12 Pieces of Clothing for the Emperor

For the last two weeks, I’ve written about “Clothing the Emperor“and I’ve received some interesting feedback. Some readers readily admitted that they were naked or had parts of themselves exposed and are working to cover themselves;  while others are struggling to identify what areas need covering up. The 12 questions adapted from my book “Lead Your Team To Win” provide leaders with clues of what parts of their leadership areas are uncovered. It’s pretty simple.

Read the questions.

Answer them  YES or NO.

IF you’ve answered questions 5 and 7 YES and all the others NO, then these represent areas in which you may be exposed.

Then you can make a choice – Fix it or leave it alone.

  1. Does your team work well together?
  2. Does your team discuss tough issues with you
  3. Do your team members eagerly attend team meetings and one-on-ones with you?
  4. Do your team members express a shared purpose for their work?
  5. Do you tell your staff what work needs to be done?
  6. Do team members generate ideas and come up with new projects?
  7. Do your employees take actions that seem to sabotage their careers?
  8. Do you trust your employees?
  9. Do your employees trust you?
  10. Do your team members think they are performing at optimal levels?
  11. Do you think your team members are performing at optimal levels?
  12. Is your team perceived as a high achieving team by the rest of the organization?

Of course there are many other questions and areas to be covered when thinking about our leadership and how we can improve our leadership. The questions posed are to set a seeker on a path, with the hope that once he or she finds the path it will be easier to seek more questions and have more answers.

What other questions can tell us about our leadership? What do you ask yourself to stay clothed?

Maxine Attong uses her Clothing the Emperor process to assist leaders effectively Lead teams to win. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win and Change or Die. Maxine is also an OD Consultant , Speaker and Certified Accountant.

The Naked Emperor – Clothing the Emperor Part 2

Wikipedia shares the Hans Christian Anderson Story – The Emperor’s New Clothes, This story is about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

I can only imagine how the emperor felt when he realised that he was naked. He probably experienced a range of feelings, – embarrassed that he displayed the royal assets for all to see, angry that he was duped by the weavers, hurt that his trusted advisors did not point of the obvious, and at the bottom of it, great sadness that he was the subject of such treatment by a large number of people. He probably was left with the lingering feelings that come with self betrayal, as he ignored what his eyes told him and forced himself to believe what others said.
When I reflected on my leadership, I also experienced a range of emotions. I felt a sense of deep regret over the way that I treated team members and even more ashamed of how I treated myself.
The leaders that I coach confess similar emotions. Their faces and their words reflect the sadness, remorse, anger and deep hurt that these revelations bring.
Over the years that I have worked with leaders I have developed a unique Clothing the Emperor process that involves, among other things, these four steps:

1) Admit that you have a problem – When the young boy shouted, the emperor admitted that he was indeed naked. When he admitted his nakedness, he had choices to make – he could continue to flash his parts or he could get clothed. When we receive feedback from our peers and team members, we need to be open, listen to the feedback and concede that parts of us  if not all) are naked, Then we have a choice to make, remain naked or be clothed.
2) Get rid of the subjects – It may be wonderful for your ego to have people around you who agree to every thing that you say, or who hang on to your every word or tell you that you are the best thing since slice bread. But how does that serve you? Are you to walking around pretending to be what you are not? Are there silent snickers since you refuse to see the obvious? If you are surrounded by people who do not challenge you or who always agree that your idea is the best, then, I suggest that you quickly get rid of them or at the least stop listening to them. These loyal subjects will say anything to feed your ego, while benefitting from the follies of your ego. Switch these out for some truth speakers who will tell you like it is. Also, consider the possibility that the emperor’s court may have been terribly afraid to tell him the truth – who wants to lose a head? If you know that you shout or call other’s names or display inappropriate behaviour when team members disagree with you, then they are not being shady or dishonest by agreeing with all that you say and do – they my be afraid of you.
3) Face the weavers – Those who have duped us can provide us with real insight into our leadership. What about us attracted them? What did they see in us? In the ideal world, the weavers would give us feedback that would provide us with deep and powerful “Ah Ha” moments, but in this world, they most likely will not. Learn from the event, and think about your actions and take responsibility for your part in the charade. The emperor’s ego, his desire to have a coat like no other, and the promise that he could identify persons who were “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent” led him to deny this eyes and believe the weavers. While accepting responsibility for your part , don’t blame yourself for the actions of others – that has nothing to do with you. I’m sure the emperor was not the first person that the weavers duped.
4) Put on some clothes – At the end of it all, we’ve already stood naked in front of the crowd. We have made the mistakes and suffered the consequences. We know today what we did not know yesterday. We are naked and we need to put some clothes on. So let’s just do it. Get a coat, a dress, a pair of pants, whatever is your fancy and put it on. Have some fun with it, we’ve already suffered. There is a world of clothes to try on – once you don’t return to the weavers. As you wear your clothes, use a 360 degree mirror so that you can see yourself as others see you. Get honest feedback and self reflect on the veracity of the feedback. Breathe in and keep going.

