Why Exit Interviews Make Sense

By Dana Borowka, MA

Recently a strange occurrence got me thinking. On a personal note, I love to sail. After being members of a boat club for over ten years, my wife Ellen and I decided to move to another club. When we informed the club we were leaving they were highly efficient in deactivating our gate codes and privileges. No surprise there.

But it was what they did not do that surprised us. No one asked us why we were leaving. In talking to members at the new club as to why they didn’t join our old club we discovered there was a common complaint and it had nothing to do with boats: they did not like the food at the club.

This organization is needlessly losing customers over something that could be fixed. If only they had a process of conducting exit interviews.

For many a business, the exit interview has fallen out of favor. But in April 2016 the Harvard Business Review published an article singing the praises of exit interviews titled “Making Exit Interviews Count” by Everett Spain of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Boris Groysberg of the Harvard Business School.

The authors made their case in the article’s opening abstract:

An international financial services company hired a midlevel manager to oversee a department of 17 employees. A year later only eight remained: Four had resigned and five had transferred. To understand what led to the exodus, an executive looked at the exit interviews of the four employees who had resigned and discovered that they had all told the same story: The manager lacked critical leadership skills, such as showing appreciation, engendering commitment, and communicating vision and strategy. More important, the interviews suggested a deeper, systemic problem: The organization was promoting managers on the basis of technical rather than managerial skill. The executive committee adjusted the company’s promotion process accordingly.

“In today’s knowledge economy, skilled employees are the asset that drives organizational success,” state Spain and Groysberg. “Thus companies must learn from them—why they stay, why they leave, and how the organization needs to change. A thoughtful exit-interview process can create a constant flow of feedback on all three fronts.”

Why Some Experts Are Cool to Exit Interviews

“I am not a fan of exit interviews,” says Beth Smith, president of A-list Interviews and the author of Why Can’t I Hire Good People: Lessons on How to Hire Better. “I think it is a matter of too little too late.”

A horrible hiring mistake led Smith to create a company and write a book to help improve hiring results. Here is her take on the drawbacks of exit interviews:

Exit interviews are specifically designed for the employer. They do not help the exiting employee at all, because the exiting employee usually needs a reference from the company they are leaving. Telling the truth about the company doesn’t help the employee get that reference, and in certain circumstances, the information gleaned from the interview could be used against them. In addition, if there is negative feedback given, it is sometimes dismissed by the interviewer. “Well, that employee is just mad, so their feedback isn’t accurate.” My belief is that if an employee is leaving the company, they have attempted to tell someone in the company why. Whether it is a review, a conversation or a complaint, most employees don’t just up and leave without some sort of a notification.

Smith’s work is about interviewing right when hiring (something I agree with and advocate should be supported with proper in-depth workstyle and personality testing). Understandably, her coolness toward exit interviews echoes the view of many in business.

Smith’s belief is that if an employee is leaving the company, they have already attempted to tell someone in the company why. Who wasn’t listening to the employee when they were there?

Taking a Fresh Look at Exit Interviews

True, exit interviews have their shortcomings; however, in my opinion, it is a miscalculation to not conduct exit interviews because of the inherent faults. The research of Spain and Groysberg detailed in the Harvard Business Review supports this:

Though we are unaware of research showing that exit interviews reduce turnover, we do know that engaged and appreciated employees are more likely to contribute and less likely to leave. If done well, an exit interview—whether it be a face-to-face conversation, a questionnaire, a survey, or some combination of those methods—can catalyze leaders’ listening skills, reveal what does or doesn’t work inside the organization, highlight hidden challenges and opportunities, and generate essential competitive intelligence.

Other HR experts advocate a return to exit interviews—if they are done right.

“If an organization is a revolving door and it doesn’t care why, then exit interviews are a waste of their time and money,” says Claudia Williams, former associate general counsel, Global HR & Litigation, for The Hershey Company. “Most organizations, though, want to know why people are leaving and going to their competitors or elsewhere, especially when the attraction and retention of great people is a top, if not the top, concern for CEOs in the U.S. and globally.”

Williams, founder of a consulting company called The Human Zone and the author of the upcoming book Frientorship, argues an exit interview gives the employer a chance to get raw, candid feedback on what it does well and what it needs to improve – what’s keeping employees there and what’s causing them to leave.

“Time and again I’ve seen leaders surprised by the results of an exit interview, which means they don’t have their fingers on the real pulse of the organization,” says Williams. “An employer might be able to stop a great employee from leaving if it knows the real reasons behind the employee’s decision.”

The Value of Exit Interviews

“I valued and conducted exit interviews often in the army, individually and through the Army’s initiatives enterprise wide,” says Brigadier General Jeffrey Foley, U.S. Army (retired). “In the army, I often conducted exit interviews when people were transferring out to other army organizations when their tour of duty was up.”

“I valued and encouraged the conducting of exit interviews in the army, individually and through the initiatives sponsored by the army enterprise wide,” says Brigadier General Jeffrey Foley, U.S. Army (retired). “In the army, we often conducted exit interviews when people were simply transferring out to other army organizations when their tour of duty was up.”

Foley, who now runs a leadership consulting practice named Loral Mountain Solutions and is the coauthor of the book Rules and Tools for Leaders, offers his views on the four major benefits of exit interviews:

1. You may learn the real truths about your organization. You will likely learn what you may know or should know about typical challenges like money, opportunities for growth, shortfall of benefits, etc. You may also learn more profound truths like distrust of supervisor, harassment, illegal or unethical conduct that people were reluctant to report for whatever reason.
2. You set a great example for the entire organization that the leadership cares. The word will get out that the losing organization leaders cared enough to at least ask. If there is a standard practice of exit interviews and things changed in the organization for the better as a result of what was learned, there can be great benefit to the organization.
3. You may learn insights into your competition. Great information can be learned about what the competition is doing or offering that might affect your organization.
4. You can learn how to help those departing be successful. For the good people departing, it offers an opportunity for the losing organization’s leadership to help the person be successful in the next chapter of their lives. This support can be provided by letters of recommendation, references, or something unique based on an extraordinary event that caused the departure, such as serious sickness or tragedy that occurred that may have been previously unknown.

Williams offers a final warning:

“But proceed with caution,” she says. “Employers have to be ready and willing to act upon the information they receive, both to harness their strengths and to fix what’s broken (which sometimes means a workplace investigation into allegations of individual or corporate misconduct). Otherwise, the exit interview is a bunch of meaningless words.”

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching, skills testing and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

 

 

5 Key Tips For Running A Successful Meeting

By Robert Sher

I came across this article recently in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Where’s the Boss? Trapped in a Meeting” that made it sound like CEOs weren’t productive and spent large amounts of time in meetings, at lunches and traveling, with as little as six hours per week working solo.

