Thursday, May 11, 2017

How Leaders Save Followers From Being Professional Victims

Many executives are relatively strong at taking responsibility, especially in areas where others don’t. They stand up to be counted, assuming risks that others won’t.  However, they are often baffled when their followers show an excessive and inexplicable fear of victimization. What should leaders do to eradicate this bad habit that makes good people slip into dependency and turns potential future leaders into weaklings?

Case: A corporate leader who I work with scratches his head in dismay. His followers, who he hopes to grow into a new cadre of leaders have devolved into victims-in-waiting. That is, they have learned an infantile, super-sensitivity to perceived slights and imagined disrespect. He has discovered that even his best attempts to make a difference are taken as personal attacks. They have become professional victims.

According to the Urban Dictionary “professional victims” claim victimization when things don’t go their way. They continually believe someone is taking advantage of them. In his case, workers have taken to attend meetings in a silent boycott, refusing to contribute anything more than a minimum.

Truth be told, there is a certain kind of power to be gained from convincing your (perceived) oppressors that you are their victim. At best, it invites them to take responsibility in a new way as a result of seeing the truth for the first time. When this happens, transformation can result as it did in countries like the USA, India and South Africa.

However, at worst, being a victim can be just a form of hostage-taking. Then, it becomes a nasty blame-game where the self-described weak gain a scrap of leverage, usually by bullying those in power into feeling guilty.

Unfortunately, in some companies there are a frighteningly large number of staff members who act as professional victims. In your company, you may know exactly who I am talking about. If you do, then go a step further and ask yourself: “Is the diseased thinking spreading or shrinking?”

Use your answer to gauge how effectively your people are being led. Ineffective leaders merely join the pity party, engaging in their own version of professional victimhood. They may, for example, compare their current job against prior roles they held in better companies, with better colleagues who served better customers. This just makes the situation worse.

Effective leaders respond quite differently by taking the following three steps.

1. Demonstrate By Example
Real leaders take responsibility at extraordinary levels, far beyond the boundaries of space and time. For example, they may even take ownership for what people do to each other. Or, they may assume responsibility for what has happened in the past, under prior leadership, as if they were in charge when it happened.

While others may think this is crazy behavior, it is actually self-empowerment at its finest.

Leaders who are powerfully self-aware are not blind to what they are doing and they don’t do it in secret. They actively create a context in which they locate themselves as the cause of important results, positive or negative. As they do so, one public step at a time, it’s noticeable that something is different. This magic ingredient may be hard for others to articulate, but leaders seize vacuums of responsibility to inspire others to act.

2. Educate Followers
A few top leaders don’t just act differently, they teach this exceptional behaviour to others at every opportunity. Sometimes, they have developed their own language for what they do, using homegrown phrases such as “taking one for the team.” Developing responsibility in others is a critical part of their job and the key to a cultural transformation.

3. Share the struggle
A tiny handful go even further than teaching others. They take the risk of sharing their personal struggle with new areas of responsibility. By doing so, they show that it’s OK to be imperfect, giving staff real-time insight behind the scenes of a leader’s transformation.

Unfortunately, most top executives are clueless about these three steps. With low awareness, they are stunned when people avoid interacting with them for fear of being victimized. They witness employees acting as responsible adults in other areas of their lives (family, church and community) and can’t understand why the workplace is so different. Professional victims are perfectly capable of this dualism.

They can also be quite effective at converting others to their cause: misery loves company. This means that leaders cannot just sit back and wait for people’s mindsets to change – they won’t.

The solution is to be aware and active. If you are a leader, work on the three skills listed above and make them part of your everyday way of being. Leaders are only called forth when the stakes are high and success will be impossible if you avoid this particular duty. It is hard, but necessary.

