I am so happy that Larry James, CEO and President of CitySquare, will be our guest presenter at the December 7 First Friday Book Synopsis.
Larry has most graciously agreed to substitute for me while I attend the annual communication of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, in my capacity as a member of the Education and Service Committee.
Many of you will remember his stunning presentation of Rudolph Guiliani’s book entitled Leadership several years ago.
This time, he will present Jon Gordon’s best-seller, The Energy Bus. This book was written in 2007, but continues to appear on business best-seller lists. It has had a 12-week run on the Wall Street Journal list. You will enjoy the practical advice that Gordon shares in this book, and perhaps even more, the presentation and spin you will hear from Larry James.
We have an exciting bonus program for you following the synopsis. Randy Mayeux will present a synopsis of a best-seller about poverty, and CitySquare officials, including Larry James, will participate in a discussion with you afterwards. All of the proceeds from this program will go directly to CitySquare. I am so impressed with what they do, and I am thrilled to have them as one of our charities that we support annually.
The organization’s website touts the fact that it goes after the root cause of hunger, not a quick-fix. It says: “We don’t fight poverty for the poor—we fight poverty with the poor. Our 24-year commitment to addressing the root causes of poverty, both on an individual and systemic level, combined with our unyielding commitment to stewardship (over 92 cents of each dollar goes directly to services for those in need) makes CitySquare a proven leader in our community and beyond.” You can read more about this amazing organization at: http://citysq.org/
I appreciate your attendance and contribution to the bonus program. It will be well worth your time. If you cannot stay, can you contribute? We will take your tax-deductible donations at the registration desk that day.
You can register for this event at: www.firstfridaybooksynopsis.com
“80% of Employees are not Committed to the Mission of their organization” – Holy Mackerel! Let’s talk about Employee Engagement.
(First, my apology. I read the statistic below about employee engagement, but can’t remember where, and failed to save it in my “to blog” filing system, and I can’t remember any specific quote accurately enough to google and find the article. So, I am going to ask you to trust me that I actually did read this in the last few days. I promise that I am telling the truth that I did in fact read this somewhere. And to the author of the study and news item, my apology for not giving you credit).
(from Wikipedia): According to Scarlett Surveys, “Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization which profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work”.
OK – here is the problem. Employees are not very engaged. The number of highly engaged employees is dropping. And there is no shortage of employee engagement efforts, so maybe employee engagement is a deeper issue than an “employee engagement initiative.”
But here is the statistic that gobsmacked me in the last few days when I read it (see above). Current findings reveal that over 80% of employees have practically no level of commitment to fulfilling the mission of their organization.
And that number of “no commitment to the mission of the organization” employees is on the rise. In his 2009 book, Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all Your Employees, Lee Colan quoted that year’s findings from Gallup:
“74% of employees are either indifferent to their work or actively disengaged.”
In other words, the average employee has a job, but not a mission, and certainly not a calling.
Now, this is pretty understandable at this time. With companies closing locations; with the future of so many organizations in such doubt (how would you like to go to work every day at American Airlines at this moment?); with the on-going tendency to cut jobs and then more jobs and then more jobs in company after company; with unemployment at high levels, and people worrying about their personal futures… In other words, there is only so much emotional energy available to invest in one’s life, and with worries like these, there is not much emotional energy left over to invest in fulfilling the mission of the organization.
There are exceptions, of course. There are great organizations that have succeeded. Their people are truly engaged, genuinely committed to fulfilling the mission of the organization. But not many, and even some of these see an ever-shorter life-span with their employee engagement success.
Now, you ask, what should we do about this?
I don’t know.
I don’t know, because I think the decline in employee engagement is part of the overall uncertainly in the economy. And it is also part of the new normal in the career path department. When so few people work for decades within the same organization, it is tough to be truly and thoroughly committed to the success of the mission with such “short-term” stops, moving from one organization to another…
And, overall, the workforce is running scared. The number of unemployed; the number of underemployed; the number of folks who work more than one job… How does a person commit to the mission of one organization when that person runs from job one in one organization to job two in another organization?
It is a genuinely daunting challenge. But, I do have a few suggestions.
#1 – Leaders need to be honest about the health, and the plans, of their organizations. If a company is looking at more layoffs, they need to be upfront about it. And if there are “safe areas,” they need to be upfront about it. Uncertainty, coupled with a lack of transparency (i.e., the act of keeping everything hidden until after the fact), are real employee engagement killers.