But why are hours spent working solo an indicator of being productive? Meeting time versus working solo time has little to do with productivity. The issue is not the sheer amount of meeting time, it is whether that meeting time (or any time) is impactful in increasing the enterprise value of the firm. Every minute a CEO or key executive spends is a minute gone by. Each minute must be invested wisely.

Mid-Market CEOs More Vulnerable

Earlier-stage entrepreneurs and small-business owners need every minute to get tasks done. Their executive team is small or non-existent, so they are not typically buried in meetings. Large businesses, on the other hand, have many highly trained executives all (hopefully) adding value to their organizations. Thus the wasted minutes of CEOs and key executives can be offset by the contributions of all the other leaders.

But middle market companies have leadership teams that are small compared to Fortune 500 companies. In a survey I conducted on middle market companies (slide 17), 95% of the CEOs and 96% of those that report to the CEO agreed that CEOs have unique leadership skills and other capabilities often not found in the teams that report to them. Executive leadership is needed in middle market companies, and that leadership is often delivered in powerful meetings. Every minute of executives’ time really counts.clock in water

Old Solutions Not Enough

Reduction of the time spent (or wasted) in meetings is not a new idea. You will likely still have wasteful meetings, just fewer of them. Setting a clear agenda going into your meeting is another piece of common advice. But agendas are often poorly constructed, discarded or not delivered early enough to be useful. Too many teams come together over and over again, on the same issues. They fail to reach a decision, or come to a decision without anyone assigned to be accountable, so the issue must be raised again.

Delegating work upward from a collaborative team approach to executives (“let the execs figure it out”) isn’t good either. This means executives invest precious time in doing the work, whereas if the work were done by the team, executives would only have to assess their progress and make the final judgment—a much quicker task.

Make Meetings Produce Work

Meetings must be the places where the decisions are made that require the full team’s input. Those decisions should be recorded and carried out after the meeting. So we’re maximizing executives’ minutes—and everyone’s minutes—when our meetings are the place where we do work, where we actually accomplish things.

The “work” of leadership teams includes thinking, debating, brainstorming, planning, strategizing and ultimately, making a final decision on a matter. Well-run meetings should be synonymous with “getting work done,” and not synonymous with “wasting time.” Information-only meetings should be rare and fast. Meetings should be one way of doing work, while working solo is another way of doing work. Wasting time when alone (gaming, daydreaming, Facebooking) is as bad as wasting it in a meeting.

For larger middle market executives, I maintain that they should spend nearly all their time in meetings if that means that they are making big decisions and handing big chunks of work to a large team of capable executives.

The key to making meetings incredibly productive is having powerful executives require all meeting participants to follow these rules:

  1. Every participant must prepare before the meeting. If everyone has received and read the handouts, there is no need to read them together at the start of the meeting. Your most disciplined execs will do this, so please don’t punish them by making them sit through the same material again because an undisciplined executive didn’t—even if it’s productive-mtg-pixabay-gerd-altmannyou, the CEO.
  2. There must be a strong facilitator to keep the meeting on track, force decisions and assign accountability for results. Un-facilitated meetings are disastrous. It can be an insider who facilitates, as long as they retain control of the meeting.
  3. Someone has to walk into the meeting with a point of view and a proposal for action. Groups are terribly inefficient at gaining momentum toward a specific solution. Better to point them in a rational direction and have them object and go in a different direction, then to have them figure out the appropriate direction as a team.
  4. The only participants in a meeting with key executives should be those who have analyzed the situation with the same level of diligence that the executives have, and who can give a concise but accurate overview of the situation to the executives. Lower level team members can meet with their bosses before the meeting to pass great ideas and solutions upward.
  5. Meetings in which executives sense that participants aren’t prepared must be shut down. Reprimand the slackers and warn them not to repeat the behavior. I’ve seen many an executive who can’t or won’t walk into a meeting with a proposal. Often they’re afraid that they’ll be wrong, and don’t want that responsibility. They need to be replaced. These are not executives, and middle market companies need real executives who have the courage to lead and make/recommend decisions.

Sometimes executives are big meeting culprits themselves, lacking the discipline to prepare for their own meetings. They often prefer meetings in which they are informed by their teams. This doesn’t harm the executive’s productivity, but it does harm everyone else’s. While much of this is just a matter of self-discipline, one approach is to have the executive’s assistant collect all the reports/data a few hours before the meeting, and then reserve 30 minutes before the meeting for the executive to study up.

If you’re an executive who needs to stay tuned in to some of the middle management activities, you may find yourself in meetings you don’t run which burn up time. These meetings can be addictive, but building dashboards or monthly drop-level 1:1’s to get an update may be more efficient.

road-pixabay-gerd-altmannMid-market executives are very high value assets to their companies. All they have to contribute is their time. Demand that all meetings be powerful and that real “work” proceeds from them.

Make meetings productive and decision making machines. Companies should have top grade and meet with them often to drive productivity higher and higher, and to raise enterprise value with each minute executives spends in those meetings.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Robert Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, an advisory firm specializing in helping midsized companies accelerate performance. He was chief executive of Bentley Publishing Group from 1984 to 2006 and steered the firm to become a leading player in its industry (decorative art publishing).

Robert speaks frequently, and has published extensively on the successful leadership traits and skills of leaders of midsized companies. He is a regular columnist on Forbes.com, has numerous posts on Harvard Business Review online, Entrepreneur.com and CFO.com. He authored two books, the first book, The Feel of the Deal; How I Built a Company through Acquisitions (1toPonder, 2007) and his newest book, Mighty Midsized Companies; How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers, (Boston: Bibliomotion, Sep. 2014). He also publishes his own newsletter, The CEO Insomnia Factor.

Robert received a B.S. degree in business administration from Hayward State University in 1986 (during which he ran a small business), and an MBA degree from St. Mary’s College in 1988, where he was the recipient of the Jack Saloma Award for student citizenship. From 1995 to 2000, he taught MBA and executive MBA courses at St. Mary’s on growing entrepreneurial businesses. For more information, visit the website, http://www.ceotoceo.biz/, email r.sher@ceotoceo.biz or call 925-829-8190.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information, visit https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Creating a Culture Strategy — On Purpose — For Today and Tomorrow

By Suzanne Mayo Frindt & Dwight Frindt – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

Is your company culture and your leadership practices designed for success in today’s world?

By Brian Hefele

By Brian Hefele

In the face of unrelenting change and increased complexity of issues facing us in business today, our past based practices and structures may not be sufficient to succeed in this new paradigm. Let’s take a look at how company cultures and leadership must shift to respond powerfully to the circumstances we are currently experiencing.

