Mark C. Crowley

Transformative Leadership for the 21st Century

If you're focusing on EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
you're aiming WAY TOO LOW!
“Shift your focus to what really matters to your organization:
employee commitment, initiative, and sustainable high performance.”
– Mark C. Crowley
MARK C. CROWLEY
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Gallup’s Profound Discovery: Engagement Is Driven By Good Managers With Rare Talents

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Searching For Talent “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

 – Schopenhauer

It’s been nearly three years since Gallup announced its stunning finding that engagement in the American workplace had fallen to crisis levels.

In what became the shot heard ‘round the world in business, the research firm revealed that 70% of the nation’s working population admits to being disengaged in their jobs (i.e., content with collecting a paycheck while investing little of their hearts in their work) – and that nearly 1 in every 5 workers is so discontent that they’re perversely motivated to undermine the effectiveness of their bosses and organizations.

All of this profound unhappiness has a primary source, of course, and organizations across the land have scurried to create taskforces, introduce employee satisfaction metrics and experiment with innumerable strategies in their efforts at finding it.  Like any problem decades-long in the making, however, no new programs or organization-wide themes are likely to prove effective at creating a sustainable solution. (For proof of this, we only need to look at where engagement is in 2017.  The needle has barely moved).

I’ve always believed, of course, that our shared engagement problem is the direct result of ineffective – even destructive – leadership.  More specifically, I’ve shown that human beings have greatly evolved what they need and want in exchange for their committed efforts at work, while our traditional managerial practices have failed to keep up.

Last fall, Gallup helped confirm this assessment when their research revealed that too many people in supervisory roles today, across all industries, lack the requisite ability to manage.  Their important revelation was that employee engagement in the 21st Century is largely dependent upon having a good manager.

In a series of discussions I’ve since had with Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Research Scientist, I’ve learned there are five specific talents that characterize the most effective and influential workplace leaders.

The direct and immediate take-away is that some people are naturally imbued with qualities and talents that virtually preordain their leadership success.  The surest way of restoring high engagement, therefore, is to only select people with these traits into all future managerial roles.

Managers, Not Organizations, Drive Engagement

“We’ve long had the understanding in business,” Harter told me, “that organizations have an overriding culture – one that’s either highly engaged or not.  But when we mapped engagement data down to the team level, we started noticing that engagement – and all performance metrics – varied widely.  Our discovery was that culture varies by team.  When we got under the hood a little bit, it became more obvious that whatever was happening with a team was directly related to its manager and to the tone they were setting.”

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Five Magnificent Ways You Can Lead Like Google Without Spending A Dime On Perks

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Uncategorized, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Unknown-2As research for an article I later wrote for Fast Company Magazine, I traveled to Google’s Mountain View, California campus, and spent the day meeting with several of their talent management executives.

Within just my first hour at Google, I saw firsthand all the reasons why so many people in business consider the tech giant to be an incomparable outlier – an organization whose leadership practices bear little relevance to the real world, and to most other organizations:

  • Staged in the parking lot was a row of luxurious Wi-Fi-outfitted shuttles that transport hundreds of “Googlers” to and from work every day at no cost.
  • At eleven o’clock in the morning, I saw two young employees unabashedly playing a “Dance, Dance Revolution” arcade game – while others were gearing up to play eight-ball on a nearby billiards table.
  • I saw the bowling alleys, the laundry-room, the endless snacks, the gym – and I enjoyed one of the 75,000 gourmet meals Google provides its workers free of charge every month.

IMG_0196To the uninitiated, it’s no wonder that Google has been named Fortune Magazine’s “Best Company To Work For” an unprecedented five times. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like this?

But Google’s methods for inspiring its 50,000 workers to commit themselves to doing amazing work far transcend the generous perks. And this is exactly the point that Google’s head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, makes in his new book, Work Rules! Why Google’s Rules Will Work For You.”

After reading Bock’s book – twice – I’m convinced that his (and Google’s) understanding of what drives human beings to consistently excel in their jobs is nothing short of brilliant.

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Three Stunning Leadership Trends That Should Give Hope To Workers Everywhere

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 1 comment

Heart & Mind“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

 – Yogi Berra

Directly or indirectly, the common theme expressed in everything I write is that our traditional ways of leading people in the workplace are failing.

