Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/vhosts/mcassociatesinc.com/httpdocs/wp-content/plugins/cb-simple-video/shortcode.php:32) in /var/www/vhosts/mcassociatesinc.com/httpdocs/wp-content/themes/mcassoc/feeds/feed-rss2.php on line 7 MC Associates Inc. http://www.mcassociatesinc.com Assuring Business Success Through People Thu, 13 Apr 2017 20:41:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Assuring Business Success Through People MC Associates Inc. no Assuring Business Success Through People MC Associates Inc. http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mcassociatesinc.com Uncovering Your Company’s Top Talent http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/uncovering-your-companys-top-talent/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/uncovering-your-companys-top-talent/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 20:14:30 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=710 Continue reading Uncovering Your Company’s Top Talent]]> Your best source of top talent may be right under your nose.

I’m often impressed by the results of a robust talent assessment process. Invariably, organizations that take the time and effort to do effective talent assessments create a clear picture of the overall capability of their organization. Invariably, robust assessments also uncover hidden talent gems; leaders discover that they have more internal capability than originally expected. They identify employees who can be expanded or take on more responsibility that were not on everyone’s radar screen.

Let me describe what I mean by a robust talent assessment process.

Many talent assessments are based on the observations of a single person – typically an employee’s boss. For a variety of reasons, this limited perspective seldom provides an accurate or reliable assessment of an employee’s present performance or future capability. It seems that familiarity breeds non-objectivity.

It is much more effective to get multiple perspectives during a talent review. Input should come from not just the employee’s boss but from peers, other leaders, the boss’s boss, etc.  There have been times when I specifically limited the contributions by the immediate manager if I felt the organization had a history of hiding talent or limiting internal movement.

Robust talent assessments are behavior-based and objective. I usually go into a talent review looking for evidence of specific competencies and facilitate the discussions to elicit behavioral examples of those competencies – what the person actually did and what impact the action had on others or the business. I emphasize to the assessors to avoid inferences about personality traits or why a person behaves the way they do. These types of assessments are unreliable and provide no useful purpose. (That’s why my bias is to do talent reviews “live” through facilitated discussions with teams of leaders and not have managers fill out forms.)

Finding hidden talent also requires a change in perspective about performance and potential. There are competencies that drive job performance and there are competencies that give an indication of future potential. The content and results of a talent review can be significantly enhanced by assuring that the assessors understand the competencies that make a difference. For example, “functional knowledge” often gets too much emphasis in talent reviews and in determining who to hire or promote. Functional knowledge is important but is not the best predictor of performance or potential. It is also a competency that can be typically learned after a short time in the new role.

Leaders also tend to lean towards candidates that had the exact previous experience so that the person can “hit the ground running” in a new role. Conversely, I emphasize that leaders should be looking for someone who can “hit the ground developing”; for whom the new role provides a unique challenge that will create an opportunity to enhance the employee’s skill set and add to the overall capability of the organization. Potential should be given equal (if not more) weight than performance in assessing talent.

Your best source of top talent may be right under your nose. But it takes a robust assessment process and a new perspective on talent to uncover it.

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Why It’s Critical to Be Even Better at Firing Than Hiring http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/why-its-critical-to-be-even-better-at-firing-than-hiring/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/why-its-critical-to-be-even-better-at-firing-than-hiring/#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 19:50:29 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=707 Continue reading Why It’s Critical to Be Even Better at Firing Than Hiring]]> During a tour of Google headquarters in 2014, our host described the impressive amount of time and effort the entire company put into hiring the best talent. However, he went on to proudly state that Google was even better at firing people.

Why would the world’s #2 Most Admired Company want to be better at firing than hiring?

Let’s look at a real life situation to understand.

Based on the concerns of an organization’s Board of Directors, a colleague and I conducted a leadership talent assessment. The Board was concerned about the complaints they had heard about ineffective and lackluster leaders.

The results of the assessment were not pretty. The overall capability of the leadership talent was low and there were several non-performing leaders in critical roles. The Board asked the president to deal with the “dead wood” which he did, though reluctantly, since the organization did not have a history of terminating due to performance (or terminating at all). After the President legally and compassionately addressed the low performers, he called us in to meet with him. We wondered what was up. When we walked into the normally staid President’s office, he effusively thanked us and shook our hands. He stated that the terminations were one of the toughest things he’d ever done in his career but one of the best. He told us that a number of employees had made a special effort to come by to thank him. The employees also described some of the poor behavior of those who were terminated. Beyond being ineffective or abusive, it turned out that some of the behavior was also unethical. Many employees said of the terminations, “It’s about time!”

The moral of the story: There is a huge payoff to identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture.

Unfortunately, this case study is not unique. I encounter many companies that are reluctant to address non-performers. Instead, they pass them around to different departments in the hope that the deadwood will do less damage. Or they continue to reduce their duties and performance expectations. These practices are sometimes defended by leaders expressing that the company is a “family” and that “we take care of our family”. Often times, it reflects a lack of managerial courage. HR can also be a contributor due to an over-emphasis on due diligence and documentation to avoid litigation, even though the risk of that occurring is often low.

The impact of marginally performing leaders is significantly underestimated. Nobody wants to work with them, nobody wants them on their team, they reduce engagement, they drive turnover and they hamper productivity. In addition, they are not good identifiers and developers of talent. They are the “poison apples” that block change and contribute to an unhealthy culture. In most cases, these are not bad people with negative motives. They sometimes reluctantly moved into a leadership role because it was the only way they can make more money, not because they are excited about leading others.

I often find that longer service employees fall into the marginal performance category because the company has not invested in their development or required to keep them up to date. By this time in their career, however, it is quite difficult to enhance skills that should have been developed much earlier in their tenure. Resurrection is much harder than birth.

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The Talent Abuse Epidemic http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-talent-abuse-epidemic/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-talent-abuse-epidemic/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:13:39 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=704 Continue reading The Talent Abuse Epidemic]]> It may be due to benign neglect or to unenlightened leadership. It’s more likely the result of reliance on long-standing unproven or pop-culture practices that just won’t go away. I’m referring to the continued spread of talent management practices that detract from an organization’s ability to thrive. This epidemic continues unabated at a time when there are evidence-based approaches that can replace the time-worn.

Don’t think there’s a talent abuse epidemic? See how many of these endemic, waste-of-time practices you’ve seen in your organization or other companies.

Managers hoarding high-potential talent. High -performing, high potential talent can and should be allowed to make a difference a range of roles in an organization. In addition, navigating a variety of challenging experiences is the best way to develop raw potential. Unfortunately, some leaders abuse top talent by selfishly barricading them in the functions they head. There argument for doing this is, “I found them. They’re doing a good job. Why should I give them up?”

Following the Chain of Command. I recently heard a top executive of a large global organization berate his colleagues for having the gall to talk with some of “his people” without going through him first. A crucial capability in today’s complex and fast paced environment is building and leveraging informal and adaptive networks. Real work gets done in the white spaces of the org chart. Trying to force networks to follow the lines of an organization chart is nothing but abuse.

Training and Development is all “T and no “D”. Training, when properly executed, is good for improving some skills. However, most of the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for success don’t come from the classroom. The skills come from the “lessons of experience” or intentional development – navigating a variety of challenging jobs or assignments with a variety of different people. You are abusing talent if all you offer is a catalogue of classroom instruction. This is particularly a problem since a good bit of classroom training fails to have the desired impact.

You are still doing Performance Appraisals. A recent Conference Board survey showed that 95% of leaders are dissatisfied with their performance management system and 95% of HR execs don’t feel that they yield accurate information. And employees hate them. Yet many companies are still searching for the perfect appraisal form and rating scale. Every time I’ve done an analysis of performance ratings, I find no relationship to meaningful results or data that can be used for effective talent decisions. The amount of time wasted on this outdated practice is abusive to employees and leaders.

