Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Empowered and High Performing Organisations

"The spirit of an organisation resides in its people" (W.A. Guillory)

At the end of my previous post I mentioned that I would have written further marginalia about the book by W.A.Guillory, “The Living Organization”. While the previous marginalia were relating to the concepts of re-creation and adaptation, these marginalia are instead relating to the notions of empowered and high performing organisations (in fact, as I wrote in last post, Guillory defines Living Organisations as those that endure over time by  integrating the building blocks of adaptation, empowerment and high performance).
Living Organisations are Empowered
According to W.A. Guillory, the three criteria that define an empowered organisation are: being profitable, productive and employee-friendly over time.
Each of these three criteria is specific, definable and measurable:
·         A profitable organisation is one that produces more value added products and services than the capital necessary to operate that organisation. Living Organisations, writes the author, experience an interesting dilemma with respect to profitability: on one hand, profitability is a requirement for survival and on the other hand, the organisation’s major driving force is the welfare of the business system. He also writes: “I am not suggesting that an organisation should sacrifice profitability to the detriment of their employees and shareholders. However, the overriding driving force is operating in a manner that contributes to the benefit of the business system. This mindset is only possible where scarcity and greed do not exist. Most of all, it is based upon the absence of fear.

·         A productive organisation, says Guillory, is one that generates its products and services in the most cost-effective manner possible. “In other words, the organisation is continually improving its processes, products and services such that profitability is created before the products and services are sold to customers”.


·         An employee-friendly organisation is one where all employees experience unlimited opportunity for professional development, advancement and quality of work life. It is also sensitive to the needs of employees when family/work life situations require unusual working arrangements in order to retain a valued employee. In fact, empowered organisations realise that, in a rapidly changing business world, their future depends on their ability to be flexible, adaptable and creative in responding to the changing work force needs.  

Profitability, productivity and employee-friendliness are the result of practicing and institutionalising the phrase, people are our most important resource”.

The force that drives an organisation to proactively become more empowered is what Guillory calls the spiritual leadership.

 “Spiritual leadership is a context of operation where spiritually-sourced values are integrated with sound business practices to govern the way an organisation achieves its business objectives.
 Spiritual leadership inspire employees to move beyond whatever challenges they may experience in the workplace, by living the values and modelling the high-involvement principles espoused by the organisation.
 As this process become more proficient, an organisation reaches the point where a highly empowered operation becomes high performing”.

Living Organisations are High Performing

 “High performance”, writes the author, is “the process of maximising the synergy of a system’s components”. The objective of an organisation is to become high performing and maintain that level of performance over time.
Therefore, “a high-performing organisation is one that continually leverages the total capacity of its people in achieving its business (organisational) objectives”.

High-performance integrates seven initiatives:
·         Teamwork: acknowledge the relatedness of people
·         Quality: acknowledge the drive to achieve perfection
·         Work Process Redesign: acknowledge the drive to continually improve systems, processes and ourselves
·         Environmentalism: acknowledge the connectedness of humans and environment
·         Customer Focus: acknowledge the desire to serve others
·         Diversity: acknowledge the value of all people
·         Empowerment:  acknowledge the unlimited potential of the human spirit.

The author explains that this model for creating a high-performance organisation is a spiritual pursuit when each of the initiatives is defined and practiced from a spiritual perspective. In fact, each of them is assumed to be inherent in the nature of the human spirit.

 “Not only are success and spiritual values compatible, but the latter are often the source of an organisation’s adaptation to change”.

 Where spiritual principles are combined with sound business practices, an organisation operates in the most effective manner. Although, it is not commonly recognized or acknowledge, when an organisation faces the greatest threat to its existence, it is the degree to which the spiritual life-force is present in that organisation that determines whether it survives or not”.

To make the point, Guillory explains that the solution to adjusting to the changing work force is creative adaptation. “Creative adaptation begins with the realization that change, no matter how traumatic, is an opportunity to redefine who we are and correspondingly, what we are able to accomplish. This realization allows us to explore for answers beyond our well-defined limits and is sometimes referred to as ‘getting out of the box’. Beyond the box is one’s spiritual consciousness”.