People don’t really fear change itself; they can become afraid that they won’t be successful in the new paradigm. It is the job of leadership to create conditions, a culture, where people can learn, grow, and adapt to be successful in today’s world.

Change and Change Again

Our world is rapidly shaping in many amazing ways:

♦ As the video, Shift Happens has pointed out to the millions of YouTube viewers who have seen it on the Internet, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, who will be using technology we haven’t yet discovered, to solve problems we don’t even yet know about yet” (Shift Happens video, created by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod).
♦ The quantity of information, its availability, and speed of delivery are increasing at an exponential rate as costs are approaching zero.
♦ The number of people accessing and using this information, and the many ways it is disseminated, has exploded since the advent of personal computers and the Internet — which in turn exponentially speeds up the rate at which new technologies are developed.
♦ Women are stepping into leadership roles at all levels, in diverse venues and in unprecedented numbers all over the world.
♦ Awareness that our global environment cannot continue to withstand a collective human consumption race is spreading quickly.
♦ Our children are being born into and growing up in a world that is so different than the one we grew up in, that it requires a new way of being for them to lead successful lives.
♦ More people over 65 are alive today than have ever lived to that age, so that group will be looking for whole new models for leading healthy, successful lives.

The list of changes that we have already experienced is inexhaustible. And as soon as you read this article, there will be even more changes that have occurred. Accelerated change has become the new normal. At the same time, we hear many clients say “as soon as it slows down or gets back to normal.” Those who think there will be a return to the “good ole days” are in for a great shock.

Our cultures, leadership, and structures have to shift from top down to valuing learning and expanding capacities to problem solve in the face of uncertainty, mining all available wisdom and creativity.

Culture…What’s That?

By rekre89 (Flickr)

By rekre89 (Flickr)

Excellent companies have Financial Strategies, Operational Strategies, Marketing and Sales Strategies, and commensurate Resource Allocation Strategies (including People, Time, Money, Equipment/Assets, etc.). How many companies actually have a Cultural Strategy? Yet all companies have a culture, implicitly if not explicitly. They have been developed on a historical basis and impact productivity, success, and health for generations. And, they can be experienced differently depending on one’s position within the organization.

Our first conversations with executives about Culture and Culture Strategies begin with a definition — a shared definition. Since so much of what comprises a culture is often accidental and somewhat invisible, some people have a hard time accepting that there is one, or that it can be defined or even changed.

Once we work through a few of the definitions below, most CEOs and executives agree they do have a definite culture. Then comes the question of whether it is the most productive culture given their purpose, values, and the changes we are experiencing every day.

A company culture can be defined as:

♦ A cognitive framework consisting of attitudes, values, behavioral norms, and expectations. (Greenberg and Baron, 1997)
♦ The collective thoughts, habits, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behavior. (Clemente and Greenspan, 1999)
♦ The pattern of arrangement, material, or behavior, which has been adopted by a society (corporation, group, or team) as the accepted way of solving problems. (Ahmed et al., 1999)
♦ Includes the organizational values, mission, norms, working language, systems, beliefs, and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and even thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)
♦ A set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for certain situations. (Ravasi and Shultz 2006)

From this collection of definitions of culture, it becomes clear that a group or an organization’s culture is foundational to the success or failure of all other strategies, and yet little, if any attention, is consciously placed on the care and feeding of a productive culture. It is the invisible glue that binds together ever more diverse workforces, including people from many cultures and generations. Since it is invisible, most executives are not conscious of culture or of the implications of their decisions on the development of, or the degradation of, culture. Organizations in a high growth or acquisition mode are at a high risk of failure due to culture clashes. It is very unusual for us to see organizations that understand the criticality of this dimension of an acquisition, or adding lots of employees in a short period of time. Without a clear and intentional culture strategy, along with the allocation of resources to be sure that it is communicated and very well understood and incorporated into every day business interactions, the culture is drastically impacted by whatever the acquisition brought with them, or what the large numbers of employees bring with them. The sad reality is that productive organizational cultures often suffer a demise due to an unconscious neglect by leadership.

What people often complain about is usually a description of the unproductive aspects of the culture, at least from their perspective. We have heard from executives: lack of accountability, defensiveness, competitiveness at the expense of the company, or customer outcomes. In an organizational 360 tool that we use, we have heard from the workforce: micro management, lack of trust, no clear direction, compensation, and reward systems that emphasize individual results rather than company success. This was all within the same company!

Many organizations that we have encountered through our leadership development firm, 2130 Partners, have had what we call “accidental” cultures. Perhaps it was generated initially by a founder entrepreneur, mirrors other cultures in the same industry, or was created by a particular hiring practice or compensation structure. Nonetheless, most cultures develop by accident.

Cultures can be designed on purpose, and existing productive cultures can be maintained and enhanced intentionally.

Leadership — Replacing Commands with Vision

In this evolving new reality, successful leadership will have a very different nature than traditional approaches.

By Aadi Sing

By Aadi Sing

It was quite different to be a leader in simpler economic times and when the world moved at a slower pace with less connectivity. There were successful models and practices in place as well as more easily identifiable and attainable goals. Patterns of entitlement offered at least the illusion of security, and there was more time and predictability in producing results. However, now — when previous business models and assumptions have been turned on their heads, when people’s livelihoods are changing and disappearing regularly, and when successful businesses are being transformed for the new realities — the leadership required is radically agile, proactive, and creative.

Leaders who will be effective in this time of incredible opportunity are those that lead as if they are in a dance with reality — that is, they look to create exciting new paradigms, processes, and even companies based on creating the next game while being responsible for the current and unfolding global economy. They are not simply waiting until the economy gets back to normal or using past experiences to map out current pathways. Being in a dance demands conversations appropriate to dancing. Think about it — when you get out on the dance floor, do you tell your partner, “I need these four steps from you in the next minute, followed by a repetitive pattern until I tell you otherwise”? If you have done that, perhaps you have found that it leaves you with very few dance partners. How then do you engage with others in this new reality?

We call the management model we use to replace the old “command-and-control” paradigm, Vision-Focused Leadership, which is an approach grounded in shared vision and built through collaboration.

Vision: A mental image produced by the imagination

Vision-Focused Leadership as a mental model shows how thinking, listening, speaking, and actions — most importantly those that you employ to lead others — are focused and informed by a shared vision. Focusing on your shared vision allows you to make choices; orient your creativity, energy, and resources; and correlate your thoughts and actions and the actions of people working with you on your shared intention. In the absence of shared vision, it is easy to become victims of or be distracted by circumstances, worries, and fears, and to react based on instant, automatic, unconscious, and unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and judgments stored in your mind. Without necessarily realizing it, the past winds up driving your bus.

