"employee engagement"

Fri 10 January 2020
When an employee mentions to his manager that he has received an offer from another company, how does the manager, and the company for that matter, typically respond? Often, they will respond with a counteroffer to keep that employee on the team.
Why?
Because the expense of having to pick up the pieces of where that employee left off is substantially higher than the expense of paying them more.
But…
What if we lived in a world where money wasn’t the only factor for choosing whether to stay in a job or accept a new role?
What if we discovered that there is another factor that plays a HUGE role in whether or not people stay or go? 
Most business roundtables and experts will say “you must invest in your culture!” What does that even mean? Does it mean providing lunches and ping pong tables at the office? Maybe.
Company culture is the combined makeup of how each individual employee feels about their work, whom they are doing that work with, and how attached their identity is to the work they are doing at that company. Company culture is the way that each employee feels when he/she comes to work.
You can’t force employees to feel a certain way, but you can create environments and opportunities where ideally, your people are creating deeper bonds with each other. When deeper bonds are built between people, a chemical in our brain called oxytocin fires. Oxytocin is why we feel good being around other people we like. 
When oxytocin is consistently firing when we are around our co-workers, our desire to not lose that feeling is high. Essentially, we, as humans, can form a chemical dependency to a group of people we enjoy being around in which money cannot easily persuade us to leave.
If people are using words like “we” and “us” vs. “you”, “they”, and “I”, that is a good start. But are there is 1 strong way to boost company culture.
Carve time for employees to have intentional one-on-one conversations with each other (can be about work or not about work).
Why can this activity be so powerful and impactful to the company? 
This activity creates an environment for deep relationships. When deep relationships are formed between people, oxytocin builds between those people. When people have oxytocin with their colleagues, they desire to be around those people that make them feel good.
Does it have to be one-on-one or can it be in a group?
It is best to be done one-on-one because people are less likely to be vulnerable when more people are around. Vulnerability is the key to building trust and trust is required for oxytocin to build. To make an example, think about holiday parties (or any other corporate gathering) – are people comfortable having deep, intentional conversations or are the conversations about the weather, sports, work, or any other surface-level topic? Typically, it is the latter. When people are one-on-one, they feel more comfortable opening up to each other.
Is it possible to provide a structure that leads to deep relationships?
Yes. 2 things are critical to this. First, people that are meeting with each should have aligned Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work and is a spectrum between “job”, “career”, and “calling”. When people share Work Orientation, their likelihood of getting along in these relationships is much higher because their value systems are aligned.
Second, these conversations should be focused on discussing the past, not the future. When we discuss the future, we are more inclined to embellish our goals and less likely to share our past vulnerabilities for fear that our past mistakes will not be consistent with our future goals. When we discuss the past, we can focus on the missteps we have taken and how we have learned from them. 
To build trust, you must be vulnerable first, not the other way around.
How can I measure if deep relationships are being built?
You can assess your employees’ engagement levels. If engagement rises, you will know that employees’ level of connectedness to the company culture is growing. 
How often should people be meeting?
It can be once per month for an hour each meeting. This intentional time away from work and focused on another person can create bonds that last a lifetime.
Should people switch up whom they are meeting with?
Yes. Variety in these relationships helps further intertwine employees so then they are consistently building deep relationships with multiple people. As long as the relationships formally last for at least 6 months, that should be plenty of time for people to get into rapport and continue that relationship.
In conclusion, creating environments in which colleagues are building deep relationships with each other can increase oxytocin firing in their brains when they come to work and subsequently increase the alignment of their identity with the company’s culture.
If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Thu 23 January 2020
Most companies are interested in increasing the engagement level of their employees, improving retention, and growing the productivity levels and likelihood of collaboration of their teams and implementing mentor programs is garnering popularity as a catalyst for these outcomes.

The next steps is to think about how to best match participants in this mentor program together. This is a commonly overlooked aspect to mentor programs but has a critical impact on the success of the program.

Without a proven system for matching people together for mentorship, your mentor program is not likely to succeed.

Why is the match so important?

Mentorship is a relationship-based activity between two people. If the two people matched in a mentor relationship are not compatible, forcing the relationship to work is going to create resentment among both parties.

This would be like being put into an arranged marriage by your parents with somebody you hate but as opposed to having parents (who will always be your parents and you can’t get rid of) who put you together, you have your company…which you can leave…creating the opposite effect of what a mentor program was meant to accomplish.

Common Pitfalls

1.       Matching people based on years of experience
2.       Matching people based on status in the company
3.       Matching people based on area of expertise

These are great secondary factors for matching people together for mentorship, but if they are the sole basis for matching people, our research has indicated that these relationships have an 18% likelihood of lasting 6 months and being considered both productive and quality by both participants.

Why?

None of these factors consider who the individual is. Mentorship is a relationship-based activity. One’s years of experience, status in the company, or area of expertise say nothing about who an individual is. All it says is what they have accomplished.

If your mentor program matching methodology in only about what somebody has accomplished, your only incentive to both participants is the transactional outcome of achieving that experience, gaining that status, or learning that skill and once that outcome has happened the relationship is over…or if the outcome doesn’t happen within the expected time frame of both participants the relationship fizzle’s out because the participants didn’t get what they were looking for.

Work Orientation is critical to matching people for successful mentor relationships.

Work Orientation is how you view your work. Some people view their work as a job, while some view their work as a career, while others view their work as a calling. Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it can change throughout your life. There is also not a right or wrong Work Orientation.

When Work Orientation is aligned for matching people together for a mentoring relationship, the likelihood that the relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality goes from 18% to 72%. 

The point: what motivates people at work has a huge impact on the advice they give in a workplace mentor program and the insight they want to learn.

If you are interested in learning your Work Orientation, go to https://ambition-in-motion.com/ and complete the 1-minute Work Orientation Assessment and your report will be sent to you.

Fri 31 January 2020
The marketing team is frustrating the engineering team which is frustrating the sales team which is frustrating the customer service team which is frustrating the accounting team…and all of these frustrations frustrate the executive team.

Maybe frustrated is too strong of a word…but the current meeting structure between teams is not working as great as you would like.

You might have thought about the idea of implementing a mentor program to help increase connectivity between teams but thought to yourself “We are growing too quickly and don’t have the time to implement a mentor program.”

This article serves to challenge that notion.

A man was hired to cut down trees. On the first day he cut down 6 trees. On the second day he cut down 5 trees. On the third day he cut down 4 trees. By the end of the week, he was only cutting down one tree per day. He went to his boss and said “I don’t know what is going on with me! I must be getting weaker.” His boss replied, “When was the last time you took the time to sharpen your axe?” The man was confused. He responded “I don’t have time to sharpen my axe. I need to spend my time cutting down trees.”

Implementing a mentor program at your company, especially if it is growing at a fast pace, is like sharpening your axe. 

When a new employee doesn’t build a strong bond with another employee within the first month of starting their role, their likelihood of being retained past 1 year and having a high level of engagement diminishes significantly. 

This relationship is NOT the relationship they have with their direct supervisor.

Why?

Because the relationship between a supervisor and direct report is one of expectation. Both parties have expectations for each other. When two people have expectations for each other, the likelihood for vulnerability between those two people diminishes substantially. When there is no vulnerability, there is no trust. When there is no trust, oxytocin can’t form in our brains and when oxytocin can’t form in our brains, we don’t receive the happiness we feel when we are surrounded by those that we do have oxytocin with.

The point: the bonds that cause people to stay at a company beyond 1 year and be highly engaged at work need to form outside of their boss to direct report relationship. 

It can be with somebody within their own department, but for this article, we will focus on the benefits of matching people together for mentorship across departments and how people with different backgrounds can increase their engagement, productivity, and collaboration at work.

People build strong bonds with each other for mentorship when their Work Orientations align. Work Orientation is the measure of what motivates us at work. Some people are job oriented, some people are career oriented and some people are calling oriented. 

There is a 400% increase in the likelihood of facilitating successful mentor relationships when Work Orientation is aligned.

The reason is because people inherently try to empathize with others when they are in a mentoring relationship. But, when 2 peoples Work Orientations are not aligned, the advice, questions, and insight will not be received in the way the other expects or wants to hear. For example, an issue a career oriented person might face is feeling like they aren’t learning new skills. A job oriented mentor might ask, in their attempt to be empathetic, “Are you getting paid well? Are you getting enough time off? Is your work stressing you out?” The career oriented person might answer yes to the first two questions and no to the last question but still feel unfulfilled because their problem isn’t with pay, time off, or work stress, it is with the lack of opportunities to learn new skills, an issue that might not be considered an issue for a job oriented mentor. 

This is just an example, but in this, both people are left feeling unfulfilled from that mentor experience.

When Work Orientation is aligned, peoples attempts at empathy are more well-received and both parties feel greater connectedness to each other.

What makes Work Orientation so unique is that this measure goes beyond status within the company, years of experience, or area of skill or expertise.

What this means is that people can be matched together across departments, years of experience, or status within the company while still having a high likelihood of having a successful mentor relationship.

In fact, this type of mentorship does an amazing job of creating collaborations between teams. It is difficult for the marketing team to understand what the engineering team is going through which is difficult to understand what the sales team is going through which is difficult to understand what the customer service team is going through (and so on so forth throughout your company). 

By creating mentor bonds between people across departments, you are able to foster relationships that don’t have expectations. This leads to empathy and vulnerability which leads to trust, which leads to oxytocin which leads to greater levels of engagement and collaboration at work. When somebody on the engineering team complains about the marketing team, an engineer who is in a mentoring relationship with somebody on the marketing team can squash that issue and convey what the marketing team is going through as opposed to letting that complaint fester and grow deeper into the minds of the engineers.

Fri 28 February 2020
One common piece of advice I hear is that “you should work towards finding a calling”. The advice makes sense. I mean of you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top and it is easy to assume that finding a calling is consistent with achieving self-actualization.

But what if it’s not? What if we have it wrong?

I work in the space of implementing employee mentor programs for companies and I have studied extensively the correlation between aligned Work Orientation and the likelihood of successful mentor relationships. I have also studied correlations between different Work Orientations and levels of engagement at work.

Work Orientation is how one view’s their work. Some people view their work as a job (motivated by work/life balance), some people view their work as a career (motivated by professional growth), and some people view their work as a calling (motivated by personal/professional mission alignment).

My team and I learned that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning that it can change throughout one’s life. We also learned that when people don’t share a similar Work Orientation and are matched together for a mentoring relationship, that the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality diminishes significantly. 

But is there a correlation between one type of Work Orientation and being more engaged at work?

Our current research indicates no.

Our current research does break workplace engagement into 4 separate categories: emotional attachment to the work, energy received from doing the work, social connection with those whom doing the work with, and level of fulfillment from the work itself.

Our current research indicates that there is no one Work Orientation that is more engaged at work than another, but that some Work Orientations are more engaged in certain types of engagement than others.

People that are job oriented gain more workplace engagement from social connection with those whom they are doing the work than people that are career or calling oriented.

People that are career oriented gain more workplace engagement from the energy received doing the work than people that are job or calling oriented.

People that are calling oriented gain more workplace engagement from the level of fulfillment from the work itself than people that are career or job oriented.

The point is that maybe not everybody needs a calling. Everybody runs in their own lane and lives their own life and can achieve happiness and self-actualization in their own way. Assuming that everyone needs a calling may put people in uncomfortable situations and make them feel a way that they aren’t. And just because somebody doesn’t view their work as a calling right now doesn’t mean that they never will.

To adequately share the data and the other side of this point, our research also indicates that people that are career and calling oriented are more receptive to participating in employee mentor programs. Since employee mentorship - done successfully - leads to increased workplace engagement, greater collaboration across teams, and improved productivity, you could also make a counterargument.

Wed 4 March 2020
It is a collaboration between mentor and mentee who works together to identify goals that are specific to the individual’s role and aligned to corporate objectives.  The mentor should be supportive and listen to the ideas of the mentee.  This is critical as it guarantees that mentee will know “what is expected of me”, which is another key drive of engagement and performance.  It also frames the conversation in a meaningful way.  Are the goals on track or not?  Why? What can the individual do to improve?  What can others do to support?  If the performance or behavior under question does not change, the mentor needs to remind the mentee of the goal and hole him/her accountable.  Mentor set priorities and had ability to work toward stated as success could be defined as a progressive realization of a predetermined goal.  Mentor amplified limited power by empowering mentee to take on shared challenges, seeking to surround with the most talented people representing a wide range of skills that could be helpful in achieving the goals.  Mentor in collaboration with mentee helps to set goals, to move forward these goals, and to advice on what course of action mentee should take.  Furthermore, mentor coaches mentee to build the processes necessary to collaborate on a strategy on how to best implement the project.

Mentoring is a long-term commitment with a broader range; include guidance toward professional education and career choices.

Fri 18 October 2019
When dining at a restaurant, what happens when your expectations don’t meet reality? Presuming you were expecting to enjoy your meal, if your expectation is not fulfilled with what you experienced, you will likely not dine at that restaurant again. In contrast, what happens when expectation DOES meet reality? You enjoy your food, and will probably continue eating at that restaurant in the future.


What happens when employees’ expectations of their careers don’t meet reality? They leave.


For college students, possessing a realistic expectation of their career at a company is extremely difficult because they have never worked in the corporate world before. Sure, many college students have had internships and part time jobs before, but it is not the same as being in a full-time career.


There are many things that college students can do to gain a more realistic expectation of the factors affecting their careers. This blog will cover one of the most important factors affecting the expectations of their careers: MONEY.


When it comes to choosing a career from a list of job offers, many people resort to a mindset of “choose the job that pays the most!” This is not a bad instinct by any means. But is that job paying its employees enough to fulfill their expectations of the type of lifestyles they envisioned for themselves after college? If not, even the highest paying career is not enough to satisfy these employees’ expectations.


What can college students do to have a more realistic expectation of their lifestyle and how much money they should make after college?


They can begin by looking at their current lifestyle. If college students have accustomed themselves to a spend-heavy lifestyle in college (or vice versa and not spend much at all), they will likely live a similar lifestyle when they enter their careers. This is because students have grown accustomed to their lifestyles. Even if their parents, student loans, or scholarships covered the tab on many of the expenses that they are going to have to pay for now, students (and all people for that matter) have a difficult time changing their habits. To prove this point, checkout the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke which details the amount of former professional athletes that could not change their lifestyles after retiring and are now bankrupt.


Fortunately for college students, there is an awesome cost of living calculator on Nerdwallet which details the cost of living change from one city to another. By using this website college students are able to calculate their annual living, food, entertainment, and transportation expenses currently. They then can get a really good idea of how much they will spend annually on their lifestyles after college by comparing it to the costs associated with other cities where they wish to live. College students then have to factor in taxes and the amount of money they want to save annually in order to derive the minimum starting salary they need to achieve to live the current lifestyle they are living.


What if the minimum starting salary a student needs to have exceeds the amount of money they have been offered in their job offers?


There are 2 options at this juncture. Either the student needs to find job offers for more money, or he needs to realign his expectations of his lifestyle to meet a more realistic expectation.


By knowing what their minimum necessary starting salary should be, students can then concentrate on all other factors of the career when considering job offers. For example, if you discover that your minimum necessary starting salary is $50,000 (for a specific city) and you have offers for $52,000, $54,000, and $60,000, you can evaluate and compare every other facet of the career (nice employees, opportunities for growth, good location, a culture that seems to fit your personality, etc.) to choose the offer that fits you best among these other factors because you can know that your expected lifestyle will be fulfilled.


By performing this task while in college, students can save themselves a lot of heartache, stress, and time.


When expectation meets reality, satisfaction occurs.

Fri 20 September 2019
A couple of years ago when I was interviewing companies, I would ask a similar question in all of my interviews.


Me (in an interview): “So tell me a little about your company’s culture?”


Recruiter: “Great question. We have a very youthful and innovative culture here at                company. We have casual Fridays and an annual philanthropic event that many of our employees participate in called                        .”


Me: (not trying to pry or insult) “ahh, thanks for letting me know.”


What I really wanted to ask was ‘what the heck does that even mean?’ In defense of the recruiter, that is a very difficult question to answer.


To understand why that is a difficult question to answer, let’s dive into what organizational culture is. According to study.com:


“Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they dress, act, and perform their jobs.”


