Each week we scour the web to find you the most informative, inspirational, and insightful articles about Employee Engagement, Motivation, Leadership, Followership, Strategy and Culture.  Then we turn them into bite-size chunks, so you get the essentials without any fluff. Here are this week’s must reads;

Curious About A Company’s Culture? 6 Questions To Ask In An Interview – 11th June

[Ed’s comment – this is from earlier in the year, but I thought it was sufficiently relevant to include this week. And whilst directed at helping candidates at interviews, the question are timeless and to be asked by us all]

Meghan Rabbitt suggests that asking the following six subtle questions will help you get under the skin of the organisational culture;

  1. What’s the difference between a good employee in this role and a fantastic one?
  2. What’s the process for on-boarding employees, and how do you handle beginner mistakes?
  3. What are some ways the company focuses on team development?
  4. What do you love about working here—and what do you dislike?
  5. What would your employees say are the top three reasons they love working for you?
  6. How does this position support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

10 Indispensable Leadership Models – 11th November

Dan McCarthy lists the 10 models of leadership that he has found to be most useful and that have shifted his thinking about leadership over the years.

  1. Situational Leadership. Developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, it’s a timeless classic. It’s all about adapting your leadership style to the developmental needs, or “maturity level”, of your employees. It’s easy to understand and can be used on a daily basis.
  2. Servant Leadership. A philosophy and practice of leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf. The underlying premise here is that it’s less about you as a leader and all about taking care of those around you. It’s a noble and honorable way to lead and conduct your life.
  3. Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid. OK, so it’s really more of a management model, but it’s another timeless classic. Explained by a nice, simple 2×2 grid, it’s all about balancing your concern for people and your concerns for getting things done (tasks). You gotta love those 4×4 grids!
  4. Emotional Intelligence. While Daniel Goleman’s book popularized EQ, his HBR article “What Makes a Leader?” does a great job explaining why the “soft stuff” is so essential to be an effective leader.
  5. Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. K&P do a nice job breaking leadership down into five practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.
  6. Jim’s Collin’s Level Five Leadership. First published in a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, and then in the book, “From Good to Great”, Collin’s leadership model describes kind of a hierarchy of leadership capabilities, with level 5 being a mix of humility and will.
  7. The Diamond Model of Leadership. Although not as widely known as Collin’s Level Five model, Jim Clawson actually wrote the book Level Three Leadership two years earlier than the Collin’s HBR article. Jim introduced the Diamond Model, which describes four elements of leadership: yourself, others, task, and organization.
  8. Six Leadership Passages. Charan, Drotter, and Noel did a nice job explaining six key developmental passages a leader can advance through in their book The Leadership Pipeline, along with the skills required to be successful for each passage.
  9. Authentic Leadership. Instead of trying to find and copy the prefect set of leadership characteristics, George argues that you’re better off figuring out who you are and what’s important to you, and leading in a way that’s true to yourself.
  10. The GROW model. Widely attributed to Sir John Whitmore (although it’s not certain who really came up with it), GROW stands for goal, reality, obstacles, options, and way, will, or what’s next, depending on which version you use. It’s really more of a coaching model than a leadership model. However, it’s an essential tool for leaders.

How to stop the brain drain in your company – 10th November

As companies slowly move into growth, a worrying employment trend has set in. Businesses up and down the country are haemorrhaging their top talent as the most ambitious, motivated and able employees seek opportunities elsewhere.

During the economic downturn, staff who would have moved up the career ladder – had the economy been more buoyant – have stayed put, feeling safe that they’ve survived round upon round of redundancies.

Now many are feeling frustrated that their careers have stagnated and that their salaries are not keeping pace with the cost of living.

In all organisations staff turnover is a good thing. A fresh influx of new faces helps to drive new ideas, ways of doing things, and a fresh energy through the workplace. However, a drain on your resources of the most talented players is a real step-backwards for any company.

What can be done?

