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;

‘Dead-end job’ epidemic sweeping the nation – 4th November

New research from Towers Watson reveals that the “glass ceiling” is no longer being hit just by women and ethnic minorities. The research highlights that a lack of career development is now a common problem for workers across all sectors, including those demonstrating the highest potential.

Almost three quarters (73%) of employees say their career prospects have remained the same or worsened in the last 12 months.

The 2014 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study shows that UK employers risk losing their best employees to competitors by failing to provide adequate growth opportunities. Individuals name the chance to advance as one of the top considerations when choosing to join a new organisation, but also the second biggest reason to leave a job.

Carole Hathaway, Global Leader of Towers Watson’s Rewards practice, said: “Britain’s wage stagnation has been stealing the headlines for some time while the concurrent career paralysis hasn’t got the attention it deserves from employers. The term “dead-end job” has been used in the past to refer largely to unskilled, low-paid roles but now applies to a high percentage of professional positions, where there are limited opportunities to progress and achieve greater financial success.“

A crucial component of attracting and retaining the most talented staff is for employers to be actively supporting employees in achieving their objectives and rising to new heights in their career. Without this, ambitious individuals can become disengaged and start looking around for a new role even when other aspects of the job – such as pay, benefits and company culture – are acceptable.

Strong employee engagement equals high productivity so career development discussions are time well-invested and actually drive company performance.

According to a simultaneous survey of employer opinions, also from Towers Perrin, the aptitude of managers in delivering career development programmes is a key part of the issue. The Study shows that just 8% of employers feel their managers are effective in providing career-management support. While only a quarter of employers believe they have the right career-management tools in place.

This perspective from companies is felt by the workforce, with only around a third of employees saying their manager helps them with career planning and decisions and does a good job of explaining how they can advance. The research points to a lack of resources as less than half (47%) of managers say they have the necessary time to support the development needs of their direct reports.

Richard Veal, UK Leader for Reward, Talent and Communication at Towers Watson, added: “Our research indicates that the perceived lack of career advancement opportunities could relate to poor internal communication about career-management programmes. If any communication is done, it normally focuses on the processes and not the motivational and emotional content of why and how an employee can connect with an organisation.

Career management is one of the golden opportunities to strengthen an employee’s long-term commitment to a company.

[Ed’s comment – we agree! And are also clear that it is perfectly possible to do something to change it – all it take is for the Leadership Team to show the will and commitment]

Cutting corners and lying most common unethical behaviours – 4th November

[Ed’s note – this article is both interesting and alarming, given the research that shows how significant values and integrity are in determining whether or not employees remain engaged.]

According to new research by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), cutting corners and lying to cover employees’ own mistakes are the most commonly seen unethical behaviours at work. The “Truth About Trust” report is based on a survey of 1,600 managers.

ILM chief executive Charles Elvin told Hywel Roberts of HR magazine, that a “lack of clarity” around what constitutes acceptable behaviour is one of the main drivers of unethical behaviour in the workplace. “A clear values policy and examples of what will not be tolerated will help to overcome this issue,” he said.

Elvin describes how unethical behaviours can also be symptomatic of wider issues in the workplace such as excessive workloads, blame culture and a lack of trust… He adds that companies with a strong ethical code enjoy the highest levels of trust both internally and externally, allowing them to attract the best talent, the most faithful customers and the most reliable suppliers. “High trust among your key stakeholders means that your business is much more likely to be able to weather any difficult market conditions.”

Here are the ‘top ten’ bad behaviours identified:

  1. Cutting corners – 72%
  2. Lying to hide your mistakes – 72%
  3. Badmouthing colleagues – 68%
  4. Passing the buck (when you don’t get your work done) – 67%
  5. Slacking off when no one’s watching – 64%
  6. Lying to hide other people’s mistakes – 63%
  7. Taking credit for other people’s work – 57%
  8. Taking a sickie – 56%
  9. Lying about skills and experience – 54%
  10. Taking low value items from work – 52%

Help Your Employees Be Themselves at Work- 3rd November

Dorie Clark explains that research has shown that hiding our true identities can cripple professional performance. For instance, closeted LGBT employees feel much more isolated at work than their openly gay peers, and 52% of closeted employees feel their careers have stagnated, compared to just over a third of their out colleagues. Further, the Uncovering Talent report reveals that 61% of all employees “cover” their identities in some way – not necessarily hiding something, but downplaying it for fear of drawing unwanted attention or making others uncomfortable.

Enabling employees to feel comfortable being themselves could unlock dramatic performance gains because they can focus their attention on work, rather than hiding parts of themselves.

So how can managers make this a reality?

