuine leaders in an organization.
Bunker, K. A. (2005, September/October). A Question of Leadership. LiA, 25, 14.
Eagly, A., & Johannesen-Schmidt, M. (2001, December). The Leadership Styles of Women and Men. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 781. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
Laff, M. (2007, March). THE INVISIBLE WALL. T+D, 61(3), 32-38. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
McKenna, M. (2007, Special Issue: Women). Women in Power. New England Journal of Public Policy, 22(1/2), 7-16. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
When the Boss is a Women. (2006, March 22). APA Online. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from American Psychological Association Web site: http://Psycologymatters.org/womanboss.html
Men or Women: Who's Better Leader. (2008, August 25). PewResearch center publications. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from PewResearch Center Web site: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/932/men-or-women-whos-the-better-leader
About the author:
This article was written by Yulia Vinnytska. She is a Rasmussen College - Eagan, MN business degree student in her senior year.
*Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net
As women progressively enter leadership roles and management positions in organizations that traditionally used to be held by men, many pose questions about leadership styles and gender. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly one of four chief executives and one out of twenty top-management positions in Fortune 500 corporations, are women. These statiYulia Vinnytska Articles
How do we define leadership in the 21st century? One of the first systematic attempts to study leadership was the “trait theory.” Early trait theories were called “great-man” theories. They focused on the innate traits and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders (mostly men).
Ongoing research, however, shows that leaders come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. Some are highly educated, while others barely finished high school. Some are old, some are young. Some are outgoing while others are introverted. Some are male and many are female. Each leader is unique, but they likely share many of the following traits:
1) Optimism—Leaders reflect a positive, upbeat, can-do attitude. They keep hope alive during tough times. They reframe problems into opportunities. Leaders see possibilities, while others only see the status quo.
“It can be done!”—Sign President Ronald Reagan kept on his desk in the Oval Office. Dubbed “The Great Communicator,” Reagan was known for his optimism and ability to express ideas in a clear, eloquent, and quotable fashion.
“The Buck Starts Here!”—Sign on the desk of Donald Trump.
Leaders see opportunity and take action. Can leaders be overly optimistic? Yes. Effective leaders balance optimism with realism.
2) Awareness—Leaders notice everything. There are three types of awareness:
- Self-awareness – Great leaders know who they are and what they stand for. Leaders are aware of their core values, beliefs, and feelings, and have emotional intelligence. Aware of their emotions, they steadfastly channel them in positive directions.
- Awareness of others – Leaders have a good sense of what others are thinking and feeling. They have empathy.
- Awareness of the environment – Leaders see the big picture. They are aware of the important trends, problems, and opportunities that exist in the current environment.
3) Credibility—Leaders have a track record of being honest and ethical. They say what they mean and mean what they say. Followers want leaders who are truthful, ethical, and principled.
Credibility is also based on competence. Competent leaders have up-to-date knowledge of the issues and a track record of success.
4) Convictions—Leaders have a strong set of core values and beliefs. They hold firm beliefs about their mission (purpose), vision (long-term goals), and their values (what’s right and wrong). They also hold strong views about what’s most important (their priorities).
We expect leaders to take a position. We don’t expect wishy-washy opinions. “There are many qualities that make a great leader,” says Rudy Giuliani. “But having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristics of a great leader.”
5) Risk-Taker—Leaders stand ready to step out of their comfort zones and try new things. Leaders promote change. They challenge the status quo and pursue their vision and goals.
Kouzes and Posner, in their classic book, The Leadership Challenge, see leaders as pioneers:
Leaders are pioneers. They are people who venture into unexplored territory. They guide us to new and often unfamiliar destinations. People who take the lead are the foot soldiers in the campaigns for change….The unique reason for having leaders—their differentiating function—is to move us forward. Leaders get us going someplace.
6) Confidence and Courage—Leaders have confidence in themselves and their followers. They face reality and deal with the problems and opportunities they see. Can leaders be too confident? Yes. Some leaders overestimate their abilities and underestimate the challenges they face.
However, leaders have the courage needed to stand up and speak up for their beliefs and values. They have the courage to stand alone when necessary. Some of the courageous things leaders do include:
a) Speaking up knowing they will be judged harshly.
b) Giving critical feedback to someone in power when they know it might have unfavorable consequences.
c) Saying “No” when everyone else is saying “Yes.”
d) Accepting responsibility for the shameful or embarrassing things they’ve done.
e) Staying and fighting for the greater good when everyone else is running away from the battle.
