Posts in Culture
How to remove the pain and add the profit into Employee Engagement

Executives tell me, in their more candid moments, that they doubt the value of the ‘employee engagement survey.’

They find it time-consuming and stressful, and most have all but given up on trying to calculate any return-on-investment. No wonder then such surveys have the reputation of being “all pain and no profit.” 

So why bother? The answer lies in why we form organisations.

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Is the glass half empty or half frozen?

-25'C flashing on the car dashboard always heralds is a fresh start to the day, but the cool temperature didn’t deter the hardy souls I saw jogging as I drove out for my morning coffee.

Yet, if the comments of dial-in listeners on the morning news show where representative of city, a visitor would take Torontonians as feeble-minded as well as feeble-bodied.

 Enough. This is winter. This is Canada.

You see, when it comes down to it, we can deal with these parky conditions in one of three ways:

  1. Complain. Wish things were different but do nothing about it.
  2. Ignore. Insulate yourself from current conditions and carry on in isolation.
  3. Embrace. Modify your actions to make the most of the environment, and change as it changes.
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Can your team deliver innovation? Find out with my Christmas Gift to you.

Are you hop-skipping delightfully from one good idea to another but never getting things done? Or are you perfecting the present, making a great sailing ship while the rest of the world moves to steam?

I have seen businesses that are so innovative, nothing ever gets completed. They flounder as they flail excitedly from one awesome idea to another. They may not run out ideas, but do they do run out of cash.

Conversely, I have worked with highly adaptive organisations who grow, painstakingly, by tweaking past successes. They make few mistakes, but one day they end up with perfect sailing ship, while the rest of the world has moved to steam.

The Holy Grail is, of course, Delivered Innovation. This requires the best of both approaches but each extreme often sees the worst of each other thus making mutual collaboration difficult.

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Bead-counting alone doesn’t tell the story

The leader had self-esteem.

Contrary to popular belief, many business managers lack self-esteem; they are fearful of dissent and it bursts through their leadership style and binds the psyche of the organisation. 

Here are some tell-tale signs. If you see a large organisation that;

  • was once a leader but is devoid of competitive advantage
  • is diverse in population but not in thinking
  • hails investors yet hides from customers
  • tries to control rather than shape the future
  • put numbers before narrative
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Why do businesses continually enter races they can't win?

Last week both Dennis Kimetto and I were in Germany. I was there to conduct a Problem-Solving Leadership workshop, and Kimetto was there to run a marathon. And though my programme went well, it was Kimetto’s performance that made the newspapers. 

Dennis broke the marathon world record in Berlin by completing the course in 2:02:57, beating the previous record by almost 30 seconds.

This is a remarkable feat, but remarkable feats in distance running are not uncommon within Kimetto’s, Kalenjin tribe of Kenya. Their five million members have won an incredible 40% of the major international distance races since 1980. 

Let’s put this into context: There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjin men who did it in October 2011.

What is the secret of their success, and what can it teach organisations?

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The sands in China are shifting

This week I conducted a leadership workshop in China’s largest and most prosperous city, Shanghai. It has been five years since I last visited the city, and there have been two dramatic change in that period.

Dizzyingly tall towers continue to shoot up at a rapid pace. Globally, Chinese contractors are now the masters of modular construction of these structures, and cosmetically at least, the results are impressive. But the quality of the electrical, plumbing and mechanical is far below the sophistication of the outer casing. 

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Shutting up shop shouldn't mean closing doors

Stout women remove skin from your ankles with their chariots. Old men stop-and-start foot traffic abruptly as they shake hands and kiss their acquaintances. It exasperates some of the younger locals and beguiles some of the visitors, but these are prices of participation in French local markets.

Local markets have always been important in Europe and set to become even more so. And while markets have been at the heart and soul of a town, they may become its lifeblood too.

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S1 E3: This I have learnt—Norris Zucchet, CEO (retired), Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries

Imagine having a market where demand is guaranteed (yes, guaranteed) to grow, where competition is limited, and the cost of entry is high.

Too good to be true? Maybe.

But there is a downside. Such dynamics can cause organisations to become sluggish and indifferent to innovation. After all, why should they change?

Norris Zucchet faced such conditions. It turned out to be the most demanding, exhausting and exhilarating 13 years of his career.

What did he do and what did he learn? Grab 15 mins of wisdom in this edition of 'This I have learnt.'

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Leading people is labour intensive; popping the bubble of the 4-hour work week

The 4-hour work week might be attainable if you forward orders of vitamin shipments to a third-party, or have only one employee—you. But if you are dependent on people to collaborate effectively for achievement of goal, here's the wake-up call. It takes time. In fact, the better your team and the bigger the change, the more time it requires.

Leading people is labour intensive. It takes time and energy. It requires passion for that role. If you don't have the appetite, stay away from this buffet.

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S1 E2: This I have learnt—Tom Schmidt, Managing Director, Norton McMullen Corporate Finance

Large organisations are characterised by the size of their employee population. Engaging the group to co-operate for combined and individual benefits is the single largest challenge of leaders in such in an organisation. In fact, in some ways, it is the only thing they do.

Tom Schmidt has had a successful career within a number of large organisations. In this episode of 'This I have learnt' he shares with us some of his experiences on how to lead others, but also how to lead and develop oneself in order to be a better leader. 

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What makes a good brand? The predictable delivery of an exciting promise.

Goodness we make things difficult for ourselves.

Before Christmas I participated in a conference on Strategy and Branding. I gave a presentation entitled, “Market-driving vs market-driven: consequences for organisational culture,”

I will amplify the content of the presentation in future articles, but I want to focus on a question which came up in subsequent presentations, and whose answer clearly has implications for the way we drive a business.

What constitutes a good brand?

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