So, according to the recruiter that I interviewed, she kind of answered the question. Although, it didn’t really help me as a college student who at the time had no preconceived notion of what organizational culture was. The recruiter telling me about her youthful and innovative culture tells me that the company is trying to adapt to the changing future. Her telling me about casual Fridays tells me how the employees dress on Fridays and the philanthropic event tells me how some of the employees act during that once a year period when the event is going on.


But what about the shared values, beliefs and assumptions? How am I supposed to create a picture of what a company’s culture is like without this information?


To play devil’s advocate, if people know about casual Fridays, but think that it is a joke or would rather not change their dress routine for one day of the week, how pertinent to the culture of the company are casual Fridays? If there seems to be a trend that the people who participate in this annual philanthropic event get higher bonuses (maybe because the owner, president, or board started this organization or is heavily invested in this organization), is it really optional and (if it is perceived as not optional because those who don’t participate in the philanthropic event tend to not get bonuses) does it really contribute to the culture of the company? If the only reason the recruiter described her company’s culture as youthful and innovative because she recently hired a bunch of recent college graduates and the term “innovative” tends to attract young people, is the culture really energetic and willing to try new things that shape how business is done in the future? These are hypothetical questions, but questions nonetheless that I am still left wondering as a student interviewing a company (that I don’t feel comfortable asking for fear of insulting).


The reason why asking the recruiter what her company’s culture is like is a difficult question is because it is her opinion.


Organizational cultures are not universally good or universally bad for every person. Just because two organizations have the exact same activities (i.e. casual Fridays and philanthropic events) doesn’t mean that those activities are received the same way at each company by the employees. Some employees may hate those types of activities while other employees may love them and an employee’s love or hatred for doing an activity may depend on who they are doing that activity with (i.e. their colleagues).


Just because a company writes on its website their values and beliefs, doesn’t necessarily mean that the employees share them.


When hired, every person enters the hiring company with a set of values and beliefs. That individual has an influence on the overall culture, but will ultimately have to adapt their values and beliefs to that of what already exists at the company. The individual can either fight those values and beliefs by not seeing how their values and beliefs can be fulfilled through the company or they can buy into the culture of the company.


Many employees for a company fall in between these two choices because they have not taken the time to think about their own values and beliefs and how they pertain to the company in which they are working. Many employees accept their job for what it is without acknowledging or appreciating the little things their company may be trying to do to make their work more enjoyable.


Ultimately, it is up to the individual applying for the job or as an employee within the company to decide what the company’s culture is like. It is up to this individual to understand their own values and beliefs and see how those values and beliefs are being fulfilled by the company. If this understanding can be developed by all or at least a majority of the employees within a company, organizational culture can thrive.

Mon 6 April 2020
As remote work grows in popularity, the need for keeping individuals in-tune and engaged in the company culture increases substantially.

Remote work removes many of the inconveniences associated with going into work like commutes and distractions, but it takes away a key component to what makes company culture…connection!

This article serves to show a key way companies can go about maintaining and even improving the level of connectivity between employees as their work location becomes remote.

Before jumping into suggestions on maintaining and growing connectivity of employees as their work location becomes remote, let’s observe how employees connect in an office environment.

In our research on facilitating horizontal mentoring relationships for employees, we have learned that 68% of engaged employees that don’t work remotely believe that there are communication barriers between them and other employees. This is a critical statistic because this shows that even engaged employees feel that they are silo’d off from other employees, even if they work in the same office. 

Reframing this point, most people don’t know what their counterparts in other departments do for their work and the conversations they do have are typically superficial (e.g. sports, weather, fashion, family).

As more people begin to work remotely, this is going to get worse because employees are going to lose the little interaction they do have with each other. All communication is going to be work related and the emotional identity employees have of being a member of the company will soon fade.

Just to be clear, the emotional identity employees have of being a member of the company is the company’s culture! Once that is gone, there is no more culture!

One key to keeping remote employees engaged in the culture of the company is to set aside time for employees to have intentional conversations with each other.

These conversations are not superficial while also not completely about work. These conversations are free from the workplace hierarchy (e.g. title has nothing to do with what is and isn’t shared in these conversations). These conversations provide a platform for employees to share what they are working on with another employee, learn obstacles the other person is facing, ask clarifying questions that they don’t normally ask or get asked, and identify ways to find breakthroughs at work – emotionally, operationally, mentally, or physically.

These relationships create empathy between employees. These relationships breakthrough communication barriers between employees. These relationships build a greater sense of identity employees have with the company. 

This is called horizontal mentorship.

Optimal horizontal mentorship means:

·        Pairing employees together based on shared Work Orientation – or their shared workplace value system.
·        Providing meeting agendas to drive the conversations towards building rapport and being vulnerable.
·        Collecting feedback and learning what tangible outcomes were created every few months from meeting.
·        Switching mentor pairings every 6-12 months to continually build a web of connection between employees.
·        Everyone participating is willing to be open-minded enough to learn from somebody else regardless of their age or experience, willing to ask questions, and willing to share past mistakes.

When horizontal mentorship is implemented optimally, all employees, especially remote employees, feel a greater level of connectivity and identity with their company.
Mon 27 April 2020
When a company implements a new employee-to-employee horizontal mentorship program, this can feel like a big first step towards progress! However, impactful mentorship is not Field of Dreams; just because you built it, it doesn’t mean that employees will see ‘magical’ changes overnight. It takes more than a basic mentorship program to develop engaged employees and achieve the desired goals you have for the mentor program and the company as a whole. 


This article offers my perspective on the importance of semi-structured meeting agendas as a driving force for effective, impactful mentorship, regardless of the personalities of the people participating.


Our conventional wisdom tells us that “if two people are extroverted, they are naturally going to hit it off. Structured meetings will just get in the way of natural conversation!”


This conventional wisdom is wrong.


Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. We expect two extroverted people to have an easy path to conversation, but this doesn’t account for a key issue: how productive is what they are discussing? Is their discussion casual, like sports, weather, or family? Or, is their discussion about the obstacles they are facing at work and having a dialogue about how to make their work more productive and personally fulfilling?


People may be able to gain value from any conversation, true. But, more likely than not, these casual conversations are superficial and not particularly substantive. The reason for this is because people feel comfortable discussing things that they either see on a daily basis or that they don’t have control over but are generally interested in. We are used to these conversation topics. When anyone ever asks, “how are you doing?” it is typically followed by these superficial talking points. 


Casual conversations are low risk, low reward. Few people have revelations when discussing whether the Lakers will make the playoffs. These conversations are comforting and valuable, but they are simply no substitute for challenging discussions and self-reflection. 


On the flip side, deep conversations are rarer for a reason. Talking about work obstacles and challenging your fears about what’s possible in your professional career is uncomfortable! We are forced to be vulnerable. These conversations do drive profound outcomes, but without an agenda keeping people on track, we can unintentionally deviate back to those comfortable, superficial topics.  


Falling back to comfortable conversation isn’t just a risk for extroverted people; introverts can face their own challenges during a mentorship program. One might assume “if two people are introverted, they can figure out a mentor meeting without an agenda. They are professionals and their introversion will make them more comfortable.”


Again, this conventional wisdom falls flat. Ask introverts if they would feel comfortable with this and most will say no. This is typically the assumption extroverted people have about introverted people.


The issue is that the people that are most interested in starting company-wide mentor programs are typically extroverts. Introverts just typically don’t share that same type of self-sustaining drive for more social interaction; they recharge their ‘mental energy’ in different ways. 


But, this doesn’t mean that introverts are disinterested in mentorship!


Instead, when an introvert participates in a mentor program, they might be more likely to have some anxiety or skepticism about meeting somebody they (typically) have minimal interaction with. They need to feel confident and come to the meeting with a plan: How long is the meeting? What are the topics for discussion? How can they be sure that this meeting will be impactful to them? 


Meeting agendas accomplish this goal. Meeting agendas give introverted people the safety net of a plan of action. They know that the discussion will be meaningful, that the conversation won’t be open-ended without a set end time, and that the other person (their mentor) shares this plan.


Implementing a mentor program is a huge first step towards building a stronger, more positive company culture and breaking through communication barriers.


But just having a mentor program doesn’t mean that the company is accomplishing their goals. Improvement takes active effort; the communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover are not going to magically disappear overnight. Employee engagement and positive company culture doesn’t appear by flipping a switch.


Unfortunately, many companies start (and end) these efforts with the idea of “let’s start a mentor program!” and simply call it a day. They might ‘match’ employees, but randomly. They might give suggested topics, but not meeting agendas. Instead of creating an impactful mentorship program for their company, they simply checked another box for their year-end review and assumed the benefits had already materialized. 


Providing mentor meeting agendas is one very important piece of building a strong, thriving employee horizontal mentorship program that connects with every employee, regardless of personality. 



Mon 11 May 2020
Engagement has become a popular metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and, to an extent, the health of a company’s culture.
But is engagement a truly accurate metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and company culture?
Engagement has clearly shown a correlation to greater productivity and workplace happiness, but how accurate is our method for measuring workplace engagement? Are their leading indicators that might serve as a better metric for how engagement will change?
This article outlines some of the issues with solely measuring engagement and identifies some additional metrics that may provide stronger evidence for when engagement is volatile or calm.
The three issues with only measuring engagement are as follows:
1.Engagement can change in an instant
When an engaged employee becomes disengaged, it is often instigated by one event rather than by some extended sequence of events over time. Most people enter a company excited to get to work and get started, thus are highly engaged. But as they spend more time with the company, they get to know more people and become more accustomed to the workplace. They formulate ideas and expectations about who their coworkers and bosses are and how they are expected to act, and these expectations are compared and contrasted with their own internal compass for how the workplace is expected to operate. 
But, when this new and engaged employee is confronted by someone strongly deviating from the expectations in a negative way, this negative event can muddle their expectations and disengage the employee. 
This is more than simple conjecture; I’ve heard this same story again and again. For example, a friend of mine works at a company where 1 employee (Director) became frustrated at another employee (Accountant) because the accountant consistently asked the director to redo his expense reports. The director’s frustrations stemmed from the fact that it took him 15 minutes to redo the expense reports. In all fairness, there were mistakes, but the director thought that they were immaterial and insignificant.
So, the director goes to other people in his department to share what a pain in the butt it is to redo the expense reports. He subtly inserts his frustrations into conversations to see if anyone else can relate. If somebody bites, they enter a conversation and begin venting their frustrations about the accountant.
The issue is that word travels fast. The accountant learns about these conversations and doesn’t feel comfortable approaching the director with his thoughts or feelings. He is then posed with the question, “does he do his job properly or not because he knows the director is going to complain?”
The accountant learns about his treatment and switches from engaged to disengaged in an afternoon.
2. Work status changes can temporarily impact engagement away from the average
Similarly to starting a new relationship, there is usually a brief ‘honeymoon’ period when taking up a new role or position. Whether it’s a promotion or a new job altogether, taking over new responsibilities feels awesome at first. We feel eager to learn new things, jump on tasks that need to get done, and are open-minded to the feedback we receive.
Within the first 3 months of starting this role, our engagement is artificially elevated because we are “drinking from the firehose”. There are so many amazing opportunities and interesting new responsibilities that it would be difficult to not be engaged.
If a company measures engagement every 6 months or once per year and their survey includes people within those first 3 months of starting a new role, the results are likely skewed positively. If leadership is relying on this information to make informed decisions about how to best manage their team, they are going to be relying on falsely inflated engagement scores which diminishes the need to positively develop the company. Why provide new activities for their employees when engagement is already high when instead, you could double-down on quotas and operational goals and try to squeeze some extra productivity from their “highly engaged” workforce? 
If the engagement numbers are skewed, this type of scenario could put engagement and workplace morale into a tailspin. These artificially engaged employees might become overworked. And when they leave the honeymoon stage and revert back to the mean, their dwindling engagement could reach a critical threshold because leadership pushed when they needed to support. 
3. Daily engagement measures lead to survey fatigue
Some companies may claim they eradicate the first two issues because they measure engagement daily.
However, this approach brings a new problem: survey fatigue. If employees are asked the same questions every single day, they are going to grow accustomed to consistently responding a certain way, regardless of the underlying truth. Instead of capturing their engagement, we are simply building a pointless ritual into every employee’s day: the daily survey that only truly measures how quickly they click the “moderately engaged” button.  
In this case, gathering more data does not mean necessarily gathering better data. The previous two issues, 1) engagement can change in an instant and 2) that work status changes can artificially inflate engagement are very much still a concern. In fact, daily measurements might be worse than 3 or 6 month measurements because the daily habitual answers could override honesty right up until that event that “flips” the engagement switch. 
However, there isn’t all bad news about measuring workplace engagement. As mentioned earlier in this article, there is a direct correlation to productivity and work satisfaction when engagement is high.
There are leading indicators that can help companies better understand whether or not engagement is susceptible to change.
The leading indicators our team has identified are 1) Communication Barriers between employees and 2) Dysfunctional Turnover.
We define communication barriers between employees as the lack of understanding for the obstacles another employee faces, and we define dysfunctional turnover as turnover from employees that do great work and are engaged but are susceptible to leaving because of something going on in the company (e.g. not due to personal events).
Our team has identified that 68% of engaged employees believe that there are communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work. This is critical to understand because it means that people are forming assumptions about others’ work, but only rarely get chances to find out if these assumptions are based in fact. When employees don’t understand the obstacles faced by their coworkers, they form assumptions about what other employees do. These assumptions can create a lack of empathy, and this lack of empathy creates a high susceptibility for them to become disgruntled and disengaged by someone else’s actions in coordination with their assumptions.
If you can understand how many of your employees experience communication barriers at work, you can begin to gauge how quickly engagement might change.
Dysfunctional turnover also involves communication, but as opposed to the focus being on what other people are doing outside of an employee’s control, it involves the communication an employee receives for their specific job function. When employees feel like they are not getting adequate feedback or communication from their boss, they are susceptible to becoming disengaged. Employees are also susceptible to becoming disengaged when they don’t perceive that their colleagues respect the work they do.
Measuring dysfunctional turnover is not the same as measuring the TIS (Turnover Intention Scale) as the TIS asks for feedback on pretty black and white statements like “I don’t envision myself working for this company much longer.” We measure dysfunctional turnover via factors like communication quality with colleagues and bosses during multi-person tasks and their perception of the respect they receive for the work they do.
In essence, engagement metrics do have a lot of value, but measuring engagement only shows where engagement is at now, not where it will be. Measuring leading indicators like communication barriers between employees and dysfunctional turnover can provide a lens into where engagement is going.
 

Mon 25 May 2020
One of the biggest reasons people join professional associations is for the opportunity to network and educate themselves on the most up-to-date topics in their field. Most professional associations go about delivering this value via conferences and local meet-ups by individual chapters of the association.

With COVID-19, most conferences have been canceled or postponed for a TBD date. This poses a major threat to association managers because if they aren’t able to provide networking or educational opportunities to its members, why should their members keep paying their annual dues? 

After speaking with a handful of association managers and board members, I have learned that many professional associations are losing membership because of the coronavirus and its subsequent impact.

The truth is, you can only get so much engagement through digital educational sessions and panel discussions with guest speakers on Zoom or YouTube. These activities simply can’t replicate the personal nature of having intimate, vulnerable, one-on-one conversations among colleagues. Large, digital meetings rarely lead to honest discussions about areas they want to improve and the opportunities they would like to pursue. 

One great way to keep association members engaged in educational and networking opportunities is horizontal mentorship. Horizontal mentorship means connecting two professionals together for a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship where both professionals learn from each other while sharing their personal insight.  

Traditional (or vertical) mentorship is predicated on an imbalanced mentor-to-mentee relationship which exacerbates power imbalances. Traditional mentorship embeds unequal roles into the relationship and this has negative consequences: after 6 months, only 18% of vertical mentoring relationships are considered productive and high quality by participants. Horizontal mentorship focuses on building relationships based on shared alignment of Work Orientation. This ensures that the two professionals’ value systems and reasons for working are aligned. Mentor relationships built this way are 4 times more likely to last 6 months and be rated as productive and high-quality by the participants, compared to traditional mentorship. 

This article offers 3 reasons why professional associations should engage their members virtually through a horizontal mentorship program.

  1. Horizontal mentorship develop close-ties and a localized community from a global, national, or even state-wide membership base that is relying on digital interaction

Previously, these far-flung members might not have been able to easily connect for meaningful conversations. Through horizontal mentorship, previously-distant members that might not have ever interacted one-on-one can now build strong, deep-rooted social bonds, further increasing the value they gain from their association. While these types of connections are always plausible, horizontal mentorship provides the framework for consistently building durable, valuable relationships among members. 

