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.

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.

What to Measure in the Employee Engagement Survey

You’ve finally admitted that you’ve had enough – enough of reading facial expressions, enough of listening carefully for double meaning, enough of second guessing – all in an attempt to figure out the level of #EmployeeEngagement at your company. You decide to conduct an #EmployeeEngagementSurvey.
Whether you are designing the survey internally or using the services of a provider, you need to ensure that survey questions refer to the emotional and intellectual connection that the employee has with the organization as well as the employee’s contribution to the business outcomes.
Consider if you want to measure Employee Engagement or #EmployeeSatisfaction, since with the latter, questions such as  Are you happy? or Do you have a best friend at work? become important, even though they may have little correlation to the business outcomes.

There are two main survey questions to be answered.  These are then further broken down to questions that deal with the what and how of the engagement

1) What do employees need to be emotionally connected to what they are doing? This is broken down to questions that deal with the following needs.  Employees need to:

  • Work in physical spaces that are conducive to their work
  • Have the right tools to effectively work
  • Be seen and heard
  • Feel that their contributions are valued and valuable
  • Feel a sense of pride in the work that they do
  • Feel a sense of pride in the company that they work for
  • Have a sense of belonging
  • Have fit with the organisation

2. What does your employee need to be intellectually connected to the work that they do? This is broken down to questions that deal with the following needs.  Employees need to:

  • Understand the company’s strategy/ mission/ vision/ core values
  • Understand how the work they do is aligned to the strategy/ mission/ vision/ core values
  • Be effectively led
  • See leaders walking the talk
  • Have the skills for the job they are doing
  • Work with effective processes
  • Be clear about their career paths
  • A view of their future within the organization

The survey questions can be grouped under different headings such as : Physical space, Strategy, Work Process, Technology, Leadership, Communication, Executive Management and any other headings that are important to your organization.

While some companies take the survey as an opportunity to ask about the kitchen sink I would caution against this approach, since it weakens the impact of the survey, and sends incorrect signals about what it important.  If there is a core competency or strength that your company sees as important to its business outcome then by all means include questions about that.
Be aware that what you measure is what you will get responses on.

Does your company conduct Employee Engagement Surveys? If so what is measured?
If not what do you want to measure?
Maxine Attong is an Organisational Development Consultant, Executive Coach and Author. Check out my website www.maxineattong.com to learn more about me.

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

Measuring Employee Engagement

If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” Lord Kelvin

At times, we are only aware that our weight has shifted when we put on our clothes.  Whether it’s a looseness or tightness, we conclude that our weight has changed. If we want to know exactly how our weight has shifted, we get on a scale for an accurate evaluation, then we  decide, do nothing, or change the way we eat or exercise to return to the way we like our clothes to fit.
So too with #EmployeeEngagement. (See this article for a definition)  As leaders, we may unaware of the level of employee engagement.  While the reactions, the behaviours or the utterances of staff may be strong indicators of their level of engagement, the only way that leaders can determine if employees are engaged and the extent of their engagement, is to measure it, via an employee engagement survey.
Why do  you measure anything? Why do you measure your weight?
Measurements assist us to :

  • Establish where we are and have a common understanding- I weigh x pounds. I am over/ under or at a comfortable  weight.
  • Understand what is needed or not needed- I do not need to do anything. I need to lose/ gain weight.
  • Establish what is considered normal/ standard – For my weight, age, height and lifestyle I need to stay the same, gain/ lose weight.
  • Predict outcomes – If I maintain/ change my diet and exercise routine, I will stay the same/ gain/ lose weight
  • Indicate what we need to fix  – I don’t need to fix anything, I need to eat more/ less.

The same with the #EmployeeEngagementSurvey.  The #EngagementSurvey is a measuring tool whose results:

  • 
Provide an objective evaluation of engagement
  • Communicate the employee’s emotional and mental involvement
  • Give clues about what is needed to further engage employees.
  • Indicate how well the business outcomes are being met

Surveys can be internally designed and conducted, though some companies prefer to use a third party.
Regardless of who is designing the survey, the company needs to establish:

How does your company measure employee engagement?

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

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

Redefining Service – Blog 85

I am reflecting on the two days that I spent facilitating strategic sessions. I notice how my practice is changing and how differently I show up in front of a group.
My first thought is that I did not stick to the script. Before I do a facilitation, I carefully plan an agenda, with all the games, icebreakers and activities to make the points, to bring the team to realization and at times to wake them up. This time I did not use the games that I planned, because the team was not ready for them. Instead of following my carefully planned agenda I let the team lead and followed the twists and turns that they presented during the workshop.
I also did not achieve the objective. I am results oriented and before the session, I work with the team lead to agree desired outcomes. My belief was that at the end of the strategic session, the team should leave with strategies or projects that they are going to embark on over the next two or three years. These are the things that will address an identified issue, resolve a problem, grow the business or take the business to a whole other level. Not so this time. At the end of the session, there were no plans or projects. Yet, the team lead was satisfied. His team had dealt with issues that previously were unnamable. Together they had defined and understood a nebulous issue that was hampering productivity and together were able to name it, and make it tangible and real.
The third thing I noticed is that I pushed back and challenged harder than before. I am always polite with clients saying,”Thank you,” for contributions. Today I called them on contradictory statements, pushed for the truth and even questioned whether a team member was being the devil’s advocate or misaligned with the team’s overall objectives
As I ponder on what made the difference I realized that I relinquished control of the process to participants and became a follower in the process. For once, the participants guided the process.
I also carefully listened to the participants. When they were quiet I did not force a game on them, when they were silent I listened to their expressions and when they were pensive I left them to think.
I can only conclude that I have become a greater servant of the team. I think that while my intention was always to be of service to the team, I always pushed my agenda. I gave myself ticks in the box for the games and activities that were done and praised myself for wittingly thinking of a game that matched the situation. Today as I truly matched the mood and pace of the team, and stayed with them where they were at and did not shift their focus to where I wanted them to be or where I thought they should be I was truly in service to the team. What a different session.

Do you serve from a position of what they need or what you think they need? What would it be like if you changed perceptive?