We’ve seen employee engagement fall precipitously over a generation, and now have irrefutable evidence that it cannot and will not recover until we collectively adopt leadership practices that intentionally support the higher needs of workers – human beings.

My goal for each new article has been to further explain why leadership must change, and how some enlightened organizations and visionaries already are contributing to the creation of an entirely new, and far more effective model.

As we approach the New Year, I see it filled with promise.  It’s clear that our collective view on how best to inspire employee performance is fundamentally and irrevocably shifting.  What’s stunning to me is that it’s happening so fast.

To give you a new glimpse into the future of leadership, I want to share three profound trends that are building wave-like momentum in business.  A major transformation is underway and it’s largely being influenced by some noteworthy reversals in our thinking.

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The Single Greatest Reason The World’s Workforce Is Disengaged

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Gallup Poll“No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.”

–J. P. Morgan

 

In the early part of this past summer, Gallup released its “State of the American Workforce” report – a massive research undertaking that identified how connected and contented people feel in their jobs.  It’s from this study, 150,000 personal interviews over the course of a year, that researchers determined only 30% of us are fully engaged at work.

The news got even worse a few days ago when Gallup announced the results of its global workplace study.  Across 142 countries, they discovered only 13% of the working population does much more than show up on time and meet the minimum expectations for their jobs.

Take a look at these worldwide results:

  • 13% Engaged: Employees feel a strong connection to the success of their organization – almost as owners – and invest significant discretionary time and effort. 
  • 63% Not Engaged: People feel less connected to their work and are disinclined to display initiative.
  • 24% Actively Disengaged: Workers who are unhappy, unproductive – and liable to spread their negativity to co-workers.
  • This means 87% of the world’s working population is not meaningfully engaged in, or otherwise enthusiastic about their jobs.
  • Worldwide, actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1.

Soon after the U.S. engagement report was released, I interviewed Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Research Scientist, and wrote a subsequent article for Fast Company Magazine.  Leveraging much of Gallup’s research, I listed the key reasons American workers have grown so distressed in their jobs, and described the most effective ways managers can address them.

But now, four months later, I’m left to wonder how the world’s economy succeeds by having just 13% of the working population fully committed to excellence? Clearly, we manage, but is this really the best our global society can do?

With the hope that Gallup’s new research might shed new light on this engagement crisis, I reached out to Dr. Harter again.  To frame up our conversation, I asked him just two questions:

(1)  Is there one universal root to why people across the world are so disheartened in their jobs?

(2)  As a society, can we fix this so that people can instead thrive at work, maximize their own potential, and help drive greater performance for their organizations?

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The Unintended Consequences Of A Leader’s Lack Of Trust

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

trust

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
                                                      Peter Drucker

As many of you know, I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of the analytics software giant, SAS Institute.

I spent a day at the company’s North Carolina headquarters, and then returned home to write an article that described many of the key reasons the firm recently was named the “Best Company To Work For” – in the world.

But here I am, less than two weeks later, wanting to tell you more about SAS – and a masterful leadership insight I picked up from Goodnight that many of the greatest minds in business routinely overlook:

If your objective is to build extreme employee engagement, and to inspire your people to contribute to your firm as if they owned it, you must first create – and then vigilantly sustain – a culture of trust.

Said another way, the reason SAS experiences less than three percent annual turnover, and has had 37 consecutive years of record earnings, is because its management fully understands that by giving people its trust, they earn a profound payback. When employees know they are trusted, they take initiative; they put their hearts into their work. They more willingly take the risks that lead to breakthrough innovation.

But here’s the rub. Plenty of otherwise intelligent leaders in business come from an entirely different perspective and believe that employee productivity is better driven by strict rules and internal competition. As you’ll soon see in the following three real-world examples, in the absence of trust, neither employees nor organizations can ever fully flourish:

  1. When James Corcoran was hired as the President of Retail Banking at Washington Mutual Bank (now owned by Chase), he quickly determined that the firm needed greater discipline in how it evaluated business decisions.

    Corcoran soon introduced a tool he called a “four square,” and informed his staff that any time they sought his approval on a proposal going forward, they were required to present their business case on a single sheet of paper – delineated into four equally sized boxes.

    Corcoran was very clear. Each box on the “four square” had a specific purpose and he expected his rules to be followed. A summary of the proposal always went into the top left corner box, and the financial analysis always in the bottom right. Everything had its place.