2. Horizontal mentorship provides a new level for members to engage with the association 

The commitment of jumping from one’s role as a general member to volunteering for the association can be significant and not every member is prepared to make that leap. Horizontal mentorship provides an opportunity for association members to deeply engage on a new level that works with their personal schedule and professional aspirations.

3. Horizontal mentorship helps members learn from each other and share experience

Providing educational content and connecting the right members together is not easy. Some educational sessions at conferences are more relevant to some people versus others. Rather than “fishing with dynamite”, horizontal mentorship creates personalized opportunities for members to learn from each other, ask questions specific to their own circumstances, and network with other members with similar perspectives on their approach to work (i.e. work orientation).

Now more than ever, associations must strive to find new, effective ways to connect members and increase engagement. Horizontal mentorship provides the opportunity for association members to engage with other members on an intimate level that works for their availability in a meaningful, virtual way. 
Mon 1 June 2020
Employee engagement is an extremely valuable metric for understanding your team. Engagement is strongly correlated with productivity, so if you are not measuring your team’s engagement, now is a good time to start. This data can tell you how your team feels about their work, offer potential insight on what you can do to make them more happy and productive, and give you some idea of whether or not your employees are likely to leave the job in the near future.


But, the issue with measuring engagement is that it is a lagging metric. By the time you identify that a certain department or team in your company is becoming disengaged, it is likely far too late. Re-engagement is very difficult; they may already be working on their way out and are unlikely to be willing to give management the benefit of the doubt by putting aside their frustrations. 


The first step towards avoiding fully disengaged employees is determining when they are most susceptible to becoming disengaged.  


We call this measure Engagement Volatility, and we use this to understand when employees are likely to be most significantly affected by a negative event at work.   


Many employees fully support and enjoy the company culture and really do enjoy their jobs. For these employees, it takes a lot to shake their confidence in the company.


There are also other people who may respond favorably to an engagement assessment today, but their beliefs in their work or company aren’t nearly as firm.


High-volatility employees can become disengaged in an instant. Whether from reading an email that seems passive-aggressive, realizing the bonus structure or compensation plan seems unfair or being forced to switch their work project or style, employees with high volatility can quickly become disenchanted with their company when dealing with frustrating events at work. 


My team and I at Ambition In Motion identified two key metrics for determining engagement volatility: communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover intentions.


Communication Barriers


Communication barriers represent the lack of understanding among employees about what other employees do for their work. For example, let’s say that John in accounting frequently must interact with Jane in sales to handle some customer accounts. How well does John actually understand what Jane does? If these two employees don’t understand each other’s work, there are communication barriers that can impact their work relationship, productivity, and engagement volatility.  


Communication barriers don’t necessarily tell us that the two people don’t like each other. It just means that they don’t understand what the other person does for their work and the obstacles they face.


How does this lead to engagement volatility?


Communication barriers force people to formulate assumptions about what other people do. These assumptions then lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, especially during frustrating work events. When a small miscommunication about some work task blows up, this creates an opening for people to become disengaged. It creates an opportunity to feel like they are getting taken advantage of or that the grass could be greener on the other side.


For example, let’s go back to John (accounting) and Jane (sales). John sees that Jane spent $200 on a lunch with a client and thinks to himself, “who spends $200 on a lunch?!?!” He is certain that he could have made that same sale and only spent $100 on lunch, but instead, he has to adjust budgets to fit this extra expense and his frustration grows. By discounting all of the work and skills necessary to be a great salesperson, he begins to assume (likely incorrectly) that he could do her job. This subtle frustration can grow, leading John to bring up Jane’s work ethic in casual conversations with people at the office to learn their thoughts. Once he finds somebody that happens to agree with him, it confirms his belief that he could do her job, and now he feels frustrated that she is getting bonuses and commissions on sales he is certain could have easily made. When Jane, unknowing of John’s frustrations with her, emails John, he responds passive-aggressively. He assumes that Jane knows he is frustrated and considers her lazy and inefficient. Meanwhile, Jane has no clue why his emails have become so strange, and her frustration with her work environment begin to simmer.


And the domino effect goes on and on from there…


Our team identified that 68% of engaged employees still feel communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work (e.g. they feel they don’t understand what other people do for their work). Even engaged, productive employees encounter these frustrating events, and these can lead directly to high engagement volatility. 


Dysfunctional Turnover Intentions


There are 4 types of turnover for employees at work: variable, invariable, functional and dysfunctional. Variable, invariable, and functional turnover are types of uncontrollable turnover. They are based on factors outside of a company’s control – e.g. a spouse getting a job in a different city and the employee moving with their spouse, the employee being bad at their job and getting fired, or an employee receiving an offer for significantly more money from another company and the current employer being unwilling or unable to match the salary. 


Dysfunctional turnover is the type of turnover a company can control. Dysfunctional turnover is based on two key factors: the clarity of their job responsibilities and purpose within the company, and their perceived respect level from their colleagues and supervisor(s).


When employees are unclear about what they are doing or why they are doing it, they are highly susceptible to becoming disengaged because the work becomes purposeless. They have no idea if what they are doing is correct, and they have no idea about how their work plays into the larger picture of the company. Lack of purpose and value at work drags down engagement and productivity.


70% of employees avoid difficult conversations (like asking for clarity on their role or task) with their boss, colleagues, or direct reports, according to a Bravely study. Essentially, people fear or feel uncomfortable asking for clarity. This contributes to their engagement volatility and if the “what” and “why” of their work isn’t clarified quickly, they could become disengaged.


The perception of respect is the other critical factor to dysfunctional turnover intentions. When employees don’t feel respected by their colleagues or supervisor, they will have high engagement volatility. 


The perception of respect is the key. 


To be clear, respect is important, but the effects are not directly based on whether or not colleagues or supervisors actually respect the employee’s work. It is based on whether the employee perceives that their work is respected. If they don’t feel like they are appreciated for their contribution or that the feedback they receive is sincere, they quickly become disengaged.


Solution


One way to better understand your team’s engagement volatility is by sending your team Ambition In Motion Engagement Volatility Assessment. It takes roughly 5 minutes to complete and can provide great insight into your team’s likelihood of becoming disengaged. You can break it down by department so you can better understand if there are some departments that have higher/lower engagement volatility than others.


Once you understand your team’s engagement volatility, you can work towards identifying what steps you should take to ease your team’s volatility and stabilize your employee engagement.


One great way to accomplish this is by implementing a Horizontal Mentorship Program. Horizontal mentorship helps your team break through employee communication barriers, improve clarity of your employees’ roles and responsibilities, and build empathy and respect across your team.

Mon 30 November 2020
When work engagement stats are brought up inside a company, employee engagement levels are typically correlated to the impact engagement has on retention, employee productivity, minimized sick days, overall team morale, and how it impacts a company’s culture.

Naturally, when most executives learn about the importance of monitoring and improving engagement they typically invest in these services for their employees. They want to know their team’s engagement score and work on pursuing activities that can improve their engagement.

But what about measuring engagement for the executives?

This may seem like an odd thing to measure for an executive because, as an executive, you would naturally think that your fellow executives aren’t going anywhere (especially if they are the founder or CEO). Furthermore, often their compensation is tied to their performance so they are economically incentivized to perform at their best.

The issue with this train of thought is that it fails to properly understand what engagement is. So much research has used engagement and its downstream effects to show how it impacts the bottom line.  As there are fewer people at the top of an organizational chart and more people lower in the hierarchy, you might think that this is the most cost-effective way to apply engagement because it would directly affect the greatest number of people.

Therefore, it would make sense that when executives learn about this research, they are interested in measuring it for those employees that work for them and are less interested in measuring it for themselves–executives should have no economic reason to rack up sick days, be less productive, or leave. 

But this is simply not the case. Instead, this is a blind spot for executives! I’ll explain more below, but first, let’s take it up a level. 

What is engagement?

Engagement is the culmination of emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment employees (including executives!) have at work. Executives are employees too! 

I run an executive Horizontal Mentorship program where I pair two executives from different companies (and typically industries) together for Horizontal Mentorship. If you aren’t familiar, Horizontal Mentorship flips the script on classic mentorship programs by creating mutually beneficial mentor partnerships instead of hierarchical, top-down mentor-mentee relationships. I also run corporate Horizontal Mentor programs where I pair employees within a company together for mentorship.

When I started the first executive mentor program, I made a mistake when sending out the initial assessment. I accidentally forgot to take off the engagement questions that are originally meant for the corporate Horizontal Mentor programs that I run. 

I assumed that executives didn’t need to measure their engagement and that it would just take extra time on their assessment. But, by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late and the executives had taken the assessment in its entirety. They were good sports about the length of the assessment, so I might have been wrong twice in one assessment!  

When it came time to collect the follow-up data after 6 months of their Horizontal Mentor relationship, I figured if we already had the original assessment with the engagement questions, we might as well reassess with those exact same questions.

Here is what I learned:

The average executive improved their engagement score by 5% in 6 months!

This is fascinating for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that work engagement for executives is malleable, just like other employees. When we break down engagement into its components (emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment), it is clear how an executive can be impacted by these factors. Now let’s look at each component in a bit more detail. 

Emotional Attachment: We learned that executives, when talking with the same people, doing similar actions, and pursuing similar outcomes – over time – can reduce their emotional attachment to what they are working on.

Energy: We learned that executives need a break as well. When somebody spends too much time working on one thing and talking to the same people, they are eventually going to burn out unless something changes.

Camaraderie: We learned that executives need new, fresh perspectives in their world and if they aren’t seeking that out, they can’t appreciate the relationships they have at their own company.

Work Fulfillment: We learned that work becomes less fulfilling when executives are stuck in their own echo chamber, but becomes more fulfilling when they can learn about what somebody outside of their network (that they can relate to) is going through.

Second, it highlights how easy it is for an executive to get stuck. When first entering this executive Horizontal Mentorship program, their engagement scores weren’t alarming, but clearly there was another gear these executives simply weren’t hitting before their mentor experience.

Third, it demonstrates the need, and importance, for executives to have somebody that can see the forest from the trees and help them get outside of their bubble. Learning another’s perspective clearly sheds light on how executives can improve in their own world and gives them invaluable perspective. 

If you are an executive reading this article, you might be able to relate to some of the points brought up about engagement. You might feel that you are losing the emotional attachment to your work, starting to feel burnt out, appreciating those you work with less, or just not finding your work as fulfilling as you used to. 

If you can relate to any of those common feelings, that is great as that means you can start the process of doing something about it. And if those feelings seem alien to you, then that is normal as well. Most of the executives in our executive Horizontal Mentorship program never mentioned concerns with their engagement at work, but they showed improved engagement scores as well! 

The point is that executives should absolutely be monitoring their own engagement levels. Engagement, for executives, doesn’t typically become a conscious concern until it gets really bad. This is because of all of the economic incentives companies have for performance – e.g. “if I am making more money or creating more value for my shares of stock in the company then I can push through this without any help.” 

Everyone faces ebbs and flows of their engagement at work, and the engagement of executives is especially important because how executives treat their coworkers will ripple outward and impact the engagement of everyone they interact with. 

These engagement levels should be monitored and actions should be taken to enhance engagement because ignoring them only leads to work (and eventually personal life) getting worse.

Fri 5 March 2021
As a Chief People Officer, I found the loss in having a leader to bounce ideas off, guide me in my continuous learning journey, and provide unique perspectives. 

Others now look to me to play this role, and I found myself seeking other channels to ensure I am not losing sight of my learning journey to continue to be a source of fresh perspective and insight for those that report to me and whom I mentor.  

I fear becoming a rigid HR professional who becomes obsolete and irrelevant. HR professionals can positively impact their organizations, resulting in a ripple effect that flows into an employee’s home life, communities, and personal interactions.  

When you look at the sphere of influence in total, it becomes quite large.  During a recent Friday conversation with a direct report in which he realized the power of an aligned purpose-driven organization, he exclaimed this was now a “Fired Up Friday.”  

What if every employee felt that way?  Can you imagine the incredible outcomes?  

As an HR professional, I want to continue to make “Fired Up Fridays” possible for everyone.  That is why the peer mentoring program intrigued me.  

After one conversation with my pair mentor, I could see the possibilities. I can see how our conversations will challenge and sharpen each other and keep our perspectives fresh. It is indeed a “Fired Up Friday”!

Sun 26 September 2021
Attracting and retaining talent in the summer of 2021 has been incredibly difficult – so much so that LinkedIn and other news outlets have dubbed this time period as the “Great Resignation”. I have personally interviewed dozens of executives and consistently heard sentiments like this: 

“Business is booming, but we can’t find people to staff the demand we are receiving or keep the people we have!”

Some executives I have interviewed have blamed working from home and the general burnout from the increased uncertainty as reasons for this. Other executives blame generous unemployment benefits as the reason for these hiring struggles.

This article won’t serve as a deep-dive into why the Great Resignation is happening. Instead, I’m going to focus on solutions and highlight one major way we can handle this challenge to our businesses’ viability.

According to a Gallup survey, 75% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not because of the position itself. 

In other words, the adage ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses’ seems to ring true for people who are quitting – and with workers quitting at an incredibly high level at the moment, it is paramount that we, as leaders, do more to equip our managers with the tools and resources to be better managers.

There has been significant research into measuring work engagement and its impact on retention and productivity from teams – and if your team isn’t measuring engagement, I would highly recommend starting now. But new research is showing that there are 5 additional criteria that should be measured to understand the level of satisfaction employees have at work and their productivity.

1.       Team Cohesion – Employees’ self-assessment of how well the team has been working together in terms of their camaraderie
2.       Team Productivity – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive the team has been 
3.       Task Performance – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive, they personally, have been
4.       Manager Performance – Employees’ assessment of how effective their manager has been at leading them
5.       Organizational Citizenship – Employees’ self-assessment of their ability to be helpful to the team outside of their explicit work duties 

Caveats about measuring this data: 

1.       It should be measured monthly, at a minimum. Feelings about work and productivity change rapidly and asking annually, bi-annually, or quarterly is not enough to garner an accurate picture.
2.       It should be measured on a team-by-team basis, not a general overview of the entire company. The dynamics that occur within teams are more relevant and critical to an employee’s sense of belonging and willingness to stay at a company. Company-wide metrics are far too broad to be useful.  
3.       Managers should be provided with tools for enacting change based on these metrics. For example, conversation prompts and suggested questions for 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports can help managers address these issues early. Collecting data without immediate action diminishes the employee experience instead of enhancing it.

If you can measure this data on a month by month basis for each and every manager and their respective teams and equip your managers with suggested questions and conversation prompts to discuss with their direct reports based on the data, you are significantly better equipped to elevate the employee experience and feelings of belonging at work.

Why?

Because employees’ feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction with managers don’t happen because the manager is purposefully trying to sabotage the team or individual employees. These negative feelings typically happen because of poor communication between the manager and their employees. Most bad managers think they are good managers.

When an employee receives poor communication from their manager, there are consequences. It may cause them to do work that is not what the manager actually wanted, or to feel they are being treated unfairly, or to feel they aren’t receiving ample feedback (or too much unnecessary feedback), or just feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the manager in any way. When this happens, it is VITAL that the manager understands this frustration right away and have a conversation to rectify it (Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor calls this “challenge directly while caring personally”).

If a manager doesn’t rectify the situation and this feeling of dissatisfaction from the employee festers, they are going to become actively disengaged, bring down other employees because of their dissatisfaction, and eventually leave. 

If you are a CEO and you believe that having an “open door policy” or “clear lines of communication” is enough to gather this information, you are making the MASSIVE assumption that your managers’ direct reports have the same level of psychological safety as your direct reports have with you. You are also assuming that your employees have personality traits in which they are comfortable being optimally objective with everyone they interact with across all levels of an organization. 

Overall, now is the time to equip our managers with the data and the tools necessary to build strong teams. Providing a robust system through conversation prompts helps managers understand how their direct reports are feeling about work in terms of their team cohesion, team productivity, task performance, manager performance, and organizational citizenship. If we can do that, we are much more likely to increase retention and the productivity of our teams.