“Speak your mind—even if your voice shakes,” says Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers. Author and thought leader Leslie C. Aguilar posts Kuhn’s quote on conference room walls when she conducts seminars on respectful communication in a diverse world. “Leaders find the courage to speak up even when they’re nervous,” says Aguilar. “They know that one voice can make a difference.”
1) Passion—Leaders feel passionate about their beliefs, ideas, and goals. Their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. They’re excited about the possibilities they see, so they are animated when speaking and taking action.
2) Inspiration—Leaders inspire us by what they say, how they say it, and what they do. Their words encourage and affirm. They deliver the message with energy, enthusiasm, and great conviction. And they inspire us by what they do. Leaders practice what they preach. Followers may question what the leader says, but they can’t deny what the leader does.
3) Drive and Determination—Ambitious and determined, leaders work through setbacks and obstacles. They never give up without a fight. Leaders are eager to take the steps needed to improve the current situation. They are excited about the possibilities they see, and can’t wait to make changes and effect improvement.
“It’s not enough to say we are doing our best. We must succeed in doing what is necessary.” This framed inscription sat on Winston Churchill’s desk during WWII. Churchill reputedly also kept the following aphorism on the wall above his desk: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.”
Leaders focus on change. They see possibilities. They are optimistic and willing to take risks to achieve something better. Leaders have the courage and confidence to speak up for what’s right and needed. Their tremendous drive and determination allow them to see their visions become reality. They inspire us to change and achieve bigger goals.
About the author:
Paul B. Thornton is the author of numerous articles and 13 books on management and leadership. His latest book, Leadership—Off the Wall, highlights the guiding principles some well-known business and political leaders keep on their desks or post on their office walls.
In addition to being a speaker and management/leadership trainer, he is a business professor at Springfield Technical Community College. In the last 20 years, he has trained over 10,000 people to be more effective managers and leaders. You can find out more about Paul at www.PBThornton.com and contact him at PThornton@stcc.edu
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How do we define leadership in the 21st century? One of the first systematic attempts to study leadership was the “trait theory.” Early trait theories were called “great-man” theories. They focused on the innate traits and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders (mostly men). Ongoing research, however, shows that lePaul B. Thornton Articles
“This is boring,” Ty muttered as he sat through yet another management training session. “I could be showing my new team member, Jeff, how to do the social networking piece of our project,” he mused. Happily ignoring the trainer, Ty thought, “Now THAT would help the company, not to mention Jeff. And, I want to learn that new technology—this session needs to hurry up and end.”
The 1980’s brought about radical organizational transformation. According to Breda Bova, Associate Dean, University of New Mexico, and Consultant Michael Kroth, the traditional organizations our fathers worked for were going “haywire with corporate downsizing and massive layoffs.” Careers began to transition from working a lifelong job in one establishment to continuously changing jobs to learn new skills. Due to this fundamental change, some organizations today are at a loss for how to retain and develop top talent for taking over the business. Succession planning is definitely impacted by this seismic organizational shift.
Succession planning in today’s organizations includes retaining and developing the next generational leaders—Generation X and Generation Y. Gen X and Gen Y pose unique challenges for organizations’ older generational leaders: they ask questions; remain independent; and readily change jobs for personal and professional skills development. Richard Sayers, Director at CABAL Human Resources Group, believes they act as free agents characterized by a desire to have a “portable career…and even greater degrees of personal flexibility, professional satisfaction and immediacy.” If organizations acknowledge these characterizations, there is an opportunity for retaining and developing this next set of knowledgeable leaders by offering access to credible sources who know relevant information.
Many Gen X and Gen Y’s are technology-adept individuals who live and breathe constant access to global and cultural information. They are interested in accessing people, whether leaders, peers, subordinates, gurus, or techno geeks, to learn and apply new and relevant information that advances their skills and knowledge base. According to Sayers, they are “motivated by a desire to enhance professional skills and thus marketability to future employers.” It is an ongoing learning process known as “continuous learning”—a motivator and way of life for Gen X and Gen Y.
For an organization, cultivating a continuous learning environment in order to develop the next generational leaders includes designing programs that embrace both appropriate learning styles and accessibility to leaders in the organization.
There are three types of applicable learning styles according to Bova and Kroth:
1) Action learning: Learning by doing;
2) Incidental learning: Spontaneous learning with no specific outcomes; and,
3) Formal training: learning in a classroom setting.
