4 Secrets to Leading Change When Your Company Is Already Successful

Coaching-for-Rapid-ChangeIt’s no secret: Many successful businesses are slow to change. There are hundreds of examples in which corporations have rejected ideas and products that have been left to entrepreneurs to make successful. However, those most affected by this seeming resistance to change are successful organizations; the resistance stems from the fact that what they are doing works.

Read my post at Chief Executive.

We are all the same and different

DisneyI saw an ad for a webinar titled, Customizing feedback: The 9 different personality types. This kind of stuff drives me crazy. The Meyers Briggs people told us it was 16. Someone is always coming up with a new box to put people into. I would suggest that you don’t fit any of them. I talked with a man recently who is working on how people metabolize drugs depending on their DNA. Guess what? No two people do it the same. This is why some drugs work just fine on some people and not on others who have the same disease. I suggest that because there are over 7 billion people in the world, there are over 7 billion personality types. That is because no one has the same experiences you have had and that is why we are all unique. That means that people can’t figure you out or put you into some box with millions of others. With only 9 personality types that would mean that there are about 777,777,778 people in the world with a personality just like yours. How unique does that make you feel?

Surprising to many is the fact that the science of behavior, behavior analysis, has shown that there can be laws of behavior that can accommodate 7 billion unique types and many more. In other words, we are all the same and different. Unless you understand how that can happen, you will have problems in relationships at home and at work.

For more read What Box Fits You? on my Performance Reset Blog at Talent Management Magazine.

Life Hacking with Behavioral Science

Guest post by Francisco Gomez

AppWallMany of us are in the deliberate search for better, easier, faster, more effective ways of getting things done.  We look for optimization in all sorts of pursuits; fitness, cooking, business travel, finances, technology, and so on.   The explosive business of Apps is, in great part, driven by our desire to optimize how we manage our lives. Some might say we are in search of the best and greatest “life hack.” What is a life hack, you ask?  Wikipedia provides this succinct summary:

Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way….Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.*

If you explore the term “life hacking” on the internet, you will find that it covers a lot of ground. There are blogs, e-books, articles and entire websites dedicated to life hacking.  Not surprisingly, these sources vary a great deal in content and quality.  From them, you might gather information ranging from the fastest way to peel a banana (it models what chimpanzees do, in case you’re wondering) to tips on boosting your confidence and learning foreign languages at maximum speeds. You can learn how to decrease your anxiety, get the most out of meditation and make Barista quality coffee from your own home.  And, as is generally the case with online sources, it’s a buyer beware world.  Some of them are important behavioral practices that can genuinely enhance our lives, and others will make you wish you’d invested your time elsewhere.

Like most, I have interests in maximizing performance for personal reasons but it is also an important aspect of my career as a behavior-based business consultant.  One of my favorite aspects of the job is helping the best organizations get even better. Rarely do our clients call us to fix something “broken.” Certainly, behavioral science is a powerful and proven approach to mitigating problem behavior at the individual and organizational level. However, it is also an optimization mechanism, capable of producing the highest levels of creativity, quality, productivity and efficiency in what might already be high performance. It gives you the framework to target and systematically improve behaviors that are significant to you.  So, when it comes to managing the behavior of self and others, even just a basic understanding of behavioral science can be the ultimate life hack.  An understanding of a few core principles from behavioral science will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the jumble of life hacks and personal improvement strategies out there while giving you the tools to build your own for your many ventures.

The behavioral science tools and principles that can help you increase your productivity, creativity and expedite learning and fluency are many.  The creative and effective use of reinforcement alone is one of the most powerful life hacks I can think of.  To assess or develop your own behavior-influencing life hacks, consider this starter set of tools and concepts:

  • Shaping: This might be the most obvious source for a life hack and it is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to learn. Adopting a new skill-especially a complex one such as learning a new language- can have its share of frustrations. We might feel like achieving fluency is distant and the road there too difficult. Often we give up on our goal because it took too much effort to reach the target. This is where shaping comes in. It’s defined by breaking down a skill into achievable and reinforceable baby steps and systematically teaching (or learning) each one. This allows the learner to progress and build a solid foundation on the skill. It also allows them to contact plenty of reinforcement along the way which keeps them fully engaged and motivated to learn. You want your employees to use that complicated new accounting software? Learn how to separate and reinforce those baby steps and shape their behavior. You want to learn how to play an instrument? Learn how to shape your own behavior.
  • Behavioral Cusps: These consist of identifying behaviors or skill sets that once learned will accelerate exponential growth into completely different learning areas. One good example of a cusp might be learning how to read. Once that skill is acquired, a person’s ability to develop in other diverse areas grows exponentially. Now they can read and learn about history, natural science, current events, etc… I see this as a particularly powerful and efficient way to help a new employee transition into their role; identify and then teach the most critical skills that once learned, will expedite growth in other areas that are important to their function. In essence, you could map out and lead them from one cusp to another- expanding the branches of their learning tree and truly maximizing the value they bring to themselves and your organization.
  • PIC/NIC Analysis®: This proprietary troubleshooting tool can help you figure out why people make certain choices. It’s a great way to get into somebody else’s shoes and figure out what variables might be motivating them. If your objective is to change behavior, it’s important to know with precision what the influencing variables are that you need to change.
  • Minimizing Response Cost: This is all about strategically decreasing the amount of effort for the desired behavior to occur. If you want the performer to engage in a certain behavior, it’s much more effective to decrease the amount of effort they need to invest in doing what you want them to do.   Although easily derived from behavioral literature, I first learned this hack from reading Ernest Hemingway’s tips on avoiding writer’s block (and yes…I used his tip to write this blog).  To quote him directly; 

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”

Hemingway decreased the amount of effort for getting into the flow of writing by always leaving a partially full page to begin with the next day. Although I use this for my writing, an understanding of behavior has helped me generalize this approach to several other tasks. For example, I get my workout clothes and equipment sorted, next to my bed and ready to put on for those much too early 5:30am workouts. If I need to get up and start a search for my workout clothes, fitness tracker and water bottle, I may end up slapping that snooze button instead. That additional effort might be too much to sustain the desired behavior. The point is to never start on a blank page. Set yourself up with a head start and increase the likelihood you will engage in the desired behavior.

Think of behavioral interventions (including life hacks) as recipes for improvement. Behavioral principles are the ingredients that will produce the optimization you are looking for in your own as well as other people’s behavior. A solid understanding of a few behavioral principles will give you the ingredients to build your own recipes for behavior change. These days it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the limitless amount of information pitching us different approaches to improving our physical and mental health, relationships, and management styles, to name a few.  It’s a challenge to choose the most effective method in the face of so many options. Before we undergo medical treatment most of us expect for the methodology to have been tested through the rigor of the scientific method.  The above tools and concepts are derived from the systematic study and application of behavioral principles supported by over a century of research. When investing in a life hack intended to influence your behavior and that of others, why wouldn’t you rely on scientifically proven tools and principles to lead your way?

You may also want to check out The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs to Make Life Easier.

Overworked? Could Reducing Workloads be the Key to Improved Results?



Guest post by Judy Agnew

We may be at a tipping point.  It just might be that we have hit the limit on how much we can do on any given day, week or month.  Most of us have more work on our to-do lists than we can ever do.  There are simply not enough hours.  We haven’t stopped to eat lunch in years, we fill our commute time with calls or email, we work after we put the kids to bed, and we look forward to weekends, not because we get some well-deserved leisure time, but because we can do some uninterrupted work or catch up on the essential things we just didn’t have time to get to. Where does that leave us? Stressed. Very stressed!

Ironically, despite all the hours we work and all the sacrifices we make, there is often no clear indication that we are more productive.  We feel like we don’t do anything well because we don’t have the time to do it well; everything is done in a hurry, with constant interruptions.  Perhaps worst of all; we are taking the fun out of work.

It’s not the hours we are putting in that make it less fun.  Many of us put in long hours doing things we love. But it still brings us to a tipping point; the point at which our workload starts to undermine the natural reinforcers in the work we do.

Under the right conditions, most of us enjoy our work.  We enjoy the challenge of a new project, figuring out viable solutions to problems, helping a colleague succeed, successfully pitching a product or idea, mastering a new skill, completing a difficult task, helping customers.  In scientific terms these are natural reinforcers.  Unlike reinforcers such as praise from a manager or bonuses, natural reinforcers are inherent in the work.   Because natural reinforcers are produced by the work itself, they tend to be more immediate and certain than other reinforcers and thus are more powerful.  Natural reinforcers energize us, they fuel us—they create discretionary effort.