A quick final note, my team and I at Ambition In Motion are working on tools and ways to research these 5 core areas that increase work satisfaction and productivity across all employees. If you are a manager that is interested in collaborating or learning more about our research, please feel free to send me an email at garrett@ambition-in-motion.com.

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Calling Oriented
As a Calling Oriented Professional
If you are a calling-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by changing the world through your work. Your professional life and personal mission are intertwined. In a work setting, it can be frustrating if your work loses its clarity as to how it is changing the world. Eventually, you will become burnt out if you don’t receive clarity and reinforcement as to how your work is positively impacting the world.
Advocating for yourself and asking your manager to have these conversations can seem daunting, especially if your manager does not share your work orientation. But, for you to gain value and meaning from your work, it is critical that you have regular conversations with your manager about why the work is meaningful to you and find ways that reinforce and build more meaningful work practices. Your fellow coworkers may not also be calling-oriented and may not share your drive for changing the world through your work. But that is okay as long as you can work with your boss to stay cognizant of your impact and nourish your drive to continue making a difference.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I could dive deeper with you into our work and how our work impacts the people we serve?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your motivation for work. This helps you build a shared perspective and helps you find new ways to approach team goals. A good manager knows that for calling-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial for understanding the meaning of your work and finding new ways to change the world. 
  • What is the biggest benefits people gain from the work we do? How does our work positively impact their lives?
  •  Can you share with me any recent testimonials from our clients about how our product/service positively impacted them?
  •  What are some of our goals for further impacting our clients in the future? How can I get more involved in having a positive impact on our clients?
  •  Some of my goals for impacting the world through work are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Calling Oriented Professional
Calling-oriented professionals are motivated by the belief that they are positively changing the world through their work. As a manager, you may not be calling-oriented and that is okay.
But it is critical that you nourish this drive from your calling-oriented direct reports, or they will leave to seek out work that better satisfies their calling to change the world through their work.
Calling-oriented professionals need regular confirmation that their work is making a difference. It can be easy for them to get lost in the minutiae and lose focus as to why they are doing the work. If your calling-oriented professionals lose focus on the “why” to work, they will become disengaged and eventually seek out better prospects. For example, I have seen calling-oriented professionals leave nonprofits because they lost sight of the positive outcomes driven by their work. 
Calling-oriented professionals will bend over backward to do a great job, so long as it’s clear that their hard work is making a difference. Calling-oriented professionals often can stay highly engaged, even for seemingly grueling work with long hours and not incredible pay, because truly believe in the value of the work they are doing. Often, this includes their manager regularly reinforcing how their work impacts the people they serve. 
Just to be clear, eventually, there comes a point where a calling can only get you so far. Work orientation is fluid and can change, and this shift can make previously acceptable conditions no longer tenable for a calling-oriented professional. When you are asking your people to do too much, consistent reinforcement will eventually run dry, often the case in startups with a charismatic founder. Their work orientation will adapt, and they will demand more from their work before being ready to switch back into that calling-oriented workstyle. But, if you are leading calling-oriented professionals, it is critical that you nourish their drive for impact regularly and creatively. "Regularly” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, but once per month is a good benchmark, especially if you can find new ways to connect your employees to the greater value of their work.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your calling oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In your perspective, what is the best way we impact our customers?
  • How could see us making an even greater impact on the world?
  • How could you see our business growth goals also impacting the world?
  • Throughout a typical month, what typically reinforces to you that we are on track and continuing to impact the world in a positive way?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional ways we are impacting the clients we serve and ways we can be more innovative at better serving them – even if they all aren’t realistic at the moment. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Job Oriented
As a Job Oriented Professional
If you are a job-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by work/life balance and using your professional development to gain greater control and freedom over your life. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating when your company wants to keep pushing additional responsibilities onto you without considering your input on how this affects your workload, compensation, or balance. 
Advocating for yourself can be difficult because it might be counter to the culture that is set at the company. If your manager and everyone around you is working 16-hour days, you may feel like a slacker when you finish up after only 10 hours. But, for you to get the most value from your work, particularly with regard to your long-term engagement, it is critical that you broach this topic with your manager or you will become burnt out.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can gain some clarity on my role and set some expectations for the upcoming months?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your need for work/life balance. This helps you enact greater control over your situation and can ensure that you have a say in your work/life balance. A good manager knows that failing to have these conversations with job-oriented professionals can lead to overwork and potentially an exit from the company.
  • I am struggling with creating boundaries between work and life and I was wondering if you could help me clarify my goals so then I can feel like I am holding up my share of the work?
    • Job-oriented professionals excel at finding ways to do great work when the rewards are connected to their desire for control over their work/life balance. Leaving early doesn’t mean leaving with work left undone; it means you want to find new or better ways to do your part so you can reap the fruits of your labors. 
  • Right now, my current workload is impacting my ability to {xyz – spend time with family, play videogames, spend time with friends, etc.} and that is really important to me. Would you be open to helping me structure my work schedule so then I could get my work complete and optimize my ability to {xyz}?
  • If I feel a task assigned to me is too much for what I have the capability to handle, how would you like me to communicate that to you?
  • What is the most important aspect of my work and what do I bring to the team? How can I optimize my time to be most impactful?
Managing a Job Oriented Professional
Job-oriented professionals are motivated by work/life balance and gaining control over that balance. You may have a different work orientation than somebody that is job-oriented and that is okay. Being job-oriented doesn’t mean you are lazy or disengaged, it just means you want work/life balance. Pursuing the next promotion or making an impact on the world are not significant motivators for you. This simply presents a different way for an employee to find their motivation for work, and it doesn’t mean that calling or career orientations lead to better work. In fact, after studying thousands of professionals and their work orientation, our team has found that no single orientation has greater engagement than another. Essentially, job-oriented professionals are just as engaged as everyone else.
What is critical, as managers of job-oriented professionals, is that we understand that and are conscientious of that when we add work to their plates.
When managing job-oriented professionals, it is critical that we set clear expectations with them regarding how much they expect to work, their compensation for that work, and how their work should be prioritized. Good managers must do their best to maintain standards and adapt compensation (not strictly monetary) to match changes in workload. Job-oriented professionals will be particularly frustrated when new, arduous tasks disrupt their expectations, and this leads to disengagement or leaving the company.
For job-oriented professionals, their work is not their entire life, and that is okay! Job-oriented professionals want consistency. They want to know their work or workload isn’t going to drastically change overnight so they can put their mental energy into their life outside of work.
For example, some managers of job-oriented professionals give them incredible amounts of autonomy with their work with very clear expectations. These managers know how much time it takes the average person to complete the task and what quality metrics are necessary. They support motivation for job-oriented employees by providing incentives for great work like pay bonuses, greater control over hours, or even intangible rewards like a manager’s trust when picking projects. 
However, you don’t want to cheat the system because your employee will notice, not even including the broader effects of dishonesty at work. Job-oriented professionals expect a fair deal and will respond fairly. So if you are offering half-measures or offering poor incentives, they will take notice. “Fake” rewards (e.g., offering to let them leave early for completing a task impossibly fast) will only build distrust. They are not going to fall for that trick a second time and they are going to lose trust that you have their best interests at heart.
What is critical to job-oriented professionals is clarity as to what you expect from them and that they are in agreement that your expectations are reasonable for them to complete.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your job oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • How do you feel about your current workload? When do you feel like you are working too much? When do you feel like you are working the right amount?
  • What aspects of your work could benefit from greater clarity from myself or other team members?
  • Who on the team do you feel is working too many hours?
  • What aspects of your work do you like the most?

Mon 13 June 2022
Brian is the Vice President of engineering for a high-growth startup with 800 employees. His company pays way above the market average but they hold an “earn your seat” mentality when it comes to the work. 
The challenge that he is facing is that his team will follow instructions and do everything they are asked to do, but won’t move the ball forward. They are always waiting for him to tell them what to do, rather than aspiring to set goals to impact the company on their own.
He would like for his team to better understand the company’s vision, both because it develops them and because most of his direct reports are interested in the compensation that comes with transitioning from a senior engineer to a staff engineer (the highest level software engineer at this company with almost a $200,000 increase per year).
Some of his direct reports want parity promotions, meaning that because they have been at the company for longer than others (which for everyone is less than a year), they deserve to get promoted.
The promotion process at his company is also really convoluted. Essentially, to get promoted, a manager has to sponsor the direct report with a 10-page overview as to why the direct report deserves the promotion.
It has gotten to the point where Brian will actually recommend his direct reports leave the company for the role they want (at a different company) for 6 months and then come back and interview for the role they wanted in the first place because it’s very difficult and time-consuming to move up in the workplace. This contributes to the job-oriented mentality that incentivizes employees to only do the bare minimum to get their paycheck.
As Brian is sharing his company’s processes with the Ambition In Motion mastermind group, he is realizing that the company may not be setting its employees up for success.
The well-above-market pay paired with the “earn your seat” mantra incentivizes people to sabotage each other, do the minimum work that doesn’t get them fired, and leave the company if they want to get to the next level.
The group suggested that Brian chat with his leadership team to discuss his thoughts because if things don’t change, they could have a bunch of people that are only there for the money and aren’t focused on the vision of the organization.
 
How does company culture impact employee motivation?
Employee motivation is the fuel that propels the organization forward. When motivation levels are high, there is growth; when it’s down, the momentum stalls. 
So, what motivates your employees? 
There are various reasons and needs that motivate employees. And your company culture has to address these reasons and needs to foster employee motivation and engagement.
Before we get into this any further, let’s start with the basics. Why do people work?
 
●     Purpose – They want to contribute to the company’s success.
●     Potential – They want to benefit in the long run in terms of promotions, salary hikes, or greater responsibilities.
●     Play – They enjoy their daily work as it ignites passion and curiosity in them.
●     Economic Pressure – The financial factors motivate them, such as a desire to earn more or fear of losing their source of income.
●     Inertia – They work because they have to; they have no goals or reasons to work.
 
If you notice, the first 3 reasons are positive, and the rest are negative. Employees with positive reasons to work tend to be productive and engaged at work. 
Companies with growth-oriented cultures encourage these positive reasons and build a culture around it.
 
How you can incentivize your employees to care about more than just salary 
Although Brian is part of a fast-growing startup, 8x growth in employee headcount within their first year, his desire for employees to care more is actually a quite common question that we hear from leaders of all company sizes; how do you make people care? 
It’s a more common problem than we’d all like to believe. It happens in every industry and workplace. This problem affects all of us. 
Unfortunately, you can’t make people care. But, you can provide all of the right elements that inspire them to choose to care about your business, your team, and their job. Here are four strategies for successful leaders that can skyrocket the results of your employees.
 
1. Share your care with your employees. 
As simple as it sounds, many leaders, even when they do care about their people, aren’t always very good at sharing that appreciation. Your employees won’t care about your company or your goals unless you care about them and their goals first. 
Learn, practice, and get good at recognizing your employees because appreciation is the number one thing that managers can do to inspire their teams to produce great work.
 
2. Cheer for effort, because it deserves it. 
As we travel and speak to organizations, we often find that many managers are confused by the difference between appreciation and incentives. Incentives can be seen as a transaction; if you accomplish “a-b-c”, then you receive “x-y-z.” 
Oftentimes incentives are presented before a project or assignment. 
Appreciation, on the other hand, isn’t solely focused on the outcome. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment of a person’s intention, hard work, and their results. When efforts and results are recognized, employees report:
a) increased confidence in their skills,
b) an understanding that they are on track and in good standing with their manager, and 
c) it creates an improved relationship with their leader.
 
3. Be crystal clear about what you value. 
Telling your employees that you expect the best from them doesn’t actually mean much to them because they don’t understand what that means to you. Employees want to know exactly what they value and appreciate.
 
4. Show them how they can make a difference 
Most people don’t apply for jobs and assume they’ll be mediocre at best. They apply for jobs at companies where they believe their skills and experiences will make an impact; where their thinking and effort will make a profound difference. 
Still, we’ve spoken with many struggling managers who can’t understand why a certain employee isn’t satisfied by simply becoming the mirrored version of a job description.
When employees are not shown that they have the capability to utilize their skills to make a difference, they may get in the habit of doing the same thing every day, without the incentive to do more. 
Encourage your employees right off the bat and throughout their time at your company to do the most that they can do, to benefit themselves and the company. AIM Insights can help you with suggested encouragement and questions you can ask your team to help convey this message. 
 
While it may seem frustrating that you can’t force your employees to care about your company, your goals, your customers, your teams, or even their own jobs, you have the ability to give them reasons to care
And, in our experience, when your employees care about more than just their salary, they’ll achieve at a level that surpasses anything you could have ever imagined.
Wed 22 June 2022
You can’t ignore employee resignations, although I would prefer to call them employee realignments. In the beginning, it looked like employees were leaving the workforce to retire early or join the gig economy (think Uber drivers, virtual assistants, etc.) and be their own boss. 
Today we know that unemployment is down, and employees aren’t leaving their jobs to altogether quit working. They are just leaving their current jobs for better jobs. 
This is employee realignment of the workforce, not true resignation from the workforce, and there are many reasons some companies can’t seem to hold onto their best people.
Oftentimes, there is a lack of self-awareness amongst managers and leaders that creates unhealthy patterns in the workplace and leads top employees to quit. 
To provide your employees with just and equal opportunities in your business, you must understand the potential for unethical workplace behaviors and the importance of avoiding them as a leader. 
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #1: Not recognizing that the employee is actually the primary customer. 
What’s happening on the inside of an organization is felt on the outside by customers. That means you start your customer service and CX efforts internally. 
Employees should be treated, cared for, managed, and responded to in a way that is consistent with what the company wants to see mirrored in their customers.
In other words, treat employees as if they are customers. Anything less is inconsistent and will erode your efforts to provide a good customer experience. 
And just as customers want to trust the companies they do business with, employees want to trust the companies (and people) they work for. When employees trust their leadership, are treated fairly, and are recognized for their good work, they will be working for the company, not just the paycheck.
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #2: The failure to recognize the difference between leadership and management. 
Management and leadership are not the same. Managers have to make people follow, but leaders make people want to follow.
Ultimately, leadership creates the culture of the company. 
Managers ensure compliance with company policies, processes, and other operational aspects to ensure continued business as usual. 
Once leaders understand the difference between management and leadership, they stand a better chance of getting employees to put forth their best effort, especially when it comes to taking care of customers.
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #3: The failure to recognize and end nepotism in the workplace.
Instances of nepotism create an unhealthy work environment wherein employees feel undervalued.
If nepotism occurs in the workplace, this could affect your employees’ job satisfaction and opinions about the company. If one person begins exhibiting low morale, other employees can also take on this approach. 
The result is a lack of loyalty and dedication to the job at hand.
If a company allows nepotism to occur, talented employees might look for employment opportunities elsewhere. Specifically, with companies that value skill and dedication over family relationships. 
This can be problematic for your company as it limits the ability to retain good, hardworking employees to help your business succeed. 
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #4: The failure to give credit to your direct reports.
Everyone has experienced or witnessed instances in which credit was assigned in an unfair manner: managers unabashedly took credit for the work of their invisible hard-working staff; quiet performers were inadequately recognized for their contributions; credit was assigned to the wrong individuals and for the wrong things.
Just as much as constructive feedback should be given in many forms, so should employee appreciation. Some employees may live for public praise at the end of a meeting or a company all-hands, while others may prefer the intimacy of a quick chat in the hallway or an individual email thanking them for a job well done. 
As a leader, giving out credit is essential in showing your employees that you see them, and motivating your employees to continue creating their best work. 
Employee recognition may take the form of an employee of the month award, a sales all-star of the quarter, or even a full employee appreciation day.
While every company may not have the size or resources to devote an entire day to employee appreciation, recognizing employees in big and small ways can make a huge difference to morale and culture.
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #5: The failure to recognize the importance of proper coaching over negative criticism in the workplace.  
Feedback is crucial. It improves performance, develops talent, aligns expectations, solves problems, guides promotion and pay, and boosts the bottom line.
Workplace coaching, employee coaching, or business coaching is the continuous two-way feedback between the employee and the coach with the intention to work on areas for improvement and reinforce strengths to sustain the progress of the employee’s performance
In other words, coaching in the workplace means empowering employees to be the best performers that they can be.
Workplace coaching (NOT criticism) is important to set employees up for success in the workplace by providing the tools that workers can use to increase their knowledge and improve their skills.
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #6: Failing to recognize that finances are not the only form of valued compensation. 
Multiple studies have proven that employees want more than money. Employees value flexibility over money, meaning that paying people more money to tolerate a toxic environment may have worked for previous generations, but it no longer appeases employees, especially the Millennial generation. 
They want to be valued for what they do. That means they want recognition for their work, opportunities to learn and grow, and fulfillment in their day-to-day responsibilities.
            Leaders need to be more empathetic and understanding of their employees. Doing so will bring out the best in their people, hence multiplying their capabilities.
 
