3 Steps for Creating Meaning

What can we do to make work a place people want to be?

Too often we look at work as a place we go to, and where we can be found from Monday to  Friday for eight to nine hours a day.  This perspective, although true for the workplace in times gone by, is no longer valid or useful today.

Work or Vocation

Amy Wrzesniewski of Harvard Business School carried out a study of cleaning staff in a hospital. She was surprised at how people the viewed the same job differently. Some saw it as way to provide a pay check to pay the bills, while others considered their work to be a true calling. The difference lay in whether or not a worker had strayed from their formal job description and become involved in meaningful interactions and relationships with patients and visitors. Those who had done this found greater meaning in their work.

As one of the workers explained to Wrzesniewski, “I do everything I can to promote the healing of patients. Part of that is about creating clean and sterile spaces in which they can recover, but it also extends to anything else I can possibly do to facilitate healing.” When these workers identified with being a part of the overall care team, it completely transformed their work and identity.

Transactional or Transformational Staff

The two approaches above highlight the differences in the relationship your organization can have with your staff.

  • Transactional – here the focus is on being paid to do the work. Typically you have employees who show up to punch a time clock and who give only a fraction of their energy and effort to the organization’s mission.
  • Transformational – here the focus between the employee and the organization is on the relationship. The employees see meaning in what they do, and the employees go over and beyond what they need to do as they see what they do as contributing to something that is greater than just what they do.

Work for More Than a Living

Gallup conducted research on this topic. When workers across the United States were asked whether their lives were better off because of the organization they worked for, a mere 12 percent claimed that their lives were significantly better. The vast majority of employees felt their company was a detriment to their overall health and well-being.

Transactional relationships make it easy for companies to work someone to the point of burnout, knowing they can hire the next person in line. Everything from organizational hierarchies to compensation structures sends a simple message: you are replaceable.

Organizations need to move from a transactional approach to a transformational approach. We want engaged staff. The reality is this: what’s good for an employee is in the organization’s best interest as well. If you show up for work fully charged, it increases your engagement and leads to better interactions with your colleagues and customers. This is good for your peers, the people you serve, and the long-term interests of the organization.

A 2013 study of more than 12,000 workers worldwide found that employees who derive meaning and understand the importance of their work are more than three times as likely to stay with an organization. Author Tony Schwartz described how this one element has “the highest single impact of any variable” in a study that looked at many elements of a great workplace. Meaningful work was also associated with 1.7 times higher levels of overall job satisfaction. All of this delivers valuable benefits to the organization including the bottom-line.

So What Can You Do

Make your work, and that of your colleagues and report, a purpose – not a place. Help them understand what the greater purpose of the organization is, how they contribute to it, and how they can determine their progress in doing so.  You need to repeat this message continually, and you know they have begun to get it when they can articulate it for themselves.  Make the message clear, consistent and concise in language that they can both understand and relate to. Look to catch people doing the right things, and publicise their success. Most of all be prepared to let go so that they can work in a way that can transform themselves and your organization in successfully serving your customers.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 1 Thing Most People Want from Their Boss

How you can improve employee commitment and engagement by demonstrating respect?

A recent Forbes article revealed that 65% percent of people would rather have a different boss than a raise!

Take that in for a moment; people would trade money for a better boss. Furthermore, a recent study by Harvard Business Review of 20,000 employees around the world found that the most important things managers want from their managers is respect.

So as a leader how do you demonstrate and provide respect to your people?

Here are a number of things you can do:

  • Goals – be clear on what you want them to do and achieve. What are their goals and how do they contribute to a greater purpose? Make sure you are clear on how this fits into what you are looking to achieve.
  • Learning – help your staff understand what they need to learn, and why, so they can perform to the best of their ability.  You also need to ensure that they have the necessary access to the skills development and support in developing the necessary capabilities and capacity.
  • Communication – help them to communicate with you. In doing this make sure your people are not only able to communicate with you, but that you create an environment where they can take the initiative and responsibility for communicating and engaging with you.
  • Empathy – help people to understand where you are coming from, and actively listen to understand where they are coming from. In doing so help them to understand what your priorities and why they are important. Look to help them align them with the goals of your business.
  • Relationships – respect is based on knowing and understanding each other. Help people to understand how they ‘fit’ into the team and contribute. Help them to answer for themselves the question “How can I help?” This allows you and them to develop the necessary insights, advice, and understanding on how you can both work together most effectively.
  • Feedback – you need to provide timely and regular feedback to others as to how they are performing and how they can improve.
  • Reflection – take time out to reflect and think about how you are working with others, and how they may perceive you as a result.

