>Do you have a policy for that?

>The World Cup is round the corner. From 11 June – 11 July, the world will literally be focused on one thing and one thing only. The football. Even I, who has zero interest in the sport, will be following it. And why not! Your country’s reputation is on the world stage and it makes life incredibly interesting. Your workforce will be bantering the entire period, more so than normal. National flags will be flying high. Energy levels will be amazingly high and moods will be swinging all over the show. There will be as much frustration as there will excitement.

And here’s what worries me. HR will announce – we have a policy for situations like this. I hate policies. I hate them with all my heart. They are a disease brought about by a litigious culture to cover your back. If something isn’t going right, a policy will be there to say – I Told You So. How truly uninspiring. Policies serve to only stifle and restrict the workforce. And here’s the nub of it all. We need policies like we need to be told the consequences of killing another human being.
The CIPD today have released this article thinking they’re helping the workforce: http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/hrpract/absence/_world_cup_absence_management. It doesn’t help at all. If anything it makes staff reticent to bother with following the World Cup at work at all. I’m not advocating staff should only be allowed to watch their matches of choice, but don’t throw down policies to take away any thought of doing it. Let me unpick some of their suggestions. ‘Swap shift’ – nonsense because most shift workers do those hours because it suits them and their lifestyle. If I work from 6-11 it’s because I have other commitments which suit that arrangement. ‘Unpaid leave’ – really? You want your staff to not turn up for work, and dock their pay because you’re not willing to accommodate them within the workplace? ‘Games and alcohol’ – Oh Lord. If staff haven’t realised they shouldn’t be doing these in excess then you’ve clearly got other issues you need to deal with. ‘Flexible hours’ – start work at 6am so you can watch your 1 1/2 hour match and leave at your normal time of 6pm. And still be productive while you’re at it. The only decent suggestion they have is ‘special screenings’. This makes far too much sense and I love they add this disclosure piece: “however, it should be remembered that not everyone will be interested in watching the football so people should not be made to feel excluded if they don’t want to get involved”.
It’s my one bugbear about HR. At a recent workshop by the Training Journal, one of the speakers – Jack Wills (Chair of the British Institute for Learning and Development), explained how when he has bought companies, one of the first departments he gets rid of is the HR department. Controversial? Yes. But it makes sense. If line managers were doing their job right, HR wouldn’t need to exist. It’s a thought I’ve often had about HR privately (although, obviously, publicly now).
It’s not that I don’t believe HR provide value. It does. But only because line managers have so much to do, that doing people things right is often a nice to have rather than a must do. My issue is typically when something doesn’t go right, HR will default and say “we have a policy for that”. That’s not good enough. HR needs a slap across the face and a firm kicking.
My take on what should happen is to defer to people’s best judgement. Have a framework which makes sense for the business. Promote it. Help people understand it. Encourage and incentivise to make it happen. Give the pull factor. People should never need to be pushed. Provide clear and unmistakable guidance about when things are expected to happen. Have review periods and agree timelines. That’s all basic stuff which needs to happen.
If people don’t adhere to the framework then there’s a simple recompense. Discipline them. Allow people to make sensible, grown up decisions. If they fall foul of failing to meet a deadline, be it on their head with no doubt about the consequence of this.
To keep overheads in check, I do think you need to have an L&D function of sorts, recruitment, compensation and benefits and a legal department. But you don’t need someone saying – due to adverse weather here’s our company policy. Due to global recession, here’s our policy. Due to not completing your timesheet, here’s our policy. Due to being absent from work without permission, here’s our policy. Due to not answering your email on time, here’s our policy. Managers should have the training to help them understand how to deal with each and every one of those situations.
Ultimately HR are an information provider. This is how you complete an appraisal form. This is how you report sickness and absence. This is when you are eligible for further benefits. This is what you need to do to work here. This is how you report on your workforce. This is the number of staff we have in the building today.
But those damned policies are the bane of my life. We’re in an age now where the workforce is more savvy about working life. Policies help to give people an understanding of expectations from the business. But that’s where they should stay. The workforce is intelligent enough – and has information feely available enough – to make a sensible decision. If they choose to go against the norm or transgress the rules, there’s penalties to pay (no pun intended). You cannot empower a workforce by restricting them to act according to rules and processes and policies.
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>Do you understand ROI?

>This week I attended my first L&D 2020 workshop courtesy of the Training Journal (http://www.trainingjournal.com). The workshop was focused on the need for L&D to talk and understand the language of business in order to be successful.

The first talk was given by Tony Sheehan from Ashridge Business School (http://www.ashridge.org.uk). This was a great talk about current trends in L&D and where they may well be headed. Some of the highlights for me were around attitudes to L&D and how technology is influencing how people learn. They provided a 10 point sliding scale which was interesting, and I’m hoping to see the results of this survey. The sliding scale had factors such as Theory or Practice, Information or Resources, and I don’t remember the rest. It was fascinating all the same.
We then had a talk from Jack Wills, head of British Institute for Learning and Development (BILD – http://www.thebild.org) about what businesses actually want from L&D. Some keen insights around CEOs looking for profit, return on investment (ROI), and those are the key things. This really helped me to think about am I getting it right when I think about and what I understand about how the business operates.
The final session was with Jane Massy who is the UK leading practitioner in ROI. She is the CEO of abdi (http://www.abdi.eu.com) which is the only certified professional service in the UK who provide consultancy and training on the ROI method headed by Jack Phillips. Now this was the piece de resistance for me. Jane provided in the short time she had a very insightful look into how you can ensure as an organisation that you are working to a disciplined method which guarantees that ROI is at the core of what you do in L&D. Some of my learnings are below.
The first learning I had was about whether or not the L&D initiatives are linked directly to the business plan. I already know this is what an effective L&D function has to do. The learning was whether or not you could confidently draw a line of sight from the activities and initiatives you do in L&D and how they link directly to the business plan. So, I already do the normal stuff like talking with managers regularly, stay abreast of what’s happening across the business, and through general curiosity and keeping my ears alert, I develop a sense of and understanding of what the business needs are. I then draw up a plan, present it to a few people to validate my idea, then run ahead with it. The part I miss (and if I’m honest often) is taking a moment to think how does this new and exciting initiative fit in with the business plan. Learning no.1.
The next learning I had was about if my L&D initiatives focus on what the learner is expected to do, not what they’re expected to learn. Hmm ok this one is a bit tricky. I will design my courses based on what I think the learner needs to learn. But am I looking at what they’re expected to do once the training is complete? I may think I’m focusing on that, and I may be facilitating conversations to that effect, but is that the result I have in mind? I’m not sure. On reflection, it’s not as explicit as it probably should be. Learning no.2.
The third learning I had was about knowing the full cost of sending someone on a course – be it internally or externally. I know about actual costs associated with people attending training, but this certainly wasn’t a focus of mine. I don’t look to factor the opportunity cost, expenses, admin costs, on costs of someone attending training as being the full cost of them attending. And that’s a pretty big oversight. Someone attending a £2000 5 day course may actually be costing the business somewhere in the region of £6000-£7000 – WOW. How did I not think of that before?
What’s the importance of that though? Well essentially, there’s a bigger expectation about the ROI on that person than was initially considered. Initially I may have thought after 2 months of project work, that knowledge gained has been utilised effectively and we have recouped the cost of the training. Actually now I have to think bigger than that. It may be a lot further down the line this may be the result. And what happens if this person leaves? What happens to that knowledge, time and investment made? So there needs to be some follow up activities that ensure we don’t lose that – documented learnings, wikis, blogs, presentations, workshops, etc.
Aren’t I doing that anyway? Again, I’m kind of doing those things, or encouraging staff and managers to do those things. But that’s not explicit and we are not getting the ROI we would expect if people don’t take the time to do these activities. Learning no.3.
So where does this live me? With a very positive attitude to ensuring I don’t forget the importance of ROI and what it means for the business. From looking at the training needs analysis, to the L&D initiatives, to the ROI expected. These are things I could have spoken about before – I can now talk about them more intelligently.

