Engagement and the Regeneration Roadmap

Engagement processes are at the leading edge of sustainability. The Regeneration Roadmap is an initiative of Globescan and SustainAbility aiming to achieve sustainable development within the next generation. Their focus is on the private sector to drive a lot of change.  This video features global thought leaders articulating the road to sustainability. As you watch, notice how pivotal engagement is a agency for change.

Mobilizing the Response from The Regeneration Roadmap on Vimeo.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past Norwegian Prime Minister and Director General of the World Health Organisation. She is currently a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the United Nations. She places engagement at the heart of change.

Personal engagement, personal commitment and building confidence with other people and other nations is the only way to move forward.

The video reinforces the need to generate positive discourse around sustainability, articulate a vision of a sustainable planet and create a culture to embed sustainability as a way of life.

For more videos by these gifted thinkers go to the Regeneration Roadmap website.

A policeman’s lot is more engaged – national | Stuff.co.nz

A policeman’s lot is more engaged – national | Stuff.co.nz.

Improvements in staff engagement in the Police can partially be attributed to technology innovations. The New Zealand Police have introduced technology that enables police to report incidents remotely. That information is then processed by administrative staff enabling the police to focus on their front-line work.

This is an example of how job design can improve engagement. Based on Hackman and Oldham’s job enrichment model we can ask questions such as:

  • How can we create more skill variety?
  • How strongly do our people identify with their work?
  • What makes work meaningful for our most engaged?
  • Do our people have the autonomy they need to do a good job?
  • Do they get appropriate feedback about their performance?

Job enrichment model (Hackman & Oldham

A tribute to Stephen Covey (1932 – 2012)

Stephen Covey made an enduring contribution to both business thinking and personal development. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People published in 1989 has sold over 25 million copies. Time Magazine rated The 7 Habits as one of the 25 most influential business management books. He has featured in all of the Thinkers 50 lists from 2001 to 2011. But rather than continuing to list his achievements, I would like to focus on what Stephen Covey means to me – just one of his millions of readers.

Working at the boundaries

Stephen Covey wasn’t just a business writer. His books crossed over into the realm of personal development. He bridged these two spaces in a manner rivalled by few. One of his other stand out books Principled Centered Leadership offered guidance relevant to both worlds.

A member of the Latter Day Saints church, Stephen Covey was a deeply religious man. For me, his integration of business and religious thinking has been inspirational. No one has done it better with that level of success. His model of intelligence exemplifies this integration. In the 7 Habits, well before emotional intelligence was popularised, he identified four dimensions of the self, the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Later, in The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey applied this model to the business world. He advocates a “whole person in a whole job” where each of the four dimensions of the self are expressed:

  • use me creatively (mind)
  • pay me fairly (body)
  • treat me kindly (heart)
  • in serving human needs in principled ways (spirit).

The big picture

With his skills of integration Stephen Covey masterfully sketches out the big picture. His “five economic eras”, from The 8th Habit encapsulates human economy from the hunter/gatherer age, beyond the current information age, to his envisioned “age of wisdom”. He draws on Peter Drucker’s thinking on the massive leaps in productivity from age to age.

The great value in this concept is in understanding the limitations of legacy industrial age management processes when they are applied to information age contexts.    

“Its no longer a world of controlling people, it’s a world of unleashing people”.

 

The engagement connection

Stephen Covey’s clear articulation of the requisite leadership capabilities of the knowledge age focus heavily on communication. He offers lots of great communication tools and concepts such as the “emotional bank account”, but his greatest contribution in the communication realm is “voice”. When I first encountered The 8th Habit, I was a little cynical, thinking “how many other habits will be generated for future books?” But my cynicism evaporated with his masterful articulation of voice – the 8th habit is “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs”. This is an emancipating concept beautifully aligned with the needs of the age. For me, enabling voice, is central to the engagement process. Ideally, the loudest, or most powerful, or best resourced voice is not the only one heard.

Because he painted conceptually with such a broad brush, Stephen Covey’s work will remain relevant and will inspire for years to come. The concepts he articulates work at the level of principle and character and are therefore of universal application. May he continue to inspire!

