Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: employee engagement (Page 2 of 6)

Intrinsic Motivation and Engagement – Training is NOT the answer

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

I read that in an old John Le Carre novel 20 years ago and it stuck with me. It is just one of those quotes that just makes some sense out of why so many things can be improved. Using my metaphor for how Square Wheels really work in the workplace, we have something like this:

ideas are goodconnected with:

Square Wheels ideas are good implementation

A reality of organizations and training globally is something like this:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress 700Mand that also relates to:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress Down 700M

Engagimentation is my term for Dis-Un-Engagement, which is acting to remove the things that people perceive as un-engaging. It is simple roadblock management when you reduce to the ridiculous, but it can be done in a way that actually generates intrinsic motivation and the sense that the organization is listening.

I think that the typical Training looks like this, an attempt to build individual strengths:

Muscle Building yellow cartoon

The reality of going back to work generally looks like this:

SWs One Muscle Puller yellow © border

Because we cannot generally address organizational structural and process issues in much of our training, and because of issues like resistance to change and a lack of overall workplace engagement, we have a wide variety of performance based issues. Here is an article on the problem of how we manage people and here is an article about workplace intrinsic motivation from other popular blog posts of mine.

One possible solution to these issues of ownership involvement and problem solving and intrinsic motivation would be better facilitation of ideas for performance improvement from the workers. We offer some simple cartoon-based tools for that purpose.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Lastly, remember to have some fun out there!

See our poems and quips blog

square wheels author

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

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

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

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Square Wheels and really expensive alternatives to Round Wheels

John McDermott sent me a link to a device called a Cubli – I thought the video cute and then, since it is a “square thing,” how I might play with this a bit. After all, I am all about innovation and implementation, people and performance, and understanding the reality that The Round Wheels are already in the wagon that rolls on Square Wheels

The Cubli looks like this and clicking on the image will take you to a Gizmodo site and an expensive female British voice describing its design, the physics involved and its “behavioral flexibility.”

Cubli

Basically, the little device can sit there like a paperweight or it can balance on a point or on an edge or it can be taught to actually “roll” in a slow and very controlled manner, something they call “jumping and walking.”

Check out the video and then pop back here and I will roll forward with some of my ideas and analogies of how this little device actually DOES link to organizational behavior and people and performance…

The first video shown of the device appears here — like most good ideas, it started out by not being able to do much other than be lifted up to balance and maintain itself on one point. It is connected to a computer system with its network of wheels, motors, controllers and program. That video says that it was designed by a group of students from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, a Swiss organization. The second and much more professionally done video shows that even more people were involved and the cube itself went from wired to wireless. The second video also says that it was invented by The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I am only guessing when I think that the Institute now wants credit! (ALL organizations are political organizations, you know!)

It is described as follows:

Cubli’s secret is a set of flywheels located behind three of its faces. When they’re spinning at high velocities they’re individually controlled to allow the cube to maintain its balance, but they can also be abruptly stopped which causes the cube to be launched into the air. By carefully controlling how the cube stands, falls, and moves, it can even walk its away (sic) across a flat surface, in a manner of speaking. 

The lead researcher then elaborated:

Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up. Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner. In addition to balancing, the motor torques can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities — jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling — the Cubli is able to ‘walk’.

And the narrative includes the point that, “Rapid breaking of the spinning wheel allows it to transfer its angular momentum and flip up onto an edge.”

Okay. So here we have a almost a dozen people at a Swiss research institute using government funding to develop a cube that can basically balance itself on an edge or point or rotate on a point. The Cubli is “commanded” to move.

So, my deviant brain spins off into a few new directions after viewing the videos…

They use round “inertia reaction wheels” and they missed the opportunity to use SQUARE wheels for that purpose, since they would have worked great and also made it a bit more elegant and congruent. A cube with Square Wheels.

Like a lot of projects, this Cubli one took a lot of creative energy of a lot of people to implement a solution that no one apparently needs. And I wonder the actual cost of all this… I mean, even the video’s reference that it makes for a really interesting paperweight (and one that might work really well in windy conditions or in an earthquake!).

A toy gyroscope can do much of the same kind of work. Like Round Wheels already in the wagon, those already exist and are proven to work just fine. You can also get that to spin around an axis in a circle and you can get one in a zillion places for less than $10. They make neat hands-on and engaging science gifts.

gyroscope

And, for $49, National Geographic will sell you a magnetic levitating globe that hangs in the air and spins freely:

levitating globe

A yo-yo also has many of the same behavioral characteristics and is a lot more fun to play with and a lot less costly. You can watch some amazing yo yo tricks here — but remember that the yo yo is spinning all the time! And when they play with multiple yo yos on one string, that seems really amazing to me…But people can do amazing things with the tools that they have.

My point in all this? We can spend a lot of time and energy focused on things that have no real benefit, or we can use the things that we already have to make things more fun and interesting. And the kinds of skills that people can develop are really amazing — some of those yo yo performers are absolutely incredible and you would never know from looking at them what they can actually accomplish. A yo yo in each hand, doing tricks that amaze.

This 3-minute video at the 2005 yo yo championship has had over 4 million views. Three minutes of amazing tricks with a spinning toy and people developing the intrinsic motivation to take their skills to an unreal and unimaginable level. Why can’t we do this more often in the workplace?

Suzuki yo yo

Its about people and performance, people.
And the Round Wheels and motivation are already in the wagon!