“The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems that we cannot solve at the level we have created them”.
(Albert Einstein)

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Living Organisation and the concept of Re-creation

This post is about the last book that I read which is titled “The Living Organization” and written by William A. Guillory. I found this book very inspiring and insightful and, although written more than fifteen years ago, very contemporary.

The author develops concepts such as ‘spirituality’, ‘wisdom’ and being an ‘integrated person’ within the workplace. W.A. Guillory describes how these notions are deeply connected with and of great importance for the success of any organisation.

These marginalia are specifically about two of the concepts explained by Guillory in his book:  the notion of “Living Organisations” and the one of “Re-creation”.
 
“A Living Organisation is one which recreates itself – moment by moment, day by day, year by year, etc. – in response to, or preferably in anticipation of, accelerated internal and external change.”

What does Re-Creation mean?
William A. Guillory writes: “Re-creation is based on the assumption that one moment does not necessarily follow from the previous moment in a continuous, predictable manner. It assumes that an individual or an organisation is free to create each moment that is experienced anew in response to how the external environment is changing. Essentially, once a sequence of events is set into motion, it can be interrupted at any point and a new direction can be established”.

The process of re-creation occurs through continual individual and organisational transformation. Transformation is an irreversible change in being, mindset and behaviour. Such changes commonly result in redefining vision, strategy and performance expectations.
The essence of the re-creation process, continues William A. Guillory, is continually asking the following questions based upon market conditions:
 
a)      Who are we?
b)      Why do we exist?
c)       What is our defining character or heritage?
d)      What is our vision?
e)      How do we express our vision (in product or services)?
f)       Who is our customer?
g)      How do we continually market and sell our products and services, most effectively?
h)      How do we exceed our customers’ expectations?
i)        What is our most productive system of operation?
j)        How do we continually care for our people?
k)      Do we practice our core values?
l)        Etc.
The answers to these questions provide the impetus for change.

Then, the author writes about the characteristics that Living Organisations have and that can be derived from the four Darwinian principles. In fact, the drive to re-create is similar to the adaptive nature of biological organisms that evolve over time. (I recall the time when I first studied this topic at university in Italy for passing an exam in Sociology of Organisations. I remember I was very fascinated at the time. I am now very glad to get refreshed and to write a marginalia on that).
There are critical characteristics that Living Organisations possess and that come into play when faced with survival or adaptation.

The Four Darwinian Principles of Living Systems – Characteristics for Adaptation:
Like biological systems, re-creation is driven by an innate consciousness for adaptation. The principles of adaptation for Living Organisations are similar in operation to the four Darwinian principles of living systems. Within a specific (or business) system:
 
1.       All species display natural variation. Businesses selling the same products or services have distinct differences
2.       The number of offspring produced far exceeds the number that will survive into adulthood. In general, eighty per cent of all new businesses are unsuccessful.
3.       Some offspring are better at adapting to their habitat (business environment) than others.
4.       The better adapted organisms transmit part of their adaptation characteristics to their offspring -  A defining character or philosophy that evolves and endures over time.
Then the author explains that by using these principles as a template for successful adaptation, four characteristics follow from each of the statement above and they are: uniqueness; perseverance; acclimation and heritage.
UNIQUENESS : A distinguishing quality that separates an organisation from similar looking competitors.  (e.g. Boeing – “Leading-edge pioneers in aircraft design”; Microsoft – “User-friendly software”; Toyota – “High quality, low-repair automobiles”).
 
PERSEVERANCE: The will to succeed, no matter what the difficulties or obstacles encountered. (e.g. Boeing – “Succeeding in spite of increasing competition from global aircraft producers”; Microsoft – “Maintaining quality performing products in mass demand”; Toyota – “Succeeding in spite of high import charges leading to increased sticker prices”).
ACCLIMATION: An ability to continually adapt and contribute to the changing business system. (e.g. Boeing – “Design and produce the next generation aircraft to serve a specific market need”; Microsoft – “Introduce Windows 95 and NT” [Please note this book was publish in 1997. However, as the time has passed and the reality has demonstrated, I think we can all agree to say with confidence  that Microsoft still continually adapts and contributes to the changing business system]; Toyota – “Increase quality, lower repairs and maintain high trade-in value”).