When we talk about leadership here, our intention is to stress that leader- ship can be evoked anywhere in an organization — that is, every person can exhibit leadership qualities, no matter what his or her job description may be.

If you and your team members have done a good job developing and sharing the vision, then creating powerful actions will flow much more naturally. People will be able to individually source their ideas, actions, and interactions from the shared vision. If you replace commands with shared vision and broaden the source and responsibility for creativity to the entire team, you will maximize creativity, ownership, collaboration, and velocity in fulfilling the shared vision.

We use the term “Yonder Star” to include shared vision, goals, objectives, and strategies to obtain it. It can be applied at any level from a strategic corporate vision to your vision for the outcomes you intend to produce in a single conversation or meeting. The Yonder Star is the ideal, out in front of you and up above the path you are currently traveling, that provides a common focus and inspires your actions. Rather than hanging onto sacred past-based activities and processes (i.e., “what did we do and how did we do it last year?”), priorities, plans, and milestones are designed from a focus on the Yonder Star. From this mind-set, actions are prioritized by their value in fulfilling the Yonder Star. All members of the team are inspired to explore their own integration of the goal with their passion to contribute and the specific role their work will play in its fulfillment.

From shared dedication to the overall outcome, a pervasive attitude of “I’ve got your back” naturally develops within each member of the team. Dissent, one-upmanship, and agendas fueled by self-interest tend to fade to the background.

Collaboration Requires

Connection, Alignment, and Focus

Yonder Star clipartThis graphic is our shorthand illustration of this notion. Here we show a group of people who are interacting from a solid foundation of mutual trust, respect, and safety to reach their mutual Yonder Star. In this case, a collection of aligned Yonder Stars, shown in a stack of different sizes, depicts the many intermediate goals that lie between your current situation and fulfillment of your Yonder Star. To sort out which actions will be most productive on your route to your Yonder Star, look back from your fulfilled Yonder Star and ask, “What’s missing in our current reality that, if we work on it, will accelerate fulfilling our Yonder Star?” From your list, determine the decisions and actions that will be most leveraged in closing the gap. By leveraged, we mean the actions that produce the greatest impact while requiring the fewest resources and taking the least amount of time to accomplish. Get started, monitor results, recalibrate with new position updates, and continue on your path or make adjustments as necessary to stay on course.

Collaboration — New Ways of Working Together

As we go forward, those who lead will be the ones taking advantage of the creativity and productivity gains available by focusing on the human, collaborative dimension, while laggards will suffer in the face of unrelenting change.

The extremely affordable, and nearly instant, access to vast amounts of information and ways of interacting with whole communities that are becoming available, combined with a productive attitude toward change and the new realities it brings, creates huge opportunities for you and your leadership. However, leading effectively will require a new mind-set to unleash potential and creativity and to capitalize on opportunities.

The challenges lie in strengthening your ability to choose the direction, form the goals, and then communicate and enroll others so that you build groups and organizations that can collectively navigate shifting realities. This means improving your ability to communicate, work together collaboratively, and lead others to do so as well. If you learn how to identify and utilize the navigational guides to traversing this uncharted territory, you will experience higher productivity, more rapid innovation, and greater organizational agility. Additionally, responsiveness to the needs of customers and other stakeholders in the organization and more rewarding relationships will become something you can rely upon.

Building Collaborative Capital — It Begins with Me

To effectively change our outer reality requires being willing to shift our inner reality.

Today, talented, educated people who know how and are motivated to work interactively with each other are the key to success for more and more businesses. This new collaborative approach means many more minds are put to work on the opportunities and challenges facing us whether in business, in our organizations, or even in our families.

When we were born, we came equipped with the most powerful computers on earth (although Shift Happens cites projections that the quantitative computing power of a supercomputer will pass that of the human brain by the year 2013). These innate computers serve us well in producing new ideas and dynamic solutions — as we can see in all that has happened just in the past twenty years of technological growth. The core thought processes that guide our reactions and interactions were mostly loaded into your brain and ours when we were children and have been chugging along ever since, functioning as an unconscious and unexamined operating system.

Don’t change the world, change worlds…starting with your own.
Adapted from St. Francis of Assisi, Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment

Being able to think in new ways requires challenging the very basis of your own thinking — your self-concept, worldview, and automatic ways of interacting with others.

What Is a Productive Culture Anyway?

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

We don’t use terminology such as “good” or “bad” cultures, which is a binary and simplistic assessment. We consider the organization’s purpose, or vision and mission to determine if the existing culture supports the achievement of that purpose while calling forth the best from the people within the organization. Does it call forth high performance and productivity on a sustainable basis? Does it reward Self-Generated Accountability and Productive Dialogue? Does it foment gossip, jealousy, politics, CYA, or individual success over company success?

What is productive in a culture is what people are proud of about their company or their work. When shared values are demonstrated and memorialized in great stories, people tell about “the time when…”

What If You Created a Learning Culture?

A Learning Culture is one where the individuals and teams consciously invest in growing and developing themselves. In a Learning Culture, executives are conscious and purposeful about the impact of decisions and strategies on the fabric of cultural development. There is a purposeful focus on reducing friction and waste in communications and developing productive working relationships. People know there is an expectation for growing and learning. Hiring decisions are made with an interest in an individual’s ability to learn, adapt, grow, and shift outdated mental models, as much as their past-based, functional experience. An atmosphere of curiosity, forward thinking and ‘how can we learn from this’ thinking permeates. It becomes the foundation or platform on which everything else is built.

What Are The Payoffs of a Learning Culture?

For an organization, this type of culture provides much more innovation, creativity, flexibility, agility, and expedited problem solving capabilities. It also affects retention and even hiring decisions of individuals in the firm.

For individuals, it provides opportunities for learning and growth; enhancing marketability and value to this or other organizations. It also provides forums to be challenged, to add value, and to contribute at a high level. Some CEOs have actually expressed concern that growing their people will make them more vulnerable to their best people leaving. However, if looked at from the individual’s perspective, why would they leave unless they have fully used up the growth opportunities where they are right now? Why would someone leave a position where their value and contribution are recognized, supported, and rewarded?

How Can We Develop a Learning Culture?

