Hidden Drivers of Success By William A. Schiemann, Jerry H. Siebert and Brian S. MorganSHRM, 2013
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“Overdone” and “trivial.” That’s what employee surveys have become in many organizations—yet surveys also can provide vital, strategic intelligence for executives if done right. Hidden Drivers of Success sets out to teach readers how to mine employees’ insights and experiences for ideas and data that may be irreplaceable.
Many survey tools aren’t designed to gather information that supports strategic decision-making, the authors say. They advise companies to reinvent those tools to focus on strategic and operational information.
To do that, HR leaders should:
- Figure out who the stakeholders are—the people from whom you need to get information. Full-time employees are key stakeholders, but so are part-timers, contractors, consultants, and anyone else who works for or with you. Customers, including those who walk away unhappy, are sources of information, as are your internal and external suppliers, and constituents such as unions, consumer groups and regulatory bodies.
- Find out how to assess the value of your department or group—and how to use that information to improve your products or services. Use the book’s “people equity” model to understand your talent issues and optimize your talent.
- Learn to plan and design employee surveys that meet strategic information needs, show where to invest and indicate where future problems may crop up. A six-step survey process walks readers through constructing surveys from start to finish, including choosing the right issues, structuring the survey and interpreting the results for senior management.
- Turn survey results into actions by involving the stakeholders themselves, setting goals, monitoring progress and communicating progress as it happens. Learn why surveys often fail and how to avoid pitfalls that diminish their usefulness.
- Use surveys to evaluate and improve your employer brand and your hiring and recruitment. Surveys can identify what attracts people to your organization, whether your hiring process is efficient and how well your onboarding works.
- Employ focus groups and surveys to find out why people quit, and learn why the traditional exit interview doesn’t tell you all you need to know. Predictive surveys can identify departments or jobs at higher risk of turnover.
- Seek better feedback, which includes surveys and 360-degree assessments that can identify potential leaders and help current ones see where they need to improve.
- Set up an “employee intelligence system” that allows you to capture, analyze and use strategic information from employees as an ongoing process—not a one-time survey.
The book includes a diagnostic survey readers can use to assess their own organizations’ current performance and readiness for strategic surveying.
By Chip and Dan Heath
Crown Business, 2013
List price: $26
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Face it: You make decisions based on your biases. You’re irrational and overconfident, and you prefer data that tell you what you want to hear. In other words, you’re human.
Even the most self-aware people make choices that are influenced by their unconscious biases. In Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath ask how we can do better and be better as decision-makers.
The Heath brothers first look at how human weaknesses create flawed decisions. Then they lay out a process to help readers learn to get past their flaws: “Why a process? Because understanding our shortcomings is not enough to fix them,” they write. This book examines why we make biased choices but mostly guides readers on how to reach better, less biased decisions.
People typically make decisions in four stages: encountering a choice, analyzing options, making the choice and then living with it. But the book shows how each stage has a villain lurking within it. For example, we fail to see possible options. Or our analysis is based on self-serving information—what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Or our choices can be wrong if emotion drives them. Or we are overconfident about how our choices will turn out.
The Heaths show how to defeat the four pitfalls:
- Widen your options. Discover ways to see more possibilities. Techniques include the “vanishing options test” (what if all the options you’re considering dried up?) and the “opportunity cost test” (how much does this option really cost you?). Learn to weigh more than one option at a time. Get tips on how to locate others who have faced similar decisions and how to learn from their choices. Learn how to make and use checklists to prompt more-thorough decision-making.
- “Reality-test” your assumptions. Consider the opposite of what you instinctively want to choose, and encourage some “constructive disagreement” in the organization to root out any biases. Learn how to get an outside perspective on your problem so you can see how others might interpret it.
- Attain distance before deciding. The Heaths teach specific strategies for separating your emotions from your decision-making. They also advocate establishing core principles so that you can refer to those principles for guidance when decisions become emotionally charged.
- Prepare to be wrong. Consider the full range of possible outcomes for decisions—not just the outcomes you wish would happen. Learn to anticipate problems and prepare for them. Use deadlines and limits—such as “We won’t spend more than X on this project”—to prevent you from escalating potentially poor choices.
To Sell Is Human
By Daniel H. Pink
Riverhead Books, 2012
List price: $26.95
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One in nine U.S. workers is in sales, earning a living by persuading others to buy things. And the other eight of nine don’t know it, but they’re all selling, too—selling themselves, their ideas or their work product.
In To Sell Is Human, author Daniel H. Pink examines why sales and selling are changing and how we all came to be salespeople. He outlines ways to improve your ability to sell what you have to offer, whether that’s an item in retail, an idea to your boss or your influence to your employees.
Pink looks at why today’s economy is more about salesmanship than ever before:
- Some studies show that 30 percent of the U.S. workforce now works alone. By 2020, independent entrepreneurs could become the majority of the workforce. The rise of entrepreneurship also means the rise of sales because entrepreneurs have to sell themselves.
- Pink cites “elasticity” as another driver of a sales mindset. As workers increasingly perform diverse tasks instead of just one function at work, they need to be able to influence others.
- The old idea of “buyer beware” is now “seller beware” because customers are well-informed about what they’re seeking and know they have many other options if the seller isn’t working with them.