Poor performance is tolerated. Marginal performers have a significantly under-estimated negative impact on an organization’s performance, especially if they are in pivotal roles. Low-performing leaders’ teams are less productive. Poor performers destroy engagement, create turnover, and don’t develop talent. No one wants them on their project teams. Yet we are reluctant to confront this abuse or just pass the poor performers around until we find a place where they can do the least damage.

Using selection criteria that has no relationship to job performance. The worst example of this is GPA for college recruiting. We’ve known for quite a while that GPA predicts nothing. Another abuse is selecting on knowledge that can be easily learned in a short period of time in the new role. Add to that the over-dependence on personality assessments to screen out and you almost have a criminal case for abuse.

Have you seen other symptoms of the talent abuse epidemic? I’d love to hear about them.

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Crowdsourcing Leadership Development http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/crowdsourcing-leadership-development/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/crowdsourcing-leadership-development/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 15:51:40 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=698 Continue reading Crowdsourcing Leadership Development]]> Or The Organization Chart is Dead! Long Live Networks!

My recent blog on Why Training is a Dead End got a lot of attention and response – both positive and negative. A majority of commenters concurred that the standard model of classroom training has not been effective. We have known for a while that most development occurs informally by navigating challenging experiences laced with interactions with key others. When I ask learners about the first step they take when faced with a new challenge, the response is invariably, “I go talk to someone” or “I go talk to <name of a specific person>.”

There is also growing evidence from Organization Network Analysis that the strength/quality/volume of the informal connections in an organization drives overall performance. High-Performing and High-Potential employees not only do their job well but also help others succeed. And the network connections this support for others creates never seems to follow the lines (or dotted lines) on the org chart.

It seems obvious then that capitalizing on networks can be a real opportunity, particularly as a tool to develop individual and organizational competency.

Before the advent of the online social world, I worked at a company where I created Competency Brown Bag sessions. We assembled cohorts of leaders (didn’t call them cohorts back then) who were working on Individual Development Plans. We would select a specific competency that was a common need and then facilitate a discussion about the skill – what does the skill look like, what examples have they seen of someone using the competency effectively or ineffectively and what was the impact of their behavior, what assignments or experiences would help in developing the competency, what articles or books have they read that were helpful, etc. The cohorts then selected something from this “face-to-face blog” to add to their Development Plans. The Brown Bags were very popular and lead to meaningful impacts on skills and careers.

I am now seeing companies creating online communities that mirror the Brown Bags. Once mission-critical competencies have been identified and built into talent processes, the companies encourage volunteer communities to pop-up around the key skill sets. Crowd -Sourcing Development can dramatically multiply the effect I saw from the Brown Bags. Learners don’t have to wait for a meeting and can get information, support and ideas 24/7. The learners may also create their own cohort and meet virtually or face-to-face. If you were employed at Facebook, you’d probably call this “Hacking on Competence.”

Crowdsourcing Development is also a great addition to the growing trend to eliminate standard performance reviews and to replace them with more employee self-serve processes with an emphasis on quality conversations, regular feedback and self-development planning. Talent Management can also mine the crowd discussions for additional tools and support ideas.

The proverbial Grapevine matters and can be leveraged. Leaders need to understand the importance of networks and accurately understand how their organization network operates or if their networks are dysfunctional. Leader’s who demand that the chain of command be followed or who are threatened by informal leadership should be discouraged or removed. Employees should be recognized for and encouraged to not only focus on their jobs but to do whatever they can to help others succeed.

I think my posting will be on “The Job Description is Dead! Long live <????>”

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The Fallacy of Hiring for Culture Fit http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-fallacy-of-hiring-for-culture-fit/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-fallacy-of-hiring-for-culture-fit/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2016 19:43:37 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=695 Continue reading The Fallacy of Hiring for Culture Fit]]> I was talking with an executive team about the high voluntary and involuntary turnover their organization was experiencing in recently filled leadership roles. The execs’ conclusion (or excuse) for the cause of the turnover was that the exiting leaders “just didn’t fit our culture.” They felt that they just needed to do a better job of hiring for cultural fit. The same organization has seen a decline in market share and earnings driven by increasing competition in their core markets. They were not keeping pace with product innovation or productivity improvements needed to stay competitive.

The irony of the situation completely escaped the execs; here was an organization with a culture that was not effective at driving innovation or process improvement but the leaders wanted to perpetuate that culture in their selection and promotion practices. Therein lies the major error in reasoning behind the Fallacy of Hiring for Cultural Fit. Hiring and promoting based on culture fit is only effective if you have a high-performing, aligned and integrated culture to start with.

Another factor in the Fit Fallacy is that I find that most leaders don’t have a clear understanding of organizational culture and the cultural components that drive revenue growth, returns, productivity, engagement and innovation. Leaders talk about their cultures being customer-driven, entrepreneurial, employee-first, etc. but often are not effective at articulating exactly what that means in daily practice. Or, more importantly, they have not clearly defined the leadership competencies associated with culture. Without a definition of the critical competencies, companies fall back on things like personality, gut feel or looking for candidates from companies with perceived “similar” cultures as selection criteria.

An additional component of the Fit Fallacy is that I seldom find that organizations have a homogenous culture. The culture in different units, functions or locations of the same organization can sometimes exhibit wildly different cultures. This is particularly true of businesses that have grown through acquisition or that have businesses in significantly different locations or markets. Even different departments in the same location and same business can exhibit different cultures due to varying leadership competence. So which culture should you try to fit?

The remedies for the Fit Fallacy are not simple but have a high payoff in business performance.

  • First, learn about Organizational Culture and the research behind what makes a difference. By far, the best source for this is the work of Dan Denison from the University of Michigan and Denison Consulting.
  • Second, assess your existing culture so you understand its strengths and gaps, especially those culture factors linked to key components of your strategy. If you uncover culture gaps, implement Culture Action Teams to identify and implement a change plan.
  • Third, translate the desired culture into a few mission-critical competencies using a validated dictionary of competencies. Don’t create your own from scratch.
  • Fourth, build the culture-linked competencies into your selection and promotion processes using behavior-based tools.
  • As an option, do multi-rater assessments on the critical competencies with your present leaders and address any gaps through intentional development activities. (Build the development into their existing work, don’t bolt it on as something extra to do.

Only then will hiring for Cultural Fit no longer be a Fallacy.

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The New Talent Equation: Hire Slow, Lead Easy, Develop Intentionally, Fire Fast http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-new-talent-equation-hire-slow-lead-easy-develop-intentionally-fire-fast/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-new-talent-equation-hire-slow-lead-easy-develop-intentionally-fire-fast/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2016 17:36:34 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=692 Continue reading The New Talent Equation: Hire Slow, Lead Easy, Develop Intentionally, Fire Fast]]> In 2014, I had the privilege of visiting Facebook headquarters to learn how this rapidly growing and innovative firm leverages talent to drive results.  When we were talking about their approach to talent, our host said that Facebook, “hires slow, manages easy and fires fast.”  My reaction was, “Wow! That’s a brilliant but simple summary of an effective talent strategy”.

Since then, as I’ve worked with clients as they adapt the talent practices to the new realities of work, I’ve updated the talent equation by changing “manages easy” to “leads easy” because effective leadership is changing dramatically and looks nothing like managing.  I’ve also added the critical component of intentional development.  Traditional training and development is just not having the impact it should and must be radically updated.

