Have you ever felt at a "dead end job"? By "dead end," I do not necessarily mean a job where you could not get promoted. I mean a job where you stopped learning.
As I conduct research for the book I plan to write on The Meaningful Leader® I often ask people to think of their "moments of disengagement." The way I refer to these moments is the time in which "you lost the light in your eye." It may not surprise you to hear that many of the stories I hear are about lousy managers - people who overreact to mistakes, lose control, ignore the needs of their employees and, even more commonly (and sadly) expect employees to leave their integrity and values at home.
A common theme, however, has to do with the loss of growth and hope. People feel like they have nothing else to give, nothing else to fight for. A common theme is boredom.
Helping followers grow is a key part of a leader's job. So can you help your follower grow? Here are a few ideas:
A final consideration as you help your followers grow: Avoid the control trap. Micromanagers, by definition, do not support their followers' development. When you micromanage, you send a powerful message of lack of trust and fear of failure.
Here is the question of the week: Think of a leader you had who helped you grow. You may consider a leader from your personal or professional life. What did this person do that was so powerful? What can you learn from your experience?
This week, our topic is Leading for Fit - helping our followers reach the best possible match between their jobs and their unique characteristics: talents, experiences, values, personality, etc. Watch the video, below, introducing the main concept. Then, enjoy some of the resources for further learning below!
The question of the week is: Does your organization include alternative routes or paths for success?
Last week, I discussed the problem caused by silos in the organization. When we work in silos, we fail to cooperate and fall into a competition "default." A related topic is information sharing.
Why might people not share information at work? There are various possible reasons:
Engaging or meaningful leaders do not leave good communications to chance. Instead, they:
I recently analyzed data from one of my own engagement surveys. The data set included 683 responses. I found positive and significant relationships between all components of engagement and answers to the items above. The overall correlation between the average of those items and engagement was .453.
In other words, leaders perceived to be good listeners, openly share information, encourage employees to do the same, and overall promote a culture of transparency were more likely to have an engaged team. I measured the following components of engagement:
A caveat: As you may remember from the last course you took in Statistics (even if you took it many moons ago), correlation does not mean cause. I am not saying that open communications cause engagement - instead, my data suggest a relationship between a culture of transparency and open-communications environment and the employees' energy, focus, passion, role expansion, and pride. Here are a few possible reasons:
This week, therefore, I have two questions for our community:
Try assigning a task to two or three teams in a training room. The task does not matter. You could ask people to build a structure to protect a city from (enter whatever catastrophe you can think of), solve a puzzle, or answer a set of questions. Whatever the challenge, teams are not likely to collaborate with each other. At most, you'll succeed in inter-team collaboration - and that is, if you are lucky and engage in some reasonable preparation.
Human beings are wired to prefer members of their teams. We feel comfortable inside our boxes, even if said boxes are recent (for example, even if we had not met the members of our team before). The problem: Members of effective organizations must work towards a common purpose. Meaningful leaders, therefore, are able to break silos. They encourage their team members to work well with their team members and to collaborate with others.
Here is my question this week: What are some effective interventions to encourage collaboration? What have you seen that works?
We often dicuss the importance of trust in the workplace and for good reason. Without trust, everything would need to be double and triple checked. Efficiency would disappear - and so would innovation.
Trust, however, is not blind. You should not trust me, for example, to handle the financial health of your organization - not because I lack integrity but because I know nothing about finances and would be the world's worst CFO. It's also perfectly reasonable to double check on the work of a very inexperienced intern learning the ropes of something new.
In this brief video, I share five components of trust: Benevolence, authenticity, reliability, fairness, and competence. This video is the first in a series of discussions on Meaningful Leadership - a collection of competencies that help forge an engaging environment for all employees.
Please share your experiences! Have you observed the five components of trust I mention in the video?
In the wake of the heartbreaking mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, I asked Linked:HR members to follow Dr. Margaret Wheatley's advice and create an "Island of Sane Behavior." Watch the invitation below and share your comments. How can we create an environment of trust, safety, and acceptance, when the world around us is going crazy?
In this very brief "flash learning style" vlog, I explain why personality at work matters and what it has to do with psychological safety, the feeling that one can bring one's whole self to work. I hope you enjoy it! Please comment! In your experience, does understanding personality enhance psychological safety?
One thing that occurs to me as I review my video is that there could be a "dark side" to the use of personailty in organizations: When personality testing becomes a weapon rather than a tool for success. Please:
I was recently interviewed by a long-time friend and colleague, Caryn Lee, on why I chose to use the Big Five Model of personality in my consulting, research, and with my graduate students at Drake University. For the sake of transparency: Over the years I made a clear choice for the Big Five and I have a business relationship with Ms. Lee. That said, I did have various choices of tools and still use such tools when a client prefers them. Frankly, I could have had a successful business with other personality tools. I chose a Big Five personality assessment for serious reasons, including increased accuracy, sound reputation among researchers, less chance to create a "self-fulfilling prophecy," and more connections opportunities for program participants. You'll hear my reasons and story in this brief interview. If you prefer, you may also download and read the transcript.