Writing in HR Review, Gary Cattermole offers these suggestions – the article in full is here. More briefly he suggests:

  1. Of who your top employees, who is most at risk of moving and why? Who do you want to retain and how will you achieve it? Work with middle and senior management to identify those top players that are crucial to your business’s success. Find out what really makes them tick and develop a plan for their future.
  2. The best way to understand your employees is by talking to them. Gain an appreciation of their goals and ambitions. Offer them support to reach their professional and personal goals. Help create a fresh opportunity for employees where they can showcase their talent and boost the business. Offer them a mentor to help them strive to achieve their career goals, monitor progress and offer fresh opportunity to keep up with their ambitions.
  3. Money isn’t everything, but it does help! Know the recruitment market in your particular sector – what salaries and packages are your competitors offering? Try to ensure you are paying more competitive salaries and equalling, if not improving upon, fringe benefits – think creatively.
  4. Create a positive upbeat energy in your workplace. If your company is starting to see the green shoots of recovery, or is expanding faster than ever, thank your people. If everyone in the workforce is engaged it creates a good vibe for the top talent to feed-off – no-one wants to go home complaining that the mood in the office is yet again very low.
  5. The key thing is to think of ways to give your business the edge as an employer. Make your business a company that people want to work for, that they aspire to become a part of.

Changes will have to be made to entice your top talent to stay but the cost of standing still and doing nothing will mean you are waving goodbye to your most talented performers.

5 Toxic Workplace Practices That Kill Employee Engagement – 10th November

Management consultant Michelle Checketts suggests that all efforts to maximise employee engagement will come to nothing if the following five “toxic elements” exist in the workplace. She shares openly of her own experience to draw out principles.

  1. Oppressive Boss. Checketts turns to her past experience as a charity volunteer to identify the difference between working for a demeaning, controlling boos for whom she was never good enough (and which resulted in passionless presenteeism), with one who created an environment of respect and trust.
  2. Toxic co-worker. You know the type, says Checketts – constantly complaining about processes and politics and influencing others to follow, leading to disengagement and lost enthusiasm.
  3. Unsafe environment. Checketts draws on an example from the book ‘MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement’ by Maylett and Warner, making the point that whilst basic workplace hygiene factors don’t create engagement, lack of them will cause disengagement. [Ed’s comment – poor and inadequate Infrastructure is a huge barrier to engagement]
  4. Burnout. Too much to do and too little time is a recipe for disengagement, she suggests. Lack of resource is an engagement killer, leading both to burnout and staff turnover.
  5. Ethical concerns. When an employee is faced with ethical dilemmas [and is under pressure to compromise their own values – Ed.] fully engaging with work becomes much more difficult.

Checkouts identifies the important role that managers play in spotting and dealing with all of the above. She says “Managers need to ensure that employees have an environment in which they can choose to be engaged.” It’s clear that aligning employee and organisation are key,

Checketts concludes ”Engagement is still a 50-50 proposition, but a toxic environment won’t allow any employee to bring his or her 50 percent to the equation.”

Motivating the negative employee in your team – 8th November

Have you ever worked with a negative employee? asks John Sylvester, Divisional Managing Director of consultancy P&MM. Most have, and will know the effects – feeling constantly drained, causing motivation and productivity to suffer across the whole team. He mentions a survey in which 787% of people described a negative attitude as “extremely debilitating” to team morale.

The survey also pointed out the following results of negative employees:

  • Decreased morale –48% of survey respondents
  • Decrease in productivity –27%
  • Increase in stress – 17%
  • Increased distractions – 8%

So how can managers motivate a negative employee? asks Sylvester. He proposes five things a manager can do.

  1. Talk to your negative employees – Find a convenient time so that you can give full attention to them, to find out the root cause of their negativity.
  2. Ask for their suggestions – Encourage them to buy in to the process of being less negative by asking them how they can improve.
  3. Reinforce positive behaviour – Agree goals for change, and ask them how they might feel if they were more positive. [Ed’s note – it’s much better to ask how they would feel if they were more positive, rather than less negative]. Always demonstrate positive behaviour yourself.
  4. Follow up – Always make sure you follow up to review how it’s going.
  5. Invest in positivity – Consider organisational activities such as employee recognition programmes,appreciation schemes, wellness initiatives and fun team activities.

As Sylvester concludes “We can all have an off-day, but on-going negativity from a team member can quickly turn into problems for the whole team. So when you come across on-going negativity address it quickly and promote positivity.”

10 key elements for engaging employees during orientation – 7th November

Many companies approach orientation [induction] like it’s a formality,” say Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. New employees are ushered in, given a quick tour of the office and a rundown of the benefits offered, and then they’re expected to get right to work.

”This “minimalist approach to training” does not drive employee engagement — only a thorough orientation process does,

Houlihan explains. “People want to know how they fit in to the big picture. On a company level, they want to know what the company stands for besides the goods and services it provides. They want to know who the competitors are and how the company distinguishes itself.

On a personal level, they want to know how they will be rated, what the standards of behaviour are, and what the permissions and prohibitions are. In short, they want to know what the company culture is.They want to remove any anxiety they may harbour about the unknown. They want to know what the ground rules are.”