Shift the language. Talk about “covering” rather than “diversity”Share your story. We know leaders set the tenor for an organization’s culture. If you want your employees to feel safe sharing their stories, you have to step up and tell your own.

Embrace analytics. Companies could consider developing an Inclusion Index, as Deloitte has done. This tracks the hiring and promotion practices of each partner, across several specific slices of diversity. (Are they promoting female talent effectively, but not people of color? Might they – even inadvertently – be acting in a biased fashion?)

Force the conversation. In the Uncovering Talent study, 98% of professionals surveyed said their companies had stated a commitment to inclusion – but only 72% said their company lived up to it. That gap leaves both companies and their leaders vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. It also risks damaging relationships with customers and employees.

Look beyond the obvious. Conversations about “diversity” often focus on one element of a person – their race, their gender, their sexuality – to the exclusion of all else. But overwhelmingly, professionals don’t want to be defined by a single dimension of their identity (“the black guy” or “the gay one”).

High performing companies recognize that diverse perspectives can strengthen their performance, and that homogeneity can cause blindspots. But in order to unlock the benefits of diversity, we have to make it safe for employees to “uncover” and bring their full selves to work.

Odd Starbucks Policy Gives New Meaning To Employee ‘Engagement’ – 3rd November

Victor Lipman makes a ‘to the point’ comment on Starbuck’s recent management decision to introduce a dress code that doesn’t allow baristas and other employees to wear engagement rings or other rings with stones.

“I was so surprised to find them adopting a quirky bureaucratic dress policy that will bring no benefit and was almost guaranteed to be disliked. But as I often say when it comes to management: Just because something is common sense doesn’t means it’s commonly practiced.”

He points out that “Sometimes, the management is best that manages least” and concludes “It should be a primary rule of management: No self-inflicted wounds. Don’t frustrate people needlessly. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

First, do no harm.

Live. Die. Repeat. 10 Ways to Kill Your Best Employees – 3rd November

Dan McCarthy says that what follows comes with a warning: the following contains a heavy dose of sarcasm! Read at your own risk, and whatever you do, DO NOT follow the advice!

A high potential employee is one of your highest performing employees that also is showing signs of being able to handle greater responsibilities. They are an organization’s top guns, rising starts, and typically represent the upper 10% of any organization, or the cream of the crop.

Unfortunately, organizations don’t always do a good job when it comes to nurturing, developing, rewarding, and retaining their high potential employees. In fact, it often seems like they are going out of their way to sabotage their best employees.

So – if you want to kill your high potentials, just follow these 10 steps. However, if you want to develop, motivate, and retain your high potential, then please, just do the opposite!

  1. First of all, recognize that high-potential employees are a threat to your own job and treat them that way.
  2. Put them in a job rotation program, with a never-ending series of short assignments with no real accountability or opportunity to contribute.
  3. Because HIPOs are so good, you can ignore them. No need for feedback, as feedback is only for losers. Great employees are like self-licking ice cream cones, they need little time or support from their managers.
  4. Give them impossible and unrealistic goals. We call these “stretch” assignments, or “development challenges,” and give a lot of them too.
  5. Although you can call these “developmental challenges,” treat them like assessments, a never-ending gauntlet of impossible obstacles.
  6. Tell everyone around them that they are a HIPO. Give them little “HIPO” name badges and frequent public displays of affection.
  7. Make sure they change bosses frequently. You don’t want them to have time to develop a relationship with any one manager, constant change and variety is much better.
  8. Take credit for their accomplishments. That’s one of the few benefits of managing HIPOs – they do produce fantastic results. Taking credit will help to keep them humble.
  9. Ask them to help out your underperforming employees. This will teach them how to mentor and coach – they’ll love it!
  10. Whatever you do, do not provide them with positive feedback. That would just swell their inflated egos even more.

There you go! Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to end up with nothing but a team of underperforming, lazy, C-player slackers.

How to Participate in Your Employee’s Coaching – 3rd November

Once upon a time, executive coaching was viewed as a remedial intervention for executives and managers who needed to be “fixed” in some way, says Ben Dattner. Managers were not expected to be particularly involved in the coachee’s exploration or journey. Coaching was even sometimes viewed as “outsourcing” the management of a difficult employee.

