The Essence of Life and Leadership

Life and Leadership

“Emotions transform energy; energy creates movement; movement is change; and change is the essence of life.”    ~Darren Weissman 

Did you know?

  • Only 20-50% of re-engineering efforts succeed [1]
  • Only 28% of information technology projects are successful [2]
  • Only 33% of corporate mergers are successful [3]
  • 50% of firms that downsize experience a decrease (not increase) in productivity. [4]
  • 75% of all change efforts fail to make any dramatic improvements. [5]
  • An astonishingly high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical plans. [6]
  • Failure to change is the primary source of organizational failure.5

Empowering Interface

These dismal revelations about change management success and failure come right out of the research of real organizations, real projects, real managers, and real leaders.  If we were grading leaders and managers on their change management report card, they would get a ‘C,’ at best.

And wouldn’t you agree that, like life, change is arguably also the essence of leadership?

While there are many change management models, if there is one thing that would help your organization dramatically improve the quality of outcomes, it is empowering interface.  That’s what researchers from the University of Bath and George Washington University called it.5

Empowering interface occurs when executive leadership empowers middle management to interface comfortably between executives and frontline employees breaking down silos and enabling both macro and micro variables to change and cascading empowerment across the firm.

This process requires executive transparency and a “change sponsor” or “change champion.”

Change Champion

What does it mean?

It means that executives need to change the way they look at change.  In order to be successful at change leadership and management, you must break down the silos between executive and frontline levels using middle management, create a safe climate, and generate empowerment and trust through transparency and responsiveness.

If there is not open two-way communication and action, change efforts could be doomed.

Empowering middle management, especially with increasing discourse between executives and frontline, greatly increases the odds of success.

Exactly How to Fail

Macro initiatives designed solely by executives (no middle management or frontline input) creates a “closed system” or silos and spreads disempowerment (through rumors, false assumptions, and miscommunication) and that cultivates strong resistance.  Put another way, when change initiatives are rammed down people’s throats and without involvement, expect contempt, defiance, subversion, and eventually failure.

Successful change leadership and management are all about communication, relationships, empowerment, respect, and responsiveness.

This sounds a lot like love, if you ask me.

Work-Out and CAP

Jack Welch and Steve Kerr of GE developed one of the most well-known and successful change models in the late 80′s and early 90′s and used it successfully at GE.6  They called it “Work-Out.”  Similar to a “time out,” those on a change project take a “work-out” from typical bureaucratic practices and behaviors and instead rely on continuous focus, efficient decision-making, and accelerated implementation.

The Change Acceleration Process (CAP) part of Work-Out became popular because of its effectiveness and has since been marketed to many other institutions and industries.

It is no coincidence that a significant portion of CAP – the first four (of seven) steps – are exactly what the researchers describe as empowering interface above.

They call them:

1.  Leading change
2.  Creating a shared need
3.  Shaping a vision
4.  Mobilizing commitment

The last steps in CAP are:

5.  Making change last
6.  Monitoring progress
7.  Changing systems and structures

Change is at the very essence of life and leadership and “resistance to change” doesn’t have to be a given – at least not strong resistance.

Both the research and successful organizational change models like CAP are telling us that when people are involved in the change process, not only does cooperation increase, but the quality of the outcome dramatically improves, as well.

So how do you effect change with those you lead and your extended team?  What is the change management and leadership model and philosophy were you work or lead?  Do you or your organization even have it defined?  What steps can you take today to improve it?  What other models or techniques have helped you and your organization arrive at successful outcomes?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj

Alan Mikolaj is a Professional and Inspirational Trainer, Keynote Speaker & Author
He is the author of three books and holds his Master of Arts  in Clinical Psychology
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

