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Four Common Types of Difficult Employees And How To Deal With Them

This post is a companion to one or our top Voice America Interviews featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about bad bosses and the impact they have on organizations 

One of the jobs of managers is to create an environment that promotes employee engagement and produces organizational results. Difficult employees adversely impact the team members who work with them. Managers need to find productive ways to address these difficulties or they risk negatively impacting the entire working team. According to a Gallup article published in December 2016, “Compared with disengaged teams, engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism.” The research clearly suggests that managers who address these difficult employees will produce better organizational results than those who do not.

The following is a guest post written by Jackie Edwards, professional writer experienced in the HR side of finance and banking,. It’s the reality of being an employer that your team might not always be filled with employees who support your vision and work hard for you. At some point you’ll have to deal with a difficult personality in the workplace. As stated in the Journal of Business & Economics, difficult employees can become of the most challenging issues you face, according. Here are four common types of difficult employee that you’ll likely have to come across and tips on how to tackle them effectively.

Dark-Side Dan

This is the employee who’s always negative. When you bring up an exciting project, he’ll tell you why it won’t work. It can be frustrating to deal with someone who’s always raining on everyone’s parade while thinking his way is the only right one. But a good tip is to see him as offering constructive criticism. He might show you the worst-case scenarios of corporate decisions that could help you make the right choice.

But dealing with such a difficult personality can actually be quite straightforward. Hold a meeting with your team and give everyone a chance to talk about their skills and struggles, see what this difficult employee says and coax them for a reply. You want your team members to be vulnerable at times, as it makes for a supportive, cooperative team.

Power-Hungry Pam

This is the employee who wants your job. She’ll take on leadership roles, such as by trying to be seen as holding a position of power with her co-workers, or trying to derail your authority, such as by ignoring your instructions. The best way to deal with highly-ambitious employees is to give them lots of work to do so that they won’t have time to try to manage other workers. Therefore keeping the workplace peace intact.

Mr. Excuse

You asked your employee to have a task completed by the end of the day, but he had something important to do across town or he had to deal with a co-worker’s problem, or he was stuck with a faulty printer. He always has excuses for not doing work or not listening to your instructions. In a global survey of 10,000 adults, 42 per cent confessed to lying about how busy they were at work. Although you might be quick to label this worker lazy, there could be another reason for his annoying behavior. Perhaps they are disastisfied with work? The best thing to do is have an open conversation with him to try to understand where he’s coming from and how you can utilize his best qualities, while minimizing his future games.

The Toddler

The minute this employee doesn’t like something, she’ll lose her cool, make sarcastic comments, or get into fights with co-workers. She also doesn’t deal with constructive criticism, which makes dealing with her a nightmare. If she’s a talented worker you don’t want to lose, remind her that her great work will take her far, but she needs to tone down her defensiveness as managers need to be likeable in order to succeed. Having a real heart-to-heart with this employee will not only show her that you’re willing to support your team members, but it also highlights that you’re after her best interests, which will help her see the error of her ways.

Difficult employees are everywhere, and they might even be part of your team. The key is to know how to tackle them effectively so that you can make use of their skills and decrease workplace drama which negatively impacts everyone’s productivity.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

What Questions Help Identify High Quality Leaders For Your Organization?

This article was originally posted in Forbes in August 2016. It is the companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Richard Oliver on July 25 Executive Perspective: Building Vibrancy, Increasing Engagement, Improving Performance. In the interview Richard talks about his experience of dramatically increasing employee engagement at a 60 year old manufacturing company as their President.

As leaders, we are expected to be highly effective at identifying strong leadership, then rewarding it, retaining it, and developing it. Additionally, we are expected to remove bad leadership. Yet leadership is quite subjective. How do we know what “effective” leadership is?

In recent conversations, I realized that how we answer that simple question generates wildly different answers from my respected colleagues. For example, some might say effective leadership is generating strong financial results, while others might measure it based on personal recognition, promotion, social impact or building legacy. It is by asking the right questions that we can clarify what effective leadership is so as to reach the best outcome for our organizations.

I suggest starting with a list of questions from ecosynomics, a framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham, an adjunct researcher at Harvard. Specifically, this framework poses four questions that organizations should consider in order to identify the greatest leadership potential and, consequently, to experience the greatest value from that leadership.

1. What Is Your Potential Leadership Capacity (How Much)?

Sustained value is one measure, but we can’t necessarily predict who will sustain value based on past performance. As we look across the organization’s ecosystem, performance is a starting point but not the final indicator because organizations, and people, run into unavoidable and unpredictable disruptions. As a result, such disruptions may reflect negatively on performance, but may not be an accurate reflection of sustained value of an individual.

Another measure is a set of behaviors or competencies that signal leadership potential. When we move from looking for results to looking for potential, we have moved out of our standard conversation. If we don’t talk about potential, we are missing an important variable when selecting leaders. As we consider potential, we need to also look for employees who are curious and continually learning in a changing environment. It is leaders who continue to “innovate how they lead” who will be able to consistently deliver over the long term.

