Social Mindset: A Key to Engaging People

It is more than obvious now that the way people feel about their workplace has direct material impact on performance of the business. This simple equation gets even more complex when we think of forces that are fundamentally changing how we work. Our workplace conversations today are dominated by topics like increasing globalization, economic uncertainties, automation, disruptive innovations, social technologies, generational shifts, mobility, people analytics, gig economy and such.

Newer generations at workplace demand different experiences and therefore, organizations are challenged constantly to move beyond traditional engagement programs and think of engagement more holistically. There is plenty of conversation happening today around moving from employee engagement to employee experience, role of design thinking in driving people experiences and creating a differentiating employer brand experience.

These are all worthy topics to take the conversation of talent engagement forward but I think that none of this will be effective in engaging talent unless we address something very fundamental underlying all of these ideas. We live in social, hyper-connected and super-transparent world and therefore, adopting a “social mindset” is and will remain a killer app for engaging people.

Social mindset is about focusing on people more than focusing on process and having a belief that magic happens when:

  • We create ecosystems where good people can thrive
  • People are aligned to purpose and are clear about how their work contributes to larger objectives
  • People have tools and communities to learn what they want to learn and when they want to learn
  • Leaders play an active role in building ecosystems for high performance

Real engagement happens when we focus, not on generating engagement, but doing right things that increase human engagement.

To be able to adopt a social mindset, leaders need to be equipped with deep understanding of how social, networked and self-evolving structures work. Only then can organizational leaders facilitate effective engagement of talent to meet organizational objectives. This is conversation that goes way beyond HR teams focusing narrowly on “employee engagement programs”. This is a more holistic conversation, and one that really engages talent by integrating work design, culture, rewards, learning and career development to deliver superior employee experience. Let us take a deeper look at how social mindset enables each of these and what it means in practical terms:

Work Design: People need a conducive space to perform and how work really gets done is a key driver for engagement. Technology advances have transformed how work is performed and designing work in a way that engages people is a real challenge and opportunity. Organizations have to relentlessly clarify purpose, how an individual’s work enables achievement of purpose and provide autonomy to team members to execute their ideas. People derive sense of control when they have space to do the work in their own unique way and execute their ideas. Social mindset plays a huge role in enabling people to perform. Traditional “once-a-year” feedback mechanisms only disable people. Real enablement happens when people get frequent feedbacks and support throughout the year. Enablement is also about involving people in collaborative problem solving, making goals transparent, seeking their feedback and most importantly, acting on that feedback. The design of organization and work should enable and encourage people to pursue non-linear career paths. Reducing organizational layers, building small teams and empowering them to self-organize go a long way in engaging talent on a longer run.

Alignment and Clarity: In an information intensive world, real empowerment to people is all about seamless communication across different clusters of organizational network. When communication channels are open, people have greater opportunity to clarify their concerns, know the strategic direction and align their local decision making accordingly. Organizations are increasingly using enterprise social networks like Yammer, Microsoft Skype for Teams and Slack to facilitate these critical conversations. Using social tools to not just broadcast but engage in a dialogue is a great way to also build a compelling employer brand. Communication and clarity across the board works like grease to reduce friction, enable clarity and therefore, improve engagement.

Social Learning: People who get the required support to do their work better tend to be better engaged. We have moved beyond traditional one-way forms of training (learning events) to continuous streams of on-demand learning (learning journey) that combine synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning. People don’t go to classrooms when they want to learn – they go to corporate learning management systems, micro-learning platforms like Twitter, Enterprise social networks like Yammer and so on. Enabling social learning is about encouraging people to share their work, get feedback, align their practices and learn from these experiences. It is about building communities of practice and encouraging people to work out loud. For this to happen, leaders have to set the right example and become engaged social learners themselves. When organizations get this right, they build a solid employer brand (reputation) while engaging with their prospective talent pools on external social networks.

