Monday, October 27, 2014

Do you have the 10 critical talents?

Entrepreneurial thinking and doing are the most important capabilities companies need from their employees.  As the competitive pace increases, it becomes more and more critical.  ~Reid Hoffman

I don't have to look far to find studies and statistics claiming that we continue to have a talent shortage, even though unemployment has not yet returned to levels prior to the 2008 recession.  I wonder if part of the challenge is that the type of talent we all seem to want and wish for is far rarer than we realize.

Reid Hoffman recently wrote in a LinkedIn Talent Blog, "Entrepreneurial employees possess what eBay CEO John Donahoe calls the founder mind-set.  As he put it to us, 'People with the founder mind-set drive change, motivate people, and just get stuff done.'"

Gallup has studied this phenomenon in more detail and recently published the book Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder to help all of us better understand exactly what we are looking for and why it's so hard to find it.  Gallup reported:
The single most important factor for America's economic survival remains as mysterious as life on Mars.  But maybe that's because it's so unusual.  Preliminary Gallup research discovered that high entrepreneurial talent is much rarer than high IQ:  Only about five in 1,000 people have the aptitude for starting and growing a big business.  In comparison, 20 in 1,000 have IQs high enough to be accepted into Mensa. 
The 10 talents of successful entrepreneurs are:
  • Business Focus: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.
  • Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.
  • Creative Thinker: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.
  • Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.
  • Determination: You persevere through difficult, even seemingly insurmountable, obstacles.
  • Independent: You are prepared to do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.
  • Knowledge Seeker: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.
  • Promoter: You are the best spokesperson for the business.
  • Relationship-Builder: You have high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial for the firm's survival and growth.
  • Risk-Taker: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.
We may not be lucky enough to be one of the five out of a thousand to possess all 10 talents.  Gallup says to increase your likelihood of success, identify strategies to manage areas of weakness, or acquire skills and knowledge to deal with your lesser talents.  Or best of all, form partnerships with people who have a different set of entrepreneurial talents.

In the old economythe stable oneefficiency was the cardinal virtue.  In the new economy of fierce competition and rapid technological change with markets constantly shifting, entrepreneurial thinking is the new gold standard.

Monday, October 20, 2014

6 Ways to Appeal to Millennials in the Workplace

My career will be more about enjoying the experience than earning money.  ~Millennial employee

This week I conducted two training sessions at a manufacturing plant.  The first was with a group of emerging leaders and the second was with the leadership team.  Or, said another way, the first was with mostly millennials and the second was with mostly baby boomers.  And this represents many, if not most, of the organizations I work with today.

According to HBR, in two years millennials—the people born between 1977 and 1997—will account for nearly half of all employees worldwide.  So it's time we baby boomers started to make an effort to understand the differences and provide a workplace that is welcoming to both of these generations.  Following are a few key findings from a study conducted by PWC entitled Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace that I found helpful.

Help millennials grow: Managers need to really understand the personal and professional goals of millennials. Put them on special rotational assignments more frequently to give them a sense that they are moving toward something and gaining a variety of experiences.

Feedback, feedback and more feedback: Millennials want and value frequent feedback. Unlike the past where people received annual reviews, millennials want to know how they're doing much more regularly. Give honest feedback in real time — and highlight positive contributions or improvements on key competencies.

Set them free: Millennials want flexibility. They work well with clear instructions and concrete targets. If you know what you want done by when, why does it matter where and how they complete the task? Give them the freedom to have a flexible work schedule.

Encourage learning: Millennials want to experience as much training as possible. If your organization is more focused on developing high potentials, or more senior people, then you could risk losing future talent if you fail to engage millennials with development opportunities. Consider allocating projects to talented millennials which fall outside their day job. Let them connect, collaborate, build their networks – and most of all innovate.

Allow faster advancement: Historically, career advancement was built upon seniority and time of service. Millennials don't think that way. They value results over tenure and are sometimes frustrated with the amount of time it takes to work up the career ladder. They want career advancement much quicker than older generations are accustomed to.

Expect millennials to go: It's inevitable that the rate of churn among millennials will be higher than among other generations, especially since many have made compromises in finding their first job, and this should be built into your plans.