    But where things went awry was when Corcoran was displeased with the content provided in a “four square.” He very often sent managers away, without rendering a decision, until they returned with a more satisfactory presentation. He did this even when he had sufficient data to make his call.

    To be clear, Corcoran cannot be faulted for instituting a more formal and consistent decision making methodology at WaMu. This decision proved to serve him and the organization well. But by insisting on absolute perfection in every form he reviewed, people began spending disproportionate time producing faultless “four squares.” And in order to avoid hearing Corcoran harshly voice his rejection, some employees grew to fear bringing him new ideas and proposals altogether.

  2. As recently reported in Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine, Dish Network founder and Chairman, Charlie Ergan, may be the single worst executive in America when it comes to establishing and nurturing organizational trust. According to writer, Caleb Hannan, the list of trust-destroying practices Ergan employs is virtually endless. Here are just a few.

    • To ensure people arrive for work on time, he installed fingerprint readers at every entrance. Now, any time a worker comes in after 9:00 am, an e-mail is sent to both Human Resources and the person’s supervisor. Sometimes, Ergan himself is copied.

    • Up until very recently, every check coming out of the company’s headquarters had to be signed by Ergan. Even today, trusting none of his senior managers to act in the best interests of the organization, he still signs all checks over $100,000.

    • Despite having over 100 full-time employees paid to research “reams of customer data” and decide how much to charge for satellite service, Ergan recently dismissed their endless hours of collective work, and unilaterally chose the final price by himself.

    According to Breen, current and past Dish Network employees describe an Ergen-created culture as one of “condescension and distrust.” Turnover at the firm is predictably high.

  3. An August 2012, Vanity Fair Magazine article titled “Microsoft’s Lost Decade,” revealed that CEO, Steve Ballmer, effectively destroyed organizational trust when he introduced an employee evaluation process called “stack ranking.”

    According to writer, Kurt Eichenwald, Ballmer launched a review system predicated on the idea that only a small number of employees should ever be graded highly.

    Imagine you’re a Microsoft worker assigned to a team of nine other highly talented and qualified people. In Ballmer’s bell-curve methodology, only two members on your team could ever receive a great evaluation – no matter how well you and your colleagues perform.

    The system required that seven employees would always receive a mediocre review, and one person a terrible one. People on the bottom often lost their jobs as a result.

    It’s stunning to think that one of the world’s largest companies, one with extreme competition for talent from the likes of Apple and Google, wouldn’t seek to design an evaluation process that inspired every employee to excel and share in the firm’s success. Instead, here are the predictable, albeit unintended, consequences the firm inevitably suffered:

  • Top employees did everything they could to avoid working with other superstars out of fear of getting hurt in the rankings.

  • While employees sought to do a good job, they worked equally hard to sabotage the performance of colleagues. This all but crippled cooperation and collaboration.

  • Because reviews occurred every six months, people focused on short-term performance rather than the long-term innovation that would greatly benefit of the firm.

Conclusion:
I’ve come to be certain that no organization can fully succeed and thrive in the 21st Century without first displaying the highest regard and affection for all of its employees.  Human engagement is greatest, therefore, when people feel valued, important and trusted.

Because of this, it’s time we all agreed to push the human race forward and change how we manage people in the workplace.  Our ambition now as leaders must be to improve lives, mitigate fears and make people feel strong.  Anything less diminishes us all.

Building a culture of trust remains the road less traveled in business today.  But organizations like SAS are proving it’s the superhighway to organizational excellence.

Know that we’re extremely grateful when you share these blogs with friends and colleagues via all social media.  We want to make a difference and this is how you can help.  If you would like to receive Mark’s articles and updates directly, we invite you to join his tribe (no personal info is ever shared).

PPS: If you haven’t already read my Fast Company Magazine article about SAS and would like to, here’s the link: http://buff.ly/YlC3Vo 

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Ken Blanchard: A Premier Leadership Mind Turns To The Heart

Posted by on Dec 2, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Leadership Sage, Ken Blanchard

Leadership Sage, Ken Blanchard

On a crisp and sunny afternoon at his cabin on Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, internationally-renown business leadership expert, Ken Blanchard, surprises me by taking frequent and sudden breaks in the midst of the interview we’ve just begun.

He affectionately acknowledges his grandkids who randomly pop their heads into the room, patiently calms a barking dog, and fully excuses himself to greet the mail lady who delivers him packages every day by boat.