Published : Jamaican Gleaner 12/2015

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2016, send email to

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Avoiding POOR Meeting Attendance

“If you build it, they will come…” This is not exactly all true when planning a meeting. A lot of work goes into producing a successful meeting and the majority of work is definitely in the primary stages of research, design, and planning. When this is done properly, the remaining stages of co-ordinating and evaluating the meeting will bring forth the desired outcome.

Attendance IS the lifeblood of a meeting! Whether the reason for meeting is a training session, sales presentation, corporate retreat, customer/employee incentive programme, or themed event, faulty meeting planning will cause unwanted results, including poor attendance.

People come together in a meeting to share ideas and visions, to make decisions, to be entertained, or to solve problems. As a planned communication encounter between two or more persons for a common purpose, the meeting must appeal to the intended attendees. Attendance is a meeting planning issue and not just an issue for sales and marketing or public relations, which are parts of the meeting planning process.  Attendees want results. They want information. They want the tools and techniques they can use immediately. Attendees will attend meetings that satisfy their needs. All of these concerns play an essential role in the meeting planning process.

The consequences of poor meeting planning can result in premature cancellation, complete cancellation, wasted time, termination of employees, as well as ineffective use of resources. Poor or faulty meeting planning can also have a negative impact on a company’s budget thus affecting other cost factors, not to mention, management embarrassment or discolouring a company’s image. In a poorly attended meeting, money goes down the drain without ever achieving the desired results.

Poor meeting attendance can come from several overlooked attributes of faulty meeting planning. Companies with tighter budgets can get hurt by inadequate meeting planning preparation and poor communication. If a previous meeting was successful, there is no justification or guarantee that when repeated, will produce the same results. Change happens! People’s needs change! Environments change! Meetings need to adequately address current critical issues that apply to those attending. Therefore, the information to be shared with the attendees must have the potential and capability of being applied immediately or be within their areas of work and interests. Producing frequent lower-quality meetings is also a sure-shot indicator for attendees to lose interest and not show up.

Let us look at several ways you can avoid poor meeting attendance.
  • Know the attendees! This cannot be expressed or emphasised enough. This is key to the success of any meeting planning process. To know the group helps in the selection and negotiation of all the necessary ingredients to put the meeting plans together. Knowing the attendees requires research that will provide demographics – the important element and information that must be collected and reviewed carefully.
  • Establish objectives that are specific, measurable, and appealing to the attendees. Failure to meet the primary objective to the meeting means that the meeting has failed.
  • Design programmes that apply to the attendees’ needs and interests. Believe it or not, the decision to attend a meeting is at the sole discretion of the attendees. They are the ones who need to be motivated as they want to know what is in it for them.
  • Select a venue that will contribute to attendees’ presence and participation. The location and type of venue compliment the design of the meeting.
  • Always plan ahead. Do not wait until the last moment to begin preparations. Meeting planning is a serious business that involves strategic decision-making. Meetings should not just be planned, they should be staged as sensory, financial experiences that are designed to evoke the senses and make people attend and be able to take something away from that event.
  • Take a risk and try something different. Each person attending a meeting brings a different level of knowledge and expertise to the programme. Understand that the attendees are also customers who attend meetings with different ideas, values, and expectations.
  • Engage the services of a professional meeting planner. Good partnerships leverage both internal and external resources to achieve common objectives. The ultimate goal is to achieve more with less.

The challenges and trends of today’s economy can be very difficult on any organisation. Organisations need to be creative to stay alive. Organisations need to realise that meetings constitute a substantial portion of their budgets and should take the necessary steps to pay attention to the (real) cost of producing a meeting. So as not to lose money unwisely and to achieve return on investment, a company must take a closer look at the way it conducts meetings.

Meetings are here to stay and attendance is essential to making them successful. Attendees are customers. Pay attention to their needs by producing meetings that are worth their while to attend.

