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Engagement + Accountability = Performance that Matters

September 15th, 2014 by Tom Rose
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Webinar Graphic - insights (1)In our recent survey, we responded to client interest in accountability and what drives it.   We undertook this work because we see a connection between accountability and engagement.  We believe that Engagement + Accountability = Performance that Matters.

Let me give a brief explanation.   Engagement- namely the motivation to exert extra effort to achieve results- and accountability- taking on the difficult challenges that makes a real difference- lead to outcomes that advance organizations and strengthen their cultures from “business as usual” to meaningful, sustained progress.

Our survey revealed an accountability gap that parallels the engagement gap that many experts have observed.   Roughly just under 20% of the work force is highly engaged and a slightly lower percentage is fully accountable.

How do we close a gap that is critical to business success?  At Forum, we call the capabilities that lead to performance that matters, 6 for 60. It’s called 6 for 60 because by focusing on these 6 capabilities we can harness and focus the potential of the 60% of talent that lies below most engaged and accountable members of our work force.

6 for 60 includes:

  1. Establishing clear and well-aligned goals organizationally & individually
  2. Admitting mistakes in way that protects credibility, advances problem solving and helps us to the right and difficult thing
  3. Advocating for the resources & abilities needed for success
  4. Addressing differences in approach to goals we have with key stakeholders
  5. Resolving dilemmas that underlie challenging business issues
  6. Coaching others how to take accountable action to achieve results

With focus and commitment and the right dosage of support and challenge to leadership and followership we can create the conditions that lead to performance that matters.

Want to know more about accountability, engagement and performance that matters? Join me on Tuesday, September 23 at 1pm ET for a webinar that looks at the results of our survey and why engagement + accountability = performance that matters! You can register here.

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Learning in a Company with Diverse Cultures

August 20th, 2014 by Melissa Chiew
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OccupationI am about to reach my one year mark on board with Forum, and it has been, and still is, a learning journey for me every day. The biggest change for me was the transition from working in a local company to a global, regionally structured company. Forum is based in the United States with offices in Europe, Asia and Australia so my colleagues are truly spread across the globe! Taking up the marketing role which covers Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) was indeed a challenge for me versus marketing locally to Asia in my previous roles.  Below are two of the biggest transitions I had to go through, and how I learned overcome them.

Diverse Cultures

I remember as part of my onboarding plan, I was not able to meet much of my immediate team in person and had to call because they are located in other offices across the globe. Speaking to colleagues with different accents became a norm for me.  As it was my first time, I learned by giving more attention and effort to listen carefully to what they were saying. It was also difficult because I could not put a name to a face immediately. It took me awhile to get used to it, but now I enjoy  talking to them every day!

I get to learn more about the working styles of colleagues from other countries, as well. For instance, I experienced that Asians, in general, tend to be serious at work, whereas Brits and Americans, on top of serious discussions, sometimes like to add jokes to move things forward in a lighthearted way.  I even learned to understand the different kind of jokes between regions, which are really interesting. I found Americans to be more obvious in their jokes while Brits tend to be more subtle. I still remembered an American colleague in the team used to humourously describe me as “noisy” when I was very quiet at work. I ended up finding myself sometimes in a day putting on different “hats” to differentiate them. It wasn’t easy but was fun at the same time. If you have an example of differences in global humor, please share in the comments, I would love to see more examples!

Time Zones Differences

It is part of my role to regularly attend meetings with my marketing team who are sitting across the globe in the United States and the United Kingdom, I have come to appreciate technology more since our main communication tools are email, phone and video chats.  Even though we are not able to meet in person, it is great how sometimes we can see each other through video chats and don’t feel the distance at all. This was a new experience for me. When setting up  campaigns or hosting live webinars, I have to be mindful of the time zone differences especially when it is a regional or global campaign taking place across multiple countries. With the different time zones and daylight savings time happening in certain period within the year, I have to rely on meeting planner online to ensure I get the time correct.

I recently read a piece of article written by my colleague Andrew Shapiro, Forum EMEA’s vice president and sales director, on “How to Deal when Employees are scattered across the World” In this article, he makes a great point:  

“Today’s office environment is becoming obsolete. With companies expanding globally and seeking talent across time zones, the workplace environment is evolving and, as a result, so is the way employees interact and collaborate with each other.”