How do people sell themselves and their ideas in a changing workplace that is increasingly a marketplace? Pink starts with the ABCs of selling, long known as “Always Be Closing.” That outdated formula gets a remake here as “Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.” For each of these attributes, Pink offers a detailed case study.
Attunement is about observing others and bringing your “actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.” Readers learn about approaching interactions as if they have less power than other participants, as a way to help them see the other person’s perspective. Pink also coaches readers on using subtle mimicry to make others more comfortable (and more susceptible to a sale).
Buoyancy keeps your outlook positive while readying you to take on your task. Readers learn how to practice interrogative self-talk, asking, “Can I do this? Can I make this pitch? Can I persuade this person?” Asking questions helps bring out your reasons for doing things and reminds you how you prepared. Pink also covers how to explain why your “sale” did or didn’t succeed. Those who see rejection as temporary and based on specific circumstances tend to be better at persuading others, Pink notes.
Clarity means seeing things as they really are. Learn to identify the problems that need solving. Try reframing what you have to offer others; how can you contrast your offering with what others have to sell? Try getting a new angle by doing something unfamiliar. And when you want people to take an action, be clear about what they need to do.
Pink also looks at the sales pitch in a world where everyone pitches, all the time. The classic “elevator speech” summarizing what you can do for someone else isn’t the peak of pitching any more. Readers get a tutorial in pitches shaped as tweets on Twitter; subject lines on e-mails; a single, provocative question; and even a single word.
Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement
By Scott Carbonara
List price: $17
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This guide offers practical, how-to tips for improving employee engagement quickly and specifically. The target audience is the manager who needs to make the business case for engagement and who wants to make engagement work, starting today. Author Scott Carbonara:
- Argues that engagement improves productivity and relationships with customers, and keeps good workers from leaving.
- Explains the difference between genuine engagement—being dedicated and committed, and willing to expend discretionary effort on the job—and mere “job satisfaction.”
- Provides checklists to help managers identify employees who currently are and aren’t engaged.
- Guides managers in self-assessment activities to discover their management style and whether they are merely managing or truly leading their employees. Carbonara offers specific actions to take to become the “best boss ever.”
- Examines why employees do what they do and why clear expectations and effective consequences can build trust and improve performance. Carbonara dissects how different reactions to employees—praising, ignoring, punishing, etc.—affect engagement. He explains positive and negative reinforcement and how each works in an office environment.
- Shows ways to get employees to act like entrepreneurs by accepting risks, being creative, being empowered and focusing on realistic solutions.
- Explains how to align goals, vision and mission and get beyond mere mission statements. Readers learn what makes a good mission statement, how turning values into a brand can help employees understand why their work matters, and what to consider if an employee’s mission and the organization’s mission don’t match.
- Outlines how a manager can get to know each employee, one on one. Personal knowledge lets the manager tap into workers’ individual preferences, passions and strengths to build their engagement. Tools include questions to help managers inventory employees’ interests and guidelines for asking personal questions appropriately.
- Looks at how humor at work can increase engagement and how managers can use humor effectively and without offense.
Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement is part of a series called “Briefcase Books” from publisher McGraw-Hill. As a Briefcase Book, this volume includes short, easy-to-locate sidebars on topics such as specific ideas, warnings about possible pitfalls, definitions of key terms and more.
SHRM 2012-2013 Human Capital Benchmarking
List price: $800
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“Measure everything if you want to prove the business worth of human capital.” That’s what HR professionals hear in meetings, magazines and books. But where can you go to find the right data on other companies like yours, in your geographic area? Where can you get dollar amounts for organizational revenue per full-time equivalent employee, or the HR-to-employee ratio, or the average annual salary increase for employees in your industry?
Finding these data to use as benchmarks for your own company’s numbers can be tough—unless you examine SHRM’s Human Capital Benchmarking surveys.
These data charts report information by industry, number of employees and region. The book provides more than 40 metrics, including compensation data, HR department and expense data, employment data, and expectations for revenue and organizational hiring. A glossary gives readers detailed descriptions of each metric.
The source of the data is SHRM’s benchmarking database, which contains data from a random sample of SHRM members in the United States in varying industry sectors. Those sectors include for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, finance, government, health care, high-tech, and durable and nondurable goods manufacturing.
Organizational data include revenues per FTE. HR department data includes total HR staff number; HR expenses; the HR-to-employee ratio; and the percentages of HR staff in supervisory, professional/technical or administrative support roles. Other data cover the types of HR positions organizations expected to fill in 2012.
Compensation data cover annual salary increases, salaries as a percentage of operating expenses, target bonuses for nonexecutives and executives, and reimbursements for tuition. Employment facts include time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, number of positions filled in 2011, annual turnover rates and more.
The book’s guidelines state that any deviation between the data in the book and the reader’s own figures for the same human capital measures is not necessarily favorable or unfavorable. Deviations only mean the reader needs to do more analysis. The guidelines also note that human capital measures specific to the reader’s own industry and business size “are more descriptive and meaningful” than generic data.
By Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen
Talent Anarchy, 2012
List price: $14.95
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This book aims to help any reader at any level increase his or her social capital—defined here as “The resources available through personal and business relationships.” How those relationships form, how to look at them analytically, and how to create new and valuable connections are all part of this guide.
