In this edition, the last of the year, we choose our favourite news items; those that we found the most insightful, useful and/or informative. We hope you do as well. May we wish you a wonderfully peaceful, prosperous and highly engaging 2015. See you next year.

With such a huge amount of ‘stuff’ written each week about our favourite subjects and having already gone through them and selected only those we think are likely to be of most use and value, it’s never going to be easy to choose our absolute faves. Nevertheless we have done. And here they are;

4 Ways Leaders Effectively Manage Employee Conflict – 28th November

Glenn Llopis describes how leaders can deal with conflict rathern than allowing it to fester and let the workplace become a toxic environment. Managing conflict can be a tricky thing – especially when you are not familiar with the larger ecosystem in which the particular individual or department creating the conflict operates.The workplace is fuelled with so many concurrent agendas that you never know which ones may be affected when you resolve conflict solely to benefit and advance your own.

1. Right Timing

People often create unnecessary conflict. Leaders who avoid conflict at all cost will find themselves regretting it later. Timing is everything when it comes to managing conflict, and the best time to take action is when there is hard evidence/proof that an employee has a track record of wrongdoing that is negatively impacting the performance of others.

If everyone around you knows it must be dealt with and you are still waiting to act, you are losing the respect of your peers and those you lead. Leadership is about taking action and confronting the issues before it’s too late.

2. Know Your Boundaries

Conflict can become something much more complicated and unmanageable if you don’t know the limitations and boundaries of your employees. Everyone deals with conflict differently, so you must know the risks and rewards of conflict resolution within the boundaries of each of your employees.

Help others know when they tend to cross the line through careful observation; identify behavioral tendencies that seem to trigger certain attitudes, provoke mindset shifts, or demonstrate a lack of self-awareness.

Leaders who actively engage in coaching and learning about those on his/her team will find themselves dealing with much less conflict. The new workplace represents a growing diversity in the types of people that we lead; you must get to know who they are if you want to understand how they will influence the ecosystem you are trying to create.

3. Respect Differences

Rather than impose your influence, hierarchy or rank – respect the unique differences in people and learn to see things from differing points of view so you can better understand how to avoid conflict in the future. Conflict resolution is rarely black and white. In fact, there are more and more grey areas these days as the workplace becomes more generationally and culturally diverse than ever before.

Common sense tells us that we are most comfortable dealing with those we trust and naturally gravitate towards. As leaders, we must see that each employee represents a unique opportunity for professional growth and development. Let’s face it, business is all about people intelligence, and until we accept this fact, we will continue to unknowingly create tension with those employees we are not comfortable with – and undervalue their contributions in the process.

4. Confront the Tension

Leadership is often about doing the things that most other people don’t like doing. Conflict resolution is one of those things – but as leaders we must confront the tension head-on. Don’t wait, but rather activate your leadership to address the conflict before circumstances force your hand.

Conflict can yield an emotional state of mind that makes it more difficult to manage it. As such, we must confront rather than allow it to fester because we failed to address the adversity when it first became apparent. Adversity is very big when it is all you can see. But it is very small when in the presence of all else that surrounds you.

Leadership is about anticipating the unexpected. Don’t complicate matters. Trust yourself enough to take action.

Conflict resolution is about seeing opportunities that others don’t see.When dealing with conflict resolution through a lens of opportunity, conflict can be a healthy enabler of growth for your business –and professional growth for all of the people involved.

The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss – 24th November

Is it better to be a “nice” leader to get your staff to like you? Or to be tough as nails to inspire respect and hard work? Asks Emma Seppälä.

New developments in organizational research are providing answers that suggest “nice” is more effective than “tough”.

“Tough” managers who put pressure on employees increase their stress — and research has shown that high levels of stress carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.

  • Health care expenditures for employees with high levels of stress were 46 percent greater than at similar organizations without high levels of stress.
  • Workplace stress has been linked to coronary heart disease in both retrospective (observing past patterns) and prospective (predicting future patterns) studies.
  • Workplace stress can lead employees to look for a new job, decline a promotion, or leave a job.

Is it any better with “nice” managers? Do their employees fare better — and do kind bosses get ahead?

An interesting study shows that when leaders are fair to the members of their team, the team members display more citizenship behavior and are more productive, both individually and as a team.

Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and committed and are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees.

Research on “paying it forward” shows that when you work with people who help you, in turn you will be more likely to help others (and not necessarily just those who helped you).

Such a culture can even help mitigate stress. While our brains are attuned to threats (whether the threat is a raging lion or a raging boss), our brain’s stress reactivity is significantly reduced when we observe kind behaviour.

