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Dis-Un-Engagement – Improving Motivation and Facilitating Workplace Improvement

Solutions to performance improvement are not always obvious and apparent and selecting an optimal approach often requires careful analysis and planning. Sometimes, the solution requires training of a skill while other times, it is simply about choosing an implementation strategy that is more effective in supporting behavior change.

In the case of workplace engagement, we are spending billions of dollars annually in surveys and training that is supposed to improve the feelings of involvement on the part of employees. Yet nearly every research study shows that many organizations and many people in most every organization, are dis-engaged and uninvolved.

In a 2012 Gallup research paper, involving 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations, it clearly demonstrated the impacts of an involved workplace, studying 9 different performance outcomes. Here are the results when one compares the top 25% of organizations with the bottom 25%:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Many suggest that firing and hiring is the best solution to the issue of un-engaged workers. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, suggests firing the 7,000,000 managers who are toxic and are poisoning 70,000,000 workers. Others blame the workers for the problem and suggest that hiring new people is the solution. (Ironically, Sirota Research found that it takes about 8 months for new hires to regress to the average performance levels of the rest of the workers. So, it seems you have to accomplish a lot of things in a narrow window of time.)

Let me propose a somewhat different framework:

If you put a gun to their head, could people do things differently?

This is an old thinking test that is attributed to Bob Mager that I first heard of back in the late 1970s. It is at the core of the issue of whether training is required for some behavior to occur. Could managers do a better job of engaging if their life depended upon it? My thinking is clearly YES and OF COURSE. But it seems very evident, looking at statistics, that they are choosing not to do so.

So, my reframing question is a simple one:

Can Each One Reach One?

Can each supervisor reach one non-engaged person in their workforce and take some action to involve and engage them? Without waiting for extensive training done by some outside organization or Human Resources? Can every single individual supervisor simply choose to do something differently?

Won’t people in the workplace naturally coalesce around the simple theme of making things better? Don’t most people have issues they would like to correct and ideas for improvement? Don’t most people like to solve puzzles and problems?

My approach is anchored with an illustration and a process of involving and engaging people to share their thoughts and ideas.

The illustration looks like this:

SWs One green watermark

And the lead-in question is a really simple one:
How might this represent how most organizations really work?

Without detailing the very simple training around how to facilitate the discussion and process the ideas for identifying and prioritizing the Square Wheels or designing approaches to successfully implement the Round Wheels and celebrate the successes and impacts, the basic concept is that any supervisor can be taught the facilitation skills and frameworks to make such a discussion process easy and straightforward.

With a little bit of customization, one can easily align the most successful implementation strategies to the organization’s culture of best practices and optimal ways to introduce new ideas in the workplace.

With a little imagination, the approach can be linked to the existing feedback and measurement systems to generate sustained improvement and congruence with existing expectations and desired results.

The approach that I envision is to initially get the buy-in from senior management to use this illustration and the concept that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon to develop an online training course on facilitation skills using these illustrations.

The program can be targeted to specific desired organizational outcomes around process improvement, service quality improvement, team building, innovation, process improvement or it can simply be used to generate some clear understanding of the issues that are perceived to be un-engaging and frustrating in the workplace and to allow team-based organizational improvement.

We would customize worksheets for collection of the general ideas as well as specific ones that people would like to work to improve. Issues not solvable at the supervisor level can be collected for manager resolution or escalated to higher levels of the organization as well as across organizational boundaries.

From these discussions, it is easy and straightforward to collect Best Practices that can be shared across teams of people doing similar jobs. It works well for addressing inter-departmental issues, since the language of Square Wheels is easily understood as something that works, but that does not work smoothly and efficiently.

The conversations also set up the reality of continuous continuous improvement, since the Round Wheels of Today will inevitably and invariably become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

Solution: I envision that we co-develop a simple online training program that would take a supervisor about an hour to complete and one that would offer them some options for how they might use the illustration in their workplaces, with individuals for coaching or for team building problem solving and roadblock management.

Square Wheels are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes.

I do see this issue of Dis-Un-Engagement as a specific approach to dealing with the less than involved and engaged employees, a group thought to represent roughly 70% of all workers across organizations. Your best managers may have higher levels of engaged people; your worse ones have more opportunities for improvement.

We can improve workplace facilitation of ideas, generate higher levels of intrinsic motivation, and do a better job of innovating.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Square Wheels are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes. Please respect our copyrights and servicemarks.

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Improving Leadership Effectiveness = Dis-Un-Engagement

I got involved and engaged in a LinkedIn thread this morning, one that I had actually been trying NOT to be involved in! But they wore me down so I posted this up around the theme that some leaders actually make things worse by being involved.

I will just post up what I thought about the situation and what I wrote:

My focus for many years has been on the issues of organizational performance, individual motivation, involvement and engagement, and issues of teamwork and alignment. Toward that end, I have presented on a wide variety of topics in 38 countries thus far and I sell my toolkits inexpensively and globally. All that is simply meant to anchor the following thesis:

Most managers are un-engaging their people.

If we look at any of a very wide range of data, it is clearly evident that most people in most workplaces are dis-engaged and uninvolved. I share some viewpoints and data and other people’s ideas in two blogs referenced at the end of this.

With all that data supporting un-engagement, like Sirota Research saying that 85% of new hires regress to “average” motivational levels within 6 months, it all begs the question as to whether managers and supervisors might simply CHOOSE to do some things differently. Might they look to focus on something I will call Dis-Un-Engagement.

Simply put, why can’t / won’t they focus on removing the roadblocks that their people face in doing their daily jobs. People report that no one listens to their ideas (and have been doing that for the past 70 years, it seems) and that feeling more of a part of things is a powerful motivational tool.

Most people are not REALLY roadblocked, as most coaches will tell you; they are simply perceiving that they are, or they are somehow choosing to be. They could do things differently and will often do so when involved in some problem-solving team situation. Peer pressure / support is a powerful tool for generating change.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world (John Le Carre)

Yet most decisions seem to emanate from that desk rather than the hands of the workers who try to push the wagon forward every day. If all they see are boards and hands, no wonder they don’t show up motivated and engaged.

Dis-Un-Engagement — a corollary of “Ask and Ye Shall Receive,” methinks.

You can see some writings here:

http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/23/managers-biggest-contributors-or-biggest-problem/

http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/16/workplace-motivation-i-quit-nevermind-whatever/

I think that ANY one leading any group in any organization can IMPROVE their overall leadership effectiveness. There will still be that average curve of skills ranging from low to high because that is just a statistical reality of any population of people. What we CAN do is move that median score upwards to improve overall effectiveness of the population…

Dis-Un-Engagement. It does not even sound that hard…

Have fun out there! Elegant Solutions

I think that this is just another example of a simple, elegant solution!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Teamwork, Peer Support and the idea of Dis-Un-Engagement

People need support.

On the playing field, the players have each other pushing them in their efforts, being congratulated when they make a good play and cheering for them, often along with thousands in the stands, cheerleaders, students in their classes during the week, etc. Players also have coaches, videotape analysis of their efforts and practice.

(Maybe Alan Iverson did not have to practice every single day, because he was one of the very best basketball players of all time — and I still think that this is one of the greatest candid interviews in all of sports:  Alan Iverson Press Conference on “Practice.(It gets going around second 52, IMHO).)

And players on teams get LOTS of other kinds of support from those around them, along with continuous feedback and ratings, and often skilled coaching — all things designed and installed to support high performance.

Now, I am not one of those people that think sports metaphors are good for business — I actually think the opposite. I do not liken the sales force to a team of baseball players or use soccer/football as a metaphor for innovation or gymnastics for dedication (and practice?). Yeah, I will admit to liking rowing as a metaphor for teamwork, though, and even have a $20 series of cute cartoons for that.

But the workplace reality seems quite different. We have measurement and appraisal systems that focus more on the individual performance and not so much the overall results in many workplaces. There is some level of fear as to job security for many. And there are often a wide variety of factors that are de-motivating and dis-engaging. This occurs for workers as well as their managers, who often find themselves working in a somewhat non-supporting environment.

The reality, however, is that one can get the support of co-workers — real honest encouragement to succeed. And one can build a sense of team among the people, if they are focused on external competitive factors and share a common goal and have the tools that they need to improve (plus a lot of other things not discussed herein).

Individual performance improvement requires effective feedback and measurement systems, something often lacking or sometimes overdone in organizations (see this blog post for my thinking on performance feedback, along with an analysis tool you can use with your team to discover and implement ways to improve).

