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Hiring the Right Managers is Critical for Employee Engagement

Gallup’s latest  employee engagement  survey reveals that  only 30%  of American workers  are engaged and inspired at work, and 20% are actively disengaged, meaning that they are verbalizing  and acting on their discontent.  The cause:  bosses that make their lives miserable.  The other 50% are  more passively  disengaged.

The top 25% of teams – the ones who are best managed, have 50% fewer accidents and 41% fewer defects than the bottom 25%  of teams.  These top teams also have lower healthcare costs.  These statistics are staggering in their implications for employers, productivity and company revenues and profits, and emphasize the critical need to put the right people into management positions.




Leadership, Connectedness and Your Potential

Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness, and  your ability to connect with people affects your ability to lead since leadership involves influence.  This was the topic at a recent  meeting  of the Atlanta Chapter of  the Society of Human Resource Management. The presenter, Jackie Martin, gave several concrete tips on how to increase your leadership skills and  your effectiveness.

She asked, “How can you make your life better?  How can you add value?”

1. One way is to choose growth over stagnation or the status quo.  Below are some  ways that you can do this.

  • Value your experiences with reflection.
  • Invest in  training.  Workshops, seminars, webinars, and classes stimulate thinking and help to add value to whatever you do.
  •  Do something beyond yourself.  Serve on a Board, volunteer for a charity or a professional organization.
  •   Reflect on who has influenced you in a way that has increased your leadership effectiveness.
  •  Make a “stop doing” list.  What things are your currently doing that don’t add value to your life?

2. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you.

  •  Participate in a mentor/coaching relationship.
  •  Join organizations.

Connectedness is your ability to identify with people  and relate to them in a way that  increases your influence with them.  Listed below are some ways to do this.

  • Spend time with others.
  • Listen to find common ground.
  •  Ask questions of others.
  •  Look for ways to thank others.
  • Let people into your life.

3. It is important to develop rapport with people.

  •  Show that you care about them.
  • Make small talk.
  • Listen and ask questions of them that allow you to get to know them better.
  • Match your body language and tone of voice  with theirs.  If they speak slowly,  speak slowly.  If they speak faster, increase the  speed of your speak.

As you develop a  career development plan, incorporate this perspective and some of the concrete tactics to improve your effectiveness, and see how it helps your career.



Goal Setting and Life Strategy

My Brook and Me

 I remember the brook

streaming though the woods;

spending hours around it,

building forts, wiping the mud off me with skunk cabbage.

I remember the brook on sunny days;

Water babbling over stones and rocks, pieces of wood;

making the water ripple the way it did.

 I wondered what happened to the brook

traveling away from my yard.

I had a goal for my brook

to flow to the ocean…but then what?

I see goals for myself

  thwarted, rearranged, fulfilled.

But the goal for my brook;

What happened to it?

Having set goals the brook and I

build toward them.

The brook unable to know…

about a pipe in the ground, a seeping marsh, a dam.

Myself not knowing the course I will follow.

Knowing what I want,

yet finding it hard to grasp.

I remember years of competition, of struggle, of acceptance.

Then discovering what is real, important;

myself, my friends, expression;

a soft kitten purring on my lap;


Being more than a doctor, a lawyer.

Knowing comfort, relaxation.

Being myself.

Approaching the completion of one goal,

I set new ones.

But fulfilling them means going away, sorrow.

Like the brook moves on, streams to the river…

the ocean.

Saying goodbye to familiar things,


Facing a reoccurrence of similar past memories,


I know a word…self-fulfillment.

Being vulnerable, can I take chances?

Being strong, grinding ahead through disappointments.

Being weak, letting go of crippled goals.

Like a brook who misses the river,

finding another happiness.

Being motivated, seeking what I am after,

But not too aggressive.

Being easy, tension-free.

 Making it through the insecurity

Like cool water in a brook;

not knowing what will come.

Traveling through the seasons of time.

Molding myself to the environment like the brook

makes its path through nature.

Sliding over any obstacles

 the brook continues over rocks, pieces of wood.

Freezing in the rough, cold spots;

melting in the warm.

Praying for a map free of dams to follow

 in a steady, unchartered progression.

My brook and me.





What is Your Life Strategy?

  • How can you ensure you will happy in your career?
  • How can you ensure that your relationships with your spouse,  partner and other family and friends become a lasting source of happiness for you?
  • How can you  hold true to ethical imperatives and not take shortcuts that will leave you vulnerable?

These are the questions that  Clayton M. Christensen discusses in his 2010 article describing his lecture to the Harvard Business School’s Class of 2010.