2. Who Decides Our Leadership Potential?

Often leadership teams “rack and stack” their teams during an annual review process. These are often long and arduous processes. Many companies are revising the performance feedback process in favor of new approaches designed to provide ongoing feedback, but still need a mechanism to determine financial compensation beyond market value, promotion, performance improvement or exit.

The other side of this evaluation is the hiring process. Who is deciding your leadership potential? Is it the leader? The leader’s peers? A group of more senior leaders? Do they have the correct criteria and information to make decisions? What does it say about your leaders and to your leaders if they and their peers are not involved directly in the process in a meaningful way? An example is an organization that uses the vibrancy survey or similar tool within work groups to identify leadership impact on employees.

3. By What Criteria Do We Determine Value?

It is easy to measure the financial impact a leader delivers, but measuring results is more complicated. When we look at results and behaviors, we can look at tools like 360-degree feedback along with financials. These can seem like relatively straightforward equations but, again, who gives feedback and who administers the process to ensure it is impartial and that each variable in the equation is weighted properly?

Some companies have specific equations to measure the balance between results and behaviors. A “nine box,” for example, looks at a 3×3 matrix that places results on one axis and behaviors on the other. While I am a proponent of competencies that consider mindset in addition to behaviors, these are still relatively difficult to measure so behaviors may be our closest reliable approximation. If these measures determine and drive your leader’s performance, it might be worthwhile to be as rigorous in determining what to value (part of mindset) as much as how they performed against those values. As an example, leaders who value collaboration will consistently build collaboration into all of their actions vs. someone who collaborates to check a box because they were told this is important.

The difference is that if the idea of collaboration is built into my thoughts and actions, when it comes time to actually collaborate, others will be expecting it and trust my intentions. If I am making judgments on team members through checking a box, they may not trust me and may not be willing to collaborate fully. It is important to consider the question from multiple views: What does the leader, culture and organization value and reward?

4. How Do We Interact To Realize Our Greatest Leadership Potential?

Your organization’s culture sends a clear message as to how leadership is discovered and developed. Do your culture and organizational structure promote leaders working together on shared goals, or are they pitted against one another to maximize their own units?

How much time are leaders actually spending on mentoring, for example? If I came into an organization to evaluate performance against this question, I would spot-check mentor calendars to see if they are meeting regularly with their mentees and find out whether they discussing development goals and working toward employee success. I would be checking for tangible evidence that the organization has a structure that promotes matching high potentials with seasoned leaders and has a budget for regular interactions that could include books and lunches. When selecting leaders, we must define what our organization’s approach is to leadership culture and understand how this drives the results we want.

In summary, as the world changes at an ever-increasing rate, it is important to update our way of evaluating, structuring, measuring and rewarding leaders to ensure they are equipped to meet changes effectively. For organizations, it will be useful to evaluate your current criteria and determine if it will meet your needs going forward.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

What is a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Learning?

Nimble CultureThis blog is a companion to the interview with Guru Vasudeva on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 18, 2017 Nationwide’s Journey to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous learning.

Carla’s company had just decided that being agile would create a strategic advantage for them as a company shifting from manufacturing technology to a company that wanted to compete in the data and analytics space. One of the key challenges they needed to address was to shift from a culture of manufacturing for the telecom industry toward a high-tech culture of agility. The first task was to define the cultural principles and agreements about behavior. This blog offers some of the key principles they used to inform their transformation.

To successfully implement an agile or innovative business model, the organizational culture and behavioral agreements need to support agility. This culture model is a product of a combination of Agile software development principles combined with other innovative culture models. Each company will refine culture to align with their specific organization. Culture can make the difference between successful implementation and failure, especially when the organization is making a major change. This is particularly true when organizations move from a more traditional culture to one associated with agility and innovation. This culture model looks at five key elements that we consider foundational to create an environment and agreements that support agility and innovation in a rapidly changing environment.

  1. Customer first. Organizations that are willing to listen to customer recommendations and have a process to evaluate those recommendations have the highest probability of retaining customers and staying ahead of the competition. We create an environment in which we encourage our customers to offer recommendations and we evaluate them systematically to see how we can use them to become more effective.
  2. Collaborative. Organizations that work cross-functionally can create prototypes much more quickly than environments that work sequentially. This means every group and person must consistently have an opportunity to contribute their expertise. It also means we create an environment in which people feel safe to express their perspective.
  3. Rigorous experimentation. We value the creative process. We encourage people to develop hypotheses about how to make changes and test their ideas. We continually learn from controlled and well-crafted experiments. We reward innovation and learning.
  4. Nimble decision making. We recognize that we don’t have perfect information and a decision today can be refined as we learn from our experiments later. In an environment of continual evolution, we will never have full information and often we won’t even have sufficient information to make a long-term decision, but we often have enough information to decide about our next step. We need to know our long-term direction, and reward making decisions and keeping an open mind to revising course when we gain additional information.
  5. Resilient. We value adaptability, flexibility, and curiosity as they are the fuel for our process. Ongoing change requires we build a foundation of well-being that supports ongoing creativity and change. Resilient people respond to situations with an attitude of curiosity and the ability to act with flexibility and adaptability.