For Gen X and Gen Y, action learning is attractive because it deals with real problems and solutions and implementing actions. Incidental learning is also powerful due to some of the possible outcomes of “increased competence, increased self-knowledge, and improved life skills” as noted by learning theorist Craig Mealman. However, formal training is not as attractive to Leadership Next because of their time and space orientation.
Cultivating a continuous learning environment for Leadership Next also requires accessibility to leaders in the organization—people who know information, have applicable job skills and portray leadership traits. As mentors, teachers and even “disciplors,” these are leaders with the ability to transfer leadership learning to Gen X and Gen Y. According to author Chip Bell, mentoring is “a process where one person helps another become successful by providing understanding of the informal systems involved in an organization. Mentoring is not about power, it’s about learning.” Shelly Cunningham from the Talbot School of Theology defines discipling as “the process of following another person or way of life while submitting to the group leaders’ discipline; also the adoption of the philosophies, practices, and ways of life of the teacher.”
Why would Leadership Next agree to mentoring and discipling in a leader-follower context?
They may not, unless today’s leaders mentor and disciple based on action and incidental learning techniques. If leaders apply innovative learning techniques and provide relevant skills training, Generation Next may very likely be enticed to stay and build their professional repertoire. If leaders do it right, protégés will carry on the organization’s legacy. David Clutterbuck, mentoring consultant, suggests a sponsorship approach; “The modern version of a sponsor is an informed senior manager, who takes on the long-term responsibility for balancing the career needs of talented individuals against the evolving needs of the business.”
How do you start a Mentoring and Discipling Program?
Do not be “mind-boggled” with the amount of knowledge your protégé knows and can instantly access. Keep an open mind, value what they know, but challenge their thinking. As confident as they appear due to facts, introducing inter-personal or real-world scenarios helps them expand their horizons and value new insights. Michael Shenkman, Founder of the Arch of Leadership, suggests “a mentor has to be willing to risk the hurt, the insult, even the parting of ways in order to bring to prominence the kinds of attitudes and orientations that go into creative leading.”
- Develop the plan together and provide a network of experienced leaders:
They know what they want; they don’t always know what they don’t know. Gen X and Gen Y like collaboration, transparency and openness. Plan together, and make the plan relevant, personalized, challenging, and rewarding. Stand in the gap between what they need to know and who they need to get it from by having a network of mentors or senior leaders available for introductions as needed. With these introductions, be prepared to transition your protégé to the next mentor or “disciplor” as they soak up leadership knowledge and experience. As Shenkman says, “the mentor lets the protégé experience the full force of leading, even to the point of failure.”
- Create an innovative learning experience:
Try e-Mentoring: e-Mentoring provides tools and technology to help bridge the relationship between mentors and mentorees in distant locations. Search on “e-Mentoring” and several website links are returned targeting specific industries or age groups. According to Sayer, Gen X and Gen Y “want the flexibility and freedom to access professional development on their terms; when and where they require it.”
Build a virtual community: Gen-X and Gen-Y live in a virtual world and community acceptance is important. Developing a virtual community for your organization could be a “learning incubator” for new protégés. Think about allowing a team of Gen-X and Gen-Y’s to work with advisors and subject matter experts to design and develop it. Klaus Nielson of the University of Aarhus in Denmark believes “collaborative learning…in the workplace plays a significant role in learning transfer.”
Think entrepreneurial: Get creative and be innovative by having the Gen X and Gen Y’s help develop a rotating internship program across the organization. Create discovery programs and social learning practices rich in media and knowledge. Bova & Kroth quote Davenport as saying “organizations are becoming increasingly sophisticated in creating and utilizing knowledge management repositories, supporting communities of practice, and facilitating the transfer of learning.”
Are you ready for Leadership Next?
About the author:
LISA R. FOURNIER is a doctoral student in the Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) program with the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship at Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lisa, an entrepreneur and innovator with over 20 years of start-up experience, also works with Idea Evolutions LLC, a coaching and consulting company serving entrepreneurial leaders. Lisa’s email is email@example.com
*Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net
“This is boring,” Ty muttered as he sat through yet another management training session. “I could be showing my new team member, Jeff, how to do the social networking piece of our project,” he mused. Happily ignoring the trainer, Ty thought, “Now THAT would help the company, not to mention Jeff. And, I want to learn that new technology—this session needs to hurry up and end.”Lisa R. Fournier Articles
Let me be so bold as to say that you will never find or be the perfect leader. To be human is to make mistakes. But I hope we all strive to continuously improve our intrapersonal, interpersonal, technical, and managerial skills. This inevitably leads to a happier and correspondingly more productive workforce. The aim I believe is to transition from being a boss (driving the employees and inspiring fear) to a leader (coaching the employees and inspiring enthusiasm).