Image Sources: robgatlas.co.uk

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[1] Strebel, P. (1996, May/June). Why do employees resist change? Reprinted in Harvard Business Review on change in 1998. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, pp. 139–157.
[2]
Farias, G., & Johnson, H. (2000). Organizational development and change management: Setting the record straight. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 36, 376–379.
[3] Dinkin, D. (2000). Unlocking the value of M & A. The Banker, 150(895), 118.
[4] Appelbaum, S.H., Everard, A., & Hung, L.T.S. (1999). Strategic downsizing: Critical success factors. Management Decision, 37(7), 535–552.
[5] Raelin, J.D. & Cataldo, C.G. (2011). Whither middle management? Empowering interface and the failure of organizational change. Journal of Change Management, 11(4), pp.481-507.
[6] Von Der Linn, B. (2009). Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP). Retrieved August 24, 2013, from Bob Von Der Linn’s HPT Blog: http://bvonderlinn.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/overview-of-ges-change-acceleration-process-cap/

On Leadership and Counting Carrots

Carrot and Stick

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony

So What’s Your Carrot?

Do you know what motivates others at work? Research from Duke University and George Mason University reveals that, although you might think you do; you probably don’t.

At regular intervals over a forty-year period, executives were asked to rank what they thought motivated their employees. They consistently got it wrong.  Executives erroneously believed that external factors and incentives such as compensation, bonuses, job security, and promotions are what most motivated their employees.

But what do the employees say?  They report that it is inherent factors, such as interesting work, being appreciated for making meaningful contributions, a feeling of being involved in decisions, and being part of something bigger that motivates them the most.

However, employees were no better off predicting what motivated their bosses and peers. They got it wrong, too; believing it is external factors that motivates others – especially their superiors.

The fact is, executives report being motivated mostly by autonomy, their inherent interest in their work, big challenges, and a sense of relatedness with colleagues.

True Incentives & Rewards

In psychology we call these biases – particularly the self-serving bias and the extrinsic incentive bias. We give more credit to internal and inherent motivations to ourselves than we do to others and think others are more externally motivated than they probably are.

These biases between boss and employee can lead to sub-optimal incentive, reward, and compensation programs. It can lead to negative thoughts such as

“Since I can’t pay my staff more and promote them like I want to, they don’t seem very motivated. I guess there’s nothing I can do.”

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L2L Reader Survey 2013

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“Each morning I come in, my inbox is filled with mail and the first thing I read is L2L. Always!”

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Eroding Trust

But more importantly, these biases and their corresponding negative thoughts erode trust. Anil Saxena recently wrote of trust in a recent L2L blog and how trust can only develop when our relationships are adult ones.   When they’re not and we allow biases and negative thinking to flourish instead, this can erode trust and make working well together difficult.

This doesn’t mean that money, promotions, and the like are not important. They are. Just much less than we think.

Other research shows that as long as employees feel they are earning a fair wage, inherent factors begin to take over as motivators, or if not met, as a detriment.

Lee Ellis also recently wrote on an excellent piece here on L2L about trust and coaching.  He learned employees valued two attributes most from their leaders: support and helping direct reports develop.

This can’t happen unless you also have some clues about what motivates them.

Undercover Revelations

I don’t watch much commercial TV, but one show I occasionally enjoy really knows how to bring this awareness out in bosses: Undercover Boss. In almost every episode I’ve seen, the CEO has an eye-opening experience not only about what frontline employees and their supervisors do, but more importantly, what motivates them.

The boss always walks away from the experience with a transformed perspective.

When both bosses and employees reduce blame and finger-pointing by reversing erroneous beliefs and ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) about each other, we foster trust, engagement, and a better working environment – and we know this leads to higher productivity, reduced turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and increased profits.

And who doesn’t want that?

How do you foster a keener awareness of what motivates your employees? How do you use that knowledge and awareness to develop trust and motivate others? What beliefs can you let go of that will help you be a better leader?

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here! 
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj

Alan Mikolaj is a Professional and Inspirational Trainer, Keynote Speaker & Author
He is the author of three books and holds his Master of Arts  in Clinical Psychology
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

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On Leadership and The Force of Connection

Connect With People

“If knowledge traps are the cholesterol of organizations, then the force of connection that fosters relationship excellence is the statin drug that breaks up knowledge traps, restores knowledge flow, and keeps the environment healthy.” ~ Michael Lee Stallard

An Eye-Opening Story

There’s a story about a manager who bumped into one of her former employees in the grocery store. The former employee gave her the cold shoulder.