But today, executive coaching is often viewed as a strategic investment in human capital – a perk reserved for employees with high potential — and managers have realized that they need to participate in the process. So what can you do at the beginning of a coaching engagement to help make it successful:

  1. Set broad objectives and frame them positively. At the outset, the more specific you can be about how you define success for the participant, the better. But when you do so, be sure to emphasize professional development goals.
  2. Provide data. Coaching is most effective when the participant and the coach have multiple sources of information, which might include past reviews, personality assessment reports, or online or interview-based 360 degree feedback.
  3. Define clear parameters on confidentiality. Whilst there should be confidential aspects of the process, such as the feedback the coach collects on behalf of the participant, coaching is an investment by you and the organization in the development of your subordinate, so there needs to be accountability built in to the process. Therefore the development plan based on the data should be shared with you, and possibly also with your Human Resource Business Partner or Leadership Development counterpart.
  4. Be blunt with the coach – blunter than you would be with the coachee. While a coach should not become a messenger between you and your staff member, there is an opportunity in the context of executive coaching for you to provide more specific and candid feedback to the coach than you might feel comfortable delivering face-to-face with your employee.

By carefully considering your role in the executive coaching of your direct reports, you can help retain talented members of your team while helping them learn and grow as managers, leaders and teammates.

Value Is Something More Than Financial – 31st October

Antony Iannarino reminds us that value is about more than money. He lists the following six drivers of value

[Ed’s comment – this is as relevant to the relationships we have with our employees as it is to those we have with our customers and clients. Just replace the word client with employee in the list below]
  • Trust: Nowhere does trust show up on a spreadsheet, but it is the foundation of the first decision your prospective client makes. Trust is always a part of value.
  • Confidence: It doesn’t matter how good your numbers are, prospective clients need the confidence to believe that you can produce the outcomes. No matter the price, your dream client has to believe you will perform.
  • Caring: The numbers don’t in any way indicate whether you really care enough to be there for your dream client when they need you.
  • Communication: How do you communicate? What do you communicate? How valuable is what you communicate? What, how, and when you communicate matters.
  • Certainty: Your spreadsheet doesn’t provide the certainty that your clients will get what they pay for.
  • Cultural Fit: Are we going to work well together? can I see myself working with you for a long time? Am I going to look forward to your call, or would I rather have a root canal? If people don’t like you enough to want to work with you, the numbers won’t matter.

When we have a great product, we expect the product to do all of the heavy lifting for us when it comes to selling and we expect the numbers to carry the sale for us. But selling effectively isn’t that easy. Don’t for a minute believe that part of the value you create isn’t about the relationship.

And more often than not, that’s worth more than money.

Purpose ‘worthless’ without staff engagement, says Old Mutual CEO – 31st October

Speaking at the ‘A Blueprint for Better Business conference – Putting Purpose into Practice’ in London last week, Old Mutual CEO Paul Feeney described having a clear purpose as “worthless” unless everyone in the organisation is engaged with it. If the workforce don’t engage with the purpose, the response is “so what?” “The purpose itself isn’t enough,” said Feeney. “It’s how you engage your employees and market to mobilise that purpose.”

Another speaker at the same event was Julia Rebolhz, Centrica’s group sustainability director. She explained how Centrica started on a journey to restore consumer trust via clarity of purpose. “The journey started with our employees,” she said. “We asked them what motivated them to come to work everyday. They said: ‘We want to help people’ and ‘We want to secure energy for the future’. That’s what became our purpose.”

[Ed’s note: Feeney is absolutely right – purpose (as with values and vision) must be the living, breathing power of an organisation. Centrica’s “employee led” approach to creating purpose is sadly too rarely seen. Get in touch us if you’d like to discuss how your organisation could approach it.]

10 Essential Training Programs Every Manager/Leader Should Take – 31st October

Dan McCarthy believes there are a handful of “must-have” training programs that a manager/leader should take at some point in their careers.

Early career/first supervisory position:

1. Performance management. Performance management can be a big bucket of topics and skills, but basically it’s how to manage employees.

2. Situational leadership. While there are various versions to choose from, they all teach a manager how to vary his/her leadership style based on the developmental needs of the employee. It helps a manager avoid micromanaging an experienced and competent employee and undermanaging a brand new employee that needs direction and support.

3. Assessment and awareness. While usually not a training program on its own (although it can be), everyone needs to have an awareness of their strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, how they are seen by others, personality, and values.

Mid-career middle management position:

4. Finance and Accounting (for the non-financial manager). As a manager’s scope gets broader and deeper, they need to become proficient in creating and managing budgets, forecasting, how to calculate the financial return on projects, and have an appreciation for how their companies make money.

5. Process improvement. Learn how to look at work as a process and make things run more effectively and efficiently.

6. Presentation skills. As a manager’s role grows, they need to be able to influence larger groups of employees by communicating in a compelling and inspiring way.