The authors identify these 10 key elements of a successful orientation program:

  1. The demand — why the market needs the goods and services that the company provides
  2. The process — how the company satisfies the demand, from supply chain to distribution channels
  3. The team — how the team supports the process
  4. The job — how the job contributes to and supports the team and the process
  5. The compensation — not just how it works, but where the money comes from originally
  6. The feedback — where and how the customer’s reaction to the goods and services get to the person in the job
  7. Improvements — how suggested improvements to the job, products, services, and processes get implemented
  8. Interdependencies — who the other players are inside and outside of the company that the job depends upon to be effective
  9. Timing — what the monthly, quarterly, and annual milestones required by the job entail; and
  10. Support — how training, advice, support, and guidance resources are accessed

How to Become the Zappos of Your Industry – 7th November

The rise of U.S. online clothing retailer Zappos into a multi-billion dollar company is a well documented story and a source for inspiration for business leaders looking to replicate that success other own organisations. But as Entrepreneur Magazine points out, at its heart, Zappos is still an online retailer with hundreds of call-venter staff and not at first glance the most exciting story.

What does set Zappos apart though, is the incredible shaping of culture by by CEO Tony Hsieh. Call centre work and order fulfilment may not have an air of excitement about them, but Zappos has woven them into one of the most talked about companies around.

So how did they do it? Here’s a road map that you can use to build your own version of Zappos’ culture.

  1. Write the Company’s Obituary – What do you want your company to be known for at the end of the day?From this you can create a vision and highlight what is most important. From this destination point, you can plot a route for your journey.
  2. Develop Core Values – List the four or five core values to guide you on your journey. Keep them short and easy to remember. The values ned to reflect your company’s personality and ethics. These values are going to be etched in stone and should never have to change regardless of future direction.
  3. Make Goals Come To Life – Many companies simply have their values pinned to a wall or website and that doesn’t make a Zappos like culture. Integrate the value into ever facet of operations. Use values as a guiding light for every decision. Reinforce them at every opportunity and never let the values be undermined through leadership behaviour that doesn’t reflect them.
  4. Use Software Tools – When people think of company culture, they think of team building and retreats, but culture needs day-to-day oversight and reinforcement. Software systems can help you build, grow and maintain your corporate culture.

12 Reasons Why Companies are Investing in an Employee Engagement Strategy – 6th November

Many organisations don’t have an employee engagement strategy because they have yet to recognise the tangible benefits. This article by Tim Eisenhower at axero, points out 12 good reasons for setting some quality time aside to develop an effective employee engagement strategy.

  1. Increased Productivity – Engaged employees are more productive. When you have employees who are focused and ready to get things done, productivity can only be expected to follow.
  2. More Effective Collaboration – Collaboration is vital to organisational success and engaged employees are great at collaboration.
  3. Better Employee Input – Engaged employees are more confident in bringing ideas or concerns to you. And they bring those things to your attention in a positive manner.
  4. Better Employee Retention – Employees who are not engaged are more likely to leave your organisation, and it’s frustrating (as well as costly) to have employees leave after a short time taking their experience and knowledge with them.
  5. Improved Employee empowerment – Empowered employees are more likely to make meaningful contributions. Engaged employees tend to be more empowered.
  6. Less chance of Burnout – Engaged employees show greater interest in their work. It’s more satisfying, less stressful and the result is they are less likely to burn out.
  7. Improved Communication – Communication ids the life blood of an organisation. Poor communication leads to poor quality and service. Improving employee engagement will improve communication.
  8. Enhancement of Company Culture – When people really care about the business they work in, they become the culture, which in turn drives performance.
  9. Improved Ideas and Solutions – True ingenuity requires a lot of critical thinking.  That can be a challenge for those people who are less than fully engaged in their work. When someone is plugged-in and focused, the floodgates of ideas opens up.
  10. Enhanced competitive Edge – A crucial part of any successful business are its employees. Engaged employees set your company apart from the competition. In today’s world, this has never been more important.
  11. Better Customer Service – Excellent customer service is a key business performance indicator. Engaged employees take better care of your customers.
  12. Higher Sales Rates – When you have an engaged sales team, you can rest easy knowing that they’re doing everything possible in order to make a sale, nurture leads and handle every other aspect of their difficult job more effectively.

If any one of these added to the bottom line, creating an employee engagement strategy would be well worth the investment. With 12 good reasons, there’s even more incentive to get involved and see the results.

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.”