“What’s the matter, Phyllis? We used to get along so well when you worked for me!” the manager asked quite puzzled.

“Well, to be quite frank, I was only nice because I worked for you. I’ve never liked you. You’re a conceited, power-hungry, hypocrite who never listens to what anyone else has to say! And now that I don’t work for you anymore, I don’t have to be nice!” the former employee exclaimed as she stormed off.

Relationship Excellence

“What does relationship excellence have to do with employee engagement? Plenty!

And depending on where you lead, the term employee engagement may be substituted with other terms.

  • If you teach, you might call it school spirit or classroom morale.
  • In the military it is called esprit de corps.
  • If you lead in a church, you might call it fellowship.
  • In your personal relationships, it may be what I call your state of being.

No matter what term works for where you lead, employee engagement is not about some New Age, feel-good fad.

Employee engagement and the force of connection

In fact, research has closely tied employee engagement to our innate need to connect and belong as a species – relationship excellence or the force of connection. In a recent Webinar, Most Admired Companies: Boosting Employee Engagement, experts Mark and Bonita Thompson presented some interesting findings from a survey they conducted of over one-thousand employees.

They teased out the engaged employees from the sample – the kind of employees we wish all of ours were – and wanted to know what these ‘best’ employees were looking for in a leader.  Of the eight most admired traits, seven of them were relationship-oriented (indicated with *).

Getting Engaged

8 traits engaged workers want from their leaders:

  • Ambitious and Hardworking
  • Cooperative*
  • Supportive and Helpful*
  • Honest*
  • Straight-forward and Clear*
  • Familyteam-focused*
  • Loyal*
  • Fun-loving and Playful about the work*

Build Relationships

The well-respected 2011 BlessingWhite report made four recommendations to managers to foster employee engagement.  One of them was to build relationships.  They wrote, “The more employees feel they know their managers as people, the more engaged they’re likely to be.”

In a 2002 review of the Gallup studies on employee engagement, it was interesting to find that seven of the twelve items defining and measuring employee engagement were directly tied to relationships.

Connecting with others, especially the boss, correlated to lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and increased productivity and profits.

Force of Connection

7 employee engagement items that use the force of connection:

  • Opportunities to do what I do best
  • Recognition and Praise
  • Cares about me
  • Encourages Development
  • Opinions count
  • Committed
  • Opportunities to Learn and Grow

“Please allow me to point out again that these were all correlated to lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and increased productivity and profits.

The force of connection – our relationship excellence – not only makes sense from a psychological and spiritual perspective, but from a business one, as well.

Effects of Stress on Employee Engagement

In his recent L2L post, Leaders: 4 Ways to Improve Your Ability to Learn, Denis McLaughlin revealed how stress impacts our ability to learn.

Stress can also have a severe impact on your employee’s engagement.

Michael Stallard points out in the Spring 2012 edition of Training Industry Quarterly that neuroscientific research has established that as stress rises; cortisol levels rise. When cortisol levels rise, people tend to behave in reactionary or rash ways.

They simply don’t think clearly and rely on ‘fight or flight’ responses to protect themselves.If relationships with the boss or fellow workers are causing stress, employees will be less productive and less engaged with their work.

In an excellent connection between criticism, stress, and employee engagement, Gary Cohen wrote in his latest L2L post:

“More often, it leads to worse performance, motivation, and engagement.”

However, when stress levels are lower, so too are cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are lower, people tend to stay calm, rational, and think more clearly.

Use the Force of Connection

The feeling of being connected to those around us – of being part of a safe and meaningful team led by a boss with relationship excellence – boosts dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels.

This helps make team members feel more

  • Energized
  • Confident
  • Trusting
  • Engaged
  • Connected

These types of employees are 20% more productive than the average employee is and are healthier and actually live longer!