Senior management position:

7. General management. “General” management includes the various functions required to run a profit and loss (P&L) center, including marketing, operations, sales, R&D, product commercialization, and any other major function that is a part of the manager’s business or industry.

8. Strategy. Every senior manager needs to make the transition from “day-to-day” management to taking a longer-term, higher level perspective of the business. In order to do this, it’s important to have a basic understanding of strategy models and be able to think strategically.

9. Leading Change. Big positions have the opportunity to drive big changes. A “trial and error” approach shouldn’t be applied for these kind of changes – learn the tried and true models for leading change, then apply them to your situation.

10. Innovation. Senior leaders need to learn when their business has reached the top of their “S curve”, and know how to innovate before it’s too late.

What to Do After a Bad Performance Review – 29th October

Carolyn O’Hara describes what to do to recover from a less-than-stellar performance review.

Reflect before you react. It’s tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you’re accustomed to positive reviews. But it’s important to “hold your emotions in check.” If it helps, find a friend to vent to but try to do it outside of the office.

Look for your blind spots. It’s possible that you may not recognize yourself in the feedback. That’s because, despite our best intentions, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and the way that others actually see us. If after some self-reflection, you still don’t understand the roots of the critiques, reach out to colleagues for additional feedback, again “making it clear you are interested in honesty, not consolation.”

Ask questions. Once you’ve cooled off, make sure you fully understand the review. That may involve going back to your boss with questions. Make it clear you want concrete examples of what you should be doing differently.

Make a performance plan. The purpose of feedback is to help you improve in your job, and that requires a detailed plan of action.

Give yourself a second score. Remember that the evaluation may not be fully within your control, but your reaction to it is. Imagine that there is a second assessment, based on how you respond to the review and give yourself a score for your handling of it. Aiming for a great second score, and perhaps sharing that with your boss will remind you that the negative review is not the end of your professional story.

Look at the big picture. Once you’ve taken the time for introspection, you may realize that your lagging performance isn’t a result of a blind spot, but rather an indication that you simply aren’t in the right position.

10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Own Leadership Development – 28th October

People grow or change when they want to. They need to be intrinsically motivated to change, and in order to be motivated, they need to have a sense of autonomy, or control.

While force-feeding leadership development is never a good idea, neither is going too far in the other extreme. Some organizations have adopted a philosophy that says “you’re in charge of your own development”. Which sounds great, but it often ends up really meaning “good luck, you’re on your own, now sink or swim”. They eliminate all training programs, budgets, and support, and mandate “individual development plans”, without teaching people how to develop on their own.

If that’s the situation you find yourself, here are 10 ways to put yourself in the driver’s seat and take charge of your own development:

  1. Find out for yourself what really matters. Don’t just rely on the HR-produced formal leadership competency model. Ask around and find out who the most respected leaders are, then go and talk to them about what skills and mindsets are the most important and why.
  2. Go get feedback. Don’t wait for a formal 360 assessment, or for someone to tell you where you’re screwed up when it’s too late to do something about it. There are a number of free 360 assessment tools out there- just do a search.
  3. Write your own development plan. Don’t wait for your boss to write it, or for HR to tell you to write one. If it’s your development, then it’s your plan.
  4. Find your own training – then ask for it. Don’t wait to be sent to class, or wait for your boss to make the offer. After you’ve completed steps 1-3, find a training program that addresses your specific development needs. If you pick it, you’ll own it, and be much more motivated to learn and change.
  5. Ask for an executive coach. Executive coaches are usually provided to select executives on their way up, or executives in trouble on their way out. However, I’ve heard of plenty of organizations that will approve coaching to an executive who steps forward and asks on their own.
  6. Negotiate your work assignments and next jobs. Before you take that next assignment or job, make sure it’s an assignment or job where there will be ample opportunities to learn, grow, and develop.
  7. Find your own mentors. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a mentor to be formally “assigned” to you. Find your own. Look for those that you admire that can give you advice, and ask them. Most people would be flattered.
  8. Read books. Yes, books! This is a must for continuous development as a leader, and something I’m seeing less and less. Make sure you reading at least a few leadership and management books each year.
  9. Start with yourself before you coach others. More and more organizations are saying that it’s the manager’s job to develop employees. However, in an organization where every manager is developing others and not developing themselves, you have to wonder if anyone is really developing at all.
  10. Carve out the time and treat it as a priority. You’ve probably heard the story about a hiker that came upon a woodsman in the forest, vigorously chopping down a tree – with a very dull axe. Noticing the slow progress being made, he asked the woodsman why he didn’t stop and sharpen his axe. ”I haven’t time,” the reply was. ”I’ve got to chop down all these trees.”

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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.

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