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5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of February 20, 2017

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Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

Is Poor Employee Engagement Management’s Fault? By Brian Fielkow at Entrepreneur.com

A recent Gallup study found that a high percentage of managers around the globe are not meeting the need of their employees; actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1.

Low engagement not only drains companies of morale but also limits their ability to retain “A” level employees and holds back profits. It’s easy to sit back and blame managers for low engagement, but that ignores the underlying systemic causes. Your manager is one of your most valuable resources and the conduit to assuring your established goals and behaviors penetrate the entire company. So, rather than point blame, let’s put our managers in the position to ignite employee engagement by understanding the following concepts…

My Comment: This is an interesting article. On the one hand, I completely agree that systems and culture are the primary influence on an employee’s behavior – and this can be doubly so for managers. On the other hand, we strongly believe that as a leader you have a choice about how you will treat people, that no one can force you to be cruel or inhumane, and that you have it within your power to create a cultural oasis and envelopes of excellence within your sphere of influence.

One point Fielkow makes that I cannot emphasize enough is the incredibly poor job we do to train managers. 50% of managers receive no training. Can you imagine if 50% of our doctors received no training? There would be an uproar and call to fix the problem immediately. Managers are entrusted with the most valuable resource there is: people. Make sure you and your managers receive the tools you need to succeed and take care of that responsibility.

Wake Up! How to Create a More Engaged Workplace Culture by Kathy Steele

Lack of engagement and poor employee retention rates are growing global issues in the workplace. Studies and reports conducted by Gallup, Deloitte LLC., and Quantum Workplace, chart employee engagement in 2016 at 30-35%. This means nearly 70% of the time employees are disengaged, and this margin is severely impacting companies’ bottom lines.

Deloitte’s “Human Capital Trends 2016” report, an annual survey of more than 7,000 HR and business leaders globally, outlines four factors responsible for this shift in work demands. The first is a “demographic upheaval.” Millennials now make up more than half of the workforce, and baby boomers are working well into their 70s and 80s. The second factor is, “digital technology is now everywhere.” Technology is disrupting business models and radically changing the way work is done. Third, the “rate of change has accelerated,” meaning our highly connected, fast-changing world requires businesses to be more agile. Lastly, “a new social contract is developing” between companies and workers, which is driving major changes in the employer-employee relationship.

My Comment: This was a popular article this week and it starts out with great research, but I strongly disagree with some of the recommended solutions. In general, the recommendations revolve around external motivations (eg employee perks, recognition programs, using real photos vs stock photos on websites). There’s nothing specifically wrong with these things. Sure, use real photos. Yes, perks and recognition programs are great. BUT – they only enhance a strong culture and good leadership. Far too many leaders try to address their engagement problems with programs like these without solving the underlying systemic leadership, management, and communication problems that created the low engagement in the first place. Create a truly great place to work first. Then enhance that culture with some of these suggestions.

Employee Recognition: The KISS…method by Julie Winkle Giulioni

Recognition may be among today’s most heavily researched leadership and supervision topics. And the results are consistently disturbing:

  • According to studies by Badgeville research, 79% of those who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as the main reason.
  • Wichita State University research reported that 81% of employees seldom or never received public praise, 76% seldom or never received written thanks from their managers, and 58% rarely or never received praise from their manager.
  • Gallups’s global research finds that employees around the world consistently express dissatisfaction with feedback and recognition.

Making these findings all the more disconcerting is additional research that underscores the vital role that recognition can play within an organization…

My Comment: I enjoyed Giulioni’s suggestions to make sure your recognition is meaningful and effective. In particular, I would emphasize the reminder that recognition is in the ‘eye of the recognized’ – the old saw about ‘praise in public’ is not a good idea for some people. Know how your people like to be encouraged and give them recognition in the way that’s meaningful to them. I won’t share the others, but do check out this list – it’s great!

Six Innovation Leadership Skills Everybody Needs to Master by Robert Tucker at Forbes

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that the world of work is changing. According to an important new study from McKinsey Global Institute, almost half the jobs people currently perform have the potential to be automated by currently existing technology. It sort of makes you wonder: what kind of work will be left for humans to do?

The answer: innovation. Clearly, to thrive in this new world of work will require different skill-sets, mindsets, and tool-sets. Chief among them: the need to bring people together as a team. The need to demonstrate deeper empathy. The ability to get new things done.

My Comment: Tucker offers great suggestions here to help you foster innovation on your team. Of particular note are the ways he encourages you to question assumptions and to develop empathy for the end customer. Among a great list, these two recommendations alone will put you farther ahead than most teams and organizations. He also gives you specific ways to take action on his suggestions – ways you can phrase your questions and prompt your team to get past the tried and true to the possible.

5 Essential Practices for Public Sector Managers by Karin Hurt and David Dye at Careers In Government

2017 was declared “the year of the middle manager” by The Workforce Institute’s Top Workplace Trends for 2017 report. What does this mean for you?

It means that in the public mindset, you’re finally getting recognition as the Rosetta Stone of your organization; an essential interpreter between strategic vision and boots-on-the-ground reality. You deserve this recognition for the role you play. Now, how can you ensure you translate up, down, and across your organization effectively?

My Comment: This week’s most popular article (by a 10 to 1 ratio) were our recommendations for government managers. Whether you’re leading in a public, for-profit, or nonprofit organization, you’ll find solid ideas to help you be more effective by dealing with real issues, not sugar coating, spinning, and avoiding what needs to be discussed.

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