#2 – Help all employees know that their work is meaningful, even if only for this month, this year… How does this work make a difference in someone’s life? The answer to that question may provide the greatest sense of fulfillment, thus lead to the greatest level of engagement.
#3 – Do a better job building a successful company. This is a “well, duh” observation, but one I want to stress. If the leaders of a company are not working very, very diligently to build the most successful company they can, then what chance do the “regular employees” have to be part of a thriving organization?
And, so, maybe the single most important decision top leaders can make is this one: do we have the leadership team in place to build an organization that creates high employee engagement? If not, then it’s time for some leadership replacement to happen. Now! If the leaders aren’t sure how to make it work, the employees will certainly not be very engaged…
Go back to that figure: over 80% of employees are not committed to the mission of the organization. That is a serious problem. We’ve got some work to do in a lot of organizations throughout this country.
We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional. (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken)
Quoted by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner — Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others
A suggestion – stop what you are doing and listen to this segment on NPR’s Morning Editon by Frank Deford: When There’s More To Winning Than Winning. (audio, plus transcript, available here). (Frank Deford’s commentaries are consistnegly great treasures).
Here’s how he starts:
When last we left the NCAA, it was February madness, colleges were jumping conferences, suing each other, coaches were claiming rivals had cheated in recruiting — the usual nobility of college sports.
And then, in the midst of all this, the men’s basketball team at Washington College of Chestertown, Md., journeyed to Pennsylvania to play Gettysburg College in a Division III Centennial Conference game.
It was senior night, and the loudest cheers went to Cory Weissman, No. 3, 5 feet 11 inches, a team captain — especially when he walked out onto the court as one of Gettysburg’s starting five.
Yes, he was a captain, but it was, you see, the first start of his college career. Cory had played a few minutes on the varsity as a freshman, never even scoring. But then, after that season, although he was only 18 years old, he suffered a major stroke. He was unable to walk for two weeks. His whole left side was paralyzed. He lost his memory, had seizures.
The story is one that will stop you in your tracks. It is a about a basketball coach, and another basketball coach, and a group of players, who remembered that being human was more important than anything else.
Cory had worked so very hard — to walk, to run, to participate in the pre-game drills. But he was far from being a college-level basketball player after his stroke.
On the last game of his last season, the coach started Cory Weissman. He played just a few moments. But what moments!
And then, at the end of the game, with the game fully decided, the coach put him back in the game. The other team’s coach called time out, and asked his players to intentionally foul Cory to give him a shot, a chance to score a point from the free throw line.
Shot number two: The ball left his hand and flew true – swish, all net.
Deford ended with this:
The assistant vice president for athletics at Gettysburg, David Wright, wrote to Washington College: “Your coach, Rob Nugent, along with his staff and student-athletes, displayed a measure of compassion that I have never witnessed in over 30 years of involvement in intercollegiate athletics.”
Cory Weissman had made a point. Washington College had made an even larger one.
“We lead by being human.” Yes, we do.
This Baffles Me: So Much Emphasis On Innovation, and Leadership – So Little Actual Innovation and Leadership
Consult any of the current works unlocking the mysteries of the leadership and management arts by revealing “7 miracles,” “12 simple secrets,” “13 fatal errors,” “14 powerful techniques,” “21 irrefutable laws,” “30 truths,” “101 biggest mistakes,” and “1001 ways.”
Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World
Bob Morris introduced me to the phrase “The Knowing-Doing Gap.” I think I already grasped the concept, but this named it really well. We “know,” but we do not “do.” The phrase is one that immediately resonates. We get it. Yes, we “know” a lot, but we do not “do” all that we “know” – actually, we “do” so very little of what we “know.”
So, here is my current observation. We read, we “learn” – but we do not do.
This is bothersome to me — worse than bothersome, it is costly. I read books. You might say that I read books for a living. I read books, present synopses of books to companies, organizations. I like my job. I “learn” a lot. But do I “do” what I learn? Not enough – not often enough, and not comprehensively enough. And, I suspect, the same is true for the groups to which I present my synopses. They “learn” the key points from the books. But do they “do” what they “learn?” Not enough, and not comprehensively enough.
We are a nation awash in “learning.” We go to seminars, read books… But we implement nowhere near enough of the ideas that we “learn.”
