Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't Be Confused About Why People Leave

Do you have key employees who, if you lost them, would leave such a hole in your company or team that you're not sure you could ever fill it? Do you know what would make them want to stay with you? Do you know the real reason about why they might leave?

A friend of mine started working for a startup company a few years ago. She managed the operation as the company grew from less than 50 employees to over 200. It's easy to see that she's been critical to the company's growth and financial success. She recently gave her boss two week's notice. She accepted another job and took a large pay cut. 

The Awesomeness...and the Confusion 

First, I'm happy for her because she found the courage to make this difficult decision. She had to conquer her fear that she and her husband would not be able to make ends meet. In the end, they decided the most important influencing factor was her satisfaction in the work she was doing. I want to celebrate their level of faith that fulfilling the human spirit is more important than filling the bank account. You see, they recognize they have a challenging money problem. They also recognize they're capable of finding solutions. BOOM!! (picture a fist bump explosion here)

On the other hand, I also know her boss. He's confused and never saw it coming. Why did she leave? He's concerned about how he's going to make things work, although he won't admit it. I can hear it in his voice. Meanwhile, he's doing what entrepreneurs have a tendency to do, focusing on the best solution to this complex problem. 

My concern for him is this: I'm quite sure he recognized the opportunity that's been lost for him and his company. The future value of the value she'd helped him create in just a few short years instantly turned to zero.

In his rush to fill the vacuum, has he taken the time to understand why that opportunity was lost and how he could have seen it coming? 

Was it About the Money?

When she was hire, in the early days of the company, he pitched her a value-proposition that looked like this: "I can't pay you very much right now. But, if you help me grow this company, your compensation could more than double in the next few years."

He gave her a few small raises along the way. He provided a few perks and she appreciated them. But, as the Company realized the success he envisioned, the ratio between the rewards he promised in relation to the growth and the rewards he provided were miles apart.

It's easy to think this means it was about the money. But, actually, it wasn't. She heard that initial value-proposition, she bought into it, she delivered what she promised. He delivered part of it. But, it was easy for her to see the gap and it caused her to wonder if she could trust him, especially while she watched him spend money on things the company didn't really need.

So, money was a part of the problem, but not the real root cause. It was trust. He offered her more money the minute she told him she was leaving. She turned his offer down. Nobody who takes a job that pays them less money than they're currently making does it because of the money.

Other Key Factors

My two friends think in different ways. 

She knows that you can't make everyone happy so the best you can do is build a structure that creates accountability and be consistent so that people can be satisfied that they are being treated as fairly as is reasonably possible. 

He wants everyone to be happy and have fun at work. He thinks the way to do that is not create cumbersome rules and structure.

She values the personal relationship and puts it in front of the transaction.

He values the things success brings and prioritizes the transaction over the relationship.

Here's how things went down:

  • She quickly became dissatisfied when he didn't allow her to create a structure with which she could lead the staff and hold them accountable.
  • He became dissatisfied any time he recognized a gap between the things the employees on their staff did and his definition of acceptable professional behavior...a definition that was never documented and never fully communicated.
  • Her dissatisfaction turned to frustration as she watched his emotional reactions and suggested solutions which he rejected.
  • His dissatisfaction turned to frustration as he failed to solve the same problems over and over again.
  • As he continued to react to situations based on emotions, he never felt he could trust his employees.
  • Employees became confused about what they were supposed to be doing because no clear expectations were ever given. A lot of turnover in the staff resulted. 
  • She became frustrated in her efforts to create the kind of high-performance work environment he said he wanted, and she knew how to deliver, because he wouldn't allow her to create the structure needed. So, she lost trust that she would be able to lead in his company the way she envisioned she could.
  • She worked extremely long hours through the growth, the turnover, the shortage of resources, and her personal need to fulfill her responsibilities. No matter how many unplanned problems she had to help solve throughout the day, employees still needed to get their paychecks, invoices still needed to be created and sent to customers, the bills needed to be paid. She arrived at six thirty and often worked until ten at night for weeks and months at a time. He worked a normal work day.
  • He failed to recognize the gap between the value-proposition he promised and what he delivered. The loss of trust weakened the connection for her.
  • He failed to help her be the leader she really wanted to be. His lack of trust in her abilities further strained the connection.
  • He failed to recognize her efforts and to reward them in meaningful ways. It's important to say, "You're doing a great job," but there comes a point where that's just not enough. She felt her efforts were unnoticed, under-valued, and unappreciated. One day she asked herself, "Why should I continue doing this?"  The love was lost.