Elegant Solutions

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

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

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

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Square Wheels, timing and rhyming on issues

Yes, viewers, Scott goes off on another creative tangent. I am hoping that you will find these fun, because it WAS fun to create these illustrated poems on the workplace, motivation, change, innovation and improvement. How things really work and possibilities for improvement are my focus – people and performance.

I am putting a whole lot of these together on a Pinterest page, should you want to see more of the “Completed Works on Square Wheels.” You can find this Pinterest page here:  http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/work/

So, here are a few that were stimulated when I read a few Dr. Seuss poems for inspiration. I will start with a couple themed to Square Wheels One to set the stage and then go off into some of the other illustrations and thoughts. Your feedback would be great and feel free to LIKE this page and hit me on Google + also.

This got me going, I will admit.
These cartoons may give a fit.
They’re meant to give you some ideas,
but maybe all you’ll do is sneeze.
    (grin)

(A quick check shows I have 113 illustrated poems!) Let me start with this Square Wheels One illustration, one that I used in yesterday’s blog.

SWs One all the things you won't see red

And then we move on to some other thoughts

mud job pay different way poem

balloon in the air share poem

Desk better way poem

Desk substitution one less bump per revolution poem

Intrinsic less wheel of wagon shake poem

or there is this one along similar lines:

Intrinsic places we'll go poem

Celebration plane horse game poem

My thoughts are around involving and engaging people, and allowing them easy ways to identify issues in the workplace and to design approaches to solve problems, build teamwork and improve workplace performance.

Part of the issue is simply recognizing that things could be done differently. It is about the choices we have and the choices we make. It is about discussing possibilities and identifying ideas for increasing involvement.

SWs One - what you see is all border

So, I think that is it for this post. But I will keep on playing, throwing mud at the wire fence until I am sure of what is sticking where. Hope you LIKE this stuff,

For the FUN of It!

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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The Play’s The Thing – More Cartoons on how organizations really work

Organizations need to make continuous progress on workplace improvements so that they can sustain intrinsic motivation among the staff and retain some level of competitive innovation in products and services. That is a given.

But the reality is that people are un-engaged and de-motivated by “continuous un-improvement” and are frustrated because their ideas are ignored and their efforts unappreciated. At least that is the consistent result of a few hundred workplace surveys!

CAN things be improved? Sure. Think “Best Boss” and what that individual did differently for you and your work. The ideas for improvement and engagement are pretty straightforward, but it just seems like so many managers and supervisors simply cannot do those simple things to involve and engage people and performance.

To that end, I continue my series of illustrations and captions about how things work. My idea is that maybe I can rattle a cage somewhere and get at least a few people to see what they might do differently. After all, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and it is simply an issue of identification of Square Wheels that often leads to ideas and implementation.

Captions – Part One

Captions – Part Two

Don’s Just DO Something. Stand There.

So here are a few more cartoons and captions for your enjoyment. Let me know which ones you like best.

SWs One Today was good today was fun

SWs One brain in head feet in shoes

SWs One all the things you won't see red

 

SWs One all the things you won't see yellow

SWs One Nothing is NOT

SWs One They're everywhere

SWs One Collective Intelligence

 

So, please let me wrap this up with this last one, which is kind of a closing theme.

 

Brainstorming Their ideas are BETTER

 

You can find our Square Wheels Toolkits on our website. We offer a variety of different bundles of cartoons in powerpoint, handouts, and ideas / instructions for how easy it is to involve and engage people in your performance improvement initiatives.

Have FUN out There!

Elegant Solutions

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/

Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Square Wheels and funny captions – The Joke is on Who?

Funny how the brain works…

I got a list of slogans and tagwords for beauty products and computer software and I happened to be working on my illustrations in a powerpoint file. So, those two things crashed together and I got silly. The end result is a whole bunch of illustrations about how organizations work and themes of process improvement, leadership and the like.

I should probably figure out how to do this as a poll so you could vote for your favorite but that is probably more difficult than I would need to do to accomplish my basic goal of making you laugh, too! Literally, I am giggling as I put some of these slogans and images together here alone at my desk, which raises the simple question of, “Have I been doing this too long?”  3smiley

Understand that this all started with my basic illustration, a wooden wagon rolling on wooden Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. There are many meanings and anchor points around leadership and motivation and engagement and process improvement and similar kinds of organizational and personal development themes.

And everyone needs to step back from the wagon every so often and involve and engage the team to share their ideas about new ideas and how to best implement improvements. It is all about teams and all about intrinsic motivation.

SWs One green watermark

So, here are a few of my new creations. Your thoughts, reactions, ideas, issues and any new thoughts would be appreciated, for sure. Some of these are probably more obvious than others.

SWs One Qwality

SWs One Making Sense

SWs One - working on improvement

SWs One Effortlessly Managing People Processes

SWs One THINK You are pulling

SWs One - motivating and engaging seriously

SWs One some time to think

SWs One Because it works that way

Yeah, there are more of these things and I keep having fun with the idea that people are dis-engaged and un-involved and that the illustrations are a simple and powerful tool to address these issues in almost any workgroup.

You can find Part Two of these captioned cartoons here

You can find Part Three, where I start rhyming, here

See my blog post on slogans around people and performance here

Have fun out there and make a difference to someone today.