What lessons have you learned working in a company spread across the globe? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on social media.

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1 Basket, 2 Arthurs, and 25,000 Employees: How Trust and Employee Engagement Drive (or Kill) Business Results

August 12th, 2014 by Claudette Chagnon
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“Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead they rely on the power of trust. “ - Charles Green, Forbes Magazine

In a small corner of New England in the United States, a huge workplace revolution is taking place.  And it is being talked about over the water cooler and dinner tables as the hottest “reality show” of the summer.  (A welcome relief from the Bachelorette…just sayin’.)

Market Basket, a privately held and family-owned grocery chain with estimated annual sales of $3.2 billion, is embroiled in the eruption of a long-running family feud that has lasted for decades.  In the latest episode on June 23, Arthur S. Demoulas led the company’s board to oust the current CEO, his estranged cousin Arthur T. Demoulas, and replace him with two consultants. His firing continued the battle of two namesake cousins struggling to control an empire of 71 supermarkets in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. When eight middle managers, some of whom had been with Market Basket for 30 years, protested the change, the company fired them for “attempting to create a worker rebellion.”

In the days that followed many of the company’s 25,000 workers refused to report to work, a clear sign of worker solidarity against company bosses they distrust. Butchers, baggers, cashiers, and clerks came from all over New England to rallies at the chain’s headquarters, carrying signs and shouting in megaphones and risking their jobs. Warehouse employees stopped working, stores stopped accepting deliveries, and local legislators, local media, and employees encouraged customers to boycott the stores using the power of social media. Customers not only complied, but joined in the protests.

In result, over the past month, sales have dropped by as much as 75%, stock has been depleted as drivers refuse to deliver, stores have been forced to temporarily close, and the company is experiencing drastic losses. Workers and customers have promised to continue this “rebellion” until the former CEO is reinstated.

Why the Intense Loyalty to Arthur T?

Sure, Market Basket has better-than-industry norms for compensation and benefits but the employees at the rallies are not talking about compensation and benefits, and that is why business schools all over the country are watching closely. Posters of fired Arthur T. DeMoulas have appeared in store windows with the slogan “Believe!” scrawled on them.  One employee had “In A.T.D. We Trust!” sprayed onto his car.

Clearly, Arthur T. DeMoulas was a CEO who was pro-employee and pro-customer.  Making money was only one reason for running his business. DeMoulas was both a friend and a father-figure to many employees.  He gave employees battling cancer or having serious family problems time off with pay, and when somebody was in crisis, he was there for them, literally.  He attended their funerals. Entire families work there.  They trusted him.

Trust Correlates with Employee Engagement and Drives Business Results 

There can be no doubt that trust in leadership has a massive impact on workplace culture and business results. Take Market Basket…despite its reputation for low prices and high wages, Demoulas’ operating margins — 7.2 percent in 2012, were higher than most supermarket chains, under Arthur T’s leadership

Research shows that employees who have high levels of trust in their leaders tend to have greater loyalty and higher business performance than those with less trust. For example, one study linked companies’ trust levels directly to their price/earnings ratios. (Andy Atkins, Fast Company, August 7, 2012)

Some leaders are able to build a solid foundation of trust among their employees and experience the payoff of a loyal, engaged team that delivers results. Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s  Q12 Client Database have significantly higher  productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.  Further, Gallup’s research also shows that companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share (EPS) and seem to have recovered from the recession at a faster rate. (“The State of the Global Workplace,” Gallup Consulting, 2013)

Who Will Get the Final Rose?

Trust sets the foundation for high performance by creating an environment in which employees are willing to take risks, learn continuously, support and motivate each other and strive to meet challenging business goals. Put simply, leaders build trust and trust leads to engagement, which drives business performance.

Leaders have an opportunity to close the “trust gap” and enhance engagement and results by building trust and avoiding the behaviors that erode trust. So…. whoever is going to run Market Basket–the two consultants, the former CEO Arthur T, or a new owner—will want to focus on building trust.  If it is Arthur T, then he has a great start!

