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Leadership & Life Journal

The Elephant in the Zoom

Almost 75 percent of employees in the United States, and close to a third in the Asia–Pacific region, reported symptoms of burnout. All nations reported rising levels of pandemic fatigue. Worldwide – organization wide – employees are tired. McKinsey Quarterly Report January 2021

Recently I was facilitating some virtual leadership conversations with three groups of high potential managers who worked in different organizations. All the groups had an engaging conversation about the McKinsey report quote, which they tagged the elephant in the Zoom.  

Workplace Boundaries

“Covid has taken workplace boundaries away” turned out to be the common thread of our group discussions. Here are a few statements I heard from them:

  • Technology has pushed us to bring work into our personal space.
  • No safe place – I can’t close my office door in this virtual world.
  • I live with continuous interruptions and an expectation for an immediate response.
  • I’m working more hours than when I was going into the office.
  • It feels like you are “on call,” even on weekends. My manager sends 6:00 AM emails on Saturday and Sundays.
  • I feel pressure to be on high alert about what to say, how to say it, all the time.

The Elephant

Another recurring theme was that most of their executive bosses seemed clueless about all of this. No one was talking or asking about this “no boundary” situation people are working in, which was making a difficult time even more depressing. It was interesting to hear that most of the leaders they reported to had not altered their management approach or production expectations to recognize the ever-shifting events over the past eleven months. Not all, but  a majority of their bosses were micromanaging them more now than before the pandemic.  Not only were these group of mid-level managers tired, but they were also afraid to admit they were tired. The silent treatment or “get over it and get it done,” was a common response they experienced if they were brave enough to request some accommodations to support the boundaryless environment they struggled in every day.

Problem or Predicament

Effective leaders have to be able to discern if the situation is a problem or a predicament. A problem can be solved and put away. A predicament can’t be solved, it can only be minimized, managed or avoided. This group realized that this elephant situation is a predicament and the only thing they could do was come up with a way to better manage themselves and stop hoping their managers would change.

Choose Your Attitude

“The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always be choices to make. Every day, every hour, you are offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom. ― Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

Walk Beside the Elephant

Two weeks ago, I was required to have health examination for a new life insurance policy . The exam was outsourced to an independent clinic located in a shopping center. If you’ve ever been to one of these lab centers, you know that it is rare to find a lot of positive people there. Certainly not those in the waiting room waiting to get stuck with a needle and all-to-often the staff doesn’t seem that happy to be there either.  But 14 days ago, my experience was totally different, because of nurse Jessica, a middle-aged lady who walked with in the exam room holding the standard packet of syringes and corked test tubes, wearing  a big smile.  I said, “You sure look happy today,” and she said, “Oh I sure am. I just couldn’t wait to get back here to drawing blood again!” I looked at her funny, then she explained that six weeks ago management had unexpectantly moved her out of her nurse role in this clinic and put her in an administrative area of the company. No discussion, no explanation.  One day her boss walked in and told her she had to make this move and she did. She didn’t like the tasks she doing each day and certainly didn’t care much for her task master manager. But she said, “I wasn’t gonna let him get to me, I decided to keep in my mind on knowing I would soon be back doing the one thing I love, working with patients and drawing blood.” She went on, “Deciding to focus on the one thing I loved got me through those weeks of pressure and feeling undervalued.” Nurse Jessica knew that the  best way to get through a discouraging predicament, is not to concentrate on changing  another person’s attitude, but to focus on the only attitude you can change – your own. .

Journal Entry. Are you tired? Are you afraid to talk about being tired with your manager or others in your life? I certainly hope not. But if you are, or even if you are not, I like to offer a simple action to help you be prepared for the predicaments that will come your way. First, fill in this blank, “I just can’t wait to get back to doing_______.” In the blank list one or two life-giving actions that always give you energy when you do them. Now, intentionally build in time the next three week to do those things and keep a record when you do. Both Victor and Jessica reminded us that we can decide to either walk beside our elephant or struggle against it. Which strategy will you choose as you move along the path to success in your leadership in life?

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Fence Post Mentors

“I’m just a turtle on a fence post. And if you ever see a turtle sitting on the fence post, you know it had a lot of help getting up there.”