Individual and team performance improvement requires that one make the workplace more motivating. Our games, such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, focus on issues of collaboration versus competition, since we need some of both to generate and sustain high performance. Play of the game allows the group to discuss the issues and problems currently faced along with future-paced discussions about what things could look like if changes were implemented.

And so will discussions of Roadblocks and the sharing of individual / group ideas about what is un-motivating or de-motivating in the workplace. Discussions of those kinds of issues can be readily facilitated and tools are available such as our toolkit on Dis-Un-Engagement. By generating thoughts about what is in the way and doing a good analysis of solutions for each, one can engage the group on solving the problems and implementing good solutions — as a team in many cases.

These kinds of workplace discussions facilitate real involvement focused on the importance of continuous continuous improvement. One can never stop making changes — some incremental and some major but all significant to the people involved — and thus remove the things that are de-motivating and dis-engaging.

People are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers — they need help on the latter and also need to feel that their real opinions and ideas can be shared with the others. Some have off-base and unimportant ideas that the group will help them realize. Many are not using best practices and the little tweeks that allow top performers to perform — and those can be shared on a continual basis. We can build peer support for high performance.

  • If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.
  • If it is to be, it is up to me.
  • If not you, who? If not now, when?

I trust that some of these thoughts are useful to you. And remember that it is the workers around you who get things done.

Remember that the Manager is the Motivator,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Ph. D., CPF – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
3 Old Oak Drive    Taylors, SC 29687
Scott@SquareWheels.com

– Tools for Training and Development <www.squarewheels.com/>
– Scott as Speaker <www.ScottSimmerman.com/>
– Tools, games and presentation materials at
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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Dr. Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF)

Motivation and Dis-Un-Engagement

I got engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn, on a discussion page for HR professionals, where the question focused on, “How one can keep an employee motivated.”

The comments, again from HR people, focused on motivating employees through appreciation and recognition, having “a good environment,” having good morale where motivation, environment, management and employee relations affect things – and also having monetary benefits, having a speech to inspire them (and that they cannot always be motivated), and that they should be happy to work for your company (I am not sure if the latter meant that they should he happy to have a job or that they should be happy while working for your company).

The contributors also thought that one should also analyze each person personally and be sure that the employee is properly placed according to their strengths and expertise and that they should be assigned, “challenging work that would keep the passion burning.”

Lastly, I thought that this was also an interesting comment:

“Motivation sparks from self. A self-motivated person enjoys everything in life. Other people can just inspire the person. A person who enjoys his or her work can only stay motivated. Money, appreciation, recognition, environment along with work & personal life balance are some factors which helps only after the person is self-motivated. Its my personal view.“

All this is fine well and good. And it makes sense. BUT, will any of these thoughts actually impact work and productivity or quality or anything? My response was as follows:

There is a really great short video by Dan Pink on the theme of defining INTRINSIC motivation — it is animated and 11 minutes long and you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

So, motivation is one thing that is actually pretty well understood. The issue is that organizations tend to focus much more on EXTRINSIC (applied) motivators rather than create a workplace that is engaging. Much of this comes from the work of BF Skinner on animals during the 60s and 70s and those who followed him (like me). It got into schedules of reward and all sorts of things, including superstitious behavior (blowing on the dice to roll a 7, for example).

People like Alfie Kohn (Punished by Rewards, etc.) showed many of the downsides, but businesses today spend about 1% of revenues on such extrinsically driven “reward systems” that half of the employees do not even know exist. Obviously, there are mixed levels of effectiveness.

A better approach is to focus on improving the workplace to do a better job of NOT de-motivating workers. Much of my recent writings have been on themes like Dis-Un-Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment, focused on getting “leadership”  involved to do more to REMOVE those things that workers and work teams find de-motivating.

This kind of initiative can help generate alignment and teamwork and motivation and engagement / involvement to make things better for each and all.

The research shows that people are not engaged, in general. Spending money on a survey that tells you that you have a problem seems a bit foolish — if I were to ask four or five people the same questions, the dis-engagement would be obvious (either theirs or that of others they work with).

A LOT of this stuff ain’t Rocket Science and HR ain’t gonna fix it.

Some things need to be accomplished locally, at the interface of worker and manager; only there will improvements be made. (The exception might be if the feedback and measurement system were changed, since that helps drive behavior. Feedback drives results.)

YOU simply cannot MOTIVATE ME or anyone else. People motivate themselves and offering some “reward” for improvement is going to be a very short-term solution for maybe half of the workers.

As a joke, I could also offer them 10 cents if they were to reply, just to see if I could make my point!

A lot of people think that this is how things work in the workplace, insofar as motivating people for performance:

Needless to say, it might work in the former case until people want and expect even more, and it will certainly work in the latter (until the boss turns his or her back). The latter also generates Compliance, which translates to “very average” performance and there is no motivation to excel.

What we need to do is to remove the things that the people see as getting in the way of them excelling. Almost everyone WANTS to succeed. Let them.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Dis-Un-Engagement and The Lesson of The Monkeys

Ah, the Internet. And StumbleUpon. And Research on behavior. And Creative Genius. I love it when it all comes together…

My curiosity caused me to click on this “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon because it showed the following (copied without permission, but the whole thing is found on the website below, so I think this would be “permitted use” — I will also contact the author directly)

…and the story continues.

The key point is behavior and how it gets started and how it is maintained. The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture around it, and not even by any consequence system that still exists. Read the whole thing by clicking on this link – The Lesson of the Monkeys

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle.

I agree. And while he links the idea to societies, I think that the concept also links to workgroups. There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. The techs at the car dealership would yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!” My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the manager?).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? We do not know, precisely, even though we look at it from all different kinds of angles. My take on it is that dis-engagement is caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but it is still a causal factor. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time.

Sure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. Some organizations may actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up.

But a simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Moron Engagement – The Concept of Dis-Un-Engagement

Dis-Un-Engagement? Really? Yep!

I was reading all the comments on a long LinkedIn thread – “I’m looking for ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Any ideas will be greatly appreciated” and saw Judi Adams’ starting comment, “As you know, each person has different needs so there is no one bullet solution” and I had one of my occasional “odd thoughts.”

“Bullet” reminded me of a gun which linked over to Bob Mager’s work on performance and one of his test questions as to the need for training or something else:

“If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”

The context of Mager’s thought is that if they COULD do it, then it is not a skill that needs to be trained but a behavior that needs to be “motivated.”

Thus, I wonder if we could “put a gun to the heads” of the “dis-engaged” and come up with THE relevant and actionable list of all of the things that would need to be present for people to feel more involvement, engagement and ownership. And we should do ONE list for each supervisor of a workgroup or each manager of a department get their people together to brainstorm ideas. Having HR generate an overall list of these things for the company would be totally inappropriate and would actually work against the un-engagement process that I suggest, Let each workgroup have the ownership – involvement of putting their list together. No other way will really work; they need some “sweat equity” involvement in this initiative to become engaged in the process and involved in the implementation.

Doing things TO them will not get them involved. Do things WITH them.

I do something similar with my concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment feeling that one cannot empower people, that many people feel “un-empowered” and that managers can do many things to address and remove perceived and actual roadblocks and, thus, “Dis” them into irrelevance. Thus, Dis-Un-Empowerment.

The approach serves to get the “bad” ideas of the dis-engaged mixed in with the good ideas of the top performers with the result that we build in a lot of peer support among the group for making improvements along with getting involved because we have made improvements and visibly addressed those issues brought up as dis-engaging. Thus, we involve and engage the un-engaged!

I am wondering if a similar approach might be taken with the Un-Engaged, asking them what kinds of things are getting in the way of them feeling more ownership involvement and commitment and then using that list as a “To Do” list for the managers to address and change or improve.

Why can’t we simply be direct with the issue(s) and ask people for the Square Wheels that are not working smoothly and the Round Wheel ideas that already exist in the wagon?

I posted up something last June on this idea and wonder if anyone else has supporting ideas about how to accomplish this. I see it very closely aligned, from a facilitation standpoint, to our Roadblock Analysis process.

The idea is to get the whole list, process the list into actionable categories (sometimes having to delegate upward in the organization to solve) and generate the energy and involvement of the individuals to form teams and address, suggest and even implement ideas and solutions. It is a facilitated, group-oriented process that is involving by its very design.

