Friday, 27 January 2012

Winning comes down to Hearts & Minds

Looking at this picture, it could be set anywhere...
So if it were your workplace and your team of colleagues that you spend hours per week with, have you ever wondered what they are really thinking when it comes to joint objectives, innovation, conflicts or perhaps relationships?

Perhaps you all share current thinking, demonstrate emotions that are bubbling away... or not.

But how can you make your work (and home) life easier to fathom and influence what evolves each day?

When it comes to determining how best to get the workplace motivated, focused and joined-up, many businesses have great ideas and try hard, some business are too busy dealing with the day to day to give it consistent focus, others do not factor it in at all!

One thing for sure is, especially during tough times for employees and their families, that being happy and secure at work is as important as being safe and secure at home (enough money, happy relationships, social activities, etc). If the positive/negative balance of either Work or Home comes under threat or perceived threat, an individual can quickly become confused, de-motivated, disillusioned, anxious, resistant or disengaged.

Earning an income and maintaining a level of consistency and significance drives most of us, because it is what we are hard-coded to need. So if being at work becomes a chore, where you don't know what is really going on except what you "hear" or perhaps "see" going on, and you don't particularly feel valued or involved, perhaps because everyone is too busy or secretive, then you are going to be making an impact upon your colleagues, manager and the business - perhaps without even knowing it!

What is "hearts and minds" then?
Within the workplace the dynamics of thinking and emotions drive the best and the worst decisions, they drive positive or negative behaviour. Thinking and emotions are the way that people look at and interact with the world around them. This is not fluffy, it is basic human activity and can be found the world over.

When I left the British Army in 1988 the term "hearts and minds" was synonymous with desert campaigns where troops went into local communities to connect with locals and win their "hearts and minds" through understanding what made them tick (motivations, values, beliefs, fears, anxieties, culture, history, traditions) and then interacting with them through this insight. This was and still is, the chosen way to connect with people's emotions and thinking, and to develop significantly potent and deep connections.

Take this into the world of industry and commerce, the rules and applications are exactly the same, the results and longevity are potent. But, how many organisations and leaders, their managers and supervisors, actually accept that winning "hearts and minds" is a useful and effective tool in getting better engagement, less resistance and greater innovation and adaptability out of employed teams?

Make it a focus, get the results..
I am an advocate of putting "tools" into the hands of people so that they can better enjoy and interact with life (at home and work). Often this involves direct interventions to "walk to talk", but once people see how easy it is to connect with others and to create real buy-in, they enjoy the results of new interactions and of connecting with others - they naturally accept the benefit. Any aspect of working with or leading, other people, requires an ability to connect in order to work together well. Just telling someone to do something doesn't work unless of course they rationalise the task positively themselves and do it anyway but will still have a level of resistance. But by working through the "hearts and minds" logic, you have been encouraging them to think with you and develop self-motivated actions ahead of you/with you - which is the key!

Employees and managers, in many work environments today, are under extreme pressure to deliver more with less. Executives and managers feel the stress and pass this on (intentionally or unintentionally) to those around them. The most effective leaders have created better buy-in and support from those around them, who share the emotions linked to objectives and to drive toward the same goals.... so why do they do this?

Not Rocket Science..
This is not about training, it is something we can all do naturally (making friends, networking, etc we want to get behind the person) but often at work it is not considered either appropriate or applicable. But be honest, at work most decisions are driven my doing some due diligence in advance, where you understand what you are up against and what is best to mitigate the risks. So why then not apply this to people management or team dynamics and do the due diligence? What you will find is not only interesting, but invaluable for winning the "hearts and minds" of those around you and for getting breakthrough results - for longer. 

No more will you then assume you have the inside track, no longer will you expect things to happen and then become frustrated/angry when they simply don't happen. By communicating and interacting through the process of  "hearts and minds" you make things "real" for you and others, which creates a momentum that does not require constant review or monitor.