What’s the true value of a social connection? Social Gravity authors Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen demonstrate how to evaluate a person’s reach or connections to others; a person’s power or ability to influence others; and staff diversity or differences from yourself. Reach, power and diversity mean a contact has plenty to offer you, including new perspectives and the opportunity to connect with others in the contact’s own circle.
Gerstandt and Lauritsen condense their advice into six rules, larding each with checklists, questionnaires and tools to help readers personalize the advice:
- “Invest in connecting” with others. Put the time and the effort into building relationships. This includes figuring out your goals and the priority of each goal, so you know where to put your networking efforts: If your goal is to ascend in your company, work on relationships there, but if the goal is to start your own business, work on relationships outside the office.
- “Be open to connections.” This isn’t simple. Human nature tends toward making faulty assumptions about people, relying on stereotypes, and embracing biases. The book guides readers on recognizing those roadblocks. Then it covers how to put yourself out there—being more available by phone, taking more opportunities to meet others in person, using social media and e-mail more effectively, and even moving workspace to be closer to those who matter most to your network.
- “Be authentic.” If you follow your real interests and express your real goals, you’re more likely to connect with those who share them and can help you. Learn how to write a personal manifesto that clarifies what is meaningful for you and what you want to accomplish. Assess your gifts, talents, skills and knowledge and how they might help an organization someday.
- “Get involved in meaningful activity.” Directly related to being authentic, this rule urges taking action that matters to you personally and, through it, meeting like-minded people. Still, the authors recognize that formal networking events—though ineffective and “cosmetic”—do take place, and they offer tips on how to make the most of such events and how to start a connection, even where there is no shared, meaningful activity.
- “Use karma to turbocharge your network.” This is about reciprocity: Do things for others and they’ll do things for you. It’s “social currency” between contacts, the authors note, and it means being generous with your help because eventually someone will help you, too. Promoting your talents and skills via your online profiles and in other ways will let people see the ways in which you can help them.
- “Stay in touch.” Learn techniques for maintaining connections with appropriate, consistent and relevant communications with those in your network. The book looks at how social media tools have made connections far easier but also harder to manage meaningfully as they balloon into the hundreds and beyond. Tips on leveraging technology include subjects such as writing effective e-mails, using social sites, knowing when to use phone calls and in-person contact, and more.
While social media aren’t the book’s focus, they do get attention as tools people should use effectively. Just joining sites isn’t enough, the authors caution. You need to blog, update, post and otherwise keep content fresh. The idea of personal branding, both in person and online, is important, too, because it is “packaging who you are for the online community … to help the right people find you online.”
Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go
By Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012
List price: $17.95
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There is a term that “strikes fear into managers’ hearts,” authors Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni write, and that term is “career development.” Managers often dislike the idea of career development programs or developmental assignments that take away their employees. But to Kaye and Giulioni, career development simply means helping others grow—and managers can achieve that through conversations.
Kaye and Giulioni dissect the myths that immobilize managers, such as the myth that there’s no time for career conversations amid everyday tasks or the belief that employees “need to own their careers” and are entirely responsible for their own development, with no need for managerial help.
But career development does not have to consist of a formal program, or even a single, lengthy planning session between manager and employee. Kaye and Giulioni emphasize the power of short conversations and an ongoing dialogue, all year long.
Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go offers tools to help managers start and maintain those ongoing conversations:
Learn to look backward, forward and inward. Conversations can focus on hindsight, or looking backward to see what the employee is good at and loves; foresight, or viewing the big picture of organizational needs and how they change; and insight, where the manager and the employee look at actions toward career objectives. Managers learn how to guide conversations to uncover employees’ skills, strengths, values, interests, dislikes, preferences and weaknesses. A detailed conversation guide, complete with specific questions to ask, walks managers through a typical talk to review an employee’s past experiences, jobs and positions.
Feed your employees—they’re starving. Performance feedback through formal channels is important, but most employees are still hungry for ongoing feedback about their abilities, their blind spots and the conditions under which they perform best. The book provides practices for delivering specific, candid and constructive feedback.
Keep employees aware of the big picture. Help them develop foresight and learn how to track external business challenges and changes. Managers learn how to guide employees’ research into industry trends and forecasts and how to help workers connect those larger trends to their own company, department and career goals.
Understand that career moves can be sideways or down temporarily. Advancement doesn’t always mean moving up a traditional career ladder. Kaye and Giulioni give managers questions to guide employees who need to reassess what career success really means.
Help employees “grow in place.” Moving employees into different positions for career development isn’t always possible in today’s trimmer organizations. The writers note, “You may have little influence over getting an employee transferred or promoted, but you are completely in charge of what goes on in your own backyard.” A self-assessment helps managers decide if they are overlooking opportunities to help employees grow in place. Conversational tips let managers and employees think about the skills, information and experiences employees need, as well as how to meet those needs.
Make developmental opportunities happen. Education, exposure and experience provide development opportunities, and managers can work with employees to determine what combination of those three things work best. Kaye and Giulioni add that whatever the employee and manager decide on, the plan should be documented, linked to the organization’s business needs, aligned with the employee’s work goals and bought into by the employee.
The Pin Drop Principle
By David Lewis and G. Riley Mills
List price: $25.95
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Drawing on methods used by actors, The Pin Drop Principle teaches readers how to become more confident and effective communicators, no matter what audience they are addressing or what topic they are covering.