I have had the pleasure of reporting to a wide range of different leader personality types and behaviors. From experiencing an uncommunicative but skilled boss (let's call him Mr. A) who operated in a clique of yes men (and maybe he still does) to a leader (Dr. B) who had less technical knowledge but whose door was always open for communication of any of my concerns. I much preferred the latter. Permit me to delve further into my personal experiences with Mr. A and Dr. B.
Mr. A rose to stardom in his organization very quickly. He was technically adept and his reputation was his performance on the job, especially with regards to writing reports. Therefore Mr. A was promoted very quickly through the ranks and inevitably attained supervisory responsibilities. It was around this time that, myself, a fledging engineer joined this organization and fell under Mr. A's responsibility. But I was in disagreement with Mr. A's attitude towards me. He often insulted me in the presence of other personnel and was never willing to share his knowledge. He bad-mouthed the performance of others, even those under his supervision. Those who agreed with Mr. A's views were absorbed into his clique. I became one of those who were left to fend for myself and learn the engineering skills I needed on my own. I subsequently left the organization, mainly because of Mr. A.
As a mechanical engineering researcher later on in life, I was supervised by Dr. B. For any researcher performing doctoral studies, there comes a transition point where the knowledge of the researcher may exceed that of the supervisor in a particular research area. For some it comes after 2 years of study, for others never. For me, it occurred after 6 months of study. This placed a lot of onus on me to ensure that I was on the right track in my studies. There were times when I felt the doctoral study was directionless. However, I would not have traded that experience for anything else in the world. Mainly because of the outstanding leadership qualities of Dr. B. He catered to my administrative and psychological needs. He was there to offer his support when I encountered personal obstacles at the university. There was nothing that I couldn't talk to Dr. B about. Dr. B always made it a point to inquire about the well-being of my family and wife. I subsequently graduated from the university in a period of time that was 1 year earlier than the average time taken for a doctoral researcher in that region.
The perfect leader may be in the eyes of the beholder. To the ones in Mr. A's clique, he was probably the perfect leader. I have never spoken to Mr. A since but those who presently work under him report of his dictatorial ways. I have heard stories of him personally monitoring, on a daily basis, the time his employees enter and leave the compound. I guess he has decided to further improve his skills into being an excellent spy. I regularly maintain contact with Dr. B, and we intend to collaborate in the future on research activities. Dr. B still inquires on the well-being of myself and family.
I am not exempt from blame in the scenarios I have described, especially with regards to interactions with Mr. A. I was often rude to him and this was in retaliation to his attitude. Perhaps I should have been more tolerant of his ways and mannerisms. By doing this, I would have performed better in my job then. But I thank him because I strive on a daily basis to not be like him. For if I never experienced his type I would not know how it feels, for example, to be ridiculed as an employee in the presence of others. I also need to consider Mr. A's turmoil as he was put into a position of supervision at an early stage of his career. I don't know how this can affect a person's psyche and the added expectations that are placed on one by his organization.
I do know that I have and will continue to make mistakes as I try to be a leader. I basically strive to do the things that I deemed as positive from Dr. B and avoid doing what was negative from the experiences with Mr. A. My personal experiences have confirmed that leaders are not specific to developed or developing nations or the degree of education they have attained.
Leaders are found throughout the spectrum of companies, organizations and all walks of life. Is it the case that leaders are born, do they emerge over time, or is there a bit of both? I don't know. However, it is often the power hungry that rise to the organizational/corporate top quickly. They are the ones that lack the skills required to keep a group or workforce happy. And I strongly believe that an employee's happiness is directly related to his/her productivity.