But reinforcers are conditional (even your favorite food isn’t reinforcing when you are full from Thanksgiving dinner), and natural reinforcers can lose their effectiveness when we are overloaded.  When we have more work to do than we have time for, we are less likely to experience natural reinforcers.  We are so focused on the next task, the e-mail that just came in, the next deadline; we don’t acknowledge and appreciate the task we just completed.  We don’t experience that sense of accomplishment.  Time constraints cause us to do our work faster and often with poorer quality so we don’t experience the same sense of pride.  Without those daily natural reinforcers, discretionary effort is compromised and we can become less satisfied with our work.

At ADI, all of our work is focused on helping our clients capture discretionary effort.  But oftentimes we find that people confuse discretionary effort with increasing the volume of work. Discretionary effort is about outcomes, not hours worked.  It is about achieving business results through fluency in critical behaviors.  It is about identifying and reducing the behaviors that don’t have business impact and focusing on the behaviors that do. The only way to get discretionary effort is through positive reinforcement and, as noted above, natural reinforcers are often the most effective.  So what can organizations do to ensure they aren’t inadvertently undermining natural reinforcers?

To borrow a phrase from anti-drug campaigns, the first step may be to “just say no”.  Most leaders reinforce saying “yes” to everything—yes I can take on the project, yes I can do without replacing that employee who retired, yes I can meet that tight deadline.  Employees that are seen arriving early, leaving late, and sending emails at all hours are positively reinforced for their hard work and dedication. But we should be careful what we reinforce. Long hours do not necessarily equate to better business results. Even if they do; what is the cost?  Poor quality work that causes re-work, high stress levels that impact healthcare costs and absenteeism, burn out and turnover.

But how do we break the cycle of “yes”?  Here are some ways managers can lead the change:

  • Be aware of the message your own behavior sends.  Long hours at the office and emails sent at midnight send a message (purposeful or inadvertent) that the same is expected of direct reports.
  • Model good time management by carving out chunks of time on your calendar for thinking, creative problem solving, uninterrupted project work, and something that is critically important—coaching direct reports.
  • Explicitly encourage your direct reports to disconnect in order to have quality time to devote to important tasks.
  • Insist that direct reports take time off. Tell direct reports you expect them to have time off with their families.  And be sure to positively reinforce them for doing so.  Encouraging time off and then grilling them about a missed deadline will send a clear message about your true priorities.

If you commit to this, for a week or even a month, you might just find that you and your team are just as productive, if not more so, but more importantly, the natural reinforcement in what you do will be greater. Some work may fall through the cracks, but with a clear focus on critical behaviors that drive business results, what falls through the cracks shouldn’t be of import.  By focusing on the behaviors that matter and enabling focused time for those behaviors, you will protect and encourage the natural reinforcers that drive exemplary performance.   And chances are you will find you enjoy work again.



What Works Best Doesn’t Come Naturally: Leadership Actions for Preventing Loss

During my visit to ASSE 2014  for a talk earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Johnson,  Associate Publisher and Chief Editor of ISHN

leadership ishnISHN: You say in your proceedings paper, “It’s time that senior leaders recognize the key role they play in preventing Serious Injuries and Fatalities.” Isn’t it past time? OSHA, the modern safety movement, is 40+ years old. You cite widely publicized calamities. Why do many leaders continue to “not get it,” not step up to the plate for safety, to own up to their role and responsibilities?

Aubrey Daniels: One of the primary reasons is that safety is really all about behavior, it’s essential that managers and senior managers understand the science of behavior. Positive reinforcement is not simply patting someone on the back. When senior management doesn’t understand behavior, they can’t develop policies and procedures. Like you say in your question, when is someone going to realize what we’ve been doing for 40 years is not working? Read the rest of the interview at ISHN.

Talk Less and Deliver More Consequences To Effect Workplace Change

Talk Less and Deliver More Consequences To Effect Workplace ChangeWhy do businesses have so much trouble introducing change? Why do managers complain that they talk until they’re blue in the face but employees still resist adopting new methods?

