Talent Development 20 Measuring Engagement

December 19, 2020

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization Development & Culture. Section E reads, “Skill in assessing and evaluating employee engagement.”

I have seen dozens of instruments that purport to measure employee engagement. Some of these are simple 10 question surveys, and others are complex blockage surveys that try to identify what is getting in the way of full engagement.

Defining Engagement

We need to start with the definition of engagement. There are entire books that attempt to describe engagement and how to increase it.

I like the simple approach with the following definition: “To what extent do all people in the group understand the vision for an ideal future state, and how focused is their energy on achieving that vision”?

You can make it more complex than that, but I don’t think that is necessary.

If you buy into my theory, there is a very simple test that will allow you to find out how engaged any group is. It takes only a few minutes, and you do not need to have a complex survey instrument to do it.

Measure Engagement Directly

Take a three by five card and walk around listening to what people are talking about. If you hear someone griping about working conditions or what an idiot the person at the next work station is, put a hash mark on the left side of the card and walk on.

When you hear someone talking about something that relates to what the group is trying to accomplish, then put a hash mark on the right side of the card and continue walking.

In only half an hour or less you will begin to see a pattern emerge on the card.

If the left side of the card is littered with hash marks and only a few or none on the right side, then the group is not engaged.

On the other hand, if most of the hash marks are on the right side of the card, it is an indication of a highly engaged group.

This System Also Tests for Trust

This method also works to measure the level of trust within a group. If most people are focused on the vision and the important work to be done, then it is an indication of a high trust group.

If most people are myopic and focused in on each other and protecting their turf, then it is an indication of a low trust group.

I hope you can appreciate the correlation between trust and engagement. When you find a group that has high trust in all directions, I promise that you will find a highly engaged group of workers.

The relationship is as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Leadership Barometer 63 Growth and Development

August 30, 2020

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership. There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Growth & Development

Good leaders focus on the growth and development of people. If you want to test the caliber of a leader, just measure how much energy she spends on developing people. The concept is that there is vast reservoir of talent in all people that is ripe for development.

I estimate that most organizations typically get around 20%-30% of the available energy and talent of their workforce. My estimate may be a bit off, but not too far. Think of it this way. It would mean that we can triple the productivity of the workforce and still have people working at roughly 60%-90% of their capacity. Wow, what a great way to improve output and lower costs.

Of course, you cannot obtain 100% of the energy of all people all of the time. That would require so much Adrenalin it would kill everyone. But we really don’t need the 100%. I contend there is so much pent up potential in most organizations the upside is seemingly infinite.

What holds us back? Well, it is a lot of factors I am describing in this series. One of the key ones is whether people have been given the skills to do their best work. Good leaders know this and put a lot of emphasis in the development of people.

You can contrast this with poor leaders who do not seek to do much development. They may be afraid that if they develop outstanding raw talent, they will surpass the leader and leave them in the dust.

They may be too ignorant to realize that 1 hour in a good training program brings more than 3 incremental hours of productivity to the organization. It may be that the organization is in such a state of panic, there is simply no time to develop people for the future. This myopic viewpoint is similar to the orchestra playing their final tunes on the Titanic.

Development of people also enables higher trust, because the organization is investing in the future of their workers. Even the discussions between the supervisor and the worker helps build trust, because it shows that the supervisor cares for the individual.

Another aspect of development is the degree to which the leader seeks to grow as an individual. Does she have discussion groups around some leadership books?

Is she enrolled in several professional organizations? Does she spend time going to at least one professional conference per year? Does she listen to recorded programs while driving? Does she have an active reading list?

All of these actions are signs of a person who is really interested in growing as a leader. When you see these signs, you know the person understands the value of continuous learning. If these actions are absent, even if for good and valid reasons, it shows a lack of interest in personal development, which is a sign of a weak leader.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.

Leadership Barometer 46 Addition by Subtraction

April 16, 2020

The title of this article came from a student in one of my online classes on Team Dynamics. He got the phrase from an “extraordinary” Chief Master Sergeant named Jim, currently serving at the Pentagon. I really love the phrase because it is so simple, yet so profound.

We are all familiar with some of the problems that occur when working in teams. In this article, I want to focus on the impact that can be made by a single person who is a misfit in the group and slows down all team progress.

I need to be careful to describe the phenomenon correctly. Normally, I am an advocate of having diversity of opinion and styles within a team. Reason: respectful differences in outlook or opinion are healthy because they usually lead to more creative and robust solutions.

