Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Retention Model

A collegue and I have developed a pretty good model for retention through research over the past few years. Over the holidays, I refined the model and came away with a slightly more concise model by combining two of the factors. See if this this gives you a sense of what makes you want to stay in your job:

Owen-Safrit Five Factor Rentention Model

Recruit authentically - Communicating accurately to prospective employees the job's professional responsibilities as well as critical aspects of the total organization's and specific workplace's cultures critical to success in the position

Align - Hiring employees who have substantial overlap between their personal needs, interests and goals and those of the total organization and immediate workplace Ensuring that both the employee's career grows and evolves together as the organization's mission/vision and employee's needs/goals evolve

Develop - Providing support and material resources for the continuous professional education (CPE) of the employee so s/he may meet and exceed professional competencies (i.e., knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations) needed to ensure professional success

Connect - Building strategic linkages between people and people, ideas and ideas, and people and ideas so as to strengthen each employee's internal and external workplace relationships.

Appreciate - Using appropriate intrinsic and/or extrinsic resources to effectively communicate appreciation to each employee for workplace excellence

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Courage and the long view...

Imagine you have started a company and while the work is exciting, you are not really making money. How many years would you stick it out. You believe in your product, but all the buyers are non believers.. In fact, your biggest customer is trying to hire away your best employee. What advice would you give this company. If you knew they had lost one million dollars a year for the past three years, would you tell them to shut down... How bout five years...

The company: Pixar.
The leader.. Steve Jobs.

Really great work takes time and a commitment to quality... So rare in our world today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Succession Planning needs a new conversation

In the October HR magazine.. Theresa Minton-Eversole reports that most companies are unprepared for succession at the top. Not to diminish her contribution, but this has been a common theme now for a good 15 years. Just pick through any of the management, human resource, or organizational development mags and you will find articles saying the same thing.

When we coach managers on correcting employee behavior, we tell them that when a pattern emerges of repeat behavior, the conversation needs to change. When an employee is continuously late, it is a different matter than when they have only been late once or twice. Well, the pattern around succession planning has been there 15 years... leaders worry about it and then ignore it. And although HR and OD experts have continuously spoken to the need for better succession planning, I am familiar with few organizations that are even doing a good job with just workforce planning. Just having a staffing plan seems to be a challenge to today's organizations and few if any, once they identify gaps are spending the resources to fully develop their next leaders.

So the question is, what needs to change in the conversation to get leaders to invest in leadership development. What will help today's executive and leaders come to understand that investing a little now in development will save lots later... you tell me.. I have an answer, but would love to hear your thoughts first?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lessons in Death

I have been honored to serve on my church council now for almost four years. Along with the role of giving leadership to decisions our church has to make, the council gets the honor of also serving the church. What that means is ushering during services, collecting money, even vacuuming after services when the cleaning crew is not available. In a sense, you lead by serving and there is a profound lesson in vacuuming at 11pm on Holy Friday so that the church will look good on Easter Saturday that gives you a great sense of humility. But of all the lessons I have learned serving my church, the best of these lessons have come to me when I have served on duty for funerals. It is a honored experience to help someone who has just lost a treasured loved one even when you don't know them. Over the years, I would say I have attended a number of funerals in which I knew very few of the family. Despite my distance from the family, each was always a moving experience for me. Each taught me the lesson of serving others I don't know. Most recently I watched a small funeral take place at the same time as people were voting in another part of the church.

Now.. I am all for ensuring everyone rights to vote, but I found it quite interesting how individuals who were campaigning were somewhat surprised when I asked them politely to avoid approaching anyone who looked like they were attending the funeral. Inside, the director of the voting process also kept worrying me about making sure the funeral didn't interfere with people trying to vote (I purposely closed doors as the beginning and end when there is a procession with the deceased.. he was nice..but still worried too much about voters and not the family). Now I am old enough to remember when we use to pull over to the side of the road, stop and say a prayer when a funeral procession drove by.. but times have changed. Recently I even saw individuals passing a funeral procession. The lesson in this post is a simple one..

We need to be there for people, even strangers if we hope to be authentic leaders. Leadership is more than decisions and being in charge... it is about serving others even in death. Some three years ago I was asked to be a pall bearer. The gentleman who died had lots of family, but through the years while I was on duty, I had helped him overcome the challenges of his age and his widow wanted me to carrying him his last walk. I was very honored. But above all, I realized that it is at those moments of sadness that people need service most.. To this day she is a special person in my life even though we have never had lunch, never took a walk, or even spent more than a minute or two speaking after church. She remembers my gift.. or really her gift to me. As for her husband, I trust he is somewhere and knows what a great honor I was given, but more important he probably knows I am a better servant today thanks to our last walk...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Does Passion Alignment Affect Trust?

