Check out why this bitter medicine is sometimes needed here.
In an upcoming column just drafted for the Gleaner, I argue that executives lose employees’ followership because they lack advanced listening skills. What I didn’t mention is the role that Human Resource professionals should play in developing these rare skills.
Many executives believe that listening skills are picked up early in one’s career – a necessary stepping stone to the rungs of top leadership. For them, they consist of a few simple lessons and their successful rise to the top means that they have already been there, done that and checked off that particular box on their list of development goals.
However, Human Resource professionals know differently. For them, listening skills exist on a continuum from low to high. Furthermore, as an executive rises up the ladder, the need becomes acute. The stakes are higher and the demand for more sophisticated skills becomes evident. Few executives realize these facts and most HR professionals don’t tell them, resulting in a continuous, increasing flow of complaints. Here are some of the messages HR needs to share to prevent disaster.
Message #1. Why Followership is Lost
Executives are often at a loss when it becomes evident that people are no longer willing to follow their leadership. They have no idea what happened and start out blaming staff, or externals such as the recession or Jamaican culture. HR needs to provide concrete answers, which often have to do with a lack of listening.
In other words, executives sometimes stop paying attention to what people were saying… perhaps because they don’t notice what’s happening. HR professionals know that hard-earned trust is rarely lost in a single, dramatic incident, such as the shock news of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Instead, they should teach executives that the loss comes from small unproductive practices repeated over time. By the time an executive sees the result, their poor listening practices have produced the tangible, cumulative effect they now see.
Message #2. How It Can Be Regained
Even if there is a dramatic event, there is no way trust can be rebuilt without employees having an authentic experience of being heard. In Jamaican companies, this experience can’t be handled by sending people to HR to air their grouses. It must take place at the very top, directly with leaders.
A few years ago, I witnessed a CEO write and subsequently read a letter to every member of staff apologizing for abandoning his leadership role. He did so in four training events, several months after an anonymous employee went to the newspapers with an inside, false story accusing him of corruption.
You may think that the victory was secured in his writing and reading but you would be wrong. His trust was rebuilt in the minutes after he read the letter and asked his employees for open feedback. It was gut-wrenching and uncomfortable but at the end, their courage matched his. The company was eventually acquired by a much larger concern based on their strength of the turnaround that ensued.
Turnarounds like this just don’t happen by “buck-up.” HR must demand that the transformative power of advanced listening skills be employed to reach each member of staff.
This episode is a recap of the HRMATT Conference 2015, which
featured the prominent guest speaker, Dr. Robert Kaplan. He’s the
co-creator of the Balanced Scorecard and the Strategy Map. During
the conference, CaribHR.Radio sat down with him and also with
T&T presenters Leah deSouza and Maxine Attong.
CaribHR.Radio: HRMATT 2015 Conference Recap
Listen in to my interview recorded in the summer of 2015 with Dr. Robert Brown, author of Economic Stress – Harsh Truth and Keys to Empowerment. In this conversation he’s out to empower Human Resource Managers in the Caribbean with the ability to help employees deal with economic stress.
It’s a timely interview as even Trinidad’s recession deepens and employees start to feel the impact of the downturn in every single country in the region. …read more
To visit our complete library of shows from 2010-2014, and to start listening immediatelt, visit this link to CaribHR.Radio on blogtalk radio.
CaribHR.Radio: Listen in to a Past Show from 2010-2014
Recently, I sat down with Joel Millington from CaribbeanMentors.com.
He has an interesting podcast in which he interviews business leaders in Trinidad and Tobago who can serve as role models for up and coming business men and women. It’s an interesting concept and I enjoyed speaking with him about “what makes me tick.”
My Sunday column today describes a problem that both Trinidad and Jamaica are facing. How do they make civil servants more attractive to the private sector?
Converting Abstract Corporate Values into Profitable Action
You are sitting in your CEO’s office and she wants to know why the list of company values isn’t working. After all, she complains, “We spent two days at last year’s retreat coming up with it. Everyone was involved, so buy-in was never an issue. Why then has nothing changed?”