You may be the boss, but everything with your people runs along a two-way street. Being a boss does not give you respect, you have to earn it. These tips will help you to develop the respect that you need to have to operate with the active support and endorsement of your people.

So what are the benefits of this? Well, no other leader behavior had a bigger effect on employees. Being treated with respect is more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback — even opportunities for learning, growth, and development.

Those that get respect from their leaders reported 56% better health and well-being, 1.72 times more trust and safety, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, 92% greater focus and prioritization, and 1.26 times more meaning and significance. Those that feel respected by their leaders were also 1.1 times more likely

So, in improving how your people perceive they are treated with respect, how are you going to do this and what are you going to do first? Now is the perfect time to start!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Hire for Attitude, Not Just Aptitude

How attitude is a good predictor of prospective employee success, and how you can identify those with the right attitude for your business.

The top challenge for CEOs according to a survey from the Conference Board (January 2013) is Human Capital – the ability to develop and acquire the right people, with the right skills needed to take the business to the next level.  But skills alone are not enough.

“Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude”

This is an old mantra which, if ignored, can be costly.  Companies I have worked with have found that recruiting people with the right skills can be costly if they do not have the right ‘attitude’, where there is a lack of ‘fit’.  This is reflected in a study by Leadership IQ of over 20,000 new hires over 3 years which found that 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude.

Top 5 Reasons for Why New Hires Failed

The following are the top areas of failure (i.e., were terminated, left under pressure, received disciplinary action or significantly negative performance reviews):

  • Coachability (26%): the lack of ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): the lack of ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): insufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): attitude and personality not suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): functional or technical skills required to do the job.

The key point from this is that when new hires fail, and 46% of them will, 89% of the time it’s because of attitude and only 11% of the time because of skill.

As such, the key predictor of a new hire’s success or failure is their attitude, not their skills.  As such we need to be clear on what attitude we are hiring for. To do this requires two steps:

  • Define the Specific Attitudes – what are the attitudes that make your business different from the rest.  This is both in terms of what is good (which you want) and what is bad (which you want to avoid).
  • Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process – you need to make sure that you focus on these attitudes, so adapt how you do this as appropriate.

How Do We Do This?

Define the Specific Attitudes

Attitudes in themselves are not visible or tangible.  Where they are made apparent is in people’s behaviors.  How people behave is an active display of their attitudes.  Their behavior should also be a reflection of the business’ core values which provides guidance to people in the business.  A good example of how the core values are made tangible, and the expected behavior (and hence attitudes) is shown below.

The US Marine Corp

The US Marine Corps has Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  The concept of these core values runs throughout all aspects of Marine life, beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat. These “warrior ethos” provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations and as a reminder to provide good order and discipline. These values are defined as:

  • Honor – integrity, responsibility and accountability.
  • Courage – do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.
  • Commitment – devotion to the Corps and my fellow Marines.

Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process

Too often, when interviewing, we focus on prospective employees’ technical skills and competencies.  Why?  They are the easiest to assess but, as we have seen, they are a very poor predictor of the success or failure of a new employee.

When you look at jobs being advertised the experience, skills, and qualification that are detailed it can be seen that the business advertising the position has the expectation that a perfect candidate will apply.  This is about as far from reality as you can get.  Realistically, there is no ‘perfect candidate’ and, as such, there can only be attitudes that are right for your business – they will never be perfect.

Tests for Finding the ‘Right’ Attitudes

  • High Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your top performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  For example:
    • They own the problem.
    • They always see problems as opportunities.
    • They are great listeners and communicators.
    • Etcetera.
  • Low Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your low performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  These are not just the opposite of the attitudinal characteristics that make a high performer. For example:
    • They avoid responsibility and are quick to blame.
    • They focus on themselves rather than others.
    • They do the bare minimum work required.
    • Etcetera.

Once you’ve got your two lists, conduct a quick assessment to make sure every point is on target. This can be done by asking yourself the following two questions about each attitude listed:

  • How does this attitude add value or competitive advantage to this organization? (If the attitude brings no benefit to the organization, it doesn’t belong on the list).
  • Who cares about this attitude? (If the attitude doesn’t bring benefit to your customers, it doesn’t belong on the list)

Doing this provides insight into both what you want and what you don’t want in the terms of attitudes and the associated behaviors.  It then helps you to prepare for the interview by focusing on how they respond to questions around both these areas.  However, how the questions are phrased is just as important as what the question is.  You need to develop the question with the kind of response that you are looking for in mind.  But that is a separate article.

