Have You Looked Back Recently To Make Sure They Are Following?

Nine box models. Four box models.  Forced ranking.  Up or out campaigns.  Mentoring and coaching.  Training and development.  Engagement surveys.  Action plans of every shape and size to retain talent.  Having led Human Resources in three different types of industries for thirteen years now I can say I’ve done them all. Well, maybe not every one of the nine boxes.  But close.  And  truth be told it is critical to have a solid succession plan. I’ve developed succession plans for executive management and line level roles.  And, it’s critical to have solid individual development plans with rich content for every single employee.  I’ve developed hourly wage housekeepers and corporate directors alike with clear cut programs combining LMS and coaching and kinesthetic hands on training.   Point being, tools matter.  Tools like strong performance management systems, content rich training programs, formal leadership development programs, a firm and communicated pay-for-performance culture, and all that goes into the HR formula are a must to have a shot at developing and retaining your human capital.

I would assert, however, that all of the above activities will be entirely in vain if one critical ingredient is missing.

No system to retain and develop talent, leading to strong performance output, will work without the right leader at the helm. Bad leaders corrupt good systems. I’ve seen engagement scores skyrocket on the heels of removing a bad leader.  I’ve seen productivity more than double when a superior leader was instituted.  In my profession I have the chance to interview individuals when they leave.  I think the number one reason I’ve seen people leave, other than a rock star job they just couldn’t decline, is that they didn’t respect the leadership.  Top reasons cited have been inauthentic ways, autocratic ways, hypocrisy, love of power and greed, punitive and not positive ways, control and micro management, poor communication, not caring and ignoring the staff, failure to coach and develop staff, failure to solve problems and remove bottlenecks, and simply lack of intelligence in leading the department/team in the right direction.

Conversely I’ve seen people flock to follow good leaders, leaving jobs to accompany the boss they like to a new corporate home.  I can think of one leader I know who merely has to post a job opening and suddenly employees from a prior company start popping out of the wood work.  Truth be told, if it weren’t for my deep roots in Chicago, I’d have followed my “work dad” who used to be a director over me but now as the CHRO over a small university is blessing many others.  Funny thing is that I only worked for him for four months.  I grew more in those four months than all my corporate years working. That’s because he led well and took keen interest in me and all those working for him.  He grew us with tough love.  But he grew us.

So, the message of today’s blog is pretty simple.  Pay attention to who is allowed to lead.  Take warning signs seriously when the followers stop following.  And, when you find a person with leadership talents, develop them.  I don’t care if it’s a new college grad that  is ten years away from that VP job.  If they have inspiration genes and a good mind, invest, invest, invest.

Check this out too.  It’s a Forbes article about the top seven things great leaders do, which range from igniting enthusiam in others to encouraging their potential.  It’s a simple list but a good one: http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2011/07/06/the-7-secrets-of-inspiring-leaders/2/

“Every leader needs to look back once in a while to make sure he has followers.” – Anonymous

“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” — Robert Townsend

Management Breakthrough: Respect and Harmony

doveMy husband was out chatting with our neighbor the other day about some car issues we’ve been having with our newest vehicle.  He pondered how unusual it is that this vehicle is acting up while our older Honda vehicles with lots of miles on them keep plugging along, with hardly a hiccup on the maintenance Richter scale.  Our neighbor suggested this isn’t so odd.  He started talking about the way that Honda vehicles are made.  He said, in their factories, it’s a lot different from the standard American factory.  In their factories, the managers and the workers talk to each other.  They go out after work and discuss ways to improve and apply those changes at work.  They through this exchange of ideas, and working together, make a different kind of product.  That’s what we are seeing reflected in the performance of our cars.

This simple conversation got the wheels really spinning in my head.  How sad, I first thought, that my neighbor thinks so lowly of our American corporate way. I’ve been working in Corporate America for over fifteen years now and I am proud to be part of it.  But is there truth in some of the lessons he suggest we learn?  How is it that we’ve come to have such a “us and them” mentality between the leadership and the workers in America?  I think of a PBS documentary on Henry Ford I recently watched. The documentary recounted the rise and later decline of this great automobile manufacturing leader.  The rise included his absolutely world changing invention that led to the creation of automobiles accessible to the entire population.  The eventual decline, however, came on the heels of power and pride.  Henry hired a very militant and aggressive man to run his factories and there were horrible stories that followed about abuses and battles between worker and manager.  As the documentary puts it this regime ruled with “terror and fear.” Henry refused to listen to his son Edsel’s  council to broaden his mind to think beyond the “Model T Days” and to embrace new market demands. These power and pride based struggles were later in Mr. Ford’s life. Eventually, age and politics of the era led to him succumbing to the modern day and more progressive way to a certain extent.  All said, however, the story of the struggle is worth pondering.   If this great man, the author and inventor of the modern car, could succomb, couldn’t we all?  Perhaps the lesson to glean is that we should be intentionally on the watch out for letting bad practices seep into how we as leaders lead.

Now, back to my husband’s discourse with our neighbor. What my neighbor was reflecting on in fact is the Japanese methodology of Lean.  Toyota is probably the most famous auto manufacturer that is an emblem of this way of thinking.  Honda too has adopted similar approaches.  The philosophy at the core is one wrapped around the notion of having harmony in all things.  Harmony would propose that managers and workers can work together, without disputes and infighting.  All can, if their internal philosophy is aligned, work their hardest for the betterment of the entire organization.  The “us and them” mentality is a choice that does not have to be embraced. This leads to team wide brainstorming (in the lean world known as “Kaizen”), a culture of continous improvement and all hands on deck, and methods of order and excellence in all work standards.  Some people say that the measure of whether this system is working is to visit the bathrooms of the workers and the executives.  If both bathrooms are equally clean and equally nice, the system is likely in place.   This is because even the little things matter.  If I as your leader care about the environment where you go to use the bathroom facility, I probably care about other things too. If you as my employee care enough about the facility to keep it clean and orderly, you probably care about the overall well being of the company. Point being, boundaries are broken down and all work together, in harmony.

Automobile manufacturing aside, I think these stories and neighborhood conversation all speak to a simple human principle. Respect.  If you lead with care for all, intrigue for the opinions of all, and truly believe all are equal, you are likely to have more engaged teams.  Corporate powerhouses aside, I think this is at its core a very American tenet. All men and women are created equal.   Period.

So, keep yourself in check.  Don’t lead with power.  Lead with heart. Listen, engage and apply because multiple minds are always better than one. There is no team in one leader! There is a mighty team when hearts and minds, across the teams, are all engaged and marching in one common direction.