Employee Engagement: 4 Basic Human Needs

At Blanchard LeaderChat, Randy Conley shares insights from Leigh Branham’s research on employee engagement and outlines 4 basic human needs that leaders need to take care of at work.

There is an epidemic of workers who are uninterested and disengaged from the work they do, and the cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20% of people say they are truly passionate about their work, and Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.”

Engaging people at work is the #1 leadership challenge. Most engagement initiatives are aimed at providing external motivation to people. The truth is – extrinsic motivation doesn’t last long (if it motivates at all). As a leader, you are responsible for creating an ecosystem where people are more likely to feel motivated intrinsically.  To be able to do this, we need to humanize our approaches. Deming famously said, “All that people need to know is why their work is important.” without which, all external motivation, rewards and recognitions will fail to engage them at work.

Here is a sketch note I created based on the post (Read the full post here).

I feel that if leaders at all levels understand the basic human needs at work, they will go a long way in improving the engagement levels within their teams and organizations.

In 100 Words: Invisible Chains

Once there was a circus Lion who was so tamed/trained that he never knew about his real strengths. He was then left in the jungle where real Lions lived. Upon seeing other Lions, the tamed Lion started running fiercely driven by fear until he saw his own reflection in a pond. He realized that he was also a Lion as powerful as others.

Metal chains are easier to notice but mental chains of our past experiences, fixed beliefs and perceived limitations are invisible. Mental chains are best broken with curiosity, openness to new experiences/ideas and an attitude of lifelong learning.

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Also Read: Other Insights and Parables in 100 Words

Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone: An Interview with Diane K. Adams


Diane K. Adams is Chief People Officer at Qlik (NASDAQ: QLIK), one of the fastest-growing high-tech companies worldwide with nearly 2,300 employees in 30 countries. She has spent her career leading teams in Fortune 500 Human Resources organizations. Chief executives of smaller companies and international and national organizations and leaders also regularly tap her expertise as coach, consultant, and/or lecturer to help them hone their positive cultures. More than a ‘Human Resources’ executive, Adams is a ‘Culture and Talent’ expert. She specializes in helping companies recognize what’s required to energize their people and to achieve long-term success at the bottom line.

Diane recently published her new book “It Takes More Than Casual Fridays and Free Coffee – Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone” which I read recently. Being a student of organization excellence, I caught up with Diane on a conversation about building high performance cultures. Here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Hi Diane, Congratulations for the new book. Culture of an organization always exists – either it is designed consciously or it happens by default. How can organizations be more deliberate about their culture?

[Diane K. Adams] Thanks Tanmay. You’re so right about culture. Every organization does have its own culture. Your company, your favorite sports team, a college or university, even a church, mosque or synagogue has its own culture.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people. One of my favorite definitions: culture is what you do when no one is looking.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people.

At successful companies, the culture is positive and values-based. It’s pervasive and intentional, and is reflected in everything the organization and its people say and do, in every action and every process internally and externally. In turn, team members, along with their companies, achieve excellence personally and professionally.

Whatever the culture, though, it’s important to remember that culture comes from the top. That means that to intentionally mold a culture starts with the leadership deciding those values that are important, and then modeling them in everything that’s said and done. Too often lofty values end up simply rhetoric. If a company’s leaders decide honesty and integrity is an essential value, they must act accordingly. Everyone, every action—from hiring and firing, to decisions, discussions, and more–must reflect honesty and integrity. For example, how someone’s employment is terminated says everything about a company’s culture. This is a time when everyone is watching. Too often terminations lack respect for the individual.

When it comes to reinforcing positive behaviors, top companies may reward team members who demonstrate excellence in terms of a specific value. The “reward” often is in the form of recognition—a note of praise from the leader or a mention of job-well-done at a peer meeting.

My personal approach to deliberately creating a successful culture adheres to the 7 Points to Culture Success outlined in my book. They include:

  1. Define Your Cultural Values and Behaviors
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  3. Integrate Your Values into All Aspects of Your Company
  4. Drive Culture through Leadership
  5. Show You Care: Engage and Invest in Your Team
  6. Give Back: Make a Difference beyond the Workplace
  7. Make It Fun: Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate

[Tanmay Vora] Corporations have vision, mission and values that are propagated across the company through various programs. But culture is built around actions by people at all levels. How can organizations bridge the gap between values and behaviors?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s an excellent question. Again, it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it. Also keep in mind that reward and recognition drive behaviors. Therefore, the primary way to bridge the gap between values and behaviors is to reward and recognize employees who demonstrate the positive behavior.

it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it.

For example, consider the value social responsibility, so important to energize your teams and foster long-term loyalty internally and among your customers. As a leader, you help cement the value in your people with your behavior. You act in ways that give back to the community—volunteering your time, your efforts, your expertise in ways to help others.