 

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/

 

Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part One

This is Part One of a five-part post on issues surrounding people and performance and managing and leading change. Included are some ideas about:

  • managing change and personal growth   
  • assisting change management initiatives
  • developing individual and organizational potential

“I have a microwave fireplace at home…
You can lay down in front of the fire all night in 8 minutes.”
(Steven Wright, comedian)

Sometimes we expect “microwave fireplace results” when it comes to improvement and change. But improvement is never fast; it depends on the creation and realization of new possibilities and outcomes and occurs with some amount of trial and error. Call it continuous continuous improvement — but more on that later.

Realize that everyone has unrealized potential and this unrealized organizational and individual potential can be coached and supported; most individuals need the support and coaching of others to be successful. And there can be any number of issues and difficulties involved with these changes.

In order to begin any improvement process, it is important to focus on

  • understanding and capturing ideas and possibilities
  • reformulating and restructuring those ideas into a usable form and
  • then transforming them into actions and behaviors.

1adelphabredowiiThe situation reminds me of a story:  Two caterpillars are chatting and a beautiful butterfly floats by.  One caterpillar turns to the other and says,

“You’ll never get me up on one of those butterfly things!”

Before moving on, take a moment and consider the meanings of this story. There are some wheels within wheels herein and some important lessons on perspective, leadership and creativity. So STOP for a moment and consider the story again.

Okay. What you’re being asked to consider may seem similar to what John McEnroe said on losing to Tim Mayotte in a professional indoor tennis championship:

“This taught me a lesson, but I’m not sure what it is.”

I’ve told the caterpillar and butterfly story many times. And people always “get it” as I did when first reading it. But there is also a major paradox in the story as it applies to thinking, personal growth, managing change and leading performance improvement. I can state the learning lesson as:

It’s Dangerous to think you know “The Answer.” *

* That’s “The” as in “Duh.”

As I first developed and used this story about the caterpillars and the butterfly, I assumed that everyone understood that the joke / story was about resistance to change — a single simple answer: “You’ll Never Get me…” But when I asked a room full of people to talk about the meaning of the story in an Asian training session, I was shocked by their many answers, since most were not about my answer but their perceptions.

In asking people to discuss the joke over the past years, there have been many different responses and answers, including:

  • Caterpillars have no need to fly. They are well grounded!
  • Caterpillars can eat anything green and find food everywhere.
  • Butterflies are a stage beyond caterpillars.
  • Butterflies have to fly to get anywhere and caterpillars can crawl and climb.
  • We can attempt to resist and suffer the stress and difficulties.
  • We can choose to be active participants in change. Or not, maybe.
  • We go through stages of development and butterflies are one stage closer to death.
  • Risk avoidance is normal.
  • Change is often actively resisted.
  • Change is inevitable.
  • Caterpillars don’t like wings.
  • Caterpillars must hate flying since they don’t even try.
  • Caterpillars focus only on eating and survival.
  • Butterflies can get blown around by the wind, but caterpillars can drag their feet!
  • Metamorphosis is an uncontrollable process with an unclear result.
  • Metamorphosis is a dark, damp, confined place, so I’m scared!
  • It’s easier for butterflies to develop perspective than caterpillars.
  • You have to stop being a caterpillar in order to become a butterfly.
  • Change is not always a conscious decision. Change will occur, inevitably.
  • There is a need for vision and perspective — we’re all on a journey to somewhere.

and my favorite answer:

  • I’ll NEVER be a butterfly; My mother was a moth.

How many times do we self-limit our perceptions and our thinking because we “know the answer” and thus don’t even think about different possibilities? I find this to be a very common occurrence — and one most deserving of our personal reflection and analysis.

When people talk about this story of caterpillars and butterflies among themselves, a most remarkable thing usually happens: They discover that they share different perspectives and a diversity of ideas, which is common when people discuss things. And each has a unique perspective.

Yet most of us, when we know “The Answer,” will generally self-limit any consideration of other possibilities and limit our thinking.

The fact that we can generate other ideas is a most interesting outcome. All of us have the capability to generate ideas and possibilities. What we need is a simple tool and shared base of experience and common ground. Most would agree that being a butterfly is a “higher existence” than remaining a caterpillar.

The story also links to some key learning points on leading change and dis-un-empowering people, including:

  • Even though we often resist change and risk, change is often inevitable!
  • Change will occur and we can choose to be active participants and go with the flow – or we can attempt to resist and suffer the stresses.
  • Each of us goes through many stages of development, a process that occurs repeatedly over time.
  • It’s easier for butterflies to develop perspective on things than it is for caterpillars since they have a better viewpoint.
  • Caterpillars focus only on eating and survival. There is more to life than this.
  • What is needed is vision and overall perspective – we are all on a journey forward.
  • Having gone through a process of change may make the next cycle of change less threatening and somewhat easier.
  • We need to be engaged and involved in the process itself rather than feel imprisoned by our environment. Change cannot be done “to” us — forcing the action typically generates active resistance to the process.

Possibilities are endless! Choosing to change is a really important part of improvement. And we all have a bit of the butterfly within us.

Before moving on, consider the meanings of this story about resisting change and making choices. There are wheels within wheels herein and some important lessons on perspective, leadership and creativity. So please stop for a moment and consider the story again.

“One cannot become a butterfly by remaining a caterpillar.”

1eurytidesmarcellus

Change and personal growth is all about discovering the inevitability of change and the need for one to clarify a vision of the future.

We all have the need to change, since the world around us is changing. Accepting that change is inevitable, that the future is often unknown, and that change is simply one more stage in the continuous growing that we do as human beings is an applicable premise.

Understanding the basics of change and development is useful. Knowing that change is something we can choose to do is important. Knowing that change cannot be pushed but can be coached is helpful.