To judge him in this moment, unmistakably relaxed and easy-going, the 73 year-old author, thought leader, and management sage appears to be knee deep in retirement.

And Blanchard certainly has earned some R & R.  He’s written 55 books – selling a remarkable 20 million copies – and for the past three decades, has been the spiritual head of an eponymous training and consulting firm that serves clients in over 30 countries around the globe.  Along the way, he co-created Situational Leadership® theory and co-authored The One-Minute Manager – a modern day classic that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

But winding down his career is the last thing on his mind.  Inspired by his friends, Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking author who worked well into his nineties, and motivational legend, Zig Ziglar, who told him directly to “re-fire, not retire,” Blanchard has no interest in calling it quits.  Instead, he’s on a two-month sabbatical for the explicit purpose of gearing up for the next chapter of his life.

Clearly vibrant in both heart and mind, Blanchard remains passionate about making a difference in the world – most especially in business.  Tied to his conviction that there remains a “desperate need for positive leadership role modeling” today, he’s eager to write more, speak more, and essentially live the brand of management and stewardship he’s grown to believe is requisite for the 21st Century workplace.

Downplaying an already luminous resume, Blanchard intentionally skirts away from questions related to his personal legacy.  Emphatically life affirming, he’s hired a nutritionist, a physical trainer – and has lost 35 pounds – all to ensure his body holds up as long as his spirit does.  After five decades of dedicated study, he’s now absolutely certain he’s acquired the wisdom about how to most successfully manage and inspire people in their jobs; and he appears unwilling to leave the planet until he’s shared it with all of us.

Character Building At An Early Age
Blanchard grew up in Westchester County, New York with parents who instinctively seemed to know they were grooming a future philosopher and teacher.

His mother, daughter of German emigrants and the only one of five children to earn a high school diploma, met her future husband – a Naval Academy and Harvard Business School graduate – on a commuter train heading into New York City.  According to Blanchard, their wide difference in educational backgrounds mattered little to his father.  “He’d never met anyone with such incredible energy and positive views on life,” and immediately was swept away.

Radiant positivity is characteristic of Blanchard’s own personality, apparently imbued in his DNA.  And his mother’s lessons on the importance of being a generous person would establish the foundation for his life’s philosophy.  “She taught me to give and be charitable with people insisting I never expect anything in return.  But she also told me to never be surprised by all the good that inevitably would come my way.”

Blanchard’s father graduated from Annapolis right after World War I.  With a reduced need for officers, the Navy released him to pursue an MBA and begin a career on Wall Street.  But when the prospects of a second world war later became imminent, he eagerly re-upped.

When Blanchard was just seven-years-old, his dad took him to the old Polo Grounds to see his first major league baseball game.  The St. Louis Cardinals were playing the hometown New York Giants, and the trip to the stadium was motivated by much more than introducing his young boy to the national pastime.  “There are two guys on the Cardinals who have values I think it would be good you looked at,” he told his son.

Vividly and nostalgically recalling the experience, Blanchard said one of the players was Enos Slaughter, who “ran to first on every hit as if his life depended on it.  After we saw Slaughter play, Dad told me ‘if you’re going to do anything in life, hustle.’”  The other player was Stan Musial, a 24-time All-Star considered one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.  “That Musial could hit well wasn’t really the point.  Musial was a perfect gentleman and my father was always focused on teaching me values.”

Synchronicity And The Evolution Of His Career
Blanchard’s greatest accomplishments seem to almost always be tied to chance meetings or other serendipitous events – and to his seizing these moments.

After graduating from Cornell with an undergraduate degree in Government and Philosophy, he applied to the best graduate schools in the country and was accepted at none of them.  A self-confessed average student, he struggled to matriculate anywhere until Colgate University admitted him provisionally.

With plans of becoming a college administrator, Blanchard enrolled in the school’s education program, a curriculum he quickly found both tedious and boring.

While having a beer at the Colgate Inn one afternoon, he struck up a conversation with a bar mate, someone who happened to be a new Sociology professor just joining the faculty.  Revealing a sober distress, Blanchard told his new friend how unhappy he was with his course work and how dispassionate he’d become about pursuing it.  Who knows what motivated the professor, but he not only persuaded his drinking companion to instantly change his major to Sociology – where Blanchard would first study Leadership – he personally ensured the transfer.

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