Could He Have Prevented it?

The simple answer is, yes. But only if he'd seen it coming. 

Could He Have Seen it Coming?

Again, yes. But, only if he was looking...and listening...only if he valued his relationships with all of his key stakeholders more than the transactions that created wealth for his company...only if he were willing and able to measure the strength of the relationship as much as he measured the bottom line.

Business success is based on the value of the transaction. 

The transaction only happens if the relationship is seen as mutually beneficial by all involved. So, which is more important? The transaction or the relationship? Which one sets the conditions for success for the other?

I know you're smart. You know the real answer.

How to Create Mutually Beneficial Relationships

  1. Create Connection- Strengthen the attraction!
    • Define your value-propositions with every key stakeholder so expectations are in alignment on all sides.
      • Employees as well as customers as well as vendors....
  2. Create Trust- Strengthen the bonds of connection!
    • Build the structure that creates accountability.
    • Engage key stakeholders so they can help you identify your greatest opportunities for Innovation, Growth, and Profits.
      • See what they see.
      • Listen!
  3. Create Love- Help them to love working for you!
    • Deliver what is promised. 
    • Be honest when you can't and about why.
    • Show you're willing to do the work to fill the gap.
I use a system I call GPS Theory to create meaningful and lasting mutually beneficial relationships. The system is based on the principles of Connection, Trust, and Love and has allowed me to expand my definition of success so I can create values-driven success for the people with whom I love to spend my personal and professional time! The magic happens for me because I create if for others. I'm able to create if for other because they help me see what I need to see instead of what I want to see. This helps me actually meet their needs instead of trying to convince them that what I'm giving them does. It works in every personal, professional, and organizational situation. My clients see it this way too!

How do you ensure you're creating mutually beneficial relationships based on Connection, Trust, and Love? 

My friend, Peter Beaumont, from ConnXN, and author of The Relationship Roadmap, just published an article on building trust with customers. He's a relationship expert so you may want to check it out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and the Success Engineer at BoomLife. LEARN MORE ABOUT TOM...

Friday, April 10, 2015

What's Your Cultural Problem?


We read and hear about it all the time, "experts" and "normal" people, alike, explaining the cause of an important issue as a "cultural problem". You hear it on the news, on the bus, at the coffee clutch, the classroom, the board room, the family kitchen. You read about it in books, newspaper and magazine articles and, yes...on blogs. Just scroll through the results of a culture-related search engine query and you'll find some of the most talked about issues of our times in the results. For example, search "It's a Cultural Problem" or "It's a Cultural Issue" and you'll find myriad communications on: Bullying and Hazing, Family Life, Gender Equality, Addiction, Education, Religion, War, Race and Ethnicity Differences, and Workplace Issues like Employee Engagement, Environmental Safety, Employee Safety, Product Quality, Product Safety, Customer Relationships, and Leadership, to name a few.

So, we are all aware and able to identify that culture is at the core of the greatest problems of our times. The solution is simple, isn't it? Fix the culture and you fix the problems. Easy. Right?

What is a Culture?

Here's the definition: Culture is the shared and learned way of thinking and acting among a group of people within a specific organizational context.

Culture- It's Not As Simple As It Seems

Culture is everywhere. Each one of us operates within multiple cultural contexts. Even what appears to be a clear-cut context such as a company culture isn't really what is seems. The truth is, the culture is divided by sub-cultures, both formal and informal.

