Loyalty . . . to what?

I'm reminded, from time-to-time, of the inequality of expectations between employees and employers with respect to employment. Especially in the small to mid-sized businesses, the owners are often frustrated with employees who do not seem to put effort into the business. They don't have a sense of “ownership.” Well, that's because they aren't owners, and usually aren't treated as owners.

On the employee side, they feel that it's quite alright for them to give two weeks notice if they get a better offer elsewhere, but at the same time seem to think that as long as they want to stay, they should be able to do so. If the employer lets them go (for whatever reason), they feel that somehow it is unfair. Of course, this is not true of all employees nor do all business owners despair over employees not acting as if the company is their own. However, there does seem to be anecdotal data to back up my perceptions.

This situation first came to my attention many years ago as I worked in the semiconductor industry. We had facilities in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale and San Jose). I often heard managers complaining that employees were more than willing to leave for a slight raise and join another company. It seemed to be easy to do in the valley and it seemed to be true; and it made me wonder. So I started asking some questions of the engineers, marketers and sales people who left our company and those still with us. The picture became a bit clearer. It seems that there was a lot of loyalty – but the loyalty was to a particular product line or architecture rather than a company. So if I considered myself a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) kind of guy, I would go where all the exciting things were happening in that field. Likewise if I considered myself a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) person. If I was skilled and excited about one architecture and the company began to emphasize the other, I eventually left to find another employer in line with my talents and passions. This kind of “loyalty to a concept” was even more prevalent in the software and Internet companies.

So managers needed to change the context in which they interpreted the content of their experience with respect to “loyal employees.” If an engineer or sales person believed in a certain product or architecture and we began to de-emphasize that particular product, then we could expect to see folks leave for greener pastures. On the other hand, if we kept pushing the envelope and introduced new products and improvements to existing products, then our employees were “loyal” and mostly content.

Discovering this different view of loyalty led to some insights that served some divisions very well. As long as they were able to stay at the leading edge of product development, they kept the best employees. They found that salary and other monetary rewards were not the biggest motivators. They had to be competitive, but by and large, it was an exciting environment in product development that the employees appreciated and which kept them happy and inspired.

So as we work our way out of this recession and employees begin feeling as though employment changes are possible, how will you hold on to your key players? Do you know what your employees are loyal to? Since they don't own the company, it likely isn't the company itself that inspires them. They may be grateful for the company and the employment it provides, but what are they really passionate about?

Is your culture one of team work and does everyone in your company agree? Have them take our Company Cultural Assessment. CLICK HERE to download your assessment.

Is  your hiring methodology designed to attract top talent and weed out those candidates that embellish? You can download our 8 Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard and find out. CLICK HERE to download.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Networking . . . Part (3)

If you've been following the posts on this blog, you will recognize the similarity between the comments I have made about the art of networking with the comments made on the sales process. The sales skill ladder has four rungs: Product Based Selling, Solution Based Selling, Consultative Selling, and finally Trust Based Selling. As I've mentioned with respect to sales, the first three rungs are salesperson oriented. The fourth rung is truly, genuinely, authentically, client focused. We have the clients best interest at heart. It's the same for networking!

The networking ladder might be: Card Based Networking, Group Based Networking, My Strengths Based Networking and finally Trusted Relationship Networking. As before, the first three are focused on you and the highest rung is truly focused on helping others and trusting that what goes around will come around – without having that in the forefront of your mind when networking.

On the first rung, the so-called networker believes that s/he has had a great evening when they leave the dinner event with 25 or more cards. What a great night! Well, I highly doubt it. What that person has is a bunch of cards, but no knowledge of the persons giving them the cards. How could they? 25 cards in a couple of hours? How much time did they spend asking questions to find out how they could help the other person?

On the second rung, the networker is targeting a special interest group which makes things a bit more comfortable to contact people because there is a “common interest.” You can build on that common interest to develop a relationship. My observation is, however, that few people practice the art of finding out what they can do for the other person. They are still focused on their own needs.

On the third rung, the networker is now aware that they need to be showing how they add value. So they tend to speak to others about what they can do to solve common problems companies might be experiencing. However, the conversation is still focused on them even though they are touting their added value. This conversation is fine with someone who asks you how they might find potential employment/client opportunities. But it is for AFTER they ask you to explain, not before.

The fourth rung of the networking ladder is where the accomplished networker spends most of her/his time. They ask lots of questions about the other person. They are genuinely interested in the other person. They are the ones who leave a huge dinner event with only three cards. They've spent a minimum of 20 minutes with each of those persons getting to know what they do, how the came to be where they are, what their interests are, and what is going on in their lives that might offer an opportunity for assistance of some kind. They make a promise to do something to help the other person and then they make sure they do it. They are careful to choose groups and events that will attract the people they want in their network. They are all about developing trust and serving others. Authentically, with no quid pro quo expected.

