Key Point: There has always been a bit of a chasm between upper management and the front line. Distance from the corner office to the “coal face” is somewhat understandable. People in each role simply have such different environments that somewhat of a gap regarding reality seems realistic. But a recent study conducted by The Harvard Business Review (HBR), points out that the disconnection between the top and other levels of many organizations is now of Grand Canyon proportions. In fact, the editor of HBR ‘s Special Projects and Research, Angelia Herrin, presented study results at a recent conference on Employee Engagement, using a picture of this natural wonder, as a way of emphasizing that this unprecedented, jaw dropping gap has emerged. In this HBR research, executives from a large sample of respondents believe 40 percent of their employees are engaged. (Not impressive but still sadly out of touch). Yet, only 23 percent of respondents below the executive level in these same organizations see themselves as engaged. Wow! 77 percent of people see themselves as DISENGAGED at work? By a broadly understood definition, this means these self described, disengaged people are thinking of leaving, not striving to do their best work and/or have no intention of referring anyone to work for their organizations. In current, well-understood “textology,” one would be excused to exclaim… “WTH?”
More work may need to be done to fully understand all the reasons for this astonishing gap, but the following, very basic, practical solution is what I believe people want MOST. This is supported by data I’m familiar with. PEOPLE at every level, in every organization, want the RESPECT of being given reasonable AUTONOMY AND THE TOOLS, PROCESSES and SYSTEMS THEY NEED TO consistently CONTRIBUTE VALUE. When we are stuck with dumb rules, crappy tools, processes and systems that fail, we look like idiots to customers and teammates. We have to apologize, do “work arounds,” and feel like we need to make continuous excuses. After a while, when things don’t significantly improve, people quit… Usually on the job. Today things are changing so quickly, and business model performance is under such serious pressure, that executive management feels compelled to drive dramatic shifts in priorities and resources, often leaving mid-management and the frontline trying to catch up. No one is to blame and intent normally is well meaning at every level. However, the unintended outcome is a Grand Canyon gap between what executives really want/believe is occurring and what is really happening at the employee/customer interface. What can we do about reducing the canyon to at least a ravine?
- If we have a leadership position, you and I have a responsibility to REALLY understand how strategy and change is being translated to the front line. This means we have to go the actual place, with the actual people, at the actual time, to review the actual processes and actual data. The Japanese call this the FIVE ACTUALS. Then we must LISTEN and ACT. Managing by just cheerleading and stopping by for donuts isn’t good enough.
- If we have jobs at the intersection between customers and others, or mid-management roles, we cannot give up. We need to use data to shed the light on product/service breakdowns. And most importantly, frontline people usually know how things can be fixed. Be constructively relentless. Pilot better ways to show improvements and then have upper management see the results. Use your positive attributes to drive solutions not just complain to others who can’t really help much. Ask for forgiveness more than permission. You’re a critical thinking adult, not a mindless cog in a machine.
- The biggest challenge facing organizations is that VALUE FLOWS across the entire organization. It typically does not reside in one function, location or job family. So organizations have to invest more resources into horizontal process that are silo busters. But this takes leadership, political courage and a tolerance for ambiguous structures. Organizations still cling to tidy, vertical, functional organization charts. It is no longer sufficient to organize this way. How can you influence this need to manage flow? Step up and help make things flow horizontally better.
- Have an expectation you’re going to work in a place where more than 75 percent of people are ENGAGED, not DISENGAGED. If not, get out because your organization likely won’t be around in its current configuration for the long run anyway. Seriously.
FIVE ACTUALS in The Triangle,
Key Point: During the last decade it was (and still is) very important for each of us to become fluent with technology. Being able to utilize both hardware, and software became an expected capability in almost any job and the incredible impact of mobility platforms, applications, and social media simply exaggerated our individual need to be tech savvy. We do not have to be Information Technology specialists but we must be excellent and knowledgeable technology users. As a metaphor for the last 10 years, one just has to think about the worldwide result of Steve Jobs’ commitment to put a “ding in the universe.” He and Apple certainly have dinged the world.
