Loyalty in organizations has become a premium over the past twenty years. It has been a two-way street, with employees chasing employers for first place status in disloyalty.
But, there is good news for people who partake of what I offer as a professional trainer in the workplace. Training has become a factor that increases employee loyalty. By providing employees skills that they can use in new positions, companies find that employees are more likely to stay.
Personal career development has long been one of the top motivating factors for employees on the job. While companies have tightened monetary and compensation rewards, the same is not true for training.
According to the Korn Ferry Hay Group study, published on March 21, 2016, “Across all employee levels, career development programs are poised to see the biggest expansion in use during 2016. More than half of respondents indicate they intend to expand the use of career development programs across all employee levels, supporting the creation of a stronger bench of employees with the hard and soft skills needed to assume more challenging roles within organizations.”
You can read the full article by clicking HERE.
I wish I were as optimistic as Chris Anderson, who wrote today, “Anyone Can Give a Memorable TED Talk,” in the Wall Street Journal (April 30-May 1, C3).
You can read the entire article by clicking HERE.
Anderson, who is the President of TED, has a new book that hits the market next week entitled TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).
He gives these tips:
- ask yourself if you have something worth saying
- slash the scope of your talk so that you unpack the idea properly
- give people a reason to care
- build your case piece by piece, using familiar words and concepts
- tell stories
His premise is that anyone, with the right approach, and enough practice, can be a greater presenter. In the article, he tells the improbable story of Richard Turere, a 12-year old Maasai boy, who gave a talk at a TED conference, in front of an audience of 1,400 seasoned professionals.
I don’t think so. I have provided instruction and critiqued thousands of speakers in Business Communication courses over the past 39 years, and have coached individuals one-on-one countless times. In fact, even today, I am meeting a speaker for individual coaching who gives a talk next week. I can start naming people right now who you would never see on the TED Talks site, no matter how much time I would spend coaching them, and I would still be listing names hours from now. And, I don’t think it’s because I’m a lousy coach. Sorry – everyone can’t do it.
His assumption is that there is something within an individual, that if unlocked properly, will propel a person to greatness. He would say that if you stay with it long enough, and apply the correct instruction and techniques, success is simply a matter of time.
I will admit that for many people, presenting is more a matter of “will” than “skill.” There are people who simply don’t want to get any better, and therefore, even intense training and coaching will not get them there. They could be great, but they don’t want to be. Fortunately, there are enough people who do respond to training and coaching, and who do become great speakers, that keeps me going as a professional resource.
But, what about people who can’t? What if fantastic presenting is not a will or skill issue? There are plenty of people who fall short of any or all of the six behaviors listed as tips above. They just can’t do it. It’s not their strength. It never will be. Do we beat them up and put them through the misery of intense scrutiny toward an end that will never happen? I would far rather build on something else that they are good at – one of their strengths – to work around their presentation weakness, than to consistently badger them to speak well.
I also think that the title of Anderson’s article today insults the great TED speakers. I am well aware that writers rarely get to construct titles to their articles. They usually see the title the same time all the readers do, so I am not bashing Anderson. But the title is there for all to see. TED Talks are premium presentations. Great content with great delivery. And, it is a very competitive product. These are not like “uploads to YouTube” from your web cam. Even many really great speakers are not to the level of TED presenters that you watch on that site.
To suggest that everyone can be like TED, is about the same as saying everyone can be like Mike. No way.
The problem is simple. Too many employees are not fully developed. In fact, too many employees develop very little after they are hired.
And this is a problem.
So, how does a company do a better job at developing employees? Here is a line from the 2002 book that kind of launched the “Execution” discussion of the last decade, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.
Teach your people – but remember, 80% of learning happens outside of the formal learning situations.
If 80% of learning happens outside of the formal learning situations, does this mean that the formal training, the formal sessions, are a waste of time? Yes – and no.
The formal training sessions are essential to jump-start the conversation, to give the “basics,” to “teach” the principles that need to be worked on. In other words, if the 80% of learning is outside the formal learning situations, you still need the formal session to start the process effectively. It is only a start – but it is an essential start.
But, after the session, the real learning begins. As the employee “works on” this new development area, a manager has to provide feedback, coaching, constructive criticism. It has to be someone’s job to help each employee take the next step.
So, in other words, without the training session, it is a much harder task to demonstrate just what needs to be worked on. But just to “say/present/teach,” even in a well-designed and well-led training session “this is what you need to work on,” without effective follow-up feedback and coaching, then, yes, training sessions can be a waste of time and resources.
In other words, it takes work; ongoing work, a lot of work, and teamwork between employee and managers, to develop the skills and capabilities of employees.
At Creative Communication Network, we have recently experimented with a new “Individual Action Plan,” that each participant completes at the end of each training session. Then, it is up to that employee to share that plan with his/her manager, and together they can tackle the ongoing feedback and coaching needs.
The training sessions alone are good, valuable. But, not enough! We are fully convinced that it is the “next steps” that make all the difference.
“Forgive us our sins of omission and our sins of commission.”
…sins of commission: the things we did and shouldn’t have.
…sins of omission: the sins of not doing what we should have.
So, I was sitting in church on Sunday, and my mind kept making connections from my thoughts in church to my work in the business arena. (Once you start blogging, it seems like you are always thinking about your next new blog post).
