Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Just In

By now, I would guess that the article that was in the New York Times
a couple of weeks ago that went by the catchy and attention grabbing headline of  Google's Quest to Build a Better Boss has probably been passed around every HR department in the continental U.S. along with as Walter Winchell used to say "...and all the ships at sea."

In addition to that, after they read it, there are probably a lot of pretty big-name consulting firms that are wringing their hands thinking that their cover has been blown, and that their 2011 revenue forecasts are going to go down in flames because an icon organization has discovered for itself something that has been known to anyone who is been in the working world since time began had discovered after a couple of weeks on the job - i.e. at the end of the day when someone decides to leave it is more likely that they are leaving because of their boss then anything else.

If for some reason you were so totally absorbed in March madness that you actually did not read this piece, for anyone who's interested in what retention is really all about its well worth the 10 minutes or so to check it out.

On the off chance that you don't have the 10 minutes or you don't want to read it because you figure Google has done it to us yet once again and I don't dare, you can breathe easier because after thousands of hours of data gathering in an effort to determine what really does make managers better, they have come to the earth shattering conclusion that among other things, demonstrating genuine interest in the people who work for you is like really important.  It's enough to leave one speechless in amazement.

So as I said, if you don't have time to read all, here are a couple of CliffNotes from the article:

People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them.

The first is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters.

The second is that they don’t really like or respect their co-workers.

The third is they have a terrible boss — and this was the biggest variable.

Google, where performance reviews are done quarterly, rather than annually, saw huge swings in the ratings that employees gave to their bosses, and this was the biggest variable.  
Armed with these shocking data I can now understand why the picture of Google's head of People Operations Laszlo Bock (see above) shows him "recovering".  After all, it had to have taken some time for him to absorb such a profound revelation.

The list of what in today's vernacular might be termed "best practices" reads as the article says " a whiteboard gag from an episode of “The Office.”  An apt description for sure.

Okay, I know that the cynicism is beginning to pile up here at a fairly rapid pace, but I really can't seem to help myself.

To be honest, as I have reflected on this for the past couple of weeks I've been trying to figure out if there really was any kind of a redeeming "learning" or take away from the work that Google did.

I'm not sure there is other than it's nice to have confirmed yet once again that what is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule has been and continues to be the key driver of what makes each of us decide to stay or leave.

So there you have it!  Keep this in mind and you can save your company some big time bucks on consulting fees, and if you're a manager, yourself a lot of grief.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leadership Freak

I wish I could come up with whatever it was over the past 45+ years that I have been running around the working world that has fueled my interest in leadership but the fact of the matter is I can't, or least haven't been able to so far.

And if the truth be known, if I am going to come up with, "the" reason then I had best get my act together because with 45+ years worth of running and wondering behind me, I am now at the "walking" around the working world stage so I may not have the chance to look in too many more places.

Be that as it may, anyone who reads this blog knows while I do write about other things as well, the DNA of leadership is a subject that surfaces fairly frequently in this space, and this post is another of those times.

With the convoluted paths one travels in cyberspace, unless you keep really detailed notes (which I don't and which is but one of many glaring gaps in my organizational and self-discipline resume) it is hard to say how it is that you discovered yet another source that you feel not only has something to say, but an interesting and compelling way of saying it - the latter, of course, being what makes you come back.  So, I would gladly give credit and thanks where it's due, but alas I can't.

Such was the case for me when I came across a blog called Leadership Freak (great name don't you think?) that is authored by a fellow named Dan Rockwell. I am not going to take up space here with his background, etc., you can check that out here, but to give you an idea of his attention getting gifts for turning what many would think is a pretty unexciting topic into something that provides real insights, he recently had a post entitled: Britney Spears on Leadership. (There's another one of those really clever headlines!) I haven't really checked Dan's background too deeply, but I wonder if copywriting played any kind of a role at some point?