>Is body language really that important?

>I’m developing a course on Building Positive Relationships. Part of the content for this is understanding how to read body language. Searching the interwebs for what others have to say on the topic is raising a lot of concerns for me.

I’m a student of psychology. So for me, understanding human behaviour is pinnacle to all that I do. It’s why I’m in training. I love being able to spot behaviours, interpret them, and respond accordingly. But this has taken time and a lot of training. I started when doing an ‘A’ level in psychology, then my undergrad, onto my postgrad and now the career path I’ve chosen. That’s 15 years of training. And I still don’t know if I’m as savvy about human behaviour as I might either expect to be or should be.
A google search on the topic of body language will present you with far more choice than you know what to deal with. So I’m adding to that mix a hopefully balanced representation of how an understanding of body language can aid your ability to develop relationships you have in whatever capacity you deem appropriate.
So where do we start? I guess let’s dismiss some myths first of all:
1) One piece of work oft cited is work carried out by Albert Mehrabian. His work is misrepresented as stating that 7% of what you say is important 38% of the tone of your voice is important and 55% of your body language communicates what is important. Trainers and communicators have been led astray with this fact. It refers specifically to a combination of the three elements accounting for our liking of a person who is communicating a message their feelings. That’s it. It has no bearing on any other type of communication.
2) Folded arms means defensiveness. Really? So when I’m walking around a room and I’m listening to a discussion that’s happening within a group and (importantly) I’m not taking part, I’m being defensive about it? Uh uh. No. That’s wrong. The key to understanding what the folded arms have to be met in context. Basics of this rest in the fact that if you’re having a difficult conversation with someone and they cross their arms at some point during the conversation it’s likely you’ve said something to put them on the back foot.
3) If your eyes look left you’re lying, if they look right you’re being truthful, if you look to the upper right you’re making things up, if you’re looking to the upper left you’re accessing memory. Jeez Louise. If you believe any of that, you’re being a mug and you deserve to be taken advantage of. Here’s a challenge to identify if it’s a science. Find the original piece of work this is based on or subsequent work that claims to validate these findings. I’ve looked. I’ve found nothing. I’ve found a lot of books claiming to teach you the success to body language. That’s not science.
And the science? Well the only person I trust in the field of body language is professor Paul Ekman http://www.paulekman.com. Why him? Well his work has been ground breaking in helping organisations such as the police force, immigration, national security, and negotiators to understand what signals they should be looking for that can either give them leverage in their situations, or provide them with context that someone may be about to act violently.
As an aside, a programme called ‘Lie to Me’ was developed based on his work – but don’t take the programme as science, it is entertainment after all.
So back to Paul Ekman. His work has identified that universally (although this was recently disputed) there are 6 common facial expressions that we all comprehend – happiness, anger, disgust, fear, surprise and sadness. It’s fair to say in Western society these expressions can be readily understood. How did he do this? He took images of a complete range of facial expressions and showed them to a tribal people who had little contact with the Western world. He found that with this tribe those 6 expressions were readily identified correctly each and every time over successive trials. We can (and appropriately) extrapolate that this is therefore true across all modern cultures.
If you want anecdotal evidence – look at how young children react to adults. Those basic expressions elicit from children predictable responses. Happiness encourages happiness, anger prompts defense, fear prompts uncertainty, sadness encourages sympathy, disgust provokes curiosity, and surprise elicits either laughter or fear of reaction.
But what about all this stuff about it being the crucial factor in how successful: your presentation will be, if you’ll get that job, how much someone is flirting with you, if you’ll win that pitch? This is where I start to get really cautious about what ‘experts’ are saying.
Body language is an important factor in how you are perceived by others, and how you respond to others. Being mindful of what behaviours others are displaying will enable you to either act differently yourself or encourage behaviour from others. But it’s only one factor. The preparation you do for an interview (for example), the research you’ve done, the way you answer questions, the rapport you build, your delivery of message, all these will be equally important in your success of your interview. All these factors need to be in ‘congruence’ or aligned in order for success to be given its best shot. None individually or collectively will guarantee success.
So where does this leave the topic of body language? My insight here is this. Be mindful of your body language, and others body language. It will often give you a clue about what the other person is likely to either feel or think. Whatever you think you have observed, always follow up with a confirmation or question about that observation. E.G. “Bob, the way you fold your arms when delivering your presentation gives the impression that you’re portraying an image of being in control. Are you anxious about the topic or the presentation in some way?” or “Bob, I’ve been observing for a while that you’ve not participated in this conversation and you seem to be quiet. Do you have something you want to add to this?”
The numerous websites making claims about what body language ‘really’ means aren’t lying to you. They’re just giving you a very biased, one sided view of the world. They’re not telling you to contextualise everything you are observing. As a psychologist that’s what helps me to understand pretty accurately what I’m observing.