 HERITAGE: A defining character or philosophy that is synonymous with an organisation’s people, products and services, and subsequently passed to succeeding generations. (e.g. “The acknowledged leader in aviation”; Microsoft – “Aggressive mass market penetration”; Toyota – “Exceptional quality automobiles and customer service. The relentless pursuit of perfection”).

W. Guillory writes that these are the four critical characteristics a Living Organisation possesses in its own unique manner and that ensure adaptability over time. He finally adds: “They are such an ingrained part of the culture that they are rarely questioned and are simply taken for granted”.

Finally, Guillory explains that Living Organisations endure over time by integrating the building block of adaptation (explained above) with the building blocks of empowerment and high performance.
Further marginalia will follow…

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Speed of Trust Webinar: Employee Engagement & Culture


This post is about a webinar that was run some days ago by Franklyn Covey -The Speed of Trust and that was focused on trust, employee engagement and culture.

The content of this post is a summary that I made of the webinar. In some respect these marginalia can be considered as a sort of continuation of my previous post (where I wrote about two pieces of article that were written by Stephen M. R. Convey some years ago).

My Marginalia:

“Franklyn Covey -The Speed of Trust believe that there is not leadership competency that can compensate for a low credibility, trust leader.

Culture and Engagement experts say that employee engagement, as a metric of business success, is getting more attention than ever before. It seems to be that “only highly engaged employees enable performance”. And yet the topic remains elusive, even murky. Many organisations are stymied by stubbornly stagnant engagement levels despite yearly cycles of measuring and action planning.

How do we do something about this?

In The Speed of Trust’s opinion, the root of engagement is the great engagement and culture paradox: you do not improve engagement by focusing on engagement, you improve engagement by focusing on trust.

Gaining the trust of employees as the key to high engagement” (Personnel Today)

“How do we improve employee engagement?” organisations should ask themselves “How do we improve trust?”

The key to engagement is a focus on trust and trust is driven by two things: CREDIBILITY and BEHAVIOUR.

A University of Dublin study found that there is a mutually beneficial spiral relationship between trust and engagement, like a virtuous upward cycle. As trust goes up, engagement goes up.

A similar study by a Canadian research firm analysed 12 different engagement models with 26 different drivers of engagement. They found that the strongest causal factors were the trust that a person had in their supervisor and the trust they had in the company at large.

“The bottom line”, says The Speed of Trust, “is that if you move the needle on TRUST employee engagement will increase. In a low trust culture, you will NOT engage your people. The fact is that trust drives engagement”.

Think of someone at work with whom you have a HIGH TRUST relationship. What is it like to work with this person? Do you have to worry about increasing engagement in the context of this relationship? No. It is naturally there. It is because of the nature of the relationship.

Now, think of a person at work with whom you have a LOW TRUST relationship. What is it like to work with this person? Everything is slow, no matter how much effort and carefulness you put into your communication skills. The relationship is hit by the tag ‘trust’.

It is impossible for engagement to improve in this toxic, dysfunctional soil of low trust.

The speaker went further by explaining what he called the ‘Three big ideas’:
Trust is

  • Financial. It is an economic driver. It is measurable and always impacts two variables: speed and cost. When trust goes down, then speed goes down while cost goes up (trust tax). When trust goes up, then speed goes up and cost goes down (trust dividend)
  • The number one Leadership Competency needed today. High trust is the great performance multiplier. The root of a healthy, engaged culture.
  • A learnable skill. A tangible asset you can deliberately create. CREDIBILITY and BEHAVIORS are the mechanics of trust.

You cannot build trust just by saying people that they need to trust each other. Trust is an outcome. Trust is function of language and behaviour. Why? Because

  • All grand strategies must eventually degenerate down to real work, done by real people.
  • Woven into the fabric of real work is language and behaviour that either destroys trust or language and behaviour that builds trust.

—> BEHAVIOR is the platform on which you either get results or not get results. “Trust is the Operating System of your team and organisation” and it impacts everything you want to get done.