About the author:
Dr. Chris Maharaj is the Assistant Professor of Design and Manufacturing at the The University of Trinidad & Tobago, O'Meara Campus, Trinidad. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
*image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net
Let me be so bold as to say that you will never find or be the perfect leader. To be human is to make mistakes. But I hope we all strive to continuously improve our intrapersonal, interpersonal, technical, and managerial skills. This inevitably leads to a happier and correspondingly more productive workforce. The aim I believe is to transition from being a boss (driving the employees and inspirDr. Chris Maharaj Articles
Mainly because a great many among us continue to misunderstand the far reaching implications of effective leadership, I find myself amazed at the number of middle and senior level managers who are dying and desperate for results and through poor planning and time management, find themselves too busy to lead. That leadership is one of the most valuable assets any manager could bring to the table would seem lost on a mentality that looks upon leadership as little more than a word and with the enthusiasm that most of us reserve for a dental appointment or a colonoscopy.
The obvious and immediate human concerns that would arise out of this reluctance to engage and challenge staff members aside, the very real business impact is tangible and decidedly negative. If you can imagine a boat in the middle of a stormy ocean without a compass, you can visualize a business or organization lost, floundering and at risk of disaster. Leadership is the compass for any business or organization and as such provides direction toward that safe port in a storm or, more hopefully, allows us to plot a course toward strength and prosperity.
I have worked for more than one organization that goes to great lengths to engage senior managers in all aspects of the business, which should be a great thing but when hours and days are taken up with meetings and the preparation of reports and discussions of strategy, forecasting and results, there is no time left to engage staff members, check progress or verify the great and wonderful things we had thought were being done were actually taking place and more importantly, there is no time to lead.
Human beings are highly complex creatures, who at their best can astound you with their initiative and ingenuity but at their worst can thwart your best intentions and frustrate you with their failings and unpredictability. They are just very needy as compared to a printer or a web site and this in particular if you are not there to lead them.
A former client of mine, not one I would describe as entirely successful, once described leadership to me as his creating a new policy and his posting it on the wall. As far as he was concerned the very second he tacked a policy on the wall, his job was done and it was up to his staff members to follow the policy or get out. I would tell you that over time an awful lot of his staff members chose to get out and when I suggested to this business owner that his approach might be the problem, he told me that to him it was obvious that he had hired the wrong people and he just needed better people. He maintained that attitude until the day he sold the business, never once entertaining the idea that it was his lack of leadership that kept his policies from being fully implemented and his unwillingness to engage his people that led to constant turmoil and staffing turnover. People need to know what is expected of them, they need to know that their efforts matter and they need to be encouraged along the way. In short, people need to be led.
Organizationally the greatest threat to effective leadership is too many senior level meetings, discussions, demonstrations, brainstorming sessions and policy round tables. It doesn’t matter the quality and urgency of these events, if they are consistently pulling managers away from their teams and consistently creating a separation between the task at hand, the team members and the leader, they are a detriment to the tasks we are performing and a threat to the success of the organization.
Standards should never be arbitrary, quality and excellence never just happen and productivity is much more than the perfect process. Leadership and the oversight it provides assures our standards are met, verifies the quality and guarantees our process. If our leadership is buried in meeting on top of meeting, our leadership is absent and unable to deliver the excellence we had expected and had been looking for. Leadership is that critical ingredient in moving us from good to great. If it a choice between meetings and success, fewer but better meetings might be the more prudent choice.
Leadership is a very intimate interaction between us as leaders and our staff, giving us the opportunity to reinforce the many good things we are doing toward accomplishing our goals but also giving us the opportunity for mid-course corrections toward that same end. Plans and projects rarely go entirely as conceived and an important aspect of leadership lies in our taking counsel and adjusting the things we are doing to assure success and our hitting our goal. In the same way, the meetings, discussions, brainstorming sessions and round table discussions are designed to review progress and communicate where we are to our various stakeholders but when this gets in the way of effective leadership, we have to make a choice between talking about what and how we are doing something and actually leading us toward doing something and accomplishing something. Without the leadership, accomplishment becomes a less likely outcome of our efforts, no matter how good the plan or process, no matter how good our staff. Visible leadership is that important.
Action in the absence of leadership may or may not be supportive of our organizational goals but more often than not, it occurs out of confusion over what is or is not expected and ignorance about what we are trying to accomplish. It cannot rightly be called initiative or going above and beyond what was expected because the leadership has not been around to set those expectations. In too many of these cases we have no idea of what is wanted or where we are going. Too often it is a sign of a motivated staff, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Quality leadership would provide that direction and move us toward accomplishment.