This is definitely not a new concept. I've observed that very few sales folks, even highly effective sales folks, understand Trust Based Selling. I've noticed that the most effective networkers DO understand Trust Based Selling and they carry it over to their networking activities. Those who fail at networking are also pretty poor sales people; they are inconsistent in their results and their customers are not at all loyal.

Here are some resources on these topics:
Never Eat Alone – by Keith Ferrazzi
Trusted Advisor – by David Maister
Trust Based Selling – by Charles Green
Other great resources might be Think and Grow Rich (mastermind concepts), How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Tiberias Success Factor.

What are you doing to network properly? Are you building long term relationships or collecting contacts?

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all your employees describe your culture the same way? This a critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you ensure you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Networking . . . Part (2)

In a previous post, I got on my soapbox concerning networking etiquette and what I believe networking really is all about, and that is building trust and long term relationships. I mentioned that it is a long and difficult process. It is also highly rewarding. If you buy into my concept of networking, then you are also likely recognizing that you can never stop networking; even when gainfully employed.

This situation, continuous networking, is not at all unlike the dilemma I discovered when I founded my consultancy. While I'm delivering services, I'm not marketing. Inevitably, I'd wake up one day and realize I had “no place to go.” And then I'd start the long process of marketing again and hope that something turned up soon. The same is true if you're a “W2 employee” and you let your network lapse while you are focused on your job at the company you serve. At some point, you will realize it's time for you to “move on,” and you'll have to scramble to build your network.

So how do we address this situation? I have no silver bullet to offer. My sense is that the only thing to do is to make sure you keep a core group of maybe ten to twenty really close relationships alive and well no matter what you are doing. That way, it will take less time to reconstruct a meaningful network when the time comes. Find ways to stay in touch and help your key network relationships. Send useful articles, keep up to date on what they are doing, meet for coffee or a quick, early breakfast. Stay focused on them.

There may be some help here in using the now “hot” technology of social networking software. It's amazing how well LinkedIn works to help me stay in touch with colleagues. I'm now exploring using this blog, Facebook, and Twitter as a way of staying in touch and providing value. I'm not sure what will finally shake out as being the most effective, but I'm giving it the good old “college try.” You might want to explore using technology to help you keep in touch with your network as well. Remember though, it's about providing value, not self-serving.

Data I've seen in multiple places indicates that “C-Suite” positions last an average of 24 to 36 months. “C-Suite” executives do not find their next assignment on Monster or other media. They find it through their network. So you'll need your network every 2 or 3 years and it takes a year, minimum, to build a solid network of colleagues. It's not what you know, it's not even who you know. It's really who knows you. And as we've discussed, that means you have to be genuinely interested in knowing and supporting those in your network first.

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all of your employees describe your culture the same way? This is critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you to ensure that you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Networking . . . Part (1)

I've managed, somehow, to develop a network of colleagues who will often refer folks to me for many different reasons; potential clients, business owners, and increasingly executives in transition. This economy has become very challenging for everyone.

What strikes me is that there is so little knowledge about what networking really is all about. Many very accomplished salespeople, executives, business owners and “C-suite” folks THINK they know, but the evidence is to the contrary.

I receive a fair amount of “introductions” to people through e-mail. It's another sign of the times and I too use e-mail to introduce people. After one such recent introduction, the person introduced contacted me by e-mail. Attached was a very detailed resume (bad in itself) and another document of “target companies.” The body of the e-mail said essentially; “Hi, I'm glad so-and-so introduced us. I'm working to expand my network. I'm a high level executive . . . blah, blah, blah!” This went on for a couple of paragraphs and then the person asked for three or four names from my Rolodex that might be good contacts for them.

Then came the clincher: “I know networking is about helping others. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help you.” Right. Ninety-nine percent of first communication is about you, 1% is an after thought, throw away sentence acknowledging the recipient and that's going to fly? I think not.

Networking, properly done, is always and only about what you can do to help the other person. Not about getting something for yourself. The person above did not have permission from me, did not yet know me, and should never have assumed I care about his plight/resume/target companies or anything else. I certainly am not going to introduce him to my network of trusted colleagues (who in turn trust me not to waste their time) based on that e-mail and attachments. Here's a hard message for folks in transition to internalize: “Nobody cares about you.” . . . . Yet.

Instead, in building your network, it is critical to be authentically interested in helping the other person. The universe is indifferent, but generally fair in that “what goes around comes around.” You can't fake this. It will be sensed that you are being manipulative – “S/he's only acting interested because s/he wants something.” You have to build trust, give me a sense that you have my best interest at heart (or at least don't intend to just “use me.”)

That's why it takes a very long time to build a network. If you are introduced to me by one of my trusted inner circle of colleagues, then you have a leg up. Don't destroy that budding trust by assuming you have permission to sell me something or ask me a favor.

So how do I go about this myself? Well, not perfectly for sure. Here's what I attempt to do and actually do accomplish when I'm at my best. I would write that e-mail when Joe introduces me to Sue, copy both and say something along the lines of: “Hi Joe and Sue. Thanks for the introduction Joe. I am always willing to reach out to someone in your network of colleagues. Sue, I'd love to know more about what you're doing these days. Joe introduced us believing that in some way our relationship might be beneficial. Do you have any time over the next couple of weeks for a quick cup of coffee or a phone call? Let me know and we'll try to match calendars.”

I would then go out of my way to figure out how I can do something to help Sue. Find an article or perhaps make an introduction to someone else that would be mutually beneficial. I would only share about my own situation and how Sue can help me after she asks for that information. Which will only be after she has some feeling of trust that I'm not focused only on me and my own needs. If I'm focused on my own needs, then I don't have her best interests at heart. If I don't have her best interests at heart she cannot trust me to do what's right, only what works for me.

Think about this. If you are introduced to someone as a possible beneficial relationship, do not burn the bridge with the new connection by being focused on yourself. Also, when you “blow the introduction,” you will cause damage to the person who introduced you in the first place. They won't make the mistake of bringing you into their network again. This takes time. This is difficult. This takes lots of energy because you really do have to do something for someone else, not just hang your resume on every phone pole. If you're going to try to network, then learn the intricacies. This is not a game for amateurs.

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all of your employees describe your culture the same way? This is critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you to ensure that you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

 

The Silence is Deafening

Have you ever noticed that organizational change initiatives are sometimes “sabotaged” by objections about which you had no clue? All of a sudden, out of the “clear blue sky,” comes a storm of reasons why a particular change can’t be made. They all seem pretty trivial. What’s behind them? When you ask, the silence is deafening.

Have you identified the topics that are “off limits” in your organization? It’s highly unlikely that you are without them. In their recent book, Reframing Change, Latting and Ramsey talk about how resistance to change is not because people don’t like change. It’s because people don’t like being changed. People may have reasons for not wanting to support a particular initiative that are not at all clear to project leaders. One example given was the initiative taken on by a middle manager to change the time of the group staff meeting. His boss was holding them late in the afternoon and they sometimes went past 6 PM, making it difficult for employees with children or adult care responsibilities. Should be easy; it’s a reasonable request.

But it turns out the task is not as simple as just changing the time of the meeting. For lots of reasons, it’s much more complicated and the project expands into investigating quality of life for employees along with flexible work hours and other “family leave” issues. Push back came from someone who was normally an early adopter. It finally becomes clear that all the discussion of “family leave” was very difficult for this person who was in a same gender relationship. The unspoken rule at this company was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” So discussion of how to accommodate change to the employee benefits was difficult at best.

There is a proverb from Spain that claims “Those who stay silent do not say nothing.” How do we create a culture in which it is safe to uncover, discuss and learn about the taboo topics? They may be around the human resource questions such as domestic partner issues, expected overtime, or extra effort to “get ahead,” poor performers who are kept on because they are family members, or reporting misconduct by people in powerful positions. They may have something to do with perceptions about who supports a given business process thereby making it “sacrosanct.” What is important is to make sure the culture we create allows for safely uncovering and discussing these issues.

We can start with the obvious in shaping our corporate culture. We can make sure that the bearer of bad news is not summarily shot. We can make sure that supervisors and managers are not defensive when policies or procedures are questioned. We can make sure we gather performance information in a 360 degree fashion throughout the organization. And we can make sure that the HR department is a fair advocate for employees, not just the executive team. If our organization is open to learning at all levels, is willing to seek and actually listen to feedback, then we will have a vibrant, changing and improving organization.

You will not retain good employees if your culture is one of “hide and seek information.” What are the rules in your organization? Do you surface the “not discussable” issues and make them visible? Do you have a formal, anonymous whistleblower program? Is your suggestion box really used?

Download our Free Company Culture Assessment.  Does everyone in your company define your culture the same? Use this tool to find out. CLICK HERE to download.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising of Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.