At my employer, Qlik, for example, on our internal website we highlight givebacks by our team members. Recently we ran an internal campaign–How Was Your Day?–and each day highlighted how a different individual used his or her volunteer day to give back to the community.

[Tanmay Vora] The book has a chapter on building culture of innovation. What advice would you share with a CEO who is struggling to build a culture of innovation?

[Diane K. Adams] First, kudos for recognizing the importance of innovation. After all, if you’re not constantly innovating, you’re falling behind your competition.

It’s not enough to say innovation matters. Companies and their leaders must instill a mindset of innovation across the entire company, not just in the product or research and development organizations. Every leader and every employee must continually ask the question, what’s the newest and best way to accomplish a goal–whatever that goal might be.

As I mentioned above, you can encourage this innovative behavior by highlighting individuals who have creative and innovative ideas. That means a recognition program and often a rewards one, too, for the best of the best.

The additional advice I would offer a CEO is also to strive for a culture of collaboration. That’s because collaboration fosters teamwork, brainstorming, and ultimately generates the best ideas. Remember, success is a team effort. No matter your company, industry, or competition, it’s important to constantly ask each other and yourself the question, how can something be accomplished better, faster, and more efficiently.

[Tanmay Vora] How helpful are cultural assessments (based on standard models) in culture building initiatives?

[Diane K. Adams] Very. At Qlik we regularly do full-blown culture assessments with the help of metrics and organizations like the Great Place to Work® Institute. The results provide us a measure of our progress and lay the foundation for developing very thorough action plans so that we can continually be at our best.

In addition, we do interim assessments of various aspects of our culture. For example, we might use an assessment tool to measure our progress in maintaining two-way communications. We also use in-house surveys from organizations like Survey Monkey.

After all, to accomplish a goal, you first have to know where you are in order to develop the right strategies to get there.

[Tanmay Vora] What are your top 3 tips for creating a culture of learning and development?

[Diane K. Adams] 1. First, it’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan (ILP). The plan sets goals, lays out strategies for achieving those goals, and helps each individual see clearly how he or she will learn, grow, and succeed along with the company. The best companies with true learning and development cultures view ILP goals with the same importance as annual performance goals.

It’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan

To achieve the highest performance rating, for example, an individual must excel in his or her performance as well as with his or her personal learning goals.

2. Leverage your talent. Learning and development doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Everyone contributes in his or her own way, so capitalize on this broad expertise that’s already available to you. First, identify individual talents (often utilizing a StrengthsFinder assessment tool), and then be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Some ways to do that include holding internal webinars on specific topics that are led by team members who excel in that area. For example, someone with outstanding presentation skills could share his or her expertise with other team members. Another example could be holding monthly “lunch and learn” meetings with your team. Everyone gets together for lunch and a team member leads the training. The “teacher” could alternate depending on the topic and the person’s area of expertise. The company could pick up the lunch tab, or it could even be a pitch-in lunch with the company providing the drinks and the facility space.

Another way to leverage your talent is with a simple mentoring plan. Again, it starts with identifying the strengths of individuals throughout the company, and then making those talents known and available to others. That way if someone needs improvement in a specific area, he or she can then reach out to the right person.

3. Conduct annual talent reviews to identify and understand the strengths of your individual team members and their career goals. In turn, leadership then can be intentional with developmental career moves for its team members.

Research indicates that 70 percent of our learning comes through experience, which is why career development job moves are so important.

[Tanmay Vora] There are a lot of assessments, theories and best practices for building a culture of excellence. How does one “make it all happen”?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s another great question, and it’s what inspired me to write this book. The answer goes back to the basic definition of culture. Remember, creating a positive values-based culture is about being intentional and pervasive about each of the 7 Points to Culture Success.

So, the secret to a successful culture lies in intentionally defining your values and integrating them into every part of your organization.

For example, are your values incorporated into your performance review process? Do you have a recognition process for individuals who excel at the core values? Are your leaders rewarded for building a positive-based culture? Those are just a few of the ways you incorporate your values into and make your positive culture happen. It all ties back to the 7 Points to Culture.

[Tanmay Vora] If there is only ONE advice from your book that you would like to share with companies and start-ups, what would that be?

[Diane K. Adams] Every person and every company has the potential to be extraordinary. Creating a positive values-based culture provides an environment to do just that.

[Tanmay Vora] Diane, thank you for writing this book and for sharing your valuable insights here. I am sure readers of this blog will find your book and ideas very helpful in their own journeys of building excellent culture within their teams and organizations.

[Diane K. Adams] Thank you Tanmay. One last thought for your readers: Creating that great culture doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. But it does take a recognition of those positive values that matter to you and your company, and then the commitment and courage to live those values in everything the company and its people say and do.