Be the Butterfly!

Mentoring color b4

Go to Part Two – click on image

In later posts, we will talk about ideas for involving and engaging people in the change process, coaching and mentoring,

You can go to Part Two by clicking here

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

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

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Top Performers Least Engaged Workers? Low Performers Most Involved?

In 4 of 10 companies, low performers were more engaged than the high performers, a paradox that has some big implications for your organization’s long term results. The people who are bringing you the least impact are more engaged than your best performers, who need involvement and engagement for you to retain them. Yeah, motivation is a funny thing!

John Baldoni shared some survey data from LeadershipIQ on the HBR Blog Network, which has a nice pdf analysis of the data. It IS thought provoking. John wrote this up well and gave me permission to repost, so I will keep this whole post short and link to it with some other blog posts on my thinking. I will retain his links and add my cartoons! Here is what John wrote:

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere.

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Overlay - duck color

While low performers may be more engaged, their efforts may not be as productive, especially since it’s the higher performers — disengaged though they may be — who are doing all the work. The underperformance of the former undermines the effort of the latter. This is especially true, according to the study, when low performers are not held accountable for poor performance. These employees may not even know they are doing a poor job.

Naturally when poor performers are allowed to slide by, it erodes the morale of high performers who feel, again according to the study, “helpless about the trajectory of their careers.”

 (Read Scott’s blog about “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”)

“We had seen plenty of cases where managers avoid dealing with low performers (because they believe the conversation will be difficult), and instead assign work to the employees they enjoy — i.e. high performers.,” says Murphy. “And as a result, they end up ‘burning out’ those same high performers they enjoy so much.”

While I find Leadership IQ’s findings linking high engagement to poor performers to be contrarian, it is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system. This is a comment I hear not infrequently in my coaching work.

So what to do about it? Murphy offers two suggestions. “First, leaders need to set very explicit, and behaviorally-specific, expectations for performance. These expectations need to define and delineate good, great, and even poor performance so employees and managers can clearly define and differentiate best practices, teach those practices to others, and then hold people accountable accordingly.”

Doing this, according to Murphy, “gives high performers confidence that their manager understands the meaning of ‘high performer’ and it holds the manager accountable to actually differentiate employees on the basis of their performance.”

Second, Murphy suggests regularly monthly leadership meetings (perhaps lasting no more than 20 minutes) that ask managers about what’s going on in their workplaces and how motivated they feel. As Murphy says, “If a company CEO were told that their best customers were unhappy, it’s a safe bet that CEO would be on a plane within hours. If we truly believe that people are our most important asset, shouldn’t we pay a bit more attention to the engagement of the best of those people?”

Senior management needs to communicate more clearly, hold people at every level accountable for results, and actively invest time and resources in the talents of high performers.

All too often companies do not know their employees are unhappy until they leave. Exit interviews reveal that they leave because they did not believe anyone cared. Research has confirmed the old saw that people leave bosses, not companies. That makes holding bosses accountable for employee engagement critical.

Senior leaders need to do a better job of teaching managers how to be better managers. And they also need to apply such standards to themselves.

———————————–

I trust that you find this data and John’s framing of it to be of interest and use, as I did. If we expect workplace performance to improve, engagement and involvement are an easy way to address these opportunities. Doing another survey is not going to help us. Focusing on Dis-Un-Engagement is much more likely to pay dividends.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

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

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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 –https://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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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

Dot-Voting and Square Wheels for Innovation Ideas and Improved Shared Ownership

There is a real need to generate active involvement and engagement and to link that energy to innovation and continuous improvement. So, I wanted to share some ideas about how to get many things accomplished using a great interactive tool that I call “Dot Voting.” There are a bunch of ways to nuance it, but the basic thought is that it is all about actions to generate ownership of ideas.

The impetus to post the blog was a call from the CEO of an engineering company that had great participation from his people in general but he was hearing that better overall alignment needed to occur. He, of course, thought the mission and vision were clear but he also was perceptive enough to understand that everyone was working hard but not in perfect alignment. He was looking for some ideas to build a better sense of consensus among his 23 people.

We discussed his use of my Mission Statement Exercise, which is designed to generate a shared sense of ownership and help develop a clearer sense of goals and values. This is a complete toolkit that we sell on our website. It includes a simple Square Wheels powerpoint set and an explanation of a Fast Networking exercise designed to generate involvement and ownership across all the tabletops.

That Mission Statement development exercise is designed to get their ideas and to accomplish that quickly and efficiently. The discussions that result are powerful approach to clarifying expectations and discovering if expectations, goals and measurements might be incongruent to the overall desired outcomes in a framework that encourages everyone’s thoughts and participation. Involvement is a key to all this. After all,

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car,
and
If you don’t know where you are going,
any path will get you there!

Geese Flying is about organizational behavior

Things are really simple most of the time. When you see geese flying, they work together but you also might notice that one side is longer than the other. Do you know why that is? Simple: there are more geese on that side…

So, the Mission toolkit lays out ideas for how one can pretty quickly get everyone on board and aligned to a common vision of the future and even feel as if they have played a part in that.

There is another tool that works great with large groups to get ideas and opinions and that can help drive a sense of consensus and that is Dot Voting, which also goes by Multi-Voting, cumulative voting and even dotmocracy. The concept and approach are quite simple and straightforward and there are different forms of use and delivery. As you might gather, it is democratic and evenly weighted in terms of individual opinions.