A study out of the Karolinska Institute conducted on over 3,000 employees found that a leader’s qualities were associated with incidence of heart disease in their employees. A good boss may literally be good for the heart.

A large healthcare study showed that a kind culture at work not only improved employee well-being and productivity but also improved client health outcomes and satisfaction.

Taken together, this body of research shows that creating a leadership model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a culture that is happier, in which employees help each other, and (as a consequence) become more productive in the long run. No wonder their nice bosses get promoted.

But what constitutes a compassionate leadership style and workplace exactly?

That is a trickier question to answer. Many companies try to offer well-being “perks” such as the ability to work from home or receive extra benefits.

A Gallup poll showed that, even when the workplace offered benefits such as flextime and work-from-home opportunities, engagement predicted well-being above and beyond anything else.

And most of the research suggests that a compassionate workplace fosters engagement not so much through material goods as through the qualities of the organizations’ leaders, such as a sincere commitment to values and ethics, genuine interpersonal kindness, and self-sacrifice.

[Editor’s comment – an opportunity to suggest you look at how we think you can go about achieving this – the extraMILETM]

CIPD 2014: UK plc must embrace ‘transformational’ employee engagement – 6th November

UK businesses must embrace ‘transformational’ employee engagement or risk not being able to compete globally, according to Engage for Success duo David MacLeod and Nita Clarke.

MacLeod and Clarke, who co-founded the Engage for Success movement, were speaking at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester. They were talking about the difference between ‘transactional’ employee engagement, usually focused around a survey, and ‘transformational’ engagement, where leaders believe staff are integral to developing and delivering business strategy.

“This is no longer a nice to do anymore,” said Clarke. “Without increasing levels of engagement, how are you going to deal with what is coming down the line for your organisation?”

Clarke and MacLeod referenced several “megatrends” that UK businesses can’t afford to ignore, such as increased competition from Asian markets, demographic pressures such as ageing population escalating the ‘war for talent’ and the rise of data and technological advances.

“This is a real wake-up call,” said Clarke. “We can’t keep on doing what we’ve always done as the world is coming to get us. Unless people can adapt and change, it’s going to be extremely difficult. People aren’t your best asset; they are your only asset.”

She added that advances in neuroscience proving the ineffectiveness of command and control management mean “there is no excuse” for companies to rely on outdated management systems any longer.

To cope in this new world, Clarke and MacLeod called on companies to rethink how they see engagement, moving from transactional to transformational. This includes ensuring they have a strong strategic narrative around purpose and focusing on “organisation integrity”, where values are reflected in behaviours.

“You can do things transactionally and get a bit of a result, or do things transformationally and really move the dial,” said MacLeod.

He added that due to increasing transparency via tools such as Glassdoor, where employees anonymously rate their companies, organisations will soon have nowhere to hide. This puts a lot of pressure on HR.

“When a CEO is questioned by the press or the City about bad quotes from employees on Glassdoor, guess who that CEO is going to come and see first? [HR],” he said. “How do we cope with that transparency? We have this fantastic opportunity to help organisations understand this stuff and improve it.”

7 Ways to Unlock Your Company’s Creative Juices – 6th October

Maite Baron says that most businesses view creativity with suspicion, because it speaks of the unknown and unpredictable and conjures up the prospect of employees not doing what needs to be done.

Because of such fears, when companies do allow creativity through their doors, they do it grudgingly and confine it to certain areas, like marketing. Even then, strict “creative guidelines” have to be followed and once decisions are made, creativity is packed away.

But does this constraining approach to creativity sit comfortably in an entrepreneurial world that’s changing faster than ever? The answer is no. If entrepreneurial companies are to thrive, then creativity has to become a major component of their DNA.

She lists the seven mindset shifts needed to bring creativity to the forefront of your enterprise;

  1. Welcome crazy ideas. As a leader, embrace creativity like a long lost friend and welcome it into your organization with open arms.
  2. Awaken the creative genius within. Creativity is inside all of us, just waiting to be discovered or reignited, so start looking for ways to bring it out.
  3. Realize that there are a thousand paths to creativity. Recognize that creativity takes many different forms. It doesn’t just mean coming up with razzle-dazzle advertising slogans or a new product idea. Creativity can be applied to anything and every aspect of your business can benefit.
  4. Use art as a catalyst. Art forces us to think differently, so looking at paintings, photographs and sculptures are all great ways to help release your and others inner creative potential.
  5. Shut out the noise. The word noise comes from the Latin word ‘nausea’, which seems very fitting these days, as we’re inundated with so much information. Try “practicing silence” daily, and you will soon see your own creativity flourish.
  6. Question your old ideas. To move forward it’s often necessary to let go of the past. This can entail readjusting your thinking and “unlearning” your familiar ways of doing things.
  7. Keep away from the ordinary. Exposure to mediocrity and dullness will kill your creativity. So rather than looking for approval from others by doing what they do, be willing to tread your own path. You need to trust your own instincts if you want to thrive. Make taking courageous choices a daily goal.

