Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Category: dis-engagement

Dance of Death, and other images of the workplace

I will blame my old friend, Bernie DeKoven, for this blog! (grin)

Bernie writes under the framework of Deep Fun and focuses on generating more fun in work and life as a practical matter of choice. I will let him comment more on his focus below. But you can see more about his thinking and a game frame using the image below by clicking on it.

This cartoon was done in 1493 for the Black Death Plague

I saw his post on this illustration and I had a different name / frame for the image. My email back to Bernie called the image, “Middle Management.”

Here is the worker, with no possibility of upward mobility, being “managed” by the middle managers, who also have limited upward mobility possibilities. As companies continue to become more efficient and more productive and use software for more and more operational processes, the requirement for skilled employees and for additional training and development becomes increasingly limited.

At least, that is one way of looking at things and looking at statistics, especially if one is focused on the older workers, those over 55 along with the shenanigans to limit access to things like social security and Medicare and similar resources for old age…

Another image that I have used before is this one. You can see some of my earlier thoughts on intrinsic motivation and innovation by clicking on the image:

Doom and gloom

Do you really think the average person wants to simply sit around and accomplish nothing? I think that goes against all the things I have learned about motivation over the years. But I DO think that people can be pushed and punished and beaten down repeatedly to make them less likely to try. That fear of failure and the loss of ambition and goals will generate conditioned helplessness.

An official publication of the US Army in how to sabotageThey can be dis-engaged and un-involved. We see that all the time in the workplace. But they can also take that abuse and become motivated to engage in organizational sabotage — there are many cases and examples of people becoming motivated to “get even.”

(see a detailed blog on this situation by clicking on the image of The US Army’s Field Manual to Strategic Sabotage (seriously) )

Motivation is a funny thing, and I would hope that we could do a better job of involving and engaging people in the workplace.

We need to pay attention to the choices we make about how we deal with people. And it is not rocket-science, it is about asking for their ideas and input on what might be done differently.

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

We can take the time to think about what we do and how our actions are perceived.

Stopping and Supporting Improvement, a Square Wheels image by Scott Simmerman

We can have more fun.
We can lighten up in our management style.
We can allow people some room to grow.

So, choose to rock and roll!

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

 

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — www.wnem.com/story/28278233/planet-fitness-drops-member-after-gender-identity-complaint – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

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.

The Blame Frame, Innovation and Intrinsic Motivation

In one of my LinkedIn groups, this question was posed:

Any advice on how to wisely handle the coaching of a team where the senior figures in it never get tired of playing the ‘blame game’?
So I chimed in with:

I’ve been using Square Wheels cartoons as discussion tools for 20 years now. Two come to mind for this situation and “illustrate” the issues to everyone pretty neatly.

The first illustration shows a horse pushing the Square Wheel wagon with the people on the hill in the background. I show the cartoon and ask tabletops to discuss what is going on and to generate as many ideas as they can. I allow them 5 minutes or so to brainstorm and then I go around to the different tables asking them for one thought.

Trial and Error yellow

You can easily get 20 reactions projected onto the illustration, with prominent ones like “cart before the horse” and a number of comments about what they should have done better or differently. People also project thoughts like, “the four people are about to run away over the hill” and “the people all feel pretty stupid.”

I then reframe the illustration around things like innovation and trial and error and the need for perspective and reflection. A common theme of mine with the cartoons is, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” Look from a distance. Keep trying.

What I then do is overlay a “Blame Frame” over the illustration and allow the group to discuss the impacts of focusing on errors as opposed to focusing on opportunities.

Square Wheels Trial and Error with Blame Frame

We get about 5 or 6 negative reactions to each positive one during the idea sharing. Very few people will put a positive spin on what they are seeing. So, we actually catch them being negative and talk about those impacts, the real impacts of negativity and blame, on the issues of innovation, engagement, and motivation.

I don’t have to tell anyone much of anything; they figure it out all on their own as they reflect on what they just did and even how the response of others then reinforced their own negativity. Sometimes, they even reject the positive spins that someone might put on it.

For me, the kinesthetic and the self-induced awareness are keys in generating the cognitive dissonance they need, individually and collectively, to change their future choices. The reality and reframing is really something along these lines:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words
The key is perspective. The key is to look and consider possibilities for continuous continuous improvement. Simple. Step back from the wagon!

Oh:  “Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.” That is also a useful dynamic to anchor. We get a lot more with intrinsic motivation that comes from success. Blame only makes the Boss feel better.

—————–

If you like this overall approach, please note that I did a similar but differently-focused blog along similare themes back in 2012 that you might find interesting. Click on the image link below to see those writings:

Elegant Solutions

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.
.

Moron the Issue of Trust – The Residue of Promises

Interesting conversations, we can have online and even occasionally on the telephone (Yes, I still have one of those things that other people seem to only use for texting these days!)

On talking on the phone about my Square Wheels Puppies Cartoon with an associate, the cute little puppies totally distracted her from the issue at hand, and that was the main thought about people and performance and about things that do not work smoothly.

Square Wheels One Puppies Cartoon about people and performance

She likes puppies so much she missed my key point, which I will spell out since probably more than half of the people who see this cartoon will also miss it!

The wagon leader is isolated by the rope. The wagon pushers cannot see where they are going. The wagon is thumping and bumping along, just like usual. I mean, can’t we make some changes to improve how things work?

This all started with a discussion around Frank Navran’s quote,

Trust is the residue
of promises fulfilled.

My same puppy-loving friend also thought that maybe the word residue might be kinda bad and that maybe the word results might be substituted.

Trust is the result
of promises fulfilled.

Really? Result? Nah. That is just too bland, too vanilla. I think cotton candy and merry-go-rounds. I think “Barney.” I think soap bubbles. Nah, I don’t want some softball association between trust and promises and behavior — it is just too darn critically important. We want Charles Bronson or Dirty Harry impact here — not some Teletubby character:

teletubvy characters

We want Guns ‘N Roses, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly and Bruce Springsteen, not Lawrence Welk or John Denver. We want IMPACT — we want to anchor people’s attention and focus. We want Heavy Metal, not casual listening…

So, I think residue is a great word. It’s got emotion and character, like an old bathtub. It’s got visual kinesthetic association to something real and tangible:

residue

Trust is easily wiped away; and workplace trust is probably far easier to dissolve than the ring on a tub.