It’s easy for us to laugh at the emperor. But he’s the lucky one, he’s a fairytale character; not so with us – we are real, So dear reader, to help you as you clothe yourself I leave you with a few questions:
What parts of you are naked?
Who are the tailors in your life?
What are you wearing now?

Maxine Attong uses her Clothing the Emperor process to assist leaders to Lead there teams to win. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win and Change or Die.

Clothing the Emperor

Wikipedia shares the Hans Christian Anderson Story – The Emperor’s New Clothes, This story is about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

We all have a bit of the Emperor in us. A part of us that we can’t see and that we are not interested in knowing about. We often convince ourselves that others who see these aspects of ourselves “ do not understand” us or are themselves suffering from the same aliments.
These Emperor bits are perilous for the leader, they are our blind spots and negatively impact on our ability to be effective in the role.
When I speak to leaders I often ask:

  • Tell me about your leadership
  • What kind of leader are you?

The answers are not readily given, and often they state that they need some time to think about it. The responses are even more interesting when I ask the follow up question,
“What kind of leader do you want to be?”
They shake their heads, have deep and thoughtful bouts of silence and often confess that they never thought about it.
Now don’t get me wrong, my clients are high performers and goal setters. They are people who have set a vision for their life and are busy getting to it. They know that leadership is important and they have embraced the reasons why they are leaders. Yet, they often have not been deliberate or intentional about their leadership,
As I work with them, to define and enhance their ability to be the leader they want to be, I more or less follow a three step process which I’ve labelled “Clothing the Emperor”. These are simple steps and they are not easy steps.
1) What type of leader are you? This is the hardest of the three steps, since like the emperor we have to admit that we may be displaying characteristics that we prefer remained hidden. There are myriad of tests that indicate personality type, or give an insight to a person’s strengths and weaknesses, and these are a great place to start. To turn the scrutiny up a notch, I ask clients to be brutally honest with themselves and admit what they are like on a daily basis. If we reminisce on how we respond to others, how we treat with responsibility and how we treat ourselves, peers and team members we begin to find clues about what our leadership is like. When we look and listen to ourselves in the various arenas of our lives, we get an even sharper picture. Most of us find this self-review challenging, tiring and embarrassing, so it’s easy for us to not seek this kind of truth. For the brave hearted and the true seekers. I recommend anonymous feedback from team members and peers on what their leadership is really like. This is a way of holding up a 360 degree mirror so that we have a complete view of ourselves and understand how our leadership is perceived. Just as the child cried out that the emperor was naked, so too will the feedback reveal what parts of ourselves are exposed and the behaviours that we are unaware of.
2) Determine the type of leader that you want to be – Most of us believe in the importance of having visions and setting goals, yet, few of us set a vision for the type of leader we want to be. Like the emperor we want to be praised for our clothes, that is, we want to be seen as an effective leader. Unlike the emperor, we need to think about what we want people to say when we put on the new clothes. Think about it. When you strut around in your new clothes what do you want people to say about you? If people were free to shout at you when you parade what do you want to hear? How do you want people to feel when they see you coming down the streets? The answers to these questions tell you to the type of leader that you want to be. When I did this exercise, I became very clear about my leadership, and I knew hat I needed to be a “safe” leader.
3) Go ahead and apply it – So now that you have had the personal insight, gained the feedback, decided what you want to be, you need to do it. Put on your new clothes , take a swirl in them and see if they fit you and more importantly if they suit you. Don’t be afraid to toss it, since the most gorgeous of outfits may be unsuitable for you and your personality. Keep the parts that are a fit and replace the others. Try walking in your new clothes. see how they feel, and see how others respond to them.  Keep wearing them every day. There will be times, when under pressure, with tight deadlines, or under stress, that you will revert to previous ways, and that’s OK. It’s never easy to change habits, so keep your vision and affirmations close at hand to remind you of the way you want to be. Get help, get a coach, and most of all be gentle with yourself when you fail. Failure is part of the process, Remind yourself, that you have been leading in old clothes for x years and now it’s going to take a while for the new clothes to feel like a second skin.