5 Ways to Work from Home More Effectively – 2nd October

As more people are foregoing a lengthy commute and working from home, Carolyn O’Hara asks whether you are a full-time freelancer or occasional telecommuter? Working outside an office can be a challenge, so what are the best ways to set yourself up for success? How do you stay focused and productive? And how do you keep your work life separate from your home life?

O’Hara identifies the following five ways to get the best from working at home;

Maintain a regular schedule – Setting a schedule not only provides structure to the day, it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day as you would if you worked in an office: Get up early, get dressed, and try to avoid online distractions once you sit down to work. Whether you just started working at home or you’ve been doing it for months or years, take a few weeks to determine the best rhythm for your day. Then set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish on a daily basis.

Set clear boundaries – When you work at home, it’s easy to let your work life blur into your home life. To avoid this there are several things you can do. One way is to set aside a separate space in your home for work. Make sure your friends and loved ones understand that even though you are at home, you are off limits during your scheduled work hours.
And don’t worry about stopping for the day if you’re on a roll with a project. Pausing in the middle of something will make it easier to jump into the task the next day — a tip that is valid for everyone, but especially those working from home.

Take regular breaks – It may be tempting to work flat out, especially if you’re trying to prove that you’re productive at home. But it’s vital to “take regular ‘brain breaks,’” says Hallowell. How often is best? Researchers at a social media company recently tracked the habits of their most productive employees. They discovered that the best workers typically worked intently for around 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute break.

Stay connected – Prolonged isolation can lead to weakened productivity and motivation. So if you don’t have a job that requires face-time with others on a daily basis, you need to put in the extra effort to stay connected. Make a point of scheduling regular coffees and meetings with colleagues, clients, and work peers. Get involved with professional organizations. And use online networking sites like LinkedIn to maintain connections with far-flung contacts.

Celebrate your wins – When you’re working on your own at home, staying motivated can be difficult, especially when distractions — Facebook, that pile of laundry, the closet that needs organizing — abound. One smart way to maintain momentum is to spend a moment or two acknowledging what you have been able to accomplish that day, rather than fixating on what you still need to do.

Most People Don’t Want to Be Managers – 18th September

Most American workers aren’t interested in becoming managers. At least, that’s what a new CareerBuilder survey seems to suggest. Of the thousands surveyed, only about one-third of workers (34%) said they aspire to leadership positions and just 7% strive for C-level management (the rest said they aspire to middle-management or department-head roles). Broken down further, the results show that more men (40%) hope to have a leadership role than women (29%), and that African Americans (39%) and LGBT workers (44%) are more likely to want to climb the corporate ladder than the national average.

Past research shows this sentiment is nothing new. Many people don’t want their boss’s job – for reasons that range from generational differences to being happy in their current positions to concerns about responsibility and work-life balance.

And even without these issues, leading others is – and has always been – just really, really hard. Managers have the inherently alienating task of balancing conflicting interests of the worker and the corporation, as a young Warren Bennis summed up in 1961. So it’s no wonder there are more people who dislike being in charge than people who like it.

When survey respondents were asked why they weren’t eyeing managerial roles, the majority (52%) said they were satisfied in their current roles, and a third (34%) said they didn’t want to sacrifice work-life balance. About one-fifth said they didn’t have the necessary degree or skills. (People were able to choose more than one.)

This is hardly a comprehensive list, but companies should pay close attention to how many people back away from leadership due to fears of forfeited work-life balance. An inadequate work-life culture not only affects your competitiveness, performance, and employee retention and engagement, it can also shrink your talent pipeline.

The survey also found that one in five workers felt that his or her organization had a glass ceiling barring women and minorities from advancing. And when only looking at those who do want those top jobs one day, it became nearly one in four – and the percentage was even higher among women (33%), Hispanics (34%), African Americans (50%), and workers with disabilities (59%).

What’s Your Word for Your Attitude about Your Work? – 22nd July

Derek Irvine, SVP Global Strategy at Globoforce asks:

“If I asked you to describe your attitude towards your work in one word, what would it be?”