Crucial Leadership Failure #7: Failing to recognize when to give your employees a break, and how much work is appropriate to assign in a given time. 
Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. 
Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. 
If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. 
Raises, promotions, and title changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.
 
Wed 27 July 2022
A good workplace is only as strong as its weakest link. In most cases, the weakest link in a work environment is actually poor communication and engagement. Miscommunication costs many companies large sums of money and can severely damage their employee retention as well. 

In a research report conducted by Expert Market, 28% of employees cite poor communication and engagement as the main reason for not being able to deliver work on time. They also found that miscommunication can cost companies with one hundred employees an average of $420,000 per year. In 2019, 80% of the employee workforce reported feeling stressed in their positions due to poor communication. 

How does workplace engagement really help in the workplace?

Gallup has much to say about poor workplace communication as well. Higher employee engagement can translate into 24% better retention, 21% more profitability, and 17% more productivity. In addition to that, 90% of employees rank good communication as key to a healthy work environment.

So how do you boost your engagement rates? Especially in a time when more and more direct reports are looking for remote work? Even if you may be socially distanced, there is no reason that you cannot be properly communicating and engaging within the workforce. AIM Insights can assist with all of this, along with so much more.

How does AIM Insights Work?

“At first I was a little nervous getting started (using AIM Insights) because I didn't know how my team would receive the survey. But after using the tool, I am learning so much more about my team that I didn't know from our previous 1:1 conversations and it is helping me connect with my team on a deeper level.”

These words were used by the Vice President of Sealed Success of Zendesk, a software-as-a-service company. AIM Insights utilizes a horizontal mentorship strategy combined with additional employee feedback programming to assist with communication. Ambition In Motion has realized that there is a science behind the relationships between mentors and mentees, and why some are successful, and some aren’t.  

The main goal of Ambition in Motion is to work with companies to connect their people together in order to improve engagement, productivity, and retention.

Not only can Ambition in Motion seamlessly work with the HRIS systems you already have in use, but it can then proceed to add on your current processes. Direct reports are sent regular monthly surveys to complete, which are then reviewed by AIM Insights Executive Coaches. After this review, these coaches will then discuss these responses with you and your fellow managers to see how you can improve and what topics you should discuss within your direct report 1:1s.   

These surveys are anonymous and are only between direct reports and AIM Insights. With anonymity, direct reports are more likely to give candid feedback, and more thorough feedback. The surveys do not require much time and are easy to take.  

How can you improve communication between you and your Direct Reports using AIM Insights?

Every month, direct reports are sent an automated survey from the AIM Insights platform. The average monthly survey is about 10 questions long and takes about two minutes each. The end of every quarter culminates with a 50-question survey, which is still fairly short, amounting to about 5-8 minutes each. 

Each of these surveys will have questions pertaining to the following categories:

·         General Overview questions- introductory questions acquainting executive coaches with direct reports
·         Performance Questions-  Questions discussing Performance and Task Completion and Rigor over the past 30 days
·         Goal Questions- Questions asking about some of the Direct Reports’ Goals over the near future
·         Work Orientation Questions- Questions regarding how an employee views work
·         Job/Career/Calling Outcome Questions- Questions pertaining to how a direct report views work, and what they hope to achieve from their occupation
·         Engagement Questions- Questions asking about how an individual feels about their involvement at work

The end goal of these questions is to get a better understanding of what you should discuss within your 1:1s. Proper communication can allow a tailored 1:1, which is just overall more beneficial to both you and your direct reports. Tailoring these periodic discussions allows you to eliminate answers to questions you both already know and have a healthier conversation. 

How can you improve your Direct Report Engagement using AIM Insights?

            Similar to other HRIS systems, AIM insights has a task management and assignment feature. This allows you to determine priorities, importance, deadlines, and many other important factors in goal setting. More importantly, you can also assess your direct reports’ goals, and then enter your own feedback through the program on how these tasks were completed. 

            AIM Insights Executive Coaches can analyze all of this data as well and give you additional feedback on your goals. For example, take this anecdote into account:

            Imagine you have a direct report; let’s name him Bryce. He is an entry-level direct report, recruited straight from his university, and is still fresh to workplace dynamics. Bryce has been noted to prioritize his work/life balance, being an avid golfer and about to be married. You recognize that Bryce has a large amount of potential, and thus, plan to give him more responsibilities. Therefore, you give him direct control of an extensive project requiring constant attention and feedback and cannot be accomplished within 40 hours a week. Instead, it would require about 80 hours of attention to complete.

 To your dismay, instead of showing excitement and anticipation with this new responsibility, he declines the opportunity and hands in his two-week notice to Human Resources. Despite the fact that you had been giving him more out-of-work opportunities, and more and more responsibilities, he chose to leave. What went wrong?

            If you had more information about your direct reports, you would have been able to see how you made a mistake interacting with Bryce. With Ambition in Motion, the monthly surveys and executive coaches would have alerted you to the fact that Bryce is a Job Oriented Professional. Consequently, it is frustrating for him to lose control and freedom over his life. He would not have been the best candidate for this role, which would be better suited to someone who is Career Oriented.

            It’s okay to have trouble with communication. What matters is how you address these flaws. AIM Insights can make a large difference in how you fix this. 

Sun 31 July 2022
The great resignation has impacted companies in many ways, and this has helped employees gain more leverage. Companies gave out inflated titles and higher salaries to lure workers, and organizations became less concerned about hiring people with frequent job changes in recent years. 

More recently, however, rising inflation is causing fear of an imminent recession, and that volatility ends up diminishing the incentives for job-hopping. This may signal the beginning of a new post-great resignation era, but its consequences will continue to ripple out in the coming years. The companies that can successfully maneuver through this transition will be far better off than the companies that don’t.

The great resignation provided many companies with an opportunity for growth in the years to come, but this opportunity requires these companies to grapple with the effects of high managerial turnover. Many 1st or 2nd-year employees have had three or four different managers since starting work, and frequent manager turnover is a major drag on building an engaging and productive company culture. 

Some of these new managers are newly promoted novice managers from within the organization that must learn on the job. Others are highly experienced outside hires that must learn the company culture with a new team. And some new managers were outside-hires without any experience managing and had to learn how to manage a team while learning the company culture as well. These all can cause friction at the company, but even a perfect hire requires more than a few months to establish a resilient team culture that can handle turnover. 

Because of the transient nature of the great resignation, employees have become used to expecting to be working under a new manager every six months. This lack of consistent leadership has eroded the trust and sense of identity professionals have with their company and companies need to start addressing this now because this erosion will have lingering ramifications for years to come. 

Why?

Because professionals that identify with their organization are what make an organization profitable. I am a sports fan, so I will create a football analogy. Most general managers in the National Football League (NFL) prefer to build the core structure of their team through the NFL draft. Rookies have relatively cost-effective contracts and are locked into those contracts for 4-5 years. Once the rookie contract ends, NFL teams determine if players are worth the massive salaries that come with paying a veteran player. Considering that the NFL has a salary cap, there is a finite amount of money that can be spent on each player, so teams that win are the ones that can get the most ROI from their players and their contracts. 

Employees that identify with their company are like football players on their rookie contracts. They are creating a surplus for the team because they are providing more value than they are receiving. I am not suggesting that companies underpay their employees. But I am saying that employees that identify with the company in which they are working will go the extra mile to make sure their work is done right.

When those employees that identify with the company become leaders, this directly benefits the company. This increases their long-term value, and this effect is multiplied as their impact propagates across multiple direct reports. 

Granted, not all employees that identify with the company are great leaders – there is typically training that is necessary for these new managers to become effective leaders. 

But my argument is that leaders that don’t identify with their company will never go the extra mile to make sure that things are done right. They will follow core leadership tenets (if they are trained), clock in, and clock out. Going the extra mile just isn’t worth it for them because whether the company succeeds or fails isn’t a major factor to them. Under normal circumstances, this doesn’t usually matter. But sometimes a make-or-break moment arises, and team success, project success, or even company success will be determined by how one leader responds to a new situation.

How can you tell if your employees have formulated an identity within your company?

One early indicator is in the words people use to refer to the company, especially around people outside the company. If they refer to the company as “they” or “them” or “it” instead of “us” or “we”, that is typically an indicator that they don’t strongly identify with the company.

Another indicator comes from responding to bad news. If bad news comes out about the company or if the company is going through a particularly stressful time, how leadership responds will be a critical factor for employees. Are your leaders going to defend the company and work through it? Or are they going to deny responsibility and make excuses?

Employees that identify with their company will go far to defend their company and ensure its success. And when things are stressful, they will stay late, take on extra tasks, and do what is necessary to make the team succeed.

Why?

Because they identify the company’s success with their success. When the company succeeds, these employees feel a sense of pride in the company. When the company makes a mistake, they feel it and want to be better.

Therefore, companies that can build that sense of identity faster than others are the ones that will succeed.

Before spending any money on leadership training and developing managers into effective coaches, mentors, and leaders, companies first need to focus on making sure that all their managers identify with the company and know how to inspire that same mindset in their direct reports.

The best way to increase the number of employees that identify with the company is by increasing engagement.

Engagement is the combination of:

·        The amount of energy employees receive from doing the work
·        The connection employees feel to the mission of the company
·        The camaraderie employees have with fellow employees
·        How much the work complements their strengths

Your plan for increasing the amount of employees that identify with the business should start with increasing all four categories of engagement. 

Therefore, if you are a business owner or leader, the questions you should be asking yourself are:

·         What are we doing to ensure that employees are getting into flow when they do their work? Are we scheduling meetings at inconvenient times for them? Are we creating bottlenecks for them from doing the work that they get energy from doing? What are we doing to help our employees manage their time? How can we help them spend more time on tasks that give them energy and optimize the time for the work that detracts from it?
·         What are we doing to connect the mission of the company to their own personal mission and goals in life? Are we tactlessly shoving the corporate mission down their throats? Or is our mission an uninspired afterthought that’s rarely shared? Are we adequately meeting the mission on our end or is there a blind spot between leadership and the rest of the company?
·         Are we creating an environment in which employees can have a good time together on non-work tasks? – Most companies are pretty good at this but this is only ¼ of the equation for boosting engagement.
·         What are we doing to identify our employees’ strengths and how are we putting them in a position to succeed? Are we only promoting strong individual contributors to management roles, even though the skills set to be successful as a manager is different than the individual role they were performing?

Companies that can set a plan to boost engagement faster than other companies will become an ideal destination for prospective employees that want to work for a company in which their employees will work hard for them because they identify with the company. 

Tue 2 August 2022
In the last couple of months, Sam’s team has grown immensely. They have good ideas, insights, and most importantly, engagement and the ambition to work together and take on more has spiked. 
Sam’s team’s engagement levels have been increasingly growing, making his team and company much stronger and ultimately more successful. However, he doesn’t have any quantitative results to show this because of economic and regulatory factors that have impacted his team’s ability to achieve the results they set out at the beginning of the quarter (before the economic and regulatory changes occurred).
It takes time and effort to grow a team to reach success. If people aren’t engaged, then a team’s overall efficiency and success rates will reflect that. However, when a team is engaged, the company is open to reaching high levels of success. 
In Sam’s case, the CEO found their lack of quantitative results concerning. Going into the meeting, Sam was excited to present their team’s growth and improvement as a unit. How can Sam approach this conversation with his boss, and show the team’s growth and improvement over the last couple of months, without quantitative results? 
 
Here are some helpful tips when having a performance review discussion with a boss who doesn’t think you’ve accomplished much: 
 
Mentally prepare yourself before the conversation
Before entering the meeting, tell yourself that regardless of how the meeting goes, it's just a meeting about one individual's perspective of your performance. Performance discussions are simply a way for you to receive information and feedback about how you're performing in a particular position within the company. 
It isn't an evaluation of your personal worth or how you would perform in a different position or with a different company. Don't take the feedback too personally. Instead, use their comments as you see fit to improve at your job and interact with colleagues.
 
Think before you react
When receiving negative feedback for poor work performance, it can stir some emotions that can quickly surface. If this happens to you, do your best to take a deep breath and count to three before you react with an outburst that might make matters worse. It's best to take the time to listen to your manager's input and allow yourself a few days to process the information before reacting or responding. 
If this is a case where your boss may not realize that your team is growing stronger and making improvements as a unit, but may not have reached a big goal yet, you can take a moment to show your boss that you hear what they’re saying, and then communicate the growth that is progressing between you and your team. At the end of the day, your boss may not empathize why regulatory/economic/any other factor outside of your control is impacting your team’s ability to perform, but it is critical that your boss understands that they are occurring and that your team is pivoting and making improvements given the circumstances.
 
Ask your boss for a performance improvement plan
If you believe there is validity to your manager's points, ask for an improvement plan that outlines specific goals and objectives. Make sure you align with your manager on specific ways to improve your work performance. This is a radical suggestion as typically performance improvement plans come from the top down. But if you specifically ask for it and craft it with your leader, you can control the outcomes in which you are being measured against versus them determining them for you (without their empathy or understanding of the situation).
The goals and objectives should be specific and quantitative with a specified time in which to reach them; the more specific, the clearer it will be that you have met the goals as requested.
 
Keep the communication open
Ask your manager if you could schedule some regular meetings with him or her so you can discuss your progress and the current state of performance. 
Having regular communication with your manager is beneficial regardless of performance, but especially when performance is a concern. 
Every month with AIM Insights, direct reports are sent to an automated survey from the AIM Insights platform. The average monthly survey is about 10 questions long and takes about two minutes each. The end of every quarter culminates with a 50-question survey, which is still fairly short, amounting to about 5-8 minutes each. 
 
 
Seek training and education
Ask your manager for suggestions or training resources that could help you improve in the work areas that were identified as your problem areas.
This type of action demonstrates initiative and shows that you genuinely care about your work performance.
Another simple and easy way to demonstrate this initiative is via AIM Insights.
Similar to other HRIS systems, AIM insights has a task management and assignment feature. This allows you to determine priorities, importance, deadlines, and many other important factors in goal setting. More importantly, you can also assess your direct reports’ goals, and then enter your own feedback through the program on how these tasks were completed. 
AIM Insights Executive Coaches can analyze all of this data as well and give you additional feedback on your goals.
 
 
Work with a career or personal coach
If you're struggling at work and genuinely want to improve, consider hiring a career or personal coach to help you. 
Sometimes hiring a coach can be very expensive. One cost-effective way to get coaching is via AIM Insights.
Not only can AIM Insights seamlessly work with the HRIS systems you already have in use, but it can then proceed to add to your current processes. Direct reports are sent regular monthly surveys to complete, which are then reviewed by AIM Insights Executive Coaches. After this review, these coaches will then discuss these responses with you and your fellow managers to see how you can improve and what topics you should discuss within your direct report 1:1s.   
These surveys are anonymous and are only between direct reports and AIM Insights. With anonymity, direct reports are more likely to give candid feedback, and more thorough feedback. The surveys do not require much time and are easy to take.  
 
 
Why is it important to track employee engagement as a form of team progression?
To analyze employee engagement, you need to know what your organization is doing well and where you can improve. Knowing how to measure employee engagement is the jumping-off point for evolving your engagement strategy.
Some things are easy to measure because they are concrete, individual concepts: like the time it takes you to drive to work or how many red lights you can hit without being late. But employee engagement is a bit more difficult. It isn’t concrete, and it’s influenced by many factors.
 
Before we talk about measuring engagement, let’s review how we define it:
Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work.
According to Gallup, organizations with highly engaged employees have 17% higher productivity and 21% higher profitability. 
Bottom line: engaged employees work harder and stay longer.
 