The techniques here are for anyone who needs to communicate—managers or employees who need to make presentations to groups, give one-on-one feedback, persuade others or hold difficult conversations at work. Readers first learn how to define their objective (what they want) and their intention (how they’re going to get what they want).
Readers then can work through the whole book from start to finish for a complete course, or dip into it for immediate help with their most pressing communication issues, including the following:
- Telling effective stories. Good storytellers are born, not made—or so many people believe. But authors David Lewis and G. Riley Mills say anyone can be taught to tell a good story, and they supply a “story map” formula for structuring stories well, plus exercises for trying out the formula.
- Structuring a framework that supports the message. Learn how to assess the audience and its expectations; identify a core theme for a presentation; prepare transitions using your body, props, expressions and more; and structure a talk, from an opening that grabs attention, through the main topics, to a closing that both summarizes the talk and energizes the listeners.
- Preparing, managing nerves and controlling anxiety. Over-preparation is a myth. You can’t know your material too well, Lewis and Mills note. They offer stages of preparation, cover techniques for overcoming stage fright and describe how to warm up before a presentation.
- Communicating nonverbally to express confidence. Posture, eye contact, facial expression, gestures and other nonverbal cues give audiences a snap impression that can work for or against you. Techniques show how and when to use gestures, experiment with facial expressions, and more.
- Speaking off the cuff. Impromptu speaking panics many people, but everyone does it all the time—talking casually with co-workers, brainstorming at work, or participating in a meeting or conference call. Tips for mastering impromptu speaking include slowing down, framing the message before speaking, using your own experience, sticking to topics with which you’re comfortable and being brief.
- Answering questions. Lewis and Mills tie this to the idea of controlling the audience and keeping it engaged. They give warning signs that an audience isn’t engaged (asking irrelevant questions, fidgeting, being silent or talking too much) and offer ways to interrupt the pattern if people grow complacent, as well as specific tips for addressing questions clearly and confidently.
- Being persuasive and assertive. Know the difference between assertive and aggressive communicators. Learn how to get commitment from listeners by asking questions, suggesting alternatives and demonstrating your own passion for a topic.
Team TurnaroundsBy Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl
List price: $25.95
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What could a child care center, a small business making golf putters, Domino’s Pizza, and certain professional football and basketball teams have in common?
All struggled with problem teams, and all turned those teams around for business or sports success. In Team Turnarounds, authors Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl examine these and other cases for lessons to answer the question, “How can any leader work to bring a team from the bottom to the top?”
Frontiera and Leidl discovered that, whatever the type of business or size of the enterprise, the leaders who succeeded in turning teams around used the same steps. That’s how the authors identified the six common elements of a “team turnaround process” that any leader, at any level, can use.
Drawing extensively on examples from both sports and business, the book offers a Team Turnaround Workbook of guidelines, worksheets and group exercises so leaders can apply the lessons directly to their own teams.
Stage one is as low as things get—the team is failing, and customers are walking away. The leader needs to assess why performance is so bad. Once you understand what’s going wrong, you can build the case for change. The book looks at how managers of three enterprises (a pro football team, a network technology company and a firm making motorcycle trailers) investigated their companies’ problems step by step and brought “dysfunction out in the open.”
After that first, painful step, the organization or team must commit to growth. This stage is where the leader and the team work out a vision for where the team is going and a plan to get there. But vision and values can seem vague, and the authors demonstrate how real teams made those ideas concrete and specific to their workplaces.
The third stage is changing behaviors on the team. Examples show how employers got specific changes into place, how leaders can model new behaviors personally and how to reinforce change within the team.
Once the team is accepting change, it also needs to accept—even embrace—challenges and adversity. Stage four is about taking on challenges, and a key example is how Domino’s Pizza used customer service problems as an opportunity to improve.
Stage five is achieving success, but leaders can’t stop there. Success brings the question, “What next?” At this point, leaders and teams must define what success means and adapt that definition in order to keep growing. The book discusses how already successful companies can choose to pursue a “triple bottom line” of not only profits but also benefits to society and the planet, going beyond traditional ideas of business success.
Teams that turn around reach stage six, where they must maintain a culture of excellence to continue succeeding. Readers learn how organizations keep innovation going over time and how to maintain the organization’s culture and values.
What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do
By Laura Stack
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., 2012
List price: $15.95
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Time management? Easy. Just make a schedule: Do one task from 9 until 9:30 a.m., then another task from 9:30 until 10 a.m., and so on.
That worked just fine in the 1980s and 1990s, author Laura Stack notes—until the Internet, e-mail, apps and devices bristling with smarts changed work life forever and raised expectations about what workers can do and how long it should take them to do it. How can you truly be productive when you’re inundated with information and expected to respond to all requests rapidly? What if making that schedule takes longer than doing the work?
In What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do, Stack outlines what she calls her “gospel of ruthless task reduction.” Her prescription: Re-evaluate your tasks and prune them so what you get done are the things that matter. Stop overwork.
Stack breaks her “Productivity Workflow Formula” into six steps, with examples, advice and quick tips for using the ideas immediately. Readers progress through these steps:
- Determine what to do. Stack shows how to analyze your current to-do list and figure out where it’s bloated. Readers learn to determine which tasks are the most important; which time-wasters (such as e-mail and social media) eat their productivity; and how to create effective, tailored to-do lists.