Creating Ecosystems of High Performance: Real engagement happens when people are able to play to their potential and deliver superior performances. Effective leadership that works hard to build trust, respects people, engages in seamless conversations and treats people as colleagues and not as “resources” goes a long way in building a performance culture. Social mindset and leadership is about building a fabric of relationships between clusters of networks in organization to facilitate collaboration and performance. It is therefore so vital for leaders to walk an extra mile to clarify goals, communicate, build relationships, foster trust, deliver feedback early and often and set right examples.

Social mindset has existed in our societies and communities since ages but often forgotten in the maze of organizational layers, tight bound hierarchies, complex processes and boxed responsibilities that inhibit shared understanding and learning.

Human beings are fundamentally social and therefore, understanding of how social structures work is easy. It is all around us.

It is often in doing things we know that we stumble the most!


This article originally appeared as Cover Story in PeopleMatters Magazine April 2017 Edition


Also check out: Happy to have contributed a sketchnote to the re-published version of “The Best Leaders are Constant Learners” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche at HBRAscend.in – a Harvard Business Review publication.

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.

Talents of a Great Manager

Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Source: Gallup Business Journal – Why Great Managers Are So Rare!

Here are a few small additions to each of the point mentioned above.

  • To be able to motivate others and build relationships, they communicate with clarity.
  • They are assertive in driving outcomes and overcoming obstacles but they are graceful yet firm in dealing with people and situations. 
  • While creating a culture of accountability, they also balance accountability with engagement.
  • They work hard to build relationships and trust but they remain objective and unbiased without letting their relationships impact the decisions.
  • They make decisions based on productivity but they think critically about other aspects of decision (and its respective impacts).

Great managers are the catalysts of employee engagement.


Related Reading: 

Great Quotes: We Are Made of Star Stuff, Carl Sagan

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

– Carl Sagan

From – “That “we are” – The Connective Tissue of Humans Being” by Bernie Nagle which is a must read. Here’s one more:

But it all begins with acknowledgment and profound appreciation for the most rudimentary fact of human existence: “we are”. Joni Mitchell said, “we are stardust, we are golden” and in the workplace we are so much more than “Humans Doing”…we are “Humans Being”, with all the wonderful gifts of our unique person-ness right there for the sharing.

Do I need to say anything more?

Double the Love: An Interview with Lisa Haneberg

 

Lisa Haneberg is an expert (and lifelong student) in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of experience she has provided departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations. She has written 14 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently published her new book Double the Love – 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams and I had a privilege of previewing some of the ideas before it was released and share a blurb in the book. I read the book with great interest and it just consolidated what I wrote in my blurb,

“Double the Love is a treasure trove of transformative ideas, secrets and wisdom on how to build an engaged and accountable workforce. Wish I had this book early on when I built my first team!” – Tanmay Vora, author, blogger and improvement consultant, QAspire.com

I caught up on a conversation with Lisa recently and here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, welcome again to QAspire Blog. I often hear senior leaders who complain about lack of accountability within their teams and organizations. What is the #1 mistake that leaders make when trying to make their teams more accountable?

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I think that the #1 mistake is failing to understand how our performance systems work. As leaders, we use two performance systems – accountability and engagement. Accountability is an extrinsically motivating system, which means that it is a “push” system and thus the secret is to be consistent and have strong follow through. I have worked with leaders who proclaim a need for accountability, publish metrics, but then do little else to operate the accountability system.

[Tanmay Vora] I loved how you have differentiated and then related accountability and engagement. Please tell us a little more about that.

[Lisa Haneberg] Accountability and engagement are distinct systems, as I mention above. What this means is that the leadership actions that increase accountability are not the same as those that increase engagement. At the same time, accountability and engagement are interdependent. When you increase accountability, for example, you might see a downturn in engagement because accountability systems can make employees feel audited and unappreciated or untrusted. This is where the phrase “double the love” comes from – when you increase accountability, you need to double the love to keep accountability and engagement in balance.

[Tanmay Vora] “Love” is not a word that we use often at workplace. What has love got to do with the whole topic of accountability and engagement?