Some of the benefits include:

  • People get to browse a lot of data and information processed by other people
  • They get a chance to give their vote or votes to items on which they agree
  • It works with small tabletops as well as large events
  • Lots of ideas and information are collected and processed, allowing for an immediate “read” on the results as well as continued study and analysis. 
  • Everyone participates and everyone is engaged
  • The manager or facilitator can stay neutral and allow for peer pressure and peer support to bring ideas and potential actions together
  • One can reach an immediate decision, if things are structured that way
  • It works exceptionally well for brainstorming and for Square Wheels idea sessions

The basic rules are as follows:

  • A facilitator is needed to run the session and keep things moving. That can be a manager or supervisor, but they would need to be neutral on the content and focused on allowing the session to flow.
  • Each person gets a certain number of colored sticky dots. All people get the same number.
  • People vote on the ideas or work done by a group of people at a tabletop. 
  • People cannot vote on their own work.
  • You may have multiple rounds of voting, each using different dots meant to indicate different things (discussed further, below)
  • You share a time limit for voting – and you ring a bell to suggest that there are only 30 seconds left for voting
  • You want everyone to have sufficient time to look at the work of many or all of the other tables. You want them to see how many good ideas there are as well as have a vote in what happens
  • Some closure or summary is needed. This can be done by the facilitator or by people who speak for their tabletop’s work or by a senior manager who has the position power to do things. 
  • All votes and ideas and work are anonymous
  • You may drive for some immediate action, or actions can be deferred. You can allow people who want to work on that “popular” item to form self-managed teams and go stand by or sign their names to that sheet of ideas.
  • You can always also provide a Parking Sheet for collecting other good ideas that did not get represented in this immediate work.

Some attempt may be made to insure that each tabletop is working on something different than the others and we generally use the Square Wheels metaphor about how organizations really work to set up the language and process of improvement. A sample worksheet looks like this:

The Square Wheels problem solving worksheet of Scott Simmerman

In a typical Square Wheels® session, for example, we allow tabletops to share 3 to 5 Square Wheels on worksheets and/or easel pad paper. Then, we first give each table one Large Colored Dot to stick on one of the Square Wheels that they would like to work on, with the goal of developing two or three real solutions or approaches to implement Round Wheels.

Before the tables can then start to work, we review the overall selection to see if any of the selected Square Wheels are the same as others (since one list might have a similar item as another and two different tabletops select the same one). Or, you can just let the process flow. The idea is to allow each tabletop to select an issue that they want to deal with, one that they will have some degree of ownership of.

You can also allow each table to vote more than one time on the finished ideas. You might give each person 4 red dots to vote on which idea is the most critical one to address or give them yellow dots to indicate which would be the most politically or culturally difficult to implement, or green dots to indicate which might have the biggest financial impact on the organization.

Dot Voting SWs 7

I will generally give out blue dots to allow people to vote on which issues they want to see fixed immediately.

Even with a really large group (200+ people), a round of dot-voting will only take 5 or so minutes. What you also get are people looking around at all the other ideas of the other tabletops. (Heck, sometimes people ask me if they can have more dots — I take that as a very positive sign and I do give them extra dots!)

Dot Voting SWs

This is a great kind of informal team building session in that you can allow people to really get involved and working together for improving the workplace. You can see that some issues definitely attract the attention of the group, while others seem less critical.

You can also combine this approach with a Roadblocks Management activity or the Mission Development mentioned above.

(Another beautiful aspect of this approach is that it tends to suppress that “Pet Peeve” kind of thing that one worker might have about something. They might be complaining about one thing for years, but if it gets NO dots, then there is a message there that they sometimes receive. At least, in the future, you can talk about it as not getting much actual support from others in the workgroup!)

Hope this is useful. And try out our tools for involving and engaging people for workplace improvement,

 

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

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

 

Thoughts on building a high performance environment – Teamwork and Flow

Flow” is a simple concept that relates challenges to skills, with the understanding that the two are integrated and that they can dramatically affect performance. A good manager is aware of the relationship, and can structure the work environment to maximize results by keeping things in adjustment.

I expand on this in a long article on my website. You can find this and other performance-related articles and download them by clicking here. Or, you can simply click on the link below to download a pdf file directly. High_Performance_Team_Flow

The concept is based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s model for improving individual performance that blends Challenge with Skills and helps people to frame a process for optimizing performance, both theirs and others. Overall, the situation looks like this:

Flow - Issues Graphic

Low skills in a highly challenging situation generate stress and sometimes fear. High skill levels in a low challenge situation generate boredom. It is not a complicated notion and most of us can readily think of situations where this has occurred.

His model takes these issues and puts forth a different proposal for how to improve performance. That looks like this:

Flow - Image Graphic

“Flow” might be described as becoming absorbed in an activity and tapping into that energy field to perform at a high level. 

A high performance state is where individuals and teams operate most effectively and find that state intoxicating. People who have played my team building exercise, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” often experience flow toward the end of the planning period when everything comes together very rapidly – or not, depending on how their team was working!

Skills and Challenges are important, but environment also counts.

How does one structure the environment to generate flow?

