Executive Coaching

Does Executive Coaching deliver on the promised results? The answer to that question lies in setting the appropriate expectations at both the organizational and the individual level.  The best coaches in the world cannot affect change with an unwilling participant and/or in an unsupportive environment. But what about a willing participant in a supportive environment?  What is needed in the process to not only affect immediate change, but sustain long lasting change, the kind that can make or breaks careers?

Most executive coaches are, in fact, behavioral coaches. If an executive is displaying behaviors that are in conflict with the organizational values or are simply not in their own best interests as a leader, then a coach versed in behavioral theory may well be an effective solution. Coaching works best with high potential people who are willing to make a concerted effort to change. This effort requires hard and sustained work on the leader’s part.  Most executive coaches will not take assignments that are less than 6 months and many run for up to 18 months with longer check in times.  That’s because change takes awhile before it becomes a habit that is repeatable without having to think about it. The leader has to truly want to change.  There is no magic bullet an executive coach brings that will allow the leader to succeed without putting in the effort.

The organizational environment has to be supportive as well. Organizations are made up of people, all with their own agendas, some noble and others not so much.  It sounds simple enough, but everyone involved in the coaching exercise has to want to person being coached to succeed.  If a senior member of the management team secretly hopes the coach returns after the initial assessment to say that the leader is not coachable, unwilling to participate or that it is some innate character flaw that cannot be addressed through behavioral change, then the likelihood of success is low.  For this reason, it is important for the coach to take the time needed to ask the hard questions and to continue to probe until he/she is satisfied that the coaching exercise is being pursued for the right reasons.

The Benefits of Executive Coaching

Enhanced Productivity

An effective coach can assist the leader in prioritizing multiple initiatives ensuring that the focus remains on those most critical to driving the business forward.  The coach can also serve as another person to hold the leader accountable for deliverables and can push back when excuses are given.

Empowered Decision Making

Executive coaching focuses on what is important and can support the leader in making empowered decisions that they may hesitate to make otherwise. Executive coaching assists in gaining clarity and helps to develop plans to minimize distractions and focus on actions that align with the business mission, vision, value, and goals.

Effective Feedback and Communication

The key to evaluating performance and driving change is truthful feedback, and there can be no better way for you to get quality feedback than by using a coach. Effective communication and collaboration in a business setting are key areas that drive the business outcomes. Good coaches will solicit feedback from 4-6 constituents across the organization to gain a well rounded view of the leaders communication style.

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Emotional intelligence is the “the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.” In other words, your own emotional self-awareness serves as an aid to understanding other people’s emotions; furthermore, you respond with empathy to their needs. You can see why emotional intelligence is so crucial to leadership positions. A coach can point out areas where they think leaders are misreading or ignoring situations calling out for EQ.  

In closing, executive coaching can be extremely useful in situations where the leader and the organization are willing, honest  and hopeful participants in the process.

Organizational Culture

sherrie-suski-cultureWelcome to 2019! It’s hard to know where to begin on your journey toward improving organizational culture if you don’t know where you are currently.  There are a number of different ways to measure culture……… satisfaction surveys, pulse surveys, MBWA, but it is sometimes helpful to have a framework in which to fit your feedback results.  Do you know what your end goal looks like and the steps needed to get from here…. to there?

The journey toward assessing and improving your organizational culture can be roughly broken down into the below five stages.

Functional

Learning and talent are often separate processes. Both are regarded as necessary for HR operations, but they are distinct from how business is done. Most employees do not regard the culture as engaging. Culture is frequently hierarchical. HR may conduct an engagement survey periodically but the inertia behind addressing some of the engagement challenges is low.

Cross- functional

Executive support for learning and talent is more evident but the culture is still principally characterized as a top/down command and control philosophy. The organizational structure is fairly hierarchical, but employees see opportunity for career advancement and mobility. Senior leaders are not purposefully driving efforts to enhance the culture or the level of execution and engagement among employees.