It doesn’t take a lot of special cleanser or elbow grease — all it takes is a careless moment when behavior misaligns with the expectations. Poof!

Trust has huge impacts on the results of organizations. Results are dramatically affected by trust and behavior. You can see some of those statistics on The Hard Costs of Low Trust or even this blog on organizational sabotage and some of its causes and solutions.

What do you think? Results or Residue?

And it is also good to remember that it IS about behavior. Remember that we judge ourselves by our intentions but we can only judge others by the behavior we observe.

I also thought that this one was cute:

Beware of Dog and Cat

Anyway, DO what you can.
And have FUN out there and get things DONE!

Santa ScottDr. 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.

Engagement, Productivity and Work Happiness

There are just SO many statistics supporting why we should be improving organizational engagement and involvement. Right now, is seems to be “relatively okay” but that is certainly not really good enough. We can easily do a lot more if we can just get Senior Leadership as well as front line supervisors to better understand the issues and opportunities.

It feels like some senior managers really get this and are frustrated because so little seems to move the needle higher. And I know that a lot of front line supervisors are frustrated simply because the workplace environment sucks and the employees’ morale and productivity and quality could be so much higher. Everybody seems to be blaming everybody else. It seems as though things work like this:

Double Pullers

Or, maybe, they seem to work more like this:

Double Pushers Workers

Either way, it appears that we could be doing more, right? It seems like we are wasting a lot of energy that might serve other purposes. I mean, why can’t we make it look more like this:

Celebration plane color green

Data? Plenty of data. This from Gallup (2012) with 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations:  Employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes. Compared with bottom-quartile groups, top-quartile performing organizations have:

  • 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

Is that not clear enough that there are benefits in doing things differently?

ASTD says we are spending around $200,000,000,000 for training and development –yet we can’t make some improvements in engagement? Seriously?

We cannot get each supervisor to reach ONE employee a week to help that employee become more engaged? Seems like even firing one supervisor or one employee for non-engagement might have more of a positive affect than what we are doing now…

Seriously.

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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Managers. Leaders. Engagement. Involvement. Not! (And what we can do)

For the past two weeks, we have 50 or so people engaged in a LinkedIn conversation about:

“We’re spending $200 billion on training. Why can’t we involve and engage people in the workplace?”

And there have been 54 very solid comments thus far. The thread starts with this simple framework:

ASTD shows data saying that $200,000,000,000 billion or so is being spent on training and some of that is on leadership development and management training and all those things. I was reading a 1982 management magazine and it talked about the same issues in the same workplaces. Gallup has surveyed 4 million people over the years and pretty consistently finds NO improvement. 

Mercer (2012) found that engagement declined from 23% to 13% if I read their research right. Sirota (1997) stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job.

Some people feel that it is a training issue and that we can better train people to be more involved and engaged. But others reframe this around the reality that the training is probably fine, but it is the back-end, post-training, workplace environment that is at fault and that the training does not stick. Issues are around the lack of feedback and followup and reinforcement of the newly learned skills.

Some people feel that it is the workers themselves who are choosing to not get involved and engaged and the issue is one of hiring — that if we improved the hiring practices, the difficulties would be lessened. They blame the learner for the issues, framing it as the learner choosing not to engage.

Others focus on the lack of motivation of the workers (and the managers) and that there are not the support systems in place to sustain involvement and engagement. Many put the responsibility on the supervisor and managers to do things differently and that the workers are actively being un-involved and dis-engaged. People may not get solid performance feedback, or have career paths or a sense of cause or community and there are a variety of approaches to impact those kinds of issues.

Others feel that this non-engagement in the workplace may be caused by the workplace itself and that the environment might be generating problems, like a lack of good computer systems might simply generate tons of frustration or that the workplace environment itself is a problem. There might be a negative or toxic environment:

– A 2011 Massey University (NZ) survey of 96 organizations found more than HALF had experienced workplace violence. (New Zealand??? Really?) 

– In the United Kingdom, research found that 53% of employees had been victims of workplace bullying and that 78% had witnessed such behavior.

That kind of workplace surely would not be one that would involve and engage an average person. There might also be a lack of job security or opportunities for personal growth.

The issue of organizational culture was a common one, in that a competitive environment was not conducive to teamwork and one focused on extrinsic rewards for the most successful competitors will not be acceptable to the average or below average worker. Some workplaces are too political and show favoritism and those kinds of things which are dis-engaging to many.

And then we get into the issue of toxic managers. That may be the supervisor or it may be the Senior Vice President, it may be in my line of authority or that butthead in Accounting. It is more of a perceptual thing when it is that senior person, since they generally have so little contact with the actual worker. But those things do cascade down through an organization and the impacts of replacing a really toxic senior leader with a really inspiring and effective one might take years to show an impact.

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)

It was suggested that we need to take more of a systems approach or even an approach linked to Learning Organizations. A focus on Lean might mean the elimination of many of the frustrating forces that operate on production in some cultures.

We do know that “Leadership” is pretty awful. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, goes through all their research and takes some really hard line positions about this issue. I frame his comments up in a blog with links to his posts –http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/23/managers-biggest-contributors-or-biggest-problem/

Clifton suggests firing 7 million managers, basically. My take is twofold:

•  Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and just annoys the pig. 
•  If you put a gun to their head, could they do things differently?

I will wrap this discussion up this way: I think that a LOT of the problem is simply about choice and choices. I think a LOT of people can simply choose to do something differently and that it would make a very significant difference in terms of improving performance and productivity and in its impacts on innovation and engagement. All those “workplace things” that could make the job could be addressed to make for a more better faster place to spend so much of our time.

There ARE some really great companies, some really great workplaces that build some really great employees doing some really great things for some really great bosses. Can’t we just learn from them? Do we have to always re-invent the wheel?