My message?
Whether you are an executive, consultant, manager or employee one thing is for sure, you have to rely upon other people each day and how they behave impacts upon you. How you think and behave will impact upon them. This is called the People Factor and it is alive, working and needs to be understood. People either inhibit or facilitate progress and stability, so it is critical to accept that winning "hearts and minds" is the only way to ensure that you have the types of buy-in and connections that will help and support you. 

I have met many that dismiss "hearts and minds" as fluffy or see them this as an element of having soft skills. I say they are missing the trick and are making work life (and I suspect home and social life) much harder than is necessary - why? because when I was a business leader, I said it too!

What Next?

  1. Do the due diligence and develop "hearts and minds" skills by getting the inside track on what makes people tick. 
  2. Communicate on a level that connects and behave accordingly, so they connect with you.
  3. Embrace "hearts and minds" because it works and has done for centuries.
  4. My previous blogs explain about the basics of Human Needs, I also provide some basic Resources on my website, that explain about how people think and what drives behaviour... why not have a read.

Until next time... Jay

Monday, 23 January 2012

Successful Leaders and The Millennial Generation

Much of my time over the last 5 years has been spent interacting with what I learned to describe as the Millennial Generation!

This is the demographic born in the 1980s and early 1990s, and are now well established in junior and middle levels within organisations. I like the Millennial Generation! 

Why do I like them? 
It is because when you engage correctly with them - which is not always easy - you find that they are smart, alert and you can tap-into their energy, technological know-how, creativity, and up-to-date social media intelligence. They challenge what they see; they give you feedback and often don't accept things at face value.

In the workplace today, staying ahead of the competition and demands of customers, as well as being operationally agile, requires a workforce mind-set that moves quickly and is not fazed by communication "noise" that seems to have become the norm.

 The Millennial Generation, when managed right:
  • Brings more energy into the workplace.
  • Is highly productive.
  • Works well with a team.
  • Is happy to share success with others.
  • Loves individuality – yet still desires a team atmosphere.
  • Works harder for managers who they feel understands them.
Engage... Why?
Business Leaders of SMEs and large Corporates are quickly realising that it is in their best interest to foster understanding, that nurtures and utilises the Millennium Generation. 

The challenge that faces them, is how they ensure that their wider management teams will create the sort of engagement that this generation of employees demand! 

Employee engagement is quite a buzz word right now and you see lots of words splashed all over the business networks and blog community. David Cameron stated in early 2011 that he wants to create a "Guru Group" to lead the way in how best to guide and encourage organisations to invest time and strategy in creating better levels of employee engagement. Initiatives like this are just what are needed for the present and future, so long as we all understand that the Millennium Generation will be a driving force in many of the initiatives that evolve. 

Managers do and will continue to directly impact upon employees day-today working lives and as such need to come to the party in terms of delivering the kind of engaged team that we need.

7-pointers I Share With My Clients’ Teams
  1. The smart manager takes advantage of this generation's intelligence, energy, and technological know-how.
  2. The smart manager insists on learning how to manage the Millennial Generation – soon to become the largest group of workers in the UK.
  3. The smart manager adapts to these fast-changing, uncertain times – and believes that success comes in the continual interaction for new ideas.
  4. The smart manager learns from everyone, everything, and everywhere.
  5. The smart manager promotes a message of hope, hard work, and success.
  6. The smart manager has learned – already! – How to manage the Millennial Generation.
  7. The smart manager understands the Millennials – and uses this information wisely.

Okay then, to summarise 
2012 is going to be a demanding climate for us all, organisations need to be forward thinking and to benchmark the most successful management teams (shown in the Times Top 100 Companies to Work For) helps to show that they have developed ways of creating truly engaged, motivated and yes inclusive teams. Within many of them, the Millennium Generation is active.

My advice to any Business Leaders and their managers, is to fully embrace your Millennium Generation employees. Engage with them, win their trust and look for ways to tap-into what they posses. Then at the same time, engage with the vast experience that exists within the mature employees, to then blend together a potent cocktail of fully functioning and focused teams who are emotionally connected to the overall objectives…

Engage, engage, engage.... the People Factor is already driving your workplace!

