Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: manager as motivator (Page 1 of 12)

Branding, Change, Marketing and Square Wheels

We sell simple tools for communications and engagement and have been doing it now for 25 years. We had a consistent brand image for 20+ but then decided to shift and now we are faced with the perplexing problem of shifting again. I am guessing that this is a common problem but also asking for some perspective and dialog, since what we do is about communications and engagement. (Can you see the paradox there?)

Stay tuned if you want to receive a free engagement toolkit!

My trademark is Square Wheels®. And started out using this image as an engagement and development tool in the context of,

“How might this illustration represent
how organizations really work?”

The original image, with so little context, works wonderfully as a Rorschach test, in that people projected their beliefs onto it and the responses from a group of people were pretty amazingly diverse and creative. It always worked to generate great ideas about issues of the things that did not work smoothly and the Round Wheels that already existed and could be implemented. The year was 1993 and the image looked like this:

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of PMC and © 119.This wagon rolled forward for a LOT of years and lots of miles, with me presenting sessions in almost 40 countries and initially selling transparency-based books and then powerpoint illustrations as toolkits for change, motivation, etc. It got me to be known as, The Square Wheels Guy.

But more recently, things happened and we started shifting over to using LEGO® blocks and Technics people to represent the themes and ideas, creating various scenes and frameworks that continues today and have moved into our other product designs and toolkits that continue to evolve.

Those images and scenes anchor to the same metaphor but represent themselves this way:

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott SimmermanAnd we think this is a big improvement. The goal of showing the image is to generate active involvement and diverse thinking about how things work and what things might be done differently. The key points are quite obvious and people project their thoughts about their workplaces onto the visual.

These conversations around what it might represent as an organizational reality tend to focus on people, engagement, active involvement, innovation, leadership, motivation and similar. They are about issues, opportunities and implementation. They are about innovation and best practices and collaborative dis-un-engagement.

And we package a number of very simple toolkits as well as an online course so that supervisors and team leaders can learn facilitation skills. We have also used the LEGO scenes to create some stop-motion videos, which are easy to do and which would be much harder with line art.

This is NOT rocket science, to show an image and generate a discussion. It is a powerful but elegantly simple tool to generate real discussions about perceived workplace issues.

In our efforts to broaden exposure, we engaged with an organization to sell an Icebreaker toolkit around this theme to their customer base, which is different than mine but very congruent. It is a framework for collaboration and co-marketing that seems to have no downside.

As the two companies discussed this Icebreaker possibility, her staff came up with the idea of using a different representation of the Square Wheels® theme and suggested using an image that looked like this:

An alternative version of Square Wheels OneSo, I am faced with a marketing decision with a variety of factors.

  • Does the above image represent an improvement or is it simply a dilution of my intellectual property?
  • Is the image itself going to generate better discussions about organizational reality and issues and opportunities, since it IS a very different scenario and has different features.
  • Is the last image going to get the positive reactions from discussion participants like the first two does?

And another set of questions:

  • If you were to change the latter image, how would you change it to improve its effect in generating engagement and ideas?
  • Which image do you personally prefer and why?

Your thoughts on the above would be most appreciated, and if you share a useful informative considered opinion or idea as a comment, I will send you a free toolkit to play with,

 

For the FUN of It!

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.

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of T
he LEGO® Group®

© Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2017. All Rights Reserved.
PMC has no affiliation or relationship with The LEGO® Group®

Please Note: The offer of a free Square Wheels Toolkit is limited to the first twenty (20) people who share a relevant and useful comment about the image dilemma and its resolution.

 

 

Positive Disruptive Employee Engagement for Innovation and Motivation

It is funny, if you google the word DISRUPTIVE, most of the associated descriptive links will be on negative things and that the main positive framework is the link to Disruptive Innovation, where it spins around to be The Good Thing.

When I use the term, “Disruptive Engagement,” many people’s’ first reactions seem to be that it must mean chaos and that chaos is bad. On the other hand, what we are framing is the positive aspect of active employee involvement that will be generated from the bottoms up, from the interactions and ideas of workers and supervisors. Disruptive impacts are on the corporate control and management systems that are generally working against engagement.

 

Let me reframe that:

Positive Disruptive Employee Engagement will actually translate to active involvement, intrinsic motivation, facilitative behavior by supervisors and managers, and a broad swath of innovation from a wide variety of hands-on perspectives. If you will step back from your organizational wagon, you are likely to identify Best Practices.

Best Practices are those things that a few people are actually doing that makes them exemplary performers. Some people are exemplary performers because — wait for it… They do things differently than everybody else!

Translating to my lexicon, exemplary performers generally use Round Wheels in a world full of Square ones. They choose to do things differently. They have developed a more efficient or more effective ways to do things. Often, they break — sorry, BEND — the existing rules, policies and procedures to do things #morebetterfaster than other people. And the absolutely crazy thing is that most managers are not really sure what these performers actually do. And few other workers ever bother to try to model those behaviors and actions and processes.

Those old Square Wheels® continue to thump and bump, predictably and safely unless we decide to look about doing things differently. People cannot make different choices if they do not have considered alternatives, and those will not come from sitting around doing the same old, same old. The need is for perspective, along with a desire to do things differently, which comes from cognitive dissonance.

illustrated quote of Leonardo da Vinci using Square Wheels

Recognize that we need to actively search for opportunities for improvement and better ideas, and not just sit around expecting things to change because someone else will change them.

If not YOU, who? If not NOW, when?

“If it is to be, it is up to me,” should be the mantra of all supervisors everywhere, along with the recognition that there is NOT going to be a lot of help from elsewhere to get things done, to motivate people or to make the improvements that are necessary to continue the innovation and productivity improvement prospects. Supervisors are pretty much on their own when it comes to people development and process improvement and motivation in most organizations.