We recommend these elements as general guiding principles and corresponding agreements about how we work together as colleagues. When organizations have explicit agreements such as these, they can drive behavior and ensure that organizational processes are aligned. This alignment is as important as having principles and agreements. An example of alignment is retrospective meetings (also called lessons learned meetings) where employees are expected to explore what worked and what did not. These meetings only work if employees are rewarded for sharing what they’ve learned and not punished for making mistakes.

If you are trying to create a culture of agility and innovation, these are some of the elements we recommend you explore.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

 

Rollercoaster of Change

Rollercoaster of ChangeThis blog is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre and Dr. Dale Meyerrose on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 7, 2017, Focusing on the roller-coaster reality of complex change.

As we listen to leaders talk about their transformation success – it sounds as if they created a plan, executed on the plan and declared victory. In working with large complex change, this is rarely true. Things happen that derail the project, such as acquisitions, divestitures, and market changes. The test of a successful leader is how he or she responds to the changes that happen, pivots to revise the strategy for success, and implements the revised strategy.

The role of organizations is to deliver results aligned with their mission. In a complex and everchanging environment, organizations must change to keep pace.

Scott came into an organization that was in the process of making significant change. His job was to lead the portfolio of transformation initiatives and ensure the business continued to run effectively. This role meant that he needed a strong understanding of the current organizational operations, the direction of the change and the capacity to change.

Given the rate of change we are seeing across the business landscape, rarely do I see organizations that aren’t making multiple concurrent changes. I expect that this trend will continue well beyond my career. Organizations now need to adopt the ability to change as a core competency if they are to thrive long term.

Many leaders believe they are effective at change because they have led a few initiatives. As the bar increases, it is incumbent on you as a leader to continually hone this skill of leading organizational transformation, which means knowing how to both update yourself as a leader and transform your organization. For optimal effectiveness, both need to be done concurrently.

According to Dale, change falls along a continuum – and your approach needs to be adjusted accordingly. Here is the simple example of the continuum – you need to know which level of change you are putting in place:

  1. Fill potholes
  2. Repave the road
  3. Build new road

As a leader of change, it is helpful to categorize each change along the continuum and understand project dependencies as well as people impact. Your employees are the most valuable asset you have in implementing change. If you don’t take concrete steps to attend to the rate of change and their ability to adapt, you risk failure. People are resilient. If you are doing the “right things”, they will be actively engaged in managing through the transformation. You need to build trust and be appropriately transparent during a difficult transformation.

The more extreme the transformation, the bigger the people impact. How you handle people issues governs the success of the change. Because you have a limited number of employees who are familiar with your organization, they will govern the rate of change. While you can augment them with consultant or contingent workers, your long-term ability to perform will depend on your internal staff being prepared at the end of the transformation to operate the business. By attending to their capacity and building their resilience, you can accelerate the pace of change.

A key factor that is often overlooked during transformation is organizational culture. Are your changes aligned with the culture? Implementing change that is inconsistent with your culture can undermine the change initiative and the culture. For many companies the culture is the “secret sauce” of their success. If this is true for you, the recipe should be protected, which means it needs to be included in the change portfolio as a key factor and, in many cases, it should be one of the projects to ensure it is being attended to across the range of changes.

We have talked about people and culture but we have not yet addressed the question of turn-over. In many cases, some of the team will not fit after the transformation is complete. This could be because of the required skills and roles, or it could be because they don’t align with the culture. It is important to be aware of the expected attrition rate during a change and plan accordingly. People want to be treated fairly. When they see their colleagues treated with disrespect, you are at risk. That said, top performers want to be surrounded by top performers so they will expect their leaders to take action if team members are not meeting expectations. Action could be additional support or a different role. These decisions can be complicated because we are talking about employee’s livelihoods. Change leaders need to balance compassion for people with the requirements of the organization to implement the transformation.

By understanding the magnitude of change, planning the process, and taking into account the people and the culture, you will increase your probability of success. Every change runs into challenge, and with the support of your people, you will have the people involved who are committed to navigating the issues. If, on the other hand, you are not actively engaging your people at every step of the way, you risk failure.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute

, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

At C-Level #8: Executive Level Strategy Setting and Execution

C Level 8This blog is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre and Dr. Dale Meyerrose on VoiceAmerica Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 7, 2017, focusing on the complex reality of leading organizational change.

At C-Level #8 is the eighth blog of an eight-part series following a first time CEO’s educational journey in a very challenging business environment, and exploring global concepts in leadership theory and practice.  