By going onto the website and searching for “roadblock,” you can find all sorts of information, articles, tools and similar. See more that way.

Dis-Un-Engagement – thoughts for impacting employee engagement in the workplace

A series of different LinkedIn posts in my lists have focused on the general theme of “employee engagement.” Some focus on asking about reactions to definitions of engagement, some focus on the relevancy of focusing on improvements and their relation to profitability and results, while others seem to just be information or publicity-focused and do not seem to add much value to people reading the post.

I saw one post today and two yesterday that I responded to and thought, well, what the heck, post something up in here. SO, here we go with Dis-Un-Engagement. I think it looks something like the illustration below:

Some people know that I have used a concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment for many years and I am thinking now that it actually has many of the same general applications to many aspects of improving workplace engagement.

We talk about and see a lot of data on engagement but most people are un-engaged.The statistics and surveys show that they are not actively nor emotionally nor behaviorally involved in the workplace on a regular basis. They are un-hooked and un-involved and seem to choose to be so. It is not like they have no opportunities because the same surveys show that some of the people in that workplace ARE involved and engaged. That difference is informative, actually.

No amount of banter will change their choices and a LOT of their behavior to become engaged may actually get punished or otherwise emotionally isolated by the management team in the way that ideas are put down or jokes are made about some people’s “contributions” and in SO MANY other ways in the workplace. Many people grew up being bullied or simply being average and our schools do not always do a great job of building the self-esteem of students. Then, they come to the workplace…

You cannot engage me just like you cannot empower me. I mean, go ahead and try; I will wait…

Okay, never mind. But please accept the reality that you cannot do something TO me that empowers me — it is about the choices that I want to make — internal stuff as much as the external stuff.

What we need to do is identify the things that are BLOCKING engagement and do things to remove them. A “non-ever-meeting-responder” might be asked directly for their thoughts and ideas on fixing a problem in a team meeting, for example. I do not have to generate that list for you. There are a zillion ways to get people MORE involved and some additional involvement will generally translate into a bit more engagement.

If you read the literature, such as the survey results from the Big Consulting Companies, there are some VERY Expensive ($$$$$) Tools and Techniques you can get from them to improve things measurably. If you read the Big Consultants’ sales materials, you will need to spend money hiring them to come in and evaluate the results of your corporate Engagement and Involvement Program and then do regular surveys to insure that you are making progress (I am not big on acronyms but should probably take the time to make up some funny ones like “Corporate Response Activity Program” or some such thing.)

OR, your company could choose to do something completely silly like ask the managers to ask the people for ideas for improvement and ask that each employee generate at least one idea about what might be done differently and do this in meetings as well as using some back-of-the-door posters in the bathrooms to collect those anonymous comments.

Yeah, this would improve engagement if it is done honestly. And yes, some disgruntled employees might share some ideas that show that they are disgruntled. But at least they would be engaged in sharing those ideas!!

This stuff all adds up over time. Ask and Ye Shall Receive (more engagement than you had before).

Then, work on the “Dis” part of the above and do things to remove the roadblocks and improve the choices…

That’s my 2 cents worth of stuff… I have written a good bit on dis-un-empowerment over the years so you can google that to see more on this general line of thinking along with some specific ideas for what you can actually do cheap ($).

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Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

– you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!”

That is my anchor point for doing anything that involves organizational change and improvement. If one is to expect anything to happen, we must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. But how do we actually generate a sense of ownership? Surely, it will not come when we tell people what to do — that only generates resistance (or compliance). It does not involve and engage them in any meaningful way even if they understand the reasons why those changes are being made.

One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants to actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that possibly happening – how does one ever empower anyone to actually DO anything if they simply do not want to do it? Coercive measures are not an acceptable alternative in most situations.

(Note: We can generate behavior change by altering the mechanism by which people get feedback on their performance. That is a much better option than working with any kind of extrinsic reward system. Read more about that here and here.)

At the same time, many factors lead me to believe that there are a variety of opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups, simply for the asking. There is a strong general motivation to make improvements if people feel the gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this framework of generating intrinsic motivation for improvement.

(You can also see a great animation of the concept of DRIVE, as framed by Dan Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )

But in the workplace in general, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think Dis-Un-Empowerment is what needs to be addressed. We can involve and engage people and help them to identify issues and deal with the implementation of processes that help them manage roadblocks.