Sunday, January 17, was the official International Mentoring Day. It happens the same day every year.  I hope you aren’t as surprised as I am to learn about this day, which is a keen reminder that none of us get to where we are alone. Learning about this day made me think about those larger-than-life advisors in my life who took time to share a bit of themselves and nudged me up and along so I could get a view of a better direction.  

“If I have seen further, it is because of standing on the shoulders of giants.” –  Sir Isaac Newton

No Shoulders to Stand On

Last week I began a new coaching assignment with a very talented and well-educated manager, a man in his late thirties struggling to move up in his organization. Within minutes into our initial conversation, it was apparent why we were talking when he confessed, “I don’t have any mentors now, and I can’t think of any in my past.” Now, this may not have been entirely true, but when I heard him say this, I thought of the advice of someone I interviewed this past June. His name is Price Hightower.

Price is a successful businessman and strong community leader who gives full credit for his success to mentors in his life. When I spoke with Price on my podcast, he offered several insights to help anyone who feels their leadership or life is on hold or headed in the wrong direction. Price also shared some wisdom for anyone who wants to become a better mentor. You read his favorite mentoring quotes in the first line of this article. Following are three mentorship ideas he shared with me, in his own words:

Three Ideas   

Cut and Paste –”I might seek out a person who is good at raising a family and maybe their kids are ten years older than mine so that I can learn the way that they have raised successful kids. But that person may or may not run a business life that I want to emulate. I might find another mentor who has a great business career, but maybe his family life does not run as well. So, I sort of use a cut-and-paste mentality as I have chosen my mentors.”

Slow Down and Look – “Actively pursue friendships with those who are younger and offer guidance to them. I am too busy and need to slow down enough to accept opportunities to pour into people, as my mentors have poured into me. Often the best way to get through a tough spot in your life is to help someone else get through their tough spot. Everyone has both pain and dreams. You can see this if you stop and take a look in their eyes.”

Be Transparent“The number one thing a mentor taught me by example – he was transparent with me. And he taught me that it’s okay to be transparent with other men, and probably the greatest gift a man can give to another man is the gift of transparency and just open, honest communication without trying to guard your ego.”

Seeking to learn from a mentor or becoming a better mentor begins and ends with the courage to be transparent by showing confidence in the person you are helping and having the humility to get your own goals out of your way. As Steven Spielberg said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but allowing them to create themselves.”

Journal Entry:

I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence post.  I doubt that you have either, but we all get the metaphor. So, who are your fence post mentors? Why not send her or him a note or make a call to thank them before the end of this first month of 2021? If you don’t have a mentor or want to get better at being a mentor, is one of Price’s ideas worth considering to help you help others leadership and life?

To hear the Price Hightower Small-time Leaders podcast about “Mentoring,” which includes his story about “God does not waste pain,” CLICK HERE.  

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

 

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Planting a Strategy

Planting a Strategy

I have helped a few non-profit organizations develop plans over the years. The ones that minister to homeless people, Gospel Rescue Missions, have been my favorites for over a decade. In December 2020, I  was asked to write an article about strategic planning for a national association of these missions, who rescue people to recover from addictions to find a new life in Christ. Over time,  I adapted my traditional planning approach to fit the needs of these purpose-driven places, which deal with more uncertainties,  struggle with more complex “friendly” competitors, and have fewer resources than any real business out there.

I haven’t written much about my approach to non-profit planning, but that needs to change. Non-profits have learned some lessons we all need to know. Nowadays, almost every business is struggling with unyielding insecurity, vague new entrants, and fewer resources; I thought this might be a good time to share a  few ideas from the article with you.      

Strategic Planning is called the art of the general. The premise is to set up a sequence of moves that capitalizes on your strengths and exploit your competitor’s weaknesses so that you win, and they lose in a competitive marketplace. Building a numbers-driven pressuring to win accountability culture is the goal. For decades, this blood-on-the-field military mindset has been the language in organizational strategy development, but with limited success. 

A McKinsey Quarterly survey of nearly 800 executives reported that only 45% of respondents were satisfied with the strategic-planning process. Only 23% indicated that major strategic decisions were made within its confines.

Strategic Planting™, which I call “the art of the gardener,” is grounded in the assumption that an organization’s only competition is itself. The goal is to grow a culture that educates and empowers staff to take informed risks and invent a new future by looking inside and capitalize on their unique internal factors.    