There are many books and articles about learning organizations including work by Senge and Argyris that explain in depth about the what and how of learning organizations. Our 2130 methodology (and terminology adaptation in some instances) ties to the 5 aspects of a learning organization that are generally accepted by leadership “gurus” as follows:

1. Systems Thinking: Understanding how things influence each other as a whole. Our view is that executives and organizational leadership are accountable to the entire organization and all stakeholders for this larger view. This includes strategy development, planning, implementation, review, and adjustment. This is a level above what most executives contribute on a day-to-day basis from their functional expertise (Finance, Operations, Sales, Marketing, HR, etc.). In addition to a responsibility for systems thinking on an individual executive basis, it is also critical that the entire executive team itself operate as a productive, learning system. Most organizations develop a Vision statement, Mission, and Values that constitute the overall framework, (we call it the ‘Yonder Star’), and then on a regular basis develop strategies, initiative, goals, and actions in the dimensions of finance, operations, marketing, sales, resource allocation, and to a lesser degree, culture. Our methodology, “Vision-Focused Leadership” is designed to support systems thinking. We work with top executives — the CEO, President, or entrepreneur — in a trusted advisor or executive coaching assignment to create a learning culture. We also work with the team of top executives to support the development of and focus on all the strategies required to be successful. Our Operating Principles create a platform for a productive, learning culture with the executive leadership team and then the entire organization.

By Gerd Altmann

By Gerd Altmann

2. Shared Vision/Values: “A vehicle for building shared meaning” from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline. Unfortunately, this often looks more like the version from Dilbert: “A long meaningless statement that proves management’s inability to focus.” Over the last 20+ years we have worked with organizations to develop Vision, Mission, and Values using our “Vision-Focused Leadership” methodology. Leadership gurus have been espousing for at least two decades the value of a shared vision to focus and align resources. Absent a shared vision, individual agendas rule the day and gaining personal power becomes a major executive focus. Shared Vision/Values encourage a learning culture by emphasizing the gaps toward our Shared Vision/Values, what is missing and what is next, versus what is wrong from the past.

3. Productive Mental Framework: We talk about busting mental barriers, increasing mental agility, and increasing capacities to deal with the unrelenting pace of change and increased complexity of issues facing leadership today. It requires skills at reframing for ourselves and others, and developing focus in chaos and high emotional states. Past-based arrogance and rigidity undermine productive cultures. It is critical to become aware of our blind spots and biases to be able to think clearly in the present to make the best decisions in a complex business environment. We use our Operating Principles and Essential Notions, developed and validated over the past 20 years to help build a learning culture platform and equip leaders and man- agers with the mental and collaborative skills needed in today’s world.

4. Personal Mastery: This is the commitment of every person in the organization to improve, develop, and challenge themselves to be more than they are today, and to proactively challenge themselves inside a framework of contribution and collaboration. Individuals who insist on status quo and structural barriers to communication usually self-select out of a Learning Culture. In our book, Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World, we say that when individuals develop themselves they have increased their collaborative capacities. We will get older automatically, however to grow as we age requires a conscious choice. In our work, we describe conscious choice as the Leadership Choice Point. Every moment of every day presents an opportunity for choice. Will I relate to the world around me, the circumstances of my life as the defining parameters, or will I choose to use the circumstances as an opportunity to grow toward the Yonder Star?

5. Team Mastery: In addition to individual learning and development, organizations must realize that groups of people, (of any size of two or more), creates yet another “entity” with its own dynamics and productivity levels. Two or more people, who may be very developed individually, when put together in a group or team may not be as productive together as the sum of their individual productivity. The question becomes: will we synergize our efforts where 1+1=3 or more, or will we diminish productivity potential with friction and waste to make 1+1=1.5 or less? There are numerous examples of sports teams that have all “star” players, yet a team of “average” players can beat them because of the way the average players have developed their team effectiveness. The sum of what the players produce together is much greater than adding up individual skills — and so it is for organizational groups and teams. There are group skills and developmental opportunities that build on, yet are distinct from individual capacities. When groups develop these capacities we call that increasing their collaborative capital.

So What Will You Do Now?

1. Take stock of your culture. What are the stories being told about your organization by employees, clients, and vendors? What stories would you like to be told? What attributes of this powerful, invisible platform are important to you? Where are the gaps? What will you commit to taking on, challenging the status quo, and BEING as an example of the cultural aspect you are committed to developing? (We use an online organizational assessment to gather objective and confidential data to understand the present condition in an organization).

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

2. What cultural “artifacts” do you have in place? (We call the collection of these items, all on one page, your Strategic Focus.)
a) Compelling Vision, Mission, and Shared Values (We also use our Operating Principles as a key piece of culture definition because they are design principles for productive conversations.)
b) Business strategy that fulfills the Vision and Mission
c) Bold Goals that clearly take ground toward the strategy and mission, and are consistent with your vision and values

3. Is your Leadership and management team aligned behind #2 above?

4. Has your Strategic Focus been clearly communicated? Does your team know how to communicate it to their folks?

5. Are your departmental and individual goals lined up with the Mission, Vision, and Strategy?

If you are missing any of the above, fill in the missing pieces immediately! If your Vision or Mission statements are a paragraph long or no one remembers them anymore, throw them out! Vision and Mission statements have a positive influence on culture only when they really “live” inside the hearts and minds of people in the organization. It is not a job for the marketing department or your PR firm to “word smith.” It is the role of leadership to capture and communicate and nurture the Vision and Mission and Values. Each executive and management team member must be willing to have their leadership and management practices be guided by these major cultural influencers you create. When the actions or practices of people in management positions are contrary to what have been espoused as values and the mission then there is a huge disconnect for individuals in the organization, resulting in cynicism and resignation.

If you need help, consider hiring a professional facilitator to work with you and your leadership team to help define the existing reality, clearly define each aspect of your Strategic Focus and identify the gaps. Accomplish this first, before working with the balance of your organization, to develop thinking and behaviors consistent with a learning culture and self-generated accountability.

Above all, keep growing and learning and Accelerate your Leadership.

If Leadership is not consciously strategizing, designing, and developing culture, what is left to form it? Culture exists and is alive in the stories employees, (and vendors and customers), tell about what it is like to work there, how people get treated, how to get ahead, whom to hold your tongue around, whom to please, whether merit or seniority count to a greater extent, what happens if you are ill, what are the opportunities for development, promotion, raises, learning. What stories are being told about your company? What stories would you like to be hearing? How does leadership affect those stories? What are the payoffs? These are the questions to ask to get conscious about the affect of your culture.

by Devanath (pixabay)

by Devanath (pixabay)

References:

Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World by Suzanne and Dwight Frindt – to order go to www.2130partners.com.

“Developing a Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage” by Golnaz Sadri and Brian Lees .

Peter Michael Senge is an American scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is known as author of the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (originally 1990, new edition 2006).

Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a thought leader at Monitor Group. He is commonly known for seminal work in the area of “Learning Organizations.”

