Monday, May 26, 2008

Thought for the Week - 5/26/08

Effective teamwork is all about making a good, well-balanced salad not whipping individuals into a single batch of V8. -- Sandra Richardson

Coming from a Servant Leadership perspective, we believe that cultivating positive relationships between and among employees is one of the most important, yet challenging goals facing today’s leaders. Building a successful organization depends on the ability of a leader to create a positive organizational culture which focuses on both cooperation and collaboration, as well as strong relationships among and between employees (peers), departments and employees and management. Actively building a positive culture of employee relationships is contagious and leads to both improved customer service and improved relationships among and between all members of the organization’s community.

Several critical factors in building a positive culture of employee relationships include, but are not limited to:
  • Ensuring understanding and buy-in to a shared mission and vision.
  • Understanding differences and valuing diversity in the workplace,
  • Creating a safe environment for dialogue and discussion,
  • Creating opportunities for staff to share personal and family accomplishments.
  • Letting staff know that relationships are important,
  • Promoting car pools, summer barbecues, family health and fitness programs, and of course

Ultimately, the success of any organization is largely dependent upon the strength of the relationships formed and maintained within an organization. The capacity to communicate effectively, to trust and to develop healthy teams relies on the strength of relationships. Stronger relationships between staff and supervisors and their teams are directly linked to increased productivity, increased retention and overall success of an organization.

What are you doing to actively build relationships in your organization?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thought for the Week - 5/19/08

If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Lat week we shared some initial thoughts on training and professional development. Here are a few more ...

Nothing is more important to the success of an organization than the quality or professionalism of its staff. As we suggested last week, however, all too often organizations approach professional development from an issue based or single minded perspective rather than from a comprehensive perspective. Creating a professional staff requires more than just a hiring process, or more than just a training program, creating a professional staff requires a holistic or systems approach.

Think back to your own personal experience with professional development over the years. How often did the company you worked for bring in the “Guru of the Year,” change systems or practices to support his or her approach, only to change everything around again once the new Guru came to town? How often did the company you worked for change one aspect of the professional development program without changing related aspects – only to leave employees confused and frustrated. Perhaps most common, however, how often did the company you worked for bring in a high paid consultant or trainer who seemed to know nothing about your company and whose program was misaligned, or perhaps even inconsistent with the company’s stated mission and vision?

In order for any professional development program to be truly effective, it is essential that it be directly connected and related to the outcomes or products of the organization and that it be based on a fundamental belief system that values learning throughout the organization. More specifically, in order for a Professional Development program to be truly effective: 1) it must be directly linked to the organization’s stated objectives, and 2) the organization must create, develop, embrace, and maintain an environment rooted in life-long learning. As such, organizational training and development needs to be operationalized in a Professional Development program which is sustained, systemic, and systematic:

A “sustained” professional development program is one which occurs over time. Professional development is not a single event, but a series of interrelated learning opportunities that supports individual growth and organizational success.

A “systemic” professional development program is one which plays a critical role within an organizations culture. The focus of learning opportunities remains consistent and aligned with organizational goals and does not change depending on who is responsible for professional development. In other words, professional development needs to be integrated throughout all aspects of the organization and needs to remain consistent over time.

A “systematic” professional development program is one which is developed and implemented in a methodical and intentional manner. It is directly aligned to the mission, vision, and guiding principles of the organization. Systematic professional development programs provide consistent themes across all work groups, while providing support for specific departments and individual needs.

A core component of this integration (sustained, systemic, and systematic professional development) is a clear and comprehensive leadership model. The organizations success will rely heavily on its leaders. However, as we have share numerous times before, it is important for an organization to realize that leadership is no longer exclusive to “upper administration,” but rather, all staff should be encouraged to become leaders.

How well integrated is your organization’s current professional development program?

Is it designed as a series of interrelated learning opportunities that supports individual growth and organizational success?

Is it integrated throughout all aspects of the organization and consistent over time?

Does it provide consistent themes across all work groups, while providing support for specific departments and individual needs?