The overall environment generally needs to be supportive to reinforce the positives and minimize the negatives. The key is to set up an environment that helps to engage people and drive such a state of thinking and behaving. The components of a team-based, workplace environment design might have many or most of these components:

  • Clear goals, missions and purpose, where expectations are specific and processes and procedures are understood. Goals need to be perceived as achievable and the individuals must feel they possess adequate skills and abilities. The involvement of the team in the situation can also support flow.
  • Concentration and focus with a narrow field of view. Flow is more likely to occur if focus is on a narrow band of things rather than a broad one. Think of Bob Beamon’s thoughts on that record long jump in the 1968 Olympics. Avoiding distractions and disruptions is very helpful, although sometimes difficult to arrange and influenced by personal concentration skills.
  • Effective Performance Feedback is a critical factor, and one that many people do not well understand or implement (click here to access Scott’s Performance Feedback Analysis materials). To support high performance, feedback needs to be nearly immediate, positive, demonstrate trends in results, be narrow and specific and generally be self-measured and self-produced. When delays are introduced, it is like learning to play the piano when one cannot hear the notes for 30 seconds, a most difficult task.
  • Sufficient resources must be available so that external influences are felt to be minimal and a sense of “local control” exists about what is needed to succeed. Having to wait for equipment or permission is not conducive to a flowing workplace. A sense of control over the situation or activity lends itself to improved results; an internal focus-of-control generates better flow than a reliance or dependence on outside influencers.
  • Mental skills training is important. People should be using skills such as   dissociation, meditation, visual rehearsal or projection, positive self-talk (opposed to the constructive criticism so often used as a leadership technique by management!) and other creative skills that can benefit individuals. People should be able to access high performance mental states and also avoid distractions, both mental and physical. Teams using thinking processes like Ed DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats and other brainstorming or mind-mapping practices can add thinking skills to a problem-solving situation. Self-generated stretch or push goals for performance can create the need to expand and improve results and productivity.
  • A focus on success, rather than avoidance of failure, is important for most individuals. While some may employ a fear-of-failure strategy as a motivational force, it is generally not something that will drive peak performance. Having a focus on achieving success and meeting goals is much more rewarding than avoiding failure or lack of success. Intrinsic rewards support sustained performance much more than any added extrinsic rewards might generate. Achieving the goal and generating immediate positive feedback are powerful motivators and help sustain flow.
  • Balance between ability levels and challenges presented for the team (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult) is a key factor and something that managers and key leaders must attend to for best results.
  • Engagement within the activity itself is important, especially when it is a group or team situation where there may have been some past negativity surrounding this activity. Sharing risk can help minimize distractions and contribute to the feeling of support. Organizations DO have histories, as do individuals.
  • A situation of ownership can help, whereby teammates are enlisted in a shared challenge. This generates peer support for the perceived risks as well as support for the needed efforts. As I have said many times, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Having a sense of ownership can help reduce distractions as well as providing overall support and a decreased sense of risk. Individuals who do not have a sense of ownership involvement will not often create a sense of flow.

All of the above represent manageable environmental factors that managers can influence or control and any of these will help improve performance. And making people aware of the concept of flow is also helpful – the awareness can change how they deal with their thoughts and ideas and the choices they make about their performance.

And Remember, Fun is a helpful addition to almost every team building, high performance or organizational developmental situation.

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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Managing The Mavericks – Caring for the High Maintenance Employee

Lisa Woods penned a really great article on managing the people who are the atypical and hard to manage high-performing and uncommon individuals.

Elegant Solutions

She starts her article with:

“The High Maintenance/High Value Employee.  They earn that name because they require a full fledged management program to reach their peak performance, coupled with an extensive maintenance program to keep them functioning there.  It sounds like a lot of work and it is, but when it comes down to results, if you want your business to stand out above the rest, these are the people that will help get you there, make your business more competitive and create a notable reputation in your industry.”

For me, this gets at a lot of issues and opportunities and, as someone who has found it hard to work in most workplaces, I resonated with a lot of what she has to say. I’ve now been running my business since 1984 and I am glad that I am not working at the Post Office or in some bureaucratic / administrative job somewhere…

Here are the 8 traits that identify these High Maintenance / High Value people:

  1. They are NOT great team players. They would prefer to do their own thing and make their own rules.
  2. They don’t care much for company policy. They know their own value and can’t be bothered by structure.
  3. They don’t like a lot of attention and public praise, for others or themselves.
  4. They are there to work, bring value and move on.  Office cheers and high fives appear very superficial to them.
  5. They are very willing to help others if asked, but do not follow up and maintain a working dialog with the individuals they’ve helped.  It is more of a on-off relationship.
  6. They typically create outstanding relationships with their customers, clients, suppliers etc.
  7. They have a reputation for getting away with things, going rogue, without recourse, because people are afraid of their emotional, sometimes angry, reaction.
  8. They show signs of greatness & creativity, but it is inconsistent, mostly occurring when a problem is brought to them, or when they went on one of their rogue adventures.
  9. They probably have notations in their performance reviews that indicate large swings of ‘outstanding’ to ‘needs improvement’.  At some point they may have been considered for termination because of it.

Yep. I can sure identify with that list. And I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with some of those people over the years. You can probably guess, after reading Lisa’s article that she can also identify with that framework in some way.

Lisa also shares ideas as to how to support these people to optimize their continued engagement and high performance. Innovation and improvement will come from the edges of organizations and these people are often on the edge.

You can read her whole blog here – Caring For The High Maintenance/High Value Employee

Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

lisa5Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.

—————————————-

Hope that you found the article of interest,

For the FUN (and benefit) of It!