When relationships flourish and are healthy at work, everybody wins.

People want to give their best effort and become more loyal and productive, turnover drops, customer satisfaction rises, and profits increase! When we feel needed, do fulfilling and meaningful work, and have a great relationship with our boss (teacher, choir leader, coach, etc.), we love our work – and this is true for those we lead, too!

“Take time every day to use the force of connection!”

How do you foster relationship excellence for yourself?  For your direct reports and team? How do you foster employee engagement? What techniques or strategies can you share?

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here! 
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training

He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

Image Sources: glassgiant.com

3 Steps to Influential Leadership: Step 3 – Reactions

While there are many ideas and theories about what makes up influential leadership, there are three ingredients that are ‘necessary, but not enough.’ 

They are necessary for influential leadership, but not sufficient.

Of course, there are many more ingredients to cook up influential leadership, but whatever recipe you are using to help improve your leadership skills, these three will definitely add some flavor!

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

Ingredient #3: Reaction

It’s how you make them feel

In my last two blogs, I introduced two ‘necessary, but not sufficient’ ingreditents for influential leadership: the art of allowing and service.  Today, we look at another ingredient essential for influential leadership; “Reactions,” or how you make them feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou ~

I first heard a version of this quote from Danish Ahmed in a YouTube video (at around 3:20 into it) a few years ago and I have used it when doing customer service and leadership development training. 

He says:

“It doesn’t matter what you say to people.  What matters is how they feel when they are with you.” 

I saw the opening quote in one of Wes Hopper’s email blogs and couldn’t help but make the connection to how powerful this is for leaders.

A Tale of Two Bosses

In my work team, there are fifteen supervisors. And here is what I feel when I am around two of them:

Dissonance Boss

  • Every time this one supervisor enters a room, you can almost feel the stress emanating out of her. 
  • Everything is a problem, an emergency, urgent, a crisis, or must be done in a hurry with her. 
  • A lot of the time, I feel stressed just talking with her. 

Resonance Boss

  • When this other supervisor walks in, I’m instantly put at ease. 
  • She is calm, speaks slowly and softy, and radiates confidence, peace, and a caring attitude. 
  • I feel completely different when I talk to her.

Be Wise, Energize!

Remember, everything is energy. 

According to the Institute of HeartMath, the heart’s electrical field is sixty times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity of the brain. The magnetic field of the heart is more than 5,000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field! 

The electromagnetic field of the heart can be detected for several feet in all directions around a person.  When you are about 3-4 feet away from someone, that energy can be detected by another person and they can even begin to resonate with your frequency (for better or worse) – something called coherence or synchronization

It’s even more likely if you touch them, like placing a hand on their shoulder, holding hands, or a hug.

Your Personal Vibe

How do people feel when they are with you?  What are they going to remember?  As Maya tells us above, they are more than likely going to forget what you’ve said and done.  However, they will remember how you made them feel. 

That’s why it’s so important to spend some time every morning – and even throughout the day – to get and keep your heart and your head in the right place

I hope you do so you can go out today and radiate positive influential leadership!

How do you foster positive emotional states in those you lead?  What techniques would you recommend to other leaders to help foster well-being in direct reports, team members, students, etc.?  What other ingredients do you think are “necessary but not sufficient?”

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here! 
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training

He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

Image Sources: insightcourses.com

3 Steps to Influential Leadership: Step 2 – Service

Customer Service

While there are many ideas and theories about what makes up influential leadership, there are three ingredients that are ‘necessary, but not enough.’ 

They are necessary for influential leadership, but not sufficient.

Of course, there are many more ingredients to cook up influential leadership, but whatever recipe you are using to help improve your leadership skills, these three will definitely add some flavor!

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

Ingredient #2:  Service

In my last blog, the first ingredient posited for influential leadership was the art of allowing.  Today, we look at another ingredient essential for influential leadership: Service.