Source: Mrs. Margaret Lawrence - HRMAJ, Western Chapter                                                                   

Organization Development & Effectiveness

Organizational Effectiveness is a concept that demands continuous improvement at all levels in a system. Several methods have been devised and used in this regard all aiming at making the organization more efficient and more competitive. As the rate of activities increase, organizations are likely to become increasingly focused on day to day operational issues thereby becoming less aware of emerging difficulties that will ultimately reduce its effectiveness.  One is also likely to miss the important effects that known problems are likely to have on the rest of the rest of the organization.  Before you know it the organization is in a severe downward spiral.

The point be made is that the organization is a system.  Problems in one part of the system that goes undetected will grow and spread to impact other parts of the organization.  It is important therefore that the problems are detected, analyzed and subjected to carefully planned interventions.  Organization Development (OD) offers an opportunity to do just that.

Organization Development is a “planned organization-wide programme” (Schein) that focuses on aspects of organizational dynamics. It involves activities which the consultant facilities with individuals and groups.

These activities emerge from a diagnostic process that identifies problems, their causes and variables that must be controlled in order to achieve satisfactory solutions.

In the early days a typical definition of OD would emphasize the point that it uses “Behavioural Science” to find solutions to organizational problem. This is because the OD process involves organizational members at all stages, namely a) the “front end” (diagnostic stage), b) the design, development and implementation of strategies, c) mentoring and evaluation and feedback.  Naturally, skill is working with people is of the utmost importance.

There are several models for carrying out an OD exercise. Most are very comprehensive. Yet they can be learned fairly easily and thereby become available for use in your organization.

The Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica has launched an “OD Cell” that gives members an opportunity to participate in exploration of:
A)  What is OD                                                           
B)  Its application in Jamaican organization              
C)  Forming network for sharing information and expertise.

You are invited to become an OD enthusiast.

By:  Lloyd Stanley
August 2007

The Value of Team Work

Social Scientists throughout generations have concluded that man is a selfish being, guided mainly by self-interest and the satisfaction of personal needs. Yet he is also defined as a social animal for whom the sense of belongingness is paramount. It is this belongingness need that creates the platform for the development and success of work teams.

Organizations have been trending towards the acceptance of the team concept, as increasingly, managements as well as workers, recognize the value of teamwork and buy into the process of team building.

In his book “The Team Trainer: winning tools and tactics for successful workouts”, William Gorden reminds us that a cake is more than eggs, flour and sugar. It is the combination of the ingredients which make it a cake. This is the idea of synergy - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Similarly, the organization is greater than its separate departments. It is the combined efforts of all the departments and all the people in the departments who work together to achieve common organizational goals. If the emphasis is on collective responsibility, mutual accountability, communication, collaboration in goal attainment and contribution to the organization’s development and success, then that is a team. (William Gorden 1996)

A team has been defined as “a group of two or more individuals who interact with and influence each other. Team members are held together by their interdependence and need for collaboration to achieve common goals.”

Stages of Team Development:
  • FORMING: testing and orientation, a time when members get to know each other and find out what is expected of them.
  • STORMING: individuals take on roles and responsibilities, competition is obvious and interpersonal conflicts are played out.
  • NORMING: There is a sense of cohesion. Roles are established. Consensus forms around objectives. There are common expectations about accomplishment of goals and members interact more efficiently.
  • PERFORMING: Members are more task-oriented. Things shift from establishing and maintaining relationships, to accomplishing objectives. Team members have learnt to coordinate their actions and manage conflicts. In high performance teams, members are highly cooperative, have a high level of trust in each other, are committed to group objectives and identify with the team.
  • DORMING: Periods of inactivity or no-growth are common experiences in the process.
  • ADJOURNING: most work teams eventually end…if several members leave the organization, are reassigned elsewhere, the plant shuts down or if there are lay-offs.

Is your work group really a TEAM? It may be interesting and beneficial to evaluate its degree of TEAMNESS.

