Category Archives: #WorkCulture
Last month Peter Barron Stark, an executive coach on San Diego, tweeted about this leader who had a question about “this vision thing”.
Recently an #executive asked me “Is this vision thing overrated?” What do you think? Do you think that #vision is overrated? #leadership https://t.co/FlF6agmKAr— Peter Barron Stark (@peterbstark) April 1, 2019
It brought up some thoughts as to why some leaders don’t really get “that vision thing”.
They don’t see past the “action-results” dynamic. As Stark iterated, vision drives behaviors whether they’re positive, status quo based or negative. Many leaders get stuck in the thinking that results are the by-product of actions, so actions must be driven. That creates results, but many of them are mixed, some positive, some status quo and some negative. Leaders need to back up a step to create a vision that drives the actions towards positive results.
Some don’t truly understand what drives human behavior. Not employee behavior, but human behavior. People, especially the younger generations of Millennials and iGen. They want the vision to much of what they do, not a “do as I say” culture. People are connected best with the big picture, buying into what it means for them. It creates connected partners with more passion and at stake in the results versus compelled workers who mostly try to hang on.
Don’t value vision as a priority. It is said that what you do is what is important to you, and what you don’t do, you don’t value. Simply stated, if a leader doesn’t create vision, it’s not important to them. it’s never too late to get a vision clearly established, but to claim there is no time or it’s not important will hamper your overall goals.
Vision challenges their leadership style. Vision will often expose the efforts of leaders whose styles include being solely results-oriented, a micro-manager, top-down-chain-of-command or managing on a need-to-know basis. Vision creates transparency and accountability as everyone is committed to the behaviors that will achieve it.
They’re dominated by short-term thinking. This year’s budget is all that matters with no set up for the overall culture or future goals. That might be good to hit numbers, but it never drives a lasting and sustainable organization. Long-term vision and people development get sacrificed for the results of the fiscal year when this year’s numbers are preeminent.
Understanding vision is to understand human performance. Without vision, people and organizations perish. With it, they not only succeed but thrive.
Many organizations across most industries will tell you that good talent is hard to come by. While it is agreed upon that attracting quality people is a challenge these days, there are ways to attract and retain good employees that will benefit your company.
Many companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Under Armor, and Adobe have found that hiring top talent is key, but that retaining talent is just as vital.
While there are many methods to keep good employees, and no one specific way will match up well for every company, here are some of the most common ways that good leaders keep great talent.
- Hire for culture fit. Companies that match candidates to the essentials of their culture do not struggle as much with performance. By merging people and culture, they assure that side issues that derail from the core tenants of their mission are minimized and that staff are engaged because they believe in what the company believes. This is an essential platform from Chris Edmond’s consulting and his book The Culture Engine.
- Hire for behavior fit. While skills are essential, behavior rules over all. The best and brightest engineer may be a toxin within your company. How people interact within themselves and with others will dictate how they affect other good employees, and customers. Look deeper beyond skills for behaviors that meet your company goals. Chris LoCurto recently had a podcast based on this principle.
- Hire for willingness. An employee willing to adopt to the vision and where it takes them will be more effective than someone onboard who does things their own way. Change is a necessity today, and those who are willing to change and adapt will be the strength of your organization. If not, they need to be cut loose, as outlined in keynotes form Gary Vaynerchuck and in Mark Miller’s book Chess Not Checkers.
- Hire for complementary behaviors. You’ve trained and developed a good team. Now you have that all-star candidate with the best skills you’ve ever seen, and are ready to hire them. Yet you see that their personality and behaviors will clash with the team dynamic already in place. The best skills cannot take priority over behaviors that threaten to dilute an already engaged team. Disruption can be beneficial, but disrupting your culture with someone who is not aligned from the outset is a huge mistake.
- Train correctly. A recent study shows that 74% of employees feel that company training to reach their full potential is lacking. This means to have competency in how to do their jobs, not just looking for the next level. Employee behavior models show that when employees don’t have a need filled, they seek it elsewhere. By giving them the full attention for them to be successful – according to their standards, not yours – you will find their tenure to increase over time.
- Train – All the time. Ongoing training not only retains talent, it attracts it as well. Training is not a “I showed you so you should know it and do it” mentality, but a culture of teaching, mentoring and continuous improvement. Yes it takes time, and commitment, but so does any worthwhile relationship. Employees aren’t widgets to make and plug into a process, they are people wanting investment and validation. A leader who realizes this priority will have a high performing team that is fully engaged and committed.
- Set CLEAR expectations. Most leaders give a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex or Ambiguous) ask on what they want, whether ongoing behaviors or simple tasks. It is so easy to fall into this trap, particularly when a leader has so many things on her or his plate. If your employee doesn’t perform to your expectations, ask and make sure they understood, and if they are not on the same page, rephrase simply and clearly. Then ensure you you walk away with the same clarity. Many employees get more frustrated when their leader states a certain expectation then changes it, when their manager failed to remember what was said.
- Set guardrails. Guardrails are not designed to be punitive, they’re designed to keep good employees from failing, or at least minimizing mistakes. Netflix shows a great example of doing with with their engineers, allowing them to fix issues faster and with less risk, and without fear. Guardrails help further establish a culture of elevating your staff, and keeping them moving forward.