In the end leadership is not about the perfect plan or process. It is not about the latest analysis or the most up to date intelligence. It is taking the people assigned to you, letting them know what is expected and when and letting them know what success looks like. It doesn’t matter that you accomplish this in a huddle around the coffee maker in your office or in a teleconference covering three time zones and two territories but you need to connect, you need to expect and you need to inspire.
As Colin Powell said “Leadership is solving problems. The day your people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership”.
Not being there is a great way to show that you don’t care and an ever better way to lose your people’s confidence. Maybe we should have a meeting to discuss all of this. Or maybe not…
Leadership is about accomplishment and being there for your staff. It’s not about meeting, it’s about leading!
About the author:
Brian Canning is a regular contributor to weLEAD and a business analyst working in the federal sector. For the past thirty years he has worked in the automotive repair industry, most recently as a leadership and management coach with the Automotive Training Institute in Savage, Maryland. After serving as a tank commander with the 1st Armored Division in Europe, he started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later a sales region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a large auto parts distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of auto parts. His passions are history, leadership and writing.
*image courtesy of pakorn/freedigitalphotos.net
Mainly because a great many among us continue to misunderstand the far reaching implications of effective leadership, I find myself amazed at the number of middle and senior level managers who are dying and desperate for results and through poor planning and time management, find themselves too busy to lead. That leadership is one of the most valuable assets any manager could bring to the tabBrian Canning Articles
At some point in his or her career, every politician gets tarred with a catch phrase--and usually not a flattering one.
George Bush, Sr. is stuck with two. There was "Read my lips, no new taxes," of course. But only slightly less unfortunate was his dismissal of what he called, "The 'vision thing.'"
He was trying at the time to shake the impression that he was a competent day-to-day manager but he lacked any grander vision of where he wanted to lead the country. His choice of words and tone of voice didn't exactly help.
John F. Kennedy had a vision: "A man on the moon before the end of the decade." And it inspired the seemingly impossible. We had about 15 percent of the needed know-how when he made that declaration.
Bill Gates had a vision that there would be a computer on every desk in America. And this was back when most people didn't even know what a computer was!
Why vision matters
I once had a CEO look me straight in the eye and say he didn't really "go for" visions. "I put my energy into training," he said.
But training for what? I wondered. You do training without a vision, you're all gas pedal and no windshield.
A study at the Sloan School of Management showed that leaders who create, communicate, and implement successful organizational visions were more successful in EVERY measure than those who did not.
Three elements of a truly GREAT vision
Powerful, effective, propelling visions all have three things in common:
1. Short, simple and strong. Shorter is stronger. Take a given sentence and ask which words are pulling their weight and which can take a hike. Change vague expressions like "high-quality" and "world-class" into specific, powerful language that reflects your values. Simpler is also better. Use words a fourth grader could understand.
2. Visual. A statement that doesn't create a powerful visual image of the future isn't a vision. It doesn't give people anything to keep in their mind's eye while they work. You need a landmark on the horizon or you're driving blind.
3. Of service to others. Make sure your vision statement reflects an intense, focused drive to serve the needs of your customers, not just to "satisfy."
The human spirit will not invest in mediocrity. That's why a vision always starts with a bold and audacious idea. A vision statement is nothing less than an invitation for others to invest in your dreams and a promise to do the same in return. By following these simple rules, you can create the kind of vision that has been proven to power companies beyond what was ever thought possible.
Vision doesn't stop at the top
Once you've got your vision defined--your clear, concise, powerful, visual, service-oriented vision--don't put it in the drawer. Pour it all over your company. Let it seep into every nook and cranny of everything your company does. Put it on the lips and in the hearts of your workforce or it will never find its way into the wider world.
The turning point for a vision is when everyone sees it, gets it, and buys into participating to make it happen. And if you've built your vision around a bold and audacious idea, a ludicrous, unreasonable, captivating idea--like, oh, I don't know, going to the moon--people will throw their hearts over the bar with you to make that unreasonable dream a reality.
About the author:
Roxanne Emmerich is renowned for her ability to transform the "ho-hum" attitudes of leaders, executives, business owners and entrepreneurs just like you into massive results-oriented "bring-it-on" attitudes. To discover how you can get motivated and love your job again, check out her new book – Thank God it's Monday.