What I am proposing here is for people to step back from the wagon and look at how things are working and what possibilities exist. Supervisors can ask the questions and listen for the ideas, proposing that people consider different alternatives and choices in what they do.

But the ideas come from the people and are not simply more stuff rolling downhill from somewhere else. The supervisor facilitates, rather than lectures. The participants discuss their issues of possibilities, fear of risk-taking, problems of implementation and the issues surrounding peer support and teamwork.

The ideas are around changing perceptions about possibilities and about shared learning around choices. The skills needed are straightforward and focus on asking for ideas, asking for commitment and asking about progress as things roll forward. Problems are around generating active ownership of the improvement ideas and managing actual and perceived roadblocks to implementation.

Can’t we all just work together to get things done?

 

For the FUN of It!

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.

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss on Disruptive Engagement

Even Dr. Seuss would understand about the issues and opportunities around the positive impacts of supervisors leading more active involvement to make impacts on people and performance. The data are simply so clear that people DO have ideas for improvement but that no one in the organization facilitates the process of capturing those ideas. Thus, there are large gaps in innovation and quality and productivity because possibilities simply are not realized.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about the general idea of Disruptive Engagement but I thought that one image, simplifying to the stupidly understandable level, might generate some actual thinking about choices and doing things differently! (grin)

The Square Wheels Project Dr. Seuss framework

People have ideas for improvement, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. But they interact with their supervisors, who generally choose to NOT do things differently because of risk or time or task interference or the lack of collaboration from other departments. “I’m here from Human Resources to help you,” is such a “reality joke” in so many places because they are structurally unable to help, too.

If things are going to improve, it is going to be the people who choose to improve things. And it is going to come from increased collaboration and alignment to shared goals. Do some effective team building (see why I hate outdoor activities)!

Facilitate Dis-UN-engagement and Dis-UN-empowerment with your people by choosing to actively involve them in some workplace improvement activities. Visit The Square Wheels Project for some simple tools and support,

 

For the FUN of It!

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.

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com


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

 

Facilitation, Learning and Motivation: The Supervisor

Networking and Idea Sharing are keys to generating considered alternatives and there are a LOT of ideas about impacting people and performance when people start thinking together and sharing perspectives and support. My thought was to write about workplace applications of this idea.

A couple of good email conversations got me moving again on this issue of Supervisor as Facilitator and how little downside there seems to be to that concept of them being idea encouragers or coaches. This is really a main part of their jobs, yet one where we do not seem to be supporting them with skill training or with tools.

Who but the Supervisor can motivate the workers?

One of the email threads developed the idea that people hate training, which a bunch of us jumped on pretty hard in the conversation. There does not seem to be any data to support this idea that I could find, but it is true that a lot of training is wasted in training that has no visible impact or result. And a lot of people do not want to GO to training simply because there is no ROI for it in their view. Not a lot of training is something that people really want to just jump into, for a lot of reasons. “You are going to a training program” is often met with the comment, “Why? What did I do wrong?”

Some of the training is off-target and irrelevant or totally boring, done by people with good intentions but who are not SMEs (subject matter experts) or who do not have hands-on experience in the issues (it would be like me doing time management training or sales training or teaching people how to speak English!).

A lot of trainees either see little relevance of that training to their work or career or that the new things learned will not be supported in the workplace. Past experience can be tough to overcome. And the reality is that the work generally piles up when people are gone.

And sometimes training might cause people to feel like they are being appraised and tested, or that they will be potentially embarrassed when trying to put those new behaviors into real play in their workplace. I think the phrase might be “fear of constructive criticism” or some such thing.

And is it really a training need? Can they do it if you gave them $500 or put a gun to their head? So, are supervisors the trainers or simply the coaches and the people doing the followup to install the desired behaviors?

So, it should be obvious that supervisors should be trainers but also coaches and supporters, especially as training through LMS and smartphones becomes more and more the norm. Supervisors should be mentors and performance coaches, supporting the small changes in behavior that result in more small changes in behavior, something we call incremental improvement (or reality!).

Who but the Supervisor can implement training?

Supervisors can also address The Fear Factor that so commonly affects workers and workplaces. My colleague Dan Stones has addressed that here, for example. Fear is the Mindkiller, and supervisors are absolutely the best people to address those issues and impact their workplaces. We need to do things differently!

But what about the fear within the supervisor for doing something differently? Who but their manager is going to support them as they try new things and do things differently? Human Resources? And who supports them if they make a mistake?

Fear a Square Wheels image

So who is going to do this serious human resource development (training, facilitation and engagement) in the workplaces and what outcomes do we expect? What tasks and commitments do we remove or eliminate to free up the time to do the coaching and mentoring? What current systems and processes are we going to have to disrupt to make new behaviors appear both on the shop floor and among the management team?

So, the question you need to ask is what needs to be done differently to really impact people and performance in your organization? Our management team generally has a good perspective in how organizational change is accomplished. For many based on what people report about their experiences, it looks something like this:

Supervisory Skills Training, before and after

We can make the choices to really do things differently. Will We?

Square Wheels Responsibility for Implementation

PMC has some simple tools that can support your improvement initiatives. Check out The Square Wheels Project or investigate our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. But more than anything else, look at what needs to fundamentally change within your management team to allow people to make improvements,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Twitter @scottsimmerman

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

 

Disruptive Engagement – 6 Blogs and 4 Illustrations

Engagement is anchored to empowerment, and organizations need dis-un-engaged and dis-un-empowered supervisors in order to optimize performance and productivity. I say this simply because supervisors manage workers and workers do all the work and because data after data show that un-engagement and un-empowerment are two main themes of so many workplaces.Disruptive Engagement and Empowerment Square Wheels image

As I thought about how corporate engagement is generally run, it seemed to me that more local control would allow more impacts, that more supervisor control at the workplace level might offer more opportunities to impact active involvement and actually involve and empower people. Too much seemed to be driven tops-down rather than bottoms up. So, I detailed my thoughts in an article about thinking locally:

Engagement – Think Local, Act Local

And that writing started me thinking about the whole negative reality of tops-down, corporate “engagement” that my 40 years of business management work has never shown to work very well. The thought was that disrupting this approach might be interesting.