Strategic Planters focus 100% of their energy and resources on culture building. They ignore “competition,” except to learn from competitors’ mistakes. Creating a healthy life-giving culture with emotionally engaged responsibility is the aim. When a CEO  and their team purposefully invest in a growing environment where people know “for sure” that they have the freedom to take risks. When also resourced to invent a future that has never existed, employees gladly take responsibility. Performance improves intrinsically – instead of being manipulated to meet some accountable number. Doing Strategic Planting takes time and hard work, but it is a mind-shift worth considering.

The goal of strategic planning is to improve performance and win. The Goal of Strategic Planting™ is to grow a culture that inspires people to improve Performance and have fun doing it. Winning is a by-product.  

Journal Entry: If these ideas intrigues you, here are three conversation points to have with your team as you to contemplate the benefits of planting a strategy:

  1. Talk about what makes a healthy organization healthy.
  2. Discuss how your organization’s purpose serves humanity
  3. Brainstorm the characteristics of a life-giving culture.

If you would like to see a copy of my article “Planting a Strategy, An organic approach to growing a healthy organization,” just send an email, and we will be happy to forward the article link when it is published. 

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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Christmas Light

Christmas Light

With a past life filled with fear, depression and loneliness, the Grinch sat with his dog in a cave for years and years – a victim of circumstances. He believed there was no light at the end of his tunnel. Then one day he had a vision and decided to take a bold action, a horribly mean action, to get back at those who he believed had destroyed his life. In the dark of night, he stole all the Christmas gifts, gadgets and groceries in Whoville and piled them in his cave. Then that next morning, the Grinch stood on his mountaintop in defiant expectation of hearing sobs of “Christmas lost” from the village below. Instead he heard songs of “Christmas found.”    

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”*

2020

This year has been full of fear, depression and loneliness. We were instructed to sit at home, with our pets, in quarantine. We are victims of circumstances, and it looks like Christmas will be much the same. People are asking, “When will we get back to normal? Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?”

Tunnel

Folks, this is normal. This is the tunnel. It will be here for a while. We can wait on others to change our circumstance or we can claim a new vision (not a mean one) and take a bold step to bring light into our tunnel. An action step is something each of us needs to take, but as you have probably discovered, actions cannot be sustained for long through sheer determination or self-discipline alone. They require a change of heart. 

“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” *

Journal Entry:  Keeping your tunnel light bright is not easy during times of constant change. Fortunately, there is a source of light that doesn’t change. It  isn’t affected by COVID spread, the economic upheaval or political discord or found in having more packages, boxes or bags. It’s the light that appeared when God spoke four words, and the world was born. This same light  appeared over 2000 years ago, in a star above a manger. It was there to announce the offer of gift of a purposeful and peaceful life to anyone who truly  believes in the authentic reason for this season. Where do you find the heart of Christmas and how will you light up the tunnel for others in your leadership and life?

Quotes Worth Noting

Four Words: “ And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” The Bible, Genesis 1:3 KJV

Christ’s Birth: “So, they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Luke 2: 16-19

*From – How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Suess

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It’s how you look at it

This week I drove to The Tutwiler Barber Shop, where I get a monthly cut with my barber Mimi, is located in the historic Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. When I walked into the shop, I could see that Mimi had blade in hand and was just about the finish another client’s hot shave. Since I had a few minutes, I walked through the back door and down the hall to get a cup of coffee. That quick detour took me past the hotel janitors’ storage area and locker room. The door was wide open, so I peeked in.

Across the room, past the cleaning supplies, brooms and vacuum cleaners, I  saw a pink poster board (shown on the left) taped on the side of an olive-green locker, which was tattooed with a lifetime of dents and scrapes. The heartfelt words hand-printed by three members of the hotel janitorial staff stopped me in my tracks. If you can’t make out the words on your screen, it reads:   

“It has been awesome to watch all of us adapt to our new changes and the entire housekeeping team sparked this whole new world. I’m forever grateful and just thank you so much. Please enjoy your ‘Fuel the Clean!’”