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching. In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them, please visit www.2130partners.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

‘Oh, *%@#!’ When Swear Words Fly in the Workplace

By Vistage International & Craig Weber

Profanity happens.

But, in the workplace, should it?

That’s the crux of an interesting debate that grabbed the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

We asked Vistage speaker, Craig Weber to give us his view of the impact of swearing on productivity. What he had to say may surprise you.arguing heads

“The acceptance of profanity might be costing you more than you think,” says Weber. “Since some people find it offensive, but they’re unlikely to mention that fact for fear of looking weak or wimpy, the outcome can be growing dissatisfaction and sinking commitment. That can quickly translate into lost productivity, as people get distracted and disengage.”

Indeed, permitting profanity might be hurting your bottom line.

Swearing is a great example of the challenge in creating teams today, Weber says.

“Leaders must work with people who have radically different views of what is appropriate and effective. The question becomes: ‘What context do we need to create so everyone can pull together and do good work?” he explains. “And what are the factors that can limit our ability to wholeheartedly pull everyone’s experience, skills and abilities into the business?”

Two Corporate Cultures Accept Swearing

In his consulting practice, Weber finds the acceptance of profanity often characterizes two remarkably different cultures:

1) A laid-back, casual “we’re all in this together” environment

In this setting, using profanity conveys collegiality: “We’re comfortable enough with each other that we can let down our guard. It is a sign of respect. We’re all among friends here. I can let my guard down and show you the real me.” It is understood that swear words never would be used as a verbal weapon against another person.

2) A hard-driving, aggressive environment

Here, profanity is part of the highly charged atmosphere. Swearing may be directed at employees in a derogatory or verbally punishing manner, with the implied message: “We need these words to help get the job done, to express urgency, motivate people, or let them know mistakes are unacceptable.”

While each culture has its justification (or excuse) for supporting workplace profanity, the downside is often invisible but still very real: chances are, some employees are bothered by it and others are deeply offended.

“What makes it hard to manage is its ‘undiscussability’,” explains Weber. “The fact that someone swears like a sailor is frequently ‘undiscussable,’ so feelings are buried. The frustration then comes out in the hallway. People’s commitment levels start to drop, then you, as an employer, begin to pay the price,” Weber explains.

Proactive Leaders Address Issue ‘Head On’

Weber asks the managers and executives he works with to bring issues to him for his corporate leadership consulting. “From front-line managers to very senior executives in 2 peopleFortune 100 companies, I’ve heard concerns about swearing, especially when it’s just one sign of a harsh culture that pushes people out of decision-making and problem solving,” he explains.

If swearing is accepted in your company, Weber recommends handling it proactively to see if an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with profanity is pulling the team apart. You can then make a more informed choice as to whether you want to continue to allow that sort of behavior in the workplace. But to make an informed choice, you have to understand the price you pay for the behavior in the first place.

One way to gain some practical insight is to start with a survey, since employees can answer anonymously.

Questions you might ask:

• Do you think our use of swear words is excessive or gets in the way of our ability to communicate, work together, engage problems or make decisions?

• Have you ever seen it cause a problem with customers, vendors, or anyone outside the company?

• Do you believe swearing contributes something to this company? If so, what?

• Do you find swearing, in-house, to be a plus about your job, a negative, or are you neutral?

• Would you want to change the use of profanity around here? If so, how?

The survey results would be a good start for a meeting on the subject.

A concerned leader could begin the conversation this way: “In our company, (or on our team), sometimes people swear as part of getting the job done. It’s come to my attention that others may find this offensive. So I’d like to begin a conversation about this practice.”

Questions he/she could raise:

• How can we let off steam or have tough discussions around here without resorting to words that some might find offensive?

• What’s the “upside” of swearing?

• What’s the downside? What might it be costing us in terms of lowered commitment, respect and participation?questionmark bush

• Is it worth the risk of upsetting people, or possibly letting the wrong word fly at the wrong moment?

• How can we change our culture so that everyone can contribute and not feel distracted by unnecessary profanity or language?

Putting the profanity “on the table” as an issue will show the leader’s sensitivity to it, for those employees who have felt the matter undiscussable.

If a decision is made to create a “PFZ or profanity-free zone,” Weber has suggestions for how to change this aspect of a communications style.

Breaking the Profanity Habit

If you do choose to make some changes, realize that it is not as easy as flicking a switch. Culture change takes time and effort. Like breaking any pattern of behavior, it can be difficult to learn to curb the tongue in the workplace, if it’s a full-blown habit.

“You won’t realize how strongly you’re addicted to the behavior until you try to change it,” predicts Weber. Change takes practice.

Particularly when swearing is part of a corporate culture more than it is an issue with a few employees, it’s important that the leader of the company talk about it with the staff.

The conversation could begin like this: “I realize we have culture where swearing has been accepted. For some of us, this is no problem. But it might be costing us. Let’s discuss it. I’m more interested in people who disagree with our acceptance of this language, than with those who disagree.”

“By making it discussable, it’s clearer why there should be change, and new rules, and new norms for the team,” Weber says.

man on compassMake sure those who use colorful language understand why it’s important for them to change, and how it might help them with co-workers. “They need to see the price they’ve been paying for using profanity,” explains Weber. “People want to be effective. But they often don’t see how their colorful language limits both their personal effectiveness and that of the team or business. And helping them see that is often all that is needed for them to invest in change. But they’ll never see the need if the issue is undiscussable. That is why addressing the issue head-on is key.”

Techniques that have worked for breaking the profanity habit:

Fines: Charge people $1 each time they commit an act of swearing. Let them know that you will use the collected money for a shared reward at some point.

Hand signals: Agree on a simple hand signal that will remind a worker that they’re over the profanity line. (“But using your middle-finger or crude hand-gesture as the signal doesn’t count,” Weber advises).

Rewards for change: Decide on a way that people can be acknowledged for changing this difficult habit.

Feature success stories: When team members change their language for the better, they might discover a positive outcome from their newfound ways. If they’re willing to share the story of success, let them spread the word about the value of change in a meeting, on an Intranet or via the company newsletter.

“Make sure the group understands that this is a hard habit to break, and that everyone will have to be patient with one another,” Weber says.

Revisit the issue routinely after your “anti-profanity” initiative begins. Ask people in meetings how it’s going. Send occasional emails to let the staff know that you’re paying attention to the issue, and aware of progress. When your culture has shifted to your satisfaction, reflect on the success and celebrate.

Remember: Change happens, but only with a lot more effort than profanity did.  Don’t forget to keep a sense of humor while you increase sensitivity, because the frustration of nice jobtrying to change long-standing habits can trigger the same behavior you’re trying to change:

“ $#@*&!, I just swore again!”