My wife worked with a number of real estate agents. Some good, some really good – a few, not so close to the “good” end of the scale. But only a couple were really, really good – you know, “exceptional,” truly “above the crowd.”
Here is an observation about these agents. Many of them went to the same seminars and workshops, even bought products from the same real estate marketing and coaching gurus. But only a few (OK – really only one) had a knack for hearing something, and then actually doing – actually acting on what she “learned.”
Here are two areas where this problem is especially seen: leadership, and innovation. The quote above, from the book Heroic Leadership, has just lingered with me. Chris Lowney described how there has been so very much written about leaderhip, and yet, as he observed, no one would claim that the United States, either in the business or the political arena, has a surplus of good leaders. In fact, it is the opposite. Great leadership is way too rare. We have lots and lots of books and speeches and workshops on leadership. But not that many great leaders.
And the same is true in the innovation area. Consider this brief video on Slate.com. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg interviewed Nathan Myhrvold: Where Have All the Crazy Inventors Gone? — Tech visionary Nathan Myhrvold on why American innovation is lagging. Here’s the intro to the interview:
America has always been known for its spirit of invention, but that spirit seems to be flagging. Nathan Myhrvold, the onetime CTO of Microsoft and founder of Intellectual Ventures, handicaps the state of innovation in a sprawling interview he recently gave to Slate’s Jacob Weisberg.
In the interview, Myhrvold described how there used to be more “Crazy individual risk-taking…”
I have presented many, many synopses of books that deal with innovation. We write about innovation, we study innovation, we talk about innovation, we applaud innovation. And, yet, our “spirit of innovation seems to be flagging.” How is that possible — with so much attention given to it?
I think this. Closing this “knowng-doing gap” may be the biggest challenge we face.
A side note, maybe illustrative of this problem. Take a life inventory. Do you have a challenge or two that you have known about for a long time (years – decades?) that you just can’t quite meet. You know, things like your weight, or the need to exercise, or your tendency to be to abrupt with people. I suspect, if you are like me, you have your very own, very personal “knowing-doing” gap.
Well, I am not what you called the organized type. I have fought (ok – at times, simply ignored) clutter, and lack of personal organization, for years – make that decades. I said to my wife just yesterday that my goal is to be organized by the time I turn 65. (that’s not too terribly far away). She has bemoaned my “knowing-doing” gap in this arena for a very long time.
Well, I ran across an e-book that is giving me a new set of tools for this challenge. I read it to learn – not to present. I need help! Ask me in six months, and I‘ll let you know if it has helped any.
Here’s what struck me about this book – it is all about “do this.” Not much “this is why.” Or, “this is the philosophy behind this.” Just, “do this.” It is not as “good” a book as other time management books that I’ve read. (He does refer to David Allen more than once). But he skips giving much explanation, and just says “do this.” The book, 30 Days to a More Organized Life, is by C G P Grey (Colin Grey). I think it might be a collection of blog posts. It has 30 chapters. Here are some of the chapter titles:
Day 1: Get a Notebook and Pen.
Day 6: Scan Everything
Day 9: The Rule of Two
Not much explanation. No beating around the bush. Just “do this.” Each chapter tells you something to “do.” I already “knew” practically all of this, but I did not “do” much of it. I’m “doing” some of these. And, it might be helping.
I suspect you have a few “knowing-doing gap” challenges of your own. Let’s all get to the “doing” part. It might be good for us all.
You know the drill. We answer this question: “what are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?” And, in one way or another, people always answer “family,” – or, at least, the people who are “like family.” I share that sentiment. I am so very grateful for my family.
But this year, I add Dwight Eisenhower to my list. Because he made sure that this nation has a true, comprehensive, highway system – what we call the “Interstate Highway System,” but is actually named “The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” It was his experience in Germany at the end of the Second World War that taught him the value of such a system, so it was a classic “I see it, I get it, let’s copy/adapt it, now let’s implement it” leadership initiative.
It was a costly project, and took 35 years to complete (and it is still being repaired, expanded)… We forget just how big a role this played in the expansion and mobility of our nation. When we lived in California, we made the drive back to Texas quite a few times, and our family drove to see us a number of times. The Interstate Highway System absolutely made that more possible.
So, why I am so grateful for this on this Thanksgiving weekend? Because, after Thanksgiving dinner today with part of our family, we will drive on one of these highways to see the rest of our family on this Thanksgiving weekend. We leave for San Antonio to see our son, his wife, and their daughter (our granddaughter), and hopefully our drive will go smoothly, pretty quickly (they’ve even raised the speed limit on portions of the drive), giving us more time to spend with our family.
