04/4 2013

Are 2/3 of Your Employees Ready to Leave?

The answer may be “yes”, according to a recent study by Deloitte Consulting titled “Talent Edge 2020”.

The study — discussed in a recent Fast Company blog authored by Diana O’Brien and Alice Kwan — references a longitudinal study being conducted by Deloitte.  Started in 2010, the latest survey results were released in January 2012 — and indicate that over 70% of  leaders have concerns about their company’s ability to retain top talent, with another 2/3 expressing the same concern about the retention of high-potential employees.

And with survey results showing that only about 1/3 of employees at larger firms planning on staying with their firms after the recession ends, these concerns are well-founded.  Already, incumbents with skills that are in high demand are not waiting to change companies — and many of those who are leaving are doing so due to dissatisfaction with their company’s leadership.

The survey also points-out that while over half of the companies surveyed believe that leadership development is a high priority, few believe that their organization’s capabilities will allow them to meet this challenge.  In addition, some companies express concern around investing too much in leadership development — fearing that their investment will be lost should employees leave the organization regardless of the company’s best efforts.

But while turnover will always be a part of business life, companies still stand the best chance of retaining high potential employees if they create a corporate culture that invests in employees and values their ongoing development.  Younger employees, in particular, feel the need to work for organizations where their efforts matter –and where they are recognized for their performance, and given opportunities to further develop.

In conclusion, O’Brien and Kwan point-out that if 2 out of 3 employees are ready to leave their jobs, it underscores that there is a high degree of dissatisfaction across the entire corporate sector.   Taking active steps to ensure that employees feel that their contribution is valued — and that the company is interested in their career development — is one way of decreasing turnover and increasing overall employee satisfaction.


Posted in New Articles
12/13 2012

Introverts vs. Extroverts — Who Makes the Better Leader?

Do extroverts always make the most effective leaders?   No so fast, says Wharton management professor Adam Grant.

Grant — along with Harvard’s Francesca Gino and David Hoffman of UNC —  recently published an Academy of Management Journal article titled “Reversing the Extroverted Leadership Advantage:  The Role of Employee Proactivity”.    In this article, the authors found that the demands of the situation — combined with the level of extroversion of the team that the leader was supervising — determined whether having an introverted or extroverted leader resulted in the best performance outcome.

In sum, the authors found that when a group of employees was “proactive” — meaning that they were outspoken, actively engaged with co-workers and customers, and readily shared new ideas — tended to perform worse when paired with a leader who was extrovered, as this resulted in friction and lessened performance.   Conversely, employee groups that were less proactive — meaning that they were more reserved and did not network well — benefited from being paired with a leader that was more extroverted, and therefore was better equipped to bring out new ideas from the team, help members build relationships across boundaries, help instill more of a feeling of “team spirit” within the group, etc.

While the actual success of a team may be dependent upon the “match” between a leader’s introversion/extroversion and the characteristics of the group being supervised — it is also true that extroverts tend to be the ones who are recognized as having “leadership potential’, since they are most likely to be outspoken, convey a clear agenda, and are more likely to “take charge” of situations.  They are also more likely to be better networkers, and build sociable relationships with key decision-makers who can bolster their career.   Organizations with effective leadership development and talent identification strategies will learn to look beyond the differences in these surface characteristics, and will conduct a more in-depth analysis of each individual’s strengths and development needs as a leader.

So — much as with the Situational Leadership research of decades ago — effective leaders will learn to adapt their leadership style to the demands of the situation.   Introverts will need to be more assertive — and more outgoing and more dynamic — when leading teams who are less experienced, who show less initiative, and that demonstrate lower levels of creativity.  Extroverted leaders will need to learn to be more introspective – and be better listeners and facilitators — when leading teams that are more “proactive” — i.e., that are more outgoing, who freely share ideas, and who enjoy taking on new challenges.

As we know, both introverts and extroverts can be effective leaders.   However, the most effective leaders will consider the demands of the situations they find themselves in — and will modify their styles as appropriate.   So, while it may be true that introverted leaders may naturally find more success when leading extroverted teams — and while extroverted leaders may bring out the best in introverted teams — leaders with either style can be more effective by adopting some of the behaviors of their opposite style, as needed.




Posted in New Articles
12/1 2012

Can On-Line Career Assessment Tests Help With Job Choice?

Can on-line career assessment tests help you find your ideal job?  The answer appears to be a qualified “yes”, according to a recent Wall Street Journal review.

WSJ columnists recently provided a review of four popular on-line career counseling websites, and the quality and applicability of the feedback that they received.   The sites reviewed offered the on-line completion of a career interest inventory, as well as a feedback report summarizing results.  Some of the sites also offered an opportunity to discuss the results with a trained vocational counselor.

There was wide disparity in pricing from the sites reviewed, and the WSJ reports that the higher-priced offerings offered more specific individual feedback and a more targeted list of recommended career choices.

In addition, the WSJ reports that receiving personal feedback on their results from a vocational counselor helped them better understand their results, and allowed them to ask questions about the data contained in their assessment reports.

In sum, the WSJ reviewers found that the career assessment sites offered valuable insights into career choice, and suggested that the information gathered from such sites, along with the insights of a trained consultant, could be an important part of the career search process.   The information obtained was also seen as being most valuable for those newly-beginning a career, or those thinking about changing careers, as opposed to those looking for more fulfillment in their current field of endeavor.