Copyright 2014, Vistage International, Inc. All rights reserved. This article was previously published by Vistage International, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. Learn more at www.vistage.com.

Craig Weber is a founder of The Weber Consulting Group, an alliance that helps managers, teams and executives cultivate actionable competencies for leadership, learning and change. His cogent work focuses on improving the caliber of collaboration as people engage tough, complex, non-routine challenges. He consults internationally to an eclectic wide range of clients and has worked with CEOs, executive teams and thousands of people from all levels and functions of organizations. For more information, you can contact Craig at 661.940.3309 or weberconsulting@earthlink.net.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Cut Health Care Costs by Establishing a “Culture of Health”

By Jerry Kornfeld, M.D.

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]A[/dropcaps]s every CEO and company owner knows, health care costs have skyrocketed over the past several years. In fact, many Fortune 500 companies now report that the majority of their profits are being eaten up by these outrageous expenses.

In order to deal with these increased costs, many employers have resorted to adopting managed care strategies of reducing benefits or cost shifting to employees. Unfortunately, these strategies alone cannot solve the problem. In fact, they actually make it worse by depressing the value of health benefits and directly impacting employee recruitment and retention. A larger and more effective solution involves establishing a “culture of health” in today’s companies.

What exactly does that mean?

Business owners need to think outside of the box and establish an environment that gives them some control over the crisis. This alternative strategy also depends upon improving the health status of employees so that less medical care is required.

exerciseBoth healthy and chronically ill employees will benefit from an improvement in their well-being, regardless of their current health levels. In addition, a positive program of disease management and prevention helps to reduce medical costs and has a direct impact on workers compensation, disability costs, absenteeism and productivity. This approach also complements health care consumerism as a strategy for health improvement and benefit cost reduction.

The bottom line is that getting your employees involved in a culture of health will result in improved employee health, outlook and satisfaction, as well as cost savings to you.

Where Do You Stand?

The most effective workplace health promotion involves a comprehensive program that aims at improving four key areas:

• Physical environment. A healthy, well-designed, safe place to work.
• Psychosocial environment. A culture that supports employee well-being.
• Personal resources. Having resources available to assist in coping with stresses when needed.
• Personal health practices. The opportunity to learn how to make lifestyle choices that support long-term health and wellness.

To determine how well your organization measures up to these criteria, answer the following questions:exercise2

• Do you have a strategic approach in place to develop and sustain a healthy workplace?
• Do your executives demonstrate (through their comments and actions) a commitment to the management of a healthy workplace?
• Do you have a formal program in place to evaluate employee health and health needs?
• Do you have methods in place that make it easy for employees to obtain health information so that they have help in making lifestyle changes?
• Have you suggested incentives to help your employees adopt this culture of health?

Nearly 50 percent of Americans report having a chronic illness, and they account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care. These high numbers have a direct impact on costs, disabilities, increased absenteeism, lower productivity, safety and morale. You can’t control the insurance companies and their fees, but you certainly have some control over your employees. Establishing a culture of health will help with a long-term strategy of health care management.

Currently, health care costs are estimated to cost $3,000 to $4,000 per employee, per year. Yet, 80 percent of all illness is preventable. For example, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America, but it is mostly a lifestyle disease. As I mention in my soon-to-be-released book, “Your Hundred Year Heart,” the majority of those who succumb to heart disease could have prevented its occurrence by changing a few habits and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

A Program that Works

How do you create a culture of health?

Start by explaining to new employees that you’re interested not only in their occupational skills, but also in their good health. From day one, let them know about your commitment to providing exposure to all of the latest methods of dealing with their illness and providing programs to help them prevent additional medical problems. To succeed, the program must involve a collaborative approach between employer and employee. The end result is healthier and happier employees and an improved bottom line through lower health care costs.

The lifestyle changes promoted by a culture of wellness and its impact on costs have been documented by many large corporations. For example:

• DuPont reported that for every dollar invested in workplace health programs, they received a $1.42 benefit in lower absenteeism over a two-year period.
• Johnson and Johnson reduced their absenteeism by 15 percent within two years after introducing their wellness programs.
• After analyzing claims over a two-year period, Sony Corp. of America found that 50 percent of its indemnity plan costs were incurred by employees with medical conditions that were lifestyle related or that could be changed.

healthyManAs a speaker, consultant, doctor and former HMO medical director, my recommendation is that every CEO and business owner strive to establish a culture of wellness for their company. Certainly, every business decision involves a careful risk/reward analysis. But when it comes to investing the dollars to develop this a culture of health for your employees, the rewards far outweigh the risk.

For more information, please contact Jerry at kjbkorn@aol.com or http://www.askdoctorjerry.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014 

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Fun-Raising: A Key Employee Retention Tool

By Paul Spiegelman

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]W[/dropcaps]hose job is it to infuse fun in the workplace? And why should I care if my workplace is fun? People need to work not play, right?!

Wrong.

After 20 years of very hands-on experience, I have become convinced that fun-raising in the workplace is not only essential to alleviating worker stress, it is a key employee retentionwomen and flowers tool. My brothers—and business partners—never set out consciously to provide an atmosphere of fun and frivolity, but we always sensed that how we treated our people made a big difference. We didn’t start actively cultivating a culture that puts employees first until we saw the direct results in the bottom line. After five years of double-digit revenue increases and a triple-digit surge in profits, I continue to build on that culture with a vengeance today. And in an industry where turnover usually averages 80 to 90 percent, ours is only a fraction of that.

I’d like to see fellow business leaders stop treating their co-workers like commodities and begin to more fully understand the profound impact they can have on the lives of the people who work with them. Sadly, far too many of the new hires at Beryl describe criminally demoralizing environments at former places of employment – a situation that we should all refuse to allow.

For a program of acculturation to work, business leaders must first have the fundamentals in place or all culture-building efforts seem disingenuous. Essential components of any healthy work environment are fair pay and benefits, proper training and advancement opportunities, competent managers, and access to the necessary tools to get “the jobs done.” Also vital to a nourishing workplace is an ethos of caring. We have a system in place called Beryl Cares, in which employees can share the personal circumstances of their own or their coworkers’ lives so we can support or celebrate with them as appropriate. Through Beryl Cares, we have assisted a single mother whose children’s Christmas presents were stolen from her apartment; replaced the eye glasses of a co-worker whose were broken in an accident; and paid for an airline ticket for a man to be with his mother who was dying of cancer in another state. The essence of Beryl Cares is simply to let people know that we really do care about the circumstances in their lives…just as a family should.