>Having the right conversation

>

In recent weeks I’ve been training and advising about using coaching as a format to develop staff for first time line managers. I mean line managers should be doing this anyway and that’s why it’s important to stress that coaching is a key technique in their bag of tricks that they should be able to do – Well.

But why is this the case? Why do managers need to bother doing this kind of activity to develop their staff? Why not leave it to the L&Der in the business/organisation to take care of it through training or other initiatives? Because the line manager is nearly always the first port of call for any questions or issues a direct report has. As such, the responsibility of being a line manager means there’s many things to take into account and be mindful of. The best phrase for being a line manager I have heard is they carry the responsibility of pastoral care for their direct reports. I think that captures the whole thing of being a line manager really nicely.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts that giving feedback is a key part of being a line manager. I’ve not yet written about why coaching is equally important. So here it is. In a recent CIPD learning and talent development survey, coaching still comes out as the top activity line managers can and should do to develop, motivate and engage their staff. All credit to the survey for highlighting this. Often, it’s seen as the responsibility of someone else in the organisation to make this happen – typically the L&Der. But the L&Der’s roles is to to just facilitate and enable the L&D to happen, either through interventions they have prescribed as approrpiate, or by involving leaders across the business to deliver tailored interventions.

Let’s first just be clear about what coaching is and what it can help with. Coaching is a methodology to help a member of staff arrive at their own conclusions. I hate sentences like that. They seem like they’re fluffy when they’re not. Let’s break it down using a model – GROW.
Goal – the first place to start in a coaching conversation is to understand what the coachee wants to get from a coaching conversation/session/relationship. This should be a searching conversation where the coach spends time asking questions about motivations, aims, and understanding what to focus on.
Reality – this is by no means the next step in the process, but it does help to understand other factors to bear in mind. Has the coachee considered the various implications of what they want to achieve? Do they have a plan for achieving their goal? Are they being realistic about achieving their goal and about learning how to achieve their goal?
Options – again, not linear but to be considered. In achieving the goal, what are the various options available to the coachee? Have they looked into various options or are they focusing on once path only? Why have they either chosen path (a) or not considered options (b) (c) and (d)? Do they know what is required of them to achieve their goal? Will they need to engage in other activities in order to achieve their goal?
Will – not necessarily last. What is their actual motivation for doing this activity? Have they thought things through with enough consideration that they can make a decision about what they want to do next? What support do they need? Who will be their ‘go to’ people to help maintain their motivation? Have they considered implications – financially, family, friends, work?
Those are brief paragraphs to provide an overview of how to have the right conversation. When line managers get this right, staff feel valued because they’re being given a chance to talk, be heard, and be supported. They’ll increase their discretionary effort they choose to exercise because they attach value to the organisation courtesy of the efforts of the manager. They’ll talk openly and positively about their organisation in differing ways to people they have regular contact with and contacts they make in their network. They’ll feel like they’re being developed by virtue of the time and effort you are giving them for their personal and professional development.