[Lisa Haneberg] Let me start with defining “love.” Managerial love is taking initiative on behalf of someone else. It’s doing the things that enable our team members to do their best work. It’s caring enough to apply individualized support. As leaders, we give love when consider and act in ways that engage and help our team members. Sometimes love is as simple as letting someone skip a long meeting so they can get out of the office at a decent hour or spending time listening deeply. Managerial love is the fuel for engagement – it’s how we create more pull and satisfaction in the workplace, so it is HUGELY important for engagement (and helps counteract morale hits from accountability measures).

[Tanmay Vora] If there was one key message from “Double the Love” that you had to share with HR, Managers and Leaders at all levels, what would that be?

[Lisa Haneberg] In the book, I share 11 “secrets” and the final one is that the secret to performance velocity is design. This idea pays homage to Dan Pink’s belief from “A Whole New Mind” that design is a critical competency for our time. And this is particularly the case when trying to cultivate accountability and engagement. Design in this context means that we have been deliberate in choosing and using leadership practices that will support our goals. Being deliberate means that your intentions show up in your actions, decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that many leaders know – intellectually – the best things to do but that few follow through with their intentions. Design is the most fascinating discipline for leaders, I think. I love the challenge and possibility of creating my leadership practice. BTW, Dan Pink endorsed the book based on this connection to his earlier work and I love what he said.

“This terrific book brings together the intentionality of good design with the science of motivation to help leaders create better workplaces. The synergy is extraordinary.” Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, thank you so much for provocation to lead better through this book. Thank you also for being so generous with your art and sharing your insights here. I am pretty sure readers of this blog will find your blog and books very useful and inspiring.

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I hope that your readers will double the love and bring out the best in others.

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Also read: Previous interview with Lisa Haneberg on her book “Never Ending New Beginnings”

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Review: Managers as Mentors by Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith

For thousands of years in India, there prevailed a tradition of “Guru-Shishya” – mentor and protégé in other words. In this relationship, which was a primary form of education then, powerful and subtle knowledge was conveyed to protégé on a one-on-one basis in an environment of complete trust, dedication and intimacy. As realization grew, the protégé would extend his lessons to others and so, wisdom kept flowing across generations.

Cut to the corporate environment today. Ability to provide mentoring is a part of almost every manager’s KRA. They are expected to help people grow and ensure that they learn as they do. Managers are the glue that builds engaged teams in organizations. But the reality is that managers get so engrossed with lines – deadlines and bottom lines – that they forget they also need to help others grow. Sadly, they start looking at people as “resources” to get the job done.

If I were to judge a manager’s performance, I would do so based on two parameters: 1) How effectively do the managers get the job done? 2) While doing so, how much did people in the team grew and learned? To be effective and make a lasting difference, managers have to be mentors first and then guardians of tasks.

Mentoring is an art. This week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic book “Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning” which I read with great interest. I loved the sub-title which says it all. Mentoring is the highest form of teaching and every manager who wants to make a difference in their people’s lives will find this book useful. I was reminded of the powerful tradition of “Guru-Shishya” while reading parts of this book.

The book starts with a section that defines mentoring. It says,

“At a most basic level, it is simply the act of helping another learn”…“Mentors” are people (especially leaders) who engage in deliberate actions aimed at promoting learning.”…”Bottom line, a mentor is simply someone who helps someone else learn something that would have otherwise been learned less well, more slowly, or not at all.”

The book then goes on to provide practical ideas and case studies that can help any manager in mentoring their team members effectively and thereby build an engaged and connected team that delivers results and grows. I also loved the useful tools (book has an entire mentors toolkit section) like self-check scale for a mentor which helps you assess your own aptitude to mentor others.

On a long run, a manager’s real legacy is not the projects executed, but difference made in the lives of other people. People already have potential hidden (like gold dust within the sand)  and a mentor’s job is to help a protégé so that the gold surfaces. It is about gently and constantly pushing them towards higher plane of possibilities and learning.

Learning and extending that learning to others in an organization is not a “feel-good-nice-to-have” thing – it is a competitive strategy that helps in innovation, improvement and growth.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure

Last two posts (here and here) focused on managing the emotional aspects of workplace to build a culture of engagement. While I was writing about it, I came across a very interesting paper titled “The Emotionally Bonded Organization: Why Emotional Infrastructure Matters And How Leaders Can Build It” by Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of MindTree.