  • Management asks for team members’ input
  • Team members have confidence in management
  • Motivation is high
  • Team members have a positive attitude towards the organization and its goals
  • Communication is open and extensive
  • Information flows freely throughout the levels of the organization
  • Decision making is shared
  • Emphasis is on self-control and problem solving
  • Goal setting and performance standards are high but realistic
  • The organization is committed to career development through training and job enlargement
  • There is Unity of Purpose and Collective Responsibility

Well, what is the verdict? Is your work team really a team or is it just a work group?

By: Shona Heron

HRMAJ - Western Chapter
April 2007

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Human Resource Professionals Can Prevent the Need for Outside Consultants

As a consultant, I am often called in to solve a simple problem that most Human Resource professionals could solve for their companies.

It's one I shared in a recent Gleaner column entitled "Why Consultants Need to See Your Watch before They Tell You the Time."  In the article, I shared an assumption I make on every consulting project, that someone already had determined the answer to the prevailing problem. My value-added is to bring problem-solvers and decision makers together in a unique way that solves the issue.

This may seem simple, but often there are political, social and language barriers that stand in the way. While I make a living removing them, this task can also be performed by HR professionals.

But here's the problem. It's the rare HR professional who takes responsibility for crafting the transparent kind of environment that avoids the need for my services. Too often, HR takes a back seat, watching the culture evolve in amazement, if not befuddlement.

Take the example of the greatest work-related culture change in recent times. It's not empowerment, transparency, or leadership... it's the advent of email. In this case, HR was tucked away on the sidelines, the last to learn the difference between "Reply" and "Reply to All."

The fact is, many existing problems in your company already have a technological solution. It's not surprising that the best way to create a transparent environment also requires new technology. Here are some ideas for how a connected culture - so taken for granted to millennials - can be incorporated into your company.

1. Set up transparent online networks
HR professionals are often at the forefront of hosting traditional all-employee meetings. However, they also need to become experts at doing the same thing online, via social networks. Programs like Facebook clone Yammer make this an eventual certainty and the only question is whether HR will provide leadership as it unfolds ... or mere viewership.

2. Create space for open ideas
Giant Q&A networks like Quora and StackExchange allow for in-depth exploration of solutions to pressing problems. They are brilliant platforms that, in the future, will be echoed in-house by similar apps. But there's no need to wait - the capability to have these quality conversations already exists in your company. Just ask someone in IT.

3.  Help problem-solvers meet
For difficult corporate problems, answers are too complex for any single person to solve. Often, several individuals have a piece of the overall puzzle and need to be brought together in the right way. HR can create these meetups using a combination of both online and offline solutions. Add in a dash of blended learning to kick-start the process and an opportunity for purposeful experiential training can result.

HR is uniquely positioned to tackle tough problems by virtue of its soft skills but they aren't enough in today's tech-driven environment. The HR manager who embraces technology and pushes it into the corporation can have a profound impact connecting people, leading the way to solutions rather than just following.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates -

The difference between getting some coaching and having a coach

Last night I pre-recorded an interview with Dr. Sonia Davidson for CaribHR.Radio. She made the point that  human resource professionals need to be role models. The topic happened to be corporate wellness but we went well past the easy stuff like running 5k's and putting in corporate gyms.

Instead, we looked at the need for HR practitioners to get mental health assistance - not after the fact, but proactively. After our conversation a wider thought struck me: having a coach isn't a widely accepted practice in corporate Jamaica.

The assumption in most workplaces is that coaching is a luxury... until it's desperately needed. Then, it's seen as a final effort to help someone who is in "Big Trouble." Possibly, they are just one step from being fired.

At that moment, the expense is seen as a requirement, but the damage has already been done. Performance has dipped, a reputation has been sullied and the person is already dispirited with their resume doing the rounds. Unfortunately, this last-gasp approach is encouraged by HR practitioners. They don't appear to distinguish between an ongoing coaching relationship and casual advice offered by a well-meaning friend.