Hire Slow.  Technology has significantly changed the recruiting process but I still see plenty of faulty, low impact employment practices.  Companies are stuck on worthless selection criteria (like GPA for college grads) and an overemphasis on functional/technical knowledge that can be rapidly learned in the new job.  Chipotles’ CEO made headlines recently when he stated that, “We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.”  There also continues to be an over-reliance on or misapplication of assessments, personality measures being the worst culprit.

Lead Easy.   Millennials and their effect on the workplace is a hot topic.  However, it’s my view that what organizations need to do in response to generational differences is not unique from one decade to the next. That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. “Leading Easy” is a great way to describe the style needed to support career success.

  • Challenge them: Hire capable people and get out of their way.
  • Trust them: Establish policies that are NOT focused on the 5% who abuse privileges but the 95% who will do the right thing.
  • Engage them: Provide meaningful, value-added work that is linked to the overall success of the business, a “Greater Good”.  Link individual and team goals and objectives to broader business goals so they can see where they fit.
  • Develop them: Build skills and careers through intentional, planned development based on “moving around” among challenging assignments, not just “moving up” in a department. (See Develop Intentionally)
  • Support them: Create and reinforce a team-oriented culture that fosters innovation and collaboration.  Select and promote talented people who are able and willing step-up and lead or hold back and allow others to lead.
  • Recognize them: Build competency-based talent management systems that define and reward building effective networks, collaboration and growth not longevity or meeting job description specs.
  • Feed them: Throw out the old performance review process and replace it with regular conversations that provide systematic and meaningful feedback, not a rating.  Create a feedback rich environment from multiple sources.

Develop Intentionally.  Traditional training and development has not been very successful ot worth the huge investment.  (See my recent blog post on Training is a Dead End for more in this).  Development needs to be more informal but targeted.  It also needs to built into daily work and not be seen as an event.  Companies are contributing to both business and personal growth by creating development cohorts of similarly situated learners who are assigned a real business challenge.

Fire Fast.  Our host stated that there is no room for “brilliant assholes” at Facebook.  During a similar visit to Google, our host said that Google was better at firing people than hiring (and their hiring process was impressive). There is a huge payoff to identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture.  Marginal leaders create disengagement and drive turnover.  Non-performers drag down the performance of any team on which they participate.

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Training is a Dead End http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/training-is-a-dead-end/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/training-is-a-dead-end/#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2016 21:36:59 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=682 Continue reading Training is a Dead End]]> Why employees are avoiding Training and eLearning in droves

Consider the results of a Corporate Leadership Council survey of 1500 managers in 53 organizations around the world:

  • 76% felt that their Learning and Development function was ineffective or very ineffective in helping them achieve business targets
  • Only 14% would actively recommend to a colleague that they work with the L&D department.

Surprised? Not me. Most L&D functions have followed the same approach to adult learning for decades, an approach that just does not work. Formal event-based classes or structured eLearning with standardized curriculum may be effective at imparting knowledge but are not typically effective in transferring knowledge into practice and are woefully inadequate in achieving meaningful behavior change. If you guessed that only about 15% to 20% of training content gets applied in a way that makes a difference, you wouldn’t be far off. That means that of the roughly $60 Billion spent on Leadership Development annually, $51 Billion is wasted. Match that waste with the data from a survey conducted by Chief Learning Officer magazine in which 77% of respondents did not feel that employees were keeping up with the needs of the business. The picture is unsettling.

The chief reason for training’s dismal record is that the competencies critical for success in today’s workplace, competencies like agility, adaptability, resilience, critical thinking and managing complexity, cannot be developed from a training event. Training addresses knowledge. What are needed are competencies – critical knowledge, skills and abilities that are reflected in behavior at work.

We have known since the 1980’s that key work-place competencies are developed informally by navigating challenging experiences laced with social interactions with others who can provide ideas, role models, support and coaching. Instruction can play a role by providing specific knowledge that is needed right at the time the learner needs it – not weeks away in a classroom where most of the content is irrelevant and out of the context of the work challenge. This is the 70:20:10 model of development. I regularly confirm the model when I ask people to draw a map of their career growth. When we review where the most significant development occurred, it invariably involves a key job, hardship, project or assignment and important other people. A training event seldom, if ever, comes up.

From my perspective, several significant changes need to occur to halt training and development’s inexorable march to extinction.

  1. Get L&D out of the event delivery business. Build expertise in L&D that can effectively diagnose business needs and prescribe interventions that have an impact. The interventions will seldom be training alone. Too often L&D is just delivering training that was determined by executive mandate and not from a meaningful root cause analysis.
  2. Understand the competencies critical to driving your organization’s success. Select the critical few competencies, assess the availability of those skills in your organization at all levels and construct intentional development to enhance the skills. Integrate the competencies not only into your development initiatives but also into your selection, assessment and promotion process.
  3. Capitalize on the 70:20:10 model. Build intentional learning and development into daily work, Don’t just bolt it on as an activity to check off or event to attend. Hire, assign and promote people who can “hit the ground developing” and benefit the most from the new experience.
  4. Reinforce employees’ and leaders’ contribution to the development others as much as individual performance. Build performance expectations that emphasize and recognize the importance of assisting others in their learning and contributing to a broader network.
  5. Create a feedback-rich environment. Change the old performance review approach to a regular cadence of feedback, coaching, asking and listening versus a once-a-year assessment. Create opportunities for team- and peer-based feedback.
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Culture and Scaling Up: Creating an Intentional Culture http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/culture-and-scaling-up-creating-an-intentional-culture/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/culture-and-scaling-up-creating-an-intentional-culture/#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2016 18:01:02 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=679 Continue reading Culture and Scaling Up: Creating an Intentional Culture]]> Lessons from 2015 Culture Leaders of the Year

I gained some new insights on Organizational Culture (and reinforced some previous ones) listening to a panel discussion with four finalists in the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Culture Leaders of the Year from 2015. Much of the discussion centered on the question, “How do you sustain and build an effective culture during rapid growth or change?” The insight from the panelists was that the short answer to that question is, “Intentionally”.   Their observations and real-life examples confirmed my belief that building an effective culture must be a deliberate, planned and thoughtful leadership process that should not be left to chance. In other words, effective cultures must be built, they don’t just evolve.

From my experience, intentional culture development starts by understanding what organizational culture is, assessing your current culture, determining the culture needed or desired to drive your business and then pulling all the right culture levers you can to create the change. The Culture Panelists highlighted a number of levers that were critical to creating and sustaining their high-impact cultures.

  • Culture building is a two-way process – top-down and bottom-up. Leaders start the definition of the desired culture but have to allow room for the whole team to add to the definition.
  • Middle management is key; particularly if that is a new leadership pool being created as a company grows. They have to buy-into the desired culture and be good role models of the behaviors that reinforce the culture.
  • Staying true to your core and remembering why you got into the business in the first place. One panelist referred to this as his “tuning fork”; going back to the mission and vision and pinging decisions against those standards.
  • Culture building requires converting your vision into tangibles for all stakeholders, “What does that look like” or “What is true North”, and then over-communicating on what we are all about.
  • Culture building is work. One panelist commented that he only had total cultural alignment in the business when it was a one man band.
  • Team building is not an event and cannot be forced. It has to be built into what you do every day and allow team members to bring their own interests and ideas to the table.
  • Much of intentional culture building is about critical conversations. Several panelists described using regular one-one-one discussions between leaders and their team members asking questions like, “How are you doing?, “What important thing should we talk about?”, and ‘How can I (or the company) help you?”



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Why Employee Engagement Is Not Enough http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/why-employee-engagement-is-not-enough/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/why-employee-engagement-is-not-enough/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 19:40:05 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=673 Continue reading Why Employee Engagement Is Not Enough]]> Why Culture Trumps Engagement Every Time

Work on the importance of worker “morale” began in the 1920’s.  Morale morphed into job satisfaction in the 1930’s.  Conclusions about the impact of job satisfaction on key business results varied greatly over the ensuing decades, depending on how satisfaction was defined, the measurement technique used and the quality of the research.  As a result, the value of addressing employee satisfaction came to somewhat of a dead-end.  Satisfaction turned out to be a necessary but not sufficient factor in impacting key organization outcomes.