I think Rodney King was right: “Can’t we just all get along?”  Where’s the love?

We are not on some dead-end street. We are at a crossroad. We may be up to our axles in mud, and there are two miles of ditch for every mile of road, but we can make the choice of getting out of the ditch and up on the road. We may be thumping and bumping on wooden Square Wheels, but the Round Rubber tires are already in the wagon.

Let’s — each of us — look to do some things differently. Let’s look to Dis-Un-Engage and re-involve the people so that they feel like they felt when they were newly hired into the organization. That potential still exists somewhere. We can put some round wheels on the wagon.

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Let’s look toward our management practices and change the ones that the workers feel really NEED to be changed; this could include systems and processes and it could also include the toxic managers — and we can give them choices about behavior more better differently, too. We can give them training and support and coaching if it requires new skills on the part of these “old dogs.” We can teach them some better tricks. We can help the caterpillar to fly…

Mentoring Color Icon

Scott Simmerman

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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Going Postal – Workplace violence and Engagement

As regular readers know, I write a lot on the themes of employee productivity and workplace engagement. We’ve focused a lot of thinking energy on themes of generating active involvement and employee ownership involvement as a way of generating the intrinsic motivation to drive more success. Also, there has been a heavy focus on the manager as facilitator and what they might choose to do differently to impact people and performance.

Going Postal,” made it as a descriptive phrase for “losing it” — in American English slang, according to Wikipedia, it means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment. The expression derives from a series of incidents starting in 1983  in which US Postal Service workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police and general public. Between 1986 and 1997, more than forty people were gunned down in at least 20 such incidents of workplace rage.

A Bing search on “going postal cartoon” turned up over 3000 cartoons (many are a hoot!) and a google search showed 206,000 hits on the phrase (but no numbers for the cartoon images). Clearly, this is a mainstream theme. Why?

Workplace Rage is the end result of workplace frustration, and there is a lot of that these days. Statistics from different sources show that many workplaces are frustrating and sometimes intimidating…

  • In the United Kingdom, research found that 53% of employees had been victims of workplace bullying and that 78% had witnessed such behavior.
  • 52% of Americans have “witnessed, heard about, or experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.
  • A 2011 Massey University (NZ) survey of 96 organizations found more than half had experienced workplace violence.
  • In Taiwan, 13% of all employees frequently suffer from heavy pressure in their work, and 24% have emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, irritability. 

And those factors can explode:

In Minneapolis in 2012, a man killed 5 co-workers, a UPS driver and himself after he was fired from his job at a sign company. He was given a warning the week before the attack for being chronically late — 35 workdays in a row in August and September – and his manager wrote him that his constant tardiness a problem that needed to be “rectified immediately.” While being fired, he pulled out a gun and started shooting, killing the company’s founder, three other Accent employees, and a UPS driver before killing himself. And the lateness was an early signal that things were not good insofar as morale…

The workplace shooting situation is so common that the safety video, “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.”  has 2.3 million hits. Clearly people are concerned about this issue and there is a good bit of harassment and intimidation in the workplace globally. (I will post some of that stuff up and link to it here, at a later time)

There are lots of causal factors. And solutions are varied.

The issue would seemingly be addressed by improving workplace engagement and teamwork. If people felt more positive support for their efforts, one would logically conclude that normal people would be less frustrated and volatile.

If the managers did a better job of communicating and listening to ideas for improvement, there would be more continuity and involvement among the people. If workers felt that managers were interested in helping them make improvements, the numbers of dis-engaged and actively un-involved would drop.

A lot of the un-engaged workers are pretty visible. I call them Spectator Sheep:

Spectator Sheep poem

What does it take to involve them? Generally, not that much. My experience says that they want to be heard and have their grievances considered.  They want their managers to listen to what they see as problems or workplace issues and, often, allow them to work with others in teams to help modify or impact those concerns.

Performance Management Company offers a series of simple to use illustrations and team building exercises to directly address the issue of Manager as Facilitator. We have been developing and marketing these programs since 1993 and they have global use and you can see a few of them here.

We have packaged simple Square Wheels toolkits and facilitation guides to help generate active involvement and ownership.

Discover the Road haiku

Our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, is directly focused on building collaboration and on implementing workplace change and improvement.

Managing Mud

Users say that our products are exceptionally easy to use and highly effective. Give me a call and I will be pleased to share ideas and possibilities,

For the FUN of It!

Scott 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 864-292-8700 or at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Here are some issues and statistics and framework around the issue of employee workplace sabotage, which can take many forms, and some relatively straightforward solutions. Overall, the issues of teamwork and peer pressure can work for you, ideally, or can work against you as we frame up below.

The Situation:

Research says people are uninvolved and dis-engaged. Numbers show people are unappreciated and not motivated by extrinsic rewards. Many feel ignored and stagnant, not getting training or feeling that anyone cares. Writers talk about people whining (which I think is because they are not focused on doing anything they think is important) and that they won’t even take all their scheduled vacation days because of job security issues (other post on that here).

Yeah, it sure must be fun to work in a lot of places these days. Plus, we are seeing a lot fewer full time jobs and jobs with benefits and a lot more part-time jobs with no benefits and with variable hours… More and more people are working part-time — Between 2007 and May of this year, the number of part-timers jumped from 24.7 million to 27.5 million. A 2013 Gallup poll shows that one in every 5 workers is now part-time. For many, less than full-time work is creating conflict and all kinds of issues. According to the US Labor Department, as many as 1/3 of all part-timers are involuntary ones.

Reasons are many, but one seems to be “ObamaDodge,” whereby big employers avoid having to give healthcare to people who work less than 30 hours a week to bypass the Affordable Care Act.

Large employers like Regal Entertainment Group (franchise owners of Five Guys, Applebee’s and Denny’s), and the owner of Papa John’s pizza chain and a few other chains have announced plans to side-step new requirements that businesses with over 50 full-time-equivalent employees offer their full-time workers access to a qualified healthcare plan or pay a penalty. (There has been a lot of media and general public pushback, too.)