In summary, be clear on what values, attitudes and behaviors you want in your business, and which you want your new employees to exemplify in what they do and how they do it.  Get clarity by distinguishing the attitudinal characteristics of both your top and low performers – this helps you to identify what you want from a potential employee, and what you don’t want.  Around this then adapt your interview and hiring process to ask the kind of questions that will help you elicit answers which will help you determine the prospective employee’s values, attitudes, and behaviors.  Take this into account when you look at their technical skills, as it is their attitude that is a predictor of their skills – not their technical skills and competencies.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

Why Customer Satisfaction is Irrelevant

Don’t assume that because your surveys show that your clients are satisfied it will mean that they will be loyal…

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

A common mistake to make is that client satisfaction and client loyalty are positively correlated i.e. that higher the level of client satisfaction the higher the level of client loyalty. customer loyalty satisfaction

Working in a harder and more competitive environment often results in businesses focusing on marketing and selling to get new clients. While continuing to bring in new clients is necessary for a business’ survival, so is keeping your current clients loyal to your firm.

Satisfaction vs. Loyalty

How loyal are your clients?  And how loyal are your “very satisfied” clients?  The answer may surprise you, your clients might be more likely to switch to a different provider than you think. In a 2009 study, across professional service industries, it was found that:

  • Only 48% of clients are “very satisfied” with their service provider

and that

  • 60% of these clients would consider switching service providers

Results by Industry

satisfaction vs loyalty

So what does this mean?

It means that fewer clients are loyal to you than you think.  It also is likely that your perception of the real situation as regards your clients’ loyalty is significantly over-optimistic.

For example, a legal firm that equates client satisfaction with client loyalty would assume, on the basis of the above numbers, that 50% of its clients were “loyal”.  The reality is that of this 50% of “loyal” customers over half are likely to switch to another provider. This means that only 25% of the firm’s clients are loyal – it has over-estimated the number of loyal clients it has by a factor of two!  This has a significant on its ability to maintain and grow business, and the strategies and plans it needs to have in place.  In all likelihood, because people do not realise this, the firm will probably be following the wrong strategies, and this can be put the firm at risk.

As the competitive environment continues to intensify, it’s likely that other firms are marketing more aggressively to your own clients and, as this data suggests, a good portion of your clients may be open to having these switching conversations with your competitors.

Why do we make this mistake? It is because people confuse the two concepts of satisfaction and loyalty. The difference is like that between “like” and “love”. Let’s look at them separately.

Client Satisfaction

Client satisfaction is a tactical concept and measurement, and it speaks only to one moment in time – typically, right after a client has completed an interaction such as a purchase or has a problem solved. So measuring customer satisfaction merely tells you if you are doing your job, from the client’s perspective.  Clients express satisfaction in an intellectual and rational manner. In doing this, it makes people think. satisfaction guaranteed

Many organizations should be performing up to their customers’ expectations.  This is really just the basics.   While these days consumers are in the driver’s seat, the mindset tends toward “what have you done for me lately?” as opposed to “that transaction went well so I’m a customer for life.”  Thus, good customer satisfaction does not guarantee that you will continue to keep those customers.  How many times have you bought goods “satisfaction guaranteed”, yet gone to another product or provider even though you had a good or even excellent experience?  All of us have done so at one time or another.

Client Loyalty

Customer LoyaltyThis is a much more reliable and strategic measure.  True loyalty – much harder to earn than mere satisfaction – tells you that your customer wants to stick with you over the long haul and that they will share that feeling with others.  Loyalty derives not from “good” transactions but from exceeding the customer’s expectations on a repeated basis. Loyalty engages your client emotionally and makes them want to tell others about their experience of working with you and your relationship.  As such, emotions make people act!

Next Steps

It is much easier (not to mention more cost effective) to retain and grow your current clients than it is to continuously have to fill the pipeline with new prospects.   It is enough to get people to think, you need to get them act.  You need to engage them both intellectually and emotionally.

Have a look at your existing client base and assess their level of satisfaction. If you are not sure, then use this as an opportunity to ask them for constructive feedback, listen and learn.  Then begin to think, from their perspective, whether you have done enough to earn their loyalty – be specific about what you have done or not done as the client perceives it.  Do this individually and then come together as a group to discuss your scores, perceptions and to share insights.