We really should remember the decisions made and the money and the hard work invested earlier in our lifetimes (or even before our lives began), that make so much possible in our lives today. These were great gifts to generations to come. And we are grateful.
I think the money and the effort were worth it — don’t you?
And, I wonder, what costly, bold decisions are we making today that will serve the generations to come?
How and why the HR function has become so much more important than many (most?) C-level executives now realize
The reference to “HR function” refers to anyone and anything involved in the process of developing people as a valuable asset. Apparently many (if not most) C-level executives in many (if not most) organizations still don’t “get it” because, as recent and vast research by firms such as Gallup and TowersWatson clearly indicates, fewer than 30% (on average) of employees in a U.S. workplace are positively and productively engaged. As for the other more than 70%, they are either mailing it in or doing whatever they can to undermine their organization’s best interests. Is it any wonder, then, that many (if not most) of these companies also have serious problems attracting and then retaining the people they need
Fortunately, several excellent books have been recently published that can offer specific information, insights, and advice that can help C-level executives to respond effectively to these and other HR disfunctions. Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd co-authored The 2020 Workplace and it is one of the best. More about that book in a moment. First, however, I want to discuss, briefly a key insight that Fred Reichheld offers in his last two books. The “ultimate question” to which their title refers is “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?” As Reichheld explains, the phrasing of that question is “a shorthand wording of a more basic question, which is, Have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty?”
Rephrase that ultimate question and you have another of great importance: “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend working for our company to a family member, friend or colleague?” The shorthand wording of a more basic question would be, “Have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty?” Although Meister and Willyerd focus on ten forces shaping the future workplace during the next ten years, presumably they agree with me if business leaders do not “attract, develop, and keep tomorrow’s employees today,” their company won’t have a workforce to manage in 2020.
Amidst the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that Meister and Willyerd provide in abundance, I was especially appreciative of these:
o A “Summary” section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-7
o “Ten Forces Shaping the Future Workplace Now”
o Brief but insightful introductions to five generations (i.e. Traditionalists, Boomers, X, Millennials, and 2020)
o “Principles of 2020 Engagement”
o “The [Five] Stages of Über-Connection”
o “The Social Learning Ecosystem”
o “The 2020 Leader”
o “Twenty Predictions for the 2020 Workplace”
I commend Meister and Willyerd on their provision and discussion of dozens of exemplar organizations (e.g. Cisco Systems, GE, Zappos, Burson-Marsteller, Pricewaterhouse Coopers re accelerated leadership development); hundreds of real-world situations that create a context and frame of reference for the explanation of core concepts, principles, and values; and the aforementioned “Summary” sections that conclude the first seven chapters.
The ten forces they discuss are now driving the changes already underway that will redefine the workplace less than a decade from now, a workplace that will itself require redefined leadership, followership, and relationships between and among everyone involved.
Nearly everything I read has something to say about leadership. In one way or another, authors tell us: “this is what a leaders does; this is what a leader needs to do; this is what a leader should focus on.”
In the book I presented last Friday at our monthly event, the First Friday Book Synopsis, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, we learned that “developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of a leader…”
I don’t disagree with that, or most of the other things I read about leadership. The fact is that leadership is an all-encompassing, incredibly important role. Good leaders can create good and successful companies and organizations. Bad leaders can lead to genuine problems, even the destruction or disintegration of a company or organization. Many stories of each are everywhere available.
But I think there is one “this is the main task of leadership” consideration that trumps them all. It is the task of a leader to attract followers. Because, if there are no followers, there is no leader. Leadership is not a “title,” it is a fact. And followership may be the single biggest signal of successful leadership.
In the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright focus on the “tribal” metaphor for companies and organizations.
It’s as though our tribe is part of our genetic code. Birds flock, fish school, people “tribe.”
In a tribe, leadership is truly critical. And as they describe successful tribal leadership, they give this short, simple assertion:
Tribal Leaders are talent magnets, with people so eager to work for the leader that they will take a pay cut if necessary.
People have a need for good leaders; people need to follow good leaders. Tribal leaders attract followers — followers practically fight to get “under the leadership” of a good tribal leader.