Most people spend more waking hours at work than they do with their loved ones, which is why we need to “lighten up” at work. A little levity can relieve stress, build relationships and spark creativity. My own experience has also shown that it also makes for happier employees. Remember, senior executives set the tone for the entire organization. By showing a sense of humor and their lighter side, company leaders flatten the organizational chart and make themselves more accessible to employees.

Making it Fun

You can’t have a good culture without having fun. That is why we conduct many events throughout the year expressly for that purpose. For instance, we believe that dressing up doesn’t have to mean a coat and tie. So we have theme days like “Dress the 70s,” “Pajama Day” and “Crazy Hat Day” where employees can really show their creative side. On jester“Movie Night,” we’ll take 50 to 100 people to a local cinema tavern that serves dinner. On “Ranger Night,” we’ll treat another big group to watching the local major league baseball team. Our schedule is always changing, usually packed, and people really get into these events. Organized potlucks and barbecues help staff escape the mundane and encourage socializing. We even integrate families through our annual “Family Day,” “Breakfast with Santa,” and other events.

On the more elaborate side, we produce an annual “Gong Show.” This extremely popular talent contest allows people to show off their gifts — real or imaginary. One of the prize categories is “Most Painful to Watch;” and, for me, these acts are often the most fun to watch. We also conducted a very challenging six-week “Survivor” competition that gave people a chance to earn a trip to New York to visit an important client. This meant a lot to many of our folks who had never been out of Texas. In “March Madness,” the COO and I dared any two people in the company to beat us at two-on-two basketball. The tournament ran over the course of four weeks; and we ultimately lost in the finals, which is always great for morale.

Little things like job titles can enliven a culture. We don’t hesitate to play with titles because we’ve always looked at ourselves as a very flat organization where titles don’t mean a lot. Our receptionist’s title is Director of First Impressions. The person who heads up the Department of Great People and Fun – usually called Human Resources – is the Queen of Fun and Laughter.

We do everything we can to have fun. When management shows its fun side, the whole organization breathes easier. Every year we create comic videos for our holiday party that depict senior leadership in embarrassing or compromising predicaments. This tradition makes everyone realize that there is no class system – or caste system – at Beryl. We don’t need any senior execs who are too uptight about their status and image to walk around all day wearing a baby bonnet. My brother Barry was gamely – and repeatedly – dunked in a
DJ carnival water tank by crowds of baseball-flinging co-workers who shrieked with delight the whole time. I have taken pies in the face, and been forced to perform wacky dance routines in a lime green leisure suit and a goofy red wig.

Did this undermine anybody’s authority? On the contrary, it underscored the fact that we’re all just human beings here; and we’re all going to work together and enjoy one another’s friendship and have a good time.

The last time I spoke to an MBA class, students from companies like Lockheed and Burlington Santa Fe were strongly questioning the feasibility of doing all this fun “stuff” while trying to run a practical business operation. One student had some call center management experience and knew how important it was that companies like ours keep people on the phones to maintain service levels. He was particularly challenging about what he kind of derisively called “the strategy of fun.” I told the class that, “Look, I don’t run a theme park. First and foremost, we’re in business to make money and perform. But we do have technologies that allow us to monitor performance and schedule people in a way that makes smart use of culture and training and development. And they pay off for us in a big way in terms of dollars.” I think a few of them got the message.

Of course, there is a serious side to our corporate culture as well. We have a set of values that people truly live by: Passion for customer service, never sacrificing quality, always doing the right thing, and spirit of camaraderie. Culture is something people create at all levels of the organization, so we use committees to involve as many co-workers as possible. Our main culture committee decided to call itself the Better Beryl Bureau (BBB). They took the job very seriously and made it clear early on that the focus of the BBB was not going to be “fun.” They wanted to work on enhancing and improving the culture through a wide variety of practical applications, some of them fairly sophisticated. The BBB is managed by a full-time internal enthusiast: our Queen of Fun and Laughter.

“Employer of Choice”

In fact, creating a culture based around our values is at the core of our success and is evidenced by the seven awards we’ve won as a “Best Places to Work” employer. For four years, the Dallas Business Journal named Beryl one of the “Top Ten Best Places to Work” in the Dallas/Forth Worth market, and the Texas Department of Business has ranked us reaching star togethertwice on their roster of best employers in the state. And just this summer we were chosen as the number 2 best medium-size company to work for in America by the Society for Human Resource Management. Winning these awards regularly has been very useful and important to us.

First of all, they generate great pride throughout the company. We celebrated the first award by renting a limousine and driving to the presentation luncheon with ten co-workers who had either been nominated by their peers or won a contest. I’m sure that not all these folks had ever before sat through a fancy lunch in a big hotel ballroom. Their reactions while the waiters served them were touching. One call advisor who may never have owned a suit bought one especially for the occasion. As we were riding to the hotel in the back of the limo, he looked at me and said, “This is the proudest day of my life.”

Public recognition of our culture has helped us recruit co-workers. Knowing we’re an employer of choice makes applicants want to work here – at all levels. We just made a very important senior level hire who told me she had no interest until the headhunter mentioned our awards. Finally, these awards mean a lot to our clients. If they have to outsource their customer interaction function, why not give it to the happiest workers in the nation?

Good leaders nourish their people on as many levels as possible. You’ll be surprised how that nourishment can translate into happier employees and lower turnover. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that it costs nearly $14,000 to replace a solidly performing employee. Some higher estimates range from 29 percent of yearly salary to several times an employee’s annual pay.

Even if focusing on fun and frivolity runs counter to your own corporate culture, emphasizing the following key areas will go a long way to ensuring employees feel satisfied and empowered:

• Credibility – Does management keep people informed and deliver on its promises?
• Respect – Are employees involved in decision making, training and development?
• Fairness – Are employees paid fairly and treated fairly?
• Pride – Do employees feel like they make a difference?
• Camaraderie – Is the organization a friendly and fun place to work?

For Beryl, fun-raising has been a very successful employee retention tool. We will continue to take great pride in making work like, well, child’s play.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Paul Spiegelman is Chief Culture Officer of Stericycle, a NASDAQ listed global services organization with 13,000 employees and is the Founder of BerylHealth and The Beryl Institute. Paul also co-founded the Inc. Small Giants Community, an organization that brings together leaders who are focused on values-based business principles. As the former CEO of BerylHealth, Paul led a unique, people-centric culture for a company that won nine “best place to work” awards, including the #2 Best Medium Sized Company to Work for in America. Paul was honored with the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year award. He’s written several books on employee engagement including Why is Everyone Smiling? and Smile Guide and is the New York Times best-selling author of Patients Come Second: Leading Change by Changing the Way you Lead. He’s also an entrepreneur-in-residence for Office Depot’s SmallBizClub.com. For more information, please contact Paul at paul.spiegelman@beryl.net.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

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