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High Performance Team Working – Breaking the “Log Jam” with Senior Teams

August 6th, 2014 by David Robertson
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It is surprising that many senior leadership teams, even those that are quite mature, do not take advantage of one of their greatest opportunities for improving their effectiveness: confronting the behaviours of the people who comprise the team. Team work is a dynamic that needs to be nurtured and evolves through the active input and ownership of the whole team.

Everyone knows about the importance of team development but do they understand the importance of maintaining healthy teams once they have been developed and matured? In Forum, we believe there are three stages of team development:

  1. Membership
  2. Control
  3. Cohesion

Most of the time, mature teams are moving between control and cohesion stages; re-contracting around who has influence and control, how they will handle conflict, how they will proactively measure results and thinking about how they can improve the way they work as a team. The diagram below outlines the types of questions asked at each stage. If the team does not have explicit alignment around the control issues then they will find cohesion difficult, i.e. they won’t build the open, honest and trusting relationships that are necessary to drive high performance or progress to the next level. They get log jammed in the control stage.

log jam image 1Senior teams evolve their working practices over time and these are strongly influenced by the level of open commitment to the team process modeled by the team leader. A leader’s behaviours and actions strongly influence the team climate. For example, if a leader does not encourage the team to regularly to review how they work together and make adjustments, then the team will default to focusing exclusively on task and business accountabilities. Their own development will take a backseat.

Without explicit leadership of the team work process, people find ways of getting by or coping, such as not providing feedback, not managing conflict, silo behaviours, poor communication, not speaking up, not sharing or collaborating, etc.Any of these behaviours can be real barriers to effectiveness, and thus the team performance levels off and results plateau.

Senior teams need agility to navigate the complexity they deal with every day and a key component of this is an explicit and aligned team process, that has everyone’s buy-in  and commitment; most senior teams assume this is in place.

The key to unlocking this potential for higher performance is twofold: The sponsorship of the team leader and the focus of the team. Sometimes teams need to go backwards to go forwards and if the sponsor is prepared to take some time to encourage the team to have some strong conversations and get to know the people behind the roles, then they are starting to clear the log jam. When helping senior teams break this potential log jam we have found that it is important to gather data on different perceptions of the team. This helps them focus on how team members experience the team and allows behaviours and emotions to be examined openly by the team under the guidance of a strong facilitator.

Role models of high performance team effectiveness need to be cascaded throughout the organisation so that teams can cross-functionally collaborate more effectively and drive the business outcomes with agility. Below is a general process map we created for working with intact senior and functional teams to help them break the log jam and cascade this approach through their business.

log jam image 2

So if you want to break the team working log jam with senior teams you will need an engaged sponsor who will support each step in the process. You will also need to understand the teams effectiveness issues which are often linked to their team development stage, and gather a range of perceptions about the team’s effectiveness to help you focus team actions once the log jam starts to break. You need to bring the team together and agree some ground rules and then have a structured experience that opens up the issues and embeds the framework for leading high performance. You will also need a strong facilitator who can get beneath the issues and behaviours through contracting with the team and who can sense when to hand back the team process and accountability for key behaviours to the team so they can own the journey forward whilst achieving a new level of cohesion.

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Does Employee Engagement Impact the Bottom Line?

July 31st, 2014 by Abby Smith
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“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” – Angela Ahrendts

When Angela Ahrendts, now Apple’s head of retail, was new as CEO at Burberry in 2006, she put together an ambitious strategy to turn around the struggling company. An independent consulting firm hired by Burberry’s board gave her strategy a 5% chance of success. She proved them all wrong and achieved all of the goals in her strategy a year ahead of schedule. What she knew and the consulting company didn’t account for was the power of an engaged and empowered workforce. By focusing on engaging and empowering her workforce, rather than focusing primarily on the customer or the bottom line, she more than doubled sales during her time at Burberry.

Ms. Ahrendts isn’t the only leader to share this belief that employees should come before customers. It is one that is becoming more commonly embraced by leaders.  Southwest Airlines, for example, often takes an employee is always right approach to customer service rather than the customer. In fact, founder Herb Kelleher once famously fired a customer, who continuously sent letters of her complaints about the airline and its employees.