- Schedule time to do it. The book offers a quick primer on the best basic scheduling practices. Stack teaches how to say no and be less generous with your work time. Tips include how to spend less time in meetings.
- Focus your attention. Learn to combat both external and internal distractions. Stack shows why multitasking is another name for distraction, and why constant connection via technology undermines efficiency.
- Process new information. Revamp paper filing systems as well as reducing “involuntary data inflow”—primarily, those e-mails filling up inboxes. Stack provides an information handling system so users quickly “discard, delegate, do, date, drawer or deter” each piece of information they touch.
- Close the loop. Meet deadlines and communicate well with others about tasks and goals. Stack covers how to handle bureaucratic bottlenecks, how to deal with micromanagers and how to work with teammates while sticking to your own personal work priorities.
- Manage your capacity. Pay attention to your own mental and physical state so you don’t burn out and can stay productive. Stack examines how to improve sleep, diet and exercise to increase energy.
The Management Training Tool Kit
By Alan Clardy
List price: $34.95
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Real-world situations and genuine, tough decisions are behind the 35 case studies author Alan Clardy lays out in this set of training exercises for managers and supervisors.
Clardy doesn’t just list cases. He provides an easy structure for readers to follow so they can use this book and even adapt the cases, tailoring them to their own workplaces.
Trainees get a worksheet to help them analyze the cases by identifying the problems at hand, brainstorming, evaluating options and describing their chosen solutions. Each case in The Management Training Tool Kit includes discussion questions with answers—though Clardy notes that in many work situations, there is no single solution.
Cases also offer the possibility for role-playing exercises. Another tool is a case reporting worksheet trainees use to assess challenging situations they currently face.
Clardy’s cases, representing a wide variety of industries and workplaces, cover issues such as human resources problems, discipline, team building, termination, coaching, discrimination and much more. Some examples:
- A supervisor, who already has performance issues, is responsible for a report that’s already late. He turns in a report copied from a professional journal. Then his boss demands that the supervisor, on the spot, perform a critical calculation he ought to know. When the supervisor can’t pass that test, he’s fired. Are there any legal issues with this firing? Was the instant test questionable? What should the boss tell the staff about this sudden firing?
- A female employee is harassed by two contractors who are in her office to install a new computer system. She tells her boss after a day of escalating comments and an outright proposition. What should the manager do next, since no one else witnessed the harassment?
- -A new manager at a bank decides against refunding a small fee to a customer. An employee disagrees, and soon all employees are giving the manager the cold shoulder. When the manager talks privately to the employee and notes calmly that the decision was his to make, the employee explodes and shouts that she’s quitting. What could the manager have done differently? What’s his next move with the rest of the staff? With HR? With the employee herself?
- A manager calls a same-day meeting, and at the meeting announces he wants everyone to give him suggestions about his new pet program by the next morning. When one employee points out that it’s a problem when everyone is expected to drop their work and respond to meetings like this one, the manager shuts down. How could the manager have handled the meeting (and his favorite project) better?
By Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012
List price: $22.95
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Success isn’t about having the answers. It’s about asking the questions.
In Power Questions, authors Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas give readers questions—337 of them—that can lead to better business performance, improved relationships and greater creativity at work. The questions focus on holding an effective first meeting, understanding goals, developing a proposal and preparing to meet with a client.
Each chapter details a real-life situation or problem that someone changed by asking the right question at the right time. Then the authors expand that question so readers can apply it to their own situations: Each chapter briefly outlines when to use the question, alternative versions of it and important follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving.
Questions help redefine and reframe problems, challenge assumptions, and push people to think beyond their own traditions. The right questions can redirect a meeting that is going off the rails or halt an angry executive in his or her tracks.
A sampling of the questions this book uses:
- "What do you think?” Just four words but potent ones, according to Sobel and Panas, because people want to feel they are being heard—and they listen and cooperate better if they’re asked what they think.
- “Do you mind if we start over?” Tough to ask, this question can disarm someone with whom you’ve had a rough start. It can reboot an unproductive argument and let you refocus on what you should be discussing.
- “What did you learn?” Research shows that people don’t learn from their experiences. Use this question after an interview, meeting or visit, or when mentoring or coaching someone.
Readers learn to start with questions rather than statements. At work, this can mean that when someone says, “We need more innovation,” you respond with, “Can you describe what innovation means to you?” Instead of asserting, “We need to improve customer service,” you ask employees how service currently affects their ability to keep customers.
Rather than telling, ask. Rather than being the expert, invite others to contribute
By Susan Cain
Crown Publishers, 2012
List price: $26
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Charisma and collaboration sound like positives in any business setting. But in Quiet, author Susan Cain argues that companies’ focus on charismatic leaders and extroverted employees is actually shortchanging those companies. They are undervaluing their introverts.
Cain examines the development of the “extrovert ideal” in American culture and business. This ideal holds that making an impression on others, being outgoing and social, and communicating constantly matter. Being introverted, working alone and preferring solitude are seen as unusual, even unproductive.