Posted in New Articles
11/28 2012

From Good To… NOT So Great?

Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t has been one of the most successful books ever, selling in excess of 10 million copies.   Authored by Jim Collins in 2001, Good to Great presented research-based findings on companies that made substantial improvements in their performance over time — including 15 years of increased profits.

In Great, Collins and his research team analyzed data from over 1,400 companies, eventually whittling-down the “best of the best” companies, which were then subject to further analysis (including interviews with company leaders).   The resulting findings have become the lore of management gurus everywhere, with terms like “Level 5 Leadership” (leaders who are humble, but driven to do what’s best for the company) and the “Hedgehog Concept” (finding what your company can excel at, and what it is passionate about) becoming everyday terms.

In the end, Collins and company identified 11 companies that met their definition of “greatness” — and among the names were well-recognized firms such as  Abbot Laboratories, Kimberly Clark, and Walgreens.   Unfortunately, Collins’ list also includes some firms that have not fared so well, including the folllowing:

  • Circuit City — bankrupt and closed its doors in 2009
  • Fannie Mae — bankrupt, placed in conservatorship, and received government bailouts of $100 billion
  • Nucor — has experienced a stock and revenue crash of over -50%
  • Wells Fargo — needs another $15 billion dollar government bailout
  • Pitney Bowes — stock and revenue crash of -15%
  • Gillette — company is no longer independent

So, much like 1982’s In Search of Excellence — a book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman which also attempted to distill best practices from top-performing companies — not all of the companies listed in Good to Great continued to produce stellar results.

So, does this mean that Collins’ conclusions are faulty — or that his recommended practices to become a ‘great” company are not important?

Not so fast — as it turns out, there are a multitude of reasons why some of these companies have dropped off of the top-performers list.   First, the market value of companies is very cyclical — the list of top American companies changes significantly every 10-15 years, for example, so some churn is to be expected.  Second, Collins and his research team did apply some subjective criteria when funneling-down their initial list of 1,400+ companies to those who were studied in detail — so Good to Great never was a wholly empirical exercise to begin with.   Finally, the economic crisis over the past 2 years has certainly affected all companies — resulting in some of the financial difficulties outlined above.

So, much like its In Search of Excellence predecessor, perhaps the greatest value one gets from reading Good to Great is a simple reminder of the types of activities all companies — and all leaders  — should be focusing on.

Perhaps the final read on Collins’ work is best summarized by a recent Wharton Review: ” Collins asks an interesting question. Unhappily, the methodology he used to formulate an answer is questionable and the answer is almost disappointing in its simplicity: Great companies become great by staying focused: focused on their products, their customers and their businesses. They aspire to higher levels of excellence, are never content to become complacent and are passionate about their products. They have leadership that is not ego-driven, and have organizational cultures that embrace constant change. That’s the book.”

And how could any leader disagree with that?

11/27 2012

6 Rules for Constructive Criticism

While many leaders find providing positive feedback to be an easy and enriching thing to do, many more shy-away from telling people that they need to improve.   Unfortunately, failing to provide timely feedback not only results in continued employee performance issues. but also reflects negatively on the leader’s ability as a manager.

Writing in the November on-line version of Inc. magazine, author Geoffrey James provides the following six tips for leaders to follow when providing constructive criticism:

  1. Treat Criticism as a Form of Feedback — the term “criticism” carries a negative connotation, and implies a one-way discussion.   Instead, see yourself as providing “feedback” to your employee, which automatically turns the discussion into a two-way communication meeting.  During this meeting, you will learn by giving feedback, while your employee will learn by receiving the feedback.
  2. Provide Criticism on an Ongoing Basis — many managers delay providing negative feedback until the employee’s annual performance review.   This is a mistake, not only in terms of not providing timely performance feedback, but also because you run the risk of the employee being focused on salary and bonus  issues (rather than personal growth and development issues).   Instead, provide regular feedback on performance throughout the year.
  3. Dole Out Criticism in Small Doses — stockpiling many issues and bringing them up at one time is likely to overwhelm employees.    Instead, provide feedback on issues as they occur, which will make your feedback more impactful.  Provide positive feedback when you see behavior change that is headed in the right direction, but also continue to point-out areas where additional improvement is also needed.
  4. Begin By Asking Questions — try not to simply persuade employees to do things as you would do them yourself; instead, try to find the root of specific problems or issues by asking questions.  Asking questions such as the following can help engage employees in finding a solution to problems, and can be a valuable learning experience for both you and your employee:   Ask questions such as “Why did you approach the situation in this way?”, “How could we have done better?”, and “What do you think could use improvement?”.
  5. Listen, Acknowledge, and Learn — don’t go into the employee meeting feeling as though you have a full understanding of the issue or problem.  Instead, listen to your employee, and acknowledge his/her point of view.   This can help you understand the employee’s perspective and motivations, and can help you better resolve the situation.
  6. Address the Behavior, Not the Person — remember, your discussion has nothing to do with your personal feelings towards the employee.   Instead, focus on the specific behavior (or behaviors) that need to be changed for success.