If you would like to learn more about how you can build a positive culture in your organization, please check out the FREE online workbook that accompanies my book at my website, www.DianeKAdams.com.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Change and Transformation – How Are They Related?

I have seen executives using the word “transformation” when they are really referring to “change”. Transformations are more deep rooted than change and it is critical to understand the difference between the two. Here are a few insightful resources that I found useful.

Earlier this year, Ron Ashkenas said, “We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation” at Harvard Business Review. Here is a snippet from that post:

Transformation is another animal altogether. Unlike change management, it doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly, the overall goal of transformation is not just to execute a defined change — but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future.

At Quality and Innovation blog, Nicole Radziwill also explored this critical difference between change and transformation. She says,

Change is required for transformation, and all transformation involves change, but not all change is transformational.

In many ways, change is a subset of transformation but change alone cannot lead to transformation.

Closer home, Harlina Sodhi, Sr. Vice President at Reliance Industries recently wrote an excellent post with examples of change and transformation and demystifies the perceptions about change and transformation with respect to the constantly changing world of work that we live in. She says two things in her post that are noteworthy:

“Change is the consequence of Transformation”

“Transformation prescribes vision and Change subscribes to vision”

I created a sketch note based on best ideas from these three posts for an easy reference.

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Also Visit: Sketch Note: 6 Rules of Change by Esther Derby

In 100 Words: Agility and Embracing Uncertainty

We are comfortable with what is predictable. This impacts our choices because we want to maximize the chances of success.

Then, once in a while, we are thrown into situations where we have no control. It compels us to carve a way out and create a map as we go. We learn the most here.

The key to success in VUCA world is to embrace the uncertain without waiting to be thrown into it. That which is predictable merely keeps us in the game but when we embrace (and succeed at) the new and the uncertain, we elevate our performance.

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Also Read: Parables in 100 Words

#Sketchnote: Bold #HR by Josh Bersin

For anyone working in HR, learning and leadership space, the Global Human Capital Trends Report 2015 by Deloitte University Press is a must read. It outlines the key challenges faced by businesses today and confirms that it is the soft stuff (culture, engagement, leadership and learning) that is actually hard for most businesses, large and small.

The report ends with a note,

Make 2015 a year of bold leadership in helping your organization thrive in this new world of work.

In his related post titled “The Four Keys to Bold HR: Lessons for the Year Ahead”, Josh Bersin defines what BOLD really means to leaders in HR space (and elsewhere).

Here is a sketch note version of key ideas from the post:

Also read:

The Future of HR – Evolving HR Function to create significant value for the business given current and future business trends – a research by Accenture.

Skills For Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work

My dad retired as a Library Science professional soon after which the profession of Library management was transformed by digital forces. With the rise of digital content, we now needed different kind of librarians who could help us walk through this maze of information and find what we need, not just deal with only physical books. The way libraries are structured and run has completely changed (and it continues to evolve).

In past 15 years, we have seen number of businesses being disrupted or transformed completely by digital forces. This may accelerate in future with the continuous rise in automation.

Experts predict that we are heading towards a “jobless future” and that it is both an opportunity and a threat. Even if we don’t think too much about what happens over a long frame of time, we can still agree that what bought us here (technical skills, expertise etc) may not be sufficient to take us towards success in a volatile future. What skills do we need more of as we head into future?

I read an interesting (and long) post by Janna Q. Anderson titled “The Robot Takeover is Already Here where she says –

“Skills young people should be learning to be prepared for a career in 2020 include:

  • The ability to concentrate, to focus deeply.
  • The ability to distinguish between the “noise” and the message in the ever-growing sea of information.
  • The ability to do public problem solving through cooperative work.
  • The ability to search effectively for information and to be able to discern the quality and veracity of the information one finds and then communicate these findings well.
  • Synthesizing skills (being able to bring together details from many sources).
  • The capability to be futures-minded through formal education in the practices of horizon-scanning, trends analysis and strategic foresight.”

Here are a few skills that I would like to add along for succeeding now and in future.

  • The ability to learn constantly in a self-directed mode
  • Social Intelligence and ability to connect with people beyond geographical barriers virtually in a deep/meaningful way and collaborate.
  • Adaptive mindset to evolve the thinking and learning to keep pace with the pace of changes around us.
  • Interdisciplinary thinking (more here)
  • Critical thinking (more here)

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not in fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

The future that comes to us (and generations to come) will always be uncertain and outside of our control. The key to navigate through uncertainty is to focus inwards on developing agility in skills, learning and mindset – all of which are completely in our control.

#Sketchnote: Leadership 7 by Nicholas Bate

In 2009, Nicholas Bate had sent me a few of his books and a wonderful collection of handmade cards with brilliant insights. I still refer to those books/cards and the amazing thing is that all the ideas are still so relevant after so many years.

