Category Archives: People Matters

Posts related to the people side of strategy and operations

How three levels of human identity can be used to build relationships that work across difference.

Alliances_Across_Difference_CoverThe business case for Diversity and Inclusion programs in organizations has been building for decades. The increasingly global nature of business leaves us with an ever greater need to integrate cross-cultural skills and competencies into multiple levels of system in organizations across the world. As a result, education and change management plans that help leaders, managers and staff navigate their differences and use them to achieve better business results are more and more common.

Consequently the need has never been greater for organizations to have common language and frameworks to help individuals understand the complexities of communication dynamics posed by working across social group identities such as age, ability, gender, culture, class, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more.

In her article Alliances Across Difference: Useful strategies for building effective relationships across difference,” Amber Mayes illustrates two critical foundational concepts: Levels of Human Identity and Social Power and Group Dynamics. As a consultant for over 15 years, she has used these concepts with leaders across sectors, industries and geographies to resolve conflict and unleash the power of diversity in organizations. Continue reading How three levels of human identity can be used to build relationships that work across difference.

How rational actors can reach agreement.

Thesis: In the face of the same data, two rational people will make the same decision.

Implication: When two people disagree on something it is likely that there is something one knows that the other does not.

Strategy: When two people disagree, each should strive to reveal what is relevant that s/he knows and that the other does not until both know everything that the other knows.

Conclusion: Agreement should be reached if both are rational; that is, neither is acting based on self-interest, emotion, fear, etc.

Implication: When you reach an impasse with someone on an important matter, reflect on what is important that you know that the other party might not know and offer to share it. Similarly, ask the other party what s/he knows that is important that you may not know. Continue reading How rational actors can reach agreement.

Market Lead Position Description

An organization counts on a Market Leader to:

  • Build and work with a top team to develop, maintain, and drive to achieve an annual plan for a well-defined portfolio of current and targeted customers.
  • Connect with established and emerging customers to develop a point of view as to where the market is and where it should go and then proactively and systematically drive towards those ends.
  • Develop, hold, and communicate a clear understanding of their organization, market, competition, partners, and market trends.

Over the course of a performance period, the organization counts on a Market Leader to always be able to present: Continue reading Market Lead Position Description

How to Drive Elite C-Suite Performance

In a traditional performance evaluation, someone is assigned to compile and review with each executive a summary of her/his strengths, contributions, growth, and opportunities for improvement. The traditional process has many weaknesses which are summarized in this article recently published by Flevy.com, such as:

  • Compiling a quality performance assessment is difficult; consequently it often gets put off to be done at the last minute but it also takes time to do a good job and time runs out.
  • Assessment content tends to be arbitrary based on ability, skills, and perspective of the reviewer and may not represent the best thinking or interests of the team.
  • Reviewers tend to avoid raising and dealing with tough matters that should be addressed aggressively because it is uncomfortable and they are not trained or motivated to do otherwise.

Continue reading How to Drive Elite C-Suite Performance

How to head off unwanted voluntary attrition and what to do when it happens.

Exit Interview Form Icon - unwanted voluntary attritionWhen an employee departs voluntarily it is almost always unanticipated and unwanted. Too often, though, leaders rationalize that employees who leave voluntarily were marginal and will not be missed.

To keep the best on board, and to head off after-the-fact rationalizations, ask managers now to identify employees they would least like to lose. Go on to also ask what is being done to keep each and every one of them engaged and on track to success in the organization. Follow up to make sure what needs to be done is actually done.

When any employee leaves of their own choosing, assign a senior person with no stake in the case to speak with the departed. Use the survey questions in the form linked to the above graphic to draw out what happened, why s/he has decided to leave, and to be sure whatever needs to be unearthed and learned is brought to light. Continue reading How to head off unwanted voluntary attrition and what to do when it happens.

What to do when an employee no longer cuts it.

Two PeopleBefore terminating an employee for poor performance, first double and triple check that the real problem is not that  expectations are undeveloped, unclear, or not understood and aligned with abilities and interest.

Resist the temptation to reassign the person to another part of the organization in order to not have to deal with the matter. Instead collect, consolidate and review input from the team with respect to what s/he is good at doing, what s/he has recently contributed, how s/he has grown, and what s/he should focus on doing and accomplishing next.