Christensen mentions  organizational  behavior guru  Frederick Herzberg who theorizes that the powerful motivator in our lives is not money, but to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for our achievements.  I have  discussed this in many of my blog posts.  Money is a resource – that’s all it is.  We need money  to meet our obligations and provide for ourselves and our families. But you cannot expect to be a happy person if you are  focused solely on making more money.

Christensen tells a story describing how when he was running a company, he pictured a woman leaving for work feeling a high level of self-esteem. Then he envisioned  her racing home after a 10 hour day feeling frustrated , underappreciated and demeaned.  How is she able  to have positive interactions  at home? I often am contacted by employees who feel unhappy in their work for a variety of reasons, and then describe how it  negatively affects their home life and relationships. Doing deals does not yield the profound rewards that come from the good management skills that grow and develop employees, putting them in the ‘best fit” jobs, and encouraging their own career development.

Christensen reports that Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of his at HBS.  He  was a good guy that went  astray and it landed him in jail. He also mentions the many  HBS classmates who come to reunions divorced and alienated from their children.  They did not intend these things, but they happened perhaps as a result of their failure to  develop and keep keenly focused on their life strategy and  purpose.

It’s about  knowing  what you want to get and contribute in this life, and  reviewing daily how you will allocate your resources to demonstrate your commitment to your values and life  strategy.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you  to do a values/priorities exercise, like the one I give my clients. Then develop a written life strategy that you can review as you go about your busy day.



Why Companies Fail to Keep Their Best Talent

Large companies face challenges when it comes to keeping their best performing employees,  says Eric Jackson in an article in Forbes.

He lists ten reasons  why this happens:

1.  Big Company Bureaucracy.   Talented people often have no choice in policies and procedures. Giving them a voice in how things are done  could keep them on board.

2. Failing to Find an Exciting Project for the Talent. Top talent is not motivated by power and money, but to be a part of something that will “change the world.”  Bosses and HR are usually too busy to sit down and talk  with them about their goals, and work toward a solution in the form of a project that inspires them. But these are important conversations to have with your best performers.

3.  Poor Annual Performance Reviews.  Performance reviews are a good place to have conversations about job satisfaction, and setting goals for the next year.  But many companies forgo this opportunity to connect with the employee.   I often hear from employees that they don’t have reviews, or that they have them only after constantly nagging their boss. Supervisors don’t understand what a wonderful opportunity they have to hear feedback from the employee and to review  their performance and set goals for the next  year.  Employees feel slighted if they perceive that their boss won’t take the time for their review.

4. No Discussion About Career Development.  This is important to talented people because their careers are important to them.  They want to get promoted and do work that they love.

5.  Shifting Whims/Strategic Priorities.  If you give your talent a project to work on, don’t jerk them around by pulling the project a year later, before it’s off the ground.  Good performers want to achieve and be successful.  Give them that opportunity.

6. Lack of Accountability or Telling Them How to Do Their Job.   Check in with them to provide insights, observations and suggestions, but don’t micromanage.  Hold them accountable in the same way as they hold their direct report accountable.

7.  Top Talent Likes to Work with Other Top Talent. Some employers keep low performers on for various reasons.  These people may be difficult, or not a good fit for the job.  If talent views these people as holding them back or holding back the project, or they are just tired of working with a person with a hot temper, they may look for a new job.

8. Not Focusing on the Vision.  What strategies are you using to focus on the mission of the organization?  Recently I gave workshop to an organization and asked about their mission.  There is a vague  mission  statement on the  website, and participants complained that they did not feel they had a mission or vision for their organization, and some added that their work was not fulfilling because of this lack of  mission and vision.

9. Lack of Open-Mindedness.  Sometimes opposing voices to a strategy may be seen as an annoyance.  If the best people are leaving you may be stuck with “yes” people who can’t  or won’t give constructive feedback.  If talent is told their their opinions are not valued or even wanted, they may promptly update their resume.

10.  The Boss.  Their boss is often a reason people give in their exit interviews.  If many people with the same boss leave, it may be time to move the person to a different job.  A person who is a constant irritation to their direct reports can only be effectively coached if they are motivated to change.



The Five Forces that Shape Competition

Michael Porter has recently revised his strategic management theory in an article in the Harvard Business Review.

Below  is a presentation of the interplay of these five forces.

Five Forces




There is much discussion in HR  circles regarding  Chief Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to  rescind telecommuting as an option at Yahoo.  This begs the question,  are office employees more engaged and productive?