Then, the webinar focused on ‘The 5 Waves of Trust’: Self, Relationship, Organisational, Market and Societal. The first three were explained in details (I believe this was due to a constraint of time):

1. SELF. It is self-trust. Our own credibility.
It has to do with being a person of Integrity, good Intent, Capabilities and producing Results.
These are the four cores of CREDIBILITY with: Integrity (deep honesty, truthfulness, humility, congruence, courage) and Intent (your fundamental motive) being part of CHARACTER ; Capabilities (inspiring confidence, attitude, talents, skills, knowledge) and Results (if you do not produce results you will not be credible) being part of COMPETENCE.

The principle beyond self-trust is our own credibility. Trust starts with you. Trust starts with me (‘I need to be credible’). And in order to be credible we have to have both Character and Competence.

2. RELATIONSHIP. This has to do with the importance of behaviour
According to The Speed of Trust, there are 13 behaviours of High Trust People:

  1. Talk Straight (Be honest, tell the truth, let people know where you stand, use simple language, call things what they are)
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Deliver Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality (Take your hands on, address the task directly, acknowledge the uncertain, lead conversations with courage, address all the real issues)
  9. Clarify Expectations (Disclose expectations, discuss them, validate them, do not assume that expectations are clear or shared)
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Listen First (Listen before you speak, diagnose, listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart. Do not assume you know most than others)
  12. Keep Commitments (Say what you are going to do and then, do what you say you are going to do. Make commitments carefully, including implicit commitments and keep them at all costs)
  13. Extend Trust

“These behaviours flow out of what you are, not what you pretend to be”

Each of the 13 behaviours has an ‘opposite’. (e.g. the opposite of Talk Straight is to lie or to deceive).

Associated with each behaviour, is also a ‘counterfeit’ (e.g. the counterfeit of Talk Straight is spinning, positioning, posturing and manipulating. Withholding information, beating around the bush, double-talking and flattering. “Corporate Speak”. Technically, telling the truth but leaving the wrong impression). “If there is low trust inside your team is because people are behaving the counterfeit behaviour”.

Executives appear to struggle with key leadership behaviours correlated to engagement… However, “Leadership is about getting results in a way that inspires trust and the way you inspires trust is through your behaviour. Behaviour is the root to engagement”.

3. ORGANISATIONAL. This is about organisational trust. Its core principle is alignment: communicate trust as an explicit objective; design and align systems that inspire trust and create symbols of trust.

Most complex organisational problems cannot be solved with the stroke of a pen, a leadership mandate, a training program, restructuring or changing system. However, the solution is not there. The solution to many organisational challenges is rooted in changes to human behaviour”.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. (Peter Drucker)

If the culture opposes strategy the results can be disastrous. Many business leaders understand that culture plays an important role in their businesses, but most have difficulty understanding how to use culture to improve performance”. (Jon Katzenbach, Senior Partner of Booz & Company).

Speed of Trust think that the term ‘culture’ is often too broad, not specific, not deliberate and not strategic. And, instead of focusing on this broad term, organisations should focus on trust and on the behaviours that create it. They state and believe that there are specific behaviours that are the root of a healthy, engaged culture. And, there are specific counterfeit behaviours that are the root of a dysfunctional, disengaged culture.

They think that it is possible to help people learn new skills and apply the few simple behaviours that create trust as the foundation and core of the culture. And that it is possible to help leaders make TRUST an explicit, strategic objective.

How? Through implementing a simple, scalable process. “A process that changes language and behaviour in the context or real work, and creates a cultural ‘Cadence of Accountability’ around new behavioural norms”.

That should be done by focusing on a few critical behaviours at different levels within key populations.

How?

First, by PREPARING and LEARNING. Measure, prepare, Learn new skills. Practice new language and behaviour). We need to understand first of all where we are in terms of behaviours – not just personally but also as a team, an organisation.

Second, by APPLYING what has been learnt. Apply, reinforce and integrate new language and behaviour in the context of the real job, over time. Create a cultural cadence of accountability around new behavioural norms.

Thirdly, by SUISTANING. Measure the business impact. Improve. Renew learning and application.