As a manager or executive, you are caught off-guard. You see the values plastered on walls all around the office. Each person carries a little laminated card in his/her purse or wallet. Why are they not working?
What you may fail to realize is that engaging employees is only a small (but necessary) start. To go further, you need to shed a particular mental model that is limiting your company’s success.
It all starts with a mistaken assumption. In companies, people assume that when it comes to understanding corporate values, everyone is on the same page.
The facts say otherwise. When leaders speak about values they often use them as “valence issues”: non-controversial topics that cannot be argued with, such as “Integrity” and “Respect.” They are a favorite tool of politicians who rely on the technique to get all heads nodding: even those of their opponents.
However, a deeper dive reveals the truth. Executives have a habit of turning values into valence issues, causing them to fall flat.
The best way to convert abstract values into profitable action is to translate them into norms – a step most companies don’t take. For example, one employee may interpret the value “We Put People First” as a suggestion to say “Hello” to each person they pass every morning. Another might see the act of greeting people they don’t know (or like) as one of insincerity and disrespect.
In other words, both employees might believe that they are being true to the value, while acting in opposing ways.
The chances are high that in your company, the values that you promote so stridently are causing opposite effects. They end up creating discord, burning up energy and wasting motion that distracts from the bottom line. What can your executives do to make sure that your investment in the retreat isn’t frittered away?
1. Learn the Video-Tape Test
To solve the problem of poor coordination, focus on defining behaviours that can only be observed with the naked eye, and be recorded on video. That is, they need to be the kind of actions anyone can see. For example, the act of “prioritizing” fails the test. By contrast, “writing up a prioritized list of potential tasks” passes. When this distinction is clear, new behaviours become easy to learn and understand because they can be passed on by the average worker.
2. De-construct Values into Behaviours
With the video-tape test in mind, you can break down any corporate value into its component behaviours. Just set up an executive brainstorming session, explain the distinction, and ask for examples of behaviours. Keep going until you have a list that meets the criteria.
As you take this step, go for extra credit: craft new behaviours that represent an evolution of your company culture. Start with what people do today, and then improve it by several steps. Also, don’t be generic… instead, look for fresh language that shouts: “Here is something you don’t already know.” This helps you avoid valence issues.
3. Convert Each Behaviour into a Performance Matrix
It’s tempting (and a mistake) to believe that someone is either demonstrating a particular behaviour in full, or not at all. A better alternative is to think in terms of a continuum of performance ranging from “novice” to “expert”.
For example, if the chosen behaviour happens to be “Greet colleagues each morning,” a novice, who is new to the company, might struggle to remember to enact the practice. However, an “expert” who has been around for some time would already have converted the behaviour into an automatic habit that never fails.
With such a matrix of behaviours, it’s much easier to evaluate oneself, a boss, direct reports and one’s peers. Now, you have an objective baseline that serves as a starting point. Build on it by creating a personal improvement plan that helps guide you through simple new practices, a few at a time. Ensure that you aren’t trying to change too many things at the same time, and build a support system just in case your willpower flags.
Before long, the entire organization will be moving in the direction of the retreat’s values because there will be an alignment of key behaviours. Your company will be far more likely to see an all-important impact on the bottom-line.
Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, and updates, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have been a regular reader you may be interested in catching up on any articles you may have missed. I know that it’s difficult to read everything due to the fortnightly nature of my columns in Jamaica, and quarterly frequency of articles in Trinidad.
But you can also read articles as far back as 2010, making sure that you haven’t missed a single one.
If you happen to be a new reader, welcome to you! This summary will take you to over 90 articles written for the press in the last few years. Each of them tackles a topic I hope you find interesting.
They cover a single theme – how to make the Caribbean workplace more productive.
In addition, you will find access to over 50 radio interviews (via CaribHR.Radio) plus a few television interviews.
Follow your interests from one topic to the next – I hope you find the work I have done to be valuable. Also, you may use the compilation as a resource by doing a search for keywords you already have an interest in exploring. This will shorten the time it takes for you to grab a useful insight just before you need it!
Click on this link for immediate access – http://free.fwconsulting.com
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