I work from home when  I do not  have scheduled meetings in the office or out of the office at client sites.  For me a home office day means no time commuting and no time getting spiffed-up to go to the office.  In  that saved time I can go to the gym and maybe even take the dog for a quick walk.  I also do not get distracted by office cooler chat, meetings that are sometimes a time waster, or people coming in to my office and not leaving when I am trying to work.  So more of my time is actually spent doing work. The downside is that there is no built-in time for collaboration with colleagues.

I also have the flexibility to take care of the other work, as I define it, in my life. I can do laundry and let in the repair and maintenance people during normal working hours.  Of course, we can argue that those things are also a distraction from “job”  work.

We know that for GenXers,  flexibility and telecommuting options are valued. Not to mention that for the past twenty years tech companies have offered, and sometimes required their techie and sales employees to telecommute.

Are those who telecommute fat and lazy?  Do managers really not know what their telecommuters are doing?  Is that a function of  some managers perhaps, or of the essence of telecommuting? Does it really make any difference at all in work productivity, but is meaningful in recruiting efforts?

At home you can work within your own circadian rhythm, and not force yourself to work when you really need to rest, a philosophy that does not work when it comes to most work environments.  You can work according to your own biological clock.

It will cost Yahoo lots of time, money and effort to get people back to the office.  Think  of the build-outs and new technology that need to be installed.  What about the  new technology glitches and  subsequent stress?

Fast forward two years.  Will the Yahoo experiment work to make the company more successful?



Work Less and Be More Productive? Find Out How

Do you work frantically all day long before  immersing yourself in back-to-back afternoon meetings, after eating lunch at your desk?  Are you always behind on emails and find yourself responding  in the evenings and weekends?  Do you always feel harried and exhausted?

In a recent article in the  NY Times, Tony Schwartz cites research that indicates how strategic renewal  – daytime workouts, afternoon naps, longer sleeping hours, more time away from the office, and longer and more frequent vacations,  can lead to greater productivity, job performance and health.  But isn’t this contrary to many workplace cultures that view time at the office, not to mention evening and weekend work, as  signs of dedicated, productive employees?

Energy is finite, but unlike time, it is renewable.  We can’t add more hours to the day, but we can find ways to increase our energy levels to be more productive.

 The Research on Sleep Deprivation

One study of 400 employees published last year found that sleeping less that six hours per night  was the best predictor of job burnout.  A recent Harvard study found that sleep deprivation costs US companies $63.2B  a year in lost productivity.  A Stanford researcher found that when she got basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, free-throw and three-point shooting increased nine percent. Research has also demonstrated that air traffic controllers performed better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time if they were given a 40 minute nap time and slept an average of 19 minutes.  And longer naps have an even greater positive e impact that shorter naps.


In 2006 Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees  and found that performance ratings by supervisors increased by eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation taken by an employee.  But when we are under pressure, we take fewer and shorter vacations, which is also contraindicated if we look at this research.

90 Minute Cycles

Researchers have also discovered that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into fatigue about every 90 minutes.  Our bodies give us the message that we need to take a break, but alas, we feel we  can’t.  So much to do, so little time!  Instead we get another cup of coffee, or as I just did , reach for more dark chocolate.  Caffeine, sugar and adrenaline keep most of us going and result in a cycle that allows for little rest and recovery time.  And this leads to burnout.

What Can We Do?

Speaking with your supervisors about what you need to perform at your best is a start.  How can you adjust your work schedules for more flexibility?  telecommuting two or three days a week can help. It saves the time and stress of  commuting so more time is spent being productive.  Employers who offer workout facilities, or who allow employees to leave the office to go to nearby gyms can experience the advantage of endorphins at work.  Meditation rooms and lounge facilities where people can rest or nap may also help.  And knowing what you need to do well is critical first step.  Experiment and pay attention.  You are unique.



How Happy Are You?

On the radio this morning  I listened to a program that talked about how we measure happiness.  The reporter suggested that perhaps researchers will come up with a happiness measure, and we will hear it in the same conversation that we hear the unemployment rate – now 7.8 %.  Here in the US  it seems to me that  how happy we are in our jobs dramatically affects how happy we are with our lives in general.

So I ask you today, how happy are you with what you do and where you do it?  What’s missing and what works?  How much does the day itself reflect or affect your happiness?  Today is Friday, TGIF.  I sense that many people are happy today.

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln



Employers Added 157,000 jobs in January

American employers added 157,000 jobs in January compared with a revised 196,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported on Friday. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent.

The industries adding jobs were the retail, construction, health care and the wholesale trade sector. Decreases  in  government spending, including that for defense, resulted in more loss of jobs in the government sector.

Economists are forecasting job growth of around 170,000 a month for the remainder 2013, comparable to what employers have been adding over the last year.