I have no idea what “Fuel the Clean!” means, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that three $12 an hour laborers, who clock in daily to do a thankless job, took time out of their paycheck-to-paycheck life to reflect on the bigger picture of 2020. They then stepped up to publicly show appreciation for their fellow workers who adapted to meet this change head on. Writing technique aside, we can all sense the heartfelt message intended to remind workers of a group of exhausted folks, “who sparked this whole new world,” that they too are essential workers.  

On November 8, 2020, Alex Trebek, the legendary host of the TV gameshow Jeopardy, died after a long battle with cancer. Before he died, he recorded this message which was shown on Thanksgiving Day. “In spite of what America and the rest of the world is experiencing right now, there are many reasons to be thankful,” he told viewers. “There are more and more people extending helpful hands to do a kindness to their neighbors, and that’s a good thing.” He concluded with: “Keep the faith; we’re going to get through all of this, and we will be a better society because of it.”

I hope Alex is right. I guess it all depends on how you look at it.  

Journal Entry: I have a new ground rule now. When I meet with or talk with clients and other people I know well, no one is allowed is begin a sentence with “In this time of unprecedented change… , When this is over, we will… , The light at the end of the tunnel… , or any related victim-like “we can’t until” statements. From three housekeeping leaders who clean the presidential  suites and the a famous TV star who spent many nights in them, the message is the same:  it depends on how you look at what you can’t control in your leadership and life.    

QUOTES

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” – George Carlin

“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?” – Shannon L. Alder

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – the Book of Matthew 17:20 (New International Version)

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Thanking Who

Today many of us will sit around a food-filled table with a few friends or family.  Some of us will stop before the meal and acknowledge people and other things we are thankful for in our life.  We also can be grateful to Who made us and continues to faithfully bless those who honor Him in their Leadership and Life.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations

Psalm 100 NIV

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and not we ourselves [a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Have a joyful day!  

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Lost and Found

He swooped into Dodge City driving a six-horse wagon and totin’ a full pocket of cash. His aim, and only aim,  was to win Miss Kitty’s heart. He worked all days and nights with all his might and with all his money, but to no avail. The more he pushed, the more she pulled away. Her heart was and always would be in the Long Branch Saloon and with her man, Marshall Matt Dillon.

Finally, fully exhausted and broke, this once-rich man leaves town walking alongside an old donkey with a half-empty knapsack thrown over his sagging shoulder.

This episode of Gunsmoke ended showing Matt, Doc and Kitty all leaning against a hitching post.  Together they watch the man saunter into the sunset. Matt said, “He looks awfully lonely.” Kitty looked up, fluttered her dark lashes and replied, “There is nothing as lonely as a man who’s lost his dream.” 

The year 2020 has been a time of loneliness and lost dreams for far too many people. Recent national surveys report that over 50% of employees say they are burned out. Now, I could list signs of burnout you can look for in people , but if you care enough to pay attention, you will notice that tired and alone look in a person’s  eyes, even on Zoom. I believe that some of this personal exhaustion is self-imposed, but some of it is not.

These days some organizations and senior leaders try to improve productivity by demanding more — pushing people to do more with less — more hours, more projects, more email, and more output. This is truer now than ever, given the global pandemic and economic fallout since. But always focusing on “more” may be a mistake as it can lead to overwork and burnout. As you know, after a certain point, additional hours spent working don’t necessarily translate into additional productivity.

The reason behind the diminishing productivity can be explained by what social scientists call the effort-recovery model. This model emphasizes that recovery is essential after a period of extended effort to prevent burnout. Insufficient recovery can result in diminished performance. Rest provides the fuel necessary for hard work and can help prevent  burnout.

Journal Entry: What do you notice in the eyes of the people you work with and live with every day? Lost Dreams? Loneliness? I hope you don’t see either of these, but if you do and you would like to help this person, consider this: First ask these three questions below to yourself. After you do this, ask the same questions to that person who may be struggling.

  1. What goals did you hope to reach in 2020?
  2. How those have worked out or not worked out?  
  3. What have you learned about what you need to do more or less this year and next?

After you mention these questions, just listen to what he or he has to share without offering any advice. Let them decide what they have lost and found in their leadership or life.

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

CLICK HERE to read “How to Foster Resilience & Prevent Burnout”.

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This or That?

This or that?  