At the end of each blog are reflection questions for readers to consider as they navigate their own leadership journey.

This guest post by Mike Sayre — experienced software, e-commerce and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO and Board Director—is based on his first-hand experiences as a fledging CEO. Its intent is to provide additional insight or ideas to those in, close to, aspiring to, or trying to understand the top leadership role in any organization.

Prior to my first time role as CEO, I had input into company strategy from other functional leadership roles, but it was now my responsibility to lead strategy development with our team and our board, and then lead its execution as well. I found this easily to be one of the most complex and difficult responsibilities of being a CEO, because it includes figuring it out, getting buy-in, leading its execution, keeping buy-in, and continually evaluating whether it’s going to work or not – and, if not, jumping back to the figuring it out stage.

When I accepted my first CEO job, we had just grown revenue about 4x over a three to four year period while I was the CFO. However, profitability growth had been eluding us. Deep analysis (figuring it out) proved that we had won some large programs on pricing that we could just not make profitable. The idea was that if we could just get in the door and prove ourselves we could get higher value and more profitable work. Ever hear that before? We could not execute fast enough on getting that higher margin business when the economy started sliding downward.

Our short term strategy was either to make unprofitable business profitable or shed it (by raising prices). We would also need to make sure our cost structure was optimized with the right size and composition of workforce for the business we were able to keep, ensuring key talent stayed to help us grow the company again for our longer term strategy. Our longer term strategy was to leverage our extensive engineering and manufacturing capabilities to move into building more complex and higher margin products that were undeniably more valuable to our customers than the lower margin commodity work we were currently doing for them. This long term strategy made it much less desirable for them to switch to another supplier. Overall, we were looking at less revenue for some period of time, but more profitability.

Early in execution it all seemed to be working: less revenue, higher margins and some success in moving into a new market for us. It was difficult work saying “no” to big customers, having to right-size the business by laying off good people and keeping everyone else on board with the longer term strategy in mind, and moving into a new market – the latter of which can take quite some time. Following the Golden Rule and constantly communicating to all of our stakeholders was paramount to keeping everyone on board.

So, here is a substantial lesson I learned through all this that I would like to share with you. I am sure you’ve heard it before, but I assure you it is so true, and I hope you will take it to heart:

When you change strategies, introduce new products, try to make any kind of significant change, you have a very small window of opportunity to make it work, and you almost never know how small that window really is – so time is absolutely of the essence. You do not have the time you think you have!

So, as it was, with the economy accelerating in its deep dive, we were running out of time. The orders for the commodity-type manufacturing services we provided were quickly dwindling and we were laying off people almost every quarter to “right-size” the company for that declining part of the business. Our customers kept lowering their quarterly forecasts. They could not tell us, and we could not see, when their forecast reductions would subside and their higher demand would return. We were no longer profitable.

After a couple of rounds of layoffs and continued uncertainty, I decided we needed to abandon our move to more highly engineered, valued and margin products, get the company to a sustainable profit level in its other core business, and wait it out for likely two to three years.

So we engineered a layoff that would do just that, and I included myself in it. I knew this plan would quickly put the company back in a profitable position. I also knew the founder and COO could maintain that level of profitability until the economy came back. The founder had run the business for about 10 years before I joined the company. With that level of profitability, the company could either invest for more growth in better economic times, or sell because of its strategic niche business and profitable operations. And that is what happened. Over the next two years, the company maintained its profitability as planned and was sold to a global player in the industry that needed the company’s capabilities, some of its key accounts, and its well run operations and profitable business.

Hindsight being 20/20, and to my earlier point about not knowing how small that window of opportunity will be, I wish we could’ve moved faster on the long term strategic plan. We had the talent and capabilities in place, and we were making good progress. We just ran out of time and that responsibility was mine.

I’ll end this At C-Level series with the first tenet of Jim Collin’s Good to Great that I listed in the first installment, At C-Level #1:

  • Success is not about the leader as a person, but about the success of the company.

The company was very successful during my time there, especially given all of the challenges we had to deal with. And based on the company’s success, built upon many other successes contributed by many other people purposefully led by our leadership team, even with my own initiated exit from the company, I count my first CEO role as a success.

You may be saying, “My situation is different and there is no way I would ever leave my CEO job, or any other C-Level job for that matter!” So what if it was not your choice?

Reflection questions:

  • Do you have a succession plan in place? If unfortunate circumstances caused you to leave your leadership position, how would the leadership legacy you leave behind continue to serve all of your stakeholders – your shareholders/owners, employees, customers, suppliers and/or communities in which you live?
  • Do you currently have key strategic initiatives going? Do you have metrics in place to know when they are successful? How much time do you think you have to complete your implementation of these initiatives? Could an economic downturn, loss of a customer or anything else significantly derail your initiatives? I’ll ask again: How much time do you think you really have to complete your initiatives? Is there anything you could speed up, do simultaneously, or put more resources on to move those initiatives ahead more quickly?