“In a corporation, the higher up in management and leadership you go, the more servient you need to become.” ~ Bill Winney ~

Good Advice

This quote was given to me over good wine and Italian food from a dear, old friend.  He should know.  He’s one of those who started at the bottom and has worked his way up into a very successful career and life.  He is the manager of the QHSSE department of an international petroleum company and owns several small businesses himself.

The idea of servant leadership is not new to L2L readers:

  • One could even argue it’s one of the main reasons we read L2L
  • It reinforces a leadership model we believe in and practice

For example, in one of Lee Ellis’ recent L2L blogs, he wrote this:

“The lesson I learned was that serving and doing all the little things that others might avoid brings respect and ultimately influence.”

On Leadership and Service

But the idea of the leader being a servant seemed to fall out of the paradigm of what it meant to be a great and influential leader until only a few years ago.

In recent earlier times, leadership was only thought to be:

  • Tough
  • “Old-school”
  • Cutthroat
  • Competitive
  • Impersonal
  • Manipulating
  • Power-wielding
  • Command-and-Control

Unfortunately, the type of leader who is accountable only to the bottom-line prevailed for much of history. And, this is still alive and well in many settings to today.

A Travel Guide to Leadership

However, it has proven to be a failed archetype for the new millennium.  It is challenged in my new book, A Travel Guide to Leadership, with the paradigm of the New Millennial Leader – which includes the servant leadership model – the second necessary but not sufficient ingredient on my list today.

James Hunter captures the idea of servant leadership beautifully in his book, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. He Says this:

“Remember, the role of leadership is to serve, that is, to identify and meet legitimate needs.”

This is his definition of love and leadership.

Fulfilling Leadership Roles

Whether you lead in a relationship, at church, in the classroom, or in the business world, meeting legitimate needs empowers those you lead.

You empower them to fulfill their life mission, job, or role.  It is a close relative of allowing.

Service from a leader nurtures gratitude, as well.  When given consistently over time, meeting legitimate needs/service – an essential part of employee engagement – builds trust, reduces turnover, and promotes the well-being of not only the individual, but the organization and its goals and mission, too.

It has proven to be more profitable in the long run than other leadership models – no matter how you measure abundance.

All of these boost your influence… and create more opportunities for you to serve.

Leaders who use the creative energy force of love and service have made a giant step towards a more profound and sublime power on their journey.  Today, commit to being a more servient leader.

How do you meet or help meet the legitimate needs of those you lead?  How do you empower?  How do you nurture gratitude?  Will you share some of the things you do that serve those you lead?  What other ingredients do you think are “necessary but not sufficient?”

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here! 
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training

He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

Image Sources: dentalreferralmarketing.com

3 Steps to Influential Leadership: Step 1 – Allowance

Not Allowed

While there are many ideas and theories about what makes up influential leadership, there are three ingredients that are ‘necessary, but not enough.’ 

They are necessary for influential leadership, but not sufficient. 

Of course, there are many more ingredients to cook up influential leadership, but whatever recipe you are using to help improve your leadership skills, these three will definitely add some flavor! 

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

Ingredient #1:  Allowing

“Whether it is for personal development or in a family or business setting, there requires an acceptance period or a “process of allowing” which helps to bring the fruits to our tables.” ~ Edward G. Drennan

Do you ever find yourself having to “force” something to happen with one of your direct reports, team members, clients, or even in your personal relationships?

As Dr. Phil likes to ask:

“How’s that working for you?”

Allowing is a tool that some of the best leaders have turned into an art.  They use it judiciously – in the right amounts and at the right times.

Recipes for Allowing

Allowing requires faith, trust, a little coaxing from time to time, a dash of intuition, and the willingness to let go – not exactly what you would find in most business school textbooks and curriculum.  It is allowing on the part of the leader that lets creativity flourish, good employees become better, and the best employees to become extraordinary.

When your work team becomes better and extraordinary, you become a better and extraordinary leader.

Although, the art of allowing is popular in Law of Attraction literature, that’s not exactly the art of allowing that I’m talking about.  It’s similar in concept but not as ethereal or necessarily mystical.