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

So, what IS Disruptive Engagement? Nothing fancy. It is simply about allowing the supervisors and managers to remove the things that their people perceive to be getting in the way of improving their workplaces. Often these are perceived roadblocks, more than real ones and Best Practices will show that the solutions are often already in place and working in isolated cases.

Disruptive engagement supervisors and motivation

Well, That got me thinking about what to actually do to accomplish this kind of initiative. The ideas already exist and it is more about developing a culture that does a better job of minimizing fear and optimizing discussions.

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

But a reality are the issues of allowing the supervisors the time and ability to actually do things differently. There is simply so much task interference from meetings and reports and measurements and other factors to really allow them the coaching time or the time to facilitate implementation of ideas.

FREE The Supervisor – thoughts on Disruptive Positive Active Engagement

and

The Hubcap Report – a note on Task Interference and Supervisors

What we need are good conversations and the improvement of facilitation skills to better actively involve workers.

Radical Candor and Disruptive Engagement

The solution actually does appear to be relatively simple and straightforward, if organizations really consider these issues of engagement, motivation, empowerment, innovation, and teamwork to be of importance. It sure seems like they are important, so why do we choose to not do things differently? We talk and talk and measure and measure and meet and meet but seldom have any direct contact or influence on the workers.

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman

Why can’t we do this?

For the FUN of It!

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

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

 

 

The Hubcap Report – a note on Task Interference and Supervisors

These days, my focus continues to be on people and performance, with more consideration around The Supervisor and their work to dis-un-engage and actively involve their people in workplace improvements. I blogged last week about the concept of Free The Supervisor.

If we want to improve engagement, the only people who will do this are the ones that have direct contact with the employees. All the rest is window dressing and no amount spent on surveys will accomplish anything without the vesting of those front line managers.

The reality is that so many things get in the way of them doing anything differently. And I am actively collecting data in this regard, trying to identify some of the things they do that block them from doing new things. And a conversation with David Zinger of the Employee Engagement Network this morning got me thinking of one of those classic examples of this kind of meaningless required goop.

The Hubcap Report

Note: This actually happens to you, if you are a manager, but you call it something else and the names and faces are changed.

I am working with one of the Bell operating companies working on the outside plant that supports the telephone wires and all that stuff. In particular, I am working with one of the supervisors and his manager and looking at ideas for impacting motivation and performance results. We have really good support from the management team to try to do some things differently and I have good access to the managers.

So, early for a scheduled meeting and sitting in the District Manager’s office and talking with his secretary, I spy what looks to be an interesting series of notebooks labeled Hubcap Report. So, I ask her about them and she pulls the latest one down. Inside are a series of bi-weekly reports from all 12 garages listing the trucks with a check mark if they have hubcaps. Years of reports.

Digging down, one of the former DMs in visiting a garage noted that some of the vehicles were missing hubcaps so he had asked the garage managers to get them fixed and to send him a report. That request became a process, done by each supervisor every two weeks, signed off by their manager and forwarded to the District Office where they were stored in this notebook. The current DM never even knew they existed and the secretary simply filed them, not knowing how silly they were to keep doing.

How many of YOUR supervisors are completing reports and sending them upward, with no clear purpose and minimal impact?


And, on meetings and time and costs in general, HBR had a report about an analysis of a large organization and the costs to prepare senior executives for their peer-group weekly meetings. Note that little actually gets done from these meetings, other than the sharing of information and the occasional planning of a new strategy. THESE ARE COSTS, NOT IMPACTS:

In this particular company, a total of 7,000 person-hours per year were spent in weekly executive committee meetings at which 11 senior staff members provided updates on the business to themselves. To prepare for these meetings, these senior staffers held 11 of their own unit staff meetings consuming 1,800 person-hours each, for a total of 20,000 hours per year.

To get ready for the unit meetings, a total of 21 managers working for the senior staffers held their own meetings, 21 of them, for a combined total of 63,000 hours per year. Of course these unit meetings, being important, required “prep meetings” themselves, often involving supervisors.

There were thus 130 prep meetings in total, consuming a total of 210,000 hours per year. T0 summarize, it looks like this:

  • 7,000 hours: Weekly executive committee meetings.
  • 20,000 hours: Weekly senior staff unit meetings.
  • 63,000 hours: Weekly meetings of the staff to the senior staff
  • 210,000 hours: Weekly prep meetings for the staff to the senior staff.

FREE THE SUPERVISORS!

Help them to see out of the box they find they are in. Give them some perspective and even some hope that things may get better.

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

And look for simple solutions to some of the issues. Look at the things you can eliminate. Stop doing the things that do not have real impact. Maybe even BLOCK some of the extra-departmental information requests that will have NO positive impacts on YOUR team’s results. It is simply so easy for someone in staff to ask for information and so easy to take up your people’s time with those requests.

Start doing some active involvement. Start doing some team building — our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine activity is fabulous. Take a look at the communications and engagement tools at The Square Wheels Project. But whatever you DO choose to do, do something that will improve motivation and performance!

Any kind of real collaboration and employee engagement at the front lines is likely being blocked by things that have little impact on your organization.

Use this process of facilitating dis-un-engagement to implement some real improvements,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

 

Managers – How Square Wheels can impact their workplaces

I got three fast notes from an HR director from an Indian company this morning. He and I had started chatting about organizational development and he wondered how my tools could impact the workplace, if they worked for managers, which one would be best and the difference between the downloadable and the LMS. And this happened in four successive short emails…

So, I started responding and realized it would make a good blog, since the focus is on helping managers impact organizational performance, and keeping things simple and straightforward.