The book proposes five stages of tribal leadership (from the book):
“Life is Great”
“We’re Great (and they’re not)”
“I’m Great (and you’re not)”
“My life sucks”
In this list, the goal for the tribal leader is to aim for stage 5, and help each tribe member move up the stages together. Yes, to “move up together – to “follow the leader.”
The leader says, “this is where we are going – together. Now, let’s go.” Building followership to take that journey together is the test of, the proof of, genuine leadership.
The Texas Rangers just won their division, and are preparing for the playoffs. (Go, Rangers!). They also just set a season attendance record for the franchise.
So, a lot of good things are going on with the Rangers. A key reason is the leadership of Nolan Ryan. On Fox Sports Southwest broadcasts of the Rangers’ games, a regular feature is Ryan being interviewed from his seat in the stands during an inning of the game. His insights are valuable, and honest.
But in this article, Nolan Ryan eyeing Rangers single-season attendance record, here is one hint about him and his leadership that speaks volumes:
Ryan and his wife, Ruth, make it a point to sit outside, next to the Rangers dugout, to experience the same conditions as everyday fans.
Ryan thinks the Rangers would have had many more fans if we had not had the hottest summer on record. (Maybe an additional 150,000 – “This heat wave we’ve had this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if it affected our attendance by 150,000 folks, and those are real numbers”). But the heat did not change his decision – he sat with the fans, not in a luxury box that was air conditioned and more comfortable.
It really is Leadership 101. What a leader does speaks at least as loud as what a leader says.
How to achieve and then sustain both outstanding leadership and management throughout the given enterprise
Scott Keller and Colin Price acknowledge that although there is a “multitude” of books about business leadership and management already in print (actually, Amazon now offers 16,075 titles), they believe that “no other work offers what we are trying to provide. Our approach combines two views. The first view is of a ‘stable equilibrium’ state of organizational excellence in which high performance can be sustained; the second is of the dynamics of the transition required to reach that state…by combining static and dynamic views of organizations, we aim to arrive at a fuller understanding of their fundamental nature. To that end, we aim to shift the ‘installed base’ of management thinking’…Our central message is focusing on organizational health – which we define as the ability of your organization to align, execute, and renew itself faster that your competitors can – is just important as focusing on the traditional drivers of business performance.”
With all that clarified up front, Keller and Price then carefully guide their reader through a five-stage process (appropriately identified as the “5 As”) for developing capabilities beyond their current potentialities for performance in order to achieve and then sustain “ultimate competitive advantage.” Frankly, I am astonished by the fact that so many C-level executives still do not fully understand that their organization’s #1 competitor tomorrow will be what it offers today. Today’s performance is measured in terms of specific results. By nature, results occur at the conclusion of a process of effort. The challenge is to become so “healthy” as an organization that the capabilities are there to align, execute, and renew faster than the competition so that the organization can sustain exceptional performance over time.
Kelly and Price identify and then discuss what they characterize as the “Nine Elements of Organizational Health.” Let’s take a brief look at the first five practices that underpin organizational health:
1. Direction: Shared vision, strategic clarity, and employee involvement/engagement
Question: What is the ultimate destination
2. Leadership: Authoritative, consultative, supportive, and challenging
Question: Who will take us there?
3. Culture and climate: Open and trusting, internally competitive, operationally disciplined, and creative and entrepreneurial
Question: Do we really believe in the power of first-person plural pronouns?
4. Accountability: Role clarity, performance contracts, consequence management, and personal ownership
Question: Do we have almost total buy-in on who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why?
5. Coordination and control: People performance review, operational management, and financial management
Question: Do we do what is most important, constantly improve what we do, and measure it?
The other four elements are Capabilities, Motivation, External Orientation, and Innovation and learning. Kelly and Price rigorously examine within five frames (i.e. the “5): Aspire (“Where do we want to go?”), Assess, (“How ready are we to go there?”), Architect (“What do we need to do to get there?”), Act (“How do we manage the journey?), and Advance (“”How do we keep moving forward?”). In Part II, Kelly and Price devote a separate chapter to each and then in Part III, help their reader to pull it all together. More specifically, they examine the senior leader’s role, how the five separate but interconnected frames can help to make an organization even “healthier,” and finally, what which specific challenges their reader will probably encounter and how the information, insights, and counsel in the book can help the reader to respond effectively to those challenges.
Some readers will accept Kelly and Price’s challenge, others won’t. Some will then succeed, others won’t. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to failure in business is paved with “nice tries.” I agree with the Jedi Master, Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”