Generally, all of us make choices all through each day as to what we will do or not do. We will often choose NOT to do something because we perceive difficulties or perceived roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – we know from lots of contacts that many managers and supervisors are more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplished.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and then measure the effectiveness of the training in workplace improvement initiatives. There are many factors operating there including pressures of time and cost, which is one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside support people  cannot — they also have the power of money and top management support behind them. But that is just a limitation and not a roadblock for the internal consultants.

Knowing how the most successful PAST improvements were  implemented will give good insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

So, how do we get the best results from brainstorming ideas?

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) is a motivational force. And defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements clarifies responsibilities often making change and improvement very doable.


But the real key is generating a feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and go through the motions of maintaining their employment, rather than buying in to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging when viewed from a position of leadership…

Yet most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. They WANT things to be better, if we will let them do so. But they feel little ownership. According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.
(I address this in a more recent article on Presenteeism.)

Un-Engagement should concern all of us interested in productivity, people and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by searching the blog. Another article is here. And here is an article on ownership.

What we CAN do is a better job of asking for ideas and generating possibilities for improvement from employees’ ideas. If they feel that they have a part in the issues and involvement in designing solutions, their involvement level will increase. Here are some suggestions and alternatives to simply doing what we do and generating the same results:

1 – Discuss the roadblocks that they feel are getting in the way of improving their performance. (You can find a number of articles of mine around different approaches here.)

2 – Ask them how to improve profitability. It is common that many people do not really consider costs and impacts on a daily basis and asking them to look at these issues might generate some good discussions about the purpose of their efforts in the overall organization.

3 – Discuss the impacts of other organizations on their ability to get things done. While this often tends toward the negative issues, there will also be some positive ones if you probe for them. Best practices of certain individuals in other departments will be seen and can be reinforced. Focusing on what is positive can help you build a better working relationship with other managers, for example, while you also look to address improvement issues.

4 – Get them to “Step Back” and look at their operations as if they were brand new employees and have them comment about what is not clear and what best practices might exist. Or, you can set this up as an accomplishment and chain backwards for things that were improved: “It is 2020 and our department was judged Best in the Business! What did we do that got us that recognition?” This approach tends to minimize roadblocks in their perceptions, since results were fait accompli.

Understand that it is impossible for a manager to have all the answers or to know all the issues. The workplace is really complicated and all sorts of things change on a regular basis. Plus, some people will construct better ways of doing things — Best Practices — that can be identified and shared throughout your workplace. Improvements can be generated by peer support for change.

And think about this:

Dr. Seuss Square Wheels Lego poem image by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for simple and effective tools to generate involvement and engagement, click on the icon below:

See our new Square Wheels Icebreaker CLICK NOW icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Quotes by James Madison about Liberty and Freedom

I sometimes get political because I AM focused on people and performance, goals and expectations, measurement and feedback systems and things like that. For me, improving performance is about goals, feedback and reinforcement and the issues around human competence and motivation are important ones.

Government provides services to people and people provide support to government by their granting powers and electing people to represent them. But, like most behavioral systems, things can get corrupted and off-target and we can lose alignment, generating waste and poor performance.

James Madison had a lot of interesting observations about the government, freedoms and similar kinds of issues around the operation of our democracy. Thus, I do not consider it too much of a stretch to publish some of his quotes herein.

If you land here on this page from Google or some other search, please understand that this blog, with more than 400 articles, is about People and Performance, about teamwork and intrinsic motivation and communications. Please avail yourselves of the search box and type in a keyword and see if any of my writings appeal to you.

I run a small company that sells organizational improvement tools like Square Wheels toolkits focused on dis-un-engagement and managing and leading change as well as team building games focused on collaboration and alignment. All of these are simply tools to generate discussion about issues and opportunities.

Portrait of James Madison from Wikipedia Commons

 

James Madison (American 4th US President (1809-17), and Founding Father of his country. 1751-1836)

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” 

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” 

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”

“We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.”

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation”

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

“The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state”

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history”

“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments.”