Building

Learning and talent begin to converge based on an awakening of how they can be leveraged to achieve better business outcomes. It is frequently at this stage that the organization becomes focused on quarterly or annual goals.  Employees recognize a shift toward more people-centric strategies as executives support more initiatives that strengthen the culture. Key to success in this phase is the degree of middle management support. Information flow becomes more organic.

Enhancing

An inspired, growth-minded organization is recognized as a true learning culture with a people-first philosophy. The organization is innovating and responds quickly to market changes, often seizing first-mover advantage and outstanding talent. Execution and engagement studies are regularly conducted to measure the tempo of the employee culture and there is wide-spread support for adjusting tactics when signs of engagement begin to drop.  Goals and a goal-based philosophy are adopted across the organization and embedded into the culture.

Optimized

A self-developing ecosystem drives change at individual and organizational levels. Collaboration and transparency in career and development abound. Employee ideas are valued and encouraged regardless of level. The organization is agile and consistently at the front of its field. The people culture is at the heart of the organizational philosophy. As such, multiple measures of employee engagement are used and there may be a dedicated function aligned to the candidate and employee experience. Highly sought after employer.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  The closer you can get, the better your organization will be from both an employee and investor perspective!

Wellness Programs

 

Bring up the word Wellness and what immediately jumps to mind is usually ways to improve the physical health of the workforce.  However, true wellness covers a broader spectrum and includes, not only physical, but emotional and financial wellness as well. Especially at this time of year when the urge to overspend is likely, a targeted approach towards financial wellness makes all the sense.  Similar to overeating and alter regretting it, over spending comes with its own regret and last log after the start of the new year and take much longer to rectify than losing a few pounds.  

The most effective Financial Wellness programs, however, are not a one size fits all.  A new study by Prudential Financial, Inc. examined differences in the financial needs and attitudes of various underserved groups in the workplace and the income inequality that affects each set. The 3,000 U.S. respondents included women, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Among key findings in the survey, African Americans across all income levels were more likely than the population at large to prioritize helping others financially, including caring for parents or other family members, paying their children’s college tuition, leaving an inheritance to their heirs, and giving to charity. Women in the survey earned an average annual income of $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men. Half of women said they were the primary breadwinner in their household. Almost 40% of caregivers don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire, compared to just 25% of non-caregivers, and caregivers were more likely to take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from their 401(k) plans.

In a statement, Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, said a person’s path to financial wellness is deeply personal. “While there are common experiences that tie us all together, there are also distinct factors that are unique to our individual journeys that impact the ultimate destination,” she said. “These factors need to be clearly understood for true progress to be made.” Reddy recommended that employers listen to the people in each community to understand their needs.

This ties in nicely with the Workforce of One approach that I am so an advocate of.  Programs created for the “average” employee are serving no one, because no one is the “average” employee.  Just like the Target page that pops up with different recommendations depending on who is logging in, we need to design our HR programs to ensure that we are meeting the needs of individuals.

Corporate Wellness Programs

 

There is some truth to the saying that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   And more employers are taking a holistic approach to their employees’ health and well being.  Not only is it good for the employees, it’s good for the company’s bottom line! To effectively integrate an approach toward health and wellness into the workplace, though, requires planning, education and a platform.  Enter the new breed of Wellness portals. Wellness portals are a critical piece of a total wellness solution.

Wellness portals are online platforms designed with responsive design in mind so that they can be accessed from any device at any time.  Wellness Portals offer a place for every member of your workforce to access secure, personal information having to do with their particular paths toward wellness. They will be able to track their progress in a wide variety of different program activities, set goals for themselves, and see these goals achieved which creates motivation to set new goals.