So now you get to decide as you do with every part of your life. “What kind of leader do you want to be?” You get to choose. “How do you want to lead your team?” Your decision, your choice.

Maxine Attong is a “safe” leader. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win, and Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual, an Executive Coach, an Organisational Development Consultant and a keynote speaker.

3 reasons why we lead

There was a time that I refused to lead.. I left my professional accounting career and worked as a consultant, or as a part-time or full-time contractor. In those roles, I worked with conglomerates, SMEs and multinationals, in the oil & gas, insurance, trade union, financial, hotel and retail sectors. From this external position, i had a wonderful vantage point to observe a wide and large cross section of leaders and teams. During those 11 years, I listened to employees and managers share their frustrations about leading or being led, and I realised that I was part of the problem – because I refused to take up the leadership mantle. And so, I determined to return to leadership within an organisation, so that I could develop and experiment with leadership. From my discussions with other leaders, my experiences and my observations I determined that there are three reasons why people decide to lead.

  1. We want to – Leadership offers the unique opportunity, to fulfil our loftier ambitions. When we decide to lead, we determine to move beyond management even while required to coordinate, organise and plan the work of others. These technical aspects of the job become mundane and are no longer enough to satisfy us; we feel the need to provide something more for our team members and to ask more of ourselves. Leadership allowed me frequent occasions to live my personal vision of “enhancing the lifes of people with whom I make contact”. On a daily basis, I was offered the potential to make a difference, to enhance a life, and to be the person whom I envisioned myself to be.  On a daily basis I could do as I wanted, to lead, that is, to harness the intelligence and creativity of the team.
  2. We need to – As I work with organisations, I notice that there is a dearth of leadership as well as an amazing bunch of talented leaders. I also noticed that not all leaders hold leadership roles on the company’s organisational chart. Yet, I see these men and women happily provide leadership to their teams. Yes, I am talking about the oft dreaded ‘informal’ leader. When asked why do they do it, they reply that, “Someone needs to do something,” or “If I do nothing I will be part of the problem” or they cast aspersions on the status quo. These leaders have identified the intangible qualities that are missing in the organisation and they decide, to provide or be what is missing in the system ( in their own way). They lead because they feel or think there is a void and they take responsibility for filling that void. In so doing, they issue a silent challenge to all of us – Lead from where you are, because the organisation needs you to. What better reason is there?
  3. We are placed in a leadership position – A lot of us never thought about leadership until hired or promoted to such a position. We have all seen it – the high performer or a technical expert who protested being placed in a leadership position.  It is easy for us to blame “management” for not listening, but what then is the onus of the new appointee?   Let’s face it, (s)he could have said “No”, or declined the job or resigned or found another job. Instead, (s)he said yes to all that the new job brings – which includes the perks and leadership. Once the promotion has been accepted then he appointee needs to live up to hi/her part of the bargain and be deliberate in his/ber intention to lead

Now dear reader let’s focus the light on you: Your leadership is important. What is the reason for your leadership? What is your new reason for leadership? Drop me a line, I would love to know.