Culture is the collective behaviour of the people…and key high trust behaviours can be driven into the DNA of an organisation”.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The ability to create Trust

The ability to create trust in a world of distrust is a huge advantage for any leader or organisation today” (Stephen M.R. Covey)


I have recently come across two pieces of article that were written by Stephen M.R. Covey and focusing on TRUST within organisations. One of the two pieces of article was published on the CEO Magazine in 2007 (‘The Business Case for Trust’); the second article was published on the Chief Learning Officer in 2008 (‘Trust Is a Competency’).

I found those articles very interesting. Also, their content reminded me of the concept developed by Patrick Lencioni for building a cohesive leadership team, with trust being the fundamental building block (see post).

Below is a summary that I have made by extrapolating some of the sentences (the ones that for me were more relevant in order to write this post) from the two articles by Stephen Covey. As always I encourage you to read the original source while I still hope that you can benefit from my marginalia.

Stephen Covey wrote that if we have a low-trust organisation, we are paying a tax. While these taxes may not show up on the income statement as ‘trust taxes’, they’re still there. 

We can see low-trust organisational taxes everywhere, including:

DISENGAGEMENT: disengagement occurs when people put in enough effort to avoid getting fired but don’t contribute their talent, creativity, energy or passion. A primary reason for disengagement is that people feel they aren’t trusted.

POLITICS: Office politics divide a culture against itself, generating behaviours such as withholding information, infighting, operating with hidden agendas, spinning, manipulating and holding meetings after meetings. These kinds of behaviours result in all kinds of wasted time, talent, energy and money. In addition they poison company cultures, derail strategies and sabotage initiatives, relationships and careers.

Just as the taxes created by low trust are significant, so the dividends of high trust are also incredibly high. When trust is high, the dividend we receive is a ‘performance multiplier’, elevating and improving every dimension of the organisation. Those dividends include: IMPROVED COLLABORATION, HEIGHTENED LOYALTY, BETTER EXECUTION, ENHANCED INNOVATION and ACCELERATED GROWTH.

The author wrote about looking at ‘trust’ through new eyes, as one of the most significant things today’s leaders and organisations can do to achieve and sustain superior performance.

"We become so immersed in the presence of trust that we take its existence for granted, until the trust gets dangerously low or polluted. Increasingly, more leaders are rediscovering trust as they begin to see it with new eyes. Looking beyond the common view of trust as some soft, intangible and illusive social virtue, they are learning to see it as a critical, highly relevant and tangible asset. They are discovering that trust affects everything within an organisation, every dimension, activity, decision and relationship. They are also beginning to recognise that trust is quite possibly the single most powerful and influential lever for leaders and organisations today".

The author believed that we can do something about trust and he was convinced that there is actually a lot we can do about it. "We can increase trust and much faster that we might think. And doing so will have a huge impact, both in the quality of our organisations and in the results we are able to achieve".

Stephen Covey made a further observation that I found insightful. He suggested a distinction to be used: “Trust is both a noun and a verb. The noun refers to an outcome, a value, a state of being. But the noun is a direct result of the verb – of the actions we take that create and inspire that state of being. In other words, trust (the verb) is a competency and it can be developed.

In organisations, trust has almost always been seen as a noun, a value. However, we are now beginning to see some companies include trust (the ability to engender trust) in their competency models. They are starting to recognise that trust is something they can consciously work to improve”.

In that context, the author went further to say that “the ability to establish, grow and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy. In fact, there is no leadership without trust”.

Getting good at trust as a competency greatly accelerate an organisation’s improvement because high trust makes every other competency better.

Finally, with respect to trust, Stephen Covey suggested CEOs to:

Recognise the business case for trust – be an advocate
Personally model trust through character, competence and demonstrated trust-building behaviour. By doing this, you become the starting place for increasing trust.
Treat trust as a competency – as something you can do, create and measure – and help managers learn and understand how to behave in ways that establish, grow, extend and restore trust.

Trust truly is the one thing that changes everything” (Stephen M.R. Covey)



Friday, 14 September 2012

Doing business with conscience

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" 
(Maya Angelou)

Today I attended an event on 'Leadership and Employee Engagement - Doing business with conscience' at the MDA Training. I enjoyed the day and met newer people who shared with me a passion for the topic. Divided in small groups, we discussed theories, made behavioural activities together and learnt from each others throughout the day.

As usual I took notes and below are some marginalia I have just made of the day. I hope you can benefit from them.