The book examines how an overemphasis on collaboration at work “kills creativity.” Cain looks at the example of the earliest days of the computing club that spawned Apple and says, “You might conclude that people who hope to be innovative should work in highly social workplaces. And you might be wrong.” Then she delves into the work done by the shy, introverted Steve Wozniak in isolated time at midnight or early in the morning. The club gave a sense of support, but the creativity came from individuals working solo.
Cain decries a “New Groupthink” that “elevates teamwork above all else.” She offers research showing that solitude can fuel creativity and is essential for the deliberate practice of skills.
She adds that the right working conditions for this kind of practice are “surprisingly hard to come by” in today’s workplaces. Office design has pushed employees together in spaces that are increasingly open and have less and less space per worker. The focus on teamwork has created peer pressure to be a team player, even if teamwork reduces creativity. Cain says decades of studies show that as working groups get larger, performance declines and the number of ideas declines, too.
The book offers readers an understanding of how introverts and extroverts differ and how introverts can better navigate a workplace that operates on extroverts’ terms. Readers learn how introverts and extroverts think and how they react to rewards and risks. Introverts tend to think more carefully and stay on task better, and extroverts tend to use a “quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving” and focus on what’s immediately around them.
Should introverts try to be more outgoing at work? Is it even possible? Cain and the researchers she profiles say yes, people are “capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important.” Through self-monitoring techniques and careful evaluation of a job (does it offer ways to be yourself at least some of the time?), introverts can be more extroverted at work.
Cain includes advice on how introverts and extroverts can better communicate with each other.
By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Free Press, 2012
List price: $25
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Based on a Towers Watson study of 300,000 employees at companies with strong business results, All In examines the cultures of high-performing organizations and advises managers on how to create a workplace culture that promotes performance.
A positive workplace culture needs engaged employees, but authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton note that engagement alone isn’t enough. Their formula adds two other elements—employees must be enabled and energized, too. Enabling employees means giving them the support they need to do their jobs, and energizing them means ensuring their physical, social and emotional well-being at work.
The book sets out to be “a manager’s practical guide to developing a robust culture where people buy in.” And to keep things practical, Gostick and Elton offer seven steps managers can take, including these:
- Define your burning platform. What is the common challenge your workforce must meet? Why is it imperative that people buy into your strategy? The book looks at why mission, values and goals statements often fall far short of energizing employees.
- Develop agility. Agile firms enrich customers’ lives with their products or services, know how to cooperate with other firms, are open to different organizational structures, and leverage their people well.
- Use skilled communication to build trust. Readers learn best practices for communicating with employees. Be sincere with workers, admit problems, and demonstrate care for people.
- Partner with your talent. Gostick and Elton offer actions managers can use to build “more of a partnership feeling” in the workplace, from integrating brainstorming and collaboration into daily work to learning how not to impose your own style on an employee’s work product.
- Create clear accountability. Real accountability is not “heavy-handed leadership” that constantly calls employees on the carpet. Instead, healthy accountability includes clear, understandable goals; managers who are held accountable just as employees are; and honest assessments that celebrate successes and look on failures as lessons.
Gostick and Elton offer 52 actions managers can use to improve buy-in. Ideas range from finding five unique ways to thank employees to marketing employees’ ideas to those above you in the company.
The Progress Principle
By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
List price: $25
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What best fosters employee engagement? Choose one: clear goals, incentive programs, recognition for good work, interpersonal support at the office, or support for making progress in their work.
When researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer asked this question, hundreds of managers responded—and 95 percent of them got the answer wrong.
The chief motivator—according to employees’ private diaries of their work lives—is “making consistent, meaningful progress” in work that matters. Progress trumps incentives, pay programs and formal recognition, according to more than 30 years of research and nearly 12,000 diary entries.
In The Progress Principle, Amabile and Kramer say that the “fundamental act of good management” is managing for progress.
Through detailed case studies of business failures and successes, and deep mining of the thousands of diary entries from employees, the book teaches managers how to advance progress, remove impediments and give daily support that satisfies employees’ unspoken need to move forward in their work. Examples from the diaries and from workplaces (both successful and troubled) fill in the details.
Amabile and Kramer’s research finds a direct correlation between employees’ inner work life and job performance, with higher creativity coming on days when employees feel positive emotions about work and have positive perceptions of work.
The work diary study reveals that even small wins can have positive effects on employees’ motivation, but the authors also found that small losses can “overwhelm” the wins and loom much larger than managers realize.
How can managers tap into or gauge employees’ inner work lives when those thoughts and feelings are unobservable? The book teaches managers to manage what they can actually control—the catalysts that advance progress (and therefore boost positivity and performance) and the inhibitors that impede it. Among the actions the book covers:
- How to remove obstacles that create setbacks.
- How to provide “nourishers,” including recognition, rewards, opportunities to have fun and personal support.
- How to stop negating the meaning in employees’ work by being dismissive, burying credit, giving out “grunt work” and other don’ts.
- How to foster seven major catalysts that support employees’ progress, such as clear goals, autonomy and resources.
- How team leaders can better promote daily progress among employees.
Managers get steps for keeping attuned to how employees are doing on a daily basis. Managers can learn to give swift and targeted support as needed, if they keep up with what employees are doing and whether progress is taking place. An “inner work life checklist” for managers helps them track whether they acted supportively, provided workplace nourishment or let roadblocks stay in place on any given workday.
By Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske
List price: $40
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Aretha Franklin: Management expert?
In RESPECT, authors Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske use the name of the soul singer’s classic song to provide an acronym for their seven-point program for motivating employees. The book urges managers to give employees what they really want: recognition, exciting work, security, pay, education (and career growth), conditions they find amenable, and truth.
Wiley and Kowske’s plan opens with a business case for their brand of motivation, helps readers diagnose how well their organization currently is doing, and offers ideas and examples for increasing RESPECT in the workplace.
Research is a theme here, with the authors bolstering their ideas with results from extensive, international surveys of employees.
Why should employers care? RESPECT creates business benefits, the authors say. Wiley and Kowske’s research comparing companies with high amounts of RESPECT behaviors with companies with low amounts shows, for instance, that the high RESPECT firms deliver nearly 50 percent more on returns to shareholders than low RESPECT firms do.
Characteristics of RESPECT include:
Recognition. With nearly half of employees believing that they don’t get sufficient recognition at work, increasing recognition is a vital step in getting the best from people. The book looks at differences in how the Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial generations regard recognition. It advises on giving effective recognition by identifying employee preferences, creating clear policies for formal recognition programs, making informal recognition habitual and training managers in recognition techniques.
Exciting work. Research into what makes work exciting finds that employees associate excitement with trying new things. Employees identified cross-training, remote or expatriate work, and research and development jobs as exciting. How do employers ramp up the excitement, especially if they can’t offer expat jobs? Tips include ensuring that employees and their jobs are a good fit, designing jobs with enough autonomy and feedback to make employees feel trusted and significant, and managing expectations realistically for both employer and employee.
Security. The authors identify four ways organizations can create a feeling of security for employees, including sharing information openly (such as financial information about company health) and preparing employees for future opportunities by investing in training and development.
Pay. Learn to diagnose current pay issues and then to improve fair compensation, from creating an annual compensation review to reminding employees about useful benefits they may not realize you already provide.
Education and career growth. Career education and growth matter greatly to employees, surveys find, and affect whether they feel they should stay in their current jobs. Tips detailed here include how to provide formal support for education and training, how to initiate ongoing career planning talks with employees, how to assess your current training and education issues and needs, and ways to improve employees’ experiences with education and career development.
Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager (audio book)
By Gary P. Latham
Nicholas Brealey Publishing/SHRM, 2012
List price: $27.95
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This popular book is now available as an audio book, with author Gary P. Latham reading his own work.
Latham, an organizational psychologist with nearly four decades of experience, says most management books focus on what he calls the art of management—managing in engaging ways and using personal experience as the benchmark—and not the science of management, which uses proven techniques that are adaptable to all industries and workplaces.
Managers get six major lessons, each of which Latham breaks down into steps and supports with research and examples:
- Use the right tools to identify and hire high-performing employees. Throw out the unstructured interviews and “questions” like “Tell me about yourself.” These interviews discover nothing about how the candidate would behave in the job, Latham says.
He describes how to use situational interviews that present candidates with realistic work situations; patterned behavioral interviews, where you ask candidates how they behaved in the past; job simulations, or real-time tests; and realistic job previews, where candidates hear positives and negatives about the job so they can bow out if they realize it’s not for them.
- Inspire employees to execute your strategies. If employees don’t believe in what they’re doing, they won’t commit to it. The book identifies tasks for managers, including appropriate goal-setting, staying involved with employees and aligning performance metrics with goals.
- Develop and train to create a high-performing team. Six research-tested techniques—three to teach employees, three for managers to learn—prove that training and development don’t require a big budget, Latham says.
Managers learn to teach employees how to have internal dialogues that are positive; how to visualize specific tasks and problems and rehearse solutions mentally; and how to practice self-management, monitoring their own progress and comparing their own behavior to their goals objectively.
Managers themselves must actively support and participate in training—and also must build their organization’s culture, particularly by telling the true stories of employees who went out of their way to perform a task.
Managers must do one highly counterintuitive thing, Latham says: They must encourage employees “to make errors when mastering a complex task.” People who see mistakes as part of learning tend to be more willing to take creative risks. They also tend to be better performers than people whose focus on performance means they fear taking risks, he notes.
- Unlock employees’ inner motivation to be top performers. Money alone is not the motivator managers think it is, Latham argues. His steps for motivation include making sure employees have high goals that are specific and attainable.
He urges managers to stop thinking about increasing employee satisfaction and focus more on employee performance. People feel satisfied when they’re good at what they do, he says. He also outlines ways managers inadvertently demotivate employees.
- Instill resiliency in the face of setbacks. How a team handles problems and bounces back from them, or doesn’t, is vital. “Setbacks are inevitable; failure is not,” Latham says.
Managers get tips on how to help people develop accurate expectations. Managers also learn to foster workers’ self-efficacy, their sense that they know what they are doing in specific tasks. Managers can improve that sense by helping to set employees up for small successes—Latham describes how to do it—and by finding appropriate role models for employees to emulate.
- Use coaching and appraisal for high performance. Appraisals often discourage and demotivate employees because employers choose the wrong appraisal tools, Latham says. He details how certain tools, including bottom-line assessments that look solely at numbers and trait-based scores that try to assess personality, tell nothing about what the employee should stop doing or keep doing to improve performance. He shows why appraisals based on observable behaviors work best.