Anyway, the last time I checked, Dan has just under 40,000 Twitterites (?) following him, and the skill with which he writes and/or tweets suggests that they just might well follow him anywhere and for good reason.

Much more importantly, by having won the audience he has, he serves as a model for leadership on a number of levels, not the least of which is that certainly part of the meeting the criteria of "leader" is one has to have (and keep) followers.

It is one thing to talk about something. That's the easy part. "Walking the talk" as they say is a far different deal and this would seem to be a case where the numbers do, in fact, speak for themselves.

Point being, anyone with that many "followers" and blog hits of 271,000+ strongly suggests that if he has not yet achieved what Leadership Freak's tag line says is its goal: "Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less" he is certainly well on his way and I, for one, am happy to tag along.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Why of Work

For the past several years, we have worked with any number of thought leaders and practioners who are experts in a wide variety of fields and subjects.  With ExecuNet being both a career and business network the opportunity to learn from these folks has and continues to be a terrific experience and a major perk.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to experience this once again when I hosted a program for our members that featured Dave and Wendy Ulrich, authors of  the national best-seller The Why of Work

When the program had ended and Dave, Wendy and I were chatting afterwards, one of the things I told them was how incrediably timely I thought the timing of this book was because as we continue to come out of the recession, executives, be they currently in transition or not, were going to be doing some super serious thinking about not just what they put "into" work, but more importantly to both themselves and their employers what they are getting "out of work." 

It is a question that is critical not only for companies who are going to be faced with retaining key players but equally critical for those who are faced with job offers and trying to decide if this is the move they really want to make.

In trying to help the listeners think about all this, the Ulrich's built their presentation around the following list of quesrtions: 

1. Identify: What am I known for?
2. Purpose and Direction: Where am I going?
3. Relationships and Teamwork: Whom do I travel with?
4. Positive Work Environment: How do I build a positive work environment?
5. Engagement/ Challenge: What challenges interest me?
6. Resilience and Learning: How do I learn from setbacks?
7. Civility and Delight: What delights me?

I still can't believe how much they packed into the 60 minutes of this program, but I was particularly taken with their remarks around #6 on their list (Resilience and Learning). 

I am not exactly sure why this particular section stuck in my mind expcet maybe as I thought about where we are in terms of the recovery and more importantly where we have been.  Talk about "setbacks" both collectively and individually! 

It is so easy to get discouraged, especially when there isn't a lot of postive stuff coming your way, and this is true for the company trying to sustain itself through tough times, or an indiviudal trying to fight their way back in a job market that is much more about rejection than acceptance.

If you are a member of ExecuNet and didn't get a chance to listen in to this program, it is, as are all our programs, available to you on demand, but member or not, this is a book you will want to have going forward as I think you'll find its content a roadmap for the role you're in or one that you are considering taking on.

Oh, and if at any point you feel like you have been knocked down more often than is "fair", the Ulrich's reminded us all of some of the stuff that a certain A. Lincolon had to deal with:

His parents were forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
  1. His mother died.
  2. He failed in business.
  3. He ran for state legislature and was defeated.
  4. He lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
  5. He borrowed money from a friend to begin a business and lost it all by the end of the year
  6. He spent the next 17 years paying off his debt
  7. He ran for state legislature again and won. 
  8. He was engaged to be married when his sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
  9. He had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
  10. He sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was defeated.
  11. He sought to become elector and was defeated.
  12. He ran for Congress and was defeated.
  13. He ran for Congress again and won. He went to Washington and did well.
  14. He ran for re-election to Congress and was defeated.
  15. He sought the job of land officer in his home state and was rejected.
  16. He ran for Senate of the United States and was defeated.
  17. He sought the Vice Presidential nomination at his party's national convention and got less than 100 votes.
  18. He ran for the U.S. Senate again and was defeated.
  19. He ran for, and was elected, President of the United States
I don't know about you, but I can't tell you how glad I am that he kept on 'truckin.