Here are some key benefits of measuring employee engagement:
 
  1. To build trust. Asking for feedback from employees shows that you care about their opinions and how they feel at work. Prove that you’re there to listen and you want to create the best experience possible.
  2. To help everyone understand what’s going on. Once you have the data—share it with everyone—leaders, managers, and front-line employees. This gives everyone the opportunity to help contribute to a better culture.
  3. To understand trends. Understand what’s happening in your organization by location, team, over time, or compared to industry benchmarks. Keep a pulse on how and where the organization is (or isn’t) progressing.
Engagement is the culmination of how team members feel about:
·         Their camaraderie with other team members
·         Amount of energy they receive from doing the work
·         Whether or not the work compliments their strengths
·         How much they align to the mission of the company
 
How can I showcase my employee engagement?
            One unique element of AIM Insights is its ability to deliver data on a team-by-team basis in terms of engagement. E.g. it can inform me how engaged my team is which impacts engagement, productivity, and retention.
            There’s no better way to ensure that your managers are the utmost prepared to lead at your workplace than the AIM Insights People Leader Certification. 
            After all, managers and leaders provide direction to staff and ensure they are performing at or above expectations. They need to have the ability to assess problems, manage situations, and provide sensible solutions.
 
            Even if you haven’t had any big recent wins, tracking your overall employee engagement and metrics that showcase that you have been able to pivot, despite not many tangible outcomes yet, allows you to see your team’s progress over a period of time and show your boss that you are putting in the work to get on track.
Wed 10 August 2022
"The customer is always right; The customer comes first." 
We've all heard these mantras, either as part of our jobs or as customers ourselves in the marketing materials of countless businesses. 
However, extensive research shows that customer satisfaction is more effectively built by first focusing on employee happiness.
 
At the July Executive Symposium last Thursday, July 28, 2022, Todd Coerver, CEO of P. Terry’s Burger stand stated his belief that “the customer is not always right.” 
He demonstrated the way that he invests in his employees because investing in them is just as critical as investing in the company. 
Coerver’s stance on the always-known “customer is always right” rule poses the question: “Is employee loyalty more important than customer loyalty?”
 
The idea of putting employees before customers seems counterintuitive, but it's not entirely new. 
Over 20 years ago, a group of business professors from Harvard University had been working on a model that validated this concept. James Heskett, Thomas Jones, Gary Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, and Leonard Schlesinger were comparing results from their own studies and synthesizing other research to construct a model to explain the outstanding success of the most profitable service-based companies.
 
It began with Sasser’s research, conducted with his former student Fred Reichheld. The duo took aim at a long-standing assumption of business: market share is the primary driver of profitability. If a company can increase market share, it will increase sales while taking advantage of economies of scale to lower costs and thus increase profits. 
When the pair examined a variety of companies and the existing research, however, they found that while market share is one factor in profitability, another factor better explains the most profitable companies: customer loyalty
Based on their research, Sasser and Reichheld estimated that a mere 5% increase in customer loyalty can yield a 25 to 85% increase in profitability. 
This finding laid the foundation for the five Harvard professors’ search for the causes of customer loyalty. After studying dozens of companies and troves of research, they created a model that tracked the origins of customer loyalty. 
They called it the "service-profit chain."
 
The service-profit chain links together several elements of the business model in a linear relationship: Profit and growth are driven by customer loyalty
 
But first let’s take a step back… How is customer loyalty achieved? 
Loyalty is influenced by customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction is stimulated by a high perception of the value of the service.
Value is the result of productive employees. 
Productivity stems from employee satisfaction.
 
Put another way, profits are driven by customer loyalty, customer loyalty is driven by employee satisfaction, and employee satisfaction is driven by putting employees first.
 
According to Forbes, a recent study demonstrated that managers play a significant role in employees’ satisfaction and the service-profit chain. 
A trio of researchers led by Richard Netemeyer of the University of Virginia collected data from a single retail chain that included 306 store managers, 1,615 customer-employee interactions, and 57,656 customers. 
The researchers were testing the effect of managers’ performance and satisfaction on employees, and hence its effect on customers’ satisfaction and the overall performance of the managers’ stores.
 
They found that managers’ actions, customer satisfaction, and store financial performance were indeed linked. These results support the argument that management’s support of employees significantly contributes to Heskett and his colleagues at Harvard internal service quality, the first link in the service-profit chain. 
The findings from the research of Netemeyer and his team also suggest that flipping the organizational chart really works. 
It’s essential that managers understand that their role is to support employee satisfaction and hence customer satisfaction, in no small part because their success in this role clearly has a major impact on the financial performance of their company.
 
The belief shared by many corporate leaders that hierarchies ought to be flipped and customers put second is simple in theory, but difficult to put into practice. 
Turning the organization around requires turning loyalties around. 
Leaders must demonstrate that their loyalty is to employees first, trusting that their employees will then be more loyal and caring to their customers. 
It’s a big gamble, but the results speak for themselves.
 
How can you demonstrate an employee loyalty policy in your workplace? 
 
All companies want to attract the best possible talent to their workplace. But who would want to work with a company that treats its members as disposable assets?
Investing in your employees is a great business opportunity, and it builds a solid reputation for your company. 
People want to work for organizations that promote their growth and value their opinions. 
When you recognize the importance and value of your employees, you remind your team what you’re working towards, and what they’re doing right, which in turn, inspires them to keep doing better. 
This plethora of inspiration and praise allows for a more open-minded environment for idealization between you and your direct reports. Engaging in your team will allow for an engaged work environment at your organization. 
If you’re looking for an efficient way to track your progress with your team as you engage in them, AIM Insights ensures visibility over all ongoing activities: task performance, manager performance, organizational citizenship, team performance, and goals for direct reports. 
Implementing employee loyalty at your organization is great. But tracking overall performance throughout this process will be crucial to understanding its impacts long-term. 
 
Just like the research that Harvard professors, James Heskett, Thomas Jones, Gary Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, and Leonard Schlesinger conducted, happy employees equal happy customers. 
When you inform your employees that the customer is always right, it pits the employees against the customers, with the customers always coming out on top. This creates problems on multiple levels.
 
●     It undermines the authority and control of the employees.
●     It often causes employee resentment against managers.
●     It signals that management supports customers more than employees.
●     It shows a lack of trust that employees can appropriately resolve difficult situations.
 
The reality is, supporting your employees will lead to happier customers.
It’s important to remember to take your employees’ side in a positive way so that the customer understands that you and your employees are the experts of your business, and you aim to help the customer. 
However, some customers may not be happy if they are not treated as though they are correct, and that is okay. 
Believe it or not, there are some customers you do NOT want. If a customer constantly complains, abuses employees, or creates stress for your company, they’re not worth it. It doesn’t matter how much money they pay.
 
A bad customer:
 
●     Erodes employee morale
●     Requires an unusually high amount of resources
●     Increases employee stress levels
 
 
There may be times when you have to “fire” a customer in order to protect your company and employees. If you’re planning on staying in business for the long haul, you need to avoid terrible customers.
Dropping bad customers may cost you a little revenue in the short term, but it’s better in the long term for your business.
Wed 10 August 2022
Management is often a position of mentorship in addition to leadership. One important aspect of mentorship is education, and consequently, many companies are willing to sponsor some form of education or professional development for their employees. After all, better employees equate to better profitability and efficiency

                However, it often comes as an unpleasant surprise that the professional development budgets are often frequently underutilized, or even worse, unused. What makes it even worse is that some of your direct reports don’t even know what they have access to. In a survey by Guardian in 2017, only 49% of employees could accurately recite what benefits they selected.  Thus, you might ask, “How can we get our direct reports to make use of the corporate education advantages?” The answer is far easier than you might think.

What is Corporate Education Sponsorship?

                Corporate Education Sponsorships are a phenomenon in which a Direct Report chooses to participate in further education or certification at the company’s expense. According to Statista, 47% of companies offer this in some aspect, and an additional 8% offer student loan repayment.

                Most companies actually prefer this over formal training and talent development programs, due to many inherent benefits of sponsorship.

Why should you offer Corporate Sponsorships to your Direct Reports?

                These sponsorships allow you as a manager to set up the best possible employee workforce that you could ever ask for. Sponsorship works as a development program, an engagement system, and even a recruiting incentive. 

                Think about it from your employees’ perspectives, and you can easily see how this would be an amazing recruiting opportunity. Not only would an employee have the potential to get a degree, thus expanding their skills, but would also be able to move up in the company ladder, and consequently get more pay.

                From a managerial perspective, you receive just as many benefits. First of all, at the end of the day, you will have better educated and more skilled employees. This alone balances out the cost of the programs. According to Human Capital Theory by Dr. Arnaud Chevalier and Gary Becker, higher education increases productivity. 

                Also, you will have loyalty from your direct reports. If a company were to pay for your education, and their only condition is for you to stay and work for them for a certain amount of time, you’d definitely buy into the company culture a little more than before. 

                An even better perk for your company is that you can often claim tax breaks, credits, or deductions. The IRS has been pushing for companies to fund employee education, and if a company meets certain guidelines regarding education, they have some options available to them regarding taxes.   

                On a more personal note, I was able to benefit from Company Education Sponsorships, and it completely changed my life as I serve as a paramedic.

                A Paramedic, or even an EMT Certification costs thousands of dollars, and as an individual barely out of high school, I had no way of easily affording this. However, a local rescue squad offered to fund this in exchange for me working with them for at least 6 months. I was able to pursue my certification, which I had originally planned to defer for a couple years, and consequently, was able to make my dream come true much earlier than anticipated. I went on hundreds of calls, some of which included lifesaving measures, along with medical evacuation, and was often the only Paramedic on duty at times. I was able to give back to the squad that paid for me to receive this advantage, while still benefitting.

How should you offer these Company Advantages?

                There are generally two different ways that Corporate Education Advantages operate. The first method is through reimbursement. This means that your direct reports will undergo their certification or education, and then upon completion, your company then compensates them for the cost of their education.

                Alternatively, your company could sponsor a direct report’s education, paying for it from the point of enrollment. This is often paired with a contractual requirement for the direct report to finish their coursework or risk having to pay back the cost of the degree or certification.  

                Regardless of the method, most companies also require a minimum amount of time served at the company after receiving a sponsorship or reimbursement.              

What Advantages should you sponsor?

                Typically, companies can sponsor a variety of degrees, certifications, or programs. The main consideration is that it is a relevant field to that of your industry. Here are some of the most common sponsorship targets:

·         GED- Some employees may have had extenuating circumstances while they were in high school and were forced to drop out. A GED can completely change their life.
·         Bachelor’s Degree- Undergraduate education can often have a fiscal barrier, which some individuals might not be in the best financial status to pursue.
·         Master’s Degree- Postgraduate degrees are often pursued only after experience in the workforce. Sponsoring this and combining it with a work agreement can result in an extremely valuable employee
·         CPA- This one is only common within the accounting field but is frequently sponsored. 
·         PhD- Sponsoring these is much rarer, and it is only really common to have a PhD program sponsored within the clinical or scientific fields. 
·         People Leader Certifications - This type of certification is a much newer innovation and provides quality education and experience for a fraction of the price of an MBA. While these certifications are often offered by educational institutions, companies such as Ambition In Motion have pioneered their own versions of this, such as the AIM Insights People Leader Certification.

Advertising Your Company Incentives

                Getting your direct reports to be aware of what exactly they have access to begins with the job posting. According to Gallop, 64% of workers cited significant increases in income or benefits as “very important.” So, wouldn’t it make sense to advertise using these incentives? Recruiting fairs, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Handshake, among others, should not only list financial benefits, but also some incentives, such as Corporate Sponsorships, insurance, time off, and any other associated perks.

                In addition to this, any new employee orientation or in-service should always reiterate the opportunities available to direct reports. The more times that this is brought up, the more likely an employee is to look into this. 

                Have your benefit companies come advertise with you as well. For example, if you have an MBA sponsorship, have a professor or dean come and speak about the merits of getting an MBA. Using these advertisements helps your credibility. 

                Also, create partnerships with local schools and certifying boards! See if they can reduce prices with you in exchange for exclusivity deals and similar concessions. Cut costs and see what you can do.

                An education can completely change an individual’s life and improve your own business as a result. It feels like a no-brainer. So don’t be afraid to push your company incentives. 

Sun 21 August 2022
Gallup has extensively researched the relationship between employee engagement and company profitability, and they showed that engaged employees are 22% more profitable than disengaged employees. 

The tides of the economy seem to be shifting, making this a time when it is even more critical to focus on culture and employee engagement. Many companies, especially private equity-backed firms, have responded by laying off employees rather than investing in them. I was curious to know, “Why are private equity-backed firms more prone to layoffs in a down economy compared to private or public companies?”

I reached out to my network to learn more. I interviewed multiple employees, leaders, and professionals working for private equity, and their consistent answer was that “They are seeking an exit – at any and all costs and that part of achieving an exit is showing numbers that your costs are down and revenues are up.”

Ryan, a former VP of Operations, was recently laid off from a private equity-backed firm. He proposed some ways for the company to consolidate its overlapping expenses. They loved the idea so much that after consolidating those expenses they consolidated him…and replaced him with a junior middle manager to take his role at a fraction of his salary. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for eradicating inefficiencies and driving profitability. 

But can the short-term focus of achieving an exit coexist with a thriving company’s long-term goals, especially when these goals require an engaged employee base with a great culture?

I would imagine that most private equity professionals land somewhere on this scale from unapologetic to compassionate. The unapologetic professionals don’t care about the people because revenue growth reigns supreme. On the opposite side, compassionate professionals care about building a sustainable business and invest accordingly. In between these two sides, many professionals will say all the right things but their actions will reveal whether their true focus is sales and reducing costs to show short-term metrics.

Another focus of my interviews was on the reputational cost. I was curious to know if there was any reputational risk for offloading a company that looks great on paper but is a dumpster fire internally. I'm envisioning a prospective investor checking something like a Carfax to find out if they are working with somebody that has a history of leaving others to hold the bag.

Unfortunately, I haven’t received any great responses so far. 

And until we have a way for companies to assess the reputational risk of how private equity firms treat their acquired companies' employees, there is nothing to stop these private equity firms from propagating bad cultures to dump onto somebody else’s plate.

The issue with all these scenarios is harm done to the people at these companies. Hundreds of thousands of professionals work for private equity-backed firms, not realizing how little security they have in their role or the value they have in the minds of the owners. 

Or worse, many professionals end up working for a company and feeling trapped because of economic worries or personal constraints. These workers end up miserable, and the whiplash effects from ownership changes only exacerbate these effects. Imagine starting with an executive team that cares about you (e.g. the founders), and suddenly you find out that the new private equity owners want 120% more revenue but for 30% less pay. These paradigm changes wipe away years of work building company culture and leave a hollowed-out company in their wake.

Research has shown how powerful investing in culture and engagement can be for profitability. But until we have a way to hold private equity firms accountable based on their reputation for either building great companies, inside and on paper, or mirage companies, great on paper but awful inside, it will be difficult for private equity and company culture goals to align.

Tue 30 August 2022
In a time when more and more workplace injuries are occurring, it is important for managers and leaders to improve safety in the workplace, particularly in areas where there is a higher risk of injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the Construction and Manufacturing industries make up 10 of the top 15 fields where injuries occur in the workplace. 

                      Safety incidents don’t even solely affect the workers involved. They also have a strong trickle-up effect, as a result of fines, litigation, and replacement training. In 2022, Dollar General was struck with a 1.3 million dollar fine by the Department of Labor for staggeringly dangerous work environments, including but not limited to obstructed exit routes, missing sprinklers, and inaccessible electrical panels. 

                      With all of this in mind, managers should not only care about their profit line but about the safety of their direct reports. But how can these leaders improve safety in the workplace while still maintaining their profits? 

Safety Costs Associated with Incidents

                      The first cost that a manager should recognize is one of the steepest scaling costs in the manufacturing industry- the EMR, or experience modifier rate. This is a number that insurance agencies will use to determine premiums and compensation rates. EMRs are determined based on a specific company’s historical cost of injuries and future risk chances. This number is then compared with the average losses other companies accrue in a specific state. 

                      The average EMR tends to gravitate around 1.0. The lower an EMR is, the lower the compensation amounts are, which also applies vice versa as well. In addition, the higher an EMR is, the higher the insurance premiums are. EMRs are considered to be very accurate due to a concept known as Experience Rating, which states that history tends to repeat itself. Losses in the future will probably be similar to those of the past. 