Defining Things

Let’s look at the definition of the word allow.

al·low (verb)

  1. to give permission to or for; permit: to allow a student to be absent; No swimming allowed.
  2. to let have; give as one’s share; grant as one’s right: to allow a person $100 for expenses.
  3. to take into consideration, as by adding or subtracting; set apart: to allow an hour for changing trains.
  4. Archaic . to approve; sanction.
  5. to permit something to happen or to exist; admit

(From: Dictionary.com Unabridged)

When a leader gives permission for someone to do something or time for something to happen, it gives a stamp of authority.  It legitimizes it.  Allowing is a form of permission or of granting time to someone to do their job or a task without you micromanaging.  This is a gift of freedom and respect.

As Bryan Wolff pointed out in a recent L2L post, “People don’t follow by accident.  They follow people who they respect.”

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

With all freedom comes the potential for abuse, so the wary leader allows but doesn’t take their eyes off the ball, either.  Allowing does not mean letting go of accountability.

But without the gift of freedom from the leader, great potential will never be realized.

That’s where your faith and trust come in – and those are nurtured over time.  A judicious understanding of who, what, and when are required when allowing.  You may need to occasionally coax or maybe even coach, but the art of allowing is mostly ‘hands off.’

On Trust and Allowing

My boss is amazing at allowing – but it didn’t happen for me overnight.  After I earned her trust through several projects and I had proved my mettle, she began to use allowing with me.  She has allowed my skills to develop and flourish through tasks and responsibilities beyond my job description.

Once she sets the basic rules of the game, like what’s the expected end product or outcome and when it’s due, she simply allows me to go and do my best.

  • She trusts I’ll come to her or collaborate with others if I need help and she has faith in my abilities
  • She trusts
  • She respectfully watches over
  • She allows

Jason Monaghan affirmed how the greatest leaders establish trust in his latest L2L blog on teams:

“Teams start with trust.  Just like the best coaches, the best business leaders establish authenticity and trust before all else.”

On Allowing and Empowerment

While allowing can be frightening for a leader, it is empowering for the direct report, the student, team member, or partner.  That empowerment builds a sense of gratitude toward the leader that can, over time, lead to admiration and deep respect.

The leader who recognizes the power of allowing recognizes the legitimate needs of others to enact their mission, add their contribution, to give of themselves, to develop, learn, and grow, and to flourish.

Adam Beck writes this:

“Leaders with the ability to coach and mentor have a clear advantage over others.  Here it is all about empowerment and allowing freedom for innovation.  The leader must allow for this to happen and offer guidance, advice, and corrective actions when necessary.”

What techniques are in your art of allowing recipe cabinet?  How do you balance managing outcomes and allowing direct reports to flourish – to shine – on their own?  Do you have any stories of when using allowing turned out great?  How about stories when allowing backfired?  What did you learn from that?  What other ingredients do you think are “necessary but not sufficient?”

See them all: | Part 1 : Allowance | Part 2: Service | Part 3: Reactions |

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here! 
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training

He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Book | Web

Image Sources: fc08.deviantart.net

I Am Not Responsible for My Employees’ Happiness!

Employee Happiness

A cumulative body of research has clearly established that happy employees equal successful business outcomes.  What role do you play in your employees’ happiness at work?  Are you responsible for your employees’ happiness?

The goal is not to create happiness, but to create the conditions for happiness to occur.” ~ Chip Conley quoting the Prime Minister of Bhutan

Who’s Responsible For Happiness?

I sat across from the desk listening to a well-respected leader in middle management of a major corporation as we talked about my last blog, Labor Day: Loving One’s Job.  “I am not responsible for my employees’ happiness!” she emphatically declared.  She was playing the devil’s advocate for me.

I couldn’t agree more.  No one is “responsible” for someone else’s happiness.  She said that to help test my response because there are lots of leaders, managers, and supervisors who say things like that - but it’s not the truth of the statement that they are trying to convey.