Narcissism: The Difference Between High Achievers and Leaders – Justin Menkes – Harvard Business Review

This HBR post from Justin Menkes is another contribution to the ever-growing body of evidence that effective leaders are good people that care for others. As Justin Menkes states:

Only an individual who feels genuinely invigorated by the growth, development, and success of others can become an effective leader of an enterprise.

When reading this article you will find a strong correlation between effective leadership and engagement.

Narcissism: The Difference Between High Achievers and Leaders – Justin Menkes – Harvard Business Review.

Moral leadership – the foundation of prosperity

The renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs pinpointed the foundations of a prosperous economy in a recent article. He states: [1]

His post celebrated the life of the late Václav Havel, the Czech playright, who spoke out against the communist regime. His determination to speak out against the suppression of human rights by the communist government saw him imprisoned on multiple occasions. On the collapse of the communist regime, the new Federal Assembly unanimously voted him President of Czechoslovakia.

What is the connection with engagement? Among Václav Havel’s writings is the essay The Power of the Powerless where he decries those societies who force their citizens to “live within a lie”. He was a strong advocate for people having a voice. Moral leadership is about seeking the best interests of the community rather than pursuing a personal agenda. Being imprisoned for speaking out for others is strong evidence of moral leadership.

Corporations have the potential to be as oppressive as a corrupt state if they choose to pursue only their self-interest – and there is plenty of evidence of this (for example, the Enron story). Fortunately, there is a change of consciousness happening as corporates are wising up to the reality of a hot, flat and crowded world and the folly of a myopic short-term focus on profit. Whatever the motive, be it a crucible-forged awakening, altruism or enlightened self-interest, forward thinking corporates are manifesting moral leadership.

Sustainability is inextricably linked to concern for a broad range of stakeholders. To identify and honour stakeholder aspirations requires engagement and a willingness to hear their diverse voices. According to Jeffrey Sachs:

Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery. [2]

So thank you Václav Havel and thank you Jeffry Sachs for being two more voices pointing to a better way to work and live together on planet earth.

Change and engagement, part one

The way we are changing is changing. The predominant approach to change has been to mandate it. An elite, at the top of the organisation, perceive a need for change and direct others to implement it. They will anticipate some resistance and have some strategies ready to overcome it. Often this change will involve some type of restructuring.

There is mounting evidence that this type of change doesn’t work very well and may actually deplete rather than add value. For some organisations, the frequency of this type of change results in a series of self-inflicted, debilitating injuries.

A recent Bain & Company study of 57 major reorganizations found that fewer than one third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Some actually destroyed value.

Mandated change, bold strokes and long marches

Twenty years ago, in her book The Challenge of Organizational Change, Rosabeth Moss Kanter and her co-authors identified two types of change, bold strokes and long marches. Bold strokes are big strategic moves, such as buying another company, generating a large capital investment, or developing a new product. Bold strokes are usually mandated by the actions of “one or a few people”.

(Tom Peters’ take on mergers)

Long marches are more operational initiatives such as merging departments, transforming quality or customer relationships. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “they require the support of many people and cannot be mandated in practice”

Of course we will continue to need a degree of mandated change, and other stakeholders such as government will mandate external change. We just need to hope that the skill and ability to design and manage change will improve.

Too frequent use of restructuring will come to be seen as the  corporate equivalent of the old medical practice of blood-letting and a sure symptom of dysfunction.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, long march change will have more dependable long term results and is more likely to change culture and habits. She then elaborates on the enduring foundation of sustainable organisational change – decision making.

Every large and complex organisation has many thousands of people who have each day the opportunity, or are literally required, to take action on something. We think of these as “choice points.” For an organisation to succeed in any long-run sense, these millions of choices must be more or less appropriate and constructive day in and day out. But this is an immensely difficult problem, because it requires the ultimate in decentralisation – literally to the individual level – along with centralisation in the sense that those individual choices must be coordinated and coherent.[1]

This same theme is echoed two decades later by Marcia Blenko in the Harvard Business Review:

In reality, a company’s structure results in better performance only if it improves the organisation’s ability to make and execute decisions better and faster than its competitors.[2]

Her she is elaborating on the centrality of decision effectiveness in sustaining effective change.