The problem is that the managers are focusing on talking instead of delivering the necessary consequences for change. Most people, including parents, think that speaking louder, longer and meaner will get others to do what they want them to do. They apparently have forgotten that actions speak louder than words. These talkers tell their employees or children the same thing over and over, but they vary the message or its intensity in hopes that one alteration will bring about the desired action…

Read the entire post at Rescue A CEO.

Bullying; Unhealthy for Humankind

Bullying; Unhealthy for HumankindGuest post by
Darnell Lattal, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, bullying is a word heard all too often, with devastating effects on those who are bullied. Bullies take actions that harm physically or verbally and they justify their actions on the grounds that it was deserved, because of such things as the way the person looked, or membership in a particular group, or some individual perceived failing that the bully does not like. That justification is often reinforced by the bully’s friends—with nods, loud agreement, or slaps on the back.

The truth is, those who reinforce bullying do not necessarily agree with the bully—they operate under conditions of negative reinforcement, often doing what they are bullied to do because of fear of the bully. And let’s face it, speaking up is difficult. Worse is that sometimes they too are persuaded that beliefs, looks, group membership, or something else are indeed reasons to depersonalize and harm another. Social media has added to the epidemic by unleashing new degrees of harm often in anonymous ways.

People are not born to bully but are shaped to bully by the environments in which they are found. Our common responses to bully behavior often do the opposite of intended effect. In our forthcoming book, Aubrey and I have a chapter entitled Nature’s Dirty Trick where we write about how easy it is to use negative reinforcement to get our way with others. We discuss why punishment, threat and fear are all too often the management strategy of choice. Those who use them are highly reinforced for doing so. These methods accelerate behavior that a boss or a parent or a teacher or a bullying student might want, and reduce behavior she doesn’t. It’s easy. It’s quick. It works.

But how do we address this epidemic? The world is adapting quickly to how to master massive technology change, like driverless cars (sit still and enjoy the view), the 3D computer, house-cleaning robots, and body-adherent physiological devices to monitor and improve health. What we learn from the natural sciences is opening the door to amazing changes in how we interact with and what we know about the physical world around us. We have a growing faith in what science can do.

While we are finally getting the point about the science of technology, we should be getting the point about the science of behavior, as valid and potent as the technological sciences around us, a science that can help us make better choices about what we do with and to each other.

Until many more people are trained in what initiates, shapes and maintains behavior, have ways to evaluate what is happening, and learn techniques to sustain efforts toward positive personal change, bullying events—from the schoolyard to the workplace and to the larger world arena—will fester and grow.

This first article in a series describes evidence-based work in schools that demonstrate a clear reduction in bullying in schools that use this demonstrated strategy. A free curriculum is provided that helps teachers, students and parents learn how to handle bully behavior in ways that work. To read the article in its entirety, visit ADI’s PMeZine.

Leadership, Innovation and Strategy, with David Burkus

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Burkus for his LDRLB Podcast Series. David is author of The Myths of Creativity and a contributor to Forbes & Harvard Business Review.

Leadership, Innovation, CreativityThis is a full transcript of LDRLB Podcast Episode 0512, an interview with Aubrey Daniels.

DAVID:            Who are you and what do you do?

AUBREY:         Well, I’m Aubrey Daniels and I have a company that works with organizations to help them bring out the best in people.

DAVID:            And author of now the fifth edition of the book “Performance Management” which is the source for performance management research, for insight on performance management. A lot of times here on LDRLB, we feature authors that take a lot of really in-depth research, really depth application and then make it into more of a narrative form and make it more applicable. Every once in a while we get to go back to one of the sources and you are one of those sources, one of the first people to really use and define performance management. I like to think of you as the one who coined the term. I think you’re a little more humble than that. I think you’re one of the originators of it, really cool to have the source of that information on the podcast.

AUBREY:         The term “Performance Management” probably has a long history but the way it is typically used is it means performance appraisal. I think if you search on the web, you’ll see that, that comes up often when you try to look for performance appraisal. What I look at performance management as a more comprehensive, in other words, it’s a scientifically based way of looking at human behavior and trying to understand how best to use it in an organization to bring out the best in people. The performance appraisal fails miserably in that regard.