So a few thoughts to frame this discussion:

  • All of my products are designed so that managers can deliver them without any support from Training or HR. That simply makes sense, given how isolated those departments can be from organizational reality. They are simply too busy doing other things of a higher priority to directly help managers.
  • Managers NEED tools to help them improve active involvement and clarify organizational alignment and deal with issues of people and performance.
  • Simple straightforward packages that do not require heavy train the trainer or psychological principles are much more useful than the complicated models that we often use in consulting or training. Simple tools to address real problems in straightforward ways are simply better, if they can be made available.
  • Tools to involve and engage workers for process improvement and innovation or to help actively involve and engage them in productivity increases are practical, and those that build teamwork and collaboration are even more important over the long run.

Managers need to be better motivators and workers need to be more innovative and productive and motivated.

But managers and supervisors are often incredibly over-burdened with other responsibilities and priorities that it makes their interpersonal communications very hard to accomplish. One survey said that managers have more contact with their remote workers than they do with the people who share office space with them.

What I have been writing about lately is the theme of Disruptive Engagement, with the premise that ideas coming from the bottoms up are so much more likely to actually occur than things driven from the tops down. You can read more about that in my other posts on leadership and innovation.

And managers have to be more actively engaged in their workplaces and with their people. To illustrate, Gallup found that managers working for engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be themselves engaged and that employees working for engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, something they referred to as The Cascade Effect.

Of course this makes logical sense but the numbers are pretty startling if you consider the flip-side and the issues around working for UN-engaged leaders and managers. Gallup also reports that 51% of managers are not engaged and that 14% are actively disengaged. Scary.

With The Square Wheels Project, we offer an online training program that any supervisor can take to improve their group facilitation and team building skills and they also get a Square Wheels Toolkit of powerpoints and worksheet handouts to capture ideas and generate considered alternatives for improvement.

With the Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit, we offer a complete and easy to understand powerpoint-based training program, basically the materials supported by The Square Wheels Project but without the online training videos and other supporting modeling of delivery ideas.

The idea is to hold workplace meetings focused on identifying things that do not work smoothly for people and then identifying possibilities for improvement. I mean, what worker, where, does not have ideas to make things work more better faster? But nobody listens to them and few bosses seem to care, so those ideas simply languish. The beauty of Square Wheels is the generality of the metaphor – things thump and bump but Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

So, now that we have people talking, things can progress like this, with the first image representing a compendium of workplace realities, present day:

Square Wheels Project Motivational Reality in the workplace

But then we start talking and acting on ideas:

Active workplace improvement starts things rolling

And, if we follow through and keep communicating as well as involving and engaging other people (recruitment), we can see more of some things like this:

More weeks and more celebrations of improvements in organizational development

Idealistic? NO. There are thousands of examples of this kind of impact, person to person. While there is no silver bullet since organizational cultures and issues around trust and leadership vary so widely, the reality is that Ask and Ye Shall Receive actually works quite well when one involves and engages teams of people in the improvement of their own work environment.

Lastly, we need to upskill the workers and managers on their issues of Dis-UN-empowerment and Dis-UN-Engagement, which is otherwise called Roadblock Management. People need the tools to mentally manage the issues that appear when any kind of change process is happening and having peer support for improvement is a valuable factor. We have a simple toolkit and model for Roadblock Management, too!

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

As I said earlier, we do not believe that all this stuff is rocket science. There is an elegant simplicity in our approach, one that negates a lot of the apparent complexity that often prevents people from moving forward. Our tools are all about rolling forward more better faster.

My understanding, based on a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology and early consulting work with people like Ed Feeney and Tom Gilbert and Ken Junkins drove me to believe that performance feedback is the breakfast of champions and that active involvement and ownership is what drives real motivation. Using Square Wheels® to create a perceptual gap between how things are and how they could be (Round Wheels) is simple cognitive dissonance.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best team building exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Twitter @scottsimmerman

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

 

FREE The Supervisor – thoughts on Disruptive Positive Active Engagement

Free The Supervisor might be my new chant as I continue to research and discuss and consider the reality of most workplaces. In a simple phrase, “They Get Pressed.”

Remember – The ONLY people who actually produce any income for an organization are the workers. All of the management function as overhead costs. And who actually manages the workers?

Here is a defined, analyzed, job and task description of the job of Supervisor, from the ReferenceForBusiness.com website (abridged because it was WAY too long and detailed):

The Role of The Supervisor:

Supervisors play an important role in the business environment. Their primary job is to see that the work performed by employees is completed on time and at the highest level of quality. In order to complete this task, they must know the production process and have an understanding of human behavior. Theirs is a pressure-filled job.

It is their job to write reports, letters, memos, performance appraisals, and the gamut of documents that businesses need to operate. They must be equally comfortable in communicating with chief executive officers and assemblyline production workers. They must be able to run effective meetings. They must carefully monitor the organization’s goals, strategies, tactics, and production schedules. They must be cognizant of union rules where applicable. They must be trainers, confidants, computer experts, goal setters—in short, supervisors must be well-rounded employees who are willing to accept the responsibilities required to keep a company running.

Job duties include

Supervisor as Communicator.
Supervisor as Trainer.
Supervisor as Student.
Supervisor as Goal Setter.
Supervisor as Evaluator.
Supervisor as Human Resources Specialist.
Supervisor as Computer Expert.
Supervisor as Producer.
Supervisor as Adviser.
Supervisor as Idea Champion.
Supervisor as Environmental Watchdog.
Supervisor as International Manager.