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win.  She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

3 reasons why Leadership is important

I’ve pondered the question,” Why is leadership important? throughout my career. The answer eluded me until I developed my definition of leadership as the harnessing of the creativity and the intelligence of people – then  I clearly understood why leadership is important.

There are many analogies of the leader – as surgeon, conductor, etc. –  that essentially share the importance of the leaders. (They direct team members, assign tasks according to the level of skill and competency, have a helicopter’s view of the team,  assists members to fulfil their roles and responsibilities, and the list goes on.)

What if we shift focus and narrow in on team members? Why do team members think leadership is important?

When I answer these questions from the team members’ perspective, the reasons become more nuanced, more social and less about business. I believe that when leadership acts as a harness, it  has the potential to allow each team member to be part of something bigger, to tap into members innate desire to be led and to provide members the opportunity to dwell in community. Let me explain:

We want to be part of something bigger – Each of us matters. Each of us wants to matter. While our current situation may not reflect our deepest desire, we each want our life to mean something. This desire for meaning also extends to the hours spent earning our keep. Effective Leadership helps us to link daily tasks, our roles and our responsibilities to a bigger vision, a larger purpose and a grander scheme. Leadership paints a vivid picture, that engenders our belief that what we are doing is important and often critical to the success of the team, of the organisation and of our individual selves. We want leadership to connect us to something beyond the mundane, other than ordinary, and into something bigger.

We want to be led – Why do people “keep up with the Kardashians”? Why do they adopt their fashion, behaviour and mannerisms? Because they want to be led. We’ve seen this before with great political, religious and thought leaders who have commanded large audiences, willing us to be more, and encouraging us to believe that more is possible. We want a voice to speak for us, we want someone to emulate, we want a champion and we want to be part of their world. Effective leadership, satisfies these needs on a regular basis as their image reflects the great in us, and as it acknowledges that we are not sheep.

We want to be in community –  Man has always lived in community – for protection, for food, for spiritual and other reasons. This is an old need of ours – to be of a community, to be in community. We want to belong to a group, that respects us, that we respect, that shares similar beliefs and holds complimentary values. Leadership allows us this sense of community when it corrals the various perspectives, personal agendas, skills and competencies of the team members to achieve a common purpose. Leadership is the glue that holds the various thoughts, opinions and ambitions of the team members together and guides them in a common direction. There is no loss of or squashing of or disrespecting of independent thought, instead there is a tacit agreement that for the common objective to be achieved we will move forward in this direction.

Now dear reader let’s turn the lens on you. Why do you want to be a leader? Why is your leadership important?

P.S. Drop me a line and share you thoughts.

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win.  She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

What is Leadership?