The healthcare law defines a full-time employee as anyone working more than 30 hours a week, so the boss simply cuts workers’ hours and hires additional part-time staff to make up the difference. Stafford notes that as many as 2.3 million workers across the country are at high risk of having their hours slashed to below the 30-hour mark. Half of retail workers in New York City were part-time, and only 10 percent of part-timers had a set schedule week to week and part-time workers are far more likely to be paid minimum wage (13%) than full-time workers (2%)

When I started a turnaround in my new job as Senior Vice President for a retail company, we had all kinds of issues to deal with, including store manager turnover of about 250% — we did not bother to measure salesperson TO because too many of them were quickly being promoted to store managers. AND, we had millions of dollars in “inventory losses.” Some of that was caused by the chaos and confusion in the stores, and some of it was most certainly THEFT by Employees. They were simply getting even, was the reason most of them gave…

If people feel attacked, we know from history that they will band together to fight back. The reaction of being pushed is to push back and the pin will eventually touch the balloon and things will pop. That is expected.

Pin Hits Balloon red color

The American Psychological Association reports a variety of ailments associated with underemployment, including depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, low subjective well-being and poor self-esteem. There are workplace impacts for those kinds of feelings as they relate to customer service and teamwork with others. Researchers have found that full-time work is critical not only to the mental well-being of workers, but to their physical health as well. A decrease in physical health is another way that forced part-time workers suffer.

Once the group feels like it is being attacked (instead of supported and involved and engaged and compensated fairly), one can often expect that they will circle the wagons and try to defend themselves from the attackers. That is also a signal that all is not well in the workplace and that they are not completely convinced that pulling and pushing the wagon efficiently and effectively is in their best interests. If they run out of bullets, they will head for the hills!

Defense wagon yellow 70

But, if they feel pretty solidly supportive of each other, a slightly different scenario is possible, one that we are seeing in a few large companies. That one looks like this:

FortVanderWeilen th

Here, they start taking the wagons apart to use the wood for the walls and the wheels for barricades. They may demonstrate a sense of solidarity, and create a more permanent adversarial structure and culture. It is somewhat predictable — and look at the news about striking workers at WalMart – On May 28, around 100 workers in FL, MA and CA walked off their jobs for a series of “prolonged strikes.” Many of the striking workers traveled to Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas last week. (article)

But it gets bigger than this. Just as my store managers did things to their company, workers everywhere have ways of “getting even.” Let me excerpt from my blog on  “Thoughts on Management,” which is basically about sabotage and comes from a manual produced by the US Army back in the 1940s, with this part talking about what employees can do to sabotage companies:

(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to in­ crease the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: (with examples)

(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.

(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management  See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

There are SO MANY ways to cost companies money and increase your pay per unit of time worked. You can also be indifferent and unresponsive to customers or not fix things such as misplaced stock items on shelves or all kinds of things.

The solution:

You are probably going to be unable to fix a lot of the structural issues that companies have, but you can sure document the local impacts they have and push for improvement. You may not be able to reduce employee turnover, but you can certainly track the actual issues caused by new people on the job. Some of your analysis should include:

  • The cost of advertising for new people
  • The cost of initial paperwork and screening
  • The costs of interviewing  – costs of time spent doing that and costs of time not available for doing other important things
  • The costs of on-boarding or initial job training on systems and processes
  • The potential increased costs for job-related injuries or accidents
  • The costs of coaching and on-the-job training time
  • The costs of errors of new employees, including customer satisfaction issues, slower response times, mistakes and materials waste, misplaced inventory, and all sorts of innocent things that people do when new on a job
  • The costs of management supervisory time (yours)
  • The costs of advanced skills training — sometimes there are 6-week courses on learning how to process transactions and work computer systems correctly
  • The costs of NOT working the above computer systems correctly

There are many other similar kinds of costs incurred by organizations. Some of these also involve inter-departmental kinds of problems and you might also include theft or other kinds of negative impacts from the disgruntled as well as the new.

And, as result of all this training, there is also the eventual statistical likelihood and reality that this New Hire will simply be an average employee. Down the road, you may be looking to replace them!

Often the better and more skilled employees choose to go elsewhere for employment (and the below average ones are not actively looking) and you may be losing talent on a net overall basis. The best ones may also go to one of your competitors…

Sometimes, newer previously skilled employees will demand a higher wage and benefits than the “normal employee” and that is guaranteed to cause problems down the road.  Paying new employees wages equal to long-term employees is also problematic.

So what do you do?

You probably need to make the case, or at least support the existing case that things need to be improved, that doing the same thing will generate the same results. And you can choose to do things differently, yourself.

Nearly every research study shows that an involved and engaged workforce shows fewer negative issues with the above and shows lots of positive impacts on numbers like profitability and reduced customer turnover. If employees are presently un-engaged or at least not actively engaged, you have about 70% of your workforce that you can address and encourage.

Extrinsic motivators do not work. They possibly might have short-term positive impacts on some people, but they always have negative long-term impacts on everyone. Compensate them fairly on an overall basis.

Allow people to solve roadblocks and make improvements to systems and processes. Give them the tools and resources.

Allow them to address interdepartmental issues that impact their performance results.

Improve the performance feedback so that they have a better idea as to how they are performing in comparison to their own goals and your expectations. You can find a simple analysis checklist here. PMC sells simple toolkits for improving communications and engagement.

Provide some team building activities and build a sense of group (remembering all the stuff at the top of the article, be sure to have a fairly solid environment before forming, “The Collective” — remember the Borg?). PMC sells some great, inexpensive and bombproof team building simulations.

Have engaging and informative meetings and discussions, as groups and a one-on-one coaching and mentoring discussions.

Be there and supportive, not away and adversarial.

There is no silver bullet for any of this. Understanding the problem is a first step toward designing YOUR solutions. There is no one else who can really help you, when push comes to shove. HR cannot do it, senior managers cannot do it, consultants (certainly) cannot do it —

If it is to be words

and

If not you who words

If you are looking for some tools for improving engagement or for improving involvement and motivation to make workplace improvements, we sell some simple tools. Our specialties are in the areas of employee involvement and team building, but with a focus on performance improvement.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Have Fun out there!