He explains that whilst English and Danish share common roots, there is a particular word in Danish that has no English equivalent: arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” This word also exists in the other Nordic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) but is not in common use in any other language on the planet.

Interestingly, the Japanese instead have karoshi, which means “Death from overwork”! But Danes expect to enjoy themselves at work, so it’s no surprise they have a word to describe that choice.

Irvine continues “I like the word arbejdsglaede because of its breadth. I like to think of it as encompassing the sense of my own fulfilment at work as well as my decision to also help others find happiness at work.”

What would the English word be? Is it engagement? Perhaps, as that implies both the decision to involve oneself more deeply as well as the company’s decision to provide an environment and work that’s worth engaging in.

What’s your word?

Business Mojo: 4 Ways to get More Mojo into Your Company Culture – 22 July

Ariana Ayu, a columnist for inc.com, claims every company needs a business mojo – a company’s internal magic that creates external success.  As an individual, mojo makes you magnetic, attracting people to you who want what you offer. As a business, mojo does the same; attracting talent as well as customers.

It is a direct by-product of a company’s culture, and developing, nurturing, and maintaining your company’s mojo is an ongoing process.  She offers 4 things here to increase mojo in your business and a link to her background thinking;

1. Establish your company’s core values. You need to know what’s most important in your business when you start. If you don’t know, gather your employees, your executive team, and your managers and start working on that. If your core values are old or neglected, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

2. Specify the behaviours your company associates with your core values. Knowing your values is one thing, putting them into practice is another. When you identify specific behaviours that are expected or unacceptable, you make an abstract value concrete. Then, when you’ve established this behavioural framework, empower your team to make it even better. Honour their diverse skills and insights by encouraging them to actively participate in quality improvement. Engage them in the company’s mission and make sure that they understand their role in that mission’s success. Great employees believe in what they’re doing and can often provide ideas to help take your business to the next level.

3. Openly address complaints, problems, and workplace conflicts. Mojo isn’t about perfection–far from it! Mojo grows out of honest assessment and playfully creative problem solving.  When you allow your team to discuss their concerns internally without fear of punishment, they’re much less likely to broadcast them to the world, take their frustration out on your customers, or leave you for a “better” job.

4. Identify and nurture your company’s “IT” factor. What is it that makes your company special? Why do people like working there? Why do your customers love you? Your Business Mojo is more than a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)–it’s your company’s internal magic.

When your team knows what is expected of them, feels valued and appreciated, believes in the company mission, and is empowered to help it grow, your customers will be very well taken care of.

(Editors comment. Core values are one of the elements in our extraMILE engagement model.  Time spent in defining or updating your values always pays dividends)

If you tolerate this… 30th June

I came across this interesting blog post by Gemma Reucroft this week, in which she considers how “broken window theory” can apply to people in organisations, as well as the environment. Although not explicitly stated, there are clear consequences for employee engagement when “broken windows” are not repaired.

In essence, broken window theory says that if an empty building has a few broken windows and no one comes along to repair them, then you may well find that along come the vandals to break some more of the windows. And if still no one comes along to repair them, the damage will spiral quickly. More broken windows. Maybe a break in, maybe theft from what remains, maybe squatters will turn up and move in. The answer, according to the theory, is to fix problems when they are small.

Whilst broken window theory is from the world of criminology, Reucroft argues that the same principle can apply to people in organisations: How the leaders behave. The way that people talk to each other. The exercise of power. What gets valued. What gets done. What gets rewarded, or punished. The rules that are enforced, or ignored. The language that is used. The little organisational (bad) habits.

She describes these as “windows of, to, within your culture” and points out that sometimes, corporate vandalism occurs. The point? “When small problems arise, with the way people lead, talk, behave, do, then we need to address them. Fix the broken window and fix it fast. Because if you don’t, before you know it the problem has escalated beyond your control.”

Five Factors that make a Great Boss – 16th June

The best bosses are the ones who can turn a good organization into a great company. They are the individuals who consistently push their employees to become better, more engaged and enable them to adapt to oncoming changes in the corporate landscape.

Instead of suppressing employees, top-tier bosses encourage smart ideas, open conversation and creativity. They reward the employees who deserve recognition instead of promoting those who simply agree with them.

Regardless of industry or size of company, studies have showed that the best bosses share common traits that lead to consistent success. Below, you’ll find 5 of them.