The more promising concept of Employee Engagement arose in the 1990’s. In general, engagement’s correlation to measures such as employee retention, customer service and productivity tended to be stronger than those found with satisfaction.  Emphasis placed on “correlation” because correlation was often misinterpreted as causation. Therein lays the rub with engagement – the old chicken-or-the-egg paradox. Measuring and addressing employee engagement has its benefits. But the debate about engagement actually leading or predicting meaningful results roils on.

Enter Organizational Culture.  Organizational Culture had a genesis similar to satisfaction – widely diverging definitions and fuzzy concepts that were interesting but not very useful.  That was the case until research conducted at the University of Michigan by Dan Denison identified the factors that comprise the perception of any organization’s culture, factors that could be reliably measured, understood and improved.  Initial and subsequent research found a strong correlation of the culture factors to revenue growth, return on investment, quality, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Even better, Denison’s more recent research confirmed that culture is a leading indicator and driver of organization performance measures such as Return-on-Assets, Sales Growth and Market-to-Book Ratio.

Engagement trumps satisfaction but culture trumps engagement. Organization leaders can drive future business results by understanding and improving their organization’s culture.

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Lessons from Google’s High Performance Culture http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/lessons-from-googles-high-performance-culture/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/lessons-from-googles-high-performance-culture/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 17:46:36 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=663 Continue reading Lessons from Google’s High Performance Culture]]> What makes Google the #2 Most Admired Company in Fortune’s 2015 rankings?  Does their unique organization culture play a role?

Gaining answers to these and other questions was the force behind a Culture Benchmarking Trip to Silicon Valley in which I participated. The purpose of the trip was to unearth some culture nuggets that could be applied to business challenges back home.

What culture take-aways can organizations obtain from the nether world of Google where perks, compensation and Disney World like campuses are over the top?  Well, as it turned out, we can learn quite a lot.

 Transparency and Trust

When we asked our host to describe the culture at Google, the most common terms we heard were transparency and trust.

Google culture is based on the inherent belief that employees are, as are host described, “good, smart people who want to produce good work”.  Google’s researchers constantly gather and analyze data about employees and the workplace. They share the data and involve employees in deciding what’s right.


Google’s selection process is rigorous and is built upon competencies that are directly linked to Google’s strategy, mission and vision. Cognitive ability, leadership ability, and the ability to contribute to the culture (a competency referred to as “Googliness”) are at the top of the list with role-related knowledge given less emphasis.  Our host commented that hiring is the responsibility of


Google was founded on innovation and continues to grow based on a relentless culture of innovation.

The physical environment is designed specifically to enhance innovation. Google’s office layout is meant to increase collaboration by encouraging “casual collisions”. They knock down walls where not needed, creating an environment where employees sit close together. Google allow’s working virtually but prefer that employees be on-site to promote collaboration.


The work pace at Google was not laissez faire. Googlers work against tight deadlines and high quality standards. Our host was very upfront in saying that all the perks and services were provided to allow employees to stay focused on their work.


The role of leaders in shaping and maintaining culture was obvious. They described a flat organization structures with few layers. Most career movement is horizontal rather than vertical. Leaders were variously described as needing to be accessible, real, transparent and accountable.

Google is truly unique in its size and its capabilities. Most companies may not be able to (or need to) match Google’s work environment, compensation and perks. However, we can learn from their emphasis on identifying and creating a robust culture based on transparency, trust, talent, productivity, innovation and leadership.  You don’t need to be Google to do that.

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Making a Difference: Intentional Development in Action http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/making-a-difference-intentional-development-in-action/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/making-a-difference-intentional-development-in-action/#comments Tue, 15 Dec 2015 18:29:06 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=658 Continue reading Making a Difference: Intentional Development in Action]]> The ultimate leadership development investment not only increases the capacity and capability of leaders but also provides a return to the organization in terms of meaningful results.  We just completed a project with a client that achieved both.

The Situation:  A mature and growing business wanted to assure their continued success.  The growth has been and will continue to be organic – expansion into new territories, taking market share and innovating new products, processes and concepts.  The leadership team identified nine organization capabilities that needed to be sustained or improved to drive growth.

What We Did:  Working with the internal team, we helped design and facilitate an intentional development process that had two objectives: 1) Develop specific recommendations on the nine strategic capabilities that could be implemented in the next fiscal year, and, 2) Improve the leadership skills of those involved in the challenging, strategic assignments.  Nine Cohorts of high potential leaders were formed and were assigned to one of the strategic capabilities.  The cohorts were given nine months to achieve the initiative’s objectives.   Our support for the initiative included:

  • Helping to create the overall project design and supporting materials
  • Designing and facilitating the Project Kickoff Summit
  • Working with each leader to create an individual development plan linked to the work on the cohort
  •  Providing coaching and facilitation to the cohorts, individual cohort members and the executive sponsors
  •  Facilitating regular Milestone Meetings in which the Cohorts presented updates to the executive team
  • Providing change management support by building communication plans and facilitating stakeholder sessions
  • Conducting regular process and team assessments throughout the project and participating in an After Action Review.

The Result:  To a person, the Cohort participants felt that the time on the project was beneficial – they broadened their scope and perspective and valued the cross-functional interaction.  The executive team confirmed that this was an invaluable leadership development opportunity and was a new and different way to solve problems.  They plan on replicating the approach in the future.

The cohorts generated over 35 recommendations from which the executive team selected the highest priority projects for the next fiscal year.  Project Teams were formed to implement the recommendations. (The Project Teams will also be designed to be intentional development opportunities).

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The Millennial Paradox . . . or Hype? http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-millennial-paradox-or-hype/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-millennial-paradox-or-hype/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2015 18:51:33 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=654 Continue reading The Millennial Paradox . . . or Hype?]]> Yes, generations differ.  However, I don’t think that all the hype about Millennials and the differences between generations is all that helpful or meaningful.

The Hype:  The cited differences between generations are often quite small and the wide range of individual differences within a generation are often ignored;  the distributions overlap and the average of a group tells just part of the story.  Those born at the ends of the generation groups are significantly different and actually more like the prior or next cohort.  In additional, much of the research is based on differences in concepts like traits, attitudes and motives that predict little when it comes to the world of work.  Figuring out what to do specifically about an individual or a  small part of your workforce on things that are nebulous isn’t of much use.

The Paradox:  What organizations need to do in response to the highlighted generational differences turns out to be the same from one decade to the next.   That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly.  Therein lies the paradox.

Successful people exhibit a similar set of strategic, operational, positioning, interpersonal and personal skills across generations (and across cultures.)  They develop those capabilities by navigating a range of diverse and challenging experiences from which they build a repertoire of behaviors.  Values may differ across generations but the behaviors that make a difference at work have not.

So what’s an organization to do?  The most effective practices for Millennials are what high-performing organizations have been doing all along, no matter the generation:

  • Define and communicate a set of core values that create leverage
  • Provide meaningful, value-added work that is linked to the overall success of the business, a “Greater Good”
  • Build careers based on “moving around” among challenging assignments, not just “moving up” in a department
  • Create a team-oriented culture that fosters innovation and collaboration
  • Build competency-based talent management systems that define and reward success
  • Employ performance management processes that link employees to overall goals and that provide systematic and meaningful feedback

What generation would not be excited by an organization like that?  If the Millennial Hype gets organizations to focus on something that’s more sustainable, then maybe its worth it.