“It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality.” ― Og Mandino, author 

For the first few years their stage name was The Four Aims. That changed in 1956 when they became The Four Tops, a dancing group that sang. Over those beginning years, they waffled from singing to dancing but, even then, were leaning toward dance. They focused on choreographing their rhythm and swag stage presence and were very proud of it. In 1959, while performing as the warm-up act for a big headliner in a famous night club, they were still dancing and singing. This night club audience responded with loud applause at the close of each song and wanted more. The owner of the club was pleased. But when he met with them after the show he said, “You guys are good, but the only way you’re going to be great in this world of entertainment is to decide if you’re going to be either dancers or singers.” They decided to sing.

After over three decades with singing as their one thing, The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the group #79 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

It’s easy to move away from your one thing. Years ago, when I joined a national consulting firm, I spent my first years working with individuals and teams around clarity and planning. I loved my work. I was soon promoted, however, and paid quite a bit more money, to become a major client’s main contact while managing a group of consultants who were working with individuals and teams around clarity and planning.

I didn’t love my work anymore. I was told I was good at managing and marketing, but the work wasn’t in my area of giftedness. I had stepped outside my specialty for ego’s sake. Fortunately, I had a coach at that time. He noticed I had lost my zeal and asked me this question: “What makes you feel most alive? Consulting or managing? This or that?”  

I walked away from the security of a big organization back to my work of guiding teams and individuals in creating inspiring strategies for their leadership in life. I love my work again.

Journal Entry: We have all known: a confident employee who took a promotion way outside their area of competence; a business team that chased after a new profit center in a market they had no business being in; a husband and wife who bowed to the popular notion that a busy family is a happy family; or a financially successful person who believes that more leisure will bring purpose and fulfillment in life without considering that there might be loving God who put a life-giving  purpose inside of each of us. This or That? We will all be faced with make a choice at some point in time. Do you have a person who will pose the “this or that” question to you in your leadership and life?

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

The Bible in the book of Mark 8:36

Take a listen to The Four Tops HERE  

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Unseen Battles

Unseen Battles

When I was in my mid-50s, I went through several unexpected life and work changes. They didn’t seem significant, but at some vague point afterward, I slowly disconnected from life and disengaged from my friends and my family. I sat alone, with no energy, feeling like I was walking in a fog. I even recall being so despondent that I hoped the phone would not ring because it might be a client, who was going to pay me to help, and I didn’t want to talk.

With my wife’s encouragement, I got some professional help to work through what I came to realize was unresolved grief. My breakthrough came when I was able to see and find meaning in those loss events through wise counsel, prayer and physical exercise. That was over 10 years ago in a “normal” world, as compared to the constant uncertain angst we are all living through today. 

Workplace Struggles    

In the September 2020 “McKinsey & Company Quarterly Report” there is an article about a silent struggle in today’s  workplace. The article begins with this line: The pandemic is fueling a wave of grief and loss that threatens to derail leaders and hurt organizations. Yet when addressed, grief can be a creative force that turns loss into inspiration. It goes on to say that a third of all leaders in organizations are slogging through their lives and work while being extremely unproductive due to unresolved grief in their life. I could summarize this article, but I think it is best if you read it, because it could be the most important article you will read this year.

Just click on the link shown below, but before you do, here are a few words of encouragement.

“Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind and speak truth.” From Roll Up Your Sleeves – Leading and Living in a World of Constant Change

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” The Bible in the book of Philippians 4:6-7

CLICK HERE TO READ McKinsey & Company Quarterly Report – Unresolved Grief in the Workplace.

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Performance or Purpose

Performance or Purpose

About a month ago, an organization in the utility industry experienced the accidental death of an employee, a young husband with two children. Attending the funeral of a team member amid the stress of the pandemic was about all the people in this organization could take. To make matters worse, a hurricane hit in the Gulf of Mexico. It did not hit them, but as a good neighbor of the company impacted by the storm, this organization was expected to and had always rallied their resources to assist in this type of emergency. But this time, the CEO said no, it was just too much. He felt the stress they were experiencing could distract workers even more, and another accident could quickly occur. He announced this to his team as they stood silent.

