Friday, January 11, 2013

Workforce Engagement and Motivational Secrets

I'd like to introduce Mark Herbert to my blog. I met Mark through his social media contributions in 2011. Mark shares useful business insights on Twitter and his blog gained from more than 30 years of experience as a human resources executive, author, and management consultant in a variety of organizational settings ranging from entrepreneurial to Fortune 100. Currently, Mark is a Principal for New Paradigms, a management consulting firm in Arizona that helps companies embrace change to engage their employees. As 2013 begins, I thought it would be a great idea to discuss workforce engagement with Mark. His comments may assist you in accomplishing one of your New Year's resolutions: to create a more engaged workforce.

DEBBIE LASKEY: How do you define workforce engagement?
MARK HERBERT: I define workforce engagement as essentially alignment. People are able to see a direct connection between their individual goals and aspirations and those of the organization. There is an environment based on shared values, trust, and mutual respect so that a synergistic environment occurs. People commit rather than comply.

DL: What are the three key elements that a leadership team can do to create and maintain a positive corporate culture?
MH: I think once you have established clear value propositions of what you want the organization to accomplish, the three key elements I stress are congruency, trust, and respect.

Congruency comes from values alignment while trust operates at multiple levels.

Many times, we over-rely on institutional trust or trust that comes from authority or policy. Real trust is more intimate and visceral. When I believe you value me as a person and will keep my interests in mind and be fair and objective, I invest much more.

Respect means I respect your personhood. I value you as a whole person not just the skills and attributes you rent to me. As a result, I provide you with clear expectations, constructive feedback,  and equitable rewards. I am not codependent with you. I treat you like an adult and expect you to act like one.

DL: What are the best ways to motivate employees?
MH: This may sound silly, but you can’t motivate another person on a sustained basis. The key is creating an environment where people motivate themselves. They see alignment with their personal and professional goals and that of the organization. They feel trusted and respected. They feel valued. People tend to file lawsuits and other activities like that because they feel invalidated or disrespected. If you're careful about hiring and selecting people who share your values and you behave in a manner that is consistent with your stated values, you don’t usually run into huge issues.

People seek clarity. They want to know how they are doing and how to build a bridge to their own goals. When you violate their trust boundaries or treat them disrespectfully you get problems. The other is that there is no single best culture, but bringing someone into your culture who doesn’t share the values or tolerating behavior that is inconsistent with your values causes dissension, agitation, and distrust.

DL: If an employee wants to make suggestions but doesn’t believe anyone listens, what do you recommend he/she do (other than change jobs)?
MH: Whenever I give someone feedback, I generally ask for permission or respond to a request. I try to use neutral or objective language. I also ask them what the best way to provide them with information is. Some people are visual, others are thinkers/processors, and people have differing levels of their ability to manage change. I also recognize that trust is earned over time. Covey said, “First seek to understand, and then seek to be understood." We operate on three levels intellectual (I think), emotional (I feel), and visceral (I am).

In many cases when we present suggestions or ideas, we take into account only the intellectual. Studies show that our emotions and visceral reactions outweigh our intellectual responses 85% of the time. Some of it is timing. We present our suggestions at a time and place that an individual or organization is not “ready” to hear it, or in a medium they are not comfortable with. I spent six years in an organization trying to facilitate change. The first 4 and a half I got almost nowhere.

DL: If there is a huge conflict between departments within a business, how do you recommend resolving the conflict?
MH: Sometimes, department heads don’t know or don’t care, but I have found there is a third reason that is much more common: they don’t have the skill set or tools to resolve the issue. My approach is usually to start with creating recognition of the issue and attempting to create an upside for identifying and addressing the root causes - not the presenting issue. I look for common benefits to all parties. I also don’t make any assumptions about the motives behind the behavior unless I have quantified them. I usually ask for the input of the other party first and try to create a mutual understanding and benefit. I also try to build on what we agree on - rather than on what we disagree on. Because there is rarely a single way to address an issue, I try not to get overly invested in my solution. 

In many cases, I find conflicts arise out of fear and uncertainty or lack of information. By starting from an objective place and always striving to maintain a respectful perspective, I am usually able to get at least a willingness to have a dialogue. The most successful conflict resolutions are always win-win rather than win-lose. When I create a clear upside for all parties, there is more buy in. When I recommend change "with people" rather than "to people," employees get a chance to participate in crafting the solution. 

Everyone can agree with this scenario: Implementing a solution that has my fingerprints on it is much more rewarding than a solution that is imposed on me.

Mark's Blog:

Mark on Twitter:

Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out Ted's work at

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Marketing Highlights from 2012

With 2012 now history, it’s time for my “Top 10” marketing highlights list. What campaigns were great, and which were duds? What do you remember from the 2012 marketing reel?

With a quick thanks to David Letterman for the format, here’s my list:

Number 10:
Hashtags appeared everywhere on television. No matter what program was on the screen, there was that darn little hashtag in one corner to facilitate social media conversations. Here are just a few: #TheVoice #SharkTank #BigBangTheory #60Minutes and #TonightShow.

Number 9:
After 244 years, The Encyclopaedia Britannica ended its print edition to focus on digital products.

Number 8:
The 100-year anniversary of the Titanic disaster was observed. This disaster continues to capture people’s imagination especially since James Cameron filmed the ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and memorialized the story in his epic Oscar-winning film.

Number 7:
RIM announced that it would leave the consumer market and instead focus on the enterprise (business market). This formal decision was not a surprise to those who watch the tech world, but after creating a product category with the Blackberry, this end of an era taught all a very important lesson: you must listen to and learn from your core customers.

Number 6:
Pinterest emerged as the social media darling. The site created a buzz while still in its beta phase and with membership by invitation only. Different from other social sites, Pinterest’s focus is visual, and users share pins to themed boards.

Number 5:
Facebook’s initial public offering was the largest in terms of dollars and most talked about IPO in NASDAQ history. However, despite problems on the day of the IPO and decline of the stock’s value in the months since the IPO, Facebook continues to grow its membership. During 2012, Facebook welcomed its one billionth user. However, information security (infosec) professionals still question Facebook’s attention to user privacy versus who will have access to user data.

Number 4:
Some redesigned logos were unveiled during 2012. Twitter launched a new logo without its company name, just the blue bird. Others included JCPenney, Wendy’s, eBay, and Microsoft.

Number 3:
“Dallas” returned to television (TNT) after a 20-year absence with three original actors portraying their original characters: JR, Sue Ellen, and Bobby. Whenever a television show is recreated, fans wish for elements from the initial version. But this new version was so similar to the twists and turns of the original that it made this blogger a quick fan.

Number 2:
While the London Olympics closely followed the Royal Wedding of Prince William and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, there was plenty of interest. Despite complaints from locals, tourists traveled from all over the world. The world’s attention was on London for the events, and the XXX Olympiad went off without a hitch. From a marketing perspective, there was an increase in tourism throughout the UK, an increase in buying British products, an increase in fans for the James Bond brand (due to the memorable arrival of the Queen and James Bond at the Opening Ceremonies), and an increase in positive attention for the British Royal family. The strange logo created conversations but didn’t damage the integrity of the Olympics.

Number 1:
After the death of Steve Jobs in 2011 and rumors that Apple could not survive without him, the company unveiled its newest phone, the iPhone 5. Bigger, better, faster, and without a doubt, something all iOS fans can’t get their hands on quickly enough – and something that new users of Apple products dream about.

What would you add to this list? Here’s to 2013 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!