The Best Wellness Platforms Should Be Able To:

  1. Conduct a confidential Personal Health Assessment
    2. Educate (videos, books, webinars, biometric results)
    3. Track program participation and activity
    4. Make engagement easy with a mobile app
    5. Track and administer incentives and rewards
    6. Demonstrate how to be healthy
    7. Provide the tools needed to be healthy
    8. Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges
    9. Encourage social support
    10. Create a health promoting culture

If you choose, Biometric screening can be integrated with your wellness portal so that the results of any screenings your employees have done can be accessed through their own portal and they can keep track of screenings year over year to track progress.  

Although a wellness portal is a fantastic, some employers believe that having an employee wellness portal is the same as having a wellness program. They mistakenly assume that all their company needs to improve employee health and reduce health care costs is get their employees to go online. A wellness portal is not a wellness program. It’s a computer software program that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process. They have all of the features and benefits that come from the computer coding and programming and are tools to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle!

Thankfulness

At this time of year many of have much to be thankful for, family, friends, our health, our homes.  It’s a shame that high on that list for many is not our life’s work.  I remember sitting around a Thanksgiving table years ago with our extended family on both sides going around the table talking about what we were thankful for and when it was my turn, one of the things I mentioned was my work.  This was met with disdain by one of the people around the table.  How ridiculous that I would name my job as one of the things that I was grateful for in my life.

How sad for that person that their job, their life’s work, their chosen profession was not one of the things that they could take pride in and be grateful for.  There are many benefits of work:

Fosters Creativity and Learning

Creativity thrives when people have an opportunity to work together. Brainstorming ideas prevents stale viewpoints that often come out too little interaction.

What you have learned from your individual experiences is entirely different from your coworkers. Thus, work maximizes shared knowledge and you learn new skills you can use for the rest of your life/career.

Builds Trust

Relying on other people builds trust and working establishes strong relationships. Despite occasional disagreements, an effective workforce enjoys working together and shares a strong bond. When you put your trust, you are establishing the foundation of a relationship that can endure minor conflicts.

Trusting your teammates also provides a feeling of safety that allows ideas to emerge. It helps employees open up and encourage each other.

Teaches Conflict Resolution Skills

Workplace rewards encourage employees to feel proud of their contributions. Tackling obstacles and creating notable work makes team members feel fulfilled. Working toward achieving company goals allows employees to feel connected to the company. This builds loyalty, leading to a higher level of job satisfaction among employees.

Encourages Healthy Risk Taking

Working with co-workers allows team members to take more risks, as they have the support of the entire group to fall back on in case of failure. Conversely, sharing success as a team is a bonding experience. Once a team succeeds together, their brainstorming sessions will produce revolutionary ideas without hesitation. In many cases, the riskiest idea turns out to be the best idea. Teamwork allows employees the freedom to think outside the box.

The benefits of work are many that have nothing to do with the economic benefits.  The benefits of work are a matter of what one does while working, the social relations one enjoys, and the of learning one avails themselves.

The Decision Process versus the Outcome

Consciously or unconsciously, we all tend to associate good decision-making processes with good outcomes and bad decision-making processes with bad outcomes.  This philosophy allows us to feel in control. All we need to do is to ensure that we hone our decision-making skills and we can nearly guarantee a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t always the case.  When we uncouple the decision from the outcome, we know that we say it’s a bummer or call it unfair when what we consider a good decision process, results in a bad outcome and good luck when a bad decision process results in a good outcome.  

“Don’t be so hard on yourself when things go badly and don’t be so proud of yourself when they go well.” I think this is one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow. Chance, timing and place are important contributors to any outcome.

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Success is what is called a lagging indicator. We can only report on it after it has happened.  Decision Processes, on the other hand, are leading indicators of success. Well-honed Decision Processes establish some degree of repeatability in a world where chance roams freely.  So, spend your time focusing on the quality of your decision processes and not your outcomes.