Lastly, let me conclude with a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. “

Yeah, and may we live in interesting times is that old Chinese curse…

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

KISS – Keeping It Stupidly Simple – A Square Wheels Poster on Team Perspective

Conversations keep reinforcing the idea that everything is getting increasingly complicated these days. We have the paradox of training programs and assessments and similar tools being more and more complex and nuanced while, at the same time, none of us have much time to learn anything new. Where we used to be able to find three days for an off-site training program to learn and practice new skills, these kinds of development activities are now done online in 2 hours.

As I capture with some data and supporting materials in a blog linked to the icon below, managers are most definitely working increasing hours because of our continuous electronic connection to the workplace. Realize that almost half of us check email going to bed or at the dinner table.

working while not working

So, it is my intention to put up a number of posts and illustrations and posters reinforcing the theme that we need to start looking for some SIMPLE solutions instead of increasing the increasingly complexity. So here is a simple idea on the need to STOP working and take a simple look around to see if any new ideas or improvements might exist.

LEGO POSTER - Team Perspective with SWs

If you want to see some ideas and access some bombproof simple tools for improving intrinsic motivation and involving and engaging people in the workplace, clicking here will share some of my posts on the stupidly simple theme of Dis-Un-Engagement:

dis-un-engagement

At Performance Management Company, we continue to sell simple tools and recommending simple approaches to generating involvement and motivation for continuous improvement in the workplace.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

 LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

If you aren't leading and engaging, what ARE you doing?

If you aren’t leading, involving, engaging and motivating people, are you just taking up valuable organizational space? We need Leaders in so many workplaces today and managers need to make choices!

—–

A key issue in most teams in most sports is having leadership. It can occur everywhere. Sometimes, they wear a little “C” on their jerseys indicating to the officials that they are Captains and sometimes they walk to the middle of the playing field to watch the coin toss. Other times, they are simply the people on the field who the other look to for motivation or depend on for The Big Play.

This happens in every organization, too. Sometimes, people depend on one of their own to speak up at a meeting to express a common concern. Sometimes these are just those people who get others involved in what is going on, since every person in the tug-of-war lends something to the effort.

Paraphrasing on Henny Youngman standard one liner, the research by so many different organizational polling companies would suggest,

Take my Boss… Please.

Jim Clifton seemed to seriously suggest that the data from his Gallup polling would suggest a realistic situation were for about 7,000,000 managers to simply be fired because they repeatedly seem unable to lead, manage or get out of the way. So many workers complain that no one listens and no one cares and that engagement is a HUGE problem with most companies worldwide. (Find a link to some of his writings here.)

Organizations  tend to work like this, in the view of most people: Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Wagon Pullers are seemingly isolated by the rope!

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 Survey showed that leadership was a critical issue, with 86% of respondents rating it “urgent” or “important”. It also showed that only 13% of organizations say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels — yeah, that is kind of noticeable.

But leadership is a big wide thing, with there literally being thousands of books on the topic. Most of us regular people would simply suggest that being trustworthy, involving and engaging are pretty important skills to generate everyday motivation. Feeling aligned to the goals and expectations and feeling appreciated seem to be pretty straightforward and understandable parts, too.

These Big Survey Consulting Companies like Gallup and Deloitte tend to offer up Very Big Solutions (you can read that as complicated and expensive). Me, I am more of a continuous continuous improvement kind of guy who thinks that everyone can make some improvements every day without requiring the extensive involvement of HR and Training & Development organizations — you know, the ones that always get their funding cut first because they are seen as costly to most senior managers (who do not get their development from them anyway, relying on outside groups like the Universities and Center for Creative Leadership and similar…).

There are a number of writings in the PMC blog around the issues of generating engagement and motivation, all of it simple and straightforward and all of which can easily be accomplished by any supervisor simply looking to improve their skills in motivating people.

– Here are thoughts on the problems of involving and engaging people– Here are ideas on Dis-Un-Engagement and issues of facilitating– Here is a framework for involvement and workplace improvement

As so many others have framed things, I believe that only some of the problems of leadership are at the top levels of the organization — senior managers may not be leading well or implementing strategies effectively.

But as Jim Clifton and others have shown, the real issues of organizational leadership and day-to-day motivation and performance occur at the interface of worker and manager – there are zillions of those minute-to-minute, hourly and daily interactions that might allow so many more people to work “more better faster” and that would help to involve and engage and align people to the expectations and goals. That is where organizations are failing their people.

