My first job in high school was working at a small grocery store in town. I remember there were only eight aisles, so it wasn’t long before I had most of the place figured out. Unfortunately it wasn’t very complicated, and when I wasn’t assisting customers in the front, I was usually walking through the aisles pulling the products neatly to the front of the shelves. I’ll be honest, I hated it. I kept wishing I could be working with my brain instead of my hands. In fact, sometimes when I’d see friends come into the store, I’d find something to do in the back so they didn’t catch me doing such a menial task.
Fast forward several years. I was serving in Iraq with the Army. I was proud that my Special Operations job allowed me to work in an advisory capacity with both the State Department and local NGOs. One day I opted to work from the base instead of going on the mission, only to find out that all the soldiers remaining behind needed to help with a special project: sandbag detail. When I tried to get out of it, my leader gave me a pretty healthy tongue-lashing and appointed me sandbag project leader for the day.
How did I get so mixed up about what was really important?
You don’t have to look far to look far to see the verbal abuse bosses take. Whether it’s water cooler gossip, happy hour banter or social media posts, people aren’t happy with their leader and don’t hold back when telling why. Some are more politically savvy and only think what others say out loud.
Forbes reported recently that as many as two million employees quit their jobs each month. One of the most significant reasons: they dislike their bosses.
It’s only fair to acknowledge that some managers earn their scorn. I should know, one of my jobs as an organizational development consultant is to help make bosses better bosses. I suppose if everyone was already excellent, I’d have less to do. But it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due. So let’s take a closer look at the great things bosses do.
If you’ve been responsible for delivering business results for any length of time, you’ve probably hit a wall once or twice with people. Someone’s feelings got hurt, another manager is difficult to work with, company politics create unseen landmines, some colleagues disagrees with you and a couple may be out to get you. As often as not, we may be the problem. Additionally, we humans are the ones causing the accidents, forgetting key dates or deliverables, creating ambiguity, making mistakes and communicating poorly. Getting results are tough enough as it is, before we introduce people into the mix!
Automation has added enormous business efficiency over the years and will continue. But it’s important to keep in mind that whatever business we’re in, we’re ultimately in the people business. Since we can’t eliminate the human element (besides, would we really want to?), we’ll have to figure out how to capitalize on it.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget one particular college history class. As a business major, I wasn’t extremely invested and the class took place right after lunch. I remember one student team was scheduled to give a presentation on Ancient Roman civilization. Just as I was about to zone out, the back door burst open and a student with a plastic helmet, a sword and a cape came tearing through the classroom. Hot on his heals came another student in a lion outfit. The lion made a diving tackle right in the narrow aisle between our desks, but the gladiator fought him off, stabbed him and then chased him back into the hallway, slamming the door behind him.
Now I was wide awake and ready to learn about Ancient Rome.
This story illustrates the effects drama can have on our words. Oftentimes, it’s not what we say, but how we say it that makes a difference. Here’s why:
Everybody wants competence. We want it for ourselves. We expect it from others in our organizations. We demand it from the people and organizations we purchase from. But how do we figure out if we’ve got it? How well do we develop it in others? Where do we even start?
Back in the 1970s, Gordon Training International developed a learning model called “The Four Stages of Competence,” which has also been linked to Abraham Maslow’s work. There’s something helpful about breaking an idea or a challenge down into smaller parts, and competence is no different. If we can understand which stage both we and our followers are in, we’ll be much more useful. Here are the Four Stages of Competence:
All of a sudden you get put in charge of building a new training course for your organization. It could be leadership training, professional training or technical training. Doesn’t matter. So you do the hard work of analyzing the learning needs, developing objectives, designing content, coordinating the event and finally delivering the course. Mission accomplished! That is, until management asks for the evaluation results to find out what difference the course made. Now you’re just insulted. After all the hard work you put in, management thinks your course may have been a flop? The nerve!
This may be how you feel about evaluation… unless you have a built-in evaluation plan. In that case, you’ll be ready to hand over the results of your training before management even asks for it.
So how do you evaluate learning programs? In this post, I’d like to summarize the Kirkpatrick Four Levels of Learning Evaluation.
Recently I wrote about the benefits of taking Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 strengths assessment. Nearly 9 million individuals have used the assessment to identify their Top 5 signature strength themes. That means there are many leaders out there who have yet to discover the incredible benefit of clarifying and leveraging their strengths.
What I’d like to do in this post is show how the 34 StrengthsFinder themes neatly divide into four specific leadership styles – and I’ll explain what difference this makes for you and your team. In the next post, I’ll share some ideas for building a strengths-based leadership development program for your organization.
So many organizations hire new employees, give them generous compensation packages ripe with incentives, and then expect them to work happily for years on end. Then they are shocked when a couple years (or months) later the same employees leave to take LESS lucrative jobs elsewhere. What gives?