But, as I shared in other articles and blogs, and despite corporations spending billions of dollars in survey fees and executive and management time focused on improving active involvement and motivating the workers to improve productivity and performance, the Supervisors still do not apparently get it, since results do not improve. Let’s blame them for the performance problems, right?

No! Let’s look at task interference, our measurement and expectation systems, what we give feedback about from the management team (if asked about engagement once every few months, you can expect a focus on engagement every few months…).

I keep hearing about EMPOWERMENT as a driver of engagement, yet a simple observation will show that most people in most organizations are un-empowered. So, who will do the DIS-un-empowerment and focus on the removal of perceived and actual roadblocks other than The Supervisor? (Certainly not HR!)

SO.

  • Why not try to make the Supervisors a bit less constrained and a lot more able to do what they want to do in regards to actively involving their people, building teams, solving workplace improvement issues and things like that?
  • Why not look to FREE them up from some of those duties listed above. Let’s do away with performance appraisals (by any name) and let’s reduce the clerical burden.
  • Let’s free them up from all the administrative minuscule and even give them some training. Let’s give them more skills and more confidence to use those skills through support from their managers.
  • Let’s make them more like Facilitators than Bosses (since BOSS spelled-backwards is self-explanatory).

Disruptive engagement supervisors and motivation

There is no one simple way to do this; there are lots of ways to do this but we have to make the choice to make things happen. Look, the very brave supervisors already do this now, and you know who they are. They are the ones with the exemplary results. I mean, how else can you explain those results?

Taking a quote from Conant, “Behold the Supervisor who, like the turtle, only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

Let’s get the supervisors and their people to break the things that are already broken and get more motivated because they can fix things and make improvements,

For the FUN of It!

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

 

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

 

The Christopher Columbus Award for Leadership

We were playing around with ideas for “Leadership Awards” a few years ago and I had my artist, Roy Sabean, craft up one for me. Since that time, there have been a lot of pretty negative articles written about this guy and a lot of discussion about removing his name as a national holiday. You can get into the history of why that day was named with a simple search…

Anyway, we have this award that you should find humorous. And it could certainly be a common one for a lot of people, but that is up to how you think about things.

So, here is the trophy and award and here is a poem for your enjoyment and edification!

and the poem to support the thinking:

Oh, and there is also another pretty funny thing about all this. There is a statue erected in his honor completed in 1888 in Barcelona, Spain. The belief is that he was born in Catalonia and thus Spain could claim him. At the top of the tall monument at the base of las Ramblas, he is pointing. People say that he is pointing to America, but that of course is not true. He is actually pointing south-east toward the city of Constantine in Algeria. Even in statue form, he is not sure where he is, apparently.

(I was there; saw the statue. And I should have taken a picture, maybe… Ah well.)

Have FUN out there, and try to do something to clarify where you are going, why you are going there, and how others can support you on your journey. Take some oranges along, too, and prevent scurvy!

At Performance Management Company, we play with metaphors and experiential learning tools such as our Square Wheels® images and toolkits and our team building games. Very solid stuff, very high rated and impactful, and relatively cheap.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

 

 

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

I listened to a great presentation yesterday by Mercer on managing engagement, the need to focus on key metrics but the reality of driving behavior at the very bottom of the organization, which is what engagement is. Nicely presented, with great graphics. And I look forward to getting a copy of the information, statistics and related materials.

On the other hand, it seemed to have nothing actionable. It focused on senior managers and HR and organizational statistics and surveys and never once directly mentioned the Supervisors, to my recollection, as being involved in this “involvement and empowerment and engagement stuff.”

It is totally clear that workers and supervisors and managers are basically un-involved and un-engaged in so many workplaces.  And it is management effectiveness AND the workplace environment that is behind this problem. It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

To illustrate:

Gallup:

  • only ONE IN FOUR employees “strongly agree” that their supervisor provides meaningful feedback to them, that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
  • Only 21% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

DDI reported

  • 87% of first-time supervisors feel frustrated, anxious and uncertain about their new role
  • Only 11% said they were groomed for that role through some developmental training or program.

Rick Bell shared some statistics in the March issue of Workforce magazine about how badly workers are being supervised

  • 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired
  • 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor
  • 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Again:

It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be
corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

The issue here is basic supervision, basic leadership at the front lines. People are uninvolved and frustrated, so the solutions are about Dis-un-engagement and Dis-un-empowerment. *

The solution requires involving workers in workplace improvement for both process improvement and more self-determination and personal growth. It is about demonstrating that the supervisor is actively listening and helping to implement ideas. It is about the workers and the management team removing roadblocks that are perceived to be operating that are blocking engagement and the ability to act empowered. Simply, it is about facilitation and feedback.

*Note – I do not believe that it is possible to directly engage or empower someone else. You cannot change their internal workings, directly. What you can do is address their perceived issues and determine what they think blocks their acting in a more involved manner. Roadblock removal is kind of like coaching, only it can be done in a group or team setting. It is accomplished by ASKING FOR THEIR PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOW THINGS WORK and what they might try to do differently. Remember that “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.”

The Square Wheels Project is a simple online training program focused on using the metaphor of Square Wheels® as a tool for communicating about issues and opportunities, and it is accomplished by teaching the supervisor basic facilitation skills and providing a simple and bombproof tool for leading discussions. It also supports these supervisors with peer-level communications about issues and questions and dealing with problems and politics.

The Solutions:

We do not share any silver bullets about how to fix these problems. You can see some additional thoughts around implementation in this other blog post. Every organization has its own blend of communications and cultural issues. But the removal of perceived roadblocks to implementing ideas for performance improvement is intrinsically motivation and a way to address common fears around implementing change. (See Dan Stones article about overcoming team fears here)

But, operationally, it looks something like this: Let people play with Round Wheels since they are currently operating on Square ones…

positive disruptive engagement and Square Wheels becomming round ones

So, without cost or training or doing anything but downloading two pdf files, go play with this idea. Below is the really simple explanation of how it works.