Scott 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+
Reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and 864-292-8700

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

 

Note: some of the basic statistics taken from
http://www.alternet.org/labor/part-time-jobs-and-economy

Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part Two

This is the second of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

It must be about organizational cultures and about our models of what good leadership must look like, or at least how most people view the role of a Manager.  It must be about how organizational measurements and competition between departments drive competitive behavior so that we do not find much collaboration. It must be competition driving away engagement, and extrinsic reward systems not being meaningful to everyone.

Something must be wrong and it makes sense that we need to do something differently. My thinking says it is the interface between worker and supervisor that needs to be fixed and that so many things that interfere with that interface need to be changed. The issue is one of communications.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz002

I do not want to put an anchor point here to “leadership” because that means so many different things to so many people. And I do not think that the issue is “Supervisory Skills Training” since that says that people must be trained before they can exhibit behavior to improve that connection.

Over the past year, Gallup interviewed nearly 150,000 Americans in all states and industries and discovered that a stunning number are miserable in their jobs. More specifically, only 30% of the nation’s working population today admits to being fully engaged at work and 52% admit to being disengaged in their jobs with another 18% being actively disengaged.

Why are 7 in 10 workers discouraged, and more importantly,
why does no one seem to actually do much to improve this reality?

To a degree, I blame company cultures. They are not working yet they are totally resistant to change. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, so doing things differently is very often punished. And if we keep doing things the same way, why should we expect anything to change? But let’s do another million-dollar survey to be sure of our thinking…

Numerous studies have shown that engaged workers display greater initiative, approach work more passionately and creatively–essentially do all they can for their organizations. Gallup’s report specifically states that engagement drives greater productivity, lower turnover, and a better quality of work. Organizations in the top 10% of engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and have 90% better growth trends than their competition.

Gallup, a survey organization, suggests that you measure engagement everywhere. My thought is why? What good are measurements when you won’t do anything to change in a meaningful way? Research shows that we’ve been doing a LOT of research and not making any impact, so why do more research? People are un-engaged so why not do something to engage them – that is most assuredly NOT another survey!

Gallup assumes that people do not know that people are not engaged. I suggest this: Walk into a workplace and stand there. You can tell the level of engagement just by looking and listening.

Companies have been doing surveys on engagement for 20 years and results will show that things are getting worse, if anything. Things are not getting better even though many organizations report they are “working on engaging people”: Employee engagement has declined from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer’s 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey). If your spouse was “working on something” for 20 years, would you not also be frustrated and non-trusting?

Why not spend the money in different ways and get the managers away from looking at survey data to actually doing something differently. Improving engagement is just that – getting people to focus on improving things in their workplace and feeling more of a sense of ownership involvement.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz003

There are a lot of bosses who foster un-engagement. The classic quote is Samuel Goldwyn, the G in MGM, who said,

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

He also said, “If you don’t disagree with me, how will I know I’m right?”

Yeah, he would have be an engaging boss, for sure. NOT. Then again, boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory, right?

A Parade magazine survey in 2012 found that 35% of U.S. workers said they’d willingly forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct supervisor fired. A Florida State University survey in 1997 found 40% think they work for bad bosses. The irony is that bad bosses are often insecure, which probably makes their bad behavior even more prevalent…

Okay, enough on the negative — what can we do differently?

Gallup sees solutions in more measurement and more employee development spending. My take is that while improving skills is a good thing, it is future-focused and not immediate. More immediate things will result in more immediate improvement, and tons of surveys focus on listening, team building, making workplace process improvements and even dealing with poor performers more effectively (coaching is often a good and effective solution).

I am reminded of this old quote:

We judge ourselves by our intentions;
We judge others by their behavior.

What we need to do is build teams and align people toward roadblock removal and process improvement. We can provide more effective performance feedback, build more workplace collaboration and add coaching and mentoring on a one-on-one and a team-based perspective.

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Long-term, we can look to improve hiring practices, provide more skills training and support for workers, increase compensation and similar kinds of things. In the short term, we can focus on doing things differently and doing the things that will dis-un-engage people and performance.

Mentoring words green

Good articles are plentiful out there and there are a lot of good stats, but I disagree with many of the conclusions. Many articles talk about better hiring as the solution — yeah, great idea, but it will do nothing NOW and that new “great hire” will tend to be pressed to regress to the average within 6 months (Sirota Research). Peer pressure toward “normative behavior” is really powerful and there are tons of studies that show that.

Clear expectations is another oft-seen solution. And that should probably be part of a solution but good performance feedback systems are not so common. (see my article on improving feedback here)

Give people the right tools to perform as a solution? Sure. But if you put a gun to their head, could they do a better job right now? Sure! (Bob Mager’s work on performance is useful – another blog post on managing performance is here).

Being generous with praise and recognition. Also a good idea. But 80% of minimum wage people work for large (profitable) multinationals. Praise and recognition are good, once people feel that they have some minimal sustainable level of overall compensation. It’s little things like HEALTH CARE that make a difference. When more than half of bankruptcies are for medical problems and happen to people who HAVE healthcare insurance (around 75% of them HAD coverage), we have a really tough situation for people to feel comfortable about…

Look at things this way:

Could ONE supervisor make a difference for ONE employee? Would that make a difference?

Could that one supervisor make a difference to another employee on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

Could ONE manager make a difference for ONE supervisor? Would that make a difference?

Could that manager make a difference for another supervisor on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

The reality, in my view, is that people are un-engaged and working in un-engaging workplaces managed by un-engaged supervisors working for un-engaged managers (it goes higher than that…). (You can read more about the general state of workplace motivation here)

One solution is to focus on DIS-un-engagement, helping one person and one group at a time. This involves the removal of real and perceived roadblocks, generating a feeling among people that someone is listening and actually cares about how things are going, and that people can make better CHOICES among considered alternatives, things such as “best practices” and the like.