Scott small pic

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

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

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Debriefing and Facilitating for Organizational Improvement – Games versus Exercises

Fun versus Value. Activity versus Learning. Age old mysteries…

Maybe I have been at this consulting and training stuff too long, but in a conversation with a prospect the other day, it really got me thinking about the reality of team building and organizational improvement and the VALUE of what we do. I have posted up before many of my thoughts on issues of impact and cost and time, from discussions about why I do not like icebreakers all that much in this article and in this one.

I have also shared a lot of ideas about outdoor training kinds of events, a few of which I like but many of which I view as problematic, such as a paintball game with a group of people who may have some physical impairments. One, on fun and learning can be found here. Another discussion is found here.

There have been a string of article focused on how to improve the impacts of training, such as this one focused on Motivation and Processes or this one talking about how training cannot improve work processes and thus performance.

And there have been LOTS of articles on engagement and dis-un-engagement and the process of involving people for intrinsic motivation and performance improvement purposes. If you search “engagement” on the blog, you will find more than 20 articles playing all around the theme, with statistics and ideas and frameworks.

My favorite post is on extrinsic motivation — in it, I link to an article that is called “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever.” This focuses on the ignored part of the workforce, the quasi-motivated reasonably good performers who show up and put in time but do not perform to their capability — the 50% in the middle. You can download this article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking on the image:

I Quit Article Icon

What stimulated this post was a discussion with a prospect who has great experience facilitating teambuilding for organizations. His view was that a lot of companies do NOT want a fun learning event but would rather choose to simply do something fun. They do not want the session to relate to organization performance or work-improvement issues but simply want to throw some money out to a vendor to show their people that they care! The are looking for no ROI.

It is kinda like what I see when I look at the “Team Building Offerings” of a place like Dave and Buster’s. They actually frame this dinner plus play on the machines as Team Building. Apparently, they think that they can meaningfully relate that arcade games like slotball and shooting hoops and coupons somehow relates to workplace improvement and claimed that teambuilding is one of the specialties of our staff and corporate event planners. I mean, really?

Most of these activities are framed as competitions — and I will write soon about my thinking on the difficulties of turning competition into collaboration in any meaningful or substantial way. A client had me look into this for them and I saw it as fun, but not of much real value for the investment of time and money. Why posture and call it a team building? And what if someone falls down while running to exchange their coupons for “great gifts and prizes” before the clock wound down…

For me, I feel that if a company makes the investment of money, people and time into some event, there should be some impact. An internal HR person in Jacksonville summed it up nicely in a testimonial he sent to me:

Best “Learning Game” I have ever used…  We purchased Dutchman for an offsite meeting to discuss Resource allocation and Collaboration. It was a breeze to facilitate. The participants loved it and more importantly, walked away with lessons that they were immediately able to apply back at the office. The slides and materials allow you to guide the group in almost any direction imaginable. I am still getting comments weeks after the session about the impact it made on the business and the improved performance. A small investment that generates huge results.

I mean, the fact that it links to the workplace issues and that it apparently motivated his people to choose to do something differently is why I designed the game in the first place! And why I think it is a much better tool that so many of the other activities out there. (See a comparison of my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to one of the most well-known games in the team building marketplace by clicking here)

LDGM 1 80

But there is another reality that I wanted to mention, and that is the post-game debriefing activity that should connect the play to the real world of organizational improvement. Yeah, fun is good and all that, but how do we help people make the connections and help them to make better choices in the future.

I have always talked about my exercises like Dutchman and Collaboration Journey as “excuses to debrief.” I want the game design and embedded metaphors to directly link to clean themes for improvement. Turbochargers become a metaphor for Best Practices, for example, and, “The goal is to mine as much gold as we can,” is really focused on the WE and optimizing overall success, rather than focusing on competing to win. Where there are winners, there are many more losers!

So, I absolutely LOVE it when people say things like this:

The feedback from the participants was fabulous.
I led the Dutchman’s Gold Mine game for our Store Manager development as part of their annual conference.
During the game, there were a few “aha” moments but what really brought the point home was The Debriefing. There was a lot of great debriefing material to use and I focused on how the game paralleled our business and how much better the results could be if we collaborated better as an organization.
Scott was extremely supportive and was always available to answer my questions or give me suggestions.  I recommend this game to anyone that wants to build collaboration among and between teams.  It is fun and effective!
After renting the game to initially test it with two large groups, we bought the Professional Edition to run this company-wide
.

This feedback was from Kyla, a trainer with a large retailing organization, who is rolling out the exercise through her whole company. That is really cool! For $8000, their cost of delivery is about $1 a person…)

So, I like HARD questions that focus on the organization’s future. I like discussions that relate to choices people make in the game and then in the workplace. When I ask about what energizes, I relate it to what the managers could do differently. When I focus on Gold, I focus on choices to make improvements in results. The game was about maximizing ROI — that comes from optimizing communications, sharing resources, and working together.

Dutchman Debrief Triad

I would love to hear responses to this, both on the question of fun versus fun learning, as well as on the issue of debriefing activities. I often find so many of the latter so lightweight, so devoid of connection that all comments will be forgotten as soon as the next activity starts. I know that the facilitators think they are doing a great job because there are often smiles all around, but it also seems like nothing gets done after such sessions. One client long ago did one of those firewalking events — a couple of years before the Burger King fiasco * — and people DID talk about doing it. But it was always focused on doing the firewalking and never on anything that happened as a result of that BIG expense to the company…

*Firewalking done by Burger King back in 2001, with 100 marketing employees participating in a “team building and personal growth” session with 12 getting burned and Burger King generating a great deal of publicity — yes, even Dave Barry poked fun at them in an article of his. (you can read more here.  (Dave Barry’s really funny article is here!)