- Create sandboxes. Guardrails keep employees from being derailed, and sandboxes allow for innovation to flourish and skills to stand out. Sandbox culture allows an “open play style” in which employees can do whatever as long as the boundaries company culture and ethics are established. In this environment an employee can find new solutions, approaches and even skills they may not have previously realized. The basis for this stems from HP and 3M’s history of innovation from their employees.
- Challenge them. Getting your people out of their comfort zone is only part of the process. Finding new and creative ways to develop their potential, reward effort and learn from success and failures will deepen their skills and create a broader foundation for engagement. Years ago I took a young and unorganized manager and gave him responsibility over all the restaurant marketing and promotional materials we got from corporate. After a few promotions of struggle, he became a solid planner and executed the timing nicely. And this translated through the rest of his job as well. Challenges will grow your people if done properly.
- Praise them. Passe, you say? No ROI? A study from Harvard Business School says otherwise. Increased self-direction, feeling valued and less as a commoditized resource are what drives employee retention, and praise is a key factor, this study finds. All it takes is being self-aware, others-aware … and committed to your people.
- Dig for gold, not dirt. Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak says that successful leaders accept people while fault finders actually reject people. Andrew Carnegie believed that people “are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mine looking for dirt, you go in looking for gold.” Accepting people as gold needing to be mined and polished show their worth to you their employer.
- Treat them honestly and transparently. I/O At Work had a unique perspective that hypocritical leadership – displaying contrary leadership behavior or undermining efforts – is a type of social injustice in the workplace that results in employee turnover. A desire for authentic, genuine leaders with integrity and emotional intelligence rates high on most every employee engagement study.
- Vision, Value, Voice. Michael Lee Stallard’s book Connection Culture details how the best organizations give their employees vision, value and voice to turn employees into committed members of your organization. Years of research and case studies through business, healthcare organizations, rock bands and universities show the validity of giving your people these 3 V’s to increase their commitment to your organization and keep culture moving forward.
Good talent is out there. How you attract and retain that talent is entirely up to you. Use these strategies to convert your employees into raving fans.
You have an employee who is not performing up to standards. Now you have a decision to make, whether or not to let them go.
This decision point tends to be a watershed moment for the leader as much, and perhaps more so, than for the employee in question.
When a situation like this arises, the leader does not have a default binary “Should they stay or should they go?” choice, but a different choice that can transform a culture and ensure your leadership – and the future of the employee – pays greater dividends all around.
That choice should be:
Decide To Groom Them Before You Broom Them.
If you were to search for the top reasons for employee turnover you will find every study points to one of these reasons in their list:
- Lack of Growth Opportunities
- No Talent Development
- No Vision
- No Connection to the Culture
- Employees Feel Stuck
- No Enough or Proper Training
Employee turnover is not just voluntary, initiated by the staff member. Involuntary reasons such as lay offs and especially termination define what turnover consists of as well. This means as leaders we cannot turn a blind eye to either one of these, because how we train and provide deeper meaning to our people impacts whether staff leave on their terms, or on other terms.
When a leader is faced with the decision to fire someone, they should ask questions along these lines to themselves first:
- Did we give the employee consistent view of the vision of the company?
- Have we connected as an organization to the individual, making them feel valued?
- Have we listened to their voice, and taking their feedback for us to improve?
- Did we show them everything they need to do their job?
- Did we understand their individual learning needs, and not just try to move them up the productivity chart when their learning curve was slower?
- Are the tools they need to accomplish their job working?
- Are the systems they use too complex?
- Do other employees complain about the same issues this person seems to be struggling with?
- Are they willing to learn and are committed to our culture?
- Did we just train them once and assume full competence?
- Did we continue training and development every day to ensure they – and all staff – continue to improve at their jobs?
Many years ago I had a team of supervisors approach me that a certain individual was not performing to standards after 5 weeks on the job. They suggested that I look to let her go.
My response to them were the following questions:
- “Did you show her everything she needs to do her job?” (Their answer – “yes we did”)
- “Did you truly show her EVERYTHING?” (Their new answer – “well, not really”)
- “Did you see if she needed help on anything you showed her? Did you spend extra time after her initial onboarding to help her understand everything?” (Answer – “no, not really”)
- “Do you think she learns slower than others?” (They replied – “yes”)
- “What are her best traits?” (They said “pleasant, punctual, clean, doesn’t stand around”)
- “Is she willing to learn or does she give you attitude?” (Their answer – “she listens well and seems eager”)
By this time they got what I was saying. they agreed to double down on her training, give her some time to learn, and keep pouring attention into her development.
4 weeks later the supervisor team came back to me and told me what a great job this employee was doing, and that she is starting to stand out as one of the better employees.
I then replied “And we were ready to let her go. What did we learn?” They learned that it was better to ensure we groomed our team before we decided to broom them out.
There are far more times people leave due to our failings as leaders than we realize. Grooming your people must take priority to ensure the role is understood, executed, and aligned with your culture.
The resulting outcomes speak for themselves. If an employee needs to leave involuntarily, then we know we did everything on our end to provide necessary training and can be protected in that decision. If they leave voluntarily, then most likely it’s because they found a great opportunity and are leaving a good culture and role for a better fit for them.
And if they don’t leave but stay with your organization you have benefited by becoming an employer of choice and are giving your people those things they need and want in the workplace.
Groom before you think to broom.