The paper emphasizes that role of a leader within an organization is to primarily create infrastructure. Organizations are composed of three types of infrastructure:

  1. Physical Infrastructure (buildings, furniture, equipments, offices across global locations etc.)
  2. Intellectual Infrastructure (systems, processes, technical capabilities, unique tools, patents, copyrights etc.)
  3. Emotional Infrastructure (aggregated positive feelings employees have for the organization and each other)

According to the authors, emotional infrastructure is most time consuming and difficult to build. They state:

In comparison to physical and intellectual infrastructure, emotional infrastructure is the most time-intensive and the most difficult to build. Yet the factors that create emotional infrastructure are not visibly manifest to an outsider and hence it is the most difficult for a competitor to copy, yielding a sizable and sustainable competitive advantage. This is precisely why numerous people visit Toyota in Japan but very few are able to replicate Toyota’s legendary manufacturing practices.

Further, this paper outlines 8 factors that build an emotional infrastructure.

Bottom line: Employee engagement and emotional infrastructure within an organization are a result of conscious choices at the top. Leaders who are aware of the emotional aspect of culture building will be able to build highly engaged and connected teams – a direct competitive advantage in a knowledge oriented world.

More Insights from Subroto Bagchi

9 Simple Ideas for Employee Engagement

My last post emphasized on balancing processes and practices with emotion when leading projects. HR folks know this as “employee engagement”. In simplest terms, people have a choice to do a great job or a mediocre one. They exercise this choice based on the emotional connection with purpose of project/team/organization.

Why all this buzz around employee engagement, you may ask? Consider this: A Gallup study estimated that lower productivity due to disengaged workers costs the U.S. economy about $328 million. It is more than a pronounced fact now that level of employee engagement has a net direct impact on a company’s business bottom lines. On the brighter side, engaged team members delivered 12% higher customer satisfaction scores, 18% higher productivity and about 12% higher profitability. A 2010 study by AON Hewitt also confirms this.

Actively engaged team members are the greatest source of creativity, innovation, quality and improvements within an organization. In a knowledge world, only engaged team members go out of their way to delivery great customer experiences. If you are a leader at any level within the organization, your primary job is to build a culture of consistently high engagement. How do you achieve that?

Clarify the purpose continuously: People need to know the grand purpose to which they are subscribing. Constant reinforcement of purpose and matching that with team member’s individual aspirations is a great way to keep them engaged.

Show how they contribute: Most people working on various initiatives/projects want to know how their work contributes in achieving the purpose. Show them the results, give them a broader perspective, share feedback and let them understand how customer perceives value. Once this important link is established, people are more equipped to deliver better outcomes.

Be a “potential mirror”: I am not sure if there is such a word like “potential mirror”. But whenever you share feedback and communicate, nurture their self-esteem. Criticize constructively and show them their potential. Help them identify their unique strengths and how to put them to use.

Set Them Free: Align values, give them a purpose and then set them free. Autonomy is a great driver of employee engagement. Team members need a space where they can exercise their ideas and be creative. Let them make mistakes, but handhold them so they learn. Setting them free is also a great indicator that you trust them.

Involve Them in Leading Change: People often get into comfort of their work with time. Involving them in meaningful change/improvement initiatives is a great way to keep them alternately engaged. Sometimes, when people get bored with routine, such change initiatives can be reinvigorating.

Foster Communication: Build an eco-system where communication is free. Management methods like SCRUM do this nicely where team members do a daily stand-up meeting. It keeps them aligned and accountable. These daily forums are also a great way to share progress and feedback.

Use External and Internal Feedback: Allow people to share their feedback. Listen intentionally. People want to be heard and understood. Let customers speak about their perception of team and what can be improved. Internal and external feedback can often show you the right path.

Act on it: Show that you care by acting on the feedback. Better yet, involve people in implementing those actions. Taking feedback and not acting on it is a costly mistake that can quickly disengage people.

