Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Leadership Crafts the #EmployeeExperience

Whenever I think about leadership and its impact on the employee experience, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog three times as a featured guest and countless times with memorable quotes.

Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. His passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire.

Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about leadership and it’s impact on corporate culture, onboarding, and brand ambassadors; and highlights follow below. Links to previous Q&A posts featuring Eric are provided at the end of this post. For more about Eric, visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter @EricJacobsonKC.

[1] QUESTION: How do you define the differences between leadership and management?
ERIC JACOBSON: Leaders influence, motivate, inspire, and set direction for the individuals who follow them. Leaders typically take more risks than managers and focus on longer-term direction setting. They are frequently change agents and coaches. They ultimately set an organization’s mission and vision.

Managers are shorter-term focused, managing risk and managing tasks; focusing more on systems and structure. Managers typically establish and measure against goals within the direction set by their leaders.

Author Bob Kulhan’s clarification of the differences is valuable, as well. He said, "I'd suggest that the act of managing focuses strictly on strategic thinking at its most practical – on execution. Managing is taking care of logistical and practical details. The real problem arises when anyone confuses the managing of job-specific details with actual leadership. One does not need to be a visionary to qualify as a leader, but leadership does imply vision from a position of oversight.”

[2] QUESTION: How can a CEO/President define or set the direction for his or her company's culture?
ERIC JACOBSON: A company’s culture is its underlying values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes that guide its practices and create its personality, character and work environment.

“Culture is all about how things are done in your company; and they reflect what is valued, rewarded, and celebrated and what is not,” explains Dave Carvajal author of the new book, Hire Smart From the Start.

If a company lacks clarity in its values and beliefs, for example, the CEO/President should define them. Additionally, as the authors of another new book, The CEO Next Door, explain, the leader should be intentional about his/her company culture and should:

• Consistently articulate and model the behavior he/she seeks in others.
• Put time and attention toward building and fostering company culture.
• Reflect culture in whom is hired, fired and promoted.

I’m particularly impressed with the culture of Southwest Airlines, which is defined by the theme, LIVE THE SOUTHWEST WAY, and its components:

Warrior Spirit
• Strive to be the best
• Display a sense of urgency
• Never give up

Servant’s Heart
• Follow The Golden Rule
• Treat others with respect
• Embrace our Southwest Family

Fun-LUVing Attitude
• Be a passionate Team Player
• Don’t take yourself too seriously
• Celebrate successes

These bulleted items clearly articulate values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that guide Southwest’s practices that create its personality and character.

Further, a few years ago, I wrote about Southwest’s culture on my Leadership and Management Blog and still appreciate the following advice from Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines: “One way we do culture differently is by making Southwest's culture everyone's responsibility. In fact, we ask everyone to 'own it.'" Kelleher also explained that Southwest includes a section related to culture on each employee's annual performance appraisal. This goes for every employee in the company, including the entire management team.

One way we do culture differently is by making Southwest's culture everyone's responsibility. In fact, we ask everyone to own it. ~Herb Kelleher of @SouthwestAir via @EricJacobsonKC

[3] QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become the number one brand ambassador?
ERIC JACOBSON: Foremost, the President/CEO should embody the brand. Live and breathe it. Talk often about the brand and what it stands for. I believe Herb Kelleher, during his tenure as CEO of Southwest Airlines, was its number one brand manager and was a solid example for other leaders who strive to be their organization’s number one brand ambassador.

[4] QUESTION: How can the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
ERIC JACOBSON: In my experience, onboarding is sadly one of the most neglected activities in a company, yet it's critical to ensuring newly-hired talent will be productive, contented workers. Keep in mind, too, that onboarding is NOT orientation.

Some of the best onboarding advice I’ve read is from Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition at the Society For Human Resource Management. He explained, “Before implementing a formal onboarding program, employers should answer some key questions to attain team and upper management buy-in, such as:
• When will onboarding start?
• How long will it last?
• What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
• What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
• What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
• What goals do you want to set for new employees?
• How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?
Once these questions have been answered, HR professionals and upper management can devise a plan of action to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow while getting fully acquainted with the organization's culture.”

Finally, if you lead an organization that uses employee ID badges, consider using a different color or a special designation on the badges for newly-hired employees for at least their first 30 days and ideally up to 60 days.

Imagine how welcoming it will be for your new hires when employees recognize your newly-hired employees' status via their special badges and then when your longer-term employees introduce themselves to the new employees in halls, on elevators, in your break room, in the parking lot, and at large group meetings. Some people call this a "Hello" culture. It's a culture that helps to quickly develop relationships. And, it's a culture that ensures your new hires feel welcome during their critical onboarding experience.

[5] QUESTION: What three tips would you give to a new leader?
ERIC JACOBSON: The time when you become a new leader is so critical. How you conduct yourself during that time will make or break you. There are lots of things to do and not do. Most important to do’s are:

1. Learn first what your new team members are doing right and don’t bad-mouth past leadership.
2. Don’t try to solve problems too quickly in your new role.
3. Get to know your team members by name and be overly visible within the organization, engaging team members in conversation and by listening intently.

An extra tip I like is from the book, The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan, is to overinvest in early wins to build team confidence.

[6] QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other publications, “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” What does this quote mean to you?
ERIC JACOBSON: It means when things go wrong, the buck stops with the leader. The leader is ultimately responsible. And, when things go well, the leader should ensure those responsible for that success receive proper and appropriate recognition and accolades. When there is blame, the leader should be in the forefront. When credit is due, the leader should be in the background.

When there is blame, the leader should be in the forefront. When credit is due, the leader should be in the background. ~@EricJacobsonKC #LeadershipTip

My thanks to Eric for once again appearing on my blog and sharing his amazing insights into effective leadership and successful employee experiences.

Lastly, check out the links to Eric's previous appearances on my blog.

Leadership Doesn't Have to Be Hard
May 3, 2016

The Importance of Mentorships
March 11, 2013

The Importance of Training, Customer Connections and Leadership
March 21, 2011

Image Credit: ImageQuote app.

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