DAVID:            I totally agree but why do you think it is … Where did this annual tradition of the god-awful performance appraisal come from and why do we even … You look online and all you hear are articles about, “Let’s ditch performance reviews” and yet they persist. Why do you think that is?

AUBREY:         Well I think because they’ve been done for a long time and it’s convenient for HR department and for executive management to do that. When I began to think about this and look at what goes on, it seems to me that people have really gotten away from the original intent. I hope the original intent was to help people perform better. If that’s true then really, it does not contain any of the elements that we know changes behavior. You’ve got to have constant contact with people to change behavior; you’ve got to have some way to deliver consequences on an on-going basis. The attempt in performance appraisal to do it every six months or every quarter really makes matters worse. In other words, if it’s something’s bad, doing it more often doesn’t make it better. What we are talking about is a system where you are able to see behavior and you are able to respond to it. You can’t do that in an office, you can’t do that with a form.

DAVID:            I totally agree. I feel like there’s a well meaning effort to provide feedback but the mechanism they use doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a year, six months, a quarter, like you said. The other thing is that even that is a little too late in my experience. I feel like feedback needs to be much more immediate than that. I had a conversation with a friend of mine that was a martial artists and a competitive fighter for a time and then switched into … is now a management consultant. He said, “You know, one of the amazing things is in the ring, feedback is immediate. If you mess up, you get hit. In the corporate world, it takes six months to a year to get feedback.”

AUBREY:         Oh, yeah. See that’s the big problems, that consequences, the most effective consequences are immediate consequences. If you’ve got a coach as in athletics, the coach is there to see your behavior and say, “Wait, oh, wow, let’s do that again. Do it this way.” Three months later or six months later, a year later, the performance is gone, you can’t really impact in any significant way. It’s just total waste of time and energy on the part of an organization to do that. I recognize – and I made the mistake really of saying to one of our very large customers that had 30,000 employees – that this is a poor process and he challenged me on that, he said, “Well, if we would eliminate this today we’d have total chaos.”

My point is you need to know where you’re going with it. Your point is to try to help people do better and so when you make revision on it you move toward that end. You see right now, it serves the organization, it doesn’t serve the performer.

DAVID:            I think that’s a great distinction and it’s exactly right. The form is there to serve largely the organization, serve the system, not that individual person. Let’s do that, let’s start at the beginning and look at what actually motivates people to perform and to improve their performance and then how do we build a system that actually leverages that and serves that person rather than the organization.

AUBREY:         Yeah, good. The only way you can change behavior is through consequences – changing consequences. Most people today try to change it with what we call … the technical term is “Ahead of Sins”. They want to do something … they want to talk somebody into change, they want to communicate somebody into change, they want to do things upfront. Really the way you change behavior is you do something after the behavior not before it.

If you look at most initiatives – corporate initiatives – they’re all about changing the way people talk. In other words, a fellow told me years ago, he said, when safety was a rage, he said, “The only thing that’s changed here is the way we talk about safety. Nothing else is different.” They didn’t change the consequences for people who were safe and people who were not and that sort of thing; I mean in terms of quality, who produced quality, who didn’t.

If you’re going to change behavior, you’ve got to have some way to impact behavior immediately. That’s where your friend was right that the whole idea of feedback is if feedback is delayed, it’s ineffective, inefficient at least.

DAVID:            Here’s my question then, if the system that a manager’s operating in is that delayed feedback system, what can we do … I think about consequences positive and negative and I think about the working inside a system that is semi-annually or annually with dishing out those positive or negative consequences. What steps can a manager take to have immediate feedback even if the system won’t allow them to overhaul it and provide those things on the spot?

AUBREY:         The thing we try to get managers and supervisors to do early on is to look at your process, your equipment, all of that, and try to create an environment where people know how they’re doing at all times. In other words, one of the things about a computer is that when you make a mistake you can see it. That becomes self-correcting because you are getting the consequences of the wrong thing on the screen that you want so you modify your behavior to change that.