Next Week

So, what does it take to build the type of relationships with your clients that keep them loyal and coming back to your firm year after year? We look at the 9 questions you need answered in next week’s blog.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Focus on What You Can Influence to Get Results

You have limited time, resources and energy to expend on getting work done, projects completed and achieving the results you are looking for.  As such you need to be able to use these limited and finite resources effectively.  To do this you need to be able to distinguish between what lies within your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence as shown in the picture below:

Circle of Concern and Influence

  • The Circle of Concern – this larger circle encompasses  everything that you are concerned about, including those things over which you exert no control or influence e.g. the level of tax, terrorist threats, the current interest rate on loans and mortgages etcetera.  We tend to waste a lot of our time, effort and mental energy in the Circle of Concern.  This produces nothing as we are unable to overcome the inertia or have any effect.
  • The Circle of Influence is smaller, and it encompasses those things that we can do something about.  These are those things where we can be proactive and, by taking action for ourselves, address them. Here we invest our time, energy and effort on the things that we can change.  This produces results and momentum forward.

The two circles – Concern and Influence – are about the choices you make and the results you want.

The Circle of Concern is where you find people who focus on that which they cannot influence. They are reactive, stressed and ineffectual.  The Circle of Influence is where we find people who choose to focus on things that they can influence.

By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, people are increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each small victory motivates us further exert influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.

By focusing on what we can influence we also start to understand better what we cannot influence. We develop a better understanding of our circle of concern, and what it includes and does not include – it may even expand our circle of concern. This provides us with a fuller and better appreciation of the context in which we work, and helps us to better focus on our efforts on what we can influence. It can be incredibly liberating to realize that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances. If we want to cope with the challenges we face, then we need to learn how we can influence them.

Share this diagram with your team, colleagues, and clients to help them distinguish between the two, what lies within their Circle of Influence whilst being aware of what lies within their Circle of Concern – and to focus their efforts on what they can influence, not that over which they have no control. This will provide greater traction, reduced stress and a more effective and productive team who can achieve results more easily.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Difference Between Being Involved & Committed

The Chicken & The Pig

An executive coach is not a silver bullet for your problems.  But what do you need to do before you engage an executive coach, and to make sure you get the most out of your time with them?

Coaching is a two-way process and dialog, based on open, honest  communication and a strong commitment to self-improvement and learning.  It requires effort, discipline and humility – on both sides.

Commitment

But the question to ask yourself is are you ready to be coached?

Coaching starts with the coachee – the person being coached.  There is an old joke that goes, “How many shrinks does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb must want to change.”

If you want to be coached you need to be committed: “The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed”

Unless you are willing to change, and are committed to doing so, then no coach can help you.  Before a coach can help you, you need to help yourself so you in turn can help others.  It is like being on an airplane when an emergency occurs – the first instruction is for you to put you oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.  So you need to be willing to change before any other change can take place.  Change starts with you, not with others.

Even if we think that we want to change this is not always true.  The human capacity for self-deception is well-known.  We can rationally believe that we want to change, but unless we are emotionally invested in changing it will not last.  Logic makes people think, but emotions makes people act.

We often overestimate our capacity to change ourselves.  Even in situations which can be life-threatening our resistance to changing ourselves.  Studies show that, when giving up smoking, it takes on average seven attempts and five years; and that half of those quit on New Year’s Eve start smoking again within ten days.  This is despite the overwhelming evidence and availability of information on the risks associated with smoking.

How Do We Reduce Our Resistance to Change

1. Create Commitment, Not Compliance

Research has shown that compliance, when you are responding to a demand, incentive or threat only works in the short-term.  As soon as the pressure is removed people revert to their original behavior.  This is because we are not motivated to change – motivation only comes from within yourself, not externally.  Demands, incentives or threats are there to make you avoid something.

Commitment comes from within you because you are personally engaged in achieving a personal change.  This is the only way of maintaining the change for the long-term and on an on-going basis.  As such commitment comes from your beliefs and mindset.

However, a mindset is not just brought into being.  It has to be developed – you need to view the change as an opportunity and not a problem; to see the opportunity to grow the pie rather than seeing it as of a fixed size where others only gain if you lose and vice-versa.

2.  Commit to the Coaching Process, Don’t Just Participate

When it comes to a breakfast of eggs and bacon there is a major difference – the chicken is participating, but the pig is committed.  Which are you – the chicken or the pig – when it comes to the coaching process?  You need to be invested in it and have skin in the game.