Games are fun and I like games. I like fun. I like to kayak and play pool and all that. But I think that a corporate learning event should be just that, a learning event. I like Dave and Buster’s food — I am just not sure of their impact on organizational improvement. Frankly, I think the teambuilding programs where you actually cook a dinner would be more impactful than simply playing, but the home page of D&B’s says that they have conducted thousands of these events.

For the FUN of It!

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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Is HR the Puppet Master or the Puppet?

There was a great post this morning by Dan Rockwell on his blog, part of which I reproduce here simply because it is a great subject as well as a target of some of my cartoons.

Dan wrote (some snipped):

My worst experience with HR is a broken confidence. She smiled and listened and within an hour violated my trust.

Human Resource personnel are among the most criticized people in business.

HR is criticized for:

  1. Treating humans as resources.
  2. Not understanding positions they’re filling.
  3. Managing paper better than people.
  4. Subservience to policy and procedure.
  5. Defensive, CYA postures.
  6. Lack of operational experience.
  7. Working for the C-Suit, not the people.

New potential:

HR matters because people matter.

“I don’t know about you, but I love HR.” Dr. Vik (Doc) in “The Culture Secret.”

“They are underrated, over-criticized, and underutilized.” Doc says, change the name from Human Resources to Human Empowerment (HE). The job of HE is, “Maximizing human potential.” Doc goes on to say, “HE could be the single biggest champion of your companies Culture.

New ideas for HE:

  1. Focus more on development.
  2. Become more human. Since when does serious work prohibit smiling?
  3. Sit in the seats of workers and do their jobs.

My take is that HR pretty much does what the C-Suite instructs it to do. I wrote:

Well, as they say, “Good Luck with all that.”

It is NOT HR’s fault, it is the C-suite that does to them what it wants and focuses them on the psychopathic side of running a business. Our Generally Accepted Accounting Practices treat people as a cost on the ledger of life. That crap all cascades down.

Over my 30 years, I have seen some attempts to address it in one company or another. The average company will SAY something like, “Our people are our greatest asset,” but then go look for some of that.

Because senior managers like extrinsic rewards, the whole operation works that way. Because senior managers like golf, they do teambuilding around a golf resort. Since people are often disposible, they treat them like paper tissues (I will go no further in that description).

I once had the CEO of a company at a retreat with his top managers blurt, “Asking employees for ideas is like asking the vegetables to design a refrigerator.” (He was not trying to be funny…)

Executives are SO far isolated from the workers that they have little clue as to who they are or what they do. Why should they treat them with respect?

How can a chain of 5000+ retail stores operate with none of the workers qualifying for any benefits — no health care in a company that labels itself a pharmacy?

Look at the people on minimum wage – 80% work for billion dollar companies that are profitable. Some even help their new hires apply for Medicaid and other government benefits designed to help the poor — and these are the new hires.

Let’s not place all the blame on HR. Lots of guilty parties making a lot of financial decisions to support the stock prices, not the people. Are there good exceptions? Surely.

and

Addendum: It is about Money. That means it is about Taxes and reducing costs. Does that really seem like a good base for building people skills and investing in organizational development? Any wonder why “Re-Engineering” took off and the focus changed from improving the processes to reducing headcount.

I always liked this: “How long can we go lean and mean until we become gaunt and dead?” (source unknown)

to which Dan responded:

Seriously, I think you’re nailing an important component of this issue. It seems to boil down to the idea that HR is the “puppet” of people at the top. We know people are reluctant to give up power once they have it.

I think that many organizations run something like this:

Puppet Master One color yellow

and larger organizations tend to look more like this as the control cascades down from leadership:

Puppet Master Two color yellow        Puppet Master Three color yellow

And things can get really crazy as top managers try to gain even more control over how things work and who does what when.

Puppet Master Four color yellow

So, what is the role of HR in all this? Is it to simply help senior managers control the behavior of the employees or is it to help the employees generate a sense of self-worth and to create some engagement and involvement in what happens in their workplaces? Is HR there to help the corporation control “all things people” or simply to help keep costs under control and manage “Human Resources,” you know, the people who do ALL of the Actual Work in the organization?

It is an interesting paradox, for sure.

manager puppet poem

BIG manager puppet poem

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, team building facilitator

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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Some testimonials about our Team Building Exercise, Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

We think that The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an absolutely great team building exercise that allows anyone to help their organization focus on issues of collaboration, optimization of overall results, and improving how organizations implement change and strategy. It links to our Square Wheels tools, elegantly, and thus is a great tool to use for building employee engagement and the implementation of creative ideas for improvement and innovation.

And we are not the only ones that feel that way. Here is one from an internal trainer, one from a international consultant and one from an executive assistant who ran the game with her company’s senior leadership team (and got rave reviews from them!)

Kyla LD testim 100

Andi LD testim 100

Assistant LD testim 100

We find that people who have used some of the competitive products in the marketplace (and by competitive, I mean that they DO generate competition when they should be generating collaboration) are either much more expensive or not as flexible or just not as good (or all three). You can click here for a comparison of Dutchman with Gold of the Desert Kings, for example.

If you want to learn more about the exercise, please visit our website. Or, better yet, give me a call at 864-292-8700. I generally answer my phone most hours of most days and would love to chat about this stuff.

Russ LD testim 100

Herb LD testim 100

Greer LD testim 100

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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