One of the cards he had sent contained ideas on Leadership. Here is a sketch note version of that particular card which decorates the soft board behind my desk for an easy reference.

Nicholas Bate’s blog is a must read – short bursts of profound insights that has the potential to take you and your organization to a better place.

Sketch Note: 6 Rules of Change by Esther Derby

Esther Derby is a highly respected voice in building up agile environments, organizations and teams for success. As a quality consultant and organization development enthusiast, I have been following her work since last many years.

Recently, Esther shared her insights (video) on the topic “Six Rules of Change” at LeanUX2015 and offered practical wisdom on driving large scale changes in the organization.

Here is a sketch note version that covers the essence of the talk. I highly recommend seeing the video for a full context on these 6 rules.

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A Note of Gratitude:

  • Thanks to Sunder Ramachandran for using my sketch note on Leadership in one of his team meetings.
  • Thanks to Jesse Lyn Stoner for sharing the sketch note version of her post “How to Influence without Authority” on her blog.
  • Thanks t many friends and followers on Twitter who encouraged by sharing and using these sketch notes in various ways. I remain grateful.
  • Thanks to Mike Rohde, author of “The Sketchnote Handbook” for encouragement on Twitter. Special thanks to Abhijit Bhaduri for getting me started through his post on Sketch Notes.

The Love of Learning

How do you respond constantly to the disruptive forces at work? How do you navigate in a world of work marked with constant and rather rapid changes? What is the key to success in an increasingly uncertain future?

Vivek Wadhwa wrote an interesting article at Washington Post titled “Love of learning is the key to success in the jobless future” which I read with great interest.

Here is a snippet from the post:

“A question that parents often ask me is, given that these predictions are even remotely accurate, what careers their children should pursue … I tell them not to do what our parents did, telling us what to study and causing us to treat education as a chore; that instead, they should encourage their children to pursue their passions and to love learning. It doesn’t matter whether they want to be artists, musicians, or plumbers; the key is for children to understand that education is a lifelong endeavor and to be ready to constantly reinvent themselves.”

Just today, I heard myself saying this in conversation with a colleague,

If someone ever asked me, “If there was ONE lesson you had to share with your own kids about how to succeed in their career?”, I wouldn’t wait for a moment before saying, “Learn constantly, for the joy of it, on your own and make it a lifelong habit.”

In early years, ability learn on our own increases confidence. The mindset of constant learning is a mindset of an explorer who is constantly looking for ways and creating maps on the go. It expands our cognition and as we engage more in learning, we start seeing connections between what seemed like discrete dots. It expands our  cognition and awareness. Most importantly, self-directed learning moves the focus of our attention inwards. When we cannot control what is happening outside us, we can always choose our response to those external events. Constant learning allows us to respond better. Research also indicates that later in life, constant pursuit of learning leads to regeneration of brain cells.

After reading this article, I am a bit relieved that my advice in this hypothetical situation wouldn’t be completely out of place.

Here is to the spirit of staying hungry and staying foolish. Happy Learning!

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P.S: I am currently learning how to deepen my learning experiences through the power of visual note taking. You can see my experiments here.

Sketch Note: 6 Leadership Lessons from Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam

As Indians mourn the passing away of “People’s President”, Space Scientist, Teacher and Visionary Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, I am reminded of having read an interview he gave to India Knowledge@Wharton in 2008 where he shared some very important leadership lessons.

I decided to pay a small tribute in my own little way to someone who has not only taken India to newer heights but has kindled a fire of inspiration in thousands of young minds through his connect with students. He passed away while on the dais speaking to students of IIM Shillong. What a rare privilege to be able to depart doing what one loves doing the most; working till the last breath!

He has been so many things rolled into one – space scientist, missile man, India’s ex-President, Advisor, Visionary etc but when he was asked how he would like to be remembered, he mentioned that he wanted to be remembered only as a teacher.

And that is how India will remember him. Here is a sketch note of 6 leadership lessons Dr. Kalam shared in his interview.

Sketch Note: How to Influence Without Authority

My work in corporate quality functions in the past involved influencing cross-functional teams (as an internal consultant) on processes and methods when I had no direct reporting relationships with them. I knew that only technical expertise was not enough and I wished I had some guidance on how to influencing without authority.

Jesse Lyn Stoner is one of my favorite leadership bloggers and her post “How to Influence Without Authority” offers useful guidance on the what she calls as “8 Portals of Influence”. It is also one of the most loved posts on her blog! Whether you lead backed by a formal authority or you lead without a title, these ideas should help you build influence.

Here is a sketch note version encapsulating some ideas from her post. Read the full post here.