Print out the two card-based worksheets. (SWs One 2017 What Might Be Cards to Print and SWs One 2017 How Does Cards to Print)

Square Wheels card

 

 

 

 

 

Cut each of the pages above into 10 relatively similar-sized “business cards.”

1 – Give a “how does this represent how things really work” card (left) to each person in your meeting and have them discuss the image in small groups. Let them consider possibilities. Ask them to share their thoughts.

2 – After discussion, give one “what might be some of our Square Wheels” card to each person and then ask them for some of their thoughts.

3 – Process the ideas as you wish. Do not defend the status quo but consider these thoughts and ideas as possibilities. “What else?” is a good response.

If you like what you see, which might start out with some discussion about the problems of processes and leadership and teamwork and ideas in a general workplace situation and the transition into what some of the issues might be in your workplace, you will get some idea of the power of this metaphor for changing thinking, language and goal-directed performance improvement.

We have a variety of workplace improvement tools available for purchase, all framed around the idea of changing people’s perceptions and behavior, driving improved teamwork and communications, and generally working to disrupt the way things are and create a more positive workplace.

 For the FUN of It!

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


Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman


The Performance Management Company blog is found at www.PerformanceManagementCompanyBlog.com

The Square Wheels Project is found on Udemy, and you can access this online supervisory facilitation skills training program, complete with downloadable powerpoint slides, printed handouts and other support materials at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Dr. Scott Simmerman holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neurophysiology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Training Professional through the IAPPD and a Certified Professional Facilitator by the International Association of Facilitators. His LinkedIn bio is extensive and found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

What is your reaction to these statements?

  • “I’m from Human Resources and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Management and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Training and I am here to help you.”

Most of us workers can probably name names and share lots of personal experiences about having received that kind of “support” in our workplaces, where all that help was not able to change much of anything. Outsiders cannot help insiders very much because of organizational dynamics, regardless of good intentions.

Tons of statistics show that engagement still stinks, workers feel un-respected and un-involved and motivation basically sucks in so many workplaces. We’ve spent 50 years trying to drive this stuff tops-down with little to show for it other than the costs of our good intentions. (And, sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking to the generalities and commonalities so often observed and expensed.)

People are un-engaged, often actively so. What does it take to do some DIS-un-engagement? Not much, I think. Data says that people want to improve things. The manager should be the motivator, right?

We do lots of surveys with the intentions of making improvements – those initiatives are generally always positive. HR wants to have positive impacts, managers want to improve results and Training and Development really does want to improve skills., dynamics of leadership, and impact collaboration. But it is simply the case that few things driven from the top will make much of a difference at the bottom. Why?

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

It’s just basic human nature. Few people take good care of things that they do not own, and that same ownership applies to how they approach their jobs. Sure, if that rental car is completely trashed, they might clean it up a little so they are not embarrassed, but that does not translate to any kind of exceptional care. They would do things differently if they felt ownership. If people do not feel a sense of participative involvement, it should even surprise you that they do anything more than the minimum.

So, what DO you do? Maybe it is to look for ways to do things from the bottoms-up. Maybe that supervisor can change the nature of how they actively involve people in their workplaces, asking for ideas for improvement or for better ways to collaborate or share information or resources. They become facilitators, they involve and actively engage and support innovation and chaos.

People unmotivated for work

INvolving and engaging people for workplace improvement

Asking for ideas for workplace innovation and improvement

Implementation is chaos

There exists no proven process or designed formula for how to accomplish this; there are too many variables. But the simple, basic idea is that each supervisor take the responsibility for asking their people for workplace improvement ideas and facilitating discussions of possibilities. This generates ownership involvement and active participation. From those ideas, you then determine an approach or approaches to implement them, with the supervisor managing the resources of time and money and roadblocks and interdepartmental collaboration to allow the natural teams to generate some successes.

How to move forward? Do some facilitation skills training and discover and clarify how the best-implemented programs of improvement were accomplished within your organization in the past, since those best practices are more likely to align with the culture and feel more comfortable to people. (It is also useful to look at the failures and find the features of those initiatives that made it unsuccessful.) Learn from your organization and repeat the successes / avoid the failures.

implementation of disruptive engagement

I’ve been playing in organizational performance and people performance since 1978 with a degree in behavioral neuropsychology and I remain frustrated with how little progress has been made. We HAVE all the tools, but we do not seem able to get them into the hands of the people who need them most. Managers only manage, while supervisors supervise the actual work. It is the supervisors who need to understand the corporate goals and then have the ability to align the behavior of their workers to those goals and objectives.

Why is all this so hard? Why can’t we just ask for ideas and involve people in the improvements that they already want to make?

The Square Wheels Project is our newest attempt to put practical and effective tools into the hands of the supervisor so that they can involve and engage their people in the improvements that are possible. We have an online course in facilitation that includes powerpoints and handouts as well as a focus on teaching the skills.

Take a look at the opening page of the 30-minute course and see if something like this might work for you or someone you know. Consider trying the course as a pair of people to support each others’ learning and understanding and initial trials at generating impacts and conversations.

Contact me if you want a discount! Help me leave a legacy…

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Mini-blog on Employee Engagement and Active Involvement – Trust and all that

I generally post up pretty complete thoughts and frameworks but this one is more of a blurt. If  you want me to do more of these, pass the word.

My friend Frank Navran said, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.”

And I think that employee engagement ties solidly onto the tail of trust, in that you need to feel that there is a peer-group safety net to take the risk of showing that you care about the job and about the organization in many organizational cultures.