Celebrate: Team works hard and engaged people always end up walking extra-mile to get things done. Do not forget to celebrate the team, their achievements and their hard work. A team that works together and celebrates together, performs together.

Bonus Resources:

  1. Employee Engagement for Managers: In One Sentence” (free eBook) by David Zinger – a thought leader and authority on the subject of employee engagement.

  2. UpstartHR’s Guide to Employee Engagement (where I contributed a chapter.

Employee Engagement: A Story and a Few Resources

People deliver their best work when they are fully engaged with the purpose of their work. In an organizational setting, people only deliver their best when they are engaged with the purpose, vision and values of the organization they work with. Businesses can conduct an employee survey to determine engagement levels. They look at their work as a part of a larger whole – and not just a discrete component.

How do we engage our people? That’s the question many HR leaders, project managers and organizational leaders have been asking. To help them, Ben Eubanks at upstartHR compiled a fantastic and fr.ee eBook on Employee Engagement that features best ideas, specific tips and stories about engagement. The book also features my classic post titled “Engagement, Leadership and Power of Storytelling”. (Download PDF)

Here is the story from the book introduction that I really liked:

A CEO was walking down the hallway of the hospital he managed one day and came across the janitor working. He stopped to talk with him for a few moments and eventually he asked the janitor what he did.

The janitor stopped, turned to the CEO with a completely serious look and replied, “I save lives.” The CEO was taken aback. What was this guy talking about? He’s the janitor, not a heart surgeon.

He continued, “See, when I do my job well and clean the operating rooms and other work areas, the doctors have a sanitary, safe place to do their jobs. I clean things, yes, but in the bigger scheme of things, I’m helping to save lives.” The CEO instantly realized his own “small thinking” and saw that the janitor had a view of the mission of the hospital from an entirely different, yet valuable, perspective.

In my view, great quality of work is a direct result of an engaged team. Employee engagement is a way to ensure that people do a good job, not because they are forced to, but because they want to.

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A few more resources for HR Leaders:

  • Ben Eubanks also compiled an eBook “Onboarding and New Hire Orientation“.
  • David Zinger is a thought leader in employee engagement whom I have admired since long. Check out the “resources” page on his website for some amazing free resources/eBooks/ideas on the all important topic of employee engagement.

Engagement, Leadership and Power of Storytelling

Last week, I had a short conversation with one of my colleagues in HR about the all important topic of employee engagement. In an impromptu conversation, we touched upon a very important point: People love (and remember) stories, not facts.

We loved it when our grandparents wrapped important life lessons in form of stories. Vivid situations weaved in words and narrated with great zeal. The stories I heard in my childhood, and the messages therein, are still afresh in my memory. My daughter almost gets hooked when a story is narrated. We grow up on stories, so do our belief system and our world view.

For leaders, ability to communicate using stories, choosing stories in line with listener’s current context and structuring them for maximum impact are very crucial skills.

Here are a few ways you can use power of storytelling:

  • As a speaker/presenter, you can use stories to capture the imagination of audience. The lessons we learn as conclusions of interesting stories make a bigger impact than getting directly to the lessons. Great presenters tell great stories, anecdotes and experiences that truly engage the audience. They make a point at the end of each story.
  • As a business leader, your biggest challenge is to keep your people engaged with your mission and with their work. Inspire them with stories about the organization. Show them the future. Tell tales of triumphs and trials, of success and failures, of past and future. Stories reinforce the belief system. Stories validate people’s aspirations and empower them. Stories create alignment and hence culture. Your people, new hires and aspiring leaders are not as fascinated by numbers as they are with the stories associated with the organization. Listen to their stories as well.
  • As a sales leader, you can use power of well crafted stories to project your organization. Numbers and explicit details are fine, but stories of your inception, growth, challenges, success stories (in similar context) can help you a great deal in establishing comfort and confidence with your prospective customers.

Critical Question: How can you leverage the power of storytelling to enrich your conversations, build great relationships, truly connect with people and make a difference?

Have a FANTASTIC Friday and a great weekend ahead!