Another way to do that is to train everybody in this, in other words, let everybody know this so employees know when to provide a positive consequence and when not to provide a positive consequence, because they are with employees. It’s like one of my favorite cartoons is an executive, like a person standing in front of a desk where the man is seating and the executive says, “Why aren’t you working?” He said, “I didn’t see you coming.” The problem is many time, that managers – even down to the front-line supervisors – they have and inadequate sample of behavior. They sample behavior from time to time and if somebody sees you coming, they jump up and start working and you see the behavior and you think, “Well, that’s representative of what they do.”

The employees know that that’s not. They see you jump up and start working when you’ve been goofing off all day. They are in a better position to provide consequence to each other than management is. Management think they know what’s going on in reality, many times they don’t.

DAVID:            I think that’s a huge distinction, I feel like a lot of people ran with that as the idea for why we need 360 degree feedback. Even that process is done on a six-month or a year basis where we issue surveys and half the customers never even respond etcetera. What you’re really talking about is a culture where people are positively reinforcing, innately reinforcing each other – co-workers, peers, etcetera. It scales up to a whole culture within the organization. How do we get started creating something like that?

AUBREY:         Of course we have the training consulting business so I’m partial in terms of my answer but the idea is that you need to understand behavior, the laws of behavior, which I would say most people don’t. You don’t have to be taught how to punish, people know how to do that alright, but you do have to be taught in many cases how to positively reinforce. The culture today is we need a positive culture, you don’t have to talk people into why that’s important, but people don’t know how to do it.

If you look at how parents have ran with this and think they are doing the right thing, when every child gets a trophy and everything the child does is good and commendable but they think that it’s not good to be negative. There are times to be positive and there are times to be negative; you need to know the difference. Unfortunately most people don’t know that and so you need either to read a book or try some way to educate yourself about when to do what.

DAVID:            Again, not to overemphasize the training and consulting that your group does or that that book should probably be Performance Management.

AUBREY:         Absolutely.

DAVID:            You’re absolutely right. You said in your last response that everybody knows how to punish but they don’t necessarily know how to positively reinforce. One of the chapters in the book that really resonated with me was – The Three Ways to Decrease Unwanted Behavior.

AUBREY:         Right.

DAVID:            I feel like everybody knows the punishment way but there are other ways and sometimes they are more appropriate ways than just dishing out punishments to correct that unwanted behavior.

AUBREY:         Absolutely. I think the thing about this is that if you are doing the right thing 100% of the time then you’re not doing the wrong thing right? One way that we talk about a lot of the time, if the behavior can effectively be ignored, and sometimes you can’t, but if you can then the best way is in fact to strengthen the positive behaviors. You don’t need to use negative consequences if in fact you are strengthening the behavior that adds value to the organization. If they are doing that 100% of the time then what’s the problem. That’s the one I recommend for people, to think about, “Okay, let’s look at what the person is doing right, let’s focus on that, let’s try to increase it.” I they’re not doing the right thing then let’s figure out, okay, how can we help them do that?

That’s really the job a front-line supervisor, is to help people do better. I think we need to do away with the term “Supervisor” or “Coach” because … “Supervisor” and replace it with “Coach” because a supervisor is there to overlook the work – to look over the work and to find what you’re doing wrong and let you know that you’re not doing the right thing. I’m reluctant to use the term coach because it has a lot of negative baggage in terms of many coaches that people know about – athletic coaches are more in the punishment line than they are in the positive reinforcement line.

In reality, if you think about every professional golfer has a coach and look at them to see things that the person can’t see about their own behavior and say, “Okay next time, try this, change your grip, move your studs, you know do these sorts of things.” They are focusing on behaviors. This is one of the problems that many training programs have is that they try to teach behaviors that are not behavior – talk about competencies and those kinds of things.

It doesn’t bother me if you start with a competency but I say, “Okay, what does it mean? What would people do? How could you see what they’re doing because in fact that’s the behavior that you want?” Many times even that dealing with knowledge works, you want to say, “Okay, here’s what I want, here’s what, the kind of things I want you to do to get that.” These kind of things can be specified and that helps for the people to know that rather than just say, “Well you need to be creative or you need to be innovative.” What does that mean? What would I do? I think I’m doing it already.