If your company is facing significant strategic, leadership, succession planning, financial and/or operational challenges, please contact Metcalf & Associates or me to assist in developing and executing your way forward through those challenges and beyond with our executive advisory and leadership development services.

Thanks for following us! Please look for more upcoming blogs and blog series at the “C” level from Mike.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Mike Sayre, executive advisor and organizational transformation practice lead, has been a successful CEO, COO, CFO and board director for multiple organizations in technology (cybersecurity, ecommerce payments processing and engineered computer products) and manufacturing (electronics and steel products). He shares his expertise with client boards and C-Level leaders, and advises, designs, plans, and oversees the implementation of successful strategies for turnarounds, growth, profitability and sustainability.

Mike brings 25+ years of organizational and business leadership and hands-on implementation experience to his clients.  His teams have achieved significant increases in growth, profitability and valuation, as well as shareholder, customer, supplier and employee engagement and satisfaction.

Can Organizational Departments Be More Vibrant Than The Overall Organization?

Vibrancy Light Contract

I am writing this post in conjunction with the Voice America interview to be aired on June 28 because I have worked with many leaders who are discouraged because they see their organizations as challenging and believe as leaders that they as leaders are stuck. This piece is intended to demonstrate that in some cases, departments within large organizations can be much more vibrant than the overall organization.

I have been working as a consultant with WCBE, a unit of Columbus City Schools, since 2012. I am now the board president of the “Our WCBE” a nonprofit organization that supports the station financially. This small department (WCBE) within a large government organization strikes me as highly vibrant and nimble even though the school district is not. I make this observation not as a criticism of the schools—obviously, a radio station runs differently than a school district and has far fewer concerns for safety and other factors that require the district to be much more cautious in fulfilling their obligations than does a radio station.

I wanted to understand if departments could be vibrant (a positive deviant) when the parent organization is more “statistically normal.” To prove our hypothesis that this is possible, WCBE employees took the Harmonic Vibrancy assessment twice. First as employees of the radio station, and again as employees of the school district. The scores varied significantly.

The next question I sought an answer for was: What is happening at the station that is different from what is happening with the district? The following points explain part of the difference between the organizations:

  1. Vibrancy starts with the leader, Dan Mushalko, who sees everyone on his team as competent people who fill important roles. This seems like a no-brainer and something that should be part of any workgroup, but working with Dan is different. He is always positive and supports people when they face challenges. This level of positivity is contagious. How it impacts vibrancy in a very resource-constrained organization is that people find creative ways to solve problems they wouldn’t even have in an organization that had sufficient resources. To say that it is not well funded is an understatement—some of their equipment is over 30 years old, not like the 2-year-old laptop we complain about. Imagine always trying to stay current with a 30-year-old piece of technology.
  2. Everyone pitches in and helps…because Dan pitches in and helps. The culture this team has created is one of a family. I know this sounds cliché and many people dislike the term. When I say family, I don’t mean everyone is always in a group hug, but like a healthy family, they have differences and they find constructive ways to accomplish the mission and work through the differences because they respect one another and need one another to accomplish the work they all value
  3. They value the mission. They are a community-based public radio station. They conduct community events regularly. They record local bands, they participate in local conferences, they support local restaurants and performers. They promote them and give them opportunities that are not available on commercial radio. When the weather is bad, they sleep at the station to ensure listeners get the latest news.
  4. They innovate. In many cases this is out of necessity, but innovate they do. Dan is a trained physicist so there is an environment of experimentation that is accepted and even expected. His office looks like a hybrid of a science convention and a sci-fi conference where he monitors satellite signals and repairs equipment along with managing shows and curating his own show, The Amazing Science Emporium.

Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Adjunct Harvard researcher and creator of the vibrancy framework has studied many vibrant organizations and departments within organizations that are vibrant. During the interview, he shares his experience with using the vibrancy framework and his learnings from other organizations who also created vibrant departments within large organizations. . The list above is specific to WCBE and, yet, I imagine if you think of organizations that stand out as highly vibrant from your own experience, you will find similar qualities and stories.

We hope you are able to listen to this interview. It is both informative and fun. Dan and Jim weave references to Star Trek into the conversation as they explore organizational dynamics.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

CEO Perspectives: Changes in Primary Care

Changes in Primary Care1This blog was written as a collaboration between Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko. It is a companion to the VoiceAmerica interview featuring Bill Wulf, MD and Jim Svagerko MA, PCC, talking about the leading work Central Ohio Primary Care with 300 physicians is doing and preparing for health care reform and new innovations in medical care over the next five years, and how it became a leader in their field and what they are doing to shape how the field of medicine and how it is practiced.

According to the Community Action Network, “A healthy community reflects a sense of mental and physical wellbeing and is the foundation for achieving all other goals. Good health is often taken for granted but is essential for a productive society. For example, every community needs a healthy workforce upon which to build its economy and healthier students are more equipped to learn and be successful academically.”

