"I confess that I knew nothing of these before marrying a philosopher. Now, I see them frequently in my own thinking (all though less and less thanks to self-awareness), thinking I hear from others, blog posts, (poor) journalism and more.
I encourage you to take some time and consider what traps you may be falling into. You may also find that you are inadvertently encouraging these biases (and subsequent poor decision-making) in people around you through questions you are (or are not) asking, and the way you're approaching meetings.
You may also want to print these and post them in your work space as a reminder. And perhaps have a discussion with your fellow leaders about these. If you want to learn more, check out Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking Fast, and Slow," or this summary video of the book.
I'd love to hear what realizations you come to from this!
Is the image too blurry to read? Here is the file, which enlarges and prints.
The surprise results of the 2016 Presidential election begs many questions. For leaders, there are meaningful parallels to draw. How vulnerable are you to to detrimental surprises in your company? Your wisdom as a leader is based on what you know. Your decisions and behaviors come from what you know. So, what do you really know?
What is your risk of being blindsided with your business, like so many experts with this election?
Correlating with what contributed to the surprises with the election, here are 5 questions to ask yourself.
Why? Simply because it's likely not helping your business. It might even be hurting you.
Now, if I'm wrong and your survey and the process does build trust within the company, result in meaningful actions being identified and performed, and you see employee relations improve, congratulations. Don't bother reading further.
Over and over again I see examples of companies doing engagement surveys that amount to (at best) a wee bit of meaningful discussion at the senior leader level, and the box being checked for having done this. All too often I see businesses do harm with these because they don't report back the data to employees, the senior leaders fail to take ownership of the results, and an action plan that is meaningful and realistic (and one with 25 actions is not realistic) does no emerge. After a couple of rounds of this, employees grow to resent the charade and the relationship between leadership and employees takes a hit.
No wonder engagement hasn't increased meaningfully even after so much time and money going into surveys!
August was a big month for our family. Among the highlights, our oldest child entered kindergarten at a public school that is Montessori-based. The short story is that he LOVES it, which is notable because of the intense struggles he had in a much more traditional environment over the past two years. It is just fascinating to see the transformation, and I can't help but explore what has brought this about. Why does this school/classroom/teacher work so well for him?
I'm sure there are many reasons, and some of them (e.g., a break at home over the summer, general maturity) don't have anything to do with the school itself.
But there are key elements of this new environment that catch my attention. See if you find anything familiar with these.
When a Learning & Development (L&D) Specialist sits with business leaders to talk about their interest in leadership development, it’s not uncommon for the conversation to sound like this:
L&D Specialist: So, why is leadership development on your mind?
CEO: It’s important to invest in our people.
L&D Specialist: I certainly agree. What do you want to accomplish through leadership development?
CFO: Employees are excited about it. They come to the sessions. It’s good stuff.
L&D Specialist: You bet. What would you want people to be better at after being part of a leadership development program?
CEO: They are more effective leaders.
CFO: They communicate better. They are better listeners.
CEO: So, do you know of some classes we can offer?
L&D Specialist: I know of great classes and other learning options as well. Our best outcomes will come when we know upfront the specific changes we are seeking. Maybe we can first work on determining our leadership competencies, and evaluating the gap between current and desired performance of these competencies?
CEO: Everyone’s really busy. Let’s just get something going. Our competitors have had this kind of program for a while now. See what you can find and bring me some ideas.
L&D Specialist: What’s the budget you were thinking of?
CEO: I don’t know. Depends on what you bring me. Thanks.
Could you feel the tension in this conversation? The L&D Specialist is working hard to see the vision of the CEO and CFO, or even help them clarify their vision. The leaders, however, just want activities to happen. They may even grow frustrated with the L&D Specialist’s questions. Meanwhile, the Specialist may feel set up to fail because the desired outcomes and specs are so limited.
So, where do they go from here?
Who doesn't love a quick fix? In our 21st-century western culture, this is practically part of our DNA. Got a pain? Pop a pill. Want a perfect lawn? Spray this around. Looking to lose weight? Drink this. VOILA! Problem solved!
Certainly, this is present in our workplace as well. Want more employee engagement? Put managers through a two-hour communications training. Want to do better hiring? Get someone to write you the perfect interview questions. For non-profits, want more donations? Send another mailer.
Might there be some positive return from these efforts? Maybe. At some level. For some period of time. However, the likelihood of meaningful performance improvement at the desired level is slim. Are you okay with a quick fix that yields a quick uptick in performance, or are you wanting real results?
The quick fix is appealing because it often requires limited investment of time exploring the situation and various routes to pursue change. The initial time investment is the starting place for real change. Note that "time investment" doesn't have to be a 6-month initiative with dreadful weekly meetings. It could be just an hour or two with the right people at the table focusing and thinking together.
If you want to take the time to do a root cause analysis and solution design, here are questions to ask.
Great teams don’t just happen. They take work. They are built on relationships and, like any relationships, they have their ups and downs. Teams are influenced by internal and external factors and they have distinct personalities.
If you are the formal or informal leader of a team, how are you influencing the way the team functions? How are you molding the team personality? Are you promoting healthy communications? Are you keeping the focus on the collective? How do you handle challenging moments?
In working with teams of all kinds, I see how team leaders (again, the formal or informal leaders) influence team dynamics, either for the better or (inadvertently) for the worse.
Here are the 6 key ways I see formal and informal team leaders positively contribute to team function.
“How can I get anything accomplished when I have to be worried all the time about whether people like me?”
Is this thought familiar to you? It’s a common frustration for the leader who is committed to employee engagement and positive culture, yet has responsibility for making change and driving performance as well. Is it necessary to have to choose between pleasing others and performing?
This piece from Harvard Business Review offers specific about what an over-focus on being liked leads to: paralysis, over-inclusion, accommodation, tolerating poor performance. Have you seen this in action?
There is the leader who won’t make a decision and implement actions for fear of backlash. Then there is the leader who is constantly convening “input” meetings and polling people through formal and informal ways. You see a leader consumed with putting out small, internal fires in the spirit of keeping people happy, regardless of whether these actions support the progress of the business. And then there is the leader who doesn’t hold others accountable for performance.
And what is the business impact of this “pleasing” dynamic? In a word, significant.
Last year I decided to offer leadership training to clients. But then I thought, "If I have to write one more slide deck and participant workbook, I'm gonna lose it!"
"And I've got to offer robust online learning as an option, but I know how long it takes to write a course in Storyline, and there's no way I can devote that time or afford to pay for it!"
To some extent, writing training is fun to do. But holy cow - doing this well is a LOT of work. In addition to an assortment of classroom trainings, I've even gone as far as to create a highly interactive training within Storyline. That 20-minute course took me approximately 120 hours to create. Creating truly quality training, and getting an ROI on it is often elusive (which is why so many consulting firms charge an arm and a leg for their custom trainings).
So, I set off to find a high quality, flexible, off-the-shelf option that could be extended to clients at an accessible price point. After combing the market, Vital Learning was the clear winner. Truly, it's the curricula I always imagined, but always felt frustrated not to be able to create.
When I shared my adoption of Vital Learning with fellow consultants at a breakfast, they gasped. "What do you mean you bought canned training? But you can't personalize it! It doesn't reflect your perspective and experience?" They gave me serious grief, and clearly saw me as a traitor for this move.