Archive for June, 2010

Surprising Findings about High Performing Employees

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

If retaining high performers is important to your organization, you might want to pay attention to a recent study that examined key variables that influence such employees’ decisions about whether to stay with the organization or leave. One result in particular might surprise you – and I don’t mean that in a good way.

The study, written by Dr. A. Nyberg and published in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, examined how employees’ decisions about whether to voluntarily leave the organization were influenced by performance, pay growth, pay for performance, promotions, labor market conditions, and job satisfaction. In particular, he compared and contrasted decisions of higher performers in the workplace and lower performers.

Among other findings, the data indicate that higher performers were found to leave their organization voluntarily even when the relevant unemployment rate was relatively high. In other words, internal factors such as pay growth over time are more salient to high performers than external labor market conditions. The good news for employers is that these internal factors are somewhat controllable.

For information about the study’s other findings and to learn what you can do to retain high performers, I invite you to read my article What You Don’t Know about Retaining High Performers Can Hurt You. And let me know what you think!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Decision-making Secrets: It’s the Process that Counts

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Do you wonder why people question some decisions but not others? Were you ever surprised to learn that others were not enamored of a decision that you made? In my experience, there are two primary reasons why decision-making goes wrong; both have to do with the process rather than the outcome. That is, either the process is misunderstood, or it is perceived as unfair. Fortunately, there are easy preventive measures you can take to avoid both these scenarios.

Decision-making secret #1: Tell others up front HOW the decision will be made

Time and again, I have seen managers run into trouble over decisions they make, not because of the decisions themselves, but because of misaligned expectations about HOW the decisions would be made. Here’s a common scenario: a manager asks employees for feedback about a workplace decision. Employees provide the information, only to learn later that the manager’s decision was contrary to their advice. They are unhappy, feeling the manager has wasted their time and disrespected their expertise, while the manager is bewildered by their reaction.

This is a classic case of not clarifying and aligning expectations up front. No doubt the employees assumed that the manager would take their advice, while the manager’s plan was to listen, then make the decision she believed to be best.

The secret in this case is to state clearly in advance how the decision will be made. Here are some examples of what I mean:

• Manager makes the decision on her own without soliciting employees’ input.
• Manager solicits employees’ input, considers the feedback, and makes the decision based on what she believes will result in the best outcome.
• Manager solicits employees’ input; the decision is based on consensus.
• Manager has employees make the decision.

None of these examples is right or wrong per se; in fact, one person may use all of these alternatives at different points in time. The best choice depends on factors such as the situation at hand and the impact the decision will have. For example, in times of emergency, the manager is not likely to ask for employee input. The point is that the employees’ expectations about how the decision will be made must match those of the manager.

Decision-making secret #2: Ensure the decision-making process is fair

One of the best kept secrets in the workplace is the power of procedural fairness, a topic on which I have written extensively. Briefly, research and experience tell us that even when people do not like or agree with a decision, they will accept it IF they believe the rules by which the decision was made were fair. What this means is that the decision-making process must have these characteristics:

• Be free of bias
• Be transparent
• Allow for meaningful input from stakeholders
• Identify clear decision criteria (with objective standards if possible)
• Be communicated in advance to everyone involved
• Follow the stated criteria
• Justify clearly any exceptions to the rules

The bad news is that managers often make decisions that are unpopular because of situations over which they have little or no control (e.g., no pay increases due to poor economic conditions). The good news is that leaders always have control over the processes by which they make those decisions. The best news is that when employees perceive the process as fair, they will accept the decisions.

Now that you know the “secrets” of effective decision-making, give them a try! And let us know how they work for you.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Create a Personal Rewards/Recognition Program

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Do you reward yourself on a regular basis? If not, why not? If you do, give yourself a pat on the back – or whatever form of recognition works well for you! Paradoxically, perhaps, most people work best when they take the time to care for themselves. This includes rewarding or recognizing themselves on a regular basis. Yet to many people, self-care is a foreign concept. Recently I wrote an article that lists and describes six suggestions for developing a personal rewards/recognition program. Here are shorter versions of three of these ideas:

1. Identify the types of rewards and recognition that you value.

The first step in creating an effective reward/recognition system for yourself is being clear on what you want and need. This may require some outside-the-box thinking! Consider things that are meaningful to you and require little or no cost, such as taking a walk in nature, reading a good book, getting together with friends, or simply relaxing.

2. Experience the power of recognition.

Are you one of the many individuals who fail to give themselves credit for their achievements, or who refuse to accept recognition from others? If so, I have some advice for you: stop it! Instead, start listening carefully to what attributes or accomplishments others praise you for, and take ownership of the things they say. Allow yourself to acknowledge who you are and what you have done. Ask close friends or family members to identify some of your best characteristics or achievements, and reflect on the positive impact they have on others. Do not wait until you have finished a task or project to reward or recognize yourself; making progress is worthy of recognition as well. Incorporate meaningful forms of reward and recognition liberally into each day.

3. Connect rewards with performance that you can control or influence.

Few things are more de-motivating to people than being offered rewards for achieving outcomes over which they have little or no control. So why do they do it to themselves? Those who engage in this type of behavior are wreaking havoc on themselves and diminishing the quality of their lives. Instead, make sure that the personal goals you set for yourself are achievable. Break medium- or long-term goals into shorter pieces and celebrate your progress as you move along the path to completion.

For additional details about these ideas or to read about the remaining suggestions, I invite you to take a look at the article How to Optimize Your Personal Rewards/Recognition ROI. Then let me know your favorite way to recognize your achievements.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

What Training for a Marathon Can Teach Us about Business

Friday, June 25th, 2010

As I announced on this blog last month, I am training with Team in Training to walk the Nike Women’s marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This will be my eighth marathon with Team in Training, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about the parallels between training for a marathon and optimizing business results. In fact, while I was training for my last marathon in 2008, I wrote an article that listed 11 business lessons. Since that time, I’ve come up with two more lessons that have a huge impact on organizational success:

1. The importance of having a compelling value proposition

Team in Training’s motto, or value proposition, is “Saving lives, one mile at a time.” Wow! From a fundraising perspective, this statement provides a compelling reason for people to donate, whether or not they have had personal experience with a blood-related cancer (e.g., leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, Hodgkins’ lymphoma). Who wouldn’t want to support such a noble cause? From a participant’s perspective, this statement provides the inspiration to join the cause and the motivation to continue as the training miles increase, and it is the reason you dig deep down to find the internal strength you didn’t know you had to grind out 26.2 miles and cross the finish line. What actions does your organization’s value proposition inspire?

2. The impact of sharing results

Whether people are considering donating to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or signing up to train for a marathon, they want some assurance that their participation will make a difference. There are two ways that I help others understand the impact of their support. First, I share some compelling data. For example, thanks in large part to the Society’s research efforts, the survival rate of the most common form of childhood leukemia has skyrocketed from about 6% in the 1960s to over 90% today. Second, I put faces to these statistics by telling the stories of some of the people I have been honored to meet during my 16 seasons with Team in Training. Those stories relate how we celebrate the successes of those in remission, encourage and support those who are going through treatment, and renew our resolve to conquer the scourge of cancer to honor those who have lost their battles. What stories does your organization tell to demonstrate the value it provides?

If you would like to support my efforts to “Save lives, one mile at a time,” you may make a tax-free donation on my Team in Training web site. And watch for my progress throughout the season!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.