>Do we still need traditional CVs?

>Hi all, it’s been a long while since I last blogged. Mostly to do with lack of time. Time off here, looking after kids there, getting courses delivered. You know, life. I am tweeting a lot though – A LOT!

Anyhow, this week I went to the L&D HRD exhibition hosted by the CIPD. By Lord, we do like our acronyms don’t we. It was a good day of conferences, seminars, topic tasters and learning arena sessions. I appreciated some presentations more than others, and that’s partly because I think I’m a bit of a know it all. Partly because I’m quite harsh on presenters. Partly because the content wasn’t anything new. All that aside, I did come away with a lot of food for thought.
One of these is about the use of the traditional CV. In an age when social media and social networking sites are central to how you live your life, the question has to be asked – do we still need traditional CVs? Well let’s first discuss the role of a traditional CV. Your CV should give an immediate insight into your key skills, abilities and experience. That’s always been the tradition. And, you know, include things like: education, qualifications, opening statement, personal details. Sure, fine, great. I’ve said this in a previous post (http://pabial.blogspot.com/2009/12/those-damned-cvs.html) – this tells the potential employer nothing about you as an individual and how you may approach work, your attitude, and your probable fit to the company/organisation you’re about to be part of.
Interviews/assessment centres/recruitment practices are designed to evaluate those things. But that’s once they’ve got passed the CV stage when you’re already committing time and resource to evaluate these candidates further. Wouldn’t it be great to have a pool of 12 potentially great candidates all bringing something to the party none of the other offers, and have a hard discussion choosing who you think is the best of the best bunch?
This is where I think social media plays a part. We’re in a world now where every employer is concerned about making the right choice, the first time. We want our new starters to fly through their probation, get confirmed in post, and ultimately make us money while enjoying the work they do.
At the HRD conference, one of the presentations was about how to get the best out of Generation Y – anyone born roughly after 1980. This generation use technology as part of their daily lives, not thinking about what life might be without them, or even being able to comment on how life used to be without them. The presenter (I forget his name, very bad of me, he runs Unlimited Potential), gave a story where the punchline was from a daughter to her father: “Dad, if I gave a presentation about how to use a fridge, would you want to hear about it?” in response to why she didn’t watch her father deliver a presentation on how to use the internet. Gen Y see modern technology as being a fridge – it’s there, it exists, you use it for what you need and when you’re done you move onto the next thing.
So why’s that important? Because more and more people are using social media and social networking sites to interact and learn about the world on a daily basis:
– In October 2009 LinkedIn had 50million users worldwide http://blog.linkedin.com/2009/10/14/linkedin-50-million-professionals-worldwide/
– Facebook currently has 400million active users http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
– Twitter currently has 21.2million unique visitors http://siteanalytics.compete.com/twitter.com/?metric=uv
(above sites all courtesy of http://socialmediastatistics.wikidot.com/)
These are staggering figures. Amazingly staggering. And that’s not a complete picture of the social media space, just a choice of three. What does that tell us? Well here’s some of the things I think are important from just the figures.
It’s accepted now that you can be (and most likely will be) looked up through one of these social networking sites. That means in effect your potential employer has complete sight of what you are likely to bring to their organisation in terms of your: attitude, work ethic, potential fit, and a host of other traits not immediately obvious from your traditional CV.
What does that mean for candidates? They have to either be very deliberate about how they use these social networking sites, or be open to scrutiny from potential employers. As an example, I’m serious about L&D. It’s my life and I love it. However, my twitter feed may not show that as I tend to rant a lot on there, or tweet about work/office/company related things, but not a lot about my passion for L&D. My LinkedIn profile doesn’t say a lot about my work experience, my education or the skills/knowledge/abilities I have as an L&D professional. My blog, is the only place someone would know I care about L&D. Am I ok with that? Yes, I am. Only because I’ve made a very determined choice that I won’t be deliberate about how I’m potentially perceived by future employers. There’s a host of people who will violently disagree with my approach and will recommend that if you want to be serious about your job, future jobs, and your career, then your online presence has to reflect what you want to be.
But what about how employers should use social media to find out about you? I mean, they have to be open, fair, consistent in their approach and not allow prejudices or biases to influence their potential hiring decisions. Well this is a whole other can of worms. My initial thoughts on this centre on the following.
1) If a company wants to find out about you, they have to be open about that from the outset on their job advert/site/promotion. You as a candidate then have the option to either allow that to happen or not.
2) The company has to be explicitly clear about the criteria they have for the job role, and therefore what they are looking to find out about you from the sites you have a profile on.
3) If they choose not to bring you in for interview, there must be a direct piece of feedback that relates to the above, and informs the candidate why they weren’t chosen.
4) Once you’ve been chosen to be brought in to interview, your use of social media has to be part of the equation as that’s part of how you were selected in the first place.
There’s a lot to now consider in the role of recruitment. Recruitment agencies need to be clear about how to advise candidates how they use social media. Employers need to be clear about what’s acceptable and why they may want to search social networking sites. Candidates need to be clear about the information they make available to anyone with internet access. Eventually this will lead to further guidance from governing bodies such as the CIPD, ACAS, legislation and employment law professionals. But my impression is that’s a long way off.
So is there a need for traditional CVs? Yes. Are they the be all and end all of what an employer will use to select you for future roles? No. How do you then decide to act on any of this for the future? Talk to someone who is best placed to advise about any of this. In this day and age, recruitment specialists are not the purveyors of all recruitment best practice. Look around you, you’ll be surrounded by people who use social media in one form or another. They’re the ones to seek input from and in some instances, advice from.