The engagement connection

Marcia Blenko’s establishes a link between decision effectiveness and employee engagement. Rosabeth Moss Kanter emphasised the importance of “choice points” throughout the organisation. And while the focus is on big business, even small businesses manifest thousands of choice points if we consider all employees and stakeholders.

Embedding a stakeholder ethos (including employee engagement) throughout the organisation will build resilience and adaptive capacity. Over time, it is more likely that those highly engaged staff will be making decisions and choices aligned with the best interests of the company. And over time there will be less need for mandated change.


[1] Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Barry Stein and Tod Jick. The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience It and Leaders Guide It. New York: Free Press, 1992, page 492, 495

[2] The Decision-Driven Organisation, by Marcia Blenko, Michael Mankins and Paul Rogers In Harvard Business Review June 2010, page 57

Engagement and community building – the White Dog Café

In 1983 Judy Wicks started the White Dog Café in Philadelphia. It has become an exemplar for a community-based enterprise.

Where I live, community enterprise is slowly but surely being eroded as an increasing number of national or international chain stores supplant local stores. While this typically provides benefits such as cheaper goods the longer-term impacts are not beneficial for the local community (more about this in a later blog).

The White Dog Café started off as a restaurant, and remains a restaurant, but it has become the centre of a local network of suppliers, customers, employees and community interests. In the early years of the restaurant, Judy became increasingly troubled that the meat on her menu came from industrial farms. She changed to free range pork and then other meat and chicken and free range eggs. If produce is available locally, and is preferably organic, the White Dog Café purchases it in preference to imported food.

Initially Judy regarded locally sourced production as a point of difference for her restaurant, but her thinking evolved to consider the greater good and she went about engaging other restaurateurs in the concept. Her engagement with local farmers and growers created momentum for the establishment of the Fair Food initiative. Farmers and growers benefit from having a larger market for their produce locally. This animal welfare aspect of the White Dog Café remains one of her strongest motivators.

Networks of services

A restaurant depends on a web of services to operate. As Judy sorted out the produce for her menu, she became aware of a series of expanding possibilities to make the restaurant more sustainable and support the local community. She sourced renewable electricity and created a solar-heated water supply. Organic waste is composted and other waste recycled where possible. Local products are used whenever possible – for example locally produced soap is purchased for hand washing. For those products not available locally, such as tea, sugar and coffee, Fair Trade sources are used.

The invisible had works when we live in the same community.[1]

Staff also benefit from the sustainability philosophy – Judy pays a “living wage”. The Restaurant also supports a number of local community service projects such as Crime Victim Services and many others.

Business philosophy and selling the business

The mission statement of the White Dog Café is “Serving our customers, serving each other, serving our community and serving the earth”. Business decisions are based on serving the greater good, growing consciousness and increasing happiness.

After 30 years in the restaurant business Judy decided to sell the restaurant to help her focus on the promotion of sustainability. She wanted to keep the mission of the White Dog Café alive, so she found a local purchaser and retained the rights to the name of the business. To perpetuate the sustainability agenda she set up a Social Contract that keeps the White Dog Café on the same trajectory. The purchaser is able to set up other branches as long as they have 51% local ownership. This video outlines Judy’s perspectives, the restaurant’s operations and the Social Contract.

Above all, Judy has show how one business can generate social good by building rich networks in its local community. Do you know of other examples?

image credit: Real People Eat Local

Social capital and good books

“Social capital… reflects the community skills that have co-evolved with individual skills. People working together generate webs of social capital”. So say Jessica Lipnack and Jeff Stamps in Virtual Teams. Social capital is built on rich social networks.

It is a delicate thing. Social networks are forged from trust and as anyone who has suffered from infidelity in a relationship can tell you, trust builds up over time and but is very easy to destroy. According to Stephen Covey, trust becomes established when individuals demonstrate character and competence. Where these intersect trust and credibility is established.