So, here is one of my mind connections.
Good employees seldom arrive at a job fully developed. Good employees need to be grown; to be built.
It seems to me that there are two ways to fail to “build” an employee. One way is the path of the sins of commission. To overtly mistreat an employee. To take advantage, to abuse, to discriminate, to belittle. I still like Tom Peters’ tweet about a consultant’s counsel to a leadership team:
Consultant called in for exec retreat. Enters, goes to white board, writes “DON’T BELITTLE;” turns and walks out. (YES!!!)
There are things that a leader, and/or a company does to an employee that are harmful – harmful to that employee, and ultimately harmful to the leader and to the company. These fall under those “bad boss, “the no asshole rule” practices. (The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton).
But there is another kind of failure. This is the path of the sins of omission. It happens when a company hires an employee, and fails to give that employee the training, the resources, the encouragement, the mentoring and coaching needed to do the job effectively. And it is this “sin” that might be the one that slips by so easily. Generally, a boss/manager knows when he or she is mistreating an employee. (Not always – but generally). But the lack of encouragement, the lack of training, the lack of coaching… This is one of those “I should have, but I was too busy to think about it” failures.
You know the solution to such sins, don’t you? In church terms, it requires some old fashioned repentance. In other words, you change your behavior.
So, are you mistreating your employees? Then it’s time to stop.
So, are you failing to give your employees the encouragement, the training, the coaching, the resources they need to do their best work? It’s time to start.
After all, what’s the use of hiring employees and then setting them up to fail? That’s just bad business.
Also, check out Bob Morris’ blog post The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome: A book review by Bob Morris. Her’s a key excerpt:
…supervisors are often unaware of the fact that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success. How? By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Hence the title of the book.
Manzoni and Barsoux assert that the set-up-to-fail syndrome is “both self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing, which obscures the boss’s responsibility in the process as well as some of the key psychological and social mechanisms involved.” My own experience suggests an often great discrepancy exists between modes of behavior determined by conscious and unconscious mindsets. That is to say, many supervisors would vehemently deny that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success….[by] creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Nonetheless they are. Were they to read this book, they would probably agree that there is such a syndrome and then lament how unfair it is to subordinates who are victimized by it.
The set-up-to-fail syndrome “is self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing – it is the quintessential vicious circle…” High expectations or low expectations both influence other people’s performance. Only high expectations have a positive impact on actions and on feelings about oneself. Only high expectations can encourage the heart.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others
We undermine so very much. We undermine ourselves; we undermine our people. I wonder, at times, if we undermine our country.
If we “set-up-to-fail,” then failure is an ever-greater possibility. If we set-up-to-succeed, then success is an ever-greater possibility.
Maybe it is this simple: we get what we aim for. But, “aiming for” requires specific actions; steps to follow.
And, there are steps we can take, steps we have to take, to set-up-to-succeed. We have to set the example, provide plenty of good training, and feedback, and encouragement (we have to “encourage the heart”). If we do not provide the training, the feedback, the encouragement – to ourselves; to others – we are setting-up-to-fail.
And if we set-up-to-fail, there is a pretty good possibility that we will fail.
So, here’s our new assignment – in every endeavor, in every new initiative, let’s get serious about setting-up-to-succeed.
Recently, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, asked some eminent economists why nobody had anticipated the credit crunch. She asked the question on a visit to the London School of Economics. She has received an apology, in writing, for their failures, signed by many of England’s top economists. I read this on Huffington Post, “British Economists Send Apology to Queen.”
According to the Observer newspaper, the letter says that “financial wizards” who believed that their plans to manage risky debts and protect the financial system were infallible were guilty of “wishful thinking combined with hubris.” “In summary, your majesty, the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole,” the newspaper quoted the letter as saying.
It is an amazing moment — economists admitting that they were wrong, that they made a huge mistake, and that their mistake was based partly, (in their own words), on their own “wishful thinking combined with hubris.” Hubris — one of the ancient, truly deadly sins. And when hubris goes unchecked, the consequences can be devastating, for many.
I have read a lot of business books. Many of them have great ideas to improve business thinking and performance. But still, our companies do not adequately make needed changes, and our companies fail to make needed corrections. And when they fail to make such corrections, they seldom apologize to anyone. And employees, customers, stockholders, and our entire society are negatively affected.
Correcting failures is hard work. Seeing the errors of our ways, seeing our own hubris which refuses to acknowledge our own failiures in thinking and action, is a terrible problem. Really, truly, a terrible problem.
I thought of all this in church this morning I don’t often quote from Christian Scripture on this blog, but let me do this on this issue. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that Scripture is useful “for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Let’s consider this simple formula, and apply it to business issues. I think that we do pretty well with the “teaching” and “training” tasks. It is the “rebuking” and “correcting” tasks that give us trouble. We do not like to face the facts of our own deficiencies, our own pride, our own mistakes, our own failures. And yet, constant truth telling with follow-on correction is critical in business improvement and long-term business success.
In fact, most of the books I read and present have a simple yet similar theme. It goes like this: “Here’s something you haven’t learned yet. And/or, here’s something you’re getting wrong that you need to correct. Now — learn it, correct it, and get to work on the path to success.”
Maybe we would all be better off if we had a Queen that we needed to apologize to.