The book also covers how managers can minimize their own biases in appraising workers and how feedback from multiple sources is a proven tool for lowering turnover and bolstering the bottom line. “Coach, coach, coach” and don’t just appraise, Latham adds, describing how coaching works to increase employee confidence.
Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager includes an extensive case study of two very different businesses applying these principles in very different cultures. One is a logging company in the United States. The other is a technology development center in the Middle East. Because “a manager’s life is never captured by a formula and is rarely tidy,” Latham says, he shows how his ideas operate on the ground.
By Patrick Lencioni
List price: $27.95
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Patrick Lencioni argues that “organizational health” is too often about bring-your-dog-to-work days, company-sponsored yoga classes and ergonomic furniture.
True organizational health—the kind that improves the bottom line and keeps good performers on board—isn’t about such initiatives, he says. It’s about developing five strengths: minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover.
And how do you develop those healthy characteristics? The key is the leadership team.
The Advantage dissects how to bring about minimal politics and maximum productivity through four disciplines. For each discipline, the actions of the organization’s leadership team are critical.
- “Build a cohesive leadership team.” Leaders need to give priority to the team of which they’re members—the leadership team—rather than the departmental teams they lead, Lencioni notes. He covers how to control conflict within the leadership team (and by extension, other teams); how to get real commitment at the end of meetings, so everyone leaves knowing what was decided and what actions will be taken next; and how to develop real accountability among peers.
- “Create clarity.” Minimizing politics and confusion is really about being clear throughout the organization on what matters and what needs to be done. Lencioni discusses why “agreeing to disagree” is a huge error and why clarity isn’t wrapped up in mission statements. He lays out six critical questions for which the leadership team must have firm answers that they rally around—questions of what defines success for the organization, what has top priority and who is tasked to do what.
- “Overcommunicate clarity.” Readers learn that there’s no such thing as too much clarity about the organization’s specific goals and tasks. Leaders get tips on how to “cascade” messages about the six critical questions out to the workforce, how to ensure that everyone knows what’s expected of them, and how to teach employees to articulate the organization’s values and goals accurately.
- “Reinforce clarity.” Lencioni applies these ideas to recruitment, hiring, orientation, performance management, compensation, rewards and firing. Organizations need to bring consistent values and expectations to all of these areas to ensure that employees fit the organization.
The book includes a chapter focused solely on what Lencioni calls the central indicator of health—meetings. He outlines four types of meetings that leadership teams should have—from brief check-ins to overnight, off-site meetings—and he shows how to get clarity from each about what was decided and what steps to take next.
By Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
List price: $30
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The flexible work practices HR promotes—part-time work, flexible or compressed schedules, job sharing, work at home—are mere “cosmetic arrangements,” authors Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson argue.
They say these practices do nothing to challenge the old model of work: “If you give me your time to perform a job, I will reward you per hour.”
It’s time to scrap the rewards-for-time model in favor of “future work,” in which employers reward workers for output, not for time, Maitland and Thompson say. In this book, they outline how companies can overcome resistance to change, give employees more autonomy over where and when they work, and at the same time improve the bottom line.
Why doesn’t flexible work work? It just shifts the time in which the work is performed; it doesn’t shift the notion that time equals dedication. “Instead of rewarding long hours of low productivity, why not reward shorter hours of high productivity?” the authors ask. And instead of encouraging employees to be seen at an office, why not encourage them to work wherever they are most productive?
Maitland and Thompson lay out the business case for future work and provide dozens of real-world examples of how firms already see gains such as greater productivity, better customer service, lower turnover, and savings on real estate and travel.
For future work to succeed, employers need to make it part of the business strategy, not treat it as a benefit. This means the right technologies must be in place and managers must undergo some radical adaptation, the book notes. For example, managers must be able to trust employees and to stop expecting employees’ presence in a fixed place during fixed hours, except in some occupations.
Is future work the end of the bricks-and-mortar office? No, but the link between higher status and more space—namely, the higher the manager the bigger the office—should disappear. Readers get successful companies’ tips on how to use shared office spaces.
Readers also learn ways to help managers and employees cope with the initial insecurity and isolation some may feel about working away from an office.
Culture, both organizational and national, has a strong impact on how well companies and people will accept the future work model, Maitland and Thompson write. They examine how workplace cultures, gender differences and social expectations in different countries all influence employers’ readiness to try autonomous, results-driven work.
Future Work gives managers, executives and HR a blueprint for putting future work into place. The guidelines include the following:
--Reward output of quality work, not input of hours. This requires setting careful goals that let people work without constant supervision.
--Get the CEO’s and the board’s support for a fundamental change. A flexible work program instituted by HR isn’t the same as a top-down, pervasive culture change.
--Treat people as individuals. Find out whether individual employees work best with total autonomy or with differing levels of supervision. Among managers, this change can create fear of being seen as unfair or discriminatory. The answer, Maitland and Thompson say, is that managers have to step up and be willing to exercise judgment.
The book provides a question-and-answer section addressing managers’ chief concerns: How will I know they’re working? What happens to team spirit? Don’t we still need meetings? What happens to employment contracts? What’s in it for me?