Stephen Covey’s model of trust

We can easily see the beneficial consequences of trust and the accumulation of social capital when we consider those societies where trust and social capital has been shattered. Many of us can only imagine what it would be like to live in community where there is frequent violence, abuses and threats. In circumstances such as these the dismantling of social capital is accelerated when the state is perpetuating abuses.

Social capital is relevant for all social units: families, cities, businesses and nations. According to Lipnack and Stamps:

People generate wealth in dense networks of horizontal relationships in two primary ways because they lower transaction costs [and] increase opportunities for cooperation.[1]

A simple example is the knowing a friend will meet you as agreed, although a week has elapsed since the meeting was scheduled. You can probably think of a friend like this – and, by contrast, those that you would always contact to confirm the meeting. The extra workload, even if it is only small as illustrated in this example, reveals an added “transaction cost” to the relationship. Stephen Covey Junior provides another example in The Speed of Trust. A New York street vendor selling hot dogs found long queues dissuaded potential customers. He decided to enable customers to make their own change. This freed him up from dealing with cash and enabled him to provide much quicker service. His customers appreciated being trusted.

Now take these small gains and multiply the effect in large organisations (such as businesses) and their multiple stakeholders. The difference between a high trust and low-trust environments is clearly substantial.

Better World Books

Better World Books exemplify the development of social capital. They are a social business, motivated to do good. The profits flow, and they disburse much of them by supporting literacy initiatives around the world. According to Kevin Jones Better World Books “is now approaching $60 million in revenues with healthy profits and a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent. It’s donated more than $11 million to nonprofit groups helping to give the gift of literacy.[2]

Better World Books stock comes from donations from individuals, educational institutions and libraries. They are sold for a reasonable price to fund the company’s philanthropy. The Good Capital Social Enterprise Expansion Fund (SEEF) invested in Better World Books to aid it through its establishment phase. So we have a company who have a philanthropic supply chain, have staff who are no doubt inspired by the company’s mission, social enterprise investors, customers who buy into the mission and an increasing cohort of beneficiaries of literacy programmes. This is a potent recipe to build social capital that extends well beyond the boundaries of the company.

As Professor Muhammad Yunus says, every problem can be solved with a social business. The challenge for more conventional companies is how to use this dynamic and learn from its masterclass of engagement and social capital accumulation.

Here is a YouTube video of Better World Books. Note that the figures presented are four years out of date (reinforcing their incredible growth).

[1] Jeffrey Lipnack and Jessica Stamps: Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries With Technology (2008) http://www.netage.com/pub/books/VirtualTeams2.html

Book review – We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement

Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse’s book is pragmatic and of use to anyone looking to improve employee engagement. The book is organised into four parts. The first two deal with the individual and I will get my objections to them out of the way before discussing the gems to be found in parts three and four.

In parts one and two the focus on the individual is understandable – as engagement happens from heart to heart. We know that globally, the rates of disengagement are too high and too many people are disconnected from their work. I also accept that people will feel more fulfilled if they find meaning and purpose in their work – but after reading the first few chapters I was left with an impression that we are Homo economicus – we are one dimensional and our primary function is our work. Through our work we will find fulfilment and happiness. But it feels like a rationale to get people to work harder.

As a New Zealander one bad habit my fellow Kiwis share with the people of the United States (the home of the authors) is that we work long hours – we work too hard. Work-life balance is seriously out of balance. In this context I get concerned when I encounter an evangelistic approach towards the virtue and necessity of hard work.

The positives

Having got that out of the way, this book has many gems. The authors have obviously rolled their sleeves up and got involved with engagement processes. They share the three questions they use to gauge engagement (you will find them in the book). I am a fan of short and open survey questions and intend to incorporate these into my work.

The authors make a beautiful distinction: harmonisation = engagement + alignment.

Engagement is the catalyst to get you to that extra edge in performance, while alignment ensures everyone is heading in the same direction. (page 145)

They raise the bar for us here. Some organisations struggle to get to the point of surveying staff about engagement. They may or may not do anything with the information gleaned. To ensure the material issues blocking greater engagement are addressed, and then to go on to align people across the various structural and ideological barriers in an organisation is a worthy aspiration.

Another concept that resonates with me is their management prescription, embodied in chapter eight – “great managers focus on growth, recognition and trust”. This chapter atones for the issues outlined earlier. The authors prefer valuing employees to recognising employees. To survey your employees, survey them to see to what extent they agree with the statement “I feel valued as an employee of this company.” They prefer it to “I receive recognition when I do good work”.

Valuing is about appreciating the worth of something (someone) and of esteeming something (someone) highly. When we value employees, we appreciate them for who they are and what they bring to the organization. We acknowledge them not merely for tasks, but to the deeper intrinsic worth they add to the organization by just being there. (page 177)

When authors apply concepts about qualities of character, such as trust and trustworthiness, they reveal to me a deeper understanding of the human condition than encountered in many business books. Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse highlight trust as an important driver of employee engagement. To understand this better they suggest questions such as: “How can our leadership team foster greater trust among employees?” The three qualities that inspire trust are competence, caring and commitment.

It is hard to find books that focus on engagement – so this one is well worth the purchase price. If you know of others you would recommend, please comment.

We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement by Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse (2011) New Jersey: John Wiley

website: www.wethebook.com

Leadership and engagement – keeping it simple

Some people say that you can’t teach leadership in a classroom. In some ways I agree, because learning leadership should be like learning to walk – something a baby finds difficult and scary, but evidently possible as there are so many role models doing it.

I have been teaching leadership for five years and one of the benefits of teaching, is that your “radar” is on continuously looking for real-life examples of theory. In my class I use two models from Dr Peter Cammock’s The Dance of Leadership. I love these models for their simplicity. My students have road-tested them and found them to be powerful and easy to use.

The heart of leadership

This model harmonises the two core fundamentals of leadership, knowledge of self and concern for others. Great leaders, from parents to more public examples of leadership are exemplify this. I think of Sir Peter Blake, who was so confident in his own ability, and so caring of his crew. Or my mum, who I never heard speak ill of anyone.

Surrounding the heart of leadership are four “qualities of character”. Peter Cammock has chosen integrity, faith, courage and passion. We could just as easily choose other qualities of character as I suspect that they all link to one another.

The envision, engage, enact model (3 Es)

While the “heart of leadership” models who we should be, the 3 Es model shows us how to lead.

At its simplest it is a three-step model: envision – engage – enact. This is easy to remember and relate to. Peter Cammock weaves these three core leadership roles into a prescription for leadership and change that is applicable to most human endeavour.

The three-step model elaborates to 10 steps. Good leaders follow this process naturally. They know when to talk, they know when to roll their sleeves up and get involved, and they can zoom out and zoom in to see the big picture as they need to. This is reminiscent of Ron Garan’s “orbital perspective” and Muhammad Yunus’s “worm’s eye view” from an earlier post.

The link to engagement

Engagement is at the heart of the model through the processes of connecting, listening and engaging, team building and networking and communicating.

Notice that Peter Cammock uses “envision”, rather than “vision”. This implies that the vision evolves through engaging and enacting. The vision may have originated with, or been adopted by the leader, but it is an organic vision that can grow an adapt as the engagement process happens. It is said that people own what they create, and if they have input into the vision, they are more likely to engage with it.

If you imagine “knowledge of self” as an aspect of an organisation’s engagement ethos, “concern for others” balances the organisation’s needs with stakeholder needs.

Leadership and change

The 3 Es model exemplifies leadership of change. The leader is in there helping people to create shared vision and working with the willing.

These models are simple and accessible. People understand them quickly and are able to implement them in simple leadership roles. It is preferable to quickly learn simple models such as these and put them into action, rather then take on lots of theory. The corollary of this is accepting that everyone can lead and the need for leadership is everywhere, from leading oneself to global change.

Do you know someone who exemplifies these models, or do you have an example of how they align with your leadership?