Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honesty or Negativity - It's all a matter of perspective

Recently I was engaged in a discussion in an online workgroup focused on people in the workplace. Someone posted a question concerning why people seemed to be so negative about their jobs and employers. There were several thoughtful comments posted on this topic from people with varying backgrounds and perspectives. Then I saw a response that went like this.

“You can’t be honest in the workplace or it is perceived as negativity. Anytime I make an honest comment or provide honest feedback I’m told that I’m being negative. Sometimes I even try to provide positive comments, but I’m still told they are negative. So I no longer try. I just keep my mouth shut.”

I felt compelled to respond to this person and composed the following response:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for your thoughts on this important topic. We have a very diverse group of people responding here and many comments give me pause for thought. In the work that I do I often find people who present arguments similar to yours. If you don’t object, I’d like to provide you with some honest feedback as well.

Here it is:

What a load of hooeey! Are you really so simple minded that you are unable to discern the difference between honest feedback and negative feedback?

The difference between honest feedback and negative feedback is not a difficult concept to understand. Honest feedback involves truth presented in a way the feedback can be used to improve an idea or performance. Negative feedback also involves truth, but is presented in a way to stifle further discussion and make the person feel that they themselves are not valuable. Most people get this intuitively, but that certainly is not true for you.

Reading through my comments it occurs to me that you might be offended by my views. That’s too bad because I’m just being honest with you. Honesty after all, is what we are really after, isn’t it?



I went to the site to post my comments but found that the original poster had removed them. That’s too bad, because I thought there was a valuable lesson here. Of course, I also wondered if he would have grasped the sarcasm in my reply as I provided him with negative feedback disguised as “honesty.” At ECI Learning Systems the work we do every day involves conflict, often caused by miscommunication. Sometimes the problem comes from the top leaders and sometimes it comes from the team members themselves. In either event, a person confuses “honest feedback” with rude, arrogant, and even condescending comments that deflate the individual and the team. Obviously my comments to Bob were extreme. And they were intended that way. But many individuals present thoughtless, negative feedback to others under the guise of “honesty” or “just telling it like it is.”

My guess is that you know someone who does that routinely and either doesn’t realize it, or doesn’t realize the impact these comments have on the individual or the team. If so, it’s time to help them see themselves as others see them. It’s probably not something that you want to do on your own, but it is something that definitely needs to be done.

I hope that you found this posting helpful. If so, please share it with others who might benefit as well.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Experience the Power of Fusion™ from ECI Learning Systems

ECI Co-founder, Dave Meyer, explains the power of the Fusion™ Program from ECI Learning Systems.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who has the talent?

One of the most difficult, but rewarding, aspects of being a leader lies in the identification and utilization of the talent in the organization. Identifying and utilizing the talent in an organization can be a key separator between a middling organization and a strong one. While some organizations work to identify and cultivate talent, others ignore talent entirely to focus on the development of skills.

Let’s spend a minute differentiating talents and skills. Talent refers to the natural aptitudes and abilities of an individual, while skill is a capability that has been developed through practice. Therefore, talent often refers to a broad view of a person’s abilities (he is a talented musician), while skill is more focused on a specific competency (he is a skilled pianist). This confusion runs rampant in our business world today as we find ourselves looking for the best possible people, but not really knowing what we are looking for. Too often we hire people based on a skill (i.e. how well they use Microsoft Excel) versus a talent (how well they are able to view seemingly random information and put it into a meaningful perspective).

Hiring for skill is easier and more expedient than hiring for talent because the questions are more straightforward. You can easily ask someone how long they have been using Microsoft Excel and combine that response with a few questions on specific features of Excel and have a pretty good idea of their skill level. Identifying a talent can be a lot more difficult, but much more useful to you over the long run. After all, what good is skill in using Excel if the person doesn’t inherently understand what data will be important or how it will be used?

Skills tend to be localized and short term focused, while talents are broader and bring more long term value.

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." – Henry Van Dyke

As a true leader your job is not to hire skilled people. Instead, your job is to hire talented people and then fully utilize the talents of every person you hire to build a value oriented organization. Instead of hiring for skills to fill a specific opening, think in terms of hiring talent that will open brand new doors with new possibilities. Instead of looking for someone with a specific knowledge set, look for someone who views a broader picture with new potential.

Start by looking at your current organization. Are you utilizing the talents of each person in the organization, or have you forced some round pegs into square holes, trying desperately to create a uniform organization? Just like two snowflakes are similar but unique, so it is with your people. When you learn to identify and utilize the unique talent of each person in your organization you will have taken a huge step in creating a work environment where every member of your team loves to come to work and strives to do their very best.

If you enjoyed this article I encourage you to forward it to your friends and co-workers.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 Things Every Leader Should Know About Employee Expectations

One of the most challenging concepts for most leaders to understand is that employees all have different things they want and expect from their jobs. The natural tendency is to assume that everyone wants what we want; an opportunity to excel, be creative, take risks, and lead an organization. The truth is that people all expect very different things from their jobs and have different values. I’m sure that you have seen bright, talented people join an organization, only to have them fail because they didn’t fit in. This is often caused by a mismatch between what they value in a job and what their boss or company expects from them.

Below are 10 key areas that can help define what a particular employee wants and values in their job. Take note that, while there is no right or wrong viewpoint as to what an employee should expect, there may be a mismatch between an employee's expectations and what your company is offering to, and expecting from, their employees.

Look over the list below and see what you value. Then look at what your company values to see if they are in synch. If they are, enjoying your job is much easier. If they are not, you likely struggle to go to work each day.