                      EMRs are extremely important in the Manufacturing and Construction Industry for one sole reason. Every business in these industries is required by State and Federal Law to have the following insurance coverages: 

·        General Liability Insurance
·        Professional Liability Insurance
·        Vehicle and Auto Insurance
·        Inland Marine Insurance (Refers to any equipment that is towed)
·        Contractor License Bonds
·        Workers Compensation Insurance

              Some states may even require further insurance. All of these insurances have periodic costs known as premiums, which can be increased depending on how often the insurance was used. Imagine how quickly this can add up. Insurance can be extremely expensive. It is important to note that insurance does not always cover negligent activity.

              Businesses should also account for costs associated with OSHA requirements. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and is the federal board charged with “ensuring safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance”. They can also audit workplaces, and determine if they are in violation of safety protocol. 

              OSHA also mandates that workers receive a certain amount of company-funded training. This is required to be kept up to date and does get checked frequently as well, so it can’t be completed in-house and under the radar. For example, when I worked as a lifeguard, I was required to receive training in managing bloodborne exposure, basic and advanced first aid, bodily waste management, and hazardous chemical management. 

How does a manager improve safety in the workplace?

              The first step in adding safety to the workplace is to conduct very thorough examinations of your personnel, equipment, and workspace. 

                      Personnel examination refers to checking any of their personal certifications and doing a thorough background check. Managers should also contact prior employers. User error is a common bane in the construction industry, and 86% of contractors admit to having made an error in the field. The severity of an error can make a very big difference, however. In addition to that, a common sanction placed on dangerous employees is for certifications to be voided. Checking into the history of a certification can make a big difference. While some managers believe that people may improve, it is important to remember that in the construction industry, safety should always be the number one priority. Background checks are important to read over due to potential liability. If a worker has been sued in the past for negligent behavior, bringing them onto staff could prove to be dangerous, and if a mistake is repeated, litigious. 

                      Equipment examination should be something that a manager not only trains workers on but should be proficient with themselves. Heavy machinery such as forklifts, cranes, and bulldozers, along with their associated equipment such as ratchets, braces, and supports should always be examined before any use. In addition to this, managers should frequently bring in experts and mechanics to determine the safety and longevity of their specialized equipment. While yes, these machines are expensive and built to last, nothing can be left up to chance with them, due to the inherent danger that they pose. 

                      Workplace examination is something that an outside entity or inspector should assess. The ideal goal of this is to ensure OSHA Compliance, as well as to ensure that the workplace is a safe area to be within.  OSHA will also conduct this examination, for a fee

                      The next step in adding safety to the workplace is to create a proper education program. Managers should facilitate a space in which it is not only okay but welcomed for workers to ask questions about safety compliance and regulations. The environment should be designed in a way to offer as many educational opportunities as possible for this. In my experience as a paramedic, I was also required to attend monthly in-services, where we would have our squad leader going over every safety feature and regulation in not only the house but also on our ambulances.  This not only gave us refreshers on the safety tools already present but ones that were brand new as well. This actually ended up saving one of my coworkers’ lives. In our in-service, we were taught about the C02 Fire Suppression System within the AIRTIGHT server room connecting us to 9-1-1 Dispatchers and our radio systems. One very important thing that was noted was the fire axe planted next to the door. C02 Fire Suppression Systems are designed to be waterless and can extinguish a fire without creating a mess or damaging electronics. However, the C02 removes the oxygen from the room, strangling the fire. Naturally, this is incredibly dangerous for individuals in the room.  This system ended up triggering while a technician was working in the room. If he didn’t know where the axe was to break the window and allow oxygen to come into the room, he would’ve most likely suffocated to death. Thanks to his safety training, he was able to escape with his life. 

                      Another thing managers in the manufacturing industry can do to increase safety is to implement AIM Insights. AIM Insights and the subsequent AIM Insights People Leader Certification can help companies improve their safety by deploying a bottom-up approach to helping employees identify innovative solutions to improving safety and communication guidance from executive coaches on how to handle difficult situations when a manager has an employee not abiding by safety rules. 

                      Safety is a product of tolerance. The more we tolerate bad behavior, the more likely accidents will occur. AIM Insights helps managers bridge a gap between the inconvenience of following safety procedures with the discomfort of confronting somebody in a manner that drives mutual understanding and compliance.

                      This should assist managers with starting to improve safety within their workplaces. It is important to note that incidents will always happen within the work sites. However, with proper management, this number should go down and enable a safer area.  

Wed 31 August 2022
Effective leaders set clear expectations for their teams and align them with company objectives. This article is for new managers focused on becoming excellent leaders.
Stepping into a leadership position for the first time can be daunting, even if you feel prepared to handle your new responsibilities. Going from focusing primarily on your own work quality to overseeing an entire team’s output can feel overwhelming. 
However, effectively leading your team and experiencing success can be extremely rewarding. 
At a recent conference, a speaker mentioned that the average professional became a manager by age 25, but doesn’t receive their first leadership training until age 35. That creates 10 years of potentially bad habits to form before receiving guidance on what new managers can do to be effective in their roles.
Managers plan and coordinate tasks in a work team so that everyone does their job properly. Leaders focus on providing direction. They inspire their team to reach further and strive to maintain that level of motivation.
Each function is crucial for a company’s overall productivity although some view them as separate jobs, one can’t work without the other. The best managers are generally the best leaders. 
Few people can master both jobs, but when they do, they are able to generate great results out of engaged work teams. As a result of this train of thought, great companies see both functions as one job.
 
  1. Join an executive mastermind group 
Have you ever been faced with a new project and searched Google or YouTube to learn how to do it? Don’t you wish you had a direct resource for solving business problems? 
Many organizations recognize this need and have implemented mentorship programs to support new or rising employees. 
A mentorship program can help identify and groom high-potentials for management positions. 
Ambition in Motion is an Executive Mastermind group for servant leaders or leaders that believe the best way to lead is in service of the employees that report to them.   
This allows the use of both group and individual mentoring and group coaching and guidance as being in a leadership role can be a lonely place so having other leaders that can relate to and guide you as you work through your challenges is critical. You can be assigned to an executive mentor, personalized to your needs, interests, and field of work to guide you through any situation that may arise at your workplace. 
The executive mastermind groups also provide managers with a sounding board for problem-solving in the workplace and have been shown to increase job performance.
 
2. Participate in management training
As workforce demands keep getting more complex, management-level personnel need to adapt to the talent available. In the modern workplace, managers need to be active leaders in order to bring the best out of their teams. 
The relationship between a manager and their team can be complex to navigate. There’s more to it than telling everyone what to do; in fact, that management approach is highly discouraged. 
One great tool for management training is AIM Insights where a team of highly trained professionals will guide you through personalized training and professional development for your field of management. 
Guiding managers with 1:1's with their direct reports is a core component of AIM Insights and one of the biggest benefits the tool provides are guides to managers on how to have an effective 1:1 and what questions to ask each direct report based on each direct report's circumstances. 
It is crucial that managers and their direct reports are on the same page, and AIM Insights closes the perception gap between what a manager thinks of their direct reports and what they think of themselves.
 
3. Conflict resolution skills 
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, working or personal. Resolving conflict is a learned skill and one that can be taught, developed, and refined. 
A study by Purdue University found that students who have hands-on learning experiences gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that are being taught. Attending a conflict resolution workshop can provide you with experience in a controlled environment so that you can better handle difficult and uncomfortable situations, and work towards a positive resolution.
 
4. Team building activities 
According to cmoe.com, Seventy-five percent of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as very important. 
Yet, 86 percent of employees and executives blamed a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failings. 
A good leader recognizes that they are only as good as the people that surround them. Instituting team-building activities allows teams time to bond together as well as provides an opportunity for them to decompress from their jobs for a few minutes.
 
5. Value feedback culture 
In order to grow as a leader and the organization as a whole, you need to address the value of good and honest feedback. You give timely feedback to your team members and you should ask for that same feedback about your performance. 
That continuous exchange of feedback helps your entire team grow as a unit as well.
You can improve through others’ insights into your work. Honest feedback is fundamental for employee engagement and that should be one of your main priorities as a leader. 
AIM Insights focuses on providing leaders with the right tools and methods to gather feedback and build more engaged teams.
 
Bad leadership habits every manager should avoid 
Oftentimes, people believe that greatness happens when you are waiting for inspiration to hit you so that you can proceed to take action. 
In reality, a sturdy toolset consists of many processes involving brainstorming, collaboration, and trial and error. Much like conflict resolution, you can refine your methods and learn from yourself, your team, and other professionals. 
Constantly growing your leadership skills is essential, but paying close attention to your leadership failures is crucial to your growth as a leader. 
These are important habits to avoid: 
 
  1. Providing only negative feedback: Managers can fall into the trap of providing feedback only during performance reviews or when problems arise. Feedback is essential to an employee’s professional development. However, the feedback includes praise for specific tasks, not just criticism. When employees experience a carousel of negative – and only negative – feedback, they can become discouraged and thus disengage from their work.
  2. Micromanaging staff: While you must oversee your team’s workflow and help staff handle roadblocks, you shouldn’t try to control them completely. It’s essential to trust your team to complete tasks as a whole and respect each individual’s work style. Forcing your workers to perform tasks counter to their typical methods can cause a significant drop in productivity as they adjust. As long as the end result is the same, give your staff room for creativity.
  3. Not requesting feedback: Poor managers rarely solicit or address questions, feedback, and concerns. Good managers offer the floor to team members so they can freely express their questions and concerns. This will often clear up misunderstandings and create a more collaborative space. Keep in mind if one team member has a question, others may need the same guidance.
  4. Shutting themselves off from new ideas: Closed-minded managers won’t accept criticism or new ideas. They become a roadblock keeping the team from performing at its best. Each team member has their own perspective on the creative process and is uniquely suited to recognize inefficiencies within their workflow. Listen to your team’s input, and use their perspectives to enact positive change.
  5. Avoiding tricky conversations: Good managers must tackle challenging situations that affect the team’s productivity head-on. Avoiding these situations lets the problem fester and can cause employee engagement to drop significantly. 
Fri 2 September 2022
Ask - Don’t Assume

As a new manager, it is easy to forget about budget planning. However, don’t assume you don’t have a budget for investing in your team’s growth. Ask your department leader or finance partner if you have employee training, engagement, morale, or a miscellaneous budget line item. The department budget is not often earmarked for this type of spending and HR's companywide program spending.

Don’t Let Uncertainty Stop You

If your department does not outline employee engagement or growth as budget line items, discover what price point your department lead or finance partner would be willing to invest in solutions to support key business objectives. Typically you will get a rough idea of a range that they would be willing to consider for future proposals. Again, understanding your budget helps you strategically be proactive in how you support your team member's growth equitably. 

Identify the Problem

Assess the underlying root cause to inform the best investment solution. After identifying the problem, you may be able to leverage a current solution your company already has in place. Not sure where to start? One easy tool I like is asking yourself WHY five times. This tool helps you become curious and review all the data to identify the problem. As a result, you can now quantify the gap you seek to solve to ensure your team's future success. You may need to contact your HR partner or department leaders for additional data.

Write a Business Case that Gets to Yes!

Now you are ready to write a clear business case that outlines your:
  • Desired future state
  • Current state
  • Gaps holding you back
  • Supporting data
  • Request to invest in the proposed solution to implement 
  • Expected assumptions for the return on investment
For example, 
  • Desired Future State: I would like to better understand the well-being of my team members, get on the same page as them, and have more impactful 1:1’s so then they are more productive and engaged at work.
  • Current State: I have 1:1’s with my team but they are unstructured and I still feel that there are opportunities to build team trust.
  • Gaps holding you back: Lack of data and coaching to inform next steps as to how each of my direct reports feel at work.
  • Supporting Data: Exit interviews, engagement surveys, and anecdotal feedback
  • Request to invest: $187 per month for the AIM Insights People Leader Certification (see details below).
  • Expected Assumptions: More engaged team, increased team productivity, increased team trust, improved morale, and less quiet quitting. 

Don’t have enough data?

If you don’t have enough data to support your expected assumptions, think about how you might implement a trial or beta test of the solution to see the outcomes. Many products have a freemium or trial period that you can utilize as a beta test. If a software download is needed, ensure it aligns with your company’s data policy guidelines. Ensure you have identified your baseline KPI metrics before starting the beta test to compare with the results. If there is a significant positive change, your business case is now stronger!

The AIM Insights People Leader Certification is a great way to boost your performance as a leader and distinguish yourself from other leaders as you seek promotion. The AIM Insights People Leader Certification gathers feedback from your direct reports and provides executive coaching to guide you as you improve your team’s performance. The Certification showcases that you are not only a leader that drives results, but that you care personally about your direct reports’ well-being and ability to thrive. 


Thu 8 September 2022
It can be lonely at the top. Managers must make decisions, and there aren’t too many people they can turn to for advice. Some managers want to be the “cool boss” that is comfortable with anything (think Michael Scott hosting a meeting in the conference room). Other managers believe that there can’t be any cordiality between them and their direct reports.
 This article will explain how managers can determine what is appropriate and what is not regarding relationships with direct reports. It explains why boundaries are necessary, and how to maintain social distance from your direct reports while creating a positive work environment with open communication and feedback, which many teams struggle with.
How can you find the perfect balance in the friend-manager relationship? Should you even try?
 
The Need for Friendships at Work
Research shows that friendships at work lead to enhanced emotional well-being. It’s important to have relationships with people who you can trust. 
Sharing life events decreases anxiety, improves productivity, and satisfies our need for human connection.
Of course, this is the case for peer-to-peer friendships, not employee-manager relationships. The latter requires a much more delicate balancing act by both parties.
 
The Need for Boundaries
A peer-to-peer relationship is an equal one; at least it should be. In an ideal world, there are no power plays to be had, and the two parties can be relatively open with one another at a personal level. 
A manager, however, must maintain boundaries with direct reports because they have significant influence over the direct report's professional and financial status. And that's a game-changer.
It is really difficult to be in the same fantasy football league with a direct report that then has to be disciplined or potentially fired…talk about awkward if you are matched up against each other in the playoffs!
The manager’s role in the relationship is to promote teamwork and guide individuals in their careers. A manager-direct relationship that is too friendly can compromise this role and make effective management impossible. There would be an imbalance in the way that one employee is treated over another. 
Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor and leadership expert, delves into the “problem” of joining a workplace and being told to be “professional,” as if every other aspect of you and your character stays at home, and you’re supposed to be strictly professional at work. 
            But that feels more robotic than realistic to the way people interact with each other. Professionalism training has been pounded into everyone’s heads since their first job. 
How can managers deal with the situation of being friendly with their employees, and also maintaining structured policies and professionalism in the workplace?
Scott relays the idea of “radical candor” as a guide to moving specific conversations between employees and managers to a better place. 
 
What is Radical Candor?
Radical Candor is a philosophy of management based on the concept of “caring personally” while “challenging directly.”
●       Practices to get, give and encourage guidance and feedback at work (praise and criticism) 
●       Strategies for building a cohesive team 
●       Tools to help you and your team get stuff done with less drama 
●       It’s not a license to act like a jerk 
●       It’s not an invitation to get creepily personal
●       It’s not just for managers, we all want to succeed 
 
Radical Candor is practiced at companies all around the world, including Amazon, The New York Times, Forbes, Qualtrics, The Wall Street Journal, and many more. 
 
Use the Radical Candor Framework to Guide Your Conversations 
Understanding what is not Radical Candor can help you better understand what is. These are the behaviors that everyone falls into at one time or another: 
 
●       Obnoxious Aggression: Obnoxious Aggression, also called brutal honesty or front stabbing, is what happens when you challenge someone directly, but don’t show you care about them personally. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism and feedback that isn’t delivered kindly.
●       Ruinous Empathy: Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you want to spare someone’s short-term feelings, so you don’t tell them something they need to know. You Care Personally, but fail to Challenge Directly. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear. Or simply silence. Ruinous Empathy may feel nice or safe, but is ultimately unhelpful and even damaging. This is a feedback fail.
●       Manipulative Insincerity: Manipulative Insincerity (backstabbing, political or passive-aggressive behavior) is what happens when you neither Care Personally nor Challenge Directly. It’s praise that is insincere, flattery to a person’s face, and harsh criticism behind their back. Often it’s a self-protective reaction to Obnoxious Aggression. This is the worst kind of feedback failure.
 