We seem to have solved some of the issues around the Higgs Boson sub-atomic particle by using the Large Haldron Collider and smashing particles together. The Higgs Boson was initially theorized in 1964 and confirmed in March of this year, confirming the Higgs Field and all this being pivotal to the Standard Model and other theories of particle physics. Since we could do that, can’t we somehow figure out what is de-motivating people in their workplaces and make some considered changes in how we do things?

Can we finally understand that performance appraisals are detested for some pretty good reasons by every worker and manager (well I guess the top 10% like them) and that extrinsic reward systems just do not work (except for that top 10% who get them) and that most people are un-involved and dis-engaged?

I mean, really?

We can put a satellite into the sky that goes 500,000,000 miles to circle a small moon around Jupiter. Heck, we know that when Earth and Jupiter are at their closest to each other they are 628,743,036 million km apart and at their most distant, they are 928,081,020 km apart.

We can’t figure out how to motivate ONE worker in one workplace? Seriously?

This model, by the way, is wrong. It is NOT how to motivate people. I was kidding when I had it produced!

How to motivate people color red

We CAN motivate people by simply involving and engaging them in their workplace. Sorry, Gallup, but we do not need to spend any more hundreds of thousands of dollars on another survey that asks people if they are involved because they AREN’T. Ask their supervisors what they could do differently.

We might simply ask people what things do not work smoothly, and get them involved and engaged in solving workplace performance issues.

What are SWs image worksheet

This stuff ain’t particle physics or rocket science. It is about doing some simple and straightforward involvement and listening. (And then implementing!)

You can see Part One of this two-part series by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott 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/

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Engagement, Fulfillment, Performance, Perfection and Excellence

I was reading an article by Shep Hyken on his thinking around 5 steps to achieve employee fulfillment. He speaks on customer service improvement and I thought the ideas were okay, but that they were not going to have any immediate impact on results. And it is a reality that taking the long-term view is good, but maybe not optimal for a variety of reasons.

He started with this Aristotle quote, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

He then suggested 5  simple steps that ultimately lead to happy, fulfilled, and engaged employees:

  1. Hire the right person for the right job.
  2.  Create fulfilled employees – Part One.  While you may make the right hire, the employee has to love what they do.
  3.  Create fulfilled employees – Part Two.  Create a positive environment of leadership and support to build satisfaction.
  4.  The pursuit of perfection.  He frames this up around meeting attainable goals.
  5.  Employee Engagement.  While Shep talks about the impacts, he does not share much data around this concept. There are plenty of articles supporting the reality that engagement links to productivity and performance in my blogs.

His basic concept is a basic one: People who are fulfilled and find pleasure in their work will strive for perfection.  They will strive to meet and exceed their goals.  You can read his article at this link.

My reaction to this was good, and I did service quality management things for 25 years, so the issues and anchors are solid. My posted response was a pretty simple and straightforward reframing.

Here is what I posted up as my comment:

These days, most companies are pretty staffed up, so hiring new people is not the solution for today. AND, the research shows that new employees are pretty much like the old employees after 6 months (Sirota) and that if you do not start things up differently with new hires, they will not give you what you want down the road.

Perfection is a lot like Excellence, if I read you right. I liked that old concept a LOT and there used to be dozens of good programs using that anchor point. Six Sigma seems to be today’s buzzword for it, but it really only occurs in manufacturing and production and not so much in areas where people have to respond differently so much, like customer service or other kinds of personalized work.

For me, I reframe what you said around two basic ideas:

1 – “Nobody ever washes a rental car” — It’s my quote on the importance of ownership to performance. If people feel a sense of active ownership and involvement, they will treat things differently. Ownership is a key issue in excellence and striving to improve.

2 – Dis-Un-Engagement — in any workplace, stats show that more than half the people are un-engaged and un-involved. Somewhat related to ownership, what managers can choose to do is to identify the things that are un-engaging – list them in a brainstorming session – and then look for ways to address each and every one of them, one at a time. (You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement here.)

You can form teams, share best practices, escalate issues to other departments (yeah, I do know that “interdepartmental collaboration” tends to be an oxymoron for most organizations (or silos) but they can be addressed (The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is one exercise that focuses neatly on this issue and rewards those who collaborate).

It is always the case that, “The Round Wheels are already in the wagon” and that there is little excuse for continuing to operate on the Square Wheels.

SWs One green color thin

The best performers are already doing things differently than the worst performers, so sharing those best practices is a no-brainer way to improve things. When you can build that around your roadblock management, you are improving teamwork, improving skills and performance, and enabling more intrinsic motivation.

Ya think?

Scott Simmerman

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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Managers – Biggest Contributors or Biggest Problem?

An outstanding article got published today by Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup. If you have not noticed the transition of this company over the years, it has moved from its stereotyped base as a “polling organization” to one that is tightly focused on issues of workplace improvement. This article by Mr. Clifton appeared in LinkedIn and is mindblowing.

Jim CliftonYou can find the article here: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130322105453-14634910-beware-of-managers-from-hell

The data — 1,390,941 workers compiled into one database — says that of the 100,000,000 or so full time workers in the US, 30,000,000  (30%) are engaged and inspired at work and 20,000,000 (20%) employees  are actively disengaged. It’s that old Henny Youngman line, “…Take my wife. Please!” reframed to, “…Take my boss… Please!” in the case of the 20 million who – again – are ACTIVELY dis-engaged, un-involved and un-inspired.

Henny Youngman( See Henny Youngman perform on Ed Sullivan (1966). )

The point that Youngman makes is that he wishes things could be different (he is actually joking, and it is funny!). The point Jim Clifton makes is that leadership in management is a critical factor in employee motivation and performance, and that good managers are a lot different than bad bosses in how they impact the workplace and the US economy. He is not joking and nothing is funny about allowing things to simply continue the way things are…

As Clifton says,

Here is my big conclusion: A workforce of 100 million employees in America requires a 10-1 ratio of managers to teams. So, for the U.S. to be perfectly managed, it requires 10 million great supervisors and then 1 million great managers of those supervisors. Pick the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, and the country will rise up economically like never before.

But the problem is, given my 10-1 ratio, there are, in my estimate, only about 3 million great managers inspiring and motivating those 30 million engaged employees. That’s just not enough great leadership.