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Top Signs That You Are NOT Taking a Strategic Approach to Talent http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/top-signs-that-you-are-not-taking-a-strategic-approach-to-talent/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/top-signs-that-you-are-not-taking-a-strategic-approach-to-talent/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2015 18:42:05 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=652 Continue reading Top Signs That You Are NOT Taking a Strategic Approach to Talent]]> Google “Strategic Talent Management” and you will come up with about 2 million hits. The discussion about STM is reaching a fevered pitch online, in blogs, and at conferences.  Approaching talent from a strategic perspective is more than just a hot topic. It is a significant evolutionary step up from “Employees First” or “People Are Your Most Important Asset” perspectives. STM puts the emphasis back where it should be – on strategy – and driving the business strategy with a focused workforce strategy.

Is your company evolving, taking a strategic approach to talent and adding to the STM discussion?  I thought it might be enlightening to answer this question by describing what STM is NOT so here is my list of Top Signs That You Are NOT Taking A Strategic Approach To Talent.

  1. You can’t clearly describe the link between business strategy and your talent strategy.
  2. You don’t know the roles that provide the greatest Return on Improved Performance for your organization.
  3. You haven’t defined the leadership competencies critical to strategic success.
  4. Top leaders are not held accountable for talent management objectives.
  5. You don’t regularly conduct robust, objective talent reviews to determine if your organization is capable of executing the strategy.
  6. Talent assessments focus on just on the top of the house and not several levels of the organization.
  7. You don’t know in which leaders to selectively invest to get the biggest bang for your buck.
  8. Talent development doesn’t involves challenging jobs, assignments and projects but focuses mostly on training.
  9. Poor performance is tolerated.
  10. You don’t have measures in place to track the impact of talent management practices.
  11. Mission critical positions are not filled exclusively from within the organization
  12. Your talent management processes are not integrated, aligned and differentiating.

If you’d like to read more about signs of Strategic Talent Management, check out this whitepaper on my website.

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Finding Hidden Talent in Your Organization http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/finding-hidden-talent-in-your-organization/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/finding-hidden-talent-in-your-organization/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 16:26:19 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=646 Continue reading Finding Hidden Talent in Your Organization]]> One benefit we often see from doing robust, objective Organization Capability Assessments is that we uncover hidden talent (Click here or here for more info on assessing talent).  These are often employees that report to a leader that is not a good developer or promoter of talent.  Or they have been in a similar role/department too long and are no longer challenged – they exhibited some agility at one point in their career but it was not recognized or encouraged.

We often refer to these folks as “High C’s”.  Once a leader shows some interest in them or they take on a new challenge, High C’s often flourish.  A typical response you get when you approach a High C about expanding their world is, “Really?  You think I can?”  or “Huh, I didn’t know that the execs knew I existed”.

Uncovering hidden talent is a real opportunity since many organization’s are now concerned about filling their pipeline.  Identifying and tapping into this reservoir of capability should be a one objective of any talent assessment process.

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Employees Remember 1% of What a Leader Says but 100% of What A Leader Does http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/employees-remember-1-of-what-a-leader-says-but-100-of-what-a-leader-does/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/employees-remember-1-of-what-a-leader-says-but-100-of-what-a-leader-does/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 19:51:51 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=629 Continue reading Employees Remember 1% of What a Leader Says but 100% of What A Leader Does]]> Don’t get me wrong, effective and targeted communication from key leaders is important for any organization to be effective and engage its workforce.  Communications are important . . . but not sufficient.  What is more critical are the behaviors regularly exhibited by leaders and the impact of those behaviors.  For example, if an organization’s leaders feel that they need to always be perceived as the smartest person in the room, then employees will see the culture as lacking involvement and openness.

If a company has established its vision and values then its leaders need to be seen as epitomizing those precepts in a concrete fashion.  The vision and values need to be translated into key leadership competencies and built into talent processes.  Otherwise, the organization will struggle to achieve its strategic intent.

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Which Comes First, Culture or Behavior? http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/which-comes-first-culture-or-behavior/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/which-comes-first-culture-or-behavior/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 19:35:33 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=627 Continue reading Which Comes First, Culture or Behavior?]]> Easy.  Behavior comes first.  And its not a chicken-or-the-egg kind of thing.  The culture of an organization is first created by the behavior of its leaders that are then reflected across the organization. Employees remember about 1% of what a leader says but 100% of what a leader does.

This means that culture develops in an organization either unintentionally or intentionally.  If an organization is haphazard and inconsistent in the selection and development of its leaders, than the culture is haphazard and inconsistent as well.  Leaders create an organization’s culture whether they planned to or not.

Intentional culture change starts by identifying the leadership behaviors (competencies) that reflect a high-performing culture.  By selecting leaders on the competencies and developing the target competencies in present and future leaders, culture can be sustained or improved.  The culture pipeline can also be filled from the bottom-up by selecting entry-level employees on the culture-critical competencies.

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Is Leadership Development Worth It? http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/is-leadership-development-worth-it/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/is-leadership-development-worth-it/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2015 14:59:49 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=623 Continue reading Is Leadership Development Worth It?]]> The short answer is “Yes, but . . . “.  The “but” being that most of the leadership development I come across does not achieve any kind of meaningful business impact.  The long answer is, “Yes, if the development is properly designed around evidenced-based practices”.

So much leadership development is really training, not development (there’s a difference).  The training is often based on the most recent shiny object that came into an executive’s view and HR was told to “get us some of that”.  Or the company has an annual leadership meeting and something has to be found to fill time on the schedule.   Or the organization buys a leadership development  program and requires everyone to go through it (to get their money’s worth), no matter individual leaders’ skill needs  These type of programs are seldom, if ever, worth it. They might be interesting and fun but they don’t make a difference.
Development that is worth it improves an organization’s ability to compete by building the capacity and capability of its talent.  Development that is worth it starts from an organization’s strategy.  A robust strategy should describe the capabilities needed to execute the plan – resources, capital, processes and talent.  It should highlight the strategic core of positions and competencies required to drive the strategy.  If the strategic core is not clearly spelled out in the planning process, it can be translated from the strategic details.  I often work with companies to do that.
Development that is worth it can only happen after the strategic core competencies are defined.  Only then can talent be assessed and Intentional Development designed to address gaps or sustain the competencies across levels and time.  Intentional Development is not a once a year training event or a program that every leader must attend.  Intentional Development is built into a leader’s job, is customized to the leader’s needs, is focused on achieving a key business result and is supported by coaching, mentoring and feedback.  In this sense, Intentional Development is mass-customized.
I might say that another answer to the question about the worth of leadership development is, “Yes, if the development is intentional.”
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GPA, Experience & Test Scores are Worthless Hiring Criteria http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/gpa-experience-test-scores-are-worthless-hiring-criteria/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/gpa-experience-test-scores-are-worthless-hiring-criteria/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 17:55:47 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=619 Continue reading GPA, Experience & Test Scores are Worthless Hiring Criteria]]> I was interested to read a quote from Google’s Sr. V. P. of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, in which he stated that, ““G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless . . . We found that they don’t predict anything.”  That’s exactly what I have found over the years when we were helping to improve failing hiring processes.  Companies get stuck in urban myths about what predicts success but seldom stop to assess those criteria.

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s CEO, Monty Moran, also made headlines when he stated that, ““We don’t care about experience very much.  In fact, I think experience at another fast food restaurant is as likely to be a negative as it is to be a positive. We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.”

So what do these innovative, high-growth, much-admired companies use as the criteria to select talent for critical roles?  As you read deeper into the articles, you find that they both focus on the ability to learn and competencies that are related more to future potential versus short term performance.  Googles Bock indicated that, “the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”   Mr. Moran acknowledged that new hires with little QSR experience may make more mistakes initially but learning agile people quickly learn form the mistakes, don’t repeat them and eventually come up with better ideas.