>A great planning tool

>As an L&Der I love learning about different tools and techniques to help groups achieve their goals and objectives. The world of L&D and OD (Organisational Development) cross over immensely and the lines are often blurred where one stops and the other starts. In my experience though the two don’t need to be that disparate. OD is about implementing a new way of doing something, or identifying new processes, or facilitating a group in a discussion. L&D is about improving skills across the workforce. I’ll discuss this in a later blog. For today though I’m focusing on a particular planning tool which really helps focus a groups efforts.

The Impact/Effort matrix is a good tool for helping a group decide on what actions they should undertake, and often in what priority. Let’s explain what it is first, then discuss uses after. Effort is defined as the amount of time/resources you need to put into the task in order for it to be a success. Impact is defined as the potential achievement of a set of objectives. This could be impact to organisation, team or efficiencies.
Effectively you have a 2×2 grid.
1) Bottom left = Low Impact and Low Effort (Think about)
These tasks require little effort but will also have little impact.

2) Top left = High Impact and Low Effort (Quick win)
These tasks will have immediate results and require little effort.
3) Bottom right = Low Impact and High Effort (Forget about)
These tasks will take a lot of effort but the return will be minimal at best.
4) Top right = High Impact and High Effort (Requires planning)
These tasks will produce high return but also require high effort.
This is best used once a group have come together and created a list of tasks they need to action but are unclear about how to prioritise them. Where I have put this tool to good use, within the space of an hour you can see that a team readily identify what needs to happen and the priority associated with each.
You can then plan out the tasks and assign such things as time-frames, potential budget, resources required for completion, and communication plans.
Once you have decided on these, it’s then important to assign responsibilities. It seems like an obvious this to say but so often have I seen that the tasks have been prioritised but Bob thinks Terry is going to do it and it should have been Neil doing it all along.
It can also be effective for time management. If you have a way of initially creating a to-do list, this grid can be used in exactly the same fashion as described to help you prioritise which tasks need to be done so your time is effectively managed. In this scenario you would envisage tasks in 4) should be given the larger portion of time (approximately 60-70%), those in 3) given a fair portion of time (approximately 20-30%) and those in 2) and 1) divided accordingly to what you have available.