Leadership is a conscious practice that requires:
  • AWARENESS. Knowing yourself, being conscious and having conscience in the choices you make. Being true to yourself and others.
  • TAKING ACTION. Awareness alone is not enough, leaders need to take the right actions and be clear about what they are creating in the world.
  • RESPONSIBILITY. Choosing considered risks rather than reckless ones, walking the talk, having integrity and living up to your inner values. A leaders greatest responsibility is to lead the group on the path of the higher consciousness.
  • EMPOWERMENT. It raises the status of the leader and team together. It is not about ego, but enabling people to achieve great things.
  • SYNCHRONICITY. Creating your own good luck and connect you and your people to the opportunities that exist out there.

Emotional loyalty is what it has to be generated ("I stay, do my best, give my all, go the extra mile because I want to") as opposed to functional loyalty ("I stay as I have a mortgage/rent to pay").


Different can be the levels of engagement (from the lowest to the highest):
Rebel or Quit —>  Malicious compliance —>  Willing compliance —> Cheerful cooperation —> Heartfelt commitment —> Creative excitement


Which are the most frequent barriers to engagement
Lack of clarity, lack of trust, employees are in roles that do not suit their talents, people are not sure about their place/part of their job, procedures that interfere with people ability to get things done, diluting people focus with tasks that do not add values and an over-directive culture ('My views do not count').


The role of leaders to create engagement is to:
  • Set the direction by painting a vision that is compelling enough to excite people yet simple enough to understand
  • Engage people in the vision so they see it, feel it, live it
  • Create clarity so they understand their role in creating it and how they fit in to the big picture
  • Create freedom with a framework - create clarity without stifling creativity
  • Be explicit about giving people 'permission to act' and make a difference
  • Listen, observe and recognise constantly
  • Be clear about your moral compass and live by it
  • Be straight with yourself and others
  • Have courage to have the challenging conversations
  • Role model the way
  • Encourage others to lead.

How to create engagement?
  • By making sure people are connected with the organisational identity, values and vision
  • By creating clarity wherever/whenever possible
  • By making sure people feel seen, heard and recognised 
  • By giving people the permission to lead, take action and make decisions
  • By talking to people, face to face
  • By giving people the message that they matter.

"Employee Engagement is a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues (organisational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be 'required' as part of the employment contract" 
(CIPD definition)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Where is your organisation standing?

Yesterday, Best Companies run an event for a selected group of  senior managers and managing directors coming from different organisations at The Art of Engagement. The group have been gathered together in order to gain understanding about employee engagement, think about it as well as be helped on dealing with it within their own companies.

To start from, they have been asked to think about where their organisations were standing in terms of engagement. Were their organisations fully engaged, satisfied or perhaps anxious?
This preliminary level of awareness  is important as it is to understand what is actually meant by engagement and what engagement is not. In fact, employee engagement is often associated with words such as motivation, communication and satisfaction. Although these ideas are connected with engagement, they are not the thing itself. In particular, many organisations confuse it with ‘job satisfaction’.
Best Companies believe it is important to understand this.

In that regards, work by Watson and Tellegen - ‘Toward a consensual structure of mood’ (1985) - can help to explain the difference between engagement and satisfaction. Their theory starts from distinguishing pleasant emotions from the unpleasant ones. However, emotions are not simply felt as good as bad. In fact, one more dimension is missing which differentiates between emotions that are active and those that are in a deactivation mode.
To understand all of this better, a two-dimensional map with a four quadrum can be used.


Up on the left there are the ACTIVE UNPLEASANT feelings such as stress, anxiety, hostility and anger.
Down below on the left, there are the still UNPLEASANT but PASSIVE feelings such as feeling bored, useless and low.  
Moving to the right, we have the more enjoyable alternatives to these emotions. These are the PLEASANT PASSIVE emotions which include general contentment and SATISFACTION.
In the same way as being angry is very different from simply feeling low, so the ACTIVE PLEASANT feelings are very different from feeling simply satisfied. Up here is where ENGAGEMENT lies along with enthusiasm and excitement. These are positive feelings that really get people going the extra mile.
Therefore, engagement is an ACTIVE PLEASANT emotion. Best Companies refer to  ‘EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT’ as doing it because you want to, not because you have to. When you are engaged at work, your attention is focused on doing a good job, you feel directed connected to your work and how it contributes to the organisations’ goals. That is why engagement, rather than job satisfaction, can tell us more about how people are likely to actually behave.