Assessing learning ability does not require a capability akin to conducting a Vulcan Mind Meld.  When I visited Google headquarters last year, our People Operations host described how they have chucked everything in favor of behavior-based interviews.  They typically use five validated, structured interviews with the fifth being solely an opportunity to train new interviewers – the results are not considered.  Beyond learning ability, Google’s interviews also look for behavioral examples of competencies such as Emergent Leadership (the ability to take the lead when needed in a team situation not whether you were the captain of the cheerleading squad), Ownership and Humility (being willing to step up and help solve a problem but also step back and consider the ideas of others) and Collaboration.

Google is one the worlds most admired companies.  Analysts have attributed some of Chipotle’s success to its unique culture that is created and reinforced through its hiring and promotion process.  But try to convince an engineering-based company that GPA’s are worthless!  That’s a urban myth that’s hard to crack.  I’m glad the issue is getting some popular press.

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Culture Change Levers http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/culture-change-levers/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/culture-change-levers/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2015 14:54:20 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=613 Continue reading Culture Change Levers]]> Organization Culture is a hot topic. I am working with several clients who see culture as a source of competitive advantage and a driver of their future growth. This is not just an example of the “next shiny object” syndrome because there’s plenty of research to back up their interest.

I typically start a culture change process by assessing the current state and identifying the high-impact culture factors that the company can address in the next 12 to 18 months. Then comes the hard part – figuring out which change “levers” the company can pull to create meaningful culture movement. In my experience, there are three key levers.

1. Communications
This does not entail just writing an article in the company newsletter. It starts by clearly identifying the business case for culture change and the vision of where the top leadership wants to take the organization. This lever requires answering questions like why should we change, what do we want to change to and how we’ll know when we’ve arrived?. This should be conducted through in-depth dialogues with the organization’s top leaders who must internalize the answers and commit to moving forward. The business case and vision can then be built into a stakeholder analysis and multi-media communication plan.

2. Talent
A significant lever for culture change lies in the behaviors of leaders. Much of what makes up culture is created and sustained by the abilities and actions of key leaders. Therefore, identifying culture-critical leadership competencies, assessing current leader capability and developing leadership skills directly linked to culture is key to any change initiative. It may also involve the tough work of identifying “poison pill” leaders who are resistant to change and therefore have to be moved out of the way.

3. A Plan
Culture change is hard work (but with a big payoff). Change doesn’t happen automatically even if you have a great business case and top-notch leaders. The plan starts with the one or two culture factors the organization is going to address at any one time. Then project management kicks in. Detailed action plans need to be established with time frames, accountability, resources, and contingencies. In addition, tracking and measurement processes need to be developed and implemented.

You can learn more about culture by checking out my whitepaper Leveraging Culture to Drive Business Performance.

If your organization is interested in learning more about culture or is considering undertaking a culture change journey, I would be glad to offer a no-obligation overview for your top leaders.

Contact Michael

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TALENT MANAGEMENT DERAILERS http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/talent-management-derailers/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/talent-management-derailers/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2015 14:52:03 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=610 Continue reading TALENT MANAGEMENT DERAILERS]]>
Effective strategic talent management practices can have an affect on business performance. However, there are plenty of potential pitfalls that can derail the best succession management, leadership development and culture improvement efforts. Here’s are the top 5 of the the more common one’s I’ve run into over the years.

Not in My House: Functional managers protect talent that reports to them, see them as “their employees” and do not offer them as candidates for advancement or development opportunities. They may even get upset if other managers talk to “their people” about opportunities. As a result, talent pools are limited and do not reflect the real bench strength of the organization. Agile, high potential and high professional talent becomes frustrated and leaves the company. Alternatively, their careers may derail due to over-reliance on a single benefactor.

Lists for Lists Sake: Completing talent discussions just to have a succession plan or back-up list.
The Impact? The actual hit rate on back-up lists is typically only about 15%, contributing little to improving organization capability and providing a low return for this effort. The true capability of the total organization to achieve strategic targets is not assessed or improved. In addition, High Professional (as opposed to High Potential) talent, critical to maintaining a company’s core competencies, is overlooked and may become disengaged. In addition, a large pool of talent that is often “under the radar” but has significant potential to grow is overlooked.

Take a Pill: Development of high potential talent is limited to “take a training class” rather then meaningful assignments or broader-based development. Talent is slowly developed or not developed at all. High Potential and High Professional employees get frustrated by a lack of challenging work and growth opportunities. Training budgets are usually “fickle” so development can be erratic if training is over-emphasized. The return on training investment is not realized.

Nothing Gained: A lack of or inconsistent follow-up on organization development action items from talent discussions. As a result, the long-term capability of the organization is not improved. Initial momentum for the process is eventually lost. Employees see a varying level of support for the process and wonder what’s happening. Key talent may be come frustrated because the only hear words and see no action.

Resurrection is Much Harder Than Birth: Spending too much time and resources on blocked, low learning agile, low potential employees, trying to fix them. The overall capacity of the organization to grow is hampered. A Return on Improved Performance is not realized because the investment is going to those with a very low chance of improvement. High potential talent becomes frustrated and leaves.

So what to do if your company is infected by some of these derailers? You can check out some potential remedies or preventive measures by going to Talent Management Derailers. The whitepaper also identifies 7 other potential derailers and remedies.

Effective strategic talent management practices can have an affect on business performance.  However, there are plenty of potential pitfalls that can derail the best succession management, leadership development and culture improvement efforts.  Here’s are the top 5 of the the more common one’s I’ve run into over the years.
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Leading Leadership Development http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/leading-leadership-development/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/leading-leadership-development/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:29:10 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=605 Continue reading Leading Leadership Development]]> As many of my clients look ahead to the tsunami of leaders that will be leaving their organizations in the coming years, a big question I often get asked is, ‘Where do we start?”  My clichéd answer is, “At the top!”  However, I don’t just mean that succession management should focus on the top of the house.  I use that trite answer to emphasize that there  is some key work that needs to be completed by top executives if any leadership development initiative is to have an impact.

Take Ownership.  Developing leaders for the future should not be left to HR alone, though that function plays a key role.  Leadership Development should be owned by the top team and included in key goals and objectives that are cascaded down the organization.

Build the Business Case.  The workforce planning numbers are compelling enough but the investment in development should be framed like any business investment.  What specific results do you expect to see from an investment in leadership talent?  What is the business intent?  What resources are needed and how will the return on the investment be tracked?

Understand Effective Development.  We know what it takes to develop effective leaders at all levels.  (See my free whitepapers Fixing Leadership Development or Leadership Development Redefined) Despite this knowledge, billions are wasted every year on development that doesn’t work.  Much of the development waste comes from execs deciding not only why development is needed by also dictating who, what, when, why and how.  This is where HR needs to step up and clearly outline the keys to any development effort.

Know What Success Looks Like.    Part of what we know about what makes development effective is that it should be based on a clear definition of the competencies needed for success, given the challenges and opportunities facing a business.  (See The Elegance Of Competencies).  Top leaders should be involved in developing the target competencies.  They should also understand their own strengths and weaknesses on these skills and model effective development themselves.


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Are You Ready for the Silver Tsunami? http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/are-you-ready-for-the-silver-tsunami/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/are-you-ready-for-the-silver-tsunami/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:42:50 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=601 Continue reading Are You Ready for the Silver Tsunami?]]> The raft of baby boomers set to retire is astounding at some companies.  I had a client that has been in existence for decades that recently experienced the largest per capita retirement in their history – many in leadership and executive roles.   Add to this that 401k balances and stock prices are looking better lately and unprepared companies may be surprised.  If you are just beginning to plan for this impact, you may be too late.