Workforce said that 1/3 of all employees would forego their raise to have their boss fired. How might that reflect on the likelihood of employee engagement and active involvement, one might think…

Maybe we need to look to do something differently. I mean, does this REALLY need much in the way of New Thinking to generate some alternative behaviors in most workgroups? Is this a Training Issue, or could people simply CHOOSE to do things differently?

The Square Wheels Project and Disruptive Engagement

Don’t Just DO Something; Stand There.

Choose to do some things that will actually generate some active involvement among the people in your workplace. Allow people to address some issues and to successfully implement changes and improvements, Those Round Wheels ARE already in the wagon,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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 themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Trust in the Sand

My colleagues in Romania just sent me an email about one of their blog posts on leadership that had this image within it:

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

I thought it was pretty neat, and it reminded me of my friend and colleague Frank Navran’s quote that:

“Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled”

and how easy it is to simply wipe it away with some foolish behavior…

All it takes is a gust of wind to change things and we need to be reminded that trust is something we need to maintain, not just do once in a while.

Now Vio’s blog is written in Romanian, and even with translation services, I am not going to spend much time going through his key comments around the elements of trust; I simply reacted to his email and sent him the following:

“Trust is not just about writing in the sand. It is also about having perspective, moving about to see what is really happening around you and being willing to move about to potentially see things from other positions rather than from where you are standing. It is also about involving people with shared goals and acting collectively. I think it can also look like this:”

Footprints in the Sand and perspective on surroundings, by scott simmerman

We should also be reminded and mindful about the diversity of people within our organizations and about the reality that all of us know more than any of us when it comes to generating ideas and engagement for improving workplace performance.

Here at Performance Management Company, we sell simple tools for impacting teamwork (Vio at HumanInvest has our Lost Dutchman game in English and Romanian) as well as impacting innovation and motivation. We suggest that leaders work to actively involve their people in generating ideas for improvement and facilitating creative problem solving as well as generating alignment and collaboration.

We also have a simple online facilitation skills training course and toolkit (really cheap and highly effective!) at The Square Wheels Project.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

If not you, WHO? If not now, WHEN?

If not you, WHO?
If not now, WHEN?

I love that short little quote about personal accountability and action. Of course, we can always wait for someone else or we can simply choose to wait, which tends to be the most common response of people to opportunities. Lots of statistics point to the small numbers of “early adapters” of new programs or organizational change efforts while the bulk of managers simply sit and watch to see the results.

But, if things are going to change, someone needs to make them change.

If it is to be, it is up to me!

Otherwise, things will just roll like they have always rolled., which in my view of the world tends to look like this:

Square Wheels One by Scott Simmerman at Performance Management Company

Things tend to roll along like they always have and why not. Things stay the same unless they change… And the continuous un-engagement of the wagon pushers is no surprise, since their view of the future tends to be, “boards and hands.”

Most wagon pulling leaders work hard, pulling the wagon and trusting that the measurements and expectations and performance appraisal mechanisms will insure that the people at the back are pushing instead of pulling. After all, what choice do they have? So, they simply keep pulling, hoping that things will always be okay.

But let’s challenge these assumptions. Let’s assume that day after day, month after month, year after year, all this gets really old and somewhat de-motivating. New hires become dis-engaged over about 6 months and regress to the average enthusiasm of the other workers even as their skill levels increase. And, the good workers will tend to blame their wagon pullers for a lot of the communications issues.

How bad is it? I share some stats in my post of a few days ago (here) but two that stand out are these:

• 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired.
• 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job.

This all begs the question of what might be done differently to generate improvements, basically, The Who and The When.

DDI recently shared some statistics that suggested only 11% of supervisors get management training. So, we can guess that support for skill development will not be coming soon from Training and Development / HR. Nothing new there… They simply have other priorities.

The reality is that people will continue to come into the workplace dragging. And if nothing changes, nothing changes. They are, for the most part (70%), un-engaged, un-enthused and un-involved, and the best predictor of the future is the past.

Spring Forward Monday should be engaging and motivating

So, who other than their supervisor can change things? How can that supervisor become a Draggin’ Slayer and choose to do things that might DIS-un-engage them and generate some active involvement around identifying the Square Wheels® that exist and the Round Wheels we always find inside the wagon?

Draggin' Slayer - What are some Square Wheels by Scott Simmerman

Which, when facilitated with active questioning and group involvement, can begin to break the ice around communicating about issues and opportunities. It is NOT instantaneous in some workgroups where there is hostility of a lack of trust, but it DOES work if we keep asking questions and responding positively to the initial ideas. The process itself is pretty bombproof.

Draggin Slayer Active Involvement Square Wheels LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Having been around corporations and other businesses for 35 years, I actually see NO real solution to the issues we face in motivating and involving workers other than through the direct actions of supervisors.

Operations have always been this way; exemplary performers doing things differently than everyone else and exemplary supervisors choosing to defend their top performers from “corporate bureaucracy” — and simply managing people better. The best managers have always gotten people talking about Square Wheels and playing with Round Wheel ideas for improvement.

Let's implement Round Wheels by Scott Simmerman

We simply cannot go #morebetterfaster if we continue to do the same things the same way and wait for help from above. It just is not going to happen! Our better managers ask questions and solicit ideas from their people, generating motivation and innovation. You simply cannot drive this from a tops-down approach since you can never reach the people who are doing the work.

Square Wheels Draggin Slayer Getting Motivation by Scott Simmerman

If you can share a more effective or impactful approach to involving and engaging people in the workplace, why not contribute a comment? Workers DO have ideas about improving their workplace and impacting quality and productivity. Working together can foster teamwork and peer support and many of the other intrinsically motivating aspects linked to accomplishments.

Building communications and trust between workers and managers is an important factor in employee retention and skill development and cascades into innovation and service quality and customer retention.