DAVID:            What’s interesting is when I hear you saying that, it makes me wonder – In entry level HRM classes that I teach to undergraduate students, we talk about often that you are never evaluation a person, you are evaluating a person’s performance. I think in organizations it’s too easy to rank people and to say, “Yeah, we’re going to rate you, we’re going to rank you.” When you have those vague competencies like you said, that’s your only options, is you have to rank the person. When you give them the actual behaviors, you can actually say, “Now, we’re rating this on your behavior, it has nothing to do with who you are as a person – your value, etcetera. It’s just, here are the behaviors we want and you’re doing seven out of ten of them.

AUBREY:         That’s exactly right and I think that organizations are going to have to change the way they do that. I think … I was just looking at a research on engagement. Most people don’t understand engagement. You have to have something that you can be engaged about. It’s really a system issue, not a performance issue. You don’t blame the performer, the fact that almost half the people by their own admission are unengaged; you don’t blame them for that. What you do is look at the environment – how we setup the policies, procedures and the physical environment to cause people to want to do the right thing.

I’m looking at blaming is an ancient concept. It’s just not appropriate to use in the workplace. You don’t blame somebody for having low intelligence. I mean why would that make any sense? You don’t blame somebody for not knowing how to do something. Your job is to help them be able to do that. That’s really what the book is all about – helping people to understand that we know science has told us how to help people do better, we know how to do that. The knowledge is there, many people don’t know how to do that but the goal of any supervisor or manager is to help that person do their best. Almost no organization I can think of does that as well as they should. In fact some of the ones that are doing the best realize they have a long way to go.

DAVID:            I wonder if their realization that they have a long way to go is what keeps them at the best, right? It’s almost like they are looking for coaches on their own behavior evaluating behavior.

AUBREY:         Right, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

DAVID:            The book is in its fifth edition and it makes me wonder, have you noticed, as the author doing these revisions every once in a while, have you noticed a big shift over when the book first came out to now? We have a large-scale shift into the information economy into knowledge work more so. Have you noticed any shifts like that? Granted I know the answer is it doesn’t change how we manager performance, but I’m just curious as to what changes you’ve had to make.

AUBREY:         Well, we’ve learnt a lot, from my clinical days to coming in the workplace. I think an advantage that I had was that I didn’t have a lot of management training and when the plant manager told me the front-line supervisor was the key to improving performance I bought that. What we did earlier on was we spent a lot of time on factory floors and in the office where we were actually able to look at behavior and see how the supervisor responded and they could begin to understand what behavior was really about.

Some of the concepts have not changed but I think in the books over the time I have been able to explain them better. You mentioned earlier there’s a lot of scientific research that’s valid but you can read it and not understand it. I’m sure you’ve had these days where you read a page in a book and you say, “Wait a minute, now what did I just read?” You have to read it over a several times. The book has changed in terms of being more user-friendly in that regard. Hopefully, I recognize that my challenge as an author is to communicate things that people can understand and then do something with.

I think each version I’ve taking feedback that I’ve gotten from people that use the book and tried to inculpate that. I’ve used, in this edition, my co-author Jon Bailey who is a professor at Florida State. He’s taught this for 15 years or so. The book represents more how he taught. I’ve rearrange the chapters, we’ve updated the research but other than that, it’s pretty much the same. If you got a first edition, you could still learn a lot of things to do right but the fifth edition is better I’ll say.

DAVID:            No totally, the content is the same, the relevancy and the examples used etcetera, are updated and stronger for the current challenges mangers face.

AUBREY:         We have more examples of knowledge worker kinds of things. In earlier books we’re more manufacturing where we spent most of our time.

DAVID:            If you manage in a manufacturing setting or a knowledge worker setting, there is something in this new book. Check it out; it’s the fifth edition of Performance Management: Changing Behavior that Drives Organizational Effectiveness.

AUBREY, I wonder if we could switch a bit from the book to you and ask you our two questions for all guests.

AUBREY:         Okay.

DAVID:            The first being – What are you reading right now?

AUBREY:         Well, I’m reading a couple of … I’ve read Abundance, Peter Diamandis wrote a book called Abundance. He’s talking about the future and talking about really how you shouldn’t worry too much about no clean air, no pure water and that kind of thing because the technology is here today to provide that. I went to Singularity University for an eight-day course recently and met Ray Kurzweil who is a futurist.

What I’m trying to get our customers to do is to prepare for the future and the future is changing so fast that many people are going to be caught off guard and by the time they realize that things have changed beyond what they’re doing, they’re going to be out of business. Those are the things I’m really looking at – related articles to that and those books.

DAVID:            On that note, you have a thriving training and consulting business, the book is out in its fifth edition but I’m wondering, what’s next for you?

AUBREY:         I’ve started an institute and the purpose of the institute is to do things that I don’t have to worry so much about the bottom line and that sort of thing but to do things that I think would help society as a whole and one of them is education. I’m really focusing on education and accelerating learning. The rates of learning in public schools, in most schools actually, are very low. Kent Johnson at Morningside Academy in Seattle guarantees parents two grade levels per subject per year or your money back. 30-something years, he’s given less than 1% of the money back because the average tendency at the school is to go three grades per year. Here we have the best schools in New York – the charter schools – are producing only eight-tenths of a grade per year. The public schools do only about three-tenths of a grade per year, it’s really pathetic.

I want to do that not only for education per se but for business because many time businesses looking at improvement, and all improvement is helpful, but it may not be fast enough to keep you in the game in terms of the way the world is changing. That’s where I am.

DAVID:            That’s exciting; we’ll be looking out for that. In the meantime, thankfully the world has changed and so has Performance Management slightly to be updated, so check that out. It’s in its fifth edition; it’s a really solid read. It’s cool for me – this is one of the books that when I was in graduate school I ran into, I think the 4th edition of. It’s exciting to have the fifth edition out in my hand and talking to the author.

AUBREY:         Oh great.

DAVID:            Aubrey, thank you so much for joining us inside the LDRLB.

AUBREY:         Thank you. It’s a pleasure and I’m glad to be asked.


Lessons from the VA and General Motors: Don’t Manage by Results

LESSONS FROM THE VA AND GENERAL MOTORS: DON'T MANAGE BY RESULTSAs the world has recently seen, relying too heavily on results and numbers to measure success can have big consequences.  Visit my post at Fast Company for five ways to avoid going down the same path as The Department of Veteran Affairs and General Motors.

Read entire post at Fast Company.

If You’re Looking for Future Leaders, Bury Command and Control

Grow Leaders-Bury Command and ControlIf I stop to think about the number of hotel rooms I’ve stayed in throughout my career, it’s a bit mind-blowing.  With nearly 40 years of consulting with clients, I’ve been in some of the finest hotels but it was not terribly uncommon to happen upon a room that was not quite ready for guests. While I’m sure the first reaction would be to blame housekeeping for the messy room, the truth is it’s probably not their fault.  In fact the effect of blaming rarely solves the problem, nor does assuming the responsibility lie solely on the housekeeper.

Recently much has been written about the churn in the executive suite.  Executive turnover is the highest of almost any job in business.  I would suggest that much of it is caused by the Board of Directors hiring people that they consider knowledgeable about the industry.  In other words, they hire knowledge about the business and relegate knowledge of people to a low spot on the list of “must haves.”  I have seen it happen many times as they end up with a “know-it-all.”

Mark King, recently promoted to CEO of Taylor Made Adidas Golf to president of Adidas Group North America, tells his story of how he was promoted to CEO from the head of sales.  As he says he knew little about how to run a company so he had to ask for help from day one.  He solicited ideas from everyone beginning with his first day on the job.  As a result, he was able to get a level of engagement that few organizations ever attain. Since assuming the CEO job, Taylor Made‘s revenues alone increased from $349 million to $1.7 billion and are still growing while competitors struggle to maintain market share.

The leaders of the future are going to be the ones who know behavior better than their competitors and as a result know that the best resource for creativity and problem-solving resides at the front line of the organization.  They really will put people first, not in some glib speech, but in actions, policies and procedures developed mostly by front line employees.  This does not mean that knowledge of the business is not important, but armed with knowledge of the business and experience over the years, leaders will be better coaches.  This kind of leader will be happiest when he sees others succeed and knows that he/she played a role in it.

Command and control leadership is dead.  Some executives don’t know it because the death is a lingering kind of death and unfortunately when they realize it, it’ll be too late.  However, if you develop a consultative approach rather than a telling, know-it-all style, you may be surprised what that will do to turn a soon to be corpse into an energetic competitor in your market.