Here’s what I see as benchmark efforts to prepare for the Silver Tsunami:

  1. Know the numbers and potential impacts.  Look at the numbers by talent pools at all levels and not just at the top.  Project the numbers out 3 to 5 years. Know the retirement plans of key players.
  2. Know your mission-critical or pivotal positions and the competencies that are critical for success in those roles.  Along with numbers/demographics, look at the availability of those competencies in talent pools and understand the research behind how difficult those competencies are to develop.  That will give you a much better picture of gaps and investment needs.
  3. Re-assess your investment in and the methodology used to develop your leaders.  Is it competency-based, customizable to individual needs and intentional?  Does it follow a 70-20-10 development model and focus on creating meaningful challenges that are built into a careers and not bolted on as something extra?
  4. Know your high potential talent at all levels.  This usually requires most companies to change the process they use to assess talent.  If you are depending solely on the judgment of single managers, you are missing a lot.  Make sure that someone (not just their immediate manager) is paying attention to the care and feeding of high potentials.  Assure that they know about the opportunities for a challenging career within your firm so that are not enticed by the many leadership opportunities outside your organization that will be put in front of them.
  5. Take a closer look at the typically large pool of solid performers (we call these the High C’s) and identify people that could be stretched to take on broader or higher level roles.  Many of my clients have found an untapped resource in this pool that, with improved talent assessment and leadership development methodology, can add to your overall talent capacity.
  6. Address non-performers.  If leadership talent is going to be in tight supply, companies cannot afford to have change-reluctant, low skilled talent particularly in pivotal roles. You will be surprised at the amount of capacity you will release by getting non-performers out of the way.
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Leadership Development Redefined for the 21st Century http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/leadership-development-redefined-for-the-21st-century/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/leadership-development-redefined-for-the-21st-century/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 15:33:17 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=597 Continue reading Leadership Development Redefined for the 21st Century]]> Depending on the decade, there seems to be widely divergent definitions of leadership development.  Based on the research and my experience in what works in this new millennium, I define Leadership Development as a deliberate and systematic process to:

  • Identify critical leadership competencies,
  • Identify pools of high-potential candidates at all levels of the organization,
  • Accelerate the development of mission-critical leadership competencies through intentional development, and,
  • Regularly measure progress.

This definition is very close to my definition of succession management.  That’s no coincidence. I view them as strongly linked talent management processes.  (Go here for more information on building a robust Succession Management Process.)

Want to read more?  Here’s a free whitepaper that further describes the components of 21st Century Leadership Development

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Building a Strategy Capable Organization http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/building-a-strategy-capable-organization/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/building-a-strategy-capable-organization/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 15:05:17 +0000 http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/?p=595 Continue reading Building a Strategy Capable Organization]]> There are many keys to effectively executing an organization’s strategy. In my opinion, the most critical factor is assuring that the organization has the capacity to execute strategic goals and objectives. I call this creating a strategy-capable organization and it highlights the role that talent plays in assuring strategic success. That role can be described by the following six components.

  1. Identify your organization’s mission-critical roles

Not all jobs are created equal. Some roles play a pivotal role in identifying, creating and delivering value for the markets and customers outlined in the strategy. Leaders should help identify these mission-critical or pivotal roles and then differentially invest in assuring that the best talent is placed and retained in these roles.

  1. Translate strategy into concrete goals for all employees

Traditional performance evaluations are worthless. It’s time to throw them out (and the ratings that go with them) and to replace them with a robust process of cascading goals down through every level of the organization. Managers and employees should be focused on having regular, meaningful discussions about goals, progress and next steps. Replace the ratings with calibration sessions or talent reviews (see #5 below).

  1. Translate the strategy into concrete competencies critical to achieving results

Competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities related to success in the organization. To deploy a given strategy, the competencies critical to success must be defined at every level of the company. Then the competencies can be used to integrate selection, promotion, and development processes that support and drive the strategy.

  1. Assess your organization’s capability to effectively deploy the strategy

Talent assessments (or what I prefer to call Organization Capability Assessment) are essential to assure that strategy can be deployed. Armed with knowledge of mission-critical roles and strategic competencies, candid and objective talent reviews can build an overall picture of the organization’s ability to execute. Properly conducted assessments will highlight capability gaps and where talent investments will have the biggest payoff. Progress can be tracked and the capability assessment can be updated as the strategy unfolds.

  1. Build the link between your business strategy and your talent strategy

Translating strategy into roles, goals and competencies, integrating talent processes with competencies and then assessing overall capability are the hallmarks of strategic talent management. It creates a clear line of sight from talent to strategy and allows the talent strategy (and HR) to become a driver of the business strategy.

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Hire Hard, Manage Easy, Fire Fast http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/hire-hard-manage-easy-fire-fast/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/hire-hard-manage-easy-fire-fast/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:38:17 +0000 Continue reading Hire Hard, Manage Easy, Fire Fast]]> I recently had the privilege of visiting several of US’s most successful and admired organizations, including Google and Facebook. It was a marvelous opportunity to experience how these rapidly growing and innovative firms leverage culture.

A comment by our Facebook host really stuck with me. When we were talking about their approach to talent, he said that Facebook, “hires hard, manages easy and fires fast.” I thought that was a brilliant but simple summary of an effective talent strategy. Simple, yes . . . but how do you operationalize hard, easy and fast? I’ll give it a shot.

Hiring Hard

I’ve always said that if I had only $100 to spend on talent, I’d spend $90 on selection and $10 on identifying and developing high potentials. A bit of an exaggeration but meant to highlight the important role that selection can play in building the capability of an organization.

Most firms focus on “screening-out” candidates. I prefer to emphasize “screening in”. Companies often set requirements that have nothing to do with reality and, therefore, are not valid. College GPA is a good example. GPA does not predict future performance or potential but shows up quite often. Keeping a high selection ratio (the number of candidates per opening) is an important determinant in the utility of hiring. Get as much valid information about as many candidates as possible and keep them in the running until the very end, then pick from the best on all factors.

Another downfall I often see is selecting or screening candidates on competencies that are easy to learn or that can be picked up in a short time on the job. Functional or technical knowledge is often the culprit here. Hiring managers like to see people who have exact experience in their specific industry or function. This has the effect of significantly narrowing the talent pool. Managers like to say that they want to hire someone who can “hit the ground running.” I counter by pushing them to find talent that can “hit the ground developing” and that has potential for the next two roles.

My background is in testing and assessment so know when standardized testing can make a difference. Unfortunately, I seldom see good examples. There are too many questionable assessments available, proffered by someone who bought a franchise and has no testing background. They emphasize using the test to screen out candidates, immediately lowering the utility and validity of the whole process. Personality-based assessments are the worst examples. Even if the assessments are well constructed, I find that companies do not use the tool appropriately (for example, wanting to set pass or fail scores). If you want to add testing to your selection process, use the data to add to your knowledge of the candidates, not as a screen. And work only with reputable firms that employ licensed psychologists.

Manage Easy

Millennials and their effect on the workplace is a hot topic. However, it’s my view that what organizations need to do in response to generational differences is not unique from one decade to the next.   That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. “Managing easy” is a great way to describe the style needed to support career success.

Successful people exhibit a similar set of strategic, operational, positioning, interpersonal and personal skills, no matter their generation. They develop a repertoire of behaviors by navigating a range of challenging experiences with guidance, support and feedback from leaders and peers Values may differ across generations but the behaviors that make a difference at work do not

So what’s an organization to do? It turns out that the most effective practices for Millennials are what high-performing organizations have been doing, no matter the generation.