There are no Big Silver Bullets out there to solve these issues. But there are bazillions of the Square Wheels, those things that work but do not work smoothly and that generate less than optimal performance. These are “artificial hindrances” in the sense that The Round Wheels are already in the wagon! There are all sorts of motivational impacts to be achieved when our supervisors do a better job of involving and engaging their people and our managers do a better job of involving and engaging our supervisors.

So many Big Solutions have been tried and have seemed to fail over the past 50 years. Sometimes, that exceptional leader like a Steve Jobs can get a good grip on things and have that major impact, but those cases are really rare (which is why Steve Jobs got all that press!).

Maybe it is time to try somelittle solutions. Maybe it is time to simply allow a bit more individual development and initiative in the workplace of the managers and supervisors so that they can more effectively involve and motivate their people.

S

It does not take a whole big bunch of money or time to actually implement some of the ideas of the team that would make the workplace better in some ways. People generally want to make things better and will work toward doing that. And that little effort has a big and cascading impact on people and morale:

cartoon by Dr. Scott Simmerman

It is important to remember that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car and that people want to have a sense of ownership involvement in things. Plus, it is also important to know that people do need to be involved and engaged in order to want to be involved:

Navajo Not possible to awaken

 

At PMC, we sell simple toolkits that allow a supervisor to generate actionable ideas from their people. We use these simple cartoons to get wheels rolling downhill, to show supervisors that involvement and engagement facilitation are not that difficult to accomplish and that these activities can be a part of their everyday life as a manager. It is easy to ask and to listen, to generate teamwork focused on implementing good ideas to make performance improvements.

People are creative and flexible. We can do simple things to remove or decrease frustration and deal with roadblocks to help motivate people. I call this process Engagimentation (or Dis-Un-Empowerment) and suggest that you consider taking such actions with your people to make some impacts on so many things. Let me know if we can help – we sell inexpensive and effective tools for communications.

Performance Management Company and Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

square wheels authorDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

 

Implementing Round Wheels to fix the Square Ones

People often talk about things that do not work smoothly in their workplaces, the things that frustrate them and lower productivity. And this frustration and dissatisfaction about improvements causes all sorts of negative spins to impacting intrinsic motivation. It can send the message that what the workers see is important and what the management sees as important are two different things — that is most likely not going to lead to any sort of workplace engagement and performance improvement.

But the problem is often related to how the problem is presented.

Reasons include:

  • People do not fix or care that much about ideas that are not their own.
  • Bosses are busy, or at least too busy to spend time listening to ideas
  • Improvement may not be measured by the company
  • The improvement is not related to your job or their job
  • The value and impact of the improvement is not thought out or defined
  • Everyone has different perspectives
  • The idea not well presented or framed as a business proposition
  • The idea not seen as cost effective
  • Some interdepartmental collaboration may be required (needs IT or another department or something similar to implement)

SWs One Dis-un-engagement choice

What we suggest that supervisors and managers do is to ask people for ideas. But first, we want to engage and involve them and get them to “step back from the wagon and think out of the box” a little. We do this by using the a general projective tool, the SWs Brainstorm Sheet:

Square Wheels One Brainstorm worksheet

What we do is show them the main illustration and ask small tabletops of 5 to 6 people to brainstorm a bit. What they do is project their beliefs onto the illustration and the group process gives them lots of personal involvement and support and lends itself to more creative thinking and brainstorming. The idea is to get them actively involved and working together around ideas.

You can read a bit more about this theme by clicking on the worksheet icon above to go to another blog post on possibilities thinking.

What we want to do is move the discussion from the general ideas about how things work to some specific issues that they see in their workplace and to then brainstorm more about potential solutions that might be implemented. We eventually move toward a worksheet like this to take specific Square Wheel issues and generate some round wheel possibilities:

Square Wheels to RWs worksheet

Once we define the issues and opportunities, refine our thinking about how an improvement would impact people and performance, and do some discussion about costs and timelines and the required involvement of people, processes and procedures, we can make a good case for change. It is that kind of detailed thinking that needs to be cascaded upward in the organization. People can earn the right to do more as they roll down the road…

The key is to get the wagon rolling downhill a bit!

Square Wheels image Intrinsic feel really good PGHope that helps,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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