Going back to our group of seniors at The Art of Engagement yesterday, 30% of them said their organisations where in an anxiety mode, 30% of them said to be in a satisfaction mode and 40% of them where in the engagement mode.

For those organisations where employees are in an anxiety mode rather than in engagement mode there are challenges to overcome. In fact, when people are anxious they are unable to release their full potential and to perform at their best. Often, it is a level of insecurity as well as lack of a clear future direction that put organisations in anxiety. That is why, in order to tackle the problem and engage those people, ORGANISATIONAL CLARITY becomes largely important. Actually, this is the very first priority leadership should focus on.
Even those organisations who find themselves in a satisfactory mode should work hard to move to the engagement zone.  In fact, although being in a pleasant mode they are still passive.
Finally, organisations that recognise themselves as engaged should continue to make sure their people do not get in one of the other areas of the quadrum.
In conclusion, “Where is standing your organisation?”.
It is important to answer that question and gain this first level of awareness. Then, meaningful and  appropriate steps should follow and be made in order to let the organisation move forward and be fully engaged.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In one of my previous post I wrote about Patrick Lencioni’s books and his leadership fables that have started to enjoy since last months. 

In particular, I wrote about one of his book: ‘The Five Temptations of a CEO’. After having read it I also read ‘Death by Meeting’, ‘Silos, Politics and Turf Wars’ and ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’.

In this post I would like to write about ‘The Five Dysfunction of a Team’. Below are the notes that I took while reading it. They summarise the key concepts reported by the author.
There are five reasons why teams are dysfunctional:
1.    ABSENCE OF TRUST. Trust id the foundation of real teamwork.
There is nothing soft about it. It is an absolutely critical part of building a team. Great teams do not hold back one another. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal.
The only way to build trust is by overcoming our need for invulnerability (e.g. by exposing ourselves, by admitting/sharing our strengths and weaknesses as well as mistakes with the other members)

2. FEAR OF CONFLICT. ‘If we do not trust one another, then we are not going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. We will just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony’. ‘None ever gets completely used to conflict. If it is not a little uncomfortable, then it is not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway’.
Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. The only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time.
The single most important arena for conflict is meetings. ‘Our ability to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need to do to succeed will determine our future as much as any products we develop or partnership we sign’.
3. LACK OF COMMITMENT. And the failure to buy in to decisions. ‘When people do not unload their opinions and feel like they have been listened to, they won’t really get on board’.The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are:
- desire for consensus. ‘Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus and find ways to achieve buy-in even when a complete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered’.
-need for certainty. A decision is better that no decision. ‘Great teams pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct’.
4. AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY. ‘Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, then we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. As simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort’.
5. INATTENTION TO RESULTS. This is due to the tendency of team members to seek out individual recognition and attention at the expense of collective results, the goals of the entire team. This is not to say that there is no place for ego on a team. ‘The key is to make the collective ego greater than the individual ones’.
If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions, they will be more likely to turn their attention to their own needs and to the advancement of themselves.
The author adds that ‘as obvious as this last dysfunction might seem at first glance, it is important to note that many teams are simply not results focused. They do not live in order to achieve meaningful objectives but merely to exist or survive. For those groups, no amount of trust, conflict, commitment and accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win’.
In conclusion, demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold peers accountable and focus on the results of the team, not on ego; these are the practical suggestions given by Patrick Lencioni to build a cohesive team.
All this may sound simple but in practice it is extremely difficult. It requires ‘uncommon levels of discipline and persistence’.
‘To achieve results. This is the true measure of a team. That will not happen if we do not address the issues that prevent us from acting like a team’. Kathryn understood that a strong team spends considerable time together, and that by doing so, they actually save time by eliminating confusion and minimizing redundant effort and communication…most management teams balk at spending this much time together, preferring to do ‘real work’ instead.
I hope that you can find these marginalia on engagement useful and helpful. As always I also encourage reading the original source.