 We do NOT need 3 million great managers leading people; what we need are a few million fewer Bad Bosses un-leading them! In other posts in my blog, I discuss dis-un-engagement and the issues surrounding the unmotivated middle of the workforce. We can impact them in many ways. In my post about the seemingly unmotivated, I discuss my thinking on what we can do differently to make improvements. It is not rocket science. In my post about Pogo, it is about this simple concept:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Like  Mr. Clifton, I believe that we must make changes in how people are managed. His approach is focused on engagement, and so is mine. He takes the position that the three key issues of importance, based on their survey results are:

1.     At work,  I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. This is the single-best survey item you can ask an employee. If they score high on this, it means they have been assigned a job for which they have the talent to excel. Mastering this begins with companies identifying employees’ strengths and putting them in the right roles.

2.     There is someone at work who encourages my development.

3.     At work, my opinions seem to count.

I take the position that most people are un-engaged and un-involved and that every manager and supervisor needs to focus in DIS-un-engagement and the implementation of ideas — Engagimentation. It is a simple concept of facilitating ideas in the workplace and then working to implement those ideas by better managing perceived and actual roadblocks. The tools are simple and the approach is straightforward.

Reality of how things work SWs One

and the possibilities that exist for making the workplace a better place:

Rainbow Wagon green 70

Engagimentation

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.

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Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”

I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” is my anchor point for what seems to happen often in the workplace. It may be a sudden thing, where the pin hits the balloon and the worker finally snaps and decides that they are quitting — but often, before actually leaving, they will placehold their current work as they will look for another job. Or, it may simply be that the person burns out, gets totally blase about things and just does not care to try very hard anymore. Then, they will simply work to meet minimal expectations.

In this post, I excerpt some of the key thoughts and data points in my article about workplace performance. You can download a copy of the full article from box.com by clicking on the image below:

I Quit Article Icon

What I will do herein is highlight some of the key points about how to engage the dis-engaged or to accomplish what I talk about as Engagimentation.

We can start with how it all starts, with a statement of how things are working:

imagine a workplace

Yeah, just imagine that! Let me know if you actually find one of those because they would be a good role model for the rest of them. I can imagine that things work pretty well there and that they are profitable. It is a nice thought. But research shows that it is far from the average workplace of today,  where surveys consistently show the majority of people as dis-engaged and only casually involved. Surveys of managers show that many think that people would be happy to just have a job (and they are); but happiness with being employed does NOT translate into productivity and performance results.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

We start with an energetic, positive and committed new hire who becomes one of those people who simply disappear and are working to simply get by and noticing if something better might come their way. Focused on meeting the minimally-acceptable standards of productivity and quality, they seem no longer much interested in much. They are not the first person you call on when something needs to get done. And there are a lot of them in most workplaces.

The article has a series of statistics that back up the basic idea that the majority of people in the workplace are simply choosing to underperform because they are just not “into it.” They are not bad employees, they are just not giving what they could and it shows up in a variety of ways. Think of them as: Average. Middle. Muddling. Mundane. Un-exceptional. Un-engaged.

Some Common Situation Causal Factors could include:

  • Being Restrained: One area of concern is around the mis-fit of policies, procedures, rules and regulations. They may become frustrated because they are restrained in how they accomplish things. They might want to be more helpful to customers or they may see possibilities of improvement that are either rejected as ideas or simply brushed aside.
  • Being Ignored: They may simply feel that they are ignored. They might not have feedback systems that provide effective information about their performance and those results may be invisible, in their opinions, to their management team. They might feel that they need training (or they are sent off to training for no apparent reason). And when they do extend forward, no one notices or comments; it changes nothing.
  • Not on the Team: Or, they may feel as though they are not part of the team or the in-crowd. People at the margins tend to become marginal. As part of a team, they often feel that their efforts contribute to the overall good. But with no sense of such involvement, they tend to become less involved, quickly.
  • Accidental Adversaries: Another factor was discussed by Peter Senge in his work on learning organizations and involved a series of small negative events that, in the bigger overall situation, would become more and more annoying over time. Repetitive small “pinches” could eventually be disruptive. There was not one event or one thing, just a bunch of little things that added up. It should not be surprising that these loops could be common between workers or between an individual and a supervisor and that, left unattended, they underpin a motivational problem.
  • Punishment, defined as a negative consequence that occurs following some behavior, is another issue in many workplaces. We are not talking “public disgrace” here or corporeal punishment; we are more often talking about little comments or perceived slights or the threat of negative consequences that could occur in response to behaviors.

When people are strictly following policies, procedures, rules and regulations, they will not be productive. (Yes there are situations like safety where strict compliance is important, but less so for customer service, manufacturing or similar kinds of activities). In fact, most work slowdowns are anchored in people following things overly precisely and carefully.

What do we do? How do we motivate these people?

Re-engage them. And understand that this will take time and effort. You cannot do this to them, but you can do it with them. Change and improvement take time, but the capability is there. Remember that, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled” (Frank Navran) and that you need to build your base moving forward.

Re-frame the solution into the simple context of Dis-Un-Engagement. This is the process of working with them to identify the things that are unengaging them and do things to remove those factor, in reality and in the perception of reality. The key is to be seen doing things differently. (I am not talking about faking it; I refer to the reality that many beliefs they might have are simply not true but if they feel that they have some control, these factors become less important.)

Dis-Un-Engaging is re-motivating by de-un-motivating!

Identify the past and present things that are currently un-engaging people and use facilitation and teamwork to identify those factors and issues that can be changed, added or reduced that will help to eliminate or minimize these performance issues and change the culture.

Actually, this is really straightforward and accomplished by:

  • removing the perceived (common) or actual (sometimes) things that are un-engaging people and teams, you serve the purpose of re-engaging and re-energizing them;
  • facilitating, you generate active involvement. You lead and engage;
  • creating a new sense of vision and mission about the future;
  • using teams to solve problems, you build the teamwork support, energy and resources needed to supply the peer pressure to improve and sustain.