Your Context Determines Your Results

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Imagine for a moment that two people are attending the same event.  One walks into the room with the excitement of meeting new people and networking.  She is excited about what may unfold; the other, feeling insecure, dreads the event.  She fears it will be awkward and that small talk will not come easily. Strangely enough, that is exactly what happens.  The first person has a fabulous time, meets dozens of new people, is memorable and leaves the event feeling exhilarated. The 2nd person, chooses to arrive late and leave early, to spend as little time as possible in an uncomfortable environment.  Oddly, each person experiences the exact same event differently, but exactly as their initial context would have predicted.  Why is that?

Context

It is because our context sets off a whole chain of predictable events.  Our context is what we believe about something, it is our internal speak, our expectations that we set about something or someone.  The funny thing about context is that it works in a very predictable way to create results.

Assessment

When we assess a situation, we look at it form our particular point of context.  What we see and hear, our assessment, depends on our context.  In our example, the first person walks in and sees everyone smiling and laughing and is excited to join the conversation.  The second person walks in and assesses the situation whereby everyone already has a group and she is not a part of it. She doesn’t know what they are talking about and believes she will not fit in.

Emotions

The emotions are created based on our assessment of a situation.  The first woman feels emotions related to excitement, energy, enthusiasm and, perhaps, most importantly, belonging.  The second woman feels emotions related to insecurity, fear, loneliness and lack of belonging. Both set of emotions have been reinforced by their assessment of the situation.

Behaviors

Behaviors require action.  However, the actions we choose are a direct reflection on the context, behaviors and emotions that preceded them.  One woman spends time moving from group to group, contributing to each conversation.  The other woman joins one group, quietly listens, does not feel comfortable contributing and decides to escape the uncomfortableness and leaves the event early.

Results and outcomes

Last in the chain of events comes results.  Results are what we make happen or allow to happen to us- the choice is ours.  In both cases, the initial context has been reaffirmed. The first woman is likely to go to another event- she perceives that everyone liked her and she made new contacts.  The second woman confirmed that these types of events are uncomfortable, that groups form quickly, and she does not possess the social skills to join in.

Think, for a moment, about the recent results in your life and the context you have that precedes them.  Could the results have been changed if your context had been different? Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Diversity is not just the range of human differences, but acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Diversity and Inclusion programs are developed in the workplace to ensure that people of all types are included at all levels of the organization and can draw on each other’s strengths and experiences.

The world’s increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. People no longer live and work in an insular environment; they are now part of a worldwide economy competing within a global framework. For this reason, organizations need to become more diversified to remain competitive. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity is an important issue for management.

Managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and evolving. Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge, so managerial skills must adapt to accommodate a multicultural work environment.

Effective managers are aware that certain skills are necessary for creating a successful, thriving, diverse workforce.

First, managers must understand discrimination and its consequences.

Before we can truly embrace a diverse workforce, managers must understand that discrimination hurts us all, not just the person who is of a different ethnicity, but those who have to witness it.  It creates a divide in the workplace and is counter to the desire to collaborate.

Second, managers must recognize their own cultural biases and prejudices.

Each individual is unique and does not represent or speak for a particular group. When creating a successful diverse workforce, an effective manager should focus on personal awareness. Both managers and employees need to be aware of their personal biases. Therefore, organizations need to develop, implement, and maintain ongoing training because a one-day session of training will not change people’s behaviors.

Finally, managers must be willing to change the organization if necessary.

Organizations need to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace to be successful in the future. When dealing with diversity, managers must promote a safe place for associates to communicate. Social gatherings and business meetings, where every member must listen and have the chance to speak, are good ways to create dialogues. Managers should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide employees access to information and opportunities. Also, employees should never be denied necessary, constructive, critical feedback for learning about mistakes and successes, due to concerns about a person’s differences.

Managing diversity is about more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Is it about embracing each of our unique differences.

Performance Management is not an Annual Exercise

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There is a dwindling focus on the traditional annual performance appraisal and a there is a growing trend toward developing feedback loops that give continuous, real time feedback to employees. According to the 2018 State of Continuous Performance Management Survey,  conversations about aligning business goals, check-ins on progress and periodic feedback should be used to manage and continuously motivate employee performance.