Let me illustrate: Both Company and Family Cultures are divided into sub-cultures because of differences in thinking created by Five Factors of Cultural Influence:
  • Proximity- Location-specific thinking.
    • Different company facilities, divisions, and departments in different locations have a high-risk of identifying and translating different meanings of values based on the influences the people have on each other because of the strength of their exposure to one another. It's that whole "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with" thing.
  • Functional- Process-specific thinking.
    • The process one group in a given location follows to create value (intrinsic and extrinsic) can affect how they perceive different key value-propositions.
  • Resource- Constraint-based thinking.
    • The uneven distribution and limited availability of important resources (Time, Materials, Equipment/Tools, and People (Skills, Expertise, Leadership) between different locations and functional areas can create different views on values-based principles like:
      • Internal safety and security
      • External safety and security
      • Quality
      • Efficiency and Profitability
  • Expertise- Experiential-driven thinking.
    • Each individual's unique combination of age, level of education and training, and amount of experience can skew how they perceive values and how they should be applied in different situations.
  • Position- Authority-driven thinking
    • How leaders exercise the authority in their areas of responsibility and the power their position provides will influence how employees think and act.
    • Appropriate uses of authority and power will influence others to engage and exercise their creativity.
    • Inappropriate uses will influence others to disengage out of fear of punishment. 
Each of these influencing factors can play a role in any given context and definitely affects the quality of the culture whithin which it exists. Cultural issues can be enormously complex if we don't take a systematic approach at solving them.

Our human tendency is to allow our Expertise to drive our decisions which, in and of itself, is not enough.

The Common Denominators

There are three common denominators in the influencing factors associated with cultural complexity: Values, People, and Relationships.

The Potentially Simple Solution to Cultural Issues

Create a consistent definition, and understanding of the definition of values and value-propositions for your people across all locations, functions and levels of expertise within the company-level context. Create a culture where thinking and actions are focused on using expertise, resources, and functional capabilities to identify and implement innovative solutions that contribute to your purpose and mission.

In other words: Align people on values. Get them to use those values are the primary drivers for decisions, actions and behaviors and you'll et the conditions for creating meaninful and lasting mutually-beneficial relationships.

I've said it before: Mutually beneficial relationships are magical! Why? Because, when they occur, every stakeholder involved walks away from the situation feeling like they got more out than they put in. 
    • The desire to make a connection and stay connected is reinforced. The kinds of employees and customers you need to be successful will be attracted to you.
    • Trust is created through a history of shared positive outcomes. Be consistent and reliable and they will come to you when they really need help.
    • The willingness, or conviction, to transcend conflict is strengthened when the highest form of love is achieved in a relationship. You may recognize this concept. It's what you mean when you say things about wanting people to, "Go above and beyond," "Go the extra mile," "Take the extra step," "Hit it out of the park." It's what you're talking about when you say your highest performing, most loyal team member has "An intangible quality." It only happens if the bonds of connection and trust are created and consistently reinforced.

How to Solve A Cultural Problem

1. Define Your Company Culture- The culture you really want.

2. Identify and define the problem.
  • Identify WHAT value-propositions are not being fulfilled and WHEN.
  • Identify WHAT Influencing Factors are involved and WHERE (It could be could be all of them).
  • Identify WHO is not fulfilling those value-propositions.
  • Identify WHY they are not fulfilling them. The answer will fall under one, or both, of these two categories:
    • Capability- Identify the conflict, or gap, between process, resource constraint, or experiential situations at the locations involved and the expectation.
    • Will- Identify the conflict, or gap, between the value-propositions the individuals involved are choosing to fulfil and the expectation.
3. Solve the Capability and/or Will problem. 
  • This problem. Now. 
    • Don't try to solve every problem all at once. 
    • Incremental, systematic change will change the culture one problem at a time. The change can be positive or get to choose which depending on how engaged you are.
      • As a leader, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution.
  • Find conviction, belief in what you are doing, and you will create Values-Driven Leaders who will:
    • Know what the culture you want them to create looks like.
      • So they can Think before they take Action.
    • Do things that will reflect it.
    • Be successful at building lasting mutually-beneficial relationships that are meaningful to your organization's success.

Every culture is a reflection of how it is led.

  • Do you feel like you keep addressing the same problems with your employees?
  • Do it feel like you're constantly trying to fill gaps in your talent pool and want to reduce employee turnover?
  • Are you frustrated with employee attitudes?
  • Does it seem like you're constantly chasing customers? 
  • Does it feel like you can't make key customers happy no matter how hard you try?
These are all symptoms of cultural problems that create enormous amounts of frustration, waste, and lost opportunities for you, your company and the key stakeholders critical to your success. 

Do you know how to lead the efforts necessary to fix the cultural problems that are at the root of these symptoms?