What they are really saying is this:

“Not only am I not responsible for my employees’ happiness; I don’t want to have to do anything about my employees’ happiness so I don’t have something else added to my ‘To-Do List’ (I’m already too busy!) and I don’t need some touchy-feely, immeasurable, subjective, intangible, metric added to how I’m evaluated as a leader!”

Rank does not confer privilege or give power.  It imposes responsibility.” ~Peter Drucker

Running the Numbers

Employee Happiness and Business Outcomes

A 2002 review of the Gallup Studies clearly established that the presence of positive workplace perceptions and positive emotions are in fact associated with four really big tangibles:

  • Higher customer loyalty
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower rates of turnover
  • Higher profits

The review was nothing to thumb your nose at.  It included nearly 8,000 business units, almost 200,000 respondents, and culminated over 30-years of research.  The bottom line is that happy employees equal successful business outcomes.  That should catch the attention of the strongest skeptic!

…it seems joy, interest, and love (or caring) come closest to describing employees’ emotions in high-performing business units.”  -study authors

What’s the Leader’s Role?

As leaders, we do have a responsibility to foster positive emotions in ourselves and our employees; not just because it feels good, but because it leads to our individual success, the success of our employees, our work groups, and ultimately, our business.  As Peter Drucker, the inventor of the term Management by Objectives (MBOs), famously said this;

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power.  It imposes responsibility.”

Of course leaders are not responsible for creating someone else’s happiness – no one is – but leaders are responsible for creating the conditions for happiness to occur.

Today’s families, churches, educational institutes, businesses, and political structures will fail unless we do.  The most effective leaders of the new millennium make the connection between the seemingly intangible love of one’s job and happiness of those they lead with the tangible metrics of productivity and financial profit – we must make both tangible.

Maslow’s Maxim: “”When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” ~ Abraham Maslow

A New Metric

Chip Conley, Founder and Executive Chairman of Joie de Vivre Hospitality (America’s second largest boutique hotel company), challenged leaders in a February 2010 TED Talks, especially leaders of business and politics, to incorporate a new metric into their strategic plans:  a measure of what makes life worthwhile.

When the only measurement tools leaders have are measures of productivity, net margin, political polls, campaign contributions, and profit, then that’s pretty much all they see.  They lose sight of what really matters to people.

Chip says, “As leaders what we need to learn is that we can actually influence the quality of that unit of production by actually creating the conditions for our employees to live their calling.”  Connecting to and living one’s mission, vision, guiding principles – or calling – is inherently fulfilling and joyful.

These are tangible and measurable.

New Research

Modern positive psychology and research-based organizations, like the Gallup Organization, have answered Chip’s call.  For example, Gallup has a simple and focused survey consisting of 12 items that correlate to the most successful business units:

  • Employees know what is expected.
  • They have the basic materials and equipment to do their jobs.
  • Employees have opportunities to do what they do best.
  • They have received recognition and praise for doing good work in the last seven days.
  • A supervisor or someone else at work cares about the employee as a person.
  • Someone at work encourages their development.
  • The employee knows that their opinions seem to count.
  • Employees have a connection between the mission and purpose of the company that makes their work seem important.
  • Their work team is committed to quality work.
  • Employees have a best friend at work.
  • In the past six months, someone has talked to the employee about their progress.
  • In the past year, the employee has had opportunities to learn and grow.

Employee Expectations 

When employees know what is expected and have the basic tools to do their work, feel recognized, cared for, respected, fulfilled, and have opportunities for growth, then they are more likely to enjoy what they do and stick around.

Engaged, happy employees apply themselves more effectively, increasing productivity.

They serve customers better, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.  When both employees and customers are happy and loyal, employee turnover goes down, and productivity goes up.  Profits increase.

Since happy employees equal successful business outcomes, what role do you play as their leader?  How do you create the conditions for happiness to occur in your team/organization?  What metrics do you use to evaluate ‘what makes life and work worthwhile’ in those you lead?  How do you make the ‘intangible,’ tangible?

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——————–
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training

He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
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