In 1995 I hired a coach to help me become a better business owner. I had recently started my own training at CoachU, where the trainers emphasized the necessity of having one's own coach. Trusting their advice, I hired an expert and began a relationship that lasted until 2006.

Over the course of the decade, the quality of our conversations shifted dramatically. In the beginning for example, I was late for our first call. She responded quickly by including a paragraph in our agreement: if I were late again, her rate would increase by 50%, then by 100% if it recurred. After the third infraction, I would be fired as her client.

In 11 years I was never late for a single call.

As you can imagine, after working together for so long, she learned all my foibles and the conversations were far more impactful than they were at the start. She could not be outsmarted by the mental tricks I played on friends, family and colleagues where I could evade responsibility or accept sloppy standards.

Furthermore, she was highly trained. Speaking with her was unlike any conversation I ever had with others. Plus, her list of accomplished clients meant that she had a vast experience that novices coaches, or the average manager, simply did not possess. As a result, I owe a lion's share of my professional success to her persistent, continuous help.

You could imagine how these kinds of relationships could be a tool in transforming your company. Perhaps as you look at the aspirants to the executive suite you shake your head... so much raw talent, but so many glaring flaws.

However, the place to start isn't with them... it's with you. Until you have benefited from a long-term coaching relationship it's hard to be an advocate of its value. So take Dr. Davidson's advice and be a role model. Let people see that the HR practitioners in your firm are proactive, receiving the best coaching in the company... not the least.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates -

Why Employees Don't Really Want Cash Incentives

A new study on employee incentives reveals that employees often aren't aware of what's best for them. Case in point: when asked, "Are you motivated by money?", an overwhelming majority respond by saying "Yes."

However, in practice, employees behave differently; more in line with the words of Bob Marley who admonished us to not be the kind of people who "be bought nor sold." Companies who attempt to purchase employee motivation end up buying a bag of trouble.

It turns out that our knee-jerk response in such surveys is just that - a highly conditioned social norm. When offered either a cash or non-cash incentive we give the same answer as everyone else: "Show me the money." However, in practice, we aren't as motivated as we think. Research of New York City cab drivers on rainy afternoons showed that they would rather take time off than keep working, once they hit their target. This was true even though it's the time when they make their most money. In other words, their emotions get in the way of making as much as they can.

It's exactly what happens to commissioned salespeople. They become "income adjusted" according to CultureWorx, a human resources consulting firm. They earn the same amount of money by selling fewer products/services or earning more money by selling the same amount of products/services. By economic standards, this behaviour is irrational. Dr. Ran Kivetz explains that, for the typical person, cash incentives tend to be used to pay bills first, which makes the experience mundane. This makes it an inefficient motivator.

However, employees tell a different tale - incorrectly. In one experiment, a group motivated by a massage reported that they would have preferred the cash equivalent. Unknown to them, their performance was greater than the group incentivized by cash.

The takeaway? Asking employees what motivates them is a perilous business. Their behaviour doesn't match what they say.

In fact, money can be a demotivator - just try to motive someone to complete a task with an inexpensive gift rather than its cash equivalent. People can feel insulted when they believe that you are trying to buy their loyalty with little cash.

Given that risk, it's better for Human Resource practitioners to use the latest research when guiding executives. You may have to explain that the ROI on a $100 incentive is much higher if it's offered in terms of a non-monetary award. It has less of a chance of backfiring, and is more motivating.

Some argue - "But Francis, you don't know our employees!" You may have a point if you aren't paying them a living wage. However, in Jamaica we assume that what motivates a casual worker who is barely making ends meet also applies to a knowledge worker in your company. The research says differently, even if when we don't realize it.

Houlihan, T. (2011). Why cash is a less effective incentive. The Reward Systems Group
Boritz, J., Borthick, A., & Presslee, A. (2012). The Effects of Tangible Versus Cash Rewards in a Sales Tournament: A Field Experiment. Issues in Accounting Education, 27(4).

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates.