We’ve known for a while that an increase in remote work was coming, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Many workers are eager to return to offices (some have already), and many more want to continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Gallup found that 2/3 of the people who have been working remotely due to the pandemic would like to continue doing so.
The famous mountain climber, Phil Powers, said it best during an interview on NPR’s "This I Believe” segment: “Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.”
As a best practice, Powers uses a concept taught to him by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt. Penzoldt recommended a ‘rest’ (i.e., a slight pause) with each climbing step taken. It allows a climber to move swiftly, yet still find a brief pause in every step. The cadence of this sequence creates, in the end, a higher degree of forward-movement with what seems like less effort.
Most leaders dive into leadership without a second thought. I love the optimism that comes when people find themselves suddenly leading people (vs. tasks and initiatives, they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see the impact their leadership approach has on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest step. They don’t give themselves quick moments of pause that allow for slowing just enough to gain the energy to keep moving forward.
Couple this lack of ‘pause’ with how fast everything moves in today’s world. Every motion, every thought, every piece of information we gain in a 24/7 world makes the concept of ‘pause’ seem ridiculous. It can even make us feel unworthy, lost, and unproductive and some senior leaders aren't wired to slow down to speed up. Senior leaders learning to skill to stop to think and focus on long term strategy is a huge part of their leadership development. Executive coaching, and the coaching relationship, is a good way to hold yourself accountable to developing these new habits.
After recently reviewing thousand of Annual Plans and Quarterly Plans, I can say without a doubt that improving employee engagement seems to be top of mind for everyone this year. How on earth do you keep today's dynamic and diverse employees happy, engaged and productive? It's the million dollar question that we ask ourselves year after year.
According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147%. Gallup also concluded that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. So, how do you know if your company is on the right side of those statistics? You need to start measuring employee engagement KPIs this quarter so that you can keep your A Players and reduce employee turnover. This is not just a function for the human resources department, the best team managers measure employee satisfaction KPIs on their teams.
From a leadership perspective, there’s a real thirst for increasing leadership accountability. Executives have recently asked me various questions that linger over the concept of building team accountability to help them achieve their strategic plans while creating high performing teams:
“How do I build accountability in teams?”
"How do I increase accountability in leadership?"
“What else can I do to get people to do what we need them to do?”
“How can I hold a team member to be held accountable and still be seen as a good leader?”
"How do I balance leadership accountability and personal accountability when building a team?"
"Creating a culture of accountability is hard, how do I provide constructive feedback without being the bad guy?"
Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize. It goes beyond the responsibility for the outcomes, which is obviously important, but effective leaders know that they need a culture of accountability in their teams that provide the inputs needed to achieve the expected team performance. Holding people accountable is one of the most important things that a successful leader does, but it is also one of the hardest.
Employee engagement for remote workers is a huge topic in the market today, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) limiting travel and forcing a large part of the working population to work from home that don't typically do so, throwing their work life balance into chaos. It is difficult enough to engage employees that are in the same office as you, let alone engaging employees virtually. In today’s hectic and fast-paced work environment, organizations need to do everything they can do to create an engaging workplace that helps find, attract and develop A-players no matter where they are located.
“Time is an inelastic resource. No matter how high the demand, we cannot rent, hire or buy more of it.”
A Quick Note: This is a lengthy blog, but if you read it you’ll already be spending your time in an area where you should be spending your time (as you’ll see toward the end). So sit back, give yourself the gift of time, and enjoy the read.
A primary focus of my job is to help middle market CEOs and their Executive Officers increase their efficiency while also (and more importantly) increasing their effectiveness. Most all CEOs I work with tend to agree that there’s never enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done. As their companies grow and hit various ceilings of complexity, CEOs find that they, too, hit their own ceilings of complexity. This realization is all-consuming and inundating, with the end result being a string of behaviors that play out to result in focusing on what’s in front of them—on what they perceive deserves their time and attention at that moment in time (and many times, this intense focus also leads to long—very long—work hours). Interestingly, Harvard Business Review researchers found that the most effective leaders aren't the ones who constantly work a ton of hours each week, but rather the ones who are the most attentive and focused while at work. The intent of most all CEOs is to be attentive and focused, yet the hunger to simply work long hours so they can do more can be a massive beast that slowly devours the most valuable resource CEOs have: Time.
If you believe the adage, ‘time is money,’ then you’re saying that the concept of time (and the elapse of that time) costs you and your company money. Therefore, maximizing that time and using it in the right way matters. Most executives don’t need to work on their literal area of business expertise (although continuous learning is important), but what many fail to recognize is that leadership, too, is a skill. The minute you became a leader, everything shifted. At that moment, you didn’t just have to do the tasks you’ve always done; now you had to also lead people to do what they do best, every single day.
What is a skip-level meeting?
As defined in an article by Jared Lewis, "In a skip-level meeting, upper-level management bypasses mid-level management to talk directly to non-managerial employees. Although there's not typically a special position known as a 'skip-level manager,' senior managers conducting these types of meetings are considered skip-level managers." The manager meets with employees to try to better understand their team members, build trust in the organization and get a better sense of the work environment challenges facing your front line employees. Skip level meetings for employees are just as important as they are for managers, and both should be well prepared prior to the "skip level meeting." Done properly, the skip level meeting is an effective tool to improve communications across your organization.
In working with middle market CEOs and their employees and they often wonder about their employee productivity and professional development. I often find that they are overlooking one of the biggest components of productivity, are your employees engaged or are they motivated? The team members may be motivated by a bonus and they will be productive, but if a team member is also engaged with their work - and its purpose - they are almost a third more productive. Let's talk about employee motivation and engagement, as they aren't the same thing.
As an employer, you want your workforce to be both engaged and motivated. With employee engagement at around 15% worldwide and 34% in the United States according to Gallup, it is important to know the difference between employee engagement and motivation. Engaged employees will decrease your employee turnover rate and you'll have much happier and longer tenured employees! This reduces training and recruiting costs to help the bottom line over the long term
For many, our current environment is more distracting than any other time in our work lives. With a pandemic raging, a U.S. election looming, and economic uncertainty lurking, there are lots of competing priorities for your employees’ time and attention. If your employees are working remotely, they may be working in uncomfortable spaces without the right equipment, navigating remote learning challenges with children, or figuring out shared schedules with partners or roommates. Even if your team is back in the office, they are likely distracted by new protocols for social distancing and mask wearing, worrying about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones, concerned about being furloughed or a myriad of other distractions.