            These are the behaviors that people can accidentally fall into in the workplace. These categories make up “radical candor.” The goal of this is to share your humble opinions directly, rather than talking badly about people behind their backs. 
            In a nutshell, radical candor is the ability to challenge others directly and show that you care about them personally at the same time. If done correctly, it will help you and all the people you surround yourself with do the best work of your/their lives and build trusted relationships throughout your career.
            However, as a manager, it can be difficult to manage these workplace relationships; constantly tweaking your approach to find the sweet spot between friendship and professionalism with your team. 
            As you’re working through this, remember that it’s important to have an outlet for yourself.
 
Managers Need Their Own Support Network
It can be lonely at the top where there must be boundaries set for working relationships. So, it's wise for managers to find their own support networks within the company culture and outside. 
A mentor can be someone within or outside your organization who has the experience and can provide you with advice. A professional career coach can also give you impartial advice and an objective opinion.
One highly-rated professional mentorship program is the Ambition In Motion Executive Mastermind Group. The key part of this program is that your mentor acts as a source of guidance and coaching, customized to your individual needs.
 
What is executive coaching? 
Executive coaches work with business leaders to enable their rapid development in the workplace. They also assist with specific problems that a board member, or senior manager, wants to work through outside of the normal business framework. 
This coaching focuses very specifically on the issues that an executive wants to work through. Thus it becomes a speedy way to improve skills and achieve personal and professional objectives.
The executive coach gives the executive feedback and a new perspective that enables them to set goals and work towards them. The coaching sessions use objective feedback to drive the executive's thought processes forward through their issues.
 
            As a manager or executive, having a support system such as an executive mentor is crucial. Following the radical candor framework will guide your conversations within the workplace. But be aware of your own need for support and friendship in the work environment and make a conscious effort to seek them out in the appropriate places. 
Thu 22 September 2022
As interest rates rise and consumer spending habits change, rumors of a recession have started to emerge as a strong possibility for the coming months.

Regardless of whether a recession happens, the mere rumors of a recession can have a massive impact on our employees and their feelings about work, and managers should be considering how to adapt their leadership style to handle any economic worries by their direct reports.

On a high level, below are a list of things that typically happen when there are concerns of a recession:

·        Companies go on hiring freezes or begin laying people off – Companies tend to hire based on what they believe they will need so when a recession strikes and their projections are incorrect, they are forced to change course and lay people off as they adjust their projections.
·        Employee confidence diminishes – Strong economies with low unemployment help employees feel confident asking for higher wages and greater perks.
·        Teams are consolidated – Companies create departments and teams based on projected growth, but when economies start to slow, teams tend to be merged, people are laid off and those remaining must pick up the additional workload. 

Some companies and industries and going to be more impacted than others. If you lead a team and feel that your direct reports show some concern about the economy, this article covers how to be a better leader in times of uncertainty.

As a professional, I am a firm believer that you are an entrepreneur of your own life. I am not writing that everyone should be an entrepreneur, but as a person, you have full agency to make the decisions that you believe are best for you. When it comes to work, especially if you lead a team, it is critical that you do your own research to identify if the company you work for will thrive for the foreseeable future.

For example, one of the executives in our mastermind group works for a company that does COVID tests. This business model boomed over the past few years, but as fewer people get COVID tests, our leader has recognized that something needs to change for his team to continue working for their company. 

As opposed to doing the same thing over and over again as business dwindles, he is being completely candid with his team. He has been identifying business opportunities that he and his company can pursue based on the infrastructure they have created over the past few years. Essentially, he is becoming an intrapreneur – or a person who is pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities within a company.

This openness, honesty, and candor has caused his team to feel excited about the work they are doing. They still complete the tasks that keep the lights on, but they are taking the additional time they have from diminished business and putting that towards identifying new opportunities they can leverage and deploy. 

Many of the ideas proposed won’t work out, but it is much better than doing nothing and hoping it works out. His team has greater clarity and understanding regarding the business’s health and prospects, and most employees are staying and trying to help find a new path for this business.

This team is still searching for the next business model that will reinvigorate their business, but this isn’t solely a task for the leadership team anymore. Now, the entire company can be a part of the solution.

Therefore, to recap, when your team feels uncertainty because of a potential recession:

1.      Lean into the concerns and share openly and candidly why the company’s current way of operating won’t be affected by a recession (e.g. if you work in healthcare or grocery, you can share multiple data points that show that those industries tend to be minimally affected by a recession) or what you are doing to pivot and stay agile even if a recession does come.
2.      Incorporate your team in the innovation process when it comes to identifying ways to cut costs and increase revenue (laying people off has a very negative impact on employee morale and confidence).
3.      Understand the risks and benefits because if your team is unsuccessful at effectively pivoting, your employees will understand why they are being laid off. The benefit of incorporating your team in the innovation process is that they will feel that they had a chance (an opportunity!) to help be a part of the solution that turned the company around as opposed to being left in the dark and then one day getting laid off.

The key when identifying the opportunities to innovate and pivot is to explicitly lay out the risk tolerance you have for ideas. You may not have a million dollars to test out every idea, but you might have $1,000 and that could be enough to garner some early data points of success or failure. Risk tolerance also applies to legal risk. Our executive in our mastermind group is in the healthcare space which has rules and regulations companies must follow. It is critical that your team understands those rules and regulations before trying different ideas.

·        Set up both team and 1:1 meetings to meet with your direct reports to ask them if they have concerns and if so, what concerns do they have. Don’t avoid the conversation because a solution is unknown.  
·        Once you have gathered all of the concerns shared, craft a response for each concern. A response could be why the current way the company operates won’t be affected by the concern proposed, a potential solution that is being implemented that should alleviate the concern, or incorporate them in the solution process to help alleviate the concern as a group.
·        Clearly lay out a plan for your team for what the next 3, 6, 9, and 12 months will look if a recession has little to no effect on the company, a moderate effect on the company, and a major effect on the company. The worst thing you can give your team is uncertainty so crafting this projection allows them to fully understand and prepare for the worst possible outcome (which is never as scary as the unknown negative possibilities they could come up with in their minds).

Regardless of whether or not you are right, people will follow those that are certain. Certainty can come in the form of processes, inclusion in the solution, metrics that show why things will be fine, or projections for the best, moderate, and worst-case scenarios. 

As a leader of people during times of uncertainty, you must give people certainty.
Tue 27 September 2022
Incentivizing your employees to feel free to give feedback and challenge ideas doesn’t just happen. 
Many long-standing organizations such as Kodak, Sears, and Borders have failed to adapt to the reality of today’s world and have found themselves becoming irrelevant. 
One of the reasons is that the leaders did not receive valuable information that may have helped the organization turn around. 
Many leaders find themselves in a vacuum, unwilling to receive or seek information crucial to the health of their organization. 
In today’s highly competitive, fast-moving environment, businesses need to have everyone, and their ideas, on board. It is crucial to develop an environment that promotes and encourages constant feedback and to challenge ideas at all levels. 
According to Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of High Ground, creating a challenge culture is key to employee engagement and an organization’s growth and future.
'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni digs deep into five interrelated issues that undermine the performance of a team all in some way. So here are the 5 dysfunctions of a team and ways we recommend to counter them.
 
●       Issue 1: Absence of Trust. Without trust, teams cannot be completely honest with each other.
 
Solution: Confidence and building a team bond. Honesty, openness, and respect are key communication attributes of a successful culture, specifically in building trust. A culture of trust can do remarkable things for an organization. 
People who trust each other are more productive, feel a higher degree of loyalty to their team and organization, and are also known to give outstanding service.
 
What does trust look like in a workplace?
-        Confidence. If you are a person your colleagues or clients can trust, that means they have confidence in you. Confidence to:
-        Make decisions or work autonomously
-        Lead
-        Advise
-        Move up or take on more responsibilities
-        Be authentic
-        Have their back!
 
Developing trust and comfort is all about teams working together intelligently to achieve better results, reduce individual stress and create a successful culture that promotes customer loyalty. It’s where teams build collaborative relationships, communicate openly, and identify strategies for moving forward, quickly and easily, as a cohesive unit to its full potential.
 
It’s built through a process of establishing good habits in effective communication at all levels.
 
 
●       Issue 2: Fear of Conflict. Without trust, teams cannot have the healthy debate that is necessary to arrive at better understanding and decisions.
 
Solution: Feedback and strengthening your team performance helps facilitate a safe environment for authentic conversation that has space for safe conflict.
 
Feedback in dysfunctional organizations comes across as confrontational, feedback in organizations with successful cultures is regular, informal, constructive, and safe.
Safety is a fundamental human need. Your team needs to know where they stand over the short and long term. One of the best ways a team leader can do this is to provide regular feedback on performance and clarify goals, especially during times of change. The trouble with feedback is that it is often heard as criticism which could counter the feeling of safety.
Start incorporating a culture where feedback is welcomed and acknowledged for the powerful fuel it is for breakthroughs in growth and development. Set up the right environment for casual, non-confrontational feedback.
 
●       Issue 3: Lack of Commitment. If a team is not aligned with a decision, then it can naturally be difficult for everyone to be behind and committed to that decision.
 
Solution: Not everyone in the team is going to agree all the time, and nor should they but they do all need space for healthy debate. A safe space where they can say “convince me” if they need to.
 
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shared his "disagree and commit" approach to healthy debate within teams in this Inc article. ‘to "disagree and commit" doesn't mean "thinking your team is wrong and missing the point," which will prevent you from offering true support. Rather, it's a genuine, sincere commitment to go the team's way, even if you disagree. 
Of course, before you reach that stage, you should be able to explain your position, and the team should reasonably weigh your concerns. But if you decide to disagree and commit, you're all in. No sabotaging the project, directly or indirectly. By trusting your team's gut, you give them room to experiment and grow, and your people gain confidence.
Having defined the right core values for your business and your team is also one of the best ways to keep your team on track and working toward commitment and your ultimate goals. 
 
●       Issue 4: Avoidance of accountability. If they are not committed to the course of action, then they are less likely to feel accountable (or hold other people accountable).
 
Solution: Follow these 5 accountability actions:
-        Giving up excuses.
-        Giving up blame.
-        Seeking Solutions.
-        Doing something. Anything!
-        Keeping score on yourself.
 
There are many roads to success, whatever form you hope that success to be, but the one action common for every single successful person, team, or organization is accountability.
Where someone has not held themselves accountable, and the other team members can call out less than optimal behaviors, actions, or a ‘dropping of the ball’; then you have true team accountability. 
 
●       Issue 5: Inattention to results. This, according to the book, is considered the ultimate dysfunction of a team and refers to the tendency of team members to care about something other than the collective goal.
 
Solution: Be inspired as a team, by your team’s mission. Being a mission-driven team will allow you and your team to bond and work together at greater levels of impact in order to achieve a common goal (your mission) together, allowing your bond as a team to strengthen. 
 
Let’s look at the value of a straight question like: Why do we come to work?
Most people when asked ‘why do you come to work?’ Will first answer “money.” But that's not the real reason why. That is not the motivation for getting up at 6:30 in the morning, rushing around, organizing kids, or ironing shirts the night before. It's because of the kids, or the house deposit they are saving for, or the next mission to help in a developing country. That's the “why.” Every person has a “why.”
That's the reason why they get out of bed every morning. And when a team is engaged in each other’s why, they then understand why they should help each other. There’s an understanding of what their teammate is working towards.
According to Ambition In Motion’s Work Orientation, some people are motivated by work/life balance, some people are motivated by growth and learning new skills, and some people are motivated by having a positive impact on the world. You can learn your Work Orientation here.
At its highest level, this is understanding each other's “why” and helping each other achieve individual goals together. Championing each other to be the best and to have the best.
When team members know why and what they are each striving for personally, and from an organizational view, they will be focused on the right results. Each person will not be focused only on their own goals; they will be working to help their colleagues meet theirs too.
 
How can the 5 Dysfunctions of a team help you?
If your team is struggling, start breaking down the issues. Take a look at the 5 dysfunctions of a team to see if you recognize anything. Then get to work on understanding what's happening for the team personally and professionally.
If you are seeking help with implementing the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team with your executive team, reach out to garrettmintz@ambition-in-motion.com to see how Ambition In Motion can help your executive team implement the methodologies taught in the book.
Thu 6 October 2022
In a workplace setting, a manager is often viewed as the figurehead of the team, and sometimes even the company. The energy a manager gives is often reciprocated by their staff. A manager serves in a position similar to a quarterback for a football team. Not only are they often calling the shots for the business but are also responsible for setting the tone of the workplace. Managers are also the first tier when delivering employee engagement. As the adage goes ‘People don’t quit jobs. They quit bosses.’

               Employee motivation is defined as the way that a company fosters the daily amount of enthusiasm, energy level, commitment, and amount of creativity an employee brings to the table each day.  This can make a very large difference in employee retention and productivity rates. According to TeamStage and Gallop, motivated employees are 87% less likely to leave their company. At the same time, 81% of employees are thinking about quitting their jobs for better offers. Retaining employees can be hard enough while also striving to motivate them. These issues are often compounded when a company isn’t doing very well.

                Many employees feel engaged in their work based on their company’s success. The better a company does, the more motivation they have for their company mindset. Conversely, if a company is doing poorly, some employees may not be as interested in the company. As a result, they are not only more likely to leave, but also to not have the same standards for their work. So the key question is, “how does a manager engage employees without the company success to assist in engagement?”

Motivating Your Employees- The Platinum Rule

               Regardless of company success, managers have many ways to still continue to engage their employees. In 1996, Troy Alessandra and Michael O’Connor published a book known as “The Platinum Rule.” This rule differs from the Golden Rule of “Treat others as you want to be treated” and instead flips it to “Treat others how THEY want to be treated.” The reasoning for this is that not everyone will want to be treated the same way. Imagine this scenario:

               Manager A has two direct reports, B and C. Manager A is a former direct report that received a promotion and much public recognition for a hard-working attitude and success. She enjoyed the recognition and was looking for a promotion, so her rewards were very fitting. B and C have both been working very hard, and A would like to reward them in the same way that she had been. While C welcomed the attention, B started to pull away from everyone, and loathed the additional responsibilities of management.

               The Platinum Rule states that individuals should treat others the way that they want to be treated and ignores the fatal flaw of the Golden Rule. Not every individual wants to be treated the same way as you do. In the same way that direct reports have Work Orientation, they also have different preferences. A good manager should be able to see how an employee likes to be acknowledged and rewarded, and then act accordingly. This also gives direct reports a feeling of being recognized and valued. According to ApolloTechnical, a site specializing in HR Studies, “91% of HR Professionals believe that recognition and reward make employees more likely to stay.”
        

Utilizing The Platinum Rule

Getting to know employees as a manager and being open to communication can completely change how they feel about their occupation. While the Platinum Rule makes sense in theory, here are some ways that it can be utilized within the workplace.

1)      Talk about communication preferences – Everyone has a different method of preferred communication, while some may view it differently than others. Some people personally prefer to minimize communication to professional discussions, while some of professionals prefer to send memes and personal items in work group chats. Regardless, by opening that communication channel, we are able to use our Slack professionally, and they have added their own channel just to joke around, which others can mute. 
2)      Learn about your Employees - Using a good 1:1 can completely change a coworker dynamic for the better. Understanding what motivates them, what their goals are, what type of support they need, and what they enjoy working with can allow you as a manager to then tailor work for them that they will get the most enjoyment out of. It also opens the door for you to create better incentive programs for them.

Company Incentives

               A company not necessarily doing so well doesn’t always mean that managers can’t afford to help provide incentives for their employees. Not every incentive needs to be financial. While it is important to financially benefit employees, there are other ways to incentivize them without breaking the bank.

·        Casual Friday- In a Five Day work week, with about 50 to 60 hours a week, most people are tired and want nothing more than to relax by the time a weekend comes around. Removing or easing a corporate dress code can allow them to be as comfortable as possible while still being productive. In addition to this, managers should try to make tasks distributed over the course of the week, with more tasks toward the front of the week, allowing direct reports to ease into the weekend.
·        Time off and longer breaks- Time off can be worth its money in gold- especially around holidays. Employees coming back from time off are often much more motivated to work, and are more likely to stay on with a team.
·        Sponsoring education- This may be more expensive, and not necessarily available for every company. However, allowing opportunities for employees to receive higher education can completely change their life, and allow them to be a better worker.

Just because a company isn’t doing well at one point in time doesn’t mean that it won’t get better for them. However, losing a motivated employee base can mean a death sentence for a company. Appeal to the staff, and get to know how they are motivated, and follow up with them. It will make a massive difference. 

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers

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