I have become convinced that there is a correlation between employee passion alignment and trust. Even in teams where there is strong ethical values, competence with task, and a high degree of openness, trust can still be lacking due to passion dis-alignment.

Last week I was having a discussion with an executive I know. We were discussing employee passions and how one of her direct report's greatest passion was to be an artist. The employee, I will call him Jim, was quite talented and had actually shown his art work at several events. However, his talent did not translate into a good income stream and so Jim had decided that he would have dual careers. Painting at night and working for the company during the day. He is a good performer at the company, slightly above average. When asked during his performance review what his passion was and where he saw his future going at the company, Jim gave a standard statement.. "I am committed to becoming the best salesperson you have.." but the executive could tell.. it wasn't a passion... just a purpose to getting paid. She knew about his art and had even considered buying a piece from him. Jim had simply told her what he thought his passion should be! Jim has a passion dis-alignment. Most of his job is not really connected in any way to his passion in life. And although he won't be punished for his passion statement, my friend the executive has little trust in the idea of Jim becoming her best salesperson. This dis-alignment is a trust killer.

Now, what is really interesting, is this passion disconnection affects trust over time. The more we trust each other, the easier it is to trust at even higher levels. Likewise, even minor reductions in trust can lead to increasingly levels of distrust. Jim will sense the decline and respond in kind. Over time, trust levels will continue to decline, especially when Jim is forced to choose between his true passion (art) and his necessary passion (sales). One other concern: The trust decline also affects the team. Such a minor disconnect, but everyone will sense the shifts.

What is the implication for my friend the executive. Here was my response to her:

Have you asked him why he wants to be the best salesperson? Maybe that will help him and you to have an authentic discussion on passion. For example, maybe he believes that being the best salesperson will translate into more money to support his passion for art. That might work in the short term. but eventually passionless work is a grind. I would seek to explore why Jim has a passion about art and see if there are roles he can be more passionate about. Ultimately, you need to have a candid discussion about how Jim can build his true passion into his work. Jim might be more suited to designing sales materials, or experimental sales approaches.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Great Destroyers of Trust

I have spent the past five years putting together a model of trust that incorporates the contemporary theories of our time. Today, I will touch on one of the more profound surprises I discovered. While most leaders know that saying what you mean, doing what your saying, and demonstrating integrity is critical to building a trusting culture. These are not enough.. and sadly most leaders think they are... in fact the greatest destroyer of trust is to do nothing when a wrong has been committed.

First a little background... Harvard Business Review had an article in 2003 that reported that even the most ethical leaders are sometimes perceived as distrustful. One of the main points of the author was that despite their integrity leaders are often perceived as treating people in an unequal manner. It is only common sense that sometimes leaders must maintain confidentially and employees may have significant differences in needs. It would be easy to say that even though the leader is acting ethically, others will see it different. That is the easy answer.. the truth maybe rooted in a more significant lost of faith in the leader.

Gottman's work on marriage and divorce has shown that how we treat each other is critical. To treat someone with contempt is to destroy the relationship. These same principles translate to work.. the more we show contempt for an employee the less they will trust us. However, Gottman also showed that the more we show respect and treat each other ethically, the more they trust. It can be complex, because the minute minute a leader begins to treat anyone with contempt, it impacts how everyone else sees them as well. We judge others not just how they treat us, but also others.. which took me to the more profound and important lesson. It is not just how they treat us.. or how they treat others.. it is how they treat everything.. especially the environment we work in... Yes, We hold leaders accountable for the environment we work in. If the environment is not ethical, employees expect leaders to fix it the environment. To Right the Wrong so speak. "I'm sorry.. you know I didn't have anything to do with it.. we may just have to live with it..." OUCH.. Can't you just feel the trust being drained out of that relationship.

So what is the lesson? For me, it is that being ethical is not enough. Leaders must have the courage to face down the errors of others, even their supervisors and create environments of trust. If your a leader and you want to build trust.. take ownership of the environment and go right the wrongs. Your expected to do this by all that follow you... and if you don't have the courage or you don't have the skill to fix the environment.. then maybe it is time to move on to a some place where you can...