Many believe that this is all there is to motivation:

How to Motivate People red color

clicking on the image will take you to another article on motivation

There are always threads in my LinkedIn groups focused on the above. Many organizations try to control people’s behaviors extrinsically, a highly difficult process fraught with all sorts of potential negative side effects. Money works, but there is a continuous need to increase its amounts to get the same results over time, and you will get a lot of competitive responses between people that have negative side effects and interfere with teamwork. Plus, extrinsic incentives will only motivate the top performers, in most situations.

In B, we will get performance. But it will be compliance-focused and not exceptional. And, do NOT turn your back, since various kinds of retribution and sabotage are common.

Recognize this simple reality:  People WANT to succeed.
We simply have to help them come back in and re-engage.

You can start with something easy like this:

Visioning 2019 Engagement

And simply listen for how people want their workplace to be. They will talk about the different problems that were fixed and the way they were engaged and involved to fix things.

After that works and you get a grip on the kinds of things that are seen as issues, you can help define how things work and get after those things that need improvement. Our approach has always been to ask for issues and opportunities using our Square Wheels illustration toolkits:

SWs One - How Things Work

But there are lots of things you can do and how you can do them. My approach is to use the above and then get them thinking like this:

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

We want the group to feel like they understand the issues and can deal with them effectively. The key is to implement some improvements and possibly use teams to help with that process. Do things differently! Success makes Continued Success more likely.

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Doing more surveys without doing anything to involve and engage people tends to feel more like this:

Working hard, turning corners, working hard, turning corners, working hard...

Companies spent $700 million on engagement surveys. They got close to nothing in return – engagement is dropping most places.

Don’t just have more surveys and more discussions. Involve and engage the people in the organization — especially those in the middle — to improve performance results of all kinds.

You can download the complete article on workplace engagement by clicking this sentence. Your feedback would be appreciated.

Scott on CoachingYou can also find a 3-minute video on my YouTube page that explains the concepts around coaching and improving average performance and the idea of moving the overall performance curve to improve results at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohrhcYpDCk

For the FUN of It!

Discuss what you might do differently

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/

 

 

Addendum – There is a really interesting “I Quit” letter going around, reportedly from a woman auditor who quits PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) because of people, structure, culture, and job growth. She pulls no punches. You can find that, with a long series of comments from other people, at http://gawker.com/this-is-the-best-i-quit-email-youll-read-all-week-1467082884

 

We all impact everything. Your impacts on the Space Time Continuum of Work

We impact others. Butterfly wings and all that. Connectivity. Dealing with chaos in the workplace as performance improvement opportunities.

And enlightened (and unenlightened) people everywhere seem to agree that, “The Square Wheels are everywhere!”

Thus, we take our discussion to another dimension, connecting our current reality to that of how things really work in most organizations as well as The Universe.

Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining the basic physics as a mathematical model that builds space (3-dimensions) and time into a single concept of connectivity of everything. From the model, one can imply a large number of theories about impacts on performance of sub-atomic particles, super-galactic interations and people and performance (ya think?).

As written in Wikipedia, in non-relativistic classical mechanics, the use of Euclidean space instead of space-time is appropriate, as time is treated as universal and constant, being independent of the state of motion of an observer. But in relativistic contexts, the notion of time cannot be separated from the three dimensions of space, because the observed rate at which time passes for an object depends on the object’s velocity relative to the observer and also on the strength of gravitational fields, which can slow the passage of time.

In PMC’s cosmological luminous model, we see things operating in a single universe where there is an inter-relatedness of all things where events are all connected, so it looks like this:

the connectedness of things in the workplace

Your thoughts?

  • What can you choose to do to differentially impact YOUR workplace universe?
  • What can you do to involve and engage people in change and improvement?
  • What Round Wheels already exist that people can choose to change?
  • How can you better motivate the wagon pushers?
  • What can you do to share a perspective on your journey forward?

Need tools for engagement? Take a look at our Square Wheels illustration toolkits and our team building games, such as, Lost Dutchman. Let us know how we can help your organization better manage your space time continuum.

Square Wheels are Everywhere.
But the Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

Have FUN out there!

Empowerment, disempowerment, un-empowerment, and Dis-UN-empowerment

I’ve been playing with the notion of empowerment for a long time. Heck, my first speech on this concept at an international conference was in 1995 or so… People talk about empowering others, like they could make the choice and pull people around on strings or something. Well, it just isn’t that easy.

Pulling the strings to empower someone

So, I learned how to do a simple thing with a really funny name that works pretty well. Let me explain…

Many if not most organizations have talked about “empowerment” as a motivator. They embed the word into their mission statements. They talk as if they can actually accomplish this and implement improvement and change simply by “empowering our people.”

Sorry, but most people are UN-empowered. Statistics show that maybe 30% of employees are actually engaged, defined as being actively and emotionally involved with their work and the company. It is obvious that the situation should be emproved (intentional spelling error).

(I posted up a solid article on ideas for engaging the unengaged here)

The good thing is that it is EASY to talk about empowering others. But go ahead– EMPOWER ME TO DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. You just cannot do it. It is not your choice and you have no influence on me. One person cannot empower another. (Heck, I did have two teenagers years ago — I was going to say “different teenagers” but I realize that the phrase is redundant).

So, leaping toward the actionable and intuitively non-obvious reality, I proposed that one of the roles of any manager — and one of the things that they can do and that has a wide variety of positive impacts on people and performance — is to do something I call:

Dis-Un-Empowerment

If so many are un-empowered, what actions of a manager might serve to remove or modify that situation so as to remove those things that people think or choose to allow to get in the way of them acting empowered?

My approach is to focus on Roadblock Management. Identify the different kinds of roadblocks so as to enable people to use APPROPRIATE strategies to deal with them.

You can find a pretty simple explanation of my approach to this on my informational website: http://www.squarewheels.com/scottswriting/roadblocks.html

You can find a simple toolkit with the resources and powerpoints and all that at:
http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com

Have FUN out there, dis-un-engaging people and feeling the benefits of a more involved and engaged workplace.

 

Scott Simmerman

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

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