While the business of healthcare is run by physicians and administrators, health impacts every one of us. It is our responsibility to own our individual health because it effects our ability to enjoy life. Many of the challenges we face are a direct result multiple factors within the economy, and some health issues are a consequence of socio-economic disparity. Insurance plays a role when sometimes it is difficult to get access to the highest quality healthcare with the limitations on coverage. Additionally, factors in families and schools can play a role when adverse childhood events leave a lifelong impact on overall health. Injurious childhood events often contribute to mental health and drug and alcohol issues later in life. Often, the cycle continues. Many of these factors are interrelated and solving them requires cross-sector focus on community health. Communities like Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio, have strong collaborative processes to address these complex issues.

While each of us plays a role in our own care, the linchpin of health care delivery has been determined to be the primary care physician. Dr. Wulf is the CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC), a group of 300 doctors at 50 offices in four counties. His clinical interests are preventive care, population management, and maintaining a continuum of care for COPC patients. As the CEO of an organization that is nationally known for its exceptional care and innovative business model, he continues to look at what COPC will do next to meet patient needs in the context of a dynamic health care environment. Here are a few of the changes COPC is talking about:

  1. Move from pay for service to pay for outcomes: COPC is beginning to be paid for creating value for patients as they move from strictly fee-for-service payments. This shift completely changes how medicine is delivered and how doctors and all professionals associated with care delivery focus their efforts. COPC has taken a comprehensive approach to change that considers the overall system and how practices operate, the culture that encourages procedures as the foundation to manage risk, and physician scheduling and daily activities.
  2. Move to a culture of vibrancy and collaboration: Significant change is enabled by a culture of mutual respect and collaboration where all team members are encouraged to voice opinions.
  3. Leadership development: COPC has invested in physician leadership development through a variety of methods. Metcalf & Associate’s Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko were engaged to support COPC, and assist them in their development. They guided the leadership team through their own personal development as well as a deep dive into the workings of COPC. Maureen and Jim will continue their work with COPC this summer and fall. In addition, COPC sends their physician leaders for education through a local professional association and their leadership team is using the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Physician Leaders, supported by Metcalf & Associates, as a team activity along with peer coaching to support growth and development, as well as promote a culture of growth and mutual support during its transition.

One of the key trends we see in health care is a shift in focus from the “all-knowing” physician to patient owning health outcomes. We are seeing a dramatic increase in “wearables”, everything to medical devices like an insulin pump to the standard Fitbit® and calorie counting apps. Many of us are using these devices to manage our own behaviors. Primary care physicians and other healthcare professional are also using these apps and the data they provide to manage the chronically ill.

It is crucial that leaders in health care arm themselves with resources to assist them as they move through these undefined areas. It will be necessary for leaders to first gain an understanding of their leadership style and abilities before they can hope to lead others. One way is through careful discernment with an executive coach/advisor to explore and present opportunities for the leader to move into a space that will allow them to create a climate and atmosphere that will serve future health care needs.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Planning to Win! Moves to Capture New Customers

Chess movesThis blog post was written by guest blogger and Voice America interview guest Gary Ross. Over the past 16 years, Gary served successfully as President/CEO of four different organizations, ranging from $10M to $150M in revenues. He has improved financial performance and value creation within both large public technology and private family companies. Gary’s interview is CEO

 

Perspective: Driving Growth.

Winning new customers.  No matter what your business, it’s vitally important.  Most leaders I meet with are not happy with their company’s results in mastering this challenge.  After successfully improving new customer wins in my last four leadership roles, and now with several companies in my current consulting business, I am going to share with you what I have seen work in real companies that I have helped lead.

HOW ARE YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS?

If you have succeeded at making your current customers raving fans, and your churn rate (attrition rate) is low (<5%), congratulations.  You are halfway there to winning many new Customers!  If you are having an issue here, you need to fix it now – or you will be wasting all your money capturing new customers, only to let them later run out the back door.

“To succeed as a business in the long-term, the pre-requisite for winning new Customers, is to have current Customers who are raving fans.”

THE STRATEGIC PLAN.

When we talk about winning new Customers, my first question is: ‘Specifically which Customers are we trying to win?’

There is a document that describes this: The strategic plan.  The strategic plan defines your strategy to grow your business.  It can be 3 pages or 103 pages – but it must contain thoughtful team-developed targets and programs that define how you will grow your business.

The place to start – with your management team.

You know what your management team is going to say if you tell them you want to develop a strategic plan?  It won’t be good.  We have all been part of planning processes that are a total waste of time.  Months of work in planning sessions making sure your words are just right, that your charts flow, only to end up sitting on the shelf or on the planning drive on your server.

Do you know why this happens?  Because the CEO and his/her direct reports did not inspire everyone to implement it!  He/she did not hold people accountable to deliver on the plan.  That’s all everyone wants!  To execute the plan that you all agreed was important!