The next day, however, a member of the team came to see the CEO. He said he understood and appreciated his concern. Then he said, “But we need to do this. This is who we are. Please let us go.” The CEO thought for a while and then said OK.

The organization pulled together and rallied to see them off. The emergency rescue effort was a success. The workers all made it safely home. The CEO’s intentional step of refocusing on their purpose helped the organization begin to heal its wounds as each employee regained her or his purpose by doing their best work. Productivity is now at its highest peak in years, as together, they all are on purpose, serving others with their skills and talents. I call this Purpose Management.  

Go for purpose, and you get performance thrown in. Go for performance, and you get neither.

Performance Management System Paradox

Why would an organization continue to use a system that employees loathe, the majority of managers don’t see value in, and on average a manager spends about 210 hours—close to five weeks—doing each year? Add to that, this system seldom, if ever, has the intended result of forcing poor performers to become more accountable.

Why?

The answer involves control, fear, and avoidance. Many managers think that their job is to control people and make results happen rather than inspire people to want to make results happen. There is a fear of confronting a poor performer and speaking the truth to her or him or hurting someone’s feelings. So, we rate a person on a numerical scale, which typically helps avoid a time-consuming awkward conversation, and doing it annually lessens the frequency of this discomfort. Because once an employee sees their force-ranked number or grade, the exchange becomes either too optimistic, somewhat threatening, or mid-range apathetic.  

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Surprisingly, leaders in organizations keep doing force ranked Performance Management over and over again, in different variations or flavors, with the same disappointing outcome. Is there a better way?

“The ox you are searching for might be the one on which you are sitting.” Ancient proverb  

Pandemic Silver Lining

Over the past six months, most organizations have not held formal performance reviews, but in many places, teamwork, collaboration, and quality performance have reached the highest levels in years. The Mckinsey and Company Short List Report of September 2020 stated, “One silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis has been to show businesses how to manage better and achieve greater speed, quality, and cost control. A wartime mindset—defined by decisive crisis management, scenario planning, and a human reflex attuned to the economic and health shocks affecting employees—has been the hallmark of leaders in the crisis so far. Now, as the world feels its way toward recovery and the new opportunities of the next normal, another risk looms. It is that inertia will set in, along with a longing for a return to the performance management based operating style of the days before COVID-19.”

Not all leaders in organizations experienced notable increases in productivity. Still, it is clear that the leaders of the organizations who have excelled had one thing in common; they are consistently reminding employees of the purpose of their organization and are trusting employees to manage themselves. Either by design or default, they empower people to act independently without the business-as-usual management controls and get their job done. This was driven by each team member’s values and purpose that aligned with their organization’s vision, not by a micromanaging boss or a bad or good performance appraisal. The secret sauce was a steady and straightforward recipe of coaching, caring, and reminding people that we need each other to get through this. Could this discovery open up a conversation about the idea that Purpose Management may produce better outcomes than Performance Management?

Purpose Management System Proposition

Why would an organization not build a system that employees will enjoy? One where managers have seen the value in and can spend one hour or so every two weeks intentionally and systematically reminding people of shared goals, then helping them see and apply their gifts and talents or redesign how they do the work they do so they can capitalize on innate abilities, instead of the manager spending five weeks of working on a report that drains the life out of all involved? 

Why?

Because it is hard to do, and most people have never experienced intentional Purpose Management. It’s easier to shell out a mound of money to buy a benchmarked, peer-approved, complex Performance Management System. Seeing is believing, and most managers have never seen one. They read about this idea in the leadership book of the month but never observed this approach modeled by their manager or experienced a purpose-driven environment, or are equipped to facilitate Purpose Management conversation with their team members.

Journal Entry: Do you want to avoid the impulse to abandon the progress you’ve seen in your organization and team during the last six months ? If you’d like to hold on to your learning, here are 3 steps to consider:

 1) Assess: Have your team discuss and note what worked well and what did not so work well over the past few months. Then decide on your top 3 takeaways.

 2) Align: Based on your assessment in #1, identify what needs to stop, start or continue in your culture.

 3) Assign: Decide if you will focus on Performance Management or Purpose Management. Then choose a champion to set up a system to experiment with your decision for a certain timeframe and evaluate. 

If you desire a different outcome, try a different approach to get what you want in leadership and life.    

On point > On purpose

 

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