How to Handle Stress in the Moment – 5th November

[Ed’s note – to be clear, the specialists distinguish between stress and pressure. This article is really about how to handle pressure, rather than stress]

Here are some tips from Rebecca Knight about what to do when you’re overcome with stress in the moment — at your desk, say, or in a meeting? Perhaps you’ve heard bad news from a client or were assigned yet another project. How can you regain control?

Identify your stress signals – Train yourself to recognize your physiological signs of stress. Perhaps your neck stiffens, your stomach clenches, or your palms sweat. These are all the result of what’s happening inside your body.

Don’t think of it as stress – Justin Menkes says “Most often the reason your blood pressure rises at work is because you’re being asked to do something important by your boss or a colleague and you want to succeed. The stress symptoms are telling you: This matters.” He suggest you try and “shift your thinking about the task causing you distress and instead try to view it as an opportunity to move forward that you want to take seriously.”

Talk yourself down – When you’re stressed, the voice inside your head gets loud, screechy, and persistent. It tells you: “I’m so angry,” or “I’ll never be able to do this.” To keep this negative voice at bay, “try talking to yourself in a logical, calm tone and injecting some positivity” into your internal dialogue.

Take three deep breaths – Deep breathing is another simple strategy for alleviating in-the-moment tension. “When you feel anxious, your breath starts to get shorter, shallower, and more irregular,” says Maria Gonzales. “Taking three big breaths while being conscious of your belly expanding and contracting ignites your parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a relaxation response.”

Enlist a friendly ear – You shouldn’t have to face nerve-wracking moments at the office alone. “Everyone needs to have somebody they trust who they can call on when they’re feeling under pressure,” says Menkes. “Select this person carefully: You want it to be somebody with whom you have a mutual connection and who, when you share your vulnerabilities, will respond in a thoughtful manner.”

Make a list – Creating a to-do list that prioritizes your most important tasks is another way to combat feeling overwhelmed. “The act of writing focuses the mind,” says Gonzales. “Do a brain dump and write out everything you need to do and note whether it’s professional or personal, so you make time for both,”

Project an aura of calm – Ever notice how when you’re speaking to someone who’s agitated, you start to feel agitated too? That is because stress is contagious. “When someone palpably feels your tension, they react to it,” says Menkes. He suggests “trying to modulate your emotions” when you find yourself in a tense conversation.

How to Motivate Someone You Don’t Like – 4th November

Liane Davey points out that it is unlikely that you’ll like everyone you have to manage. And while you may think that disliking an employee or two isn’t something to be concerned about (after all, making friends isn’t the point of being a manager), it can actually interfere with your job. When you have negative feelings toward an employee, chances are that person will feel less motivated. That disengagement can, in turn, affect your entire team and the outcome of important projects – which ultimately reflects badly upon you.

Before you even try to motivate a person you don’t like, take ownership of your feelings and assumptions. If the phrase “He makes me so angry” or “She drives me nuts” ever plays in your head, you need to change your thinking. Recognize that anger, frustration, or mistrust is your reaction and that no one has the ability to make you feel something without your consent. Be curious about why you react the way you do and see if you can get to the root of the issue. You need to own your dislike; your team member does not.

Then employ one or more of these strategies;

  1. If you feel uncomfortable around an employee, increase your time together. It may sound like counterintuitive advice, but if you feel awkward, frustrated, or angry around one of your employees, you probably try to avoid her and may even struggle to make eye contact when you’re together. Imagine how demoralizing it can be for the employee whose boss won’t even look her in the eye!
  2. If you find an employee’s habits annoying, focus on the positive. Constantly focusing on what you want the person to change can really be a downer (for both of you). Instead, redirect your attention to what you do like and respect about the person. Think about one trait or habit that impresses you—even if it’s a strength that is sometimes over-applied. Pay more attention to the positive contributions that you want to encourage.
  3. If you think your employee acts disrespectfully, get to the root of the behavior. If the source of your dislike for an employee is bad behavior, (e.g., bullying, self-promotion, disrespect) you won’t be able to motivate the person unless you have some empathy. Most bad behavior is not intentionally destructive; it’s self-protective.  Figure out what the person is trying to protect.  Does he have fragile self-esteem? Is she worried about something?

Regardless of the source of your dislike for an employee, motivating him or her will be very difficult until you can improve the connection. If you want to be direct about it, you can express your desire to improve the relationship with a statement such as, “I feel like we got off to a bad start and I’d like to change that.”

It’s not your job as a manager to be everyone’s friend. But if a sour relationship is affecting your ability to motivate an employee, the risk is that he will fail, and so will you.

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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.

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