At some point in his or her career, every politician gets tarred with a catch phrase--and usually not a flattering one. George Bush, Sr. is stuck with two. There was "Read my lips, no new taxes," of course. But only slightly less unfortunate was his dismissal of what he called, "The 'vision thing.'" He was trying at the time to shake tRoxanne Emmerich Articles
"For what we've discovered, and rediscovered, is that leadership isn't the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It's a process ordinary people use when they're bringing forth the best from themselves and others. Liberate the leader in everyone, and extraordinary things happen." — James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to Keep Getting Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations
Leadership is a verb, not a noun. Leadership is action, not a position. Leadership is defined by what we do, not the role we are in. Some people in "leadership roles" are excellent leaders. But too many are bosses, "snoopervisors," technocrats, bureaucrats, managers, commanders, chiefs, and the like. Conversely, many people who have no formal leadership role are excellent leaders. In today's fast changing world, we all need to be leaders.
To lead is to show the way by going in advance. To lead is to guide or direct a course of action. To lead is to influence the behavior or opinion of others. We all need to be leaders, regardless of our formal title or role. This starts with inner self-leadership and moves outward to influence, guide, support, and lead others. The process of becoming a leader is the same as the process of becoming a highly effective human being. Leadership development is personal development. Leadership ultimately shows itself in what we do "out there." But it starts "in here."
It would be easy if we could all become leaders by following a simple set of steps. But the journey of personal growth means finding our own way. There are, however, critical areas of personal development based on timeless principles. The distance we need to grow along each leadership dimension will differ for each of us, but defining and continually growing along each of these paths is the way of the leader.
Strong leaders are well-rounded and constantly expanding their personal leadership across these key areas:
*Choose Not to Lose. Whether we choose to focus on our problems or our possibilities is a key leadership issue. When we are faced with obstacles and failure, those who can overcome adversity and learn from their experiences, turning them into opportunities, are the ones who will be truly successful.
*Focus and Context. THE CORE OF MY BEING: This is central to our growth along all the other dimensions. Our Focus and Context is shaped by three vital questions: Where am I going? (my vision); What do I believe in? (my principles and values) and; Why do I exist? (my purpose or mission).
*Responsibility For Choices. IF IT'S TO BE, IT'S UP TO ME: Leadership means accepting responsibility for our choices in life. Leaders realize that life accumulates, that choice more than chance determines their circumstances. They refuse to succumb to the "Victimitus Virus" ("it's all their fault" and "there's nothing I can do").
*Authenticity. GETTING REAL: Leadership isn't just what we do, it's something that we are, which then drives what we do. Genuine leadership comes from within. It's authentic, and based on honesty, integrity, and trust. We must ring true to ourselves by exploring our inner space, gathering feedback on our personal behavior, and ensuring consistency with our stated values and principles.
*Passion and Commitment. BEYOND NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCES: Successful people are energized by a love for what they do because it brings them ever closer to who they are. They overcome apathy and cynicism, develop a burning commitment to their cause, and with discipline achieve their dreams and desires.
*Spirit and Meaning. WITH ALL MY HEART AND SOUL: What is the purpose of our work? Of our lives? Material success alone is not enough. Leaders seek within — and find something more. In what is too often a mad dash from cradle to grave, we need to take time — in work and life — to nourish our inner selves.
*Growing and Developing. FROM PHASE OF LIFE TO WAY OF LIFE: The popular goals of security, stability, and predictability are deadly. The closer we get to these dangerous goals, the more our growth is stunted. True and lasting security comes from constant growth and development, based on regular R&R (reflection and renewal).
*Mobilizing and Energizing. PUTTING EMOTIONS IN MOTION: Leaders don't motivate with rewards and punishments. Whether at home or in the workplace, they energize people to motivate themselves. Highly effective leaders boost the energy of others with their passion and appreciation. They engage people's hearts as well as their minds. They get them involved and participating. They actively nurture the "being" or culture of the group, not just the "doing."
The more the world changes, the more leadership principles stay the same. Leadership principles are timeless. And they apply to all of us, no matter what role we play in society or organizations.
About the author:
Jim Clemmer's practical leadership & personal growth books, workshops, and team retreats have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide improve personal, team, and organizational performance. Jim's web site, JimClemmer.com, has over 300 articles and dozens of video clips covering a broad range of topics on change, organization improvement, self-leadership, and leading others.
"For what we've discovered, and rediscovered, is that leadership isn't the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It's a process ordinary people use when they're bringing forth the best from themselves and others. Liberate the leader in everyone, and extraordinary things happen." — James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to KeeJim Clemmer Articles
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