What these two leaders showed was that by focusing on their employees, engaging and empowering them, they’re also focusing on their customers. However, it seems like these stories are the exception with regards to employee engagement rather than the rule. The latest Gallup State of the Global Workforce Report showed that as many 87% of employees around the globe may not be engaged in their jobs.

Forum’s definition of employee engagement is when employees have a deep sense of ownership in the organization and strong feelings of involvement and commitment in one’s own work. This results in a strong contribution of discretionary energy from employees. That last part is the most important. The willingness of employees to spend extra time, energy and mindshare on their jobs, is what really differentiates a highly engaged workforce. It’s what has helped turn around Burberry and given Southwest Airlines loyalty numbers that seem unreal for a company in an industry as despised as commercial air travel.

Unless you’re employees are that 13% across the globe that are engaged (and if they are, bravo!), there are steps you can take to engage and re-engage your workforce. Forum’s research shows that there is not just one facet of employee engagement, and it’s way more than just social outings and an annual survey. Real engagement has three facets:

  1. A positive team climate. Climate is simply what it feels like to work somewhere, and that is influenced by everything from politics, history and fellow employees to the physical office space and computer operating systems. Research shows that the most important climate factor for employees is their leader.
  2. Trustworthy leaders and managers. Tying in closely with climate, trust is a huge aspect of engagement, and disengagement, in the workplace. We conducted a survey last year of over 1000 business leaders and employees on the topic of trust. Three clear characteristic emerged as to what makes a trustworthy leader: ability to listen and understand, walking the talk and encouraging new ideas and suggestions.
  3. Engagement needs being met. There are five main engagement needs, and while employees need all of them met, most people have one to two dominant engagement needs in their jobs. It takes a highly skilled leader to recognize that different people need different things out of their jobs. These needs are accomplishment, recognition, enjoyment, belonging and advancement.

By focusing on employee engagement instead of the bottom line, leaders will probably find that the bottom line improves anyway.

Interested in employee engagement? Forum is conducting a survey on how accountability impacts employee engagement, and we would love to get your thoughts. You can take the survey here, and we’ll send you a copy of the results.

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The Business Impact of Sales Coaching

July 24th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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Earlier this year, Forum and the Sales Management Association conducted a survey of sales manager and leaders from over 200 companies to discover the impact that coaching has on sales organizations. Many businesses recognize that sales coaching is one of the most powerful tools at a sales leader’s disposal, yet many fail to implement it effectively.

This infographic looks at the impact of sales coaching on the bottom line, challenges facing sales managers as they attempt to coach their teams, plus shares four practical tips to improve sales coaching.

For more information on the results of our  sales coaching survey, you can download the full report or watch an on-demand webinar.


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Mid-year Review: Top 6 Blog Posts

June 26th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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top 6Seems nearly impossible to believe that we are already at the half way mark for 2014, and yet, here we are. So before I get all misty-eyed about where time has gone, lets turn our attention back to the matter at hand, a mid year review of our most popular posts. To date, our most popular posts have ranged from the importance of preparation to engagement to the future of leadership, but they all come down to a similar theme: Great leadership.  All of the posts below focus on the tools leaders can use to engage employees and become better leaders.

  1. How do Great Leaders Drive Employee Engagement [Infographic]. Forum’s research shows that there are three main ways that leaders can drive employee engagement: trust, climate and meeting needs. This infographic shows how those pieces come together to create an engaged workforce.
  2. Mid-Level Leaders: Key Stakeholders, Agents of Change or Both? In this piece, we take a look at the unique role that mid-level leaders play in organizations to both influence up and manage down. This makes them pivotal to organizations going through change.
  3. You’re not Listening to me! Sure, people are listening, but are they really hearing what you’re saying? With laptops, tablets and smartphones always at our fingertips, authentic communication in the workplace is becoming a rarity. This post shares tips for leaders to ensure that communication with their teams stays strong.
  4. In the Future, We Will All Have the Chance to be Leaders. Forum Executive Consultant, David Robertson, shares 10 predictions for what the future of leadership and the workplace look like.
  5. The Power of Prep. How do you get the most out of putting employees through training while also minimizing time spent away from work? Proper prep, of course.
  6. Group Effectiveness Lessons from Playing Santa Claus. What can leaders learn from a viral, holiday ad? Quite a bit about group effectiveness. This post shares three lessons leaders can learn from WestJet’s holiday campaign.