Let us hear from you ...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thought for the Week - 5/12/08

Of all the things that can have an effect on your future, I believe personal growth is the greatest. We can talk about sales growth, profit growth, asset growth, but all of this probably will not happen without personal growth. - Jim Rohn

One of our associates, Lynn Lehman, wrote a white paper in which she stated that in every organization, people have to learn how to do their jobs. People are rarely hired who already have 100% of the knowledge and skills necessary to complete the work for which they will be held accountable. If nothing else, they must learn the company culture, where resources are located, and who the people are with whom they need to collaborate to be successful.

What is not universal is how companies approach employee training. These methods range from a complete lack of training (considered as a method because this is an intentional choice) all the way to spending upwards of 6.61% of profit on organizational learning.

To identify which methods your organization has adopted to train its employees, consider the following approaches:

Survival First: This is the belief that training takes too much time away from the day-to-day operations of the company, and if anyone stopped doing their job to be trained, the very survival of the company would be in jeopardy.

Sink or Swim: Usually found hand-in-hand with the Survival First approach, this is the process by which new employees, or those transferred to different positions, must discover the structures and systems to accomplish their work completely on their own.

Same Boat: This is the scenario in which the organization assigns a mentor or buddy among the employee’s peers to show the new employee the ropes.

Supervisor Shuffle: When it is left up to the supervisor to do all the training of an employee. If you have a good supervisor, then you may get the coaching and learning opportunities needed. If you have a poor supervisor, then you don’t. It’s a gamble.

Shields Up: When a company provides the training required by law (OSHA, CPR, and other safety, ertification and licensure instruction), but no more.

Senior Special: The company executives get to go to conferences, often out of state, and sometimes for several days at a time, but the organization spends absolutely no money on any other employee training. Often these company leaders see training as an opportunity for R&R (rest & relaxation), not as actual learning opportunities.

Stimulus & Response: In this situation, company leaders react to something that has happened in the rganization – usually something that is negative – and insists on putting employees through specific training classes to “fix” the problem.

Soup of the Day: This is another reactionary process, but in this one, the leadership orders employee training based on trends in the industry or business world.

Spaghetti Test: In these organizations, a variety of training sessions are designed and/or brought in. Those sessions that the employees enjoy are the ones that “stick to the refrigerator,” and are offered again.

Shotgun: These organizations often provide training on a variety of topics and for a variety of reasons (see the other approaches above). These sessions are usually selected by one individual, such as a training director or human resources manager, and are chosen based on his/her individual perspective on what is needed in the organization. The training offered may improve performance, or it may not. Either way, the results aren’t measured so it is impossible to tell.

Status Quo: There is a training program of some kind in place, and it is the same program that has been offered for a long, long time. This comes from the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It is important to point out that many of these approaches are not necessarily bad approaches. For example, having a peer help train an employee and ensuring that the safety training required by law takes place are terrific options for an employee training program. However, it is when they are the only approaches within an organization that any positive impact is severely restricted.

Do any of these approaches to employee training sound uncomfortably familiar?

Can you see one or more of these methods in action today in your company?

If so, please share your experiences with us ...

Keep an eye out later this week for more on professional development.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thought for the Week - 5/5/08

"If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled subordinates, then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny." - Dee Hock

As we have stated many times, the world of the 21st Century leader is a very different world than that in which many of us grew and developed into our leadership roles. According to most experts, for the first time in history, we are seeing members of four distinct “generations” (“Traditionalists” – born between 1925 and 194;, “Baby Boomers” – born between 1946 and 1963; “Generation X” – born between 1963 and 1981; and “Generation Why” – born between 1981 and 2000) working together, and often experiencing clashes in both attitudes and values. Unfortunately, many of today’s leaders are unaware of, or simply choose to ignore these important generational differences. However, research over the past 20 years on employee engagement has clearly shown that in order to reduce conflict and get the most out of your staff, you have to treat your employees the way they want to be treated. This appreciation of diversity allows each generation to contribute to, as well as become part of the long-term growth of the organization.

Which generation are you? Which generation do you find most difficult to lead? Why?