If you have a team of clones who all think alike on most issues, you have a mono-culture that may seem to work well, but it will probably lead to myopic solutions. In general, having “different” people on a team is a good thing.

Unfortunately, we have all had the experience of being on a team where one individual simply stops forward progress on a regular basis. The root cause may be a personality deficiency or some kind of chemistry problem between members.

The person may become moody or bellicose and derail group processes at every opportunity. In rare cases there is an intent to stop the efforts of a team, sort of like a sport.

I am not writing about a person on the team who fills a Devil’s advocate role from time to time in order to prevent the group from slipping into a dangerous group think. Nor am I referring to the person with a concern or observation who voices it in a polite way.

The person I am describing is one who habitually takes a contrarian view and refuses to accept the fact that he or she is derailing conversation rather than fostering a balanced discussion.

I advocate that any team should have a written and agreed-upon set of expected behaviors. These statements indicate our agreement on how we will treat each other along with specific consequences for members who do not comply.

If peer pressure and body language fail to convince the person to stop the disruptive behavior, then it is time for the person’s manager to do some private coaching. Sometimes that can make at least a temporary improvement

However, some individuals just cannot or will not change. Stronger measures are required. The solution is rather obvious. The person needs to find some other way to get entertainment, and should be excused from the team.

This surgery is really “addition by subtraction.” Reason: once the problem person is removed, the entire team will breathe a sigh of relief, because now decisions and progress can occur more easily.

I recall removing a disruptive member of a team years ago. Grateful team members came to me with tears of gratitude in their eyes saying, “Oh thank you! Removing Frank from the team took some courage, but we are so grateful to have the ability to navigate without him. Life will be so much better for all of us because of your action.”

Removing a problem person from a team is often a painful process. Egos can get bruised or there may be an ugly scene. My advice is to take the action, but only after you have exhausted all remedial efforts.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations

M&A Courses – What’s Missing

July 29, 2011

Many educational institutions run courses on Mergers and Acquisitions. Typically these training events run several days and cost thousands of dollars to attend. I was looking at a catalog of courses by one prestigious training group today and read about a course offering. It was striking how all the technical and financial details of the process were dealt with in the course, but the people side of the equation was essentially ignored, at least in the description of the program.

Let’s take a look at the items listed in the catalog for this course on Mergers and Acquisitions:

Benefits of the course

1. Learn how to evaluate prospects
2. Find out what the other company is worth
3. Set the starting offer for the negotiation
4. Learn the legal, tax, and accounting implications of a merger
5. Find out how to structure the deal and negotiate to the best advantage

Items you will learn

1. How to conduct due diligence
2. Anti-trust, legal, and accounting conventions
3. Why select a diversification strategy in the first place
4. Understanding the contracting process
5. How to negotiate
6. Screening candidate organizations for acquisition
7. Financial evaluation

On paper, this sounds like a good course, but wait a minute. Where is the culture mentioned? Where are the PEOPLE? Getting disparate organizational cultures to work well together is the single biggest hurdle in any M&A situation. This is not a “soft” topic. Lost productivity during a M&A process can, and often does, cripple the merged entity.

There have been numerous studies on the failure rates of mergers. For example a 2005 study by Caxton Growth Partners came up with a range of 50% to 80% failures. Most historical studies peg the failure rate in excess of 50%. The common reason given for failure is the inability of the two cultures to form a seamless entity, thereby undermining the viability of the merged unit. Yet in this expensive multi-day course by a highly respected training organization, the issue of culture does not even make it onto the agenda. It baffles me.

The disconnect between what is needed for successful M&A efforts versus what organizations focus their time and energy on is the reason for the low success rate. How about revising the course line up to read something like this?

1. Legal, analytical, and financial elements of M&As
2. Valuation and due diligence processes
3. The negotiation process and confidentiality issues
4. Identifying cultural differences and creating strategies to unify the groups
5. Dealing with the human trauma of M&As so that the best people do not walk
6. Having a realistic integration plan that takes human acceptance into account
7. Evaluating the progress of cultural integration
8. Leadership issues in managing a joined entity

A course like that would be getting at the true success factors for a merger or acquisition. I suppose there are some courses that do have a balanced view, but I think the omissions in this one high-profile course are indicative of a blind spot some respected training organizations have on the nature of merged groups.