It does not have to be this way; and that’s what you need to tell your team.

“To win, you have to have a fighting spirit; You have to force moves and take chances.” Bobby Fischer – World Chess Champion

Building your strategic plan is a 3-Step Process:

STEP 1. DEFINE POINT A.  THIS IS WHERE WE ARE TODAY. 

When I first go in and consult with clients, I initially help define the current situation.  This could include revenues and profitability by product; Customer churn and growth, trends by market segment, biggest issues hurting the business, and our position relative to our competitors.  If we are not a fast-growing, highly profitable company, why not? What is holding us back?

As part of this exercise, we define two items very clearly:

– What is your company brand?  What do you believe in?  What do you stand for?  Your owner can probably nail this in a small business.  Why did he/she start the business?  Your brand can inspire your team – and your hiring – if it is compelling and authentic!

– What are you the thought leader of?  What do you do better than anyone else?  What makes you special to your Customers; Where do they most ask and need your help?

STEP 2. DEFINE POINT B.  THIS IS WHERE WE ARE GOING.

What do the customers, owners and board members want you to accomplish in the next year; next 3 years?   For that endpoint, discuss some key questions with your team and clearly describe the ideal desired outcome for your business, and what metrics do we need to put in place to tell us whether we have achieved our goal.

You should develop Persona’s at this point – describing the profile of the customer(s) you want to target in your sales and marketing efforts.  This is about knowing your customers, how you will segment them, and refining your messaging for who you will target with your inbound and outbound marketing investments.

STEP 3. DEFINE THE EXECUTION PLAN.  HOW WE WILL GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B

This is the secret sauce.  It is the step many companies miss altogether.  Most companies who put together strategic plans do a great job at Point B.   But they do an average job at defining the current situation, and many simply forget about Step 3 – the execution plan to get there.  So the plan dies.

I recommend you talk with your team about the obstacles standing between you and your desired Point B.  What additional knowledge or skills are needed to win?  What additional resources do you need to achieve your strategic objectives?

“Good positions don’t win games; good moves do.” Gerald Abrahams – Chess player and author

If you can create enthusiasm around your strategic plan and inspire your team about the future, you will lay the foundation for your sales and marketing investment to pay off in winning new Customers, and take your business all the way to the top!

This is one of the concepts from Gary’s new book, The Growth CubeTM, which will be released this fall! Many times leaders struggle with how to win new Customers. They may need to look outside for the tools to gain a clearer understanding of the opportunity they are missing. If you are facing a new Customer growth challenge, Gary can inspire you. Gary is founder of Ross Innovations, a Growth Consulting Company where Gary brings positive coaching, innovative ideas and a results focus to business owners and leaders in the Services, Software and Technology sectors. If you would like to see more articles like this, visit here! Contact Gary at garyross@InspireYourselfToday.net.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If Your Change Effort Failed to Deliver the Results You Wanted – Your Change Model May be Overly Simplistic


Impact Resilience

This guest post is provided by collaborator Jim Ritchie-Dunham  as a companion for the Voice America interview with Christoph Hinske focusing on How Big Change Happens in his keynote presentation to the World Green Building Council. Jim is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a trustee of THORLO, and an adjunct faculty member at the EGADE Business School and at Harvard. In this post Jim talks about his  “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact. This information is for leaders who have struggled to successfully implement complex change using linear models and want to better understand alternative approaches that will increase the probability to success for much needed and highly visible change projects.

More and more people are looking to large-scale social change processes to leverage their impact around very complex issues. From poverty, health, education, epidemics, and inequity to water, air, green building, and renewable energy. Scaling collective impact is everywhere. I have been looking at, and engaging with many of these efforts, for two decades now. In trying to figure out how to support large-scale change, many groups are trying to become evermore strategic. As a big proponent of strategic clarity, I encourage the strategic dialog, and I encourage pathways that will support a group in getting to greater clarity about what they can do together and what will work.

In their strategic development processes, many groups now focus on developing a “theory of change.” I agree that it is far easier to learn and refine a strategy when you have a theory of what you are going to do. And, I see some inherent difficulties in the way many groups currently frame their theory of change. Hopefully a brief picture will clarify what I see as the intention and a better answer.

To start with, I see that most social-change efforts grow up around an effort that initially worked. There was an intervention and there was an impact. While not quite sure how it worked, the impact is there. We created a kitchen, and more people were fed tonight. In this experience, there is typically an implicit theory of “it just works.” We do this, and we see the impact. Usually the distance in time and space between the intervention and the impact is very low or immediate. We can see it directly. I see this as the lower-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix below, low clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.

This success often leads to the desire to scale the work, to get much greater impact.  To scale up the intervention often requires investment of greater capital.  Investors of this greater capital usually want to see a greater understanding of how the intervention will lead to the means that will drive the impact.  Greater investment wants to lower the risk of not understanding.  They want to see a theory of “change,” a “comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.”  As far as I can tell, from what I see in foundation, nonprofit, and network reports and in my own conversations, most of these theories of change provide linear descriptions of how an intervention will lead to some specific means of change in a specific context that will lead to the desired social impact.  A to B to C.  I see this as the lower-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.  While this greater clarity of causality makes it much easier for the intervention leaders and the funders to test whether the intervention leads to the expected means and impacts, this linear approach to complex social issues leaves out a critical reality–feedback.

If the decisions you make today affect the decisions you can make tomorrow, then there is feedback.  A to C to A.  If the decisions you make influence others who then influence you, there is feedback.  All complex social issues contain impacts of any intervention on other stakeholders and on resources that influence the ability to continue to intervene in the future.  They all have feedback.

As the complexity of an intervention increases, like trying to feed a whole city through a large network of kitchens, most efforts seem to try to continue what they were doing before with just a lot more resources.  They use the same logic, on a bigger scale.  Lots of intervention, mixed with lots of magic, leads to lots of impact; so goes the “theory of I think.”  I think that if we just …  I see this as the upper-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, low clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.  While the situation might be much more complex, with many more stakeholders and resources involved, I think if we just do a lot more, we will get much more impact.  It rarely works, often because of the unseen feedback effects, which is why social impact investors have moved more and more towards wanting to see something that demonstrates a greater clarity of causality.  Right now the best-in-class practice seems to be the “theory of change” I mentioned earlier.

To complete the high-level overview a theory of change provides of preconditions, pathways, and interventions to achieve the desired impact, many groups develop a complementary logic model and evaluation plan.  The logic model lays out a linear model of how the planned work with resource inputs and activities leads to the suggested outputs, outcomes, and eventual impact.  A very clean and relatively simple way to explain how to implement the theory of change.  The evaluation plan then provides measures to test the hypotheses for the different elements: the resource inputs; the activities; the outputs; the outcomes; and the impacts.  The strategy process then pulls together the theory of change, the logic model, and the evaluation plan, in a crisp, linear mapping.

Now, if (1) the social issues we face require much greater investment, influencing a greater number of stakeholders, in contexts of much greater feedback, and (2) a linear strategy based on a theory of change, logic model, and evaluation plan falls short of dealing with the feedback complexity, what do I suggest?  A “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact.  I see this as the upper-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.

Over the past twenty years, with many colleagues around the globe, we have developed systems-based strategic approaches to engaging multiple stakeholders around complex social issues.  There is now a whole industry of such approaches.  It turns out that it is not hard to bring together many people who are passionate about any specific social issue, find out how they each contribute different elements of the solution, and how they can work together to change the behavior of the whole system.  In the past decade alone, people have applied this kind of approach successfully on six continents to hundreds of important, complex social issues.  It only takes the will to do it, a little know-how and a few elapsed months of work.  Not decades.

So, while I applaud the desire of social impact investors to dramatically increase the clarity of causality between an intervention and a social impact, it is time that we move beyond “keep it simple,” linear models of causality to incorporate multi-stakeholder, feedback models of causality.  A theory of impact resilience, based on systems-based strategic approaches suggests how.  It provides a systemic theory, it lays out the systemic logic of how the interventions lead to shifts in the system of stakeholder responses and subsequent systemic impacts, and it provides an impact resilience scorecard of the systemic measures that indicate how the interventions are leading to systemic shifts, to greater resilience, and to scaling of the impacts.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Vibrancy: Case Study for Global Company Transformation

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkOrganizational Vibrancy is important topics. It is the topic of our interview this week (1/12/16) on the Voice America Business series. This body of work is making a great impact in pockets of organizations around the world and yet relatively unknown in others. I have personally found this model to have a great impact on several of my clients. It has helped them identify where they excel and what gets in the way of their teams bringing about the innovative solutions they say they want and need to have a thriving organization. The interview is with Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Annabel Membrillo, and  Ana Claudia Goncalves.

Discussion includes the following topics:
1. What is vibrancy?
2. How do agreements fit into this equation?
3. As the CEO of an international organization – what question were you looking to answer when you starting considering assessments?
4. Why the vibrancy assessment?
5. What value did you get?
6. What were the leadership qualities required to successfully implement the changes recommended to create a highly vibrant organization?

To accompany the interview, the participants provide an in depth case study for the project they discuss.

In this case study, English version or Spanish version, Annabel and Ana Claudia describe the experience of taking a group in a global financial services company on the journey to the experience of a higher level of harmonic vibrancy, through the development of new, more collaborative practices.  These practices led to demonstrable improvements in performance and outcomes.  As Annabel shares, “I am very grateful to have had a living lab that, despite the scarcity agreements and rules in its organizational structure, implemented initiatives that I had not seen in all my years of working with organizations. This was possible because the company incorporated the transformation process into the day-to-day activities of the corporate world.”

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.