What would you like to see on the Forum blog? Share in the comments and maybe you’ll see a post covering your topic later this year.

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Manager Misconduct

June 19th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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Last fall, Forum conducted a survey of over 1000 business professionals from around the globe to see how managers gain and lose employee trust and and how that impacts employee engagement. In an open ended question, we asked employees to tell us what mistakes managers make that erode trust in the workplace, and seven clear trends emerged. In fact, these seven types of mistakes accounted for 80% of all the responses from employees.

In this article for T+D Magazine, Forum CEO, Andrew Graham, outlines the seven mistakes managers most often make that erode trust. For more on the data from this survey, check out Driving Business Results by Leading Trust.

Do you think this lists covers the main mistakes managers make? What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation in our LinkedIn group.

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How Do Great Leaders Drive Employee Engagement? [Infographic]

May 20th, 2014 by Abby Smith
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The benefits of an engaged workforce go beyond just happy employees. A team that is engaged is more productive, produces higher quality work and directly impacts the bottom-line. However, globally, only about 20% of workers are highly engaged at work. What can you, as a leader, do to improve and maintain employee engagement at your office? Forum’s latest infograpic based on our recent webinars and whitepaper, outlines the steps leaders can take to make sure that they are driving engagement and impacting revenue.

Forum Infographic employee_engagement_design

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What Impact do First-Line Leaders have on Employee Engagement?

May 15th, 2014 by Michael Frisbie
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2014 represents a time of significant change for many industries – the healthcare industry is finding ways to engage new stakeholder audiences, an estimated 20-25% of the oil & energy workforce will be retiring in the next five years and financial services serve a more fickle customer base than ever before.

However, one theme remains constant: employee engagement resonates across all industries. In fact, the results were alarming – 53% of respondents in our recent survey indicated this was a top concern. You can consult this article for more comprehensive data.

Forum’s research shows that  are five key motivational factors that drive a workforce, and most people have one or two dominant needs. The five needs are

  • Accomplishment – “I am productive”
  • Recognition – “I am valued”
  • Enjoyment – “I enjoy my work”
  • Belonging – “I belong here”
  • Advancement – “I’m getting ahead”

It should come as no surprise that first-line leaders (overseeing  approximately 80% of the workforce) play a significant part in employing these motivators to get the most out of their people. This insight has led many of our clients to pose the following question: where do first-line leaders play their part?

One possible solution lies in recent research Forum compiled on this subject, alongside key findings presented in Jim Collins’ recent work Good to Great. In the latter work, Jim Collins shares key data that highlights how truly great companies embrace challenge by fostering an entrepreneurial, ‘go-getter’ attitude within the workplace. In one example, Kimberly Clark was able to thrive not because its people feared P&G, but rather because they welcomed the opportunity to challenge such a market leader.

Supporting this insight, it is clear that first-line leaders are instrumental in channeling such spirit in their people. Moreover, they are most effective when able to manage the tension between organizational climate and the aforementioned motivators.

This is not an easy task. It is important for first-line leaders to know when and how to challenge thought and action. It is equally important for them to know when it’s best to support an employee’s ideas and suggestions for moving forward. First-line leaders must become expert in the art of coaching. Today’s reality dictates that it may no longer be enough to serve as a teacher or mentor: in-depth questioning to uncover each employee’s feelings and personal motivators is the only tried and true method for driving behavioral change and sustaining engagement.

Coming Full Circle

I encourage every stakeholder I connect with to consider how effective their first-line leaders are in 1) motivating employees on a personal level and 2) helping them assimilate into their organization’s climate. Is there enough clarity present internally? Is there clear commitment communicated from the organization to each individual and from the employee to the organization? What standards for performance are in place? What responsibility do employees have in their own future success and is there recognition for such efforts and successes? Finally, what role does teamwork have in the workforce? Such questions have helped our clients define how effective their first-line leaders are, and concurrently represent characteristics typically present in high performing cultures. Managing the tension between these disparate forces, albeit challenging, may not be as abstract as we once thought it to be.

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