We offer a SIMPLE toolkit for facilitation skills development at The Square Wheels Project. For a tiny bit of money, supervisors can gain access to an online course and also the powerpoint and handout sheets needed to have a productive and engaging meeting (or meetings, actually) with their people about issues and opportunities for workplace improvement.

The Square Wheels Project marketing logo for facilitation skills

If we can encourage our supervisors and managers to think differently and go off on their own paths to improving involvement and engagement and motivation of their people, is there really any downside? I guess you could call this empowerment. But how else are we going to take advantage of our human capital and go #morebetterfaster? The managers should be the motivators.

Share your thoughts and reactions,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

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

Engagement – Think Local, Act Local

I was reading an article on adapting things like HomeKit and Echo into the way people interact with their homes. Alexa is pretty cool, but there are issues around its inability to recognize voices and there have been instances of voices on TV actually telling the system to order products online and the reality that a burglar could simply tell the system to turn off security alarms. The point that author Seyi Fabode was making was that one of our most basic needs is for security and safety, both at home and in the workplace where so many of us spend so much time and emotional energy.

MY thinking about his thinking was framed around a workshop I attended by Brad Thomas with my local ATD group yesterday morning. Brad was focusing on the implementation of full-company engagement systems and his excellent talk was anchored somewhat to these local issues but mainly focused on the corporate commitment to generating and acting on large amounts of employee feedback to frame up issues and opportunities.

In that Big Picture Corporate Model, things needed to cascade down from the top and that HR departments had to rethink how they focused so that they could actually bring human resource capital into play for their operational counterparts, that they could not simply remain the paper pushers they are in so many places. HR needed a seat at the corporate boardroom table to focus on the people side of improvement initiatives. It seems like an awful amount of senior management engagement and systemic change was a requirement before ANY actions could occur.

And when you have, as I once did, senior executives out there saying (or believing) things like this about people / engagement / involvement and being actively working to generate innovative ideas:

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator,”

you pretty much KNOW that you are not going to be successful working from the tops downward forward. (And, yes, there are senior managers who could not care less about employee involvement and ideas — we seem to have one in the White House if you need an example.)

These two things clanged for me about an hour ago. Big Corporate Solutions trying to solve the issues of the worker / supervisor interface. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as results seem to consistently show, pretty much everything… Overall, statistics seem to show that OD things look pretty much like this:

Corporate engagement programs don't work well

From this month’s issue of Workforce magazine (3/17), Rick Bell shared some  statistics and anchor points. Supervisors clearly improve their leadership and engagement skills. Some tops-down corporate program to improve overall engagement will simply not get traction:

• 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired

• 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor

• 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Other statistics supporting the idea of local control / local influence include:

• “Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face. This persistent gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity to leaders and managers.” (Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey, April 2016)

• Only about 1 in 3 US managers are engaged in their jobs, and about 1 in 7 are actively DISENGAGED. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. (Gallup)

Bell and others share these statistics, however, so there IS opportunity here if we can improve the interaction between workers and their managers. A short list of opportunities and benefits looks like this:

  • Managers are the Number 1 way that people feel supported by their organization
  • Managers influence 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores
  • Close to 60% of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss
  • Close to 70% of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal among men and women, but younger workers in their 20s and 30s were even higher (80%)
  • Over half (55%) of those polled, think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss
  • Only 4 in 10 of Americans will thank their boss on National Bosses Day with most believing that their boss wouldn’t care enough to bother
  • About 10% said they would use the day as an opportunity to talk to their boss and improve the relationship

——————————————–

Try this:

Have a conversation with someone who works in an organization and ask about how they feel they are being managed. I had two such conversations with people in my pool league two nights ago. Absolutely eye opening!

——————————————–

So, what IS a viable solution? Understand that the Big Corporate Improvement Program Initiatives seem doomed to fail unless organizations impact that supervisor / worker interface and make it more supporting and effective. And you can probably figure out that working to engage workers working for the 1 in 7 managers who are actively DIS-engaged within their own organization is simply a waste of money and resources.

Throw some mud at the wire fence!

Break away from the Big  Corporate Program Mentality and do some Guerilla Engagement. Give some of your better supervisors the tools they need to improve their effectiveness. Allow them to improve their interactions with their people and to improve their facilitation and involvement skills.

The Square Wheels Project is an online training program designed FOR SUPERVISORS who need some training and some tools to improve communications. The Spring Forward Monday Toolkit is a package of tools (handouts, powerpoints, posters and instructions) to give supervisors the framework for a series of meetings and implementation action plans for simple ideas for workplace improvement and innovation, to allow more teamwork and active involvement.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

The Square Wheels Project is not THE Solution to anything, but it does represent a most excellent alternative to the initiatives that are generally not working very well, a step forward in the effort to improve communications.

Square Wheels Project Draggin Slaying Supervisor

But some facilitation skills training can certainly help your managers to become better motivators and better leaders. Help them lead on-site workplace innovation and improvement initiatives at the very bottom-most layer of your organization, where most things are actually happening. Do things differently and let them lead!

Solve the small problems in simple ways, keeping a sense of safety and security in place with your supervisors feeling a minimal amount of risk for doing something differently. Look for some “small answers” to local issues and build things from the bottoms up. Make real improvements where you can, instead of looking for Big Answers from a distance.

Addendum: Since initially publishing these thoughts, I have begun to focus on a framework of Disruptive Engagement, which takes in much of this thinking and adds more data and rationale. You can find those blogs by clicking on the two images below.

Square Wheels by Scott Simmerman of Performance Management CompanyDisruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman

 

Our stupidly simple tools are designed help any manager get some really effective, performance-focused improvement conversations going using better facilitation skills and our metaphors, plus our online help and networking,

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


The two newer blogs can be found by clicking on the links above or by going to:

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

or

Radical Candor and Disruptive Engagement

 

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