What do you think? Have you had any exposure to the Five Factor Model? For a free e-learning training (providing one SHRM credit) and the opportunity to receive a free comprehensive Narrative Big Five profile, please visit THIS PAGE.
First, an important disclaimer: I completed the SPHR a long time ago. I welcome thoughts from more recent test takers. Also, neither I nor Linked:HR has a relationship with HRCI (i.e., as I write this note, HRCI is not our affiliate, sponsor, advertiser, etc.).
That said, I was asked what materials would be useful for people preparing for the exam, and thought I'd share here some resources and tips I offered colleagues when I passed the SPHR test way back when. I updated the links and checked some of the more recent offers in the HRCI page.
I would start by checking out the content of the exam you plan to take. The HRCI provides this information freely HERE. Once you have a sense of what you need to know, consider completing one of the HRCI past exams (click HERE to find the one that meets your needs). Doing so will give you a baseline and an idea of how far you need to go in your preparation.
Next, you will need study and additional test preparation materials. Here are some ideas:
Notice that I'm including a variety of materials, including a standard college textbook (Hollenbeck et al.), books on employment law (Nolo, Fleischer) and test repositories. The HRCI explains that there isn't "one" set of materials that will be enough to help you pass the exam. A few ideas to reduce the costs include:
Here are some tips that may make a big difference in your success and, most importantly, your sanity.
Finally, I cannot emphasize this tip enough: Do not rely on one resource only. Internalizing information may be easier if you read about it in different texts, including different examples, etc.
Best of luck to everyone and please comment! What are your best tips and resources?
For the past half hour, Jane and Mary, respectively the customer service and the sales manager at organization ABC, have tried to solve a problem related to one of ABC's major customers.
“The customer feedback form is incomplete,” Mary says. “My sales reps cannot gather enough background information when visiting their customers. ABC had a major problem and this was not expressed in the form. I understand that you are doing the best you can, Jane.”
“Well, I understand your concern, Mary,” Jane answers calmly, “and you know that I value your opinion. Here is my perspective, though: My employees already have a hard time completing that form.”
An observer who happened to stop by in the meeting room would fail to see anything wrong. Jane and Mary’s discussion is polite and professional. Both individuals take great pains in following the rules of courtesy, using words such as “understand,” "value," and “perspective.”
In reality, however, Jane and Mary are unlikely to solve their problem. Eventually they will just adjourn, check the meeting off their list, and move on.
In “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership,” Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky suggest that a typical office discussion involves four separate meetings.
The first meeting occurs before the meeting as Jane and Mary exchange ideas with their supporters. It may surprise the outside observer to learn that customer service forms are not a very important topic of discussion in that first meeting. Instead, Jane may feel unrecognized and undervalued by Mary and by the company CEO. Mary, on the other hand, may feel that Jane does not support her sales efforts.
The second meeting takes place in Jane’s and Mary’s heads. For instance, here is a sample of Jane’s internal meeting: “Mary is always recognized as the ‘company savior’ and no one realizes the hard work my staff does.” Mary’s meeting, on the other hand, involves Mary’s quota difficulties, the current economic crisis, the pressures suffered by Mary’s department, and Jane's inability to understand her business needs.
The third meeting – a long, tedious, and inefficient conversation about customer service forms – involves two very polite and political (even if untruthful) versions of Jane and Mary.
The fourth meeting will take place after the meeting, when Jane and Mary return to their supporters and continue chatting about issues unrelated to the customer service forms.
We have all been there. We talk to our supporters because we need to vent. We fail to tell the truth to those whom we oppose because it is politically risky and personally scary to do so. We spend time discussing issues that do not really matter because bringing up what does matter is unthinkable. We fail to resolve problems because we cannot possibly bring them up.
Why does this happen? Why can’t people just be “honest”? Four possible answers occur to me.
Leaders must come up with such a process. Further, leaders must learn to recognize signs of mistrust and discomfort with real conversations. Some of these signs include:
Don’t get me wrong. Politeness is important. I’m not advocating that basic rules of courtesy be ignored in the workplace. When people are real, however, they may speak more informally and filter their words less. Ask yourself – how do you tell a trusted friend that you disagree with him/her? Do you say “trusted friend, I fully recognize that you have a different perspective from mine and I value that”? Or do you just say “sorry dude, but that really won’t work…”?
Heifetz et al.’s “four meetings” are not only inefficient – they are dangerous. When team members fail to discuss what truly bothers them, they cannot possibly reach synergy. Further, conversations behind closed doors are likely to breed mistrust, fuel gossip, and create organizational factions.
Have you experienced "the four meetings"? How can we transform them into one productive and truthful conversation?
Dr. Cris Wildermuth
Dr. Cris Wildermuth is Linked:HR's Community Leader and an Associate Professor at Drake University, where she directs the Master of Science in Leadership Development. You may find out more about Dr. Wildermuth's leadership development, ethics, and intercultural development consulting practice at THIS PAGE.