Validate that the assignment is a good match with employee skills, interests, and experience. If it is, but performance lags, it may be due to distractions or lack of drive. Talk through with the person, tweak incentives if needed, and, if lack of attention and effort is the problem, insist s/he focus on what has been asked. Continue reading What to do when an employee no longer cuts it.

Paying Fair: Four paths to fair pay and succession for private venture executives.

Synthetic Equity Cover - Paths to fair pay and successionBackground

Public company equity-based pay practices, such as stock, restricted stock, and employee stock options are often a poor fit for private companies committed to reward leaders for performance and growth and to motivate leadership and capital succession.

Equity based programs that make sense and work well in a public company come with many ills for private companies: they can be costly, tax-inefficient, static, ineffective, and sometimes downright unfair. In the worst case, equity pay practices can derail the owners’ plans for growth and succession.

Dynamic synthetic equity presents a more tailored solution for private companies interested in leadership and capital succession. Restricted stock and employee stock options often distort outcomes for private companies. Consider that:

  • The underlying stock price in a private company gyrates as owners enter and exit from, for example, a living or a death buyout or even a recapitalization. Stock price can jump 50% – unjustly rewarding the owners of true equity awards.

Continue reading Paying Fair: Four paths to fair pay and succession for private venture executives.

How a top team spent a little time and took a big step to the next stage of growth.

Skills by stageBackground

Leaders of fast growing, early-stage organizations operate at a fast pace. Often the last thing there is time to do is assess the top team’s performance to determine how to prepare them for the next stage of growth.

Most team members know each other pretty well. They have a good idea what each other is good at, has contributed, how they have grown, and what each should focus on next for success. However, team members rarely have the time, energy, training, or nerve to share what they know in a forthright, supportive conversation with one another.

Yet there are serious consequences to not providing feedback when it is needed most. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How To Tell If You Are a Jerk in the Office” (C-Suite Strategies, Journal Report, Feb 23, 2015), for example, highlights the importance of confidential feedback for executives. Not only are leaders and co-workers affected adversely by dysfunctional behavior but business performance and customer service can be damaged, often permanently, if poor behavior continues.

IntelliVen, a San Francisco-based organization improvement firm, uses a proprietary approach to help leaders and their top teams address top executive feedback head-on. Early this year, for example, IntelliVen worked with a rapidly evolving, $10M financial analytics firm serving Freddie Mac, US Treasury, and Capital One among other leading US financial institutions. The IntelliVen approach was used to assess the top team of senior executives relative to norms for successful organizations at a similar stage of evolution and to identify individual and team opportunities for learning.

Continue reading How a top team spent a little time and took a big step to the next stage of growth.

Six Power Skills to Manage Organization Politics and Make the Most Out of Any Job.

Organization Politics GroupOrganization politics make a lot of people uncomfortable. The untrained hope is that if politics are ignored, and if a job is done well, then well-earned rewards will come. Things rarely play out that way.

Organization politics is defined as anything done at work to increase the odds of success that has nothing at all to do with the work itself. Master executive coach and workplace psychologist, Dr. Dory Hollander, presents three unassailable truths about how things work in organizations and Six Power Skills for mastering the art of career enhancement.

Three Unassailable Truths:

Truth 1 — There is Insider-Outsider Sorting

  • All organizations continuously sort people into insiders or outsiders.
  • There are things that distinguish insiders from outsiders among various stakeholder groups.
  • Insider/outsider status is subject to change.
  • Being an insider in one group is no guarantee of being an insider in another.
  • Leaders can help newcomers transition to insiders or let them struggle. The former makes more sense

Continue reading Six Power Skills to Manage Organization Politics and Make the Most Out of Any Job.

Why every organization needs its leader to try not to do anything.

Every organization has, or needs, a leader. And it is true that the power of one committed, clever person can make all the difference in the world. But no one individual, even the greatest leader, does anything of much significance alone. The simple truth is that it takes a team to lead an organization. The action motivated by this truth is for the leader to decide what kind of leader to be and then to attract, collect, and align his/her top team and collect followers.

The best leaders figure out that it is not all about them. It is about their organizations and the decision to either manage or lead is a false dichotomy. The one in charge needs to manage in order to lead and, indeed, can and should Manage to Lead his/her organization to achieve the stated vision. The top person’s job starts with managing his/her own self to lead. Continue reading Why every organization needs its leader to try not to do anything.