And now, I strongly believe you and I have to add a NEW capability to our “personal operating system.” We must all become analytic junkies. Big data, the explosion of data from all this technology, is now a surging reality. Every day organizations and people in various jobs are crunching seemingly endless amounts of data to get an insight into providing greater value and competitive advantage. The story of a retailer auto-generating baby-related adds onto an individual ‘s social media immediately after the second purchase of a pregnancy test from their pharmacy, is not just urban legend. In fact, this example is just table stakes for an effective online marketer. As creepily stalking as this may feel, as the saying goes: Privacy legislation not with standing… “You ain’t seen nothin yet.” Access to huge amounts of data is going well beyond retail and soon dashboards and software tools to transform data into insight will be ubiquitous. Predictive Analytics will become an even more common term. Let’s sharpen our skills so we can proactively participate.
- Get ready by thinking how you might use data to get additional insight to bring more value to the role you’re currently in. Having access to facts and data has always been important, but in short order it will be expected that you and I bring fact driven insights to better connect solutions to problems. This is especially true of needs that are important but still unmet or unanticipated.
- Do NOT think Analytics is going to be just the manager’s job or that the “analytics department ” will handle it. Organizations, both profit and non-profit, are investing gazillions of dollars into data rich platforms and they will demand very productive returns. That means expecting YOU to be a critical thinker and able to use software tools to make it so. You and I won’t have to be mathematicians, but we will need to be even greater insight and results providers.
- Start to gather examples where people at all levels and jobs are putting big data to work on their mobile devices and providing additional value. And please don’t let this idea intimidate you. We can do it, just as we learned to better apply technology. My 83-year young mom is currently a big iPad user. Who would have bet that happening just a few years ago?
- Having a growth mindset means reframing ourselves to be data insight and results achievers so we can provide more value and navigate our careers accordingly.
Analytics in The Triangle,
Key Point: The phrase “I will be happy when…” is likely a set-up and a lie. A lot of disappointment and unhappiness is related to connecting our state of being exclusively to some set of future conditions. The first part of the “when” lie, is that it suggests one cannot be happy in one’s current circumstances. So happiness is elusively attached to the unknown future. The second part of this lie is that the “when” usually gets renegotiated. As people achieve or get close to their desired situation they judge it to no longer be sufficient for personal happiness and subsequently, new conditions get set. Research by exceptional academics like Barbara Fredrickson, Martin Seligman and Tal Ben-Shahar provide ample quantitative evidence in support of this overall view as it relates to personal happiness.
At work, I’ve heard the “when” phrase expressed explicitly or as an undertone too often. At an individual level this includes comments like, “I will be happy when I get that raise,” “when I get that promotion,” “when I won’t have to work with that jerk,” “when I retire,” and so on. Of course being dominated by the condition of “when” is different than having aspirations and objectives. Unfortunately too many people leave this earth without achieving peace and happiness based on chasing the elusive “when.” Shirzad Chamine in his superb book, Positive Intelligence, explains that this is often due to getting pushed around in our own minds by a Saboteur, Chamine calls “The Judge.” The Judge in our head tells us we’re not worthy of peace and happiness unless there are certain circumstances or conditions not currently present. The first rule of Respect in the Character Triangle is Self-Respect, something the Judge Saboteur fights against.
- It takes constant work, but learning how to accept, rather than denying, rejecting or resenting our circumstances is the only path that takes us away from the lie of “when.” That seems straightforward, but honestly ask yourself how many “when’s” you have right now?
- Chamine suggests using the “three-gift technique” to confront the lie of “when.” Describe three scenarios where your current circumstances could be leveraged as a gift. Regardless how dire, what are three ways you might turn your present situation into an opportunity? Note: This does NOT suggest inviting more bad circumstances or doing nothing about it. (Using this technique invites us to connect with what Chamine calls our “Sage,” the part of the mind that works as a friend rather than a Saboteur).
- Try the three-gift technique on one thing at work (or your personal life) that may be causing high distress.
- Learn how to apply the five powers of Chamine’s Sage: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, Activate. Put these five Sage powers to work to effectively propel forward, while connecting with the Character Triangle of Self-Accountability, Respect and Abundance. Stop allowing the lie of “when” to hold you, happiness and meaning as hostage.
No big fat lies in the Triangle