It's a new day in the workplace; a day that embraces and encourages millennials to become the leaders of the future.  The way of the baby boomers worked for the baby boomers.  But our time is passing, quickly.  We need to make way for the millennials and equip them to lead, their way.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Got You Here Won't Get You There

One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, "I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way!" The challenge is to make them see that sometimes they are successful in spite of this behavior.  ~Marshall Goldsmith

One theory (I'd like to say fact but I'll withhold that temptation and stick with theory) nearly everyone agrees upon is that the most effective leaders don't have a specific behavioral profile or personality type.  The most effective leaders are those who know how to adapt their behavior to given situations and circumstances.  That's why when researchers and psychologists make a list of the U.S. Presidents and assign a behavioral profile to each one, there is no pattern.  The profiles are all over the map.

Marshall Goldsmith, without a doubt, is one of the most credible authorities on this topic.  He's the author or editor of 34 books, has written two New York Times bestsellers and a Wall Street Journal #1 business book of the year.  He's a top-ranked executive coach and one of the top ten most-influential business thinkers in the world.  So when Marshall Goldsmith says things like, "I tell my clients, 'it's a lot harder to change people's perception of your behavior than it is to change your behavior,'" it's got a boatload of reliability behind hit.

If all of this is true, and I'm going to assume that it is, then why do so many leaders resist or outright refuse to better understand how they are perceived and look for ways to change their behavior?!  I've had both MD’s and PhD’s refuse to complete some type of personality or behavioral profile.  I've had president's of organizations refute the findings of employee satisfaction surveys and 360 assessments with rationale like, "the survey was completed at the same time they may have been filing their taxes so they must have been in a bad mood."  

Who we are is who we are.  It is not good or bad, helpful or hurtful.  However, if we don't recognize that because who we are remains somewhat constant as the situation or circumstances around us change, we are going to run into trouble. 

Example: someone who is highly detailed and scrutinizes everything may be great in an entry-level accounting or finance position.  But, once promoted to manage others, that same behavior, if still practiced with the same intensity, could be viewed as micromanaging and severely hinder their ability to manage and lead others.  We must adapt.  And, we won't know how to adapt if we don't let others tell us how our behavior is perceived. 

If we want people to change their perception of our behavior, then, we need to change our behavior.  It's both that simple and that hard.   Sometimes we're successful in spite of ourselves.  Image what we could accomplish if we willingly welcomed a better understanding of the impact of our own behavior!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Would you join me in a social experiment?

A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.  A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage.  A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach their potential.  ~John C. Maxwell

This week I heard someone describe what happened when they intentionally took a break from watching the news.  After taking a hiatus from the news for a number of days, when he returned to watching the news, he was overwhelmed by all of the "bad" news.   

That made wonder, what if we did an experiment.  When I watch the national news I intentionally watch it to the end so I can hear the "feel good" story, or the "good" news.  What would happen if the news was flipped?  What if the "good news" was the first 20-25 minutes and the "bad news" was the final 5-10 minutes?

I don't know what would actually happen, but it makes me ask, have we become a culture that craves the negative, or the bad news, more than the good news?  I have to believe that ratings influence what we see on the news, so we play a role in this. 

And since it's also election season, could that be why politicians run so many negative ads against their opponent?  Because they know it's the negative or "bad" stuff that we are wired to remember?

What does this have to do with leadership?  Well, are most organization leaders also falling into this bad news/negative trap?  What do employees hear from their leaders?  Do they hear the "good," or is most communication they hear from leadership filled with the "bad?"  A number of years ago I recall a leader in a staff meeting say he was going to present the good, the bad, and the ugly.  What did the employees remember after that meeting?  The ugly, that's all I heard about for several weeks.

I'm not suggesting that leaders should be Pollyannaish in their communication.  But what we remember most, what we respond to (i.e., TV news ratings) is the "bad news."

Actual research has been conducted around this very idea.  Based on psychologist and business consultant Marcial Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interaction necessary to make a corporate team successful.  This means that it takes about three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative.  Dip below this tipping point, now known as the Losada Line, and workplace performance quickly suffers.  Rise above it—ideally, the research shows, to a ratio of 6 to 1—and teams produce their very best work.

Imagine what might happen to organizations, and dare I say countries, if we all started following the premise of the Losada Line?  So for the next week, will you join me in intentionally out-weighing the bad with the good at a ratio of 6 to 1?  Let's try it and see what results from our counter-cultural social experiment.