  1. An understanding of how to build confidence among employees. First-rate bosses don’t allow their subordinates to blame circumstances or environment for their failures. They maintain an energy that is optimistic and focus on possibilities rather than problems.
  2. Fanatic disciple.  The best bosses set high, but attainable performance benchmarks for the employees at the company as well as themselves. Relentlessly, they pursue these achievements regardless of whether they must work around the clock to meet those goals.
  3. Consistency. The most effective bosses are the ones who don’t get sidetracked by chasing the “next big thing.” Instead, they make firm decisions as to the course of the organization and, thus are able to define clear roles and tasks that the employees must engage in.
  4. Strength. The best bosses project strength and have the ability to get things done. Their employees look to them for advice because they possess the expertise and character that it takes to succeed.
  5. Strong loyalty to the company and those within the organization. The best bosses are the ones who are concerned less for their own personal greatness and put the company’s needs first.

In the End: When you work for a manager who is a top-tier boss, you are rewarded for performance rather than favoritism. You grow both personally and professionally while working under them. They give your position a sense of meaning and your job becomes less of a job and more of a passion.

Read more here.

Sparking Employee Engagement With Humble Inquiry – 5th June 2014

Edgar Schein’s latest book is Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling. In his review, David Zinger explains that because the world of work has become increasingly complex, interdependent and culturally diverse, managers need to rely more on asking than telling; the clear implication is that this will increase employee engagement.

Schein defines humble inquiry as: “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions in which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”  He asks managers and leaders to make themselves more vulnerable, humble, and willing to acknowledge their own ignorance – which may be a big ask for some managers in some corporate cultures.

Schein gives us a blueprint to transform tell — leading to compliance, into ask — leading to co-created action.  Zinger concludes his review: What’s the last good and humble question you asked at work?  And what is the next question you need to ask?

Creating a Culture of employee Engagement – 16th May 2014

Steve Earley is CEO of Cross Company, a 100% employee owned sales and  engineering company with 200 employees turning over $100M.  In his regular blog he describes how he has created an employee engagement culture.

At the heart of his business is a strong and passionately held set of core values lived out dally by everyone at the company.  Steve regularly updates staff with progress and results and always ties that into the company vision.  People want to follow a leader, but they also want to know where they are going, he says.  His other top tips include;

  • Build Trust
  • Communicate frequently
  • Ask employees for advice
  • Admit mistakes
  • Get to know people individually
  • Empower people
  • Celebrate success
  • Reward good performance

Steve reckons this engagement culture is at the heart of the company’s success. This message is summed up succinctly by founder Bill Cross who said “Hire good people, trust them and get out of their way.”

The Top 8 Reasons Your Best People Are About To Quit — And How You Can Keep Them – 11th May

More Americans are quitting their jobs today than at any point in the past 4 years according to this article, despite a struggling economy.  If you’re a boss, the biggest reasons might start with you.  Very illuminating explanations…

  • You’ve overloaded your best people with too many responsibilities
  • You’re a micro-manager
  • You’re never around
  • You’re not in touch with how some of your hires or promotions are driving your best people nuts
  • You’ve never given your people a sense of where they can go in their careers
  • You run terrible meetings
  • You communicate that you care more about yourself than the team
  •  You’ve never given them the big picture vision of where your group is heading or you are constantly changing the big picture

Employee Engagement Levels are Rising

The good news, from the 2104 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Survey from Aon Hewitt is that employee engagement levels are still rising; going up 1% from 2012.

In addition “Aon Hewitt’s study found that high-performing companies (known as Best Employers) drive better business outcomes. Marked by strong leadership, reputation, performance orientation and employee engagement, these companies outperform average companies on sales growth (+6 points), operating margin (+4 points) and total shareholder return (+6 points). They even outperform those companies with high employee engagement alone.”

This study adds yet more data to support the view that employee engagement is linked to organisational performance and provides insights into the key factors required to create an environment in which employees can become more engaged.

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About Emenex

We help you keep your great people great.

Emenex enables organisations to get the best from and for their staff. Leaders approach us when they have challenges associated with motivation, productivity, retention, talent management and succession planning. They know that addressing these critical issues can deliver higher levels of profit, productivity and customer satisfaction. They also know that a more progressive solution is required – one that enhances their brand with customers and staff alike. The solution our clients are choosing to implement is the extraMILETM approach to engagement and development. The extraMILETM delivers all the tools and skills leaders need to clearly define and communicate organisational priorities to employees. For employees, it ensures they are prepared and able to align their personal and career goals to the priorities of the organisation. The continued growth and development of both teams and individuals builds loyalty, commitment and engagement. It builds an organisation better able to meet future challenges and leads to higher performance and customer satisfaction.

The result? Individuals and their organisation excel. Get in touch to find out more.

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