Looking back at a year of radio shows
A little over a year ago, I began hosting a talk show for the Voice America Talk Radio Network called iLead: The Leadership Connection. I’ve been extremely fortunate to interview some of the leading thinkers in the business world, and to mark the anniversary of the broadcast, I’d like to take the opportunity to sum up a few things I’ve learned from these terrific discussions.
I’m calling these ideas The 12 Tenets of the New World of Work. We’re moving from an industrial economy to a more knowledge-based world, but we’re still using a lot of workplace tools and techniques from the ’50s,’60s, and ’70s that need to be tweaked if we want to go forward. Talking with my guests over this past year has heightened my awareness that we have to find different ways to create speed, foster engagement, and nurture great talent.
Here are the most important workplace strategies to keep in mind.
1. Respect. So many things we used to do simply are not going to work in this new environment. For one thing, people are no longer willing to be racked and stacked. They want to be valued and treated as human beings, not as cogs in a machine.
It may have once been efficient to treat people that way, but our employees are no longer producing widgets. Even so, plenty of companies continue to treat workers as cogs, with the attitude that anyone off the street can come in and do their job. That approach is just not going to work anymore.
2. Transformation. One view I heard universally from my guests was that today’s companies need to be constantly evaluating themselves, envisioning the next phase, and figuring out how quickly they can get there.
What are we transforming to? What’s the next phase of excitement and learning that will take place, and what are the steps we need to take? How do we, personally, learn to evolve?
3. Leadership with heart. Another item that came across loud and clear is that real leaders are essential. We need leaders with heart, who focus on their people, not themselves. Not top-down leaders, but servant leaders. People who are dedicated to helping others be the best they can be.
We’re giving people a chance who might not have had one in the past. So coaching — not telling people what they did wrong, but helping them see how they could do it better next time — has become a daily activity. We’re helping them grow, giving them tips, and encouraging them to talk with other people so they can learn and be of greater value not only to the organization but themselves.
Leadership with heart means not hoarding talent. Not hiding someone because you might have to fill their job or somebody else might snag that person. Because if you don’t help develop people and advance their career, they’ll walk out the door, and guess what — you’ll have to fill that job anyway.
4. Expanding your worldview. Inclusion is going to be — and already is — huge. Massive demographic shifts are going on in the world and will likely continue, for all the reasons we see in the newspaper and more. What does that mean? It means we have to break down our biases. We have to think about what they are and understand them. Where did they come from? If we can build a relationship with someone, get to know their values and what makes them tick, maybe we’ll see things in a different way.
5. Culture is king. Some people still believe the idea of organizational culture is “soft” or “touchy-feely.” But new research shows otherwise. It’s crucial to understand your culture and how it works. Many times, the values and platitudes on your wall don’t match the day-to-day experience people at your company have. If you have a high turnover, if you have low employee engagement scores, if people are grumbling, if there are quality issues, or if there’s a lack of innovation or integrity — these are all signs your culture may need to change.
6. Make way for the millennials. This generation is different from the previous ones. For one thing, they have better tools, faster technology. They can tell if things are going well or not. They can learn about your company in a heartbeat and make decisions based on that information.
Millennials have a lot of options, and they want to learn. Previous generations wanted to learn, too, but if things weren’t going well, they would stick with a job, hoping it would get better or something better would come along. Millennials are much more exacting about what they want from a job. As a result, companies are going to have to be more specific about what they’re offering. I like Reed Hoffman’s idea of “tours of duty” — where a company lays out what is expected in a job and provides a timetable for success.
7. Don’t put people in a box. One of the reasons people hate performance management is because if you’re not in the top 20%, you feel bad about it. Whenever we put people in boxes, we make them defensive. Now, that doesn’t mean people don’t want feedback. They want to know how they’re doing, but how you articulate where they stand is so important.
Neuroscience is going to play a big role in helping us think about how we develop people and how we get them excited to accomplish their goals. Ranking is out. Performance management is out. Performance excellence is in.