Here’s the list:

1. Autonomy - Does this employee want the freedom to make decisions about how to do their job? Do they want to work in an environment where they have a lot of input into what their work goals are and how those goals can be met? Or do they prefer an environment where they can just look at the procedures that exist and follow them to the letter? Will a substantial amount of rules and regulations stifle their creativity or make them feel safe and secure?

2. Work/Life Balance – Does this employee place substantial emphasis on their personal time outside of the office? Or is this employee looking to climb the career ladder by sacrificing their personal time for more money, more prestige, or a bigger office? Will the newest challenge you have laid out for them motivate them to new heights or will it send them scurrying to the job boards, anxious to find a job that will allow them to work strictly 9 to 5?

3. Career and Job Growth - What kind of career goals does this employee have? Are they looking for ever-increasing responsibilities with the promise of ongoing promotions through management to “Executive Row”? Or do they want the kind of job where they can go to work each day and not face the pressure to excel? Are they content with what they are doing or are they looking for that next step?

4. Cultural and Social Diversity – Is it important to this employee to work with a variety of people with different cultural and social backgrounds? Do they value a wide range of diverse ideas and thoughts? Or do they prefer a safer environment where everyone looks, acts, and believes much the way they do? Will differing viewpoints lead to creativity or conflict?

5. Social and Physical Environment - Is this employee looking for a work environment where they can make friends, personalize their workspace, and enjoy the view from the office? Or would this employee prefer to work alone, viewing their workspace as a place where work is done, separate from any personal thoughts or ideas? Is the job the job, regardless of their physical surroundings?

6. Creative Expression - Does the employee value a place where their creativity and ability to be themselves is encouraged and rewarded? Does the employee prefer to just blend in with their co-workers, following the rules, and limiting their need to change things in the organization?

7. Recognition – Does the employee value public recognition of their work and acknowledgement for their achievements? Or do they prefer not to stand out from the crowd? Will a public acknowledgement of achievement fuel this employee to new heights? Or would they prefer a more personal and thoughtful, private “thank you” for their efforts?

8. Stability - How important is job security and stability to this employee? Would they prefer that their job and work environment be steady and unchanging? Or does this employee value their personal freedom and welcome the challenges and opportunities of new roles?

9. Job Structure – Does this employee require clear instructions on what to do, how to do it, and when it should be done? Or would they prefer a job where the outcome is defined, but the method to get there is not? Do they prefer to be measured on how well they do each step in their job process? Or strictly be measured based on the finished results?

10. Teamwork – Does this employee value a collaborative work environment where many people are involved in working together to create a specific output? Or would they rather work in a job where they, and they alone, are responsible for the final product? Do they prefer to work in an environment that values team achievements and the sharing of new ideas and concepts? Or would they prefer to be measured on their personal efforts, regardless of what others do around them?

The answers to these questions may be obvious to you. In fact, I hope they are obvious to you. But not everyone values the same things, and not everyone works the same way. Placing a person who values structure, team play, and limited responsibility into an environment that is highly results oriented, focuses on individual contribution, and has a high ceiling for growth can cause enormous dysfunction for that individual, regardless of how smart or talented they are.

At ECI Learning Systems, we measure each employee’s expectations with respect to their current work environment. This helps us uncover disparities and improve employee productivity.

If you found this message helpful, I would encourage to you pass it along to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to subscribe to the Fusion™ Blog as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leadership: Vision for Everyone

If you pick up any book on leadership you will no doubt discover at least one chapter dedicated to the concept of “Vision.” Leadership experts are in unanimous agreement that “Vision” is a key ingredient of any leader's success.

But is a vision required only for the top leadership of the organization? Or should a vision be a key ingredient in the makeup of any leader at any level of the organization?

I contend that vision is required of every leader, from the CEO right down to the Team Leader in every department.


To answer that question, let’s look at what it means to have a vision.

John Maxwell, in his seminal book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership covers vision as part of his Law of Navigation. Maxwell writes, “Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

Having a vision is more than steering your ship, it’s charting that destination, that major goal of the organization that allows all members of the team to work together. The problem is that when the vision is set only at the top, only by the CEO, the other members of the organization may have a difficult time in identifying what they can do to contribute to that vision. In fact, they may feel so removed from that vision, that they view the vision as pointless.

That’s why it is important for every leader in the organization to understand where they fit within the big vision and to communicate their role in that scheme by creating a vision for their own team.

Is this the same as having goals and objectives that are in synch with the overall goals and objectives of the company?

Absolutely not. Goals and objectives are specific and measurable and should definitely be consistent with the company’s goals. But the vision is about those things that are not measurable. They reflect the intent and the attitudes of the organization more than just the raw data. In fact, this vision may well go a long way in helping to define what those goals and objectives might be.

In real life, it may look like this.

Company A states their vision to be the “Preferred provider of purple widgets to the housing industry with unsurpassed quality and customer service”. While this vision might serve the company well in the marketplace and inspire both their Manufacturing and Customer Service to create premier organizations, this vision will likely to do nothing to inspire the Legal department, or the Accounting department. But leaders of these areas can create a vision that reflects the company's vision and relate it back to their own responsibilities. This will help inspire their team members and demonstrate clearly how their vision relates to the overall company vision.

For example, the Accounting/Billing department may define their vision as: “To create timely, accurate, and easy to read invoices, encouraging timely payment of all outstanding amounts”. This could easily lead to goals and objectives for timeliness and accuracy that support the company's vision but also create a non-measurable desire on the part of the Billing department to simplify their invoicing and create greater accuracy.

Similar visions can be created at even lower levels of the organization supporting both the company's and the department’s vision. You see, people at every level can't exactly rally around a goal or objective, but they CAN rally around a vision.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would certainly welcome your comments on these ideas. We encourage you to share this blog with your friends and co-workers in hopes they will also find value.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC