Maintaining growth, challenges enterprises as their offerings become less distinctive, and customers have more alternatives. Sadly insufficient employee engagement inhibits the consequent change efforts that are necessary in many enterprises:
“80% of enterprise change transformation programs fail. A common characteristic of this failure is the lack of effective engagement of businesses with their employees.” EY March 2014
I believe that managerial effectiveness includes:
• Involving people in the development of enterprises and that this increases engagement.
• Flourishing enterprises continuously develop their current offerings and are agile in spotting and exploiting opportunities.
• Engaged people make a higher contribution to both!
In this article I explore two themes of managerial effectiveness:
• Increasing dialogue with the people we work with & engaging employees in a company’s evolution.
• A more overt “pact” between leaders and their teams. Leaders provide context and look for relevant opportunities for personal development. Individuals contribute more discretionary effort.
In my experience, both as a line manager and as a consultant running enterprise workshops, too little attention is given to securing discretionary effort. Too often I have seen great effort put into planning but then elegant communications articulating the case for a change being targeted at a workforce that has limited understanding of the economics and the overall business of the enterprise.
Leaders Teaching Leaders
The most powerful way I have found to develop a robust understanding of a business is for the leaders in the business – at all levels – to consider “teaching” to be a key part of their responsibilities. In addition to business relevant content, the Leaders demonstrate a commitment to their people and Leaders learn from the more junior people in the enterprise. During my time at Accenture we worked with Noel Tichy to develop a programme for our next generation of leaders. This included Leaders developing personal “teachable points of view” and sharing these with the business as a whole. At the time the Six Sigma business improvement methodology was being introduced by many of our clients so I developed and taught a Point of View on Six Sigma and teach it to a spectrum of our people. This and the suite of other Points of View raised the level of awareness of a range of business issues. Not only did this help our people develop as professional consultants but also raised the volume and quality of dialogues across our business.
As I think about Leaders, I include First Line Supervisors since they have such an impact on both people and the outputs of your enterprise – as argued powerfully by Tom Peters. Moreover, there is a consistent theme in Employee Engagement studies that links the level of engagement to an individuals’ immediate manager.
Exploiting our Evolving technology
While I was a Director of Operations at Accenture, I had a team spread across 11 countries and 14 time zones. The team held routine conference calls; however the level of dialogue was poor. We experimented with using an eLearning application for our monthly calls. In addition to a presentation screen, this application had a White Board, Chat Rooms and application sharing. Very quickly it became apparent that questions were flowing between team members in the chat room and that this “1 to Many” communication was building collaboration in a way that the then popular “1 to 1” instant messages did not. Moreover the topic presenters were being asked lots of questions via the chat room – far more than we used to get on the old conference calls. Having seen very active participation from two previous silent members of the team, I asked them what had incentivised them to participate more actively. One, a Japanese Manager, said that he understood spoken English well and was happy writing English but thought that his pronunciation was too poor to speak on calls. The text chat overcame this issue. The other, a naive English speaker, said that she liked to raise questions and provide ideas as they occurred to her rather than wait for a lul in the conversation. I came away from these sessions “uplifted” by the increased engagement and made a personal commitment to be alert for opportunities to use technology to raise managerial effectiveness.
How effectively does your enterprise use technology to help effective communication? You might like to complete a short diagnostic that EY published recently in their article entitled “Change 3.0 using social media to engage your workforce”.
The Engagement – Development Pact
In our ever more agile world, I believe we need an overt “pact” between leaders and their teams where:
• Leaders who have provided context, look actively for opportunities for personal development and
• Individuals contribute more discretionary effort to continuously improve current offerings, sense changes and develop the capabilities needed to be successful in future.
Based on my experience I believe in using the following steps:
1 – Reflect on the Context of your Organisation
“Too many training initiatives we come across rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of Leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture or CEO mandate” (McKinsey Quarterly, February 2014).
2 – Improve your understanding of your people.
Recognise diversity. Actions that are “tuned” to individuals will be the most effective in securing discretionary behaviour. Consider for each individual:
• Length of Service
• Personal ambition
• Future potential
• Value to the Enterprise
• Individual Satisfaction
• Career / Experience expectations
3 – Identify opportunities for each person to contribute to continuous improvement or new offerings – alongside their primary role.
Enterprises with people that have a good understanding of their environment are better able to move with agility and capitalise on changes. I have a strong belief that managerial effectiveness necessitates Leaders at all levels have a duty to engage and develop their people to optimise these contributions! I explore these themes further in my book Strattomics – Developing strategies and tactics for an agile world.