Archive for the 'Performance' Category

The wrong question

Enjoyed the recent HRINZ conference in Wellington. The ‘Restoring the Trust’ theme was right on from the current economic environment Well run with a provocative series of speakers especially Roger Steare (Ethicability) , Vanessa Stoddart (Air New Zealand) and  Fermin Diaz (Mercer). The conference ran like clock-work. Well done to Beverley Main and the HRINZ team.

I did take issue with David Thompson (Beyond the Dots) who talked about Talent Management. I think I may be in a minority of people who object to the idea of identifying the few talented ones in an organisation! I don’t think I’m being a socialist here. The whole approach is based on the wrong question – ‘how do we identify and support our talent?’. If you ask the wrong question, you will come up with the wrong answer. Focusing on a relatively few high performance individuals is dumb.

Here’s one of the reasons why. Lets say your talent program identifies 10% of your organisation as talent. If your program raises their performance by 50% (which is hard as they already are high performers) the net organisational gain is a mere 5%.

I think a better question is – ‘how do we unlock the talent throughout the organisation?’ Because if you can raise the performance of the rest of your organisation (the 90%) by just 10% (which is easy as they are low performers) the net organisational gain is 9%. An 80% improvement on focusing on the talented few (ie. 9% instead of 5%).

I’m not an HR professional, but I think …

The problem is that talent management sounds like a good idea. But if HR is to build trust with business, it needs to stop advocating strategies that are fundamentally flawed and will not deliver value to their business. Eventually the results will speak for themselves and Talent Management will fail to meet it’s expectations. That will damage HR’s credibility and reliability which in turn will damage trust.

My second point here is about the art of questioning. Such a powerful and under-utilised skill. Our individual credibility is communicated as much though the questions we ask as though the stories and experiences we share. But take care not to ask the wrong question. Give the right question some consideration.

Of course, I could be quite wrong. Happy to heard alternate points of view.

Opinion

I’m back at my Meisner acting class. Barbara likes to say:

an actor without an opinion is like an athlete without a game plan!

It’s a powerful idea. Actors who have strong opinions have presence. You can’t take your eyes off them! Their scenes are compelling.

Is it a powerful idea in business? An opinion could be a vision, mission, strategy or a value. But opinions sound like they are more personal, less corporate. Personal opinions have a stronger influence on behaviour – in acting, in business and in life.

Should leaders have stronger personal opinions?  Is this what makes them so effective? I often wonder if we are developing  a cohort of senior managers in leadership competency, only to find they don’t have a personal opinion on what leadership means to them. Their leadership understanding and knowledge doesn’t translate into compelling action. I think leadership should start with a strong personal opinion on life.

Perhaps also, it is easier to trust people with strong opinions?  You may not agree with their opinion.  But strong opinions make people more purposeful, have a stronger presence and more predictable in their behaviour.

Strong opinions may be powerful, but they may also be dangerous. It obviously depends on what the opinion is. But more dangerously, opinions start to define how you see and experience the world in ways that reinforce themselves. Always dangerous in a rapidly changing world.

Perhaps we can all have strong opinions that are loosely held? Is that possible?

Meaning

Liked this old clip of Viktor Frankl. Another thought provoking clip from ted.com. Even though it’s almost 40 years old!

Enjoy

In control

A client spoke recently of ‘getting in control’.

Made me think of the reality and usefulness of control.

Perhaps control is an illusion that doesn’t help in a rapidly changing environment. Reminded me of Patricia Ryan Madsen’s improvisation manifesto (see earlier post).

Think what may be more important is awareness and the courage to respond to whatever comes along. Being in the moment, as it were.

If you’re Wellington based, I recommend Barbara Woods Meisner acting class. She teaches actors to be believable and compelling in any given imaginary situation. You may not want to act, but as a leader it sure helps to be believable and compelling. You’ll learn both with Barbara.

Barbara is contactable at msbarbarella@hotmail.com

Progress

It’s often refreshing to read the Harvard Business Review. They seem to understand how to communicate incisive business ideas in a very engaging way. It was particularly refreshing to see Teresa Amabile’s contribution to Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 (January-February 2010).

The number one motivator (by a long way) for motivating people is Progress. (ie. the feeling of making progress in one’s work). That’s based on the Amabile/Kramer multi-year study of hundreds knowledge workers. I’m calling it Achievement.  I think we’re on the same page.

What I’m arguing is that the best investment an organisation can make is in supporting it’s people to achieve something that aligns with the strategic direction of the organisation. There are no silver bullets, only fundamental questions.

Everyone should ask themselves:

  1. Given the current situation, what specific achievement should I be focused on? What specifically constitutes progress?
  2. How would this be meaningful to me?
  3. How do I enroll the people I need to support this specific achievement/progress?
  4. How do I create a sense of momentum that motivates myself and the team?
  5. What does reality look like? Am I making progress?

Worth thinking about!

Because you know. The greatest opportunities for leadership development, learning, motivation, change, engagement, value, etc – lie in front of us in the work that we do.  It is just a matter of how we think about it.

ps I’m back after a summer recess! You’ll be hearing more from me.


Future of work

Here’s a cool presentation on the future of work.

http://www.slideshare.net/jbrenman/the-future-of-work-2361479

I like the golden rule of real estate = location, location, location.

The golden rule of work = communication, communication, communication!

Is there anything else?

Achievement focus

The All Whites made soccer history a second time by making it into the 2010 football world cup in South Africa. The draw for pool play happens tomorrow in South Africa. Some would prefer that the All Whites are drawn in a tough group. They want the opportunity to play Brazil and other tops sides in pool play. For most of the team it would be there only opportunity to play against the top players in the world.

Not the captain though. Ryan Nelson wants to be picked in the easiest group to maximise the teams chances of making it past the pool stage.  To make it to the last 16 would be the greatest sporting achievement of all time for NZ. He’s not settling for just making up the numbers. That’s achievement focus!