Are you Getting the Gifts?

Initiative, creativity and passion are gifts.

They are benefactions that employees choose, day by day and moment by moment, to give or withhold.

They cannot be commanded.

Gary Hamel – The Future of Management

Nor can they be bought.

You can’t get these gifts from employees by challenging them to work harder.

Nor by exhorting them to ‘beat the competition’ or ‘care for the customers’.

You will only get these gifts from employees when you give them a purpose that merits their best.

Using the Right and Left Brain at Work

Most organisations are designed to maximise the contribution of employees left brains to the pursuit of success. Targets are set, plans are laid, logic is deployed, progress is measured and accountability is maintained. Such ‘left brain’ activities fit nicely the milieu of meetings, time pressures, deadlines and procedures that form the social system of most organisations.

However most of us choose an employer based on ‘right brain’ criteria in pursuit of ‘right brain’ goals.

  • Will the work be fulfilling?
  • Will I part of a great team?
  • Will my efforts help to make the world a better place?
  • Will the job give me a lifestyle that works for me?

It is the ‘right brain’ that is the seat of creativity, imagination, innovation and passion. Unless we build a social system that feeds, stimulates and enables right brain contributions we should continue to expect as many as 1 in 4 of our employees to be looking to leave in the next 12 months, while 2 of the remaining three will be in survival (‘count the years, months and days until I retire’) mode.

Take a quick audit of your social system (meetings, processes and procedures) at work. How many opportunities in the average week are there for meaningful ‘right brain’ conversations that are likely to lead to the successful pursuit of right brain goals?

Of course it is easy for our left brains to rationalise away this paucity of ‘right brain’ opportunity in the name of efficiency and the pursuit of effectiveness. To overcome this tendency just remind your left brain of the critical importance of enabling good people to do great work, and of the need for frequent and regular innovation and renewal, if your organisation is to survive never mind thrive in the next few years.

You may find that it gives your right brain just enough time and space to do some big picture thinking.

Need More Creative People?

If folks don’t appear to be creative at work, it’s not because they lack imagination, it’s because they lack opportunity.

- Gary Hamel – The Future of Management

Goals, Priorities and Resources; where does it all go wrong?

Spending time developing and clarifying goals is rarely time wasted. Although some of us spend time clarifying our work goals few of us spend time developing goals for other important aspects of our lives – family, community and self. This is one of the reasons why we find work-life balance so hard to achieve. Goals that have been set in our professional lives are not balanced by goals in other areas. The goals that we have set start to demand creativity and resources and before we know it…

Sometimes we set goals that do not provide clear priorities. Or they provide us with so many priorities that we may as well have no priorities at all. Priorities are immediate next steps that will move us closer to our goals. Good priorities are ones that we cannot fail to address. They are so simple and appealing that they cry out for us to get on with them.

But often we forget to allocate time and other resources to our priorities. Without resources to go with them our priorities are worthless. Without doubt time is the most precious resource that we can commit to a priority. I often find myself working with senior managers to clarify goals and priorities (no more than three or four at a time) and then schedule time in busy diaries to spend on them.

By scheduling two 90 minute blocks of time every week to work on priorities many managers ‘magically’ start to make tangible progress towards goals that had previously frustrated them.

Building a High Performing Team – Part 2 – Anticipate Conflicts

Organisation divides people. It sets up conflict:

  • Who does what? – task conflicts
  • How do we get this done? – process conflicts
  • Who gets what? – resource conflicts

Failure to anticipate, recognise and resolve these conflicts leads to the most dangerous conflicts of all – personal conflicts.

Two people in conflict can usually both make a plausible case for their position. You can of course handle these conflicts just by issuing a decree. However the value of a high performing team, and the measure of your ability to manage it is in getting a decision that has allowed everyone to have their say, for pros and cons to be fully explored and for commitment to making the decision work to be built.

Handled like this, conflicts become powerful team building tools as people start to recognise that the group can make better decisions than any one individual and that no one person has all the information required to make the best decision.

Building a High Performing Team – Part 1 – The Same Page

The first stage in building a high performing team is to get everyone on the same page.

Every team member must master the basics of organisational performance:

  • What are we here to achieve and how do we recognise success?
  • What are our markets and how do we segment them?
  • Who are our customers and what are their buying patterns?
  • Who would we like our customers to be – and why aren’t they buying from us now?
  • Who is our competition and what are they doing?
  • What drives or inhibits our ability to deliver on the mission?

In high performing teams each team member is able to answer these questions – not just from their own perspective but from a collective team perspective. There is a shared analysis that provides a platform for coherent action.

In mediocre teams the members can usually answer these questions from their own siloed perspective. However there is little or no shared analysis and the actions that flow from each silo at best lack coherence and at worst compete with each other for resources and prestige.

Getting everyone on the same page is best done through a group session that has sufficient openness, candour and respect to ensure that the all of the ‘elephants in the room’ are recognised and addressed.

Boosting Productivity in Tough Economic Times

When times get tough productivity should become an overriding priority. You have to get the most out of every resource, and find ways to deliver more value at lower cost. In my experience a relatively modest investment in management skills can produce productivity increases of 25-40% as managers really help team members contribute fully and systematically develop their potential

Knowing that you need to place greater emphasis on productivity is not the same as knowing exactly which productivity practices are most effective. The five factors that have the biggest impact on productivity according to a recent survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP) are:

  • corporate culture,
  • leadership,
  • compensation and benefit programs,
  • training and development, and
  • performance management.

These represent the collective and, perhaps, conventional wisdom on how best to boost productivity.

I4CP then analysed their data to discover the primary differences between average and highly productive companies. The analysis found that the most productive organisations really outstripped the average ones in several areas, including:

  • The culture of the organization
  • Leadership
  • Employee engagement practices

Seventy-nine percent of the most productive organizations say that, to a high or very high degree, the cultures of their organizations help raise employee productivity. Training managers to build a performance culture would seem to be a sensible option.

Seventy-six percent of highly productive companies said that, to a high or very high extent, leadership in their companies raises productivity. Programs that teach managers how to boost productivity among their direct reports would also seem to be an excellent tactic.

59% of highly productive organizations said they use systematic processes to engage employees. Engagement means that workers are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success. Such employees are usually satisfied with their work and speak positively about their employers. Which is why cracking the whip and exhorting employees to work harder or longer is unlikely to be a good productivity strategy over the long term.

Another difference between highly productive and average organizations is in how they tend to measure productivity. The I4CP survey asked about the various ways in which they gauge productivity and found that the most widely utilized metric was:

  • output per work group, followed by
  • revenue per employee,
  • output per person,
  • output per hour and
  • profits per employee.

Highly productive organizations were not only more likely to use most productivity measures of all types, they tended to place nearly the same emphasis on output per person as they did on output per work group. Now the I4CP only surveyed for profit organisations – but my take would be that the use of similar hard performance measures in a well designed performance management system would have the same impact in the social sector.

These findings suggest two possibilities:

  1. that applying such metrics leads to higher productivity levels because what gets measured gets done, and
  2. that organizations should look at both individual and group productivity metrics if they want to have success in this area.

The I4CP study shows that organizations are placing greater emphasis on productivity in today’s challenging times.

It also suggests that organisations that want to boost productivity should consider doing more to measure and track productivity as well as focus on specific organisational factors, including culture, leadership, employee engagement and, health and wellness initiatives.

You can read the original article on the I4CP website here.

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