8. What’s your purpose? Sometimes when I ask leaders to define their purpose, I get a “deer in the headlight” look. Do they really even know? Many leaders can cite often unclearly a mission for long vision but being able to articulate a compelling purpose that creates an emotional hook is missing. Purpose must also be connected to your values. Your values and associated behaviors need to be transparent and supportive your purpose. For example if you say your purpose is to save lives but when you make decisions about budget allocations you cut corners to save money that will impact on your ability to save lives. Consistency and alignment are critical
My own purpose is pretty clear. I really believe in building great leaders and great workplaces where people can live their dreams. That’s what makes me excited.
In the new world of work, values, more than competencies, are going to have the biggest impact. If you say this is what you value, is your behavior consistent with that?
9. Eliminating toxic leadership. You’ve probably heard the story a million times: So-and-So is the best and the brightest, even though yeah, he’s tough on his staff, and yeah, he’s abusive. You know what? That’s costing you money. That person may be the best and the brightest, but they’re burning people out. They’re leaving a bad mark on your company, tarnishing your brand. The only people who can do something about toxic leaders are their bosses.
My rule is “three strikes and you’re out.” First, call out the bad behavior. Coach them to help it change. If the person doesn’t think they need to change, then you need to show them the door in a respectful way. If you allow toxic people to stay in your organization, you’ve sent a huge message to everyone else that it’s okay to be that way. You’ve created a toxic culture. It’s a long, hard, and, I might add, expensive road to change it.
10. Performance management is over. As I said earlier, we need to move from a performance management system to a performance excellence system. And that system needs to be in line with your culture. So often people put all these systems and tools in place without looking at the bigger strategic picture of their organization. Some tools can have a negative effect on the culture you’re trying to create. And performance management is one of those tools.
What’s the philosophy you’re trying to promote through your performance system? Is it development? Is it encouraging people to stay? Do you want people to rotate through various parts of your company or learn new skills? Why are you doing this? In other words, make sure your values are aligned with this system.
Write the values down so people will understand them. What I’ve done for many organizations is to help leaders create documentation of their values in action. For instance, someone who values listening is someone who asks questions and doesn’t do all the talking. People will read the document and learn: this is what that value means in action.
Then you have to train your leaders and managers to recognize this desirable behavior, assess talent against these criteria, and provide specific actionable feedback regularly – not yearly. What do these values look like when they’re being performed well? When they’re not?
11. Coaching and constructive feedback. Getting clear on your values and the behaviors you want to see will enable you to avoid a ratings system and instead use peer coaching, weekly or bi-weekly discussion sessions, personal contracts, and real-time feedback on how to make a project or work product better. This is what I mean by a performance excellence system. Link your talent and performance discussions with the values you hold dear to make sure you’re sending a consistent message and that people understand the decisions that are made around talent.
12. The importance of global leadership. So many companies are facing leadership challenges from other parts of the world — from mergers and acquisitions, to the acceptance of different perspectives and cultures, to the need to send people to other countries in order to build the business. But just because someone is a top talent at your headquarters doesn’t mean they’re going to be a top talent in Dubai.
I think most companies need both great local leaders and effective transglobal leaders. In our book Winning with Transglobal Leadership, my co-authors and I offer tools to help companies assess the potential of people you’re sending into global assignments and training to help them succeed. Don’t just offer assessment and support for the employee — do the same for the family. They need to succeed in this new world as well.
Just as important, once they get back, you need to value the experience they’ve gained. Use them as mentors and developers of others in your company and in other assignments around the world. Help them continue to be successful — because, again, if they leave, you’ve lost all the great knowledge they have.
Want more information? If you’d like help in developing global leaders at your company, need more ideas for building the new world of work, or you want someone to come to your organization and talk about these issues, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks for tuning in to my show this past year. I look forward to another successful year with a bunch of terrific guests!