3. Be Honest with Yourself

Do you really want someone to coach you and to be candid and honest with you? Or are you looking for having you ego stroked and lots of unqualified encouragement?  If you are the latter then don’t hire a coach – save your money and don’t waste the coach’s time.

Coaching will do nothing for you unless you are willing to change.  Be clear on whether you want to be coached or not, what you want to achieve from the process, and whether you are committed to it or not.  It’s up to you.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How Middle-Management is at Risk

Why middle-management is essential for business survival and the risks you run of if you lose or alienate them.

The Challenges of Middle ManagementMiddle management.  Often described as the ‘backbone’ of the company, they provide the continuity across the business and the key people for getting things done; communicating and resolving problems up, down and across the line; translating strategy into action; leading key operational areas; have considerable expertise and experience within the business; providing linkages between senior executives and front-line staff; and are implementing and responding to change.

As such, middle management is crucial to the on-going success and survival of the business.  Senior executives are starting to appreciate their role and the impact of their work, but at a time when it becoming harder to develop and retain middle management.

Middle Management Stress & Turnover

In a recent poll by Lane4 in the UK (July 2012) more than 90% of workers believed that the vast majority of workplace stress was falling on middle management, and two in five (39%) of middle management reported that they were under severe stress.  As such, many mid-level managers are dissatisfied and would like to leave their current organization.   In harder times it is those middle managers who are your best and who perform well who find it easiest to find new roles and new opportunities.

This has several impacts on your business: firstly, the business will lose its top middle management talent, this will put an increase burden on those who are left behind; secondly, the exodus of mid-level talent seriously compromises the business’ future  leadership pipeline and its ability to have the right people in the right place to enable the business to grow and develop in the future; and finally those mid-level managers remaining will be the low-performers, who are more likely to be disengaged and who have “quit and stayed”.  All of this means that business’ ability to survive and thrive – especially in challenging times – is seriously compromised.

The Impact of Mid-Management Turnover

One of the current major growth challenges facing CEOs is the lack of key talent to enable them to grow the business.  This is exacerbated with the turnover of good mid-level manager as it compromises the business’ ability to execute the CEO’s strategy and drive results and outcomes.

Furthermore, the costs of middle management turnover are also high.  A common rule of thumb is to assess the cost of a middle manager to the bottom-line at one-and-a-half to two times their annual salary.  Assuming an average salary of $125,000 then this could mean $250,000 off your bottom line.  Alternatively, look at it in terms of the extra revenue you need to achieve just to stand still – assuming your net profit is 10%, then that is a further $2.5m of revenue required!

Practically, I think this heuristic is conservative.  Once you take into account the corporate knowledge, experience, expertise and insights that have been developed over a number of years you are looking at the loss of a very valuable contributor.  Furthermore, to recruit someone who is an equivalent is both difficult and expensive to do.

Causes of Mid-Management Stress

Middle management is under increasing stress for a number of reasons.  They are the people who have to lay off staff when the company downsizes (or more cynically “right-sizes”), in an environment of poor morale, having to do more with less, with little or no increase in salary or benefits whilst being responsible for more, a reduced opportunity for career progression, dealing with people who like them are worried and scared, and frequently being seen as an “unwanted layer” and at a high risk of being laid off themselves (often having had to lay off others first).

So what do we do?

Dealing with the Problem

In challenging times we need to maintain our middle management.  In economies which are struggling the senior executives need to work with and engage with their middle management even more closely.  It is at the mid-levels that the most important projects are, and reducing their resourcing is nigh on suicidal.  If the level of responsibility for middle management is extended, and their capacity and resources is limited or reduced, then you need to invest in their developing the necessary capabilities.  If this is not done then senior management will be faced with a “frozen” middle management compounded by cycles of low morale and low engagement.

Companies need to be resilient – leaders need to provide clear direction, they need engage the middle management and rebuild trust, and in doing so enable them to engage with their reports and teams in turn.  If you cut out the middle, then you are just left with the head and tail of the business – unable to do the necessary work effectively, and a corpse all but in name.

It may seem counter-intuitive but now is the time to invest in your middle management – this will pay off in terms of loyalty, results and longer-term growth.  Treat your key people as an investment, not a cost to be cut but people to be valued, developed and through whom you can achieve leverage and significant returns.

So what are you going to do?

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.