HR respondents in the study identified their top three goals for their performance management program as creating and maintaining feedback and coaching cultures, retaining high performing talent and training the workforce on needed skills. To better manage and motivate workers, Betterworks said, employers can help employees find purpose and direction among change, connect employee contributions to the organization’s larger goals and identify and reward top performers.

In a Wakefield Research study, more than 60% of employees said they feel the traditional performance review is outdated, and nearly all respondents said they prefer that managers address performance issues and development opportunities in real-time. Frequent, informal assessments allow workers to improve or correct their performance with immediacy.

Ideally, having a robust performance management platform can assist in giving and receiving real time feedback, create an environment where information is sought out and shared, build engagement and detail plans for talent learning opportunities and enhancements.  Employees want to know not only how their past performance has been, but the plans for their future as well. Consider the below:

  • More than 90% of 18 to 34-year-old workers say a clear succession plan would boost their level of engagement
  • 94% of employers report that having a succession plan positively impacts the entire workforce.
  • 32% of people say they’d quit if there was no room to learn, grow, or advance at their job.
  • Succession programs have been shown to have a positive impact on employee retention. By preparing high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organization, and investing in their development, you demonstrate an organizational commitment to them that will most often be reciprocated.
  • Companies with sound succession plans are correlated with better long-term performance.

Succession Planning or Talent planning, which refers developing plans for the whole organization, are a primary outcome of a solid, on-going Performance Management approach that many companies are moving toward today. It is a win-win scenario for both employees and employers alike!

 

Celebrating Labor

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To many Americans, Labor Day is the last day of a fun-filled three-day weekend that marks the official end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s a day spent with family and friends having backyard barbecues, pool time and end-of-summer short getaways.

But there’s an interesting history behind the national holiday, one that people rarely discuss at the backyard BBQ, and it has played an important role in how people live and work today.

During the late 19th century, many American workers had to endure labor intensive 12-hour workdays, often with poor pay and unsafe working environments. Children were also put to work, sometimes as young as six to seven years old. Children, but also adults, felt hopeless in many instances and did not believe that they had a choice. Over the years, trade and labor movements worked to institute reforms in the working hours and conditions.

On September 5, 1882, between 10,000 and 20,000 people marched down the streets of New York City, carrying flags, badges and musical instruments, according to the DOL. Even more people joined at the giant picnic that marked the end.

Beginning in 1885, individual states began considering legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday, DOL said. By 1894, 31 states had made it law. On June 28, 1884, Congress made the first Monday in September a legal, national holiday known as Labor Day.

We feel like we have come a very long way since 1882, 136 years in our history of the United States has elapsed.  Certainly, we have made great strides in abolishing child labor. We far better understand the implications of a good education.  We have made strides as well in improving the physical working conditions. Many of us reading this are not working in hard labor jobs, we feel safe, we are not working in sweatshops.  We sit in air-conditioned offices and toil away at our desks.

Have we made strides though in celebrating labor?  To celebrate something means that you enjoy it, look forward to it, get satisfaction from it.  We celebrate Birthdays and weddings and anniversaries, the events and their remembrances that have significance to us in a positive way.  And yet, how many people do you know who don’t want to retire, whose work provides real meaning in their lives, who have the opportunity to create and to offer the best of themselves to others each and every day, who enjoy getting up in the morning and look forward to what the day holds?  Sadly, I know very few. The vast majority are starting countdowns to retirement that may last years or even decades longer than they planned. Instead of living the life of their dreams through what they can contribute at work, they are putting that life on hold for a future that may or may not exist.  

We owe it to ourselves, now that we do have a choice, and those that we work with to take the responsibility to bring our best selves to work and to pursue it with meaning.  To be proud of the difference we make and the ways in which we contribute. If we can’t do that, we owe it to ourselves to be brave enough to do something different. I think that would be the best way to celebrate labor.