Google the word Leadership and you will receive 805,000,000 results in 0.85 seconds. Do the same on Amazon and it will return over 214,000 results.  Clearly, there is a lot of interest in leadership. Yet, with the many websites, the various books, and the ever increasing amount of leadership gurus and executive coaches, most of us struggle when asked to take up the leadership mantle.
I was one of those leaders who was losing the battle with leadership. To be honest, the books that I read, the gurus that I listened to, could not have helped me. I’m the type of person who never reads the manual, I just plunge right in, believing that I could do it – how hard could it be?
So I had to stumble, fall, try different things, and then step back from it all, review my failures and successes, compare and contrast my behaviour with that of others and then make a grand conclusion about what leadership meant to me.
From my rumination, observations and experiences, I define leadership as the harnessing of the creativity and the intelligence of the people with whom I work.
This definition works well for me because:
It’s not about me – My role is that of leader, but leadership is not about me. It is about the team members and how I work with them to achieve objectives. My focus therefore needs to be external and not internal, my lens wide and not myopic and my embrace inclusive and not exclusive.
Leadership is not about control – There is a lot of imagery of the Leader taking charge – from in front or behind – of the Leader being in control, or of the Leader making decisions. When I take control of everything, I also take responsibility for all that happens, which leaves me overworked, stressed, and extremely tired with a long list of never ending tasks. Honestly, I do not want to be in control.
What’s with the harness – A horse’s harness provides guidance; a harness on a team of horses ensures that the horses stay together and keep pace. Yes, humans are not horses, but you get the idea. Leaders are to work with the personalities, the characteristics and the ambitions of each team member and guide these at an individual and group level to achieve the team’s objectives. No easy task.
People are Intelligent – Neuroscience confirms that adults are not “old dogs”, we can as we age learn new tricks, since the brain regularly produces new neurons. Psychologists have identified as many as 12 different types of intelligence in humans, and have proven that most humans display more than one type of intelligence and can learn other types. Leaders have a lot of raw material to work with. People are like mirrors, If we treat them as intelligent, they will act intelligently. Be warned, lots of patience, reinforcing words and compassion are needed when working with  persons whose intelligence has been battered.
People are creative –  Give team members permission to be creative – have discussions sans judgement, encourage the generation of new ideas and projects and build an atmosphere that engenders lightness, playfulness and risk taking.
Leadership is about you – You, the leader, are an unique individual with unique perspectives and experiences.  These hold real value and are the purest resources that you have to draw upon. Yes take the advice of others, or  read the books, but know that at the end of the day ,you have some decisions to make. What kind of leader do you want to be? How are you going to lead? What are those aspects of your personality that make you either an effective or ineffective leader? What are you going to do about it ?

Once I committed to my definition of leadership, I became more comfortable in my role as leader.  I saw my effectiveness grow (though the behaviour and results of the team). The task no longer felt daunting, I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else or possess qualities that I did not have. I could operate from my perfectly imperfect self and be an effective leader.

Maxine Attong coaches leaders who want to be more effective. Contact her if you want to enhance your leadership. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win.

3 Employee Engagement Tips

I’ve been writing about #EmployeeEngagement for the month and the most questions that I receive are about HOW?  How do we engage employees, as leaders?
I like these questions – not only because I can answer them – but because the emphasis is on the leader’s role.
Very often we speak of the employees being intellectually and mentally connected to the organization, but the organization is a thing and cannot of its own, take action.  The first line of connection that an employee has with the company is often and sometimes solely through the person to whom they report. It is the Manager, Leader, Supervisor, Team Leader who is the organization’s forward in delivering the #EmployeeEngagement goal. Unfortunately the leader , manager, supervisor or team  does not always actively think that engagement is part of his/her role.
When I lead teams I know that it is my responsibility to provide the conditions for employees to connect with the work that they do and by extension the organization. I use the three below tips to help engage employees.

  1. What’s in it for me? We are motivated when we think that our actions will bring us closer to what we want.  Each employee works for different reasons – some  want job security, others want to rack up achievements, while some want money to pursue their dreams, take care of families or build a business. Each employee has a reason for working even though they may not be able to, or want to, or are afraid of articulating it.  When I understood the personal desires of  each employee I was able to delegate tasks, develop career paths, offer relevant training and sometimes advise the employee to move on. Employees that I worked with did not always like me, nor me them, but they were connected to what they were doing because they were clear about the indelible link between their job and  their desire.
  2. One-on-One – How does a manager/ leader know what employees want? I have one-on-one meetings with employees. The intention of these meeting is to understand what makes the employee tick.  One-on-ones last for 30 minutes. In the first 10 minutes the employee talks about what’s on his mind, the second 10 minutes the manager asks “WHAT “ and “HOW” questions to  clarify the information received from the employees and to help the employee work through the issues presented.  The last 10 minutes are spent with the employee summarizing the meeting and thinking about the next steps. These sessions are voluntary so employees may not always attend or follow the proposed structure. I’ve lead teams whose members all refused to attend one-on-one sessions. Over time, some of these team members popped into my office, closed the door and began to talk. (Regular team meetings were used as avenues to engage others) Learning about the employee does not happen overnight, as employees are often tentative of such engagements – especially if this is a first for them. Initial sessions may be awkward and it will take several sessions for both the employee and leader to feel comfortable. These meetings allowed me to understand the dreams, the desires, the ambitions, the fears, the challenges and the dashed hopes of employees.  I was always left with a better appreciation  of their life priorities and what tasks to assign so that they remain motivated and achieved some aspect of their personal ambition because of the work that they do.
  3. What type of leader are you? Let’s be real – can you honour a one-on-one? When employees reveal themselves and their ambitions to you what do you do with this? I sift through the information to glean the bits that are relevant to the job and ignore the rest. I don’t fool myself – the person in front of me is a complex, adult, human being and chooses to show me only one side of his/herself. I only get a glimpse of the employee’s  personal affairs, and I cannot verify the information, follow up or give advice., nor can I take any action based on personal information revealed in the one-on-one ( unless the employee plans to hurt her/himself or someone else).  The personal information is a backdrop, my focus is only on how this information provides guidance about task assignment. It allows me an avenue for agreeing with the employee how the job and their ambitions can be aligned despite the challenges or limitations that may be present. Nothing else that they say is relevant to this, despite how juicy it may be.  So let’s be honest.
    One-on-Ones are not for you, if you
    * Can’t maintain confidence
    *Share what you hear,
    *Think life should/ must/ has to  be lived one way
    *Have little tolerance for differences

Put one-on-ones in your toolkit if you
* Can manage your judgements ( we all have them)
*Are willing to broaden your world view
*Are aware that you do not know the employee even if they share deeply
*Can compartmentalize and select only relevant information

One-on-Ones work when employees build trust in their leader and the leader respects the trust that has been built. This is not an overnight process.

In my book- Lead Your Team to Win – I share even more engagement tips.

P.S. I have  encountered  employees who do not want to connect with the job – some are marking time or passing through. When I encounter these persons I collaborate with them to identify what they can do while they are part of the team and work with them for a transfer to another team or help them get another job.

Do you agree that employee engagement is part of the Manager/ Leader’s responsibility?
How do you engage the employees who report to you?

No Silver Bullet – Change Engagement Results

She called and said,” Every year, we do an #EmployeeEngagementSurvey and every year our score is more or less the same.’
I asked, “What do you do with the survey results?
She responded,” What do you mean?”
I tried again, “What actions does the company take between #EngagementSurveys to change the scores?”
She was equally bewildered; and I knew the answer to both questions – Nothing.
The Employee #EngagementSurveyResult is not an end of itself.  It is an indicator of the level of engagement that  employees have with the organization. If we think of the survey as a communication tool, then it simply says, “These are the areas in which the company is connecting/ not connecting with employees or these are areas that the employees feel engaged or disengaged with the company.”
The survey provides feedback on the level of emotional or intellectual connection that employees have with the different areas of the work environment – strategy, leadership communication, the work that they do and their career path, inter alia.
Like any good listener, when the company receives this feedback, the company needs to

  • Check for understanding
  • Make a decision
  • Give a response

For example, the #EngagementSurvey results indicate that communication is ineffective.The company needs to:

  • Check for understanding – Meet with employees to understand what’s behind the scores and give employees the opportunity to give examples or express feelings further.
  • Make a decision – We can do nothing. Or based on the feedback we need to have more staff meetings.
  • Give a response – The company announces that effective January 1 quarterly staff meetings will be held with a stated agenda.

In this example, the company has created more opportunities for communication. If the score is unchanged in a subsequent survey, the company now has new information to process, that is,  more meetings does not equal better communication. The unchanged result, after discussions with staff, may reveal that the meeting agenda is inadequate, or quarterly staff meetings in the company’s environment may be insufficient or a misinterpretation of employee feedback.

There is no silver bullet, the company has to follow the leads presented in the feedback and put actions in place, bearing in mind that there may be many facets to a problem, all competing for recognition at the same time.
The company’s duty is to collaborate with employees for possible solutions and to involve employees in the implementation of the solutions. The company alone cannot change the #EngagementScores.
While the focus is on the score – everyone wants a higher score – we need to acknowledge that this doesn’t happen automatically. Things need to be done differently for #EmployeeEngagement scores to increase.
There must be targeted effort to address the low scoring areas – which are improvement opportunities- and staff need to be actively involved for this to happen.
My colleague’s company obviously views the #EngagementScore as the end result, without understanding that it is just a beginning.

What does your company do between Employee Engagement Surveys?

Maxine Attong is an Organisational Development Consultant, Business and Life Coach, Speaker and Author. Check out my website www.maxineattong.com to learn more about me.

P.S. Save the date – March 15,2017, Kapok Hotel. Breakfast seminar: Maximising Human Capital in the New Economy.

And the survey says….

The Human Resources Manager hosted a Town Hall to share the results of the recently concluded  #EmployeeEngagementSurvey. He entered the room with great flair and seemed just as excited as we, since it was the first time that such a survey was conducted. My excitement waned after his opening remarks, “I’ve heard complaints about the company, but the survey says…”
As he shared the scores, he told the audience that the survey results placed the complainers in the minority, and  perceived problems were not supported by the survey results. As I squirmed in my chair, I noticed that my colleagues seemed equally uncomfortable with his performance.  After the meeting, we huddled and were left with two questions:

  1. How were the results tabulated?
  2. What do the results mean?

How were the results tabulated?
How would you interpret the results for the question:

Do you understand the impact of the 2017 strategy on your job?

The survey scores questions on a range of 1 – 5.  ( 5 being the highest score for the question asked and 1 being the lowest.) The results:

  • 40% of staff answer with a 5 – which means that they understand,
  • 10% of staff answer with a 1 – which means that they do not understand
  • 50% of staff respond with a 3 – which means that they understand to some extent

The results can be interpreted as:

  • 90% of staff understand the impact of the 2017 strategy on the job. or
  • 40% of the staff understand the impact of strategy, 60% do not.

Which of the interpretations accurately reflect the situation?

I caution against the use of  median results to buffer and tabulate better engagement scores. These scores are often not positive indicators of engagement – they may represent neutrality or ambivalence or lack of interest about the 2017 strategy, or a feeling that the strategy is separate from my job or some other meaning. Unless there is shared meaning about median scores, these cannot be seen as positive purveyors of engagement

What do the results mean?
Survey results communicate the level of #EmployeeEngagement to the company. Though the numbers provide data, there is need for a shared understanding of what the scores reflect.

I always meet with staff – by departments/ teams – after the survey results, to understand what the results mean.  At these meetings, I aim to spend 95% of the time listening to staff explain the reasons behind the scores and clarifying what is shared. I have heard the reasons for high scores as:

  • I understand the strategy,
  • I did not want to rock the boat,
  • I don’t believe the survey is anonymous/or I fear retribution,
  • I did not want to seem stupid.

Low scores may also reflect – that

  • The strategy is not understood,
  • A different interpretation of the questions,
  • The impact of a recent event,
  • Misunderstandings of past situations
  • A lack of interest in the question
  • The question is not seen as relevant

While these meetings do not change the scores, they give good insight into:

  • The meaning of the scores,
  • What needs to be addressed to change the score,
  • Pointers to address with staff before the next engagement survey
  • How some questions may need to be restated at the next survey.

Even though companies with a longer tradition of performing engagement surveys have less interpretation problems with the survey questions, the need to understand what is behind the scores remains the same.

While the score itself is important, it becomes even more relevant, when everyone clearly understands the thinking behind the scores.

As I reflect on the Town Hall, I am still left with the image of the gleeful HR Manager juxtaposed with the staff shuffling out of the meeting room. The results were seen as a validation of Employee Engagement efforts even though no attempts were made to understand what the results meant.  The high scores (which may have included middle scores) were enough for him.

What does your company do after the engagement survey results have been tabulated?

Maxine Attong is an Organisational Development Consultant, Business and Life Coach, Speaker and Author. Check out my website www.maxineattong.com to learn more about me.

P.S. Save the date – March 15,2017, Kapok Hotel. Breakfast seminar: Maximising Human Capital in the New Economy.