  • Hire capable people (see Hiring Hard) and get out of their way. (Challenge them)
  • Establish policies that are NOT focused on the 5% who abuse privileges but the 95% who will do the right thing (Trust them)
  • Provide meaningful, value-added work that is linked to the overall success of the business, a “Greater Good” (Engage them)
  • Build careers based on “moving around” among challenging assignments, not just “moving up” in a department (Develop them)
  • Create a team-oriented culture that fosters innovation and collaboration (Support them)
  • Build competency-based talent management systems that define and reward success not longevity (Recognize them)
  • Employ performance management processes that provide systematic and meaningful feedback, not a rating (Feed them)

Fire Fast

Our host stated that there is no room for “brilliant assholes” at Facebook. Google said that they are better at firing than hiring (and their hiring process was impressive). There is a huge payoff for Identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture. Marginal leaders create disengagement and drive turnover. Non-performers drag down the performance of any team on which they participate. Low performing, low potential employees are terrible at hiring high-performers; they don’t know high performance when they see it. I could go on and on about the significant drag that brilliant assholes and other marginal employees have on organizations. It is a drag that is often ignored. Managers lack to courage to address the problem so non-performers are moved around, hidden or given less and less responsibility.

High-performing companies regularly assess talent and quickly address both opportunities and challenges. Google has eliminated the typical performance review (see Manage Easy) but conducts regular “calibration” reviews of talent. My experience is that regular, objective and candid reviews of talent at all levels are hallmarks of top-notch talent management systems.

That’s my take on hire hard, manage easy and fire fast. Nothing earth shattering but high impact. Where to start? Fire fast to get the quickest benefit then hire hard and manage easy.

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The Neuroscience of Strategy http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-neuroscience-of-strategy/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-neuroscience-of-strategy/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:45:25 +0000 Continue reading The Neuroscience of Strategy]]> Why do we need a strategy? Seems like a strange question but I’ve had it come up in conversations with leaders, especially in companies that have been successful without a written/published strategy. (What I often find is that they really do have a strategy in mind and they, as leaders, have been doing the right things to execute the strategy.)

There are plenty examples of well-defined and delineated strategies making a difference in an organization’s success. What we now know is that there is neurological foundation for the benefits of a sound strategy – creating and deploying strategy matches how the human brain operates.

One of the leading researchers in the field of Neuroscience of Leadership is David Rock. He has created a model that identifies five organization factors that have a significant effect on human reactions, linked to new research on how our brains operate. He calls it the SCARF model.

Status: the perception of being considered better or worse than others

Certainty: the predictability of future events

Autonomy: the level of control people feel over their lives

Relatedness: the experience of sharing goals with others

Fairness: the sense of being respected and treated equitably, especially compared with others

When an organization’s perceived level on any of the five SCARF factors is low, then employees feel threatened. Its a reaction that occurs deep in our brains – a more nuanced version of the fight or flight syndrome. The feeling of threat is often reflected in lower engagement and productivity, creating a number of leadership implications. One implication is the role strategy plays in organization success.

So why do you need a strategy? The SCARF model posits that, without a well thought-out and communicated strategy, employees will feel threated by a lack of relatedness, a lack of certainty and/or a lack of autonomy. Even if its not expressed, the feeling is there.   A strategy that clearly establishes the organization’s direction and intent, cascades goals and objectives to all levels and establishes a shared vision will help drive engagement and productivity.

Like to learn more about building a sound strategy? Click here to check out my whitepaper on Crafting the Best Strategy Ever.

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Do Great Leaders Naturally “Bubble to the Surface” Or The Fallacies of the Effervescent Model of Leadership http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/do-great-leaders-naturally-bubble-to-the-surface-or-the-fallacies-of-the-effervescent-model-of-leadership/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/do-great-leaders-naturally-bubble-to-the-surface-or-the-fallacies-of-the-effervescent-model-of-leadership/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 15:47:55 +0000 Continue reading Do Great Leaders Naturally “Bubble to the Surface” Or The Fallacies of the Effervescent Model of Leadership]]> A colleague recounted a perspective from an HR client that said they didn’t think that companies neither needed to assess their leadership talent nor do formal succession planning. Instead, the HR functionary believed that good leaders just “naturally bubble to the surface.”

My colleague and I, as we are want to do, took the concept a little further and decided that this should be called the “Effervescent Model of Leadership Development”. (We considered calling it the “Build it and They Will Come” model but that was taken.) We envisioned a process of bubbling, eruptions, fizzing or other such emissions that magically spewed forth the next generation of leaders. Absurd, yes, but at least it was worth a laugh.

So no, I do not think that effective leaders naturally bubble to the surface, any more than I think that effective business processes occur by spontaneous generation. Effective leadership development has to be much more intentional. It begins by understanding the strategy and direction of the organization. Different strategies demand different leadership capabilities.

Once strategy-critical competencies are identified, then existing pools of leadership talent need to be assessed against those competencies. If leaders are not capable, then they will struggle to deploy the strategy. Any talent gaps have to be addressed by selecting new leaders or developing the existing ones.

When I work with organizations to assess talent, we often find that they have more leadership capacity then they realized. We find capable talent that is not deployed effectively, is reporting to the wrong manager, is not challenged, is at risk of leaving, doesn’t realize they could have greater impact, etc. We do not find much “natural bubbling”. We always find opportunities to significantly improve the organization’s leadership capability by well-planned and executed talent initiatives.

The Effervescent Model of Leadership is sure to go flat (sorry), leave adherents with shortage of leadership talent and little return on their talent investment.

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The Magic of High-Impact Facilitation Revealed http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-magic-of-high-impact-facilitation-revealed/ http://www.mcassociatesinc.com/the-magic-of-high-impact-facilitation-revealed/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:49:41 +0000 Continue reading The Magic of High-Impact Facilitation Revealed]]> I hate to admit it but the first time I facilitated a group process was in 1979. I’m sure that first effort wasn’t pretty but it started me down a career-long study of the art and science of facilitation. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done since it is a capability that can be applied in a wide range of situations. I’ve facilitated hundreds of meetings, projects, and processes; from small teams to groups of over a thousand; from brief meetings to multi-day or -month efforts; with businesses and non-profits to colleges, unions and churches.

Often times, I get a reaction from someone involved in the facilitation that goes something like, “How did you do that? We’ve never gotten that much done before. What’s your magic?” Well, after careful consideration, I have decided to reveal the magic of my high-impact facilitation ability.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, my home planet was about to explode and my parents, Dean-El and Roberta-El, put me in a rocket . . . . . wait . . . . that’s not it. The real “magic” isn’t superhuman (though many years of experience doesn’t hurt.) There are two important potions in facilitation magic.

Design, Design, Design.   This is a secret that I learned many years ago from my mentor and facilitation guru, Jerry McNellis. This magic occurs long before the actual session begins and involves querying stakeholders to gain a thorough understanding of the situation at hand and what is to be accomplished. It takes the superhuman capabilities of questioning, listening and observation. I’ve done facilitation-on-the-fly (mostly in emergency situations) but it is never as effective as a well designed and tested process. The result is a laser-like focus that doesn’t waste anyone’s time and gets more done than anyone thought possible.

Dumb Facilitators   That’s right, the stupider the better – that’s why I have excelled. No, seriously . . . by “dumb” I mean someone who can stay out of the content and focus on the process. It always surprises me when a potential client is looking for a facilitator that is an expert in their industry. Why? Don’t they already have experts? What are all those people doing on the payroll then? They don’t need another industry expert. What they really need is someone who can effectively tap into the existing expertise, stay above the fray, make sure the process is on target, can ask insightful (dumb) questions and can know when to call audibles or make mid-course corrections.

There you have it – the non-magic of high-impact facilitation. Go forth and cast your spell!

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