Until next time… Jay

Taking Action - Embrace or Avoid It?

On my travels I come across many situations where managers seem torn between doing the right thing and dealing with a potential conflict, and simply overlooking/avoiding the situation and taking no action.

For example, we have all encountered an employee who really frustrates us and drains the life and energy out of the team through inhibiting behaviour. I am sure you agree that when you are in this situation with someone, you know it in your heart that you should act, particularly when they really annoy you or impact upon the work you are doing. Some managers prefer to avoid taking action due to a fear of creating conflict (but conflict is often categorised as a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one, when in fact conflict begins as an interaction that simply needs a desired outcome) .

 Why some managers don't act!
I have found over the years that a manager won't deal with poor performance or inhibiting behaviour, as it could lead to conflict or lead to complications that require more than they want to take on. This decision not to act right away could also be because the manager will have second thoughts, perhaps thinking, “they really do some things very well — sometimes…”

Other reasons often are:
  • The employee has flashes of true brilliance, interspersed with being a drain, so the manager keep changing their mind about his/her value to the team.
  • The manager is afraid to the lose the employee doing some work even if they’re not the best.
  • The employee is doing work that the manager doesn't know how to cover without them.
  • The employee has political support from elsewhere that may be hard to manage.
  • There is a “no replacement” rule and the manager doesn't to lose the headcount.
  • Conflict is hard. On any given day, it’s easier to ignore the problem.
  • It takes time away from “real business.”
  • It’s legally complicated.

But behaviour is contagious

As you know I am a fascinated by people's emotions and thinking, which drives a raft of wierd behaviour in workplace and home environments. Recently I came across a great piece of research from the US called  This American Life prologue, A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there's research to prove it. Host Ira Glass talks to Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. Felps divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. And within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple. Really fascinating stuff and also don’t miss the second act, the Mike Birbiglia segment, showing a comedy routine gone horribly wrong. It’s wonderful.

Rewards for taking action
So where a “Won’t” employee is operating in a team  (this is someone who may be capable but is working against the flow at every turn, annoying other employees, being negative, working against the objective or target) then a manager taking action and dealing with the behaviour displayed gives a payoff far beyond that expected.

In my experience, confronting and turning around or removing a “Won’t” employee has a remarkably positive impact:
  • The manager will be more productive, they will no longer waste time dealing with the variety of annoying, draining, damaging, needing to be corrected or re-worked, “not good enough,”  behaviour.
  • Teame motivation and productivity increases dramatically, even if they have to cover the work.
  • People actually feel the positive impact when negative energy is eradicated.
  • Top performers stay motivated to keep performing.
  • Trust increases with a team, from showing that good performance counts for something.
  • If removing the person, managers can lobby that the action is a critical skill replacement, they will often get their replacement headcount, even if the rules say no.
Taking action
Here are a 3 things a manager should always consider:
  • They need to be honest with themselves and not shy away from taking action, hoping it will simply improve - face it head-on!
  • Behaviour impacts upon many aspects of relationships, innovation, stability and results!
  • Addressing a "won't" employee gives a manager confidence, they begin to understand that people dynamics are a critical team and performance element!
  • Setting the behaviour and culture standards is not unlike parenting and you reep what you sow - being consistant and measured means that the people dynamics are being managed and they are not 

Finally... remember that everyone is watching

It’s also important to realise that the stand-off between a manager and a "won't" employee is not just between them both. The whole team sees it and are watching and waiting to see what will be done about it. The longer it is left un-resolved, the more the manager degrades their credibility and the trust from the rest of the team, and maybe, even with any peers and the boss. This is the least fun part of management, but when leading a team of employees, it is important to face poor and inhibiting behaviour.

To read more about People Dynamics (the People Factor) why not visit my Resources pages at

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