>Why aren’t we all highly effective then?

>I’m revising a course I’m due to deliver next week called ‘Making a Personal Impact’. It’s aimed at juniors in the workforce to give them more understanding about how to make a better impression and impact so that they get noticed and become able to move up the corporate ladder. As part of the course I’m doing a piece on what it means to be pro-active and as I was searching the interwebs, I was directed to Stephen Covey’s website http://www.stephencovey.com. He’s the author of the best selling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. The book was first published in 1989, has sold over 20 million copies, and has been named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century” according to his website.


Let’s fast forward to the here and now. A lot of authors have written about and blog regularly about how to be effective and the latest ten rules for doing so. I take issue with the continuous rise of such things, least of all because they tend not to be evidence based, more anecdotal, and this means there’s no real fix. The better works try to be scientific in their approach but still fall foul of not following an effective or repeatable process. Anyway that’s not what I’m blogging about.
My question today is around why we’re all not conforming to the multitude of theories in existence that tell us how to be successful and/or effective. Well the answer is pretty simple really. The companies and organisations we work in just don’t support these theories. Business 101 tells us that companies are in existence to make money. In order for that to happen, those same businesses look for the kind of people who are willing to put in the time and effort to make things happen. That’s a broad brush comment which is meant to include all manner of behaviours such as selling, collaborating, seeking new business, delivering on time, etc.
Part of that demand for success means sometimes those businesses have to overlook the desirable qualities that are oft quoted as being the corner mark of an effective person. Do you want a CEO who is able to make hard decisions, communicate them out and keep a business surviving, or a CEO who spends time ensuring staff are being cared for, relationships are well maintained, and may miss opportunities to sustain business success? I’m trying to present extremes on purpose.
The problem is the habits of highly effective people are often in conjunction with other behaviours that aren’t quoted or discussed. Some of these highly effective people are task masters. Some are sticklers for discipline. Some are really picky about details. Some just care about big ideas and big promotions. Some just railroad others into accepting their way of thinking. These are all traits which many executives possess but no-one really takes the time to recognise.
One psychometric tool I’ve come across does attempt to redress this. It’s called the Hogan Dark Side and is developed by Psychological Consultancy Ltd. It’s a good tool which encourages seniors to look at what may ‘derail’ them. What this means is, you may have a trait, e.g. gregarious and energetic, and this may be a great strength of yours. There may be circumstances you encounter which inhibit this strength continuously and make this person derail by forcing them to behave in ways that are uncharacteristic and damaging. For example, they start to go out for drinks far too often, during lunch and then after work, they spend too much time talking to colleagues and socialising rather than doing work, they try to get involved in company social events and miss meetings and deadlines.
But that’s just one tool and it’s not used widely enough to be recognised by the wider working world. My concern is that people go out and buy self-help books on personal success and how to be the next millionaire but they’re not being told the full story of what list of traits are not talked about.
To further this line of thinking, I’m going to make a rather bold statement. We wouldn’t have experienced the financial crisis across the world if all those workers in the banking industries truly exhibited the qualities of highly effective individuals, being genuine and not looking for personal financial gain. Instead, those industries promote and expect behaviours along the lines of: look out for yourself, get a big bonus, don’t collaborate, keep information close at hand, amongst others.
So where does this take us? If a company wants its staff to truly be displaying the qualities that seem to be in high demand, it needs to be explicit about that in a variety of different forms. The company should have a set of values that are clear and understandable by all. There needs to be a behavioural competency framework that outlines what’s expected of everyone in a very practical way. There has to be a clear and unbiased promotion process, succession plan and skills matrix. Review periods have to be mandatory and the opportunities for learning and development made available to every member of staff.
I’m not saying all companies are bad at doing this. If anything the Great Place to Work Survey by the FT shows us clearly that there are a lot of companies striving to get it right and perception from their staff show this to be the case. What I am saying is this needs to be built into every company so that we can have the kind of effective business and quality of workforce that we seem to be looking for.